How Ancient Israel Lost Its Culture War and the Parallels to Today

Does our culture decline by the blemishes Hollywood seeps in through the sides? Or does it erode further by what is decreed from the top down through public policy? Hollywood has always corroded good values, but the slope of decline has been steeper during the eight years of the Obama administration than at any time in recent history. The racism, division, shootings and rebellious riots against the police are the result of top down liberal policies forced on society and the people receiving the message that right and wrong, good and evil are twisted at the top. Since there is a correlation between the morals in legislation and the morale of a nation, the rebellion is man testing the moral boundaries and seeing how far he can get away with. The pattern of civilizations is that moral indulgence causes social chaos, and there is usually more disorder and social upheaval in this country under liberal and unprincipled policies. King Solomon identified this pattern when he wrote in Proverbs 29:2, “when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

All leaders legislate morality, one way or the other, out of their philosophies of living and worldviews. A nation is only healthy to the extent civil law reflects moral law, and there is an element of spiritual warfare in the legislation and red tape as to what becomes legalized. Though some believers hold that what happens in a Bible study is a hundred times more important than what takes place in the halls of congress, public policy matters. This kind of thinking leads to a partitioning of life with a division of the secular and the sacred realm. Biblically, there need be no division between the secular and sacred as everything we do can be for the Lord. John Calvin wrote,

the whole world is assigned to be reduced under the obedience of Christ, that by spreading the Gospel as widely as [the apostles] could, they might everywhere erect his kingdom…The apostles, therefore, were sent forth to bring back the world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and everywhere establish his kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel. 1

Some say politics is evil. Politics is not evil, it is infiltrated with evil. Politics is the medium of authority that characterizes the moral essence of the universe. God’s kingdom is highly “political” with “righteousness and justice the foundations of your throne” (Ps. 89:14). If politics and religion are the two topics to avoid to get along in any social setting, perhaps these are the two topics that matter; both have to do with matters of the soul, authority, submission, morality and existence. Politics is like white noise in the background; it affects all and everybody has an opinion. The ultimate purpose of public policy is to point people to God and cooperate with the purpose of the church in evangelism. Man has a proclivity to destruction and government’s job is to protect him if not spiritually then physically. There was no compartmentalization in Isaiah’s thinking as he proclaimed that “truth has stumbled in the street” (Is. 59:14), not just in the temple complex which contributed to ancient Judah losing its culture war.

A believer’s insistence for truth in the public square is not just an ancient phenomenon. Through an unprecedented opportunity, the founding fathers advanced a brilliant political construct laced with biblical notions that the populace would be the ruling class through representative government.  Individual political involvement, especially with Christian virtue, has been an Christian/American philosophy from the beginning. The original political parties were founded in churches and the founding fathers didn’t separate their secular and sacred lives. Even more recently, the civil rights movement was born out of the church. This is not to make a case for dominion theology or moralizing a nation per se. But each act of legislation descends either from a philosophy of grace and freedom that points people to God or stems out of a humanism that enslaves and directs people away from Him. Policy is shaped by the philosophy of the leader and legislator who crafts it. Though public policy doesn’t save people, bad policy can ensnare people in masse making it difficult for people to find the gospel and come to Christ. God is not powerless against bad policy, but with the free will of man poor public policy has enslaved many pagan nations making it difficult to penetrate other lands with the gospel.

If people do come to Christ in oppressive places, often the cultural poisons have been so damaging and entrenched that the quality of believership can be shaky leaving many post salvation strongholds and struggles. When enough people come to Christ in a society, ideally they should get involved in leadership and shape its society with common sense biblical values. The curse is universal, but there is something about a society with several generations of believers who shape the culture through common sense legislation that makes for a deep nation with foundations, a light to a dark world mirroring the gospel itself. America is teetering on losing this foundation. Because common sense, good judgment, and temperance are the fruits of a matured Christian, John Jay, the first chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Christian leaders who interpret Scripture literally are a natural fit for leadership as strict constitutionalists, which is the Christian, conservative, constitutional connection.

