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This message on Inescapable Fear could just as easily been entitled as Freedom from Fear. And, without any contradiction, it could also be entitled The Christian Grace of Fear. But all this will take some unpacking.The Text
“And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows”(Luke 12: 4-7; cf. Matt. 10:28-31).Summary of the Text
Notice how Jesus addresses His disciples here—He calls them His friends (v. 4). His next words are instructions to them to not be afraid of those whose maximum power is that of physical death (v. 4). He then turns to the subject of the one that they should fear—the one who has complete, full, and final authority over hell. Christ emphasizes that they should fear Him—He says it three times in one verse. Fear Him (v. 5). God remembers even the sparrows, sold so cheaply in the market (v. 6). This means that the hairs of your head are all numbered (v. 7). Do not fear, therefore, because you are worth more than many sparrows (v. 7). Fear Him, friends.Fear Not, Fear, Fear Not
Here is the pattern. We are not to fear men. All they can do is kill us. We are to fear God—He is the one who can throw people into hell. But God loves us and cherishes us, and He cares deeply for us. We should therefore not fear the providences of God concerning us.
Still less should we fear the pains of hell. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4: 18). We do not fear hell; we defy it. We do not fear hell because we fear the one who can put us there. This is not a contradiction, but rather the secret.
Because we fear Him, we know that He does not want to do this to us—we are worth more than many sparrows. When He sends His angels, they almost always say, “Fear not.”
Now this is why we have spoken about inescapable fear. If we fear man, we do not fear God. If we fear God, we will not fear man. But we will fear someone. The question, therefore, is not whether we will fear, but rather whom we will fear. This is just another form of “not whether, but which.”Healthy Fear
One of the central reasons why modern Christians are so timid is because we have not cultivated a healthy fear of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). This is foundational. If you are beset with fears (or nightmares), the solution is not to run from all fear (you cannot), but rather to run toward a particular kind of fear.
And notice how fear of God is described in the New Testament as a glorious and wonderful thing. Forgive me as I belabor the point.
1. “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word” (Matt 28:8).
2. “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
3. “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day” (Luke 5:26; 7:16).
4. “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
5. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
6. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
7. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph 5:21).
8. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
There are many other passages like this—this is a point that could be multiplied many times over.Bring This Together
In our fear of God, we begin to know; fear and great joy mingle in knowledge of the resurrection; fear receives mercy; fear renders awe and glory; walking in fear means walking in comfort; fear advances personal holiness; fear works out salvation; fear enables us in cultivating the spirit of mutual submission and humility; fear animates appropriate worship. Fear of God is therefore a Christian’s glory.Profound and All-Pervasive Fear
Because of this profound and all-pervasive fear, we do not fear anything. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15). “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15).To Press the Point
This means that if you are troubled with anxieties and fears, then you need to name the problem accurately. The problem is that you do not fear as you ought, and the vacuum has been filled by phantoms. Now I am not talking about normal physiological reactions—shaking when you just escaped from a car wreck, or if you had a close call with a grizzly bear.
I am talking about the ongoing fears that cripple your Christian life and your relationships with others. What do I mean? I am referring to fear of slippery roads, loss of reputation, the cancer you might get twenty years out, dying young, marital unhappiness in the future, or any other kind of “what about? or “what if?” followed by some unpleasantness that you cooked up in your imagination. The fear of God liberates. The fear of the creature paralyzes—because to guard effectively against whatever it is, you have to be omnipotent. And you are not.We May Boldly Say . . .
So the fear of God is the foundation of all true contentment. All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). And when we are content, free from grasping and covetousness, what may we then say? God will never ditch us. We are His people.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).
And remember, always remember, that the only way a fallen sinner can come to the Father in a lively fear that ends in joy is . . . through Christ. Let Him be your fear, let Him be your dread (Is. 8:13-14).
Initially preached in August 2007
“Hell is not the result of God losing all sense of proportion, condemning someone to eternal flames because they used to cheat at pinochle. Rather, the judgment of God falls on someone because of their complete loss of all sense of proportion. The damnation is eternal because the lack of repentance is eternal.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 177
“The damned could be sent anywhere and they would bring the Hell with them. Hell is the kind of place that wraps around the hellish thought.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 176
More here.Also Known as the Midterm Variant Jokes I Like to Tell
One Sunday morning a wife came into their bedroom while her husband was still buried under the blankets. It was after 9 am, and she had the breakfast going.
“You need to get up, dear,” she said.
A negative sound of some sort, kind of a snort, came from under the blankets.
“You need to get up now if you want breakfast before we head off to church.”
Her husband rolled over and a couple of bleary eyes looked up at her. “Don’t want to go to church,” he said.
“We have to go to church,” she said. “And you will need your breakfast.”
“Look. Why go to church? I don’t like anybody there, and nobody there likes me. I don’t see any point in it.”
“We always go to church,” she said.
By this point he was propped up on an elbow, and he was warming to his subject. “In fact,” he said, “think about this. Can you give me three good reasons for going to church? Give me three good reasons, and I will think about it.”
She looked down at him compassionately, and thought for a minute.
“Well, first” she said, after a minute, “you are the pastor . . .”Open Road Color
More here, as per our usual custom.When Q&A Sessions Go Awry
“Preaching is the chariot that carries Christ up and down the world.”
Richard Sibbes, in Beeke, Reformed Preaching, p. 146
“When it comes to lurid descriptions of the damned, no one in the New Testament rivals an eloquent Dublin Jesuit from 1878, but there are moments when Jesus comes close. And only Jesus.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 169
Check out Man Rampant on Canon Plus: https://mycanonplus.com/
In a recent article at First Things, in a piece entitled The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism, Aaron Renn does an admirable job hunting for the black box that will explain for us what happened just before the airplane of evangelicalism crashed into that mountainous slope in a remote wilderness location. In fact, he found that box and filed his report with the FAA, which was then published in First Things. The problem was that we had three pilots, not two, and one of them was high on meth and going woke, the second was fighting with the one who was high on meth and going woke, and the third one thought that the woke pilot had made some good points that were at least consistent with human flourishing. Anyhow, into the mountain they went.
Aaron didn’t use that metaphor, of course—he was writing for First Things, for pity’s sake—even though I would have given him that metaphor for free if he had only called me. The fact that I would have given him that metaphor for free is probably why he had sense enough not to call me.
The article is a fine analysis of where we evangelicals have been, how we got here, and the nature of our divisions, and so I commend it to you. I have a yeah, but that could be inserted here or there, but in the main it is good, solid analysis.
At the same time, it made me think of a few other things, and hence this post. P.G. Wodehouse once said that some minds are like the soup in a bad restaurant—better left unstirred. So this is not so much a rejoinder to his article as it is a display of some of the vegetables that have floated to the top of my mind as a consequence of his article. And okay, maybe a yeah, but. But I have no real reason to think that Aaron would differ with my additional comments. Although he might—free country and all that, at least for another ten minutes.The Onset of Negative World
Aaron traces the development of the outside world’s attitude toward Christianity through three phases. They are positive world (pre-1994), neutral world (1994-2014), and negative world (2014-present). The first was an era when being a Christian was socially advantageous. This is true enough, but what this actually meant was that being a mild Episcopalian was socially advantageous, but more on that in a minute.
The second era was when the outside world was more or less ambivalent about Christianity, neither hostile nor appreciative. And now we have moved into negative world, where being a Christian at all is considered to be a real problem. Within the context of these transitions, the three major groups within evangelicalism are those who are making their peace with the new negative world (“You aren’t really intersectional until you are woke on meth.”), the culture warriors (“Hey! What are you doing?” ), and the cultural engagement johnnies (“He’s got a point, you know.”).
Aaron notes in passing that Jerry Falwell and Francis Schaeffer had fundamentalist backgrounds, and that this is something they brought to the fray, and was part of the reason for their culture warrior combativeness. I would have liked to see a lot more on Schaeffer, in that he was the one who moved the Overton window within evangelicalism, especially on the pro-life issue.My Three Additional Things
First, when we talk about the relationship of “the world” to evangelicalism during positive world time, we have to remember that Roe was decided twenty years before the end of positive world. Roe was decided in a climate that was largely friendly to evangelicalism, while simultaneously being overtly (and murderously) hostile to the evangelical world and life view. This could only be accomplished because of the relative benignity of evangelicalism at that time. At that time, so long as evangelicals did not get in the way of their “progress,” the world was prepared to be friendly, or better said, to act friendly.
