Blogroll: Blog & Mablog
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Contrary to popular assumptions about “worldview,” the issue involves much more than simply the propositions you think. Thinking certainly is an important part of it all, but much more is necessary—as a particular case study of Les Mis may show. For many reasons, I believe that reactions to Les Mis are a great way for Christians to check up on how many unexamined assumptions from the surrounding world they may have picked up.
Now before anybody rushes off to man the barricades—heh—I am not saying that liking Les Mis makes you a bad Christian. I am saying that liking Les Mis means that you need to grow in your worldview sanctification—and because this is true of every mother’s son of us, there need be no offense taken.
A worldview is comprised of a culture’s framework of assumptions about reality, and these assumptions manifest themselves in four basic elements. Two of them are propositional, and two of them are lived out or enacted. A worldview consists of much more than what a person says or thinks. It includes that, obviously, but it also goes well beyond the articulated level of propositions. Many Christians believe that if a movie (or play or show) avoids flatly contradicting biblical propositions, or if biblical propositions can be successfully projected onto the production, then all is good. Obviously the propositions do matter, but they are not the only things that matter.
So what are the four elements of a worldview? The first propositional assumption is catechesis and answers the question “what do we believe? What do we confess?” This is the element that most people think of when the word worldview is invoked. The second is narrative, and answers the question, “Who are we, how did we get here, and where are we going?” The main key to understanding Les Mis rightly, as I will tell you right now, is found in this second element.
The first of the two non-propositional assumptions about reality is symbol, and the fourth is lifestyle. These two will enter our discussion a bit, but they are not where the main action is.
Now suppose I tell you a story of an officer who is serving his country during the course of a war that his side is losing, but he is not in the front lines. He is an aristocrat, and he falls in love with a peasant woman in a nearby village. His family is unalterably opposed to the match, and her family is filled with doubts and suspicions. Behind all the romantic drama, the ins and outs, the ups and downs, is the prospect of him being called up to combat duty. A fellow officer, married and with three small children to support, is called up to the front lines. Our protagonist, after much turmoil and soul searching, volunteers to take his fellow officer’s place, a request which is granted. He does this with the support of his love interest, and she sends him off with many tears. He is killed in action two days before the war is over.
Now on the surface, we can easily identify the Christian elements of love and sacrifice in a story like this. They are right there, lying on the surface of the story. It has Christian “themes,” right?
But what happens if we fill in a few more contextual elements? What happens to the Christian “bones” of the story then? Suppose we fill them in without altering anything we have said so far. The officer is a German officer in the course of the Second World War, the girl is a Bavarian peasant, and the American soldier who shot him was your great-grandfather. Now what you do think about it?
I hope that you grant that this would be an easy story to tell in a stirring way if it were situated in the War of the Roses, while at the same time it would be an extremely difficult story to tell successfully if the farewell scene had swelling music from Wagner and a swastika fluttering patriotically in the background. If you made a movie like that, all your friends would take you aside and ask, “What the heck are you doing, man?”
But the structure of the story is the same, whether or not the protagonist’s name is Fritz the German or George the Yorkshireman. So why and how do these extra contextual elements completely transform the story? The answer is that they are an essential part of the worldview presented—in this case, the narratival part (Nazis were actually the bad guys) and the symbolic part (the swastika).
Now we can throw in another factor that seems to ameliorate everything. A Christian storyteller could pick up this theme two hundred years from now, when virtually no one knows what a Nazi is, what a swastika is, what the Second World War was, and now it is just—to a popular audience—on all fours with the War of the Roses. That is what has happened, in my view, with Les Mis. But the mere passage of time is not a worldview disinfectant.
And that is why I said “seems” to ameliorate. As Santayana memorably put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Dabney urged us to be sure that the former issues are really dead before you bury them. And it was Faulkner who said that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
What do Antifa protesters think they are doing? When some punk throws a brick through the window of a jeweler’s shop during a presidential inauguration riot, and he has ear buds in listening to music while he is doing it, what music is he listening to? Whether he is actually listening to the finale of Les Mis . . . that is what he is actually listening to.
C.S. Lewis rightly called Rousseau the “father of the totalitarians.” That awful planted the toxic seeds which resulted in a century or more of poisonous plants. He had a marked impact on Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables. Rousseau’s brand of egalitarianism is what wise theological historians call bad juju. The nineteenth century was the century of revolution, bracketed just outside that century on one end by the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution on the other. The uprisings in the first part of the nineteenth century, the setting of Les Mis, were part and parcel with all of this. I do not include the American War for Independence in this for reasons that I will explain later.
So the worldview that is (quite ably) represented by Les Mis is a worldview held together by romantic sentimental violence. The enemy in this worldview was Christendom.
Red: the blood of angry men!
Black: the dark of ages past!
Red: a world about to dawn!
Black: the night that ends at last!
The “dark of ages past” is a civilization that I love, and I have spent my adult life trying to teach other people to love that civilization as well. The “night that ends at last” is the culture, legacy, and heritage of my people. The “world about to dawn” has been two hundred years of one socialist disaster chasing after the next one. If you want to see the world about to dawn, visit lovely Venezuela.
The thing that is striking about all of this is that Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism, called out what was going to happen before it happened. He was unalterably opposed to the French Revolution before the Terror. He saw the principles that were in play, and he saw where it necessarily had to go. And go there it most certainly did.
And so here we are, on the far side of all the carnage that “the blood of angry men” was able to bring about—which to date includes about 100 million dead people—looking back over two centuries or more of failed socialist mayhem, and we still can’t see it.
We have been told that this promised commie utopia has been about to dawn for quite a while. We have been assured of it again and again. The next great leap forward will finally get it done, promise. It hasn’t yet, and it never will, because God put the sun in the sky. In His kind providence, He did not place any lies there. They do not rise above the horizon, and if they did, they would give no warmth, and no light.
You say you got a real solution . . . but when you show us the plan, it turns out to be the same old humanistic sentimental treacle, accented and made to seem really serious through the bloodshed. All I can tell you, brother, is you have to wait.
Pastor Doug, have you seen this? Thoughts? https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-lessons-from-reformation-in-sbc/ I find it ironic since from the contact I have with people in local SBC churches, liberalism is far from having been defeated.
Amanda, I thought that article was outstanding, and on point. I like Al Mohler a great deal, and I admire and respect him even more than that. But he does need to look back over his shoulder.The Trump Thing
“Now I find myself in the weird position of having been told the truth by a dishonorable man. One hardly knows where to look.” Look to the Word! (as always!) 1 Kings 18:16-17: So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, Is that you, you troubler of Israel? “the great housecleaning has started with the pretentious and polished hypocrites, instead of with the cads.”
Why do people keep calling the bureaucratic establishment the “Deep State,” as if it were something shadowy, out of sight, under the surface, behind the throne, and all that? I mean, whatever it does bad or good, it’s hardly a secret. It’s pretty much right in front of us and not really trying to hide.
John, who they are is not shadowy at all. But what they have been doing is hardly out in the plain light of day. We are well into many years of high crimes committed with functional immunity.
NINE Times! Does anybody but me remember the Conservative cry of “Character Matters” in the 90s to dismiss WJ Clinton and his in-office adultery? A mere 20 years later, conservatives are validating Dabney’s screed against vain respectable growling while deferring to the progressives/secular humanists. Yes, those who dismissed tawdry details of Clinton’s term are exponential hypocrites when decrying Trump and Stormy. While it is pleasant to see the Swamp be called out in some regard, MAGA (which was also WJC’s motto) is a fraud. See all the photos of golfing Trump/Clinton/Guiliani. One wonders at what point he was denied or betrayed in some deal by these Swampers. Bush x 2, Dole, Romney, McCain, Trump. Here’s to seeing which clown the GOP offers up in the next cycle. Whatever truth he may be telling these days is simply for his own vain glory and vindication. It has little or nothing to do with the benefit of those who put their faith in MAGA. From the USFL to the XFL to WWF, to POTUS. #TrumpFirst Always a popcorn worthy spectacle, do we trust this guy to rebuild whatever he may tear apart?
Ron, you seem a little bit jaundiced.
After having just read this out loud in order to get the full impact of your analysis, I am just speechless. I don’t think I’m much of an apple-shiner (in fact, I’m probably a bit too critical at times and should be encouraging people more), but, I must say, you have really outdone yourself with this one. I hope this is read far and wide. Thank you for the very good work you do. Please continue to do so.
Paul, thankee. I resorted to my commonplace book.
