Jobs: The Only Real Way to Economic Growth

I’m not done with my study of Christian economics. I have not dug into John Calvin, William Perkins, Richard Baxter, or really even John Wesley that much on these things. But what I do know now–with a degree of certainty–is from St. Antonino to Martin Luther to the Puritans, to John Wesley and Adam Smith and P. T. Bauer, is that there is a general consensus among them that the only really reliable way to make money is through hard work at jobs. Economic growth comes from diligent, productive hard work at jobs; and from the wages their labor generates.

All of the Christian economic theologians looked with skepticism and even strong caution against investing in the stock market. Mostly the feeling was that the stock market is a deceptive racket, a waste of time and money, and not a very reliable way to make extra money on the side. Working at a job was seen as the godly and reliable way to make money; but the stock market was just seen as a con game, a way to get ripped off, go into debt and bankruptcy if you buy stocks on margin, or just go plain broke from a gambling addiction.

Seeing that working hard at jobs was viewed as the only reliable way for money-making and economic growth–it follows that any economic growth philosophy should be focused on upgrading jobs and increasing wages. The only condition, is that both St. Antonino and the Protestant economic theologians, warned that the money we make should not be “evilly acquired” from our jobs, nor should it be generated by adopting Machiavellian character traits like deception, cruelty, self-interest, and competition. The Golden Rule should totally govern our work ethic: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12).

Working at home–always assumed for the wife in Proverbs 31–was the preference of the New England Puritans, the Amish, the Mennonites, and the “back to the land” hippies (Gary North, Puritan Economic Experiments, p. 20; Art Gish’s Beyond the Rat Race; Scott and Helen Nearing’s The Good Life). For the Puritans, owning a family farm was viewed as efficient and profitable. Telecommuting now makes this possible for more job categories than only farmers.

It seems the way to economic growth for a Biblical Christian is to telecommute for jobs that pay the most–and which also allow for minimum interaction with Machiavellian colleagues, gratuitous cussers, and flirtatious co-workers. Investing is always to be viewed as a secondary thing–and even so, with great caution and even skepticism of the stock market. Mortgaging for private property is good, Biblical, Puritan, and considered advisable by financial planners. Rent payments are money-eaters and are a conflict of interest with money-making income from jobs. It is also advisable from financial planners, and the history of American economics, to get into a 10-year FHA-insured mortgage with a HUD home. The reasons for this are simple: 1. 10 years means that private property is acquired faster than 30 years; and making payments on homes no longer becomes a money-eater. 2. If you fail to make an FHA mortgage payment because you fall on hard times, then the U.S. government will make the payment for you.

In short, the history of Christian economics has shown me the following:

1. Economic growth is generated by hard work at jobs; and if you wish to grow rich, then you need to focus on upgrading your jobs and increasing your wages. Asking for a $2 an hour or 12% raise on the anniversary of your hire date is a way to go about this: asking for subsequent raises once a year is considered acceptable, ranging from 10% to 20%. You can use Glassdoor to estimate the fair market value, of the salary range for your specific job title, in your industry, and with your years of experience. Working a side job is another way to make more money. If you think you’re missing something, you could always receive guidance from a licensed NCDA career counselor. FlexJobs.com, for example, might be a good place to start looking for jobs with more responsibilities and higher wages, and which are 100% remote and require no travel at all. E-blasting your cover letter and resume to companies from a LinkedIn verified email list, bought from Fiverr, can be valuable as well–all you need is an inexpensive Chrome extension called GMass; and you can send 500 emails from one Gmail account with the click of a button.

2. The stock market, by and large, is a waste of time and money; and you are more likely to lose money in it, than make extra money from it. Even if you are a careful investor, because of the economy–with its fluctuations in supply and demand–is far too unpredictable for the stock market to supply any kind of reliable money-making force for you.

3. Telecommuting is more conducive to peace of spirit, efficiency, profitability, and living the Christian life, than working in an office or elsewhere in public.

4. FHA-insured mortgages for a 10-year HUD home plan are highly desirable, because the U.S. government will help you out if you miss a mortgage payment; and the quicker you own private property, the quicker you can save what you earn without having to give it away to a landlord. These types of mortgages helped World War II veterans when they came back home; and greatly factored into what is today called the “American Dream” and the “Golden Age of Capitalism.” Micah 4:4: “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.”

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Review of Kathleen MacArthur’s “The Economic Ethics of John Wesley”

Diligence, thrift, and philanthropy appear to be a triad of Christian economic virtues. All three of them were taught as an economic formula in John Wesley’s sermon The Use of Money (1760), under the headings of “gain all you can,” “save all you can,” and “give all you can” (3.1.1, 3.2.1, 3.3.1; MacArthur, pp. 97-98). Diligence or industry is the practice of energetic, productive hard work on the job: it is this practice that produces money or gain. Thrift or frugality is the practice of penny-pinching; being careful about managing money; and especially not spending money wastefully on luxury items or other unnecessary expenditures. Wesley once quoted Josiah Tucker in his Serious Address (1778): “the hands of the diligent and frugal are the only hands which make a nation rich.” And finally, philanthropy, understood Biblically, is giving to the poor in Jesus’ name to alleviate their financial misfortune and distress. It is Christian poverty alleviation. Funds for poverty alleviation are meant to be taken from “overplus” or surplus (3.3.3)—that is, any money that is left over after your family’s financial needs and security have been comfortably provided for.

Gain, Save, and Give All You Can

1. The virtue of diligent hard work, is a preservative against the sin of laziness or sloth, which is spoken against many times in Proverbs (6:6-11; 10:4-5, 26; 12:11, 24, 27; 13:4; 14:23; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15; 20:4, 13; 21:17, 25; 22:29; 24:30-34; 26:13-16).

2. The virtue of thrift, or being frugal, penny-pinching, saving money, and plain living, are all a preservative against the sin of greed or avarice, which puts no restraint on the pursuit of wealth; and which leads to materialism or the idolatry of material possessions, as having more importance than anything, even spirituality (Proverbs 13:11; John 6:12; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Ecclesiastes 5:10; 11:1-2; Matthew 6:24; Mark 8:36; Revelation 3:17). Christians should avoiding spending money on luxury items, expensive meals, designer clothing, costly jewelry, and spoiling children so they don’t know the value of a dollar.

3. The virtue of philanthropy or poverty alleviation, is again a preservative against covetousness, greed, and materialism—but it is also a preservative against the sins of snobbery, financial pride, and hatred of the poor. Its disciplined practice reminds the giver that his money belongs to God; and that his employment and his paychecks are gifts from God’s providence; and that God requires of Christians that we love our neighbors as ourselves, and treat others the way we want to be treated (Mark 12:21; Luke 6:31). However, our philanthropy should be based on financial math, not on sudden, irrational impulses based on guilt. Impressions from the Holy Spirit can certainly guide us in our distribution of wealth to the poor, but only after we have used a bit of math to rationally calculate a benevolence fund from the surplus of our earnings—I think 10% of the paycheck is a step in the right direction in this matter, basing it off the tithe (Lev. 27:30; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 23:23; Luke 18:12). But not all salaries are equal in amount: it should be calculated on a case-by-case basis. If you are below the Federal Poverty Level, it would probably not be reasonable for you to practice philanthropy to your fellow poor, until you yourself have lifted yourself out of poverty. The Federal Poverty Level (FPL), according to the 2021 poverty guidelines set down by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, say that a family of four which has an annual income of $26,500 is still living in poverty. A single man who makes only $12,880 a year is still in poverty. Reasonably, you should at least be making double these amounts, before you seriously start to plan on setting aside a benevolence fund for philanthropy to the poor. There’s no sense in giving to the poor if you yourself are still among them. Meet your own needs first! Be reasonable and not emotional about it.

