Odds & Ends – August 2, 2006

Posted by Missouri Rev on Aug 2nd, 2006

An Apologia is Coming

Since I have received so many inquiries concerning whether mules, as a hybrid, are a biblically lawful animal to use in Christian agrarianism, I have undertaken to write an article (still in progress) that gives the biblical apologia behind our choice of the mule for Missouri Woods. Since we at Missouri Woods are decidedly postmillennial, theonomic, and covenanted, our decision was by no means done in haste or blind presumption, but came following more than a decade’s worth of dedicated study of the Old and New Covenants, particularly as they apply to business, economics, and community, all of which laid the extensive presuppositional foundation behind our decision to use mules. Condensing down a decade’s worth of study and sermons into a defense of the mule has been a lot of work, though quite rewarding, as it has been a powerful litmus test for me in biblical consistency and application.

As would be expected, I have found that the hybrid issue of mules matters little to many believers, even some “agrarians,” as it has not crossed their radar screen as an issue to be biblically resolved, much like other far larger issues which go ignored such as debt-based economics (1Cor 7:23, Rom. 13:8-10) and yoking with unbelievers for mutual peace and prosperity (Ezra 9:10-12, 2Cor. 6:14-18). This is why it encourages me that some see it as an issue, since it indicates a certain level of epistemological self-consciousness on their part. Indeed, it has elicited tremendous responses all the way from glowing approbations and support to bold accusations and condemnation. One website makes the amazing proclamation that anybody using mules is plainly going to hell. Yeow! I wonder if this group’s book of church order is used by the Lord as the final standard for His Book of Life and whether it is so heavy that it takes a mule to pack it around?

Writing this position paper has not been a quick or easy thing to do, either, especially in keeping it small enough for a blog posting, since it requires laying a minimal foundation from the whole of God’s Word sufficient to establish our vision and works as lawful according to the law of the Lord under the New Covenant, and I emphasize New Covenant. And to do this rightly requires that one first make the proper biblical transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, from the law that was a “shadow of good things to come” to the law of the “substance” of those good things that have come, which is of Christ (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 9:11, 10:1).

In this transition some law passed straight over from the Old to New Covenant such as the moral law prohibiting murder, theft, adultery, bearing false witness, etc. (1Tim 1:8-11), though the laws of punishment specific to the nation state of Israel have passed away or changed such as Numbers 5:11-28, which calls for a levitical priest to cause a woman suspected of adultery “to drink the bitter water that brings a curse” to see if she is guilty. Some law passed away with the Old Covenant’s demise such as the law of the Levitical priesthood, commonly called the ceremonial law, which law, in being fulfilled by Christ, has passed from shadow to substance under the Melchizedek Priesthood of Christ (Heb. 7:12, 9:9-10). Some law passed away that was particular to the civil affairs of the Old Covenant nation state of Israel, which passed away in 70 AD, such as the laws dealing with specific nations around them like the Canaanites, etc. Though its origins are found in the shadow laws of the Old Covenant, some law begins anew with the New Covenant, such as the ordinances given to the Church by Christ, like water baptism and Lord’s Table.

To not sort these various laws out or to ignore God’s law altogether is to err in a most perilous manner, because Jesus Christ, as the Supreme Sovereign of Heaven and earth, commands us to keep His commandments . . . commandments, however, that are specific to His Kingdom under the New Covenant, and not the old which passed away. And to not keep His commandments is to hate Him, which, without repentance, brings judgment and death. But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death (Pro. 8:36).

We must study to show ourselves approved unto the Lord in rightly resolving this vital transition. Otherwise, we can easily end up keeping law that has passed away – such the case with certain believers that went back to the shadow law of animal sacrifice and suffered dreadful judgment in treading underfoot the Son of God (Heb. 10:26-31) – while simultaneously transgressing law that has transitioned from being a shadow under the Old Covenant into its substance reality under the New Covenant. One huge example are the shadow laws of the Old Covenant that prohibited yoking between Jews and Gentiles, which were abolished by Christ’s death on the cross (Eph. 2:14-18). Today we are to keep the law of their substance realty under the New Covenant, the law that prohibits the regenerated believer of the new creation to unequally yoke with the unregenerate unbeliever of the old creation (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

I am aware of many well meaning Christians and churches, who seeking to live by the old shadow law, work hard to strain any and all offensive gnats out of their doctrinal soup, that is, violations of certain fleshly ordinances of the Old Covenant law (Heb. 9: 9-10), while blindly swallowing many copious camels floating around in the same soup, which are violations of the substance laws of Jesus Christ under the New Covenant. God the Son, the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), has risen as the brightness of the noonday to forever dispel the shadows of the Old Covenant law that we might live in the substance of His good things; let us all be careful, therefore, not to go back to the weak and beggarly things long since past away (Gal. 4:9).

