• Covenant Theology vs Dispensationalism: Towards a Definition of Reformed Essentials


    Covenant Theology (CT) and dispensationalism (D) are both frameworks created by man to understand and make sense of Scripture (both the Old Testament and New Testament). They are meta-systems of analysis and synthesis. Think of them as interpretive grids. Theological propositions or rather truths are distilled into a framework that aids in understanding the complexities of Scripture. They are thus determinative in one how interprets Scripture. They are not hermeneutics, but rather they can utilize hermeneutics to aid in being faithful to Scripture and arriving at the correct understanding.

    In this blog post, I will contrast CT and D and talk about some of their strengths and weaknesses. Further, I make a case for why CT is not essential to Reformed theology, and why dispensationalists can be recognized as belonging to Reformed theology. There has been, sadly, much elitism and bigotry by CT adherents towards dispensationalists.

    Covenant Theology

    In CT, there are 3 main covenants (a theological construct that defines man’s relationship with God):

    • the covenant of works
    • the covenant of grace
    • the covenant of redemption

    To be brief, the covenant of works encapsulates the way to salvation through perfectly obeying God. So obedience was key. This operated in the Old Testament under the Mosaic law. The covenant of grace is the path to salvation whereby believers are covered by the blood of Christ, who keeps the covenant of works on our behalf. This is salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The covenant of redemption is between Christ and the Father, where Christ assents to pay for the sins of His people – the Church.


    On the other hand, D is, as I said, an interpretive method that classifies our relationship with God, and His work and purposes, as best understood as occurring through several distinct periods of time. A dispensation can be thought of as the particular means God uses to deal with His creation and mankind during a particular period/epoch in redemptive history. The classical dispensationalist position puts emphasis on the glory of God as manifested in the various epochs of world history. Dispensational theologians differ on the precise number of dispensations, but the majority of scholars, both now and historically, define 7 distinct dispensations:

    The first dispensation is called the Dispensation of Innocence (Genesis 1:28-30 and 2:15-17). This dispensation covered the period of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this dispensation God’s commands were to (1) fill the earth with children, (2) subdue the earth, (3) have dominion over the animals, (4) care for the garden, and (5) abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God warned of the punishment of physical and spiritual death for disobedience. This dispensation came to an end when Adam and Eve disobeyed in eating the forbidden fruit and were expelled from the garden.

    The second dispensation is called the Dispensation of Conscience, and it lasted about 1,656 years from the time of Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden until the flood (Genesis 3:8–8:22). This dispensation demonstrates what mankind will do if left to his own will and conscience, which have been tainted by the inherited sin nature. The five major aspects of this dispensation are 1) a curse on the serpent, 2) a change in womanhood and childbearing, 3) a curse on nature, 4) the imposing of difficult work on mankind to produce food, and 5) the promise of Christ as the seed who will bruise the serpent’s head (Satan).

    The third dispensation is the Dispensation of Human Government, which began in Genesis 8. God had destroyed life on earth with a flood, saving just one family to restart the human race. God made the following promises and commands to Noah and his family:

    1. God will not curse the earth again.
    2. Noah and family are to replenish the earth with people.
    3. They shall have dominion over the animal creation.
    4. They are allowed to eat meat.
    5. The law of capital punishment is established.
    6. There never will be another worldwide flood.
    7. The sign of God’s promise will be the rainbow.

    Noah’s descendants did not scatter and fill the earth as God had commanded, thus failing in their responsibility in this dispensation. About 325 years after the flood, the earth’s inhabitants began building a tower, a great monument to their solidarity and pride (Genesis 11:7-9). God brought the construction to a halt, creating different languages and enforcing His command to fill the earth. The result was the rise of different nations and cultures. From that point on, human governments have been a reality.

    The fourth dispensation, called the Dispensation of Promise, started with the call of Abraham, continued through the lives of the patriarchs, and ended with the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a period of about 430 years. During this dispensation God developed a great nation that He had chosen as His people (Genesis 12:1Exodus 19:25).

    The basic promise during the Dispensation of Promise was the Abrahamic Covenant. Here are some of the key points of that unconditional covenant:

    1. From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity.
    2. God would make Abraham’s name great.
    3. God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that cursed them.
    4. In Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His work of salvation.
    5. The sign of the covenant is circumcision.
    6. This covenant, which was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, is confined to the Hebrew people and the 12 tribes of Israel.

    The fifth dispensation is called the Dispensation of Law. It lasted almost 1,500 years, from the Exodus until it was suspended after Jesus Christ’s death. This dispensation will continue during the Millennium, with some modifications. During the Dispensation of Law, God dealt specifically with the Jewish nation through the Mosaic Covenant, or the Law, found in Exodus 19–23. The dispensation involved temple worship directed by priests, with further direction spoken through God’s mouthpieces, the prophets. Eventually, due to the people’s disobedience to the covenant, the tribes of Israel lost the Promised Land and were subjected to bondage.