Once we have reached a comfortable economic state, we should thank God for giving it to us (Deut. 8:10), we should have compassion on those in financial distress, we should seek to give them job leads as they often need job search assistance, and we should familiarize ourselves with them to prevent us from being snobs towards all the poor, we should love the poor rather than hate them—knowing that their faith in God’s providence is likely being strengthened despite their financial distress (Jas. 2:5). And we should join with God’s hand in that providence to help meet their needs; and so, become the hands of Jesus to them who are so beside themselves with unemployment, or confused by their poverty, that they just don’t know what to do. Don’t only give them money: also give them a sheet with resources on medical assistance, job training, rent and utility bill assistance, food pantries, etc. Names of non-profit organizations, addresses, hours, and phone numbers. Don’t just give them money—also give them information that will give them hope of getting out of this financial hole that they’re in. Save them some time and tell them to first try going to the nearest St. Vincent de Paul location: they are perfect at food pantries; and providing these kinds of contact sheets and guidance. In this practice of poverty alleviation, we align ourselves with God’s heart and his sympathy for the poor; and set ourselves against the Machiavellian philosophy of deceptive cruelty; and against the Smithian philosophy of competitive self-interest, all of which pervade our secular business world. Biblical Christians should be engaged in productive hard work; simple living and frugal spending; and should give to the poor from a benevolence fund that is calculated from their surplus.

In addition to the economically ethical triad of diligence, thrift, and philanthropy—we should also be ready to preach against all kinds of financial sins, such as bribery, thievery, gambling, buying stocks on margin resulting in debt and bankruptcy, bartending, acting, and the materialistic pursuit of riches (Prov. 30:8). And also against businesses which are based on ill-gotten gain, such as places like Hooters restaurants, brothels, strip clubs, and casinos, and—as it was a massive issue in Wesley’s time—the institution of slavery, most of which was based on kidnapped Africans which were sold to pirates and then to slaveowners afterwards. Modern efforts against human trafficking, I’m sure, Wesley would be in wholehearted support of. Bankers, doctors, and landlords are often horribly bad at extortion; and this is another thing which is very dishonorable in the world of economic theology (Prov. 1:19; 28:16). Enlightenment rationalism, hyper-grace antinomian Calvinism, and deism—as well as religious indifference—is what leads businessmen into such dark places; and only Biblical Christianity can bring them out of it.

MacArthur makes one observation towards the end of the book by saying, “the cardinal defect of Wesley’s approach to economic ethics” (p. 151), is that it fails to reconcile the fact that the business world is corrupt and Machiavellian. And that living by Biblical principles in the sphere of business—taking private morality into the public sphere—is just asking for trouble. It leads me to believe that either telecommuting, or starting a Christian business which embraces Biblical principles, are the only possible ways to be consistent with these ethics; and not have Machiavellian employers and co-workers keep you from living in accordance with those principles.

For a further study into Wesley’s economic theology, see his Thoughts on the Present Scarcity of Provisions (1773) and A Serious Address to the People of England, with Regard to the State of the Nation (1778), both of which were written for economic recessions. Other economic sermons were: “The Use of Money” (1760): from where we get “gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can,” “The Danger of Riches” (1780), “On Riches” (1788), and “On the Danger of Increasing Riches” (1790). His sermons are rich with Biblical references, so you can see which Scriptures were the most important to him in his reasonings. Also, it is evident that William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728) had an effect on his economic ethics: all of these chapters in that book touch on economics: 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10.

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Pharisee

VERSE 1

Em                           bend 4th string 1st fret
You’re so dead inside

Em                                      bend 4th string 1st fret
You don’t want to change

Em                       bend 4th string 1st fret
Even if its Biblical

Em                           pluck 4th string
Your sin remains the same

CHORUS

Em               Em     Em      4p
What does God want to do? Ah…

Em     Em   4p
I wanna know

Em Em  Em    4p
Do you even care? Ah…

Em  Em  Em  Em  4p
I don’t think you do

Well…

VERSE 2

Em                                   bend 4th string 1st fret
I saw the devil in the desert

Em                               bend 4th string 1st fret
Now I know you’re his

Em                             bend 4th string 1st fret
Religious businessmen

Em                pluck 4th string
No miraculous

CHORUS

BREAK

Em    6p        Em
Unbelievers

Em          4p     3p
Nothing mystical

Em                 6p         Em
Religious deceivers

Em/4p/3p
Typical

Em      Em        6p         Em
Pride, power, money
Em  4p   3p
So detestable
Em        Em  6p            Em
Against the prophets
Em  4p   3p
So insensible

Break Instrumentation x2
CHORUS
End on VERSE Instrumentation

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Selected Books from Stanford Article on Mysticism

Originally from here.

