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Theology That Bites Back
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Miserable Wives

Mon, 25/09/2017 - 15:35

The situation described in the following letter is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Kate,

Thank you for your letter, and thank you also for your request for our perspective on your marriage. Since you got married five years ago, we have only seen you intermittently, at family reunions and such. After a year or so, Nancy and I guessed that something was off in your relationship with Jon, but didn’t have enough to go on that would justify asking a direct question. But we did have enough to start praying about it, and enough to regard your letter as a direct answer to that prayer. So thank you for writing.

You mentioned in the letter than Jon knew you were writing, and that he was grateful for it. Your letter contained a pretty thorough expression of your unhappiness in your marriage, and since Jon was in town for his conference last week, I took the opportunity to have lunch with him and get his take on everything. You asked us to tell you what we see, and I am glad we can answer that having heard from both of you. But given the nature of what I am going to say here, I am just sending this letter to you and not to Jon. If you would like to, you may share it with him. I would encourage that, but wanted to write to you privately first.

If I could, I would like to start by summarizing your complaint, which falls under two general heads. The first is that Jon seems incapable of meeting your needs, and the second is that you feel like you are trapped in a severe identity crisis. Who are you? What are you for? Why do all your desires to express yourself creatively seem thwarted at every turn? You believed early on that having children would answer the questions, or resolve the problems, but in your experience the two kids have only accentuated your sense of alienation. And that is the one word I would use to describe what you are experiencing—alienation. When Jon tries to speak to you, or fellowship with you, it seems to you like he is shouting across a chasm. It would be the same thing for you if you tried to commune with him, but you are tired and exhausted, and don’t feel like shouting across that chasm. Is this a faithful summary?

Now before getting into what we see, I wanted qualify something first. I want you to know and understand that nothing said here would apply to a woman who was married to a genuine tyrant. I have often wished that more women would be willing to be Abigails in dealing with their Nabals, and those situations are scarcely rare. I know that there are marriages where the husbands are thugs and bullies, and that their wives need to learn how to bring things to a head. I know of such situations at first hand. When that happens, and it happens too often, I am firmly in the corner of the wife who is the victim. Many women need to learn to be an Abigail.

But in this situation, I think you need to learn how to be more like Abigail in a different relationship, when she was dealing with her future husband David. “When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground.” (1 Samuel 25:23, ESV). This obviously requires further explanation, which I will get to shortly.

In the meantime, as you know, and as you said in a number of different ways in your letter, Jon is the exact opposite of a tyrant. He is faithful to you. He comes home every night. He holds down two jobs, doing both of them very well, and has provided for you amply. He takes you and the kids to church, and reads to the kids pretty much every evening. He doesn’t have a temper, and has sought out numerous marriage counselors for the two of you—and all to no avail. Now I want to tell you (as I already told Jon) that he does have a significant failing as a husband—but that failing is not one of being an overbearing tyrant. Those men exist but—I trust you will agree—not at your house.

So what is his problem? It is, in short, the fact that he is afraid to stand up to you in your emotional fluctuations. In brief, he is being a great husband to you in every area except the one place where you most desperately need a husband. And this is why you are in a constant state of frustration. Can you name one time when Jon helped you to confront and conquer a blue funk? I know he has thought about attempting it a number of times, but the slightest motion in that direction causes him to become the object of your unhappiness—which usually happens later on anyway. Trying to lead you in that moment seems to him to be a sure fire way to make things worse.

When the mood is upon you—and you say they are increasingly frequent since last winter—you feel exasperated, pulled thin, alienated, useless, and unloved. The hidden assumption in this (for both you and Jon) is that you take these emotional states as reliable and authoritative, instead of rejecting them as being the most manifest and bald-faced liars. You say that you know Jon loves you, but then you say in the next breath that you feel unloved. And in every battle between your knowledge and your feelings, which one wins? You take the word of your lying feelings over the word of your accurate assessment, over against your knowledge. Your feelings are your authority, even when you know they are being deceitful. Worse yet, Jon takes them as authoritative as well.

He does not help you face down your feelings as liars because he is afraid that it would be gasoline on the fire. The feelings that are currently raging beyond his control would suddenly be ten times bigger (and for a brief time they probably would be), and then he really would have terrible trouble. Jon loves you, and is very afraid of losing you. And when I spoke to him about whether he saw what I am talking about here, he said that he did. And he also acknowledged that he doesn’t attempt to do anything about it because he is afraid.

Before allowing contempt to creep in here (because it is hard for a woman not look down on a man who is afraid in this way), let me say one thing that should ameliorate any contempt. He still needs to do what must be done, and his fear has been destructive, but it is at least understandable. Jon needs to stand up to you when you are at your most volatile. But not only is he up against you—and you are, remember, kind of a force of nature—he is also up against the entire secular world and most of the Christian world. He is up against all your marriage counselors to date. He is up against the medical profession, including your doctor who prescribed your anti-depressants. In short, he is pretty close to being the soldier trying to explain to his drill sergeant how it is actually the rest of the army that is out of step. He is in a difficult place.

I am encouraged you wrote to ask us what we thought (because you had to have some kind of inkling what kind of counsel we would give). That means that it is quite possible that you will come to a frame of mind that will be a big help to Jon as he does what he needs to do. But even if this letter makes you angry, and you reject it entirely, Jon still needs to establish a rule for your household that you will do nothing on the basis of manifest falsehoods. Lies are not authoritative, and this is particularly so for emotional lies.

You said that Jon isn’t meeting your needs, and that you don’t feel nourished and cherished. You said that he isn’t “feeding” you. But Jon is not failing to feed you in the midst of a famine. He is trying to figure out what to do about the fact that you have gone on a hunger strike. When Jon reads Scripture to the kids, what do you do? Are you off in the kitchen doing the dishes? Perhaps making a little extra noise?

Now here is what you can do, and I am afraid it is an unpleasant prescription. You can submit to your husband, entirely and with a whole heart. You can determine that you are going to follow and obey him. He is good man. He is not going to take advantage of you. He is no jerk. His one great failing is not one that places him anywhere in the neighborhood of being an abuser. On top of this, your deliberate withholding of a submissive spirit is why things can never be smooth between you. “You do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love through lack of obedience . . . No one has ever told you that obedience—humility—is an erotic necessity” (That Hideous Strength, p. 148).

I qualified this earlier—but I do want to qualify it again. This is a fallen world, and so it is that no human authority can ever be considered an absolute. This plainly includes the authority of husbands. Authority can be wielded in unwise and foolish ways, and also in criminal ways. This really is a fallen world. But when authority goes bad it can go bad in two directions—it can become overweening and arrogant, or it can also become retiring and abdicating. This latter route is what Jon has done—but under pressure from you to do so. Your problem is not excessive authority, but a deficiency in submission.

You challenge him, hoping deep down that he will (this time) stand up to you. But if he does, you know (as does he also, quite well) that he will be in a fire fight. You challenge him, hoping at a basic emotional level to lose, and despising him when you don’t lose. At the same time, all the bad teaching you have received on role relationships is haunting your head (not to mention his). You have been encouraged (by sweet, well-meaning Christians) to explore your own creativity, to validate your own feelings, to affirm the value of self-authentication, and all the rest of that foolishness. He has been encouraged to create space for your emotions, to encourage you as you try to articulate how you are feeling, to build your studio out in the back, and so on. But the more he does that (and he has done it quite a bit) the worse everything gets.

What does the Bible teach about the value of self-expression? “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Prov. 29:11, ESV). And what does the Scripture teach about the wisdom of following your own heart? “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: But whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Prov. 28:26).

And so what I am building up to is the fact that you need to stop listening to your own heart, and start listening to your husband. Whatever doubts you have about him as a husband, he will treat you ten times better than your emotions treat you. You need to break up with your emotions. Talk about an abusive relationship.

You need to go to Jon and seek his forgiveness for being so disrespectful of his efforts, apologize heartily, and tell him that you have resolved before God to obey him in everything. Ask him to help you to do that. I am quite aware that giving this kind of counsel is probably illegal in all fifty states, so I would be obliged if you didn’t post this on the Internet. I have enough troubles.

But think about it. The passages that require wifely submission do not apply (as I happily grant) to a woman married to a serial killer. But these passages do apply to someone. Someone should read these passages of Scripture and see in them their need to obey. And I am convinced that missing this need for application is the single greatest obstacle to contentment in your marriage.