    The sixth dispensation, the one in which we now live, is the Dispensation of Grace. It began with the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20). This “Age of Grace” or “Church Age” occurs between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel 9:24. It starts with the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and ends with the Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4). This dispensation is worldwide and includes both Jews and the Gentiles. Man’s responsibility during the Dispensation of Grace is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God (John 3:18). In this dispensation the Holy Spirit indwells believers as the Comforter (John 14:16-26). This dispensation has lasted for almost 2,000 years, and no one knows when it will end. We do know that it will end with the Rapture of all born-again believers from the earth to go to heaven with Christ. Following the Rapture will be the judgments of God lasting for seven years.

    The seventh dispensation is called the Millennial Kingdom of Christ and will last for 1,000 years as Christ Himself rules on earth. This Kingdom will fulfill the prophecy to the Jewish nation that Christ will return and be their King. The only people allowed to enter the Kingdom are the born-again believers from the Age of Grace, righteous survivors of the seven years of tribulation, and the resurrected Old Testament saints. No unsaved person is allowed access into this kingdom. Satan is bound during the 1,000 years. This period ends with the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-14). The old world is destroyed by fire, and the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin.


    CT adherents would claim CT is derived from Scripture and are the only proper way to view Scripture. I believe this assertion is false. D also provides a means of understanding Scripture. It is rooted in Scripture and no dispensationalist I’ve encountered would claim this is exclusively the only way to interpret Scripture.


    Hermeneutics are vitally important. They consist of various rules or processes one employs in analyzing Scripture to find the correct meaning of the various texts. Both CT and D tend to use different hermeneutics, sometimes radically so.

    My preferred hermeneutic is contextual literalism applied within the framework of D. Here is a blog post of mine which explains what it is:

    Also, here are some principles and rules I believe aid greatly in defining a solid hermeneutic:

    A great example that illustrates the differences between CT and D is the case of the relationship between Israel and the Church. CT adherents say that the Church has replaced Israel. Some balk at that choice of words and prefer to say that the Church expanded the role of Israel. But the simple fact is that if you assert that the Church has replaced Israel (known as supersessionism) you believe that all the specific and explicit promises God made to Israel were fulfilled in the Church.

    This is simply a bad way to interpret Scripture. Doing theological gymnastics to explain away the clear and direct promises of God to a particular people is very wrong. Israel and the Church are distinct. God is not yet done with Israel.

    We see how important hermeneutics are as they color how we see Scripture.

    Historically the vast majority of Reformed scholars and pastors have followed CT as their framework of choice for interpreting Scripture. Nearly all who follow CT use hermeneutics which haven a heavy emphasis on interpreting Scripture symbolically using various literary devices such as allegory and metaphor.

    Further, CT adherents’ hermeneutic asserts what is called New Testament priority. This is the belief that the New Testament is best understood as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and that the New Testament promises and covenants were either fulfilled in the New Testament under Christ or the Church. Thus the Old Testament is interpreted in light of the New Testament.

    I believe this interpretive approach used by CT adherents is fraught with problems. For one there is nothing in Scripture that asserts that the Old Testament must be interpreted in light of the New Testament. Certain passages will, but not as a blanket rule. Also, I believe it is deeply wrong to allegorize or spiritualize passages of Scripture that the author intended as literal. One example is the 1,000-year Millennial reign of Christ on earth. CT adherents would assert that this was never meant as a literal period of 1,000 years and they’ll claim various interpretations.

    Dispensationalism uses a historical-grammatical-cultural hermeneutic as the preferred lens for interpreting Scripture. A hermeneutic of contextual realism, which I favor, says that we must interpret Scripture in a clear and literal way (not wooden literalism such as asserting Christ is a literal door) unless the context *clearly* indicates it is better understood in an allegorical/symbolic/metaphorical way. The authorial intent behind the texts can be obscured or even obliterated and twisted to mean something completely different depending on what hermeneutic one employs.

    CT adherents will say that CT is defined by/derived from Scripture and thus as they assert that the regulative principle is the only biblically faithful way to worship God and is part of Reformed theology, they also assert that CT is the only biblically faithful way to interpret Scripture in an overall framework. I disagree with both assertions. I believe one can follow D and still be Reformed. We both believe our interpretive system is warranted from Scripture, yet either CT or D one is wrong, or even both could be wrong.

    Historical pedigree

    By the way, I should note that D doesn’t deny the existence of covenants in Scripture. We just don’t believe that covenants are the overarching framework of redemptive history. Both CT and D were present in nascent forms in earlier periods of church history. Some adherents of CT assert that CT was present in the Early Church Fathers and that D didn’t exist until the 19th century. This type of assertion betrays great ignorance. D existed in various degrees in the 17th and 18th centuries as documented in the book “Dispensationalism Before Darby“, by William C. Watson. In fact, if we dig deeper and look further back in history we find that D existed in the Patristic period including the Early Church. This is brilliantly demonstrated in the book “Ancient Dispensational Truth: Refuting the Myth that Dispensationalism is New“, by James C. Morris.

    Interestingly, there is strong evidence that both CT and D, in explicit forms, with the theology more fully fleshed out can be traced to the 17th century! In the case of CT it originated with Reformed theologian Johannes Cocceius (1609–1669).

