Blogroll: Blog & Mablog
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 116 posts from the blog 'Blog & Mablog.'
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Remember the broader context of this epistle, which is the need to cultivate holiness under pressure. And as we begin to see, that pressure is not insignificant. And whether you will be able to do this as instructed will depend entirely on your relationship to the Christ Stone.The Text:
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ . . . ” (1 Peter 2:1–25).Summary of the Text:
Given the fact of the new birth, it is necessary to live out the ramifications of that new birth. So set aside every form of malice, deceit, two-facedness, envy, and bad talk (v. 1). Desire the Word, and do it the same way newborns desire milk (v. 2). This is so that you might grow, and you are driven by instinct and experience both (v. 3). A newborn knows how to root for milk he has never tasted. But a one-year-old is also motivated by past experience—“now you have tasted . . .” “O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:8).
You have come to a living stone, one accepted by God and rejected by men (v. 4). Those who come to the living stone are living stones themselves, fashioned into a Temple where their sacrifices will be as acceptable to God as Jesus Himself is (v. 5). Scripture predicted this. God will lay His chief cornerstone in Zion, and the one who believes will not be confounded (v. 6). So believers consider Him precious, and those who treated Him as the rejected stone will see Him established, despite their rejection, as the principal cornerstone (v. 7). To them He is the stone of stumbling, a stumbling that was assigned to them (v. 8). In short, they rejected Him because He had rejected them first. This is the mystery of reprobation, which is taught as plainly in Scripture as election is. But never forget that the judge of the whole earth will do right (Gen. 18:25)? In contrast, you believers are His elect nation, formerly in the darkness but now in the light (v. 9). Once you were not a people, and now you are a people, under the mercy (v. 10).
That being the case, abstain from lust, which is at war with your soul (v. 11). Mark that it is your lust which is at war with your soul. Live honestly among the pagans, such that they will be ashamed when they lie about you (v. 12). Don’t be scofflaws; respect civil authority (v. 13-14). You will be slandered as anarchists, so make it plain through your orderly lives that this is a lie (v. 15). You are slaves of Christ, making you free with regard to them, so don’t abuse your liberty (v. 16). Honor all men; love your brothers; honor the king (v. 17). House slaves (oiketes) are to be subject to their masters, including the harsh ones (v. 18). It is praiseworthy if a man suffers when innocent (v. 19). But where is the glory when you patiently endure what you richly deserved anyway (v. 20)?
All of us as Christians are called to imitate His example (v. 21). He did no wrong, and did not lie (v. 22). When He was reviled, He did not return fire (v. 23). When He suffered, He committed His case to God (v. 23). He bore our sins in his own body on the tree in order that we might be made dead to sin, and live to righteousness (v. 24). By His stripes we were healed—we were like sheep wandering, but have now returned to the shepherd and bishop of our souls (v. 25).An Internal War:
The theme we considered earlier, the fact that we are strangers and pilgrims here, is brought up again (v. 11). You are in a strange land, Peter urges. Don’t drink the water, he says. But then a peculiar aspect of this pilgrimage and exile comes out. You are strangers in a strange land, and yet this alien place does have an anchor point in you. You are a stranger here now, but this was not always so. You used to be a native of this place, and you were turned into a pilgrim. You are an alien now, but this is the result of the supernatural miracle called regeneration. You have a new Father, but you are still dwelling in the country of your old father. Not only so, but you were not turned into a pilgrim instantaneously or all at once.
This is why he says “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” This alien land still has a foothold in you, and you experience that foothold as lust or desire. Peter teaches us that the great spiritual war that is going on all around us has a counterpart within us. There is part of you that wants to chuck it all and go back to the old ways. Don’t listen. Don’t go there. Don’t try to argue with lust because the rationale of lust (“I want”) does not admit of argument.Honor and Submission:
Now I want you to look ahead to the first word of the next chapter. Peter, speaking to the wives, says likewise. They are to be in subjection to their husbands likewise. Likewise to what? The answer is found in this chapter.
All believers are told to be subject to “every ordinance of man” (v. 13)—to kings and to governors. Domestic slaves are told to be subject to their masters, including the harsh ones (v. 18). And Christ Himself suffered great indignities at the hands of revilers (vv. 21-23). Wives, follow these examples (1 Pet. 3:1). But wait . . . we are not done. Look down at verse 7—husbands, likewise . . . (homoios).
Any Christian anywhere, who has people who ought to be subject to him (father, employer, husband, etc.), therefore has a glorious opportunity to model for all of them how easy it is to subject yourself. You want never to be that clown who has strict views of submission with regard to those under your authority, while ready to mount the barricades in rebellious defiance if anyone above you dares suggest you do something you don’t want to do. In my experience, those husbands who abuse their patriarchal office downstream (“The Bible says you must do what I say, woman.”) are the most likely to be radical libertarians when it comes to any point of their obedience. This is no more surprising than to find someone carving up a pie in such a way as to get the biggest piece himself. Nobody needs lessons when it comes to being a selfish pig. But it is not the way of Christ.
