Category Archives: Gary North

Paul Johnson, 1928 – 2023

The journalist and 'amateur' historian was a 'true giant', writes Tom Woods

Only a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Paul Johnson‘s monumental book “Modern Times“, on the history of post-WW1 20th century. A true eye-opener. Tom Woods recommended it to his readers about two years ago. Gary North does the same at the end of his last book, “Biblical Historiography”. Johnson died yesterday.

Writes Tom Woods:

What an odd and most unfortunate coincidence.

Just yesterday I wrote to you about the academic snobs who look down on amateur historians who dare to write works of history without being “trained.”

And trust me, as someone who would know: the difference in “training” between a university-educated historian and you is precisely zero. You are capable of reading, and being discriminating with sources, just as much as any of them are, and there are no secret “techniques” they teach us that separate us from you.

But on to the coincidence: today we lost a great historian, Paul Johnson, whose books taught me so much, and who, while not always right, understood the central drama of the age.

Johnson, who was 94, would be considered an “amateur” historian.

But unlike so many of our official historians, Johnson challenged sacred cows, was enormously prolific, and wrote in a way that kept you engaged rather than putting you to sleep.

In the 1970s Johnson had an ideological conversion away from the left, and he stayed converted for the rest of his life.

My favorite of his many published works is Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Eighties (since expanded into a larger edition that includes the nineties, but in that section you have to endure Johnson’s disappointing and misplaced foreign-policy views).

I’ve told the story before, but I found out about this book as a college freshman, when a fellow student, sensing a kindred spirit, urged me to read it. I would discover, he said, that the historians’ heroes were generally creeps. I was not disappointed.

Another great one, and a book hated by all the right people, is Intellectuals. There Johnson examined some of the key thinkers of our time, who had a habit of devising, from their armchairs, grandiose plans for the human race that could be implemented only by violence. (Not to mention, most of these people turn out to have been scumbags in their personal lives, as Johnson amply documents.)

Johnson was also an artist and art aficionado, and his Art: A New History is a massive volume filled with the kind of surprising and controversial judgments we find in the rest of his works.

Any of these three books will fascinate you. They’re brimming with anecdotes and quotations you’ve never heard, idiosyncratic tangents you’ll consistently enjoy, and fearless dissent from the standard narrative.

Paul Johnson, requiescat in pace.

Gary North’s final chapter in his final book

"The Biblical Structure of History"

On Christmas Day, 2021, Dr. Gary North posted his last message to the public. Here it is (it was titled “Merry Christmas”):

I am sending you my latest book, The Biblical Structure of History. This is my final book. I wrote it in six weeks: October 3 to mid-November. In early December, my health began to fail. I can no longer write my daily articles. I look back in gratitude: I completed my final project. My timing was right. Thanks for reading my tips for the last sixteen years (or whatever).

My book is here: The Biblical Structure of History

North was a PhD of History. On another page on his website, he had already posted the individual chapters. The page contains the following introductory words:

There is no neutrality in academia. This applies to the study of history.

Historians abandoned any commitment to neutral history a century ago. Yet they pretend that they are sufficiently neutral to be entitled to financial support by taxpayers. Public day schools and tax-funded universities teach anti-Christian history.

Homeschool families have no materials to teach students how to deal with humanistic historians in college. The students are sent into the academic meatgrinder unprepared.

My book will prepare them.

I have today finished reading this book and will now quote passages from its final chapter, the title of which is: “Progress”.

Biblical progress means the redemption of the world. This will be comprehensive. It will apply to every area of life that is presently under the dominion of sin. There will be no safe zones for sin.

Evidence of God’s comprehensive redemption will be widespread knowledge of the word of God. Dominion is not merely technological. It is covenantal.

The Bible teaches that there are rival kingdoms that compete for dominion in history. They do so in terms of rival systems of ethics. The conflict between the two kingdoms is not primarily based on power. It is based on ethics. The kingdom of man does have a tendency to manifest itself as a power religion. But the Bible makes it clear that this strategy of dominion eventually fails. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7–8). “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors” (Psalm 73:18–19). The biblical basis of long-term dominion is obedience to God’s laws.

