Construyendo los cimientos intelectuales para la futura civilización cristiana.

Spit wads and Covenants

by: Roger Oliver

When I was in junior high school in the 7th grade my home room teacher was Mr. Oswald. He was a thin man with a mustache and usually dressed in professorial tweed. He was jovial but serious; at least we took him seriously. He was not to be trifled with. Our math teacher, on the other hand, was a young woman who was expecting her first child. She was young and inexperienced. We were a handful, too much for her. Between us and the pregnancy she often would disappear to the office to rest during class time.

On these occasions she would leave us with some assignment that we were to work on. One kid was not good at math but was a natural leader; maybe politician would be a better characterization. He would con the smart girls into a contest at the blackboard to see which could finish a problem fastest. Of course they were the problems he was supposed to be doing to learn math. He didn’t learn any math but did hone his skills as a conman.

On one of these occasions the place went crazy. Spit wads were flying everywhere like confetti. Once I turned my head to one side just in time to see a huge basketball size wad of paper flying right at me. I ducked. Some kid must have used up an entire notebook to make that thing. I sat there kind of stunned at the chaos wishing I were somewhere else. I was embarrassed. I don’t remember for sure but being totally depraved like the rest of my peers I probably went along and threw a couple of wads myself.

Such is public school. We didn’t sneak guns on campus in those days but everything that concerns us about public school today was already evident when I was a kid in the early 1960’s. When I was in the second grade we still started the day in public school with the Lord’s Prayer and the pledge of allegiance.

I used to wonder what happened and long for the good ole days to return when there was prayer in schools. Hoping against hope I let my kids attend public school. They turned out OK but I still regret that decision. You see, the deterioration of education and morals is a natural and inevitable result of taking education away from parents and the home. Education is not neutral, it is a religious activity. The very idea of public education is directly hostile to God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. So is the idea that education is salvation.

The quality of education has deteriorated with the relativistic morals taught in public school. I recently read about an 8th grade comprehensive test from around 1900 that would be pretty hard for most college students today to pass. This should not be a surprise either. All knowledge depends on the God who creates and sustains the universe. When we reject him, he turns us over to the consequences of our own desires. In a world based on chance that is without cause effect relationships there is no reason to trust in the uniformity of nature or in universals.

I was teaching math at a junior college in Dallas and before I started I visited a class taught by another professor to see what I was getting into. He actually said that 2 + 2 might not be 4 to everyone but that we’d stick with that for the purposes of his class. What nonsense! I always had a Bible with me when I taught, displayed it boldly. If your worldview is not based on the Bible you have to reason to believe that math is intelligible or related in any way to reality. I had lots of foreign students. One of them, a young lady from Eastern Europe, saw my Bible and asked me in her accented English, “Do you believe in the Holy Bible?”  You bet! It’s what makes math and science make sense.

In the Learning Center we keep a copy of the 10 commandments prominently displayed in the junior high/high school room. We repeat the 10 commandments at least twice a day by memory. One day the teachers showed me that someone or someones had peppered the display with spit wads. Brought back memories of that junior high nonsense I had experienced.

When the kids came back from their break we asked them one at a time if they had participated or if they knew who did. From their answers, apparently some student named, “Not Me” who we did not know attended the Learning Center did it. Worse, too many thought it was funny and were giggle about it, mocking the whole idea of teaching the Law. It troubled me that they would be that disrespectful of property that was not theirs; even more that they would mock God’s law. At least that’s the way we saw it.

One boy finally said he knew who did it but had promised not to tell. We confronted the kid who did it and he said he only did one, that the rest of the spit wads were not his fault and that he had not seen who did it. May seem silly but this is serious stuff, more important than their progress with math and science.

When it’s broke, fix it. The next morning after a great deal of prayer, I decided the whole bunch had lost the privilege to learn. Learning is a privilege, not a right. That’s a quote from a book, Lessons Learned, by a friend, Andrea Schwartz, who homeschooled her children. I took them all up to the main meeting room in the seminary and spent the morning studying the covenant and its community aspects. That is, if one guy sins, all suffer. Witness the case of Achan in Joshua  7 and 8.