Culture diminishes to the extent that believers in Christ remain uninvolved in shaping it. The Bible does not give the steps to solve every contemporary problem, but to those whose minds have been renewed by it have a grid of common sense right and wrong through which to weed through every issue and are better able maintain religious freedom. Religious freedom allows for a continual stream of leaders to be raised in a Christian worldview who are then elected to strike the right balance between freedom in the essentials and boundaries in the necessities. If believers are to be the salt of the earth with access to the greatest source of truth, ethics, and reality, why is America unraveling in real time when there are many evangelicals in this country? Wayne Grudem asks

If Christians do not speak publicly about moral and ethical issues facing a nation, who will? Where will people learn about ethics? Where will a nation learn how to tell right from wrong? Perhaps from Hollywood movies? From their friends at work or at the local bar? From their professional counselors? From their elementary school teachers? But where do these people learn about right and wrong? The simple fact is that if Christians do not speak publicly about what the Bible teaches regarding the issues of right and wrong, there aren’t many other good sources for finding any transcendent source of ethics, any source outside of ourselves and our own subjective feelings and consciences. 2

The world as we know it may be progressing to a definitive end under God’s sovereignty, but on a human level the culture is descending because believers may not have developed a theology for participation in public policy. We hear frequently the comforting words that our “citizenship is in heaven.” But without balancing truths, a complacency and resignation for involvement can take over through the misapplied notion, “it’s all going to burn anyway.” On the contrary, because our citizenship lies in heaven, we are free to influence public policy through common sense ideas without fear of men.

An Old Model for a Bold New World

It so happens that we have in Scripture a model to evaluate the elements of any lost culture war in the monarchy period of ancient Israel, a model by which we can build a theology for involvement in today. The united monarchy began with king Saul in 1050 B.C. and continued under king David. Upon his son Solomon’s death in 930 B.C., Israel split into two nations and remained that way until their destructions in 722 B.C. and 586 B.C. respectively. Both kingdoms had 20 kings but Judah lasted 136 years longer because of the public policy decisions of 8 good kings. The northern kingdom had no kings who did right is the sight of the Lord indicating some kind of cause and effect relationship between the spiritual and political realms.

Israel (the term can refer to either nation) was originally a theocracy with specific revelation given to them, God’s moral law contextualized to the culture of the time. Then it became a monarchy when the people, insecure at their privilege, demanded to have a king like the nations around them. Though this added an element of unnecessary complexity, the promises were the same. When Israel obeyed the nation would be blessed as the head and not the tail of the surrounding countries as an independently sovereign nation (Deut. 28:13). If they forsook God’s ways, they would be subordinate to the surrounding pagan lands indicating that God deals with nations and not just individuals. Richard Wurmbrand, who spent years in a communist prison, affirmed as much: “Men are responsible before God not only for their personal sins, but also their national sins.”

National misfortune may appear to take the form of natural phenomenon but that doesn’t mean God isn’t behind them. Judgments in God’s word are broadly classified into the categories of WFD’s- war, famine and disease, all with economic, monetary, trade and fiscal ramifications (Ez. 6:11). By disavowing God’s protection, the two nations morally decayed from within and eventually succumbed to the early terrorists of the Middle East, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. From this, we identify a principle where God often uses a more barbaric culture to judge a more enlightened one as His mechanism. The collapse of the two kingdoms was so traumatic to the Jews that it resounded down the corridors of Jewish history for centuries. 722 and 586 B.C. should be burned like a CD in the minds of Bible students as these are dates upon which hang the interpretation of the whole Old Testament.

As Scripture ultimately applies to all men, we can learn a lot about the vector of any country by dusting off the pages of history. But not just any history, biblical history. Information about the divided monarchy is found in the books of the Kings and Chronicles, and the way the authors write the decline didn’t have to happen. Embedded in the narratives of the kings and how they reigned are principles that can be used in constructing a model for evaluating the cultural decline of a people group enlightened by revelation. Some of the principles we glean from a study of the kings are:

• There is some kind of cause and effect relationship between the spiritual and political realms.
• God deals with nations as well as individuals.
• Because of poor public policy decisions, unbelief can become system-wide and cultural.
• Leaders, whether civil or religious, are held with special accountability for the moral guidance of a nation.
• Leaders shape the culture, one way or the other, from the top down with public policy decisions.
• When a leader establishes the correct spiritual foundation first, domestic, economic, military and civil decisions become clearer.
• Unprincipled leaders corrupt the culture further than the populace may have initially anticipated.
• God often humbles a more enlightened people by means of a more barbaric culture.
• When God worship becomes diluted, inward and syncretistic, cultural decline is proportional to the passivity of God’s people.
• A nation’s mediocrity is hastened when believers are oppressed and persecuted.
• Nations lose culture wars by succumbing to the errorists from within before they are overcome by terrorists from without.