Roman Catholics knew what they thought of abortion from the get go, but evangelicals had to figure it out. Francis Schaeffer, in my view, was largely responsible for the development of a pro-life ethos within evangelicalism, and as that ethos began to set and harden, the attitude of the outside world toward evangelicalism began to wend its way downward. They had been prepared to be okay with us, at least for a time, but not if we were going to be difficult.
I grant what Aaron is saying about positive world, and I remember those times. But I also remember—from my conservative evangelical upbringing—that we always thought of the world negatively. It has been negative world the whole time. In other words, when the world beamed at us, there was a cadre at the center of evangelical belief that did not believe them at all. It is an article of faith with us that the world never loves Christians who mean it. Ask A.W. Tozer.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
James 4:4 (KJV)
Consequently, if the world lavished praise on someone in our ranks, unless it was obviously a begrudging sort of praise, that was grounds for us being suspicious of that someone. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26, NKJV). To put all this another way, the transition from positive world to negative world (with neutral world in between) was not a true transition, but rather the point where the mask came off and the villain said bwa ha ha ha. Positive world was simply a temporary armistice, not real peace.
Second, accepting these three worlds as a helpful set of rough and ready markers, we still have to remember that the worlds are distinguished by more features than just their attitude toward evangelicals. There are many variables, but one of the most significant is that the leaders of positive world were comparatively sane pragmatists, more or less, and the leaders of negative world have all apparently lost their minds. In other words, we are not being treated negatively by a group of leaders who think the same way they always have about everything else. They are negative toward us because they have embraced the authority of the Void, and the Void has lunatic opinions on more things than just evangelicals. They don’t like evangelicals any more, but neither do they like fixed biological sex, or the law of supply and demand, or the law of non-contradiction for that matter.
And so, to be blunt, this means that the leaders of positive world were leaders of a stable world. The leaders of negative world are leaders of an extremely unstable world. And it is not an unstable world because the evangelicals are destabilizing it (although we are admittedly part of the show). This is a time of high hubris, mismanagement, incompetence, and conceited ineptitude. And the relationship between their conceit and their competence is a perverted and inverse one, like a lot of other things.
How bad is it? Have I used meth in my illustrations too many times for one post? I don’t think so—plenty of room for one more. The leaders of negative world are trying to rule the entire world in clean defiance of Hayek’s knowledge problem, and—to be frank—Hayek’s knowledge problem is a huge alligator with sharp teeth that is in the process of biting them on the collective hiney. That is not the meth illustration. Hold on a minute. I am getting to that, and I think you need to work on your patience a little bit.
Our ruling elites are like a roving band of chimps who broke into a meth lab, helped themselves liberally to what they found there, and who then settled down for a long afternoon of legislating sunshine, as a result of which they were going to fix the pandemic, stop climate change, eradicate transgender hate, and provide free chocolate milk for everyone.
The third and last issue has to do with doctrine. By this I mean the doctrine in the deep DNA of Americans, as well as the explicit doctrine of many of the thinkers behind the resurgence of evangelical activism. The foot soldiers of the religious right are largely dispensational, Arminian, baptistic, and pragmatic. But the thinkers and theologians behind the scenes, the ones writing the books and providing the theological ammo, are largely Reformed, Calvinistic, paedo-baptist, and postmillennial. This was the case back in the seventies and eighties, if you look at the relationship between the reconstructionists and the Moral Majority types, as mediated by Francis Schaeffer, and it is also the case now. This is often missed because the “shadowy” figures behind it all are kept in the shadows for a tangled nest of practical reasons.A Final Yeah But
As the screen shot above shows, Aaron places me in the company of culture warriors like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Eric Metaxes. And while I am sure that we would get along great if seated together at some banquet or other, I would want to describe our project here in Moscow as being of a very different nature. Aaron mentions that such evangelicals never really picked up on Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and he attributes it (correctly, in my view) to the fact that many of them are fighting to retain or recover their former position in “positive world.” But we have been in negative world across the spectrum of all three of Aaron’s categories, and have consequently been working on what I like to call the Boniface Option. Think of this in terms of my third point above. We are seeking to build a viable alternative, and have been doing so for decades. Wish us luck or, for my fellow Calvinists, wish us a providential sunbeam or two.
“The hellfire preacher of the New Testament is Jesus, not the apostles. Not Paul.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 169
Forgive my presumption and/or “cheekiness”, but in your “Normal and Jesus” book snippet (“Light from Behind the Sun”) on January 11, the last sentence says:
“Virtually every outrageous thing we read about today is being served up to us from the microbes.”
Sir, did you mean to say “macrobes”—as in “That Hideous Strength”?
But if not, will you please explain that line?
Robert, you are correct. It should have been macrobes. Now fixed, and I think it is possible to blame auto-correct. But it was also quite possibly my own darn fault.Men and Women and Rank
I am greatly enriched by your ministry. Thank you for being a straight shooter when it comes to addressing the roles and power struggles between husbands and wives. Some questions about the subject matter, “Recognizing that God ultimately held Adam responsible for the Fall, what was God’s specific expectation of Adam related to the initial sin? It is recognized it was his expectation that Adam not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is also recognized that it was not God’s will for Adam to abdicate to Eve’s leadership. Assuming Eve understood the command and assuming Adam was in Eve’s presence at the moment of temptation, but let’s say the scenario went differently, and not only did Adam not take and eat the fruit, but he pondered how to persuade/prevent Eve from taking and eating the fruit. To what extent, if any, would God want Adam to persuade/prevent Eve from taking and eating the fruit? To say something like, “honey, you know we are not supposed to take and eat the fruit from that tree. Or, one step further, for Adam to grab Eve’s arm/hand and pull it away from the fruit of the tree? Did God expect Adam to violate Eve’s free agency as a way of preventing the initial sin if it would have worked out in a different way? The same would go for the opposite scenario. Suppose Eve did not take of the fruit but Adam was being tempted. To what extent, if any, would God expect Eve to persuade/prevent Adam from reaching for the fruit? Another speculative question has to do with rank when considering the situation with Barak and Deborah in Judges 4. As you know, a common interpretation of this situation was that Barak was cowardly which was reflected in his abdication to Deborah. God used Deborah as a concession. Have you ever wondered if there was another male in the Israeli army who would have been willing to lead the army into battle against Sisera? If there were a possibility there was another male who was willing to lead the fight he would have stood down, otherwise he would have broke rank with Barak? I wonder if this principle may be at work today in our society? Men with higher rank are cowardly and abdicating to women but there are men lower in the totem pole who do nothing because of breaking rank? Similar to this idea, I was once in a small group setting in which the wife of the small group leader started to lead for a brief moment and I objected. The leader (the husband of the wife) supported her leadership. In a round about way, he attempted to compel me under her leadership. I’m no longer part of that small group.
Doug, the answer to your questions is, of course, “we don’t know.” But I think they are helpful questions to meditate on nonetheless. I believe that if Adam had the will to obey, he had the wherewithal to stop her. If she maneuvered past him somehow, Adam’s responsibility would have been to turn to God and plead with Him to let the penalty fall on Adam. If Adam sinned, I think Eve would not have been in a position to prevent him, but I think she would have been in a position to refuse to follow him in the sin. I also think these principles apply in other situations, although I actually believe that Barak was a great man of faith, as Hebrews tells us. So it is applicable elsewhere, but not there.
Brilliant, Where we’re you 35 years ago? The idea of Eve assuming a role not hers is analogous with the fellow who stuck out his hand to steady the Ark of Covenant when it seemed ready to tumble.
Twd, exactly so.
A matter of rank. I have read this blog long enough to know you also deal with the instructions to husbands. However, it seems to me there is an over-emphasis on wives submitting to husbands, as though this is the root of all marital problems.
A former pastor of mine used to get quite shirty with the younger men when they were very concerned with wifely submission and failed to notice how much more and in more detail what husbands are expected to do is laid out. Almost as though you could take Eph 5 v 25 onwards as a given. V. 22 ought not to be a single man’s favourite verse!
