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Marc Roby: Today we are completing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. In the past thirteen sessions we have gone through the history of Marxist and neo-Marxist ideologies and have shown how these anti-Christian ideas have invaded our educational system. And today we are going to look at what is arguably the most significant manifestation of these ideas in America today, the Black Lives Matter movement. Dr. Spencer, how do you want to begin?

Dr. Spencer: By quoting Jesus. In John 8:31-32 we read, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” [1] Then, in John 14:6 we read that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Marc Roby: Those quotes will probably strike many of our listeners as a strange way to begin a session on the Black Lives Matter organization.

Dr. Spencer: But I think it is exactly the right place to begin because, as I hope to show, this organization is built on a web of lies. As Christians, we must stand for truth. As Jesus told us, he is the truth and the truth will set us free. One of the characteristics of totalitarian regimes is that they do everything possible to force people to at least outwardly agree with lies. Our society is rapidly moving in the direction of a soft totalitarianism, to borrow an expression from Rod Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies.[2] This totalitarianism is not, at this point, one enforced by the government with physical force, it is one enforced by the social-justice-warrior mob, striking out at people by taking their jobs, harassing them in public and generally making life miserable if you dare to disagree with their ideology. And the Black Lives Matter movement is a prominent part of this soft totalitarian state.

Marc Roby: What, specifically, are you referring to when you say that the Black Lives Matter organization is founded on lies?

Dr. Spencer: First of all, there is the lie that young unarmed black men are being wantonly gunned down by racist police all over our country. On the Black Lives Matter website they continue to say that “In 2014, Mike Brown was murdered by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.”[3] And we often still hear people say that he was shot while holding his hands up in the air saying “Don’t shoot me.” That is a lie, plane and simple. There have been several careful investigations and all of the forensic evidence and reliable testimony agree. Michael Brown assaulted officer Wilson in his car, tried to take his gun from him and was shot in the hand while reaching into the car, he then ran from the officer, but turned and moved back toward him in a threatening way.[4] The Black Lives Matter narrative is simply a lie.

As an example of how pervasive this lie has become, let me read a quote from the United Teachers of Los Angeles regarding what conditions they think must be met before they can return to teaching students during this Covid-19 outbreak. They make an argument that funding should to be taken away from the police and given to the educational system instead. In making the argument they wrote, “Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people, and is a serious public health and moral issue.”[5]

Marc Roby: That’s amazing! They actually claim that police violence is a leading cause of death among blacks?

Dr. Spencer: Well, perhaps they would try to justify this outrageous lie by pointing out that they said it was a leading cause of “death and trauma”, which of course makes the statement strictly non-falsifiable since you can’t quantify trauma. But if they would make that argument it would be completely disingenuous nonsense. The statement is a clear lie. And this is being put out by a very large and powerful teachers union. One can only imagine what other lies these teachers promulgate in the name of social justice.

Marc Roby: But this statement fits perfectly with the information you have shown about these neo-Marxist ideologies taking over our schools.

Dr. Spencer: I’m very sorry to say that you’re right, it does fit. But let me give just a few facts to show what a monstrous lie this is.

Marc Roby: Yes, please do.

Dr. Spencer: In 2019, according to FBI statistics, there were 7,484 blacks murdered in this country.[6] Also, according to the Washington Post, when you look at the statistics for fatal police shootings over the past four years, they are amazingly consistent.[7] About 1,000 people a year are killed by police in this country, which is a surprisingly large number, but becomes much less surprising when you realize that there are on the order of 50 million interactions between police and citizens a year, so fatal shootings occur in about one out of every 50,000 interactions.

Marc Roby: Yes, that does make the number sound less awful, but it is still too many.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. But the same data from the Washington Post also show that only about four percent of these people killed by police are unarmed, so that is about 40 a year on average. The data further show that about 23% of those unarmed people are black. So, in other words, there are, on average, slightly less than 10 unarmed blacks shot and killed by police a year in this country, but there are over 7,000 blacks murdered every year. So, for every unarmed black person shot and killed by police there are more than 700 black people murdered. And FBI statistics show that of the blacks who are murdered, roughly 88% are murdered by other blacks.[8]

Now, let’s consider just one other cause of death among blacks; heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, over 93,000 blacks died of heart disease in 2011.[9] That is, of course just one of many potential causes of death, and that is almost a thousand times the number of unarmed blacks shot and killed by the police, so the idea that police violence is a leading cause of death, or even death and trauma, is utter nonsense. The LA teacher union is simply lying, and outrageously so.

Marc Roby: Those numbers are astounding. And they are completely out of line with the narrative you hear on the evening news.

Dr. Spencer: The mainstream news media in this country have blood on their hands in my opinion. Every time an unarmed black person is shot by police it is a major news item virtually independent of the circumstances. You never hear about the fact that about 46 police are killed by blacks each year in this country.[10] The careless and lopsided reported then stokes the public perception and rage against police.

Marc Roby: Which then results in greater violence against police and more burned out stores and so on.

Dr. Spencer: And those stores are predominantly in poor neighborhoods, which reduces their access to stores and raises prices. And, when the police back off on policing, as has happened in the wake of virtually every one of these publicized shootings of black men, more blacks get killed as a result of violent crime. And, as we saw, over 700 times as many blacks are murdered as are shot and killed by police each year, so we can assume that there are quite a few innocent lives lost as a result of the main-stream press, many politicians and, of course, the Black Lives Matter organization endlessly pushing this false narrative.

Marc Roby: That is entirely tragic. But what about the claim of systemic racism? The numbers of unarmed blacks killed by police are obviously not what the popular narrative would lead you to believe, but that alone doesn’t prove that racism isn’t the cause.

Dr. Spencer: No, it doesn’t. But out of the roughly 1,000 people shot and killed each year by the police, about 18 on average are unarmed white people.[11] In other words 80% more unarmed white people are killed by police each year than unarmed black people. You don’t hear that on the news and no one riots in the streets because of it.

Marc Roby: But of course, the Black Lives Matter organization and those who agree with it would say that blacks only comprise about 13% of our population, and whites are about 76% of the population[12], so you would expect more unarmed whites to be shot than unarmed blacks.

Dr. Spencer: They would say that. But the percentage of whites or blacks in the population is not the right number to use to figure out whether or not police racism is a problem. The more relevant number would be the percentage of whites or blacks who commit crimes. And, as Heather Mac Donald has reported, “blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants, 57 percent of all murder defendants, and 45 percent of all assault defendants in America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, the latest year for which such county data is available, though blacks made up only 15 percent of the population in those counties, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.”[13]

Marc Roby: Ah, but the Black Lives Matter organization and its followers would say those numbers simply prove racism yet again. Racism is why so many more blacks are arrested and tried for these crimes.

Dr. Spencer: And that is yet another lie. The fact is, that the percentages of different races arrested and tried for crimes agrees very well with the percentages based on the reports of the victims of these crimes, who are overwhelmingly black themselves.[14]

Marc Roby: Well, that shoots down that argument. Unless, of course, you want to believe that black victims lie and state that their assailants were black, when they were, in fact, white.

Dr. Spencer: And that’s the problem with all of these lies. The data are readily available to show that they are lies, and yet the mainstream press, politicians and others continue to repeat them over and over again. And people die as a result. Both police officers and innocent black citizens and others. And police shootings aren’t the only place this lie of assuming a disparity in numbers has a racist cause, shows up. It is also the lie that fuels the affirmative action programs in university admissions and also in hiring.

Marc Roby: Can you illustrate that?

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely, let’s talk about my field of Electrical Engineering. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2017, there were 586 US citizens or permanent visa holders who received PhDs in Electrical Engineering in America.[15] Of those, just 19 of them were black and 323 where white. In other words, there were 17 white graduates for every black one. Therefore, the odds of being able to fill a particular faculty vacancy with a black person, as opposed to a white person, is roughly 1 in 18, or 5.5%.

Marc Roby: That’s not a very good probability.

