Blogroll: Blog & Mablog
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 127 posts from the blog 'Blog & Mablog.'
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“The preacher needs to be pastor, that he may preach to real men. The pastor must be preacher, that he may keep the dignity of his work alive. The preacher, who is not a pastor, grows remote. The pastor, who is not a preacher, grows petty . . . Be both; for you cannot really be one unless you also are the other”
Phillips Brooks, The Joy of Preaching, p. 70
“Maybe Del Martin wouldn’t want to immolate himself on national television. That was certainly possible. Not everyone can avoid being a sissy”
Ecochondriacs, p. 145
One of our great problems in the church today is that we have forgotten some of the basics when it comes to giving an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). Unbelievers, created as they are in the image of God, have a deep desire to be rational and human, and yet unbelief is fundamentally and profoundly an irrational project. You cannot simultaneously be a creature fashioned in the image of God, with inherent dignity, and also the end product of so many millennia of mindless and blind evolution. This is a central part of the reason why unbelievers oscillate between such stark contraries the way they do. What they are is at war with what they claim they are.
The fact that we live in a generation that has apparently gone mad all together does not negate or erase this truth, but rather throws it in high relief. The current woke spasm is actually an irrational fusion of radical relativism, on the one hand, and inflamed levels of moralistic indignation on the other. And so it is that Christians are lectured for believing that there is such a thing as objective morality, and it turns out that we are quite immoral for believing this.
The whole thing reminds me of George Carlin’s old joke about coming from a really rough neighborhood. How rough was it? His neighborhood was so rough that the Unitarians burned a question mark on his lawn.Radical Accusation in a World Without Guilt
On the one hand, there are supposed to be no absolute standards overarching all of us. On the other hand, if you are a cis-hetero white guy, you are in possession of a profound guilt that never ends. You stand accused and condemned, and don’t you dare try to wiggle out of it. Try to wrap your head around this message. There are no such things as the Ten Commandments, and yet you have to go to Hell anyway.
Slavery. Jim Crow. The legacy of slavery. Oppression. Micro-aggressions all day long. Colonialism. The patriarchy. Rape. White supremacy. Euro-centrism. Epistemic violence. Red-lining. The male gaze. Totalizing metanarratives. Shingles. Hives. Lactose intolerance.
But all of these so-called crimes should be tied up in a tight little bundle, handed back to our relativistic accuser, and then this simple question should be posed to him. Why should I care?
Given the ethical relativism that permeates this whole inane project, where is all this righteous indignation coming from? So we are accused of benefiting from an oppressive cabal of white supremacists, and way too many conservative Christians try to deny that this is what they are doing. And that denial is true enough and all, but that is not how this foolishness needs to be answered. It needs to be answered with why should I care?
Assuming a Christian universe, wicked oppression does really matter because God will judge it, along with all other sins, at the last day. But in the cosmos that this critical whiner says we live in, there is absolutely no reason for condemning any of it. It just is. The Middle Passage was horrendous, and so the natural question should be “horrendous by what standard?”
What we are dealing with is towering rage for no particular reason. If morality is absolute, then there is a God, and we will all answer to Him. If there is not a God, then the deconstruction of all our customs, our morality, and our mores can proceed apace, and the perpetually aggrieved need to told to put a sock in it. There is no objective morality, and yet you want me to feel bad about something you call “oppression?” Poor baby.
That is like asking me to feel bad because the crystals in Saturn’s rings are bumping into each other. That is like asking me to feel bad because some white bacteria is getting more nutrition that the darker bacteria is, and it is heart-rending when we listen to the bacteria bleat.
It is like trying to get the United Nations to condemn the genocide because some ten-year-old boys found a huge ant hill and poured a gallon of gasoline on it.Borrowed Commandments
And here is where the oscillation becomes quite visible. On the one hand, Critical Theory has torn everything down, deconstructed everything, interrogated all the norms, and busted all the wealthy white guys running the show. Got that? Western Civ in shambles. And then, the accuser turns on you and tries to get you to act as though all the ethical truisms you learned in your Southern Baptist Sunday School when you were a kid are somehow (and quite mysteriously) still true.
But according to Critical Theorists, for us to claim there is an objective moral standard that over-arches the entire human race, placing obligations on us all, is the whitest thing that ever was. They have deconstructed all of that. But then they still expect you to have some residue of it left in your white little heart so that they can guilt you on the basis of it. That is what they are appealing to when they expect you to feel bad about somebody oppressing somebody. But why on earth should I care about any of that? Why? Who says?
And here is where their whole shambolic epistemology staggers off the sidewalk and lies down in the gutter.
If conservative white Christians today are supposed to feel guilty, guilty, guilty over what their white ancestors did back in the day, then this means that objective morality does exist and Critical Theory is false. And that means we must seek out the true nature and extent of this objective morality, and conform ourselves to that. And because such a morality is an expression of the nature and character of God, as revealed in Scripture and embedded in the nature of things, it applies equally to whites, blacks and browns. It is just as bad for a black man to be full of rage as it is for a white man to be. It is just as bad for a white man to vote for Joe Biden as for a black man to do it. And it is evil (not to mention incoherent) to propound an ethical system that blames one group of people for things their ancestors did three centuries ago while simultaneously exonerating another group of people for appalling things they are personally doing right this minute. And to really frost the tips of this bizarre hairdo, suppose you do this blaming and exonerating on the basis of holding up some color swatches you got from Sherwin Williams next to the two groups. But, oh well. That’s the kind of intellectual pudding you get when you derive your moral indignation cues from the Frankfurt School and the Sociology Department of Columbia University.
But now go the other way. If the relativism of Critical Theory is true, then that means there is no such thing as objective morality. At all. And if there is no such thing as objective morality, then why should I feel bad if some of my ancestors did not conform to it?
Suppose an advocate of Critical Race Theory comes up to me and shouts in my face that I had an ancestor who owned a plantation, and that he owned 200 slaves, that he occasionally had some of them whipped, and that my family is still benefiting from that profanation. Down to this day, we are still profiting from it. This is a hypothetical illustration, and is not actually the case. Please don’t hurt me.
So what should my response to this accusation be? It should be some kind of variation on so? The only question concerning this ancestor—since ethics are relative—is whether or not he got away with it. And because he died a wealthy old man ten years before the War, it appears that he did get away. Imagine there’s no Heaven, its so easy if you try.Their Magic Balcony
These advocates of Theory—absolutely all of them, the men, the women, and the light brown eunuchs—have a marvelous tendency to exempt themselves from all their universal criticisms and condemnations. They have this magic balcony from which they look down on every account of the world given by all the representatives of all the other worldviews. From this balcony, they look down on all of us toiling schlubs, and from that vantage they can see that everybody has a bald spot on the tops of their heads. Every mother’s son of us.
And then they look at one another with sly grins. They preen. They do a little Michael Jackson dance move, holding their respective crotches. They snap their suspenders. They don’t have a bald spot on the tops of their heads. No, sir.
But I have questions. This balcony of theirs, up there in the sky, what is it bolted to? And couldn’t they have raised the balcony a little higher, say by a mere fifteen feet, so that they could see the tops of their own heads? Would have saved us all a lot of trouble.Ululo Ergo Sum
If we were to judge by recent headlines, these philosophasters and sophists who are running this particular con game appear to be getting away with it. And if the universe actually were the kind of place they think, then there would be no problem with that. But the universe is not like that, and God is going to judge all the thoughts and intents of all our hearts. And when that day arrives, when the sky is rolled up like a scroll, all our lame rationalizations are going to blow away like smoke in a gale
In the meantime, all of this is a scramble for identity and meaning, and it is reflective of a desperate father hunger. The kids in the streets causing all this mayhem have no idea who they are. They want to belong to something, they want to mean something, and pain and rage provide a temporary respite from their lives of meaningless emptiness. “I howl, therefore I am.”
The need of the hour is for Christians to stop catering to it. We must respond with pure law and hot gospel. A believing articulation of pure law, straight from Mount Sinai, is the only alternative to the ministrations of these rage merchants. And all they have for us is sheer law, hypocritical law, dirty law, degenerate law
“That had been given to them by an overworked staffer at the DNC who had needed to get a few things off his desk. I use the phrase his desk advisedly because this staffer, now going by Heather, was already transitioning, with fake breasts and everything, and to apply the old pronoun might entail legal difficulties for, as the Victorians would have put it, the present writer. But the legal team for the Satiric Writers Guild is a crackerjack team in every respect, and so I have made the decision to simply proceed. Let it stand. Stet. Whatever the editors may say about it, stet. Where was I?”
Ecochondriacs, p. 132
Concerning your post about DeYoung’s Taxonomy.
I, likewise, found DeYoung’s breakdown helpful, but utterly inadequate at the same time. I am vocally against the woke stuff (I’m a 4) and after DeYoung published, one of my elders gave me a call and asked me my thoughts. And I said it was helpful, but I also said that DeYoung missed a critical question. And that is if there is actually a danger in what is being taught by the 1s and 2s. DeYoung treated the four categories all as equal; the 1s and the 4s are morally equivalent in the article. But I think DeYoung would have to rework his thoughts completely, and actually come off his soft 3, if he agreed that that Social Justice was a harmful heresy. There are no such grids like this for Trinitarian errors being passed around today. And the reason I think DeYoung overlooked this is because of his strict Spirituality of the Church, Two Kingdom, anti-theonomy, anti-cultural mandate views. Since he doesn’t think Christians need to engage in the culture, then social and justice issues need to come as merely secondary in his mind.