He used to say ‘you deal with what God wants you to do, and let him via the older ladies in the church deal with what he expects a wife to do. That’s not your concern’. Similarly for the girls.
I have no desire at all to take the scissors to the submission verses, but over the years I have grown in my appreciation that the apostles, understanding human nature, are very careful not to give men a sense of entitlement. I have read enough complementarian literature to see that Eph 5 can be altered in effect to read ‘husbands exercise authority over your wives, as Christ exercises authority over the church’.
I might of course only be anticipating the next installment!
Ken, you are quite right when it comes to writing a systematic treatise about marriage generally. God tells the men what to do, and God tells the women what to do, and we can all affirm that in the abstract. But when dealing with a overbearing and angry husband, I try to address his problem, and I don’t worry about trying to “balance” my admonition—because he will seize on my balance as a tool for continuing his sin. The same goes for unsubmissive women. They will seize on any expression of scriptural balance as an excuse to continue in their sin. But you are right that there have been many times when I have let the entitled men have it.
Thank you for these letters to Dawson, Pastor Wilson. They’ve been helpful and encouraging and applicable to me, as I suspect to most guys. I’d like to request a topic for a blog post. Much has been said about a wife’s biblical submission to her husband, but would you be willing to write on why that’s not automatically a better deal for the husband than for the wife? In other words, if a feminist was to read Eph. 5:22-23 and think, “Well, the guys got off easy”, how would you respond?
Josiah, good suggestion. In brief, my response would be “the husband is the head, where the crown of thorns goes.” Real masculinity is sacrificial, in other words.
The analogy of pulling rank is apt—a good commander will make sure to understand and if possible address the concerns of those who report to him, and will also as much as possible align the motivations and concerns of those who report to him to the mission at hand, and not just leave things as “because I say so”.
Ian, exactly so.
I make a habit of looking for brave men. Never know when you will need a pal in a fight, you know.
With your letters to your nephew, especially the Jan 12th one, you clearly are displaying great courage to so publicly declare such truth. I am not so brave because I am pondering how to forward the link to my dearest : -).
B, thanks. I will grant that I can sound brave. But we are not in it yet.
Will you please give some relationship advice to women in circumstances such as mine who are having a very hard time finding a husband? Now in my thirties, I am fed up and broken-hearted once again after a man said he wanted to marry me, suddenly had a change of heart and then strung me along while he was trying to make up his mind. I couldn’t take the frustration anymore and was quickly losing respect for this man. Not to mention, I’ve experienced somewhat similar situations twice before and I’m struggling to understand why this is happening with these supposedly “outstanding Christian men,” who at one point were “so in love” with me only to drop me so quickly. Why do they always say “I don’t know why my feelings changed because you’re everything I’ve been looking for”? The repeated blows by my brothers in Christ are leaving me more hopeless and discouraged after each heartbreak. Why does God still refuse to give me the desires of my heart after I’ve been praying for this for so long? How do I trust a man again one day when says he wants to marry me? How do I ensure the best possible outcome for my future?
Ruthie, I am very sorry for your plight, and you are not alone. Many women are trapped in your situation, and I wish I had a “ready-made” answer. Unfortunately, I think the problem is much larger than individual guys flaking. I think there is something wrong with the whole system—and I am trying to get at some of that in my letters to Dawson.A Basic Narnian Point
I bought “What I learned in Narnia” as a gift for a friend and could not help cracking it open before I passed it along. Before I knew it, I was half-way through the book and I ran across a Lewis quote from The Last Battle, “. . . I found out that we must wait upon a monkey, and when it began to be said that Tash and Aslan are one . . .” This reminded me of ongoing (friendly) arguments I have with a Roman Catholic coworker over the Second Vatican Council (among many other things), which gives us such delightful doozies as:
Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 16, November 21, 1964
“But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”
John Paul II, address to the Catholic community of Ankara, Turkey, November 29, 1979
“. . . I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together for the benefit of all men, ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values’ as the Council calls upon us to do (Nostra Aetate 3).”
Both of these are taken from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops website, along with many more like them. At first I though Lewis was writing in response to these declarations (“together with us they adore the one, merciful God”), but upon looking it up, the RCC was declaring these things in the 1960’s while Lewis wrote these prescient words in the 1950’s.
I find it quite remarkable that the RCC’s put themselves in the place of a Chimp wearing priestly robes declaring the unity of Tash and Aslan, but Lewis’ prophetic writing (along with the dear gents at the Babylon Bee) have me questioning my cessationist position.
Since I feel I must ask a question of you instead of just inviting you to join in my laughter at a chimp in papal robes, what is your position on the gifts of the Spirit and their presence or absence in our time?
As a second question, I know that Papa Don’t Pope, but what can we do for friends who are willfully engaged in papal sophistry?
James, the Thankful Recipient Of A Classical Education Who Thinks He Is All Grown Up
James, as to your question, I am a cessationist, believing that the apostolic gifts are no longer operative. But at the same time, I believe that the cosmos is a spiritual place, and that there are many oddments that cannot be explained on mechanistic principles.Beale?
Have you read either one of Beale’s commentary’s on Revelation and if you have what did you think? If you haven’t I’d recommend them to you, especially his “shorter commentary” which is a more concise version of the longer one (but still at over 500 pages). Blessings to you, your family, and the ministry.
J, I have not read him on Revelation. But I have really appreciated everything that I have read.Leavened Bread in Communion?
In the CREC churches I’ve attended, I’ve appreciated the use of wine (not just non-alcoholic grape juice) in the Lord’s Supper in obedience to the scriptural pattern. However, if Scripture directs that wine ought to be used in the Lord’s Supper (which I believe it does), should we not also use unleavened bread? It seems certain that unleavened bread would have been used when the sacrament was instituted at the Last Supper, a Passover meal.
James, yes, unleavened bread was used at the Last Supper. But when we read of the first post-resurrection celebration of the Supper, that occurred at Pentecost. And at Pentecost, with part of the offerings, leaven was required. But the Passover regimen not only required unleavened bread, it also required the utter absence of leaven. So I believe that bread can be bread, with or without leaven, but wine cannot be wine, with or without fermentation.Book Recommendation?
Greetings! I am Bible/ Ministry Department chair at a small Christian college in Florida and inheriting senior seminar. The goal has been worldview/ integration. Would you have some textbook recommendations? I am thinking of combining Watson’s Body of Divinity, Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship, and Eric Metaxas’s 7 Great Men.
The goal is to combine theology, worldview, and vocation.
Any advice? Thanks,
Tim, I would add Veith’s God at Work, and Pearcey’s Saving Leonardo.But the Military is Woke
I am a 21-year-old man engaged to my high school sweetheart. I am graduating college this semester after a college football career and am faced with the choices that await such men. I have had a lifelong desire to serve my country, especially in special operations. I feel called to something more than the bland life of suburban America and wish to test myself the same way Joshua, Alexander, & Scipio did. I am faced with the choice of commissioning into a military that is led by those who hate us and our values or living with the regret and anger of trying to subdue the fire that burns in all men who wish to be in the fray. I would rather not face my first combat experience when the UN forces come raiding because we refused the metaverse VR goggles and made an observation about how beautiful Anglo-American art used to be before Marxism.
Some advice from Uncle Doug, Chaplain-in-Chief, would be greatly appreciated. P.S. My fiancee is devouring your wife’s books on marriage and motherhood. Praise God.
Addison, I think that joining the military is still (barely) lawful, but those who do it have to wake up every morning fully prepared to wreck their career. In short, I don’t recommend it. Not until this frenzy is past and somebody sane is rebuilding the military.
Not sure where to send this, but I’m interested in your thoughts on the recent interview between the Babylon Bee guys and Elon Musk. Justin Peters recently ran a piece deploring their failure to properly share the Gospel.
People I know are now saying they will essentially boycott the Bee until they repent.
Is it wrong to enjoy the BB content while still recognizing the failure and desiring to see repentance? Thanks.
Mike, I didn’t see those interviews, and I didn’t read the critique, so this is not directly about any of that. I would just register a general caution. One of the marvelous things about the gospel is how it advances despite the ineptitude of those who represent it. And so whether or not the BB presents the gospel the way I think they should, I would still rejoice at how many opportunities they create for the rest of us to stand for truth, and to share the gospel while doing it. And, as Dwight Moody once put it, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”Schooling Choices
I have recently been introduced to your writing through my men’s small group. We are studying Future Men together.