We are to submit to the civil authorities (v. 13, hypotasso). Slaves are to submit to their masters, even the ungodly ones (v. 18, hypotasso). But the Lord Jesus does not call us to anything that He has not modeled for us. He submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51, hypotasso).What Stone to You?
We are considering the Christ Stone. Christ is everlastingly the same, yesterday, today, and forever. But the reactions to Him vary wildly, widely. Christ is either the living stone, the cornerstone, upon which all the other living stones are fitted and placed, or He is rejected as having that role, and He becomes to them the stone of stumbling. Such do not prevent Him from becoming the cornerstone, but they do prevent themselves from being built up into His holy Temple.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, A tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste” (Is. 28:16).
This passage from Isaiah is quoted here, and also in Romans 10:11.
“And he shall be for a sanctuary; But for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, For a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Is. 8:14).
And this is quoted in our text, and in Romans 9:33 also. In Romans Paul tells us the nature of the stumbling. The issue was, as it always is, the question of works-righteousness as opposed to grace-righteousness. Stumbling over the cornerstone of sheer grace is to go about to establish a righteousness of your own—something the human heart perennially wants to do.
“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22–23).
This is quoted in our text, and also in Acts 4:11; Luke 20:17; Mark 12:10-11; Matt 21:42. This is how the Lord understood Himself, and this is how his apostles understood Him. But this brings us down the essential question before us all right now. There is a great reversal here, and what do you think of it? Do you applaud the rejection of this stone, showing that you are thereby yourself rejected? Or do you rejoice in the fact that God has made the rejected stone of absolute grace into the cornerstone of your only possible hope?
So how do you understand Him? It is either marvelous in your eyes that God has brought about this great reversal—taking the rejected stone as the principal stone—or your eyes are blinded to the nature of the Christ Stone, resulting in a blindness and a stumbling that was appointed to you as your appointed destiny (1 Pet. 2:8).
“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44).
There are the alternatives—broken and built or stumbled and crushed. But it is Christ either way. It is not whether you will deal with Christ, but rather how you deal with Christ. It is not whether you will have an encounter with Christ—you are having that encounter right now. It is rather what kind of encounter it is. Fall on the stone to be broken and raised into glory, or have the stone fall on you, resulting in an everlasting and miserable powder.
God gives us stories throughout the Scriptures, and He does not do this for purposes of entertainment. God tells us the stories of our fathers—in the Garden, in the ark, in Egypt, in the wilderness, in the promised land, in the empire, in exile, and in the return, so that we might know how to read the story we are in. The Scriptures are our primer for understanding history—not the history they went through only, but also the history that we are in the midst of shaping.
If we think that we are unique, and there never were troubles or complexities like ours, we are demonstrating just how far from unique we are. Apostasies are always this way. Stumblings and wayward wanderings always stick to the script. Honor your father and mother it says, but how can we do that, we mutter, when they are so . . . out of it. No, the fact that your fathers, and their fathers before them, always look “out of it” is the very reason the commandment was given in the first place.
Our contemporary muddle is therefore not a high and lonely destiny; it is the kind of sin that is as ordinary as dirt. We think we can absolve ourselves for the rebellion involved in our very ordinary and very grubby wanderings by describing our situation as post-something.
But why are you listening to the liar? Why do you give the time of day to the enemy of your souls? I don’t know, we say. It was dark. They were big. It was a post-situational encounter. But what our sorry generation needs is a simple, straight-up-the-middle come to Jesus sermon. But how will they preach unless they are sent?
The apostle Paul does not draw the kind of antithesis we might expect between the Table of the Lord and the food we eat throughout our daily lives. In this passage from Corinthians we have been considering, he talks about the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament, the manna and water of the wilderness, meat eaten by the Levites from the Old Testament sacrifices, dinner parties thrown by pagans, meat previously offered to idols, and meat consumed in the context of idolatrous worship. We have food of all kinds discussed, and all of it relates somehow to the Table of the Lord.
Of course, the point is not that all food is strictly speaking to be thought of as the Lord’s Supper. But the point is that all food is under the authority of the Lord’s Supper. There is no such thing as autonomous food—everything we eat must be related by faith back to our right to sit down here, at this Table. We are disciplined by this; we are taught by it; we are fed by it.
Put another way, we receive strength here, strength and wisdom to eat properly elsewhere. If we do not understand what we are doing here, then how can we possibly understand the bewildering array of food that confronts us everywhere we look? If we do not understand these two simple elements, bread and wine, then how can we possibly be obedient Christians when it comes to sorting out all the questions and all the menu choices that face us three times a day? All of us spend a great deal of time putting food in our mouths. This is what God wants (He created us this way), but He wants us to do so by faith. And that means partaking rightly here, by faith, asking to be made wise.
So fence the tables by fencing the Table here.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
“When the Constitution of the United States was adopted, the First Amendment addressed the issue of an established church at the federal level, but this did not address the Christendom question. It has been made to address it by means of revisionist history, but originally it had nothing whatever to do with it. The Constitution forbade a Church of the United States on federal grounds, not on secular grounds. The document was dated in the year of our Lord 1789, and at the time it was adopted, nine out of the thirteen states had established churches on the state level. There was no sense in which the nonestablishment clause was violated by those states having official state religions” (Empires of Dirt, pp. 189-190).
