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Battle Paper: Monument Desecration and the Fifth Commandment

A free sample of The Christendom Curriculum

Because of its importance to the current Culture War battles going on in our streets, I am making freely available below a new Battle Paper written for The Christendom Curriculum: "Monument Desecration and the Fifth Commandment."

This Battle Paper may be helpful to share with Christian friends or family who are on the fence but not yet entirely brainwashed by the Narrative. So please share this, and if you or anyone you know may be interested in supporting the work of The Christendom Curriculum, you can learn more, and join us, here.

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As of June 2020, America, and other Western nations, are facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. The Culture War that we so often discuss in The Christendom Curriculum has spilled over from social media and into the streets. One of the most visible aspects of the War at this moment is the widespread desecration and destruction of American monuments and memorials, particularly statues of the great men of our past.

 

This desecration and destruction began with the heroes of the Southern Confederacy (1861–1865). As a Southerner myself, this is of the gravest concern to me. But it has not stopped there. The vandalism of monuments (filthy and violent graffiti, up to and including such statements as “F—k all white people” and “Kill all white people”) have spread to cities across America, and has encompassed virtually any historical figure found guilty of being white without permission.

 

In a Facebook post, Jordan Hall, Reformed Baptist pastor, founder of P&P News (formerly Pulpit & Pen), and an early supporter of The Christendom Curriculum, posted this message:

 

“Evangelicals, when you repudiate and slander our godly forbears like John Broadus, Basil Manly, Robert E. Lee, and General Forrest, you break the 5th Commandment.

 

“In the last days, men will dishonor their parents and be ungrateful (2 Timothy 3:2). This includes those who tear down the statues of our forefathers.”

 

In response to this, a sometime supporter of Hall began slandering the South in general, and Lee and Forrest in particular. He also said Hall was guilty of “eisegesis” (reading into the text) by asserting that the destruction of statues was a violation of the Fifth Commandment (“Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”).

 

In response, Jordan simply tagged me in the post, inviting me to come in and argue with this guy because, as he later said, “I didn't want to deal with the ignorance and arrogance that is so often tandem with ungrateful spiritual carpetbaggers.”

 

I asked this spiritual carpetbagger a series of questions about Nathan Bedford Forrest, whom he had particularly attacked as being the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. Here’s my first response to him (and note that he never answered any of these questions, while arrogantly demanding that everyone answer his question):

 

***

 

Marvin,[1] when you talk about Robert E. Lee, you’re talking about a man for whom I named one of my sons. When you talk about Nathan Bedford Forrest, you’re talking about a man in whose cavalry my ancestor rode.

 

What I’m saying is, smile when you say those names.

 

Before you can say the outrageous things you said about General Forrest with any degree of authority, there are a number of questions you ought to be able to answer. To wit:

 

First, was the Klan of Forrest’s day the same as the Klan of 1920, or of today? Second, what were the circumstances that led Forrest to join it? Third, when the Klan became something he did not intend, what did he do? Fourth, do you know why they called him “Grand Wizard”? Fifth, what did Forrest speak about, and whom did he address, at his last public appearance in 1875?

 

If you can’t answer those questions right now, without looking them up, you have no business spreading slanderous lies on social media, sir.[2]

 

***

 

But Marvin’s principal demand was that someone answer him on the question of the destruction of statues and the Fifth Commandment. Below is the detailed exegetical, linguistic, and historical response I provided, with the intention of also using this writing as a Battle Paper for The Christendom Curriculum.

 

***

 

By his refusal to answer serious questions (questions that, if answered accurately, would display the depth of his slander against Nathan Bedford Forrest), Marvin has demonstrated sufficiently for any man of good will that he is either unable or unwilling to dialogue openly and honestly.

 

But Marvin has made a particular demand—repeatedly. Here are several ways he has put it (sorry for the lack of punctuation, but this is how Marvin writes):

 

“See the weak stands that are made- they don't have scripture now...They answer with emotion - they answer with ‘but this’ arguments. Weak minded. My unanswered challenge remains - let Jordan or his followers who represent failed traitors to the nation show exegetical proof how the 10 commandments, and New Testament relate to their American Bronze statues - otherwise -they may remain silent… He is in the flesh and his minions who name their kids after traitors like Lee are in the wrong - and it needs to be called out. Iron sharpens Iron - I wonder which respected commentaries they will cite. LOL - P.S. There are none...”

 

“This OP [Original Post] exhibits poor exegesis [drawing out the meaning of Scripture from the text itself] and doctrine - period - I defy you to prove otherwise.”