Coincidentally (or as the Lord would have it perhaps) my wife and I toured our first classical Christian school. We are considering it for our two kids (12 and 9) who are currently in public school.
The reason I am writing is that I just read chapter 13—School Work. It was eye opening and a little scary. But I am left feeling like I need to understand more than just the problem. I am now really curious how to identify the problem as we consider schools, what to do to counteract it, etc.
I checked your blog to see if you have any articles on the topic but didn’t find any. Are there any you could recommend?
Austin, I am not quite sure how to address your question, but I think the best place to start would be with my book Excused Absence.More on Rotify
Pertaining to Rotify: I really loved your take in the “Rotify” article and have used the very same biblical verses to talk to my children about how to choose music to listen to. I’d like you to expound a little further on that post, though, as it left me with a question I have been struggling with for several months. My 15-year-old son loves Spotify and would never DARE (or DESIRE) to listen to the extreme examples of filth that your article included . . . he does, however, like to listen to certain songs that are popular and filled with twaddle sung by less than stellar people (Bieber, Kanye, Rihanna, Swift or even contemporary Christian rap artists). He always brings it around to my appreciation of Johnny Cash music (which isn’t exactly daycare music). (“And after all, Kanye converted!”) What say ye about listening to the likes of losers even if their songs have catchy/somewhat innocuous tunes? Think of Lil NasX with his satan shoes singing Old Town Road, etc? or Save Your Tears on whose album cover is festooned with a guy dribbling blood down his mouth.
Not to mention we are of the mindset that dating comes (and only comes) when one is ready to marry . . . so it seems weird to let my 15 year old be singing about girls and relationships when we are discouraging him from going down that ‘Old Town Road’ in order to ‘Save His Tears’ for another day.
Are we being unreasonable or prudish? I do not what to be so strict or unreasonable as to make my son HATE the standard.
Rebecca, right. You want him to love the standard. So the first thing is to distinguish this issue from the point of my article. That was about basic morality, basic decency. The issues you raise are about maturity and aesthetic standards. The best thing you can do there is to have ongoing conversations with your son about what he is listening to, without trying to ban things you think are inane. But you also need to listen to it yourself because sometimes the inane is more subversive than it looks. And talk to your son about that. A couple of books might help—All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes by Ken Myers, and A Hole in our Soul by Martha Bayless.The Kung Flu
My note is prompted by several of your articles about the Wuhan Virus. My position is, I respect what the WV can do, but I don’t fear it (cue Michael in Jude 9).
You have also highlighted the situation in Canada, and you have suggested that the ultimate tipping point for Christians here would be when they come for our children. I’m afraid that day has come in Quebec where an unvaccinated father has lost parental rights.
As usual, there is certainly more sin involved that led to the situation (divorce, mother’s live-in boyfriend), and it is possible that the father wasn’t exactly Ward Cleaver. However, vaccination was stated as the only condition to be met in order to restore parental rights.
There is no mention of any Christians in this dog’s breakfast, but I suspect Christians in Canada are more likely to be unvaccinated than pagans, so the day could be approaching when their government takes a proactive approach to parental separation.
Fighting doesn’t seem to be an option (also not very Canadian), but I have nothing better for our Christian siblings in Canada other than to stay in prayer and stand firm, or find a way to emigrate to a red state. I’m sure they would welcome any suggestions.
John, yes. And we can pray for Canadian examples of standing up to this so that others might see that it is in fact possible.Baptism Into Death
You responded to my question on the relation of John 15:1a and 1 Corinthians 12:13 with this: “Jonty, in my view, this is actually the nub of the whole FV debate and/or misunderstanding. There is a connection to Christ that is not salvific, although it is genuine. There is also a connection to Christ, that which is enjoyed by the elect, which cannot be touched.”
Are you saying that the death in Romans 6:3 “by” baptism is the same work the Spirit does in 1 Corinthians 12:13, along with endowing a gift to the baptised person for the edification of the body?
Appreciate you answering on this topic! For all the controversy with FV you wouldn’t think there’s much going for it, but as I see it, some churches should carry on reforming.
Jonty, we are baptized into the Lord’s death, and the Spirit baptizes us into one body. This is what water baptism means, seals, and signifies. But the water of baptism does not accomplish this all by itself, ex opere operato. The catalyst that makes the sacrament efficacious is evangelical faith.Sorry, Haven’t Read Them
Have you read the Harry Potter series? And where do you stand on them?
Ace, sorry. I haven’t read them, and hence do not have a detailed opinion about them. But I do have enough of an opinion to have kept me from reading them.Disappointing
In trying to discern a proper biblical response to our ACCS school’s decision to voluntarily mandate masks on all JK-12 students, I found your article on “Humming ‘A Mighty Fortress’ Through Your Mask. There are parents who have a sincere conviction that it is wrong for them to mask their children. There are older students who sincerely believe it is wrong for them to wear masks. The students who refused to comply were sent home and given zeroes on their work for the days they missed. They have been told compliance is a character issue. One student, upon returning to school with a mask after being told he would not be allowed to do his work at home, the headmaster praised him. This puts this student in the position of having been praised by the school for complying with an order his parents have expressly told the school they believe is wrong. We are desperately trying to find a way forward with the school so our children can attend and still keep medical decisions in the hands of the parents. We are thinking that requesting a religious exemption to the masks is the best way forward. I would appreciate your sharing any wisdom you have on this matter with us. We just so torn over the situation we find ourselves in. We want to be at peace with others who see things differently, but not violate our consciences. My sincere thanks for all you do. Your writing has been a help and comfort to many of the families in our school community.
Cayce, yes, this is really disappointing. Short term, I would request a religious exemption. But long term, you need to rethink your relationship to the school, and examine alternatives. Even if they grant you the exemption, these are the people that you are entrusting with the task of teaching your children how to think critically. And how can they teach what they do not know?Porn Creates Problems
In a response to someone’s letter about porn, you said,
“But if you are talking about stretches of faithfulness, interrupted with periodic failures, that is a different situation.”
Can you expand on this? How is it different, and how does one respond differently to this kind of situation?
D, I am talking about the difference between an occasional sin and bondage to sin. If a man lost his temper every decade, that is bad, and it is a sin, but I wouldn’t describe him as a hot-tempered man. And if a young man goes six months without porn, but then stumbles and has a bad couple of days, he needs to confess his sin and walk uprightly—which he plainly knows how to do. He did it for six months, so he must know how. This is quite different than a man who has not enjoyed victory for any length of time, ever. The second kind of man needs to get help from outside himself.F.F. Bruce, for the Win
I’ve been reading Paul: The Apostle of The Heart Set Free. I just shared this with my sons and love to hear your thoughts on this- (From F.F. Bruce) In his chapter entitled ‘The Gentile Problem’, which could also been called The Judaizer Problem, he writes that gentiles who put themselves under the law were returning to slavery under the ‘stoicheia’
He says the stoicheia are “best identified as the planetary bodies (Gen 1.14) which the pagans deified and the Jews saw as real but merely “instruments serving their Creator’s will.”
“Stoicheia, or elemental powers, were, so long as they dominated men’s minds, like the weight of outworn tradition or THE PRESSURE OF CURRENT OPINION. “
“Those whose minds were emancipated by the gospel from their domination knew all such influences to be in themselves “weak and beggarly”, unable to exercise control where their control was not admitted.”
All this leads me to consider this biblical paradigm as explicative of the waves after waves of nonsense being spewed and enforced in our day. Maybe it would be helpful to call it by its biblical name—STOICHEIA.
Steve, there is something important in what you say. In the early days of my ministry, I read a boatload of F.F. Bruce’s stuff, and greatly profited by it. And I think this particular point is really worth meditating on.The Flip Side of the Sabbath
What do you think of the 4 day work week push? I could see some scrutiny for it promoting laziness, yet I could also see how many people would benefit from an extra day off to not work in the office, but to work around the yard, the house, shop for groceries and so on. Perhaps less people would busy their Sundays and actually rest for a day. Or maybe we would find more tasks to fill our days off. I would love to hear your thoughts and if there’s any biblical texts that deal with this issue.