    Despite the historical evidence I’ve seen numerous times CT adherents denigrate D and falsely assert it originated with Darby in the 19th century. They also falsely assert that CT existed in explicit forms in the Early Church Fathers. This simply is not true. While it’s true that D existed in a proto or incomplete state in the Early Church Fathers it was both much more fully matured and cited much more in extant historical documents than CT.

    Covenant Theology boasts

    CT adherents like to make slogans such as:

    • “Covenant theology is nothing more or less than the theology of the Bible.”
    • “Reformed theology is covenant theology.”

    Both of these slogans are bare assertions unsupported by Scripture. In fact, such assertions betray an ignorance as to what exactly a framework like CT or D is. They are higher-order systems of interpretation based on logical deduction and inference of Scripture. It’s akin to claiming a college biology book that describes our cells as the same thing as the cellular structures in our bodies. This is clearly fallacious.

    Now I’ll talk about why I believe one can indeed be Reformed and utilize D as their preferred interpretive framework.

    Reformed Essentials

    Since CT is extrinsic to Scripture it is not an essential of Reformed theology. What is essential to Reformed theology is a Calvinistic soteriology and the 5 Solas of the Reformation. D is also extrinsic to Scripture. One should be free to choose their interpretive framework of choice and still be recognized as Reformed. I see these 2 distinctive as the essential ingredients of Reformed theology. CT is an ancillary doctrine.

    It should be noted that the sine qua non of Reformed theology is man glorifying God in all things. That is precisely the essence of dispensationalism.


    By the way, the most popular eschatology of Reformed believers is amillennialism. Dr. Walvoord demonstrates in the article “Amillennialism in the Ancient Church” that amillennialism didn’t exist until the close of the 2nd century. Whereas premillennialism, the preferred eschatology of dispensationalists, can be traced back to the very Early Church in the 1st century. Amillennialism was fleshed out by Augustine in his book the City of God completed in 426 AD. It soon became the de facto position of the Roman Catholic church. Sadly the Reformers inherited this eschatology from the Catholic church and they didn’t go far enough in reforming to jettison this position.

  • BACH: Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BWV 651

    FULL POWER!!! The overwhelming opening of Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, performed by Leo van Doeselaar for All of Bach, refers almost literally to the opening lines of Acts 2 from the Bible, which say about Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost fully came, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.

    The underlying melody, which Bach used for various Pentecost cantatas, is heard in the pedal, but only after the drone of a sustained note (a ‘pedal point’) has resounded in our ears.

    Then – with short interruptions – we are presented with the whole chorale melody, which remains a beacon of tranquillity in the midst of the notes tumbling over one another in the upper parts. As in the much shorter original version of this chorale, which most probably originated in Weimar, Bach imaginatively draws on many different compositions. He does so, for instance, in his fervent illustration of the commotion of ‘speaking in tongues’, to which the words of the chorale also refer. Finally, all the turbulence ends in a short but powerful hallelujah.

    18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle, BWV 651-668

    In the last ten years of his life, Bach gathered together and completed a series of chorale arrangements, presumably planning to have them published, just like the third part of the Clavier-Übung in 1739. It concerns a selection of his compositions from much earlier years when he was working as an organist in Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen. The collection became known as the 18 Choräle or Leipziger Choräle. Incidentally, 18 Choräle is a misleading title, as the set originally comprised 17 pieces. The eighteenth, Vor deinen Thron tret ich (BWV 668), was added to Bach’s manuscript later on.

    Recorded for the project All of Bach on October 21st 2014 at St Catharine’s Church, Hamburg.

  • Diablo

    From Heaven Satan fell
    I heard the death knell

    Pride led him to revolt
    For all his intelligence he was a dolt

    He desired to be like God completely
    To have supreme sovereignty

    He was the chief archangel of light
    Now he’s full of blight

    Satan is our adversary
    But in Christ we have victory

    The Devil prowls like a hungry beast
    Looking for souls on which to feast

    He despises man
    We are part of God’s plan

    Man alone was chosen for redemption
    The fallen angels were excluded without exemption

    In Christ we triumph over Satan
    Our joy is overladen

  • BACH: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80

    This sacred cantata by Bach is a combative cantata written for Reformation Day (October 31st) as a battle song of the Reformation. Military references are found not just in the words, but in the music as well, built up by Bach over the years.

    I love Bach’s masterful use of word painting in this cantata.

    This cantata can be interpreted as a literal battle cry urging physical combat, or it can be seen as calling each Christian, who is a spiritual soldier in God’s Army, to combat sin, both in ourselves and as we find it in the world, in others.

    In the seventeenth century, there were closer links between music and warfare than nowadays. A soldier with a flute was a cliché in the sixteenth century. This connection was due in part to metaphors about belief and battle that were set to music; metaphors that had only recently become merely metaphorical. In Bach’s day the thirty-year war had only just ended – in 1648 – and this war trauma was still fresh in everyone’s memory.