Here it is, from four different translations:

“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Eph. 5:24, KJV).

“Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24, NKJV).

“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Eph. 5:24, ESV).

“But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24, NASB).

Not only is this the case, but it says the same thing in the Greek.

You said in your letter than you would have left Jon by now if Scripture allowed it, and Jon confirmed that you had said the same thing to him a number of times. But this is simply a formula for continued misery. In other words, you don’t want to be in the terrible position of submitting to half of what the Scriptures require. The Bible does just require you to not leave Jon (since you certainly don’t have grounds), but it also requires you to submit to Jon in everything.

One of the reasons you are so miserable is that you are falling between two stools. “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word” (1 Kings 18:21). You are getting just enough biblical Christianity to keep you stuck in an unhappy marriage, but not enough biblical Christianity to give you peace there.

If secular feminism is right, then ditch it all and follow your dreams. Now my prediction would be that, if you were to do this, you would not find contentment there either. Your dreams are lying to you, and Scripture is telling you the truth. But if Scripture is telling you the truth, you need to follow the Lord, and be all in.

Men and women are God’s invention. He designed us, and He designed us to function in a particular way. When we abandon that way, we lose our way, we lose our grip. Deserting our assigned sex roles is like painters abandoning paint, brushes, canvas, and going in big for conceptual art. The results just get increasingly silly and incoherent. The greatest accomplishment of feminism as such conceptual art is to make women miserable. Many of them have figured out that the promise “you can have it all” is a lie, and have blamed feminism for lying to them, and have turned away from feminism. Other women, including many Christians, and I would place you in this category, have blamed their husbands for feminism’s failures.

I mentioned earlier your identity crisis. Who are you? Moreover, how can you come to know who you are? Jesus teaches us the answer to this crucial question, and there is a glorious gospel logic in it. If you want to find yourself, you have to lose yourself first. Self-identity comes through surrender. “And whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25). This foundational truth for every Christian, men and women both. We all must surrender to the authority of the Lord Jesus, and to the sure words of Scripture. But when we die, we encounter our resurrected selves. When we lose “self,” we find that God returns it to us, but no longer diseased.

One last thing. I know that your emotions will be clamoring at you, telling you that this is all a trick, that you are about to join a cult, that you are being invited to drink the Kool-Aid, and so on. But you know the women in our family, just as I do. They exhibit two things that you don’t have. They all have a submissive spirit, down to the foundation. That is one thing. But also all have strong personalities, a sense of identity and belonging, lives of purpose and fulfillment, happiness in their people, and so on. In short, they are not alienated from their own being. But neither are they downtrodden. You cannot tell yourself that if you do what I am suggesting, you will be miserable. First, you are miserable now. And second, the way of contentment that is being offered to you really is plausible. You can see the fruit yourself.

Again, thanks for writing. If this letter is something you can even halfway receive, Nancy and I would be willing to drive halfway and meet you and Jon for lunch in Spokane. Let us know, and we love you all.




 Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

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Categories: People I don't know

The Apostles Creed 13: Ascended into Heaven

Sat, 23/09/2017 - 16:45

The intersection of heaven and earth, the boundary between the two, is not the same kind of boundary that we might find between two countries. If you were not on a marked road, crossing between countries is not necessarily something you would even notice. But crossing between earth and heaven necessitates a qualitative difference in experience.

The Text:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Summary of the Text:

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9–11).

After the resurrection, Jesus continued to appear to His disciples, teaching them and reminding them of things, doing so for forty days. After almost a month and a half of this, He gave them their final instructions, and then was taken up out of their sight. They watched as He ascended, and they watched continually until He disappeared into a cloud—indicating a significant height. The disciples were gazing steadfastly at Him, until they were interrupted by two men in white apparel. These two men were obviously angels, and asked them why they were staring up into heaven. This same Jesus, they said, was going to come back again, and He was going to come back again in the same way He departed. This means that the Second Coming of Christ will involve His return in the body.


Now when Jesus ascended, it says that the disciples were able to watch Him ascend. They did so until He disappeared into a cloud. Now let us—as the apostle says elsewhere—be adults in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20). We do not believe that Jesus just kept going, at approximately 30 mph, until He came to occupy His sky palace behind the moon. Neither did he continue at that same speed on His way to highest heaven—30 mph after two thousand years would place Him about 17.5 million miles away, which would mean He is just over halfway to Mars by now, with Mars at its closest. We are Christians, which means we are committed to faith in the miraculous. But this does not mean that we committed to childish absurdities.

The Scripture teach that heaven and earth have undergone a “divorce,” and an essential part of Christ’s work was to bring them back together into union again. “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). Because of man’s sin, heaven and earth were thrown out of joint. And the previous unity was not demonstrated through what we would call “space travel.” That’s not how Gabriel came to speak to Mary. So through Christ we are being introduced into a completed nature that is being transformed, and reunited again.

Facing the Difficulty:

When we reject the materialist cosmology, which we do, with its endless concourse of blind atoms, this does not mean that to be pious Christians we must adopt a view of the cosmos that is a triple-decker stage set (Heaven, earth, Hell), made out of painted plywood. The language used for us is metaphorical, and the enacted language of the Ascension is metaphorical. As on many other topics, C.S. Lewis is particularly helpful:

“All the accounts suggest that the appearances of the Risen Body came to an end; some describe an abrupt end about six weeks after the death. And they describe this abrupt end in a way which presents greater difficulties to the modern mind than any other part of Scripture. For here, surely, we get the implication of all those primitive crudities to which I have said that Christians are not committed: the vertical ascent like a balloon, the local Heaven, the decorated chair to the right of the Father’s throne.”[1]

But while Scripture does not require from us faith in “primitive crudities,” it does require from us a robust commitment to the supernatural, to the miraculous, and to a view of the cosmos that will earn us the scorn of materialistic atheism.

“The records represent Christ as passing after death (as no man had passed before) neither into a purely, that is, negatively, ‘spiritual’ mode of existence nor into a ‘natural’ life such as we know, but into a life which has its own, new Nature. It represents Him as withdrawing six weeks later, into some different mode of existence. It says—He says—that He goes ‘to prepare a place for us’. This presumably means that He is about to create that whole new Nature which will provide the environment or conditions for His glorified humanity and, in Him, for ours.”[2]

As Lewis argues elsewhere, we cannot talk about the arrival of the Lord in this world (or His departure from it) without using metaphorical language. We can impoverish our metaphorical language, but we can’t make it less metaphorical. If we say the Lord “entered” this world instead of saying He “came down,” we are substituting a man coming into a room for a parachutist. But both images are metaphors, describing the intersection of spiritual/physical with an image of physical/physical. But that intersection is not actually physical/physical. At the risk of being misunderstood, it is spiritual|physical/physical|spiritual. In short, we are in over our heads.

Into Heaven:

The Scripture uses the term heaven to refer to different realities. We have the heavens to refer to what we call the sky. Birds are creatures of heaven (Gen. 6:7). Jesus says the same thing (Matt. 6:26). Heaven is where rain comes from (Jas. 5:18).

A second use of heaven refers to what is commonly called outer space. After describing the sun going dark, and the moon not giving its light, Jesus says that the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matt. 24:29). Believers are to resist the temptation to worship these celestial bodies (Deut. 4:19). The stars are called the host of heaven.

But there is more. A third heaven contains realities beyond what we can see—called the highest heaven (Deut. 10:14), or the heaven of heavens (Ps. 148:4). This third heaven is where God’s presence is manifested, even though He cannot be contained by the heaven of heavens (1 Kings 8:27). And yet, God’s presence is somehow localized in this Heaven (Heb. 8:1; Acts 7:55). The presence of God is in this Heaven. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24).

The Third Heaven:

Considering all these things, we should locate the “third heaven” that Paul equates with Paradise (2 Cor. 12:2, 4), with the highest Heaven, where the presence of God is manifested. An alternative to this would be to equate it with the third sphere of the ancient cosmology (Venus), a view I find much less compelling.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Heb. 4:14).

And so then, let us consider what holding fast to our profession, what holding fast to Jesus Christ, actually entails.


[1] C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 242.

[2] C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 243.

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Categories: People I don't know

The Width of Our Lives

Sat, 23/09/2017 - 16:28

The life that Christ has called us into is a life that is not just everlasting in duration. The eternal life that He welcomes us into is qualitative. Jesus says that He is the resurrection and the life, and that life is one that the Holy Spirit weaves us into. This affects the texture and the breadth of our lives—for it is intended to. Our natural resistance to this is one the things that God deals with in us.

