Review Peter Leithart Against Christianity

Opening remarks:

This is another book recommended by Andrew Torba in the back of Christian Nationalism. The book is five chapters long and weighs in at about 150 pages. It was published in 2003. My recollection is that the guys at Berean Church in Sandpoint quoted one sentence from the book out of context and then threw Leithart under the bus as a heretic.

Review:

This book is like CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity in that it has lots of thought-provoking stuff and is trying to get readers to think outside of established categories about the Christian faith.

I cannot hope to “convince” readers or “prove” anything here, since I have certainly not provided enough argument or evidence to compel agreement. I hope instead to hint at, gesture toward, trace, or sketch what may be a fresh approach to the (mainly ecclesiological) issues I discuss, more to change readers’ angle of vision than persuade. (page 7).

Leithart is dissatisfied with the self-imposed limits that we as believers have allowed the secular world to impose on us. He feels strongly that we are all too willing to allow our faith to be boxed-in as a private affair between us and God and that we generally are unwilling to engage the world around us.

The Bible gives no hint that a Christian “belief system” might be isolated from the life of the Church, subjected to a scientific or logical analysis, and have its truth compared with competing “belief systems.” (page 14).

Though it has roots in the patristic period, Christianity in its more developed form is the Church’s adjustment of the gospel to modernity, and the Church’s consequent acceptance of the world’s definition of who we are and what we should be up to. Christianity is biblical religion disemboweled and emasculated by (voluntary) intellectualization and/or privatization. (page 17).

He places Christianity in one corner and in the other is the Church. The Church is both an assembly of believers (ecclesia) and a government (polis). The Church is a multi-language nation.

My complaint is more fundamental: we have accepted our liberal opponent’s account of who we are and no longer see that the gospel an is inherently political announcement, nor that the Church is an inherently political community. (page 38).

Leithart would find the notion of “me and Jesus is a majority” as laughable. The Church gives a believer purpose and meaning within a community.

Leithart argues that saving faith in Christ is not like “adding Jesus to my life” but is a completed surrender of my life and a completed adoption of Christ’s.

Conversion does not simply install a new “religious” program over the existing operating system. It installs a new operating system. (page 16).

Leithart concludes his book with ideas such as these:

Renouncing Christianity thus entails embracing Christendom. (page 136).

Suppose the king is a liberal who tries to police the boundaries of the Church, telling the Church where it can and cannot speak, what it can and cannot do. In that case too, a clash is inevitable and, again, kings have a herd time winning such battles. …

On the other hand, if the Church appears preaching Christianity, the king is entirely capable of stealing the rhetoric and story and ideas of the Church to buttress his power. … Or, political powers may simply force Christianity into the private sphere—shoving ideas back into the brain and Christianity back into churches. Churches in the grip of Christianity will hardly blink when the liberal king tells them that that have to confine themselves to thinking pious thoughts. (page 149).

Application

Folks, this was written in 2003 but sounds like a perfect description of the total failure of the clergy in all denominations when confronted in 2020 with the Covid 19 order to shutdown all church worship and scatter the flocks of Christ. We, as believers, accepted the liberal lie that the Church was “non-essential” to our way of life and virtually ever minister, not only in the United States, but all of the West, complied without question. I can number all the churches in the United States that did not shutdown during Covid on one hand and still have fingers left. This is a huge indictment of the moral failure of modern churches.

The failure of churches during Covid is exactly the point Leithart is trying to make with this book. We have abandoned Christendom and replaced it with a pious, personal, and ineffective philosophy called “Christianity.”

The same moral failure lamented by Leithart will be played out next weekend when our community hosts its first gay pride event. Instead of protesting, local churches numbering as many as 13 congregations, will be holding a picnic at the fairgrounds as a “family friendly” alternative. They are expecting a crowd of 1,000 people at the event.

Except for one person that calls himself a street evangelist, nobody plans to be at the event to share Christ with these folks. I specifically asked my church leadership in the loudest voice that I could, why do we refuse to share Christ with these people? I said that we need more people in front of the venue protesting than they have attending it.  Essentially, I was told that homosexuals are not “the elect” and that they should be ignored. Folks, if you ignore cancer, does it simply go away or spread? I submit to you that sin is a cancer, and it will spread like wildfire if not halted in its progress. To this end, I bought 100 tracts to hand-out at the event, and I will not be participating at the picnic.

Leithart’s book is worth a look. I suggest having multicolored highlighters and going through it two or three times to really get a feel for his arguments. This book is asking you to think outside your preconceived categories and view faith in Christ in terms of the early church not categories given us by the pagans that gave us the Enlightenment and modernity.