A Christian historian should begin with this premise: there has been no change in the concepts of covenantal success and failure with the coming of the New Covenant. There is ethical conflict in every area of life between the two kingdoms. A Christian historian should understand that there has been an escalation of conflict because of the New Covenant. The conflict has spread outside the borders of Israel ever since the days of Augustus Caesar. There has been an increasing self-consciousness on the part of both covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers about the nature of the conflict. Each side becomes more self-conscious about implementing its worldview at the expense of the other. Renaissance humanists were far more self-conscious than their predecessors. Enlightenment humanists were more self-conscious than Renaissance humanists. Humanists in the nineteenth century became more self-conscious than humanists in the eighteenth century. Humanists in the twentieth century continued this increase in awareness regarding the threat of Christianity to the extension of the kingdom of man. But, with each escalation of self-awareness, humanists have become more irrational. The confidence of Renaissance humanism is no longer widespread among humanists in the twenty-first century. The epistemological and moral acids of deconstructionism and postmodernism have undermined humanism. These acids have barely touched Christians. Among those Christians who did not go to graduate school, these acids have had almost no effect at all.

With greater wealth and greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. This is a fundamental principle of life. Most societies understand this. People teach this to their children. But covenant-breakers do not recognize this truth in their own lives when they prosper. Their success leads them into disasters. This is what Psalm 73 teaches. Success for covenant-breakers is a slippery slope. It confirms their covenant. They are deceived by this confirmation.

Humanists are losing faith in the future. They are also losing faith in Western civilization. The top American universities ceased requiring a course in Western civilization in the 1990’s. Postmodernist historiography has called into question the historiography of the modernists, the Enlightenment, and the Renaissance. This creates a tremendous opportunity for Christian historians to re-interpret the history of Western civilization in terms of the contributions of Christendom, which is what Renaissance historians dedicated themselves to refuting.

Humanism is now in defensive mode. It dominates the institutions of higher learning and public education. It dominates what are called the mainstream media. But their audiences are shrinking. A kind of disintegration is taking place. This disintegration became visible in 2011: the so-called Arab Spring. It was an unorganized revolt against Middle Eastern governments. It began to spread. This has been chronicled in a 2014 book by Martin Gurri: The Revolt of the Public. Social media available on smartphones have begun to fragment the establishment’s near-monopoly of control over the flow of information. It took less than a decade from the development of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to overturn governments in the Middle East and around the world. It happened without warning.

The Internet has created opportunities for evangelism and education on a scale unparalleled in human history. It is time for Christian historians and Christian storytellers to take advantage of this opportunity.

This final chapter is followed by a conclusion to the final part of the book, a conclusion to the book, and one appendix (“A Battle Over Narratives”).

I pray that North’s work will fall on fruitful ground, that it will help gain converts to Christianity and prepare future readers for the ongoing clash between the “two kingdoms”.

Two Books that Influenced Gary North’s Thinking

Rushdoony’s 'Institutes of Biblical Law' (1973) and Ray Sutton’s 'That You May Prosper' (1987)

North writes about ‘The Two Most Important Books in My Life‘.

Excerpts:

Rushdoony’s thinking was shaped by his commitment to Van Til’s Bible-based defense of the faith. But he did not share Van Til’s Dutch Reformed amillennialism, which teaches that Christians will always be in a defensive minority condition. Rushdoony was a postmillennialist, which had been the common view of American Presbyterianism until after the Civil War. It teaches Christian victory in history before the Second Coming.

[…]

It was only with my book on Exodus 20, meaning the Ten Commandments, did the covenant model begin to shake my thinking. I wrote The Sinai Strategy from 1985 to 1986. It reflects the five-point model. But I did not do this self-consciously. I was working with Sutton’s manuscript. I had developed a sense of the model. My book was structured as if I had fully understood Sutton’s model. I didn’t. I structured the Ten Commandments in terms of Sutton’s five-point covenant model: two five-point sections, each with the same five-point order. The first five commandments are priestly; the second five commandments are kingly. That only became clear to me when the book had already been typeset.

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The Inescapable Triad of Religions

Power, escape and dominion - of which power religion is currently dominant in the world

I’ve recently posted an article by Doug Wilson about Gary North. Now Bionic Mosquito (B. M.) has written an interesting article on Doug Wilson.

