Saying Goodbye

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EDIT:

I will be continuing to write, but on our church blog where I pastor.

J.L. Pattison also writes and has his own website.

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This site originally started as Reformation Nation back in late 2007. In early 2008, The Pilgrim revamped the site and renamed it Defending.Contending.

The Lord allowed our site to be used ever since then. We have had many writers and readers. However, many of our writers faded away and I am not able to keep up with trying to correct broken links on many of the articles that were written.

About three or four years ago, I changed the name again to Truth in Grace thinking that this would better reflect my intention for the blog. However, our readership was already in huge decline.

For all who have written and read these articles through the last almost 14 years, we want to say a huge THANK YOU, but also to say good-bye. There are so many great blogs out there and people want regular content that we can no longer provide.

The website will remain active through April 2021 for those who want to copy or read any articles. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Mark Escalera – The Desert Pastor

Christian Libertarians Need to Stop Ignoring the Persuasive Influence of Fiction

Why Fiction Should Be Taken More Seriously Among Christian Libertarians

“There is a time for stories, and there is a time for rational arguments, and the skill we need lies in knowing which to use, and when.” — Os Guinnesse

Image Courtesy of Patrick Fore via Unsplash

I recently came across an article by Mark Tapson who wrote:

“The most compelling science fiction is that in which the core of the story is not the threat of hostile aliens or Death Stars, but the dangers posed by our own humanity.”

And there are few better examples of such compelling science fiction than the old Twilight Zone series where Rod Serling often used fictional threats—like aliens—to shine a penetrating light on real-life threats. Serling even conceded:

“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

But where are those storytellers like Serling today? Where are those men and women who are cleverly adept at using the vehicle of fiction to share far deeper truths to a much wider audience who would otherwise not be interested in seeking out those truths?

Dare I suggest, they’re all around us?

They’re the lesser-known Christian and libertarian authors whose books we give little regard to, but whom we should familiarize ourselves with because — after all — who better understands “the dangers posed by our own humanity” than Christians and libertarians?

THE POWER OF FICTION

Non-Christian readers who would never read books such as John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, JC Ryle’s Holiness, or John Owens’ Mortification of Sin, have thoroughly enjoyed CS Lewis’ entire Chronicles of Narnia series. Likewise, many professing Christians who would never read a book on practical witchcraft, happily own the entire Harry Potter series.

So, what’s the common denominator? What would persuade an agnostic to read books with religious themes, and what would attract a Christian to read books with occultic themes? The answer is remarkably simple: a compelling story, well told.

Humans love stories. We’re drawn to them — enchanted by them actually — and although non-fiction books are great, there’s something deeply intoxicating about a well-crafted fictional tale.

And when it comes to changing the world around us, it could be argued that fiction has been more successful at influencing readers than most non-fiction.

Image Courtesy of Tom Hermans via Unsplash

The use of storytelling, be it in books, movies, television, art, or music, has long been a catalyst for change in our culture, because, as Francis Schaefer once observed:

“For many, what they see on television is more true than what they see with their eyes in the external world.”

But why is this true?

Nancy Pearcey, in her book Saving Leonardo, attempts to answer this question:

“T.S. Elliot once noted that the serious books we read do not influence us nearly as much as the books we read for fun (or the movies we watch for entertainment). Why? Because when we are relaxing, our guard is down and we engage in the ‘suspension of disbelief’ that allows us to enter imaginatively into the story. As a result, the assumptions of the author or screenwriter may go unnoticed and seep all the more deeply into our consciousness.”

It’s through the age old art of storytelling that authors possess the power to shape the hearts and minds of others, yet today, this medium is most often neglected by Christian libertarians—if not outright ignored.

EXAMPLES OF FICTION’S INFLUENCE

Consider that two exceedingly popular, best-selling books written in the last hundred years is George Orwell’s 1984 (warning of the evils of communism) and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (often credited as a gateway drug to libertarianism for those who make it through its voluminous pages). And then consider that one of the most widely read and enduring books in the world for over 300 years has been John Bunyan’s beloved Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress which has sold over 200 million copies and has never been out of print since its first publication in 1678.

What do these three books have in common? They’re all works of fiction. And the truth is, as much as we may not want to admit it, they’ve all reached a broader audience than the likes of F.A Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Frédéric Bastiat, or R.C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon, and John MacArthur.

