First Steps to Statesmanship

From the Forward, by David Barrett, Director, The Montgomery Institute

First Steps to Statesmanship is a first in its field. There is no other work like it. As one who has labored for more than 15 years training young people, adults and whole families in the area of understanding the Bible and applying it to the various fields of life, I heartily recommend this work. Through our annual “Conference on Raising a Generation of Christian Statesmen,” we at The Montgomery Institute have been setting the vision and introducing participants to the fundamental concepts of Biblical reasoning with life application. What we have been doing, First Steps has made concrete. This work, with its collection of essays from master teachers and study questions for personal application and growth, has provided the necessary next step to equipping future statesmen. What has been accomplished here is a monumental step toward bringing the American Christian public back to (and, hopefully, beyond) a level of Biblical reasoning which our nation has not experienced for nearly 300 years.


Chapter One: Worldview. What is a Worldview? by R. C. Sproul, Jr.

Chapter Two: Law. The Bible: Law Book for the Nations, by Herbert W. Titus

Chapter Three: Citizenship. Raising Godly Citizens, by Daniel Eby

Chapter Four: Apologetics. Public Witness & Christian Apologetics, by Christopher Strevel

Chapter Five: Government. Thinking Governmentally, by James B. Rose

Chapter Six: History. The Providential Drama of History, by Marshall Foster

Chapter Seven: Nations. God's Sovereignty over the Nations, by Stephen McDowell


Chapter One


What is a Worldview?

by R. C. Sproul, Jr.

Brick Walls

The Union soldiers were giving it everything they had. Their artillery was firing, their horses charging. They had superior arms, superior numbers. All the advantages were theirs. But the sons of the South stood firm, unmoved. Atop the hill the Union soldiers wanted to take, they spied the leader of the Southrons (Southerners). General Jackson stood impassive, as his would-be attackers confessed in admiration, "There stands General Jackson, like a stone wall.” Thus Stonewall Jackson earned the moniker that he will bear for the rest of history.

That's what stone walls do, they stand. They do not march. They do not attack. The goal in building a wall is to make it immovable, to make it withstand whatever attacks may come, whether it be a direct assault, or slow but steady erosion. I too have been compared to a brick wall. Sadly, the comparison came in the form of a complaint, not a compliment. I have been the victim of what has been called the conjugation of adjectives. We conjugate adjectives not with differing endings, but by choosing carefully among nuances of what would otherwise be synonyms. Thus some would conjugate care with money this way: “I am frugal; you are tight-fisted; he is just plain cheap.” In like manner, “we want to be firm in our convictions; we fear we may be closed-minded; but those who speak with me sometimes complain that they feel like they are talking to a brick wall.”

In one sense, this is as it should be. While we don't want to be pigheaded—while we want to listen carefully to those we are speaking with—we recognize that when we are talking to each other, particularly when we are engaged in godly disputation (that is, a peaceful, calm, argument) what we are experiencing is a battle between two brick walls. The wall represents the sum total of our convictions, each brick representing something that we believe. We compare our different convictions and see which wall stands sturdier. We parry into the wall of our opponent, seeking out its weakest point, all the while trying to make his wall crumble.

The First Vital Characteristic of a Sound Wall

A sound wall will have at least two vital characteristics. First, it will be built upon solid ground. Jesus spoke not of walls but of houses when He said, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall" (Matthew 7:24-27).

Jesus' choice of “a house” for a metaphor adds something to our understanding of a worldview, something that would be missed by mere “walls.” Houses are made of walls, but they are not made merely to stand. Instead they are the very places in which we live. Our worldview is the same. It is the intellectual home in which we live. It shapes our lives, and is shaped, too often, by our lives. But one thing both images have in common is this: walls, like homes, are susceptible to being undermined. If the wall is built on solid ground, the assault of the environment will wash off a wall like water off a duck’s back; or if the wall is built on sand, the assault can cause the wall to crumble. Our convictions, the things that we affirm, must be built upon a rock, lest we see our wall fall like the one that surrounded Jericho.

Four Bricks at the Bottom

If the wall represents all of our convictions, those bricks that lie on the bottom of the wall are our most fundamental, or foundational, convictions. These are the most difficult ones to change, for changing them requires undoing all that has been built upon them. These foundational bricks are also the sturdiest bricks in our wall, if they are laid rightly on the bedrock. They influence the bricks that come later.

