Blogroll: Blog & Mablog
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 72 posts from the blog 'Blog & Mablog.'
Disclaimer: Reproducing an article here need not necessarily imply agreement or endorsement!
On Ascension Sunday, we mark the departure of the Lord Jesus into Heaven, where He was received in great glory, and where He was crowned with universal dominion. This is our celebration of His coronation proper. But there were a series of glorifications prior to this, each one building on the last—at each stage of the gospel. And so the Ascension, rightly understood, is the crown of the gospel.The Text:
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14).Summary of the Text:
The one place in the Old Testament where Son of Man was plainly a Messianic title was here in this place. Elsewhere it was commonly used to identify a human prophet, like Ezekiel for example. Here the one like the Son of Man is a figure of infinite dignity, and He is granted an everlasting kingdom.
When we read the phrase coming on the clouds, we think of the Second Coming, as though it were speaking of Jesus coming to earth. But the phrase refers to the Ascension—it speaks of Jesus coming into Heaven, coming into His crown. “Came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days . . .” The passage tells us where He comes. He comes into the throne room of Heaven, and there He is given universal dominion.
And this is the reality that Jesus self-consciously refers to when He was on trial before the Sanhedrin. Within a few months, He would be standing before the Ancient of Days, with everlasting honors bestowed on Him, but right then He was standing before the petit principalities, who were filled with malice and poured out every form of dishonor they could think of. And when the high priest asked Him if He was the Christ, the Son of Blessed, Jesus said, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
And notice their reaction to this:
“Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death” (Mark 14:63–64).
For Jesus to say that He would be seated on the right hand of power, and that He would come to that right hand of power on the clouds of Heaven, was reckoned by them as blasphemy, and was worthy—or so they thought—of death.Glory Stages:
What Jesus received at the Ascension is what we normally think of when we think of a coronation. It was glorious beyond anything any of us could imagine, but what we can imagine was a minuscule amount of the same kind of glory. But we arrived there in stages, and the earliest form of Christ’s glorification represented a different kind of glory.
Think of these elements of the gospel. Christ was crucified. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. Let us meditate on the gospel progress of those four words—crucified, buried, raised, and ascended.Building to the Ultimate Crescendo:
Crucified—we begin with the glory of His humiliation. “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:29). The Bible teaches that the cross was a moment of glory (John 12:27-28). The purest man who ever lived laid down His life for millions of the grimiest. Not only so, but God calls it a glory that He did so.
Buried—the Lord Jesus was glorified in His burial through the love of His forgiven followers. “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:12–13). So the preliminary ointment of burial is part of this stupendous story, not to mention what Nicodemus did after the fact (John 19:39). So another glory, another part of the wonder of this story is the fact that God gathers up the tears of the truly repentant (Luke 7:38), and stores them in His treasury (Ps. 56:8). This is yet another glory. But the tears that adorn His burial are only possible because of His burial.
Raised—why did the Lord Jesus tell the demons, and also tell His followers, not to proclaim His identity? I believe it was because He was jealous to have the first great proclamation be made by His Father. “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). We are starting to approach the threshold of unspeakable joy, and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:8). The disciples staggered in their joy (Luke 24:41). They were as those who dreamed (Ps. 126:1-2).
Ascended—in the Ascension, the matter is settled. But telling the gospel story faithfully prevents us from trying to circumvent God’s pattern. Apart from the cross, no sinner should ever be trusted with a crown. Our tendency is to go straight to the triumph, by-passing the difficulties. But the Lord established a better pattern for us than this.
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Phil. 2:8–10).
As parents, teachers, elders, pastors, and as those in authority, we tend to fall into one of two errors as we seek to guide those who have been placed under our authority. One error is to be far too easily pleased. The other is to become impossible to please. For the former, not only is the glass always half full, but it is reckoned to be completely full because it is half full. For the latter, the glass is always considered to be completely empty because it is always half empty. Both of these approaches are destructive forms of leadership.
And apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives, we tend to fall into one of these two errors. But the work of grace sees what needs to be done, and also sees, in wisdom, what has been done. And the attitude that accompanies this wisdom is that of being extraordinarily easy to please, and extraordinarily difficult to satisfy. This is how our Father God is with us, and this is how we should be with one another. We don’t want to be easy to please and easy to satisfy. Neither do we want to be impossible to please and impossible to satisfy. The former type of parent produces well-boiled noodles. The latter gives us neurotic dry twigs, ready to snap.
To you as a congregation, how does this apply? God is extremely pleased with you, and with how far you have come. Is He satisfied? Not even close. We are still on pilgrimage, and are not yet conformed to the image of Christ.
As we approach this Table, we have to be careful. One the one hand, we are encouraged to come gladly, putting away all false scruples and morbid introspection. On the other hand, we know that coming to this Table is inconsistent with stark and unrepented sin.
How can we teach against one error without encouraging the other? If we charge you all to beware of approaching this Table with defiled hands, will not the sensitive among us shrink back when they ought not? And if we encourage you to come as you are, will not unrepentant people, filled with resentments, or those who are tyrants in their homes, or those who are secretly indulging their lusts, be emboldened to come?
What are we to do? We are charged to insist that you come. The sensitive must come; they may not refrain from coming. And when they come, God strengthens them. He builds them up. He receives them, and fills their hearts with gladness, as when grain and new wine abound.
But what of the hypocrite? Do we not have a responsibility to keep him away from the Table? When the hypocrisy is open and defiant, the answer to this is yes. That is what church discipline is for, that is the meaning of excommunication. But when the hypocrisy is hidden, there is great sin in approaching the Table, and, in a certain sense, it is a sin we encourage.
Come, we say, to the Lord who sees all. Come, to the Lord who weighs hearts. Come, to the Lord who inspects grimy hands. Come, to the Table of spotless righteousness. When we come in faith, the Lord deals with our sins and sinfulness. When we come in unbelief, the Lord deals with our unbelief, either by bringing us to repentance, or by hastening the day when we come to the precipice of judgment.
And again, you tender of heart, the Lord gives you the strength to hear such warnings rightly.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
The author really is to be commended for making the attempt. The topic of “swearing,” really is a complex one, and while he did well in taking the question down to the level of intent, about the only intent he attacked — for all forms of bad language — was the intent to be demeaning or condescending. But there were some good observations here and there.
So the eyes of the nation gave Montana congressional elections their fifteen minutes of fame yesterday. The Democrats have been yearning for a “”sea change win” in the various special elections held to fill vacancies created by Trump appointments, and once again came up short. That is one thing. The other is that in the hours before the election, there was a physical altercation of some sort between the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, and a reporter for the Guardian, Ben Jacobs.
Not so surprisingly, I have a few things to say about all this.
First, I know Greg Gianforte, and he is a conscientious, generous, well-spoken Christian gentlemen. He will serve Montana well as a representative in Congress. Knowing him, I knew that if an apology was warranted, it would be forthcoming, and if he did not believe it was warranted, an explanation would be forthcoming. As it happened, he offered the apology here.
Secondly, one news report tried to claim that there was a contradiction between the campaign’s initial blaming of the reporter for his aggressiveness and Gianforte’s apology, but of course there is no contradiction. It is certainly possible honestly to apologize for a poor response to someone else’s bad behavior.
In the third place, observers should also understand that this campaign was already into the ninth inning of a game of Dirty Ball. Late last week, a project with People for the American Way ran this hit piece on Gianforte, referencing yours truly in the first paragraph. Perhaps some of you did not now that “the American way” was quite that sleazy. White nationalists in the first sentence, and then me in the second, building to quite a a crescendo. And then, they added breathlessly, Gianforte supports a return to Latin instruction in elementary schools.
Fourth, the article that followed was bad enough as a representation of my views, but as a representation of Gianforte’s record, it was a hatchet job using the blunt side of the hatchet. I know Greg from a shared stint on the board for the Association of Classical Christian Schools, an association with hundreds of schools in it. So he is somehow expected to answer for out-of-context quotes taken from someone he sees once a year at a national board meeting? And unlike the modern college campus, remember, conservative educators are not given to ideological purges.