Ancient Israel and Judah are a great case study in the anatomy of a lost culture war because the prophets, who revealed the social effects, were so motivated to write about it. They had spiritual concerns for the nation in being a light for the gentiles as well as nationalistic interests, viewing the land as a gift from God worth fighting for. Because of his spiritual acumen, the prophet Isaiah, for example, was an adviser in the royal court of king Hezekiah during foreign policy crises. Far from divorcing their spiritual and secular lives, the prophets kept their fingers on the pulse of world events, having been called out of the shadows to confront the culture and speak truth to power in a process not unlike what Chesterton describes:

It is the paradox of history that….a man who dares to make a direct appeal to the populace always makes a long list of enemies-beginning with the populace. Indeed, that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is the antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects.

Many of the prophets were martyrs and mistaken for the poison rather than the antidote. When the writings of the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament are compiled, they paint a fascinating mosaic as to the many reasons for the lost culture war: no knowledge of God in the land (Hos. 4:1), murder, cursing, and violence (Hos. 4:2), lack of justice (with application to liberal activist judges who reverse right and wrong- Am. 5:12, Hab. 1:3-4), pride (indecency and sleighting as a social construct-Hos. 7:10, Am. 6:8), immorality (resulting in a strengthless moral bankruptcy- Lam. 1:9), fascination with foreign influence (with ramifications for immigration, pluralism, and multiculturalism -Hos. 7:8-9), stealing of land (with application to unwarranted eminent domain- Mi. 2:2), cultural skepticism and denial (Am. 6:3), suppression of truth to power (with application to inappropriate separation of church and state- Am. 7:13, Zeph. 3:2), anti-family policies (including disrespect for the parents, the aged and underprivileged- Ez. 22:7), increased depravity among women (a hallmark of declining societies- Hos. 4:1-2, 13, Ez. 13:18), neglect and cruelty to children (Lam. 4:3-4), increasing trust in wealth (proportional to a decreasing trust in God- Hos. 10:1, 12:8, Jer. 48:7, 49:4), high prices in real estate and a false optimism in the economy (Jer. 32:25), an increasingly litigious society (another classic sign of a declining culture- Hab. 1:3, Hos. 10:4), oppressive business practices (Hos. 5:11, Mic. 6:10-11), intolerance to truth (Am. 5:10, Is. 30:11), little integrity in the land (Mic. 7:1), a link between prosperity and cruelty (Mic. 6:12), increase in substance abuse (Am. 6:6, Hos. 4:11, Hos. 7:5), the dumbing down of society (Hos. 7:11), hypocritical worship (Am. 8:2-3), and trusting in the military as a substitute for God (Hos. 8:14, 10:13).

American Greatness and the Christian Connection

Though America is not a theocracy endowed with special revelation from God as a light to the nations, it can trace its greatness to the faith of the founding fathers whose Judeo/Christian values shaped our founding documents. Most of the founders were theists and their Christianity is revealed by statements such as that of Patrick Henry, Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” America is not Israel, but Psalm 33:12 creates a biblical category by which America has tapped as a foundation for blessing and prominence: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” There is a clear correlation between the greatness of America and the Christian faith of our founding fathers. They didn’t pray to Allah and it is doubtful that our country would have become great if the Qu’ran had a prominent role in shaping our founding documents. It appears we are biting the hand that feeds us.

Guarding this nest egg of philosophical strength requires boundaries, as our founding fathers brilliantly understood. George Washington knew that foreign influence would be a major source of decay. In 1796, he said “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence….the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake.” In his Farewell Address, Washington said, “History and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” Though the multiculturalism and immigration policies that liberals espouse today have similarities to the biblical principle of helping the foreigner and downtrodden, the real motive is to attack the Christian/Constitution core, dilute its potency, revise its principles and level America into mediocrity through inferior foreign influence. At best, they have in mind a hollow social gospel. (It is always interesting how those who don’t know the Bible use general thoughts from the Bible against you in some kind of false guilt narrative). Bored in its prominence, liberal America has gravitated to a fascination with foreign influence whether it is New Age or Sharia Law. Hosea also identified foreign influence as a major contributor to Israel’s demise just decades before its destruction:

The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake! Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it (Hosea 7:8-9).