These three novels alone did more to introduce the world to libertarianism and the Christian faith (respectively) than most non-fiction books advocating the same ideals.

Image Courtesy of Sergio Andre via Unsplash

But why are authors who promote libertarianism and the Christian faith — through the conduit of fiction — so often ignored by those who share these same beliefs? Perhaps it’s because the allure of intellectualism is so great that most don’t feel there’s any value in trifling with fiction, even though an appeal to the likes of the aforementioned Orwell, Rand, and Bunyan would prove otherwise.

Conversely, however, our adversaries have not neglected the persuasive power of fiction, art, film, and music — they’ve actually been exploiting these areas to advance their agenda for decades. In fact, hijacking the arts was just one of their many steps designed to bring America to its knees in subjection to a Marxist dystopia.

This article is continued here.

Isaiah 9 – His Hand is Raised to Strike!

Chapter 9 of Isaiah ends with more gloom and doom. It’s no wonder why the prophets of God were hated by ethnic Israel. Much as in our day when the faithful preachers of the Word are despised and those who declare “peace! peace!” where there is no peace are heralded and beloved by the world.

Isaiah 9:18 (HCSB) For wickedness burns like a fire that consumes thorns and briers and kindles the forest thickets so that they go up in a column of smoke.

Verse 17 reminded the Hebrews that YHWH’s hand was raised to strike. Verse 18 continues the thought – His hand is ready for judgment because the wickedness of His covenant people is out of control, like a Kaliphornia wild fire. And it does not consume only those – it had spread to other nations. When God’s covenant people disregard His will for them, everyone is affected and everyone suffers. Does not the last 50 years of our history in the USA resemble this?

Isaiah 9:19 (HCSB) The land is scorched by the wrath of the LORD of Hosts, and the people are like fuel for the fire. No one has compassion on his brother.

One would think the rampaging fires described would scorch the land, but we see here that these fires are symbolic of spiritual rebellion as the scorching is by the hand of God – that hand that was raised up to strike has landed a blow. The wickedness of the people is like fuel for the judgment – it is was has brought His hand down heavy on them. That same strong hand and arm that led them from slavery in Egypt. And those being punished do not have compassion for each other – for they are self-interested; this is the condition of natural man.

Isaiah 9:20 (HCSB) They carve ⌊meat⌋ on the right, but they are ⌊still⌋ hungry; they have eaten on the left, but they are ⌊still⌋ not satisfied. Each one eats the flesh of his own arm.

They have plenty but are not satisfied. The ancient preacher said the eye never tires of seeing something new, the ear never tires of hearing something new. He might have also said that the tongue never tires of tasting something new – for these who had plenty as the world sees it, were not satisfied. And so they ate their own flesh.

This is the same depravity of which Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-24 (HCSB) For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

Isaiah 9:21 (HCSB) Manasseh is with Ephraim, and Ephraim with Manasseh; together, both are against Judah. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.

A few of the tribes rallied to strengthen each other; they came together to conquer the southern kingdom, Judah. This is not pleasing to YHWH and His is still raised to strike. Unity apart from the authority and compliance with the will of God is continued rebellion against Him. So in our day, when some religious leaders tell us we must develop a social conscience, see the gospel in a new light that the social rebels approve of. This is false unity, opposed to God and is not pleasing – for what has light to do with darkness?

Let each of us examine himself, to test everything in light of Scripture. Let us love one another in the truth of the Word in the power of the Spirit. For this is pleasing to God.

Isaiah 9 – Repent!

The middle portion of Isaiah 9, beginning with verse 8, brings a shift in focus. From the exceedingly good news of Christ as the Son of God to Jesus as Lord who will bring chastisement upon ethnic Israel for their continued rebellion.

Isaiah 9:8-9 (HCSB) The Lord sent a message against Jacob; it came against Israel. All the people— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—will know it.

YHWH brought a message against Jacob and Israel – both the south and northern kingdoms; nobody in the Mosaic Covenant community escapes. Everyone – from a lesser tribe of Israel to the “mixed breed” people – will know this, that the God of Israel brings judgement against His people. At the end of the age, when Christ Jesus comes the second time, bringing judgment to the world, everyone on the planet will know it. Only none of the saints will suffer that judgment, for He will gather the sheep to Himself.

