Thursday, January 26, 2012

On the Pragmatism Worldview

Pragmatism = “If it works do it, the end justifies the means.”

John Dewey is considered both the father of progressive (socialist) education and the father of pragmatism, which can be stated in essence as “if it works-it’s good.”

I have found that many Christians prefer to take a pragmatic approach to life, business, church, family, economics, politics and more.  They might say that "God gave you a brain, so use it." "After all, it is just common sense."  "Let's just be practical and vote for the candidate that has a chance to win the election."  These all seem reasonable, unless you know what the Bible says about a subject.  It is even more revealing when one compares what the Bible says about a topic with the views of the philosphers who taught the present generation to be "practical."

Here are a few quotes from references that I have found helpful:

Pragmatism is "1. A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S.  Pierce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences. 2. A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems."[1]
"While most of the philosophies that have shaped American culture are European in origin, pragmatism is at least one worldview that was born in the United States. Its assumptions lie at the heart of postmodernism, that catch-all term used to describe the views that dominate Western thinking in the first part of the twenty-first century.
Pragmatic philosophers are generally agnostic as to whether ultimate, transcendent truth even exists. Even if objective truth exists, they say, it cannot be known, nor is it even worth pursuing. Truth is therefore radically redefined. Traditionally, truth is regarded as that which corresponds to reality. However, truth in pragmatism is what “works.”
This leads to relativism. What “works” for you is not necessarily what “works” for me. Christianity may make me a happier person; thus, it is true for me. Muslims find that Islam makes them happy, and so Islam is true for them since it “works” for them. Rational discussion, or an appeal to a final norm, cannot solve disagreements over what “works”; therefore, the group with the most power wins when pragmatism is wholly embraced. If homosexuality works for me, then I must gain power to silence those who, by convincing others that my behavior is unacceptable, can create cultural impediments that hinder my enjoyment. I will not try to debate those who disagree since there is no universal standard to which we can appeal.
Pragmatism usually looks for immediate solutions without considering whether the answers will work in the long haul. Perhaps the best example of this is the Social Security system in the United States. The problem of people not saving enough for retirement was “solved” by mandating contributions to a government-sponsored savings plan. No one seriously considered whether there would always be enough workers to support these benefits, and now the time is coming when Social Security will be unable to pay out what the government has promised. Jesus opposes this type of short-term thinking, calling us to count the long-term costs of following Him (Luke 14:25–33).  
The corrupting influences of pragmatism are seen even in the church. “Seeker-sensitive” worship can increase attendance without ever seeing the congregation grow to maturity. Churches targeting specific ages or lifestyles might attract a lot of people from these groups and not minister to those who do not fit certain classifications. Beware of any ministry that emphasizes “what works” and do what you can to help your church avoid slipping into pragmatism."[2]

"A Timely Message From Screwbaal

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Screwbaal (please, not Screwball): a demon of no small magnitude. My great uncle Screwtape was likewise a high-order demon and well acknowledged and respected by those in our camp years ago. As an arch demon, I have been given numerous tasks by our Father Below. The first and foremost was to overthrow those Christians who hold to the Reformation principles established in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Those were bad times for my side; the worst work produced during this time was the Westminster Confession of Faith. Those Puritan theologians were serious. “What do I do?” I queried. “How do I proceed?”

”Use any method that works,” my superiors replied.

Pragmatism is very big in Hell. It is, of course, a real victory for our side that we see it used so prevalently in Christian circles today. Hallelubaal!

My first goal was to move the church away from the Reformational principle of Scripture alone. Second, I wanted to introduce the irrationalism of earlier centuries into Christian circles, especially within (so-called) orthodoxy. These, thought I, are key issues. If I can only achieve success here, the rest will all be downhell.

But how to proceed? Well, my foredevils had some success by causing certain elements of the church to believe that the apostolic gifts, such as prophecy and tongues, were still valid. That, of course, was prior to the writing of the great sixteenth and seventeenth century confessions. And after the Westminster Assembly had so succinctly stated in chapter 1 of the Confession: “Those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased,” and then again: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life [what else is there?] is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men,” I thought, this could never work again. But, Satan be praised, I was wrong.