 

“Hey by the way Waiting on your rebuttal Exegesis please - maybe some commentaries that will support your view as well from biblical experts in languages Until then I take your silence as an admission you just have “feelings” Well sir the facts don’t support your feelings neither do they care Exegesis - or go home”

 

“You would be hard pressed to show me and others here any justification for your theological claims, and the scriptures offered, that won’t also justify the approaches of the apostate churches”

 

“You cannot walk around claiming doctrine that is false Exegetically prove to me and others that it is a breaking of the fifth Using context, co-text, and the meaning of original languages…notice no one here has answered my challenge You cannot It is eisegesis So you use the same technique that gives people permission to use bible for social justice I would never do that”

 

And all this while Marvin has consistently refused to answer the questions that have been asked of him.

 

Of course, Marvin is under no obligation to me or anyone else to answer anything at all. He’s free (so long as Jordan’s patience holds out) to snipe and snicker at men far worthier than either of us.

 

Nevertheless, I will attempt to give a partial answer to the question he continues to demand that we answer (though he himself will not answer any questions asked of him).

 

To clarify for newcomers, Marvin has demanded of Jordan and myself that we prove, by means of exegesis and commentary support, that tearing down statues of Confederate or American heroes is a violation of the Fifth Commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee”), as Jordan’s original post stated.

 

Since Marvin LOL’ed at the thought of any commentary support, let’s begin with this from John Gill on the Fifth Word:

 

“this, though it may be extended to all ancestors in the ascending line, as father's father and mother, mother's father and mother and to all such who are in the room of parents, as step-fathers and step-mothers, guardians, nurses and to all superiors in dignity and office, to kings and governors, to masters, ministers, and magistrates; yet chiefly respects immediate parents, both father and mother….”[3]

 

Gill’s definition is sufficient for my purposes: the commandment is primarily about our immediate physical parents, but it can also be extended by application “to all ancestors in the ascending line….”

 

The Westminster Larger Catechism likewise extends the application beyond immediate parents:

 

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?

A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.[4]

 

“Family, church, or commonwealth.” This trifecta of household, church, and nation will come up again later, so let us just note its importance here.

 

We may also consider the Fifth Word in light of Christ’s Golden Rule: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)

 

So then: Would you have your descendants, even generations or centuries hence, honor you for your faithfulness and vision?

 

If so, then you should also honor your ancestors for theirs.

 

And if you don’t desire or care about such honor? Well, I can only say that you’re missing something very important in the Bible: the promise of covenant blessings to your children and your children’s children.

 

We see a clear and fascinating example of this in the Biblical story of Jonadab. You can read about him in Jeremiah 35, but to summarize, the Rechabites, who were descendants of Jonadab, were still honoring their ancestor’s precepts “nearly 300 years” (as per Matthew Henry) after he laid them down.

 

“we… have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.” (Jer. 35:10)

 

There are two important lessons here:

 

(1) Ancestors are called “fathers” in the Bible. This is important, given that the Fifth Commandment requires us to honor our “fathers.” More on this in a moment.

 

(2) The Rechabites are extending their obedience, not just to their immediate father, but to their ancestor from centuries before.

 

What does God think of this ancestor-honor?

 

“And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:

 

“Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.” (Jer. 35:18–19)

 

Notice again that God here refers to Jonadab as “father.”

 

And here let us point out that the same Hebrew word ('Ab) that is translated "father" in the Fifth Commandment in Exodus 20:12 is also used here in Jeremiah 35:6, 8, 16, and 18 to refer to an ancestor from three hundred years before. According to Strong's, this word can mean:

 

* father of an individual

* of God as father of his people

* head or founder of a household, group, family, or clan

* ancestor (a) grandfather, forefathers -- of person (b) of people

originator or patron of a class, profession, or art

* of producer, generator (fig.)

* of benevolence and protection (fig.)

* term of respect and honour

* ruler or chief (spec.)[5]

 

Thus, again, we see that the Bible extends the meaning of "father" beyond our narrow and individualistic modern limits. Lineal and immediate ancestry is primary, but not exclusive.

 

And God rewards the father (and through him his children throughout the generations) for the fact that his remote descendants still honored and obeyed him centuries later.

 

This, I submit, is the Fifth Commandment in action.

 

And it establishes the principle of honoring ancestors, not just our immediate parents.

 

We can apply this principle to the Westminster Catechism’s reference to “superiors” who are “over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” We might well ask whether such superiors may still retain authority even centuries and generations after their deaths. The story of Jonadab says, “yes.”