Don’t Be Fooled by the Label: It Is Still Naturalism and Liberalism

Though contextualized, the liberalism that affected ancient Israel was introduced into the nation from the surrounding cultures through the mechanism of Baal worship. It may be tempting for the modern rationalist to thumb his nose at Israel as a nation embedded in a context of “primitive spirituality” and mystery religion. But we shouldn’t be deceived as naturalism can insert itself through any notion, modern or ancient. Today, naturalism and the desire to express any impulse that feels natural is injected through the avenue of modern science where man, as an accident of nature and product of a random collision of molecules, is amoral. Whether it is through intellectual elitism or an ancient agrarian society, naturalism in the mind of man never stops contriving mental constructs to rationalize immoral deviations. Intellect and education in themselves contribute nothing to the moral improvement and eternal stature of natural man.

The public policy that enslaved the ancient Israelites in masse was Baalism. Though it continually seeped in through the sides from local inhabitants rubbing shoulders with foreigners in daily commerce, Baalism was most damaging when it became sanctioned from the top down by the decree and public policy decisions of a king. It has always been the nature of the average citizen, for better or for worse, to take his cues of right and wrong from what is legislated into law by the reigning power. Powerful leaders learn early on that the masses are easily swayed and lean towards political correctness to accommodate the policies of those in power. Some of the worst leaders are those who look just like us, use the same vocabulary, and speak with an eloquence to make the betrayal more palatable, as Cicero pointed out in 49 B.C.:

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not traitor, he speaks in the accents familiar to its victims, and he wears their face and their garments, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep within the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is no less to be feared.

Determining Culture from the Top Down: A Tale of Two Kings

Let us look at two kings who tap into their philosophies of government and decree from the top down public policies that influence people, one towards good and the other towards evil. Not long after Solomon died, King Asa reigned in Judah. By the time he took the throne at age 20, he had much time to reflect and integrate what he believed into his philosophy of government. In reversing several generations of liberal and licentious public policy of Baal worship, Asa courageously

removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him (2 Ch. 14:3-5).

Notice how the text says “he commanded” from the top down for Judah to follow the Lord. Of course, with the establishment clause it may be illegal for a president in our day to command people to follow the Lord. But all leaders lead out of their philosophies of life and enact policies that are natural extensions of their beliefs. Cultures are primarily determined by the policies and worldviews of those in power as a leader chooses to embrace some smaller cause extant in the society and extrapolate it onto the whole. Public policies essentially tend towards glorifying God or away from Him. If liberalism in civil matters is the political affiliation of natural man, a godly leader has to work harder to create a culture of good than an unprincipled candidate given over to what feels natural. Unbelief in God is culturally accepted and expected in a liberalized society. Since there is a proclivity in men towards depravity and rebellion against God, unprincipled leaders have an easier time in spreading their beliefs and are naturally popular without trying as hard. Asa had the courage to endure the attacks from small pockets of liberal special interest groups in the process of reversing several generations of deleterious paganism in the land.

This leads us to a negative example of how a culture is determined from the top down. A few kings after Asa, a ruler by the name of Jehoram took the throne of Judah. His father Jehoshaphat, though a good man, had a glitch of judgment and married off his son to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel from the northern nation. Jezebel is famous for introducing the Phoenician strain of Baal worship into Israel and making it the official state sponsored religion in the kingdom. Now the sinewy cords of Baalism metastasized into Judah as an inside job through royalty. Exposure to Athaliah at a young age all but created an addiction in Jehoram’s heart and he went on a spree of violence by killing his brothers. Baalism was a very sensual religion and the ensuing immorality was really veiled violence, the guilt in the nervous system after immoral encounters longing for expression through the atonement of another’s blood.

Jehoram’s leadership turned people away from God to great consequence for the nation. 2 Chronicles 21:13 says,

He had also built high places on the hills of Judah and had caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and had led Judah astray….[he] led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did.

