Blogroll: Blog & Mablog

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Theology That Bites Back
Updated: 2 hours 51 min ago

Romans for Rome

9 hours 15 min ago

“So in a very real way, the book of Romans is a covenant possession of the Church of Rome and belongs in the Vatican library. Also, in a real way, that letter stands as a Song of Moses to them; it is a testimony against them. In multiple ways, the Church of Rome formally denies various doctrines which their letter requires them to affirm” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. 27).

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Categories: People I don't know

Wokescold Gillette and the Misplaced Antithesis

Wed, 16/01/2019 - 16:57

Gillette has decided to join the ranks of all the wokescold corporations, and they did this by rolling out an ad campaign admonishing men to do better. Be better. C’mon, guys. And a few days before that, the American Psychological Association determined that traditional masculinity, on the whole, was a net minus, and that what the Hive needs is a lot more beta males. Bring up your boys correctly, in the ways of Gillette, and the age might eventually dawn when no boy needs to ever start using Gillette.

Until this Gillette ad came along, it was hard to envisage a line of guys barbecuing as incipient fascism. But now that the creepy point has been made we will not be allowed to forget it. We can’t be too careful apparently.

In the meantime, our erstwhile Christian presence in this country is for the most part tagging along behind this cavalcade of stupidity, trying to retain enough of a Christian vocabulary to deceive any remaining simpletons who have not yet joined the parade. This is all part of the same clown car review, all of it. So as the PCA “investigates” Revoice, keep an eye on what is actually going down. The evangelical establishment has its own version of the deep state, and they do know how to cover for their own.

Why Is This Happening?

That we live in oddball times really needs no explanation. Yes, we know. But why we live in such oddball times does need to be explained over and over again.

When our first parents sinned in the Garden, one of the central consequences—which was part of God’s redemptive promise and plan—was that He placed a permanent antithesis between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

This is why the history of the world is filled with conflict. This is the central conflict. It is the driver of everything that happens. It is the reason for the long war. This is why Jesus had to die, and it is why the death of Jesus crushed the serpent’s head while bruising His heel.

But what if you don’t believe this gospel? What if you don’t believe in its first promise in Gen. 3:15 or in its great fruition—the death and resurrection of Jesus—or in its final culmination when God crushes Satan beneath the Church’s feet (Rom.16:20)? What if you don’t believe what God said about this antithesis?

You still have to give an account of all the conflict. You still have to explain what is going on out there in the world. And the response of unbelievers boils down to two logical possibilities. The unbeliever can either deny the antithesis or he can misplace the antithesis.

Denial of the antithesis says that mankind is basically good. All we need is a basic education for all, not to mention decent health care and affordable housing, and this will remove certain environmental obstacles to the global group hug and make the general consensus obvious. Not only so, but when we make the harmonious center come into its own, we can then turn our abundant resources to a compassionate treatment of the mental health issues that may be afflicting any remaining dissenters.

Misplacing the antithesis accepts the fact that human history is defined by and driven by a fundamental divide, separating the saints from the non-elect, but then assigns those categories to arbitrary groupings that are not biblically grounded at all—it starts with obvious divisions like our nation/their nations, or our ethnic groups/their ethnic groups, or our economic working class/rich pigs, etc. Communists, race baiters, fascists, etc. are all guilty of misplacing the antithesis.

Given the fact of sin, malice and enmity between such groups should not be a big surprise. It is wrong and sinful, but not surprising. What has been surprising to some is the downward spiral into identity politics that is proving itself to be extremely fissiparous. We now have people hoisting weird flags in an effort to rally people to a new particular cause, and when we get close we find that the rallying point is for “gender queer deaf alcoholics with a penchant for cis-boys.” Sing out, be proud. Genders multiply, identities grow like mushrooms, and at the ultimate end of that process the misplaced antithesis is between the atomistic ego and every form of objective reality. The biblical name for this is the outer darkness.

The Denial Option:

So it is possible to deny the antithesis, but only for a brief time and only under certain select conditions. In a culture that is largely homogeneous, such as America was shortly after World War II, when the liberal consensus reigned supreme, it was possible to say that “everyone agrees” on certain “core principles.” “We are all saying the same thing really.” There were marginal voices, far away from the microphones, who would say hurtful things like “no, we aren’t saying the same thing at all,” but when a particular culture’s center is still cohesive enough to hold, such voices can be dismissed and ignored. Everybody who matters can still act as though everybody agreed on all the essentials. We don’t need to account for the crackpots.

So denial of the antithesis is the stance of the liberal at peace. But such periods of peace, when there is a large, hegemonic consensus, are rare. What happens when the consensus starts to break down? What happens when some of those marginal voices gain access to microphones, and their contradiction of the grand harmony can be heard? This leads to the liberal at war, which is where the progressives spiral down into identity politics. Identity politics is an example of the misplaced antithesis.

The Misplaced Option:

The Gillette ad indicates that we are very close to the “four legs good, two legs bad” stage of all this. We are not fully there yet because alpha males are still being offered the “gospel” of becoming beta males. Repentance is still possible. But the day is coming when the claim will be made that traditional masculinity and toxic masculinity all lie too close to the bone. Nothing whatever can be done about it. Two legs bad.

Now in saying that this ad is part of a calculated campaign to blur everything that matters, I do not mean to say that I am in favor of bullying, or groping, or leering, or that I stand against Gillette’s desire to get men to stop being pigs. The difference has to do with the causes of the misbehavior. As the APA puts it, the causes lie in our desire to teach boys to be strong, to control their emotions. That’s the culprit.

The true antithesis runs down the middle of the entire human race, and there are men, women, boys and girls on one side of the line and men, women, boys and girls on the other side of it. The antithesis divides the human race, and there are blacks and whites on one side of the line and there are blacks and whites on the other side. There are righteous men, in other words, and unrighteous women. There are righteous whites, in other words, and unrighteous blacks. I state it this way because I am trying to affront and insult the current narrative, in which approved women are justified, no matter what, and approved blacks are justified, no matter what. These approved women are considered “true women.” These approved blacks are “true blacks.” Not like Clarence Thomas at all.

Like I said, I am leaning against a particular narrative. If someone were to come up to me and pluck and my elbow, and say something like, “Why didn’t you say there are unrighteous men and righteous women?” I would reply with something like of course that is true. But why did you feel the pressure to get that on the record? Who are you trying to propitiate?

The General Flow of This:

This all ties in with the crucial subject of social justification, which I have written about before.

In that piece, I wrote this.

  • Biblical narrative > biblical justification > biblical justice
  • Social narrative > social justification > social justice

If you want that background, go ahead and read that post. But what I need to do here is expand it slightly.

  • Biblical narrative which includes protagonists and antagonists, defined by the biblical antithesis > biblical justification of the elect, as defined by that narrative > biblical justice
  • Social narrative which includes protagonists and antagonists, defined by an unbiblical “antithesis” > social justification of the “elect,” as defined by that narrative > social justice

And as I have said before, and will no doubt say many more times, it is not possible—oh ye leaders of our great Christian fogbank of confusion!—to graft biblical justice onto a social narrative constructed by infidels. You are only going to get what we are in the process of getting now. And you are going to get a lot of it.

In short, you are going to get PCA churches in St. Louis maintaining what no one has denied—which is that LGBT+ people are created in the image of God—and there will be no way on earth that you could get them to say the same thing and in the same way about Klansmen and editors of neo-Confederate newsletters. Their interest is therefore not the gospel. Their agenda points in another direction entirely.

When you graft the words of “biblical justice” onto an unbelieving social narrative, the nature of the root will still determine the taste of the fruit. And it is this compromise, this fatal compromise, this wicked and stupid compromise, that has our evangelical seminaries, publishing houses, magazines, and denominations, all making their accommodating peace with feminism, trannyism, socialism, critical theory, racialism, and more.

The compromises were all made some time ago, and so anyone who expects the pace of our evangelical capitulations to slow down any is someone who doesn’t get out very much.

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Categories: People I don't know

The Word Secures the Bones

Wed, 16/01/2019 - 02:00

“Christ’s bones were breakable, just like ours, but God’s Word is not breakable. In a similar way, we are His bones and so the elect will persevere. In themselves, the elect are capable of falling away, but in the decrees of God they are completely secure” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. 22).

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Categories: People I don't know

That Time Fred Astaire Was Visited by the FBI

Tue, 15/01/2019 - 16:17
Am I Being Detained?

RE: “My Little Visit from the FBI” I’m not a glazed eyed conspiracy person, an Alex Jones-ite or any such thing. I do have some affinity for Ron Paul but that is as far as my fringe views go. I am pretty much a Greg Bahnsen type theonomist and love John Murray and the right wing of the OPC (sorry, no FV for me). All that said, next time I strongly recommend you insist on having witnesses and recording any interaction you have with the FBI. Your view of the FBI is that of a simpleton. We know they alter their 302s all the time and you are helpless to refute their assertions (lies) if you have no hard evidence. As a matter of fact, they could still arrest you tomorrow based upon “their recollection” of this interview. Don’t be simple. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Pr 27:12).


Graham, thanks for the feedback, albeit a bit high and inside. I did think about recording it, or having someone sit in, but at the moment decided not to. My protection, such as it is, has been to write my account of it first. Remember if things are as bad as all that, they could just make up a 302 without having seen me at all. I do approve of prudence, however.