Re: Bueller? Bueller? Mueller? Excellent! But how about a couple of minor style pointers from your Anabaptist friends? When emphasizing low morals, “greasiest” is best spelled “greeziest.” And I might have capitalized “precious.”
Steve, points taken. Thanks.
RE: Bueller? Bueller? Mueller? Dear Pastor Wilson, I always enjoy reading your discussions of what’s in the news since you bring a perspective that’s so rarely seen anywhere in the media. However, there are two issues that confuse me about your arguments. To me they look like blind spots or oversights, but I think that may very well be my blind spots talking so I’d love it if you could delve a little deeper on a couple things for me. 1. “The Deep State” is what exactly? It might seem like a dumb question or a trap question, but it isn’t. I hear so many references to it that I feel like it would be helpful if we defined our terms. The way some conservatives talk it comes across as if they think the CIA/FBI are being run by Wesleyan Graduates, and attendees of Obama’s constitutional gymnastics class. Aren’t these “Deep State” people mainly ex-military types? Isn’t it the Republican Party that gave them an infinite budget, passed the Patriot Act, and created the Department of Homeland Security? The lack of trust in these people from conservatives strikes me as convenience more than a sudden discovery of a liberal cabal at the Virginia Military Institute. 2. I’m old enough to remember the Clinton years, but not old enough to remember much before that. VBS was a long time ago, but once upon a time I could name all the kings of Israel. I’ve heard about half a kajillion sermons about Saul, David and the importance of humble leadership. What confuses me is the logic that says “Yes Trump cheated on his wife a thousand times, but he would NEVER take a bribe” or “Yes, Trump faked an injury to avoid the draft, but he would NEVER make a sleazy deal with a spy.” Is it possible you’re fighting yesterday’s battles? Is it possible that you’re fighting the absurd accusations of McCain’s racism, and Mitt’s Ebeneezer Scrooge greed? I appreciate your work. Thank you for modeling the humility that’s so lacking just about everywhere.
Nick, reasonable questions both. For the first, I define the Deep State as the structure of government offices and agencies that is largely untouched by elections—career operatives. It is the bedrock that lies under both Republican and Democratic administrations. In short, I don’t believe that Republicans and Deep State functionaries are necessarily in opposition at all. For the second, I don’t believe at all that Trump is somehow a shining knight outside this realm of corruption. That is actually the reason for my astonishment at what is happening. I feel like an Israelite watching Ammon and Moab attack Mt. Seir. And the fact that I find all the combatants distasteful won’t keep me from taking the spoil.Alexa, What is Dirty Omniscience?
So . . . um . . . what are your thoughts on Amazon’s Alexa and all her wannabes? Half of me says “wow, that’s pretty cool” while the other half says “get that outta my house!” Frankly, I don’t know how it works, but I do know the microphone is always on, which is why every time I say “Alexa” (completely at random) she perks up and points her light in my direction. So who is listening on the other side, or might be listening? Or recording. Or monitoring, you know, for helpful suggestions that pop up in targeted advertisements in the future that I have to endure before Alexa will play the song I asked for. And why is this lighted canister a “she?” Maybe I wanted an “Alex.” Should I be very, very afraid?
Malachi, it is just an algorithm listening. Totally fine.
When you state “I believe that we should begin the fight to outlaw all such information in court,” are you advocating that all digital data is simply too easily manipulated to be useful as evidence in any manner in court? Our system accepts oral third party testimony, documents, physical items, as evidence in court, and all of these can be manipulated to frame someone. However, it is the trial process by which the evidence is rebutted/challenged and the defense made. For physical evidence, a prosecutor/plaintiff must demonstrate adequate chain of custody, etc. and even then, the defense can thereafter attack it (e.g. Wife testifies “yeah, I found this in Billy’s search history and called my husband to look at it, and here is the timestamp on my cell phone showing I made the call.”) Or are you simply advocating that the court of public opinion (aka internet mob) should not prematurely jump to conclusions and should take everything mentioning what was found on a computer with an adequate amount of skepticism salt?
Jess, I am certainly advocating the latter. And with regard to the former, I want the burden of proof to lie with the prosecution—not only to establish the guilt of the accused, but a burden of showing that their digital evidence could not have been tampered with.
Yes, the age of Big Brother has arrived and it is creepy beyond our ability to imagine. It makes me want to pull up a Huffington Post blog in another tab and leave it open for every moment I spend at Blog and Mablog. Big Brother may be watching, but I can control what he sees. It would bring me great joy to let him know that I know he is watching and I am not above manipulating the very data he is so diligently mining.
Dan, what if your camera is checking your eye movements to monitor what tabs you are looking at?Peter the Protestant
Peter Hitchens emotional attachment to the Anglican Church is understandable and even commendable in a fashion. It reminds me of a man excusing his crazy uncle by recounting the man’s youthful exploits. Unfortunately, he left out some critical detail regarding those youthful exploits. The three Oxford martyrs—Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer—were indeed convicted of heresy. However, Hitchens omits the fact that they were deeply involved in the political management of the country during the reign of Edward VI. Cranmer was the boy king’s most trusted adviser; Ridley was the brains behind exceedingly consequential religious legislation; Latimer was the court preacher. They were essentially the top generals in a culture war that killed thousands of ordinary Englishmen and torched a thousand years of history. Thus it is sadly disingenuous for Hitchens to paint them as solely religious martyrs.
John, of course they were political players—the charade of secularism had not yet been established. But precisely because the charade of secularism was not yet in place, this means that the “ordinary Englishmen” you refer to had loyalties that were also not merely religious. This particular knife cuts both ways. The Armada of a few years later could have been called a trans-denominational outreach but, as you point out, more than that was going on.Natural Child Birth?
Are you really against natural child birth? This is frankly bizarre. I get that child birth is now difficult due to the fall, but to suggest that the better option is to fill your wife and child’s body with admittedly dangerous chemicals to facilitate something that women do just fine all over the world and have been doing for millennia is again just bizarre. Using modern medicine is clearly not sinful, but to suggest that perhaps all of the new chemicals pushed by mega corporations to make money are not the best method or even necessary is completely rational. To suggest that it is ignoring the fall is silly.
BJ, of course I am not an automatic fan of “new chemicals” or “mega corporations.” But neither am I a fan of the mortality rates for women and babies that we had going “for millennia.” When women used to come to the point of delivery, without any artificial aids in sight for centuries yet to come, we know one thing for sure. Lots of them died.
“Every time I see something advertised as ‘all natural and free of chemicals’ I brace myself for the day—and it cannot be far off now—when certain food items are touted on the package as being entirely ‘molecule free.’” Well, Wilson expect things to get worse! Annnnnnnd, never believe anything an atom tells you, they make up everything! ; – )
Jason, was that really necessary?Classroom Pitfalls
[The 9 Pitfalls of Homeschooling] Hi Doug, I’m just wondering when you’re going to write that promised follow-up regarding “classroom” education? Thanks!
Max, thanks for the nudge. I got distracted. Will try to get to it soon.Framework of Assumptions for Local Politics
Hi Doug, My question is this: should I run for mayor or city council of my small town? I, perhaps presumptuously, think I might be able to do some good (frankly not hard to do better than what we presently have) and have been asked to consider it by a few folks. Now, before you start cracking your knuckles to type a response, please bear in mind I’m not asking you to find God’s will for my specific life. But more generally, if I am considering such a question, what other questions ought I be considering, especially if I want to do so in a way that honors Christ, and does good for my community. Not so much interested in your thoughts on the logistical kinds of questions, as important as they are (how this might affect my work, family, church, weeds in my yard—I am working through those too); rather, philosophically and theologically, what are the kinds of practical matters and methods someone should keep in mind? I appreciate your insights on the ills and temptations of governance and the way it undermines truth and the gospel. But if you were to recommend a book or books, or write one on whether and how to be involved in local politics, what would you say? Or, to put it perhaps more clearly: if you were not usefully and pastorally critiquing the government as you do, but thought that it was time to move from pastoring to politics (please don’t, BTW); is it something you could engage in as a Christian? If not, why not? If so, then how would you go about it? Not looking for a magnum opus—but somewhere to start would be super appreciated. Thank you!