We want to walk with our heads down, as though we were walking along a railroad track, keeping our balance there; we don’t want to live expansively, the way a Christian ought to live. We forget that God is sovereign over all things, and we forget that He is the God of dangers, the God of adventures, the God of the unexpected. The wrong kind of concern for safety, for security, for a life of predictable and cozy conservatism is, at the end of the day, a form of idolatry.

Think of it this way. Remember this exhortation as you understand the tasks before you—your vocation, your family life, your worship of God. Everyone here will live the entire length of their lives. Everyone lives until their dying day. All of us go the appointed distance. But not all of us live the width of our lives.

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Categories: People I don't know

Two Kinds of Losers

Sat, 23/09/2017 - 16:03

One of Christ’s most famous parables is that of the prodigal son. It could also be called the parable of the self-righteous brother, or the parable of the longing father. What it teaches us about God the Father is quite remarkable, and to a certain kind of religious mind and heart, also quite scandalous.

Once there was a man with two disobedient sons. One of them was honest enough to go off and spend his inheritance on whores, while the other remained, working diligently in the fields for all the wrong reasons. The two sons are distinguished by this—the scoundrel son received a gift in order to abuse it. The other son was incapable of receiving a gift. The parable is explicit that the father divided the inheritance between the brothers at the beginning of the story, but the older brother later complained that he had received nothing. And he had received nothing—he was incapable of it.

Are you like the younger son? If you are, then you are an abuser of grace. You are a waster. Let us not sugarcoat it—you are a loser. The good news is that this is the Table that is set for you. God welcomes you to it. The fatted calf has been killed for you. You are a loser, and yet the ring has been put on your finger, and a robe has been called for. God the Father has hired a band.

But the grace of God goes still deeper than that. Are you a stuffed shirt Pharisee? Are you a fusser? An ethical, moralistic whiner? Are you the kind of person who has no friends, and cannot recognize the grace of your Father? This just makes you a different kind of loser than your younger brother. So stop standing there in the driveway, sullenly listening to the music and dancing.

As we repent, this Table is for both kinds of losers.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

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Categories: People I don't know

A Problem to be Surmounted

Fri, 22/09/2017 - 22:16

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Categories: People I don't know

The Content Cluster Muster (09.21.17)

Thu, 21/09/2017 - 17:00

Bad Science and Sex Offenders

Sometimes the Twitter Stars Align Just Right

Sometimes, everything just comes together in your timeline. @timkellernyc #noclownministryforme

— Nathan Brown (@nolanathan) September 13, 2017


New Sermon Short

But in Case of Divorce, Who Gets the Car?

So then, a woman in the UK decided to cut the Gordian knot and just marry herself. Details here.

Bootleg Pre-Evangelism

So, as many of you know, Nate made a movie called The River Thief. What you probably didn’t know is that someone bootlegged it, put in Arabic subtitles, slapped it up on YouTube, where it now has close to 900,000 views. Not sure where the MGM lion came from though.


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Categories: People I don't know

Two Dudes on a Wedding Cake

Wed, 20/09/2017 - 16:35

The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Tomas,

If I understand you rightly, you are asking for an overview of the scriptural case against homosexual practices. This is not because you need to be informed that Scripture is hostile to such things. Rather, as you put it, “so much ingenuity” is expended on making the Bible say things it doesn’t really say, it is sometimes difficult to know what to say in response.

This question needs to be addressed on many levels. First, as I am sure you know, the world of homosexual practice is as hostile to the Scriptures as the Scriptures are to them. Everybody with sense knows where everybody stands. The reason for all the exegetical ingenuity is that it is a tactical move, designed to soften Christian opposition to the sexual revolution. The sexual revolutionaries don’t give a rip about the exegesis, but there are many advantages to be found in saying to the new Eve, to the Christian church, something like “did God really say?” They are not so much trying to justify their own rebellion as they are trying to entice low-wattage Christians to join them in that rebellion by means of a slow drift. Being low-wattage, they won’t of course understand what has happened until after sulfurous hailstones start to fall out of the sky. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

But for whatever reason, when it comes to sexual matters, as the Westminster Confession says about special pleading with regard to divorce, men are prone to “study arguments.” And because we care about souls, the arguments must be answered somehow—either by refuting the lies or by stating plainly what the texts plainly say. We do this, not because these arguments are valuable in themselves but because the souls deceived by them are valuable.

So I want to divide this into two categories. The first has to do with what Scripture says about the created order and nature, and what nature says. The second will be what certain particular texts say (think Leviticus). I may have to get to this second category in a follow-up letter.

So this, in summary, is the Christian case against homosexual desire and practice. The Lord Jesus, in teaching on divorce, appeals directly to the creation order. He says “from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). He points to what God did in the Garden as the basis for His instruction on sexual ethics.

“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt. 19:4–5).

Jesus looks at this and sees “one man, one woman, one time.” Divorce is not in view, and only comes into the picture later on because of sin, because of hardness of heart. On the same basis, for the same reason, we may exclude any number of other distortions and perversions. As with all distortions, they exhibit varying degrees of seriousness. Bestiality is out because there was no helper suitable for Adam among the beasts (Gen. 2:20). Polygamy is out because God took one rib from Adam’s side, not three ribs (Gen. 2:22). It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve, and Suzy, and Mary. The fruitlessness of solo sex is out because it was “not good” for Adam to be alone (Gen. 2:18). And homosexuality is excluded because it was Adam and Eve and not, as the joke goes, Adam and Steve (Gen. 1:27).

And that last text contains worlds.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).

God is a divine draftsman, and He has given us an image of Himself. How has He drawn His image for us? He has drawn this image quite carefully, and He did it by creating us as male and female. The attempts to rearrange all this, and substitute in male/male or female/female are one kind of impudence. And the more recent attempt to create buckets full of alternative genders is even worse.

Now when faithful Christians recoil from the glorification of homosexual sex, they are usually recoiling on this level. They are not (usually) reacting to a detailed knowledge of what homosexuals might be doing in bed, because they usually don’t know much about that. What they are pulling away from is the image of two dudes in tuxes on a wedding cake, or a photo of a reception where the groom and the groom are kissing. This recoil is not a phobia—it is more like the reaction the art world would have if some vandal painted a Groucho nose and glasses on the Mona Lisa. The resultant cartoon is grotesque, a caricature. The reaction is “why would someone do that?”

The sexual consummation of a marriage is private—not because it is something to be ashamed of, but rather because it belongs to the couple alone. But the fact of that sexual relationship is public, which is why people are invited to weddings. And when we look at any given bride and groom in the front of the church, we are looking upon the image of God. Moreover, given the fact that our world has fallen into sin and is in desperate need of redemption, we also see in every wedding the restoration of the image of God in and through Christ and the church.

So to put two men there, or two women, is to deface God’s creational intent and, on top of that, it is to deface His gospel that is in the process of restoring our wreckage of that original creational intent. In short, the glorification of homosexual unions is an attempt to murder God, burn His image in effigy, and overthrow His gospel. It is no trivial thing.

The world’s attempt to cover up this reality—hatred of God conveyed through hatred of His image—has been two-fold. On the question of the public image, their response has been unrelenting propaganda—coupled with severe discipline for anyone who challenges the authority of that propaganda. This is where all the court cases for evangelical bakers, florists, and wedding photographers are coming from. They are in the process of outlawing our refusal to glorify that which must never be glorified.

Their second response—and I am sorry to have to bring this up—is to normalize, as far as possible, homosexual practices in heterosexual relationships. They have not been entirely successful in this, but they have been far more successful than I would like.

Birth control has been abused by many married couples in a way as to make them almost as fruitless as a homosexual couple would be. Detached from fruitfulness, detached from procreation, the teleology of sex has become Pleasure. Now God is the one who made the sexual act pleasant, and nobody in their right mind should revolt against that. But He also made eating pleasant—and the biological purpose of eating remains providing nourishment for the body. So when someone pursues the pleasures of eating alone, and has a vomitorium installed at their house, we are not hesitant to call that kind of thing an eating disorder. So I am not talking about enjoyment of sex as a problem. I am talking about the enjoyment of sex detached from the creational design.

