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It would not be exactly accurate to say that I posted my 21 theses on submission in marriage and then skipped town. But there would be some elements of truth in such a hazarded guess nonetheless. I wrote the post last week, and scheduled it to appear Monday morning. But then Sunday after church, Nancy and I bolted for the Oregon coast, where we spent a very pleasant time looking at the sun go down, walking the beach, sitting on the beach, finding a place for lunch . . . all that arduous business.
Upon returning, I axed one comment for being abusive, and spent some time meditating on how to respond to the suggestion that had broken out in my comment thread that I was something of a closet feminist because of my failure to come right out in support of corporal punishment for wives. In the other peanut gallery, a discussion broke out on Facebook over my statement that submission was an erotic necessity, running along the “shades of 50 shades!” line. Maybe I had come out in favor of corporal kinky punishment for wives. Who’s to say? Reading what somebody actually wrote is so tedious.
Let me deal with this second misconception first with an appeal to my mentor on this subject.
“You do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love through lack of obedience . . . No one has ever told you that obedience—humility—is an erotic necessity” (That Hideous Strength).
Life at Belbury is one extended orgy of biting and devouring. In contrast, life at St. Anne’s is a staggering hierarchy of masculinity and femininity running all the way up, and with a sexual element included where appropriate. There is one horrific scene between Wither and Frost which ends with them in a clinch driven by the lust of mutual animosity, each knowing that at some point a devouring must happen. The corresponding scene is between Ransom and Merlin, and ends with Merlin kneeling, rendering honor like a loyal king’s man. “Slowly, ponderously, yet not awkwardly, as though a mountain sank like a wave, he sank on one knee; and still his face was almost on a level with the Director’s.” No devouring at all.
And the reconciliation between Mark and Jane is profoundly Christian. She has learned the humility of true submission. Her entire life had been driven by the desire not to be taken in, not to be possessed. His had been nothing but the driving lust to be included in the next inner ring, filled to the brim with false promises. Her fundamental submission comes when she surrenders foundationally to Maledil.
“In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself which [she] had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished, unfluttering, into bottomless distance, like a bird in a space without air.”
But this is not treated by Lewis as Mark Studdock’s standing permission to continue on as an oaf and a coarse rube, barging into her sexually, but now with impunity because she had become “submissive.” No, his frame of mind has been explicitly transformed.
“This time at last he thought of his own clumsy importunity. And the thought would not go away. Inch by inch, all the lout and clown and clodhopper in him was revealed to his own reluctant inspection; the coarse, male boor with horny hands and hobnailed shoes and beefsteak jaw, not rushing in—for that can be carried off—but blundering, sauntering, stumping in where great lovers, knights and poets, would have feared to tread . . . How had he dared?”
How had he dared? His wife, although a sinner, was a very great lady. He, though a very great sinner, was to return as her lord. But it is not the case that humility is required for a wife to assume her station, but pride will do for the husband. Mark now knew better than that.
“He knew now what he must look like in the eyes of her friends and equals. Seeing that picture, he grew hot to the forehead, alone there in the mist. The word Lady had made no part of his vocabulary save as a pure form or else in mockery.”
There is a parallel passage in Preface to Paradise Lost where Lewis describes the humility of Portia, describing herself as a poor unlettered girl, with some modern male booby walking into Belmont and taking her statement at face value. One’s forehead reddens to think of it, Lewis wrote. It most certainly does.
And so I get a big kick out of moderns—we who do not even know which bathroom to use—learnedly discussing how Lewis was limited by the perspective of his times. Look. Lewis was an old Western man, standing on the other side of a vast chasm that separated him from his times. His erstwhile critics, meantime, have only managed to get about 20 millimeters away from the spirit of their times.
But enough with that kind of foolishness. Let us address another kind.
So now we come to those who say that if a husband doesn’t have the right, nay, sometimes even the responsibility, to exercise corporal punishment on his wife, then one of the tools for ensuring domestic tranquility has been taken away from him. Further, he might argue, anyone who objects to said physical discipline for wives must be one of those newfangled softie men, catechized by all the lies of feminism.
This is the kind of guy who, exasperated by a sluggish app on his smart phone, essays to fix it with a ball-peen hammer.
I am far from denying the biblical truth that a rod is for the back of fools (Prov. 26:3). Nor do I deny that a woman could be numbered among such fools. But such a woman would be far gone in her folly, and the only fool bigger than that would be the guy who married her. So before we beat her for her uppity rebellions, I would suggest we flog him for being such an idiot. If he were to object that this is mean-spirited and unjust, I would reply that it sounds to me that he has been influenced by the spirit of egalitarianism. Must be one of those new softie men.
Since the difficulty was apparently found in my #11, let us discuss that for a moment.
“The Bible does not teach husbands to enforce the requirement that was given to their wives. Since true submission is a matter of the heart, rendered by grace through faith, a husband does not have the capacity to make this happen. His first task is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He is to lead by example.”
The key words here are enforce and make. No mortal can force such a thing. It does not come from right-handed power. But husbands can love and lead their wives. A husband can love, and Scripture teaches that this kind of love is efficacious. Love bestows loveliness. Husbands cannot duplicate the Lord’s substitutionary atonement, but husbands are most certainly commanded to imitate it. And when they imitate it as they ought, the results are not—work with me here—a beating for the little missus. And a man who thinks it is just demonstrates how far away from the spirit of the gospel he actually is.
The Bible does set before us a hierarchical world, but we are not to conceive of this as a cascade of commandments, flowing ever downward, drowning those at the bottom. Rather, it promotes and elevates those at the bottom. Remember what the gospel does.
But there is an optical illusion here. At some point in every husband/wife relationship, there will be a clash of wills. When that happens, it is often the case that the husband gets owned and he loses. Let us be blunt, and call it what it is. However, we live in flattering times, and he has been given sufficient cover by the church to retreat demurely into his designated background, and to call what he is doing “servant leadership.”
That kind of weakness is not what I am commending. It is not how Christ loved the church. But it is a mistake of the highest order to think that the opposite of this kind of cowardly coyness is to stand on the recliner in one’s man cave beating one’s chest. That is not how He loved the church either.
So authority flows to those who take responsibility. Authority flees those who seek to evade responsibility.
 C. S. Lewis, Words to Live by: A Guide for the Merely Christian, ed. Paul F. Ford, Adobe Digital Edition (HarperCollins e-books, 2009), 266.
Okay, Maybe a Little Time Lapse Going On
Sometimes the open road is more impressive than at other times . . .
What Is Socialism? There’s Something Rotten in the Church of England
A motion was made at the Church of England’s recent Synod to incorporate a transgender rechristening to their liturgy.
- The teaching of Scripture on this subject is perspicuous and plain. What God requires of us in our marital duties is taught in multiple places, and not in obscure ways.
- We live in a time when honest exegesis is routinely threatened with calumny, and there are frequently honors and rewards for dishonest exegesis. It should not be surprising that we are getting less and less of the former, and more and more of the latter.
- Natural revelation teaches us the natural submission of the wife to the husband. These realities are in our bones, and the revolt against them lies at the foundation of our current cultural madness.