Mark, I take a dim view of it. I believe that the 4th commandment does require us to rest for one day, but I also believe it contains an implicit requirement that we work for six.
“But whenever we are dealing with symbolic language, we must remember that the symbol is always less than the reality. The wedding ring is less than the marriage. The flag is less than the country it represents. This means that if the lake of fire is a literal lake of fire, then it must be really bad. But if the lake of fire is merely symbolic, then that means that the reality it represents is far worse . . . Saying that the fire and brimstone are symbolic does not fix our dilemma. Symbolic of what?”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 166
So I have been going on for some years now, or maybe a decade or two, about the prospect of a mere Christendom. A few years ago it all seemed pretty radical, but as time wears on, and as our mainstream corridors of power seem incapable of producing anything other than Bad Ideas and Balrogs, the idea of a mere Christendom has started to look more and more alluring. At least to sensible people.
That being the case, I thought this would be a good time to explain how the idea of mere Christendom is not some theosyncratic idea of mine. It comes from the Reformed mainstream, and for most American Presbyterians, it is a confessional issue. I will explain that further in a moment, but in the meantime the fact that almost no one thinks of it as a confessional issue is a plain demonstration of how the spirit of soft postmodernism has taken over the ostensibly Reformed bodies of North America.
Richard Rorty summed it up this attitude nicely when he said, ““Truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with.” Any ordained minister in the OPC or the PCA—or in any of the smaller Reformed bodies for that matter—who disagrees with the concept of mere Christendom really is obliged in simple honesty to take an exception to the American version of the Westminster Confession at this point. Honest subscription needs to require this because no one else will require it. This is because confessional truth has become what the presbyteries will let you get away with.
And on this topic—and it is not the only one—the answer is “quite a lot,” as it turns out.An American Take on Christendom
The Presbyterians in America held their first general assembly in Philadelphia in 1789. Perhaps that city and that year should ring a bell for you, and at that assembly they adopted an American version of the Westminster Confession. One of the places where they altered the original Westminster Confession, in this case improving it, was the chapter on the civil magistrate.
The original Westminster was drafted in a context where there was an established state church already, and the contest between Anglicans and Presbyterians was over what form that established state church should take. So the original Westminster was decidedly Christian on this point, assuming an established Church, but that original Westminster was also Erastian, which was a problem. Erastianism means that the civil ruler has final authority over the church. Not a good idea.
This is the language of the original Westminster:
“The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed, (Isa 49:23; Psa 122:9; Ezr 7:23, 25-28; Lev 24:16; Deu 13:5-6, 12; 2Ki 18:4; 1Ch 13:1-9; 2Ch 34:33; 2Ch 15:12-13). For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.”WCF 23.3
The glaring problem here is that the magistrate not only has the power to convene synods, and to be present at them, which would be fine, but also to determine whether or not all those ministers and theologians were reading their Bibles right. This grants the magistrate far more authority in sacred things (in sacris) than he really ought to have. He does have necessary authority around sacred things (circa sacra), which is why he should have the power to convene synods and to attend them. But he really should not have the power to dictate to the church what the “right theological answer” ought to be.
Because we here at Christ Church subscribe to the original Westminster, we take an exception at this point. On this issue the American Westminster is an improvement, although as we shall see, it has an imperfection of its own.
And so what does the American Westminster call for? Well, in brief, it calls for a mere Christendom.
“Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretence of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.”American WCF 23.3
When I wrote about this on another occasion, I said this:
“Both forms of the Confession acknowledge that the magistrate has authority circa sacra, around sacred things, and both deny that he has authority in sacris, in sacred things. I want to argue that both are basically Kuyperian, although they are obviously leaning in different directions. We might struggle with the original Confession, where it says that the magistrate has the authority to determine that decisions by church synods are in conformity with the Word of God. How is that not taking away with an Erastian hand what was given to the Church earlier in the paragraph with a Kuyperian hand? But we should also have trouble with the American version, where it says that the magistrate cannot interfere with matters of faith “in the least.” How is that not sowing the seeds of a latter departure of the civil magistrate from any duty to Christ whatever?Me, here
But let’s be charitable. That troublesome phrase “in the least” could easily admit of quite responsible interpretations, and which, at the time it was written, it probably did. But it was kind of like the “general welfare” clause in the Constitution, a little frayed spot in the knitting which the bad guys could then pick at until they had pulled the whole sweater apart.
So let us set aside that “in the least” for a moment. I take it as saying that the magistrate must not interfere in sacris at all. But in the American version, what may the magistrate do? When it comes to circa sacra, he has quite a bit of scope, and it is a scope that presupposes a mere Christendom. Notice how the whole thing is framed with regard to the civil magistrate’s relationship to various denominations of Christians.
Civil magistrates are to be Isaiah’s “nursing fathers” to the church, meaning that they are to be truly supportive of Christian churches because they are Christian churches. They would not be nursing fathers to synagogues or mosques. The magistrate has a duty to “protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest.” In other words, the American Confession states, as a confessional matter, that the magistrate should be uniquely protective of Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists, and including in that list any other body that can lay claim to being a church that belongs to our “common Lord.” This is mere Christendom. It is a Christendom that sidesteps the question of whether a particular denomination should be established as THE official church of the republic. It should not. A major part of the magistrate’s duty is to leave all Christian leaders in untrammeled liberty, free to pursue any part of their ” sacred functions” without threat of violence or danger. All Christian bodies should be free to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience and their understanding of what God requires of them. The worship of our common Lord was to be conducted hassle-free by all, and with the sure knowledge that magistrate was not going to be antagonistic.It would be an error to assume that this meant that these worthy Presbyterians believed that Jews or Muslims ought to be persecuted. I don’t think that this is an implication of their words at all. But it is certainly to say that the Christian faith would get preferential treatment (nursing fathers) and encouragement. Two Approaches to Mere Christendom
There are two ways to approach the formation of mere Christendom. Both of them are fine, but I do have a preference for the second one, for reasons that I hope will become obvious.
When the Constitution was put together (also in Philadelphia right around the same time that the Presbyterians were there), and was later ratified by the 13 states, it is striking that 9 of the 13 had established state churches at the state level. Connecticut kept her state church (the Congregational Church) down into the 1830’s. This is one approach to mere Christendom, the one I am less enthusiastic about. A national body like the United States did not have a national church, not because we were anti-Christian, but rather because we were a federation of states, and each of those states had the option of establishing a church. If a state has a state bird, or a state flower, or a state anthem, and the national government has a national bird, or a national flower, or a national anthem, it is unlikely that any serious conflict will arise out of that. But if a state establishes the Presbyterian church, and the national government picks the Episcopalian church instead, then you are just asking for conflict. And so the Founders said that there would be no Church of the United States, the way there is a Church of Denmark or a Church of England. So this means that if Idaho established a Christian denomination as the official church of Idaho, there are any number of arguments that could be brought against the move, and I myself would bring a number of them. But one argument I would not bring, and that is the argument that to do this would be “unconstitutional.” It would be nothing of the kind.
The second approach is what might be called “informal establishment,” and is an arrangement that is very much like what is described in the American Westminster 23.3. This was what America functionally had, from the Founding down to the early part of the 20th century. But in order for it to work, there had to be a widespread Christian consensus. As long as that was there, an informal arrangement could work. When it started to erode, as it has massively over the last half century, the secularists can immediately place all “religions” on the same footing—from Methodism to Melanesian frog worship, from jihadis to Jehovah’s Witnesses, from Baptists to Balrogs—in order to observe cynically that there is clearly no common denominator tying all these together, and so we will have to go with a “neutral” secularism instead. But secularism is a faith-system, just like the others, and has absolutely no claim to a privileged position.
We have two reasons to hope for a return to a Christian consensus, of a kind that could support a mere Christendom again. The first is our hope and prayer that God will grant reformation and revival to His church. The last several years have revealed that large sectors of the church were just playing games, but it has also been encouraging to see that there are many believers who really mean it. May God restore His church, empowering it, setting it on fire.