You write: “One group shakes the head disapprovingly, worried about the testimony, and what does this do to the good reputation among outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7)? The second kind of Christian leader hears of something like this, and his heart sinks. ‘Why can’t something like that ever happen to me?’ And his wife says, ‘Honey, don’t . . .’” I would argue that there might be a 3rd response from Christian leaders who would say “kudos to the FBI agents.” I know a number of Blog and Mablog followers who are literalists (probably a lot of home schoolers), and would take the statement literally. And that actually does become a matter of national safety: seeing as it comes out of Idaho where a lot of Christian cults reside. You also state: “One kind of Christian leader thinks that it is an honor to be honored. The other believes that it is an honor to be dishonored, a grace to be disgraced.” I would argue that the third kind of Christian leader believes it is an honor to be disgraced for righteousness. Now, a simple visit from the FBI is not necessarily a disgrace or even a dishonor. What I would argue for is the reason why we are dishonored as Christians. In this scenario, if we could argue that you are being dishonored, you are not primarily being dishonored for speaking out against public education which would be righteous (a U of I prof at your door would be dishonoring you for that), but for the metaphor of burning schools down which would be unrighteous. In that case, the I Peter 4: 15-16 comes into play: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” The FBI is looking into a scenario that could involve murder (or incitement to murder), and they did not arrest you, because they probably realized that you are a godly Christian pastor. Thanks for all the work you do in engaging the culture. I have learned a lot from your approach.


Nathan, thanks, and yes but. If they had just showed up because the phrases “burn all the schools” was tossed at them by an algorithm, then yes. But they came to see me because one of our intolerista enemies seized on a phrase which they then tried to use as a means of bringing a government agency against me. Remember that slander is an essential part of all this. At His trial, Jesus was accused of wanting to destroy the Temple (vandalism), which, even though vandalism should be against the law, didn’t prevent the accusation from being outrageous.  

Thanks for sharing. I finally got around to reading Flags Out Front over the past week, so this is extra amusing to me. When I told my wife about your very first no-quarter paragraph leading to an FBI visit, she said “I bet he’s so pleased with himself. He’s exactly the kind of person that when God wants to give him an ‘attaboy,’ He sends the FBI.” May your tribe increase.


Keith, yes. But tell your wife that I was only pleased with myself in ways that comport with modesty and decorum.

Before the next time happens, I beg you, read You Have The Right To Remain Innocent, by James Duane (read it, but you can google his viral video now, about not ever talking to law enforcement without a lawyer present (who will tell you not to talk to them)). I know it sounds nuts, but you dodged a bullet. (Does your story, in hindsight, not sound a bit Michael-Flynn-ish?) . . . Keep up the good work!


Steve, yes, I have read that book and recommend it.

Another lesson: don’t talk to the police! Anyone who has been paying attention to the current political follies knows about perjury traps, and more broadly speaking it’s almost never in your interest. This is from a law professor, and part 2, which should be automatically linked to it, is from a former police investigator and is just as informative.


Kirk, thanks.

While I’m happy that there was an understanding, I hope in the future you will always insist on having, not a colleague, but an attorney present, any time law enforcement wants to speak with you. The fact that they say it’s not necessary means diddly squat. I say this as someone who hopes to read many more blog posts from you, and would prefer you not go to prison on the basis of your memory conflicting with an FBI agent’s faulty memory.


Edward, yes, reasonable point, but see above. I memorialized the visit in prose. My post, in effect, was “notes from the meeting.”

“. . . sack all those who were responsible for it in the first place, have them flogged in the church parking lot first . . .” Ummm, yes, hello pastor Wilson, this is the FBI again. Was that another H. L. Mencken quote? ; – )


Jason, it was in the style of Mencken. Performance art.

More on Emeth

Re the Salvation of Emeth. You write: “When Jesus cleanses the Temple, He drives out the merchants and money changers from the Court of the Gentiles.” Just curious about this—it doesn’t seem explicit in my reading of the NASB. I don’t really doubt it but I’m naturally skeptical and wonder how you know this. Maybe I just missed it.


Nathan, that court is not explicitly named as such in Scripture. We know about it from other historical sources. Here’s a link.

Salvation of Emeth—thank you for this. A very helpful and clear bit of untangling of a thorny issue. However, is this what Lewis himself would have said in defense of Emeth? Not being a precise theologian (by his own admission) it seems like Emeth’s salvation might have been less thought through in his mind than your explanation gives him credit for. How much should authorial intent impact our understanding here? Also, it doesn’t seem that Naaman is the best example to end with, because though he did not have contact with the name of Jesus, he did have contact with YHWH. Whereas all of Emeth’s “good works” were done strictly in the name of Tash, and Tash as understood popularly by the Calormens (even if not worshipped as devoutly by them as by Emeth). The parallel from the OT seems to be rather, whether a devout Philistine offering all his allegiance and love and loyalty to Dagon could be saved on the basis of that loyalty and love, because it was truly given. Isn’t that more like what Lewis is saying?


Joe, thanks. We don’t have an exact parallel anywhere. If a Philistine approached Dagon the way Emeth approached Tash, he would be a Dagon-heretic, out of step with all his people. And the way Emeth turned the moment he encountered Aslan seems more like Naaman to me.

Thanks for tackling the Emeth issue. I like what you have done with it, but might there be also a rather simpler shortcut to the whole thing? Emeth was not dead when he met Aslan. What he experienced in that meeting was not a postmortem evangelism, but rather something more like Saul on the road to Damascus. Sure, the circumstances are bit more spicy because the world was kind of ending, but the fact remains that Emeth had not yet died, and so the time for judgment wasn’t yet upon him. He met Aslan and responded with faith to the truth that was being proclaimed to him. So his zeal for Tash was actually misplaced zeal for Aslan, and that is easy to understand, but his salvation doesn’t have to be out of the ordinary at all.


Corey, yes. Emeth did not die exactly, and his encounter with Aslan was kind of in Heaven already.

Your post on the Salvation of Emeth is missing one very important text. “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The chain of logic present in Paul’s questions assumes that people need to hear the gospel and can’t be saved without explicitly hearing and believing it. It’s at least pertinent to those who are able-minded. I don’t see a way to get around this like Lewis was attempting to do.


Geoff, yes, but I don’t think it is that simple. You insert “those who are able minded,” which seems right to all of us, but Paul doesn’t even hint at something like that. So the first question is “are there any exceptions to the Romans 10 pattern at all?” If there are, and they are not referred to in that text, we have to find the boundaries of such exceptions in the rest of Scripture, in the whole counsel of God.

Thank you for this article. I have also wondered whether some people in the Old Testament era who did not know about the Lord would be saved. I am not sure if all babies or severely retarded people will be saved, especially since in the latter case some have been guilty of appalling crimes that could not be interpreted as anything but evil, (and children of unbelievers are considered unclean, unlike those of believing parents), but the possibility that a man who did not know the Lord but believed what little gospel truth he knew may enter Heaven may explain how every tribe has representation in the Heavenly kingdom, given that some tribes have certainly died out without having learned about Jesus. Thank you also for your article arguing for the eventual salvation of Queen Susan.


James, thank you. And it is fortunate for all of us that God is the one responsible for all it—and the judge of the whole earth will do right.

A Holy PCA Ruckus?

What form should the ruckus take? Maybe Christians who do not want the PCA to go liberal should join the PCA, where they could do something about it. Otherwise, those Christians might be right, but why should the PCA care? Not disagreeing or criticizing here, just observing that any effective resistance would most likely have to come from within the PCA. Do other reformed bodies have an association with the PCA that would give them any leverage? Don’t know, I’m asking.


John, the PCA in such instances is responding to cultural pressures that did not arise within the PCA. I believe that Christians outside the PCA should be able to make enough requisite noise.

And while we are on this topic, the session of South City has released a (lame) statement, which can be read here.

A Random Note:

Re: “When Things Go Awry” To this day, my instinct is to pronounce it AW-ree. David

David, have you sought help?

A Tough Situation:

For the last decade or so I have been reading your articles, listening to your arguments about public schools. Before I learned I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wanted to give our daughter (my husband and I) a Christian education. When I learned I was pregnant, I was aware of the task at hand; to train up my yet to be born child into His Word. To minister the Gospel. By the time she was born, I already knew which Christian homeschool curriculum I was going to pick and I had found a good Christian brick and mortar school if we decided to go that route. I was ready. I wasn’t, however, ready for the challenge of a child with severe cognitive and intellectual delays. By the time she turned 4, she was barely meeting the milestones of an 18 month old and as we look toward her beginning kindergarten, it is clear that she needs specialized education. None of the Christian private schools in our offer a special education program, and if they do, they are not equipped for a still diapered, completely non-verbal 5 year old severely autistic little girl with violent tendencies. My husband and I are reformed in our theology, we believe that the Bible applies to her. We trust in the Lord that He has entrusted us with this child and that He is the great healer, she could talk tomorrow and we believe that He can extend saving grace to any soul, including our daughter. That’s why, despite the challenges, we attend a family-integrated church and we involve her in our family worship and Bible time. But we are struggling with how to move forward with her education. We don’t want to send her to public school, but it’s difficult to not see the appeal because they can offer her specialized education. There are specialized secular private schools for children with her needs, but they are 1) secular 2) come with a price tag of between 35-50 thousand dollars a year. We reside in a state where homeschool students are required to pass state testing and we are being told that they do not make accommodations for children with special needs. We are at all a loss. Because of all the work you have dedicated to the promotion of a Christian education, I am certain that I am not the first one to come to you with this question and I pray that you can offer some wisdom. Thank you in advance.


