Book Reviews

The Third Temptation

To Austin Rogers, the trio of temptations presented to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew has key political implications.

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In the Gospel of Matthew, the devil presents Jesus with a trio of temptations. For the culminating incident, Satan offers "all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence." Jesus refuses.

To Austin Rogers, this story has key political implications. "Christ denied using earthly power and government to accomplish his mission," he writes in his book The Third Temptation, "and since Christians are called to imitate Christ, we should do the same."

Through painstaking research and deft historical recounting, Rogers shows that intermingling the state's means with the church's ends has tended to hamper, not advance, the latter. As one scholar put it, the first three centuries A.D. saw Christians "bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity" and yet "multiplying quietly." Then the Constantinian revolution established the first Christian confessional state.

"In less than a hundred years," Rogers explains, followers of Christ "evolved from a powerless, persecuted minority to the empowered persecutors themselves." The result was an erosion of religious freedom, a loss of moral credibility, and a wave of inauthentic conversions, all of which weakened the church and diluted its message.

Fourth century Christians failed to heed the lessons of Jesus' third temptation. It's an open question whether 21st century Christians will do any better.

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  1. Now do the ‘religion of peace’.

    1. Why? Do you see this post as an attack on the Christian faith? It mirrors my views. We shouldn’t use the State to achieve religious goals. Don’t you get upset with people like Pelosi use their religious beliefs as a justification to steal more money? As if Christ instructed us to rob people to take care of the poor?

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  2. “In less than a hundred years,” Rogers explains, followers of Christ “evolved from a powerless, persecuted minority to the empowered persecutors themselves.”

    In other words, they were human beings. That’s how human beings act. Give them a little power, and they’re going to abuse that power. By making people do what they should want to do if they were good people. I’m sure Joe Biden thinks he’s a good man doing good things just the same as Hitler thought he was a good man doing good things.

    1. You see the same thing with gay rights advocacy groups, where the old goals of tolerance and permission alone aren’t enough. Instead everyone must declare full approval and even fealty.
      And that didn’t take 100 years, but rather only ten.

  3. Sounds like he took a single, very true line from Lord Acton and padded it out into a book:

    Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    1. And those who most want power are the ones least to be trusted with power.

    2. But it also rocks absolutely. Now witness the firepower of this armed and fully operational battle station. Fire at will commander.

      1. That blast came from the death star! That thing’s operational!

        1. You mean the Jewish space lasers?

  4. But how are they supposed to save people with out the power to make them accept that gift? It’s for their own good after all.

    1. Are you talking about Christians, progs, or the general run of any and all political aspirants? Same shoe, just different feet of clay.

      1. (Not Christians who understand what Christ said, but you aren’t otherwise wrong.)

  5. Was Jesus a libertarian? I don’t know, but he most certainly was not a socialist. He never told his followers to steal from people to take care of the poor. The Democrats can’t seem to grasp that difference.

    1. Words matter; they call it your “fair share,” though I don’t see anyone defining exactly what “fair” is or just what the share is of.

    2. There is a lot of evidence that Marx was a Satanist, several books have been written about it, in fact. And every time socialism is tried, Christians are treated like enemy combatants.

      Socialism is always anti-Christianity. Did Jesus hate Christians?

  6. This is practically straight from Dostoevsky’s, “The Grand Inquisitor” from, The Brothers Karamazov. It fundamentally changed my perception of Christianity when I read it as a kid. I could never see my parents’ version of Christianity the same way again. God makes us all look like phony libertarians.

    https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pol116/grand.htm

    The first temptation is about giving the people what they want. “Man does not live by bread alone but by the word [logos] of God” is more or less Jesus’ response. Santa Claus didn’t die on the cross for your sins, and Jesus won’t come down your chimney with a Mercedes Benz. People who think Christianity is about God rewarding the faithful don’t know the first thing about it. In this world, you can’t get crucified for being a perfectly good man.

