Is it the lie or the truth which commands your attention?1 ~ R.J. Rushdoony
When you fail to make the Bible the starting point of thought, you end up constructing a worldview built on a faulty foundation. Couple that with man’s sinful nature and the wiles of the devil, and you have a recipe for a cultural malignancy that chokes the life out of people. When the Bible is not the focal point of life and the basis for instruction and behavior, the curses outlined in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 result.2
There was a time in our nation’s history when the Bible was the presuppositional foundation of culture, even if it was not consistently followed. The Bible served to create a context of life, because it was recognized as thetext of life. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary reflects this fact.
TEXT, noun [Latintextus, woven.]
1. A discourse or composition on which a note or commentary is written. Thus we speak of thetext or original of the Scripture, in relation to the comments upon it. Infinite pains have been taken to ascertain and establish the genuine original text.
2. A verse or passage of Scripture which a preacher selects as the subject of a discourse.
3. Any particular passage of Scripture, used as an authority in argument for proof of a doctrine. In modern sermons, texts of Scripture are not as frequently cited as they were formerly.
4. In ancient law authors, the four Gospels, by way of eminence.
Phrases such as, “do unto others,” and “follow the Golden Rule,” were part of the vernacular because Jesus Christ had yet to be systematically removed from the public square. While faithfulness to the Word of God was not practiced flawlessly, it was most often preached, sometimes fervently, sometimes nominally.
Today we face a different situation. Because many pastors strive not to offend their congregations or visitors, many who profess belief in Christ merely know some things about the Bible rather than having made it a priority to understand it and its implications. They fail to comprehend or embrace it as the command word from God given as the instruction for holiness in day-to-day living. Biblical literacy is at such a low point that erroneous phrases that have no root in Scripture have become entrenched in “Christian talk.” To name a few: “Hate the sin; love the sinner,” “We are not under law but under grace,” “Isn’t it good that God is patient with us even though we fail to obey?” “I can always repent right before I die,” “God’s Word says not to judge,” “God will never give me more than I can handle,” etc.3
These are not gleaned from the text of Scripture. They fall into the category of pretexts and end up being justifications for not following God’s law-word. God’s gift of the Scriptures is for the express purpose of communicating His intent for mankind. Thus, any deviation from the Creator’s blueprint amounts to a pretext, as man determines for himself what is right and what is not (Gen. 3:5). Webster’s definition is to the point,
PRETEXT’, noun [Latin proetextus.] Pretense; false appearance; ostensible reason or motive assigned or assumed as a color or cover for the real reason or motive.
Fallen man is full of pretextual living. The first chapter of Romans clearly delineates that this is not due to ignorance, but rather the suppression of the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
When the church, entrusted with preaching the full counsel of God, and families, commissioned to raise and educate their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, fail to exercise their God-ordained duties within their God-ordained jurisdictions, generations grow up without the necessary framework from which to order and conduct their lives. When the commandments of God are not taught and internalized, relativism rules the day and faulty presuppositions become the basis for life and action. When God’s watchmen neglect their duties, the walls are easily scaled, and lies replace truth.
Deuteronomy 11:19 specifies the comprehensive manner with which the commandments of God are to be taught:
You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
The Bible does more than present God’s commandments and statutes; it contains detailed stories that demonstrate the positive consequences of faithful living and the negative penalties for disobedience. The Bible must be the text from which standards of right and wrong are established, thereby creating a context in which we are to live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Half Truth—Whole Lie
We have moved past the token Christianity of the last century, and now with the ridicule and caricature of things Christian, we are presented stories where the context of life within the Biblical framework is never considered. What does the context of life look like when the Word of God and the law of God are absent from a culture’s literature, film, and music, and professing believers continue to consume counterfeits? The result is a form of religion without the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5).
Many Christian parents judge modern media based on the rating scale of G, PG, PG-13, R, and X. Because an orthodox Christian worldview is absent among most churchgoers, foul language, nudity, and sexual innuendo end up being the only disqualifiers for what is acceptable for Christians and their children to view.4 Rarely do Christians examine the storyline, characters, and underlying ethics of a story on the basis of God’s law-word.
Some of the biggest box-office successes for both children and adults, while they may not contain abusive language or immodesty, suffer fatally because they eliminate the premise that man’s chief end is to glorify God and worship Him alone. In fact, God is completely absent from the lives of the characters, who sin without negative consequences and manage quite well without a fear of the Lord. In other words, these films dish out lies, and if some aspect of truth is communicated, it is not attributed to Jesus Christ as the source of truth. Even well-meaning attempts at depicting Christianity favorably are hindered because they do not do so straightforwardly.5 The net result is that the consumers of such media end up being double-minded in their orientation to life and their responsibilities to the Kingdom of God. R. J. Rushdoony notes,
To be “double-minded” (or, literally, two-souled, or two-minded) means to be “unstable in all (our) ways” (James 1:8); it means an inability to function, and it prevents us from receiving anything from the Lord (James 1:7). The double-minded man is one who halts between two opinions, who wants the advantages of both but the liabilities of neither. The problem with the double-minded is not that he has two substances, mind and body, making up his being, but that he is unwilling to commit himself openly to either one or the other of two moral decisions. He wants sin without the consequences of sin, and virtue without the responsibilities of virtue. Double-mindedness is a moral, not a metaphysical, fact.6
Some justify their consumption of modern media as a harmless diversion during one’s leisure time. They argue that they are able to separate the wheat from the chaff—the good from the bad in film, music and television. More often than not, this is a pretext for failing to submit the totality of their life (including their off time) to the Word of God. Indeed, the very concept of leisure itself is not Biblical in its orientation. As Rushdoony points out, leisure is not the same as rest.