Fifth, I believe that Gianforte was right to apologize, but the denizens of the Washington media bubble need to understand that in certain parts of the country punching a reporter and refusing to apologize would actually be the big vote-getter. I am not urging anything here, just noticing.
Nothing said here should be taken as cheer-leading for the deterioration of civility in our society generally. This is the case whether it is conservative > liberal or black > white or fascists > made up fascists. The restraints we have put in place over the centuries are not a decorative fence—they are a levee holding back a swollen river. Now in my view you have to be willfully blind not to see that this degradation of civility is being driven largely by the collectivist Left, not to mention that such corruption is largely rationalized and defended there. Now I believe that conservatives ought to do everything in their power to preserve the bonds of civility—and for the most part, I think conservatives have done a decent job of this. Expecting Gianforte to apologize as needed is part of that expectation. But it has to be noted, and marked, and noted again, that when the Left finally succeeds in blowing up the levee, they are going to miss it a lot more than others will. They should have done more measuring, and more thinking through who lives in the flood plain.
In the sixth place, it is all very well for me to say that I was “taken out of context.” Lots of people say that, including people who were not taken out of context. So for those just joining the party, and who know nothing more about my views on the South than what they read in attack pieces sponsored by People for the Sleazy Way, here are several places you may go for further edification. If you follow this link, and read the materials under #2 and #3, your concerns should be put to rest. In that section, there is also a link to purchase my book on the subject, a book entitled Black & Tan.
And last, Greg Gianforte will be another vote in Congress for a whole series of crucial votes, coming up soon. In my view, the most important of them all is the tax reform proposal, the looming tax cuts. All the ginned up hooey inside the Beltway (investigations, scandals, pretend corruption, real corruption, and whatnot) are attempts by the deep state to distract us from the fact that they have been standing on America’s oxygen hose for years now. They want to keep their cash flow coming, and they don’t want your money back in your pocket, doing things that you want it to do.
There are other issues that are more important morally (e.g. defunding the ghouls at Planned Parenthood). But the tax cuts must come first. And why? As Napoleon put it once, an army marches on its stomach.
What is the most important thing for Congress to do?, and what is the most important thing for Congress to do next? are two different questions. Tax cuts now. Get between the hogs and the bucket.
Putting a Little Americana into the Open Road
Always an enjoyable set of pics . . .
They Forgot Plaidimer Putin
What Would We Ever Do Without Peer Review?
Another episode in the chronicles of Higher Ed Hooey . . .End Abortion Now
Dear Mr. President,
I should begin by acknowledging that I was not among those who supported your campaign for the Republican nomination, and that I did not vote for you in the general election. This was centrally because—speaking frankly—I did not trust your professed conversion to the pro-life cause. At the same time, I need to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by your appointments and behavior in this regard thus far, and have been greatly encouraged.
In line with this, I am writing to propose something that would be an even greater encouragement to people in my position, and which is well within your capacity to do. It is far more like an executive order than it is like getting a fiscally-sane budget through Congress, and so I wanted to write you this open letter, and suggest the proposal to you.
The proposal is this: that you award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, and the man who courageously exposed the trafficking in human parts that has been conducted by Planned Parenthood.
Here are some of the reasons why I believe this should be done:
First, this is the kind of action for a political leader that the Scriptures specifically commend. Two passages make this plain. Speaking of political rulers, the apostle Paul says, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval” (Rom. 13:3, ESV). The apostle Peter is explicit about the same thing. “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:13–14, ESV). An essential part of your task, assigned to you by God Himself, is to praise those who do good. You are summoned by God to honor honorable citizens, and to praise them for their honorable work. This long-overdue exposure of Planned Parenthood certainly fits within this category.
Second, this is the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is something you control directly. It is not something that requires the permission of Congress or federal judges. This is something you can simply do. Whether or not you do it is entirely up to you. In political terms, it is low-cost and brings a high-return.
Third, taking an action like this will help restore gravitas to the award. We live in a time when there is an ever-growing impulse to give awards like this to celebrities and pop culture icons. Giving the award to a serious investigative journalist, who risked a great deal in order to expose one of the most vile practices ever tolerated among us, will go a long way to keeping the award a serious and culturally significant one.
Fourth, because the pro-life constituency is active and large, it has been easy for politicians to treat us as a voting block to be manipulated (and taken for granted), and this means that many politicians (when it comes to life issues) have tended to over-promise and under-deliver. But thus far, on life issues, you have done the opposite—you have under-promised and over-delivered. Since Roe, we have had pro-life presidents, and we have been grateful for what they have been able to do. But you have already been willing to surpass them in certain ways—having the vice-president address the annual pro-life march for life, for one example. Giving Daleiden this award would be another example of the same kind of thing.
And fifth, since the Roe decision, hundreds of thousands of Americans have consistently protested and have given themselves to cultural activism of the best sort. We have done this over the course of a full generation and more, and today our movement is more robust than ever. Our goal remains to abolish human abortion, and we are encouraged in our work. Roe was a constitutional travesty, and in the minds of many legal scholars, it really is truly vulnerable. It is susceptible to reversal. At the same time, these pro-life Americans who have so faithfully kept the pressure on are in need of encouragement. You are in a position to encourage them greatly. Awarding the Medal of Freedom to David Daleiden would do certainly do it.
I thank you for considering this proposal, and ask you to be assured of our continued prayers (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
Cordially in Christ,
The situation described in the following letters continues to be entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
As we continue to correspond, I wanted to make a point of thanking you again. I know that writing about these things can be sometimes painful, and it is always difficult. I do not want to take that for granted, or even seem like I am. I know that as I write, I am coming from a completely different emotional place than what you are experiencing—I can empathize with you, but I can’t pretend to identify. I know that you know all this, but I wanted you to know that I know it too. But as I indicated in an earlier letter, apart from the obvious disadvantages, it does impart some advantages. Sometimes a little distance can provide a helpful perspective, and I trust that is what I am doing. It is certainly what I am trying to do.
You are most likely going off to college in the fall, and I wanted to address a few things that are almost certain to come up. A number of these things confront every freshman heading off to school, but some of them will be connected to the past that you feel you are “carrying around.”
Now some of these things I am going to say will sound like I am trying to be a Dutch uncle, and that is because . . . well, I sort of will be sounding like a Dutch uncle. If any of this strikes you as being kind of “gruff,” please know that none of the gruffness is directed at you, but rather at all orcs, trolls, and evil creatures you will be encountering, known commonly to others as “boys.” I hope you know that I am joking. Mostly.
You are going to be plunging into a swirl of new relationships, and in this process you need to be careful to guard your heart—with regard to girls and guys both. I do not mean that you should stand in the corner, trying to project the fact (which you are already tempted to feel) that you are somehow “damaged goods.” That only scares off people who ought to become your friends, and unfortunately, it also attracts the kind of people who will be no help to you at all.
Your demeanor should be bright—warm, friendly, and distant. Don’t let your past become part of your identity. You are starting fresh in many ways, and your God is much bigger than the crimes committed against you. You have to deal with these things, as will the people who are close to you, but do not involve acquaintances and strangers. That turns the abuse into a kind of badge, and it will create an identify for you that could grow to unmanageable proportions.
So warm, friendly, distant. Making friends “for life” in the first three weeks of college is perilous. The Bible has a lot to say about friendship and companions, and you should choose your friends wisely, carefully, deliberately, and slowly. This does not require you to be rude to everybody, but you should be manifestly friendly and clearly reserved. I have seen many instances of “fast friends forever” blowing up before freshman year is over. Hasty bonds of friendship are sometimes lucky, but never wise. Now I believe this is good advice for everyone, protecting everyone, but you are in need of additional protection. You should take steps to provide that cautious protection for yourself without signaling to the world the fact that you have been badly burnt.