Dr. Spencer: No, it isn’t. I can tell you for a fact that for the 25 years I served on the faculty at UC Davis, starting in 1986, we were always open to hiring any qualified black candidate. There is a lot of pressure to have a more diverse faculty. But the reality is that the pool of candidates is simply too small to allow it to happen.

Marc Roby: Of course, yet again, Black Lives Matter and its supporters would say the small number of black PhD graduates in Electrical Engineering is, of course, the result of racism.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, they would. And that would again be a lie. There aren’t enough blacks graduating with bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering, which is necessary before you can go on for a PhD. And then you go back and find there aren’t very many black students who even want to take Electrical Engineering in the first place, and there aren’t many that have good enough math and science skills coming out of high school.

Marc Roby: And, again, BLM would say this is all evidence of systemic racism.

Dr. Spencer: And that is again completely false. I’m not saying there isn’t any racism anywhere along the line, that would be stupid. But there is no evidence that it is a significant factor and there is a great deal of evidence that it isn’t a factor. Consider Asians for example.[16] The percentage of Asians in engineering is way higher than their percentage of the population, why is that? According to the Black Lives Matter view, it must be that our society is racist against whites too and is most favorable toward Asians. But that is silly.

Now, I don’t think Asians are in some way genetically superior at mathematics and science than others. I don’t know for sure the exact reasons for the difference in numbers, but it seems all but certain that a major part of the reason is that the Asian subculture in this country highly values education, so their children are expected to work hard and, in addition, that subculture highly values degrees in engineering, medicine, law and other such disciplines.

Marc Roby: That sounds reasonable.

Dr. Spencer: Because it is reasonable. The idea that a racial disparity in some outcome is always caused by racism is simply unfounded and ridiculous on the face of it. If that were the case, then the NBA should be sued for being radically racist because over 80% of the players are black.[17] But, fortunately, sports is one of the few things left in this country that is a true meritocracy.

Thomas Sowell, in his wonderful book Intellectuals and Race, points out that such differences were often incorrectly used in the early 20th century to justify believing that some races were inherently superior to others. That was wrong, and it is just as wrong now to assume that all such differences are caused by racism.[18]

Marc Roby: That’s a great point. We shouldn’t just assume the cause of any disparity without looking into the problem further and establishing real cause and effect.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. Our school system is clearly failing blacks, but the problem is not entirely the school system’s fault. The black subculture in this country not only does not value education, it actually looks down on and discourages people from working hard and succeeding. In our previous session I mentioned books by Jason Riley[19] and Candace Owens[20], they are both black and grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances, and they both tell about being teased and laughed at for wanting to do well in school, and they are far from the only ones. It is called “acting white” if you want to do well. Jason Riley makes an astute comment on this, he wrote that “A culture that takes pride in ignorance and mocks learnedness has a dim future.”[21]

Marc Roby: That seems like quite an understatement. But, once again, I must point out that BLM and its supporters would claim that the problems in the black community are all left overs from slavery and the Jim Crow era.

Dr. Spencer: And that is yet another lie. We went over some statistics last time to show that black families were doing much better prior to the mid-1960s. They went downhill after that. So the cause cannot pre-date the 1960s. There is no doubt, of course, that slavery and Jim Crow put blacks in a bad position in this country, and doing what we can to create real opportunities for blacks, and others who are poor and disadvantaged in any way, is all well and good and Christians should be supportive of those efforts. But we have to be sure we are addressing the real problem, not an imagined one, or the proposed solutions will do no good and, in fact, will often do more harm.

Marc Roby: Yes, you obviously can’t cure the disease if you don’t know what it is.

Dr. Spencer: And the current narrative says the problem is all racism, which is simply not true. I’m sure that racism and the injustices of the past play a role, but they are not the main problem. Inner city schools are part of the problem, but there are wonderful things being done with charter schools and yet many on the left oppose them because they don’t fit their narrative and are opposed by the teacher’s unions, which overwhelmingly support leftist politicians. [22] So these wrong ideas make it impossible to really solve the problems.

I think the most reasonable probability is that the welfare state brought about by President Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s is a major factor as we discussed last week, but another factor is, without a doubt, the neo-Marxist ideologies that have been taught in our schools and pushed by many different groups since that time. These ideologies feed on finding groups of people who can be viewed as victims and then stoking hatred and bitterness toward the group labeled as an oppressor.

Marc Roby: Certainly, being labeled a victim removes hope that you can do much about the problem on your own. It puts you at the mercy of somebody else.

Dr. Spencer: And that is a serious problem. In a recent interview, Ben Carson the black former neurosurgeon and current Secretary of housing and urban development, said, “Please don’t allow yourself to be manipulated to believe that you’re a victim and that somebody else is causing all of your problems … the person who has the most to do with what happens to you is you”.[23]

Marc Roby: The LGBT movement is another example of forming groups of so-called victims.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And, by the way, the Black Lives Matter organization is very strongly tied into the whole LGBT movement, which is born out of the same hate filled neo-Marxist ideology. It is all about trying to gain power by claiming that all of your problems are caused by those in power now. One problem with Marxists and neo-Marxists of all stripes is that they are certain that their problems are not their own fault. Their problems are caused by some oppressor class.

Marc Roby: Which would be you and me; white, male, heterosexual Christians.

Dr. Spencer: You’re quite right that right. On the intersectionality scale I’m pretty sure we have a negative score. But Christians, on the other hand, correctly recognize that each individual person’s biggest problem is not someone else, it is himself. We are sinners. We need to fight against our sin and we need to be saved from our sins. Racism is not the main problem, and it is clear that the Black Lives Matter organization and others on the left know this.

Marc Roby: Now how is that clear?

Dr. Spencer: Because they don’t really want to end racism, they want power. They have defined racism in a new and completely destructive way. According to them, a black person cannot be racist. You have to be in power to be racist. And all white people are, by definition racist. That is just plain stupid, and racist. If you want to solve the problem of racism you need to first state what the objective is, in other words, what does a society without racism look like? The answer was given by Martin Luther King in his I Have Dream speech. He said he wanted his children to be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin, and if that were completely true, it would be the end of racism.

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point. The BLM organization and the whole intersectionality, critical theory mindset says that race, sex and so on are all that matter.

Dr. Spencer: Right. If BLM and their supporters are successful in achieving their goals, you won’t have a society without racism, you will simply have a flipped power structure where whites, males and Christians are on the bottom and black women lesbians are on top. But there will still be racism and hatred. All that will have changed is which group is in power. And that doesn’t do any of us any good. We should be working to end racism and the idea that all whites are racist is not helpful. If you just met me for the first time and you notice that I am a white male, what does that tell you about me?

Marc Roby: Well, I’m pretty sure the only things I could say for sure are that you are a white male.

Dr. Spencer: That’s absolutely right. You know nothing of significance! You don’t know if I’m married or divorced or whether I have children, you don’t know what I do for a living or whether I’m a kind and generous person or a monster. You know nothing of significance. You can tell much more about me by observing how I’m dressed and groomed and how I behave than you can by knowing my color or sex. But the current neo-Marxist ideologies would have you believe that the only things that really matter are my color and sex and so on. The idea that you know anything of significance about me just by knowing my color is an extremely racist idea. The critical race theory courses being forced upon so many people these days are terrible. They foster hatred and division, they are openly racist, they make the whole situation much worse and should be thrown out. People should refuse to take them.

Marc Roby: Alright, so how should we, as Christians, respond to this whole neo-Marxist movement.

Dr. Spencer: We must reject lies and live according to the truth. Which is why I quoted Jesus at the start of this session. The Black Lives Matter organization is a Marxist organization built on lies. If they really believed that black lives matter, they would not be in favor of defunding the police, they would be in favor of more police and better training for police so that poor black communities could be safer and more prosperous. They would care more about the 7,000 plus blacks murdered every year, mostly by other blacks, than they do about a handful of unarmed blacks shot by police. Who, by the way, were criminals and would not have been shot had they cooperated with the police. If they really cared about black lives they would not be in favor of abortion, which disproportionately kills black babies, nor would they be opposed to the traditional family, which gives black children the best possible hope for a decent future.