  • Almond, Philip C., 1982, Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine, Berlin: Mouton Press.
  • Alston, William, 1991, Perceiving God, The Epistemology of Religious Experience, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 1992, “Literal and Nonliteral in Reports of Mystical Experience,” in Mysticism and Language, Steven T. Katz (ed.), New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 80–102.
  • –––, 1993, The Reliability of Sense Perception, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 1994, “Reply to Commentators,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 54: 891–899.
  • –––, 2005, Beyond “Justification”: Dimensions of Epistemic Evaluation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press (especially Chapters 9–11).
  • Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, D. W. Robertson, Jr. (trans.), Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958.
  • Austin, James H., 1998, Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Azari, Nina P., et al., 2001, “Neural Correlates of Religious Experience”, European Journal of Neural Science, 13: 1649–52.
  • Bagger, Matthew C., 1999, Religious Experience, Justification, and History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Baillie, John, 1939, Our Knowledge of God, London: Oxford University Press.
  • Barnard, G. William, 1997, Exploring Unseen Worlds, William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism, Albany: SUNY Press.
  • Batson, C. Daniel, Schoenrade, Patricia and Ventis, W. Larry, 1993, Religion and the Individual, a Social-Psychological Perspective, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Beer, Frances, 1993, Women and Mystical Experience in the Middle Ages, Woodbridge: Boydell Press.
  • Bergson, Henri, 1935, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, R.A. Audra and C. Berenton (trans.), New York: H. Holt; page citation to reprint, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1977.
  • Borchert, Bruno, 1994, Mysticism, Its History and Challenge, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser.
  • Broad, C.D., 1953, Religion, Philosophy, and Psychical Research, London: Routledge, and Kegan Paul.
  • –––, 1939, “Arguments for the Existence of God, II,” The Journal of Theological Studies, 40: 156–67.
  • Brown, Joseph Epes, 1991, The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian, New York: Crossroad Publishing.
  • Browning, Don, 1979, “William James’ Philosophy of Mysticism,” Journal of Religion, 59(1): 56–70.
  • Brunn, Emilie Zum and Epiney-Burgard, Georgette, 1989, Women Mystics in Medieval Europe,. Sheila Hughes (trans.), New York: Paragon House.
  • Byrne, Peter, 2001, “Perceiving God and Realism,” Philo, 3: 74–88.
  • Caciola, Nancy, 2003, Discerning Spirits, Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Caciola, Nancy, 2000, “Mystics, Demoniacs, and the Physiology of Spirit Possession in Medieval Europe,” in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 42: 268–306.
  • Coakley, Sarah, 2009,“Dark Contemplation and Epistemic Transformation: The Analytic Theologian Re-meets Teresa of Avila,” in Oliver D. Crisp and Michael C. Rea, Analytic Theology, New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Daly, Mary, 1973, Beyond God the Father, Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Danto, Arthur, 1987, Mysticism and Morality: Oriental Thought and Moral Philosophy, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Davis, Carolyn Franks, 1989, The Evidential Force of Religious Experience, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Dogen, 1986, Shobogenzo, Zen Essays by Dogen, Thomas Cleary (trans.), Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
  • d’Aquili, Eugene and Newberg, Andrew, 1999, The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience, Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
  • –––, 2000, “The Neuropsychology of Aesthetic, Spiritual, and Mystic States,” Zygon, 35: 39–51.
  • –––, 1993 “Religious and Mystical states: A Neuropsychological Model,” Zygon, 28: 177–200.
  • D’Costa, Gavin, 1987, John Hick’s Theology of Religions: A Critical Evaluation, Lanham: University Press of America.
  • Deikman, Arthur, 1980, “Deautomatization and the Mystic Experience,” in Understanding Mysticism, Richard Woods (ed.), Garden City: Doubleday, 240–69.
  • Dewhurst, K., and Beard, A.W., 1970, “Sudden Religious Conversions in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 117: 497–507.
  • Fales, Evan, 2001, “Do Mystics See God?” in Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion, Michael L. Peterson (ed.), Oxford: Blackwell.
  • –––, 1996a, “Scientific Explanations of Mystical Experiences, Part I: The Case of St Teresa”, Religious Studies, 32: 143–163.
  • –––, 1996b, “Scientific Explanations of Mystical Experiences,” Religious Studies, 32: 297–313.
  • –––, 2010, Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles, New York: Routledge, Chapters 7–9.
  • Fenwick, P., 1996, “The Neurophysiology of Religious Experiences,” in Psychiatry and Religion: Context, Consensus, and Controversies, Dinesh Bhugra (ed.), London: Routledge, 167–177.
  • Flew, Antony, 1966, God and Philosophy, London: Hutchinson.
  • Forgie, William, 1994, “Pike’s Mystic Union and the Possibility of Theistic Experience”, Religious Studies, 30: 231–242.
  • Forgie, William, 1984, “Theistic Experience and the Doctrine of Unanimity,” International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, 15: 13–30.
  • Forman, Robert K. C., 1993a, “Eckhart, Gezucken, and the Ground of the Soul,” in The Problem of Pure Consciousness, Mysticism and Philosophy, Robert Forman (ed.), New York and London: Oxford University Press, 121–159.
  • –––, 1993b, “Introduction,” in The Problem of Pure Consciousness, Mysticism and Philosophy, Robert Forman (ed.), New York and London: Oxford University Press, 3–49.
  • –––, 1999, Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness, Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • –––, 1989, “Paramaartha and Modern Constructivists on Mysticism: Epistemological Monomorphism versus Duomorphism,” Philosophy East and West, 39: 393–418.
  • Franke, William 2007, On What Cannot be Said, Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature, and the Arts (Volume 1: Classic Formulations; Volume 2: Modern and Contemporary Transformations), Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press.
  • Furlong,Monica, 2013, Visions & Longings, Medieval Women Mystics, Boston: Shambhala Publications.
  • Gale, Richard M., 1960, “Mysticism and Philosophy,” Journal of Philosophy, 57: 471–481.
  • –––, 1995, On the Nature and Existence of God, Cambridge: Cambridge Press.
  • –––, 1994, “Why Alston’s Mystical Doxastic Practice is Subjective,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 54: 869–875.
  • Gale, Richard, 1991, On the Nature and Existence of God, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gallope, Michael, 2017, Deep Refrains: Music, Philosophy, and the Ineffable, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gellman, Jerome, 1997, Experience of God and the Rationality of Theistic Belief, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 2001a, Mystical Experience of God: A Philosophical Enquiry, London: Ashgate Publishers.
  • –––, 2001b, “Review of Matthew Bagger, Religious Experience, Justification, and History”, Faith and Philosophy, 18: 345–364.
  • –––, 2008, “A Problem for Alston’s Doxastic Practice,” Philo, 10 (2): 114–124.
  • –––, 2011, “Credulity and Experience of God,” Philo, 13:23–38.
  • Goldenberg, Naomi, 1979, The Changing of the Gods, Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Griffiths, Paul J., 1993, “Pure Consciousness and Indian Buddhism,” in The Problem of Pure Consciousness, Mysticism and Philosophy, Robert Forman (ed.), New York and London: Oxford University Press, 121–159.
  • Gutting, Gary 1982, Religious Belief and Religious Skepticism, Notre Dame, IN.: University of Notre Dame.
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat, 1994, Zen Keys, A Guide to Zen Practice, New York: Doubleday, Chapter 5.
  • Hick, John, 1989, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent, London: Macmillan.
  • Hollenback, Jess Byron, 1996, Mysticism: Experience, Response, and Empowerment, University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Hood, Ralph W., 2006, “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism,” in Where God and Science Meet (Volume 3: The Psychology of Religious Experience), Patrick McNamara (ed.), Westport CN: Praeger, Chapter 5.
  • Hurcombe, Linda, (ed.), 1987, Sex and God. Varieties of Women’s Religious Experience, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Huxley, Aldous, 1945, The Perennial Philosophy, New York : Harper & Bros.
  • Idel, Moshe, 1988, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Idel, Moshe, 1997, “‘Unio mystica’ as a Criterion: ‘Hegelian’ Phenomenologies of Jewish Mysticism,” in Doors of Understanding, Conversations in Global Spirituality in Honor of Ewert Cousins, Steven Chase (ed.), Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press.
  • James, William, 1958, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York: Mentor Books.
  • Jantzen, Grace M., 1994, “Feminists, Philosophers, and Mystics,” Hypatia, 9: 186–206.
  • –––, 1995, Power, Gender, and Christian Mysticism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Jones, Richard H., 1993, “Must Enlightened Mystics be Moral?” in Richard Jones (ed.), Philosophical Inquiries into Mysticism, Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • ––– 2016, Philosophy of Mysticism, Raids on the Ineffable, Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Jones, Rufus M., 1909, Studies in Mystical Religion, London: Macmillan.
  • Katz, Steven T. (ed.), 2013, Comparative Mysticism, An Anthology of Original Sources, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Katz, Steven T., 1978, “Language, Epistemology, and Mysticism,” in Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, Steven T. Katz (ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 22–74.
  • Katz, Steven T., (ed.), Mysticism and Religious Traditions, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Katz, Steven T., 1988, “Responses and Rejoinders,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 56: 751–57.
  • King, Sallie B., 1988, “Two Epistemological Models for the Interpretation of Mysticism,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 56: 257–79.
  • Kripal, Jeffery, 2002, “ Debating the Mystical as the Ethical: An Ideological Map,” in W. Barnard and J. Kripal (eds.), Crossing Boundaries: Essays on the Ethical Status of Mysticism, New York: Seven Bridges Press.
  • Kvanvig, Jonathan, 1994, “A Critical Notice of Alston’s Perceiving God,” Faith and Philosophy, (April): 311–321.
  • Kwan, Kwai-Man, 2013, “The Argument from Religious Experience,” in W. L. Craig and J.P. Moreland (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.
  • –––, 2011, The Rainbow of Experiences, Critical Trust, and God , New York:Continuum International Publishing Group.
  • Lanzetta, Beverly, 2005, Radical Wisdom, A Feminist Mystical Theology, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.
  • Louth, Andrew, 2012, “Apophatic and Cataphatic Theology,” in A. Hollywood and Patricia Z. Beckman (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Loy, David, 2002, “ The Lack of Ethics and the Ethics of Lack in Buddhism” in W. Barnard and J. Kripal (eds.), Crossing Boundaries: Essays on the Ethical Status of Mysticism, New York: Seven Bridges Press.
  • Marshall, Paul, 2005, Mystical Encounters with the Natural World, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Martin, C.B., 1955, “A Religious Way of Knowing,” in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre (eds.), London: SCM Press, 76–95.
  • Martin, Michael, 1990, Atheism, A philosophical Justification, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Matt, Daniel C., 1997, “Varieties of Mystical Nothingness: Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist Perspectives,” in Wisdom and Logos: Studies in Jewish Thought in Honor of David Winston, David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling (eds.), The Studia Philonica Annual (Studies in Hellenistic Judaism), 9: 316–331, Atlanta: Scholars Press.
  • McNamara, Patrick 2009, The Neuroscience of Religious Experience, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mommaers, Paul, 2009, Jan Van Ruusbroec: Mystical Union with God, Leuven: Peters Publishers.
  • McGinn, Bernard, 2001, The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: The Man from Whom God Hid Nothing, New York: Crossroad Publishing.
  • Moore, Peter, 1973, “Recent Studies of Mysticism: A Critical Survey,” Religion, 3: 146–156.
  • Oppy, Graham, 2006, Arguing Against Gods, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Otto, Rudolf, 1957, The Idea of the Holy, Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Persinger, Michael. A., 1987, Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs, New York: Praeger.
  • Persinger, Michael, Bureau, Y.R.J., Peredery, O.P., and Richards, P.M., 1994, “The Sensed Presence as Right Hemisphere Intrusion into the Left Hemisphere Awareness of Self,” Perception and Motor Skills, 78: 999–1009.
  • Pike, Nelson, 1986, “John of the Cross on the Epistemic Value of Mystic Visions,” in Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment: New Essays in the Philosophy of Religion, Robert Audi and William J. Wainwright (eds.), Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 1992, Mystic Union: An Essay in the Phenomenology of Mysticism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Plantinga, Alvin, 1980, Does God have a Nature?, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.
  • –––, 2011, Where The Conflict Really Lies, Science, Religion, and Naturalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Proudfoot, Wayne, 1985, Religious Experience, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.
  • Radhakrishnan, S. (trans.), 1968, The Brahma Sutra, the Philosophy of Spiritual Life, with introduction and notes, New York: Greenwood Press.
  • Raphael, Melissa, 1994, “Feminism, Constructivism, and Numinous Experience,” Religious Studies, 30: 511–526.
  • Rowe, William, 1982, “Religious Experience and the Principle of Credulity,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 13: 85–92.
  • Russell, Bertrand, 1935, Religion and Science, London: Oxford University Press.
  • Sells, Michael A., 1994, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Shaw, Gregory, 1995, Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, University Park, Penn State Press.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie, 1975, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Schjoedt, U. 2009,“The religious brain: A general introduction to the experimental neuroscience of religion”. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 21(3): 310–339.
  • Schuon, Frithjof, 1975, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, New York: Harper.
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Friendship Evangelism and the Fifth Commandment