    The second temptation is about protecting people from harm. If you want people to follow you instead of me, Satan says, just protect them from harm. Jesus refused to protect us from harm, and by resisting that temptation, we were all saved! The God Jesus is describing here is far more libertarian than any of us. God makes the rain falls on the good and the evil alike, but he also lets innocent people be senselessly murdered. We, as individuals, are the answer to each others’ prayers. If you want to live in a just and charitable world, treat others with justice and charity.

    This is all taking place when Jesus comes back to earth during the Spanish Inquisition. The Grand Inquisitor sentences Jesus to death for the sin of making us free to make choices for ourselves through his resistance to those temptations, and the Inquisitor claims the mission of the Catholic church (in the Inquisition and elsewhere) is to fix the mistakes Jesus made back then. Without the church/government to protect us and reward us, mankind is doomed. Freedom is mankind’s road to ruin according to the Grand Inquisitor.

    When we see progressives using the coercive power of government to force us to do what they say is in our own best interests (something God won’t do), we should remember that there isn’t anything new about this. There isn’t anything new under the sun. Their evil willingness to ignore our agency, their disgusting elitism, and their fanaticism–all of this has happened before. It will all end in tears, too, the only question is how much damage they’ll do before it’s over.

    How long will it take people to wake up and realize that progressives are America’s most horrible people?

    1. I am honestly impressed with your missive; you’ve been on quite the roll lately.

    2. ya love it.

    3. “We, as individuals, are the answer to each others’ prayers.”

      Often, but not always.

      Otherwise, you’re right. History is full of people thinking they know what’s best for everyone else and attempting to force them to do it under threat of death. That’s precisely the opposite of what God did, and people are STILL complaining about it!

      God’s more of an An-Cap than I am.

    4. That’s funny, because I see a crucial distinction here.

      All the people I have ever heard of or met who held libertarian ideals also espoused libertarian ideals and put them into practice in myriad ways.

      They espoused and spread them by speaking, arguing, writing, illustrating, screen-printing, embossing, broadcasting, blogging, vlogging, using every conceivable and available communications medium at their disposal.

      They studied about libertarian ideals, again using every communications medium available and they discussed, sold, donated, and shared their media far and wide with all willing to receive it.

      And more than learning and spreading libertarian ideals, they practiced them.

      When allowed to do so, they presented their ideals through established political systems.

      When forbidden to do so, they communicated their ideals in coded, encypted, pirate media, so they could express themselves without fear of persecution.

      They travelled to places more friendly to their ideals whenever the opportunity arose.

      They practiced covert “informal economics” to secure their labor and it’s fruits from those who would plunder them.

      When unable to travel and when in controlled custody of plunderers and oppressors, they invented and adopted whole cultures of ways to defy them.

      And when all other options were exhausted, they learned martial arts and took up weapons, whether against individual street criminals or against local tyranny via resistance movements or even against invading foreign tyranny vis opposing armies.

      And these espousers of libertarian ideals were willing to risk much and even all, right up to their “Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor.”

      By contrast to all of this, in the midst of all the tyranny and injustice of human history, the God worshipped by Stephanie Slade, Dostoevsky, and all followers of Abrahamic creeds never even bothered to show or bring his ass, much less stand for libertarian ideals.

      To call this God a libertarian puts him in far better company than he deserves. It even gets into the realm of calumny and insult to every person who ever lived, fought, suffered, and died for libertarian ideals.

      Unlike that God, however, no one who understands and supports libertarian ideals can be taken off kilter by mere words.

      1. “By contrast to all of this, in the midst of all the tyranny and injustice of human history, the God worshipped by Stephanie Slade, Dostoevsky, and all followers of Abrahamic creeds never even bothered to show or bring his ass, much less stand for libertarian ideals.”

        An omnipotent God that refuses to exercise his power isn’t just a libertarian God. It’s also a God that created a universe in which liberty thrives and authoritarianism leads to disaster.

        Are you aware that altruism, apparently, evolves in the natural world without any need for an explanation like kin-selection?