“The word conserve is a transitive verb, and there is no virtue or vice in any transitive verb. So you love, but what do you love? God? Ice cream? Child porn? The church you were baptized in? Your favorite pair of jeans? So you conserve, but what is it you want to conserve? The Kremlin Old Guard? Redwoods? Your stock options? The legacy of the first Christendom? Same with progress. You want to progress? Great. Where? To what end? By what standard?” (Empires of Dirt, pp. 185-186).
New Pictures of Jupiter The Socialist Pipe Dream
Watch this interview with Dr. Ben Merkle about his upcoming talk at GraceAgenda2018, April 13-14, 2018. Then click the button below to register.
Language is Wonderful
i am upset by ueue pic.twitter.com/YbkukuHuBq
— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) February 21, 2018
“I put a distinction between the Church and the Kingdom. The Church is at the center, Word and sacrament, and only sacred things are sacred. Because what the Church does is potent, this transforms the entire world—but it doesn’t turn the world into Church. That’s not the transformation. The Church turns the world into what the world ought to be. The Church doesn’t bring auto mechanics into the sanctuary. The Church teaches in such a way that auto mechanics grows and matures into what auto mechanics really should be like” (Empires of Dirt, pp. 183-184).
Time once again to talk about that zesty tang in my writing. It is not that I have failed to address this before, but rather that the climate of our times is such that repetition is always in order. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe” (Phil. 3:1).
Now when I say “zesty tang,” I do know that the modest flare I seek to put into my prose is not to everyone’s palate. For some, they appreciate how I hand them a cup of punch, having done to it everything Martha Stewart could think of, down to little orange-peel-piglet-tails floating in there with the crushed cinnamon ice. But for others, their experience is more like what would happen if I sprayed the tray of crackers with Lemon Pledge. So this reality is granted from the outset.
The key is to evaluate your prose according to the measure of the sanctuary. And a good deal of that has to do with what purpose your qualifications serve. When you qualify what you are about to say, when you engage in a little self-deprecation, what is the purpose? Why qualify anything? There are two basic routes to go, and one of them is disastrous. If you qualify what you are saying because of timidity, if you are offering it up as a little tentative gesture that indicates your willingness to surrender your post, then it is terrible. But if you qualify yourself as a preparation for your counter-punch, then you fighting the way you ought to be fighting.
Say you are going to say something that is potentially a real stinker, as I am going to do in my last paragraph below, then you want to put something in the second paragraph that will enable you come back when the anticipated howls erupt. Now some might think that I am giving away trade secrets here, but given the nature of our societal conflicts, that really doesn’t matter. Jesus told parables that were simultaneously transparent and opaque, depending on the listener. We are living in similar times, and audiences divide in similar ways.
If you want to fight like a Narnian, there are two things you must remember. Tirian laid down the first principle:
“And peace, Eustace. Do not scold, like a kitchen-girl. No warrior scolds. Courteous words or else hard knocks are his only language” (The Last Battle, p. 121).
The second principle is that of not caring what others may say about it, not caring even a little bit.
“And instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed. One was whistling. You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t. Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life” (The Horse and His Boy, p. 55).
That kind of thing really is profoundly attractive.
This will require some follow-up, but Christians today are crippled in our culture wars because they are guilt-ridden. They are guilt-ridden because they have all the weight of their own “traditional values,” and none of the exhilaration that comes from a real understanding of free grace. Their own lifestyle opinions run free, and the gospel is in shackles. Because mankind cannot live without some form of atonement, so it is they are careful to appease our secular adversaries because appeasement is our form of atonement lite. Whatever the secularists command us to “care about,” we fall all over ourselves to care about. It might be fair trade coffee, or racial reconciliation, or bullying in schools, or #MeToo, or environmentalism, or younameitism. Any refusal to appease these gods is seen as a failure to bow down when you hear the sound of the sackbut, and so the uncooperative Christian is seen by other Christians as the troubler of Israel.
“Special revelation is the specific revelation left to us by the One who created Heaven and earth—the ultimate metanarrative. Both forms of revelation are metanarratives, and apart from the other, neither one is” (Empires of Dirt, p. 181).
I do believe this is one of the finest commentaries on the issues surrounding the ongoing epidemic of public school shootings that I have been privileged to read. I must, once again, briefly comment on the links included in your post. When I saw the one highlighted as “as common and uncontroversial as microwave ownership,” my first thought was, “when microwaves are outlawed, only men who can’t cook . . . oops, I mean only outlaws will have microwaves.” I was surprised that the link did not lead to a tinfoil hat movement to have such dangerous items as microwaves outlawed. However the linked-to Crosspolitic article by Toby Sumpter was excellent, and even momentarily caused me to wonder if you (Pastor Wilson) were moon-lighting under a pen name. Sad to say though, I do feel that in order to stop the bloodshed in our public schools, it is high time for all men of good moral character to finally admit that we need to break down and do something we might find distasteful; that is to lend our voices to the call to once and for all ban . . . all public schools.
Lee, thank you. And Toby is his own entity entirely.