- The scriptural requirements are entirely consistent with this natural revelation. The God who created the world, and who fashioned us in His image as male and female, is the same God who inspired the writers of Scripture. Whenever natural revelation and special revelation appear to conflict (they do not ever contradict in fact), we should submit to the express words of God. But in this case, there is not even an apparent contradiction.
- The Bible does not require a universal submission of women to men, or the necessary submission of any given woman to any given man. The Bible requires women to be submissive to their own husbands, which is a protection against having to submit to men generally. Further, because no one can serve more than one authority, this scriptural teaching amounts to a prohibition of a woman submitting to other men. Nor does Scripture require a new absolute submission to her husband. No authority in this fallen world is absolute, and includes the authority of a husband. When the authority of a husband turns rancid, a wife should receive the help of fathers, brothers, friends, and/or elders to help her stand up against it. I have been involved in this sort of intervention more than once.
- At the same time, in a healthy society, if wives are generally submissive to their own husbands, there will be a cheerful deference to the leadership of men generally, a reality to be welcomed and not resented. This is a deference to the fact of male leadership, not the quality of it. When male leaders are tyrants, fools, and scoundrels, godly women will have as much objection to it as godly men do.
- The requirement of submission within marriage does not prohibit the occasional circumstance when a woman in civil society finds herself in a leadership role over men. Deborah, Esther, and Lydia come to mind. At the same time, when feminine leadership becomes widespread and common in a society, it is not a sign of progress at all, but is rather a sign of cultural decadence driven by male fecklessness.
- In Christian theology, there is no tension between authority and submission on the one hand, and essential equality on the other. God the Father is the eternal Father to the Son, and yet the Father and Son are equally the one true God. The husband is the head of his wife, and yet they are one flesh. Men and women stand on level ground when it comes to being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), when it comes to the fact of our fall into sin (1 Cor. 15:22), and when it comes to our position in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Men and women are clearly equal in these senses, and so the teaching of the Bible elsewhere on the submission of a wife to her husband means that submission to an equal is not an incoherent concept.
- Women have a deep creational need to be loved and led, so that they might submit and follow, and men have a deep creational need to be respected and followed, and when these needs are thwarted or otherwise frustrated, the end result is deep unhappiness for both sexes.
- At the same time, because of the curse that followed the Fall, women have a deep resistance to dutiful submission, even though such submission would lead them into the joy and true satisfaction that comes from obeying God. It may or may not improve the marriage (depending on his sin issues), but it will most certainly improve her walk with God. The prophecy that her “desire shall be for her husband” was not speaking of romantic getaways, but rather predicting that there would be a struggle for mastery. So instead of trying to gain mastery over her husband, she should struggle to gain mastery over this besetting impulse within herself.
- The Bible does not teach husbands to enforce the requirement that was given to their wives. Since true submission is a matter of the heart, rendered by grace through faith, a husband does not have the capacity to make this happen. His first task is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He is to lead by example.
- The fact that husbands cannot mandate or manufacture this does not make it any less mandatory. Wives are to be submissive to their own husbands in everything. The marriage service rightly includes a vow for the bride to obey her husband.
- The relation of head and body is a constant relation, one that does not come and go. It is not the case that the husband has mere tie-breaking authority.
- Liberty for Christian wives cannot be enjoyed outside of their appointed sphere. A woman who rejects her obligation to love, honor and obey is like a bird who has thrown away the “constraints” of having wings.
- Submission is an erotic necessity. The abandonment of this basic marital responsibility is the cause of much unhappiness, and has also been a cause of the resultant pursuit of erotic delusions offered by multiple partners or by various perversions.
- Submission practiced poorly does not discredit those who practice it well, and neither does it vindicate those who do not attempt it at all. And conversely, the decision to accept the Bible’s teaching on this subject does not obligate one to defend the many appalling things that are done in the name of following the scriptural pattern. A math student who does all his problems wrong and the student who refuses to do them at all have far more in common with one another than they do with the student who did his assignment properly and turned it in on time.
- The liberation of women was a false flag operation. The true goal was the liberation of libertine men, and in our day this was a goal that has largely been achieved. These were men who wanted the benefits for themselves that would come from easy divorce, widespread abortion, mainstreamed pornography, and a promiscuous dating culture. The early twentieth century was characterized by the Christian wife. The early twenty-first century is characterized by the tattooed concubine. And these sons of Belial have the chutzpah to call it “progress for women.”
- The general dominance of men over women is inescapable. And so this means that when godly rule (via submission in the home) is relegated to the margins, it will be replaced by an ungodly domination over women everywhere else. We cannot succeed in placing men and women on the same footing. But the attempt to do so can most certainly result in Bruno taking his showers at the YWCA.
- The God who gives us our commands is the same God who designed and created us. His commandments are therefore good, righteous, and true, and they fit perfectly within the creation order. As wives seek to learn how to live these principles out, they are trying to overcome sin. They are not trying to overcome their nature. Rather, they are growing up into their true nature, which is the only liberation that matters.
- Submission that is invisible is not really submission at all. As submission is cultivated in the home, it needs to be expressed. It cannot exist as a set of hidden resolves or good intentions. Respect must be verbalized, and the demeanor of submissive deference must be plain to everyone in the home.
- For each one of these theses, there is of course a corresponding set of responsibilities for the men. Not only so, but the failure of men to conform to God’s pattern has been more spectacular than the failures of women. But I am not listing those responsibilities here because we live in a time such that whenever submission is mentioned, we rush to explain, qualify, contextualize, and otherwise assure the world what we don’t mean. We “explain away” feminine responsibilities today far more readily than we do with responsibilities for men—and this is part of the false flag move which consistently lets men off the hook. If wives don’t have to follow, then men don’t have to lead. We have done this so much that scarcely anyone knows anymore what we do mean by submission. So I am just going to say that the Bible teaches submission for wives, and it is glorious thing.
What we know as orthodoxy is of course taught in the Bible. But that does not mean that every orthodox truth is found everywhere in the Bible, or that every verse that is used to defend an orthodox truth is being used appropriately. This means we should look at familiar passages carefully, making sure that they line up with themselves, and not just what we think about them.The Text:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.Summary of the Text:
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). It is a commonplace among us that Jesus was the “Son of God.” But the Bible talks about this in different ways, and so should we. One word in Greek is translated by our two words—monogenes is rendered as only begotten. Looking at the context, John uses this as a technical phrase, with a precise theological definition. That definition is the same as what is used in the Creed.
This verse may be summed up in this way. God loves and we live. The bridge between these two realities is the only begotten Son. By this phrase we are referring to the unique status and nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Our confession is this—He is the Son of God by virtue of the divine nature that was united with our human natureOnly Begotten:
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). These are all references to the Incarnation of the Son of God. They are references to Immanuel, God with us.Chalcedon:
It would be absurd to ask you all to grasp in the course of one sermon what it took the whole Church three centuries to formulate. But we are part of that same Church, and so let me summarize what our confession is. We confess that our Savior, the Lord Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, is one person. He is one unified, well-integrated person, but He has two natures. These two natures are connected in what is called the “hypostatic union.” (Hypostases was the Greek word for person.) So there was a “one person” union that possessed two natures that were not commingled. And the result was not schizophrenia.
That which is predicated of one nature may be predicated of the person. That which is predicated of the other nature may be predicated of the person. But that which is predicated of one nature cannot be predicated of the other nature. This is quite important as we shall see.