Bryan, I think I get your question. Leaving aside questions of yard sign politics, and leaving aside questions of personal priorities (e.g. family questions), what advice would I give? I would say this. Make sure you have a well-read, thoroughly established political theology/philosophy. Have a well-established framework of assumptions that you will take into any particular political question. If I were in your shoes, and a voter asked me, “What are you?” “What framework will guide your decision making?” Those are questions I would want to have answers to, independent of whether the city is going to widen the road on the east side to make it into an arterial. And my answer would be that I am a theocratic libertarian.You Say You Want a Revolution
Please, I pray thee, elaborate on your penultimate paragraph there! I am always fascinated by explanations of the differences between the two Revolutions. Friedrich von Gentz’s book The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution powerfully explains one part of it, but I feel like there’s something beneath the surface in your insight here that I’m not quite grasping.
Samuel, Gentz is great, and I wrote an essay on him for the last of the Omnibus textbook series which I would refer you to. But for that “beneath the surface” issue you may have detected, I think it might be this. Most conservative Christians today are right wing, but this terminology comes from the seating of the revolutionaries after the French revolutionaries—the more modest revolutionaries sat on the right side of the chamber, but they were all revolutionaries. Fortunately, on this subject, here is a rough and ready worldview litmus test for the modern Christian—do you like Les Mis?
So let us begin with what the president tweeted on Sunday.
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes—and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
I haven’t written about Trump in a bit, and so let’s review. I opposed him throughout the Republican primaries, and was betting on a different horse. Character matters, and character counts. After he secured the nomination, I continued to disbelieve in the conservative noises he was making. I wrote in the name of another candidate in the general election. After he was elected, I was surprised at the depth of my relief over the fact that Hillary was out of the picture. And when I use the phrase “depth of my relief,” I am talking about a couple million fathoms. Not only was I surprised at my relief on that front, I was also surprised when Trump started keeping various campaign promises. That was not what I expected.
All of my political life as an adult, I was accustomed to people running to the right, and then governing to the middle. This was the way of the world, and it even happened with candidates I was convinced wanted to govern to the right. “Not as conservative as I’d hoped” was the general way of things, and this, “more conservative than anybody dared to hope” was an unexpected windfall. It was like finding a winning lottery ticket in your pocket, one that you didn’t buy.
Put it another way. All my life I have been lied to by honorable men. Now I find myself in the weird position of having been told the truth by a dishonorable man. One hardly knows where to look.
As an aside, too many evangelicals are pining for the good old days. They would much rather be lied to by respectable men than told the truth by a disreputable man.
I say all this so that you will know that the following (keen) analysis is coming from someone who is ambivalent, conflicted, jarred, tangled, and having way more fun than I thought I would be having under this administration. The whole spectacle is far more gaudy than my taste generally runs, but at the same time Trump has certainly shown a genuine talent for getting the chimps jumping. This means that my evening trip to the zoo, whenever I am watching the news, is far more interesting than it was before. I find myself chortling over the things that the disreputable Trump is doing, instead of the way it used to be, when I was in anguish over what all the responsible people were doing.
But here is the anomaly. The tweet I began with is plainly vintage Trump, and it certainly highlights the crazy town times we live in. Trump, by all accounts a cad and a bounder, is once more doing a profoundly honorable thing, periodically saying extraneous, unnecessary and unhelpful things along the way. In the meantime, his adversaries in the Deep State, Respectable Men who graduated from Respectable Colleges and who have Respectable Positions and who have had the Respectable Media slather them over with multiple layers of additional Respectability, are behaving like some of the seedier elements of the Sicilian Mafia.
Let me quote Andrew McCarthy on this, giving you an able summary of some of the monkeyshines in question.
It has now been confirmed that the Trump campaign was subjected to spying tactics under counterintelligence law — FISA surveillance, national-security letters, and covert intelligence operatives who work with the CIA and allied intelligence services. It made no difference, apparently, that there was an ongoing election campaign, which the FBI is supposed to avoid affecting; nor did it matter that the spy targets were American citizens, as to whom there is supposed to be evidence of purposeful, clandestine, criminal activity on behalf of a foreign power before counterintelligence powers are invoked.
But what was the rationale for using these spying authorities?
The fons et origo of the counterintelligence investigation was the suspicion—which our intelligence agencies assure us is a fact—that the Democratic National Committee’s server was hacked by covert Russian operatives. Without this cyber-espionage attack, there would be no investigation. But how do we know it really happened? The Obama Justice Department never took custody of the server—no subpoena, no search warrant. The server was thus never subjected to analysis by the FBI’s renowned forensics lab, and its evidentiary integrity was never preserved for courtroom presentation to a jury.
This whole thing is a cartoon. All the ruling elites are acting like a coyote in a cartoon. This is not the Justice Department, this is the Justice Melodrama Theater. This is inside-the-Beltway crinkum crankum. For a patriotic American, this embarrassing enough to make your ankles get hot. If a distinterested pursuit of justice were a Miss America finalist, this is a pig in a petticoat. If a disinterested pursuit of justice were a fifty dollar latte from an upscale Manhattan joint, this is a cold cup of coffee dregs in a Flying J styrofoam cup, with a cigarette butt floating in it. This whole fiasco is a regular floor show. Somebody needs to get this oozing travesty back in the jar and screw the lid on it. This is premium grade dreck. We are dealing with a small regiment of attorneys, all of whom graduated with the greasiest tongues in their class. In case I have not made my meaning clear, this pursuit of nakedly partisan goals by means of our justice system and intelligence agencies is demented and twaddlesome. The dishonesty glows with an eerie, incandescent fire, the kind that Dante used to write about. If I were one of the people involved in this junior high jive show, I would ask for directions to some place on earth where nobody would know me, and would live out my days with a paper bag over my head. The case against the president is like that homeless guy’s saucepan—many good points, but no bottom. This whole thing is acting like a fifth rate coup attempt in a ninth rate banana republic. The independent prosecutor would land this thing except that the airport is socked in with clouds of stupidity. The pretended impartiality of these investigations tastes like a bowl of stewed hay. If world class justice were a thoroughbred winning the Derby, this endeavor is a spavined mare with the staggers. We have a bunch of Ivy League attorneys earning big money chasing little pink dinosaurs.
I have expressed myself in this way because I didn’t want this scandal to end if I still had any music still inside me.
And the basic juxtaposed conclusion is inescapable. Donald Trump, being manifestly the kind of man he is, has done an honorable thing and called for an investigation of that which manifestly calls for an honest investigation. And all the honorable types are wearing huge gobs of swamp slime as though it were some kind of an external ornament.
One last comment. Despite my “about time” approval of a real investigation into the Whited Sepulchers of Washington (WSW), I nevertheless know that there will be all-in Trump supporters who will be peeved at the daylight I still put between myself and the president (e.g. comments like “manifestly the kind of man he is”). Look. The fact that I can see what is going on right now means that I am not blinded to the big picture. I hope Trump wins the fight he is now in, and I hope that he wins it decisively. But neither was I blind when Trump was suggesting Ted Cruz’s father was implicated in the JFK assassination. You know, I kind of still remember that.
Nevertheless, it is possible to recognize that Trump, despite everything, is, comparatively speaking, the good guy in this fight. When we look at him, we know what we’ve got. When I look at him, I have no illusions whatever. But what is happening is this. The shimmering veil of illusion that used to bestow respectability on … the Swamp, on the Deep State . . . no, no, overused so let’s call it the Deep Swamp . . . is starting to unshimmer more than a little bit.
Trump has had metaphorical smallpox in his earlier life, about seventeen times. And the basic trick that the Respectable but Vile Establishment has used for years, if any reformers gets too close to their precious, is to contaminate them with smallpox and bustle them off to the pest house, thus quarantining them. And along comes Trump, no heroic figure, certainly, but nevertheless immune to their basic tactic—having had smallpox so many times already, you see. Out of all the tawdry accusations that have been hurled at him, let us acknowledge with discrete understatement that not all of them are false. Does anyone seriously believe that a fling with Stormy and a subsequent payoff were “unthinkable scenarios?” Does anybody hear about stuff like that and react with “oh, my great aunt, not Donald J. Trump!”?
Bueller? Bueller? Mueller?Superficial moralists in the evangelical world conclude that all of this is the result of a sad degradation of our national morals, not to mention the selling out of the evangelical conscience.
No, the undeniable fact is that nobody cares about Stormy or anybody else like her. Superficial moralists in the evangelical world conclude that all of this is the result of a sad degradation of our national morals, not to mention the selling out of the evangelical conscience. No, what is starting to happen is that we are finally cleaning house because our national morals are so important to us. But what has thrown everybody among the Captain Obvious Pundits is the fact that the great housecleaning has started with the pretentious and polished hypocrites, instead of with the cads.
