I Stand With Covenant
By now, everyone has heard about the mass killing at the Covenant Presbyterian Church and School in Nashville, Tennessee. On Monday, March 27, 2023, an armed woman, who was “transgender” and identified as a man, entered the school and in cold blood murdered 3 children, all age 9, and 3 adults, including the Head of School. The Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee Police Department dispatched several officers to the scene. The officers confronted the killer in the school and ended her life in a gun battle before she could murder more people.
I am very familiar with Covenant. I have lived in Nashville almost all my life. Covenant is about 3 miles from my home. I pass it every day on the way to work. I know its founders and many of its current elders, deacons, and members.
Covenant is part of the Presbyterian Church in America, the PCA, a denomination founded in the early 1970s with an emphasis on biblical fidelity and Christian essentials. It is a great church with a great ministry in Nashville. Many of the people in my church are friends with the staff and members of Covenant. Some of our members have children who attend, or have attended, the school. My pastor and a man who has been an elder in my church spent most of Monday consoling the widower of the Head of School.
These killings will have a lasting impact on Nashville, in particular the Christian community here. I urge that believers everywhere continue to uphold the families of the victims and Covenant in prayer.
This is the first time in my life that I have seen martyrdom up close. The assailant killed these children and adults because of their Christian witness and the witness of Covenant. As Tertullian said long ago, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” These children and adults were not mere victims. They were martyrs. They were brave beyond belief and at death were immediately ushered into the presence of the God.
This horrible event deserves a campaign like the ones we often see. A name, a place, a flag, accompanied with the slogan “I stand with …”
What’s more important at this time, however, is not creating a social media movement, but encouraging the Church around the world to honor these saints in their deaths as martyrs of the Church of Jesus Christ, and to pray for their families, Covenant, and the Church.
Their names, from left to right and top to bottom:
William Kinney, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, Katherine Koonce, Mike Hill, Cynthia Peak
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The Century that Banished GodBy Hannah Ascol — 2 years ago
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. . . . And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:18, 28, ESV).
It is worthy of more than passing notice that some quite capable minds have seen the twentieth century—a century which could be seen as particularly characteristic of the modern era—as one which sought to banish God from human consciousness and human life. The first phrase of Romans 1:28, quoted above, could be said to provide a fitting epigram for the century, a phrase aptly rendered by Greek lexicographer J. H. Thayer: “they did not think God worthy to be kept in knowledge.” The significance of such a designation is that the twentieth century has perhaps been—among all the centuries of human history—the most willfully destructive of human life, the most stridently expressive of the human rebellion against the moral order instilled by God in the universe, and the most perversely detrimental to human culture and human flourishing. The twenty-first century is merely seeing the continued outworking of these tendencies.
Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield, writing in the first decade of the twentieth century, describes the influence of the “modern naturalism” which had arisen in the late seventeenth century with English Deism and had recently come to full fruition (“it has at length run to seed in our own day”).
It has invaded with its solvent every form of thought and every activity of life. It has given us a naturalistic philosophy (in which all ‘being’ is evaporated into ‘becoming’); a naturalistic science (the single-minded zeal of which is to eliminate design from the universe); a naturalistic politics (whose first fruits was the French Revolution, and whose last may well be an atheistic socialism); a naturalistic history (which can scarcely find place for even human personality among the causes of events); and a naturalistic religion, which says ‘Hands off’ to God….”
In retrospect, Warfield’s observations seem prophetic of the entire century.
No less an intellect than the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, attempting to identify the salient characteristic of the twentieth century, put his finger on human forgetfulness of God. In his Templeton Lecture (delivered in London in 1983), after mentioning the disaster which had befallen his homeland in the Russian Revolution, Solzhenitsyn continued: “if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entiretwentieth century, here too I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: ‘Men have forgotten God’”—a Russian saying recalled from his youth. He went on to affirm, “The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century.”