The problem is that when married couples fall into the trap of thinking that the side benefits are the whole point, this opens the door for a homosexual catechism. Anal intercourse is a parody of intercourse because there is a vast difference between the anus and the vagina. But what about fellatio? Is there a vast difference between a man’s mouth and a woman’s? Not really. Catechized in this way, some heterosexual couples can start to think that homosexual sex “isn’t all that different,” and depending on the way they are living, it might not be.

But I would not be mistaken here. No one can read the Song of Songs carefully without seeing an exultant approach to heterosexual lovemaking, one that includes all kinds of creativity in the foreplay. I am not talking about exuberance in foreplay. I am talking about the simple substitution of alternate sexual acts for old school intercourse. When the heterosexual sex gets to be a certain kind of weird, this is not scriptural creativity. It is heterosexual kink aping homosexual kink. And that is a set up.

One more thing, and I will get to the particular texts in my next letter.

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:26–27).

We are told in Genesis that male and female together constitute the image of God. We are taught here in Romans that abandonment of the woman by the man is unnatural, and that abandonment of the man by the woman is unnatural. It follows from this that natural sex is theologically rich. In Paul’s sense here, nature is a good theologian. The converse is also true—homosexual sex is theological distortion because it mars the image of God. It should therefore not be surprising that abandonment of the natural use of the woman is a straight road into theological impoverishment—which is what every form of idolatry is.

I have probably generated even more questions, which I will try to get to after my next letter. Thanks again.



Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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Categories: People I don't know

Bad Boy

Tue, 19/09/2017 - 20:49

“And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” (Ex. 10:7).

Pharaoh lived so close to the Nile that he was actually in it.

The wreckage that had once been that generation’s superpower was all around him, and was plain to see, and yet he failed to see it. The destruction was easy to see in principle, but Pharaoh did not see it while his advisors did.

It is harder to see the effects of an internal destruction, but the processes that go into the denial of “not seeing” are similar. A similar kind of denial afflicts those who cannot see the raw fact of cultural rot, a rot that has attacked a fine-looking house—at least as seen from the street—but which is pervasive in every beam, every floor joist, every roof truss, and every supporting pillar. Of course a storm could bring it down (Matt. 7:24-27). But all it will actually take for this house to collapse is for the woman of the home to drop a jar of pickles in the kitchen.

Allow me to stop these introductory comments in order to explain to you the difference between a hypocrite, a despot, and a bad boy. A hypocrite lives in a society with fixed and defined standards, pretends to meet or exceed those standards, but privately, out of the public eye, violates those standards and does so deliberately. A man heading up a “restore your marriage” ministry is, if he is simultaneously cheating on his wife, a hypocrite. A man who professes allegiance to a defined standard that he routinely violates is a hypocrite.

A despot is someone who believes himself to have absolute power over a situation, and so he requires and/or exhibits radical inconsistency out in the open, doing so on purpose, not in order to reveal himself as a hypocrite, but rather to reveal the absolute helplessness of those he is taunting. The issue in this scenario is power. He wants the world to see that he has such power. He can require of his serfs absolutely anything. He has so much power that he can require the plebes to confess that he is the dear leader, that he has never contradicted himself, and that this year’s harvest was record-breaking. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Say it. Say it.

In our day, we have been privileged to see these clownish despots attempt to shoot the moon. A boy is a girl. Say it. Two dudes are now married. Say it. That girl in the womb is just a bit of tissue. Just say it.

Getting a whole nation, made up of millions of people, to confess that boys are actually girls (and, for the time being, only if they want to be) is almost as good as changing water into wine. Only our jitney messiahs don’t actually change any water into wine. They have the steward flogged for saying—two times he said it—that he thought it was “still water.” Some of the other servants disappeared mysteriously. And then a shout went up. “The water has become wine! Hail, science!”

Now to the third term. A bad boy is someone who points out any of the preceding realities. A bad boy is one who explains that such things don’t ever make any sense. They don’t make sense because sin never makes sense. Sin at the end of its sorry little dead end never makes any sense whatever. If it made sense, it wouldn’t be sin.

And a bad boy is what I aspire always to be. I covet your prayers in this endeavor.

What we are dealing with in our phase of cultural deterioration—let us call it the chimpanzee-poo-fling-phase—is a concerted effort on the part of our cultural leaders to exert absolute control over reality, over the dictionary, but most of all, over the people—what we are allowed to think, say, or do.

During this time, many if our Christian leaders persist in thinking that these unbelieving leaders are merely inconsistent, that they are merely being hypocrites. No, their inconsistencies are glaring, and they are glaring on purpose. The whole point is to be manifestly incoherent and to make us say that it is the opposite.

For our Christian leaders to make this mistake accounts for how much we lose. They think we are playing checkers when the “rules” actually fluctuate wildly between those of backgammon, chess, checkers, and rugby.

One last thing. In my post yesterday, I posited a hypothetical newsroom for all those who know exactly what kind of discourse would go on in the non-hypothetical ones. That was before some actual footage arrived, and which you can google up neatly if you wish. Just use CNN, the network in question, Kathy Griffin, she of the decapitated president fame, her New Year’s Eve hosting for the aforementioned network, her raunchy behavior during those appearances, Brooke Baldwin’s manifest lack of indignation over Griffin’s behavior as a female host, as indicated by things like her encouragement, and so on.

What does all of this mean? It means we are being worked. We are being played. We are being yanked around. What is the way out? Well, we should stop cooperating. Unfortunately, at least for those who went into ministry because they were such a good boy, this means becoming a bad boy.

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Categories: People I don't know

A Tether Ball in a Tornado

Mon, 18/09/2017 - 14:30
Unacceptabilify the Man Who Said Boobs on CNN

So Clay Travis of Fox Sports was being interviewed by Brooke Baldwin of CNN, and they were talking about ESPN, so the segment should already have had some crackle in it. But then Travis went on to say that he was a First Amendment absolutist, believing that only two things had never let him down in the history of our country, to wit, the First Amendment and boobs. He continued on, apparently being a serious man attempting to make a serious point, but Baldwin wasn’t having any. She kept coming back to variations of what did you say?

“Why would you even say that live on national television and with a female host? Why would you even go there?”

The episode was memorialized by @iowahawk by means of the image I have embedded to the right, and there has been, of course, a good deal of potheration, unacceptabilifying, throat-clearing, vexation of spirit, pearl-clutching, and so on.

An Explanation Called For

The bumfuzzlement has been pronounced enough that I thought I should try to explain things to everybody, using the helpful idiom that Baldwin used, that of “going there.” I am not talking about a sports commentator “going there” on someone else’s show, but rather want to point to the fact that our entire culture has been “going there” for quite some time now. In fact, we have been going there for long enough that we may safely conclude that we have now arrived. We have arrived, and have unpacked. We are settled in. This is where we live now.

And the point I desire to make is not really that complicated. It is that you can’t go there, and remain where you were previously. It is one or the other, so to speak.

Put this another way. You cannot simultaneously live in 1952 and 2017. Moreover, you cannot toggle between those years, depending on who or what just offended you. If you have been a whole-hearted advocate of coarsening the culture, and of all things guaranteed to coarsen it further, you cannot really complain, at the end of the day, about the coarsened culture you now have. “How did this happen? Why weren’t we informed?”

Let’s conduct a little thought experiment, you and I. Let us try to imagine what kind of discourse, what kind of language, is acceptable in the CNN newsroom when the cameras are not running, when that little camera light is not on. What kind of all-purpose adverbs, beginning with the letter f, might we be accustomed to hear in casual conversation, whether or not a female host might be on set? Does anyone seriously think that the guy behind camera one might shush the guy behind camera two? “Sirrah! I pray you to please remember that there are ladies present.” No, no, dear reader—you overshot by a century, and have confused the present year with 1852. No, no, dear reader—you are hallucinating.

We have had publishing events like 50 Shades. We have had raunchy routines from comediennes like Sarah Silverman. We have had rap artists cutting up their bitches. We have had reality television set ups that would clog the filters of a sewage treatment plant for a major urban area. We have gone from the time when Rhett Butler saying “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was a national event, to the point now where it is a national event if the hostess of any given awards show doesn’t fall out of her dress. Our ruling elites, pretty much all of them, are gathered on Lot’s front porch, trying to find the doorknob while yelling incoherently about their incoherent lusts. Not only do they want to rape the angels, they are mortally offended that some sports guys said boobs on CNN.

