One of Those Embarrassing Gary North Quotes

One of Those Embarrassing Gary North Quotes.

First, Gary North’s Quote:

“Everyone talks about religious liberty, but no one believes it. So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

Now, C. Jay Engel’s take:

“When North says that the “order… denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God,” such a bold statement should be considered in context of the entire worldview of the Christian Reconstructionist.  To translate that statement, North believes that if one is an enemy of God, there will eventually be a time when the Church environment is so large that it begins to overcome the secular environment.  Not by force, but by progression.  In other words, North believes that all of society will eventually be a Christian one and that those who come into the Church will necessarily be made to give up their “liberty” of seeking other religions.  The secularist world will be crashing and the secularist person will have to jump ship.”

Finally, my thoughts:

Another good way to look at this “denial of liberty” might be the notion, that countless Christians hold, that, yes, we have free will, but in the day of reckoning those that freely chose to do wrong (every immoral act being a choice) and are not repentant will face the wrath of God. This is VERY totalitarian, but it is in no way temporal, and thus has nothing to do with statism. The main problems with temporal totalitarianism are: where its main goal is to serve the elites and rulers and special interests, it is capricious; and where it at least is motivated by genuine compassion and has mostly good intentions, the knowledge problem. By definition, an omnipotent deity can not be capricious because He has already preordained all things, and an omniscient deity can not suffer from the knowledge problem because His knowledge is perfect. If we could hold God to the exact same standards as ourselves, we would be, by definition, gods, and no utopian endeavor would ever fail. The reason they fail is not because the systems are necessarily flawed, but because even a perfect system, if given to fallen man, will eventually succumb to human nature.

In a prima facie (but unlikely in light of other things) interpretation of North’s quote, one might be tempted to equate “denial” of religious liberty with a physical, sudden, coercive act.

In Engel’s interpretation, which I think is accurate, this “denial” is still somewhat physical but it is gradual and voluntary. Converts are not won by the sword, they are won by the word. In the hopeful eschatology it eventually becomes untenable to not “deny” one’s own religious liberty.

In my own interpretation, which I think is less subtle than Engel’s (particularly for those who are clueless about Theonomy, Postmillenialism, and Reconstructionism), but no less applicable (in fact, I would say it dovetails nicely with his), this “denial” could be understood as an immutable decree. God denies that you have the ultimate right to reject Him in favor of some other paradigm. (“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”) It is as simple as this: God wants what is godly, some men want what is ungodly but not necessarily unlawful (or perhaps “unethical”), and while they are certainly free to pursue such things during their lifetime (free will), the wrath of God for those among them who are unregenerate is a consequence. There is nothing even slightly controversial about this. It is orthodox Christianity. But it does not imply coercive religion or the prohibition of rival religions or ideologies.

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