So then, human nature has a particular height or hair color and so we can say that Jesus of Nazareth was (say) 5 foot 11, or had black hair. And the divine nature is infinite, and so we can say that Jesus of Nazareth possessed that attribute. But we cannot (and must not) say that infinitude is 5 foot 11.How and Why:
Jesus had a true mother. He was born in the ordinary way, with the one exception being the fact that His mother was a virgin when He was born. He had a maternal grandmother and grandfather, and a lineage that went back to Adam. He was true man. But He had no biological human father.
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
If original sin is passed down to us from our human fathers (covenantally, not genetically), then this accounts for how Jesus could be sinlessly perfect. He did not inherit sin from His mother because no one inherits innate sin from their mothers.Other Senses:
But it is not the case that any references to the “Son of God” are necessarily talking about something as remarkable as the hypostatic union. Let me give you an example. “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (Luke 3:38). There was no hypostatic union in Adam, and yet he is described as a “son of God.” And remember that celestial beings can be called “sons of God” without being partakers of the Godhead.What Manner of Love:
We return to the earlier point that God loves and we therefore live. But remember the bridge between the two is the perfect God/man, offered up in sacrifice. This is seen in a type, when Abraham takes Isaac to Moriah (where Jesus was crucified) in order to prophetically foretell our coming salvation. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17).
Because Jesus is the Son of God, it is possible for our status as sons of God to be restored. Remember that Adam was a son of God but that through the Crash, he and we became sons of the devil. How can we be restored? This includes a heart transplant, but there is something far more remarkable going on. This is a Father transplant.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).
God is the God of all truth, and so of course, we as His people should be careful to speak the truth. One area where we sometimes neglect this duty is in an area that might be called “quick lies.” They don’t even seem like lies at all unless you take them out in the yard and look at them in direct sunlight.
Suppose your mom asked you to make your bed, and half an hour later, she asks you about it. You say, quickly, “Oh, I was just heading up to do it now.” The claim is being made about the immediate future and is not falsifiable, certainly not by your mom, and perhaps not even by you. You might have been doing this for so long that you have come to believe that you are always on the verge of obedience. This is a quick lie, a glancing lie, a “don’t look back” now kind of lie.
“I was going to call you today . . .”
“I had been meaning to tell you . . .”
“I was just going to pay you back . . .”
The reason we tell these is in order to save face, or preserve our pride, or make us feel like we are being better Christians than we actually are. When we tell them, we are being brittle and insecure.
When we get into the habit of making this kind of deceitful excuse, we sometimes think of the excuse primarily, and not about whether what we are saying is true. What we really need to learn in this is truth-telling borne of humility. That means that a good exercise to begin with is that of not offering excuses from our immediate plans for the future, even if we have a legitimate one. Even if you really were going to go up and make your bed in thirty seconds, a far better response would be to simply apologize to your mom for making her have to ask about it.
This is the Table, and it has its rightful place at the center of our lives. What we do here sets the tone for what we do at every other table. This Table is the rudder; it guides and directs all our other table fellowship.
If we are hypocritical here, we will be hypocritical around the dinner table at home. If we are filled with joy and gratitude here, we will be filled with joy and gratitude as we break bread with our brothers and sisters throughout the course of the week. If we think we can fool God here, we will think we can fool God with every other thing we put in our mouths. If we delight in Him at His table, then He will delight in us at our tables.
Sin always wants to divide and separate. This over here, and that over there. Making distinctions is fine, and in a world created by the Triune God, it is most necessary. The Father is not the Son, and the Lord’s Table is not my lunch table. But we may never separate, for God is one, and He encompasses and rules everything. Thus it is that the Lord’s Table is set over against the table of demons, and Christians are not just required to partake here, but also required to refrain from breaking bread in any context or in any manner that is in conflict with what God is doing here.
Have you gone to lunch with a friend in order to gossip about a third person? Then reflect on this Table. Would you lean over while the cup is being passed here in order to share that particular verbal morsel? If not, then let this table define the standard for you, and do not sin over your own cup either. This Table teaches us that whenever we eat, and whenever we drink, we should do it all to the glory of God.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
There is an old joke that has an evangelical say something like this to a liberal—“I’ll call you a Christian if you call me a scholar.” But whenever conservative believers enter into the world of such trade-offs, the end result is always something like Simple Simon going to the fair. They come home, if they come home at all, shivering in their skivvies. They don’t get the scholarship, and they lose the faith once delivered. When you sell your birthright for a mess of pottage, at some point in the affair you find yourself with no birthright anymore and no pottage anymore either.
Lewis stated the principle this way:
“It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
In a similar context, I recently argued this: “Wanting to Matter is the central lust of evangelicalism, and this is why evangelicals are having such trouble believing the Word (John 5:44).” Not only have evangelicals wanted to matter in the world of scholarship, they have also wanted to matter in the world of the arts. And then what happened?
This desire has opened up a broad way for those have wanted to address our need to “engage with culture.” I do not object to the denotations of these words—one of the tags on this blog is “Engaging the Culture.” That’s a good thing. (By the way, speaking of this, stay tuned for our roll out on next year’s Grace’s Agenda.) So engaging with culture is not only grand, it is also necessary. But many use the tagline “engage with culture” as cover for their developing plans to compromise with culture, surrender to culture, or otherwise lick the boots of culture.
As we have engaged with culture, this has entailed engaging with the arts. But what engaging with the arts has meant practically is that many of us have decided—instead of giving ourselves to the hard word of aesthetic discipline—to imitate the world by We are not engaging with culture, we are learning to preen and prance as though we had.copping a pose instead. We are not engaging with culture, we are learning to preen and prance as though we had.
If you want to learn what the “tell” is for this, look for this combination—claims for the aesthetic development coupled with a dramatic increase in ugliness, amateurism, or incompetence. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Christians urging us to leave behind our suburban white bread ho-hummery, to strive for excellence in the arts, with the disconcerting result that they are then wide open to all kinds of suggestions coming from the Faction for the Uglification of America. The list of their accomplishments is a very long one, but the prep work for it came in the early stages from people supporting our calls for truth, goodness, and beauty. But then what we got was blue hair, tattoos, and Queequeg piercings.
What we got was a creepy gay offertory at Tim Keller’s church, one that ended with an artistic tip of the hat to the forthcoming threesome. I suppose as a dance it was a success in that none of them fell over, but as an attempt at Christian art, it was ugly. Leave aside the moral question for a moment. I simply want to point out that it failed on the very grounds being used to justify it. You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go. If you are willing to shatter scriptural standards for the sake of the artistic triumph, that is the first problem. But the second was that your artistic triumph was actually lame. It was poor. It was bad. It made sensitive souls go ick ick ick.
Evangelicals in the arts—apart from a robust, resurgent, aggressive, and somewhat belligerent Puritanism—are always going to be squishy and soft. They are going to enter the salons diffidently, hats in hand, shuffling quietly. They are not going to notice the “kick me” sign that someone stuck on their back.