In addition, and running concurrently with all of this, we have had unrelenting mockery for those uptight conservatives who have, for decades, been protesting the coarsening effects of all of the above. They are, of course, puritanical. They are uptight about sex, sexiness, sex ed, sex changes, and weird sexual pronouns. Their problem started early. They started having their censorious problems back when Elvis was swiveling and doing that thing with his leg.

Our Next Black Eye

But—and this is related to the point about 1952 and 2017—are we supposed to be puritanical or not puritanical? Are we supposed to be offended at crudity, or are we supposed to be liberated into crudity? These guys keeping changing the rules. Not only do they keep changing the rules, but they do so capriciously, arbitrarily. They change the “rules” in order to keep everyone off balance. I put “rules” in scare quotes here because they aren’t really rules—they are simply the function of whatever it is our betters happen to be demanding in the present moment. They veer this way and that way so that normal people never know what to expect. I know this is true because the phrase normal people is now hate speech.

They are the abusive boyfriend who knows that the best way to control everybody around them is to be utterly unpredictable. No telling what might set off the next explosion. No telling how or where we are going to get our next black eye.

And what is sauce for the goose is not, according to the progressive gander, sauce for anybody else. Just for you geese.

But Chesterton says somewhere—and despite googling I couldn’t put my finger on it—that the blunt word often condemns the sin while the polite euphemism carries excuses for sin everywhere it goes. And the blunt word is what the progressives have now liberated for us—but not exactly intending to liberate it for some of us. If we use our unconstrained liberty of speech to express a fixed moral standard, then they will do their level best to come down on you hard. This is how we have managed to combine, at all our official levels, an acceptance of the foulest speech coupled with censorious speech codes.

When the barriers come down, as they have come down, the hypocrites of the left want to control us by saying that they are the liberated ones of 2017, while we are all expected to behave as though it were still 1952. We must never speak in a way that upsets their project, even though their project is to upset and overturn everything else.

“But as Anthony Esolen has cogently pointed out, you can’t have ‘half a jungle.’ You can’t throw down all the walls and then wonder why there is no shelter any more. You cannot demand that everyone treat women as though they were men, and then cry foul because they are doing so” (Here).

They took a chainsaw to the orchard and are now wondering about the apple famine. You cannot fight for the right of women to swear like weaving sailors, and then, if you find they have heard something untoward, have them pull away their petticoats. And, of course, this brings to mind that prescient statement by C.S. Lewis:

“And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[1]

Let us bring this back to Clay Travis, but just for a moment. He was apparently representing a worldview best described as a “good ol’ boy appreciation of mammary splendor,” which is a blinkered perspective. He was not looking at life from a biblical vantage, a fact I think we should all acknowledge frankly. But he certainly got everybody’s back up, and he revealed a lot more of their hypocrisy than many earnest preachers do, however much they might sweat in the pulpit.

Small-Breasted Biddies: A Reprise

Let us be frank. Nothing will be achieved through pretense. Although I do not belong to the same school of thought as does Travis, I have offended the feminists (along with not a few Christians cowed by the feminists) in a related area, on multiple occasions.

“So feminism — smash the patriarchy feminism — wants us to be ruled by harridans, termagants, harpies and crones. That sets the tone, and the pestering is then made complete by small-breasted biddies who want to make sure nobody is using too much hot water in the shower, and that we are all getting plenty of fiber. And if anyone reads these words and believes that I am attacking all women by them, that would provide great example of why we should not entrust our cultural future to people who can’t read” (Here).

“We like the word authentic, but we detest the reality. A fading beauty in Beverly Hills walks into an upscale bistro, her skin stretched out with botox, her breasts as fine a pair as DuPont could make them, her hair the color of nothing found on earth, and yet she double checks with the waiter (twice) to be sure that her salad will have hormone-free chicken. Why? Either because she is committed to going all natural, which would not seem to be the case, or because her table is only big enough for one hormone queen. She is insisting that the chicken be the authentic one” (Here).

“And briefly, the last distinction we must have is the distinction between the wise and intelligent women who understood exactly what Wilkin was getting at, who have dealt with real instances of such a haunting, and who actually have had a bloviating pastor modulate into his ‘pastor voice’ when answering a simple question, and the clueless women who blindly liked Wilkin’s article on Facebook, but who are themselves pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes” (Here).

What am I doing here? Or, as some might want to put it, what do I think I am doing?

On Eating Their Own Cooking:

The demands of the current politically correct sensibilities are not customs or mores exactly. They do not rise to that level. They are arbitrary and contradictory. In the old days, if you violated a societal norm or rule, the discipline could be hard, but it was usually consistent and clear. Now, in these crazed times, while it is certainly true that you can run afoul of the authorities, the experience is more like encountering a tether ball in a tornado. The modern despots of the dictionary will get you for anything—and are willing to come at you from any direction.

But their power comes from the fact that people are trying to obey them, as though this were still something like the old order. People (especially cowed Christians) still try to be good, and still try to follow the rules, as though there could possibly be rules in this postmodern fun house. There are arbitrary diktats, and they are enforced, often fiercely, but the only thing that makes them so fearsome is the authority we cede to them. But these people are madmen, and consequently nothing should be ceded  to them, nothing whatever.

Now if you were to ask me which society I would prefer to live in, one where society had set rules and reasonable norms or the society we have now, I would most definitely prefer the former. Not only would I prefer the former, but I would even take it with all its ridiculous little inconsistencies. For example, one time Winston Churchill was over here in the States and was attending a dinner—he was going through the line, and they were serving chicken. He asked if he could please have a chicken breast, and so the hostess apologetically explained to him that over here, we did not say “breast,” we said “white meat.” Churchill apologized fulsomely for his gaffe, and the next day the hostess received the gift of a very nice corsage, along with a note that requested that she be pleased to pin it on her white meat.

Not only would I prefer that society, but on the whole I think I would behave at better-than-Winston levels in it.

But in the society we actually have, in this chaotic place where the Gramsicans have brought us, our arbiters of approved speech insist that they be the only ones allowed to shock, and that we be the ones to be dutifully shocked. In response to this proposed arrangement, I cheerfully refuse. I refuse to accept their authority in any of this, and I fully intend to make sure that they get an opportunity to eat their own cooking.

So if someone with a long enough face to be a dowager from Human Resources tells me that I am no longer permitted, as a cis-white-male, to make any observations or comparisons, metaphorical or otherwise, about any aspect of the female anatomy, guess what I am going to do? Guess what my next blog post is going to be about?

Go on, guess.

And don’t bother trying to tell me that I am being a troubler of Israel. That is what Ahab said to Elijah. Right. The guy who imported all the idols and brought the wrath of Heaven down on his nation, he is the one who wanted to pretend that the man who opposed it all from the beginning should take responsibility.

So the issue before us is not men or women. It is not bodies. It is not social mores or customs. Three cheers for all of that. It is that our new overlords are radical hypocrites, coupling their sham concerns about authenticthisnthat with a wholehearted promulgation of inauthenticthatnthis. And as long as Christians try to pretend that this radical relativism is just another set of societal norms, the longer it will be before we recover our sanity. And the surrounding culture will never recover its relative sanity unless the church recovers its grounded sanity.

There is always more than can be said about stuff like this.


[1] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (HarperOne, 2001), 26.

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Categories: People I don't know

The Apostles Creed 12: On the Third Day He Rose Again From the Dead

Sat, 16/09/2017 - 16:36

Since the first century, the Christian church has commemorated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead by meeting on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). The Sabbath was ordained, as the Old Testament makes abundantly clear, for as long as the old creation lasted. Therefore, nothing would be adequate to shift the day from the seventh to the first short of a new heaven and new earth. And in the resurrection from the dead, this is precisely what we find.

The Text:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into Hades.  On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Summary of the Text:

“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18).

As we will see, the apostolic proclamation of the gospel centered in an important way on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is apparent in multiple places, and here on Mars Hill it comes out in a curious way. The Greek word for resurrection is anastasis, and the philosophers there thought that Paul was preaching strange gods. Note the plural. They thought this because he was preaching about Jesus and about Anastasis. The resurrection featured so strongly in his preaching that they thought Resurrection was one of a pair of gods.