I like DeYoung from what I have seen, and I recently had a social media exchange with AD Robles on this, he is not woke, but he is friendly with the woke. And that is where your latest article comes in.
I appreciate your familiarity with the rules of logic and rhetoric. It is evident in almost everything you do. My question is about your apologetic method and how that holds up to the rules of logic. Is presuppositionalism just begging the question? Thank you for considering my question.
Dear LC, thanks. Begging the question is when you assume the thing you need to prove. Say you are disputing with a friend over the reliability of a newspaper story. You can’t solve the problem through buying another copy of the paper and bringing it in as a second witness. The reliability of the paper is what is being debated, and so you can’t appeal to it in order to resolve the question. So how does that apply to presuppositionalism? Because we are finite creatures, we have to start somewhere, and that means starting with assumptions. Because we are finite creatures created in the image of God, those assumptions will have to be about ultimate things—the existence of the triune God, the reliability of reason, and so forth. And in its turn, that means that our reasoning about all ultimate issues will of necessity be “circular.” For example, I base my argument on reason, and someone asks me for my reason for doing that.A Sabbath Question
What are we to make of Sabbath-keeping in the New Covenant? It makes sense to me that we would still be bound to keep it (albeit on a different day), but I have a hard time with passages like Rom. 14:4-5, Col. 2:16-17, and the various times Jesus’ broke the Sabbath. Although I was raised in a strong Sabbatarian household, most of my Christian friends are convinced that the Sabbath was something just for the Jews under the Mosaic Covenant and use these passages to support their positions. Thanks for any help you can offer!
Jonathan, yes, I am a sabbatarian. Those passages, I believe, are referring to the keeping of the Jewish calendar, sabbaths included. I would look to Heb. 4:9-10—there remains, therefore, a sabbath rest for the people of God, and that sabbath rest is on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). I would recommend this book.Familial Discipline
Not referring to any particular article, but related to the current heresy of teaching homosexuality as NOT being a sin. Have you ever written anything regarding the principle of church discipline that Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 5 ? Specifically, Paul is telling the church how to relate to a particular Christian as a church. Can a father who has adult Christian children who are committing these types of sin, or arguing that Scripture doesn’t teach homosexuality is a sin, stand on this teaching/principle to break family relationships with that adult son or daughter and also encourage siblings to remove fellowship with them? To “put them out” for the purpose of the buffeting of Satan to work their repentance? The alternative argument is that a father should still maintain fellowship with those adult children and “love them” into repenting of their heretical thinking. Many more side issues related here, but that is the core at present. Thanks !!
Chris, I think my response would be on two levels. First, in principle, yes, familial discipline (and ultimately disinheritance) is and should be an option. That is the backdrop. But the second thing is this. I think a father in this position should first run a spiritual inventory on himself, asking the hard questions about whether or not he chased his wayward children to the place where they are. If the answer comes back as a yes, then the best thing you can do for children who need to repent is to show them how it is done.A Clerihew Comes, Unsought
A Clerihew for you:
Douglas Wilson a writer
Tongue sharp as Thorin’s Biter
Writes many a book
And so I takes a look.
Thanks for Wordsmithy!
Garrett, thanks. I think.Theocratic Free Speech
I was listening to a YouTube video with Doug talking about how free speech arose from Biblical Law and how it limits the blasphemy of the State. I feel like I kinda understand but I am not fully grasping it or seeing where it fully comes or how it limits the government for blasphemy. I got on this site to find more and see if it was explained differently or better so I could fully grasp it but I have not. Is there an article or another video that Doug shows the scriptural references and lays it out another way? I am learning about theonomy and trying to understand it better.
I know that your dad is staying with you at the moment and I am writing in the hope that you can pass on a message to him.
We had our first men’s book club last night where we discussed Jim’s book Principles of War. We are a small church of about 100 people but we had 16 men turn up which I was pleasantly surprised by.
But the main point is that Jim’s book encouraged us all to think hard about how we can do and support evangelistic efforts in our local area. It was fun to read, practical and short, all of which were big positives and very helpful for the men.
If the Lord is kind to us, we will be a more prayerful, purposeful and evangelistic church because of Jim’s book. Please thank him for writing it.
I hope this is encouraging to him that even if his body limits his work, he continues to work for the King through his books.
On a side note, I and several other men and women in my church have been greatly helped by your ministry and the work of Christ Kirk and Canon Press. Keep it up.
Thomas, thank you. I will pass that on.A High and Lonely Calling. That Has a Nice Ring.
It’s a real shame that you seem to be the lone satirist in the evangelical world, and even more shameful that no one recognizes you as such. All the talk is always about your zesty content while nothing is ever said about your tangy form (which apparently means the form is doing it’s job). Being a satirist is a high and lonely calling in a world of panicked moralists, I suppose. Most sanctimonious folk wouldn’t know good satire if it came up and slapped ‘em hard on both cheeks . . . which it inevitably tries to do, anyway.
For having such a thirst for moral teaching, it’s ironic that satire sails over the heads of so many evangelicals, especially our thought leaders. You would think they might appreciate it more, since it seems crystal clear to me that the sharpest moral blades have always been in the hands of the satirists: Swift showed me more than Kant how to treat the poor; Twain taught me more than Marx to be wary of the capitalists; Mencken, not Plato, convinced me of the dangers of democracy. But I venture that a self-righteous generation doesn’t really want satire because the don’t really want the blade. Only the truly penitent are prune-able.
I pause to wonder, though, with the exception of Chesterton, why we have had so few Christian satirists since the Reformation (Erasmus being a prime example). Perhaps writing something about the need for satire, it’s prophetic function, and why so many sanctimonious/woke people who want moral teaching simply cannot abide it would be a good forthcoming blog.
Appreciatively (and I mean that with no irony),
Nate, it really is amazing. And there is so much material just asking for the treatment. It is like we have a huge jungle of nonsense out there, and only two machetes.A Man Bun Question
I received a question from Anonymous about the propriety of wearing a man bun.
Dear Anonymous, see below.Thanks for Sharing
I don’t expect you to be familiar with all the tunes (sorry, I guess my ageism is showing), but this seems like something that wouldst bring thee joy, as it hast to me.
RK, thanks for thinking of me.Orcs Everywhere
I’m not sure if you saw the attached article and what it describes but I look forward to your reaction to it. Maybe you could write something like “Demons in the Architecture?”
Archie, makes me want to go punch something.No Quarter
As Chesterton pointed out in The Everlasting Man, Delenda est Carthago, Carthage must be destroyed. That is the battle cry Christendom must embody and the hope Christendom must believe. A society built upon sacrificing its children to its god is bound to inevitably be devoured by that god. Whether we engage in opposing it or not, it cannot end in anything other than destruction, but God grants us the joy of participating in its demise. Jeremiah 48:10
Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ
Todd, thanks, and amen.At Least One More Round
Do you recommend that Ascol keep fighting for the SBC or would you tell him to leave?
Justin, I think that they should stay in for at least one more round.Working On It
When The Man Comes Around
Hey brother, I’m a huge fan and appreciate all you do for the body of Christ.
I would love to read When the Man Comes Around, but I only have time to listen (think James White). Is there anywhere I can find an audio version of your book? Would you consider releasing one for a Canadian brother? (We are persecuted, you know).
Kenton, we want to get all our titles into audio, but that one is not yet in production. Many sorries.Deja Vu All Over Again
Re: Playing a Doctor on TV is Better Than Playing a Preacher in the Pulpit This gave me a real case of deja vu, but from a different angle. When I was a doctoral student (later dropout) at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto (late 1980s) the entire buzz was about being “Post-Enlightenment” and “Anti-Foundational.”
So, as I tried to unpack this a bit, I asked questions like, “If we are going to be Post-Enlightenment, why do we still hold to the same conclusions about the Bible that the Enlightenment gave us (“the assured results of modern scholarship”)?
The supposedly bad stuff of foundationalism (the possibility of real knowledge, certainty, etc.) was to be jettisoned but the really nasty stuff was held without question: JEPD Source hypothesis, multiple authors of Isaiah, anti-supernaturalism, and the idea that the church wrote Scripture. One of my fellow-students explained it this way: the Bible is the human response to challenges and phenomena that the ancients experienced. We are reading their impressions of things.
But this of course is the fruit of the Enlightenment, so our Post-Enlightenment was not very post at all. One of the Senior Members did it this way, “THIS is not the Word of God” (referring to the Bible he just tossed on the table, “THIS is the Word of God” as he carefully picks it up. And speaking of Barth, why is he still so popular? He was speaking against a scientific (real) understanding of Scripture and assuming that the findings of destructive criticism was real.
Anyway, good article on Fauci. I expect there are many areas in our world that need the same kind of questions.