Whether or not you feel that way on any given day, you are a beautiful girl. And others will notice this, whether or not you are noticing it. Boys will start coming around. And—here is the Dutch uncle part—you have to recognize that when young men are singling you out, paying you focused attention, one of two things is happening. I am not talking about if a guy says hi to you in passing, or if another guy holds a door for you going into the Student Union. I am talking about if he is paying you guy/girl attention. Either he is trying to figure out a way of getting you into bed dishonorably, or he is trying to figure out how to do it honorably.
Some people find this upsetting, or they think a bald statement of it is off-putting, but there it is. I have found that in arguments with gravity, I always lose. Because you are a Christian woman, you don’t want attention from the dishonorable ones, and this goes back to choosing your friends wisely. Men who are dishonorable in their sexual pursuits are dishonorable in other ways also, ways that are more readily visible—study habits, foul talk, entertainment standards, etc. Steer clear of them.
So you will have a circle of friends, conscientious Christians. They will attend church faithfully, worshiping the Lord. They will be serious Christians—the kind who can talk easily about spiritual things. They will be Bible readers. And within this circle of friends, there will be your guy friends. Now if one of them starts to single you out, you can assume that his intentions are honorable—but not that they are somehow asexual. But because they are honorable, and because you are both freshmen, and because marriage is expensive, there you both are—years out. You look cute together, but his paper route isn’t going to cut it.
But in the meantime, years out, however unspoken it is, you have an aching need for a male presence in your life, a protective male presence that will not turn sexual on you. As far as created beings can be used to meet created needs, this was a need that your father was assigned to fulfill. Failure to fulfill it was right at the center of his crime. Because he violated that, you are now having to make shift.
Now in a Christian setting, where the men are not leering or making suggestive comments all the time—where the men are acting civilized, in other words—it is easy for the women to forget how present the sexual element is for the men. So you are in a group with this guy, he is remembering his manners, and so you start looking to him as though he were an older brother. Now fathers and brothers and uncles have a crucial role to play, which is that of providing a male presence that is never sexual. When it turns sexual, that is a foundational betrayal. But when you have a friend who is like a brother, at least for you, there will be a time when it does turn sexual. And when that time comes, you will want to know the situation well enough that it does not feel like a betrayal as well. Do you see what I am getting at?
None of this is to say that the erotic element is absent for you. It is to say that all the normal impulses are there for you, of course, but they are buried under a history of awful abuse. When such abuse is left unaddressed, when it is allowed it have its carnal way, it drives young women (usually) in one of two directions. Either they are tempted to retreat behind some kind of an impenetrable wall, where men are not allowed, or they just decide the world is gross, and “what’s the use anyway?” and simply give up. The former wind up as recluses, or lesbians, or ardent feminists—any place that makes it difficult for men to get close. The latter wind up in destructive cycles of substance abuse and promiscuity. Neither reaction will be kind to you. It is my desire to help you to prepare so that a third way opens up for you naturally.
So when a guy comes around (and it is when, not if), and he is the kind of guy you would consider as a husband, I would suggest that you involve your uncle and aunt in it. I would urge you to look particularly to your uncle. This is not because “courtship” means that women are chattel, to be dispersed by some guy according to his whims. You are not your uncle’s property, and you were never your father’s property. His crime was that he treated you as property, instead of as a daughter.
Looking to your uncle means that you will be getting counsel from someone who knows the sexual distractions from the other side, but who is not himself distracted. You know that he is a good and godly man, just as you knew that your father was not. The young man you might be interested in is someone who attracts you, but is not someone that you understand very well. At an early stage of a relationship, your uncle would understand him far better.
I know this is an enormous subject, with many variables. I know that I have probably created more questions than I have answered. Sorry about that, but please feel free to ask away.
Cordially in Christ,
David Hume set loose some bad juju into the world when he denied, in effect, that we can know that the cue ball caused the eight ball to thwack into the corner pocket. All we can say with any degree of certainty is that the one event followed the other in time. We cannot see or measure anything called causation. All we see is one thing happening, and then another thing happening. Philosophy can get pretty deep sometimes.But Sometimes Ethical Slopes Are Slippery
But the reason careful thought on this subject still matters is because people get upset—as some folks recently did with my friend Toby Sumpter—when you make assertions about general causation or trajectory that have a moral component. “You can’t say that!” is a common response when you argue, as I do in fact argue, that there are moral consequences to urging people to “be whatever you want to be,” as applied to clothing, hairstyles, and making yourself more metallic than your maiden aunt would perhaps desire. All this is the cultural prelude to that very same exhortation being applied to some poor sap’s genitalia by means of a surgeon’s knife. No one who says yes to the first, for the reasons stated, can consistently say no to the second demand, provided those same reasons are trotted out in all their tawdry glory.Which Brings Us to the Civil War
Change the subject for just a moment, not to change the subject, but to show that the principle is one with universal applications. Once we have “all-together-now-agreed” that statues of Robert E. Lee simply must come down because he-was-a-slaveowner-period-end-of-discussion-you-hater-and-any-moment’s-hesitancy-in-agreeing-with-our-most-righteousy-demands-reveals-a-seething-racism—perhaps you are familiar with this line of argument?—we will almost immediately discover that the very same rationale applies to the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. And there you are, looking pretty silly as you try to buy a new refrigerator on President’s Day because the clerk tells you, with a knowing glance, that it is now the Supreme Leader’s Refrigerator Day Sale. Furthermore, he is required by law to report you for the thought-crime of referring to our erstwhile presidents without so much as a hint of condemnation in your voice. No deal on a refrigerator and time in the slammer. Slammer is perhaps a poor way of putting it. I meant Glorious Sunrise Camp for the Inspiration and Reeducation of the Ideologically Wayward.
What is wrong with these people? Even if you differ with my read on the history of the Late Unpleasantness, do what the great Anthony Esolen does. “We want to know what it was like to be a good man on the wrong side: the godly and beloved and dauntless Stonewall Jackson; the man of impeccable honor, Robert E. Lee” (Out of the Ashes, p. 65). Emeth, from The Last Battle, knew how to honor an honorable enemy. But as for you, hapless Christian, trying hard not to blow over in this gale-force lunacy—know this. As soon as it is forbidden to honor what is honorable, you must grasp that it will almost immediately be mandatory to honor what is dishonorable. “What are you talking about, you extremist hedge preacher? . . . oh, excuse me, wait—corporate has ordered little rainbow flags for all our desks. Gotta pass them out. The overseers with the whips won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.”
Foreshadowing: More about that word extremist in a week or so.
So while I am here, conservatives like to complain a lot about all the “snowflakes” out there, and I take their point. But think about this for a moment. They are weepy, melty, limp-wristed snowflakes all right—but they are still beating us up. Maybe they are tough guy snowflakes. Or perhaps they are the wimpiest persecutors ever, and they are still kicking our butt. Draw your own conclusions.Back to the Closet
So back to the sartorial catechism for the pomosexual revolution. The issue is not this odd configuration of cloth, or that weird display over there. People have always been weird. I am of course thinking of an example like the Elizabethan ruff, sometimes called a picadill. Whoever came up with that one was probably pretty high though, but not a lot of damage was done. No blood, no foul. But there is a vast difference between outré fashion like that, on the one hand, and decadence on the other.
Decadence is deliberate. It is not just a fashion, but is rather a fashion that holds to the telos of the drag queen. It wants to keep the white bread suburban thing going—khakis and button-down—so that it has a bland backdrop to be outrageous against. However, the revolution has been too successful, and this is why the cool kids keep running into trouble. They are having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that they are the Establishment now, and they are having a hard time coming up with an America to revolt against. Everybody wants to join, which kind of ruins the whole thing.
Even the edgy Christians, always an easily bewildered bunch, think they can adopt the uniform and yet not go along with the problematic parts of the program. Thread the needle, as it were. Wear the Hitler Youth armbands, but boycott the big rallies. This is how there are plenty of Christians involved in all this who do in fact say yes to the early exhortations (“Armbands are cool, where does the Bible say we can’t wear armbands?”) and no thereafter (“The rallies can be mean-spirited, I hate meanies”). That happens, and I am cheerfully prepared to acknowledge that it can happen quite a bit. Christians can be pretty elastic and bendy in the joints, and not every raindrop intends to be part of the flood.