Excellent article! I do not know anything about you, other than I have disagreed with you about 100% on previous articles I’ve seen . . . The only time I have seen your site is when some radical anti-Trump blog links to your site because you have some article that is against Trump. On this particular topic I agree with you completely. Well stated.
Sheila, thank you. I would invite you to stick around—you might be surprised more than just occasionally.Two Humanities
While I whole-heartedly agree with what you say, I’m reminded of my classes that talk much of who all cultures come from God and we should look for what there is to affirm in every culture. In fact, one resource we read went so far as to say if we don’t find things to affirm in every culture we have made an idol out of our own culture. This was also used for culture as a whole, that the cultural mandate combined with a certain reading of Acts 17 and Philippians 4:8 that teaches us we need to look for the good in the sinful culture and tell the gospel in those terms. I suppose I’m not arguing, I’m deeply curious. Do these types of missional strategies at some level of practice, whatever they say in theory, deny the antithesis between the two peoples? It seems they are looking at the people of the world and believing that they are a mix of people of God and people of Satan, and searching hard for what there is to admire. Can you help me out? Are these two views incompatible? It seems like the push to find good in every culture is a full frontal denial of the two humanities, at least the way I have seen it practiced. And it rests not on explicit texts but on examples that could be interpreted many other ways. These are the same people that insist we need to listen to the children of Satan for a long time before we have anything to say to them. Do these two things go together? Or is there a denial, in practice, of the two humanities functioning in the Reformed world today?
Luke, the tendency to treat all cultures as though they were on all fours together is well-intentioned, in that it does not want to give way to thoughtless jingoism, or some mindless identification of one particular culture with the kingdom of God—a mistake that has been made more than once. But at the same time, this move amounts to a confused confession that the kingdom of God is impotent in history, and that sanctification cannot happen to tribes or nations. And this is radically false. No one in their own nature is superior to anyone else—we are all by nature objects of wrath. But can one culture be superior to another? Absolutely, yes. And when it happens, it is entirely the grace of God mediated through the gospel. This is just another way of saying that the transforming gospel got to certain cultures first.Creeping Pluralism at Mablog?
Regarding the analogy of Elijah and the ACLU Lawyers regarding which God would produce a more free and tolerant society (from your brief quote from Empires of Dirt): Given that the “tolerance” shown to the prophets of Baal in the original episode involved Elijah mocking them, arresting them, and then slaughtering them, I struggle to see the application of Elijah’s method of practicing the true faith with a “free and tolerant society.” I dare say many ACLU Lawyers might think that their own methods, however problematic, might still result in a society they would perceive as more free and tolerant than what was exhibited by Elijah during this event? Might you further clarify?
Daniel, quite a reasonable question. I believe the showdown on Mt. Carmel was, in effect, a proxy war, thwarting a coup, and the leaders of the defeated army were executed. I don’t believe that Elijah was modeling for us how we should handle church/synagogue relations. It was closer to what we did to Saddam Hussein, or Osama. And that kind of decisive action paves the way for peace.
Reverend Wilson, Can you please give us your biblical basis for this? I just have a hard time finding any justification in Scripture for the magistrate to establish a pluralistic society if Christ is truly King. Thank you for your work on this site.
Kilgore, I believe that the idea of a pluralistic society is incoherent. So I don’t want tolerance for unbelievers because they should have an equal voice in running our society. I want tolerance for them because this is what I believe the law of Christ requires. In an ideal biblical republic, church bells would be legal and encouraged and broadcasted calls to prayer from minarets would not be. The public space belongs to Jesus. But unbelievers would not be persecuted for their beliefs—not because secularism requires it but rather because our marching orders in the New Testament require it.Insanity on Stilts
A little off topic (but this is all related, isn’t it?), but I’d love to hear your reflection on this, which I’m assuming you predicted at some point in the past.
Andy, see below.
Having read your stuff for a few years now I have an inclination as to how you’d respond to this type of insanity — but I’d really appreciate a response that focused on what a fundamentalist Christian like myself should do when the federales come knocking on my door to drag my kids/wife/confused dog away. Being a combat vet I’m inclined to respond with hot lead, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Jesus would do. I really do struggle with the appropriate response (there’s not a lot of jelly in my evangelicalism—probably a little too much spit and vinegar actually.) As I wait to finish the tunnel under my house that leads to a cabin the middle of nowhere Montana I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before I’m faced with one of these do or die decisions. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Tim, the one thing I can say is that standing by and watching while your family is hauled off should not be one of the options. Fighting them is essential, but I would also say that it is crucial to fight with wisdom. And the fact that these parents are fighting to prevent the use of transgender drugs on their daughter, which she apparently wants, means that there is some kind of parenting fail involved already. But the fact that they should have been fighting sooner does not mean that they should not fight now.Six Day Stuff
In the third reason given in the post on 6-day creation, the author says “For the bookends of creation to match, they must be mirrors of each other.” How does Gehenna and the eternal, created souls in Hell fit into this scheme? Are they considered no longer part of creation (an Augustinian sort of decreation)? Otherwise, I’m not sure that this argument really helps the position. Cheers,
Ty, I am inclined to the view that Lewis suggested at the end of The Great Divorce, that being the idea that Hell and damnation are eternally serious for the souls involved, but collectively they approach a cosmological nullity. Hell is only immense on the inside, for those on the inside.50 Shades of Feminist Inconsistency
Bravo! It always amused me how Pastors always addressed male sexual sin (rightly so) but hardly ever female. In fact most pastors assume females do not sin and always want to be Godly . . . the irony of this whole situation is hilarious! Women who hate male authority going to watch a sex movie about a woman totally subordinate to a man . . .