I mentioned something in passing the other day about Eugene Peterson’s shipwreck, his train derailment, his helicopter crash, his apostasy. But there is another element to this. The soft evangelical, the moderate, and the burgeoning liberal all have this in common. They fancy themselves attuned to the arts. They believe that—unlike the fundamentalist rubes—they actually care about how the glancing light through the stained glass falls upon the altar. But again, aside from the questions of truth and morality—“Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”—we need to remind ourselves that the aesthetic refinement of the compromisers is not all that.
Here is an observation I made a few years ago about Eugene Peterson’s aesthetic understanding in Wordsmithy.
But it was his 2002 colloquial rendition of the Bible, The Message, where Peterson really made it as a writer. But translating the Bible means translating the Psalms, and the Psalms are one of the poetic glories of all human history. Now Peterson’s conviction is that “give us this day our daily bread” and “pass the potatoes” come “out of the same language pool” (p. 2). He wants continuity of language whether we are studying the Bible or fishing for rainbow trout (p. 4).
The misfire result is that in the Message Psalms he has taken a collection of Hebrew glories and crammed them full of English cliches — “lie through their teeth,” “within an inch of my life,” “the end of my rope,” “only have eyes for you,” “down on their luck,” “every bone in my body,” “sit up and take notice,” “rule the roost,” “the bottom has fallen out,” “free as a bird,” “kicked around long enough,” “my life’s an open book,” “at the top of my lungs,” “nearly did me in,” “sell me a bill of goods,” “wide open spaces,” “stranger in these parts,” “hard on my heels,” “from dawn to dusk,” “skin and bones,” “turn a deaf ear,” “eat me alive,” “all hell breaks loose,” “raise the roof,” “wipe the slate clean,” “miles from nowhere,” and, as they say on the teevee, much, much more. If cliches were candied fruit, walnuts, and raisins, the Book of Psalms in The Message would be a three-pound fruitcake.
Aesthetic relativism can keep bad artists afloat for a little bit. But they all eventually sink, the evangelicals first.
 C. S. Lewis, A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works, ed. Patricia S. Klein, 1st ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2003), 358.
Some Important Observations The Importance of Christology
Did God make Jesus? How you answer may be the difference between your eternal happiness or your eternal sorrow. pic.twitter.com/vzN9PoXyrj
— Desiring God (@desiringGod) July 10, 2017Sermon Help
A post shared by The Foodnited States (@foodnitedstates) on Feb 10, 2016 at 12:30pm PST
A post shared by The Foodnited States (@foodnitedstates) on Jul 4, 2017 at 7:37am PDTGollum’s Inner Trump
One of the great novels of the twentieth century was That Hideous Strength. It is a fantastic read as a straightforward story, but that is not where the greatness lies. I would be hard pressed to come up with a more prophetic book than this one. The way things have unfolded in the six decades since he wrote has been nothing short of astonishing.
He wrote Abolition of Man at the same time, and in the preface to That Hideous Strength, Lewis wrote, “This is a ‘tall story’ about devilry, though it has behind it a serious ‘point’ which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man.” In these two books, Lewis does not just write from “within the Tao,” but rather from within the depths of the Tao. This is why he sees things in 1943 concerning our time that we have trouble seeing now. He saw the storm when it was the size of a man’s fist, and we are in the midst of the storm, and we want to call it sunbathing weather.
There are numerous things for us to take away from these books taken together, but I want to highlight just three of them.Submission & Rebellion
That Hideous Strength begins with the word matrimony, and the whole thing is as robust a defense of that holy estate as you will find anywhere. But we begin with Jane’s disillusionment with marriage, after only six months of it.
The contrast between Mark and Jane Studdock is stark. His life is consumed with a lust to be part of the “inner ring,” a temptation that Lewis dissects elsewhere in an essay of that title, pinning all the pieces of this particular lust to a card, with each part cunningly labeled. Mark’s whole life is a yearning, a striving, to be included in the group that really matters. And each time he makes it into the object of his ache, he discovers yet another circle keeping him out. Further down, and further in.
Jane’s particular form of selfishness is the opposite kind. She does not want to be included, or as she might call it, absorbed. She wants to be sure to maintain her own identity, her own autonomy. She is arch and prim in her feminism, and by that means has guaranteed her own unhappiness.
He wants into the set at Belbury, and she wants to stay out of the Company at St. Anne’s. She wants their protection, but wants to make sure she doesn’t surrender too much in order to get it. He wants to keep from being absolutely devoured, but figure out a way to navigate a way into the inner circle anyway.
And so it is that both of them come to the point of conversion. He is the end product of what Lewis identifies in Abolition as a truly destructive form of education. And as that end product, he is one more unit in a vast regiment of “men without chests.” And so when he comes to the point of repentance, it takes the form of rebellion. “It’s all bloody nonsense, and I’m damned if I do any such thing.” And the angels burst into song.
She is the end product of her form of education. In the name of advancing the position of women, she discovers that what this approach to education does is degrade women into something else. A first-rate woman is transformed into a third-rate man. She is hard, brittle, touchy, and most miserable. And so when she comes to the point of repentance, it is a glorious submission. “In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself which she had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished unfluttering, into bottomless distance, like a bird in a space without air.” And the angels burst into song.
And so what we need today in our homes and in our churches, and as a consequence in our towns and nations, are men who recover the ability to rebel against those who are busy bulldozing nature, and women who graciously submit themselves to God and to their own husbands. If they do this they can stand behind their husbands, who will fight to prevent them from being bulldozed.The West in the Objective Room
The world has gone crazy, but there is a method in the madness. We in the West—and if you think a phrase like the West is a racist dog whistle, then you are the problem—find ourselves, as a result of our own follies and stupid choices, locked up in the Objective Room. You will recall that this is the room where Mark was being trained to suppress the normal, and embrace the ultimate Dadaism of all things. He was being catechized in ultimate relativism. He was made to do things that made no sense because they made no sense.
Hard line conservatives see the problem more clearly than most evangelicals do, and this is even the case with members of the alt-right. But they have no plan—unless you want to call it a plan if people run around in Belbury punching people randomly. Seeing the problem is not the same thing as having a cure. At the same time, the Christian church, which has the cure, cannot be prevailed upon to see the problem.
When we look at the contradictory things that are thrown at our heads every day, we think that they are the silly ones. Why would they say that? That’s a contradiction. They demand that women be given safe spaces, and they also demand that transitioning men, pre-surgery, have full access to the women’s showers. They demand that we agree that homosexuals are “born this way,” and they also demand that we acknowledge that “gender is ultimately fluid.” They insist on women’s rights, while also insisting that there is no such thing as a woman.
But they are not the ones being tested. When Frost is having Mark do all kinds of absurd things in the Objective Room, we are not being given to understand that Frost is being tested, or that Frost is being evaluated. No, he is already among the damned. Mark is the one being tested, and he does not pass the test until he repents and says, “It’s all bloody nonsense, and I’m damned if I do any such thing.”
And we will not be saved unless and until we come to the same point, and say the same thing. The evangelical church is crammed with men without chests, who must absolutely learn that they must come to the point of rebellion. And the evangelical church is also crammed with unsubmissive women, who must repent of that, seeking to learn what it is to glory in womanhood. Men can’t make women submissive, and shouldn’t try. But this reality doesn’t make submission somehow optional. There is nothing optional about it—and it is no trifle.