Scott, thanks. I have noticed the same thing in other areas. Why are postmodernists never post-Darwinists?Hills and Dying on Them
I have recently been notified that my company wants me and others in my department to come back to the office next week after having successfully worked remote for 15 months (having one of the best years ever). The environment that they are now requiring me to go back into is to 1. Get vaccinated or 2. Wear a mask/face covering if I don’t. Unfortunately, I fall into categories not willing to do either as a matter of conscience and conviction.
My convictions lie in the fact that neither of these are God-honoring due to the actual evidence of efficacy of the experimental vaccines and the growing evidence of the health issues with them. The issue with the masks is that the science shows that they are not effective nor are they necessary. In my convictions it is ultimately living a lie to merely go along with it. To me it’s a matter of principle and while I don’t use the same standard of judgment for others, these are my convictions based on the facts (truth). With that context being laid, I have heard you say that we have to choose hills to die on and I think unless my company will allow me to continue working remote and to live out my convictions that this is that type of hill. I do have a family and am the sole income for my home. My wife supports me. I have sought other counsel and the counter was that I could lovingly wear the mask out of respect. I don’t fully agree with that because it’s not loving to do something just to make others feel ok especially when it is compromising the truth.
I am in a bit of a hard spot but want most of all to honor the Lord, to trust Him, and to obey Him and the convictions I believe He has laid on me. Would you counsel someone to “die on this hill”?
Jeremy, from how you have laid it out, that is certainly what it sounds like. I would encourage you to follow your conscience, and I appreciate how you have not bound the consciences of others in that.The Neglected Qualification
I read the following article on TGC regarding what to do when a pastor’s child strays. One thing thing that was not listed was “resign.” I know you have a book that addresses some of these topics (full disclosure, I have not read it). But 1 Tim 3:4 seems pretty obvious on the qualifications of a pastor. Does this apply to fathers as they are raising their children in the home or does it apply to grown children of pastors? I’m even thinking of a NYT article I read recently about John Piper’s son being hostile towards Christianity. It pains me to read about wayward children of a pastor I have such respect for. But isn’t it best for a pastor with wayward children (young or old) to step down, for the sake of both his church and his family?
Roger, yes. It is astounding to me that stepping down is frequently not even on the list of options. For those interested in studying this further, here is a link to the book you mentioned.
“Preaching is the communication of truth through a man to men. The human element is essential in it, and not merely accidental”
Phillips Brooks, The Joy of Preaching, p. 68
“He sat down at his desk. It, like the rest of the office, was in tatters. If decorators had terms for this kind of thing, they would probably narrow it down to a choice between High Disheveled and Early Hand Grenade”
Ecochondriacs, p. 128
As we contemplate the melee that is the Reformed evangelical world today, it is very easy for the folks in the stands to get a little bewildered. As the saying goes, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and the different numbers on the jerseys really helps. And if ever there were a time when people should know what’s going on, it is now.DeYoung’s Helpful Taxonomy
What I would like to do now is to utilize Kevin DeYoung’s taxonomic analysis of how evangelicals engage with culture in order to show how the evangelical Overton window is more like a sliding glass door that can actually slide the length of the whole patio. But perhaps I understated that. It is starting to look as though we have a door that slides the length of the whole house.
Kevin’s fine descriptive piece can be found here. I actually agree with all of it, with one minor exception, excerpted below.
The loudest voices tend to be 1s and 4s, which makes sense because they tend to see many of these issues in the starkest terms and often collide with each other in ways that makes a lot of online noise. The 1s and 4s can also be the most separatist, with some voices (among the 1s) encouraging an exodus from white evangelical spaces and some voices (among the 4s) encouraging the woke to be excommunicated.Kevin De Young
I do agree that 1s and 4s tend to speak most forcefully, but I would want to make a few minor adjustments. I think DeYoung would agree that I am a 4, but I would argue that 4s are probably the most ecumenical of the lot. I would have no trouble publicly quoting a 3 with approval, and without qualification, and yet a 3 in good standing would have to be out of his mind to quote me with approval and without qualification. Correction—he would have to be out of his mind, or he would have to be Sam Allberry, who apparently has a “go anywhere” pass enabling him to do what he likes.
In my experience, the 3s tend therefore to be the most separatist. They have to be like that because they are the orthodox ones with the surliest hypothetical audience. For more on hypothetical audiences, see below. Were a 3 to quote me like that, the 1s and 2s would be all over him like white on rice—but I do hasten to add that by saying this I have no intention of silencing the marginalized voices of brown rice. I actually had no desire to hurt anyone, and I humbly apologize.
And I would not call for the excommunication of the 1s, but rather for their removal from leadership, which is quite a different thing. If Kevin DeYoung (a 3) were to visit Christ Church, I would want to invite him to preach, and I obviously wouldn’t do that if a woke 1 came. But we would serve communion to anyone baptized, whether a 1, 2, 3 or 4.A Test Case
Now that the earth has gone around the sun a few times since that time when I decided to point out that Nadia Bolz-Weber had, via her blinkered feminist reductionism, melted some purity rings down to resemble a certain portion to the female anatomy, and then had given it to Gloria Steinem as an award, a number of my troll critics have since that time cast my modest demurral into the form of various scary memes, in order to circulate news of my perfidy with greater ease. This they industriously do whenever an opportunity arises. Being opportunists as they are, this is not difficult for them to do.
I would remind everyone that the thing that set me off was NOT the fact that a pagan priestess was acting like a pagan priestess, or that someone like Gloria Steinem was involved in it. No, the thing that seemed to me to be the utter frozen limit, with hundreds of miles of tundra to the south of it, was the fact that a couple of ladies writing for the White Horse Inn (for pity’s sake) gave Bolz-Weber’s scrofulous performance the engaging and thoughtful think piece treatment. They too thought that aspects of purity culture had been damaging, and that we evangelicals should try to do better, lest we try the patience of Nadia Bolz-Weber a little too high.
Now my point here is not to defend my language in that post (which I have already done (quite ably, though I blush to say it (although I have begun to wonder what the rules are for parentheses within parentheses)) and those defenses can be referred to both here and below).
Now I gave that feminist reduction of women to their genitalia the back of my hand, and told them what they were reducing women to. I said out loud what they were saying by clear implication. The two ladies writing for a ministry—that Michael “Reformed True North” Horton launched—tiptoed through that whole sorry business, on-the-other-handing as they went. So there’s your contrast—backhanding and on-the-other-handing, a 4 and a 2.
Now which person is bidding fair to get the non grata stamp of disapproval from the 3s in all of this? I will tell you. The White Horse article is still up and no apologies, and the two women associated with it could be easily hired by any organization in Gospel Coalition circles, and without exciting any murmured heavens to Betsy, or whatever passes for acceptable swearing in TGC circles.
So in which direction is the cultural discipline being applied? Whatever category you are in, according to DeYoung’s metric, which neighbor are you required to placate and which to shun? The one to your right or the one to your left?
Say you are a speaker of the Gospel Coalition type, and it come out that you are going to be speaking at a conference that is pretty sketchy. And by sketchy, I mean the kind of thing that would have provoked the apostle Paul to say that the organizers of said conference “would not inherit the kingdom of God.” We don’t know the details of the sketchiness, because that would wreck my illustration, but we do know that it is in fact sketchy.
Now let us say that the fact gets out that you are going to speak at the Gotham City Sketchy Conference 2022, and enough controversy erupts that you believe that you need to issue a press release. In that press release, you let it be known that you differ with the organizers of the conference decidedly, that you made that abundantly clear to them before you accepted their invitation, that the organizers had put no restrictions on what you would say, that you believe that everyone needs to hear the good news about Jesus Christ, and that you have a very firm commitment to inerrancy.
All of that sounds great, at least to me. Would any of it matter? Well, yes, it would, in about half the hypotheticals. You tell me which hypothetical conferences you would still get to go to, having said a bunch of true things about all of them.
- A conference hosted by the Black Lives Matter chapter of St. Louis, MO
- Revoice, also in St. Louis, MO
- Proud Boys of Eastern Oregon. They live close enough to Portland to drive there for “events.”
- Oathkeepers on Bikes, from from Tulsa, OK
- Evangelical Fan Dancers of Vegas
- Grace Agenda 2022, in Moscow, ID
To which events would the voice of sweet reason apply, and to which not? I think we all know the answer to the question, do we not?
And so to the extent this applies, I would argue that DeYoung’s categories #1-3 are being steered. If the commie worldview were a fisherman, #1 is in the boat, already filleted and in the cooler. #2 is thrashing by the side of the boat, and #3 is toying with the bait. Maybe just a little nibble.A Hypothetical Auditorium
So this is not a further defense of anything I wrote, but rather a critique of my responsible and reasonable critics—those Christian critics who are true sons of encouragement, like Barnabas, but who, also like Barnabas (Gal. 2:13), have been swept up into a general pattern of what I consider to be a quite striking evangelical hypocrisy. Because it is a formally approved hypocrisy, reinforced by a bundle of accepted bromides, those who are trapped by it are usually simultaneously fastidious about it, and oblivious to it.
In other words, this post is not an answer to satisfy the trolls who, because of their cast iron frame of mind, are quite frankly unanswerable. But they are not unanswerable in the way that a tight hypothetical syllogism, in the form of modus ponens, is unanswerable, but more in the way that an old railroad tie, soaked in creosote, is unanswerable. The railroad tie, in other words, has its mind made up.