Charles, as I have often said in other contexts, if it made sense, it wouldn’t be sin.Is It Lust to Have Eyes in Your Head?
Have you heard the argument that Christians have taken the fight against lust too far because of a mistranslation or misunderstanding in Matthew 5:28? The idea is that the Greek word is more properly translated “covet” instead of “lust.” The argument centers on the idea that lust is the hunger, covetousness is the plan to satiate the hunger. So instead of having it viewed as wrong to have the hunger, the sin is not when you recognize that a woman is attractive, but when you start trying to figure out how to seduce her. One point they make is that when the Jewish sages who translated the Septuagint translated the Ten Commandments, they used this word in Exodus 20:17. Now, I fully admit that our culture is too sexualized, and that we are to flee sexual immorality. But Matthew 5:28 has been used to metaphorically beat young men over the head with “If you see a woman as sexually desirable, you have sinned.” Which, in the struggle to be sanctified, is a massive obstacle. What are your thoughts?
Roger, yes, I have heard that line of argument. I haven’t done any detailed work on the words involved, but I do believe that some have taken the Lord’s teaching against heart sin too far. That said, the Tenth Commandment prohibited coveting your neighbor’s wife, which obviously means that sex is entailed in that prohibition as well. There are ways of parsing this that are nothing but self-justification (“what I was doing in my head was okay because I wasn’t totally aroused”) and there are ways of analyzing it that are just plain common sense (e.g. knowing that a woman is attractive is not the same thing as being attracted).
Re: Lust Monkeys Well, yes, of course. We’ve erected enormous Asherah Poles all over our landscape and now we’re astounded to find that the temple prostitutes are talking about forming a union to lobby for better working conditions and more respect. If you keep chopping down those poles and sacrificing bulls on them, (yes, the seven year-old bull in your father’s pasture) the townsfolk are sure to gather and call for your demise, Pastor Jerub-Baal.
Dan, I get what you are saying. Perhaps we should do it at night.Banana Republican?
“But I care more about our entire process not being corrupted, and the politicalization of the judiciary would be one such corruption that I don’t want to see.” Doug, how can a man of your perception fail to grasp that the judiciary, from the Supreme Court all the way down, is already as comprehensively politicized as may be conceived? The “Wise Latina” or RBG objective, fair or constitutionally-directed in any matter at all? PLEASE! No further judicial corruption is possible without declaring the U.S. a banana republic. I believe if the small things are done right (i.e., hanging Hillary from a lamppost) and a little bit of godly fear is instilled in the troublers of the nation, there is a small chance the larger issues may eventually be put in order. Failing that, we’re looking at civil war and/or partitioning the country, I think.
Tom, I agree with you that our differences are looking increasingly intractable, and the Balkanization of our country is a real possibility. But I differ with you about this—that our judiciary “is already as comprehensively politicized as may be conceived.” I agree with you that it is bad, but I think I differ in this—we are still a good way from the bottom. It can get lots worse.Stoning? Seriously?
Do you even care that there are real live Christian men writing to you to about stoning women to death?
Gabrielle, I could be wrong about this, but I took “Avery” as a woman’s name. The questions about stoning do not proceed from misogyny at all. Achan was stoned, and he was a man. These questions are obviously presented to anyone who says that we must turn away from secular law and come back to biblical law. Since that is something I have been arguing for, it is a natural question to ask what I propose to do with the Old Testament regulations that we find somewhat draconian.Charity on a Curve
I am not referring to any post in particular, but I do have a question. In the university that I am in, I am graded on a bell-curve. The system is designed such that being better than the person next to you is more crucial than to simply “do well.” Doing well is measured against other people. If I put in the effort to make good notes (or anything that gives me an advantage), is it my duty as a Christian to share them? Or should I view this environment as a competition, thereby engaging in this in a different way (no one expects a runner to pull an opponent pass the finishing line in race). I suppose the difficulty is knowing that helping the other person directly affects how I might do in the module. Thank you very much!
Shawn, I would encourage you to share with and encourage others. The analogy is not quite that of a race, where there is only one first place. If the professor said that he was going to give out only one A, then it might be closer to an actual competition. Or if you were taking a test that would land you a paid position, no one would look for or expect that kind of help.The Riot and the Dance
Delighting in creation is the key. One of the turning points in the development of evolution is when its popularizers (like Sagan) began to speak about the world in terms of wonder and amazement. I know many did this before, but people focus less on the facts and evidence when the salesman are giving them an experience and not a science quiz. I am excited about this documentary and the effects it might have on a generation of young believers. Hopefully it will inspire them to find wonder and amazement in God’s world again. I wish more Christians (ministers and otherwise) would try to spark an imagination about God’s world again.