    This militancy is seen primarily in the words of the cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: in the chorale of the same title, written by Luther. The war metaphors with which the text begins, based on psalm 46, soon turned the chorale into the battle song of the Reformation. So no wonder it was sung on 31 October: Reformation Day, which was a festival in Saxony, in Bach’s day. The definitive version of the cantata was built up by Bach over the years. The first version for Leipzig, performed in 1730, was based on music he had already composed in Weimar. The big opening chorus was still missing, but he did add the fifth movement. It was only for a new performance in 1735 that Bach started the cantata with a large-scale opening chorus.

    Military references are found not just in the words, but in the music as well. In the seventeenth century, the oboe was still strongly associated with the army, and Bach used no fewer than three in this cantata. The sound of three oboes playing exactly the same, as in the opening chorus, was a typical ‘marching noise’. The concordant chorus in unison is reminiscent of the uniformity and order of a well trained army. In the midst of instrumental tumult – as in the fifth movement of the cantata – the chorus sounds like a disciplined military unit that marches in perfect synchrony across the battlefield.

    By the way, this performance by the Netherlands Bach Society has become my favorite performance of the piece. My second favorite is the one conducted by Joshua Rifkin (probably the foremost pioneer in the HIP – Historically Informed Performance [Practice] movement) with the Bach Ensemble recorded in September 1985. Rifkin and Shunske Sato (conductor of the piece we’re listening to in this post) both employ OVPP (one voice per part) for the soloists (SATB), but the tempo is noticeably slower. This has pluses and minuses. One positive, in my view, is that it allows the vocal lines to be clearly articulated and differentiated contrasting with the instruments. However, one potential negative is that it can get a bit too languid and the performance may lose some of its dynamic impact on listeners. Also, the instruments seem much more in the background and softer in the Rifkin recording than in this performance conducted by Sato. You can enjoy the Rifkin recording here.

    Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”), BWV 80 (also: BWV 80.3),[1] is a chorale cantata for Reformation Day by Johann Sebastian Bach. He reworked it from one of his Weimar cantatas, Alles, was von Gott geboren, BWV 80a (also: BWV 80.1).[2] The first Leipzig version of the church cantata, BWV 80b (also: BWV 80.2),[3] may have been composed as early as 1723, some five months after Bach had moved to Leipzig. Some years later he reworked the cantata one more time, writing an extended chorale fantasia as its opening movement. The text of the BWV 80a version was written by Salomon Franck and contained one stanza of Martin Luther‘s hymnEin feste Burg ist unser Gott“; for his chorale cantata versions, BWV 80b and 80, Bach added the complete text of this Lutheran hymn.

    Bach scored the cantata for four vocal soloists, a four-part choir and a Baroque chamber ensemble of up to three oboes of different kinds, strings and continuo.


    Netherlands Bach Society
    Shunske Sato, violin and conducting

    Isabel Schicketanz, soprano
    Franz Vitzthum, alto
    Thomas Hobbs, tenor
    Wolf Matthias Friedrich, bass

    0:00 Ein feste Burg (Chor)
    5:23 Mit unser Macht (Arie)
    8:51 Erwäge doch (Rezitativ)
    10:53 Komm in mein Herzenshaus (Arie)
    14:01 Und wenn die Welt (Choral)
    17:10 So stehe dann (Rezitativ)
    18:33 Wie selig sind (Duet)
    22:31 Das Wort sie sollen lassen (Choral)