Marc Roby: We spoke last time about how damaging it is for children to grow up without a father.

Dr. Spencer: And yet, the Black Lives Matter website used to say that “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family” and went on to talk about collective care in “villages”.[24]

Marc Roby: You said it used to say that, so it doesn’t anymore?

Dr. Spencer: No, they have changed their website to be less open about their real beliefs and goals, although it still has plenty of information to show how radical their views are and to show that their main agenda really has nothing to do with preserving black lives.

The bottom line is that black lives do matter. They matter just as much as any other lives do. And because they matter, we should not support the Black Lives Matter organization. And Christians absolutely cannot support this organization because it is a Marxist, racist, anti-family, anti-authority, anti-God, anti-Christian organization.

Marc Roby: What else must Christians do?

Dr. Spencer: We must, as the Christian Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, live not by lies.[25] In other words, we must never knowingly speak, support, agree with or in any way go along with what we know to be a lie. For example, God created man male and female. It is a lie that there are more than two genders. It is a lie that all white people are racist or that all white people have succeeded only because of white privilege. Candace Owens wrote, “Let’s face it, those born in America after the 1980s are among the most privileged human beings ever to walk the face of the planet.”[26] And she was talking about blacks as well whites and all others, and she was completely correct.

Marc Roby: I have to agree with that statement. All of us who have born in America are privileged because of it.

Dr. Spencer: I completely agree. As Christians we must never judge a person by the color of his or her skin or by any other trait over which the person has no control. But many traits are mostly, if not entirely, in each person’s control. Things like how you behave, how you dress, how hard you work, whether or not you are respectful of others and so on. It is perfectly appropriate for you to be judged based on these. And Christians must judge based on the Bible. So, for example, laziness and lying are wrong. Vulgar speech and sexual immorality are wrong. These are not just social constructs and every culture is not equally good.

And we must seek to solve the real problems plaguing our world, which are difficult. We must not give in to the all-to-easy idea that our problems, or anyone else’s problems, are someone else’s fault, even though there is sometimes some truth in that statement. We must take personal responsibility and we must respect other people enough to expect the same from them, while also doing what we can to truly help those who are at a disadvantage to help themselves. We must oppose racism and injustice of every kind. And, most importantly, in all things, at all times, we must be submitted to the Word of God and only believe, speak and do that which is in agreement with his Word.

Marc Roby: And his Word is truth.

Dr. Spencer: Yes it is, and we must speak truth when we speak. We do not have to oppose politically correct speech and actions every single time we see them, we must be as wise as serpents. But we must never speak lies ourselves just to get along. We must never give implicit or explicit approval to actions that are against the Bible. Our purpose is the glory of God, our place is that of creatures made in God’s image, and our priorities are to be set by God.

If we compare our country to utopia, then it looks pretty bad. But utopia is, quite literally, nowhere. That is what the word means. We must compare our country to the other alternatives and work to make it better, not tear it down. Utopia does not exist. Heaven, on the other hand, does exist, it is real. And it is the home of righteousness. And none of us belong there or will ever be there without radical change. We must be born again. Our sin must be removed. And so, I look forward to getting back to discussing theology in our next session.

Marc Roby: And I do as well. I want to point out that the transcript for this session has even more footnotes and references than normal because we couldn’t take the time to go over every detail in our discussion today. And, finally, let me close by reminding our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies, A Manual for Christian Dissidents, Sentinel, 2020

[3] https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/, viewed on 10/19/20

[4] See “DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REPORT REGARDING THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO THE SHOOTING DEATH OF MICHAEL BROWN BY FERGUSON, MISSOURI POLICE OFFICER DARREN WILSON”, March 4, 2015, available at: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/doj_report_on_shooting_of_michael_brown_1.pdf

[5] UTLA, The Same Storm, but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020 21, July, 2020, pg. 11, available at: https://www.utla.net/sites/default/files/samestormdiffboats_final.pdf

[6] https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-1.xls

[7] John Sullivan, Liz Weber, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins, Four years in a row, police nationwide fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people, Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2019, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/four-years-in-a-row-police-nationwide-fatally-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2019/02/07/0cb3b098-020f-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html

[8] The FBI data only break out the race of the offender and victim for murders with a single victim and a single offender. For 2019, in 2,574 out of 2,906 cases blacks were murdered by other blacks, which is 88.6%. See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls

[9] See https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_472910.pdf

[10] According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, an average of over 55 police have been killed in firearm related incidents per year in the last four years. (Using their data for 2016 through 2019 yields 169.5 deaths a year on average [https://nleomf.org/facts-figures/officer-deaths-by-year] and their data for 2019 and 2020, that 79 out of 236, or 33.4%, of deaths are “firearms related” [https://nleomf.org/], and assuming that percentage for all four years yields 56.7 deaths a year.) And, according to Heather Mac Donald, “the Department of Justice has found that police officers are five times more likely to die at the hands of a black suspect than a white suspect.” (Heather Mac Donald, False Testimony, City Journal, Sept. 26, 2019, available at: https://www.city-journal.org/police-shootings-racial-bias) Putting these numbers together reveals that about 46 police are killed by blacks each year in this country.

[11] Using data from Sullivan et. al., (Ref. 5), roughly 40 unarmed people are shot and killed a year and 45% of them are white, which is 18.

[12] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219

[13] Heather Mac Donald, False Testimony, City Journal, Sept. 26, 2019, available at: https://www.city-journal.org/police-shootings-racial-bias

[14] Ibid, “In New York … blacks were 72.6 percent of known shooting suspects in 2018, according to victim and witness identifications (those victims and witnesses being overwhelmingly black themselves).”

[15] https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf19301/data

[16] Thomas Sowell shows data for Asians that clearly show their superior performance in America; is this because of racism? No. See, Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race, Basic Books, 2013, pp 4-5

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_NBA

[18] Sowell, op. cit., pg. 17

[19] Jason L. Riley, Please Stop Helping Us, Encounter Books, 2015

[20] Candace Owens, Blackout, Threshold Editions, 2020

[21] Riley, op. cit., pg. 50

[22] Riley, op. cit., pp 114-134

[23] https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/07/24/hud-secretary-ben-carson-warns-some-in-black-lives-matter-protests-are-being-manipulated/

[24] https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/, viewed in June, 2020

[25] Dreher, op. cit. pg. 17

[26] Owens, op. cit., pg. 94

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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Last week we looked at the founding of the former Soviet Union and we noted that true Marxists believe that the ends justify the means. In their view, they are working to establish heaven on earth and whatever price has to be paid is acceptable. Dr. Spencer, how would you like to proceed today?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I want to remind our listeners of our discussion in Session 165, where we pointed out that according to the Bible, the most important function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. The Bible teaches us that human freedom and human responsibility are important. This view of government is fundamentally irreconcilable with the Marxist idea of having the government be a vehicle for creating heaven here on earth.

Marc Roby: And we have also noted that the goal of creating heaven on earth is impossible in light of the fact that men are all sinners. Heaven is not possible unless our sin is removed, and only God can do that.

Dr. Spencer: That is the key problem. Because Marxism is based on a materialist worldview, it is bound to be wrong. Unfortunately, it also brings out the very worst in human nature. Let me read a quote from Louis Fischer. He was an American journalist who lived in Russia for some time and was, initially, very much in favor of what was going on, which is why he moved there. But even though he liked the theory, he became very disillusioned with the reality. He wrote that the Communist Party and the government “both bred sycophants, cynics and cowards. In the highest rank as well as in the lowest, fear rather than thought, self-interest rather than public welfare was the father of every word and deed. Anybody who had uttered a dissenting view in the past or whose independence and originality might some day nurture unorthodoxy received a 2 A.M. visit from the secret police and soon joined the involuntary ‘builders of Socialism’ in Siberia and the Arctic wastes.”[1]

Marc Roby: That is frightening, but it also sounds like our politically correct cancel culture on steroids.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. As we saw last time, Lenin was absolutely ruthless. And he was followed by Stalin, who was just as ruthless, if not worse. And most other communist leaders have not been any better. Think of all the people who suffered or died in Mao’s China, or in Fidel’s Cuba, or now in Venezuela. And even the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini is a close cousin to communism, it is also a socialist ideology and both communism and fascism require a totalitarian state.