Leisure is thus an attempt to escape from God’s world of law and grace. It is an attempt to ground man in his supposed autonomy. Leisure activity becomes more and more imaginative in its lawlessness, and man seeks to build his Great Community around the principle of man’s freedom from the Kingdom of Necessity, i.e., from God’s world of law. Man’s dream of rest is thus total leisure, totally free and autonomous activity outside of God, with a world of slave-machinery doing all the work. Perfect automation and perfect leisure is the goal.7
By allowing those at war with God to provide the entertainment and diversions of life (be they sports, music, film, or television), believers are participating in their own enslavement. The seeds sown in their thinking transfer into their speech (learning to be silent about their beliefs in the public square), and eventually they are all too willing to blindly obey despotic, statist mandates in areas such as health, education, and commerce. Would statist overreaches such as mandated vaccinations, enforced health insurance coverage, and the coercion of business owners to violate their consciences be possible if the populace had not been groomed with heavy doses of relativistic humanism? As a culture, our consumption of relativism and our rejection of the absolutes of Scripture have left us vulnerable to tyranny and content with living in a world of escape and unreality. Rushdoony points out,
As a culture declines, it begins to lose its sense of reality and begins to seek refuge in various forms of escapism. This era of humanism is no exception. By its very dedication to modernity, to the present moment, it abandons a long-range view and that historical perspective which is so essential to balance. The self-absorption that marks a decaying culture is especially in evidence today. Metaphysics, the worldview, has given way to psychology, the inner view. As a discipline, metaphysics is in disrepute; as a faith, psychology has conquered even the pulpit, once the stronghold of theology and the cosmic view.
The roots of this change are in modern philosophy… [T]he starting point of philosophy [is] the ostensibly autonomous mind of man… a new center to the universe.8
There was a time when the stories most were familiar with during their growing up years included names like: Adam and Eve, Noah, David and Goliath, Jonah, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In addition, the blasphemous practice of using the name Jesus Christ in vain was heavily frowned upon. Today, even youngsters from Christian families know more about Captain America, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine, and other superheroes, than they know about their forebears in the faith. Moreover, the disrespect that starts with the abuse of the Lord’s name, (so prevalent in all forms of media), filters down to disrespecting parents and other godly authorities. When the Creator of the universe is disregarded, is it any wonder that His earthly representatives are as well?
Biblical law demands specific penalties for certain behaviors. Murder, fornications (including adultery, incest, and homosexuality), kidnapping, theft, slander, etc., all have clearly prescribed penalties. A godly society will deal with these offenses against God and man by applying the law faithfully. In a humanistic, relativistic society, more attention is given to a law-breaker’s motives and environmental circumstances to justify overriding God’s law. God’s law is then put on trial and pronounced guilty!
The problem with a heavy dose of humanistic entertainment, when viewed uncritically, is that the viewer ends up thinking humanistically rather than Biblically. Consider some of your favorite movies or television programs and assess whether or not God’s law is the basis for how people deal with each other or how justice is administered. When all that is posited is another law and another god, the resultant pretexts replace God’s text with ungodly alternatives. It, in essence, becomes a negation of God.
The negation of God means that because hell and justice are denied their ultimacy, then law too is denigrated. Law ceases to represent God’s law order and becomes simply the arbitrary will of the State. The State as a law institution gives way to the state as a bureaucracy that sets its own rules and bends men to them.9
Humanistic media saturation coupled with statist education, breeds a culture of ostensibly Christian people who think, speak, and behave contrary to their profession of faith. The steady dose of lies (no God, no law) inevitably places them in the enemy camp, despite how saved they may consider themselves. They have missed the call to holiness and their fruits mark them as reprobates.
In Revelation 22:15, we are told that those outside God’s eternal Kingdom, those who are denied access to the tree of life, are “whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” A preference for the lie is a mark of reprobation and of, at the very least, a strong disposition to evil.
Scripture, however, summons us to see things differently and to be different. “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Ps. 97:10)…
Every time you hear a lie, and every time you hear the truth, you yourself are tested. Is it the lie or the truth which commands your attention?10
Philippians 4:8-9 gives us both a command and a promise. If we focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, we can expect God’s peace. This is the path to undivided loyalty and cultural victory.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season, vol. 1 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2010), p. 56.
2. U.S. presidents used to take their oath of office with their hand on the Bible opened to Deuteronomy 28 acknowledging that their actions would bring God’s blessings for obedience and His cursings for disobedience.
3. These “Christian talk” expressions amount to perversions of Scripture to satisfy a humanistic framework. [Editor’s note: the fragment of Romans 6:14 appearing in the list might seem like legitimately-quoted scripture, but denuded of its context the phrase is made to war against what precedes and follows it, thereby embodying the principle that a text out of context becomes a pretext.]
4. How many actually live by this diminished standard is questionable.
5. There are some notable exceptions from brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Their films Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous have storylines that are deliberately Christian. Their main characters are unashamedly followers of Jesus Christ, and the films demonstrate the consequences of sin.
6. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, vol.2 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  2001), p. 485.
7. ibid., p. 556.
8. R. J. Rushdoony, Noble Savages (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2005), p. 93.
9. R J. Rushdoony, To Be As God (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2003), p. 210.
10. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season, vol. 1 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2010), p. 56.