Speaking of fires, that is the second reason for hope. Secularism has turned into a huge dumpster fire, the kind that happens behind a restaurant that cooks with lots of grease, and I don’t see how they can recover. The thing they had going for them was that they used to be able to say to gullible Christians something like, “You see, we can be decent and moral, just like you religious people. We share the same common values, only we don’t appeal to a transcendental reality to ground those values. We can be trusted to be neutral referees when it comes to what we all share together as decent, law-abiding Americans.”
That used to fly. That used to work. But that was before 60 million children lost their lives. That was before Planned Parenthood started selling the baby parts. That was before drag queen story hours at your local library. That was before doctors started taking money to conduct mastectomies on healthy young girls who had been hectored into thinking they were boys. That was before the lockdowns, and the masking orders, and the mandatory vaccine orders. In short, that was before somebody unlocked all the cages in the monkey house, and told all the monkeys to go conduct their poo fights in the public square.
When that kind of diseased secularism finally ascends to the sky in a column of greasy, black smoke, I believe there will still be the remains of a Christian consensus that we can appeal to. What we need are a sufficient number of Christian leaders who will be unafraid to challenge the dogmas of neutrality. I believe that when the insanity passes, as it has to, there will be many millions who are hungry for a sure word from God.
The text this morning is taken from the Gospel of John, the first three verses. These are the words of God.
“IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” ).
(John 1:1–3 (KJV)
Our Father and great God, we ask You now for a great quickening. We ask that Your Spirit would be active and powerful in our midst today, moving with great authority, taking the words of Scripture, and using them to have Your way with us. Accomplish in us Your good pleasure and will, and we ask this in the strong name of Jesus, and amen.
Before turning to an exposition of the text, allow me to remind you of the arena where this text needs to be applied. This is what might be called an occasional sermon. The Canadian Parliament recently passed a law, a law called C4, that in effect outlawed any presentation of the saving gospel of Christ to those in the grip of certain sexual perversions. This legislation was plainly aimed at Christians, but whether it was or not, it just as plainly includes Christians.
In response to this move, a number of Canadian pastors have chosen this Sunday to preach on the forbidden topic, in violation of their new law, and in simple obedience to the law of God. For those who need the reminder, the law of God always outranks the legal whims of men.
Although the law does not affect us here in the States, the spirit of it most certainly does, and so a number of American pastors are also preaching on this same topic, on the same day, in solidarity with our Canadian brothers. This is not an instance of meddling in someone else’s business, like taking a passing dog by the ears (Prov. 26:17)—twenty states in the U.S. have already banned conversion therapy, about which more in a moment.
For reasons that will be made evident shortly, this is an issue that concerns absolutely everyone here. It is even more relevant to your children and grandchildren.
With that said, let us turn to a summary of our text.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that God said something. We there read, “God said, ‘let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). And of course, what God said was the Word. This Word of God was with God, and the Word of God was God (v. 1). He did not come after God temporally in any sense; He was in the beginning with God (v. 2). Everything that is created came into existence through this Word (v. 3). Apart from Him, nothing created has any possible existence apart from Him (v. 3). God the Father was the architect of all things, and we are told that God the Father in His speaking was the creator and maker of all things, through the executive of His Word, and so it was that the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep.
This world is therefore a spoken world. This world came into existence through that Word that was spoken. He is the Word, and we are all His words. Whatever belongs to the created order, this Word created it (Col. 1:16-17). Through this Word God made all the worlds (Heb. 1:2). And this spoken world only remains in existence because God continues to speak it; we are sustained by the Word of His power (Heb. 1:3).
The Word of His power. All created things are sustained by the Word of His power. Remember that. And what is that power? He is the Almighty. He is omnipotent. He is the everlasting God. The Word is therefore the Word of the Father’s infinite and almighty power. Christ, the Word of His power.
Now what is our circumstance? What is our situation? What is the location of the particular corner we have painted ourselves into?
This new Canadian law outlaws what they are calling “conversion therapy.” And the way they defined this objectionable behavior outlaws any attempt whatever to persuade a person with perverted sexual desires to repent of those desires. Now it has come to pass that anyone guilty of violating this law is subject to imprisonment for “a term of not more than five years.”
According to this law, conversion therapy refers to any “practice, treatment or service” that is designed to “change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual,” or to “repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour”—not to mention seeking to change any number of other things that very likely need changing.
But to no one’s surprise, the law does not prohibit conversion efforts running in the opposite direction. It does not prohibit . . . “a practice, treatment or service that relates to a person’s gender transition.” It is therefore illegal now to help someone climb the slope of sexual virtue in Canada, but it is by no means illegal to help them tumble down it, and into the crevices of vice.
Now the preamble of this wretched and misbegotten law declares, ex cathedra, that conversion therapy causes “harm” to those subjected to it, that conversion therapy causes “harm” to society because it is “based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,” including the idea that “heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”
That’s a mouthful. That’s a word salad, right there, and it is about as wrong-headed as a cathedral filled with unregenerate bishops could possibly be.
In effect, they are telling us that for us to repeat the holy standards established by Almighty God causes harm because it perpetuates myths and stereotypes that run contrary to what these dogmatists think should be applauded by all. And if you refuse to go along with this nonsense, it is five years in the big house for you. Someone saw that you weren’t applauding, and started to ask pointed questions.
This law is important, so their argument goes, in order to “protect the human dignity and equality of all Canadians.”
How are we to respond? What are we to think of all this?
Before we turn to examine it in detail, let us get the defiance part out of the way. We do not believe in some kind of hetero-normativity, grounded in human tradition, but rather in theo-normativity, grounded in the absolute law of God. And on the basis of that law, we here declare in the name of Jehovah that the image of God was established by the Creator Himself, imprinted on our race in a fundamental binary. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). This was His image, established by Him at the very beginning, marred by us in the rebellion and Fall, and which is now being restored in us through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Consequently, we consider this Canadian law to be just one more antichrist in a long line of them, and we reject it as just one more antichrist.
We reject the spirit of this law, and with high confidence in God, we issue the strongest possible defiance to this law. Together with that defiance, we believe it is our duty to issue the strongest possible warnings to those politicians and bureaucrats who are fomenting this nonsense. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Psalm 94:20).
All of our current cultural conflicts—most certainly including this one—boil down to this. This is a battle for editorial control of the dictionary. And by “dictionary,” I mean the sum total of all our dictionaries. Our aspiring tyrannical mandatorians want to be granted the authority to be allowed to define all words, and they want their definitions to stand uncontested. They want to seize the authority to jail any who use language in forbidden ways. Other definitions, regardless of their source, are backhanded as “myths”—and not only myths, but forbidden myths.
They have determined that it is high time for them to rise up, and challenge the Editor-in-chief, the one who gave us the ability to speak in the first place, and consequently the one who is the Lord over all our old dictionaries. As the giver of speech, He is the giver of dictionaries. He is Lord of all the pronouns. He is the Lord of coherent speech, and we see in this, their incoherent speech, that He is the Lord of wrath also.
We need to understand this effort of theirs as a new Babel; this is a linguistic ziggurat. They intend to defend themselves against what Jehovah did to them the last time—that is, confusing their tongues—by seizing control of all language beforehand. If they are the editors of all the dictionaries, and if they can thereby control our speech, then plainly they have seized what they have lusted after for centuries. They were building a great tower of stones the last time, and God interrupted them by confusing their languages. So this time, as they vainly imagine, they have seized that weapon for themselves, and they will outwit Him, and they will build their new great tower out of definitional elasticity.
But who is it that they have decided to challenge in His position as the Editor of all dictionaries? Who are they taking on? His very name is the Word.
They have decided that they are going to challenge the God of all dictionaries, the God of all language, the one who fashioned Adam as a speaking creature. God gave the gift of speech, the gift of words, to the dust of the ground. They are going to wrestle—for all or nothing—for exhaustive authority over words, and they are going to throw out this challenge to the Word. They are doing this on the lip of the Abyss, on the edge of ultimate madness, on the threshold of the Void, and they are demonstrating to us how the madness is already starting to set in.
They have challenged the Almighty to a battle of words. They have challenged the Font of Speech itself to a duel of words. So if there is one thing that Christians should not be in the light of all this, it is anything like “worried.”