As we noted before, it is estimated that over one hundred million people have been murdered by socialist regimes since 1917.[2] People will do amazingly terrible things when they think they are working for a goal as wonderful as world-wide peace and affluence, in other words, heaven on earth.

Marc Roby: We are told in Proverbs 14:12 that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [3]

Dr. Spencer: Yes, and just in case we don’t recognize how important that statement is, it is repeated for us in Proverbs 16:25. As Christians, we need to look at what God says, not what man says. God is truth and his Word is truth. If we stand on that truth, proclaim it, and make it the basis for our own thinking, we will be doing what is best. Not just best for ourselves, but best for everyone, even non-Christians.

Marc Roby: Of course, you’re not suggesting that we put in laws that require everyone to go to church on Sunday, for example, or to join in public prayers or to read their Bible every day.

Dr. Spencer: No, of course not. Christianity never teaches that we should try and force others to live like Christians. It isn’t possible for them to do so anyway; it requires Holy Spirit power to live the Christian life. But it is perfectly proper for us, as Christians, to influence society to the best of our ability to have a government and laws that reflect the law of God. So, for example, human life is sacred because God says it is sacred, and we should push for laws that reflect that fact.

Marc Roby: And God even gives us the reason it is sacred. Capital punishment for murder was commanded by God in Genesis 9:6 where we read, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a very important point and provides a good illustration of why biblical thinking leads to what is best for everyone. While being deliberately cruel to animals is undoubtably wrong, you don’t put someone to death for killing an animal because animals are not made in God’s image. But men and women are. Therefore, anyone who willfully takes the life of another human being, except in very special circumstances like self-defense, has sinned tremendously against God and God himself commands that society put that person to death. And the prohibition against murder applies to all human beings, the unborn just as much as a healthy adult.

Marc Roby: You aren’t suggesting that we should have the death penalty for abortion providers are you?

Dr. Spencer: Well, not while abortion is legal, no. But we should work to make abortion illegal and, if that were to happen, then deliberately taking the life of an unborn child should be treated no differently than deliberately taking the life of anyone else. Notice that our laws already reflect this idea in some ways. In the California penal code murder is defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”[4] Now that section of the penal code also carves out an exception for the fetus when it is killed with the mother’s consent, but the simple fact it is worded this way reveals that everyone knows the truth; abortion is legalized murder, our society has simply decided that a mother has a right to murder her unborn child.

Marc Roby: That’s an accurate, but I’m sure controversial, way to put it. But you said this illustrates why biblical thinking leads to what is best for everyone. I doubt those who support abortion rights would agree, so what is your argument?

Dr. Spencer: When you stop considering all human life to be sacred, as we have in this country, you open a Pandora’s box and you devalue all human life. You no longer have a clear rational basis for saying murder is wrong. You allow it for unborn children, so long as the mother approves, so why not also allow it for newborns with the mother’s approval for example? Infanticide has been practiced in many cultures throughout history for various reasons and has been proposed quite seriously in this country by Peter Singer and others. He is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Although, to be fair, he does write that “We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide …”.

Marc Roby: Whoa … I’m glad to hear he at least thinks there should be limits!

Dr. Spencer: Well, his limits aren’t all that meaningful, I didn’t finish the sentence. Let me read the whole sentence, along with the one that follows it. He wrote that “We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide; but these restrictions should owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to the intrinsic wrongness of killing an infant. Obviously, in most cases, to kill an infant is to inflict a terrible loss on those who love and cherish the child.”[5]

Marc Roby: Now wait a minute, a terrible loss to those who love and cherish the child? What about the child himself, or herself? That’s frightening.

Dr. Spencer: Well, I don’t want to get into his justification for this abhorrent view, I just want to use it to finish my example. In the transcript for this podcast, which is available on our website – whatdoesthewordsay.org, I cite an excellent article to read for those who are interested.[6]

But let me finish up this example. When you don’t have a clear-cut reason for the sanctity of human life, it becomes a very malleable phrase – it can mean whatever you want it to mean and you can justify abortion, infanticide and senicide, which is the killing of people who get to be too old to be useful. It is very difficult to argue against these evils without a clear-cut, independent moral position that is defensible, and the Bible gives us that position. All human beings are made in the image of God.

Marc Roby: OK, I see your point.

Dr. Spencer: So, as Christians, we must base our reasoning on the Bible, even when we are reasoning about forms of government and the laws in our nation. God is infinitely wiser and more knowledgeable than we are, and if we stick with what he says, it will be good for us, and for the society we live in.

Marc Roby: That does make sense. And so, getting back to our discussion of socialism, the goal of government should also be set by the Bible, not by man.

Dr. Spencer: And that is exactly my point. The government is not the absolute authority. Our rights as human beings are not something the government doles out, they are given to us by God. That is why our Declaration of Independence says that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And the Declaration goes on to say, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”[7] Men create governments and grant them certain limited powers, not the other way around. We have gotten away from that idea in this country.

Marc Roby: Yes, that is obviously true. Some people act as if they think the government is some infinite reservoir of benefits.

Dr. Spencer: That’s quite true. Many people seem have the view that government should be there to provide for our needs from the cradle to the grave, and many people in government are all too happy to encourage this view because it keeps them in power and increases their power.

But you need to think carefully if you think that that sounds good, because it means that the government will have to be so large and powerful that your rights as an individual can be trampled at any moment. Our founding fathers were very concerned about this and the system of government they put in place is an amazing compromise that demonstrates great wisdom. It balances the idea of democracy, that is majority rule, with the need to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. And significant changes to the form of that government have to be agreed to by a supermajority of the citizens.

Marc Roby: It is incredible to go back and study the founding documents and the debates that consumed people as they worked out the details.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. Now, this country is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a great country. It is currently fashionable on the left to view this country as some kind of imperial power, but that is unjustifiable given the facts. For example, this country only achieved a significant degree of global hegemony after World War II. And any fair reading of that history has to recognize three major facts about it.

Marc Roby: What are those?

Dr. Spencer: First, that we were dragged into World War II against our will. There is no doubt that there were some who wanted us to join much before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but that was certainly not the majority view. Now, it is also true that it was in our own best interests to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but that leads to the second thing any fair history has to recognize.

Marc Roby: What is that?

Dr. Spencer: That we didn’t try to permanently stay as an occupier in the territories after we conquered them! And, by the way, I’m not ignoring our allies, we didn’t do it alone. But no rational person would argue that we were not the dominant force. And so my point stands, we were not in World War II for the purpose of extending our empire, which by definition puts the lie to the idea that this country is some horrid imperial power. Not only did we not try to permanently occupy Germany, Japan and other territories that we and our allies conquered, we spent a phenomenal amount of money to build them back up after the war so that they would have functioning economies. That has never been done by any other victorious nation to the best of my knowledge.

Marc Roby: Well, the Marshall Plan was an incredible success to say the least. Unlike the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and made World War II almost certain given its harsh treatment of Germany, we poured enormous resources into rebuilding Europe after World War II, including Germany.

Dr. Spencer: And, to be honest, that was again in our own best interest given that Russia was much closer to those countries and would probably have taken over Europe had we simply left, but just because it was also in our interest does not negate the fact that it was a very generous act that benefitted our European allies immensely. And we did much the same in Japan.

Marc Roby: OK, what is the third major fact you said has to be recognized?