No,this is for those Christians who really want to present a gracious testimony to a lost and hurting world, and who are therefore vulnerable to the manipulative techniques of those enemies of the gospel who love their own lostness, and who also love the opportunities created by that lostness for continuing to damage and hurt others. And so, like Barnabas, these gracious Christians find themselves trying to appease all the wrong people, which in turn can cause these Christians to become very ungracious to their true friends, which is where the hypocrisy comes in.
Whenever a striking collision happens, whenever a polemical exchange occurs, there is a natural human tendency to glance at a hypothetical audience to see how they took it. How are they reacting to all this? But because the audience is hypothetical, those seats in the hypothetical auditorium have to be filled by the one doing the glancing. And those seats will be filled, almost of necessity, by imagined people who will reinforce the assumptions of the one doing the glancing.
We have various tricks for filling up these hypothetical auditoriums with the “right” kind of people. To illustrate: think of the teetotaler who is talking to a fellow Christian who drinks. He will fill up his auditorium with recovering alcoholics. “What are they going to think when they see you . . .”
Not only so, but the current zeitgeist has trained all of us to fill up those auditoriums with critics from our left, such that we are pressed, and we are constantly pressed, to do something to be a little more more winsome to them. Do something to satisfy them. Surprise them. Ingratiate them. There is therefore a constant and unrelenting pressure to cater to the left. This is why there is pressure to mollify and persuade the evangelical moderate who voted for Biden, and never any pressure to reassure the Christian nationalists. You need to reassure the former that you do have a heart, and you never need to reassure the latter that you are not going soft.
Here’s another example. There is a truism in conservative politics about the media that can be applied to this. When a Republican is caught in a scandal, the scandal is the story. When a Democrat is caught in a scandal, the Republican reaction to the scandal is the story. Shall I say that again, in a manner that is a bit more plain? If a Republican congressman is caught speeding in a red convertible, with the top down, and with $10K worth of crack cocaine found in the trunk, and with a couple of Washington-area courtesans along for the ride, that will be the story, plain and simple. If we put a D after that congressman’s name, the headline will be something like “Republicans pounce . . .”
In other words, the auditorium will be filled up with critics of Republican misdeeds in the first instance, and critics of Republican overreactions in the second instance. You see how this works? This is why Robert Conquest’s second law—”any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left wing”—has such fine predictive value.
Now the hypothetical audience is an inescapable reality, an inescapable concept. It is not whether we will have such an audience in our minds, but rather what the composition of that audience will be, and why. Christians in the public sphere therefore have to decide which audience they are playing to. Are they seeking the applause of NPR-listeners? Or the applause of a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1)? This is your reminder that they are not the same.If You Doubt What I Say . . .
Try to imagine a world where some creative Christian genius hacker did something like to the following to an episode of some decadent sitcom, where it would get three million views in the forty-five minutes before YouTube took it down. This hacker left the dialogue intact, and the plot line intact, and the editing of the camera angles intact. What he broke into and altered was the laugh track.
Previously, the anti-gay comment would elicit groans and boos, the dirty joke would get uproarious laughter, the teen coming out to his staid parents would garner supportive applause. But when the hacker is done, the anti-gay comment gets uproarious applause, the dirty joke receives stone cold silence, and the teen coming out to his parents got the groans. What I want you to imagine is how completely disorienting it would be to watch a sitcom like that. You would feel like you were sitting in a different world because you would be sitting in a different world.
Laugh tracks are catechetical, and they are just a small piece of the catechesis that is going on all around us all the time. They teach you how your hypothetical audience is supposed to be responding. They teach you where you must pitch your appeal. They are the reason why so many of us glance left.
But as soon as you start pitching your appeal in that direction, your hypothetical audience starts to drift further left on you. You find yourself having to move ever leftward to remain “winsome.” And this, boys and girls, is how we got from Dan Quayle’s Murphy Brown “blunder” on single motherhood to the point where we are today, where doctors, without risking their licenses, will actually take money in order to cut off the breasts of perfectly healthy teen-aged girls. They know they can get away with it because their hypothetical auditorium is filled with tranny-sympathizers.
And we have gotten to the place where numerous Christians will be far more bothered by the fact that a Christian pastor (me) uses language that includes the word “tranny” than they are about living in a country where the priests of Baal are castrating boys and mutilating girls.Fastidious Hypocrisy
Chesterton is helpful on this topic in two ways. First, he shows how meticulous people can be when trapped in their system.
To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, that is the definition of decadence.”G.K. Chesterton
Jesus referred to this when He spoke of those who tithed meticulously out of their spice racks, and to those who went and got the tweezers to get the gnat out of their camel-flavored coffee, and those who had a beam in their eye but attempted to get a speck out of their brother’s eye, and those who thought that gold sanctified the altar, and to those who put a second coat of whitewash on the sepulcher. He strikes at this error often enough to make us think that it might be a common temptation to the pious, to those who sit in Moses’ seat. Once you are trapped in a system that cannot tell which is the pebble and which is the two ton block of granite, you are what Francis Turretin would have called “a patsy.” And you might be the nicest 3 in the entire world, and still be a patsy.
I also hasten to add that you might be the most insightful and trenchant 4 in the world and still be a jerk. If you don’t have love, what good does it do to understand all mysteries, and to have all knowledge (1 Cor. 13:2)? But the temptation to miss the whole point like this is not unique to 4s. The 3s really want to feed the poor, which can be done without love also (1 Cor. 13:3).
Second, and related to all of this, Chesterton reminds us that the difference between the crude word and the refined word is that the crude word usually preserves a sense of morality.
“Nine times out of ten it is the coarse word that condemns and evil, and the refined word that excuses it.”G.K. Chesterton
I recently had a Twitter exchange with some of those fastidious souls who had a problem with the language I used in my rebuke of Nadia Bolz-Weber. They were circulating a meme with my picture on it, along with the hot news of what I had written. But this meantt that, according to them, the use of such language is fully appropriate when a 1 is rebuking a 4, but not when a 4 is rebuking a negative 2. I thought this was funny, and so I pointed it out. Why is use of the c-word awful when a pastor uses it to rebuke a priestess of the sexual revolution, but not awful when a pastor uses it to rebuke a defender of Christian orthodoxy? Having made this point, someone rushed in to defend the pastor who was critiquing me. “This is such an infantile question, Doug. Are you joking? It is the use [of] a word that has moral weight. Not the word itself.”
To which I reply, exactly so. “Not the word itself.” So my offense was not the word I used. The offense was the target I chose. The problem was not that I used an “unrighteous” word. The problem was that I was defending a righteous cause.
So then, in sum, the 3s are not the woke ones, but they are trying to mollify or appease or bring back the woke ones, those being the 1s and 2s. It is not that they don’t know how to exercise discipline of views they differ with—they can be very firm with the 4s. They draw a hard line with the 4s, and one sees their point of course.
If they didn’t do that, what kind of fun would the laugh track have at their expense?
Although the occasions can be many, there are two basic reasons for discouragement—internal and external. The internal occurs when for some reason we have given way to sin, and the external occurs when we are buffeted by circumstances, as Job was, but without sin. And, of course, it is possible to get discouraged in both ways simultaneously. How are we to understand this? How are we to respond to it?The Text
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 42:11).Summary of the Text
We have dealt with this psalm in detail before, and so here we will just consider the implications of this one verse. First, the psalmist presupposes that the condition of peace is normal. He is cast down and disquieted, and he wants to know the reason why. This disturbance of his soul is the thing that requires explanation. “Why are you cast down?” he asks himself (v. 11). Second, the psalmist remonstrates with himself. He talks to himself, which is a good alternative to listening to himself. He preaches to himself, and it is a convicting sermon. Third, he comes to a pointed exhortation, commanding himself to hope in God. Not only this, but he anticipates that he will in fact obey the command, for he will in the future praise God. He resolves that he will obey his exhortation to himself.False Comfort
When we speak peace to our hearts, we can do it in accordance with the Scriptures, or we can do it in accordance with our own pipe dreams. For example, someone who has become an idolater by turning away from the Lord can speak peace to his own heart, in his own name and on his own authority. “And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst” (Dt. 29:19).
But what I am declaring here are the words of the gospel, and the gospel does not sew cushions or pillows for sin.Triune Peace
Remember that your salvation has occurred because God has included you in His triune life. The gospel is triune, just like the God who established the gospel. And this is why peace for your distress is triune peace. What do I mean?
God the Father has declared that the comfort of peace is to be announced to us (Is. 40:1-2). Christ has become our peace by His own blood (Eph. 2:13-14). And why would the Father not give to us what Christ has purchased for us? And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Christ so that He might comfort those who mourn, that He might bind up the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). Because Christ died, the executor of His testament is the Holy Spirit. Remember then, when you are struggling with discouragement, that Father, Son, and Spirit, are all engaged on your behalf.Discouragement in Sin
One reason why Christians are discouraged in their attempts to live the Christian life is that they are attempting to run the race with cords around their feet, and a 150-pound backpack on (Heb. 12:1). And so the way out of that kind of discouragement in sin is repentance. Discouragement in such cases is disciplinary, and God’s hand is heavy upon you for a reason. Make sure to repent the sin all the way down to its foundations, and secondly, make sure to repent of the right sin. Don’t go snipe hunting in your conscience.