One of the things that we learn from Scripture is the fact that it is the part of wisdom to be mindful of your own mortality. This is one of the important functions of funerals and memorial services. Not only do we honor the deceased, as has been done here today very ably, but we also reckon with the fact (and perhaps wrestle with the fact) that we are all in the same condition; we are all mortal.
And so it is that Scripture says:
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Eccl. 7:2–4, ESV).
Now this is not a requirement for us to be morbid, but it is a standard that summons us to be mindful. Mindful, not morbid.
This is a journey that all of us are on. Some don’t believe it is a long journey—they feel that the only journeying is here and now in this life, and when we die, the journey is all done, all over. According to them, the journey is done because we are done. Others—the writers of Scripture among them—teach that death is a departure point, but never a cessation. We don’t cease to exist when we die, but we find ourselves delivered into the hands of God. According to the Bible, when we die, we leave one place in order to go to another.
But even this way of putting it does not express the reality completely—because we are, all of us, in the hands of God now. It is just that death makes this reality impossible to ignore, which is why it is the part of wisdom to prefer the house to mourning to the house of the jesters and comedians.
The real issue that confronts us, or which would be confronting us if we were paying attention, is this. What kind of people are we becoming?
A moment ago, I referred to the fact that in death we (in an unmistakable way) are committed into the hands of God—in the words of the cliché, we go to meet our Maker. When we first start to grapple with this, our natural tendency is to resort to a bookkeeping metaphor—with virtues in one column and sins in another, and a fervent hope that we don’t come out in the red.
But the bookkeeping analogy won’t do. If God were to mark iniquities, as the psalmist says (Ps. 130:3), who could stand? If God were to say to any one of us that He intended to go through our lives with a fine tooth comb, I trust that the universal reaction to this would be something along the lines of oh, no. Nothing but red ink.
So if it is not the bookkeeping approach—because every last human being would fail that kind of audit—then what kind of approach does it need to be?
The issue is what kind of person we are in the process of becoming. Apart from Christ, apart from the kindness and forgiveness of God in Christ, we all start from a poor position, and we progressively make things worse. We are becoming more selfish, more self-absorbed, more consistently invested in the self. Left to ourselves, we want to become the wrong kind of creature entirely. But when God intervenes, when God softens our hearts, He makes it possible to start heading in a different direction. When that happens, the process of becoming has a blueprint to follow. At that point, the pattern we are being conformed to is the pattern established in the life of Jesus Christ.
But it is only possible for the life of Jesus to take root in us if the death of Jesus has previously taken root in us. That is what the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are all about. Wisdom directs us to be done trying to save ourselves, and to simply look to Christ. He summons us to do nothing less than that, and He also summons us to do nothing more than that.
If any of you have ever spent time in a lawn chair at the beach, staring at the waves that come into the beach, you know with what monotonous (and soothing) regularity the waves hit the sand. But it would be truly odd to your companions if you were to point to the 503rd wave to hit, and try to convince them that it was somehow truly unique. The repetition is too pronounced to say anything like that.
Since the beginning of human history, each generation has been a wave that takes shape, gathers force, hits the sand, and slowly recedes. This is simply how it is. We must not be surprised by it, and everyone here is part of a gathering wave—either this one, or the next one, or perhaps the one after that.
And while our mortality means that we are as transient as a wave, we have to remember that God is immortal. He is eternal. He is immutable—the Father of lights, without shadow or variation due to change. He is not like a transient wave at all. And this unchanging God is just, kind, merciful, holy, loving, wise, and good. As Abraham said many centuries ago, pleading with God on behalf of the wicked city of Sodom, “shall not the judge of the whole earth do right?” He certainly shall. He will do nothing apart from the right, nothing against it. We may certainly trust Him. We may trust Him with everything.
We may trust Him while we are here, in the house of mourning. He invites us to give our aches to Him, our sorrows to Him, our grief to Him. When we do so, through the blood of Jesus Christ, and as the text said earlier, the heart is made glad.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
Today we are remembering the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We will be considering the convergence of all things in the Father, coming to Him through the Son, and enabled to do this by the Spirit. But though this must be our central focus, coming to the Father, we do not want to let this true scriptural emphasis become a superstition for us. Stephen addressed Jesus directly when he was dying—“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). And if we invoke the presence of the Spirit now, we do so only because we want Him to fulfill His office, which is that of glorifying the one who brings sinners to His Father.The Text:
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13–15).Summary of the Text:
Jesus had many things to tell His disciples, but He knew that they were not up to it yet (John 16:12). But the Spirit will come, and He is called the Spirit of truth, and so it is not surprising that He will guide them into “all truth” (v. 13). The Spirit will originate nothing on His own. He will not speak “of himself” (v. 13). Whatever He hears, that is what He will speak, and that is how He will reveal to the disciples what is to come (v. 13). This will glorify Jesus, because the Spirit will receive what He says from Jesus (v. 14). Then He will show it to the disciples. Everything the Father has is also Christ’s, and everything that Christ has will be passed on by the Spirit (v. 15).Background Reminder:
As we have considered this topic in the past, we have noted that the Son’s mission is to bring us to the Father. He teaches us to pray our Father (Matt. 6:9). No man comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If we have seen Christ, we have seen the Father (John 14:9). And in a similar way, the Spirit is given in order to bring us to the Son, glorifying Him, so that He might bring us to the Father. So we come to the Father by the Son through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18). The Father is the destination, the Son is the road, and the Spirit is the car. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).The Spirit of All Truth:
The Spirit of all truth is necessarily one who wields true authority, true power. And this is why the Scriptures describe Him this way. Jesus spoke with authority, and not like the scribes (Matt. 7:29), and it was because the Spirit was with Him. And the great things He did were because the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” (Luke 4:18).
Jesus therefore had anointed authority to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach opened dungeon doors to the prisoners, to declare the recovery of sight to the blind, and to usher the bruised into liberty. This is a lot of authority; it requires a universal authority.
And at the day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus shared His authority with His bride. He did this by pouring out His Spirit upon us.
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).Authority for What?
Our two fundamental duties are to repent and believe, and the Holy Spirit equips us for both.
“But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8). This is a Spirit-given repentance.
The second way is for the Spirit to quicken our faith. “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2). When the Spirit was given, one of the more visible consequences was that cloven tongues of fire rested on each of their heads. One reasonable interpretation is that this made each of them an altar, with the fire of consecration burning on them. Present your bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2), with a constant fire burning.When Worship Wrecks Us:
There are two ways that worship can wreck us. One is when our fire has gone out, and we go through liturgical motions in the dusty places, with a few broken bottles scattered around. That is when we have lost our first love, and our worship services do more harm than good (1 Cor. 11:17).There is another way that worship can wreck us. A really good way.
But there is another way that worship can wreck us. A really good way.
“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12–13).
The word opened there refers to pulling the neck of the sacrificial animal back, right before you cut its throat. The sword of God’s Spirit cuts up the worshiper, and God carefully arranges the pieces on the altar. And then it is that we ascend into Heaven in a column of smoke.
“’Natural childbirth’ is a very common way of refusing to apply the doctrine of the Fall, ignoring the curse that God placed upon childbearing. To say that pregnancy is not a disease is quite true. To say that giving birth is a natural process is also true also. But this overlooks the fact that it is a cursed natural process. Eve was given turmoil in the bearing of children, just as Adam was given weeds in the garden” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, pp. 74-75).
The next time you find yourself in need of a deeply unsettling experience, I suggest that you click here, and then scroll through some of the things that Dylan Curran found out about himself, as stored up by some of our brainier brethren. All the same stuff has no doubt been stored up about you. And although the experience of considering such things is deeply unsettling, handled the right way it can become deeply edifying as well. But for the edifying part, you will have to read all the way through.Privacy or Anonymity?
We live increasingly in a surveillance state. Cameras are everywhere—pointing at intersections and pointing at 7-11 counters. Some of it is reasonable security, some of it is officious meddling, some of it is counterproductive, and some of it is creepy. What I would like to do here is separate the creepy from the rest, and then make a suggestion as to what we might be able to do about it.
No one faults a small business owner for having security cameras. Entirely reasonable. But the practice of handing out traffic tickets on the basis of intersection cameras has to be reckoned as counterproductive. Notice that traffic tickets have ceased being a way of keeping the public safe and have instead become a cash cow for the budget of the department in question. We have managed to incentivize things the wrong way—instead of officials hoping for no lawbreaking at that intersection, it would now be good for their bottom line if there were an increase of lawbreaking at that intersection. Perverse incentives.
