Mankind lives in the constant state of his eschatological assumptions. Whether he knows it or not, man lives his entire life according to his eschatology. While we might identify these eschatological assumptions as political, economic, social, historical or religious, they are what we might call Millenarian. Millenarianism, when viewed from a social vantage-point, according to Norman Cohn
“Millenarianism is seen by [its participants], not as a struggle for specific, limited objectives, but as…a cataclysm from which the world is to emerge totally transformed and redeemed.” 1
This language is apocalyptic in nature. Most revolutionary movements are eschatological since they tend to do away with the old by ushering in the new. To be sure these eschatological ideas are transformational.
Christianity’s Eschatological Vision
Christianity’s eschatological vision is somewhat complex, yet all would agree in the transformational aspect of its end time scenario. The Old Testament eschatology however, never focused upon the end of the world, but rather the end of the Old Testament Age with the coming of the Messiah in 4BC. The Millenarianism of the Old Testament Patriarchs and Prophets was the transformation from the ceremonial types, figures and shadows anticipating the Advent of the Messiah into the substance of His Incarnation, atonement, resurrection, ascension and victory over sin death and the grave. This victorious conquest would then eventually subdue all nations under the Lordship of the righteous Law of Christ. For these Old Testament Saints, Jesus was the Eschatological Christ.
Christ’s Global Conquest
Once the New Testament transition occurred, the global conquest of Christ began in earnest with Christ seated at the Right Hand of the Father judging the nations through His body the Church. The eschatological reality of the New Testament shifted from the Old Testament transitional state to an acceleration of Christ’s global conquest, finally culminating at the end of the world when He delivers up the fully Christianized world to the Father. (cf 1 Cor 15) While this doctrine is foreign to modern Christianity, it was the common orthodox view of Christendom throughout the early centuries of the Church.
Early Christian Orthodoxy
According to historical Christian orthodoxy, Christ had come to succeed as the Coronated King. He did not accomplish His work only to fail forcing Him to re-appear at the end of the world to actually conquer His enemies. His conquest was complete upon His resurrection. The modern doctrine proposing the need for Christ to return to complete His victorious task insinuates that His life, death burial, resurrection, ascension and the empowering Pentecost evangelical event was nothing more than kabuki theatre, negating His statement in Matthew 28 where all authority and power is given to Him on earth and in heaven. The entirety of the Christian era exists in the last days. These last days are actually the days of Christ’s Days of Vengeance, Victory and Dominion according to Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, which continue throughout the New Testament age.
Rosenstock Hussey said it best,
“No people can live without faith in the ultimate victory of something.” 2
Instead of the earthly cry that the world is in perpetual decay, and you should not attempt to polish brass on a sinking ship, or the world belongs to the devil and the secularists, historical Christianity saw the world as the place where victory would abound through the preaching of the Word of God. The evangelical thrust was never simply to save souls but to regenerate the entire world through the saving of souls. The battle cry was “Onward Christian Soldiers” not “Backward Christian Cowards.” The reason for such a cry was because these saints of old had an uncompromising eschatology of victory which was backed by the promises of God.
Lost and Found
The eschatology of victory might have waned for some time during the difficult period of the early Middle Ages until the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries when during that time the Millenarianism of Christ’s victory had been restored and a new sense of global regeneration took hold on both church and society. It was a time when the people looked backward to what Scripture was teaching in order to look hopefully forward into the future. By 1075, starting with the Papal Revolution, a sharp distinction was being made from what went before it to what was ahead. The old defeatist mentality was replaced with a new hope of eschatological victory.
Harold J Berman explains,
“Without the belief that this world, these times, the secular institutions of society, could be regenerated – and that such regeneration would lead to the fulfillment of man’s destiny – the great revolutions of Western history could not have occurred…More specifically, the belief in the capacity of man to regenerate the world, and the necessity for him to do so in order to fulfill his ultimate destiny, provided a basis for a conscious attack on the existing order and for the conscious establishment of a new order. The sacred was [now] used as a standard by which to measure the secular order. Thus, the eleventh and twelfth century reformers began to judge emperors and kings and lords according to principles derived from divine and natural law.” 3
Machiavelli’s State and the Sanctity of the Conscience
It was Niccolo Machiavelli who used the word “State” in a new and insightful fashion by signifying it as a purely secular order. Machiavelli’s idea was to separate the State from all religion whereby giving power to the State over religion. According to this dualistic ideal, the Church would remain sequestered within the realm of a pietistic religiosity, while the State dealt with the affairs of the nation and all society. 4
Even though the Lutherans sided with this idea somewhat, Calvin, in concert with many others of the European Reformers, saw the State as under the authority of God, as Christ’s ministers, declaring that the State was simply another branch of God’s sacred world. The State and the Church were to work together within their specific spheres of authority under the direct authority of God, but both were to advance the Christian Faith.