As you set yourself to confess your sin honestly before God (1 John 1:9), you should also review your virtues. Not all of your virtues are actually virtues, and this could easily be the case with some of the sins that are gum on your shoe.Discouragement in Affliction
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that hard circumstances mean that you must have sinned. This was the error of Job’s failed comforters (Job 2:11), and it was the error of the disciples concerning the man born blind (John 9:2-3). But at the very least, every trial contains a temptation to murmur, an invitation to think that the God of universe has bungled matters when it comes to your case. But God does all things perfectly well (Rom. 8:28).Two Advocates
When Christians sin, or when they struggle with affliction, there is an accuser of the brethren in heaven who accuses them there. But, thanks to God, we have an Advocate there on our behalf. Christ is our attorney, defending us before the Father (1 Jn. 1:1-2).
But the devil does not just accuse you in the heavenly courts—he also accuses you to you. What kind of Christian do you think you are? We have an Advocate on earth, as well as in heaven (John 14:16). The same word describes the office of both the Son and the Spirit. Whether you stand accused in heaven or on earth, you have a court-assigned defender. And neither the Son nor the Spirit have ever lost a case. “How could they get me off?’ you might wonder. “I’m guilty.” But they successfully defend sinners like you and me because they never, ever argue from your virtues or mine. Their case presupposes our guilt. They always plead the blood of Christ, shed on earth, and then they plead the blood of Christ, sprinkled on the altar of heaven.Pictures of Your Peace
First, distinguish the money in your bank account, and the money in your wallet. There is your basic, foundational wealth, and there is the money you have on you. If you are mugged, then the thieves can only take what you have on your person. They cannot get at your bank account, which is not on you. In a similar way, a hard day can only disturb that day’s peace. You have a fundamental peace that a rainy day cannot touch (Rom. 5:1).
Second, distinguish peace in the seed and peace in the flower. Often peace in the seed looks like trouble. When you were converted, you were now troubled over things that never bothered you before. Don’t be troubled over that kind of trouble.
And third, distinguish peace from a distance, where you can only see the dancing, and everybody looks crazy, and peace up close, when you can hear the music.
The peace of God is a guardian, a fence, but it does not encircle your vices and sins. Rather, your hearts and minds are protected by the peace of God, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). And that is because Christ is your peace.
A version of this sermon was first preached in 2010.
“The minister must grow. His true growth is not necessarily a change of views. It is a change of view”
Phillips Brooks, The Joy of Preaching, p. 66
“Many ordinary folks have noticed that the onset of panic has the unfortunate effect of scattering their wits. Hugh, whose wits were usually scattered already, discovered much to his great surprise that his panic was out there gathering up all his wits, and helping them all to walk in a straight line”
Ecochondriacs, p. 127
“‘There is a section in my chapter ten where I, um, critique a paper you submitted to The Journal of Climate Change.’ This was a polite way of putting it. Larry had actually gone through her paper with a weed whacker, the kind with metal blades”
Ecochondriacs, p. 118
Once there was a small, mousy looking man who was seated at a bar, having a drink. He was minding his own business, sitting quietly at the end of the bar. He would come in at the same time every day, and sit in the same place, have his beer, and depart after about twenty minutes.
One day, a new guy came in, a big boisterous bullying man. It didn’t take him long to notice the quiet man at the bar, and he went over to him immediately in order to harass him. Picking him up, he threw him across the room easily. He then went over to him, lying on the floor, stood over him, and said, “That was judo from Japan!” Laughing he walked away.
The next day almost the same thing happened. This time though, after he knocked the small man head over heels, he walked over to him, looked down on him, and said, “That was karate from Korea.” And laughing he walked away again.
The third day, the small man saw the bully coming in, quickly paid his bill, and left before the bully had a chance to do anything. The bully sat down at the bar, ordered a beer, and sat there laughing at the timidity of the small man.
Suddenly everything went black, and a few minutes later, the bully came to, lying flat on his back, and he was blinking at the ceiling. He could see, stooping over him, the worried looking face of the bartender. When he was fully conscious, the bartender said, “The little guy said to tell you that it was a tire iron from Western Auto.”Open Leafy Road A Heavy Burden
And these are the notes from my workshop presentation at ACCS yesterday.Introduction
The fact that we are seeking to reestablish a curriculum that was at the center of Western culture for centuries is either a huge disaster, or an enormous opportunity, depending on why you got involved in our movement in the first place. When ACCS first started, cancel culture was not yet a thing, and having received a classical education was going to be quite a feather in the cap of your graduates. But now that is no longer the case, and so we need to anticipate a time of winnowing. I will explain that further in just a bit.Honor Your Mother
I have been involved in the recovery of classical Christian education for about four decades now. At the heart of this educational approach, we have emphasized the importance of honoring and defending the cultural heritage of the West. We do this unapologetically and without embarrassment. Naturally, however, a common question concerns whether this is too ethnocentric. What do we think about the need for multiculturalism and diversity? In recent years this has morphed into what might be called the demand for multiculturalism and diversity, and so we really need to be clear in how we respond to it.
Here is something I have said in response to this question for virtually this entire time. But one time, relatively recently, I said it and to my surprise it was a spontaneous applause line. It frankly needs to become even more of an applause line—now more than ever. Here it is:
You cannot teach children to honor and respect the heritage and culture of other nations by teaching them to despise their own.
Being grateful for your own heritage is something that falls under the heading of the fifth commandment. Honor your father and mother, it says, and as Paul points out, it is the first commandment with a promise. The reason our life “in the land” is heading for years of tumult and tempest is precisely because we have refused to honor father and mother. The promise is sure, but the results of the promise are coming apart in our hands precisely because we have given way to the idea that contempt is humility, and that the arrogance of the libertarian self is somehow liberating.
So if I honor my mother, this does not make me sneer at another man who honors his mother. In fact, this is what enables me to understand him, and to respect what he is doing.
Why do I honor the West? Why do I fight to protect her? The answer is simple. She is my mother.
The demand for diversity and multiculturalism is being driven, not by an understanding of honor and respect—with an intense desire to multiply that respect. No, it is quite the opposite. This is a movement being driven by rage and crackling envy. The goal is not to get us to respect the cultures of others, but rather to denigrate our own. This is not a movement that says “the East has something to say,” but rather a movement that says “the West must die.”
“Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.”
Mark Steyn, America Alone, p. 194
This is not a celebration of other civilizations, but rather a war on civilization as such.
“What multiculturalism in the curriculum assuredly does not mean is a renewed emphasis upon the mastery of foreign languages or the close study of complex civilizations . . . the campaign to impose ‘multiculturalism’ amounts to nothing less than a war on Western civilization and, beyond it, a war on the very idea of civilization.”
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese in the Foreword to Sacks and Thiel, The Diversity Myth, xii-xiii).
Consider what Fox-Genovese sees here. You classical Christian educators are laboring in a movement that is restoring academic standards in our schools, and central to that work is the teaching of another language, Latin, starting in third grade. Remember that the circulatory system for every culture is their language. In addition, we have our students read works that were written across millennia, and from countries—as Herodotus might put it—that are from all over tarnation. If there is any system of education out there that is taking kids out of a narrow and truncated provincialism, it would seem that it would be what we are doing. If any system of education could claim the mantle of multiculturalism, it would seem to be ours.
But that would be pressing the etymology of the word a bit too hard. Multiculturalism ought to mean appreciation for many cultures, and that is what you thought it was—trapped as you were in lexical meanings and Aristotelean categories. But multiculturalism does not mean appreciation for many cultures, but rather hatred of one culture. The object of that hatred is the Christian West.
This is how I put it in my book, Black & Tan:
“Our current obsession with multiculturalism is a prime example of this. This obsession is not an educated desire to ‘modify the emphasis,’ gently reminding us that the Chinese had a great civilization while our Anglo ancestors were still killing their meat with rocks. If the desire of the multiculturalists were simply a well-taken insistence that white people are not the only people in history who ever did anything, there would be no argument. But modern ‘multiculturalism’ is relativistic and thus is not an attack on ‘white history.’ It is an attack on the very idea of objective history itself.”Gut-Sobbing for a Testimony
We live in a time that is obsessed with class, race, and gender. And so—you guessed it—our evangelical thought-leaders have come to believe that our authentic testimony to a troubled generation that does not know the Lord depends on us coming up with a few gut sobs of our own with regard to class, race, and gender. And it is not enough for the gut sobs to be perfunctory, but rather they have to be the kind that arise from the chthonic regions. Everybody hates dilatory gut sobs.
The brakes are out on the progressivist bus, and they are hightailing it down the progressivist grade to the Bad Place, which is apparently not too scary if the grade is less than 7%, and we are running after them, our fat little evangelical thighs pumping away, in our very best wait-up-guys mode. Oh, how we want on their bus, and we are a mere three exegetical insights in Romans 1 away from it.