You could probably guess that the easiest prey was that segment of Christianity that is not Reformed in theology. Men like Jimmy Swaggart (boy, there was a real lulu) and Pat Robertson (I thought for a while that I could make him president of the United States-can you conceive of the fun I would have had?). As it is, I did get him to start the “Christian Coalition.” That was a piece of pork.

The early 1960’s were great years. It was at this time that we were able to cause the emotional Pentecostal and charismatic movements to cross denominational barriers. Centuries before “the enthusiasts” had tried to bait Martin Luther into switching his emphasis from salvation by grace through faith alone to “the inner experience” of the Spirit. Sadly, the German Reformer refused, and several of my good friends ended up with slaps on their snouts and ink in their eyes.

But now there is no Luther around to abuse demons. Now, the twentieth century “enthusiasts” have affected most every Protestant church. And at the end of the 1960’s we had seen this movement take hold in Roman Catholicism. In earlier centuries, of course, the concept and institution of the papacy was a tremendous work of my foredevils. After the Reformation, though, we never even dreamed that Romanism could be used so effectively again. But the strength of Pentecostal/charismatic thinking allowed us to bridge the gap between Rome and Protestantism once again. (Just recently we have made great inroads uniting Protestants and Romanists in an ecumenical fog. We even have men such as Charles Colson and J. I. Packer endorsing it.)

The truly Reformed camp was more difficult. Nevertheless, undaunted, I set out to accomplish my goal. And within a relatively short period of time (thirty years is not a long time to us), we had not only introduced “the ongoing use of gifts” concept within Reformational Christianity, but we had scored so big, that the Presbyterian Church in America (at least in practice) had acquiesced. How I chortled at Presbytery meeting after Presbytery meeting (you think we don’t go?) where one excuse after another was used for accepting men into the ministry who fostered the idea that the “gifts” were still valid. Confessional orthodoxy has become a virtual anachronism in much of Presbyterianism anyhow, thanks to our efforts.

I found another way to attack Scripture in philosophy. If I could only get the church to adopt the notion that one is able to come to a knowledge of the truth by sense experience as well as religious experience, then great progress would be made. Sadly, God raised up a philosopher named Gordon Clark to combat this onslaught of mine. Over and over again in his writings Clark showed how Scripture taught that the Bible alone (and not science or philosophy) has a monopoly on truth. This fellow had to be stopped, but how? Ahh, I mused, I will destroy his credentials before Presbytery. If this can be accomplished, even within his own denomination, we will have gained much headway. I pondered: How about if I can get the Westminster Theological Seminary faculty to attack Clark for being too rational? Well, as you may know, the rest is church history. Thankfully, today’s seminaries don’t require Clark’s works to be read (with the exception of Whitefield Theological Seminary; something must be done about that institution). And few if any “Christian” journals or “scholars” acknowledge his writings. There is still, however, this annoying fly of an institution: The Trinity Foundation, which is trying to reintroduce the thoughts of Clark and Christianity to the church.

Well, this brings me to the second offensive against the church, that is, the reintroduction of irrational thought. It was C. S. Lewis who once wrote: “Those who call for nonsense will find that it comes.” I really liked that, and have sought to implement it in the church. The secular academic community has been anti-intellectual for so long that one philosopher has dubbed the twentieth century the “Age of Irrationalism.” But surely the church would not fall into this trap, would they? Well, I thought, it is worth a try. And try I did, with amazing success. Neo-orthodoxy is a direct result of these endeavors. Karl Barth was a real “Satan-send,” as was Emil Brunner. They imbibed the illogical. Then, when I got Dooyeweerd and the Amsterdam Philosophy group to erect a “boundary” between God and man, a boundary so fixed that the laws of logic exist only on man’s side of the boundary, I had them as well. The real difficulty, or so I thought, would be to infiltrate the Reformed segment of Christianity. After all, these guys are students of Scripture, Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster divines, men who recognized that the laws of logic are simply the way God thinks, and therefore indispensable in the study of the Bible. I asked my tor-mentors, “Where then should I start?”