Every Christian couple should resolve to follow the pattern that the Bible calls normal. Husbands should imitate Christ, in seeking to live as a sacrificial head. And women should imitate the Christ, seeking to obey their husbands in everything. What are we seeking to accomplish by this? We are trying to head off the banquet scene at Belbury.The Centrality of Christ
The point of Mark’s rebellion came with the demand that he trample on a crucifix. What are you going to do with Jesus? When Mark rebels, he does it by identifying with Jesus as representing the side of normal. At this point, he had no confidence that Jesus was God—but he knew the world around him was bent, twisted, and demented, and that Jesus was a straight line in a crooked world.
Normal. What a revolutionary word. That is an incendiary word to set the world on fire. Given the state of the world today, it is going to be a pretty big grease fire, but here we are. This is what God has given us, so grease fire it is.
But you can’t have normal without Jesus. And furthermore, if you have Jesus, that will bring you straight back to normal. Jesus and metrosexual do not go together. Jesus and artificial wombs do not go together. Jesus and VR sex do not go together. Jesus and prancing men in the offertory do not go together. Jesus and 57 genders do not go together. Virtually every outrageous thing we read about today is being served up to us from the macrobes. But we are Christians. We are to follow Jesus. We are to line up behind the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you read Abolition of Man, you will see the Lewis’s culminating point is that man’s supposed “conquest” of nature is actually a radical expansion of what parts of nature are appropriate to tinker with, and when we have made mankind itself the passive subject of these perverse ministrations, we will then find out two things. The first is that man’s conquest of nature actually means some men’s conquest of other men, with nature as the instrument, and secondly, it means nature’s conquest of that handful of men who thought they were now running the show. The abolition of man refers to a commitment to the ultimate plasticity of all things, such that anything can be shaped and molded according to our whims. And then it turns out that our whims are being molded and shaped from elsewhere.
This abolition of man comes through the abolition of woman, which Lewis also foretold. And he saw it all. The progressive agenda is nothing but a wrecking crew of gracious femininity—bloody wombs, barrenness as glory, perverse arts, grotesque lesbianism, and all the rest of it. Nothing that is tumbling down around our heads right now would be a surprise to Lewis.
And incidentally, speaking of ultimate plasticity, we can’t make this point without mentioning the plasticity of contemporary evangelicalism. This morning word comes in that Eugene Peterson has come out in favor of same sex mirage. But watch. The reveal will not come in that simple fact. The reveal will come in what happens next—what will everybody else in the evangelical world say and do about it?
We are all in this Objective Room, and some well-respected among us have decided to trample on the crucifix. Others haven’t done it yet, but they are still friends with the cool kids who have “evolved” in their thinking.
But we proclaim Jesus. Not the Jesus who plays in ten thousand places, but the Jesus being preached by a hard fundamentalist prophet in a Flannery story. We preach the Jesus who turned Mark Studdock around. And we must preach Him because He is the only one who can give a man his chest back—and we have hundreds of thousands of men in dire need of one.
So believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.
So I have been blogging for a number of years now. I have largely figured out the writing and posting part, but honestly, between us girls, I am still figuring out the analytics part. But I have gotten to the point where I can at least make out what is generally going on. When I look at the back end, I can see a lot more of what is happening than can be ascertained from the comments. My comments thread is like that little girl in the poem.
There was a girl who had a curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very, very good
And when she was bad she was horrid.
Anyhow, as part of our program of transparency with you, our shareholders, I thought I would share which posts have made the biggest splashes over the years. Letterman-like, I will count down through the top ten. For those who like to take note of such things, two of the top ten were open letters, and two of them were “7 Reasons Why” posts.
Not surprisingly, the 10th spot belongs, not to a post, but to a page. That is “About the Proprietor.” Okay, so folks wander in for any number of reasons, mutter something like “what the heck?” and click on that About feature.
Number 9 was entitled “A Nine-Pound Sledge in the Freezer” and was a response to one of the Planned Parenthood exposure videos. Those videos do not cease to amaze me, and one of the things that amazes me the most is the Planned Parenthood has weathered it (thus far) with their funding intact. But also keep in mind the fact that the Republican leadership in Congress would have trouble getting unanimity from their feckless moderates if the vote were to cut the COLA adjustments for the Nazgul.
Next was a post explaining “7 Reasons Why a Trump Administration Might Be a Good Thing.” This was put up some months before the election, when the good citizens of Mayberry were trying to get their minds around how Hunter S. Thompson might possibly become their mayor. Well, he has, and things have gone better than expected. Let’s be honest here.
Coming in at Number 7 was an inoffensive bit of sociology, in which I explored how and why Christian women are prettier. The level of response to this one was a bit surprising. The fact of a response was not, but the levels were pretty hot. We live in strange times. Fully 23% of our GDP is spent on women making themselves attractive for men, and the men are required to be fully appreciative, but under no circumstances are they permitted to make any comparative evaluations. Not even in the interest of Science and Theology, which were of course my chief concern.
We also live in a time when we are being pelted with one outrage after another from the ruling elites, and so the next post was an exhortation to Christian parents following the Obergefell decision. Referring to our nation-wide State Indoctrination Network (SIN), this post was entitled “Tolle, Leg It.” Come out from among them, and be ye separate.
Also related to Obergefell was the resistance of a certain clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to manifestly unqualified applicants. A lot of Christians who are sound on what marriage ought to be are not so sound on what church/state relations should be, and so there has been no little confusion in skirmishes like this one. And so Number 5 was an exposition of all that—“In Which I Paint with Some Bright Yellow Colors.”
Also in the category of same-sexery, Matthew Vines published a list of 40 questions for those Christians who find themselves in the “non-affirming” category. I undertook to answer his questions. That can be found here.
Number 3 was an “Open Letter to an Angry Husband.” I am glad for this, because the only ideology I hate more than feminism is Marxism, and some have gotten the idea (because of unrelenting propaganda from the feminists) that because I am so anti-feminist, I must have some kind of thing about ”women.” Hostility to the sisterhood must be misogyny. But, no. Women are the crown of creation. But the worst things often come from the best, and great gifts corrupted are awful afflictions. So I was happy to leave off attacking one abuse of women (feminism) in order to attack a different kind of abuse.
When the vice-president, a honorable and upright man, compromised through his support of the president’s acceptance of the LGBTQ foolishness, I wrote him an open letter pleading with him to reconsider it. That letter is here, and it is number 2.
And then, coming in at Number 1, somewhat surprisingly, was this one. I wrote up seven reasons why young men should marry before their 23rd birthday. Boy, did that strike a nerve. For those who are interested in raw numbers, and not just relative placement, this post was accessed by 48,863 people. Let us hope that two/thirds of them were single young men.
So there you are. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the return visits.
One of the hidden drivers in our public debates about homosexual lust and practice is that a widespread and presupposed Pelagianism has riddled the church. I am happy to explain myself here, but I would like to ask you to walk with me for a piece.Ability and Obligation
Pelagianism holds, among other things, that a man cannot be blamed for what cannot be helped. In this system, sin is defined in accordance with our ability to meet the standard. If we cannot meet the standard, then it would obviously be unjust to hold us to the standard. Ability limits obligation. If I have no ability to jump over the ocean to Hawaii, then clearly I can have no moral obligation to do so. Makes sense, right?