When you got up this morning, you made a decision to wear whatever shirt you are wearing. You probably didn't give it a great deal of thought, but nevertheless, it required making a decision. You did not choose your clothes randomly. The choice was not, however, a foundational issue (though, as we will see, you made that decision on the basis of your foundational convictions). At the bottom of the wall is not your favorite color, but your convictions about the most important things in life. (If what you wear is among the most important things in your life, then your wall is in need of a major overhaul.) There at the bottom is the brick that affirms your epistemology; and beside it, the one that affirms your teleology; and beside that, the one that affirms your anthropology; and beside that, the one that affirms your theology.

And now I'm talking to a brick wall. What are all these -ologies? You may be wondering, "How can I have a conviction about my epistemology, when I can't even pronounce it, let alone know what it means?" What's the point of having a teleology, when you can't tell what one is? That's the scary part. We all have convictions, but we don't always know what they are. And whether we are conscious of them or not—whether we have thought through them carefully or not—they determine the shape and the sturdiness of the rest of the wall.

Epistemology is a big, fancy word for how we know what we know. It is the true foundation for all the rest of our convictions, because it tells us how we reach our convictions. It is the study of truth, and how we know it. You may not have known that word, but long before you picked up this book, you did have certain convictions about how to determine what you believe.

Some people have an epistemology that goes something like this: "Whatever is the common consensus, that is what I will believe. Everybody knows, for instance, that there is no such thing as objective truth, and that truth is relative. Therefore I believe that there is no objective truth.”

Sadly, this almost anti-epistemology is the dominant epistemology of our age. It drives what we as a culture will affirm, and more importantly, not affirm, about who God is, who man is, what our purpose is, and what is right and wrong. At the lowest level of most people's walls stands the silly affirmation that there is no objective truth.

It is true that this is what most people believe. The trouble is, what most people believe is false, and demonstrably so. "All truth is relative" is not only a truth claim, but a universal and objective one. The statement contradicts itself. It is clearly and immediately utter folly. It is not mere sand; it is quicksand. It need not wait for the rain to fall and the wind to blow, but falls of its own weight. It has become “common wisdom” not because it is wise, but because too many of us do not carefully examine our foundation.

Teleology is the doctrine of ends or purposes. We all have fundamental convictions about what we exist for, what our lives are for, what goal it is we are to be pursuing. But again, too often, we do not examine our teleology. Too many of us see our purpose as the attainment of pleasure, or of comfort, or of riches. When King Solomon considered these things as the end of our being he reached a wise conclusion, that all such pursuits are vanity, chasing after the wind. Without a transcendent perspective, without the ability to touch those things which lie beyond the sun, none of these purposes can satisfy, for they all meet their end in death.

Why, then, do so many build their life around these pursuits? Why chase after the wind? Again, too many of us do not examine our foundation.

Anthropology is a fancy word for the doctrine of man. What do we think we are? Are we fundamentally good, or naturally evil? Are we mere bodies? Are we souls in bodies, or souls and bodies? Are we born with rights, or are they gifts from the state? Are we distinct from the animals, or not? Are we the product of the divine hand of God shaping us from the dust and endowing us with dignity, or are we the product of mindless happenstance, an accident that crawled out of the primordial ooze, a grown-up worm? The dominant view in our age is the latter view. Daily, students across the country in government schools are taught that humans are the result of random genetic mutations, and the blind process of natural selection. We are cosmic dust, and we will return to dust. Some students have taken this teaching to heart, and have taken to blowing other “dust” away with guns.

Theology is the study of God. Is God aloof? Is He merely loving and merciful, or is He wrathful, and to be feared? Is He omniscient, knowing all things, or does He not know the future? Is He omnipotent, that is, all-powerful, or is He merely strong? Is He knowable, and how does He reveal Himself? Is He a force, or a person? Is He a jealous God, or is He happy if we will but worship something, no matter how unlike Him that something might be? Did He make us, or do we make Him? How we understand the nature of God will have a profound influence on how we look at other issues. It will shape what we think about ourselves, about our culture, about our nation, about our labor, about everything.

These are the foundational issues. We cannot add to our knowledge until we know the source of knowledge. We cannot know what we should be doing until we know what the end goal is. We cannot know who we are until we know what we are. We cannot know how to relate to God until we know that there is a God, and what He is like.