Isaiah 9:9-10 (HCSB) They will say with pride and arrogance: “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.”

This short passage reveals the underlying problem that plagued ethnic Israel. They declared, many generations before, that some may trust in horses and chariots but they, the people of Israel, trusted in the name of YHWH! Yet they generally lived in mostly open rebellion against Him, trusting in wealth and seeking approval of pagan nations. They boasted in their ability to rebuild what had been torn down – as if God dwelt in houses made of stone.

Isaiah 9:11-12 (HCSB) The LORD has raised up Rezin’s adversaries against him and stirred up his enemies. Aram from the east and Philistia from the west have consumed Israel with open mouths. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.

Rezin was king of Assyria; YHWH raised up adversaries against him, stirring up enemies who also consumed Israel. Many times God had raised up pagan nations to punish national Israel for their rebellion. Sin against the Creator is not a light thing and His anger is not removed by cries of anguish and false tears of contrition; He will mete out His wrath on those who do not repent and embrace the Son.

Isaiah 9:13-16 (HCSB) The people did not turn to Him who struck them; they did not seek the LORD of Hosts. So the LORD cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed in a single day. The head is the elder, the honored one; the tail is the prophet, the lying teacher. The leaders of the people mislead ⌊them⌋, and those they mislead are swallowed up.

Chastisement of His people is intended to remind them of their promises and His faithfulness; just as discipline in the New Covenant congregation is intended. Yet Jacob and Israel did not repent, did not turn back and seek their God. So their God “cut off Israel’s head and tail” – a picture of complete destruction. We learn that head and tail are leaders who led people astray, and those who were misled were swallowed up. Be careful who you follow, test all things in light of Scripture – else you and I could be swallowed up in the error of our leaders.

Isaiah 9:17 (HCSB) Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over Israel’s young men and has no compassion on its fatherless and widows, for everyone is a godless evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.

This last verse is some of the saddest in Scripture. YHWH will not rejoice over the young men nor have compassion on the fatherless and widows amongst His covenant people. Because EVERYONE is a godless evildoer and every mouth speaks folly. Without union with Christ, being born from above and indwelt by the Spirit, we would each and everyone be godless evildoers, speaking folly. For all who are apart from Christ, God’s anger is not removed, His hand is still raised to strike.

Judgment Day is coming. Are you trusting in your stuff or are you trusting in Christ Jesus and His completed work of redemption? What happened to ethnic Israel was for us, that we would not sin as they did (Rom 15:4, 1 Cor 10:11). While ye yet have breath, cry out to God, pleading with Him for mercy and new life in Christ. He is coming again. Not to deal with sin, but to gather those who eagerly await Him.

Isaiah 9 – Peace!

The first part of Isaiah 9 brings us a well-known poem of the birth of Christ. The introduction to this poem and the first few stanzas may be read over without much study, as they are not as clear to our way of thinking.

Isaiah 9:1 (HCSB) Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.

Zebulun and Naphtali were northern tribes that were decimated by the Assyrian invasion; whose king established three provinces in the northern kingdom: Magiddo (Galilee), Du’Ru (the Way of the See), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan). Knowing this makes the opening verse more clear: the northern kingdom was reeling under the heavy boot of Assyria and YHWH was promising a future of victory over them. Was this a temporal victory to reclaim dirt, or was Isaiah revealing something spiritual about the eternal kingdom?

Isaiah 9:2-3 (HCSB) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. ⌊The people⌋ have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.

Here the Spirit reveals what is termed “prophetic perfect”, when that which is future is presented as present, now. Assyria had brought darkness to Israel, just as sin had brought darkness to the whole earth. A light has dawned – John wrote of this:

John 1:1-5 (HCSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.

The light that overcomes the darkness is Christ Jesus. The nation that is enlarged is the body of Christ, wherein all who believe are one in Him. In Christ is unending joy that is firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus and not circumstances. This brings rejoicing at harvest time (when the harvest of souls is complete) when the rewards of labor are realized. We can understand while ethnic Israel saw renewed prosperity in the land as the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the references to Christ throughout tell us who are indwelt by the Spirit that something greater than Moses is here!