The creepy is something we know instinctively, but even here we haven’t sorted through the issues carefully. We think we are prizing our privacy, but what we are actually doing is striving for anonymity. Privacy requires a public face, while anonymity requires far more than any sinner should ever think to require.
A man who walks down Main Street is entitled to his privacy, but the fact remains that everybody can see him. His privacy is a public fact, and we may leave him to his own affairs. But when we do so, we still know his name.
A man who travels all over the country with his location services turned on the whole time should not be surprised if some flunky over at Big Data can reconstruct his whole trip for him. He should have known, in other words—from the basic facts of the case—that he was walking down Main Street. But a man has every right to be surprised (and dismayed) to find that his camera and microphone were active the whole time, recording way more than he expected.Issues of Competence
We are not just dealing with a (plausible to us) attempt at omniscience, we are also dealing with finitude (tiny omniscience) and sinfulness (dirty omniscience). On top of that, we are also dealing with arrogance (the-kind-that-goeth-before-the-fall omniscience).
Here is something C.S. Lewis said about human knowledge in his discussion of historicism.
“It is not a question of failing to know everything: it is a question (at least as regards quantity) of knowing next to nothing. Each of us finds that in his own life every moment of time is completely filled. He is bombarded every second by sensations, emotions, thoughts, which he cannot attend to for multitude, and nine tenths of which he must simply ignore. A single second of lived time contains more than can be recorded. And every second of past time has been like that for every man that ever lived” (C.S. Lewis, Essay Collection, “Historicism,” p. 627).
The accumulation of massive amounts of data on you is an optical illusion. When someone on the other side of the country can tell you how many steps you took in a day, and what side of the street those steps were on, this creates an artificial resemblance to the kind of knowledge that God has. But this resemblance is illusory, a sham, a lie.
God knows it all. His knowledge is immediate. He knows the context perfectly. He is holy and without sin. He is a loving Father.
But if Googlemen were to crack open your file, they have far more information on you than they can understand. They have to treat that file as a quarry from which they might select facts on you (whether they want those facts to be exculpatory or damning depends on the situation). But they will have to select and ignore, and they will have a particular standard of selection. And that is where I will ask my favorite question. By what standard?
These men know (and can prove) that Mr. Jones, from his place of work, accessed a website (let us call it Bikini Bimbos.com), and was on that web site for 45 seconds. And so the data wonk says, “J’accuse.” Left out is the fact that he did so because Mrs. Jones, having just caught their Billy on the same site at their home computer, called her husband, and asked him to see how bad it was. Or contrariwise, remembering the condition our world is in, Mr. Jones might have just been sinning. The point is that God knows, and that Google doesn’t.Toward a Christian Response
I suspect that all of us will have an increasing number of occasions where we have to talk about such things, and I also suspect I will have a great deal more to say about it. What I want to do here is simply sketch the beginning of what I think should be a biblical response.
We must begin with the assumption that digital condemnation of any man should be out of court. Digital information is highly susceptible to manipulation, and digital information is highly portable. I believe that we should begin the fight to outlaw all such information in court, and we should lead by courteously disbelieving any report made against anyone on the basis of what somebody “found on their computer.”
“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:15–16).
In the old days, if the cops found a warrant for a man’s arrest, and they showed up at his house, and they found the basement full of child porn magazines, this was a scenario in which the biblical standards of evidence could be met (multiple witnesses, etc.). But if the agents cart off his computer, and then late that night down at the station, they “find” child porn, there are too many problems. Was the porn actually there (as it often is), so guilty as charged? Was it placed on the computer via a thumb drive after the arrest? Was it planted on the computer by that man’s enemy before he placed the phone call that led to the request for the warrant?
As a corollary, we should also be extremely skeptical about claims and accusations made on the basis of this kind of thing. This is not because such charges couldn’t be true. They frequently are true. But rather I say this because the common man’s ability to protect himself against framing allegations has not yet caught up with a malevolent person’s ability to accuse.
Power corrupts, and digital power is certainly power. The companies that traffic in this kind of data are vulnerable themselves—one scandal too many, one hack to many, one data loss fiasco too many—and they might find themselves losing out to their competitors. The best thing we can do in this area is to support deregulation of the tech industry, making it easier for new companies (that advertise “we don’t keep your info” as a selling point) to compete with the giants.Conclusion
It remains the case that God is not mocked. It remains true that you reap what you sow. We can therefore be assured that when the creepy aspects of this new era get themselves sorted out, we will still be living in a world that is governed the way God wants to govern it.
In the meantime, we should be more suspicious of accusation than we are. Call it a good starting point for our operation stance. Lord willing, I will have a good bit more to say about all this.
“And so this explains why, when harangued, I do not run off. I just sit there, like a scolded cat” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, p. 72).
Hitchens on the Fall of Protestantism in England
“Every time I see something advertised as ‘all natural and free of chemicals’ I brace myself for the day—and it cannot be far off now—when certain food items are touted on the package as being entirely ‘molecule free’” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, p. 72).
The second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18). The command presupposes that we love ourselves, and tells us to render that same kind of love to our neighbor.
This became problematic for conservative believers over the last generation or so because representatives of our therapeutic and sentimental times constructed an imperative for the narcissistic self out of it. You can’t love your neighbor until you learn to wuvvv yourself—which structurally was sound enough. All the poison was found in how they were defining love—warm, sentimental treacle, sticky with self-flattering affirmations about how God “don’t make no junk.”
But love is not to be defined as sentimental self-affirmation, or affirmation. Love means treating someone lawfully from the heart. Sin is lawlessness, John tells us (1 John 3:4). Love is the fulfillment of the law, as Paul says:
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:8–10, ESV).
You say you love a man? Respect his goods. And if you don’t respect his goods, it doesn’t matter how soaring your emotions might be concerning him. It doesn’t matter if your eyes well with tears at the thought of him. It doesn’t matter that you call him your best bud—if you light up with a mixture of lust and envy whenever you think of his wife, you don’t love him.
Now apply the previously mentioned argument about the second great commandment. If you need a little help, let Rushdoony do it.
“Since this commandment so defines loving our neighbor as ourselves, it means clearly also that no man is capable of so loving his neighbor if he does not first love himself; if he has no respect for his God-given privileges of life, family, property and reputation, he is not likely to grant them to another” (Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, p. 93).
So this is what we might call a Gadsden love. Self-respect really is a foundation for respecting others. You are not autonomous. Your life does not originate with you, and you have as much of an obligation to treat yourself lawfully, from the heart, as you do to treat your neighbor that way. If you refuse to treat yourself as one under authority, you will not be able to love your neighbor.
There is a divide between what Rushdoony says above and what our therapeutic culture says. Being a good steward of your property is an act of love, and it enables you to fight on behalf of your neighbor when the lustful predators of socialism are hot after him. It does not consist of telling him that it is time for a group hug.
If you comprehend this, then you will understand the gulf, the chasm, the abyss, that separates the American War for Independence from the French Revolution. If you get it, you will understand why C.S. Lewis called Rousseau, “the father of the totalitarians.”
If you don’t grasp the distinctions that are embedded in this, then you are a mark. The swollen state will ply you with flattery, pot, porn and mammon so that you may decorate your cell with an liberty veneer wood pattern that almost looks like oak.
“Among the informal logical fallacies, one of the most common is called the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Translated it means ‘after this, therefore because of this.’ B follows A, and it is therefore assumed that A must have been the cause of B. This fallacy is so prevalent that it could easily be assumed that many have done graduate studies in it, and some have even moved on to post hoc post doc work” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, p. 62).
Praise God!! Wonderful news!!
Laura, thank you and thank the Lord. We thought so too.
If you keep writing posts that funny I’m going to start hoping you keep getting cancer. I’ll try not to. That was hilarious!
Steven, don’t be drawing the wrong applications or life lessons here . . .
Thankful for the good news! Continuing in prayer as the decisions are made for treatment, if any.
Chad & Jannell
Really appreciate it. Thank you.
I’m so glad you are doing better, although at first glance I thought you were a Muslim . . .
Melody, well yes, I can see that. But a Muslim exulting in a fine serving of hospital apple sauce.Forgetting What We Had No Right to Forget
When the right to sodomy first became a political issue, conservatives opposed it for all kinds of reasons one could easily gainsay. It was unhealthy, unnatural, icky, or whatever. So the homos replied that they’d use condoms, that dogs do this, and even “breeder” sex could be seen as icky by some. And I remember reading an article by a Christian who said plainly that we would never be able to win this fight without mentioning Jesus. So, as the cliché says, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here we are once again in a moral contest where the battle is the Lord’s, and conservatives want Him out of it.