This text again affirms the principle that a society declines more thoroughly from what is decreed from the top down since the verse says Jehoram “caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves.” Leaders determine culture which makes it all the more important to peer into a candidate’s philosophy of life. Americans today get confused when examining a candidate for public office and look for things such as personality, teleprompter poise, likability or electability. What we should do is probe their worldviews and ask are they nihilists, relativists, secularists, atheists, naturalists, and Darwinists? Or are they theists, literalists, principalists, and constitutionalists? Principle should precede pragmatism and a leader’s policies are merely windows into their philosophies of life and worldviews.

How the Culture is Shaped from the Top Down in Our Day

Abortion is an example of a policy pushed onto society by activist judges against the will of the majority of Americans. If a young woman becomes pregnant and is debating whether to have abortion, she may reason that since the law allows for abortion, the legislators who hashed out the ramifications behind closed doors have insured the law’s safety. Since those who push for abortion are atheists and don’t believe in a soul, what the girl didn’t learn is the other side of the story where a woman can suffer lifelong guilt, depression and regret for having made such a choice. All because those who lead the abortion mandate are a minority of atheists to the great detriment the rest of society. Philosophy of leadership matters and the people are affected by the choices of a few. God can work in a woman’s heart and an abortion may be just what brings her to Christ, but to say abortion is not evil and not worth fighting against is preposterous. The natural mind reverses right and wrong and with application to abortion today Ezekiel points out in the middle of Judah’s culture war:  “….by lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live” (Ez. 13:19).

Gay marriage is another example of a law generated by a small minority of Americans that now affects one hundred percent of us. Though homosexuals comprise 3-4% of society, they managed to get a law passed that affects 100% of society. Those in power took up the cause and (through the actions of 5 members of the Supreme Court in 2015) decreed a law from the top down that affects the nation. If the narratives of Sodom and Gomorrah are historical accounts, which the immediate generations accepted as literal, then multiple municipalities were obliterated because of system-wide homosexuality. Legalizing moral indulgence goes beyond the freedom of practice and is a major step in the descent that characterizes the mediocrity of European nations. One way to spread a social ill is to legalize it and tempt those to ride up to the line of the law and cross over, those who otherwise would never have entertained or indulged in it.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, over 33 states had codified into their state constitutions the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Seven years later those same states, by the pens of a few liberal activist judges who didn’t enforce the law but legislated from the bench, legalized gay marriage against the will of the people in those states where traditional marriage was codified. This was a clear violation of the Constitution and the 10th Amendment, a distinct example of the culture determined from the top down by leaders who unilaterally codify a twisted value into law. Who we elect is of the utmost importance, not only because God holds leaders accountable for a nation, but because the people will suffer or profit as a consequence of what becomes law. Isaiah wrote before the cultural collapse of Judah, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees” (Isaiah 10:1). 3

Not realizing principle should precede political expediency, Jehoram’s shortsighted liberalism was disastrous for the country. If moral indulgence causes chaos, Jehoram lost the culture war in his heart before he lost it for his nation with the spiritual collapse preceding the economic, military and social demise. A short list of the consequences of his undisciplined reign reveals that Edom, which had been in subjection to Judah for decades, revolted and escaped Jehoram’s military grasp. The town of Libnah rebelled during his reign because he “had abandoned Yawheh, God of his fathers”(2 Ch. 21:10), a clear cause and effect between the political and spiritual realms. The Philistines Arabs and Ethiopians also looted the king’s house and carried off all of his family except for his youngest son Jehoahaz. Needless to say when Jehoram passed away it was “to no one’s regret” (2 Ch. 21:20).

Baal Worship Basics

Any Bible student of some duration will have encountered the terms “high places,” “Asherah poles,” and “the Baals” in the Old Testament. What are these terms, why were they so denounced by the prophets of ancient Israel, and what parallels can we draw today? Baal worship was a fertility cult in the agrarian societies of the Levant, and was the primary liberal and cultural assault the Israelites battled for about 800 years. A Canaanite religion, Baal and Ashteroth were the male and female deities worshiped by the Phoenicians (later seen in the gods of Greek and Roman mythology). Baal, the storm god, evolved from the Canaanite god El who was the creative power that brought life to all. El, a rather vague figure, lived far away in Mesopotamia and was considered the father of humans and the gods; he killed his father and mother, his favorite son, and cut off his daughter’s head. El’s wife was Asherah, the fertility goddess, whose sacred symbols were pillars and trees. El and Asherah had many children but the foremost was Baal, the god of vegetation and rain. Baal’s wife Anat, who also happened to be his sister, was a goddess of virility and love.