Quotes:

Who is Doug Wilson? Douglas James Wilson (born 1953) is a conservative Reformed and evangelical theologian, pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, faculty member at New Saint Andrews College, and author and speaker.

What does he say about himself?

Theology that Bites Back: I want to advance a Chestertonian Calvinism on education, sex and culture, theology, politics, book reviews, postmodernism, expository studies, along with other random tidbits that come into my head. In theology I am an evangelical, postmill, Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian, pretty much in that order.

Not someone the mainstream would embrace.  Also, not someone that many Christians would embrace.

Regarding the basic, inescapable triad of religions (that of power, escape, and dominion), B. M. writes (and quotes):

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The Naughty Boy of Evangelicalism

Offers a good, concise description of the three basic types of Christians

Doug Wilson, on his Website “Blog and Mablog” describes the condition of evangelical Christianity in today’s world, following the pattern first formulated by Gary North:

First, those believers who have a yen for power may be called friends-of-the-regime. They do not make claims of control over your life directly, but they certainly want to be on the good side of those who do. They want to be fully cooperative with them, believing that helping the tyrants forge your chains should be called something like “loving your neighbor.” These are the pastors and elders who want to assume the very best about the latest contradictory fog bank from the CDC, and who assume the very worst about the consciences of their own most faithful parishioners.

Second, those believers who are keeping their head down until the rapture are seeking a way of escape. Or, if dispensational theology is not their bag, this kind of person might retreat into pietism or confessionalism. The pietist wants to keep his own personal nose clean until God sees fit to take him out of this dirty world, and so he wants to escape unnoticed in this world until he can escape unnoticed to a better world. And the escapist confessionalist wants to sit in the red sports car of the historic Reformed tradition, fire that baby up, put the clutch all the way in, all the way to the floor, and, together with R. Scott Clark, make vroom vroom noises.

And then, third, we have those with a mind for dominion. These are the believers who seek to labor under the grace of God, seeking to have God load those labors up with what I call Deuteronomic blessings in this life, and in the life to come, all of Christ. This third group is the historic Reformed position. It was held by John Calvin, Pierre Viret, Martin Bucer, John Knox, the Westminster divines, Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Kuyper, and, quite humbled to be included in such an august listing, and not quite sure how I came to be added to it, me.

He adds some thoughts about how things are going currently:

The now thoroughly discredited leadership of the evangelical movement has been our Neville Chamberlain, and our last two years of chaos have been Hitler’s invasion of Poland. I speak in a dark parable. But the coming leadership of evangelicalism will need to be Churchillian—or we perish.

Malthusianism vs. Covenantalism

Text by Gary North

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Gen. 1:28).

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies (Gen. 22:17).

And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude (Gen. 32:12).

The message is clear: the primary blessing in history is an expanding population of covenant-keepers. Man’s dominion assignment from God mandates population growth. God’s covenantal promise to Abraham involved a multiplication of his heirs. World dominion and population growth are linked.(1)

This fact is no longer taken seriously by most Protestant Christians. It is, however, taken very seriously by the zero population growth movement, which sees man as the cancer of the world. Man’s dominion over nature is seen as the ultimate threat to nature. Bill McKibben has stated this theology well: “We have deprived nature of its independence, and that is fatal to its meaning. Nature’s independence is its meaning; without it there is nothing but us.” Nothing but man: this is blasphemy in the minds of modern pantheists and nature-worshippers.

Continue reading here.

Gary North, RIP

Obituary by Craig Bulkeley

When Gary Kilgore North passed away on February 24, 2022, at the age of 80, he left behind a massive storehouse of Christian scholarship without parallel in the modern church. For nearly fifty-five straight and solid years he applied himself as a craftsman with single-mind devotion to researching, writing, and speaking about God’s world from the perspective of God’s Word. While he lived his work benefited his large readership around the world. For generations to come it will be of great use to the Church of his Lord Jesus Christ.

Continue reading here.

More obituaries:

By Timothy Terrell

By Friday Odey

By Bionic Mosquito

By Daniel Silliman (Christianity Today)

By John Reasnor

By Mark Skousen, who writes: “There are people in one’s life that you wish you could talk or write to after they die. Gary North is one of them.”

The memorial service, 26/03/2022