Steve, exactly right.
You’ve probably seen this already: When I read it, I was immediately reminded of your post “the economics of sexual purity.” I have to admit, a lot of what you were saying did not click until I read the NYTimes piece. Now it makes complete sense.
Charles, thank you.The Unbearable Whiteness of Being
Fantastic post, Doug. “Anything the world can get unsettled about, we can be unsettled about five years later and with a verse attached.” This is exactly what I was asking myself about during the recent “Racialism push” from many leaders I respect. I remember asking myself, “Why now?” Is it really just poor timing that right after we see a massive “White guilt/White privilege” movement in our political realm—we now see the same thing trickle into our churches? I suspect not. The church has to look massively different from the world. Its values have to be different. Its focus needs to be on camels and not gnats. We have to be people of the Book; not just regurgitating whatever “they” tell us to believe ten years too late.
Daniel, exactly. And we have to be prepared for the comeback, which will be to say that anyone who alleges cultural Marxism is behind all this, or critical theory, or anything of that kind, is guilty of doubling down on the oppression. Investigation into the genesis of all this would blow the whole thing sky high, and so people must be scared away from even mentioning the genesis of all of this.Trump, National Review, and Southern Rock
Several times you’ve mentioned that we should start thinking about how we view President Trump in the next election, especially considering how well he has been able to move the needle for conservative Christians. But I also think that we need to think about how we think about this. Whether we can reconcile our faith with his known character issues is an honest debate, but at least we are having that debate. The debate we are not having is our virtue signaling tendency to publicly distance ourselves from Trump, showing solidarity with minorities or women or whatever, while peddling National Review’s phony civility. I am not plugged into every Christian circle or conservative outlet, but I have yet to come across any critics that have suggested that it’s even a remote possibility that we are capable of this sort of moral preening. In fact, the only people that seem have a keen eye for this hypocrisy wear bright red MAGA hats (imagine that!). As you mentioned, the parable of the two sons is a great start, and there are many more areas of Scripture worth considering. At this point I have more questions than answers, although I do intend to support Trump in the next election. But I am so surprised by current trends, and I am so frustrated by Christian politicians praying on street corners and telling us to be warm and well-fed, that I’m thinking things like “Jesus drained the temple swamp in an unpresidential manner, totally disregarding the fruits of the Spirit!” It’s obviously crude, but I really think there’s something there that it highlights. I’m still working out how to even approach this, because our thinking has been off for so long on this.
Unrelated, I really enjoyed the Skynyrd song y’all played, and I would like to request “Born on the Bayou” by CCR. It’s a fantastic song, and I think y’all could pull it off well. Furthermore, in my estimation, any serious attempt at preserving Western civilization will include the canonization of Classic and Southern Rock, and there’s no better way to do that than to keep playing it.
Arkie, you are absolutely right in that there are many questions for Christians to discuss before the next presidential election. Unfortunately, yelling that the world is engaged in has overtaken the Christian world as well.
Absolutely correct and on point about National Review. A real shame too. Did you happen to catch this? She clings, like so many apologists do, to the admirable sounding dictionary definition of feminism, then immediately disregards that definition as soon as it comes to actually discussing anything about society. Women need special support it would seem to help prevent people from calling them mean names. What of men who get called mean names for being men? Oh that’s not particularly important.
Justin, I have heard from one friend who is inside the NRO world, and he says that things are better than they look. Given his agreement with the appalling nature of the transgender piece, and the public hammering other NRO writers gave to that same piece, it is possible that we are looking at editorial mismanagement and not mission drift. But we are looking at something bad.
“Never has a leadership group been so disconnected from how their base was feeling. This happened because 1. The leadership would not listen to what the people were trying to say.” Of course all of this is complicated by the fact that the base can be feeling the wrong way and the people can be saying the wrong things, and if leadership merely responds to the base’s feelings and talk then they are really only title holders and not leaders. I’m not saying the base/people necessarily are, but what do these leaders (and they really only are if someone is following) really believe themselves? If they wholeheartedly believe what they say we might fault them for one thing, if they do not we should fault them for quite another thing. Finally, to the extent they ever considered these leaders authoritative in the first place, the base might examine their own thoughts and ask if there is anything at all to what the leadership group says.
John, I think things are a bit more complex than that. The leadership has been listening to the base closely enough to parrot all their concerns during campaigns, but then they go back to Washington and do whatever the swamp spirits tell them to do. A leader who differed with the base, repeated to the people what they were saying, and then articulated why he disagreed, would be a man of principle. But we don’t get that, at all. The leadership listens to the base on the surface, and largely by means of using catch phrases.Slavery Once More:
The circumstances of slavery are, to a large extent, beside the point. If I offered to take on orphan from a life of begging and sex slavery on the streets in India and make her a servant for life in my home a modern Christian would be horrified. The fact that her life circumstances are better do not make up for the offense that I’ve made in establishing such a hierarchy. It’s equal status with my own children or nothing. It doesn’t matter that blacks have always been better off living under the authority of whites in America than living in Africa. At the same time, you can’t tell them to go live autonomously back in Africa. You have responsibility for their welfare but no authority or status to match that responsibility. It is going to be very difficult to come to any accurate understanding of biblical slavery with a completely modern concept of social hierarchy. Slaves were chattel but so were women and children. It’s apparently possible to be made in the image of God, loved and cared for, happy and fulfilled and also exist as the possession of someone else.
Barnie, if we were to debate this, our disagreement would probably revolve around the definition of chattel. In addition—but I don’t think you would disagree here—the fact that man stealing might result in a better outcome for the one stolen does not confer on anyone the right to engage in man stealing.Miracles and the Miraculous:
The categories of miracles, I cannot even tell you how helpful this was. Thanks for the clear explanation of these categories.
Clark, you are most welcome. But there are questions, and see below.
What about miracles where new “stuff” is introduced into the created world? I’m thinking of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Where at 12:03 there were only 5 loaves and 2 fish, by the time 12:30 rolls around there are enough loaves and fish in hand to feed the multitudes. This seems to me to be another of those creation ex nihilo miracles, but not the continuing miracle of the first creation. It may, however, help understand how God created things at the outset with the appearance of age, etc.
John, I agree, depending on what actually happened. If new matter was introduced into the cosmos, then it was a supplement to ex nihilo creation. But we have to allow for a miracle of transformation of existing matter—the loaves and fish drawing surrounding material into themselves. Both are possible. An example of a transformation miracle would be Aaron’s staff being turned into a serpent (Ex. 7:10).
“A new creation miracle occurs when God acts without any intermediates, and does so in order to bring a new reality into existence in the world. He did this, most notably, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and He continues to do this in an ongoing way through the miracle of the new birth.” But there are physical, natural mechanisms that God uses to bring about the new creation in the life of an unbeliever, no? I think you need to hash this out a bit more. Preaching the Word, prayer, the use of apologetics to provide answers, the application of the sacraments (which are not merely ordinances), the glory of God revealed in nature, our consciences, etc. are all intermediate means which God uses to bring about the new creation. This is fundamentally different than the resurrection of the Jesus. Now, to be fair, God ordains both means and ends, but there are actual cause-effect relationships with the God-ordains means of effecting salvation in the life of an unbeliever, no?
BJ, I think the question is an astute one, but to your no? I would say no. There are any number of secondary causes to a man’s conversion (sending, preaching, etc.) but all of those means can be applied equally to both Jacob and Esau. The word quickens one and hardens the other. This is why I believe that the new birth must be considered as an immediate action of God. It is His immediate determination that causes the declared word to be efficacious in one instance and not in another. And that is why Paul compares true conversion to ex nihilo creation (2 Cor. 4:6-7).
Defining the categlories: Where would these miracles be classified? 1. Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. Where (to my mind) he deliberately delayed arriving for 2-3 days 2. Hezekiah’s cure/extension of his life. In addition to the healing stewed figs, a shadow “went backwards” up the steps. Thank you
Susan, I would classify the shadow going backward up the stairs, along with Joshua’s long day, as new creation miracles. I would do the same with the raising of Lazarus.Things You Probably Didn’t Know
Given that you are highlighting Chesterton here (in Calvinism 4.0/Chestertonian Calvinism), I thought you all might be interested that he has a crater named after him on the planet Mercury (see here). The backstory is the following. It turns out that every planetary body in the solar system has a “theme” that governs the names given for features on its surface. The theme for Mercury is artists (having been dead for a while). For reasons that we still don’t fully understand, many craters at the poles of Mercury are filled with water ice, which is kind of odd for a planet so close to the sun. Anyways, one of the ice-filled craters is named Chesterton, and another is named Tolkien. There was an attempt to name the third of the trio at the north pole Lewis (in honor of C. S.), but alas there is already a Lewis crater on the Moon (named for another scientist). Apparently feature names in the solar system have to be unique according to the International Astronomical Union. In any case, both Chesterton and Tolkien are hanging out together at Mercury.