    Cantata BWV 80
    Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott
    English Translation in Interlinear Format
    Cantata BWV 80 – A mighty fortressis our God
    Event: Feast of the Reformation
    Readings: Epistle: 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-8; Gospel: Revelations 14: 6-8
    Text: Martin Luther (Mvts. 1, 2, 5, 8); Salomo Franck (Mvts. 3, 4, 6, 7)
    1Chorus [S, A, T, B]
    Oboe I-III all’ unisono, Violino I/II, Viola, Violoncello, Violone, Organo
    Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,
    A mighty fortress is our God,
    Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
    a good defence and weapon;
    Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
    he helps us freely out of the distress
    Die uns itzt hat betroffen.
    that we have now met with.
    Der alte böse Feind,
    The old evil enemy
    Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
    earnestly plots against us,
    Groß Macht und viel List
    great might and many forms of deceit
    Sein grausam Rüstung ist,
    are his fearsome weapons,
    Auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen.
    on earth there is none to match him.
    2Aria [Bass] and Chorale [Soprano]
    Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola all’ unisono, Continuo
    Alles, was von Gott geboren,
    All that is born of God
    Ist zum Siegen auserkoren.
    Is destined for victory.
    Mit unsrer Macht ist nichts getan,
    By our own power nothing is accomplished
    Wir sind gar bald verloren.
    We are very soon lost.
    Es streit’ vor uns der rechte Mann,
    the right man fights for us
    Den Gott selbst hat erkoren.
    Whom God himself has chosen.
    Wer bei Christi Blutpanier
    Those who by the bloodstained banner of Christ
    In der Taufe Treu geschworen,
    have sworn faithfulness in baptism
    Siegt im Geiste für und für.
    gain victory in the spirit for ever and ever.
    Fragst du, wer er ist?
    Do you ask who he is?
    Er heißt Jesus Christ,
    he is called Jesus Christ,
    Der Herre Zebaoth,
    the Lord of Sabaoth,
    Und ist kein andrer Gott,
    and there is no other god
    Das Feld muss er behalten.
    He shall hold the field of battle.
    Alles, was von Gott geboren,
    All that is born of God
    Ist zum Siegen auserkoren.
    is destined to victory.
    3Recitative [Bass]
    Erwäge doch, Kind Gottes, die so große Liebe,
    Only consider, child of God how great his love,
    Da Jesus sich
    since Jesus himself
    Mit seinem Blute dir verschriebe,
    with his blood has given his pledge for you,
    Wormit er dich
    by which
    Zum Kriege wider Satans Heer und wider Welt, und Sünde
    for the war against Satan’s army and against the world and sin,
    Geworben hat!
    He has enlisted you!
    Gib nicht in deiner Seele
    Do not give any place in your soul
    Dem Satan und den Lastern statt!
    to Satan and depravity!
    Laß nicht dein Herz,
    Do not let your heart,
    Den Himmel Gottes auf der Erden,
    God’s heaven on earth,
    Zur Wüste werden!
    become a desert!
    Bereue deine Schuld mit Schmerz,
    Repent your guilt with sorrow
    Dass Christi Geist mit dir sich fest verbinde!
    so that Christ’s spirit may be firmly united with you!
    4Aria [Soprano]
    Komm in mein Herzenshaus,
    Come into my heart’s house,
    Herr Jesu, mein Verlangen!
    Lord Jesus, my desire!
    Treib Welt und Satan aus
    Drive out the world and Satan
    Und lass dein Bild in mir erneuert prangen!
    and let you image renewed within me shine in splendour!
    Weg, schnöder Sündengraus!
    Away, loathsome horror of sin!
    5Choral [S, A, T, B]
    Oboe d’amore I/II, Taille, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
    Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär
    And if the world were full of devils
    Und wollten uns verschlingen,
    and they wanted to devour as
    So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
    then we would not be very afraid,
    Es soll uns doch gelingen.
    we would still be successful.
    Der Fürst dieser Welt,
    The Prince of this world,
    Wie saur er sich stellt,
    however grimly he presents himself
    Tut er uns doch nicht,
    can do nothing against us,
    Das macht, er ist gericht’,
    since he is already condemned,
    Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.
    a little word can fell him.
    6Recitative [Tenor]
    So stehe dann bei Christi blutgefärbten Fahne,
    Then take your stand by Christ’s bloodstained banner,
    O Seele, fest
    O soul, firmly,
    Und glaube, dass dein Haupt dich nicht verlässt,
    and believe that your leader will not forsake you,
    Ja, dass sein Sieg
    yes, that his victory
    Auch dir den Weg zu deiner Krone bahne!
    Will open the way to your crown!
    Tritt freudig an den Krieg!
    March joyfully to war!
    Wirst du nur Gottes Wort
    If only God’s word
    So hören als bewahren,
    is both heard and kept by you
    So wird der Feind gezwungen auszufahren,
    then your enemy wull be forced to withdraw,
    Dein Heiland bleibt dein Hort!
    your saviour remains your protector!
    7Aria (Duet) [Alto, Tenor]
    Wie selig sind doch die, die Gott im Munde tragen,
    How blessed are those who bear God in their mouths,
    Doch selger ist das Herz, das ihn im Glauben trägt!
    but more blessed is the heart that bears God in faith
    Es bleibet unbesiegt und kann die Feinde schlagen
    Such a heart remains unconquered and can strike its enemies
    Und wird zuletzt gekrönt, wenn es den Tod erlegt.
    and will in the end be crowned after death has been defeated.
    8Chorale [S, A, T, B]
    Violino I e Oboe d’amore I, Violino II e Oboe d’amore II, Viola (Taille), Continuo (Organo)
    Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
    They shall pay no heed to God’s word
    Und kein’ Dank dazu haben.
    And have no thanks for it.
    Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
    He is indeed with us on the field of battle
    Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
    With his Spirit and his gifts.
    Nehmen sie uns den Leib,
    Let them take our body
    Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib,
    wealth,honour, child and wife
    Laß fahren dahin,
    let them be taken away,
    Sie habens kein’ Gewinn;
    they gain nothing by this;
    Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.
    The kingdom must still remain ours.
    English Translation by Francis Browne (July 2008)
  • Two-Party Tyranny: America Deserves Better


    I posit that America is hurting by our two-party political system. For most of the country, there is not even a viable third-party candidate on a local or state level, let alone national. Nearly every single Western democracy has at the very least 3 major political parties, and most have many more. There is certainly an argument that can be made for having too many parties being problematic, but in America we are on the opposite extreme.