When the disciples replaced Judas, they wanted someone who had been with them since the baptism of John down to the ascension. That apostle’s job was to be witness, together with them, of the resurrection (Acts 1:22). The enemies of the gospel were grieved that the early Christians were preaching the resurrection of the dead through Jesus (Acts 4:2). The orthodox Jews believed in a resurrection of the dead, contra the Sadducees, but the Christians were preaching that this resurrection had surfaced in a strange and unexpected place, through the resurrection of Jesus. This is why Paul was able to divide the Sanhedrin on this question (Acts 23:6, 8). There would be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust and the Jews knew it (Acts 24:15). But there was something they did not know.

A Brief Word About the Third Day:

As we saw in the previous message, Jesus had predicted that He was going to spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40), just as Jonah had spent that time in the fish. This raises a question for the curious—how on earth can you get three days and three nights to fit in between Friday afternoon, and Sunday morning? The brief answer is that you cannot, and despite all the Good Friday services we hold, Jesus did not really die on Friday. The thing that makes some people think He did is that the gospel of Luke tells us that He was crucified on the day of preparation, as the Sabbath drew on (Luke 23:54). But the Jews had more Sabbaths than just the weekly Sabbath. The Scriptures refer to high holy days that are not the weekly Sabbath as Sabbaths (Lev. 16:29-31, 23:24-32, 39), and Jesus was crucified just before the Passover. So there were two Sabbaths that week. After that first Sabbath, the women purchased spices for use on His body (Mark 16:1). The weekly Sabbath was the second Sabbath that week, and Luke 23:56 tells us the women, after they had prepared the spices, rested on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). How could they buy spices after the Sabbath, and also rest on the Sabbath after they had prepared those spices—unless there were two Sabbaths that week? So, without belaboring the point, I think we should assume that the first day of Passover that year was Thursday. Jesus died Wednesday afternoon, and was laid in the grave around sundown Wednesday night. Thursday night was one day, Friday night the second, and Saturday night the third. For the Jews, the first day of the week would start at sundown our Saturday night, and that is when Jesus rose. So when the women came on our Sunday morning, the grave was already empty.

Some Mocked:

“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” (Acts 17:32).

One of the things that the unbelieving heart loves to do is take certain obvious things for granted, in order to suppress and ignore them, and to do this in order to ridicule the coming glories as incredible. One time I was with Christopher Hitchens on Joy Behar’s show, and they were making merry over the fact that I believe the Bible, meaning that I believed in talking animals—like the serpent in the garden, or Balaam’s donkey. “How can you believe in talking animals?” My response was, “But we’re animals, and we talk.” And nobody knew quite what to do. In short, everybody believes in talking animals.

And what about life from the dead? Everyone believes in that too. The evolutionist believes that inanimate matter one day jumped the chasm and became animate—life from death. And it did this all by itself. And Christians believe that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground. When He breathed the breath of life into him, that inanimate matter became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). Everyone believes that life came from death. What our faith in the resurrection means is that we believe it will happen again. But why on earth would anyone declare a miracle an impossibility the second time? “Sure, you walked on water once, but a second time is plainly impossible.”

Inside Out History:

Having no doctrine of creation, a common pagan assumption about history involved it in endless recurring cycles. The Jews had a doctrine of creation, and so they had a linear view of history. It was a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The resurrection from the dead would occur on the last day. Jesus said the general resurrection would happen on the last day (John 6:39-40, 44). Martha expected to see her brother Lazarus at the last day (John 11:24). Unbelievers would be judged by the words of Christ on the last day (John 12:48). And this is all true enough, as far as it went.

But the startling thing that God did was this. By doing this, He transformed the entire nature of human history. He punched a hole in the fabric of history, right in the middle of it. That hole was the tomb of Christ. He reached through that hole, grabbed the last days, and pulled them through the tomb. The resurrection of the last days has begun, and it began in the middle of ordinary time. Christ rose in the middle of history, which means that all our reckoning has to be adjusted accordingly.

Resurrection on the Move:

Everything that was entailed in the resurrection of the last day has been accomplished in Christ. He rose from the dead bodily. His resurrection was the down payment on what will be for the rest of us. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20–21).

The last day will still see wonderful things—our bodies will be transformed then, just as the Jews expected. But because Christ’s body was transformed in the middle of history, what was pulled after this? Christ’s resurrection pulled our regeneration (our spiritual resurrection from spiritual death), and our regeneration pulls our bodily resurrection after it. “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10).

But of course it is the hand of God that is doing all the pulling.

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Categories: People I don't know

The One Who Looks Down on Galaxies

Sat, 16/09/2017 - 16:01

We have come to worship the one who touches the mountains and they smoke. He touches the mountains and sometimes they just disappear into the sky. We worship the one who nods, and the oceans gather into their storms. We worship the one who looks down on all the galaxies we might be able to imagine. He is the God of all heaven and earth, and the one who sustains all things by the word of His power.

But we do not worship Him from a distance. We once were far away from Him, separated by our sins, but God in His kindness has brought us near through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for sin, so that everyone who believes in Him might be received as having made a full payment for his sin. Christ is therefore our substitute, our representative. When we ask what right we might have to worship a God as grand as God is, the first thing that should come to mind is another question—“What right does Jesus have to worship this God?” Why, every right. God declared that He was well-pleased with Jesus, and after the resurrection even invited Jesus to take all the nations of men as His own. This is what Jesus has done—at His Father’s invitation—and this is why we are here.

We have a right to worship God the Father because we are doing it in Christ. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one could come to the Father but through Him. This is what we are doing. This is what it means to worship God in Jesus’ name.

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Categories: People I don't know

God’s Low Standards

Sat, 16/09/2017 - 15:56

A moment’s reflection should show us that God’s standards are much too low. He has graciously invited to this Table all sorts of disreputable people. When He tells us in His Word that we should show hospitality to those who cannot repay us, we need to remember that this is something which He has already done.

With this thinking, centered on the concern for God’s low standards, a false zeal for His holiness tempts us. We think that He will be defiled through association with people who need Him, and so we discourage repentant sinners from coming to the Table, for they might not be repentant enough. Another way we do this is when we withdraw the Table in a sectarian way, and make it a reward for the spiritually elite.

Now this bread and this wine are to be withheld from those who are sinning with a high hand. Those whose faces are sleek and insolent, who believe that God does not see their wickedness, who believe that this meal is somehow their automatic birthright, must be denied. Those who have been communing their whole childhood, but who have decided to pursue an impure life on the side, must be warned off. Certainly, from those who pursue their adulteries, who bow down to idols, who blaspheme the name of God, we must withhold this sacred meal. The one sin that cannot come is impudence.

But the disconsolate must come. The discouraged must come. The one who has failed, confessed, and wept seven times in one day must come. The battered must come. The conflicted must come. The guilty must come. The one who struggles with ingratitude must come. Those in such dire straits cannot be told often enough that this bread and wine is not a reward for being good, it is grace for those who want to learn how to stop being bad.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

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Categories: People I don't know

Why C.S. Lewis Would Not Have Liked Me Very Much

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 18:50

Those who have been around here for a while know that I am a C.S. Lewis junkie. I have read and reread him, and have been edified by him in ways beyond reckoning. If I were to calculate the impact that various writers have had on me—and there have been many who have—he would always come in first, and by a large margin.

Even where you find my caveats—as in his early accommodations with evolution, or in the atrocious things he says about some of the psalms—I find myself simultaneously appalled and edified. For example, in Reflections on the Psalms, he says this:

“Still more in the Psalmists’ tendency to chew over and over the cud of some injury, to dwell in a kind of self-torture on every circumstance that aggravates it, most of us can recognise something we have met in ourselves. We are, after all, blood brothers to these ferocious, self-pitying, barbaric men” (Reflections, p. 26).

But still, reading through that book, which I think his worst, I find myself instructed and blessed at every turn. So go figure.

The problem lies with those Christians, like myself, who do not recoil from the imprecatory psalms in the same way that Lewis does. Lewis thinks that these psalms are included in God’s Word as a sort of object lesson, a “don’t try this at home, kids” kind of thing. “The ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God” (Reflections, p. 33).

As one of those who believe that we are to harmonize the imprecatory psalms with the rest of Scripture, and that we are to utilize them in our corporate worship and private devotions, I am afraid that Lewis would most likely regard me as a dangerous radical, as one who likes the permission for hate that such psalms seem to provide. I think he would find me on the wrong side of a caution he issued in another related respect.

“The hard sayings of our Lord are wholesome to those only who find them hard . . . For there are two states of mind which face the Dominical paradoxes without flinching. God guard us from one of them” (The Dangers of National Repentance, Essays, p. 296).