Tina, first I have a great deal of respect for you and your husband. So begin with the well-done. You are in a hard situation, and I wouldn’t want any advice that I might give to sound like I think it is easy. My teaching on the use of the government schools presupposes a normal situation, and difficult cases (like yours) make bad law. That said, in a perfect situation, I believe a Christian approach to severe special needs would be better than a secular approach to severe special needs. The question you are facing is whether a secular approach to severe special needs is to be preferred to a non-existent Christian approach. And I think that the answer is probably yes. But I would encourage you not to come to that conclusion until you have thoroughly researched two options. One has to do with the possibility of relocating (dependent on your husband’s job) to a place with a large enough population to support a Christian educational program for special needs kids. Is there a place anywhere in the country that could help your daughter, and is there a livelihood for your family there? And secondly, I would encourage you to get a legal opinion on your homeschooling options in your state. I would want more information there than “we are being told.” One final point. It is tempting in such situations, at least in the hard moments, to think about the hard providence that God gave you. But always remember that in this God has also given your daughter something remarkable in this. He has given her a true blessing in you. And so be encouraged. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58)   

What It Means to Forgive

You mention “forgiven people forgive.” I have three questions about this. Coming from an IFB background, this has eluded me: what is the connection between forgivability (the desire to forgive) and the act of forgiveness? Is it right to forgive someone of a wrong doing if they never seek forgiveness, and even if that person is hostile to the idea of seeking forgiveness, or do we just indiscriminately forgive the wrong? How does this work with restoration of fellowship?


Timothy, if someone has wronged you and for whatever reason does not seek forgiveness, the transaction of forgiveness cannot occur. If someone steals your car, you can’t yell down the road after them “I forgive you.” But the disposition to forgive can occur. You can have that present wrapped and waiting for them, so that you can give to them the first moment it is appropriate to do so. If you are in an ongoing relationship with someone like that, then you need to ask if it is the kind of sin that love can cover a multitude of. If so, then that’s what you do. If not, then you pull out of that relationship.

A Trenchant Counterargument

You da dumb man, dougie. Really, slavery was good? Hahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahah. Alignment with a southern nationalist? Hahahahahahahahahahah you are da idiot. Tell john piper to shut up.


Jim, thanks for the cogent riposte. I confess that I have never thought about this thorny issue from such an insightful angle before.

Another Thorny Issue

On the dancing squid dish, we need you to explicate Luke 10:8, “eat such things as are set before you.”


Steve, quite. What you need to do is anticipate when someone like that might conceivably happen, and make sure to be in another country at the time.

Southern Gospel

Love that Gospel revival! A group called The Lower Lights is cooking up similar goodness.


Joseph, thanks for the link.

No Quarter Marriage?

Pastor Wilson, the Book of Worship, Faith, and Practice provided online ( is an invaluable resource for a congregation desiring to become more CREC-like. As it is such a tremendous resource for budding congregations, may I ask for more? May I ask for variations regarding wedding ceremonies and funerals (while they’re unlikely to be part of Sunday worship, I think you get my point)? Having a blueprint of worship order and structure, if not the direct vow language itself, would be a great help. I also wonder if Christ Church would consider a “camp” of sorts for congregations to send a delegation of elders/pastors/lay leaders to be instructed on the how and why of expecting the Holy Spirit to move in a worship service. A DVD series, an online set of classes, an Idaho experience: I don’t know what shape this takes, but I suggest it as there is a paucity of faithful learning opportunities granted the church planter. A great number of idolatrous Hospice Churches will fall in the coming months and years. Please be an integral factor in helping educate those who would happily take the reins and drive congregations towards Christ. No Quarter Sunday?


Ron, thanks for the ideas. In the meantime, you might find Terry Johnson’s book Leading in Worship helpful—on weddings, funerals and other special circumstances.

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Categories: People I don't know

Logos Online 2019

Tue, 15/01/2019 - 03:16

Registration is about to open for Logos Online next year. Check out the new banner ad above, which you can click on to get to an educational happy spot. In addition to that, you can check out the video below. How’s that?

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Categories: People I don't know

A Frail Thing in a Sturdy Container

Tue, 15/01/2019 - 02:00

“According to the historic Reformed faith, the elect of God cannot fall away. This is not because they are made out of stainless steel—they are as frail as the non-elect and can in fact be broken. But the Word of God cannot be broken” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. 21).

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Categories: People I don't know

Yellow Vest Presbyterians

Mon, 14/01/2019 - 16:43

The early returns seem to indicate that another controversy is brewing, and once again, it involves the PCA, St. Louis and Covenant Seminary. That said, the controversy appears to be functioning on a smaller but fruitier scale than the Revoice controversy did. What they have lost in quantity they are making up for in quality.

Here’s what we know so far. An activist lesbian musician/educator, in an open lesbian relationship, has been invited by South City Church (PCA) to instruct them on how to “mourn the tragic deaths of trans folx,” and this is being done on the Lord’s Day, in conjunction with the church’s MLK commemoration. The speaker concerned is Jay-Marie Hill. Her website says, “Jay-Marie is originally from Oakland, CA. but now works out of St. Louis, MO building a very Black, very Queer life with their incredible partner, Kayla.” You should watch the pronouns there, which might lead you to conclude that there is more than one of her, which could conceivably play havoc with the honorarium and the 1099. But perhaps, like Whitman, she contains multitudes.

The event is being sponsored by a group called Faith for Justice, which had as one of its founders the pastor’s daughter, a woman named Michelle Higgins. Her father, the pastor, serves on the board of the group. The pastor in question is named Mike Higgins, and he is also an adjunct professor at Covenant. So then, we start with this baseline—the optics are just terrible.

But I do want to issue a cautionary note from the other direction. I have read one comment online that reports back to us that the initial response by the session to this news has been along the lines of “we didn’t know the nature of the event” and “yikes” and “furthermore.” So it is conceivable (to me, barely) that the church will respond appropriately, which is to say, cancel the event, sack all those who were responsible for it in the first place, have them flogged in the church parking lot first, and seek forgiveness from the world for giving the unbelievers occasion to blaspheme. And also for thinking that what the PCA needed right now was a few more lessons from an active lesbian on how to treat trannies.

Anything less than such drastic measures (2 Cor. 7:11) will just be damage control and not real repentance. Anything less will provide us with a grotesque juxtaposition of aggressive perverts and passive- aggressive Presbyterians. As the sexually perverted continue to make their inroads into our circles, uncovering their butts, the Book of Church Order Presbyterians will be equally busy covering theirs.  

For more on details as they unfold, you can follow Michael Foster on Facebook.

Due Process and Public Controversy:

Not surprisingly, this mess creates certain questions about process. Should this create a moment for yellow-vest Presbyterians? Close, but not exactly.

Those who have followed this blog for any length of time know that one of my major emphases is the need for strict justice, biblically defined, and this means strict justice for everybody.

This is particularly necessary when the word justice has been coopted by those whose economic theories would make the world into a hellhole. Socialism is an industrial-scale manufacturer of injustices, and so naturally their cause is always advanced in the name of social justice. Christians have to learn how to both define and defend actual justice, and if this is to mean anything, it has to apply to our adversaries as much as anybody. And this means justice must be rendered to those who have no idea what justice is. 

The basic principles for all of this have been laid down in A Justice Primer, see below.

So the principles of justice involved apply to everyone, including Pastor Mike Higgins. If charges are brought against him for this, then he should absolutely enjoy all the protections that Scripture gives to anyone accused of anything. Is the charge independently confirmed (2 and 3 witnesses)? Does he have a full and free opportunity to mount a full defense (Prov. 18:17)? Were the processes that all parties agreed to beforehand strictly followed (BCO)? Was he convicted on the basis of the evidence presented, and not on the basis of political pressure applied? All of this is most important—crucial in fact.

Mobs outside the courts are rarely a help, and this would include a right-wing mob demanding that we purge Covenant of all the commies on the faculty.

So Why Then . . .?

That being the case, someone might wonder, why are you blogging about this? Why are you being a participant in a public controversy over it? Is that not inconsistent?

No. There is a vast difference between public pressure to deal with something that obviously needs to be dealt with, urging all appropriate channels to deal with something they would rather not deal with, on the one hand, and public pressure to secure a particular result, appropriate channels be damned. The latter scenario is obviously too much like the “crucify Him!” approach that was brought against Jesus.

But here is an example of a legitimate use of pressure. The issue of whether Gentiles could become Christians without becoming Jews first was an issue that was settled by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). That council met, deliberated, debated, and settled it—and they did so correctly. But the reason they had the opportunity to do this is because Paul had raised a stink at Antioch. Peter had been willing to eat together with Gentiles until certain men from James arrived. When they arrived, Peter withdrew from them. At that point, Paul stood up against Peter “to his face” (Gal. 2:11). He didn’t do it in executive session either. He said what he said to Peter “in front of them all” Gal. 2:14).

This was a controversy out in the middle of things. In order to have that kind of set-to, it was not necessary to go through the Matthew 18 process. It was not necessary to find all the dots in the BCO and connect them. It was not necessary to appoint a study committee. All that was necessary was for someone with a well-trafficked blog to say, “Hey guys. Get a load of this.” This kind of controversy should lead to the courts of the church, but a great deal of good can be done before any adjudicating body deals with any aspect of it. If this is not done, then there are any number of rotting situations that the church courts will never hear about.