If there is any attitude that must be kept entirely away from your teaching staff, curriculum committee, administration, or board it is this one—anything woke, or anything that rhymes with woke, like joke.When Your Curriculum is a Hate Crime
I want to conclude with a thought that I included in my plenary address, because it bears repeating. When ACCS started out in the early nineties, we were reacting to a substandard school system that at least still retained the idea of “doing a good job teaching.” They weren’t doing it, but there were still voices out there that would point out the failure, and people were concerned about the failures. When you came along with your school, once you had proven yourself and were established in your community, your high standards were the selling point. Your Latin program in elementary was a selling point. Your test scores were a selling point. The fact that the students read the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Aeneid was a selling point. In a sane world, it would still be a selling point.
Over the last few years, there has been a real turn, and this will be the testing point. Was your pursuit of classical Christian education back then a shrewdly cloaked pursuit of popularity? Chasing the honor student vibe? How many of your students were touted in your brochures as having been accepted into the Honors Program at Leviathan U?
Or was it a pursuit of a real education?
If it was a pursuit of real education for your students, then you will keep at it, even though your curriculum is now considered to be a hate crime.
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:62 (KJV)
These are the notes for my plenary talk at the 2021 ACCS conference, delivered yesterday.Introduction
The apostle John tells us that faith is what overcomes the world (1 John 5:4), but in order to have such faith in Christ and His Word be genuine, we have to be careful not to substitute in a desiccated faith. A biblical faith involves the heart, mind, imagination, and soul, out to the very tips of our fingers. You are to love the Lord your God with all your strength. And classical Christian education is the process of passing this holy mixture on to the next generation.
If you would like a summary of the main point of this talk right at the beginning of it, here you go. It comes from a tag line at the bottom of George Grant’s emails, and it should really get in your midst. If you ever want to be rebuked real good, just get George to email you about something, and then scroll down to the bottom. And there you will read that it was Thomas Chalmers who said, “Regardless of how large, your vision is too small.”Under Another Name
The biblical name for the kind of imagination I am talking about is faith, and if this is the case, you should be able to see immediately that a Christian imagination is not sanctified daydreaming. It is not wishful thinking. It is not pious wool-gathering. What is faith? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Faith hears the Word, and then sees what the Word describes, whether or not anything can be seen with your physical eyes.
So faith is not faith in your own wishing abilities. Nor is faith a faith in your own faith. When we accomplish anything by faith it is because faith is the instrument that apprehends or grasps something objective, something objective outside yourself. Faith is the instrument that accomplishes, in response to the promise, and is not the ground of what is accomplished. Faith believes the promise. Faith is not itself the promise.
This is why Jesus teaches us that faith the size of a mustard seed can accomplish great things (Luke 17:6). What counts is the faithfulness of the object trusted, not the strength of the one trusting. The strength of the trusting has to be simply enough to commit to the object of faith.
Suppose a frail elderly great-grandmother, who has never flown in her life, is lured onto an airliner with pictures of her great-grandchildren, who live across the country. How much faith does she have? Just barely enough to get her on the plane, and yet she flies across the country, wavering in her heart all the way. Compare this to that man in that vintage video footage, standing on top of a barn with batman wings, a device of his own invention. How much faith does he have? Way more than great-grandmother, and yet she flies and he doesn’t.
Faith is therefore the natural response to the perceived faithfulness of God. Sarah, for example, was enabled to conceive Isaac because she considered him faithful who had made the promise (Heb. 11:11). Abraham, our father in faith, looked forward to the day of Christ—and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56). Abraham dwelt in tents, but in faith he looked forward to a city with foundations, whose maker and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). When all the stars were pointed out to him, he looked up in faith and saw countless sons and daughters in the sky (Gen. 15:5-6). Abraham believed God, who brings the dead to life, and who calls those things which are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).
And so we are here as his children—building out a portion of the infrastructure of that great kingdom. We build by faith, but the kind of task we have undertaken cannot be done without blueprints—and we have to read the blueprints by faith also.
That is what we are all doing here, is it not?What Goes Without Saying
A talk on godly imagination in the context of classical Christian schools must of course keep in view the task that all believing educators should have. We don’t simply want to have high standards in our schools, and then make the kids conform to those standards. That is the lowest rung on the ladder. What we are trying to do is impart to our students a love for these high standards. Not just simple conformity, but rather a zeal for the standard.
Not only so, but we are teaching them to have a love for standards in the task that is right in front of them. In the book they are reading, in the poem they are analyzing, and in the choir piece they are singing. This is important, and it is necessary to emphasize when we are teaching students who are not yet old to take in the entire world. That is coming—what you are doing in the classroom is the prep work for that larger vision.
But in doing this, you must not forget that larger vision.What We Sometimes Forget
If we keep our eyes on the telos, on the end or point of education, of course we should want our graduates to grow up loving Lewis, and Tolkien, and Chesterton, and as a consequence to set their hand to chisels, and musical instruments, and paintbrushes, and keyboards, with intelligence and verve. But at some point in this arduous process of restoring real education—if we believe what our brochures sometimes say—we should be looking for graduates who rival Lewis, and Tolkien, and Chesterton. And this means cultural artifacts that are contributed to the great river of the Western tradition, and these contributions were made—fifty years from now, let us say— because your school was established in the year it was, and in the town where you live.
But as this is a conference of Christian educators, I want to ask you to look up from the plot of ground that God has you tending. All of you, lift up your heads. I want you to look at the horizon. The Christian imagination is not limited to a great book that one of your graduates might someday write. The Christian imagination reimagines the entire world, and the place of our schools in it. If I might be permitted just a little bit of cultural appropriation here, you could say that I’m a dreamer . . . but I’m not the only one.
We do want our students to undertake the tasks we assign to them with love and joy and faith-fueled imagination, as they write that thesis, or compose that poem, or perform in that recital. This is a task for faith-fueled imagination.
This is not going to run smoothly unless we are doing with our tasks what we are asking them to do with their tasks. They are writing a poem, and you will grade it, and you think that all is as it should be.
But you are building a school, and God will grade it. You are building a network of schools, and God will grade it. You are building an education renewal movement, and God will grade it. When this starts to sink in, it would be very easy to start to waver. But don’t waver. God loves to welcome hard-working, overwhelmed servants with an entirely unexpected well done, good and faithful servant. So like it or not, you are the Irish who will save civilization again.A Brief Excursus
Ten years after Logos School was founded, in 1991, the Lord gave me the opportunity to write a book about what we had learned at Logos, and this book was part of the Turning Point Christian Worldview Series. I owe the deepest debt of gratitude to Crossway for their role in all of this. Crossway has recently released the rights to that book, by the way, and Canon Press is now picking it up. Now other books in that series included works on film, literature, pop culture, and so on. These were great books, but when people read them, the application would frequently be something like going to the movies with a different mindset, or reading classic works of literature more thoughtfully. My book was entitled Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, and so when folks finished it, their reaction frequently was “we have to start a school like this.” And then they would call or write to us, asking for help.
My correspondence about education grew to such an extent that I asked Nancy to take over responding to all such inquiries, and so the beginning of ACCS was Nancy answering letters from our kitchen table. I then had the idea that we should hold a conference there in Moscow, tape the lectures, and then we could use the tapes as an FAQ resource to give out to people. For you younger teachers, “a tape” was a device that we used at the time for recording voices, and you could put such a tape into something called “a tape player,” and then voices would come out of a box. It was all quite remarkable.
So we advertised the conference in Credenda, a magazine I was editing at the time, and the response was surprisingly robust. After that first conference in Moscow, I had the legal papers for ACCS drawn up, and together with Tom Spencer and Marlin Detweiler, we began the organization. The next two annual ACCS conferences were also held in Moscow, and when we moved to Raleigh for the fourth year, that began our practice of moving the annual conference to different locations around the country. And here you are.
As the founder of ACCS, I served on the board for many years as an ex officio member, until a few years ago, when my status changed to educator-in-residence.
Now why bring all this up? What began with my wife answering letters from our kitchen table is now an association with over 400 member schools, representing tens of thousands of students. Here we are at our national conference—north of a thousand of you. It brings to mind, or it ought to, the words of Zechariah 4:10, about not despising the day of small beginnings. But please remember that in the economy of God, fat and sassy is far more vulnerable than small and vulnerable. When you are small and vulnerable, you trust in God because you know that you have to. When you grow big, and slick, and professional, you know what happens to Jeshurun, don’t you? Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked (Dt. 32:15).
Allow me to appear as though I am changing the subject. I am not, but it may look that way for a moment. After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Margaret Thatcher is reported to have said, in an aside to President Bush, “Remember George, this is no time to go wobbly.” Whether apocryphal or not, it remains a quote for the ages. These are words to live by. No time to go wobbly.The American Cultural Revolution is Under Way
We live in an age when absolutely anyone can insist upon being addressed by his preferred pronouns. Correction: we live in a time when absolutely anyone except God can insist on this. God doesn’t get to keep His pronouns for some reason.
I read the other day that apple pie is now racist. This presents us with no little difficulty.