But the fact that people can have multiform reasons for putting on the diversity uniform doesn’t change the fact that it remains a uniform. For those who think diversity uniform is oxymoronic, it would be better to say that diversity is a dark joke. And as a uniform, it means. As something that communicates, it brings other things about. Human communication causes things to happen. There. I used the word causes.Fixin’ to Tear It All Down
Now of course we want to be very careful with this whole subject because there really are different kinds of causation—as Aristotle taught us all—provided of course that Hume was being a perpilocutionist. If he were not, then Aristotle taught us nothing. We just happened to know stuff after he did.
Without doing any formal philosophy, we can say that placing apples, cinnamon, sugar, a knife, flour, and a pie plate out on the counter is not something that “causes” a pie. But we can say, because an intentional being is at work in the kitchen, that the cook—as they say down South—is fixin’ to bake a pie. All of this is preparation. It is build up. It is setting out the tools and ingredients. Somebody is doing something. Somebody else, if they have an astute eye, can look at them and tell that they are fixin’ to do it.
Now things get a little more complicated if you are looking at what an entire culture is fixin’ to do. But the fact remains that many things are done by entire cultures and that those same cultures prepared themselves beforehand to do them. The fact that such broader issues are more complicated than simply making a pie does not make them impossible to understand or see. Seduction takes time, and seduction of an entire culture takes even more time. And it seems to me that our feckless generation, in the back seat with clothes off, is not really in a strong position to deny that it was in fact a seduction.
But we want to rationalize anyway because we instinctively know that sin makes things always murkier—and thus the rationalizer has way more scope. There is a whole class of behaviors that we want to indulge in and we want to indulge in them while covered over with a cloak of plausible deniability. This desire for deniability is even more intense among Christians because we do possess an ostensible standard that has the category of “sin” in it. This makes us more susceptible to the enticements of hypocrisy, not less. And such convolutions of hypocrisy are a sight to behold.
Christians and non-Christians both do this, but the problem is often far more acute among Christians. Take, for an everyday tiny example, an article of clothing that was designed to get men to look at a woman’s breasts. The pattern was thought-through, engineered, designed, and calculated. We live in a time where we want the designers to do this, but we also want the women wearing said article to be able to be shocked and dismayed when some oaf she doesn’t like takes her up on her standing offer. Christian and non-Christian women both reserve the right to be shocked and dismayed, but they do it in different ways. Christian women in this trap do it all the time (because they are supposed to be Christians all the time), while non-Christian women usually reserve the deniability clause for work situations. Christian women who do this have to be hypocritical all the time, while non-Christian women just have to be hypocritical from 9 to 5. “I am a trained professional, and it is totally unprofessional when that guy in marketing leers at me. The way I want all the guys to leer when I wear the same outfit to the clubs. In the evenings, which is my social life. After work, which is totally professional.”
The issue here is plausible deniability, but in our society the plausibility is frequently provided, not by the facts of the situation, but by the dire threats of a societal beat down that our culture presents to the poor chump who dares to point out that the emperor has no clothes, and that the lady who walks through marketing every day has less clothing than she pretends.Not Billiard Ball Physics But . . .
Making observations about cultural or historical causation is not an exercise in billiard ball physics. I grant it. It is not a science, or at least not that kind of science. But there is a line between screaming girls at a Jerry Lee Lewis concert and the promiscuity at Woodstock. There is a line between the centralizing court decisions after the Civil War and Roe. There is a line between the theological liberalism of the early twentieth century and the theological liberalism currently trying to take root in the PCA. The only thing modern evangelical Presbyterians don’t have in place yet is a missionary named Pearl S. Buck. There is a line between Bauhaus architecture and the loss of humane letters.
But given the nature of the case, because we are dealing with more than two billiard balls, anyone who wants to draw such a line can always be challenged. The world of sinful hearts is not lacking for clever minds. They are not about to run out of their twists and turns. You see, Jeremiah, what you don’t seem to understand, in your flat and unhelpful way, just like all those other boring and pedestrian prophets, is that we are all down here in Egypt, suffering these grievous ills, because we did not burn incense to the queen of heaven enough (Jer. 44:17-19). You and your simplistic and entirely predictable denunciations are what got us into this mess. The moral majority is dead, Jeremiah.Breaking the Embargo
All this much should be obvious to those who have eyes in their heads, and who have not been successfully cudgeled into silence. And then there is me. Excuse me, predicate nominative. Then there is I, sounding as pretentious as all get out. I myself have not yet been cudgeled into silence, but I have been embargoed.
Why is there a formal embargo in the Reformed and evangelical world on goods shipped from Moscow? This is a limited query, not a complaint. I say formal embargo because we are still doing a brisk business on the ecclesiastical black market, selling things off the back porch. We are thankful for all the ministerial moonshiners out there, in cars like the General Lee, supplying jugs of controversial common sense to all those dry counties of Christendom. We are an underground theological speakeasy, and business is good. And man, common sense can have a kick. Not like the tap water of overdone liberal platitudes.
But the reason for the embargo is that I draw certain lines of causal connection down through American history in a way that embarrasses the established narrative. I have been saying for decades that he who says A must say B. Now here we are. B is looming large, and some Christians are swallowing hard, gearing up to say it, and other recalcitrant Christians are wondering how the hell they got here, and a handful of other Christians are wondering how we got to the point where a Christian writer who says how the hell is way more controversial than the ones who tearily empathize the gaudy gayness of it all.
Here is a little something I wrote, over twenty years ago. And if I had time to rummage I could probably go back a decade or two more.
“If those who hate the Word of God can succeed in getting Christians to be embarrassed by any portion of the Word of God, then that portion will continually be employed as a battering ram against the godly principles that are currently under attack. In our day, three of the principle issues are abortion, feminism, and sodomy.”
This battle is a battle of narratives, and you cannot fight this plot point or that one without challenging the narrative. Too many Christians are in love with the narrative established by the bad guys, but want to retain (don’t ask how) a couple of key plot points from a story that our people used to tell once. This is like agreeing to be the director of a remake of Pulp Fiction, while insisting on inserting a couple of touching moments from The Parent Trap.We Can Still Slice It Thin if We Want
But for those who would like to remain coy, for those who want to pretend that the collapse of our culture is not the most obvious feature of our time, let me offer some words from Ambrose Bierce, words to reflect on.
TECHNICALITY, n. In an English court a man named Home was tried for slander in having accused his neighbor of murder. His exact words were: “Sir Thomas Holt hath taken a cleaver and stricken his cook upon the head, so that one side of the head fell upon one shoulder and the other side upon the other shoulder.” The defendant was acquitted by instruction of the court, the learned judges holding that the words did not charge murder, for they did not affirm the death of the cook, that being only an inference.
Marriage is one of the creation ordinances, and has been with us from the very beginning. We therefore ought not to be surprised to find a description of its origin in the book of beginnings, in the book of Genesis. What I would like to do here is to take a brief walking tour of the second chapter of that glorious book, making just a few observations as we go.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
The seventh day was the capstone of all the days, being the last day established. It was not the tail-end day, but rather the capstone day. Keep this in mind when we come to the creation of woman, the last creature to be fashioned by the Lord. She is not at the end of the line either, but rather the capstone. She is an animate, ensouled sabbath.
“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.”
The world was lush and green, but yet untended. In order to have a garden, there must be a gardener. A man was needed to exercise dominion.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”
First we had plants, then a gardener, and then after this the Lord planted a garden. First, untended plants, then someone to tend them, and then last, something tended to tend. Notice that what we would call wilderness was there, but also that the first template for cultivated gardens was part of the Lord’s work during the creation week. There is therefore nothing more natural than an artificial garden.