There are three quick reasons I would like to offer for suggesting that Lewis is wrong about this. I would like to persuade him that he should, after all, accept my Facebook friend request.

The first is that Lewis knows how to cut slack on this very same kind of issue, but the persons involved have to be in the New Testament. He alluded to the Lord’s hard sayings in the quotation above. He recognizes the ferocity of the ancient psalmists in the Magnificat. There he does what he ought to do with the psalms—say that there is a good way to emulate this, and a bad way to do so. I would argue that Lewis should follow his own example here.

Second, the apostles do not have the same attitude toward the imprecatory psalms that Lewis did. One of the fiercer ones is quoted by Peter when they are considering a replacement for Judas.

“For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take” (Acts 1:20, see Psalm 69:25, and then Psalm 109:8).

“Let his days be few; And let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: Let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places” (Psalm 109:8–10).

Psalm 109 is cited by Lewis as being one that is particularly bad. But if it were that bad, then why didn’t Peter seem to recognize it? I believe that Lewis fell prey here to a common mistake, that of assuming the New Testament writers more or less “share” our world, as distinct from the ancients, when actually they were much closer to the ancients than they were to us.

And third, the New Testament does not invite us to divide the psalms into two categories, the kind that bless us and the kind that repulse us. We are simply sent to the undifferentiated psalms. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13). And the hymnbook of the Christian church is to be the entire psalter. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19, cf. Col. 3:16).

So then, what? I would return to the caution Lewis gave in his essay on National Repentance. Some people want to use the imprecatory psalms as a way of providing cover for their own personal anger issues. They want to break the teeth in somebody’s jaw, and Psalm 3 provides them with a ready answer if rebuked. But there are others who understand that a hard world sometimes requires hard words. Lewis gets this when the Lord delivers the hard words. But I think we can and should extend the principle.

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Categories: People I don't know

That’s Probably Right

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 14:00

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Categories: People I don't know

The Content Cluster Muster (09.14.17)

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 17:00

Butter. Is There Anything It Can’t Do?

So it appears that butter played an important role in the Protestant Reformation. Seriously. No, seriously . . . check this out.


The Nashville Statement Fortified

So I worked with some friends to beef up the Nashville Statement. That effort can be found here.


Ukraine Visit

Nancy and I had a delightful time in Rivne, Ukraine, speaking to some delightful saints there. They are pictured below, and some of the talks are available online here.


The Child Abuse that is Transgenderism

NFL & Five-Thirty Eight

For those who believe they have prophetic gifting, Five-Thirty Eight is giving you a chance to play along with making predictions for every NFL game this season. Play along here.

The Road Is Always Open

More here.

The Good Kentucky Senator Speaks Some Truth

For the first time in 15 years we are debating the congressional role in the declaration of war.

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 13, 2017

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Categories: People I don't know

Self-Loathing and Desire

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 16:46

The situation described in the following letters is entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Tomas,

I appreciated your last letter. Thank you for continuing to correspond, and thank you also for being so frank and open about what you are dealing with. I know that it can’t be easy to write to a relative stranger about these things, and I hope what I have to say will continue to be helpful. Thank you for your kind comments about what we have discussed thus far.

My intention is to get to what I mentioned at the end of my last letter, but that will need to be in the second part of this letter—I am talking about your fleeting moments of heterosexual attraction, and the failed experiments with heterosexual porn. But before getting to that, I need to set the stage. It may look as though I am changing the subject, but it really is all part of the same piece.

The conservative Christian world is frequently accused of “homophobia,” and there are two reasons for this—and sometimes the two reasons are jumbled up together. The first is that an accusation, known to be false, is being used as a political cudgel. A phobia is an irrational fear, attended with things like panic attacks—fear of heights, fear of enclosed spaces, and so on. I have lived in these conservative Christian circles my entire life and I have never met anyone who reacts to homosexuals the way someone with a genuine phobia might. The closest reaction to it—still a long way off—would be a reaction of distaste or disgust. But bleccch is not the same thing as eeeekkkk. The reason for using this kind of a cudgel is obvious, is it not? The best defense is a good offense, and this tactic enables the homosexual to say something like, “Not only is there nothing wrong with me, there is obviously something wrong with you.” The tactic has therefore been politically useful.

But the tactic has an obvious appeal to homosexuals for a second reason, and that reason can be filed under projection. One of the most common elements of the homosexual experience is that of self-loathing, and this tactic enables homosexuals to try to locate the source of that loathing in the loathing or phobias of others. Thus the suicide rate among homosexual teens is attributed to the straights—to bullying, or lack of affirmation, to non-acceptance, to widespread phobia, and so on. Now I am not saying that there is no such thing as gay-bashing (you and I both know better), but it should also be obvious that if there is any attitude that knows how to project, it is the attitude of self-loathing. Someone in this condition can go to a football game, and be up in the nose bleeds, but every time the team goes into the huddle, he thinks they are talking about him.

In the grip of self-loathing, a man feels that the rest of the world feels the same way about him that he does. I mean, why wouldn’t they? And because this sensation is entirely a miserable one, when someone suggests that the culprit is someone else, anybody else, or a collective someone else, like “society,” the result can be an easy sell.

But the basic cause of the shame and the self-loathing is the standing testimony that God has embedded in the world.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:26–27, ESV).

Homosexual desire is therefore a revolt against more than societal norms. Homosexual relations are “contrary to nature,’ Paul says. You have a homosexual history, a homosexual past, and yet Paul says that if you were to have relations with a woman, that experience would be a “natural relation,” whatever your feelings about it were. That experience of yours in high school was immoral because it occurred outside the bonds of marriage. But it was not unnatural in the sense that Paul is addressing here.

Now homosexual relations are, according to Paul, degrading and shameful. More than this, Paul is teaching that they are degrading and shameful according to nature. This means that the shameful nature of the act registers with everyone who performs it, whether or not they have ever heard of the apostle Paul. They may not have heard of Paul, but the nature they are offending is right there in bed with them.

So what does this have to do with what I said I would write about? The shame you feel about your desires is not an indication that your conscience is malfunctioning. Rather, it shows that it is functioning. But here is the dilemma.

When you are in the middle of temptation, there is a love/hate thing going on. You are powerfully attracted to something, you are disgusted by the fact you are attracted to it, and that disgust is part of the fuel that drives you. It is one of the things that (perversely) attracts you. Lust is often after more than simple biological release—lust demands the fulfillment of an inordinate desire (Col. 3:5). Lust is attempting to get from a finite thing what only the infinite can provide. And when a finite thing, like a sexual encounter, is made to bear the weight of all our eternal longings, it necessarily collapses under the strain. But the perverse insanity of the whole thing is part of what attracts us the next time as well.

Now the experience of shame and sorrow can go in two directions, one healthy and one not.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10).

It is sorrow in both cases. But godly sorrow turns a man Godward. It is repentance. Worldly sorrow, the kind that brings death with it, is the kind that is occupied with resolutions, turning over new leafs, various contrivances, and so on. But if it is worldly sorrow, you can be sorry today, sorry tomorrow, sorry ten years from now, and die sorry.

When you have toyed with the idea of a heterosexual relationship (finding a cute girl at church), or in desperation when you have tried heterosexual porn, you were trying to harness the power of your self-loathing. But it just won’t take that bit and bridle. It cannot work. Being repelled by something is not the same thing as being attracted to something—even if the same direction is intended. This is why I would put your fleeting experience with that woman in the advertisement in a different category. In that instance, when you found yourself drawn, you weren’t in the middle of trying fix anything. You weren’t trying to pretend that disgust with one thing constituted desire for another.

Now obviously the solution is not to find out who that model is, and start stalking her online. But the experience does tell you something about yourself, and that is the fact that when your guard was down you noticed a surprising desire. Your task should therefore be to repent of a number of other things (which we have already discussed), and cultivate an ongoing Godward orientation in how you are dealing with these other things. I am referring here to things like your relationship with your parents, your artistic gifts, the plague of envy, and so on. This is how you get your guard to come down permanently. When that starts to happen, you may notice other things starting to happen. When we get there we can take that as it comes.

In the meantime, if you try to force yourself into normal sexual desires, goading yourself toward them, you will likely be making the mistake of confounding revulsion and attraction, or attempting to use the power of one to fuel the other. They are not the same thing; that cannot work. This kind of thing ranks high in the annals of bad ideas that seemed good at the time. After Oscar Wilde was released from prison on his sodomy conviction, a friend took him to a brothel in order to help him acquire a “more wholesome taste.” Afterward, Wilde told his friend it was “like cold mutton.” Sin is never a remedy for sin.