Except that this muddles the difference between natural inability and moral inability. Natural inability answers every moral accusation that might be brought against a man. I can have no moral obligation to pick up rocks in my driveway and bounce them off the moon, because I have absolutely no physical ability to do so. This kind of inability really does limit obligation. I do not feel guilty for my inability to fly like a bird, or swim like a dolphin, or burrow like a mole. Neither do I feel guilty over my inability to publish in staid and responsible journals. The metaphorical adjectives have to go somewhere, and I can’t just keep them in my head. They just crowd in. Where was I?
But if my inability is a moral inability, then that inability excuses nothing. In fact, this kind of inability compounds the sin, making it worse. The Lord does not call the Pharisees a nest of vipers, but then go on to make the crucial point that vipers can’t help being what they are, having been “born that way” to viper parents. Not at all. Nor did the Lord hasten to add that we should be building bridges not walls. Little narrow snake bridges. See what I mean?
A man can have the natural ability to do something that he has no moral ability to do. For example, I have the physical ability to walk down to our main city square, and to stand on a bench, and yell slanderous and malicious accusations about my deceased mother. I have the feet, I have the lungs, I know the words, and no one has a gun pointed at me to prevent this from happening. But while I have the natural ability to do it, I do not have the moral capacity to do it. My point is considerably stronger than I would rather not. My point is that I couldn’t. Natural ability to do “this or that” and moral ability to do “this or that” are clearly two different things.Sin According to Scripture
Now all this is because sin is defined by Scripture, and not by our inability to do what Scripture requires. The fact that we have no moral ability to do what God requires of us compounds our guilt, and does not remove it. We have the natural ability to do what God requires—a true statement does not require more of us physically than a lie—but we do not have the moral desire. Our hearts do not desire holiness. This kind of inability, created by the shackles of what sinners want, cannot be compared to an innocent inability.
Consider this short litany. Before conversion, we are all objects of wrath by nature (Eph. 2:3). We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). We were slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6). Slaves can’t run free, dead men can’t go their own way, and the one central thing that not one of us can run away from is our own nature. All of this language demonstrates a radical inability, and all of it points to blame resting on the one exhibiting that inability.
So Scripture has the authority to wrap personal responsibility around our dirty necks, and the world has sought to fight this authority by resorting to the language of “disease” or “addiction” or “genetic programming.” Those are the spoken words, but the Pelagian confusion is lurking in the background. If alcoholism is a disease instead of being the habit of drunkenness, which is a behavior, then we shouldn’t blame anyone for it. We don’t blame them for catching other diseases, do we? And if addiction zeros out ability, then it also zeros out obligation, which means that someone who kicks their habit can be treated as some kind of paragon. Moral philosophers of previous ages who watched any of the ticker tape parades we give to celebrate the heroism involved in breaking a vile habit would be, to use a favorite term of theirs, bumfuzzled.
Make no mistake: there is an important place for celebration over repentance. See the prodigal son (Luke 15:22-24). See the Lord’s statement about joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7). But celebrating repentance is a very different thing from celebrating the innate goodness of someone who had a really tough time making it back into common decency. There are two mistakes to avoid here. One is that of the older brother, who wasn’t going to celebrate anything. The other is the mistake of the libertines back at the tavern who aren’t going to celebrate anything either, now that they had to pay for the hookers and drinks with their own money.The Nature of Scriptural Blame
When speaking of the sexual sin that characterized false teachers, writers of the New Testament compared them to rutting animals who do what they do by instinct. Does this justify their behavior? Not even a little bit.
“But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction” (2 Peter 2:12, ESV).
“But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively” (Jude 10, ESV).
So then, the hunt for a “gay gene” was a hunt for a Pelagian get-out-of-jail free card. That is because, if they ever found it, they could wave it under the nose of the modern evangelical church, which is chockablock with Pelagianism and not-so-semi-Pelagianism, and they would all say, “Whoa. Can’t argue with the science.”
Right. Suppose the science to be good, for the sake of discussion. We can still argue with the implicit Pelagian assumption that moral inability limits obligation because it is just like natural inability, which, of course, it isn’t. Sin is defined by the God who made us, and not by our rationalizations, which have unmade us.
Because I am loathe to leave any ambiguity, this is because Scripture does not just fault us for what we do. It faults us for what we are. The corrupt fruit we produce is blameworthy, and God will judge us for such filthy deeds. But the fruit reveals the nature of the tree, and a corrupt tree can do nothing but produce corrupt fruit.
“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt. 12:34–35).
How can you, being evil, speak good? The answer is that you can’t. The words that come from the mouth reveal the nature of the heart’s abundance.Scientists Find the Viper Gene
So suppose that after dint of much federal funding, our scientists finally found “the viper gene.” This is the gene that makes us love ourselves, hate our neighbors, despise God, and cultivate our precious lusts. There it is, under the microscope. There, that little twisted black one.
If we are thinking biblically, we would not capitulate to this evidence on the basis of a shared Pelagianism. We would never say, “Well, then I guess that you all can’t help being vipers.” No. What we would actually say is something like, “Look at that! Proof that the Bible is correct! We are sinful by nature!”
Why would finding a genetic basis for homosexual lust ever excuse anybody? We know that heterosexual lust has a genetic basis, and Scripture still condemns it. A young boy is enjoying life, and all his waking thoughts are occupied with cultivating an honest work ethic by means of his paper route, and enjoying the simple pleasures of his baseball card collection. Then one day his body floods with testosterone—which he did not in any way request or ask for—and blam. Breasts and legs everywhere.
Bottom line: We are to submit ourselves to the standard set by Scripture. We are not to concoct some tomfool standard, assembled from the shards of our own moral helplessness. Otherwise, what is a gospel for?Strange Vanities
Now as Van Til noted, unbelief oscillates between rationalism and irrationalism. A great deal of the groundwork for the homosex revolution was laid in a rationalistic application of the principles of this Pelagianism. If a man or woman “was born this way,” then it would be obviously unjust to blame them for what they could not help. So the argument has gone, and it has been pretty effective on Christians who have, unbeknownst to themselves, been quietly assuming a Pelagian rationalism that made them vulnerable to the argument.
But once the church was cowed by this Pelagian rationalism, once we were frozen in place by it, the world meantime has raucously careened over to the irrational end of the pendulum swing, now telling us that gender orientation is a social construct.
The world has given us an argument which, given our assumptions, “should hold us for a while,” and they have scampered off to find more genders than will ever be found under anyone’s microscope. The source for all these is not in the DNA, but rather in the fevered imaginations of our horny seers. Good luck cataloging the genome of the pornified mind—57 genders and counting.
But—and I shouldn’t have to go over this—if is a social construct, then it is not a genetic construct. And if it is a genetic construct, then it isn’t a social construct. If it is a social construct, then you weren’t born this way because you weren’t born any way. And if it is a genetic construct, then the rebels are still constrained by the limits of a world God “tyrannically” imposed on them.
Instead of answering this conundrum, the revolutionaries have settled for telling us ignorant haters to shut up. “If you can’t tell the difference between sex and gender, there is no sense talking to you bigots.”
“They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return” (Jer 8:5).
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?” (Jer. 8:19).
Although we haven’t mentioned Jesus until this point in the Creed, in another sense, every word in the Creed revolves around Jesus Christ. The reason for that is something for us to explore now.The Text:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.Summary of the Text:
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:16–17).