David, thanks. I understanding naming the craters. I don’t understand ice on Mercury.
“My whole life I have been ingesting poisons that my great-great-grandfather never, ever encountered, and taking the averages I will probably live thirty to forty years longer than he did . . . You don’t slip someone poison in order to slightly retard the progress of his galloping and ever-burgeoning health. Poison kills people, plunk” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, p. 60).
So we got the results of the pathology report back, and we are most grateful to God. Many thanks to all of you who supported us with your prayers. We really appreciated the kindness shown by all of you.
Now tumors can be entirely benign, which this one wasn’t. But in the genus of cancerous tumors, there is quite a range. On the gnarly end of things, you have the tumor with dripping fangs, a club in its left hand, with a spike through the end of it, and a mace in the right hand, and a tail like a scorpion. That’s one kind. The other kind is a cute little buster, the kind you are almost sorry to see go. Now my surgeon didn’t exactly use these phrases in describing the situation to me, but I could hear it in his voice. My tumor was closer to the cute little buster, but one who promised to turn to a life of crime if given a chance to grow up.
The tumor arose in the salivary gland, and did not spread from somewhere else, which was good news; salivary gland cancers almost never require
chemo, which was good news; the tumor was caught very early, and was as small as a detectable tumor gets, and that was good news; at the cellular
level, the tumor did display characteristics of an aggressive cancer — this wasn’t good news, but was mitigated by all the other factors; the shape
of the tumor indicated that it was not on the warpath, and that was good news. All in all, we are very grateful.
A panel of doctors still has to meet to settle on a recommendation for me, but the basic options appear to be choosing between “we’re all done now” and a blast of radiation just to make sure. If I get radiation, I will be sure to ask for a kind that will make my metaphors start to glow.
So anyway, please join us in thanking the Lord for a good result. We have greatly appreciated your encouragement and prayers.
A few older people remember how the verb to discriminate once was a term of praise. He is a “discriminating reader,” or he has a “discriminating palate” when it comes to fine wines, or she has “discriminating taste” when it comes to her art collection. In all such expressions, while someone might react to hearing such praise by dismissing both the speaker and the object of his praise as snobs, the critic would at least know that the use of the word was not intended to disparage. He would know that the intention of the speaker was to praise. But within the last several generations the noun form, discrimination, has become a synonym for hate-filled bigotry.
But I would like to argue here, not that discrimination is sometimes okay, and therefore on such rare occasions lawful. I want us to see that the right kind of discrimination is essential, vital, good, and the sine qua non of holiness. Without the ability to discriminate, societies go mental. And given the fact that the secularist project has been one long sustained war against careful definitions, this would be as good a place as any to wish me luck.Living in the Land of Smudge:
When there is a lack of discrimination, what happens? Everything runs together, that’s what happens. We begin living in the land of smudge, and can no longer tell the difference between things that are markedly and obviously different. Not only so, but if anyone makes an attempt to make a careful distinction of any sort, they are immediately dismissed as a hater and a threat to peace-loving citizens everywhere. What sorts of distinctions are we incapable of making any more? Here’s a list, by no means exhaustive:
Red ink/black ink. Citizen/alien. Man/woman. Art/non-art. Mine/yours. Boy/girl. Truth/lies. Justice/injustice. God/gods. Life/death. Health/disease. Conviction/condemnation. Law/grace. Sabbath/work day. Blessing/cursing. Wealth/poverty. Death with dignity/euthanasia. Discipline/abuse. Law of non-contradiction/pantheism. Wealth/debt. Music/noise. Math/feel good “math.” Let’s just put it this way: Wisdom/folly.The Holiness of This and That:
Now there is a reason we are living in the land of smudge. There is a reason we do not and cannot make careful distinctions. We have backslidden, and are no longer disciplined and taught by the Word of God. Something that is holy is something that is set apart for a particular sacred task. A person who is holy, a saint, is someone who is likewise set apart. Something or someone is holy if they are set apart from common use, and dedicated to a particular God-ordained function. But in order to tell that something is holy, you have to learn how to discriminate between this and that. You have to be able to say that this is this, and that is consequently not that.
Not only so, but this task of learning how to do all this is altogether lovely. We are to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (1 Chron. 16:29; 2 Chron. 20:21; Ps. 29:2; Ps. 96:9). If holiness is separation and distinction, and if holiness is lovely, then this kind of separation and holiness is also altogether beautiful.
Here are just a handful of (many) places where the Scriptures talk about this sort of thing.
“And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;” (Lev. 10:10).
“Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them” (Jer. 15:19).
“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Eze. 22:26).
“And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations, In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations. And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves” (Eze. 44:6–8).
In short, God gave to the holiness code to the Israelites in order to give them rudimentary lessons in discrimination. He wanted them to adopt the discipline of making careful distinctions; He wanted them to know how to be able to define. All of it was training with pretty basic materials (oysters/non-oysters) so that they would grow up into an ethical maturity that would be able to tell at sight the difference between a righteous action and an unrighteous one. The law brought a basic tutelage and the resultant condemnation. Now that Christ has come, He offers forgiveness of sins and a liberation into a well-defined righteousness (Col. 2:13-14).The Idol of Identification:
I have said several times already that we in our generation live in the land of smudge. What is that like? How did we get there? Who is the governor of this place? Why are the streets littered with all this garbage?
Biblical salvation begins by making a distinction between sin and righteousness, and in the call for repentance the gospel requires the unconverted sinner to pay close attention to the stark difference between iniquity and godliness. “God requires this kind of behavior from us, and you have been living out that kind of behavior instead.” When the person repents and is converted, he is turned away from the old way of life and embraces a new way of life—and pay attention to this—he embraces a new way of life INSTEAD. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8, ESV).
True salvation therefore begins with a division. At the back of this is the recognition that there are two and only two possible ultimate destinations for all the children of Adam. We will either spend eternity with Christ in Heaven, or we will spend eternity shut out from the presence of the Lord, forever, without mercy, in Hell. This is an unbridgeable chasm, and it is the reason why the biblical faith cannot be incorporated into any humanistic scheme.
Every false religion hates this fundamental division, and fights against it in its own way. The secularist religion that is currently being crammed down our throats is a religion that demands an all-encompassing unity. They are sincere in demanding this, and it is one of the demands of their system. All things must come together, or so they think, and they have no final division—no ultimate divide. “Imagine there’s no heaven” was no accidental line.
The god of the system must be undivided, by definition. The true God, the living God, really is undivided—divine simplicity is a glory of the Trinitarian faith. But the humanist (for whom humanity is the deity) wants his god to be undivided as well. He insists upon it. Those Christians who divide humanity into the two categories of saved and damned are therefore insolent blasphemers.
And this sets up the problem. What happens when your priests, prophets, seers, and whatnot stand up and declare—wonderfully, harmoniously, soothingly, sweetly, and compellingly—that “we are all saying the same thing really?” We walk by different paths, but we all ascend the same mountain. This festival of agreement is disrupted in rather a jarring way when some rough-hewn fundamentalist in the back caws, like some crow with the croup, “No, we don’t.”
This is intolerable, and so he must be silenced. Not only must he be silenced, but he must be silenced in the name of universal tolerance. This is where totalitolerance comes from. He must be shut up, while we vigorously deny that we are shutting anybody up, because his very existence is a standing refutation of the humanistic scheme. And this accounts for why the opposition to Christians is irrational, furious, incoherent, and sad. It springs from a profound contradiction and so it cannot be anything else. The next time you see the sweetest Christian you ever met denounced as a slavering hater, meditate on this.One More Thing:
Now before anybody fires up their twitter-indignation machines, I want to say plainly and bluntly that discrimination is not automatically holy. There have been, are now, and will be many instances of iniquitous discrimination. If a society makes it hard on group x, for no good reason, that is what theologians of another era would have called “sin.” But a society that loses the concept of righteous discrimination is in far worse condition. Not only so, but they are utterly unable to tell that they are in worse shape.