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.    –James 4:4

“Friendship evangelism” or as it is sometimes called, “lifestyle evangelism,” or “relational evangelism,” or “relationship evangelism,” is definitely a heresy. That means it is a popular teaching in the Church, but it schismatically divides people away from clear Biblical doctrine. I’m not saying that everyone who uses these expressions is definitely a heretic or is practicing heresy in their relationships with others. The first occurrence of this teaching that I know of, was in Arthur McPhee’s Friendship Evangelism: The Caring Way to Share Your Faith (Zondervan, 1978) and then later in Joseph Aldrich’s Lifestyle Evangelism: Learning to Open Your Life to Those Around You (Multnomah, 1981). I haven’t examined these books, so I can’t tell you for sure what the extent or level of their heresy is. But what I can say is this: some version of friendship evangelism exists today in evangelical churches; and it is a consistent enough idea for me to say that its not a matter of just one person’s opinion. It’s a widespread idea and even a teaching on some occasions. It seems that the mere titles of these books, and the use of their phrases “friendship evangelism” and “lifestyle evangelism,” which are still used by Christians today, seem to suggest that these teachings were either embodied by or originated with McPhee and Aldrich. The years 1978 and 1981, when these books came out, seem to hint that they are the source of the teaching, when we hear what George Hunter III has to say:

Once, churches were not conversant with this principle, and they believed that contacting strangers (say, at street corners or door-to-door) was “the way to do evangelism.” But the first generation of Church Growth teaching, in the 1970s and 1980s, liberated many churches from this myth and established the “relational evangelism” paradigm within serious churches (The Apostolic Congregation, Abingdon Press, 2009, p. 62).

So its clear that church leaders devised the friendship evangelism approach to appeal to a wider audience, and get more people in their seats, without offending them on tough moral and theological subjects. It was motivated by money and power and ecclesiastical ambition, to implement “church growth” ideas, rebel against traditional evangelism like preaching lordship salvation in the public square, and going door-to-door; and create a new, dare I say, antinomian approach to evangelism. A heretical form of evangelism that did not call men to repent from sin, or believe in the blood of Jesus, but which—at least in the way it is practiced by most people today, to “preach the gospel at all times: and use words if necessary,” a phrase that is falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

Use words if necessary? Using words is the only way to preach the Gospel, at least if you’re going by the Bible. Mark 16:15, 16, 20: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation…Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned…Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Unless there is a gospel-word spoken, we cannot expect that God will do any miracles or coincidences to confirm that which has not been spoken by some ashamed-of-the-gospel approach called friendship evangelism. It sounds caring. It sounds loving. Friendship. What a nice word. Yes, it is a nice word, when it’s applied to real Christian friends. But Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Jesus commands us in Mark 16 to go open air preaching and pray for people to be healed. Never does he ever command us to be buddies with people, zip our lips about the gospel, and through our kindness, maybe invite them to church, and put it all on the preacher’s sermon to save them. Half the time pastors don’t preach evangelistic sermons. Many preachers do sermons on tithing, many others on love, or others on being conscientious voters. Few if any preachers preach the Gospel message of salvation from an eternal Hell by repentance, faith in the cross, and obedience to the Bible. I could have a lot more friends than I have, but I choose not to. I understand that consistent humor, a secular personality, and loads of tolerance can get you to build a friends network pretty quick. I had to build friend groups several times when my parents moved us to different states. But then I became a Christian; and then I read the whole Bible; and now God is my best friend. I also fear offending him whom I love. If anyone that fears God ever wants to come along for the ride, they are welcome to; but if not–as is most often the case, then they can just stay away. That’s okay with me.

Not only is friendship evangelism unbiblical, not only is it unreasonable, but another thing: its unethical: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). This is essentially what all of this boils down to: cussing, listening to cussing, tolerating nudity and profanity in movies, in jokes, in sexual innuendos, in materialism, in self-interest and economic competition, etc. Basically, living a secular lifestyle, which has its one Christian moment on Sunday morning at a lukewarm church. Using gratuitous profanity and even f-words is a new thing that Millennial Christians are now embracing. Its full-blown antinomianism, and only a few theological Calvinists are really saying anything about it, like Mark Jones. It’s a heretical teaching because it goes against James 4:4 and other Scriptures, it goes against godly church tradition on the nature Biblical evangelism, and it goes against the likes of John Wesley who faced it in his day, and spoke at length against it in his sermon “On Friendship with the World.”