Dr. Spencer: That, as far as I am aware, the United States is the only country in the history of the world to ever gain any significant degree of hegemony without it being a part of a conscious plan to rule the world or at least a large portion of it. Nor was it done primarily for our own benefit. We were not seeking to conquer territory in order to add it to our country or to steal natural resources or subjugate people. And we weren’t primarily defending our homeland either, the continental United States was never seriously threatened. We would have been happy to stay out of the war entirely, but we chose not to.

Marc Roby: That’s a great point.

Dr. Spencer: When you put that together with the phenomenal success of our free-market based economy to improve the lives of almost all people, we have a lot we can justifiably be proud of in this country.

Marc Roby: Although we must also admit we do have things to be ashamed of as well, and we have a lot of things that can be improved upon.

Dr. Spencer: And both of those points are obviously true. We should be ashamed of having slavery up until the time of the thirteenth amendment, and we should be ashamed as a nation for the Jim Crow era that followed. But the United States is far from unique in terms of slavery.

Slavery has been a part of human history for as long as we have records. And racial discrimination has been, and still is, a common problem virtually everywhere. These are simply the result of the fact that human beings are sinners. But, as we noted in Session 161, God gives us our purpose, place and priorities. So long as we keep that in mind and seek a government that is consistent with our purpose, which is to glorify God, and our place, which is that we are finite creatures, wholly dependent on our Creator, and which seeks to implement the priorities God gives us for our lives, then we will be doing what is right and best for everyone.

Marc Roby: And socialism fails in all three of those areas. Because it is built on a materialist, atheist worldview, it completely misses the purpose of human life, in fact it rejects that there is any purpose – we are just cosmic accidents. It doesn’t even recognize that there is a God, let alone that our chief end is to glorify him. It also doesn’t see that we are mere creatures, entirely dependent on our Creator, so it gets our place wrong. It thinks we are the ultimate beings. And, finally, its priorities are wrong since it ignores God’s revelation.

Dr. Spencer: One of the most poignant things I have ever read about this was written by Whittaker Chambers.

Marc Roby: Most of our listeners will probably not know who he was, so let me provide some very brief background. Whittaker Chambers was an American writer who was a communist and worked as a spy in the Soviet underground in this country in the 1930’s. He later defected from communism and, most famously, was the primary witness in the Alger Hiss case in the late 40’s.

Dr. Spencer: And Alger Hiss was an assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Francis Sayre in the FDR administration, participated in the Yalta Conference with FDR, Winston Churchill and Stalin, and was heavily involved in drafting the charter for the United Nations. He was convicted of perjury, rather than espionage, because the statute of limitations had run out on the espionage charges. He proclaimed his innocence right up to his death in 1996 and the case is still somewhat controversial, although I think the evidence that has come out after his death makes it quite clear that he was a Soviet spy.

Marc Roby: And Whittaker Chambers wrote a very famous account of his life and the trial, called Witness.[8]

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And the reason I bring this up is that he wrote what he called a “Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children” that is one of the most poignant and amazing things I’ve ever read. His burden was to explain to his children how he could ever have been involved with something as evil as the Soviet Union.

Marc Roby: And it would be good to note that he became a confessing Christian.

Dr. Spencer: In fact, let me quote from his forward, he wrote that “I date my break [with communism] from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment … My daughter was in her high chair. … My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear … The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’”[9]

Marc Roby: Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of God using the shape of a human ear to bring someone to faith, but it makes perfect sense!

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. But the thing I really wanted to read is his answer to a question he posed. And you have to remember that this forward is in the form of a letter to his children. He wrote, “I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time. You will ask: Why, then, do men become Communists?” [10]

Marc Roby: That’s a great question, how does he answer it?

Dr. Spencer: It takes him a couple of pages, so I’m going to give excerpts from his answer. He wrote that “Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind.” Then he goes on to say first what communism is not. He says it is not “just the writings of Marx and Lenin, … the Red Army, secret police, labor camps” and so on. He also says, “The revolutionary heart of Communism is not the theatrical appeal: ‘Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain.’ It is a simple statement of Karl Marx, further simplified for handy use: ‘Philosophers have explained the world; it is necessary to change the world.’”[11]

Marc Roby: You’ve spoken several times about the Marxist idea of needing to create a new man.

Dr. Spencer: And that’s the idea. But now let me finish by reading the really critical part of his answer. He wrote, “The tie that binds [communists] … in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor … even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world. … Communists are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die – to bear witness – for its faith. And it is a simple, rational faith that inspires men to live or die for it. It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind. … It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world.”[12]

Marc Roby: Wow, that is powerful. And he was quoting from Genesis 3 of course, when Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in spite of the fact God had warned Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate from it. Satan contradicted God and said, as we read in Verses 4 and 5, “You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Dr. Spencer: That is the key to why all forms of Marxism – socialism, communism, fascism – or whatever, are absolutely incompatible with biblical Christianity. They are based on materialism, a rejection of God. They come from Satan, the father of lies. Chambers hit the nail on the head, the origin of Marxism was in the garden when Satan called God a liar and told man that he could be like God.

Marc Roby: That is a profound realization. Where do we go from here?

Dr. Spencer: We will soon begin to look at other modern manifestations Marxist ideology, things like the Black Lives Matter organization. But we first need to see how it is that Marxist ideology has become so common in our society today.

Marc Roby: I look forward to that discussion, and this is a great place to finish for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We will do our best to answer.

[1] Louis Fischer, from The God That Failed, six studies in communism, Hamish Hamilton, 1950, pg. 214

[2] Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth, the Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism, Encounter Books, 2019, pg. 359

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] See Section 187 of the California Penal Code

[5] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 3rd Ed., Cambridge University Press, 2011, pg. 154

[6] Scott Klusendorf, Peter Singer’s Bold Defense of Infanticide, Christian Research

Journal, Vol. 23, No. 3, available at equip.org/article/peter-singers-bold-defense-of-infanticide/

[7] From a transcript of the Declaration of Independence, available at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

[8] Whittaker Chambers, Witness, Regenery History, 2014 (republication – original was 1952)

[9] Ibid, pg. xlv

[10] Ibid, pg. xxxvii

[11] Ibid, pg. xxxviii

[12] Ibid, pp xxxviii-xxxix

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[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by beginning to examine the providence of God. Dr. Spencer, how would you like to begin?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to begin by examining the back of a one-dollar bill.

Marc Roby: Well, that’s an unusual way to begin.

Dr. Spencer: But there is an important point to make by doing so. If you look at the back of a United States dollar bill, you will notice an unfinished pyramid on the left side. The pyramid has the first thirteen layers finished, which represent the original thirteen states and the bottom layer has the date 1776 written on it in Roman numerals in honor of our Declaration of Independence. The fact that the pyramid is unfinished represents the potential for growth. If you look above the pyramid you will see an eye floating above it. This eye is called the eye of Providence and represents God. It is enclosed in a triangle, which is a symbol for the Trinity and it has rays of light emanating from it, which represent the glory of God. Finally, there are two mottos written in Latin. The one above the pyramid says Annuit cœptis, and means that Providence, or God, has approved our undertakings. In other words, it expresses the idea that God approved of the founding of this country. Our founding fathers were declaring independence from England, but not independence from God. The motto below the pyramid says Novus ordo seclorum, which means a “new order of the ages”. [1]

Marc Roby: I’m quite sure that very few Americans know this, even though they all use dollar bills regularly.

Dr. Spencer: I’m confident you’re right about people not knowing, I’m less confident that everyone actually uses paper money regularly. But the important point I want to make is that when our country was founded, the idea of God’s providence was common. Many of our most prominent founding fathers were not born-again Christians as is sometimes claimed, but most of them did believe in God and most also believed in the idea of providence.[2] One can certainly debate exactly what some of them meant by providence, but there was a common notion that events in this world were governed in some way by an intelligent, powerful and good God.