        “We show that inclusive fitness is not a general theory of evolution as its proponents had claimed,” says Nowak. “In the limited domain where inclusive fitness theory does work, it is identical to standard natural selection. Hence there is no need for inclusive fitness. It has no explanatory power.”

        “Altruism can be explained by natural selection”

        https://www.nature.com/news/2010/100825/full/news.2010.427.html

        Are you familiar with Tolstoy writing The Kingdom of God is within You about turning the other cheek, its connection to Letter to a Hindoo, and Gandhi using those tactics to chase the most powerful military of its time out of India without firing a shot? Are you familiar with how MLK rid the country of segregation?

        Are you familiar with how the people of North Africa, during the Arab Spring, liberated their countries with peaceful protest, sometimes in a matter of weeks, when all attempts to do so through terrorism and armed struggle had failed for decades?

        Conversely, are you familiar with what a disaster trying to liberate countries at the point of a gun has been all throughout history, from Napoleon’s wars of liberation to the British attempts at colonialism in the name of stamping out the slave trade at its source in Africa? Vietnam was a disaster for similar reasons and so were the liberations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

        It may be that God created a universe where liberation at the point of a gun ultimately leads to disaster, much like he created a universe where even he can’t add two even numbers together and get an odd number. Frustrating tyranny with the ability to defend ourselves is one thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s possible to liberate ourselves and each other at the point of a gun. Maybe the reason God didn’t raise an army to liberate us is because it won’t work.

        Jesus took over the Roman Empire by word of mouth. He started out with no internet, no printing press, no mass media, and only twelve guys, one of whom was a traitor. If only we libertarians could spread our gospel so successfully! Anyway, I strongly suspect armed struggle is a negative consequence of tyranny rather than a force for liberation. Libertopia happens through persuasion.

        1. “An omnipotent God that refuses to exercise his power isn’t just a libertarian God. It’s also a God that created a universe in which liberty thrives and authoritarianism leads to disaster.”

          If God really doesn’t do anything, then what do we need Him for? You are just using God the same way that most people use religion. As an appeal to authority. Libertarianism is good because God wanted it that way! If libertarian ideas are correct, they don’t need God to endorse them, just our own human reason. You know, the name of this publication?

    5. BRAVO!!!!!!

    6. God doesn’t protect His followers? He delivered His people from slavery in Egypt after bringing forth multiple plagues upon the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to let them go, but He had also “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart so that he wouldn’t give in until the worst plague had hit them. (The slaughter of the first-born)

      God won’t provide for his followers? Didn’t Jesus feed 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish? Didn’t he heal the sick? Raise Lazarus from the dead? It seems to me that Jesus (God in the human form of His own son) was perfectly happy to provide and care for people when He needed a miracle to prove to them that He was divine.

      This is just another example of someone reading into the Bible the message that they want to hear and ignoring the rest.

  7. Man! Satan had some conundrums there! Hmmm…What to tempt the God-Man with who supposedly already has everything? And just how does an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnibenevolent, Eternal, Perfect, Unchanging Being who can’t be affected by anything have any kind of emotion at all, much less temptation?

    1. You are missing the deeper points because you would rather make childish atheistic arguments. But whatever, that’s your business.

      1. Childish? I’m not going wherever my whims or another person leads me.

    2. And just how does an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnibenevolent, Eternal, Perfect, Unchanging Being who can’t be affected by anything have any kind of emotion at all, much less temptation?

      You might benefit by actually engaging some theology prior to attacking it.

      1. So what could sum up the Abrahamic God better than what I just said?

        1. “have any kind of emotion at all”
          Except that the Name said “I am a jealous G-d and will not have other gods in my face.”

          1. So why would he have any reason to fear other Gods if he is eternal, perfect ,and Omnific in his power, knowledge, and goodness? And just who created the other Gods anyway?

            1. Good try at a duck.
              1) Because he expected his creation to chose in conformity with His will.
              2) The other gods (no large G) are idols created by humans.

              1. Who is ducking whom? I confronted the matter straight on. It makes no sense that a God would have an emotion about anything, since a God cannot be affected by anything.