It is a teaching that enables abusers. I have found its adherents to twist around the fifth commandment: “honor thy father and thy mother” (Exod. 20:12), to mean that children of all ages (little ones, teens, and adults) should respect, honor, visit, comply, yield, and not-gospel-preach-but-silently-endure the insulting, maligning, persecuting words and actions of non-Christian parents! I don’t think that is what God had in mind when he gave mankind the fifth commandment! Revelation 21:8 lists the categories of people thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone: gospel cowards (they are mentioned first), unbelievers, the hateful, murderers, pimps, witches, idol worshipers (Paul included greed as idolatry), and habitual liars. With the exception of murderers and pimps, most friendship evangelism advocates today would expect that all Christians should “honor thy father and thy mother,” even if they are impenitent sinners. Richard Baxter, in his Christian Directory said, “A wicked child of godly parents is one of the most miserable wretches in the world,” but he makes no reference to the godly child of wicked parents; and I think part of the reason for this, is that there could be very little theology that has been done on that subject. William Gouge’s Of Domesticall Duties, Part V: “Duties of Children,” is arguably to most comprehensive work of Puritan theology on the subject. The closest thing that Gouge comes to when considering the abuses of parents towards their children, is to call these the “infirmities” or weaknesses of parents. Children are charged to overlook their parents’ “weaknesses” and be willing to defend their reputation publicly. Essentially, Gouge argues that to honor father and mother is to try and maintain their good public reputation and image, and to look at them with rose-colored glasses. But reality is, the line needs to be drawn somewhere. Terah–Abraham’s father–was a pagan; and according to Jewish tradition, he was an idol maker that endangered his sons’ lives in the fiery furnace at the hand of Nimrod, with Haran ending up dead (Josh. 24:2; Genesis Rabbah 38:13); and God commanded Abraham to leave his “father’s house” (Gen. 12:1); Laban was an idolater, deceiver and oppressor, and God led his son-in-law Jacob away from him (Gen. 31): see the movie Jacob (1994); and Saul was a demon-possessed narcissist that tried killing his son-in-law David on many occasions. Led by God all the way, David lived in caves and avoided Saul (1 Sam. 18-24): see the movie David (1997). The Bible writers didn’t shirk away to tell these things about the lives of Abraham, Jacob, and David; and so, I don’t see anything wrong with talking frankly about abusive parents, if necessity puts it upon us. To paint a dishonestly rosy picture of a bad parent, would probably require breaking the ninth commandment: “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exod. 20:16).

When issuing the fifth commandment, I think its common sense to say that God was expecting fathers and mothers to be godly and follow the other nine commandments; and that children should not rebel against these God-fearing parents and their godly principles, or else God will not bless them with long lives. Like the prodigal son who had a godly father, but who had rebelled against him out of pure self-interest (Luke 15:11-32). That was an example of breaking the fifth commandment. But the way that friendship evangelism people today, perhaps since the late 1970s, teach the fifth commandment: is that even abusive, godless, toxic, secular, anti-Christian parents should be honored, and put up with, respected, etc., and that your whole life you are to honor them by being around for visits and Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays, allowing them to “enjoy” their grandkids—and to non-judgmentally just allow them to teach, mentally and emotionally influence, and affect your children spiritually—and even confuse them—all while you are trying your best to “train them up in the way they should go” and “raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4), thus creating massive confusion, division, and discord within your children’s hearts and minds. How is that conducive to mental health, and peace, and love? If this is your case, then take it from Jesus: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matt. 10:34-36). Self-interested and competitive grandparents would easily try to make their grandkids side with them against their own Christian parents! Massive confusion and discord, and again, schismatic heresy can only result from this—not only in matters of spirituality and doctrine, but also in the creation of dysfunctional family relationships. Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred!” (Gen. 12:1).

It never ends if you refuse to acknowledge that friendship evangelism is truly a heresy from the Word of God! I agree with Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, who once said, “Friendship evangelism is neither friendship nor evangelism.”



Update: 3/16/21

Further Thoughts on
“Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” In Relation to Abusive Parents


1. Mark Driscoll – How Can You Honor Bad Parents?If parents are impenitent and still abusive, honoring them most definitely does not entail putting yourself or your children in harm’s way (visiting them).

2. John Piper – How Do I Deal With Christian Parents Who Don’t Acknowledge That They Abused Me? – Hopefully try for a Christian counselor to bring reconciliation; but if they refuse that, or remain impenitent and abusive, then at least don’t harbor hate in your heart. Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.

3. Catholic Answers – “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” and the Alcoholic Parent – If they are abusive, then “honor thy father and thy mother” doesn’t mean “enabling or agreeing with every darn fool thing they decide to do, especially if those things are destructive to themselves or to us”…but “if they need something to hold their lives together, that you’re helping them to provide that…you’re trying to do a good job to see to their physical well being…the second thing…we don’t owe obedience to our parents, we owe them honor…we should conduct ourselves in such a way that makes people say, “Chris done been raised right.”

4. John Wesley – On Friendship with the World 1.25 – “But must I not be intimate with my relations; and that whether they fear God or not has not his providence recommended these to me?”…Parents…You cannot part with them while they are young; it being your duty to “train them up,” with all care, “in the way wherein they should go.” How frequently you should converse with them when they are grown up is to be determined by Christian prudence. This also will determine how long it is expedient for children, if it be at their own choice, to remain with their parents. In general, if they do not fear God, you should leave them as soon as is convenient. But wherever you are, take care (if it be in your power) that they do not want the necessaries or conveniences of life. As for all other relations, even brothers or sisters, if they are of the world you are under no obligation, to be intimate with them: You may be civil and friendly at a distance.

5. James Miller, “Review of Dr. Forward’s Toxic Parents,” in Nurture and Admonition – “Abusive parents lack sensitivity and usually do not apologize for hurtful behavior…If we want to be good parents who do not provoke our children or adult children to wrath (Eph. 6:4), then I think it would be great to keep some important things about parenting in mind…the types of behaviors and character traits that you might find in an abusive parent: 1. bad temper and relentless criticism, 2. career idolatry, 3. extreme physical punishment for small failings, 4. producing intimidation and constant fear in children, 5. joking about a child being ugly, stupid, or unwanted, 6. manipulating a child with threats, guilt, or money, and 7. showing the child that no matter what they do, they can never please you…I would encourage the saints reading here to note that Martin Luther and Francis of Assisi had fathers like this; as did many Christian saints throughout church history…too many to name. Know that you are not alone: God is willing to adopt you as a Father! (Rom. 8:15)…At the bottom of it, controlling parents feel inadequate about themselves and try to “feel needed” by their children…they try to make their children feel insecure without them. No matter what they choose or think, it is made out to look like they are going to fail without their guidance…The children are meant to feel like morons who cannot think for themselves and need their parents’ wisdom all the time…Controlling parents will use an endless array of guilt-trips on their adult children…if they can’t be happy, then nobody deserves to be happy…Verbally abusive parents insult their children openly and indirectly. They might make brash out-in-the-open statements about the child being ugly, stupid, worthless, or unsuccessful in something. More often they might make indirect statements out of the corner of their mouths, in order that others in the family don’t recognize it as abuse—such as teasing, sarcasm, insulting nicknames, putdowns, or cracking cruel and belittling jokes at the child’s expense (which goes against Ephesians 5:4). This sounds a lot like Proverbs 26:18-19: “Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death, is the one who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’”…If a father treated his son this way all the time growing up, wouldn’t it sound like a joke to him, if God expected him to “honor his father,” without hesitation? (Exodus 20:12). How can he do this? He can bear it patiently, get out of the house as quickly as possible, and pray for him; but he doesn’t have to pretend that his father has behaved honorably; nobody is saying that God wants you to honor men who have shown you nothing but disrespect and stirred up hate in your heart. God would expect you to remove yourself from them—“Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1)—but God would want you to say, “I forgive my dad, because he didn’t know what he was doing,” and try to move on with your life without his negative influence (Luke 23:34). Of course, the same thing applies to mothers and daughters.”

Update: 4/4/21

6. God is reasonable. The same God that said, “honor thy father and thy mother” (Exod. 20:12), also commanded Jacob to flee from his cruel pagan father-in-law Laban (Gen. 31:3). Abraham, however, probably came close to doing so, yet was commanded by God to leave his father Terah’s pagan family after he died (Gen. 12:1; Acts 7:4). Some orthodox rabbis like Shmuel Goldin believe that Terah began to question his pagan religion after Nimrod killed Haran, and intended to learn about God Most High in Canaan (Gen. 11:31; cp. 14:18-20), and that maybe he ran out of strength in his old age, and was not able to complete the journey to Canaan.