Solzhenitsyn’s suggestion finds support in the later work of Peter Conrad, an Australian literary scholar, lately of Oxford University. Conrad defines the project of the twentieth century, displayed in its art, as the banishment of God and God’s replacement by man. As the twentieth century began—under the influence of the mighty changes of the nineteenth century—“its plot seemed radiantly clear: in the future, men would replace God.” But along the way, it became apparent that “The older version of human nature . . . was far from obsolete, and history seemed to demonstrate that man remained a savage.” On the last page of the book, Conrad concludes, “Modernity had a single, simple project, carried through in all fields of mental endeavor. Declining to give God credit for creation, it took the world to pieces.” It is striking that a cultural historian, with no apparent religious axe to grind, should identify anti-theism or the “death of God” theme as the central feature of twentieth-century culture. He mentions it not merely at the beginning and the end of his account, but repeatedly throughout.
That this anti-theistic outlook was the driving force of the twentieth century is lent credibility by a review of the origins of the disastrous and destructive events of that century. The first half of the century was marked by two horrific world wars and communist revolutions in Russia and China. Both world wars (1914-18; 1939-45) arguably originated with Germany, which in the preceding century had adopted and advanced a destructive intellectual movement, historical criticism of the Bible, which was based on naturalistic premises and required the elimination of a personal and infinite God from any explanation of the origin of the Bible and the events it records. The second of these wars involved the explicit effort to eradicate European Jews, the people who were instrumental in giving to the world the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament), including the Ten Commandments. The two communist revolutions (Russia in 1917, China in 1949) were both explicitly atheistic, as Marx’s ideology prescribed. Taken together, these two wars and two revolutions resulted in the deliberate deaths of untold hundreds of millions of human beings, making the twentieth century the most deliberately deadly in all human history. All this was undertaken against the background or in the interest of the banishment of God—the God of the Bible—from human consciousness.
The same tendency was evident in the internal cultures of the nations of the West during the first half of the century. Historical criticism of the Bible became the accepted mode of removing the biblical worldview from serious engagement by educated people in both Europe and the United States. Its advance was somewhat delayed in the U.S. by the broad and common acceptance of biblical authority by large portions of the American population, but by the 1920s and 1930s the naturalistic view of the Bible was beginning to prevail among educated Americans.
The second half of the century was marked by a cultural and intellectual revolution (motivated by the same anti-theistic impulse) which now runs the risk of destroying Western civilization. A personal account of this cultural revolution, fitting nicely within the latter half of the century, is provided by Alvin Kernan, an academic who was the product and employee of elite educational institutions. Kernan (who does not at all seem to have been operating from a Christian perspective), writing at the end of the century, reports beginning his academic career believing in something like absolute truth: “I did not think that truth remained to be discovered; I believed that in the main it already had been found and that I had not yet been informed of the results.” He records his personal journey through academia, observing in the process the decline of higher education from rationality, absolutes, objectivity, and political liberalism into the irrationalism, relativism, subjectivity, and revolutionary radicalism which now reigns on most American university campuses. Kernan was arguably more optimistic about the outcome than the situation warranted, as witnessed by the events of the quarter-century since his book was published, leading to the current state of higher education in the West, which might aptly be described as indoctrination in radicalism.
The significance of all this is not difficult to discern: it is not accidental that a century which sought to banish God also saw the callous destruction of human life, a precipitous decline of Western culture, and a culminating (and continuing) rebellion against historic moral standards.
This briefest of surveys suggests some appropriate conclusions.
First, these historical developments arguably represent the outworking of the logical and natural consequences of the anti-theistic ideology. As J. Gresham Machen argued in 1923, “the true way in which to evaluate a spiritual movement is in its logical relations; logic is the great dynamic, and the logical implications of any way of thinking are sooner or later certain to be worked out.” The banishment of the God of the Bible from human consciousness and from all practical and social considerations leaves the Western world without the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical foundations on which it was built. The “death of God” resulted in the loss of the unifying center of the Western worldview, the loss of a sure basis of knowledge, and the loss of absolute morality (as the scientific concept of relativity was improperly transferred to the moral concept of relativism). Without the foundation of the Bible’s authority and intellectual content, the result was that the Western superstructure of ordered liberty, self-regulating behavior of the populace, and limited government was bound to collapse in due course. This is precisely what has been observed during the twentieth century. While the underlying intellectual developments which shaped the twentieth century were framed in the nineteenth (destructive biblical criticism; Marxism; Darwinism; the humanistic triumphalism of Nietzsche; Freudianism), and their roots may be traced back to the Renaissance (“man the measure of all things”) and the Enlightenment (rationalistic materialism), yet their fruit was borne in the twentieth century. During that era we observe humanistic society organized into mass movements in opposition to biblical theism (symbolized in the Bible by “Babylon”) for purposes of national aggrandizement (World War I) and for the perpetration of evil (Germany under the Nazi regime in World War II) or subjugated to the atheistic ideology of revolutionary utopian deceptions (Soviet and Chinese communism), or in the current setting, the promotion of a Neo-Marxist vision of “social justice” through the division of humanity into competing power blocs which vie against each other for political and social control. The result has been the collapse of humane values and the loss of both civilized behavior and millions of lives. We continue to see the increased influence of socialistic ideologies and the diminishing of human liberties. All this has been enabled by the culture-wide loss of the authority of the Bible and the resulting collapse of acknowledgment of the biblical worldview and moral standards, and by the absence of the influence of the biblical gospel of human reconciliation with God as churches fell (and continue to fall) into promulgation of a “social gospel”—in short, in all this, by the attempted banishment of God from human life and society.