In the conduct of such a controversy, it is of course necessary to fight fair. Hitting hard is one thing, and hitting hard below the belt another. It is most needful to tell the truth, and not lies. Slander is not permitted simply because there is a controversy on. It is also necessary for the controversialist to remain clear-eyed. A controversialist who just “sees red” is one who would not be able even to hear a reasonable explanation even if there were one.

What sort of thing could make us all say “never mind”? Well, it was like this, they said . . .

“The people holding this conference asked the session if we would host it, and we said, ‘No, of course not. Don’t be silly.’ They got angry and hacked the church web site, announcing the conference anyway, simply to embarrass us. Here are the session minutes, confirming every element of this. In addition to all this, not that it proves anything in particular, but simply noting that it is suggestive, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that Mike Higgins is also the co-chair of Missouri’s committee to re-elect Donald Trump. In short, we believe that you think something is going on here which is not going on here.”

When Israel was about to go to war with Reuben and Gad, they did so because what Reuben and Gad had done—they had built a big altar—looked really bad. All Israel mustered for war on the basis of what this thing looked like.

“And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them” (Josh. 22:11–12).

They were ready to go to war over this. But they were also quite ready to hear a reasonable explanation. If there was one.

It turns out there was.

“And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them” (Josh. 22:30).

So there really needs to be a commotion in the Reformed world over this St. Louis business. There needs to be preparation for war. And the consternation we feel over it should not be a mild consternation. No. Until this is resolved, whenever someone says “PCA” and “St. Louis” in the same sentence, we should feel like something hot and sticky, something that weighs about five pounds, is climbing up our backbone.

On Not Being Gullible:

But it should be said that an eagerness to hear a reasonable explanation does not mean that we should simply accept the assurances of the leaders that they “have it under control,” and that “this will all be taken care of.” I see. How much of the Revoice controversy has been resolved? What has been done? Is that one still under control? Or under the carpet?

Why engage in controversy at all? Wouldn’t it be better if we just let the appointed officials handle the whole thing? Yes, but if we take that approach, they won’t have anything to handle. And keep in mind that the natural carnal desire of denominational leaders is to not have a hot controversy come boiling up the ranks at them. If it blows over—as Revoice apparently did—they can go back to normal, prepared to reassure all of us of their conservative bona fides as needed.

The courts of the church are there to handle and process the controversies. The controversies are not to replace the courts, obviously not. That would be mob justice. But there is a problem in the other direction as well. If it goes the other way, as it has in the PCA, and the courts replace the controversies, what you wind up with is a good old boys network, where everybody knows everybody, where everything is cozy and snug, and where nothing gets dealt with.

Why don’t we let the courts of the church police everything? Yeah, but they don’t. They aren’t equipped to.

The courts of the church are more like riot police than they are like janitors. The janitors come through every night and empty the waste baskets. The janitors pick everything up. The janitors make sure your work space looks exactly the same every morning. The thing is routine and a certain calm serenity attends all of it.

But clashes, disputes, and controversies are a different matter. And Christians who do not want the PCA to go liberal—which it is in the process of doing—need to be a lot more noisy in the meantime. As in, right now. There should be an ongoing ruckus.

“Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:2–5).

So we do need some yellow vest Presbyterians, after a fashion. But by saying this, I don’t mean setting fires and turning over cars. It is a metaphor. I mean that rank and file Presbyterians need to turn over the cars of their session’s complacency. Congregations should make clear to their sessions that they want their representatives to go to presbytery and raise holy hell over it.

It is not enough for your representatives to be “against it.” It is insufficient to “vote no.” There needs to be a controversy that the courts of the church cannot bury under the determinations of a semi-somnolent study commission.

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Categories: People I don't know

What It Means to be Forgiven

Sat, 12/01/2019 - 16:51

When we are forgiven for our sins, there are two fundamental aspects to this. First we are delivered, definitively, all at once, from the penalty of sin. Our sins and our lawless deeds God will remember no more. They are forgiven, meaning they won’t come up at all in the Day of Judgment. You need to think about this as though the angel of the Lord Himself was appointed as the foreman of your jury, and he entered the heavenly courtroom and read out the verdict. Pointing to the altar where Jesus sprinkled His own blood, he says, in a bright clear voice that the whole cosmos hears, “not guilty.” This is forgiveness proper.

But we are also delivered from the power of sin. There is a stark break with what might be called reigning sin (Gal. 5:24), which is followed by a progressive and unrelenting campaign against all remaining sin (Col. 3:5; Rom. 8:13). This is progressive; it is our ongoing sanctification. But if you think of this primarily as moral improvement, it is very easy to slip into a “peddle harder” approach to your sanctification, which is deadly. Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now going to finish in the flesh? An ongoing experience of grace—and a corresponding awareness that your sins are forgiven—is going to keep your growth in Christ fresh. When someone is not really growing in grace, one of the problems is forgetfulness of forgiveness. “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9, ESV).

The Text:

Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Is. 1:10-20).

Summary of the Text:

Now as a minister of Christ, the message I have entrusted to deliver to you is a message of free grace, radical grace, nothing but grace. The message of the cross of Jesus, and the resurrection of that same Christ, is a message of everlasting and undeserved kindness. That being the case, and because our thought processes are so corrupted by sin, we have a hard time getting our minds around what God is actually offering to us.

Either we say that God is the only one doing the lifeguarding, and so He must be saving us from drowning by leaving us on the bottom of the pool, or we acknowledge that we must be saved from drowning by actually getting out of the pool, and concluding that we must by our own efforts help the lifeguard to save us.

Now being saved by grace means being saved by grace from sin (Rom. 6:14).

Being under law means being under condemnation for those sins that have you in bondage. Being under grace means you are liberated from that. The grace of God saves us from it all.

So consider how the prophet Isaiah presents this glorious reality. First, he addresses the Jews under the figure of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 10). He asks the first what their intentions were in bringing Him “all these” sacrifices (v. 11). He asks them (sarcastically) who required you to show up here in my courts (v. 12). This thing you are doing, who told you to? He tells them to pack up all their liturgical gear, and get out (v. 13). Solemn meetings and iniquity do not go together. God hates their religiosity (v. 14). When they spread out their hands in a pious gesture, God turns away. Their hands are covered with blood (v. 15). Repent, turn away, and learn a different way (vv. 16-17). And then comes the glorious promise—a promise that only God could fulfill (v. 18). God makes them a most reasonable offer. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though their sins be like crimson, they shall be like wool. The sins are blood red; the salvation is blood red; the forgiveness is pure white.

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land (v. 19). If you are stubborn and kick, then you will be destroyed (v. 20).

Forgiven Means Forgiving:

Now remember our issue with the horse and the cart. A sheep bleats because it is a sheep, and does so necessarily. But you don’t become a sheep by bleating. An apple tree produces apples because it is an apple tree, and does so necessarily. But a bramble bush can’t become an apple tree by growing apples. A person rescued from the bottom of the pool will be dried off, but we don’t hand him a towel on the bottom of the pool. You cannot rescue yourself by drying off under water.

And forgiven people forgive. That is just what happens. That is simply a description of what it is like.

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

This is how absolute forgiveness is simultaneously absolute grace, free grace, and at the same time is morally rigorous. This is because God does not just give us cleansing from the defilement of sin—He also liberates us from the power of sin to defile. And one of the central defilements of sin is the refusal to forgive others. Someone who does not forgive others is someone who is demonstrating a profound spiritual cluelessness.

In His grace, God not only gives us forgiveness to cover our sins, He also gives us forgiveness to cover the sins of others. He gives us more grace than we thought, not less. So do not be like the foolish slave in the parable, who had his debt of millions forgiven, and then tried to choke a fellow slave over pocket change.

So be mindful first of the relational structure of forgiveness. God always gives forgiveness, and enough to share. If you don’t have enough to share, then this is evidence that you don’t have any at all.

What It Is Like:

Now with that warning registered, with that particular kind of moral blindness challenged, what is it like for a believer who has experienced the complete and entire forgiveness of God?

The first thing is to realize that the experience of forgiveness for our sins is a reality that comes to us from outside ourselves. We do not generate it. We do not manufacture it. We do not simply realize it. We do not come up with it ourselves. Our new status, that of being cleansed, that of put being right, that of being declared perfectly righteous, is a reality that comes to us from Christ. Our righteousness is grounded in realities that were manifested in Israel two thousand years ago.

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Is. 54:17).

So our forgiveness is objectively grounded. What does it feel like subjectively? When objective forgiveness is granted to sinners, it has subjective consequences. What does it feel like to be forgiven? It is as though God were to take a hot and soapy sponge, and run it over every square inch of your internal gunk. There is not one filthy spot left.

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified” (Is. 43:25–26).

Not only does He cleanse us from all unrighteousness, there is a glorious element of divine blood-bought forgetfulness. Isaiah says “will not remember thy sins.” In your prayers, you bring up (again) the fact that you cheated on that test in high school, that you lusted after your neighbor’s wife, that you envied the success of your older brother, that you were lazy when given hard physical job labor. And God looks at you as much as to say, “What are you talking about?”

As if that were not enough, we are given other glorious images of this. Who is a God like the Lord? There is no other god like Him. Why? Because we serve and worship a God who pardons iniquity. We serve and worship a God who, when confronted with the transgression of His heritage, walks right by it. He is a God who is not just “okay’ with mercy. The prophet tells us that He delights in mercy. This is all in the prophet Micah.