BJ, yes. We must be, in the first instance, believers who are delighted in the works of God. We must be, in the second instance, capable of answering the claims of evolutionists. But if we skip the first, we run the risk of becoming argumentative cranks. This movie is spectacular in how it celebrates creation.
“A couple of young brothers go home after school, accompanied by a couple of unbelieving friends. When they get to the house, they find it clean and in good order. There are some beautiful paintings on the wall, the work of the boys’ mother. On the counter is a tray of brownies, still warm. This is natural law. On the fridge is a note from mom, telling the boys to help themselves to the brownies and, after they have done so, would they please help her out by carrying a desk upstairs, a desk she scored that morning in a yard sale. After that, they can do whatever—study, go play ball, whatever they want to do. That is special revelation. There are three basic ways to screw this up. One way is to separate the two forms of communication and focus your attention on only one of them. The second way is to focus on the other one. The third way is to accept both forms of revelation, but to treat them as the work of two different mothers. The normal way to respond, the way her sons do, is by accepting all of it as coming from her, each according to its nature and all part of a well-integrated home life” (Empires of Dirt, pp. 179-180).
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The aftermath of the most recent school shooting in Florida is playing out very much like the aftermath of many of the previous school shootings. Some urge us to a period of respectful silence, saying that debating gun control issues is not fitting while the grief is still a hot ache. Others say that if we don’t debate it when the issue is staring us in the face, when will we debate it? But whether debating an issue like that in the aftermath of a tragedy is largely beside the point—because we are not really debating, unless you call yelling debating.
So my point here is not really to enter into a debate, or do any yelling myself, but rather simply to register some foundational concerns that would have to be addressed if there ever were to be a debate. I doubt that there will be, because a precondition of a true public debate (conducted with civility and respect) would be massive cultural repentance—and if we really had massive cultural repentance, it would address things like the school shootings themselves, and not just the debates over school shootings. If God restores us, He will restore the disintegrating culture—He will not give us the dubious gift of being able to debate a disintegrating culture like gentlemen.
So in preparation for that day, here would be an outline of thoughts, suggesting what I believe to be a truly biblical response.
We should distinguish tactical solutions from strategic solutions. What you would want if you were in the midst of such an event is very different from what you might want from the other side of the country a week after such an event. If you are in the middle of it, what you would want is a gun of your own. If you are contemplating the appalling nature of these recurrent tragedies, with some kind of objective distance, you would be looking for systemic solutions. Tactical solutions are not systemic solutions—a tactical solution is a safe room that locks on the inside, a gun of your own, or an escape route. Now I don’t want a pretended systemic solution that outlaws prudent tactical solutions, but with that said, the two are still not the same.
Second, if we are asking for a diagnosis of what truly ails us, if we are looking for systemic solutions, we really need to look past the surface. This is not about guns at all. I live in a part of the country where it is not unusual for any number of pick-up trucks to house firearms out in the school parking lot, particularly during hunting season. And a generation ago, it was not unusual to have those rifles openly displayed in the gun rack in the rear view mirror. Where I live, in my state, in my town, and in my house, gun ownership is as common and as uncontroversial as microwave ownership.
And during that earlier era, when there were fifteen rifles visible in the school parking lot, school shootings were not anything like they are today. So if you want to analyze a changing culture in a thoughtful way, you should look at the variables, not at the constants. So what has changed? When it comes to comparing the days when school shootings were uncommon to our time when they are common, the availability of guns is not what has changed.
So do you want real systemic analysis? Do you really? We don’t need to do anything about the guns. But we do need to do something about all the fatherless boys who are loaded up on psychotropic drugs, administered by the school nurse, and educated by a school system that is prohibited by law from telling anybody what the meaning of life is. That is your toxic mix, and if you don’t want to do anything about it, then you need to stop pretending that you want a systemic solution.We do need to do something about all the fatherless boys who are loaded up on psychotropic drugs, administered by the school nurse, and educated by a school system that is prohibited by law from telling anybody what the meaning of life is.
First we took away God the Father. You, the student body, are nothing more than meat, bones, and protoplasm, the end result of so many millions of years of blind and idiotic forces imposing their deterministic and grinding fate on matter and energy. What is the mass murderer, at the end of the day? Mostly water—just the same as the valedictorian. Perhaps we should start making the shooters into honorary valedictorians, seeing that they are among those who actually follow the argument, and exhibit all the implications.
Having taken away God the Father, we have substituted the state—a ramshackle federal father, if ever there was one. So not only are we idolaters, we are clumsy idolaters, proving it by making a clumsy god in our own image. And we cry out to this idol we have fashioned, and it answers us the way all idols do, with silence. Whenever a shooting reveals inept legislation, we call out—we think, naturally enough—for more inept legislation.
As a consequence of this culture-wide theological revolution, we decided to wink at the sexual revolution that made it easy for families to crack up, with the loss of the father being the usual result. And then, when the inevitable problems begin to manifest themselves, we try to shackle all our newly formed Legions with chemical manacles. When they occasionally break those manacles, they find a gun, left around from simpler times, and do their bloody work.
Our proposed solution is to ban all reminders of those simpler times.
The words of C.S. Lewis on our grotesque dilemma are words that are truly evergreen:
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (HarperOne, 2001), 26.
