PAPER NO. 58
THE SPIRITUAL WAR
On the State of the Church and the World
- Man is created in the image of God to know God through the work of dominion. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Man is fallen in Adam, by his failure to seek and to understand what is clear about God and man and good and evil.
Man is redeemed from evil by a spiritual war between belief and unbelief, which is agelong and agonizing, in which good eventually overcomes evil.
- The conflict between belief and unbelief is within each person, in each household, in each church and in each nation, kindred, tribe and tongue.
This conflict is comprehensive, between the kingdom of God and the fallen world as the kingdom of Darkness, between Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, ruling in the Church through knowledge, holiness and righteousness, and Satan ruling through the institutions of the False Prophet, the Harlot, and the Beast in the world’s fallen culture. Spiritual war is total war. The outcome is life full of meaning or meaningless existence.
- The curse of toil, and strife and old age, sickness, and death, increasing with sin, to war, famine, and plague, is imposed by God as a call back from sin, and self-deception and self-justification. The curse is a call back—not punishment, which is intrinsic and ultimate—given with the promise of redemption through Christ (Genesis 3:15). As the Lamb of God, Christ will undo what Adam did (take away the sin of the world). As the Word of God incarnate, he will do what Adam failed to do (rule to make God known).
- Evil (unbelief) serves to deepen the revelation of God’s justice and mercy. Unbelief in every kind and degree of admixture with belief is allowed to work itself out in world history. In this conflict, belief will eventually win out. Unbelief leads to spiritual death—meaninglessness, boredom (with excess), and guilt. Only what is meaningful can bring everlasting life and a lasting culture.
- In world history there have been many cycles of apostasy—departure from faith/belief—with resulting cultural decay, and collapse under divine judgment. The first was the Flood, in Noah’s day. The second was at Babel, against the attempt to set up a world government in unbelief. The scattering of mankind by language restrained man from descending again into a universal apostasy and the resulting universal judgment of the Flood. Since Babel, many civilizations have risen in unbelief, flourished for a time, then decayed and perished.
Now, in world history, we enter our deepest crisis as the ending of four cycles converge. These cycles began 4000, 2000, 500 and 75 years ago.
- Post-Babel—the end of human scattering to prevent a return to universal apostasy and the emergence of an anti-national globalism.
- Post-Western—the end of Christian cultural influence in the West and the re-emergence of anti-rational neo-paganism.
- Post-Protestant—the decline of the distinctives of the Reformation focused on the glory of God alone and the rise of cultural despair.
- Post-Colonial—the completion of Fourth Generation apostasy (post-WWII) and the rise of post-modern cultural nihilism.
- In the redemptive history of the Church in the Old Testament, there have been many cycles of apostasy, beginning after the exodus from Egypt, in the wilderness, and again after the conquest of Canaan, in the cycle of Judges. After Solomon, apostasy grew in Israel until its destruction by the Assyrians, and also in Judah, until it was removed by exile to Babylon. During the time of the kings, the prophets declared the curse (war, famine and plague) as God’s call back, and reaffirmed the promise of Christ to come.
- Christ, the Word of God incarnate, came full of grace and truth. The evil of unbelief in the religious establishment crucified Christ. (He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”) But the death of Christ on the cross atoned for the sin of mankind. He was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all Truth. The Spirit came at Pentecost, to begin the ingathering of all nations into the kingdom of God.
- There have been many Church councils addressing the challenges of unbelief in the Church: Jerusalem (ca. 50 A.D.), The Apostles’ Creed (180), Nicea (325), Carthage (385), Chalcedon (451), Orange (550), several creeds of the Reformation culminating in Westminster (1648). The challenges of the modern era (1650–1950) from naturalism and secularism, and the challenges from the post-modern period (1950 to the present) from skepticism and anti-rationalism, remain to be answered, in due time, by yet another Church council.
- The Church is much divided in understanding good and evil. The cornerstone of clarity and inexcusability is rejected in place of fideism (belief without proof based on understanding). Clarity and inexcusability are avoided by self-deception and resisted (sometimes fiercely) by self-justification. A future heaven and hell are proclaimed in place of a present spiritual life and death. Without common ground among believers, there is no hope for agreement on the state of the Church and the world, or for understanding the signs of the times, or whether prudence requires preparation to persevere. To see anything clearly, redemption requires repentance of root sin—not seeking and not understanding what is clear about God—the original sin, universal—in all human beings, in their inmost being.
- There is one kingdom of Darkness, under one ruler, called Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, The Ancient Serpent (from the Garden of Eden), and the Dragon.
This one kingdom of Darkness is divided under many principalities and powers—fallen angels, ruling the earth through the ages over regions as their gods (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome). They are the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). There was war in heaven, between the good and the evil angels. The good prevailed (Revelation 12:7-9). Nevertheless, all evil beings and all forces of nature are always subject to God’s sovereign power.
- This one kingdom of Darkness rules on earth through the highest level (mostly invisible) of human power (sometimes called the Deep State). The Dragon’s power is manifest through the False Prophet (education without God), the Harlot (economics without God) and the Beast (politics without God) (Revelation 12-20). There are various levels of human hierarchy (the Swamp) below the Deep State which carry out its rule, often in culpable ignorance (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
- The kingdom of Darkness rules in opposition to the foundation of the kingdom of God. It opposes general revelation that is clear to reason by the antinomies of skepticism and fideism/mysticism. It opposes the good (man’s chief end/teleology) by the antinomies of hedonism (happiness as the good rather than the effect of the good) or deontology (virtue as the good rather than the means to the good—virtues in place of the good become our vices). It opposes the moral law—given in human nature, by the antinomies of anarchy (freedom from all law) or totalitarian law (man’s law/666/the mark of the Beast) in the place of God’s law—on the hand and forehead.
- The City of God (the kingdom of God) has foundations, walls, and gates. It is the body of Christ, the Logos/Truth incarnate and is therefore the pillar and ground of the Truth. It is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It is called to make disciples of all nations. It is called to be one that the world might believe. The Church is in captivity in many places where once it led the culture. It built on sand, not on the rock. It must rebuild on the cornerstone of clarity. It must lay again, more consciously and consistently, the foundation from clear General Revelation, from Scripture and from the Historic Christian Faith, many layers, all set in order. Only by the foundation in its fullness can the Church avoid divisions, apostasy, decay, and collapse and attain to maturity, fruitfulness, unity, and fullness.
- The Logos is the eternal Word of God, the Son of God, the fullness of Truth who makes God fully known. It is in all men as the light of reason. It is in creation as general revelation. It is in redemptive history as Scripture. It is incarnate in Jesus Christ. It is in the historic Christian faith by the Holy Spirit leading the Church into all Truth. It is restored in each believer by regeneration. It grows to maturity by sanctification (John 1:1-18; 3; 16; 17).
Only the Word of God can sanctify in one’s inmost being (John 17:17; Psalm 51).
Only the Word of God can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Only the Word of God can demolish arguments raised up against the knowledge of God, take every thought captive to Christ, bind Satan, and destroy his kingdom (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-3).
This Word of God endures forever (Isaiah 40:8).