We began the Creed by confessing that we believe. Now in Scripture, believing and knowing are intertwined. “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:38). We believe in Jesus Christ, and this is how we come to know Him. When we come to know Him, we come to know the Father, and the only way this is possible is through the Spirit of Jesus, poured out into our hearts.
But we know Jesus in two senses, both of which are reflected in the Creed. The first is the Jesus of history—or as the Creed puts it, born of the Virgin, Mary, and who died under the term of a Roman provincial prefect named Pontius Pilate. If it had not been for Jesus, he would be as historically obscure as his predecessor Gratus, or his successor Marcellus. This is the Jesus who is the historical figure, as much a man of history as Napoleon, or Attila, or Confucius. But according to Paul in this passage, this same Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, has taken the throne of the cosmos. He is the cosmic Christ. We cannot understand any man without understanding Him.Jesus:
If Jesus had a last name, the way we have last names, it would have been Jesus Davidson—Jesus ben David. He was born in the house of David, and this was his true human lineage (Rom. 1:3). The name Jesus meant He was to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). He had a home town; He had a mother; He went to Nazareth High; He weighed a certain amount; some other men were taller. He was tempted in every point as we are (Heb. 2: 17-18), although keep in mind that this excludes temptations that require a history of sinning behind them.
Remember that Jesus was fully human—not part human and part divine. God did not put on a man suit the way one of us might put on a gorilla suit. He was not “man on the outside, God on the inside.” No, He was fully God and fully man—one person, Jesus of Nazareth, who had two natures, two complete natures. Jesus had a nature that was entirely human, which is our point here, as well as a nature that was fully and completely divine. Two natures, one person. But it is the person who is enthroned.Christ:
I said above that Christ is not the Lord’s last name. The word Christ means anointed, and it is the parallel to the Hebrew word Messiah. The word Christ is a title, like King or Prince. Throughout Scripture, anointing is the rite used to set someone apart to a particular office, and that person assumes the office empowered by the anointing to discharge the responsibilities of that office. The anointing was not so that we would look at Him as the Messiah. The anointing was so that He would do what the Messiah was destined to do, and so that we would recognize Him in His glory.
There were three great offices among men as seen in the polity of Israel—prophet, priest, and king—and men were anointed to all three. “And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room” (1 Kings 19:16). “And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments” (Lev. 16:32).
So when Jesus was anointed as the Christ, He was being established in all three of these offices. That is what it means to be called to be the Christ. He is our great Prophet (Dt. 18:15), our Priest (Heb. 3:1), and our King (John 19:19; Acts 17:7). As priest, He died and rose to put an end to the old world, our old way of being human. As king, He rules the new world, the new heavens and new earth. And as our prophet, He teaches us about both worlds. He is the cosmic Christ—not in some New Agey sense, but in the sense that His name and authority overarch absolutely everything. We will come back to this.Come to Jesus:
So call upon Jesus. Turn to Jesus Christ. Bow before the Lord Jesus Christ. Partake of Jesus. He offers Himself. The Spirit and the Bride say come, and they say the same thing . . . come to Jesus.
Paul here says that a direct result of having a right vision of the cosmic Christ is that we no longer look at anyone in a mundane way.Now when I say this to you, when I issue this invitation—which I am authorized to do, by the way—I am doing so because I am not looking at you “after the flesh.” Look carefully again at this passage. Paul here says that a direct result of having a right vision of the cosmic Christ is that we no longer look at anyone in a mundane way. How could we? Christ is risen. Christ is enthroned. More than this—He is here, and summons you to come.
Last week at this time I mentioned that ritual actions are important to us. They are significant in the Bible, and we don’t ever want to fall into the trap of relegating them to the status of being insignificant. But there is another important element in all of this.
We are gathered together as an organic body. This means that our liturgy is corporate. When we say amen, we say it together. When we partake of the bread and cup, we do it together. When we sing, or confess the Creed, we do it together. When we raise our hands in the Gloria Patri, we do it together. This is not accidental.
There is nothing wrong, obviously, with individual acts of piety. But individual acts of piety are not liturgical acts, and we want to lean against the notion that we are being individually devout while just happening to be in the same room. We are a body, and we want to function smoothly together as a body.
This takes practice, and discipline, and love, and like-mindedness. As Paul says with regard to the Lord’s Table, we are to wait for one another, defer to one another, stay in step with one another. As a Puritan once put it, we serve a precise God. That being the case, we want to serve Him with precision. This is not the same as serving Him as though He were fussy and persnickety. Precision and communion are glorious—we are not trying to worship in lockstep, but rather we are trying to worship God with one heart, soul, mind, and voice.
For those who are converted to God, the grace of God envelops everything, drives everything, and defines everything. This includes our desire to learn how to walk in His ways, which means our desire to grow and flourish in our sanctification, which means loving and understanding His law.
This is a Table of grace. There is nothing here but undeserved favor. Christ died for the unlovely, He redeemed the inexcusable, and He secured those who were as unstable as water. This is all grace, and yet here we are, invited to come. God offers us bread from heaven.
And yet grace introduces us to a test—a test that measures whether or not we understand the potency of that grace.
“Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no” (Ex. 16:4).
Not only does God provide bread for His people, it says here that He rains bread from heaven upon them. But why does He do it? He is proving them—to see whether they will walk in His law, or not. And as the record of Israel in the wilderness shows us, they frequently did not.
Why did they not?
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32).
But what the type cannot do, the antitype does.The manna from heaven was a type, and this means that it could not accomplish what God intended for His people to do, which is to walk in His law. But what the type cannot do, the antitype does. The true bread from heaven is here because Christ is here. But Christ is only apprehended by faith. So then, the invitation is to eat and drink with the mouth of true and living faith.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
Every once in a while you run across something that is a few parsecs beyond the utter frozen limit. What do you do then? Tim Bayly recently posted a video of an offertory performance done at Redeemer Downtown in Manhattan, along with his comments, and I have reposted the video below. You can watch the whole thing, or if you have a medical condition, you can watch 30 seconds of it and still get the drift. If confusion were beans, this would be a 9-layer dip, suitable for Super Bowl parties.
So here it is. Brace yourself.
What is the problem with this? Summed up, it is that this performance is gayer than the kiwi queen at the Fire Island Fruit Festival. This performance is gayer than an HR memo at Google headquarters. How gay was it? It was gayer than an NPR tote bag full of rainbows. It was gayer than a unicorn parade through the Castro District. It was gayer than a lavender sparkly pen.
And to top it all off, we live in an antinomian generation, where the only sins possible are those represented by something like the preceding paragraph. It is not okay to say “gayer than,” but it is beyond okay to be “gayer than.”
It is no sin to watch this video clip and not know what the particular problem is. Human self-deception can occupy the heart like a rabbit warren under a large meadow. The particular problems can be hard to identify and trace. But the general problem is screamingly obvious. If you can look at this clip and not know that there is a grievous problem somewhere, then the self-deception involved is truly profound.
I referred above to the problem of confusion. Scripture obviously refers to blatant sexual sin as abominable, and the term abomination is sometimes lost on us because we think of it as merely some strong form of Bible-ese. But the Bible also talks about this kind of sinning, and the antecedent rationalizations, as inchoate confusion. “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion” (Lev. 18:23). “And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:12).