    Why do we have two parties? The came into being because the structure of U.S. elections, with one seat tied to a geographic district, tends to lead to dominance by two major political parties. Even when there are other options on the ballot, most voters understand that minor parties have no real chance of winning even a single office. Hence, they vote for candidates of the two major parties in order to support a potential winner. Of the 535 members of the House and Senate, only a handful identify as something other than Republican or Democrat. Third parties have fared no better in presidential elections. No third-party candidate has ever won the presidency. Some historians or political scientists might consider Abraham Lincoln to have been such a candidate, but in 1860, the Republicans were a major party that had subsumed members of earlier parties, such as the Whig Party, and they were the only major party other than the Democratic Party.


    For the past 225+ years, America has been locked into the rigid two-party political system. A multiparty system might benefit many Americans, especially the poor and disenfranchised like me. I’ve noticed virtually no politicians seem to truly care about the poor, even the working poor. We’re not even on their radar which is very sad and very frustrating and upsetting.

    The Problem

    Right now if you look at Congressional and Presidential voting the vast majority of Democrats are pro-abortion, pro-LGBT, and in favor of funding social programs. They tend to be lax/liberal on social issues, and liberal on economics. On the other hand, the vast majority of Republicans are anti-abortion, and anti-LGBT (Although sadly this is rapidly changing. Trump courted the LGBT vote and many Congressional Republicans say they support the Supreme Court ruling creating “homosexual marriage”.) and are very conservative on economics.

    Sadly, this results in a terrible field of choices for a voter like me who favors strong social programs which help the poor (I would be homeless or dead without them!), yet is very conservative on social issues. It leaves me burned no matter who I chose. And I refuse to compromise my conscience on major issues so I choose to not vote.

    Another Way

    Theoretically, suppose we had a multiparty system. In that case, I can see strong support for a 3rd party comprised of Christians, moderate Democrats, and Republicans who care for the disabled who can’t work, and the truly poor. As well as supporting conservative Christianity’s orthodox positions on social issues. In my mind, it would be a win-win. Sadly, I doubt I’ll see this dream realized in my lifetime.

    The Medium is the Message

    We live in a hyper-partisan age where social media video/audio clips (a few minutes long) and television sound bites define the majority of our political discourse sadly. They have an enormous influence on political elections and the mechanics of politics in general. A great book on how corporate and other nefarious interests use the media to brainwash and manipulate people and how the media itself becomes the reality is “The Media Is the Massage” by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. It rearticulates McLuhan’s seminal idea of his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” first published in 1964.

    McLuhan’s theory, which I think has been proven by events of the past 60 years, is basically this:

    McLuhan uses the term ‘message’ to signify content and character. The content of the medium is a message that can be easily grasped and the character of the medium is another message which can be easily overlooked. McLuhan says “Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium”. For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled “the scale and form of human association and action”. Taking the movie as an example, he argued that the way this medium played with conceptions of speed and time transformed “the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative configuration and structure”. Therefore, the message of the movie medium is this transition from “lineal connections” to “configurations.” Extending the argument for understanding the medium as the message itself, he proposed that the “content of any medium is always another medium” – thus, speech is the content of the writing, writing is the content of print, and print itself is the content of the telegraph.


    By the way, if you’re interested in better understanding McLuhan’s work (which is eerily prescient in what he predicted would happen) check out this film, “The Medium Is The Message” which he made in 1967. McLuhan discusses his ideas concerning his earlier book “The media is the message.” It’s like he was able to look 55 years into the future!


    Due to the polarization of the two political parties and the significant reduction in recent decades in the moderate members of each party, we have a great deal more government gridlock where good bills that would help people fail due to strict party voting vis a vis the partisan mentality that so dominates the minds of our legislators. This also affects the president’s passing or vetoing legislation. Embarrassingly, in recent years, we’ve seen the federal government shutdown precisely because of the increase in hyper-partisanship in our parties and the ensuing gridlock it produces.


    One thing I’ve noticed in my lifetime (particularly with respect to presidential and congressional elections) is the way, tragically, that demagoguery (appealing to the worst prejudices and enflamed emotions of the populace) has become a tool politicians use to garner support and attack their opponents. It used to be that political rivals would stick to the issues and say why they are the better choice. Now most politicians at the levels I mentioned engage in character assassination, discuss personal issues and personally verbally attack their opponents, discuss matters that are not relevant to the election, go out of their way to demonize their opponents, and talk negatively about them continuously, use the media to demonize their opponent, take a scorched earth policy where nothing is off limits, etc. For a sad example of this type of behavior see my blog post from last year on Dr. Oz:

    This demagoguery has truly poisoned our entire political process. It ensures that the most hot-headed, belligerrant, and acrimonious of candidates win. This goes hand in hand with the role of the media who are supposed to be neutral observers who desseminate the news. Now the media are active partisan agents directly creating or trying to manipulate how the news is perceived.

    Party-Line Voting

    I live in a city that sadly has been dominated for the past 80 years (the last time a Republican was mayor) by party-line voting. Where people are brainwashed from the time they are young, through adolescence, and even into college that their family has consistently voted for Party X, and Party X members should get their votes regardless of Party X’s beliefs or political platform. This type of reasoning ensures that the most unqualified and horrible politicians will attain power. For Pittsburgh residents, you’ll understand when I say that only in Pittsburgh could a Sophie Masloff or a Luke Ravenstahl attain power. We should teach our children to think critically. They should learn how to test and evaluate a political candidate’s beliefs and use their own logical reasoning and morality/faith as determinative in deciding a candidate’s worthiness for office. But sadly we live in an age where people live almost solely on emotions.