“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, And passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, Because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18–19).

And notice what else God does according to Micah. He takes our sins . . . how many of them? . . . all of them, and He plunges them to the depths of the sea. To take an old Navy expression, He deep-sixes them. Where are your sins right now? They are at the bottom of the ocean. They will never be heard from again. Does any creature know about them? Maybe some blind deep sea critter will swim right by them, but we must reckon with the force of the illustration. Your sins are gone.

One last illustration in order to bless your soul.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).

If you go north for long enough, then at some point you will find yourself going south again. But if you head due west, there will never be a time when you find yourself going east. You will be going constantly west. As Kipling put it, in a completely different context, “east is east and west is west, and never the twain shall met.”

How far has God removed your sins from you? The answer provided in these illustrations from the prophets has a straightforward point. Your sins are gone far enough that you will never, ever encounter them again.

Your crimson sins are now white. Your bosom sins are now light years away. Your besetting sins have lost their grip on you. Your regrets have gone deep sea diving, someone cut the rope, and they are now lost somewhere on the bottom. Your bad and pernicious habits have, like Pharaoh’s army, got drown’ded.

And one last point to make, the final point, the ultimate point. The only way for your sins to be that far away from you is for the Christ who carried them to be close to you. And there is a mystery here. Christ is the one who bore our sins. Christ is the one who was made sin on our behalf. So if that sin-bearer is close, then the sins themselves are the utter opposite of close.

Hear the good news. If Christ is absent, our sins are not absent. If Christ is present, then our sins are absent. And how is Christ present? He is present in the Word proclaimed, and in the Word on this Table here, and He is apprehended as present by evangelical faith alone.

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Categories: People I don't know

And Good Either Way

Sat, 12/01/2019 - 02:00

“If Rome was cut out [of the olive tree], she can be grafted back in. If Rome was not cut out, but only radically cut back, she will flourish and bear evangelical fruit once again” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. 7).

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Categories: People I don't know

When Plans Go Awry

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 14:26

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Categories: People I don't know

But We Don’t Understand

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 02:00

“Many complaints about the ‘disunity’ of the Church are actually complaints about how God knits in the darkness of the womb” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. 7).

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Categories: People I don't know

In Case You Were Interested

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 00:05

Looking back over my stats for the last two years, I thought I would pass on to you what the top three sellers have been from my little Mablog Shop on the corner. This is to help along those of you who have not yet purchased one of these little babies (one dollar a piece, remember), and now you have an additional argument. “But Mom, everybody’s doing it.”

Here they are, in ascending order:

#3 #2 #1

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Categories: People I don't know

The Content Cluster Muster (1.10.19)

Thu, 10/01/2019 - 17:00
Like Where I Live, Only With Hedges

And naturally, always more here.

File Under: NOPE, NOPE, NOPE (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = ''; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));These Rice Bowls Look Like They're Alive

Living squid bowl…. yum!

Categories: People I don't know

Stands to Reason

Thu, 10/01/2019 - 02:00

“A shepherd who tolerates wolves is a shepherd who hates his own sheep. A shepherd who loves his sheep is one who fights the wolves” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. 6).

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Categories: People I don't know

My Little Visit from the FBI

Wed, 09/01/2019 - 16:22

So one small postscript from my “No Quarter November” remains necessary. I did want to share with you all that my month-long adventure in blogging without brakes did garner me a visit from the FBI. It was not as exciting as it sounds, but it was noteworthy, and worthy of a few follow-up observations.


What happened was this. A few weeks ago, I got a call from an FBI agent (apparently on the road) to see if I would be in my office later that afternoon. I acknowledged that I would be, and we arranged a time. At that arranged time, two field agents showed up, very personable, professional and polite. As far as I knew, it could be anything from running a security check on someone who had me down as a reference to hauling me off for thought crimes against our Brand New Republic.

I asked them if I should have a colleague sit in, and they said that would not be necessary. So then, we sat down, and though I may not have looked like I was all agog, I was all agog on the inside. Imagine my delight when it turned out that our topic was “No Quarter November,” specifically the first post in that series, and more specifically than that, the first paragraph in that post. As you may recall, the title of that post was “Burn All the Schools.” And here is the offending paragraph.

H.L. Mencken once suggested a shrewd educational reform that has somehow not caught on. He said that there was nothing wrong with our current education establishment that could not be fixed by burning all the schools, and hanging all the teachers. Now some might want to dismiss this as an extreme measure, but visionaries are often dismissed in their own day. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one . . .”

Not only did I get visited by the FBI for my November blogging, but I didn’t even get to the second paragraph of November without attracting attention.

I am piecing together what must have happened, and here is my theory. Believe it or not, some people who read this blog are not exactly big fans of mine, and when they read this veiled “threat” of violence against our schools (in a world where many a bedlamite has actually shot up a school), they got all whizzed up, as non-fan readers of this blog are wont to do. And then, at some point in their emotional festivities, somebody decided it was necessary to call the FBI.

As I already mentioned, the agents were professional—they had read the blog post in question, but needed to circle back around to ask me something along the lines of that was a joke, right? But more than that was going on with their in-person visit. Behind the simple question about the Mencken quote was also the need to see with their own eyes what kind of operation we had. Our church offices are professional, with an actual receptionist and everything, my office has actual books on the shelves, and they could ascertain for themselves that I do not have three heads, with two of them drooling.

The whole exchange didn’t take very long. They didn’t apologize for checking up on my joke, nor should they have, and I didn’t apologize for making the joke, and so the situation was entirely resolved. Our public schools are safe. Well, actually, let me correct that. Our public schools are safe from me. They are manifestly not safe from the people running them, but that has been a standing problem for some generations now.

So what are my take-away observations from all of this? I have just a couple.

The first is that we can see yet another example of the ongoing weaponization of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. What is happening all the time in Washington these days—hugger mugger stuff under both definitions—is spreading. What is happening in Washington—can you say Russia, Russia, Russia?—is extending out to the hinterlands. What used to be mere political differences, or perhaps differences over appropriate rhetorical voltages, are in the process of being criminalized.

Low-budget adversaries can make a complaint to an agency with considerably more resources than they have, and if the allegation is sensitive or lurid enough, that agency feels compelled to protect itself by “making sure” there is nothing to it. This kind of thing has happened to me before—I was the subject of a six-month investigation by the Attorney-General’s office here in Idaho, and all on the basis of a complaint from an aggrieved and singularly ill-informed citizen. An amusing story is to be had about all that, with links provided here and here.

Someone might respond that schools really do get shot up, and so if you “see something, say something.” This response reminds me of the old children’s joke, which asks what the difference between a hippopotamus and a mailbox might be. When the “I don’t know” answer comes back, the punch line is, “Well, I am not going to send you to mail any letters.”

A second point is worth making about all of this. There are two kinds of Christian leaders in the world, dividing them broadly into two camps. Mention that someone has gotten a visit from the FBI on the basis of something he said in a sermon, on a podcast, on his blog, or in the church newsletter, and Christian leaders will sort themselves out accordingly. One group shakes the head disapprovingly, worried about the testimony, and what does this do to the good reputation among outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7)? The second kind of Christian leader hears of something like this, and his heart sinks. “Why can’t something like that ever happen to me?” And his wife says, “Honey, don’t . . .”

One kind of Christian leader thinks that it is an honor to be honored. The other believes that it is an honor to be dishonored, a grace to be disgraced. There is obviously more to it, but that basic division explains a lot of other things too.

Now someone might be ready with a quick comeback. “Yeah, Wilson, but you didn’t get visited by the FBI because of Jesus. You got visited because you quoted that old reprobate Mencken.”

To which I reply that perhaps a lot more pastors ought to be quoting Mencken.

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Categories: People I don't know

And Who Doesn’t Want True Catholicity?

Wed, 09/01/2019 - 02:00

“True catholicity begins with defining catholicity” (Papa Don’t Pope, p. x).

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Categories: People I don't know

The Letters Continue to Come Forth

Tue, 08/01/2019 - 16:00
Emeth and All

I once listened to a liberal preacher from a liberal denomination expound on John 14:6 and point to the “conclusion” that we cannot say Jesus meant belief involving conscious awareness is required to come to the Father through Him. He would not quite say that is not, he just questioned it in the “Jesus never said” way that liberals like to do; a way that made clear what he himself disbelieved. In other words, he was preaching inclusivism. The answer to that treatment of John 14:6 is that it contradicts the entire thrust of the Gospel of John, which is explicitly summed up in John 20:31.


John, thanks.

Emeth: I like that you addressed this, as the story of Emeth has given me much consternation upon first reading it (as a young boy) and later as various loved ones began tossing the Chronicles aside as so much heresy. I chose principally to ignore the text as pertaining to anything “true” since it’s all just a story anyway, and as a loose allegory it couldn’t possibly get everything spot on accurate with real life . . . Now I think I shall need to go reread the Chronicles another time—which is never a bad idea—and see how The Last Battle reads in light of this essay. I’m reminded that Scripture is filled with little anecdotes that bake our noodles, frustrating our ability to figure it all out. Rahab was a believer, too, as was King Darius, the Ethiopian eunuch, and the Eastern magicians—er, mystics—er, magi. God does make my head hurt at times. Who’s to say there’s not some dude with a bone through his nose whose great-ancestor once met a missionary and passed down some stories of the All-Father and now worships the One who made everything via this vanishing shred of inherited knowledge . . . and then a lion eats him and he ends up in Heaven where everything is made perfectly clear. Or maybe there never was a missionary. . . It is quite interesting that we mostly all agree that God elects infants and the mentally deficient as He sees fit, even if those people are children of pagans living in wretched conditions, but we choke on the notion that He might elect others by His good pleasure who, through no fault of their own, still have no idea who Christ is. I don’t know if God is “winking” at their ignorance so much as trumping it with His Grace. No one deserved to be elected, so He gets the glory whichever way He wants to do it.