Second, given the truthfulness of the biblical account of things, this leaves the world exposed to the judgment of God. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom. 1:18). What biblically informed person can deny that the devastations we are currently observing (and those of the twentieth century) have likely come at the hand of an omnipotent and holy God who is exercising his wrath? Paul’s statement continues: “…who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” The root cause of the exercise of divine wrath is human rejection of the truth of divine revelation and the resulting belief of “the lie” (the attribution of divinity to the creature; Rom. 1:25, NKJV) and corresponding corruptions of human worship and life. The root of culture is “cultus,” the worship and religious life of a society. If the latter (the cultus) is corrupt, so will be the former (the culture), making it ripe for God’s judgment. In Romans 1, the judgment of God takes the form of judicial abandonment in which God “gives them over” (1:24, 26, 28, NASB) to the effects of their own idolatrous tendencies, as we are witnessing in our own day.
Third, this anti-theistic outlook pervades the cultural atmosphere and provides the context in which we must minister. Practically, this means, first, that the secular elites of our day continue to seek the banishment of God from the public square, thus making the environment more hostile toward faithful Christians who seek to base their stance upon the God of the Bible and his revelation. There will be opposition to an openly theistic viewpoint for which we must be prepared and which we must be determined to resist. This atmosphere means, secondly, that many among the secular ruling elites (even at the local level) cannot begin to grasp or even imagine that some of their fellow-citizens would base their actions upon theological considerations or upon high ethical principle. This is inconceivable to them and will lead them to conclude that these poor (Christian) people are either ignorant or are irrationally acting against their own best interests or are trying to establish a theocracy; such deluded people must of course be stopped and re-educated. Those who seek to be consistently Christian will be met with an attitude of condescension and hostility, in response to which will be required a significant measure of fortitude, patience, and grace as they seek to communicate the gospel and to live accordingly amidst a perverse culture.
Fourth, God alone can pull Western societies out of the abyss into which they have fallen. Recovery is beyond human grasp and ability. There is a great need for the beneficial effects of the gospel (the humbling of human pride; a sense of dependence on God; conformity to divinely-given ethical standards) and the shaping force of the biblical-Christian worldview. But typically the latter (the culture-wide influence of the biblical worldview) does not prevail without the former (individual renewal), requiring the conversion to a Christian stance of a critical mass of the population who will then impact the whole of their society. This type of conversion has often occurred in the past as the result of revivals (the Reformation; the Great Awakening or Evangelical Revival; the 19th-century awakening). In the present, it appears that nothing short of a divinely-wrought revival, fueled by prayer and the preaching of the gospel, will prevail to effect the changes needed to overcome the deleterious ideologies of the nineteenth century and their disastrous consequences as exhibited in the twentieth. Such is the direction and outcome, Solzhenitsyn reminds us, of a century which forgets God.
 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976 [reprint edition]) 154.
 Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, “The Present Day Attitude toward Calvinism: Its Causes and Significance,” in Calvin and Augustine(Philadelphia, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1956), 504.
 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Templeton Lecture,” in The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005 (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006), 577.
 Peter Conrad, Modern Times, Modern Places (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 13, 736; originally published by Thames and Hudson as Modern Times, Modern Places: Life and Art in the Twentieth Century.