Martin Bucer agreed with this doctrine and stated that the State was to work toward the establishment of Christian Communities. He saw the role of civil government as working with the sword to resist all idolatry and desecration of the name of God and as a result creating a situation in which the Word of God could be clearly preached without hindrance.5
During this time, it was the Lutheran concept of the individual that became central to the development of the modern law of property and contract. 6 This Reformation idea of the individual as it concerned property saw the individual’s conscience also as personal property. This meant that the sanctity of the conscience was to be protected at all costs. This would become an important legal development which has its impact upon us today.
The Sanctity of the Conscience
If the Lutheran Reformation initiated the idea of the sanctity of the individual and the sacred protection of the conscience, Protestant Calvinism brought the idea forth to be implemented in law. This was further carried forward by the Puritans who also viewed the conscience of the individual as sacred. It was this notion of the sacredness of the conscience coupled with the sanctity of the individual which laid the ground-work for the Puritan resistance against the State’s encroachment upon the conscience. There were two distinct elements in Puritan thought that Lutheranism failed to address.
Berman again explains,
“First was a belief in the duty of Christians generally, and not merely Christian rulers, to reform the world; and Second, a belief in the local congregation, under its elected minister and elders, as the seat of truth, a fellowship of active believers, higher than any political authority… The active Puritan congregations, bent on reforming the world, we’re ready to defy the highest powers of the church end of the state in asserting their faith, and they did so on the grounds of individual conscience, also appealing to divine law, to the mosaic law of the Old Testament, and to natural law concepts embodied in the medieval legal tradition.”7
The Puritans had resurrected the victorious eschatology of the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament with a Millenarianism of Hope while appealing to the sanctity of the conscience.
Individuality and Conscience Assaulted
Once the State and its Liberal Democracy views itself as divine, the State becomes the Sovereign over the individual and the Lord of the Conscience. Once that happens the entire fabric of the Western legal tradition is in crisis and freedom is at risk. America is in a crisis as a result of the State’s encroachment upon both the sanctity of the personhood of the individual and the sanctity of the individual conscience. What is so astonishing is that Western Civilization, including those of the Christian community and its pastors, question the sanctity of the individual and the sanctity of the individual conscience as valid. The Starting point for total domination over the individual is when the State sees itself as God. Once that happens the rights and dignity of the individual is subject to the whim of the State.
Editor Ruben Alvarado commenting in Friedrich Stahl’s incredible book, ‘Private Law’, explains,
“The starting point is the right of the person This right of the person is the primeval, inalienable right, the basis of all further rights in civil society. It entails integrity, freedom, honor, legal capacity, and protection of acquired rights. This basic set up is inherent in each individual person; upon it, is erected the positive rights which go into every separate civil constitution.” 8
Stahl adds this in his chapter on ‘Universal Human Value’,
“The image of God in man is the final ground of the right of the person. In it lies the application on the civil order not only to preserve the rights necessary merely for the existence of the person, but also to elevate him to an even higher level of entitlement, freedom and gratification, which we describe as primeval rights…European Christianity had the fear of God as the motivation for the public order, the unconditional devotion to God’s command and ordinances and zeal to glorify God. Recent times prior to the revival of the Christian faith, that is, the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, had eliminated this motivation. Every trace of the recognition of an unconditional divine commandment, every obligation to fulfill the will of the living God disappeared from. Only the recognition of men and their convictions and opinions, and the care for men, remained as guidelines. Those in the area of religion only tolerance remained as a recognized and praised motivation, not however, the zeal for God’s word and God’s honor, that previously was the only such recognized motivation.” 9
What we have before us today is the replacement of the fear of God for the fear of man and the limitless toleration of all things. Conscience and human individualism as one created in eh image of God is no longer counted as sacred. And so, not only is the State’s violation of the individual and a person’s conscience tolerated, but everything is now tolerated in the name of love and kindness, unity and peace.
Stahl explains the evils of unlimited toleration,
“Tolerance has no boundaries; irreligious doctrines are to have equal rights and equal honor, and even deistic and pantheistic doctrines of every stripe is to be recognized as Christian, and as a church, as long as he considers itself to be so. On the other hand, fidelity to divine truth, to maintain the true revelation of God, finds no consideration when it maintains its true measure, much less so when it in any way overstepped its boundaries. It is the same in the political arena. The state is based solely on human rights, not on higher goals; this is the sympathy for all of the opposition against all authority; he lacks the recognition of unconditional commands for the legal order. From this, springs opposition to the death penalty, and in fact, to any sort of punishment. In the absence of a higher command that the criminal must be punished, that where blood is shed, blood must be shed, this becomes an institution for improving the criminal or a means of providing for the security of others. From this, springs the claim for unconditional divorce, making the happiness of the spouses, their sense of what is agreeable, the decisive concern and not the higher, unconditional command that what God has joined together, let no man tear asunder. From this everywhere stems a revolt against all discipline, against all restrictions established for the fulfillment of a higher order of life.” 10
And so, without the fear of God there can be no fulfillment of Humanity as God intended it. Without the fear of God Humanity cannot and will not achieve its highest potential. Humanity will no longer seek eschatological victory because it has lost its willingness to defend its conscience. Humanity will not only lose its freedom, but its honor, integrity and legal protection of those rights God has given to man, including the right to be protected in things regarding individual conscience. Once humanity loses its basis for being human, created in the image of God, humanity becomes a slave.