Israeli Journalist Calls for Gaza Genocide

Some person identified as a conservative journalist named Daniel Greenfield just called for the extermination of everybody in Gaza. He is from Israel of course.

Greenfield further hashes this out, saying, “There are no civilians in Gaza. The vast majority of the population supports Hamas or some Islamic terrorist movement. Only a tiny minority opposes Islamic terrorism and wants peace.” He concludes:

“Hamas can’t be defeated by waiting until its terrorists take off their civilian clothes and put on uniforms. Hamas are the civilians. They are the ones holding the hostages. The only way to free the hostages and defeat the terrorists is to destroy the terror culture in whatever form it takes.”

In Brief: There Are No Civilians in Gaza

As stated previously on this blog, the land area known as “Gaza” will be depopulated, the only question is will: “The West” take in two million refugees or will Israel just level the place?

If Trump wins, will it matter? Could it be over by then?

With Joe Biden in charge, look for this to be described by the American media as a mostly peaceful final solution.

Petra 50th Anniversary Tour

Petra was in the area last Friday night and I decided to go see them. They last toured about ten years ago.2024 is their fiftieth anniversary. Their first album was released in 1974. I have a copy of the LP and the CD.

Their concert was across the border in Creston, Canada. Since moving to north Idaho a year ago, I have never driven into Canada. I’m the only one in the family with a valid passport, but since my wife is out of town, so I decided to go.

Two weeks ago, I bought a VIP pass for $75 (Canadian). The pass was for an event starting at 5 PM. We were given a poster to get autographed and also allowed to get autographs on another item.

The following is a recap of my adventures that day.

I got up just before 7 and did my morning chores. My wife and I were on the road at 8 AM. At 10 AM we did our Costco run in Coeur d’Alene. We tried to do a Costco run the previous Friday but were not allowed into the building because somebody in the area decided to try moving a power pole with their car. They succeeded in knocking out power to parts of the town including Costco. Oh, inside the building they have a whole section of generators for sale but whatever.

We then went to Rathdrum for lunch at a dive called Nadine’s. They have a salad that faintly resembles the Yucatan salad from Dos Coyotes. Then I dropped my wife at the airport in Spokane and by 1 PM I was returning home to walk the dog and then headed to the concert. In preparation to go to the concert I got my passport and my copy of the first Petra LP. Yep, a vintage 1974 album titled “Petra.”

Near my house, we have two border crossings: Porthill and Eastport. The Porthill crossing is closer but closes at 7 PM. It used to be open longer but since Covid the hours have been shortened. I crossed at Porthill. It was easier than I thought. I was asked if I had any firearms or ammo. I replied, “No.” I was asked about my business and how long I would be staying. I told the man that I was going to a concert. He replied, “Oh, you’re going to see Petra?” I replied, “Yes.” I was then allowed into Canada.

Please understand that I was somewhat apprehensive to do this because all my other trips to Canada were to Victoria. In Victoria they drive on the wrong side of the road just like in England. Thankfully this part of British Columbia is like driving in the US except they use the evil metric system.

Creston is a small town of a few thousand people. I was very surprised that they landed a Petra concert. Just before the venue, I found a Dairy Queen, likely the only fast-food joint in town, and ordered a chicken sandwich. I then arrived at the community center and ate most of my dinner in the car. It was a multi-use facility.

The VIP event started about 5:15. The event was really laid-back. I told them that I was there for the VIP Petra event, and they let me in. The people running the VIP portion of the event had no list of names as to who had paid for the VIP pass, they just took me at my word and let me in the room.

Shortly after I got my pass, the band members, five in all, entered the room and were seated at one end. The band members were never introduced by name.

Bob Hartman (middle) John Schlitt to his right

It turns out that only one guy was an original member of the band. What years the others joined was never discussed. A question-and-answer period was held first. Most of the time was spent recounting the story of how John Schlitt came to replace Greg X Voltz as lead singer of the band. The story was not told by John, but the only remaining guy from the original band, Bob Hartman.

John was lead singer for a 1970’s rock band called “Head East.”

John got caught up in the rock n’ roll lifestyle and got so messed up on drugs that they fired him from the band. He hit bottom and “got saved” as they say in Evangelical circles. He then finished college and did geology and mining stuff in Utah for a few years. He thought he was done with music until Petra happened. The whole answer was about 20 minutes long, so I really am giving you the thumbnail version.

Oh, the one question that was deflected concerned whether there would be a live album recorded on this tour. The band equivocated on this idea. Folks, based on what I’ve been seeing, the live album will be recorded in Oklahoma City on July 26th.