There are, of course, other foundational issues: our understanding of right and wrong, or ethics; our understanding of the universe, or cosmology. What we believe about these things determines, or at least ought to determine, what we believe about everything, including what we believe about what shirt we ought to be wearing.

The Second Vital Characteristic of a Sound Wall

I mentioned that there are two necessary things for a sound, immovable wall. The first is a firm foundation, a rock that will not be moved by outside assaults. The second is careful construction. Even a wall built upon the rock of Gibraltar will tumble if the wall itself is not carefully constructed. One could have an outstanding foundation, and still have a shaky wall. The very function of the bottom, the foundation of the wall, is to set down the proper placement for the rest of the bricks. But we could lay a proper foundation, and then proceed to pay little or no attention to that foundation. We could place the rest of the bricks carelessly, thoughtlessly, such that the top of our wall does not match the bottom of our wall. If we begin wrong, building upon the sand, we will end wrong, no matter how careful we might be from that point forward. It is possible to begin well, and still to have our wall collapse.

Consider, for instance, the way most Christians vote. Most Christians have an anthropology that affirms the dignity of man—that we are all made in the image of God. We do not see ourselves, nor other people, as mere tools for our own comfort, nor as insignificant bundles of protoplasm. We value life. Most Christians likewise uphold an ethic that affirms that it is wrong to put to death humans who have not committed a capital crime. We also affirm a theology that says that we have an obligation to uphold the law of God, that He may and does impose obligations upon us, including a prohibition against murder. Yet many Christians are perfectly comfortable supporting men and women for political office who, for political reasons, will not stand for the protection of all unborn human life. The foundation of the wall says to protect life, to give no support for those who treat any unborn child as a mere inconvenience. But later on we find that we have added bricks that don't fit in the wall. Suddenly a candidate's view on taxes, or worse, his or her reelectability, trumps what is supposed to be on the foundation.

No Christian would come out against the Eighth Commandment, which forbids stealing. Our theology affirms that God has the right to impose obligations upon us. Our ethic affirms that God's law is the arbiter of right and wrong. Our anthropology affirms that we are required to obey God. It affirms also that all men are entitled to the fruit of their own labor. And so, while a Christian might commit a theft, yet as with any other sin, none would dare fall into a lifestyle of theft or argue that theft is the right thing to do. Most Christians, however, are utterly comfortable in asking the state to do their stealing for them. God, Paul tells us in Romans 13, gave the state the power of the sword for the purpose of punishing evildoers. But some Christians ask the state to use that sword not to punish wrongdoers but to rob their neighbor to finance the education of their children. In other words, they ask the state to tax their neighbors to pay for government schools. A Christian who would never go next door with a sword and plunder his neighbor to raise the cash to buy a home often has no difficulty asking the state to do the same: to tax the neighbor (at the point of the sword, for the state punishes us when we fail to pay what it requires) to fund the program the helps some people to buy a home. Here again, while we may affirm truths in our foundations, we do not build upon that foundation in a consistent and coherent way.

Sadly, many Christians who possess what appears to be a sound theology, and who claim to believe that God is who He says He is, build on their wall a conviction that the state is actually God. In our prayer life we ask that God would provide our daily bread. But in our practice we ask the state to provide our daily bread for us. We ask the state to be our refuge, and our security. We, like the pagans around us, do this without thinking. We look at the foundation of our wall and find it to be sound. But we do not check to see if the rest of our convictions match the foundation.

Worse still, sometimes we move our foundations to match our less important convictions. Suppose, for instance, that we understand that God has made us for work, for exercising dominion over His creation. But at the same time, we discover that we don't much care for work, that stealing is far easier. We may discover that our own pleasure or ease trumps the call of God. We then adjust our understanding of God to fit our desire not to work. We create a god who either doesn't know that we are stealing, or doesn't care that we are stealing, or just does not exist at all.

We will confuse our anthropology and our theology, making ourselves out to be God. All things exist for us. We determine right and wrong. God will simply have to adjust. This is precisely what Paul is talking about in Romans chapter 1. We construct a god, and worship the creation rather than the creator, in a futile attempt to ease our own consciences.