Update: 6/15/21

7. Evangelism has its limits. Friendship evangelism is usually applied to family members. It presumes no gospel or Bible talk is allowed–its all just about “living by example.” That’s totally un-Biblical–I could list a string of Bible verses showing this. Verbally communicating your faith in the gospel is part of being a Christian (Mark 16:15). If your family rejects it, then they are really rejecting you. They might want a worldly part of you without the Christian part–but you shouldn’t accept that. What did Paul do? Acts 18:6: “But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'” He gave up on them.

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Lacy, John – Dictionary of National Biography – James McMullen Rigg ‎

LACY, JOHN (fl. 1737), pseudo-prophet, was born at Saffron Walden, Essex, in 1664. He received some classical education, and as a younger son was sent to London to earn his own living in 1680. In 1706 he was a married man with a family, in good repute for his parts and piety, and one of the wealthiest members of Dr. Calamy’s congregation at Westminster. The loss of a lawsuit in that year preyed upon his mind, and at the same time he fell under the influence of the so-called ‘French prophets,’ then lately arrived in England. In 1707 he published a translation of the Théâtre Sacré des Cévennes, by Francis Maximilian Misson [q. v.], as A Cry from the Desert, or Testimonials of the Miraculous Things lately come to pass in the Cevennes verified upon Oath and by other proofs, London, 8vo. A second edition, with an able preface in favour of the miraculous character of the phenomena, appeared the same year. This he followed up with Prophetical Warnings of Elias Marion, ​heretofore one of the Commanders of the Protestants that had taken Arms in the Cevennes: a Discourse uttered by him in London under the Operation of the Spirit, and faithfully taken in Writing whilst they were spoken, London, 1707, 8vo, and a collection of his own prophetical utterances, in three parts, entitled The Prophetical Warnings of John Lacy, Esq., pronounced under the Operation of the Spirit and faithfully taken in writing whilst they were spoken, London, 1707, 8vo. These curious outpourings are all in the first person, as if spoken by the Spirit, and consist mainly of vague vaticinations of coming woes. Some of them are in bad French, others in worse Latin. In the preface Lacy states that while in his ecstasies his mind, tongue, and fingers were directed by an invisible ‘foreign agent,’ by whom also his body was agitated and contorted, and sometimes carried round or across the room, and that the seizures began suddenly on 12 June 1707. Calamy and others who witnessed the ecstasies testify to his physical agitation, or ‘quaking,’ and describe his utterance as preceded by much hiccuping, gasping, sighing, and groaning, and, though perfectly articulate, broken and unnatural. Lacy also claimed the power of working miracles, and in particular to have restored her sight to a prophetess called Betty Gray, cured her of paralysis, and removed a tumour in her throat by the ‘operation of the Spirit.’ Blindness, paralysis, and tumour were alike imaginary. He also predicted the resurrection from the dead upon 25 May 1708 of Thomas Emes [q. v.], buried in Bunhill Fields on Christmas day 1707 (see Harl. Misc. vii. 194–6). Such crowds collected to witness the fulfilment of the prophecy that the trainbands were called out. The ministers and elders of the French church in the Savoy had early tried in vain to check the excitement by censuring the prophets as impostors. The latter were then indicted (4 July 1707) before Lord-chief-justice Holt for publishing false and scandalous pamphlets and holding tumultuous assemblies, were convicted, fined, and put in the pillory. A prosecution was also instituted by the attorney-general against Lacy and his chief coadjutor, Sir Richard Bulkeley (1644–1710) [q. v.], but was eventually abandoned. There were soon more than four hundred persons prophesying in different parts of the country. The clergy denounced them, and Calamy censured Lacy at Westminster in some sermons published as A Caveat against New Prophets, London, 1708, 8vo. Lacy replied by going into one of his ecstasies in his own house in Calamy’s presence, and rebuking him in the name of the Spirit. His formal answer appeared as A Relation of the Dealings of God to his unworthy servant, John Lacy, since the time of his believing and professing himself Inspired, London, 1708, 8vo. Lacy was also attacked by Dr. Josiah Woodward [q. v.] in Remarks on the Modern Prophets, London, 1708, 8vo, and replied in a “Letter to the Rev. Dr. Josiah Woodward concerning his Remarks on the Modern Prophets,” London, 1708, 8vo, to which Woodward published an ‘Answer.’ Failing to convert his wife, Lacy deserted her in 1711, and went to live in Lancashire with Betty Gray. This he called leaving Hagar for Sara. About 1713 Whiston had been to his house and tried vainly to reason him out of his delusion. The Jacobite rising in 1715 elicited from him an appropriate Vision of J. L., Esq., a Prophet, London, 1715, 8vo. His last publication was The Scene of Delusions, by the Rev. Mr. Owen of Warrington, at his own earnest request considered and confuted by one of the Modern Prophets; and as it proves partly by himself, London, 1723, 8vo. He was committed to Bridewell in 1737 for opening an ‘oratory’ at Villiers Street, York Buildings, London. The date of his death is uncertain.

[Besides the writings mentioned in the text the principal authorities are Calamy’s Historical Account of my own Life, ed. Rutt, ii. 72 et seq.; Whiston’s Memoirs, 1749, p. 138; Luttrell’s Relation of State Affairs, vi. 244, 307; Kingston’s Enthusiastick Impostors no Divinely inspired Prophets; An Account of the Tryal, &c., of Elias Marion, London, 1707, 1st pt.; Predictions concerning the Raising the Dead Body of Mr. Thomas Emes, &c., London, 1708(?), 4to; The Honest Quaker, or the Forgeries … of the pretended French Prophets … expos’d in a letter … giving an Account of a Sham Miracle performed by John L—y, Esq., on the body of Elizabeth Gray on the 17th of August last, London, 1707, 8vo; Humphrey’s Account of the French Prophets, &c., and Farther Account in two letters to Sir Richard Bulkeley, London, 1708, 8vo; A Letter from John Lacy to Thomas Duton, being Reasons why the former left his wife, and took E. Gray, a Prophetess, to his bed (dated 6 March 1711); A Brand plucked from the Burning, exemplified in the Unparallel’d Case of Samuel Keimer, &c., London, 1718, 8vo; Lettres d’un Particulier à Monsieur Misson L’honnête Homme, London, 1707–8, 8vo; Boyer’s Polit. State, lv. 37, 210, cf. art. See, Anne.]

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True Christianity Through the Ages

I would consider true Christianity to be a combination of orthodoxy (right doctrine, sound theology) and orthopraxy (right practice, holy behavior). Ideas and emphases have changed over the ages, but some of the basics have remained constant, when it comes to true Christianity. That basic thread of attributes or characteristics or criteria, shared by all true Christian leaders and their followers, I would say, are the following: faith in the atoning death of Jesus, faith in the Bible as divinely inspired and authoritative over a Christian’s life, faith in the virgin birth of Christ, faith in the resurrection of Christ, and faith in the reality of the miracles of Christ. These five beliefs, called the “five fundamentals” in 1910, have existed since the first century and have carried all throughout the two thousand year history of the church, among true Christians. All kinds of other ideas and practices have changed, but these have always remained constant. There have been different understandings and teachings about the nature of holiness and godly living over the years, but certain things are non-negotiable: the Ten Commandments as a standard of holiness, the Sermon on the Mount as another standard, and in general the avoidance of sexual immorality and greed.