“And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
This garden included orchards of delectable fruit. There were two trees in particular that should be remarked upon. They were the tree of life in the middle of the garden, which our first parents had immediate access to, along with all the other trees. And there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which was withheld from them as part of their probationary state. When they were ready for mature rule, when their training as king and queen had been completed, they would have been invited to this tree as well. But not yet. Part of the training for being able to command obedience is the lesson of learning how to render it.
“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.”
We still know one or two of these rivers today. Note only that God intended for our dominion of earth to include mining. Precious stones are located where they are for a reason. And so why did God run seams of rare ore under the earth? And why precious stones? Surely the answer is obvious? The answer is so that jewelry may be given to the women. As the woman adorns the man, so also men dig deep in the earth so that their women may be grown in that glory.
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
And so God took the man, and placed him in the garden that God had previously prepared. At this point, the fall has not yet occurred, and we see that Adam is given work to do. Work, like marriage, is another creation ordinance. It is not a consequence of the fall, antedating it. And not only is the man given work to do prior to the fall, he is also given work to do prior to the completion of the creation. Adam is put to work while God is still working. And Adam is given his instructions concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil prior the creation of the woman. She was not there when the prohibition was issued, and Adam was.
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
We have a garden, and a gardener to tend the garden. But who will tend the gardener?
“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”
An early task given to Adam was that of naming the animals. This was done because it was something that had to be done, but it was also done so that Adam could see that there was no helper suitable for him to be found among the beasts. God said He would make a helper suitable to Adam, but when Adam named the animals, there was no helper suitable to him to be found among them.
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”
God put Adam into a coma-like state. It was not death—there was not yet sin in the world—but Adam was put down into a death-like state. It is striking that Adam was not permitted to watch the creation of the first woman. Note also that this was the first blood that was shed in the history of the world. God took the rib, fashioned our common mother from it, and brought her to the man. This was the first wedding, and God Himself was the one who escorted the bride down the aisle.
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
And so then Adam spoke the first recorded words ever spoken by a human being, and these words were, in the first place, poetry, and secondly, about his girl.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
The next words from this chapter of Genesis were quoted by our Lord Jesus, demonstrating conclusively that it was God’s intent that this first wedding be considered by all of us as archetypical. God here set the pattern for all human history. Divorce is excluded because of it. Homosexuality is out. Bestiality is impossible. Polygamy is not the pattern. And what this means is that we, here today, are self-consciously following the template or model set down for us. The bride is given away by a father. She completes the glory of the man. And she is assigned to tend the one who tends the world.
Josiah, my charge to you is this. God already set you to work before He was done with the work of completing you. He started you on your work before He was done working. And now you see something of what He was up to. The charge is to not let up. The initial work you were doing was good, but it was the kind of work that made God say He wanted to find a helper suitable for you. A helper in what? A helper in the task of dominion that God has assigned to all His people. You have a set of assigned tasks in that kingdom, and the charge is to receive the help that God has brought you, the help that has this day arrived.
Zoe, your charge is this. The central way you will help Josiah in his work is by glorifying it. You glorify him, and the work of your hands is to glorify the work of his hands. There is a deep satisfaction a man has in completing hard work, but there is a far deeper satisfaction for him when he sees what she is able to do with it. You are to be the splendor of glory, the weight of glory, the aroma of glory. And you do this by conforming to the pattern that God sets down in His Word.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
In the message last week, we addressed the problem of how pride and a lack of self-reflection compounds the problem of cluttered relationships. In this message we are going to focus on some practical steps that will help you get things picked up, and will help you keep it that way. As things stand now, you are contemplating moving to the Swiss Alps to start your own signature ministry—you could call it Debris.The Text:
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).Summary of the Text:
The text contains an overt teaching about confession of sin and the blessing of God. But there is also an unstated assumption about time which we can make explicit in a paraphrase. “He who covers his sins for any length of time shall not prosper for that length of time. But whoever confesses and forsakes them immediately shall have mercy immediately” (Prov. 28:13). In other words, there is a now implied.
This is one of those things that you might think goes without saying. And it does go without saying in any area where the prideful heart of man is not messing with us. Suppose you burned yourself, and a doctor gave you some ointment for the burn. He said, “Put this on.” Would you ask, “Should I start applying it next August? Or perhaps after the first of the year?” No. You got burned now, and so you put on the ointment now. Stop covering up your sins now and receive the promised blessing of the prosperity of God now.
One more thing, since we are talking about “covering sins.” Sins must be covered. It is not a bad impulse to want to cover them. They are shameful, and they cry out for a covering. Our own lame efforts to cover them with lies, bluster, and moralistic furniture polish are not wrong because they cover, but rather they are wrong because they don’t. The only thing that really covers sin is the blood of our great High Priest. Every other way of dealing with sin has to be done constantly, repetitively, over and again. And like the woman with that discharge of blood in the gospels—the more the doctors treated her the worse it got. When we cover, the problem is that we can’t. But knowing the need for the covering is not the problem.A Tale of Two Houses:
Those of you who have gone through my pre-marriage counseling have almost certainly heard this illustration. But given the nature of the world, and how backlogs of unconfessed sin are out to get us all, I give it to you again with no apologies.
Imagine two families living side-by-side. They are good friends, the husbands work at the same company, they drive the same kind of minivan, and they have the same number of kids. The only visible difference between the homes is that one of them is apparently spotless and the other one is knee-deep in clutter.
Now life happens in both of them. And the kind of life that happens is at least comparable. The same number of tee-shirts get put on in the morning and taken off at night. The same number of shoes are worn. The same number of breakfast bowls are used. The difference between the two homes is not the rate at which things get dirty. The difference between the homes is the rate at which things get cleaned again.
In the clean home, the philosophy is “it must be done anyhow, so let’s do it now.” In the cluttered home, the philosophy is “let’s postpone this until it is bad enough to be thrown into the fright room.”
This is a parable. Your marriage is one of those houses. Which one is it?Why Not Now?
The Bible tells us to confess our faults to one another (Jas. 5:16). This is something that should characterize life generally, but it is most obvious when done in the home. And when people refuse to do this in the home that too is also glaringly obvious. Something just spilled. Wipe it up now. Something just go knocked over. Pick it up now. Something just got dirty. Rinse it out and put it in the dishwasher now.
What this is about is the confession of your own faults, period. You can confess other people’s sins all day long, and your joy still doesn’t come back. And if confess your own sin, but you are only doing it to “prime the pump” of their confession, and then you get mad because they didn’t take the hint, it should hardly be a news flash that you are doing it wrong. And if you wrap up a barbed accusation in the thin filmy gauze of an inadequate confession, this is also a problem. “I am sorry for being mildly annoyed at your egregious behavior just now.” When you confess, confess as though you are the only person in the history of the world who ever did anything wrong. You know theologically that this is not the case, and that it could not be the case, but your emotions need the practice anyhow. When you are confessing heartily, you are the only sinner.A Few Rules of Thumb:
We all need reminders to help us “do it now.” When Nancy and I were first married (or engaged, I forget), we agreed on some basic rules that would govern our behavior in this respect. And if you were to ask me for one bit of advice on marriage and one bit only, this is what it would be. Keep short accounts. Pay it down now. Rinse it now.
This is what you do when you get out of fellowship. And by “out of fellowship,” I mean annoyed, irritated, bent, frosted, angry, ruffled, agitated—with the barbs directed at the other. You have such an episode, the kind that we called “bumps.” And a bump is not a simple difference of opinion. A bump is when the harmony is gone.
- When you have had a bump, do not separate, do not part company.
- When you have had a bump, do not let anybody into your home.
- When you have had a bump, do not go into anybody else’s home.
- When you have had a bump in the presence of others, use a pre-arranged hand signal to seek and extend forgiveness.
These are not the rules that “nice” people follow. These are just simple reminders that sinners need to help them to pick up after themselves—and to constantly remember that apart from Jesus Christ, there is no way to pick up after yourself. He is the third party in your marriage relationship, and so do not treat Him as an abstract principle. What do you want the aroma of your home to be? You want people to walk in and feel like Christ is there.