    The Trump Effect or the Trumpification of the Republican Party

    I hate to say it, as a lifelong conservative voter, but the election of President Trump perfectly illustrates virtually every single point I’ve raised in this post. I just spoke about demagoguery and Trump is the master of that sadly! He is infamous for not respecting his political opponents (even fellow Republicans in the primary elections) and personally denigrating them, making racist, misogynistic, and sexist remarks about females’ genitalia, mocking disabled reporters, attacking anyone who disagrees with him (or asking a question he doesn’t approve of), making outrageous assertions, etc.

    Trump was without doubt the single worse thing to happen to the Republican party in the 21st century so far. He also has a penchant for “getting revenge” with fellow Republicans who voted in favor of his two impeachments, or just those he didn’t feel kowtowed to him and did his bidding in Congress. He has gone out of his way to “destroy them” and unseat them from power. This type of pettiness is inappropriate and juvenile.

    Trump made popular, and increased more than his predecessors did, the hyper-partisanship and lack of tolerance for more moderate views. In fact, it was as much a fundamental piece of his platform as anything else. During the Trump administration, there have been several Stalin-like purges in the Republican party of those deemed not loyal to Trump. He has a huge ego and is probably a megalomaniac. I say this as someone who voted for Trump for his first term in office.

    As a Reformed conservative Christian, I found almost more to dislike in terms of Trump’s personality and ethics than I did in his political opponents. Despite the attempts by many in the Christian Right to baptize him as it were and claim he’s a Christian, I have seen zero evidence or fruit of repentance. Trump doesn’t think, talk, or act like a believer because he isn’t one. Trump comes across as an arrogant, belligerent, and bombastic bully who will try to personally destroy you if you cross him in some way whether real or imagined. This is hardly a person living for Christ and daily dying to his sin.

    Trump did some good things for which I am thankful (such as appointing conservative Supreme Court Justices who eventually were able to overturn the Roe vs Wade decision which legalized abortion as a federal right in America in 1973), yet I feel future Reformed Christians will look back on the Trump years as a tragic mistake.

    I’ve mentioned Trump because his rise to power perfectly illustrates all that is wrong with our current two-party political system. Trump might still have attained power in a multiparty system, but it would have been much harder. If we had honest media coupled with a better education system, he would not have attained power.

    Trump showed how the two parties no longer tolerate significant (or one could argue even minor) dissent from the party platform. Those who were one day in the party’s good graces, found themselves the next day as an ostracized outsiders, an enemy after failing to uphold the party line. This is intellectually a very dangerous way to think. I see many parallels between the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party and how they operated with Trump’s rise to power and how the Republican party of today behaves. Trump certainly seems to be a fan of the Big Lie (often attributed to Nazi chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels).


    I believe I’ve made a strong case for why the historic two-party political system has failed us badly. It’s time for a change. Please teach your children and grandchildren to think critically and teach them to never compromise their faith for any reason, such as political expediency.

    I have witnessed the dramatic change in our country’s political discourse within my own lifetime. I clearly recall as a child watching the Iran-Contra Congressional hearings with my Daddy in the 1980s. Even though it was a partisan action that could potentially cause President Reagan to be impeached or forced to resign as President Nixon did, the discourse between Democrats and Republicans had much less rancor and no personal acrimony as you’d find today. Back then each party had a significant amount of moderates and Republicans and Democrats were friends and got along on a personal level.

    Do you agree or disagree that President Trump has had a net negative effect on the Republican party? Do you think a multiparty system would help solve our problems?

    Further Reading

    If you’d like to read about the issues raised in this post in an in-depth format please check out “The Tyranny of the Two-Party System” by Lisa J. Disch. It’s published by Columbia University Press. Lisa Jane Disch is an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. She argues that the two-party system as we know it dates only to the 20th century and that it thwarts democracy by wasting votes and silencing the voices of dissenters from the two parties.


    As a Reformed Christian I am trying to act and think in a way that glorifies God. I must constantly be challenging myself with the example of Christ my Lord and Savior. I believe we need to apply this same rigor and criticality to our whole political process. I’ve talked about the institutions that have failed us, but ultimately it is our fault. The greatest sin lies with us for tolerating wickedness. We must stop compromising our faith by voting for candidates who are clearly not Christians. I believe Scripture compels us to vote exclusively for fellow believers. And when we are supporting or even casually discussing politics we should always season our words with grace. We should not demonize fellow Republicans, nor even Democrats. We should proclaim the truth, and vote for those who we feel the Holy Spirit and our God-given reason are moving us to support and leave the rest up to God’s sovereignty.