 Alvin Kernan, In Plato’s Cave (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), 2. While Kernan provides a telling description of this cultural decline in an academic setting, the potential reader should be aware that the book contains accounts of his sexual escapades and some vulgarities of language.
 J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1956 [reprint edition]), 173
Founders Ministries Closed – Hurricane IanBy Tom Ascol — 8 months ago
On behalf of Dr. Tom Ascol regarding the situation in SWFL and the impact of Hurricane Ian:
The Founders team is so thankful for everyone who has been praying for us and our community in Southwest Florida during Hurricane Ian. By the grace of God, all of our team made it through the storm safely and we are praising Him for His goodness. But the damage and devastation in our area is immense. For that reason, all operations of Founders Ministries are fully suspended until further notice.
We are not yet able to fully assess the damages at our offices and property. Thank you to all those who support and pray for us at Founders. Please continue to pray for us in the days and months ahead. We are going to be a part of a massive long term relief project in Southwest Florida. We will get back online and operating as soon as we are able, but at this time, there is no indication of when that may be.
Many of you have asked how you can send donations to assist in relief. We are not in a position to set up a specific way to give right now. We are directing people to give through Grace Baptist Church online. Under the oversight of the Grace elders & deacons, they will steward those donations and insure that they are used in the best way to serve the needs of SWFL. If you do decide to make a donation through Founders specifically for Hurricane relief, please make sure to note that appropriately in the donation. Anything that you can do to help us spread this information would be wonderful.
As far as supplies, they can be sent to Grace Baptist Church (1303 Ceitus Terrace, Cape Coral, FL 33991). Immediate needs would be roofing supplies (tarps), canned / non perishable food, water, fuel, baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula) and monetary donations. Each day it becomes more clear that this recovery will be massive and the rebuilding will take years.
Thanks be to God for His goodness and the way He has blessed us, even in these hard and dark days. Please pray that He would continue to sustain us in the long road of ahead and that He would use this tragic event to display His glory in SWFL.
Ruminations on Revelation: Solomon’s Reflections on Wisdom in EcclesiastesBy Hannah Ascol — 2 years ago
In the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon brought focus to the importance of strict attention to the written wisdom given by God (12:9-14). Solomon, from the beginning of this book, stated his purpose to employ all the talent and experimental method at his disposal in writing this book (1:13, 17; 2:3, 9). This is generally true of all the writers of Scripture. They do research, they reason on the basis of divine providence, and seek proper interpretation of already-certified Scripture. They look to their own encounters with God and his truth. According to the nature of revelation, many of the things that they set forth as revealed truth utterly transcend both their experiences and their self-conscious gifts. At the same time, they knew that at no point were they merely unconscious amenuenses. Instead, they were being used by God as he employed their peculiar gifts and experiences. Note how Peter said, “I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Peter 1:15). This statement came in the immediate context of his testimony that his words were giving greater clarity to the revelation that had come before (19). He himself, was, like the prophets “carried along by the Holy Spirit” even in the context of his “effort.” Solomon, in this task given him by God was “weighing and studying and arranging . . . with great care.” From a literary standpoint, he “sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth” (12:9, 10).
Though Solomon was engaged in the project as a conscientious literary artist, or closely reasoning philosopher, in the end he does not doubt that his product would be “words of truth.” He presented the image of goads and nails “firmly fixed” (12:11). This particular labor, though all others that he described were “chasing after the wind,” was of sober purpose and enduring value. These words, taken in the whole, embodied truth. Even as Paul before Agrippa and Festus, Solomon could use such language, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25). The writers of inspiration were aware both of the use of their labors and capacity as well as the perfect truth and authority given their writing by the Spirit of God. See Luke 1:1-4; Romans 14:14-21; 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Ephesians 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Peter 3:1, 2; 1 John 1:1-4; Revelation 22:18, 19. In each of these scriptural testimonies, we engage both the transcendent character of revelation inscribed by inspiration and the writers’ consciousness that their own minds and perceptions stewarded that body of truth.