In our case, the confusion depends on the fact that, in the Christian world, we have limited the sin to actual genital contact. Stay away from that, and you can be as much of a swish as you want. But this is not what Scripture teaches. Adultery does not begin in the bed; it begins in the heart (Matt. 5:28). Homosex begins, not in the bathhouse, but rather in the kind of cosmos a man imagines himself to live in—provided it is not the cosmos created by the living God. Underneath the passive homosexual act is the sin of wanting to be soft, and underneath that desire to be malakoi (1 Cor. 6:9) is the sin of pride and arrogance.
So the bedrock problem here is pride. And on this, I am not speculating. What are their parades called? We have pride parades, pride days, pride festivals, and pride stickers. Pridey pride pride. This is what it means to glory in your shame. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4).
Incidentally, I am aware that some will say that I obviously don’t understand art, or ballet, or culture, or something important to blue state urbanites. That’s as may be, but I understand men who still have their spiritual gonads. And if you can look at that clip and fail to understand why the church is so deeply unattractive to real men, then there is very little hope for you. And speaking of art, if you can look at that clip and fail to understand why real men are so repulsed by the artistic “community,” then there is even less hope.
By the way, for those who think that “style” is morally neutral—shoot, for those who think style is sexually neutral—here is a hypothetical test case. Leave aside all regulative principle considerations (which I do not leave aside, btw), but just leave it aside for the sake of discussion. Why would a trendy Reformed church never perform something like the below for their offertory? I will tell you why. It would trigger half the session, with the other half hiding in a safe space at the nearest community college.
In case you missed it, the Redeemer clip is appalling. It represents, as very few other things could, virtually everything that is wrong with us. “The city of confusion is broken down: Every house is shut up, that no man may come in” (Is. 24:10)
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Evergreen Confusion You Want People to Die! Now That’s An Open Road
More here . . .
Rod Dreher is to be commended for many aspects of The Benedict Option. But at the end of the day, it reminds me of a fistful of pearls, with no thread available to make the necklace. I am glad I read it, and I am glad for the stand that Dreher is taking against various outrages. Good on him.
In my view, the reason Dreher has the pearls but no thread has to do with the fact that he has no eschatology to shape or form his view of history. We are in the middle of the historical narrative, and our chapter is leading somewhere. Where is that? Apart from a defined, eschatological vision, Christians must necessarily give way to the pagans who have an erroneous (but clear) allegiance to their march of progress.
Where is God taking us? And how does He want us to behave on the way? The answers to these questions are found in biblical eschatology and biblical law respectively. Without these things clear and defined, without hope and law, we will huddle into our little bewildered Benedict bands (LBBB), holding onto traditional values for some reason, trying to postpone the day when we are all herded into the cattle cars of tolerance at the points of sensitivity bayonets.
And so it is telling that Dreher ended his book with dire warnings about technology. As I have argued a number of times, it is not that technology is a neutral and benign thing. Technology is a form of wealth, and so it is that all the warnings in Scripture about wealth bringing in a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency are warnings that pertain. God gives wealth. God gives us technology. And we are solemnly warned not to wax fat, kicking like Jeshurun. We are not told to reject the covenant blessing of wealth.
“In 2013, for the first time ever, over 90 percent of us had mobile phones” (Loc. 3218). “This likely explains why Americans are so naïvely optimistic about technology” (Loc. 3260). “The Enlightenment ideas upon which America was founded” (Loc. 3261). “What enables this hypocrisy? The technocratic mentality” (Loc. 3293). “that technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things” (Loc. 3481). “in ancient Greek, techne, or ‘craftsmanship,’ versus episteme, or ‘knowledge gained through contemplation’” (Loc. 3326).
Dreher has, and holds faithfully to, many fragmented elements of the Christian worldview. But it does not cohere in his hands—he does not have the worldview itself. He cannot bring it all together in a coherent Christian vision for life in this world.
And as though he meant to illustrate this melancholy fact, Dreher concludes by telling the story of how his friend Andrew Sullivan achieved serenity. “My friend Andrew Sullivan was one of the most prolific and influential bloggers on the Internet” (Loc. 3430), and one day just quit. In Sullivan’s words, “And so I decided, after 15 years, to live in reality” (Loc. 3438). Dreher met up with him a few months later, and found him “fit and glowing.”
Now what the heck? When it comes to the plague of same sex mirage, Andrew Sullivan is our very own Typhoid Mary. Stop for a minute. Let me change metaphors. This is like the Captain Dreher of the Titanic sending out an earnest set of distress signals, but wrapping up his Benedict SOSing with the observation that the iceberg appeared to be “fit and glowing.” I dare say. The iceberg was fine.
So Andrew Sullivan went on an Internet fast. But did he repent of anything the Bible talks about?
Many of Dreher’s observations are genuinely astute. They are astute, but radically disconnected. And so it is he does not have the ability to be a general in these wars of ours. The Benedict Option is full of good quotables. But there is no plan to speak of.
I do not want to use Orwellian-the-world newspeak, but rather Orwellian-the-author plainspeak. But in a world of froth, babble, fustian, agitprop, bubble, and vain repetition, what I am about to say might come across like being slapped in the face with a cold, dead halibut. Some might even go so far as to say that I am guilty of “hate speech.” But I said I was going to try to stay away from the jargon of Orwell, and so wish me better luck.
Look, lords who walk the earth. You bought the tickets. You paid for them. You bundled us all onto the trains. We rattled along for many days and nights, across great chasms on trestles built out of semiotic arbitrariness, soaked in the creosote of manifest nonsense. The trains finally stopped, and we were all forced off. And my argument, such as it is, is this: “well, here we are!”
In a world where gender trumps sex, how can we avoid the conclusion that gender trumps sexism? In a world where women have historically been oppressed, how can we avoid the conclusion that the “powers that be” have finally achieved their final solution, which is, the abolition of woman. You protest, but I reply with my argument/observation, which is, “well, here we are!” They have already destroyed women’s sports (because there is no fixed category called “a woman”), and so I make my observation. There must not be any such thing as misogyny either. Here we are.
The president recently taunted Mika for going around in public bleeding after a plastic surgery, and all the people you might expect pulled their skirts away and said, “Suh! Well, I neva!” You just don’t speak that way about a woman, quoth Dianne Feinstein. To which the president might reply, “Woman? What’s that?” Did the senator from California just assign pronouns to Mika? And we all know that to assign pronouns to people is the height of wickedness, worse even than making observations about plastic surgery. We know this because all the best college campuses, the places where our very smartest people are gathered, whip themselves into a merainge if you use the wrong pronoun. It must be a big deal.
So here we are, out on the postmodern tundra. I wonder if anything grows here. I wonder also, if something grew — would we be allowed to eat it? It might be bad for us. The surgeon general might say no, no, no, no, no, no.
I offer this as a mere suggestion, something for you guys to reflect on. We can’t be where you guys took us and also not be here.
And I also offer a final observation, for now. Back when we were being bundled onto the trains, certain pious souls tried to stop you — you called them the religious right, and a lot of other names. But if you had a marked distaste for the religious right, you are going to hate the godless right.