When we gather together like this, we are gathering as the people of liberty. But two other l’s are constantly beckoning—those of legalism and license. Having the history we do, we have little trouble rejecting legalism, but in our emphasis on Christian liberty, we often—especially among our young people—veer into license. When this starts to happen, often the people who see it clearly won’t say anything because what we are guarding against around here is legalism. And if you give an admonition that is anywhere to the right of a licentious fellow, he will tag you as a legalist. But this is not a safe way of proceeding, because if you give an admonition anywhere to the left of a legalist, he will think you a libertine. Why are we putting the two errors in charge?
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Do not allow your freedom to be spoken of as evil. Do not allow yourself to be entangled again in a yoke of slavery. And that liberty is not defined by personal indulgence, but rather by the beauty of holiness.
Some Christian liberty issues are perennials. Smoking, drinking, dancing, that kind of thing. And so let me take an example and approach it this way. Is cigarette smoking a sin? The Bible nowhere says so. And I, as a minister of the Word, follow that Word closely, and cannot say that it is a sin either. But there is another question, closely related to the first. Is cigarette smoking a sin for you? Well, yes, because you’re a young idiot abusing your Christian liberty. Do I admit of exceptions? Sure, but not in your case. How do I distinguish? As D.L. Moody once said, if you throw a rock into a pack of stray dogs, the one that yelps is the one that got hit.
The principle is simple. This is a great wide world, and there are exceptions to what I am saying. Of course there are. But the odds are strong that you are just not one of them.
You are not here at the Table by yourself. Seated here with you are all the saints of God, throughout the world, and throughout history. We are called upon to discern the body, and not just the body here in this room. But this does not exclude those who are here in this room.
And so let us consider the relationship between bitterness and baptism. If you are baptized, and gathered here with us, you not only may come, but you must come. But if you are bitter and resentful toward anyone else here who is partaking with you, then you are not discerning the body as you are commanded, and coming to the Table in this condition is hazardous, and not just to your spirit.
Bitterness and baptism are inconsistent. They cannot abide one another, and they cannot abide together. One of them must go. But removing your own baptism is not something you have the authority to do. If you could do it, it would remove the inconsistency, but you cannot do it. That means you must confess the bitterness, and you must be done with it. It does not matter what the other person has done, or what you have imagined them to have done. Let none of you fall short of the grace of God. Let none of you continue to nurture that root of bitterness.
This is hard, and so we start looking for a way of escape—and not the way of escape the Lord promised to us. And usually what we do is seek to rename our bitterness, calling it something else. We say it is righteous indignation, or a principled stand, or a thorough-going Christian worldview, or some other foolishness. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we are still bent out of shape.
If you are bitter, and if you are baptized, you are about to approach this Table. The Lord Jesus is seated at the head of the Table. As you approach, remember that you do not have His permission to come in this way. Drop the bitterness. Let it go. Confess it. Repent of it. And come in gladness of heart.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
Let me say at the outset that I am saying nothing one way or the other about the particular circumstances concerning the murder of Seth Rich—other than the obvious fishiness of the thing. I don’t know anywhere near enough to talk about the case itself in any detail. But we do know that Julian Assange hinted that Rich was a source, one investigator has claimed that there is proof that Rich sent northwards of 40,000 emails to Wikileaks, and we know that Rich was shot down in the streets of Washington D.C. by assailant/s unknown. Turning to another channel, we also know that Hillary blamed her spectacular loss on Trumpian collusion with Russia. That’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Three guesses which one got the special counsel working on the case.
So what I am in a position to comment on is the disparity of behavior on what it takes to get a special counsel appointed. What does it take to get something investigated in that town?
But the upside is that Mueller, being a cracker-jack lawman, solemnly appointed to investigate the Russian deal, might have an idea in the shower one morning. “Hey! Maybe Seth Rich was Russia! Maybe we should send some men over that way . . .”
You will know this has happened if a New York Times editorial starts lamenting our renegade special prosecutor. And if Mueller has an accident in the shower the next morning, you may consider this post a total fluke. I don’t think anything of the kind.
A Helpful Chart
Ben Zornes put together this helpful guide to health food.
Ben Zornes’ helpful guide to health food. pic.twitter.com/zenacWLOZv
— Ben Zornes (@benzornes) May 12, 2017Here are Some of My Thoughts on Health Food Finding the Vibe A Victory for Religious Liberty
The courts just ruled in favor of Mr. Adamson and his company.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS
In his next chapter, Rod Dreher spends a good bit of time singing a song I am very familiar with, and he says many good things. The cultural key is education, and what Dreher urges is, from one standpoint, very heartening. “This is why we have to focus tightly and without hesitation on education” (Loc. 2150).
But Dreher does not believe that a deracinated form of Christian education is going to cut it. If we will not have the option of living “a regular life with a Christian coating” (Loc. 2586), then how much less will it be adequate for us to build generic “schools” where an insipid prayer is still kinda legal. This is good, but is in tension with what he proposes elsewhere.
In contrast, Dreher points to “a growing movement called classical Christian education” (Loc. 2162). He goes so far as to say, “To that end, one of the most important pieces of the Benedict Option movement is the spread of classical Christian schools” (Loc. 2168). He says, rightly, “Classical Christian education is the new counterculture” (Loc. 2572). Not only is this the case for younger children, but “a Christian plan for higher education is also needed” (Loc. 2171).
“Through its Web site, the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (accsedu.org), an orthodox Protestant organization with members in forty-five states and four foreign countries, offers a how-to package, including a series of questions local communities https://classicalchristian.org/should ask themselves before starting this journey” (Loc. 2442).
All of this is very good, and I am grateful for Dreher’s support of the movement. Not only so, but he also understands what is going on in the government school system—a radical program of catechesis for the new androgynous bipedal carbon units. He says, “it is time for all Christians to pull their children out of the public school system” (Loc. 2306).
But what about the “salt and light” argument? “It brings to mind a father who tosses his child into a whitewater river in hopes that she’ll save another drowning child” (Loc. 2339).
Why don’t you put your six-year-old on a plane to Nairobi? They need salt and light there. But we can’t do that without training and preparation . . . Training, ah. Preparation, ah. Sounds like we need a Christian education first. Let’s go with that then.
All of this is very good. That said, I do differ with Dreher’s views on the size of the tent, at least as regards the school, the admin, and the teachers.
“While there are benefits to establishing a school under a particular tradition, there is also wisdom in taking a broad-tent approach, as long as the school remains under one of the ancient creeds” (Loc. 2408).
I would argue the lowest-common denominator approach to doctrine is one of the things that got us into this mess. If I were a Catholic parent, and there were no options in the community for my children, and I was enough of a Catholic parent to see that the secular school system is a hot mess, I would much rather put my children in a decidedly Protestant school than in a religio-friendly vanilla mush school. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of Judeo-Christians? And this goes to the point made by C.S. Lewis, when he said that individuals at the center of their communions often have better fellowship than the ecumenical glad-handers out on the edges of them.
All this said, this was a good chapter. The differences, for the most part, hover in the background—and relate to the fundamental difference I have with Dreher. Are we supposed to undertake a strategic retreat, or are we supposed to be establishing beachheads?
The situation described in the following letters continues to be entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
Thank you for the questions—even the pointed ones. For the record, I do think they are most reasonable questions. But the way we answer questions like this reveals, as few other things can, the vast distance between a biblical approach to counseling victims and a secular approach. It is not that the difference is that they tend to offer different “bits” of counsel here or there, but rather that they are cities built on top of different tectonic plates.
Your questions had to do with the propriety of me corresponding with your father, thus causing you to wonder “whose side” I was on. Before getting to the question of “sides,” let me just say that I was thoroughly convinced—before our very first exchange of letters—that you are the one telling the truth about this whole matter, and that your father is tangled up in a web of lies, told first to himself and after that to the world. He is in prison for his crimes, and this is right where he ought to be. He received a full and fair trial, he had every opportunity to answer the charges against him, and he was duly convicted and sentenced. I have talked with your aunt and uncle extensively about all of this, reviewed the court documents and the public reporting of the trial, and it is very plain that you have been the brave and honest one, and he continues to be dishonest and cowardly. All the biblical criteria for determining a just sentence for a man like him have been met.