This is like a five-year-old attacking Neptune with a water pistol. It is like trying to set the sun on fire with a box of wooden matches. It is like throwing a snowball at all the glaciers of Greenland. This is the supreme folly. It is demented. It is the latter half of the banquet at Belbury. There is no reason for anxiety, Christian, because our adversaries have staked out their position plainly. They have said blotcher bulldoo, and they have warned us sternly that it is the law.
Now the Lord of all is sovereign over all things, obviously, but it has been His good pleasure to mediate His authority in the world through His church. He has made us kings and priests on the earth (Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:10). “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22–23).
This means that the answer to this particular frenzy on the part of our ruling elites is an answer that is going to proceed from the church. And when the church speaks, she does so from her pulpits with an open Bible laid out on those pulpits. And what do we say?
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers
No thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth.
Mark that. “No thanks to them abideth.” But that Word abides nonetheless. It abides despite their scorn and pretended sophistication. It abides despite their threats of five-year sentences. It abides despite their abandonment of common law, common grace, and common sense. It abides despite their inversion of all fixed categories (Is. 5:20). The Word abides.
In 1943, when Churchill and Stalin and Roosevelt were discussing the shape of the post-war world, the story is told that someone suggested that the pope might have something to contribute to their discussion. And Stalin is reputed to have said, “The Pope, how many divisions has he?”
In this confrontation of ours—and it is a confrontation—the worldings turn to us and they ask us what resources we might have? They have armies and navies, parliaments and conferences, international corporations and nuclear weapons, control of the monetary system, a hammerlock on the media, and many thousands of kept and fully-house trained scientists. So they turn to us with a sneer. How many divisions do we have?
And our answer is simple. We have words, and water, and bread, and wine. And underneath all of it we have the Spirit of Jehovah.
Now the reason that all of this is happening is because our ruling class is unregenerate. They do not know God, and that is why their decisions and determinations and law are shrouded in this peculiar kind of darkness. They dwell in darkness, and they hate the light, and why?—because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).
But what kind of power does darkness have when light is spoken to it? What happens whenever God says “let there be light”? And what happens when God says—as He will say—“let there be light” again?
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Cor. 4:5–6 (KJV)
When God said “let there be light” to the darkness of nullity and non-existence, there was immediately light. But He has the same kind of authority when He speaks to a different sort of darkness—the darkness of this sin and rebellion. And when He speaks light to that kind of darkness, the same thing will happen. Light happens, and the light does not come to be by coincidence. No, the light appears because it is obedient.
They will of course want to stop any word that has this kind of power, any word that has this kind of authority. And they will try to stop it by locking up preachers. Let them. Binding preachers is a whole lot easier than tying up their message.
“Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”
2 Tim. 2:9 (KJV)
It does not matter whether our ruling elites have scheduled a great reformation and revival. It does not matter that they have not written down anything like that on their calendars. What matters is whether it is on God’s calendar—and all the prophets, from Samuel on, declare that it is in fact on God’s calendar.
So it does not matter to us that the darkness has not planned for an eruption of light. They have nothing to do with what is going to happen. They have no authority, and less sense. They thought the little dwarf star of the church was about to flicker and go out, little realizing that it was actually God’s appointed place for the next supernova.
And so here is the outlawed light. This is the message that they don’t want you to hear.
Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not Lord. Jesus is the Creator of all things, and it is His will that all little girls grow up to be women. It is His will that all little boys grow up to be men. His is His purpose, intention, and design that the love between Christ and the Church be embodied and modeled by a man and a woman coming together in a fruitful union.
This is His will, and we are commanded to listen to His will because He is the one who rose from the dead. The cabal of crooked politicians in His day conspired to have Him railroaded in a joke trial in the middle of the night, condemned to death, and hanged on a gibbet. While He was hanging there, the diseased politicians of His day came to the foot of the cross in order to taunt Him. Come down, they said, and then we will believe.
But it was not His purpose to come down. He was going to go down, down to the grave, and from that place He was going to come up. We do not follow the one who came down from the cross. We follow the one who came up from the grave. Do you not see?
And as the one who came up from the dead, He is now established on His throne as the Lord of all things. In the first place, He is now the Lord of crooked politicians, and He will dispense with them as He pleases. God has established Him in His great office, as the Son of God, by His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). Christ is established as the judge of the whole earth, which includes all these pitiful lordlings, and God established Him in that role by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:31). The Word tells us that the Lord Jesus will judge the world in righteousness. He will judge the world in righteousness, and not in demented folly.
He is the Lord of the crooked and the Lord of the straight, and He knows how to make the crooked straight. He is the Lord of kings and congresses. He is the Lord of princes and parliaments. He is the Lord of boys and girls, men and women. He is the Lord of marriage. He is the Lord of darkness and the Lord of light. He is the Lord of the secular carnival fun house of mirrors. He is the Lord of love and the Lord of hate. He is the light, and He is love. He is the Lord of oceans and Lord of the dry land. He is the Lord of holiness, and the day is coming when holiness to the Lord is inscribed on the smallest things, down to the bells of the horses (Zech. 14:20).
You may be a member of parliament who supported and voted for this monstrosity. You may be a faceless functionary in some bureaucracy gearing up to enforce it. You may be an intelligence analyst who thinks that your grasp of data rivals the omniscience of God. You may be a Canadian pastor who is trying to figure out how to compromise on this without looking like you are compromising. You may be a soft evangelical think-leader who is trying to figure out how to configure all of this as somehow “not a gospel issue,” and as yet another lamentable exercise in conspiracy thinking by conservative Christians. It actually doesn’t really matter who you are.
It doesn’t really matter who you are because if Christ summons you with His inexorable and efficacious word, then you will come. You can come to Christ from anywhere. If He turns to you, looks straight at you, and summons you with the Spirit of God, the very finger of God, with which He points at you, what will you say? And if He then says, “Come, follow me,” then that is what you will in fact do. He is the Word, and He has spoken. He has said, “Follow me.”
And I, as a minister of His Word, am speaking in His name and on His behalf. Not only am I authorized to do so, I am under obligation to do so. You are now summoned. Christ was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead, and so you are now summoned. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17)
And when you come to the light, you will leave the darkness behind.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
“In order to be formidable adversaries to the darkness confronting us, we have to understand that we will never look formidable to them.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 163
“But we proclaim Jesus. Not the Jesus who plays in ten thousand places, but the Jesus being preached by a hard fundamentalist prophet in a Flannery story.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 161
If you are looking for a solid devotional to use in family worship, I would really like to recommend this one. It was put together by a friend of mine, Jonathan Gibson, and so a complementary copy was sent to me. As a consequence, Nancy and I incorporated it into our morning reading. It is really worthwhile.
Back in the earlier days of airline travel, it used to be common for a plane to land at a connection point, and a bunch of the travelers would get off, because that is where they were going, while other passengers would just remain on the plane because the final stop for that aircraft was the place they were going to. Believe it or not, this was standard.
One time a fellow got on the plane, and he had been traveling for over 24 hours, and he was simply exhausted. He told the flight attendant (stewardess then) that he knew he was going to fall asleep, but that he absolutely had to get off in Dallas, which was the next intermediate stop. After that the plane was going to fly to Atlanta. “Would you please make sure to wake me up if I am asleep? I really need to get off in Dallas.” He was dutifully reassured, and of course, given how these things go, he woke up when the plane landed in Atanta. He had missed Dallas.
Naturally, he was furious. He exploded in wrath, and let fly with a tirade that none of the personnel on the airplane had ever heard the likes of before. He was filled with strange and amazing oaths, some of them bruised and purple. He rampaged around the cabin punching things, and finally calmed down enough to grab his bag, and he started to storm off the plane. When he got to the exit, he recognized the offending stewardess, who had been standing in the galley, quietly out of sight, and he erupted again. He let her have it, and she just stood there, saying not a word.
Finally, he was done. He stomped down the metal stairs to the tarmac, and disappeared into the terminal, cursing as he went.
There was silence on the airplane for a moment, and one of the friends of the offending stewardess wanted to console her friend, but her problem was that she couldn’t think of anything to say. Finally she just laid a hand on her friend’s forearm, and said, “He was very angry, wasn’t he?”
“Yes,” the poor woman said. “But that was nothing compared to the guy I put off in Dallas.”Self-Evident, Right? Ain’t It the Way Yeah, Why? HT: Jake
“The progressive agenda is nothing but a wrecking crew of gracious femininity—bloody wombs, barrenness as glory, perverse arts, grotesque lesbianism, and all the rest of it.”