I am doing my best to finish this task without creating a tome. I must say, however, that although R.J. Rushdoony did an excellent job of writing an apologia for the use of God’s Law today under the New Covenant, it took him over 800 pages to do it, which became The Institutes of Biblical Law, volume I. Though I do not agree with everything in it, it is an excellent book to help develop an epistemologically self-conscious worldview for living out our faith on a daily basis in the real world under the New Covenant.

Mules & Autos circa 1908

As an avid student of history, I find great value in getting a glimpse into the worldviews of those that have gone on before us, especially as it regards issues that were new to them but have since become history to us, such as technology, economics, etc. Though I greatly value good history books, I have found that photos and postcards also do a good job in giving such a glimpse, which is why I take pleasure in collecting them. Sometimes a picture and a few words can speak volumes. I ran across a gem of a postcard from 1908 (below) which caught my attention, as it contains a myth about mules that still persists today, as well as a brief commentary by the sender about an up and coming technology for their time, the automobile, and how he saw mules relate to it.


The photo is of a wagon train comprised of three wagons in tandem and a team of 12 mules. Since there is no seat on the front wagon for a teamster, it is likely he rode the rear mule on the port side of the team, what we would call the driver’s side in an American car today. The caption below the photo states, “Mule teaming out West.”


The caption on the backside contains the myth, “Stampedes are frequently very serious affairs with a large mule train, notwithstanding the willingness and patient qualities of that animal, he can act absurdly as a Texas Steer, and is easily frightened at nothing.” Now I am sure that a runaway mule train is a very serious affair that will definitely get one’s adrenalin pumping, probably quite similar to a runaway 18 wheeler today except they weigh far more and go much faster, but it is not true that mules act absurdly and easily frighten at nothing. I concede, however, that it all depends upon how one defines absurd and nothing. Nonetheless, many mules and horses throughout history have been literally skinned by the whips of their animated drivers who were intent upon teaching them their definitions. One wonders if some of these stampedes were the result of uneducated teamsters that drove their animals to panic out of their own ignorance and ineptness. In observing most cars these days on freeways it seems to me that it is clearly the human driver that acts absurdly, though they do not frighten at much, which explains the frequent fatal pileups in dense fog of fast moving clusters of vehicles, packed bumper to bumper . . . which is truly ABSURD’, a. [L. absurdus, from ab and surdus, deaf, insensible.] Opposed to manifest truth; inconsistent with reason or the plain dictates of common sense (The American Dictionary Of The English Language, Noah Webster, 1828).

Nearly always when a mule stops on his own, it’s because something has definitely caught its attention, be it dangerous exhaustion, serious pain, or something external, which is something the driver needs to check out, and not always assume as asinine stubbornness. As little as we humans assume mules think, it’s after they have given it some thought (in stopping) that they act, which actions are largely centered on self preservation, which is also a good thing for their drivers. This is why since 1922, when records were first officially kept, that there have not been any serious mishaps with the hundreds of mules that have taken thousands of riders up and down the very steep, panic inducing trails of the Grand Canyon.

A lot of times the issue that stops the mule is something harmless and so the driver is to patiently work them past it to help build the team’s confidence in him, something I witnessed and admired with our Amish muleskinning friend when we went for a ride with him and his team back in May (see the Sam & Sadie posting). But many times, however, what stops a mule is something quite dangerous. He shares the story of one of his friends that took off on his reliable riding mule to visit a nearby neighbor. It had been a very pleasant trip until the mule suddenly stopped, which was unusual for him. Now mind you the mule didn’t take off in a panic or act absurd, but he wasn’t about to budge either. At first he thought the mule was having a testing moment, as some young mules are noted to have, but upon a quick investigation he discovered a live rattlesnake coiled in the trail a few yards ahead of the mule. What a mess it would have been had he spurred the mule forward, as it is likely the mule would have suddenly gone one way and him the other.

It turns out that mules have a very keen sense of danger and are quite reliable under very pressing circumstances. Many GI’s in the Burma conflict of WWII owe their lives to the faithful mules they used to pack in their artillery and supplies. Amazingly, when they came into a firefight with the expert jungle fighters of the Imperial Army of Japan the mules usually managed to figure out where the enemy was not and go there in quickly leading the ambushed men to safety. At night when it was the safest though hardest to travel, the GI would often hold unto the tail of the mule in front of him to help him up the muddy steep trails in the pitch black darkness of the deep jungle.


As I said earlier, the brief commentary of the sender of the postcard was also most interesting, “Los Angeles May 15. /08 – Dear Captain: I Arrived to-day. had no use for any such teams as you see on this card Hope I wont need any going back Had no accident of any kind Except one puncture to-day. N.A.” As this might have been something new for N.A. to travel by car, he (or she) was certainly glad to have had no use for such mule teams. N.A.’s few words have taken us back to a very brief moment in time, the very beginning of the automobile age in the early 1900’s, where the old was rejected and the new embraced, something we are especially use to in our age of rapidly changing technology. For Americans of a century ago the up and coming golden age of the personal automobile looked promising in saving them from the “serious affairs” of previous technology. I wonder if the American farmer of the 1940’s and 50’s who have since lost their farms to the “progress” of modern agribusiness feel the same about when they quickly dumped their draft animal teams for the tractor?