In image form, Baal was pictured with a crown of rays upon his head while riding a bull with large testicles, a symbol of the male power of generation. The most significant representations of progeny were bulls, horses, and children, all of which could be sacrificed to pacify the anger of the deity. Baal statuettes were common in homes and each individual field of agriculture was treated as if it had its own guiding Baal (“master”) or fertility spirit. Grove worship was associated with Baalism as trees symbolized life and fertility; often, huge trees were burnt with sacrifices suspended on them. A typical high place on which the ancestral rites were performed contained the components of an Asherah pole, a sacred stone, and a building for priests where incense was burned. The term “high place” originally referred to worship on natural hills overlooking a town, but later the term adapted to anywhere a sacred stone, altar and Asherah pole were set up.
Why Baalism was so harmful as a cultural assault was that the priests and the people would engage in immoral sexual acts as a gesture for the gods to rain on the crops.4

Male and female temple prostitutes were available for their services at high places and other locales in the community. Baalism condoned gross and system-wide immorality throughout the land and it was a counterfeit spirituality that allowed a person to be devout and retain any innate religious proclivity, yet still keep his moral indulgences. The sacred stones and Asherah poles, as symbols of the sex goddess, held strong attractions to the flesh and became rooted into the soul of the populace of God’s people. The religion could even include homosexuality as one commentator points out: “The sacred groves and Temple precincts were the scenes both of ordinary prolificacy and of unnatural vices, men’s natural repugnance to such degradation being overcome by a supposed religious sanction.”5 Lax sexual standards in society gave way to a host of other cultural vices that were oppressive, making Yahweh worship all but impossible.

Skeptics and free thinkers will scoff that this was just primitive religion. “In an age of science,” they might say, “we don’t have idols and sex is merely physical with no effect on something called a soul.” However, to say that God doesn’t exist and that we don’t have idols is uninitiated. Since no man is self-existent and we all need things from without to sustain us, everybody has a crutch. The question is, what is the qualitative nature of that crutch? Aren’t drugs a crutch to deal with reality and the existential thoughts that creep into our minds such as origin, purpose, and destiny of life? Is God or drugs a healthier choice to deal with deeper questions of life?

A Rose by Any Other Name: Baalism Then and Now

We don’t have Baal worship today but the demonic realm has contrived brilliant worldviews in the forms of naturalism, atheism, humanism and secularism as alternate interpretations of reality. These ultimately attempt to eliminate the existence of God so as to avoid moral accountability to a higher power and rationalize any enslavement immorality may cause on a soul. Hiding behind the material emphasis of science, progressives say that we live in a new age of freedom and moral experimentation in an effort to unfetter ourselves from a Victorian era rigidity and value system. Yet moral decay has been done before in ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome with less than stellar results, a common ingredient in the demise of civilizations. We shouldn’t be deceived because the contexts of liberalism are different. Our cultural assaults are not unlike the Baal worship that corrupted ancient Israel as the social effects are similar, following predictable patterns throughout history. Identifying the parallels of the culture war in ancient Israel and American today, one man writes in an article titled Baal Worship, Then and Now:

Although they’ve now assumed a more contemporary flair, the fundamentals of Baal worship remain alive and well today. The principal pillars of Baalism were child sacrifice, sexual immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual) and pantheism (reverence of creation over the Creator).

Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of “mother earth.”

The natural consequences of such behavior, pregnancy and childbirth, and the associated financial burdens of “unplanned parenthood” were easily offset. One could either choose to engage in homosexual conduct or – with child sacrifice available on demand – could simply take part in another fertility ceremony to “terminate” the unwanted child.

Modern liberalism deviates little from its ancient predecessor. While its macabre rituals have been sanitized with flowery and euphemistic terms of art, its core tenets and practices remain eerily similar. The worship of “fertility” has been replaced with worship of “reproductive freedom” or “choice.” Child sacrifice via burnt offering has been updated, ever so slightly, to become child sacrifice by way of abortion. The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of both heterosexual and homosexual immorality and promiscuity have been carefully whitewashed – yet wholeheartedly embraced – by the cults of radical feminism, militant “gay rights” and “comprehensive sex education.” And, the pantheistic worship of “mother earth” has been substituted – in name only – for radical environmentalism.