Marc Roby: And that view continued to be the norm for quite some time.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly did. If you look at letters to and from soldiers in the Civil War for example, they often speak about Providence. For example, one father of a soldier in the Confederate army wrote the following to his son when he first joined the army; “War is a tremendous scourge which Providence sometimes uses to chastise proud and wicked nations.”[3] And I should point out that the word Providence in that sentence is capitalized, it was being used as a name for God.

Marc Roby: That reminds me Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. He famously quoted Matthew 18:7, where Jesus tells us, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!” [4] And then Lincoln said that “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove; and that He gives to both north and south this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”[5]

Dr. Spencer: That is a marvelous quote. It would be so wonderful to hear a modern president speak that way. Lincoln was acknowledging that God was in control of the Civil War and that it might very well be his judgment for the evil of slavery. In other words, he was aware of a Sovereign God who providentially rules and judges the affairs of men. And I should point out that at the end, when he said that “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether”, he was quoting from Psalm 19:9 in the King James Version.

We could give many more examples, but my previous statement is true; it was the common view from the founding of this country up through most of the 19th century that events in this world were governed by an intelligent, powerful and benevolent God.

Marc Roby: Which is very different from the common modern view that the world is ruled by chance.

Dr. Spencer: And modern is not always right or better! Chance is a useful word, but we need to be careful how we use it and how we think about it. There is, in the final analysis, no such thing as a chance event. We are told in Proverbs 16:33 that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Marc Roby: And, of course, casting a lot was the Old Testament equivalent of rolling the dice or flipping a coin.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. God knows, and in fact controls, how the dice will roll or the coin will flip. There are no accidents or chance events in God’s universe. We need to be careful about our thinking and even about the expressions we use. They reflect and affect our thinking far more than we might realize. For example, if someone is in a bad car accident and walks away from it uninjured, we might be tempted to say they were very lucky, or very fortunate. But what is luck? And what is fortune?

Marc Roby: My Webster’s dictionary says that luck is “the things that happen to a person because of chance.” And it defines fortune as “something that happens by chance.”[6]

Dr. Spencer: Which, of course, begs the question, what is chance?

Marc Roby: Well, if we look in Webster’s again, we find that it says chance is “the way that events happen when they are not planned or controlled by people.”[7]

Dr. Spencer: I like that definition a lot. Notice that it is a negative definition, by which I mean it doesn’t really say what chance is, it says what chance is not. To say that something “happens by chance” means that it was not planned or controlled by people. It does not mean that it was not planned or controlled at all. In other words, you can’t give a positive definition of chance, you can’t really tell me what it is, because it is nothing. It is a word that expresses our ignorance about, or inability to control, the cause of something. If someone walks away from a bad car accident uninjured, the real reason is that God chose that outcome.

Marc Roby: And that brings us back to the providence of God.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a good, biblical definition of providence in the answer to Question 11, which says that “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.”

Marc Roby: I love that short definition. But I think a lot of modern Christians don’t believe that God controls any of the details of life, let alone all of them. They somehow think of God as only being interested in the big issues, not the details.

Dr. Spencer: That is, without doubt, the most common view today. But it is illogical and unbiblical. To see that it is illogical, you only need to realize that God cannot control or guarantee the big things if the little things, the details of life, are somehow outside of his control or notice. We cannot trust any of God’s promises if there is any detail of creation that is outside of his control. Let me illustrate that by an example.

Marc Roby: Okay, please do.

Dr. Spencer: On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger blew up, killing all seven people on board. The cause of the catastrophe was a small rubber O-ring on the solid rocket booster that didn’t seal properly because of the cold temperature at launch time. This illustrates how a tiny detail can govern a major catastrophe. I could give many more examples, but I think everyone knows this to be true if they think about it for a few minutes.

Marc Roby: And yet, you often hear Christians say things that imply some details of life are simply too small for God to bother with. For example, they may say something like, “God is too busy with important matters to worry about whether I buy this car or that car.”

Dr. Spencer: You do hear that kind of view being expressed, but it is, again, profoundly wrong. In the case of which car we buy, there are all kinds of things that might matter. For example, can I afford both of them? Is one of them far more practical for my needs? If so, why do I want the other one? Is it because it strokes my ego?

Marc Roby: Are you suggesting that I shouldn’t by that new Ferrari I was looking at?

Dr. Spencer: We can talk about that later. But, seriously, I’m not saying we always have to buy the most economical thing that will meet our needs, I don’t believe that is true. But God cares about our motives and reasons for the decisions we make, not just the decisions themselves.

I like what Charles Hodge wrote in answer to this objection. He wrote that “The common objection to the doctrine of a universal providence, founded on the idea that it is incompatible with the dignity and majesty of the divine Being to suppose that He concerns himself about trifles, assumes that God is a limited being; that because we can attend to only one thing at a time, it must be so with God. The more exalted are our conceptions of the divine Being, the less shall we be troubled with difficulties of this kind.”[8]

Marc Roby: That gets right to the heart of the matter. If we have any understanding of the infinite wisdom, knowledge and power of God, we will realize that he is not limited like we are. He doesn’t need to neglect details in order to focus on the more important matters.

Dr. Spencer: No, he doesn’t. And, as I illustrated earlier, the details can be extremely important. It is simply illogical to think that God can, for example, bring about his plan of salvation if he can’t control the details. Look at the crucifixion of Christ as the most important example. God provided us with numerous prophecies in the Old Testament about this most important event in human history. It is utterly inconceivable that he could have brought it to pass in fulfillment of those prophecies if any of the details were outside of his control.

Marc Roby: Yes, that is obvious when you think about it. Major events depend on a myriad of small details. I think we’ve shown that this view is illogical, but you said it is also unbiblical. We already quoted Proverbs 16:33 about the lot that is cast being determined by God. What other Scriptures would you cite to back up your statement?

Dr. Spencer: The first one I would cite is from Exodus Chapter 21, where Moses is giving the people specific laws and regulations after having just told them the Ten Commandments in Chapter 20. As a part of these detailed laws God deals with the difference between killing a man deliberately or accidentally.

Marc Roby: Which is sometimes difficult to discern if there are no witnesses.

Dr. Spencer: In fact, it can be impossible to discern. And God allows for that fact in a way that illustrates his great wisdom. In Exodus 21:12-13 we read that “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. However, if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate.”

Notice two things in this statement: First, if a man kills someone unintentionally, it is because God let it happen. There are no accidents, God is in control of every detail. That is the main thing I want to illustrate for now. But we can also take a very brief digression to point out God’s wisdom in dealing with this situation. And so, the second thing we note is that the man is to flee to a place that God will designate.

Marc Roby: Which we are told in Numbers 35 are certain cities, designated as cities of refuge.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. God provided places to which a person could flee to ensure that that person is given a fair trial, rather than being dealt with as a murderer without any due process. A specific example is given in Deuteronomy 19 of two men working in the forest cutting wood and the head of one man’s axe comes off and kills the other man. That man can flee to a city of refuge rather than being put to death as a murderer[9]. But, and here is were God’s wisdom is manifest; as you noted, if there are no witnesses, it can be very difficult to determine exactly what happened. There may be other evidence, but there will be cases where we simply can’t be sure if the man is guilty or not. So, in Numbers 35:25 the people were told that if the accused man is not found guilty, he shall not be put to death, but he also doesn’t go completely free, he must stay in the city of refuge until the death of the current high priest.

Marc Roby: In other words, there was punishment of a sort even if the man was found to not be guilty of murder.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And I think that is a marvelous display of God’s wisdom. It means it was not possible for a man to murder someone, make it look like an accident, and not be punished at all. But it also made sure that if the killing were accidental, the man was not treated as a murderer, but he would still receive some punishment so that people would be careful. We are responsible if someone else is injured or killed due to our negligence, even if we didn’t intend to harm that person.

Marc Roby: That does illustrate God’s wisdom. But, as you noted, for our purpose today, the main point was that there are no accidents. It only happened because God let it happen. What other evidence can you give to support the statement that it is unbiblical to think that there are any details outside of God’s control?