Stahl again explains,
“The complete lack of recognition of these rights, located in the essence of the person, is slavery… Slavery consists in the treatment of men, not as persons, not as an end in himself, but as a thing, as a mere means for others. It is therefore to be rejected out of hand”. 11
The essence of the Critical Race Theory, is in fact, slavery, since it views men in groups and not as individuals. But this idea of slavery can also be applied to the mandates of the CDC for an experimental drug, given credence by the FDA, supposedly dubbed as a preventative for a politicized pandemic. Once individuals are defined as groups, instead of individuals, as in the vaccinated vs the unvaccinated, masked vs un-masked, black vs white, rich vs poor, slavery is just around the corner. When men lose the freedom to choose according to the dictates of their conscience, they are no longer free.
Everyone functions according to their eschatological presuppositions. This is simply a fact of life. This is true for the State as well as the individual. If the State is to realize its eschatological goal of total domination, tyranny and control over every aspect of human life, social, economic, educational, ideological, political, and medical, it must first subdue the conscience of every individual. It must convince the individual that the eschatological goal of the State is in harmony with the eschatological goal of the individual and in some instances even with the eschatological goal of the Almighty. If the eschatological goal of the individual is defeat and subjugation in the here and now by either the State or the intolerant mobocracy, that reality will be fulfilled by the absence of resistance. But if the goal of the Christian individual is victory according to the Scriptures, “Thy will be done…ON EARTH…” then resistance is vital for the survival of Christendom and the whole of humanity’s liberated existence. The conscience of the individual and the protection of the human individuality is the key to an uncompromising attitude toward justice, equity and peace in the Name of the King of kings, The Lord of the conscience, Jesus the Christ.
1 Harold J Berman “Law and Revolution”
5 Willem van’t Spijker, “The Ecclesiastical Offices in the Thought of Martin Bucer”
8 Friedrick Stahl, “Private Law”
Thank you Pastor Raymond – This helps to clarify the many competing strands of philosophy that emerged after the Battle of Hastings (1066) and the Papal Revolution of 1075ff. I’ve been returning to Berman’s Law & Revolution recently, trying to grasp all that he’s saying (a monumental task.) I’m not familiar with Stahl, but the substitution of Human Rights certainly makes sense.
While recognizing the sovereignty of God working through it all, at some point the Church got off the Biblical track to end up where we’re at today. I tend to see those two virtually simultaneous events as a departure from divine law onto various natural law sidetracks.
Thus, I tend to disagree with Berman’s concluding sentence – I would strike the Word “divine”: Thus, the eleventh and twelfth-century reformers began to judge emperors and kings and lords according to principles derived from divine and natural law.” 3
In other words, there were various efforts at reform in English history, starting with Magna Charta, but these were not firmly grounded in the Law of God. They were “divine” only in a very indirect sense, with “trial by ordeal” often the standard of justice even as late as the 1800s. The martyrdom of Savonora is a tragic example, just prior to Luther. Alfred the Great and to a lesser extent Charlamagne were moving in the right direction, but then came Hastings.
Berman devotes Chapter 6 to Canon law, but he doesn’t have a corresponding chapter on “divine law” or “God’s law.” as relating to the “Kingdom of God” beyond just the church. He does however devote a chapter to the conflict between “Beckett vs. Henry II, which seems to be another pivot-point. The murder of Beckett firmly cemented extreme separation of church and state, with writers like John of Salisbury further pushing the state onto a road of independence from both church AND God.
Henry II is known as the Father of the Common Law, but his main concern was the elevation of Royal Law and local custom. So I think our tendency to equate Common Law and Divine law – as Berman does above — is severely misplaced.
Thus, we end up with reformers like Jonathan Witherspoon in the U.S., who was post-millennial with no emphasis on the Law of God to define and direct it — his focus was almost exclusively personal to the neglect of public applications. In his defense of the Great Awakening to Yale faculty, board and students in Fall, 1841 he made no mention of “Amos-type reforms” of not only people, but prophet, priest & prince. This opened the door for the philosophes like Jefferson and Franklin to move into that vacuum — and move they did.
So much more could be said, and BTW I very much appreciate your saying it to our students.