    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • The United States of Babylon

    Is this the place where freedom lies
    Beneath the wicked cocaine skies

    The land of the free
    Freedom to sin and create misery

    The love of God and country has long grown cold
    For most in this Satanic fold

    Where have you gone halcyon days
    Now we live in a haze

    Wrong is right and the insane are sane
    This is the madness of America’s brain

    Vice rules the days
    Pursued with zealousness in myriad ways

    Once we had a godly nation
    Now it has become an abomination

    Do as thou wilt has become the slogan of our time
    This demonic refrain should be a crime

    The strong prey on the weak
    Yet Jesus said blessed are the meek

    God is not mocked
    This nation shall soon be defrocked

    A small remnant of God’s family is still here
    The Lord’s return is nearer every day so let’s cheer

    Christ shall appear at the last trumpet’s blast
    Godly people stand steadfast

    The armies of Satan shall fall like wheat being chaffed
    By the power of Jesus’ words shall they be slayed

    But for now the United States of Babylon continues its descent
    The only hope for America is for its people to repent

    by Zachary Uram
    (c) 2023

  • Christmas in Yellowstone

    I arrive at Yellowstone
    On a cold and sunny morning
    It’s Christmas Eve
    Here I will celebrate Christ’s birth

    I spot a majestic eagle
    Soaring above
    If only I could see with its eyes
    To experience such freedom and exhilaration

    The eagle circles above
    It’s on the hunt
    Suddenly the great bird swoops down
    And catches a plump rabbit in its talons

    I walk into a valley
    Covered in two feet of snow
    My snow shoes help but my progress is slow
    Pine trees tower above the ridge

    I came across a mother grizzly and her cubs
    I’m sure to stay upwind from them
    My distance is respectful
    The cubs are enjoying the snow

    I see an energetic red-tailed fox
    It leaps into the air
    And down under the snow
    It emerges with a mouse for its meal

    After traversing the valley
    I come across a grove of pine trees
    I’ll make my home here for the night
    It has cover from the wind and snow

    I create a hut using pine branches
    And the tarp I brought in my backpack
    Good thing I have a sleeping bag
    This shall make for a cozy home

    At the lake I catch some rainbow trout
    I make a fire and fry the fish in a pan
    I season it with a pack of herbs and spices I had
    It was the best fish I ever ate

    Evening is now approaching so I go back to my hut
    There by kerosene lamp I read the Christmas story
    In the Gospel of Luke
    I feel at peace and thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus

    I am struck by the blissful silence of my environment
    I enjoyed the solitude, but only for a season
    I have a wonderful feeling of serenity
    I am happy to be alive

    I wake up after a sound night’s sleep
    It’s Christmas day
    I pack up my things and head home
    This was an experience I’ll never forget

    by Zachary Uram
    (c) 2023

  • A Spring Journey

    The rain falls gently down
    Covering hills of green and brown
    The air smells fresh and new
    Like early morning dew

    A songbird chirps a sweet melody
    It seems to recognize me
    I love being connected to nature
    There is nothing greater

    Observing God’s glorious creation
    Fills me with elation
    All this was made for man
    Following God’s master plan

    We must be good stewards of the earth
    From our dying days to our birth
    Pollution must be limited
    In this task, we must be committed

    Walking slowly in the park
    I spotted a lone lark
    It was standing near a daisy
    Looking rather lazy

    Eventually subsides the rain
    I noticed I feel less emotional pain
    A dazzling rainbow stretches across the sky
    It delights my eye

    I rest under a mighty oak tree
    Free from misery
    What history this oak has seen
    Rivaled only by the secrets in my gene

    I slowly make my way home
    Today ’twas lovely to roam
    I’ll cherish these memories forever
    They shall always bring me such pleasure

    by Zachary Uram
    (c) 2023

  • My Broken Mind

    I am crazy and barking mad
    I’m quite insane
    This is my sad refrain

    At the turn of the millennium
    ‘Twas a score and three
    Since I lost my sanity

    Now my days are troubled
    Filled with pain and woe
    We truly reap what we sow

    My thoughts are speeding past
    It’s a superluminal race
    I can’t keep up the pace

    Delusions and hallucinations
    Rule the day
    I’m left with feeling dismay

    What’s it like
    To be in a psychotic state
    It ain’t great

    My mind is not well
    Thoughts are disjointed and broken
    Am I forsaken

    I’ll take my meds
    See my psychiatrist and pray
    And dream of a better day

    Sometimes I get
    A dissociative event
    At least it’s not permanent

    I zone out
    And lose all touch with reality
    It’s very scary

    My depression makes me lie
    In bed like a beached whale
    Here ends my sad tale

    by Zachary Uram
    (c) 2023

  • Thoughts on a Sunny Day

    Woe is me

    From happiness I doth flee

    Time races past

    I’m a ship without a mast

    The days are dark and filled with pain

    Will I ever be sane

    Days turn into years

    Who can erase my fears

    I cling to hope and pray

    Of a future happy day

    For now I’ll bide my time

    And dream of green hills I may climb

    With no strength or energy

    I’m a prisoner of my own body

    I’ll retreat into my mind

    What wonders I will find

    Traveling the universe faster than light

    I’ll return in a fortnight

    If you care pray for me

    Of a day when I’m happy and fancy free

    By Zachary Uram

    (C) 2023