”Start at the top,” they replied. “Begin with the seminaries.”

”Are you joking?” I replied.

”We don’t do much of that,” said they.

So I went to work, beginning with Fuller and Westminster; and “my, oh my, what a wonderful day!” Within a relatively short period of time we had at least some of the faculty teaching that the Bible contains mistakes and logical paradoxes, that “mere human logic” is not to be trusted, and (shades of Dooyeweerd) that God’s logic is different from man’s logic. Hallelubaal, “nonsense had come.” By the way, I am already making real progress at the other “sems.” In fact, we are so sure of our victory that I have received approval to make our successes known more widely. There are, however, still some hold-outs. This guy Clark “still speaks even though he is dead” through his books and the writings of The Trinity Foundation. I have been unable to penetrate this pocket of rational Christianity, but I have not yet given up. The best I have been able to do so far is to make people believe that their writings are not worth reading. I am certainly not pleased with this, particularly now that more and more people are studying Clark and Scripture. But for now, that’s where things stand. I need more help, but bad help is hard to come by these days.

I really need to be off. So much to do, you see. But, Satan willing, I will be back to update you on the whole matter in the months ahead.

Affectionately yours,  Screwbaal"


1.       Dan Smithwick, Developing a Biblical Worldview (Lexington, KY: Nehemiah Institute, 2000).

2.       RC Sproul, “Pragmatism” Ligonier Ministries, (2 March 2011).

3.       John Robbins, “Those Who Deny the Necessity of the Ground of Justification” Trinity Foundation, <> (2 March 2011).

4.       Robbins, J. Wesley. “Christian World View Philosophy and Pragmatism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 56 (Fall 1988): 529-43.  Not yet studied, but title sounds good.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Evil: An Important Question

evil man
Where does evil come from?

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world? – Epicurus, as quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief

Augustine stated that natural evil (evil present in the natural world such as natural disasters etc.) is caused by fallen angels, whereas moral evil (evil caused by the will of human beings) is as a result of man having become estranged from God and choosing to deviate from his chosen path. Augustine argued that God could not have created evil in the world, as it was created good, and that all notions of evil are simply a deviation or privation of goodness. Evil cannot be a separate and unique substance. For example, Blindness is not a separate entity, but is merely a lack or privation of sight. Thus the Augustinian theodicist would argue that the problem of evil and suffering is void because God did not create evil; it was man who chose to deviate from the path of perfect goodness.

Both Luther and Calvin explained evil as a consequence of the fall of man and the original sin. However, due to the belief in predestination and omnipotence, the fall is part of God's plan. Ultimately humans may not be able to understand and explain this plan.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Monday, January 9, 2012

Even Secular Higher Education Learning is Changing Radically

Many people (Christian and non-Christian) are finding that traditional college isn't worth the time or money or compromise of Christian ethics.  While there are a few good Christian colleges to choose from, some young adults and their famililes are choosing to develop customized learning alternatives incorporating entrepreneurship, apprenticeships and self-study in the context of Biblical thinking (Ref. ) and professional certifications.

Below and linked is an article that gives you a sense of the trend away from valuing the "degree" in higher education, which is challenging colleges to rethink the reasons for their existence.  I think these ideas are good to ponder and discuss as you think about college and career planning.

Badges Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas   The Chronicle of Higher Education   January 8, 2012  by Jeffrey R. Young

The spread of a seemingly playful alternative to traditional diplomas, inspired by Boy Scout achievement patches and video-game power-ups, suggests that the standard certification system no longer works in today's fast-changing job market.

Educational upstarts across the Web are adopting systems of "badges" to certify skills and abilities. If scouting focuses on outdoorsy skills like tying knots, these badges denote areas employers might look for, like mentorship or digital video editing. Many of the new digital badges are easy to attain.intentionally keep students motivated, while others signal mastery of fine-grained skills that are not formally recognized in a traditional classroom.