The point of this epistle is to encourage believers to live lives of personal holiness during a time of persecution—that is, during a time when the challenge of personal holiness is beyond inconvenient. If God had wanted His people to be extraordinarily holy, the argument might go, He would have given us more help—times of unparalleled prosperity, comfortable homes, a recliner to read our Bibles in, and Bible search software. Then we would really be holy. So . . . how’s it going?
This book is an epistle exhorting Christians to a life of holiness under pressure, holiness when it is not convenient to be holy. The book was likely written in the early sixties A.D (c. 62-63). The first Roman persecution against the Christians broke out in 64 A.D.The Text:
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied . . .” (1 Peter 1:1–25).Summary of the Text:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus, is writing to “strangers” throughout Asia Minor (v. 1). He describes them as elect according to the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, and made obedient and cleansed by the blood of Jesus (v. 2). Grace and peace.
A blessing upon the Father is declared, who mercifully regenerated us into a living hope through the resurrection (v. 3), which will usher us into an everlasting inheritance (v. 4). In the meantime, prior to receiving that inheritance, we are kept by the power of God through faith (v. 5). This enables us to rejoice even though we have to slog through various trials (v. 6). This is so our faith might be refined, like gold, through fire (v. 7). The refinement of true faith enables us to love Jesus Christ, and to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (v. 8). This culminates in the salvation of our souls (v. 9). This salvation is something that prophets and angels used to wonder about (vv. 10-12), but which is now openly preached. So gird up your minds, then, and lean into it (v. 13). Be like obedient children, and don’t conform yourselves to the templates of lust (v. 14). Because the Father who called you is holy, so you also are to be holy (vv. 15-16). If you call upon the Father, who does not play favorites, walk through your pilgrimage with fear (v. 17). Do this, knowing you were redeemed from the previous vanities, not with silver or gold, but rather with the blood of the spotless Christ (vv. 18-19).
Christ was foreordained to die before the foundation of the world, but was manifested “in these last times” for you (v. 20). He did this for those who believe in Him, so that they might believe in Him (v. 21). Since you have been purified, your duty is to love fervently (v. 22). This is because you were born again through an imperishable seed, which is the Word of God (v. 23). For man as he is now is like browned out meadow grass, fading away (v. 24). But the Word of the Lord—which is the gospel that was preached to us—endures forever (v. 25).Sojourners:
Peter address these believers as sojourners, as strangers, scattered throughout the regions of Asia Minor (1 Pet. 1:1). We need to understand this in a layered way, taking all of redemptive history into account. We are strangers in a strange land the way Abraham was—but recall that Abraham was a stranger in a land that had been promised him as his inheritance. It was not his yet, but it was going to be. Peter reminds the believers that they are temporary inhabitants of the world as it then was (1 Pet. 1:17). So they were sojourners, and they were to treat their time in this world as a time of sojourning, but with an eye on the long future—just as Abraham had done. At the same time, they were in fact pilgrims, just passing through, as indicated by Peter sending greetings from the church that was in Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13). Their time here was experienced as an exile. The meek have nothing to do with the ways of this earth—which is why they will inherit it (Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5).The Nature of Regeneration:
Through the comparison of our lives here to grass—meadow grass in a hot August—Peter teaches us that if we are to have hope it must be from outside ourselves. Our lives are grass, but we have been made heirs of an imperishable life. There is no way for this to occur without a complete renovation of our nature. And in order for our nature to be renovated, we must be born over again. Now take careful note. If we are to be born again, with these imperishable results, it is necessary for us to be begotten with a different kind of seed, seed given by a different kind of Father.Love Fervently:
Commenting on this verse, Calvin observes how easy it is for us to shade the circumstances in our own favor. This is why Peter insists that our love for one another must be unfeigned, no fakery, no hypocrisy, and no spin. “Nothing is more difficult than to love our neighbours in sincerity. For the love of ourselves rules, which is full of hypocrisy; and besides, every one measures his love, which he shews to others, by his own advantage, and not by the rule of doing good.” We tend to love others, in other words, with one eye always on what we will get out of it. So Peter adds that we are to love one another fervently. Love one another with unfeigned love, love one another with a pure heart, and love one another fervently—zealously, aggressively, all in, headlong, pell mell. Stop holding back. The most challenging places for application in this would be in close family relationships, or with nearby neighbors, where everyone is vulnerable. You want to protect yourself where you feel vulnerable, but this is the very place where you must risk it all.Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory:
So let us consider for a few moments what the normal Christian life should look like. We may begin by distinguishing the usual Christian life from the normal Christian life. What usually happens does so in the absence of teaching, learning, obedience. But the normal Christian life is what God expects from us, as set out in His Word. You don’t discover this by looking around at all the Christians you know. You look at the Christian life as it is described in the Word.
Now it looks like joy unspeakable and full of glory. It feels like joy ineffable. It weighs you down, like a ship nearly gunwales under because of the bullion it is carrying. Full of glory. Now if you, brown grass as you are in yourself, are given this charge, and you try to fulfill it in your own “brown grass power,” the very last thing that will happen to you will be joy or glory. It will be more like despair unspeakable, and full of black doubts. What Peter is describing here is beyond your power to gin up. And yet, he says that it is true of those believers he is writing to.