Solomon was also conscious that this book was superintended by God and that its teachings, understood correctly, are sure guides as part of a larger collection of inspired literature. The “collected sayings”(12:11) were given by one Shepherd. When combined with other inspired writings, this contemplation of Solomon as the Preacher gives depth and contour to the entire picture of the divine purpose of God in glorifying Himself through the wisdom of the plan of redemption. The “collected sayings” refer immediately to the accumulated argument of Solomon in this book and the conclusion toward which it drove him. By extension, this refers to the entirety of revelation, the “collected sayings,” at the end of the inspiration to record revelatory truth is final. Though many people will write books, one must make sure that the teaching of another does lead him away from the truths revealed in Scripture—“Beware of anything beyond these” (12:12).
Many, many books, and a virtually infinite presentation of opinions will flood the world as author after author desires an audience either for material gain or for philosophical or political fame. Seeking to grasp all these opinions and understand the nuances of the thought of so many varying and contradictory opinions is indeed a “weariness to the flesh.” If an infatuation with such vanities and the thoughts of persons with such limited scope of understanding drives us away from the fullness of truth contained in divine revelation, then the warning is intensified for us, “Beware of anything beyond these.” Paul labored to bring “every thought captive to obey Christ” by destroying “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5). For this reason Paul told Timothy, “Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3, 4).
Solomon concludes his writing with a final statement of its purpose and a concomitant warning. He has made observations about wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and unrighteousness, legitimate pleasure and dissolute living, this short life and the long home of death, authority and submission, freedom and judgment, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, time and eternity. Now he gives the conclusion that he has reached, under the guidance of the “One Shepherd.” All of these things, considering the final vanity of everything when viewed from the perspective of this life only, resolve into this infinitely important and compelling single duty: “Fear God and keep his commands.”
This is a confirmation of all the Law and the prophets, to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. To fear God includes viewing him with a sense of awe and wonder in light of his holiness, a holiness that is seen as the essence of beauty and loveliness. If holiness is the sum total of his attributes (or if holiness gives unity to each of his diverse attributes), it is eternal and immutable, never-changing, never diminishing, never augmenting. But to creatures, though God never changes, he is incomprehensible. Because incomprehensible, never will there be a time in eternity when there are not more expressions of beauty unfolding even though nothing can be added to his eternal infinite attributes. Both in unity and eternal diversity God will be displayed in eternally unfolding layers of beauty, joy, pleasure, and exuberant happiness. When viewed in this way, an accompanying affection is love, for one cannot look upon infinite holiness, impeccable righteousness, and condescending mercy with the proper sense of fear and wonder, without at the same time being engulfed with a complacent love for the perfection of the character of such a Being.
To fear God includes viewing him with a sense of awe and wonder in light of his holiness, a holiness that is seen as the essence of beauty and loveliness.
Solomon’s words, “Keep his commandments” (12:13) brings us immediately into the realm of the purpose of the Law. God requires an absolute obedience to his law for those that will enjoy eternal life in his presence. “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26 cited in Galatians 3:10) and “If a person does them, he shall live [achieve the goal of eternal life] by them” (Leviticus 18:5 cited in Galatians 3:12). Paul says “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13).
Solomon also has established the fact that, though created in innocence and righteousness, the single great reality of the present human condition is his sinfulness. It is original, it is personal, it is progressive, it is destructive. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ,29; 8:11ff ; 9:3) We are, therefore, in consistent violation of the supreme duty that is absolutely incumbent upon us. None of our actions, our thoughts, will be invisible to God in the day of final reckoning. “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:14) Though at times, Solomon’s language seemed to despair of any meaning to anything, he now sets forth this great truth, that, viewed from the standpoint of eternity and the perfection of God’s moral nature and the legitimacy of his law to his creature, nothing in the view of eternity is empty but all will come before him for commendation or blame. His perfect standard will not be compromised but will be the inflexible guide and will be viewed as holy and just so that every mouth is stopped and the whole world held guilty before God.
In this light, we again see that the Law is a schoolmaster, or guardian, to lead us to Christ in whom alone is that perfection of righteousness called for by the Law. The Law, this law approved by Solomon, holds before us both righteousness and judgment until “Christ came in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24) In his coming he accomplished righteousness and received our judgment so by submitting with perfect resignation to his atoning work, we are given union with him for both the removal of judgment and the imputation of righteousness.
Solomon’s solemn and thorough investigation of life here in the light of eternity pushes forward the design of God’s redemptive revelation. The revelation of how absurd and utterly vain all existence would be if viewed only from a temporal standpoint serves as a foundation for the clear revelation given to Paul, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:14),