Achan disobeyed the command not to take any spoils of war from Jericho. He hid some gold and silver and a Babylonian garment in the ground in his tent. Joshua sent a small contingent to conquer a little village, Ai, but they were beaten by the enemy. What should have been an easy fight turned into a route, 35 dead. The entire nation had its tail between its legs. Joshua cried out to God, “What’s going on? Why did you bring us here to be whipped? Soon all of the nations of Canaan will mobilize and destroy us completely!”

This is an interesting case study about prayer. Sometimes we know what to do and prayer is a delay tactic. Appears to be the case with Joshua’s prayer here and he was accompanied by the other national leaders. The Lord answers his prayer alright but not in the way one might expect.

“The Lord responded to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying there face down? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment! They have taken some of the riches; they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions. The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation. I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated you.” Joshua 7:10-12.

We all know the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, but we don’t often consider the context that explains what that means. It’s in Leviticus 19:18. Yes that’s right, when Jesus says this in the Gospels (Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31, 33; Luke 10:27) he is not making a new law that nullifies the Law of the Old Testament.[1] He is quoting Leviticus 19:18 and I think assuming his audience is familiar with the entire passage, Leviticus 19:9-18. The previous verses explain concretely how to love your neighbor as yourself. Verses 17 and 18 are a summary:

“You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

If one is guilty, the whole community suffers. If you do not reprove your brother when he sins, you participate in his sin and are also guilty. One young man thought it was totally unfair to punish the group for the sin of one. After making the point that he was in a covenant community I asked him if he was innocent himself. “Have you always obeyed all the rules in the Learning Center? Have you never lied or talked when you were supposed to be studying?” Of course not.

If you don’t accept the community aspect of the covenant you will never understand how we are all sinners in Adam. Further, you are rejecting your salvation in Christ. By the same covenant principle that united the entire human race to Adam in sin and death the elect are united to Christ, declared justified in Him and made new creatures.

We live in an age that defines liberty in terms individual rights so this is hard to grasp. Our modern talk of rights equates rights with desires and crowds our moral responsibility. In his book, 10 Books that Screwed up the World and Five More that Didn’t Help, Benjamin Wiker writes that this modern idea of rights comes from Thomas Hobbes outlined in Leviathan. “Hobbes is the father of the all too familiar belief that we have a right to whatever we want – however morally degraded, vile, or trivial it may be – and further, that it is the government’s job to protect such rights.”[2] “It is an enduring fiction becoming, more and more, the myth by which we live. Leviathan has become our Bible.”[3]

“In our Hobbesian world the statement, ‘I have a right to pornography’ is merely a restatement of ‘I have a desire to view pornography.’ ‘Mary has a right to marry Susan’ means ‘Mary has a desire to marry Susan.’ This can take more complicated and roundabout forms. ‘I have a right to control my own body’ is a veiled way of stating ‘I desire an abortion.’ ‘I have a right to privacy’ might really mean ‘I really want to do stuff that would nauseate my great-grandmother.’ ‘I have a right to free speech,’ which sounds noble and defensible as a right, could really be a more compact and disingenuous way to say ‘I have a desire to shock Christians and delight the artsy intelligentsia of New York by dropping a crucifix in urine.’[4]

So there you have it. Are modern societies exempt from the community curses of the covenant? We certainly expect the blessings. Is not the sorry state of the union these days God’s hand of judgment? Stephen Perks makes a good case from Romans 1:18-32 that the curse of homosexuality is the judgment of God more than it is the cause of judgment.[5]

It may seem like the end of the world but could it not be the end of an age, the harvest of 4 centuries of the humanism that the Enlightenment has wrought? Could it be that we have neglected teaching that the Bible is for all of life and are suffering the consequences as a society? Could this be why church discipline seems so anemic or when it is attempted looks more like one leader taking vengeance on another?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15) No more spit wads thrown at the Law of God, not on my watch anyway.

[1] The first greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, mind and strength is quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4.
[2] Benjamin Wiker, 10 Books that Screwed up the World and Five More that Didn’t Help, Washington, DC: Regnary Publishing, 2008. p. 31 Kindle edition
[3] Ibid. p. 35.
[4] Ibid. p. 37
[5] Stephen Perks, Common Law Wives and Concubines, “The Church Effeminate” Taunton, Somerset, England, The Kuyper Foundation, 2003. p. 9

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