If you do not believe that we are currently going through an American version of the cultural revolution, you do not understand how the collectivist mind works. The forces of totalitolerance believe that the only thing that matters is power. As far as they are concerned, that is the coin of the realm. Power. They believe the world runs on power, and they believe they currently don’t have it, and they insist upon getting it. They will brook no opposition that stands in their way. This is not a clash between one set of arguments and another set of arguments. This is a power struggle. But our weapons are nothing like theirs (2 Cor. 10:1-4). Our weapons are mighty in the pulling down strongholds of vain imaginations and everything that sets itself against the knowledge of God. Our imagination, grounded on the promises of the Word, pulls down their imaginations, which are built on smoke.
Now faith, the Christian imagination, can see what we are going to be able to do after this battle. We can see beyond the battle lines. If you feel like you need help with this, what you need is what the Scriptures call largeness of heart.
“I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.”
Psalm 119:32 (KJV)
This is how Solomon was able to understand the world around him.
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.”
1 Kings 4:29 (KJV)
This vision includes the vision of unregenerate men abandoning their lunatic hatred of God, laying it down in repentance, and coming humbly to God.
“Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; Because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.”
Isaiah 60:5 (KJV)
If you would persuade men, speak to them as Paul spoke to the Corinthians.
“O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.”
2 Cor. 6:11–13 (NKJV)And So . . .
We are Christians. We believe what the Word says, and not what our eyes see. Because of this, we are enabled to look beyond the immediate circumstances and see the larger pattern. A larger heart can see the larger pattern.
When we first started this association, we named this conference of ours Repairing the Ruins. Here you are, decades later, laboring away at your sector of Nehemiah’s wall. If you spend too much time staring at the news that tries to troll your faith every night, you might be tempted to think that ever since the founding of ACCS, we have a lot more ruins to look at, and the repair work might seem to be falling seriously behind.
But remember what I said earlier. What does God say in His Word about who wins this thing? The gates of Hades will not prevail against the kingdom of God. And gates are not an offensive weapon. We are not being besieged by them; it is quite the other way. We are besieging the gates of Hades, and they will not prevail. Faith responds to the Word. And we are blessed to see with the eye of faith the outcome of the battle.
So come, stand on this mountain here, like Adam in Paradise Lost. May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, may your heart be greatly enlarged, and may your faith be stirred and quickened.
May God’s Holy Spirit give you the imagination to see what a glorious task you have in front of you.
“It was not a hit-and-run, but rather an almost-hit-and-run-even-faster”
Ecochondriacs, p. 115
Check out more from Doug and many others at https://canonpress.com/
Ah, Let’s Talk About Baptism”—maybe some more! I was intrigued by your argument in response to a letter this past week. “While you are waiting for them to make their own decision, do you teach them to pray? Confess sin? Sing psalms and hymns? But why? They are not Christians and you are just instilling hypocrisy.” This seems to be the same logical foundation that the pro-secularism, anti-theonomy Christians might use to justify their own position: that teaching unregenerate civilians Christian virtues and values likewise promotes hypocrisy. To be sure, “civilians vs toddlers” isn’t a 1:1 parallel, but it seems odd to me that your argument against baptists could so easily boomerang back around to your argument for enshrining Christian values in a society, and, unfortunately, bonk it on the head. (Meanwhile, us theonomy-loving baptists are sitting here watching the boomerang fly back around and have never been happier to think teaching God’s law to both children and citizens, Christian or no, is a great idea.) :)
Michael, thanks, but not quite. For example, we admit non-Christian kids at Logos School, and I have no difficulty saying that we expect Christian behavior from them at a “civic virtue” level. You don’t knock people down in the hallway because this is a Christian school. But I wouldn’t have one of those kids lead prayer at an assembly because that is in a different category. So I don’t see any inconsistency if Baptist parents were to require the kids (regenerate or not) to refrain from biting or scratching. But teaching them to sing Jesus Loves Me, This I Know when the parents teaching the song know nothing of the kind regarding them is quite different. And if the parents do know that the child is loved by Jesus, then it is time to baptize him.
In a recent response to Josh you said,
“While you are waiting for them to make their own decision, do you teach them to pray? Confess sin? Sing psalms and hymns? But why? They are not Christians and you are just instilling hypocrisy.”
Is it a forced choice situation? Is there an option, like your father, to raise your children according to the promises while waiting to baptize them until they have confessed with their own lips that Jesus is Lord and that they believe in their own hearts that God raised Him from the dead?
If that is a permissible option for Christian parenting, why is it not the preferred method? What do you gain by baptizing them as infants? If one can believe the promises without applying the water, what would lead a parent to apply the water without an explicit command to do so when they could raise their children according to the promises and apply the water after a credible confession of faith has been made in accordance with what we do see in Scripture?
I understand that we have no examples of second generation Christians in the writings of the NT, but why would we assume that they begin baptizing their children? I am genuinely attempting to work through this and am trying to be as willing for it to be true as I can be (much as you report you were when originally approaching Calvinism from an Arminian bent). I don’t have a particular horse in the race in needing or wanting paedo or credo baptism to be true, but wanting to understand what legitimate options exist for a Christian parent.
This may be more exhaustive than a Tuesday letter reply can warrant. Please consider an Ask Doug follow up where you walk through what you anticipate to be the sticking points for us 1689 Reformed Baptists types who believe the promise of God and say a hearty and enthusiastic, “Amen!” to Standing on the Promises, but haven’t been able to see the reason to jump to infant baptism as a result. Would you even urge one to it or is it the promise-believing rearing part which encapsulates most the impetus (much like I’ve heard you say that the “optimism” is the sine qua non of Biblical eschatology more than the specific position of postmillennialism per se).
All that to say, could you lay out what you believe are our best questions and concerns and then address them directly, straight up the middle?
Appreciate you and all that you do.
Todd, thanks. That is what I tried to do in To a Thousand Generations.Other Books
Thank you for your wise and timely words in these unsettled days. Thank you also for reprinting the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos. I just published a book with OUP that argues that the clergy who supported political resistance to the British during the American Revolution did so in continuity with the long history of Reformed resistance thought found in the Vindiciae, etc. If you are interested, it comes out next week and can be found here:
You also might be interested in my book on J. W. Alexander’s rejection of secular forms of social reform in the antebellum period.
Would you ever be interested in coming to the Denver area and speaking to our students? We’d love to have you. May the Lord continue to bless your pen and pulpit!
Gary, thanks. If the schedule ever worked out, I would happy to do something like that. And your books look fascinating, and I already ordered them.A Verbal Typo?
These questions are about something you said on “Do I Need a Seminary Degree to Be a Pastor” (and although this video is, in a sense, none of my business I was curious to see what you had to say).
Are you someone who has read the Bible through 100 times in a year?
What is the most times you have read the Bible through in a year?
Robert, something about your question makes me think I might have gotten tang tungled. Did I say 100 times in year? If so, mea culpa. I have probably read the entire Bible through about twenty times, and in addition to that the New Testament around fifty times.That’s Great
Several years ago I used to listen to a podcast that Russell Moore put out on traditional country music. I actually enjoyed it. Makes me think he missed his calling spinning records in a small Alabama town.
Ron, thanks. Do you remember the name of the podcast?
On starting a short term rental property household biz –
Recently read “Man of the House” by C.R. Wiley, and was inspired to look into rental properties as a potential household-owned business. You wrote about the tyranny of AirBNB here (and several followups as well). I wanted to get your take on throwing in with another service like VRBO. Seems like after one well-publicized case of a known LGBTQ++++ orgy group getting turned down by some sane host is all it would take for VRBO to be bullied into copy-pasting AirBNB’s “no Christian consciences allowed (sic – translation by me)” style Terms and Conditions. Right now VRBO appears to be more generic and level-headed in their “Inclusion” clause, “Nondiscrimination” heading (read: no one say anything that upsets anyone else, otherwise carry on):
“A place for everyone leaves no room for hate. If you mistreat people, there’s no space for you on Vrbo. Everyone deserves to be where kindness rules. We expect all members of our community to demonstrate respect and tolerance in all interactions with each other—both online and off-line—and we reserve the right to remove anyone from our marketplace who fails to abide by these principles.”
With the direction things are headed, seems like any online short term rentals could be inherently a bad investment option for Christians who reserve the right to cancel bookings and refuse guests based on potential Colorado Cake type scenarios. Thoughts on this? Any way to move forward with the short term rental biz via one of these listing sites and not risk the entire business model based on the next planned stop on our Grand Woke Adventure?
Patrick, I agree, especially when it comes to high turnover rentals likes B&Bs. If you have a house to rent out, you only have to navigate renting it out every year or two, and could probably do that easily if you do it via word of mouth.Resources on Death
Someone named AA was inquiring about resources on death. One title which immediately came to mind, though I have not read it, was A Believer’s Last Day, His Best Day by Thomas Brooks. While searching for that I came across Death by Thomas Boston and I suddenly remembered a more modern one that was a great help to my pastor when his wife died, Grieving, Hope, and Solace: When a Loved One Dies in Christ by Al Martin.