And so I am certainly on your side—but there is an important distinction. It is not the same way an attorney would be on your side. Let me explain. One of the reasons why I am dubious about our common acceptance of “paid counseling” is that it tends to set up in people’s minds the idea of professional/client relationship, as you have when you engage an attorney. An attorney is hired to represent his client’s interests in a particular dispute, and one of the reasons this can work fairly well is that the other party usually has an attorney as well. We have institutionalized, via this system, the practice of hearing the best case both sides of a dispute can make (Prov. 18:17). We trust the system, and are okay with each attorney doing his part.
But this is not the case in counseling snarls. When I am counseling someone, as a minister it is my task to represent Christ in the situation, as best I can, and not represent one party or the other. If Mr. and Mrs. Murphy have a dispute and come in to see me (or the Smiths, or the Jones), I do not pick which one of them is my client. In the dispute, I might point out that she is in the right, but not because she hired me to make that case. I would say this because they laid out the problem with me, and I compared the situation to the teaching of Scripture (which is the authoritative voice of Christ), which then directed us all to the solution. I am doing this because it is my task to represent the truth of Scripture, and Christ is that truth.
In other words, I have been encouraging you because it is obvious that you are telling the truth. I am not encouraging you because your payments are part of my income stream. I am not encouraging you because your story happens to reinforce my partisan agenda. I am not encouraging you because you are living with some old friends of mine.
You are telling the truth because you are telling the truth, which has been independently confirmed. You are not telling the truth simply because the trial and conviction of your father fits in with the feminist condemnation of the patriarchy. Your story is one in which you really are the victim, but it is crucial that we give it credence because it is true—and not simply because it is a victim story.
I have a pastor friend in another state who has had to deal with a different kind of horror story in his congregation. A young girl accused her brother of molesting her, and he was arrested, tried and convicted, and is now in the penitentiary. He has been there for two years now. His sister was just recently converted, and as a result recently confessed that her accusations against her brother had been false. The sister had the compelling victim story, but her brother was the actual victim. So anyone who says things like “women never lie about rape” is playing politics—and a pastoral counselor who is seeking to represent Christ in a tangled situation must never play politics. You never believe one side or the other “just because.”
Now this brings me back to my correspondence with your father. With all this as the backdrop, simply communicating with him does not mean that I am on his side. I am on the side of the truth, and he is plainly lying. But one of the things that pastors are called to do is to help people confront the lies they tell themselves. The issue is not whether I am communicating with him, but rather what I am saying.
The situation you are in would be much easier—would it not?—if your father were to make a full and complete confession, with no more deceit and evasion. Now of course this would bring our previously discussed question of transacted forgiveness front and center, and that really would bring its own difficulties. But it would also bring the great relief of having your father say, “My daughter told the truth. She was the righteous one in this, and I was the wicked one. My sentence was just.”
A wise employer once fired an employee who had offered to steal something for him. He said that an employee who would steal for me would steal from me. This is real wisdom. And a “friend” who would lie for you is a friend who would lie about you. The thing that kept you in bondage for those years was a network of lies. Those lies, and any other lies, are never your friend. The truth is your friend, and it is the truth that has delivered you from an awful situation.
I hope this helps, but if it doesn’t feel free to follow it up with more questions.
Cordially in Christ,
I have been studying the intersection between biblical faith and pop culture for decades now, and have read mounds of books on the subject. I have done this with one eye on possibly writing my own book on the subject—the working title is Devil in a Blue Dress—and I have been doing this because there is no other area that I know of where there is so much personal consumption and so little personal reflection. This lack of reflection is evident with movies, music, clothing design, art, dance, literature, body modification, along with many more areas, with the line running down the street and around the corner.
The combination of high consumption and low reflection results in numerous Christians who are street savvy when it comes to “name that band” kind of knowledge, but who are clueless when it comes to seeing the actual context their knowledge is operating in. Since this kind of street smarts is equivalent to the mouse knowing where on the little wooden platform to find the cheese, constant warnings are always in order.
So a critic might know the band 15 Drunk Ponies, and point out that I have obviously not had that pleasure, but there are other issues in play. Other words that need to be defined, studied and analyzed would include nature, liturgy, covenant, worship, dominion, culture, eschatology, lordship, presuppositions, aesthetics, and many more. This is not a discussion about incidentals. It is thick with paradigm assumptions, basic assumptions concerning some of the most important issues of life. And, as the apostle Paul might say if he were in this position, I am out of my mind to talk this way, but I know my onions.
Here are some of the basic principles that are involved.
- There is never any neutrality anywhere. Every hair on every head is claimed by Jesus Christ, and is counterclaimed by Satan—and Jesus Christ has the only true universal claim. If something is adiaphora that does not mean that it is outside the authority of the Lord Jesus.
- The Bible does not require women to wear plain jumpers and the men to wear skinny black neckties. But if the Bible did require it, we should be eager to obey. One of the reasons these issues are so controversial is that many in the church are unwilling a priori to submit themselves to whatever the Bible teaches on this subject. They are not interested in finding out what the text actually teaches and actually requires.
- Clothes, hairstyles, jewelry, and other personal accoutrements are all forms of communication. Christians should be concerned centrally with communicating that which is true, good, and beautiful. What you say non-verbally is no more under your own personal authority than anything else is. You are not your own. You were bought with a price.
- The Scriptures teach us repeatedly how to comport ourselves in the world. We are not told to be edgy, but rather respectable—e.g. “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2:9, ESV). We are given these sorts of instructions in multiple places—and there are too many places to simply dismiss them without first dealing with the teaching of the authoritative text. We should not assume that we simply “know” what that instruction is—we should pursue this knowledge. And the fact that some do in fact make an idol out of respectability does not alter the scriptural injunction. So if you had to choose between looking like the local meth dealer and looking like the chairman of the Young Republicans, the answer of Scripture is clear. Go with the Young Republicans. And I might be willing to bet ten bucks that this answer surprised more of you than it should have.
- When it comes to how we face the outside culture, the church must constantly keep in mind the distinction between apostles and refugees. Refugees are fleeing the world and taking shelter in the church. Apostles are trying to bring the world into the church. The former must be welcomed with open arms, regardless of tats, hair color, rap sheet, or anything else. The latter must be resisted to the last ditch. The ship is supposed to be in the water, but the water is not supposed to be in the ship. And to make this distinction is not obsess over a trifle. “Ship, water, water, ship . . . are these not just words?”
- The revolution has a uniform. If it is true that culture is religion externalized—and that is true—it is worth asking what religion is represented by the sartorial exhortation to “reinvent yourself” as you please, every day, while making sure you don’t let anybody tell you what to do. The revolution is radically relativistic and believes that existence precedes essence. And that means that they want you to have as much authority to alter the genitalia God gave you as to abandon the original shape of your ear lobes. The cultural alt-regalia that confronts us regularly now is simply one of the early questions in the pomo-catechism that is drilling a set of pernicious but foundational assumptions into the minds of young people. “Q. What can you be? A. I can be anything I want to be.” Can I have weird hair? Sure thing. Can I become a little girl? Why not, Sammy?
- There are places where biblical personal adornment and some practices of the revolution may overlap. But the intent in each is radically distinct. The former wants to adorn God-given nature and the latter wants to impose man-made choices on what used to be called nature, thus proving that nothing has a fixed nature. Depending on the circumstance, the same set of earrings can be making statements directly opposed to one another. A woman could wear them to adorn her God-given femininity, and a man could wear those same earrings in order to spit on his masculinity. Clearly the problem does not reside in the earrings.