Malachi, yes. He gets the glory. And regardless of what happens in the salvation of anyone, it is not a function of justice, but rather of grace.


“There are things that Trump does and says that just don’t fit into any coherent conservative framework, like his views on tariffs. So what happens when a movement conservative continues to believe what he does about free trade, but moves it from his #3 priority to his #13 priority?” Just a slight criticism (and I know it misses the point of the post): tariffs and trade restrictions have a deep heritage in conservative governments. It’s probably more correct to say it doesn’t fit into a “contemporary” rather than coherent conservative framework as most conservatives have now backed away from protectionist policies (while still benefitting from a variety of different trade protections/supports and keeping quiet about it). The United States has a wide range of tariffs and market access restrictions designed to favour domestic producers. I can’t say definitively whether R or D governments that enforced them but I would be surprised if I didn’t find a single Republican government that didn’t opt for some type of protectionism.


Jordan, yes, I believe there is much in what you say as a historical matter. But modern conservatism, like it or not, is an amalgam of classical liberalism and social traditionalism. And, on the economics of the thing, I find the free trade arguments compelling. But they aren’t the only compelling factor, because I am not a follower of Mammon.

Climate and Such

Sir, appreciated your recent article on global warming, and the apt comparison to “Christian” End-of-the-World hysteria. I’m similarly incredulous about current climate alarmism (I share your support of carbon dioxide about which you wrote elsewhere; I hear it is good for plants.). However, there is one objective environmental “prediction” (which oddly doesn’t seem to get much attention) that seems both inescapable and worthy of at least some level of “alarm.” At some point (if the Lord tarries)—whether in 50 years, 500, or 5,000—given our current usage, this planet will undoubtedly deplete its supply of fossil fuels. For that reason (alone) I am sympathetic to the push for electric cars, improved mass transit, biofuels, developing renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, and the like. Granted, I imagine that this will largely work itself out at the time with basic economics: supply, demand, incentive, and necessity. But in godly concern about our future generations, it does seem prudent to support at least some incentives shared by the radical environmentalists (e.g., research on energy efficient transportation & infrastructure, renewable sources, etc.)—not because we care about our “carbon footprint,” but rather to help our posterity prepare to make the significant transition that will be required when those resources do become truly scarce. (Granted, this feels to me like making the alliance of necessity with the Soviet Union in WWII simply because we shared one limited, but critical, strategic goal). Would be interested in your thoughts concerning.


Daniel, I agree that it is likely that at some point we will run out of fossil fuels. I suspect that will be at least a millennium away, but centuries at any rate. But in a free economy, and with various superstitions about efficient energy sources overcome (e.g. nuclear), I think we’ll be fine. Rather than cut back on energy usage, I would rather urge people to try to increase their energy usage, while doing so intelligently.

A question was posed to me some years ago which I have pondered for some time. It has somewhat satisfied my desire to make sense of this global warming moral panic. (My previous iteration as a university science and mathematics graduate enabled me to recognise a scientist when I saw one. (BTW, if my inaccurate observations in the physics and chemistry lab were as acceptable to the lecturers as global warming predictions today, I would have graduated dux, rather than somewhere in the middle of my class). The question went something like this; if I were an (the) enemy of God, what optimal strategy would I utilise to destroy His people? The suggested response was worthy of consideration; it was to simply “remove the father.” This became, to me, more than an obvious reference to The Father God referred to by Jesus. At first, it was an interesting postulate, but on closer examination become more significant. In short, my thinking on this claim led me to recall recent history, identifying what I strongly suspect were a series of strategic community changes over time, seemingly innocuous in isolation, but in aggregate, more sinister. Some examples of the scope of my thinking follow. The transition from culture icons such as Andy Williams show (just one example) to the Simpsons, where fathers graduated from a trusted authority to buffoon. The ease which the law of the land enabled (I suggest tacitly encouraged) the easy removal of fathers through no-fault divorce and a strong legal default to maintaining a predominant mother-children family unit. The entertainment industry’s penchant to glamourise family and marriage dysfunction helped here. An important objective to liberating women to participate in a professional meritocracy (equality of opportunity) evolved into a resentment driven educational sector and media industry, third-wave feminist cartel, now pursuing equality of outcome, a more sinister declaration of war against the “patriarchy.” Many more examples, but here is my point re: global warming/climate change. This is, I believe, a significant reinforcement of the atheistic-evolution revolution; the replacement of Father God with Mother Nature as the ultimate idol of our generations: the strategic use of Hegelian dialect (creating an unprovable crisis to which idolaters can readily attach and parade their moral virtue) ) and then also convince governments to part with very large sums of taxpayer funds, no doubt to build more idolatrous structures and further propagate this myth through media, education and a fearful political class. My sense is that this really upgraded the dictionary wars to a new level, (“deniers”). There is obviously more to this and frankly, I realise it can become an academic pursuit rather than life-giving revelation, but this postulate has now become the default lens through which I now assess these macro trends, (that is, a strategy that creates the fertile soil to propagate societal degradation). It is idolatry on steroids, but is it a master strategy? If so, what might be the implications about how to fight this culture and dictionary war? Your insights are keenly sought.


Edmund, yes. The war on the father (as biblically defined) is a master strategy. And the state becomes a milch cow with thousands of teats. The fundamental answer is for us to preach the gospel in season and out of season, to preach it when they want to hear it, and to preach it when they don’t. The secondary strategic response, under the first, is to find a cute girl, marry her, and have a passel of kids, providing them all with a Christian education, doing so if possible in a like-minded community.

An Off-Grid Church

We know by now all fifty states are fine with same sex unions, and the national Union is not going to come apart over it. It might come apart over something else, but apparently not that. If you are correct, that leaves us with an off grid, underground faithful church. I’m sure you have thought about the various ways. What would you expect it to look like?


John, I expect the first wave to be the establishment of a distinction between registered and unregistered churches.

Hat Tip

My heart was warmed by your reference of Dr Sproul. God put him in my life when I desperately needed someone to carry me along. I enjoy and benefit much from your writing and ministry. Thanks to God for all that He is doing with and through you.


Laurence, thank you for the kind words.

Great Question

I’m a fairly new reader of the blog, though I’ve read some of your books. Thank you for your though-provoking posts. A seeming inconsistency occurred to me in today’s roundup email. One of the letters you post is from Roger, who laments the profane nature of the movies recommended by TGC, and you agree with him. But earlier in the email, you recommend a book by Kurt Schlichter, whom you describe as profane. So my question: How do you determine what kind of/how much profanity is allowable? Thank you!


Laura, thanks, and good question. The gent who wrote about the movie reviews was talking about entertainment, and how it appeared that the gunk involved was just being ingested without any awareness. They didn’t appear to care how many slugs are in the salad. Schlichter’s book was one of non-fiction analysis, not entertainment, and I thought that analysis was really worthwhile. But I did want to put a warning label on it so I mentioned that he can get profane. But I do think his writing would be stronger and better without it. So for me the issue is not whether Christians can come across that kind of thing in their reading and viewing habits, but rather how they react to it when they do. And whether they even notice it.


-The lane markings are being erased overnight, but the handwriting has been scribbled on the wall in big, black magic-marker letters for quite a while. The trendy objective of “consent” as the new amoral standard of “no marks at all” is to make criminal anything godly, conservative or commonsense in order to allow children to make decisions that are “right” to him/her in absence of parental authority. And while we’re on the subject, parent as authority is crossed out as outmoded, old-fashioned and cruel, replaced with being the “trusted friend” of your child, setting no boundaries whatsoever to his/her “pursuit of passion.” When yet another of these social experiments fail to work out, yet another victim category is created, replete with excuses, demands for reparations and an ever-expanding list of accommodations to be made by the rest of us to be “accepting” of this ugly and perverted diversity we have created. No one in this ungodly world expects there would be consequences to all of this, but Christians know better and need to stand up for and defend the truth no matter what. Christ never promised us a life free of persecution. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2).


SHB, preach it.

Re: The Idolatry of Consent I mentioned to my wife at one point about 18 months ago that I thought pedophilia was the next logical “thing” in the moral slide that is afflicting our culture. She said she found that tough to swallow, that anyone could think this would be acceptable. I said once we’ve reached the point where we give children the right to consent to body mutilation and chemical sterilization/hormone therapy, how dare we tell them they can’t love some 60-year old guy? This progression is actually entirely logical and inevitable. In fact, in some ways it might actually be backing up slightly, depending on which bit of weirdness you believe is more egregious.


David, you are absolutely right. When you get on a particular train, when it arrives you have to get off.

Re: Idolatry of Consent—“Consent” is nothing less than the creative word that brings into existence the sexual reality. And it is not even a mutual act of creation because each party’s consenting word creates only their own interiorized version of the sexual experience. The sadness, for me, lies in the fact that this just underscores that the sexual act itself has been evacuated of all intrinsic meaning. Its meaning now is no more than as an act that has or has not been consented to.