The rest of the article is worth reading here: 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bartlett Family Strategic Political Involvement and Voting Rationale

The Bartlett family has come to understand that it is by God that kings and other civil magistrates reign based on Daniel 4:32, which states in the context of the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream by Daniel:

And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”

We understand that this brings an important spiritual dimension into our political efforts and voting decisions.  Since God raises up civil leaders to bless or judge a nation, then we want to be most assured that our political efforts and voting are aligned with God’s Word and therefore by obedience ensure His blessing upon our nation, state or other political entity.

It is clear that to have the blessing of God on our nation or state, requires obedience by the people and leaders of the nation or state as conveyed in Deuteronomy 28, where God through Moses was instructing the nation of Israel:

And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.”

We are hereby convinced that we must choose only civil leaders that fully qualify Biblically to ensure God’s blessing.  This means that we cannot support or vote for even good Christian leaders that we like personally and for their many Biblically aligned platforms.  For example, sound money is mandatory for God’s blessing. The Biblical perspective of money is that it is always something of tangible value, or a contract or receipt for the same. Money is never defined as being an unbacked note or something created by mere writing of a book entry.  The prophets warned the Jewish people about this sin in Isaiah 1 saying:

How the faithful city has become a harlot, She who was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, But now murderers. Your silver has become dross, Your drink diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels And companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe And chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, Nor does the widow’s plea come before them.  Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts, The Mighty One of Israel, declares,“Ah, I will be relieved of My adversaries And avenge Myself on My foes. “I will also turn My hand against you,  And will smelt away your dross as with lye And will remove all your alloy. “Then I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning; After that you will be called the city of righteousness, A faithful city.”

Thinking of candidates who believe in sound money, but do not believe that homosexuality should be judged by the civil government (Leviticus 20:13), then voting for such a candidate would be like bringing sound money to Sodom, and not receive God’s blessing.

As another example, where a Christian candidate believes in improving secular education systems instead of revealing their evils and closing them, it is like allowing the Philistines to teach the Israelite children how to think, what to believe, and how to live. The founders of America knew that a Christian nation needed a solid Christian education system that is faithful to bring glory to God in every detail.

Just as voting for a candidate promoting sound money in Sodom, voting for a candidate that is for improving the Philistine schools in Israel is not in alignment with God’s Word and therefore His blessing would be not expected.

From the time of Moses, through The Reformation, to early America, Christians looked to Moses’ father-in-law Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18) along with New Testament elder qualifications (1Timothy, Titus) as basic requirements for civil magistrates.

“Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:”

These qualifications were required and best implemented in history using the Solemn League and Covenant in 1644 Scotland. This is a model document for determining whether a candidate is qualified for the office of civil magistrate or not.  It shows how God’s Word can be the standard for civil government without resorting to human reason and the tenants of popular anti-Christian philosophies.  In 1644, all civil magistrates from the Kings down in three countries signed this document as required for their oath of office. The Bartlett family, along with many other families, see these Biblical views as essential for civil magistrate qualifications in 2012.


"We, noblemen, barons, knights, gentlemen, citizens, burgesses, ministers of the Gospel, and commons of all sorts, in the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, by the providence of GOD living under one king, and being of one reformed religion, having before our eyes the glory of God, and the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, the honour and happiness of the king's majesty and his posterity, and the true public liberty, safety, and peace of the kingdom, wherein every one's private condition is included: and calling to mind the treacherous and bloody plots, conspiracies, attempts, and practices of the enemies of GOD, against the true religion and professors thereof in all places, especially in these three kingdoms, ever since the reformation of religion; and how much their rage, power, and presumption, are of late, and at this time, increased and exercised, whereof the deplorable state of the Church and kingdom of Ireland, the distressed state of the Church and kingdom of England, and the dangerous state of the Church and kingdom of Scotland, are present and public testimonies: we have now at last (after other means of supplication, remonstrance, protestation, and sufferings), for the preservation of ourselves and our religion from utter ruin and destruction, according to the commendable practice of these kingdoms in former times, and the example of GOD'S people in other nations, after mature deliberation, resolved and determined to enter into a Mutual and Solemn League and Covenant, wherein we all subscribe, and each one of us for himself, with our hands lifted up to the Most High GOD, do swear,

"I. That we shall sincerely, really, and constantly, through the grace of GOD, endeavor, in our several places and callings, the preservation of the reformed religion in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, against our common enemies; the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the Word of GOD, and the example of the best reformed Churches; and shall endeavour to bring the Churches of GOD in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, Directory for Worship and Catechising; that we, and our posterity after us, may, as brethren, live in faith and love, and the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of us.