So the Christian life is not something you concoct in order to bring the filthy rags of your own accomplishments up into the throne room of God. Did we really think that His endless patterns of celestial marble needed us to rally around with our grubby rags? What? Were we going to polish something?
No—the Christian life is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). To be full of glory is to be full of Christ. What is our joy? “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11). Christ is your unspeakable joy, and Christ is your fullness of glory.
But do not breathe a sigh of relief and say that this joy and glory are things that must be going on in Heaven somewhere, high up and far away. Is this some sort of spiritual truth, with no need to worry about it until we get there? No. Recall that Peter is equipping the saints for hard times here. And the hard times here require holiness here. And the holiness here requires happiness here. And the happiness here means that Christ must be here.
The Christ at the right hand of the Father must be the same Christ who, through His Spirit, is the Christ in you, the hope of glory.Look Away:
Christ is divine, and so it is true that He is everywhere. Christ is the Son of God and in His Deity He possesses all the attributes of God, which include omnipresence. Christ is everywhere. And yet, there are places we are instructed not to look for Him. We are not to look for Him in the empty tomb. The angels at the tomb said that He was not there (Mark 16:6). We are not to look for Him in the blank sky. The angels at the Ascension asked the disciples why they were staring at the clouds—why are you looking there (Acts 1:11).
I would like to suggest one more place where you should not try to look. Do not look for Him in your own heart—but this is not because He is not there. Christ is in you, the hope of glory. Don’t look within for the simple reason that you can’t see Him that way. If you want to see Him there, as you should, then the way to do it is to look to Christ at the right hand of the Father. Look to Christ in your brothers and sisters. Look to Christ outside Jerusalem, flayed and nailed to a gibbet. Look to Christ in the preached Word of God. Look to Christ in the sermon (Gal. 3:1). If you see Him there, you will see Him everywhere. If you don’t see Him there in the preaching, then you won’t see Him anywhere. So look away to the gospel, the imperishable seed. Look away.
The world is governed by the Lord Jesus, as we know, but it follows from this that the world is governed by the Word—Jesus is the Word of God, the Logos of God. The world is not governed by mechanical power. It is not governed by spells or necromancy. It is governed by the magic of the Word. Because of this, Christian ought to know that the Word has vicegerents—words.
“Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Ps. 107:17-22).
Note verse 20. All it takes is a word. He sent His word, and healed them. But note also what precipitates this word. Why did God speak this healing word, this efficacious word? It was because of the words of men, more particularly the words of afflicted fools. They cried out to the Lord in their trouble. Deliverance is by the word, in response to words.
Our nation is staggering like a drunken man, weighed down by follies without number. When it comes to the most basic ethical issues, we are illiterates. We can’t spell, we can’t count, we can’t save, we can’t pull it out. And what must the Church do in these times? We must urge everyone we know to cry out to Jesus; we speak the word. Perhaps the Lord will hear and save us. And if He does, He will do it with Martin Luther’s “one little word.” He will speak it, with a slight nod, and we will be delivered. If He does not say the word, the one who labors, labors in vain.
Let no man seek his own, the apostle Paul says. This is an essential part of discerning the Lord’s body. We are to discern the Lord’s body, among other ways, in one another.
As you partake of the Supper, do not close yourself up into a little private spiritual room. Feel free to look around at your brothers and sisters. Think of them, pray for them, and consider how you might seek their best interest. In doing this, ask God to bring to mind ways that you might bring a blessing to them. Look around you in faith, and if you do, then you will see Jesus Christ.
Too often we view the Supper negatively. Of course it is important to put away all malice or envy. But do not stop there. Consider how to seek another man’s well-being. Doing him good is not the same thing as not doing him evil. In turning away from sin as we approach the Supper, as we ought to do, let us be careful not to set the standard too low.
At the last day, Jesus will commend those who saw Him in the prisoner, in the hungry, in the ill-clothed. He will reject those who rejected Him in these same people. Do not be like those who are willing to defend and excuse and demand explanations, while standing before the Maker of heaven and earth, and to do this moments before their own condemnation. If that kind of moral stupidity is to be avoided then, the best course is to avoid it now. Look to your neighbor—and don’t ask who is your neighbor—and take this food to nourish you for the pleasant task of loving one another.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
“But I propose a contest. Let’s build an altar of stones, an altar of absolute toleration. Let’s have ACLU lawyers dance around it until noon, cutting themselves with knives and hitting themselves on the head with briefcases. Let us build another altar, and ask Elijah to stretch out his hands toward Heaven and call upon Yahweh. The God that answers with a truly free and tolerant society . . . He is God. Let us serve Him” (Empires of Dirt, p. 178).
“What I am saying here is that an explicitly Christian settlement would do a better job of protecting the true rights of Muslims and secularists than secularists do in protecting the rights of Christians” (Empires of Dirt, p. 177).
“What I am saying here is that an explicitly Christian settlement would do a better job of protecting the true rights of Muslims and secularists than secularists do in protecting the rights of Christians” (Empires of Dirt, p. 177).