Stephen, correct. And this interiorized version of sex means that there is no longer sexual communion, but rather just masturbation with others close by. And everything means what you want it to mean inside your head. Which makes it all meaningless.

Thank you for writing about this. The wolves do not want there to be a difference between wolves and sheep. Predators thrive when predator and prey are ill-defined. If definitions are fluid, then creation is fluid. If creation is fluid, then gender is fluid. If gender is fluid, then age is fluid. It is satanic.


Joshua, amen.

This is very true. Having just spent the past eight years in Boston, I wish I could communicate to someone who has not just how very concrete all of this is in the present day. Obviously, among those who seek to defraud society by means of the introduction of such verbal disease, none of these issues pertain in fact to values or law at all. What is at issue is the establishment of social and political control by individuals who, if they succeed in these things, will themselves be above all laws they have established. In some cases, these individuals have already proven themselves to be beyond the reach of all prosecution. Provided the financial means and proper social connections, an individual can live two very different public and private lives, especially in a city. Regardless, in a city where genuine Christian influence is minimal, and probably has been for decades at least, those who know are well-acquainted with the fact that this phenomenon you are referring to is just a matter of playing with words. This awareness, and the willingness to join in the game, is part of what constitutes their notion of being cosmopolitan and sophisticated, and what great gay pride they take in that.


Iain, yes. And as I read your letter I thought again of C.S. Lewis’s prophetic work on this very issue—The Abolition of Man.

Would it be fair to say that consent is necessary but not sufficient for moral sexual activity? The standard of consent strikes me as an absurdly low bar. So low that our president in his infamous comments about how and where to “grab ‘em” actually clears it: ‘You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful . . . I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything . . . Grab ‘em by the p____. You can do anything.”


Josh, exactly right. Consent is one part of the standard, but is not the standard.

Vegan Stuff

Pastor Wilson, This doesn’t respond to anything in particular but I haven’t read a good treatment of whether Christians should be vegans, and I thought you might have thoughts on it.


Nathan, I have written a book on various food and foodie issues, which can be found here.

Do We Really Want Liberty?

Regarding the comments on theonomy and liberty under President Doug: I’ve discovered that a huge proportion of Americans are out and out opponents of liberty. If they ever see something free, their reflex is to put a bunch of rules on it. How else can you explain a home owners association? Our family started home schooling way back in the 1980’s, and the most frequently heard comment (exclaimed with mouth agape and eyebrows aloft) was, “Can you do that?” So when you crank up your campaign for POTUS, don’t get the idea that freedom is something that everyone automatically wants, like ice cream or donuts. On the other hand, when people raise objections to your book about slavery, you could always say, “What’s your problem with slavery? You vote yourself into more bondage every chance you get!”


Steve, right. As Dylan put it, “You gotta serve somebody.”  As the old guard reconstructionists would put it, slavery is inescapable. If you are a slave to sin, then you are eventually going to be enslaved to other men. And if you are a slave to Christ, you will find yourself walking in liberty. There will be no appeal in genuine liberty unless there is a massive reformation and revival.

Anniversary Notes

Heavy Horses, Heavy Blessings: Having gotten married a little over five months ago, I find myself more than a little convicted that my marriage would not, as yet, be rightly described as of the Word and in the Word. Not consistently at any rate. Do you have any practical tips to help me build that foundation? What did it look like for you? Could you point me to any good resources on where to start with family devotions?


Jonathan, the thing I would do is keep it simple. Establish a beachhead for the Word in your home. Make it a point to read the New Testament aloud to your wife, a chapter a day, and also pray for your day. Don’t over-engineer it. Let your devotional time grow organically, but start simple.

You sketched such a good picture of Nancy in her denim skirt listening to Jethro Tull that I remembered it from when you first shared it thirteen years ago: Grateful for you both, and for all the fruit that God has grown in the soil of your forty-three years.


Kyriosity, thank you.

RE: Heavy Horses Richly blessed indeed. Or to quote The Scarlet Pimpernel: dem fine woman!


Eric, not only the Scarlet Pimpernel, but also Uncle Andrew. But Uncle Andrew knew not whereof he spoke, while we do.

Thank you for sharing this insight into your life and for the album recommendation. Congratulations to you and Nancy! May the Lord keep your marriage and ministry fat and flourishing for years to come. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him (Ps. 92:12-15).


Todd, thank you very much.

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Categories: People I don't know

So Fret Not

Tue, 08/01/2019 - 02:05

“We do not live in a post-Christian America. We live in a post-resurrection America, and there is nothing whatever that can be done to reverse that” (Same Sex Mirage, p. 259).

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Categories: People I don't know

So Don’t Tell Anybody

Tue, 08/01/2019 - 02:00

“Losing does not disturb us; it does not unsettle our faith. This is something the Church generally does really well. Speaking frankly, we frequently lose successfully far more often than we succeed successfully. Losing is our secret weapon” (Same Sex Mirage, pp. 258-259).

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Categories: People I don't know

The Salvation of Emeth

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 17:07

One episode in the Narnia stories has caused no little consternation for evangelical parents as they have read to their children, and that element of the story concerns the salvation of Emeth. On another occasion, I discussed the curious fact of Susan’s absence from the heavenly regions in The Last Battle. A second curious fact has to do with Emeth’s presence there, and with Lewis’s reasons for including him.

As we discuss this, it is important to get one particular distinction out of the way at the outset. In the minds of many evangelical believers, a “broad inclusion” of non-Christians in the heavenly kingdom is indistinguishable from theological liberalism. And with regard to an ecumenical “comparative religions” approach, this instinct is quite correct. “We are all seeking after God, each in our own way” is a central aspect of the theological left, and as such must be rejected by all faithful Christians. The problem with that approach is—as the apostle Paul might put it—that religion of God-seekers is an empty set. No one seeks after God (Rom. 3:11).

If this broad and inclusive approach were true, then Christ died for nothing. With a sorrow deeper than any man has ever experienced, Christ asked His Father to have the cup pass from Him if there were any other way (Matt. 26:39). If the Father could have said something like, “Well, the Rig Veda has some promising developments,” then why did Jesus have to die? Jesus had to die because there was no other way to save us.

The purpose of this essay is take the salvation of Emeth as a starting point for a discussion of “who then can be saved?” with that discussion occurring among conservative believers who accept the authority of Scripture, and the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ.

While it is quite true that Lewis shows more latitude on this question than the average conservative believer does, that difference of opinion we have with him is not in the same category as the difference we would have with a theological liberal. More is going on with Lewis, as I hope to show. Lewis says this:

“But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangement about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him” (Mere Christianity, p. 64).

There is something to differ with here, surely. But it should be plain that this is not a position that says “we are all saying the same thing really.”

In other words, it is liberalism to say that faithful Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus, each following the tenets of their own religion sincerely, can be saved for being good people. This is pernicious and false. It is quite a separate question to ask whether God in His sovereignty can reach down into a filthy religion, like the worship of Tash, and do an extraordinary thing by saving someone from all of that. In such a case, that person is not saved by means of his religion, whatever he conceives it to be, but rather is saved from that religion, by grace through faith.

The Case of Emeth:

I won’t do a great deal of explaining the context of the following citations, assuming as I am that the reader of a piece like this one is also a close reader of things Narnian. I am assuming you know the story, and will only place a few reminders here and there. The Calormenes are running a scam at the Stable, with Shift the ape as their tool. Narnians are being invited by Rishda Tarkaan to go into the Stable to view “Aslan,” and to everyone’s surprise, Emeth volunteers to go in.

“Nay, my Father,” answered Emeth. “Thou hast said that their Aslan and our Tash are all one. And if that is the truth, then Tash himself is in yonder. And how then sayest thou that I have nothing to do with him? For gladly would I die a thousand deaths if I might look once on the face of Tash.” “Thou art a fool and understandest nothing,” said Rishda Tarkaan. “These be high matters.” Emeth’s face grew sterner. “Is it then not true that Tash and Aslan are all one?” he asked. “Has the Ape lied to us?” “Of course they’re all one,” said the Ape. “Swear it, Ape,” said Emeth. “Oh dear!” whimpered Shift, “I wish you’d all stop bothering me. My head does ache. Yes, yes, I swear it.” “Then, my Father,” said Emeth, “I am utterly determined to go in.”

Emeth despises the lies and hypocrisy that he sees as characteristic of the Calormene venture into Narnia. He is a devotee of his god, entirely sold out to Tash, but in a way that places him entirely at odds with the wickedness of that religion, and with the behavior of all his compatriots.

“Emeth came walking forward into the open strip of grass between the bonfire and the stable. His eyes were shining, his face very solemn, his hand was on his sword-hilt, and he carried his head high. Jill felt like crying when she looked at his face. And Jewel whispered in the King’s ear, ‘By the Lion’s Mane, I almost love this young warrior, Calormene though he be. He is worthy of a better god than Tash.’”

The Narnians, watching him approach the Stable, feel an immediate affinity with him. And the thing they see—which Emeth does not yet see—is how he is utterly at odds with his own religion. He is worthy of a better god than that.

After the fighting is all over, and the old world has ended, and the saved are sorting things out in the new Narnia, the party of Narnians comes across Emeth who, when he entered the Stable, had found himself in Aslan’s country.

“The others followed where the Dogs led them and found a young Calormene sitting under a chestnut tree beside a clear stream of water. It was Emeth. He rose at once and bowed gravely. ‘Sir,’ he said to Peter, ‘I know not whether you are my friend or my foe, but I should count it my honor to have you for either. Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?’ ‘Sir,’ said Peter, ‘I do not know that there need be any war between you and us.’”