"II. That we shall, in like manner, without respect of persons, endeavour the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy (that is, Church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissioners, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy), superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine and the power of Godliness; lest we partake in other men's sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; and that the Lord may be one, and his name one, in the three kingdoms.

"III. We shall, with the same sincerity, reality, and constancy, in our several vocations, endeavour, with our estates and lives, mutually to preserve the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, and the liberties of the kingdoms; and to preserve and defend the king's majesty's person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms; that the world may bear witness with our consciences of our loyalty, and that we have no other thoughts or intentions to diminish his majesty's just power and greatness.

"IV. We shall also, with all faithfulness, endeavour the discovery of all such as have been or shall be incendiaries, malignants, or evil instruments, be hindering the reformation of religion, dividing the king from his people, or one of the kingdoms from another, or making any faction or parties among the people, contrary to this League and Covenant; that they may be brought to public trial, and receive condign punishment, as the degree of their offences shall require or deserve, or the supreme judicatories of both kingdoms respectively, or others having power from them for that effect, shall judge convenient.

"V. And whereas the happiness of a blessed peace between these kingdoms, denied in former times to our progenitors, is, by the good providence of GOD, granted unto us, and hath been lately concluded and settled by both Parliaments; we shall, each one of us, according to our place and interest, endeavour that they may remain conjoined in a firm peace and union to all posterity; and that justice may be done upon the willful opposers thereof, in manner expressed in the precedent article.

"VI. We shall also, according to our places and callings, in this common cause of religion, liberty, and peace of the kingdoms, assist and defend all those that enter into this League and Covenant, in the maintaining and pursuing thereof; and shall not suffer ourselves, directly or indirectly, by whatsoever combination, persuasion, or terror, to be divided or withdrawn from this blessed union and conjunction, whether to make defection to the contrary part, or to give ourselves to a detestable indifferency or neutrality in this cause, which so much concerneth the glory of God, the good of the kingdom, and honour of the king; but shall, all the days of our lives, zealously and constantly continue therein against all opposition, and promote the same, according to our power, against all lets and impediments whatsoever; and what we are not able ourselves to suppress or overcome, we shall reveal and make known, that it may be timely prevented or removed: All which we shall do as in the sight of God.

"And, because these kingdoms are guilty of many sins and provocations against GOD, and his Son JESUS CHRIST, as is too manifest by our present distresses and dangers, the fruits thereof; we profess and declare, before GOD and the world, our unfeigned desire to be humbled for our own sins, and for the sins of these kingdoms; especially that we have not, as we ought, valued the inestimable benefit of the Gospel; that we have not laboured for the purity and power thereof; and the we have not endeavoured to receive Christ in our hearts, not to walk worthy of him in our lives; which are the causes of other sins and transgression so much abounding amongst us: and our true and unfeigned purpose, desire, and endeavour, for ourselves, and all others under our power and charge, both in public and private, in all duties we owe to GOD and man, to amend our lives, and each one to go before another in the example of a real reformation; that the Lord may turn away his wrath and heavy indignation, and establish these Churches and kingdoms in truth and peace. And this Covenant we make in the presence of ALMIGHTY GOD, the Searcher of all hearts, with a true intention to perform the same, as we shall answer at that great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed; most humbly beseeching the LORD to strengthen us by his HOLY SPIRIT for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with such success, as may be deliverance and safety to his people, and encouragement to other Christian Churches, groaning under, or in danger of the yoke of antichristian tyranny, to join in the same or like association and covenant, to the glory of GOD, the enlargement of the kingdom of JESUS CHRIST, and the peace and tranquillity of Christian kingdoms and commonwealths."


I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ, the King of the United States, and to the republic submitted to His Word, one republic of state, under Christ, divisible, with liberty and justice for all.