Will, thank you very much.A Complicated Situation
I have really enjoyed your commentary in regards to Covid-19 and Romans 13. I have a question about my scenario with my former Church. I was put under church discipline for deciding to leave the church over masks. I did not leave because the masks but because we were not gathering in person for months. I struggled with depression and got a lot of needed help from other I would say right minded Christians. My former pastor believed I was prideful because I did not want to wear a mask in another person’s home who did not have a problem with me not wearing a mask. When I asked if I would be put under church disciple he said that I was being prideful. Now I am kicked out and shunned.
The problem now is that my wife still attends because she believes I am wrong in regards to Romans 13 and left the church in a wrong way. My former pastor desires to baptize my wife even though she was baptized as an infant. My wife wants to be baptized again but I am still working through baptism theologically. My concern is that my former pastor who has been heavy handed with COVID is using my wife’s baptism as a manipulation tool because you know It’s hard not to attend my wife’s baptism. I have read all your books on marriage. I plan on confronting my former pastor on this but I need help with this situation. What would you do in my circumstance?
Just so you know I tried staying at this church for a while and going to church in the afternoons. I believed the church has the gospel but the straw that broke me was the pastor going into a realm of authority I don’t believe he has. I would not have left the church if there wasn’t heavy handedness. My wife is a rule follower by nature. I don’t want to demand submission for her to follow me but i struggle with whether or not i should. She is a sweet woman and she is typically very submissive to me. She and I disagree with this one issue. I hope that helps you understand.
PP, I would encourage you to seek out some wise Christians where you live who are not connected to your former church, and ask your wife not to do anything rash (like getting baptized) unless you work through some marriage counseling together.Different Stories to Inspire
My ten-year-old daughter threw me off tonight when we were reading about dragons (because why not!), she asked “Well why can’t the girl be the one to kill the dragon?” And my answer was “uhhh . . . well . . . uhh” and that was about it. I can think of plenty of young men who would run away wetting themselves and screaming at the first sign of a dragon and several ladies who could stand fast against the dragon. So what would you have said in my spot?
See I have prepared myself intensely for the raising of my boys, knowing the temptation to laziness, lust, and a host of other issues I have dealt with or have helped boys deal with. But when it comes to raising my daughter, my wife and I think the world’s push to shape young women is equally insidious and harder to track because it is everywhere (movies, music, commercials, family members). How did you raise them? Can you give me some good resources along with the Bible that we can read to help us with this enormous task of raising a Godly young woman? I know just a few easy questions…
Thank you for your time
Jon, what I think you should do is study what the Bible teaches regarding the heroic behavior of women, and the different shape that their heroism takes. I am thinking of women like Jael, and Deborah, and Esther.Another COVID Thing
I hope you are well and I appreciate your work. Keep it up.
I feel convinced that I need to take a stand and it may lead to me losing my job.
I do not think it is ok (even though it is legal) to require unvaccinated people to wear a mask and social distance, but allow vaccinated people to go back to normal. My company is following CDC recommendations.
From what I understand, black people had to drink from other fountains because they were “contagious.” I feel like the Lord is telling me to politely rebel in order to defend the people at my work who do not have a voice. There are a lot of people at my work who do not feel comfortable taking a vaccine and now feel bullied into having it.
I am nervous though and don’t know if I am stubborn and foolish or if there is something I should do.
Luke, just a couple comments. Don’t bet what you are not willing to lose, and don’t start what you can’t finish. Other than that, go for it.When the Man Comes Around
I am enjoying your book thoroughly . . . It is what I I have pondered, wondered and researched for many years but your book puts it all together and one beautiful package. Quick question: On page 252 you mentioned that the gemstones on the holy Jerusalem are the precious stones associated with the signs of the zodiac but in reverse order . . . I wrote down the 12 stones on the holy Jerusalem but also the 12 stones of the Zodiac and reversed but they are not the same. Only four are the same word but even I thought maybe the colors were the same but different words? I’m just wondering if you could point me in the right direction. Because from what I’m seeing they aren’t the same and I don’t want to present a case if I can’t back it up. Thank you!
Carrie, thanks for checking that. I believe my source for that was the New Bible Dictionary, the one that was published back in the seventies.Pushing Back
I just read your article “Playing a Doctor on TV is Better Than Playing a Preacher in the Pulpit”… it was AWESOME! I am the first pastor in the country to sue the government over the faux pandemic lockdown lies that assaulted our churches and the first amendment at the same time (Cassell v. Pritzker). I spent the better part of six months being publicly and openly vilified by the media AND persecuted by the “Christians” and their leaders. Thank you for stating truth in an eloquent way.
Steve, thanks.Big Question
I recently discovered your books and website through the “How to Exasperate Your Wife” ad that popped up on the Babylon Bee. I bought your book and really appreciate it. I do apologize if my question has been addressed in a prior talk, as I’ve only just started listening and reading.
I am 34 years old with a wife and two children. I am a Christian man persuaded by Reformed doctrine. And I’ll now get to the point: What is your take on the modern remedies/groups/programs to help men break an addiction to pornography? What would you recommend and what would say to avoid?
I’ve been addicted since the age of 17 and have tried counseling, accountability groups, “LIFE Recovery” groups, Samson Society, removing all access to the internet from my household, turning my wife into my accountability partner and so forth. The closest I ever came to breaking out was reading Addiction: Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch and then creating a daily application of the principles. I continue to look for the silver bullet that I know does not exist.
I am stuck. Somehow, I know that God’s Word should suffice and that I’m getting this process all wrong. That if I pressed in hard enough for long enough I would get out. I am not asking for your pity, but your wisdom. Even if that is just to call me a knucklehead. Please spell it out of this knucklehead.
Thomas, I would encourage you to seek out pastoral help. But I would ask the pastor to start with areas where you might not need help—discipline, work ethic, attitude toward women, relationship with your father and mother, etc. Porn should be on the list, but not on the top of the list.Revisionist History
Hello! I’ve recently come across some of your older talks on slavery, the War Between the States, and the issues the American people have faced downstream of that. It’s become plain to me that my understanding of all of this history is severely lacking; my working understanding of the history has to this point has consisted of South/slavery = bad, North/abolition = good.
What books would you recommend as I begin my studies in this fascinating era? I’m not sure what sources are trustworthy.
Nathan, I would encourage you to read two kinds of books. One set would be books by partisans, taking them with a grain of salt. You wouldn’t be buying everything you read, but rather would be hearing both sides out (Prov. 18:17). The South Was Right by Kennedy would be an example. The second category of books would be more scholarly and objective. I would recommend A Consuming Fire by Eugene Genovese and The Civil War as Theological Crisis by Noll. And don’t forget my Black & Tan.UFOs
This is a long, but very detailed and informative military analysis of the Pentagon UFO backstory, ahead of this month’s “disclosure.”
Rather than aliens, it persuasively argues that Russia/China are, and have been, engaged in drone black-ops activities on the US East Coast during the past decade.
It’s written by Tyler Rogoway, an American aviation intelligence expert.
Brendan, thanks very much.The Problem of Having No Problem Passages
In an attempt to have no “problem passages,” I have encountered a problem. I’m sure it is standard fare for this particular problem, but I am wondering how you and others have navigated it. It has to do with women in leadership. I am reading this book called Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William J. Webb. The look on the face of the librarian checking me out could have stolen the soul of a kitten at 100 yards.
To give a brief summary, Webb talks about trajectories of Scripture compared to the surrounding culture in the three areas listed in the title. The treatment of slaves in the OT compared to the surrounding cultures of the ANE was better and had a general trajectory of increasing freedom and equality. Same thing with women. This trajectory is continued in the NT compared to the surrounding Roman culture.
The problem basically comes down to why there is increasing freedom and equality through to the present day in regards to slavery, where it seems we have gotten “snagged” on the equality of women, particularly with the prohibition to preach and be elders. If this trajectory of increasing freedom and equality exists, why did we stop at church leadership? Why not assume the prohibition in Paul’s letters was cultural, having the purpose of its directive not hampering the spread of the gospel? A female in authority over a male as a pastor would certainly be too much for 1st century culture to handle, but as Western culture has progressed to nearing complete equality, why not give women that last little push and allow them to shepherd?
Webb then addressed the “pre-fall” rebuttal of primogeniture, which he contends is the basis of Paul’s argument in 1 Tim 2:13. Since Adam was made first, this gives him a higher status. Then he proceeds to talk about how primogeniture is, at best, given an honorary nod in our culture, but other than that is not meaningful, and therefore the hierarchy with man on top is not meaningful.
So that is where I am stuck. I don’t want to base my belief on an argument from conjecture of mere trajectory, but I do seem to do so with the slavery thing. So why not women as well? I also don’t want to conflate slavery and women, because they are different things altogether. I have several friends who I realized are going to a church that have women pastors and the church essentially uses the same arguments as Webb, so it’s stickin’ in my craw.
Any help or direction would be appreciated.
Thank you for your time,
Tim, the issue is not whether there is a trajectory involved. It is inesacapable—not whether a trajectory, but which trajectory. For Christians, we can accept that there is a trajectory of increasing liberation from slavery because that is something the Bible explicitly teaches. Proclaim liberty to the captives. But this is a trajectory we can accept because it is exegetically derived. Other trajectories (Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall) we must reject because they are imported into the text.
“Del looked around the room like he was about to see some classified material to a swarthy Russian named Oleg.”
Ecochondriacs, p. 111