When they ask him to tell his story, they find out just how remarkable it was. Emeth had yearned to go to war with Narnia, in honest, open battle, but when the actual plan was revealed, he was distraught.

“And most of all when I found we must wait upon a Monkey, and when it began to be said that Tash and Aslan were one, then the world became dark in my eyes. For always since I was a boy I have served Tash and my great desire was to know more of him, if it might be, to look upon his face. But the name of Aslan was hateful to me.”

After Emeth found himself in the heavenly country, he had an encounter with Aslan. And the astonishing thing is that Aslan welcomed him.

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.”

In the subsequent interaction, they get into the theology of the thing, which is where things get interesting.

“But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false.”

So whatever else Lewis is saying, he is not saying that Aslan and Tash are one, or that all religions teach the same thing, or that we all ascend by different paths up the same mountain.

“Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.”

This is not the comparative religion, Coexist bumper sticker approach. Tash is a foul god, like Molech in the Old Testament. God saves sinners, and He saves them out of brothels, taverns, casinos, and temples of Tash.

Now half of what Lewis says here is a commonplace among evangelical believers. It is self-evidently true that hypocrites who offer vile behavior to the true God are actually worshiping a false god, and rendering what they are actually offering in another direction entirely. This is preeminently a biblical concept.

On one occasion, Jesus was speaking to pious Jews who had believed in Him (John 8:31), and He wound up saying this:

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44a).

“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2).

So it is true that someone who claims to be serving Aslan, but who is doing vile things, is actually serving Tash. That’s the easy one. But can it go the other way? Can someone claim to be serving Tash, like Emeth, and actually be serving Aslan? Something of a reverse hypocrite? Someone in a foul religion being fair, living in a way contrary to what that the religion requires? Emeth had been going in the “wrong” direction, as far as Tash was concerned, since he was a boy. As far as Tash was concerned, Emeth had been a heretic for a long time.

Lewis puts it this way.

“Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.”

So taking all this at face value, this was salvation from the religion of Tash—by extraordinary means—not salvation by means of the religion of Tash. Emeth was not the fulfillment of that religion, he was delivered out of it, just as Aravis was delivered out of it. And incidentally, I should mention in passing that the entire culture of the Calormenes is obviously a stand-in for Islam. This is most explicit at the beginning of chapter 4 of The Horse and His Boy when Lewis describes Tashbaan has having numerous minarets—and a minaret is a tower attached to a mosque.

“But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek. Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.”

Emeth sought for what he did both “long” and “truly,” but this was Aslan’s doing in him, and for him. It was not the doing of Tash. It was Emeth being led, by extraordinary means, away from Tash.

So that leads naturally to the question whether such extraordinary interventions actually occur. Does God ever bypass the ordinary means of preaching the gospel in order to save people from their bondage in pagan religions?

So What Is Paganism?

We have several difficulties to sort out simultaneously. The first one is that Narnia doesn’t really have a new covenant era and an old covenant era. Aslan dies and rises in the midst of Narnian history, but there is nothing corresponding to the Old Testament history of the Jews being supplanted by the New Testament structure of the church. The second difficulty is that Gentiles in the Old Testament were not synonymous with unbelievers in the New. Most of them were unbelievers, but it was possible to be a Gentile and a devout believer.

This matters because in the Old Testament the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles was NOT comparable to the relationship between Christians and non-Christians today.

In the fourth chapter of Acts, the apostles did a great miracle and were challenged on it. By what power or name have you done this (Acts 4:7)? They responded that this man stands before you whole by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Acts 4:10). And this led to the great confession . . .

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The necessity of preaching the gospel to every creature today can be seen in this. Nonbelievers are not brought to salvation through the power of an anonymous Christ, working behind the scenes. They are saved through the preaching of the name. And if they want to be saved, they must themselves call upon the name. The priesthood of believers has been expanded to all the nations of men, which is why all men are summoned to believe and be baptized.

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

In short, nonbelievers who want to be saved today have an obligation today to repent and believe, calling upon the name of Jesus. Non-Christians have a moral obligation to become Christians.

In the course of his Mars Hill address, about which more in a little bit, Paul says this:

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).

We see here that the command to repent, given to all men, is not negotiable. The Christian faith is one of world conquest. Everyone must repent, and everyone must believe (Matt. 28:18-20). It is an authoritative summons. But in the same verse, we are also told that the previous ignorance of pagan nations, prior to the coming of Christ, was something that God “winked at.” The word there literally means overlooked. God disregarded it.


So in the Old Testament, Gentiles were under no obligation whatever to become Jews. They could be saved without becoming Jews, and many of them were saved without becoming Jews. The Jews were not the believers of the Old Testament, but were rather the priestly people of the Old Testament. They served in this function for the sake of the Gentiles nations.

Melchizedek was not a Jew, but he was a priest of the Most High God, and the father of all the Jews paid the tithe to him (Gen. 14:18). Jethro, priest of Midian (Ex. 3:1), the father-in-law of Moses, was not a Jew, and yet was a worshiper of the true God. Balaam was an ungodly man, but was apparently a genuine prophet, with the genuine prophetic gift (Num. 22:9). Naaman the Syrian became a worshiper of the true God, and the prophet gave him standing permission to continue to push his master’s wheelchair into the House of Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18). And let us not forget the massive revival in Nineveh that was brought about through the preaching of Jonah (Matt. 12:41).

When Solomon built the Temple, the structure included a way for Gentiles, pagans, to pray to the true and living God—while remaining Gentiles. The language is quite striking.

“Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name’s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name” (2 Chron. 6:32–33).

When Jesus cleanses the Temple, He drives out the merchants and money changers from the Court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles had a court at the Temple, designated for them to worship the true God, and without becoming Jews first. The clean sacrificial animals represented the Jews, and they had filled up the place that had been reserved for the Gentiles. This is why Jesus’ rebuke was a two-edged rebuke. They had filled the Temple with their thievery, and they had excluded the Gentiles by means of it.

“And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).

The Temple in Jerusalem was for all the Gentiles. Were there any Emeths among them? And keep in mind that even though we don’t have an old covenant/new covenant distinction, a great deal of the Narnian context does have a B.C. feel to it. For example, centaurs prophesying is not something that frequently happened in the post-apostolic period.

The apostle Paul calls the Cretan Epimenides a prophet—a “prophet, one of their own” (Tit. 1:12-13). And when he is preaching at Mars Hill, he takes as his starting point the altar to the unknown god. Whose idea was that kind of altar? Well, it turns out that the idea came from this same Epimenides, who had been summoned from Crete centuries before by the leaders of Athens in order to deal with a plague that was afflicting the city at that time. Epimenides dealt with it, in part, by having them establish altars to the unknown god, which they did, stopping the plague. Later Paul starts with one of those altars as his text, and in the course of his preaching, he quotes Epimenides directly.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

Live, move and have our being is from Epimenides. The second citation, for we are also his offspring is from a gent named Aratus. The thing that is interesting about that quotation is that it is from a hymn to Zeus. Not Tash, Zeus. And the thing we must understand is that there was the celebrity Zeus, the Zeus of legend, the Zeus who was entirely unaffected by the #MeToo movement, the Zeus who was an embarrassment to thoughtful pagans. And then there was the Zeus as Emeth and Aratus conceived him to be. This does not make their conceptions orthodox—remember that Paul is about to say that God overlooked much ignorance. He did not overlook overt evil, as the destruction of Sodom showed, but He overlooked a great deal.

Reformed Caution:

Just a few more comments in closing. The father of the modern evangelical hesitancy to allow for any true salvation outside of a plain proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ may well have been Martin Luther. He was a theologian of the cross, and if the cross was not preached to you, well, then, too bad for you. This contrasts sharply with the attitude of Zwingli, who was happy to kick open the gates of Paradise to the likes of Socrates and Hercules.

The ancient phrase captures our question in a nutshell. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus—outside the church there is no salvation. Is that true, and how strict should we be with it? But oddities and quirks can occur to our minds almost right away. What about the guy who is hit by a car on the way to his baptism?

The Westminster Confession, to which I subscribe, has in my view a balanced and nicely nuanced approach to the problem.

“The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (WCF 25.2).

“Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how he pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word” (WCF 10.3).

“The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened” (WCF 14.1)

Must someone be called by the explicit preaching of the Word, and be baptized and brought into the visible church in order to be saved? Their answer is “usually.” The named exceptions that they point to are elect infants dying in infancy, and other incapacitated individuals (e.g. the severely retarded) who cannot respond to the preaching of the Word in the ordinary way. God’s elective decree can touch them there.

And we also know that in the old covenant, God’s elective decree could touch the elect among the Hittites and Assyrians also. Does this change in the new covenant? I would argue that it does gradually and inexorably change as the gospel makes its progress through the world. The more the gospel spreads, the less possible it is for any kind of ignorance to be overlooked, and such “winking” was rare to begin with.

But if a centurion just like Cornelius were living in the westernmost part of the empire a century later, what would his status be? The question is not easy for us to answer, which is fortunate, because the disposal of all such situations is not in our hands, but rather in God’s.

So then, back to Emeth. If you visualize him as the devout Muslim who refuses to respond to the gospel, and who insists on attending his mosque instead, the scenario in The Last Battle really is problematic. But if you visualize him as someone in the position of Naaman the Syrian, the problem becomes much less acute.

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