Both Obama’s social agenda and that of the 111th Congress are rife with unfettered pro-abortion, freedom-chilling, pro-homosexual and power-grabbing environmentalist objectives. The same kind of “hope, action and change,” I suppose, that was swallowed up by the Baalist Canaanites of old. So, today’s liberalism is really just a very old book with a shiny new cover. A philosophy rooted in ancient pagan traditions, of which there is naught to be proud. 6

Say It Well and Say It Often

To reiterate, the liberal assault of Baalism (with its destructive sexual immorality and effeminate laxity) seeped into Israel through the sides and more from the top down as the primary factor in its lost culture war. Baalism was a fertility cult and since the agrarian economies of the Fertile Crescent rejected God as the object of worship and source of life, they speculated on Baal for the growth of crops. Their method involved “high places” or hills and mounds where priests and prostitutes acted immorally to elicit fertility in the land. Demons in the form of deities were worshiped at these high places through Asherah poles, sacred stones, and trees. (Trees, as a symbol of fertility, could be idolized as “grove worship” drawing parallels to the modern environmental movement of today). The poles, stone pillars, and trees may have represented phallic symbols and the reproductive dynamics of plants gave impetus for the people to engage in gross immorality. When droughts occurred in the agricultural reproductive cycle, the adherents of Baalism would attempt to manipulate the local deity to make rain by indulging in sins like gross immorality, masturbation, and child sacrifice. Strong denunciation from the prophets and big chunks of the Bible are dedicated to this problem.

Liberals today say naturalism is about nature and science, but it is also a cover for unbridled sex and immorality. Pagan notions, whether religious or secular, give sanction for a person to express a religious proclivity endemic in the heart and still indulge the flesh. Baal worship was an attempt at self-satisfaction apart from God. The religious aspect was a rationalization that gave sanction to immorality and appease any guilt associated with violating moral law. One could attempt to satisfy an innate religious proclivity and still keep his fleshly indulgence. One man writes, “In the religions of the Fertile Crescent, access to God (transcendence) was attempted through sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes. Perhaps as we indulge our addictions, we are doing no less than prostituting ourselves and others in this very same way.”7 Illicit sex is still the great counterfeit to true intercourse with God in prayer and competes as the deepest of “spiritual” human experiences.

Without having tasted true worship, illicit sex feels deeply transcendent. The church is up against the minds of people who have been bombarded with sexual images as soon as a child comes out of the womb. The photographic page, the media and the internet provide materials that may even dwarf the sins the average Israelite indulged in. All cultures have sin and the curse is universal, but if Israel was judged because of a preponderance of sin, how could America expect to retain its prominence if God deals with nations as He does individuals? The link between the Baalism of then and the liberalism of today is illicit sex, the great competitor with God for a spiritual experience. Whatever package immorality takes, whether through Baalism, atheism, secularism, or paganism, illicit sex is the counterfeit worship experience to God and kicks the slats out of the life of people. What a leader legislates from the top is the biggest factor that determines the health of a nation, whether a culture of unbelief or virtue. If eternal diligence is the price of freedom, good values require more work for a good leader to enact good than for an evil leader to broadcast evil policies.

Whether or not the culture war is lost is not the issue. The world is progressing to some kind of end time paradigm shift under God’s complete sovereignty. But on a human level, there are reasons for declines as the model of ancient Israel provides. If it is God’s job to win, we will only answer for ourselves as to whether we individually did something to stem the decline, first by purging ourselves with the washing of the water of the Word, and then by getting involved with some issue that is intolerable to our spirits. Perhaps our deepest wound may turn out to be our ministry as we participate in some aspect of the gospel, whether it is traditional marriage, abortion, the sex slave trade, drug rehab, divorce recovery, etc. If we are integrated enough, perhaps pastoral ministry or public office would be the best way to redeem and shape the culture.

Whatever the means, leading people to Christ is the shortest distance from barbarism to civility, and the only way from lost to saved. The ability to distinguish difference and handle conflict will likely be part of the process. With an application to discerning the toxic notions laced into the cultural millieu, the apostle Paul wrote, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5. It is hoped that through this treatise Christians won’t retreat into political passivity as many have done today. Not necessarily known as the most “evangelical” of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson wrote,

God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but by His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; that a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute, which can take side with us in that event.