 

Which is not strange, really: We still obey the laws set down for us hundreds of years ago by our national fathers, such as the authors of the Constitution; and by our spiritual fathers, such as the authors of the Bible.

 

Two quick qualifiers: (1) I do not believe that the authority of ancestors ranks as high as that of our immediate parents, but the Bible indicates that it ought to at least be taken into consideration; (2) It should be obvious that this obedience applies only to godly and wise ancestors, not your wench-grabbing, gold-lusting great-great-Grandpa Cutthroat Cain the Pilfering Pirate.

 

We owe a debt of gratitude to our immediate fathers and mothers. As we have seen, the Bible, and Biblical commentators like John Gill, extend the application of our gratitude to the ancestors who came before us.

 

This is most immediately applicable to our directly lineal ancestors (family name ancestors), but may also be extended, on the same principles, to our national, and perhaps especially, our spiritual ancestors. To our national ancestors because the nation is but the furthest extension of the family, and we know the Bible wishes us to honor our familial forebears;[6] to our spiritual ancestors because both Christ and Paul taught us that spiritual kinship equals and in some ways surpasses physical kinship (Matt. 12:49–50; Gal. 3:7).

 

Ingratitude is an ugly sin (II Tim. 3:2). Ingratitude toward father and mother is doubly wicked, for it spurns a greater gift, despises a greater loyalty, and refuses a greater debt (I Tim. 5:8).

 

Thus far the Biblical data. Such data is sufficient, I think, to establish an argument applicable to the question at hand: that of the monuments and memorials of American heroes, including those of the South. To that task, we now briefly turn.

 

Statues are images, pictures, such as the vast majority of us have on our phones and in photo albums, or in portraits made of parents or spouses. We make such images for the sake of memory, love, and honor.

 

A statue is a picture created by a collective expression of the memory, love, and honor of an institution, or a town, or a nation.

 

To destroy or otherwise dishonor the images of fathers and mothers, whether lineal, national, or spiritual, is an act of profound ingratitude and dishonor (among other things).

 

Therefore, this act is a violation of the Fifth Commandment to honor our father and our mother.

 

For clarity, let us lay out the argument as a syllogism:

 

1. The Fifth Commandment teaches that we are to honor our fathers and mothers (Ex. 20:12).

 

2. The Bible teaches that this honor is to be extended even to our ancestors, whom God also calls “fathers” (Jer. 35).

 

3. Ancestors are the elders (and therefore superiors) of our family. But family can be lineal (Jer. 35), spiritual (Matt. 12:49–50; Gal. 3:7), or national (I Chron. 28:2; Rom. 9:3).

 

4. Therefore, we ought to honor our lineal, spiritual, and national ancestors.

 

5. To deface or destroy monuments or memorials of our lineal, spiritual, or national ancestors is an act of dishonor.

 

6. Therefore, to deface or destroy monuments or memorials of our lineal, spiritual, or national ancestors is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

 

That is the exegetical argument, which needs but one more premise to reach another and more specific conclusion based on the historical argument:

 

7. The monuments and memorials of Christian Southern forefathers like Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest are monuments and memorials to (in some cases) our lineal and national ancestors, and (in all cases) our spiritual ancestors.

 

8. Therefore, to deface or destroy the monuments and memorials of our Christian Southern forefathers is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

 

In conclusion, I do not know whether Marvin is an American or a Southerner. If not, he is under no obligation to the heroes of the American or Southern nations as lineal or national fathers.

 

But he is under obligation to them as spiritual fathers. That indeed was the primary point of Jordan’s OP: “our godly forebears.” This obligation extends, at least, to the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence in the face of charges made by the enemies of Christ.

 

I submit therefore that it's not only the statue vandals, but Marvin himself who is guilty of breaking the Fifth Commandment by his slanderous lies (they are lies even if he sincerely believes them to be true, which may be the case) about these godly forefathers.

 

We ought to pray for his illumination on this point, and for his repentance, as we also pray for our own illumination and repentance concerning those sins of which we are not yet aware.

 

[1] Not his real name.

[4] WestminsterStandard.org, https://thewestminsterstandard.org/westminster-larger-catechism/ (accessed June 25, 2020)

[5] BibleStudyTools.com, https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/ab.html (accessed June 25, 2020)

[6] In keeping with this nation-as-family idea, David calls his fellow Israelites “brothers” (I Chron. 28:2) and Paul calls his fellow Israelites “my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3).

To learn more about The Christendom Curriculum, or to join the great battle of our time, go here: https://www.christendomhomeschool.com/

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