Prior to God's sovereign work of regeneration, we all construct a view of reality that will allow us to do and to be what we wish. (This, by the way, is why so many buy into the foolishness of relativism: to imagine that we can construct our own reality, a reality in which there is no higher law to which we are accountable, in order to escape the wrath of God.) And after God has given us new life, we still find subtle ways to justify our sin, while trying to hold onto the God we worship.

Thinking God’s Thoughts

God has called us to think His thoughts after Him. Our epistemology will not only establish the source of our convictions about our convictions, but will establish the source of all of our convictions. When we believe that His Word is truth, we have discovered our source for truth. We are to believe what He affirms. We are made disciples of Christ, students in His school. As His students we are to believe all that He teaches; and as His emissaries, as disciplers of the nations, we are to teach all others to do the same.

We are loving God with our minds when we learn to value what He values—when we agree with Him. What flows from there is the rest of our lives, for as a man thinks in his heart, so he is. This is the essence of faith, that we believe God. When He tells us His epistemology, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we are to believe Him—at all the levels of our wall. We reject the siren call of relativism, because we are not caught in the grip of the fear of men. We will be (and are) called closed-minded, narrow, bigoted, because we affirm that there is only one truth, and Jesus is His name. We do not merely say we believe it, but it shapes the rest of our thoughts.

When God says that we are made for His glory—that our telos, our purpose, is to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness—we will not merely agree with our lips, but with our lives. We will not allow the world's brick (that we live for personal peace and affluence) to find a foothold on our wall. We will make our decisions in light of that final goal. If X does not serve our purpose, then we will not do X. If the shirt we are thinking of wearing does not glorify God, we will simply not wear it.

When God says that all men everywhere bear His image, we believe that, as well, and refuse to deny that dignity in anyone, no matter how young, no matter the circumstances of their conception, no matter how old, and no matter the pain in which they live. We will reflect this conviction not only in our political views, but in our relationships with others. We will treat all around us with an appropriate dignity. We will treat people as ends, and not as means.

When God reveals His law to us, our ethic is established. We do not wrestle over competing theories of the right, for God has told us what is right in His law. We will not object that God's law is out of date, or overly harsh, or inapplicable in our day. When God says, "Thou shalt..." we know we must. And when He says, "Thou shalt not..." we know we may not. We do not make our moral decisions in the context of the state (that is, what is legal is good, what is illegal is bad), nor in the context of the common consensus of the community.

When we fail to think God's thoughts after Him, our wall not only crumbles, but we are in sin. Saint Augustine argued, in fact, that all sin is a failure to love “ordinately” (“in a regular, methodical manner,” American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828). We sin every time we love something more than we ought, and every time we love something less than we ought. We sin when we do not love in order, loving first things first, and last things last. And this is precisely what the devil is at work doing. It is not the Union troops that seek to make our wall topple, but the minions of the devil. Their goal is to see us think the devil's thoughts after him, to misdirect our affections, and conform us to the pattern of this world. And he succeeds because we do not think through our worldview. We do not build our foundations carefully, and we do not build carefully upon our foundations. We mix our mortar with the water of the Word, and the oil of the world, and find that our thoughts do not cohere.

Our call is to build our wall. We need to build it high and wide. But the most important requirement is that we build it well, that it rest upon the solid rock that is the wisdom of God, and that we lean not on the sand of our own understanding.

© 2001 R.C. Sproul Jr.

Review Questions

1. Mr. Sproul uses the idea of a wall to illustrate what three aspects of the Christian worldview?

2. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus used the metaphor of building “a house.” How did Mr. Sproul relate this to worldview?

3. What were listed as two vital characteristics of a sound wall?

4. Match each of the following terms with its defining question.

a. epistemology 1. Who is God?

b. teleology 2. What is man?

c. anthropology 3. What is the purpose of life?

d. theology 4. What is right and wrong?

e. ethics 5. How do I know what I know?

5. When man’s goal in life is to pursue pleasure and comfort, he can be said to have poor—

a. epistemology

b. teleology

c. anthropology

d. theology

e. ethics

6. When the “common consensus” of society is used to determine what a man believes, he can be said to have poor—

a. epistemology

b. teleology

c. anthropology

d. theology

e. ethics

7. List two examples of how a Christian may “begin well” (good foundation), yet not build a stable wall.

8. List two examples of how a Christian may “build on their wall a conviction that the State is actually God.”

9. When God reveals His law to us, what is established?

10. So, what makes up a person’s “worldview”?