We had better return to our distinguished Christian heritage and view life through a biblical grid if we going to successfully navigate through the morass of licentious liberalism and foreign influence. Viewing our state through the lenses of Sharia law or New Age relativism likely won’t get us out of mediocrity. After we repent, we should uphold the principles of the Constitution without revision because tyranny never goes out of style, no matter the era. If the Constitution contains timeless truths, it is not an “evolving document” whose principles need to be revised in order to be relevant. We return and subject ourselves to its standards. Revisionism doesn’t change the nature of truth, it only diminishes our being blessed by the truth.

We get myopic and forget that times are difficult for any generation who endeavors to resist evil. Dusting off the pages of history reveals that once a nation loses its prominence and momentum, it rarely gets it back. (One historian said the average empire lasts about 200 years). For those given to passivity or who don’t have a theology for involvement in the culture war, here it it is. If Christians don’t get involved, where will the world get its truth from? What other options are there? Our founding fathers had no less difficult circumstances in the context of their times yet they didn’t separate their spiritual and secular lives. John Hancock, Ratifier of the Declaration of Independence, said:

“In circumstances as dark as these, it becomes us, as Men and Christians, to reflect that, whilst every prudent Measure should be taken to ward off the impending Judgments…All confidence must be withheld from the Means we use; and reposed only on that God who rules in the Armies of Heaven, and without whose Blessing the best human Counsels are but Foolishness- and all created power Vanity.”

 

Endnotes

1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, Ma: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008).

2. Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2010) 69.

3. Though the premise is accurate, the details of top-down gay marriage are more complicated than listed above. Obama relayed to attorney general Eric Holder to not uphold the Defense of Marriage Act statute which stipulated that everywhere marriage was referred to in the Constitution, it meant marriage between a man and a woman. DOMA protects state’s rights in those states that solidified the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. It even added protection for those states that didn’t recognize same sex marriage by refuting the principle of reciprocity (where gay couples who were married in those states could claim marriage status in those states that didn’t). Marriage, as defined in the Constitutional documents, is natural marriage and the 10th Amendment keeps this a federal issue. In an overreach of power under the “efficiency of law” policy (spurred by Obama and Holder), local liberal judges chipped away at DOMA by legislating from the bench and conferred marriage benefits to same sex couples before the Supreme Court ruled. Then in June, 2015 the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of same sex marriage by a narrow 5-4 margin. Five judges from the top down legislated their morality onto the lives of 315 million people.

Ireland is another example of gay marriage determined by the top down and thrust upon the people who recently voted same sex marriage into law. Ireland is very conservative and the majority of the population was against same sex marriage, but certain politicians through a propaganda campaign spun the issue as the politically correct thing to do; many pundits were shocked that such a conservative nation capitulated so decisively. We shouldn’t lose the principle in the nuances of the legislative process that culture is influenced more by what is decreed from the top down than any other factor, which should instill in Christians a great attention to detail in the voting process. If the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (and the three other cities) teach us anything, it shows that God doesn’t take too kindly to system wide homosexuality as a social construct. He dealt with those municipalities and he will deal with nations. We may not see an acute destruction or elimination with burning sulpher, but a slow erosion into mediocrity with His hand of protection removed is no less of a judgment. It is not the contention of this writing that God will redeem a nation of unredeemed people who have retained some residual Christian values but have no heart for Him. A decline into judgment may be the only means for a people to finally want Him alone.

4. Baal worship was so degrading and ensnaring that Moses early on told the Israelites to get rid of the Asherah stones (Dt. 7:12; 16:21). Canaanite high places were everywhere and emphasized the sexual. During the Israelite invasion in the 15th century B.C., God called the Israelites to destroy the detestable practices of the Canaanite’s, a culture war of their own in ancient Palestine.

5. George Rawlinson, The Kings of Israel and Judah (Revell: New York) 32.

6. Matt Barber, Baal Worship Then and Now, http://defendingcontending.com/2009/02/16/baal-worship-then-and-now/

7. Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 135.

Copyright by Scott Chandler. All rights reserved unless contacted in writing for permission.

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About Scott Chandler

As a trained academician, Scott speaks to the issues of our culture with an emphasis on apologetics.
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