- The reasons for adopting the uniform of the revolution vary. Not every person wearing that uniform is a revolutionary. Some of them are not even aware that there is a revolution on. Some do it because that is what all their friends are doing. Others do it because they want the pain of their childhood to have a visible and external expression. Others do it because their parents don’t want them to do it. Others do it because they are narcissists who crave attention—anyone with an Instagram feed with more than 500 selfies is in this category. Others do it because they are apostles of the revolution, declaring their inverted version of the good news. “Become whatever you want to be.”
- The reasons for adopting the uniform, although they can be quite distinct from each other, are still—overwhelmingly—not good. Narcissism, ignorance, ink therapy—none of this is what we should want.
- People who dress traditionally can certainly do so thoughtlessly as well. A lot of people in cubicles with pieces of cloth cinched tightly around their necks can give no better account of themselves than can the tie-dyed circle-drumming guy down at the Up with Economic Illiteracy Protest. Socrates taught us that the unexamined life is not worth living. I would want to add that the unexamined skinny jeans are not worth putting on. This one goes for everybody, khakis included.
- The algorithms know what I am taking about. It is easy for Christians who think that I am being “judgy” to defend themselves by saying “nobody really knows what these words are supposed to mean anyway.” But people have an amazing ability to identify a new thing and then name it. They also have an amazing ability to yell loudly whenever a conservative Christian picks up one of those nouns and uses it as though it has a reasonable meaning—which it actually does. If I write a post like this, and decide to make a meme to illustrate it, as I often do, I just go to Google Images and type in lumbersexual. And do you know what? The algorithms know exactly what I am asking for, and give me hundreds of images to select from. I then take it to memedad.com, make it my own image, and post it. What we are talking about is not mysterious. So if you type in metrosexual, and the first three images that pop up are the bass player in your worship band, the problem with all this is not my bigotry.
- The agents of the revolution, the apostles, have an astute eye for detail, and know exactly what they are doing. It is imperative for them to marginalize anyone on the other side who can see the same thing they do—in order to prevent them from blowing the gaff. And so the inky murk begins, and all of it is blamed on the bigoted purveyor of sensible Christian values who has, it is claimed, been poking the cultural squid with a stick. But say all the employees in a retail outlet “look gay,” that didn’t happen by accident. Vibes don’t happen by themselves. People create them. These are actions. Other people see them and name them. A little bit later, you can search for the term on Google.
- Culture is not possible without cultural expression. True counter culture is not possible without counter cultural expression. The biblical instruction to Christians is to be counter cultural in such a way as to create a new polis that has a transformative effect on the polis of man. This necessarily translates to the externals. So the battle within the church over these things is therefore not a trifle—it is a struggle for the creative control of the reformation.
- As a pastor, I am responsible for the spiritual formation of my congregants. A number of them are college students. And as one of the faculty of New St. Andrews, dedicated to graduating shapers of culture, I am responsible there as well. We want our students to graduate knowing how to shape culture. This is entirely different from being shaped by culture. Suppose another hula hoop craze swept the country, and I saw a bunch of our students hula hooping away like there was no tomorrow. My concern would not descend upon the plastic hoops, as though that item were inherently sinful. My concern would be all about the students—don’t they have any resistance at all? I hate to show off my mastery of nuance, but I do know that leaders and followers are not the same thing. I do know that 21st century America needs Christian colleges graduating yet one more evangelical generation of me-tooers like they need a hole in the head.
- Returning to the point made at the top, this topic is not an unfortunate but recent jag into censorious legalism. In a very real way, this topic is right at the center of my life’s work. If there were but time, I could produce scores of examples, but here is a small, random sampling—Unleashing Your Inner Fundamentalist (2009), Lowlife Authenticity (2005), Apostles or Refugees? (2005), and The Coronation of the Infantile (2017).And if there were but more time, I could go find them all and turn in a 600 page manuscript of DIABD. Maybe I will sometime, just see if I don’t. When bare bodice Minoan dresses become a thing for Christian junior high girls, I will consider myself sufficiently provoked and will get right on it.
Many of you have been married for quite a number of years now. This can be wonderful, like aging wine, but before anyone says awwww, it can also grow seriously un-wonderful, as bad spiritual habits compound with interest. Marriages can get badly cluttered, like a neglected garage, attic, or basement. And when things get cluttered, they also get people into a position where they really don’t know what to do. Where should they even start?The Text:
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).Summary of the Text:
We are going to begin with this text because it lays down some important principles for the process of decluttering any relationship, but particularly your relationship with your spouse.
Say that someone else is overtaken in a fault, whatever it is. You see a problem over there. Who should correct it? Paul first states what the qualifications are for the one undertaking the job of correcting another. He says that the task is limited to those “which are spiritual.” If you are annoyed, bothered, frustrated, exasperated, you are the one person on the planet who may not correct the problem. And the problem is that when you are qualified, you are not motivated. And when you are motivated, you are not qualified.
But say that someone is overtaken in a trespass, and suppose further that you are qualified to say something. Paul has additional cautions. The first is that you are there to administer a restoration, not a beat down. The second is that you must conduct yourself in a spirit of meekness, gentleness, and humility. The third is that you must keep one eye on yourself, remembering that you too are susceptible to temptation.
So the presenting problem is that somebody else sinned, and you might be a person who could help. If you already succumbed to temptation, you need to stay out of it. If you cannot come with restoration in your heart, stay out of it. If you are not functioning in spirit of meekness, then stay out of it. And if you are not mindful of your own frailty in these things, then stay out of it.Considering Yourself:
As we assume the context of marriage, I want to begin by helping you to “consider yourself.” This is coming from four decades of marriage counseling—and I want to assure you that I have pretty much seen it all. What creates intractable marriage problems? The answer to that question is not sins, but rather one sin—the sin of pride—the opposite of the spirit of meekness. Particular sins would be things like alcohol, porn, financial irresponsibility, and so on. One of you does something wrong or foolish, you recognize it as a sin, and then work with your spouse on reconciliation and forgiveness. Things can be messy but are pretty straightforward.
But what gets your marriage stuck right up to the axles? What creates marriages that are just impossible? This feat is accomplished by means of pride. “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” (Eccl. 7:16). In other words, you destroy your marriage with what you think are your virtues. You don’t repent of virtues, do you?
Many Christians are marital Pharisees, flatly convinced of their own righteousness—and of the ungrateful unrighteousness of everybody else under the same roof, not to mention the obtuseness of the counselor who fails to recognize the evil they must contend with daily. This is a common problem in the church, and it is why Jesus used to think it was important to say crazy stuff. “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:31).
You call it righteous indignation, but God calls it the wrath of man. You call maternal concern, but God calls it manipulative worry. You call it prudent input, but God calls it a critical spirit. You call it decisive leadership, but God calls it financial irresponsibility. You call it theological precision, but God calls it neglecting the weightier matters of the law. But whoever repents of righteous indignation, maternal concern, prudent input, decisive leadership, or theological precision? Nobody repents of those things, which is why many pastors wish there were a counseling equivalent of SWAT teams.How to Approach a Pile of Clutter:
Now if you are at an impasse in your relationship, then you need to recognize that your pile of clutter is almost certainly the result of two piles of clutter that merged. And if you come to the realization that you have a significant amount of unconfessed sin in your life, then—returning to our text—do not start with the other person’s pile of clutter. If they need to be motivated, if they need to see how easy it is to do, then here’s an idea. Show them how. You’ve got your own pile. Confess your own sins. Astonish the world.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).A Third Party
We need to realize that moralism doesn’t work in marriage any better than it works anywhere else. Moralism is a bust. High standards and traditional values are the ropes that sinners use to throttle one another. A spiritual home is a home full and overflowing with grace. And it is not possible for a marriage to be overflowing with grace unless it is overflowing with Christ.
And so Christ must be present in order for a marriage to be blessed. He need not be present for entropy to govern everything. He need not be present for your attic to fill up with useless clutter. He need not be present for pride to take over the atmosphere at the dinner table. He need not be present for conversations to grow snark and criticism the way gardens grow thistles. But He must be present for us to see all these things rightly. In order for grace to be there, He must be there.