They can’t tell because they can’t discriminate between the enormities perpetrated in the land of smudge and the petty exasperations committed by sane and sinful societies.
This is a fallen world, and a society that discriminates will sometimes do it sinfully. But it would be better to live in a time when everything was right side up, with a few thing tipped over, than to live in a society where absolutely everything was up for grabs. Those who deny this, those who claim that things are better now (when they manifestly are not), are like Hezekiah, evaluating everything based on peace and security for them, in the moment. They would rather live in a society where their chances of winning the lottery were one in a million, provided they were assured to actually win the lottery, rather than in a society where the odds were one in ten, but with them not winning.
Someone is going to say that Wilson is clearly pining away for the good old days of Jim Crow. Or he is longing for the time when women were trapped in their breeding cubicles that we quaintly called “homes.” Clearly I must be in love with those old-timey forms of discrimination because I am making some kind of allowance for them. No, no allowance for any kind of sin on my part. But I do prefer a society with standards, capable of identifying their sins and repenting them, to a society where absolutely anything (in principle) goes. I prefer that to a society that struggles to get through the XX and XY distinctions.
The legal theorist John Rawls modified the Golden Rule for those who would build societies in the abstract. Build the society as you please, but without knowing where you are going to be born into it. I think that is quite an even-handed rule. But those who think that women and minorities have it better now because of all the Progress that we all like to Shout About are people who simply won’t look at the data.
We have been told ad nauseam how stinking enlightened we are, with the milk of humanistic kindness just sloshing around inside us. But what were the odds for a black child in 1950 to be dismembered in the womb and then sold for parts? Were there about a million black men in the penitentiary in 1950, like there are now? Was ten percent of the entire black male population locked up back then? If anyone responds by saying that this just shows the propensity for crime that blacks exhibit, I would respond by saying that it shows the propensity to crime that fatherless boys tend to exhibit, and then I would wonder which social engineering geniuses—almost all of them in possession of two pale white knees—came up with the fatherless epidemic in the black community. “I know,” somebody said, “let’s create a welfare benefits system that makes it really difficult for a teen-aged black father to compete with the provision of the federal government. And then, when the mother takes the benefits which marriage would preclude, and the entirely predictable happens, and we have an epidemic of fatherlessness, then that will give us something else to study.”
“White children born in the 1950-1954 period spent only 8% of their childhood with just one parent; black children spent 22%. Of those born in 1980, by one estimate, white children can be expected to spend 31% of their childhood years with one parent, and black children 59%.” Source: Popenoe, David. Life Without Father (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 23.
And if we talk about women, we see the same thing. How many women have achieved escape velocity from the patriarchy, meaning that last year about 9.6 million mothers were bringing up children all by themselves. Good job, everybody. Is it time for prizes yet?
Lest anyone miss the point, the good old days did have their exasperating blind spots. They really did have a number of things knocked over that should have been upright. Oh, and one more thing. They were vastly our superiors.
Today we are commemorating the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, the time when He received universal dominion, absolute and unfettered, from the hand of His Father. But we must never forget that His Ascension is built on the bedrock of His Descent. We are told that He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men, and one of those gifts is the privilege of imitating Him in this pattern—true glorification is always set on the granite foundation of sacrificial suffering.The Text:
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” (Eph. 4:7–11).Summary of the Text:
Notice what the bottom line in this passage is. We are talking about the Ascension of Christ, but this is the basis for the gift of Christ. Having ascended, He has given to each one of us grace according to the measure of His gift (v. 7). The Old Testament testifies to this (Ps. 68:18), saying that the Lord ascended on high, leading captivity captive, and gave gifts to men (v. 8). Paul reasons that if He ascended, He must first have descended (v. 9). But where? He says to the “lower parts of the earth,” which some take to mean His descent in the Incarnation. But Paul actually says “lower parts of the earth,” not “earth, the lower part of the cosmos.” Paul is arguing that the extent of the Lord’s glorification is commensurate with the depth of His humiliation, and refers to His descent into Hades, where He liberated all the Old Testament saints in His resurrection (leading captivity captive). So the one who descended is the one who ascended, in order that He might fill all things (v. 10). And when He gave gifts, what gifts did He give? He gave us men—apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers (v. 11). He gave us men who would follow this pattern set by Jesus.Prerogatives of Power:
The Lord who made Heaven and earth alone has the power to make the pathway between them. When Jacob dreamed of a great ladder to Heaven, he saw angels ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:12). But when Jesus spoke to Nathanael, a man with less guile than Jacob apparently, He said that the angels would be ascending and descending upon the Son of man. He was the ladder, in other words (Jn. 1:51). He is the means of ascending and descending.
“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Prov. 30:4).
We worship a God who reveals Himself. When He comes down, when He descends, He then speaks. The Lord descends and the smoke ascends.
“And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (Ex. 19:18).
This is what happened at Sinai, when God brought the law. But this was not raw condemnation. We need to hear everything God says about His descending and ascending.Christ is Always the Point:
God came down on Mt. Sinai and delivered His law. But in that delivery, although we sometimes miss the point, God never misses the point. What is the point of the whole law? Christ is the point, purpose, or end of the law for everyone who believes.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:4–10).
Christ can descend all by Himself. No one needs to go fetch Him, and no one could fetch Him. Christ was raised from the dead by the power of His Father and His Spirit, but He was not passive. He took His life up again (John 10:17). No one needed to go help Him.Gut or Grace:
Gut it out and fail, or grace it out and walk right in. The righteousness that is of the law talks this way. The man who does these things, this man is a doer of righteousness. Unfortunately, this man does not exist.
The righteousness that is of faith says that you shouldn’t and can’t go up to Heaven to get Christ. The righteousness that is of faith says that you shouldn’t and can’t go down into Hades to make Him rise from the dead. The reason is for this is that all of this has already happened. Why go do what has been done? Why go off to do what you couldn’t do anyway? The word of faith which we preach is the declaration that all of this has been done. What Christ said from the cross can also be said over every step of this glorious ladder between Heaven and earth. It is finished. That’s done. And now that. And now that. The last that is you in glory.
Christ has descended, first to earth, where He ascended the cross. Having ascended the cross, He descended to Hades. Having descended to Hades, He rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, where He now sits on the right hand of God the Father. This is your hope, this is your joy, this is your crown, and this is your salvation. Walk in it.
Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of God the Father. This does not mean that He is now on the other side of the universe. It actually means that His authority is suffused throughout the entire universe.
And this is inescapably political. Jesus is a king. Not only is He a king, but He is a king of kings—and this includes every earthly king. Not only is He a Lord, but He is Lord of lords—and this includes every earthly lord. Jesus is king. He is lord. He is president. And we, all of us, are summoned to answer to Him.
We do not have the right to cook up a secular arrangement for our civil affairs. We don’t control how the nations of men are supposed to be governed—He is the king, and so He does. We do not have the right to say that in this progressive era, we have outgrown the need for divine authorization for our laws. We need divine authorization for our laws, now more than ever. This can be ascertained in just a few moments, simply by glancing at the kinds of laws that crawl out of our legislatures and courts these days.
We are Christians in the first instance. Our loyalty to Jesus is fundamental and primary. And mark this, our political loyalty to Jesus is fundamental and primary. This is what Ascension Day means. This is what we celebrate. This is what we are marking. Ascension Day might go by other names—Inauguration Day, or perhaps Coronation Day. And why? Because Jesus has full authority to tell us what we are supposed to be doing.
Paul tells us that we must not eat and drink from the table of the new testament unworthily. He uses the word several times, but remember the context of his warning.
The Corinthians were guilty of divisions in the church, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and greed. Paul tells them that such sins, unrepented, were inconsistent with the Table. The biblical solution to this inconsistency, always, is to repent of the sin and come to the Table. We think that an acceptable way to resolve the problem is to stay away from the Table and keep the sin. Make no mistake—unrepented sin and participation at this Table are fundamentally inconsistent. But we do not want to fence the Table—we want the Table to fence us, and keep us from the sin. Do not let sin keep you from the Table; seek to have the Table keep you from the sin.
It is as grievous a sin to refrain from the Table unworthily as it is to partake unworthily. In both cases, the sin is the same kind of thing—contemptuous ingratitude. One man eats, not recognizing or discerning the communion with Christ. Another man refrains from eating, not recognizing the obligation to commune with Christ. It is ingratitude to snatch something without saying thank you. It is also ingratitude to refuse such a gift, purchased at such great expense.
So guard your hearts, discern the body, and come and eat.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.