Following the Q & A session, the autograph portion began. The band members signed whatever was presented to them. Besides my original Petra LP, there were backpacks, ball caps, and CD covers. I was surprised that I was the only one with an LP. The Petra LPs are being re-released along with remastered CDs by Boone’s Overstock and Girder Music.

As people were getting autographs, they had a person assigned to take photos of each person or group going through the line, so you got a personalized photo with the band. As of this writing, the photos are not on Facebook yet.

At the conclusion of the VIP event, I went out to my car and put my treasures in the car. I then went into the concert venue. Being that I’m in Canada, would it surprise you that the venue was on the floor of the local hockey rink.

The one question I almost asked was concerning the song, “God Gave Rock N’ Roll to You.” Per Wikipedia, it was originally done by Argent in 1971. Petra changed some lyrics and did it in 1977 and again in 1984. KISS did their own variation of it in 1991 for the movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Adventure.

Having some time to kill, I looked at the merchandise for sale and Petra had zero music for sale: only shirts. I learned from the guy at the table that only merchandise manufactured in Canada was allowed to be sold at the concert. Also, they could not accept any form of payment except cash or PayPal. Even with international data roaming activated on my phone, I was unable to download the PayPal app. It’s probably been at least ten years since I tried using PayPal for any type of transaction, so I don’t even know if I still have an account with them. NAFTA be damned, international commerce is a pain in the rear.

The warm-up band came on stage about 7 PM. They were never introduced. I researched their name, it was “Revival.”

The band performed about seven songs. Their last song was a cover of “Jesus Freak.” Per Wikipedia, the song was originally done by DC Talk. I have heard it before and have a cover of it done by Larry Norman.

Revival

People say I’m strange, does it make me a stranger

That my best friend was born in a manger

Jesus Freak
Revival

Revival finished their set about 7:40. It was then announced that there would be break and Petra would take the stage at 8 PM.

Sure enough, Petra took the stage at 8 PM and played for an hour and a half. Some of the folks really got into it, singing and dancing, and occasionally clapping to the music. Other folks watched with less visible enthusiasm. I would say that the crowd was about four to five hundred people and most of the audience was between 40 to 60 years old.

The overall playlist was much like Petra’s Farewell CD with some other songs added. Also, the rock and acoustic medleys were longer. John Schlitt’s vocals were remarkable good; especially since the guy is probably in his seventies. He looks like an older version of Christopher Lloyd’s “Doc Brown” from Back to the Future.

Christopher Lloyd “Doc Brown”

Bob Hartman’s guitar solo was much the same as Farewell.

As I said previously, the band was never introduced but I think the other band members are:

Greg Bailey – Bass, cello, backing vocal

Cristian Borneo – Drums

John Lawry – Keyboards, keytar, backing vocal

Attached are some photos of the concert.

Following the concert, I hit the road and went to the other border crossing at Eastport. I must say that it was odd driving down unfamiliar mountain roads at nighttime with the speedometer at 100. After about 40 minutes, I finally arrived at the crossing back into the United States.

I was instructed to turn off my engine and then was hit with a barrage of questions. As best as I can remember they included the following:

  • Was there anyone else in my car?
  • Did I have over $10,000 with me?
  • Did I have alcohol or tobacco products?
  • Did I have any fresh fruit or vegetables?
  • Where was I coming from?
  • Where was I going?

I felt really unwelcome to be entering the US. Perhaps I should have answered in Spanish, it might have been quicker to be allowed into the country. It might be that I was the only person in a while the guy had a chance to talk with, I don’t know but he finally let me go. I walked in the door about 11 PM.

Now I just need to find a few frames for my autographed stuff.

Book Review Christian Nationalism

Thanks to the Berean Church in Sandpoint Idaho and Politically Active Christians Political Action Committee (PAC PAC), I have had to start reading a few books to refute their claims about Christian Nationalism not being Christian. In their two-hour presentation they mention but never quote Andrew Torba and his running mate, Rev. Andrew Isker. The only thing they reference in their presentation are three books in the Recommended Reading list at the back of Torba’s book, Christian Nationalism.

Back when I was a Roman Catholic, I learned that there are sins of commission and sins of omission. Berean purposely commits the second in their presentation. They mention that Torba and Isker recommend a book on Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe but omit the part that the book is “forthcoming”. This implies that Torba and Isker are aware the book is in the publishing pipeline, but “forthcoming” says to me that they haven’t seen it in its final form. Looks like I get to spend some money at Cannon Press in the next few weeks so I can pick up three or four more books on the issue. Like I really need more books in my reading que. (I’m reading my fourth book this week which just happens to be by Gary DeMar and is not related to the present topic.).