Isaiah 9:4-5 (HCSB) For You have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as ⌊You did⌋ on the day of Midian. For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.

This references the victory over the Middianites when God worked through Gideon (Judges 6). But it also speaks of the breaking of the yoke of sin when one is brought to new life in Christ, as He gives victory over sin that cannot be overturned. How do I know this? Because of what comes next.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (HCSB) For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.

While some have said that Hezekiah or Josiah are the one herein prophesied, none but Jesus fulfills all of these superlative descriptions. Not the government of ethnic Israel, but of the whole of creation will be on His shoulders (ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, Jesus announced, Matt 28:18). Who but Jesus is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace? As Wonderful Counselor, Jesus is identified as perfect wisdom. Mighty God shows Him to the Son of David. Eternal Father reflects His unity with God the Father and eternal nature as God. And no one brings peace with God to wretched sinners but Jesus. “Come to me, all who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest! Peace I give, my peace; not as the world knows it. I have said these things to you so you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart – I have overcome the world!”

This the breaking of the heavy yoke, the giving of the light yoke. This is peace with God that the world can never provide nor understand. If you do not have peace, turn from those who promise peace, peace where there is no peace (politics, wealth, ease) and turn to the One Who, alone, can reconcile wretched sinners to God and bring unsurpassed peace to your soul.

Isaiah 8 – Christ is the Refuge!

The second part of Isaiah 8 presents the only refuge, the only sanctuary that can save those who are otherwise doomed to His wrath. It begins with Isaiah’s preface, calling what follows that which was told him to keep him from going the way of national Israel. Isaiah 8:11 (HCSB) For this is what the LORD said to me with great power, to keep me from going the way of this people:

It should bring great comfort to those who know Christ as king to know He will do what is needed to protect us, even from our own inclinations. That’s what this message is.

Isaiah 8:12-13 (HCSB) Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified. You are to regard only the LORD of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.

So often humans do what seems right to them because they want to prosper, to be safe. So they will team up with people who are naturally their enemies; fearing man more than they trust God. Rather than fear man or what terrifies him, we who call on YHWH as Father should rightly fear Him. He is totally separate from the creation. All that is from this earth will betray and crumble. God is – alone – above all and sovereign over all.

Isaiah 8:14-15 (HCSB) He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over these; they will fall and be broken; they will be snared and captured.

YHWH will be a safe have – a sanctuary – but not for the two kingdoms of Israel. It’s Jesus being referenced here, for He was a stumbling stone of offense to the Jews of His day. All who do not see Him as the promised One will fall and be broken, caught in a snare and captured – by Satan. All whom the Father chose will find refuge in Christ. No one else can; they will find Him to be offensive and they will stumble and be crushed under the Chief Cornerstone.

Isaiah 8:16 (HCSB) Bind up the testimony. Seal up the instruction among my disciples.

Note this: “Seal up the instruction AMONG my disciples.” Progressive revelation – Daniel was told to seal the words (Dan 12:4); Isaiah was told to bind up the testimony but keep it among the disciples of God. In Revelation 5 Jesus begins to open the scroll and make it known to all.

Isaiah 8:17 (HCSB) I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will wait for Him.

The servant of YHWH says he will wait for Him, the Creator and judge of things Who is hiding His face from Jacob (another reference to national Israel). He will make Himself known to those He has called.

Isaiah 8:18-22 (HCSB) Here I am with the children the LORD has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion. When they say to you, “Consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who chirp and mutter,” shouldn’t a people consult their God? ⌊Should they consult⌋ the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. They will wander through the land, dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness.

Jesus quotes the first part of verse 18 in Heb 2:13. Though it appears Isaiah is still speaking and refers to his children (signs and wonders), Christ Jesus is Immanuel, son of a virgin, given by God the Father, for the deliverance of His people and a sign to them!

Isaiah tells the leaders of Israel and Judah Who the real king is, the LORD of hosts who dwells on Mt. Zion; and he goes on to tell them not to continue following the ways of the pagan nations that have consistently infiltrated their community and culture. All who have not Christ will never be filled by things of this world – it can only bring distress, darkness, and affliction.

Turn to Christ while ye yet have breath! He – ALONE – is a refuge from the certain wrath of God that will eternally consume those who are NOT in His Book of Life.