Also, about every one hundred years or so, a revival of holiness happens, and is led by a revivalist preacher that popularizes holy ideas and inspires people to walk and talk more devoutly. The first century had Jesus and the apostles; and the centuries after that, the Apostolic Fathers and the Desert Fathers. In the 5th century, St. Benedict founded the Benedictine Order, which pretty much defined all of Catholic monasticism with The Rule of St. Benedict. Although declension eventually happened after he died; and Celtic monasticism appears to have taken the place of revival with St. Columba and St. Patrick. There was a revival in the Benedictine Order in the 10th century called the Cluniac reform. The next few centuries saw the Waldensians, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and finally Martin Luther who started the Protestant Reformation. With Luther, the Church was revived in all areas, but especially with orthodoxy, as Catholic monasticism had strayed, in many ways, away from the Bible.

In 17th century England, the Puritans saw their finest representative in Richard Baxter, an evangelical Arminian who published a total of 23 volumes. In 1662, Baxter and over 2,500 Puritan preachers were fired from their pastorates in the Church of England, for preaching lordship salvation and not conforming to The Book of Common Prayer.

In 18th century England, John Wesley, another evangelical Arminian; and much in the spirit of Baxter, continued to preach holiness all over the country as an evangelist. Throughout most of his life and ministry, he remained technically an Anglican minister, but towards the end of his life, he started the Methodist Episcopal Church in order to evangelize the American colonies.

In the last two centuries, three preachers of notable importance come to mind. Charles Finney, an Arminian holiness preacher that spawned the Second Great Awakening. William J. Seymour, the leader of the Azusa Street Revival and in effect the founder of holiness-Pentecostalism. And finally Paul Washer, who in the early 2000s, with his “Shocking Youth Message” sermon, revived an interest in what is now called the “New Calvinism,” and an interest in the Puritan theologians.

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The Mark of the Beast: What Is It?

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.  –Revelation 13:16-18

The mystical dream or vision from which this prophetic statement originated, has haunted, perplexed, and aroused the curiosity of Christians since the beginning of Christianity. Nobody really knows for certain what it means. There are hundreds of speculations that have risen up over the past two thousand years. I did a paper called Portraits of Antichrists when I was in college; it was the last serious Bible research I did before graduating. I came across two academic studies on the Antichrist that still stick out in my mind: Wilhelm Bossuet’s The Antichrist Legend (1896) and Bernard McGinn’s Antichrist (1994). I lend great weight to these books, not because I agree with everything the authors said, as most of their personal views took on a skeptical tone…but because of their massive amount of historical quotations from ancient church fathers and theologians throughout the history of the church on the subject. Bossuet is especially good at pointing out Antichrist prophecies from the Old Testament pseudepigrapha—the visionary books written after the Old Testament canon and just before the New Testament. He shows that these books had an influence on the Antichrist views that Jesus and the apostles had, even before the book of Revelation was written. This view was expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 by the apostle Paul; and was elaborated on by the early church fathers, as in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies: Book 5 and Hippolytus’ Treatise on Christ and Antichrist.

So, back to the text quoted above: Revelation 13:16-18.

1. Revelation 13:16: “It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark.” The mark, whatever it is, will be forced on people by the government of the Antichrist. It is a mark in the right hand or the forehead; and the mark will be forced on people by the government. All who resist the mark of the beast, will be executed by beheading (Rev. 20:4).

2. Revelation 13:16-17: “A mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark.” The prophecy is referring to a physical mark that will be put either on people’s right hands or their foreheads; as if to say, the right hand is the preferred location because it is mentioned first; but if a person either does not want it in their hand, then they may choose the option of the forehead; or if someone did not have a right hand, due to amputation, then the forehead was a secondary option rather than the left hand. Why the left hand is not considered is sort of strange: but it seems to indicate some kind of spiritual meaning. In the Bible, the right hand symbolizes strength (Exod. 15:6). Usually people are right-handed and their right arm is their strongest one; and it is usually with the right hand that people write letters and sign their names. For the mark to be in the person’s right hand, first and foremost, appears to symbolize that the mark is the expression of the person’s free will to legally transact business with this mark in their right hand, just as they would use that same hand to sign a check or a contract. The left hand is out of the question, not because of practicality, it seems, but because of its mystical symbolism. The left hand is usually not associated with strength, heart, or business transactions. The next best thing is the forehead, because the head is associated with authority, reason, and decision making. Another thing the forehead could represent is the “third eye” or the psychic vision ability that occultists attribute to the imagination. Many places in Scripture indicate that the Antichrist and his false prophet, whomever they may be, will somehow be involved in the occult and will possess dramatic psychic abilities. Smack dab in the middle of the forehead is where you also see the red “bindu” dot on women in India. There’s something about that place just between the eyebrows or just above it, which indicates occult vision or spiritual eyesight. For the Antichrist to lay claim on that part of a person, is almost the same as laying claim to their heart. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Antichrist followers will treasure their lives and their money as more important than the Gospel. Many people already do this today, both within and without the Church.

3. Revelation 13:17-18: “The name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” Nobody really knows for certain what the name of the Antichrist is. If they follow the principles of Biblical numerology, or Hebrew gematria, it might help a little at identifying this person. But there are many criteria that have been laid down in Scripture for identifying the Antichrist. The most obvious one is in 2 Thessalonians 2, which says he will be a global cult leader who will sit in a temple and proclaim himself God and demand that the whole world worship him. Various church fathers thought that different Roman emperors were the Antichrist, with Nero even being identified to the point of his name equaling 666. All throughout history, the Antichrist speculations have changed. As you may know, most of the Protestant reformers and Puritans viewed whoever was the current Catholic pope as the Antichrist. Luther’s pope was Leo X, so he got called the Antichrist by a lot of Lutherans. Luther was excommunicated by a papal “bull” document; and he responded to it with a tract entitled Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist. After Leo X died, the Puritans just started to view the Vatican as the Antichrist in spirit; and whoever became the pope at the time was in effect the Antichrist. Catholics returned the insult and called Luther and countless reformers the Antichrist. In World War II, Hitler was speculated to be the Antichrist by a lot of Christians. I think it would be right to say, that evil rulers and many others like them, are only forerunners of the real Antichrist in Revelation 13. They are only what is mentioned in 1 John 2:18: “This is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.” This verse, if anything is a warning to Christians to be on their guard against the one true Antichrist with a capital “A” in Revelation 13, that will appear someday. But it also says that, even in apostle John’s time, by then, “many antichrists have come,” to which he who wrote the book of Revelation, may be referring to Roman emperors, or to false prophets, and Gnostic heretics.

Today people again are speculating new things about the Antichrist and the mark of the beast. For a while, people thought the mark might be a bar code tattoo. I have been aware of a unique speculation since the early 2000s: that the mark of the beast will probably be an RFID chip, about the size of a grain of rice, which can be injected into the right hand or forehead with a syringe. This chip could be scanned and used for debit card type transactions just like in Revelation 13:16-17. While Christians should be on their guard against technology like this, as it advises us to be on guard in 1 John 2:18, we shouldn’t be irrational in our speculations. But be rational; and be Biblical; we can’t throw out all the other Biblical criteria and isolate only certain parts of the Antichrist picture. Some people in the past year have speculated that the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer is either the mark of the beast, or a pre-cursor, and as such, people shouldn’t get this shot, even though people are dying from the disease by the millions. Again, we should do as Wesley did with his theology and decision making: resort to Scripture, reason, church tradition, and spiritual experience, and then really ask ourselves if our opinions and views are sound and valid, before we go about preaching them with absolute certainty: proclaiming dubious things with the certainty of a Biblical prophet, things which are merely end-time speculations, and greatly lack the Biblical criteria of genuine Antichrist activity.