Berean also omits a book by Gary DeMar and skips most other people on the Recommended Reading list. I know for a fact that Gary DeMar does not like the label of “Christian Nationalist”, but he says that he understands what some people are trying to say by calling themselves that. He thinks it is the wrong label to use. This fact is also absent from the Berean presentation. You would think that when Torba and Isker recommending a book by a guy that doesn’t like the label “Christian Nationalist” that fact would be a relevant point in their presentation.

The full title of the book by Torba and Isker is Christian Nationalism: A Biblical Guide to Taking Dominion & Discipling Nations.

Christian Nationalism is a movement of rebuilding, reformation and revival. We are not trying to overthrow the existing state or even necessarily earn positions in the highest levels of power. We don’t need to because we are playing the long game and are busy building things that matter. … So that is exactly what we are building: a parallel Christian Society.

A glaring omission in the Berean presentation is that they never deal with the issue of Dominion. Berean never cites any Bible verses on what they think a Christian’s role should be in our culture. They only say that Christian Nationalists are wrong but offer nothing in its place. As Gary North used to say, “You can’t beat something with nothing” but at the end of the day, that’s all they offer. Defeat and retreat are not a winning strategy or a biblical one either.

Torba’s Christian Nationalism is essentially an optimistic and post-millennial view of history that is offered as an antidote to the poison of premillennial dispensational defeatist theology that permeates most churches in the West. The bottom line is that Jesus isn’t coming back for a few thousand more years so given that, what legacy do you plan to leave for the next few generations. Torba says we should be planning at least seven generations into the future. Play the long game and Christians will transform society. We need to “take some turf for Jesus” as Gary S Paxton used to sing.

One of the most important tasks for the Christian Nationalist is overcoming the idea that the world is going to end very soon. The Pilgrims and other settlers who came to found a new Christian nation were not doing so because they expected the world to end any minute now. They did so because they were aware of the promises that God has made in His Word, that:

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. (Psalm 22: 27-28.)

And that:

“the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14.)

Torba also advocates for a variation of the strategy found in one of my all-time favorite books, “How the Irish Saved Civilization.”

Create parallel economic structures that showcase the difference between Christian culture and “the world”. Saint Patrick did this when he wished to convert a city. He set up a Christian community next to the city he wished to convert to show unbelievers that the followers of Christ had a better way to do things. Torba says that the current world system will collapse, and Christians need to be ready to step-in and help rebuild society after that happens.

The biggest complaint I have is that Torba doesn’t adequately footnote his books. There is no index of Scripture quotations, no index of topics, no index of people mentioned, and few if any citations of people quoted in his books.

For example, in Christian Nationalism, Torba quotes David Chilton several times but never says where the quotes are from. I was a friend of David’s and I recognize the quotes but please don’t ask me which book or lecture is being quoted.

All heathen cultures have been statist and tyrannical, for a people who reject God will surrender themselves and their property to a dictator. (I Sam 8: 7-20.)  — David Chilton

Only one chapter in the book has any footnotes at all and that is the last chapter documenting that the original colonies were all founded as Christian outposts (colonies or nations) sanctioned by the British and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Torba claims to be taking the Great Commission of Jesus literally and wanting to disciple all nations.

There is an abundance of biblical evidence for Christ’s present reign over heaven and earth. And the strongest is in the Great Commission (Matt 28: 18): “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ Jesus is reigning already. He doesn’t have some authority over this world, He has all of it.

This is mainstream Christian theology. Sadly, many Christians just don’t believe in it these days; hence the mess we are in. Torba also does his best to make the push for Christian Nationalism open to Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. You might say his slogan is, “If Jesus is your Lord, welcome on board.”

The most controversial chapter in the book is his refutation of the phrase “Judeo-Christian.” The “Judeo” is not based on the Old Testament but on a rejection of Jesus as Messiah and thus incompatible with Christianity. His comments are spot-on concerning this issue.

Talmudic Judaism is a new religion made up by those who rejected Jesus Christ. It is not the precursor to Christianity; it postdates it. By using the term [Judeo-Chirstian] we are reinforcing the idea that their religion is just like ours except they don’t believe in Jesus yet, when in reality it is a new religion formed out of the total rejection of the Son of God.

Oh, I got my copy of the book from Amazon. It was one of those print on demand books and my hard cover copy is 70 pages long. Yes, I’d recommend this book.