Dr. Spencer: In Matthew 10:29 we read that Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Now a sparrow falling to the ground is not exactly a major world event, but Jesus tells us it cannot happen apart from the will of God.

In addition, in the next verse, Matthew 10:30, Jesus goes on to say, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Now, this does not say that God determines the number of hairs, so one could argue it only illustrates his perfect and exhaustive knowledge, but it certainly illustrates that there is no detail too small for God to pay attention to.

Marc Roby: The number of hairs on our heads is about as trivial a detail as I can think of. But it depends on whose head you’re looking at, the number of hairs on some heads is far more trivial than others.

Dr. Spencer: That’s very true, but let’s be kind. There are many other passages we could cite as well, but I think this is a good place to end for today. So, let me remind our listeners that we encourage them to email questions or comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

Marc Roby: You took the words right out of my mouth. I look forward to continuing this discussion next time.

[1] E.g., see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Seal_of_the_United_States

[2] They have been called deists by many, but the most common view is that deists cannot believe in providence (e.g., on page 270 of his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem states the common view of the God of Deism as a watchmaker who makes and winds the clock and then steps back and lets it run). The World Union of Deists however says that some deists do believe in providence (see http://www.deism.com/deism_defined.htm). While this question may be interesting, I chose not to discuss it because it is of little value, it is really an issue of definitions. It is clear from their writings that many of our founding fathers believed in Providence, although it is unclear precisely what some of them meant by that term. Whatever they meant however, it is incompatible with their writings to equate it to the modern idea of chance or fate.

[3] J. William Jones, Christ in the Camp; The True Story of the Great Revival During the War Between the States, Sprinkle Publications, 1986, pg. 30

[4] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[5] https://cdn.loc.gov/service/mss/mal/436/4361300/4361300.pdf (you can even view Lincoln’s handwritten original [see pages 6 & 8, the backs of the pages are also shown] here: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mal.4361300/?sp=8&r=-0.184,0.113,1.299,0.645,0)

[6] Merriam-Webster dictionary app for Android phone, Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2019

[7] Ibid

[8] Hodge, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, Vol. 1, pg. 583

[9] Deut 19:5

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s communicable attribute of truthfulness.

Dr. Spencer, at the end of our previous session you made a shift that I didn’t notice at the time. We had been talking about moral laws and the idea that if God doesn’t exist, might, in a human sense, does make right. You then said that “at the end of the day truth really does depend on power because it depends on authority.” So, you switched from talking about what is right, to talking about what is true. Can you explain that shift?

Dr. Spencer: I did make a jump there in order to get to the conclusion before we ran out of time and, in hindsight, the jump was too large. So, let’s go back and fill in the blanks so to speak to make it clear how I got to that conclusion.

Marc Roby: OK, please do.

Dr. Spencer: We had finished briefly discussing different theories of truth and had then pointed out that our worldview has a pervasive influence on what we believe to be true. It is therefore, extremely important that our worldview be correct. But, our worldview is not something most of us consciously develop or even think about, so you had asked for an example of how we can test whether or not our own worldview is true.

Marc Roby: Yes, I recall that.

Dr. Spencer: And I responded by saying that we can test whether some of the fundamental tenets of our worldview are true or not. Our worldview comprises a set of beliefs about the world we live in, things we believe to be true. And those beliefs can be examined by realizing that we can draw conclusions based on them, in other words things that should be true if the underlying beliefs are true, and then we can check those conclusions to see if they’re right. And I gave the example that if an atheistic worldview is correct, then there can be no absolute morality.

Marc Roby: And I think we established that conclusion reasonably well.

Dr. Spencer: I do too, although I may want to come back to that topic later. But, getting back to our example, if an atheist believes in absolute morality, and in my experience most do, even if they won’t say so, his worldview is inconsistent. I argued that absolute morality only exists because God has the authority and power to establish and enforce moral law. But I skipped over making the connection that God’s authority and power do not end with his being able to establish the moral law. In fact, he has the authority and power to determine everything that exists in this universe and is absolute sovereign over everything that happens in the universe, so that whatever he thinks is true, is necessarily true.

Marc Roby: And that is what is meant by saying that truth is, ultimately, a person, it is God.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s right. Of course, truth is also a property of a statement, but ultimately, a statement is true if it corresponds to what God thinks is true. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, defines God’s attribute of truthfulness this way: “God’s truthfulness means that he is the true God, and that all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth.”[1]

Marc Roby: Grudem uses the word “true” in two different ways in that definition, doesn’t he? To say that God is “the true God” is a different usage of the word than to say that his words are true.

Dr. Spencer: You’re right. John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of God, discusses three different meanings of the word truth as it is used in the Bible.[2] And all three meanings are important because God is truth in all three senses of the term. The first of these three meanings is called the metaphysical.

Marc Roby: Metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental causes and nature of things.

Dr. Spencer: Mm-Hmm. In talking about the truth as being a person last time, we quoted what is perhaps the most famous verse in this regard, John 14:6, in which Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” [3] Jesus was using the word truth in its metaphysical sense there. We sometimes use the word that way in our normal speech as well. For example, you might hear someone be described as a true outdoorsman. Which means that the person corresponds to the ideal picture of what an outdoorsman should be.

Marc Roby: Of course, my picture of an ideal outdoorsman might be different than yours.

Dr. Spencer: That is certainly possible. And that brings up an interesting point relating to the truthfulness of God. In John 17:3, the great high priestly prayer of Jesus, he is praying to his Father in heaven and says, “this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” When Jesus says the Father is “the only true God” he is using the term in its metaphysical sense, but we have to deal with the same question you raised; whose idea of the true God must the Father conform to in order to be the true God? Many people throughout history have rejected the true God because the God of the Bible doesn’t fit their personal idea of what God should be like. For example, many reject God because in their view he shouldn’t allow any suffering in this world.

Marc Roby: In fact, many people at the time of Jesus rejected him because they were looking for a political Messiah who would deliver them from their bondage to the Romans.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s true. In fact, Jesus spoke about the fact that people rejected him for not living up to their expectations for the Messiah. In Luke 7:31-35 he says, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Jesus was making the point that the people who rejected John for being too ascetic and Jesus for not upholding the Jewish traditions of the time were just like children who were upset with others who wouldn’t join in one game by dancing, or in another one by crying. But, we don’t get to choose the game! God is sovereign, not us.

Marc Roby: And, as Jesus said, “wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Dr. Spencer: Precisely. And what he meant was that the fruit produced by the ministry of John the Baptist, which was serious repentance, and the fruit produced by Jesus’ own ministry, which was salvation for sinners, would prove them to be true. And so, when people today refuse to accept the God of the Bible because the God they want would never allow suffering into this world, or would never send people to hell, they are being just like the Jews of Jesus’ day. Therefore, we must again ask, in the high priestly prayer of John 17, when Jesus said that the Father is “the only true God”, whose idea of the true God must the Father conform to in order to be the true God?

Marc Roby: Well, I would assume that, since Jesus is the one praying, it would be his idea of the true God that he has in mind.

Dr. Spencer: And I would agree with you. But Grudem points out an interesting and unavoidable circularity here. He says, correctly, “that it is God himself who has the only perfect idea of what the true God should be like. And he himself is the true God because in his being and character he perfectly conforms to his own idea of what the true God should be. In addition, he has implanted in our minds a reflection of his own idea of what the true God must be, and this enables us to recognize him as God.”[4]

Marc Roby: And, I might add, he has also revealed to us in his Word what it means to be the true God. I am thinking, for example, of places like Isaiah 41:22-23, where God mocks the idols of the people saying, “Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is a good passage. According to God, a true God should be able to tell us what the future holds.

In addition, the Bible tells us that a true God should also be the one who created all things. Over and over again in the Old Testament God reminds his people that he is the one who created the heavens and the earth. For example, in Isaiah 45:18 we read, “For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.’”