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Review of Peter Galie and Christopher Bopst’s “Machiavelli & Modern Business”

The Prince (Classics) by Niccolo Machiavelli (1961-07-30): Amazon.com: Books

Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (1532) is largely responsible for every departure from Puritan standards of business ethics; and should be looked upon with Biblical criticism. Most of the corrupt and deceptive practices that exist in governments and businesses today, can be linked with the “Machiavellian” principles laid down in this evil book. It was placed on the List of Prohibited Books by the Catholic Church. But I would allow for only one Machiavellian principle: and that is it may be permissible to righteously lie or at least withhold information from an enemy that would do a good man harm, as the prophet Elisha did to the Syrian army (2 Kings 6:19). In that case, God miraculously assisted him in his deception. Jesus echoed this view when he said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). But the Bible holds no place for manipulative slandering, or tale-bearing, or spreading false rumors with the intent of ruining a person’s reputation (Exod. 20:16).

Galie and Bopst, while trying to be fair to Machiavelli, admit that in his Discourses, he makes clear statements against what he called “corruption,” or bribing people to stay in line with the organization the leader is managing. Machiavelli would be against what we today would call white collar crime: falsifying financial information, insider trading, money laundering, investment fraud, embezzlement, stock market manipulation, etc. Things like this led to the Enron scandal. Machiavelli was apparently against things like that, but its likely the only reason he was against those things, is because white collar crime can tear down an organization. When it comes to the area of “soft skills,” Machiavelli encourages the darker side of human nature to find its expression, to play a strategic game of king of the hill at office politics, and come out on the top as the manager.

The Machiavellian businessman is all about playing the game of office politics, being keenly aware of forces like self-interest and internal competition within a company. The ambitious and self-serving mentality of looking out for number one. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations underscored self-interest and competition as national economic forces; its what he called the “invisible hand” that guides the economy. But long before Smith was born, Machiavelli had emphasized self-interest and competition as personal things to be dealt with, while in a leadership role. When his principles are applied to the business world, financial success would be the only goal, not building team morale or employee loyalty to the company. Christian ethics are actually viewed as obstacles to financial success, because worldly means need to be used to achieve worldly ends or goals. In this case, using gratuitous profanity, maintaining ungodly friendships, flirting with people at work regardless of their relationship status, etc. He doesn’t state these things literally, but they are a logical outgrowth of his thinking.

More closer to the chest is Machiavelli’s idea that the ends justify the means, whether they are ethically right or wrong. One business writer, Stanley Bing, titled his book What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness (2000). The “meanness” being things like workplace bullying and manipulative behavior, which can put you at an advantage but at another person’s expense. Of course, this destroys team morale and makes employees have an “independent contractor attitude” (p. 246). “It is better to be feared than loved,” he says. This makes a business feel more like a street gang, or a dysfunctional family, than a professional environment.

Habitual lying is one of the more Machiavellian traits: or, lying that professionally benefits you and keeps you in control of your career goals. Its what people call “lying to get ahead.” CEOs, for example, can motivate employees by lying to them about pay raises. Certain employees can be singled out and told things to scare them away, like, “We’re probably going to have to start laying a lot of people off.” This so that certain undesirable employees will just quit on their own, so the manager doesn’t look like a bad guy for firing them. Often these can be very good productive employees that hold a lot of influence with people, but which may unintentionally pose a competitive career threat to the manager. The manager might actually feel threatened that this employee might be used to replace him, so he targets him and makes him feel uncomfortable, until he finally just leaves on his own. However, Machiavelli would probably more lean in the direction of telling half-truths and withholding information than he would of blatantly lying and creating fictional stories all the time. The one is more cunning, the other is easier to detect and publicly condemn. The key is to be underhanded and always look like a good guy to everybody else. In other words, be a total hypocrite.

Galie and Bopst say that the central message of Machiavelli’s book The Prince is that business leaders “should adopt a cynical and amoral view of the world, look out for themselves first, and let the ends justify the means” (p. 244); and the proper view of a Machiavellian person is one who believes in the “use of deception, cruelty, and ruthlessness to achieve one’s goals” (p. 245).

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A Summary of the Puritan Work Ethic

The following principles are extracted or distilled by myself after trying to digest chapter 2: “Work” and chapter 4: “Money” from Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were.

Jost Amman’s The Book of Trades

1. Jesus was a bachelor and a carpenter, which means he set the economic example for single men (Mark 6:3). Glassdoor says of carpenters in 2021 that their annual income is an average of $53,000. Most modern economists would say that a child’s yearly expenses should be around $10,000 for a middle class family. Parents for a family of four, therefore, might reasonably aim to earn about $83,000 a year.

2. God calls us to specific job vocations, not so much by voices, dreams and visions, but more often through reoccurring emotional impressions and the working situations we find ourselves in.

3. Telecommuting, it seems, is the most reasonable way to work with a “heavenly mind” and the way to “best escape sinning.” A Christian businessman will refuse to cuss, lust, and compete with employees. He will be honest with customers and co-workers; and will only sell good and useful products that benefit mankind. He will sell them at more than reasonable prices; and will provide excellent customer service, aimed at glorifying God in his business. He will not lie, extort, or practice usury: he will not seek profit at the expense of decency. He will avoid ill-gotten gain; and only allow himself to work with well-gotten gain. The ghost of Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol said, “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” Competitive-minded, greedy, cussing, lusting businessmen, all packed into an office, will become a pack…of wolves. Avoid such things! Use your phone and computer to treat customers and co-workers with the respect God requires you to.

4. Working in the daytime from Monday to Saturday; and resting on the seventh day, which is Sunday: is the Biblical work schedule. Exodus 20:9: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,” notice it does not say to work nights. From dawn (which may be as early as 7am) until dusk (as late as 6pm), depending on the seasons: from sunup till sundown, in other words. It is not meant for men to work when it is dark outside. One exception may be the industrious housewife who makes products in her home at night before bedtime: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers” (Proverbs 31:18-19). Working on Sunday may be temporarily acceptable in case of a financial emergency: “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” (Luke 14:5).

5. Acknowledge and remember that it is God “who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). If you forget to remember and praise God for your successful financial results—God’s providence, then some enormous failure will eventually follow. Since business has a way of drawing the mind to earthly things, it would be good to meditate on eternal realities from time to time, such as the fate of Dives in John Bunyan’s Sighs from Hell. Materialism has the ability to distract us from theology and prayer. Avoid disobedience to God’s Word, pride of success, self-reliance instead of God-reliance, and overall becoming a snob that is obsessed with status and who despises the poor.

6. Diligence and thrift: the simple Puritan formula for financial growth. The combination of hard work, productivity, industrious activity, and diligence combined with a reluctance to spend money on unneeded pleasures of the world; and to only use money on essential family provisions and occasional philanthropy: such activity could eventually generate prosperity, if the business conditions are right. Money is not meant for pleasures and pride, but for provision and philanthropy.

7. Detachment from worldly possessions is necessary, because God requires happy giving and charitable philanthropy to the poor, not in a begrudging manner. Think of giving to the poor through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; and to godly preachers like Ray Comfort with Living Waters. Another great charity is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Have mercy on the poor and do not despise them (Prov. 14:21; Jas. 2:1-8).

8. Don’t let yourself get distracted by theological and spiritual thoughts while working at business activity, but try to remember that living a holy life is more important than being rich.

9. Parents should save money for their children if they can—such as for their education.

10. It should be a goal to acquire land and private property: it can provide security.

11. Aim for the middle class, if you are a family man: living neither in poverty nor in wealth (Prov. 30:7-9).

12. Governors’ mansions and a White House for the president. Such things cannot be avoided you work in a job that requires government leadership. But if you are a godly Christian, living in luxury goes against your general life principles. All the more reason to run from public office! But if necessity puts it upon you, as it did for Oliver Cromwell, then seek God’s will.


Further Reading on Puritan Economics

1603 – Perkins, William. A Treatise of the Vocations or Callings of Men in Puritan Political Ideas (ed. Edmund Morgan).

1673 – Baxter, Richard. Chapters from A Christian Directory (ed. Jeannette Tawney).

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