            2. If don’t understand, then it is HIs will that you fail at doing so and are one of the reprobate

              1. That was “If you don’t understand…”

              2. “If [you] don’t understand, then it is HIs will that you fail at doing so and are one of the reprobate”

                Wait a minute. I thought we had free will and could reason things out correctly or not on our own? Are you telling me that I reject the existence of all gods and the supernatural because your god wants it that way? And why is it that this supposedly all-good God is going to punish me on Judgement Day for my non-belief when it was actually His decision?

                The only thing Christians like you are ever consistent about is in saying that we are wrong and you are right.

                1. True, and this makes the Christian God no different than Islam’s Allah, because Allah also put a veil over the eyes of the Kuffir (Unbelievers,) whom he, like some bloodthirsty autistic child, repeatedly condemns to eternal torment in Hell.

  8. If anyone is interested in a superb study in the history of church-state relationships, read “The Anatomy of a Hybrid” by Leonard Verduin. He was a Reformed historian and scholar, but he is fair in his treatment of the Reformers and how they made the same mistake as Rome (sacralism). He also documents how the colonies in America almost made the same mistake, but by the time of the founding of the U.S., a new road was paved, that of a nation of laws rather than men.

    Unlike the practice of Rome, where everyone was required to be “baptized” into the sacral system, religious liberty was enshrined in our nation of laws. But we should not forget that the foundations of that system came from the law of Moses (that’s where English common law got it) and a Christian worldview. The American idea of a government that establishes and protects liberty is fundamentally Christian.

    1. The American idea of a government that establishes and protects liberty is fundamentally Christian.

      No it isn’t. It’s a hybrid of the Anglo-Saxon code, Roman law and Christianity.

      1. I fail to see how it isn’t. Anglo-Saxon code was based on Biblical law (see Alfred the Great). Roman law was pagan until it wasn’t. Christianity was the sacral wing (official state religion) of the empire from AD 380 until it collapsed (it remained so in the east until AD 1453). Augustine wrote extensively about how Biblical law was to be administered by the church and the empire. The Reformers took these same ideas and applied them, the difference was it wasn’t under the centralized Roman authority (e.g. the Pope).

        The right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures of property is from the Bible. The presumption of innocence until guilt is proven is from the Bible. The right to face your accuser is from the Bible. The right to cross examine witness is from the Bible. The requirement of multiple eyewitness to bring charges is from the Bible. The idea of compensation to victims is from the Bible. The right to defend yourself with violence is from the Bible. America’s founders took these ideas from the Bible and put them into our law. That makes it fundamentally Christian, whether you like it or not. There is an entire traceable history of these issues from the time of the founding of the U.S. back to ancient times. Perhaps you need to read the book I suggested by Verduin (he is not the only one to have written on this topic). Need I go on?

        1. Anglo-Saxon code was based on Biblical law (see Alfred the Great)

          No, it wasn’t. It predates Alfred the Great. It’s also worth noting that Alfred the Great was no kind of Christian anyone today would recognize.

          Roman law was pagan until it wasn’t.

          Which means that it, too, preceded Roman Christianity.

          America’s founders took these ideas from the Bible

          And from Roman law and from British Common Law (except in Louisiana where they got da Napoleeahnick Code).

          There is an entire traceable history of these issues from the time of the founding of the U.S. back to ancient times.

          Yup. Pre-dating Christianity, even.

          1. “Roman law was pagan until it wasn’t.”
            Because Roman law was meant to apply everywhere that Rome held authority, and Roman belief was highly syncretistic.

    2. What is Christian about the legitimate power of government deriving from the consent of the governed? How is religious freedom derived from the law of Moses? Few things make me laugh as much as the “Christian nation” types and their Ten Commandments monuments. “Our Constitution and laws are based on this!” They will say, without any acknowledgement or even apparent awareness about how completely incompatible the 1st Amendment is with most of them.