Now flash forward 100 years to today. The same myths prevail about mules, though now over 40,000 Americans die every year on our highways and many hundreds of thousands suffer serious injuries, a heavy toll that we unhesitatingly accept as the cost of progress in a mobile society . . . and at a price that all of us pay with the increasing premiums and diminishing coverage of mandatory auto insurance, due to unending litigation which cost billions. Now, unless I am quickly dismissed out-of-hand as being a Luddite, I do not hate the internal combustion vehicle and use one myself, though far less, now that I am transitioning into biblical agrarianism within a local Christian community. Yes, automobiles are particularly nice with heaters, air conditioning, and windshield wipers, but the latest models have come to cost a fortune to purchase, maintain, and repair. Even though it didn’t have air conditioning, I miss my old 1956 dodge pickup with its ugly red paint, gull wing hood, and three-on-the-tree transmission. It was easy and quite affordable to repair, and it had enough metal in it to stop softball size hail without a dent, which it did in the famous hailstorm of Ft Collins, Colorado, in 1978.

If push came to shove, like gas getting too expensive or regulatory controls too costly and onerous, could I survive using a team of mules to get around with, even in the cold winters and hot, humid summers of Missouri? Lord willing, I think and hope so, but only by His grace as I am faithful to humble myself and keep covenant with my fellow brother and sisters. Do I think such a time is coming? It’s likely, for God is not mocked and our arrogant nation has been sowing the seeds of a major humbling experience for many generations. This does not bode well for most Americans, however, as their automobiles have become an absolute and very expensive necessity that they depend upon entirely to survive in the rootless, scattered society of today, where commuting many miles a day is required to make ends meet while traveling between work and their bedroom communities, where they have no connection to the land except as a place to eat their store bought food and sleep. A team and buggy would never do in such a lifestyle, and rightly so. The problem is not the team, however, but the scale and scope of a wicked culture that has made Americans slaves of technologies that govern their lives in reducing them from debt-free producers to consumers addicted to credit.

The gospel of pagan progress assumes that all new technology, in and of itself, is always good for mankind, no matter what it is or what it costs. It is an outcome of mammon worship that sees the technology it produces as a savior of sorts. And so we Americans have been catechized to embrace all technology without much thought and by the time we realize what harm most of it brings, it’s too late, progress marches on as we are forced by the economic and political powers that be to use their “salvific technologies.” Fallen man hates to be subject to the merciful boundaries of God’s law, especially those that govern his wallet and the work of his hands, which explains why he panics when he comes near it and acts so absurdly in driving his air conditioned vehicle of technological progress over the cliff of his own insanity, the consequences of his refusal to bow the knee to the Great Physician and King, the Lord Jesus Christ. – the Missouri Rev.

3 Responses

  1. Jeffrey Alan Klute Says:

    Good article. I was recently reminded of how fragile our oil-based economy is when it took close to $30 to fill up my Honda Civic, which has a very small tank. I would not want to be in the shoes of someone who commutes to work every day. I, for one, am looking forward to “going to town” with a wagon, two mules, and someone riding shotgun.

  2. Missouri Rev Says:

    Jeff, it wasn’t that long ago when people did go to town with a team and wagon in these pasts. I do not suppose it will be taken well by city folk these days, however, since the mules are liable to leave some biodegradable exhaust on the ground or maybe disturb the tranquility of an afternoon rush hour by slowing it down or answering it with a good hee haw or two. One thing is for sure, the increasing price of gas is making a mule team look better everyday. Now where’s that shotgun?

  3. Matt Davis Says:

    Mr. Klute,

    I just put 35 gallons in my ’95 Chevy truck that gets about 14 MPG when it’s tuned up real well. I do not commute, but my work requires a lot of driving to and from job sites. The typical gas bill is a little over $100.00 per week and that’s if my jobs are relatively nearby (within 30 miles or so :o)).


    Great article! Where do I sign up? I’ve got a shotgun, a rifle and a four wheel drive (actually, it’s 2 wheel) and this city boy wanting to be country can survive. I’d gladly trade the truck for a mule or two, but the guns stay.

    I can hardly wait for the rest of the apologia, as this is a question my wife posed when we first read about Sal and Sadie. A primer in the area of Old vs. New Covenant law would be greatly helpful.

    By the way, we recently have discovered that cotton, wool, and linen clothing can be effectively washed and cleaned by hand, as well as dyed, but clothing made with synthetic fabrics cannot as easily if at all. This discovery came at the same time my wife was reading in Numbers about the material that was to comprise the garments of the Levitical Priests. While it may be a far cry from sinful to wear polyester pants, I think there is a principle here that parallels what you are saying in your article.

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