Marc Roby: There is only one Creator, and he alone is the true and living God.

Dr. Spencer: And, as Grudem pointed out, God “implanted in our minds a reflection of his own idea of what the true God must be, and this enables us to recognize him as God.” So, when God points out that he alone is the Creator, the Lord of history, the Savior of his people, and the Judge of all, it resonates with our inner sense of what it means to be God and, if we have been born again, we recognize it as true.

So, when we read that God is the true God, the metaphysical use of the term truth here means that we recognize God, as he reveals himself to us in his Word, to correspond in his fundamental nature, to what it means to be God. But we also see that he is the one who defines what it means to be God, so we need to jettison any unbiblical notions of God from our thinking. There is no external standard to which God must conform. He is the standard.

Marc Roby: I think we all need to meditate for a while on God’s description of what the true God should be and his revelation of himself as that true God.

Dr. Spencer: These ideas definitely warrant some careful thought. And let me add one more quick point related to the metaphysical meaning of truth. In John 1:17 the apostle says that “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

John Murray makes an important point about this verse in his book Principles of Conduct. He wrote that “We should bear in mind that ‘the true’ in the usage of John is not so much the true in contrast with the false, or the real in contrast with the fictitious. It is the absolute as contrasted with the relative, the ultimate as contrasted with the derived, the eternal as contrasted with the temporal, the permanent as contrasted with the temporary, the complete in contrast with the partial, the substantial in contrast with the shadowy. … What John is contrasting here is the partial, incomplete character of the Mosaic dispensation with the completeness and fulness of the revelation of grace and truth in Jesus Christ.”[5]

Marc Roby: That statement gives us even more to meditate on. In the meantime, you said that Frame lists three meanings of the word truth as it is used in the Bible. What is the second meaning?

Dr. Spencer: The second is epistemological, or propositional truth, which is, as Frame points out, “a property of language, rather than reality.”[6] In other words, if I say that I was born in California, the proposition is either true or false. That is the predominant sense in which we were using the term in our last session when we discussed theories of truth. A statement is true if it corresponds to reality as far as that can be determined, and if it is also consistent with all other statements we know to be true.

Marc Roby: And God is also truth in this propositional sense. For example, we are told in Hebrews 6:18 that “it is impossible for God to lie”.

Dr. Spencer: We also read in 1 Samuel 15:29 that “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind”. That is why Grudem’s definition says, “all his knowledge and words are” true. And this is the point I was making last time. Since God is the Creator and the sovereign Lord of history, he controls this universe both in terms of its underlying nature and in terms of what happens to it over time. Therefore, whatever God thinks is true, is necessarily true as we have said. Grudem says, “since God knows all things infinitely well, we can say that the standard of true knowledge is conformity to God’s knowledge. If we think the same thing God thinks about anything in the universe, we are thinking truthfully about it.”[7]

Marc Roby: In other words, God is not only true, he is the standard of truth. Grudem’s definition also says that God’s knowledge and words are “the final standard of truth.”

Dr. Spencer: And Grudem explains that statement further. He says that “God’s words are not simply true in the sense that they conform to some standard of truthfulness outside of God. Rather, they are truth itself; they are the final standard and definition of truth.”

Marc Roby: We talked about ultimate standards of truth way back in Session 4 and you pointed out that there really are only two possibilities; either human reason or divine revelation.

Dr. Spencer: Those are the only two options. But we also pointed out that even though human reason is not the ultimate standard of truth for a Christian, it is necessary. It is a gift from God and without it we can’t understand his revelation to us. But, we must use our reason in a subservient role. It cannot stand in judgment over God’s revelation, it must be used to understand that revelation correctly.

Marc Roby: And that applies to general revelation as well as to the Bible.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. We must be careful to never let human reason be the ultimate standard for truth, even when we are doing science. Francis Bacon, often considered the father of empirical science, is famous for his statement about God’s two books; the book of nature and the book of the Bible. But, as Christians, we must place the Bible above nature because it is God’s infallible word to us. We can use our understanding of nature to help understand the Bible correctly, but we can never let what we think we know from nature overrule the Bible. So, for example, the idea that all life emerged from non-life by some natural process is unacceptable because it clearly contradicts the Bible. Of course, as I pointed out in Session 1, I don’t think that idea has much scientific merit either, it is the result of an atheistic worldview.

Marc Roby: Which again points out the importance of our worldview. But, let me bring us back to our topic of God’s truthfulness. You said that Frame discussed three biblical meanings of the word truth and we’ve covered two of them, the metaphysical and the propositional meanings. What then is the third?

Dr. Spencer: The third meaning is the ethical. The three meanings are, of course, all related. Frame says that “Metaphysical truth is genuineness; epistemological truth faithfully represents what is genuine; ethical truth is faithfulness in all areas of life.”[8]

So, with regard to metaphysical truth we quoted John 17:3, which called God the Father “the only true God”, and which speaks of his being the genuine article, to use a colloquial expression. Then with regard to epistemological, or propositional, truth you quoted Hebrews 6:18, which says that “it is impossible for God to lie” and that tells us that God faithfully represents what is genuine. Then, finally, ethical truth, as Frame says, is “faithfulness in all areas of life.”

Marc Roby: And ethics refers to the moral rules that govern our behavior.

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. And God is ethical truth in at least two ways. First, Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate and, as we are told in John 1:18, makes the Father known to us, walked in perfect obedience to God’s commands. He himself declared in John 8:29 that he always did what pleased the Father. And, secondly, God is ethical truth in the sense that he alone has authority to tell us what is right and what is sin. In other words, he alone has authority to give us the moral rules that govern our behavior. Without God’s authority to do that, we are left with moral relativism and morality must be defined by human reason and is, therefore, changeable.

Marc Roby: Yes, I liked what you said in our previous session; that if someone is a logically consistent atheist, he must agree with the premise that might makes right.

Dr. Spencer: I did say that, yes. And I was deliberately being provocative. I certainly did not mean, for example, that any individual who has sufficient might to take something from another is morally right to do so. But, as I noted, if there is no God, we have a serious problem trying to defend any set of laws as being inherently right.

For example, in 1830 it was legal in some states in this country to own a slave. But now it is illegal everywhere in this country. Was there a change in some underlying law of morality? No, there was a Civil War and the 13th Amendment to our Constitution was passed. Now I certainly hope, and expect, that our listeners will all agree slavery as it existed in this country prior to the 13th Amendment was morally wrong. But there is a very serious question that we should all ask ourselves; namely, “On what basis can we make the statement that slavery is wrong?” What makes us right and the people who were in favor of it in 1830 wrong?

Marc Roby: That is a question most people would find unsettling to even ask.

Dr. Spencer: I realize that, but it is an important question. We all tend to think that we are morally superior to people we disagree with. And, if we are part of a group that has the power at the moment, we may even feel somewhat smugly justified in feeling that way. But the question stands. Other than the fact that the majority view is in our favor and the north was able to win the Civil War, what makes us right and the people in favor of slavery in 1830 wrong?

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point, although I’m sure it will make a lot of people uncomfortable.

Dr. Spencer: It does make us uncomfortable. When we find ourselves objecting to the statement that “might makes right”, and even self-proclaimed atheists typically do so, we are implicitly saying that there is some higher authority or standard for right conduct. But where does that standard come from?

Marc Roby: Obviously I would say it comes from God.

Dr. Spencer: Of course. And I would agree. But if someone claims to not believe in God, how can they answer the question?

Marc Roby: I don’t think they can. And we are out of time, so I think we will need to finish this discussion next time. Let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org; we’d love to hear from you.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 195

[2] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God, P&R Publishing Company, 2002, pg. 475

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] Grudem, op.cit., pg. 195

[5] John Murray, The Principles of Conduct, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957, pg. 123

[6] Frame, op. cit., pg. 477

[7] Grudem, op. cit., pg. 195

[8] Frame, op. cit., pg. 478

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