The Light From Behind the Sun, p. 161
We are getting close to the current center of all the turmoil between the sexes. Now I use that word current advisedly. There has always been turmoil between the sexes, and the nature of that turmoil is handed down across generations in proverbs, customs, and lore. But something unusual has happened in our generation.
Up until very recently, men and women both understood the natural order of things. The man was the head of the home, and there you go. This was often violated in practice, in many different ways and for many different reasons, but everyone more or less acknowledged the way things ought to go. When it was practiced, it was honored, and when it was not practiced, it was denied, hidden, or named something else. This is because everyone subscribed to the natural order. Everyone paid it lip service, in other words.
It has been left for our time to abandon this standard as a standard at all. Not only is it not the standard anymore, it has now become a hate crime to profess that you even think it should be the standard.
The desire that a woman has to usurp the rule of her husband is a desire that goes back to the third chapter of Genesis. This is the source of the running tension between the sexes. Finding and marrying a godly woman is going to mitigate this tension for you, but it will not erase it.
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Genesis 3:16 (KJV)
Until this mortal life is over, this curse of multiplied sorrow is something that women have to deal with, including saintly women. Childbirth involves travail, and this travail is shared by believing and unbelieving women both. So why should the problems go away simply because we got to the next clause?
The Lord tells the woman two things. First, He says that her desire will be “to thy husband.” Secondly, He says that the husband will rule over her. We know that this is a desire to usurp the husband’s authority for two reasons. The first is because of the context of the immediate past—this sin is what had brought about the Fall. Eve was beguiled and corrupted by the serpent, and took on herself a position that was not hers to assume. She was the one who took the initiative in the sin.
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
1 Tim. 2:12–14 (KJV)
The second reason is the odd juxtaposition of the words desire and rule. This construction happens only one other time in the Bible, and it is found in the next chapter. In that place, God is warning Cain about the struggle he is about to go through.
“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”
Genesis 4:7 (KJV)
Here the juxtaposition of desire and rule is a picture of a power struggle. Sin has a desire for Cain, but Cain must fight back and rule over it. In the event, Cain did not do this—sin had its way with him, sin fulfilled its desire. Cain did not rule over his sin the way he ought to have.
But husbands will rule over their wives. The woman wants to usurp the authority of the man, and he reacts, sometimes unkindly, and rules over her. It is a fallen world, and this is a distortion of what authority and submission would have looked like in an unfallen world. Nevertheless, this is how it is now, and it is this way because God has ordained it this way.
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
1 Corinthians 11:8–9 (KJV)
In an earlier letter, I mentioned that women are torn between two impulses—what they are by virtue of creation and what they are as a result of the Fall. In the order of creation, the woman is a man’s helper and companion, suitable for him (Gen. 2:18). She is his crown (Prov. 12:4). She is the glory of the man (1 Cor. 11:7). Her price is above rubies (Prov. 31:10).
But that is not the only order she lives under. In the order of sin, she is a rival. Not only a rival, but a constantly frustrated rival. Her recurring desire will be to usurp the authority of her husband, but in the main her attempts at usurpation will come to nothing, and he will rule over her. Patriarchy can be godly or ungodly, but it cannot be erased. If you spend enough energy, money and time jamming feminism down everyone’s throats, the end result will be a bunch of dudes carrying off all the women’s track and field trophies. Patriarchy wins again, and in this case it is a demented patriarchy. Feminism apparently doesn’t mind being ruled by biological males, just so long as they are godless lunatics.
Feminism apparently doesn’t mind being ruled by biological males, just so long as they are godless lunatics.
Now if an individual woman is a godly woman, dedicated to cultivating the submissive demeanor that the New Testament consistently requires of women (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:4-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-2), she will in large part rule over her own spirit by the grace of God. That means that she can give her husband the very real gift of not having to live in a constant rodeo. But this does not mean that she can be submissive to her husband without a second thought. No, this is every woman’s challenge—whether she is in a good marriage, a bad marriage, or an in-between marriage.
And this brings us down to the pinch point. In every relationship between a man and a woman, including the godly ones, there will be adversarial moments. Now when you begin a new relationship, this reality is going to arise at some point, probably very early on. And when it arises, and it comes out that you are interacting with her as though she were an adversary, this is almost certain to hurt her feelings. She will say, perhaps plaintively, “I thought we were friends, lovers, not adversaries.”
You will tell her, if you have your wits about you, that you are indeed not adversaries. But you will add that there are moments when clarity of mind requires that two people who love each other dearly act as though they were adversaries. I said this in my last letter, and it is crucial that you remember it. When you are in this position, you are about to “pull rank,” and so that brings up the whole question of rank.
In the Navy, a lieutenant outranks an ensign. That is simple enough. In my metaphor, everyone who believes this belongs to the patriarchy, the one that everybody keeps wanting to dispense with. Now everyone who believes this knows that when it comes to other qualities, it is quite possible for the ensign to be the lieutenant’s superior—in intelligence, looks, personality, table manners, the lot. But, nevertheless, at the end of the day, the lieutenant outranks the ensign.
In a similar way, the husband outranks the wife. The egalitarian believes that this is an outrage, and that this is the patriarchy that he desires to smash. At this point you might ask about complementarianism. Isn’t that a third alternative? No. Complementarianism is simply an invertebrate form of the patriarchy, and feminists hate it just as much as they do the patriarchy. But because it is invertebrate, they want to squish it instead of smash it. In many marginal cases, a complementarian is an egalitarian who is still stuck with some Bible verses that have not yet been digested, and are still important to the donor base somehow.
Now in a well-ordered biblical relationship, the practical authority structure functions in accord with the formal rank. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). When a wife does this, what is happening in real time is the same thing as what Scripture outlines on the flow chart. Everything is rightly ordered.
But the disparities of ambition, talent, charisma, and sin can cause severe dislocations in a husband/wife relationship. C.S. Lewis points to this dynamic in his essay on the inner ring, in the place where he quotes Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
“Boris now clearly understood—what he had already guessed—that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and a more real system—the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.”
Tolstoy, War and Peace
In every relationship, one person generally needs the other person more, and the one who needs the other person less is in control of the relationship. That is what happened to you in your break up with your ex. You needed the relationship to work out more than she needed it to work out, and consequently, she was the one in charge, the one who made the decision. She was in control.
I have no doubt that there were certain episodes early on in your relationship where she tested you, and found out that she was in fact in control. In the order of sin, there were times when she liked it like that, because we all like getting our way, but in the order of creation, she did not like it at all. And because she did not not like it at all, she came to discover at the end of the day that she did not respect you. And you were in the unenviable position of losing her respect precisely because you were doing what she demanded.
One last thing, and I will be done, at least for this letter. The Scriptures require two things of us that are relevant to all of these issues. One is the Bible’s teaching on the permanence of marriage. That is important to everyone who believes the Bible. That is a significant player in this, because it is one that is absolutely worked by egalitarian women who pretend to be evangelical. Once the marriage has occurred, provided there is no flagrant adultery, that’s it. This is why it is so important to emphasize that Scripture also requires wives—in multiple places no less—to not be insubordinate. This is because all Christian wives, in all Christian marriages, occupy a subordinate rank. And it is always bad for a subordinate to be insubordinate.
And if a woman’s first instinct upon reading something like this is stumble over the word subordinate, and to rush in to say something like “but in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, ensign or lieutenant . . .” your response should be to say, “that is quite correct, and entirely true, and also not what we were talking about.” And your second response, internally, not out loud, should be to cross her off your list of prospects. You would both be miserable together. Believe me.
This is why it is essential that you look for a woman who loves the Word of God straight, no chaser. She needs to love the way God ordered the world, she needs to love the respective ranks appointed for husband and wife in the creation order, she needs to love the Scripture’s description of these things, and she needs to respect and love you.
You must avoid, like the proverbial plague, any woman who cherry picks her way through the Bible. If she has a high view of the permanence of marriage, and a low view of her responsibility to be submissive in that marriage, then the former promises to become your cage, and the latter will be the sound of her throwing away the key.
You should want to be with a scriptural sweetheart, and not with some egalitarian porcupine. This should not be difficult to understand.