  9. Indeed, this why I increasingly loath the Evangelical Right. Their praise of Bush as a hero who would lead the nation to morality was disturbing. But their recent worship of Trump as their personal savior was disgusting. It’s not about the policies of wall building or tariffs or whatnot, it was about a profoundly irreligious and immoral man, one who even bragged about his immorality, being proclaimed by the leaders of the Evangelical Right (Dobson, et al) as being uniquely chosen by God. That to oppose Trump was to be opposed to the will of God.

    But if Hillary had won it would have been the will of God as well. One doesn’t get to invoke Romans 13:1 only when it’s convenient.

    But it’s even more that than. I can easily excuse those who held their noses and pulled the level for Trump, because Hillary would have been worse. The real problem is that way too many of the Evangelical Right desire the imposition of religious rule upon others. The degree to which this is desired varies, but the Bible is very clear warning us of the consequences of having a king.

    We have a so-called secular state because our Christian founding fathers created it to be mostly secular. It doesn’t mean faith is excluded from the state, but that the state has no business setting itself up as the authority to execute what it determines to be God’s will.

    If Jesus rejected political power, then who are we to tell him He is wrong?

    1. Amen! Preach it!

      If you’ve not read Peter McWilliam’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business…”, then you might like it! It is a book-length version of what you just said, and more… https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/614699.Ain_t_Nobody_s_Business_if_You_Do

      Nominally about politics, but at least 1/3 of the book deals with religious roots of the same…

    2. “I can easily excuse those who held their noses and pulled the level for Trump, because Hillary would have been worse. ”

      Ditto for BidenHarris

      Is the evangelical right even a thing any more? I don’t hear much from them, and I suspect their influence is rather limited; much more useful as a bogeyman, “if we don’t vote for xxxD the religious right will invoke The Handmaids Tale”

  10. Tim Scotts rebuttal of President Biden included testimony for Jesus Christ. Exactly what we don’t need. America is a secular state. The sermon should have addressed “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

  11. author loves separation of church and state. bueno.

  12. “In less than a hundred years,” Rogers explains, followers of Christ “evolved from a powerless, persecuted minority to the empowered persecutors themselves.”

    This is a simplistic conclusion that shakes out from “this name” = “this group.”

    In less than a hundred years, the Roman ruling class went from persecuting Christians for refusing to worship the Emperor to persecuting the Christians for not adopting the ‘right’ form of Christianity as defined by those same recently-converted Pagan rulers.

  13. Short version:
    Jesus never meant that recognizing him as Lord and Savior should be something done through force-of-arms.
    ‘”Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”‘
    “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

    Ergo, making Christianity the State religion was always laughably (and tragically) stupid.

    1. Even Christianity has to draw its adherents from the human race.

      People make everything horrible.

      1. “People make everything horrible.”

        Religion poisons everything.

        1. The Hitch was (and still is in my mind) Da Bomb on matters religion!

    2. Yet all that happens is in conformity to his will.
      As it is written, “all is foreknown but freedom is given.”

      1. Not possible. Either man’s actions are foreseen by a God and the future is set and predetermined, or man’s actions are volitional, nothing else is possible.

  14. One question this Biblical passage *doesn’t* answer is: Is it possible to wield political power *without* serving the devil?

    Examples from the Bible show it’s possible, albeit difficult.

    Some of the Old Testament kings and generals were portrayed as doing good things, though often falling into sin.

    John the Baptist didn’t call on the soldiers to quit their jobs, though he did warn them against abusing their power – and also told them to be content with their wages, which is either an injunction against mutiny or a caution not to “supplement” their wages with robbery (Luke 3:14).

    Corneluis the centurion was baptized without any indication he had to quit his job.

    etc.

    1. “Corneluis the centurion was baptized without any indication he had to quit his job.”
      because Jesus said to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s…

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  17. Ooh … how many decades too late?????

    But hey …. right on time for the new Christian persecution!

    Bring on the lions!

    1. Where? In the Islamic Middle East and Red China, yes, but not here in the U.S. with a house of worship on every corner and Christianity in every medium of communication.

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