So nothing is addressed by telling yourself lies. The thing that liberates is the truth, and Jesus is the embodiment of that truth.

Thanks, and more later.




Douglas Wilson

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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Categories: People I don't know

Like a Titanium Slide Rule

Tue, 12/09/2017 - 18:22

So then, by way of preamble, let me say that I am as orthodox as a titanium slide rule. When it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, everything I’ve got is from the best doctors in the church, and is still under warranty. Our doctrine of God must be grounded in the Scriptures, in the first instance, and we confess that this truth has found expression in the classic creeds of the church, has been repeated in the Reformed confessions, and further explicated by our Reformed fathers—and speaking of the Reformed fathers, the more scholastic the better.

Whether we are talking about one essence/three persons, or the eternal begetting of the Son, or the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, or the divine simplicity, or the unity of the divine will, you can’t find a box that I won’t merrily check. I will check those boxes like I was Athanasius on a good day.

So with all this said, let me make just a handful of observations, culminating in the one that I think is the crucial one for our time. And so before anyone sets their hair on fire, I would urge them to read all the way through.

First, as I have said before, because subordinationism is the name for one of the classic Trinitarian heresies, it is not a word you want to use in these discussions. If you choose to do so, however much you qualify it, the misunderstandings that arise will be partly your fault. It would be like arguing that the Son is equally “at home” in the Godhead and in His holy family through the Incarnation, nesting in both places so to speak, and suggesting that your view therefore be called Nestarianism.

But second, subordination is a perfectly fine word to use when talking about a wife’s relation to her husband (Eph. 5:24). The word there is hypotasso, and the lexical rendering into English is subject or subordinate. That word subordinate is only dangerous when it comes to a Christian understanding of marriage if it is detached from a robust understanding of the equality of the sexes. So a responsible complementarian argument from the Trinity is one that depends equally on authority/obedience AND full ontological equality. And if it depends on full ontological equality, it depends also on the theological grounds for affirming that equality; the doctrine requires a foundation. The equality of the persons in the Godhead calls for more than simple assertion—it should be shown.

Last, I deny that authority and obedience are evidences of our brokenness, or that they are simply a result of the Fall. Before we get to the Fall, we have at least two indelible manifestations of the essential goodness of authority. The first is the eternal relationship of the Father to the Son. The second is the nonnegotiable relationship between Creator and created. The Fall has certainly messed up our view of authority, but the Fall did not introduce authority.

Now coming back to the Godhead, to say that there is a species of authority/obedience that exists between equals does not give us warrant for importing our distorted and/or limited experiences of authority into that relation—any more than we have the right to import derelict fathers into the Lord’s Prayer, where we are instructed to address Our Father. The authority of the Father is sacrificial and in no way coercive, and the obedience of the Son was voluntary and glad. There was absolutely no friction in the decision to send the Son into the world—because of the simplicity of the divine will.

Now I grant that we have no human analog for authority/obedience between equals. I also grant we have no human analog for authority/obedience functioning with one divine will. So?

We are not reasoning from our experience to the heavens. We are learning about what God is like from Scripture, and learning to apply that (but only as instructed) to our experience. Further, remember that we also have no human analog for three persons with one will, or with a begetter and begotten who are eternally equal. These things are revealed to us. Our business is to accept and adore.

We therefore know that the simple fact of our being created male and female in some important respect images or portrays what God is essentially like. So long as we hold fast to the orthodox understanding of the Godhead, there is not even the slightest trouble in also maintaining that we bear His image, male and female.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).

And in addition, the love that exists within the Godhead (remember that God is love, not that He simply has love) is a communicable attribute. We are commanded to walk in the way of love, treating one another in a particular way, because of the way God is.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8).

There is obviously much more to say, and we will probably get to it. But let me finish today by commending an essay by C.S. Lewis, found in Christian Reflections. I commend the whole essay (“The Language of Religion”), and quote just one section of it.

“The theologian will describe it as ‘analogical’, drawing our minds at once away from the subtle and sensitive exploitation of imagination and emotion with which poetry works to the clear-cut but clumsy analogies of the lecture-room. He will even explain in what respect the father-son relationship is not analogical to the reality, hoping by elimination to reach the respects in which it is. He may even supply other analogies of his own—the lamp and the light which flows from it, or the like. It is all unavoidable and necessary for certain purposes. But there is some death in it. The sentence ‘Jesus Christ is the Son of God’ cannot be all got into the form ‘There is between Jesus and God an asymmetrical, social, harmonious relation involving homogeneity.’ Religion takes it differently. A man who is both a good son and a good father, and who is continually urged to become a better son and a better father by meditation on the Divine Fatherhood and Sonship, and who thus comes in the end to make that Divine relation the norm to which his own human sonship and fatherhood are still merely analogical, is best receiving the revelation. It would be idle to tell such a man that the formula ‘is the Son of God’ tells us (what is almost zero) that an unknown X is in an unknown respect ‘like’ the relation of father and son. He has met it halfway. Information has been given him: as far as I can see, in the only way possible” (Essay Collection, pp. 262-263).

It is all there. Worship, orthodoxy, humility, shrewdness, and love.

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Categories: People I don't know

Real Offense and Not So Much

Mon, 11/09/2017 - 15:19

I write as one who has given a lot of offense in my time, and I think it could be profitable to discuss this for a little bit. Obviously I believe that it is high time for us to address an aspect of this that is too often neglected. We really have to come to grips with how taking offense is a sin, and a pretty destructive one.

I offer, as a case in point, how this introductory paragraph was probably offensive to many.

Can We Talk?

Now we have to begin with the local garden variety of this sin, which is the way it has spread through our entire society, and has become so widespread that it can now be routinely used as a devastating cultural and political weapon. The local variety is how it has spread through families, churches, and various other communities. Someone says x, and someone else takes it as an affront, saying that they are hurt and offended by it, saying so by saying y. What I am pointing to is the near universal fact that everyone assumes that x has to be the wrong, and y is the mere result of the wrong. X is the slashing knife, and y is the bleeding wound.

Now I am talking here about taking offense. Taking offense is a sin. However, I am not saying that when an objective wrong (as defined by the law of God) is committed, that it is a sin to be wronged and to know that you have been. There really are people who do things prohibited by the law of God. That being the case, it naturally has destructive effects, and these destructive effects can be noticed and taken into account without sinning. I am not talking about that scenario. When a woman deserts her husband and family, the results really are destructive.

What I am talking about here is when people take offense over the fact that I used an example of a wife deserting her family, instead of saying, as I ought to have done, “when a man deserts his wife and family . . .” Now I know perfectly well that men and women both commit this sin, and when you use an example you have to pick one. And whenever it occurs to me, I try to pick the one that I know will result in offense.

Of course it would be a sin for me to wrong someone just to get them to sin in response. But it is never a sin to say something perfectly innocent, even if you know that a person is going to take offense from it. The reason for this is that it illustrates the precise nature of our modern captivity to feeeeeellllingsss. Whenever we start modifying our normal behavior in order to avoid giving offense, you can depend upon it, we are being worked, played, manipulated. In fact, I believe it is a sin knowingly to allow yourself to be manipulated in this way. And by the way, please make a point to remember my use of that word normal.

Then There Was That Time . . .

Let me tell you a story. One time a couple decades back the League of Women Voters sponsored a panel discussion over a referendum here in Idaho that denied granting special rights to homosexuals, and I was asked to be on the panel. When we got to the event (about half an hour early), the place was jammed with homosexual activists, all of them with signs, who had been flown in from some other non-Idaho planet. One of the signs read No Hate Here, which figures into the story later. During the course of the evening—which was fairly rambunctious—I was prepared for anything. In fact, I pre-wrote a note to call the cops in case I had to slide it over to the moderator. Not surprisingly, I was heckled with no little enthusiasm when I tried to talk. One time I began an illustration in a fashion something like this. I said, “Look, suppose you were the manager at Arby’s . . .” This was too much for one gent, who burst out, “Arby’s! Why Arby’s, Doug?” And I replied with something like, “Look, I know that we disagree on an awful lot, but it does seem to me that I should be able to say something like ‘Arby’s’ without causing a problem.” The capstone of that evening was when the event concluded. This same gent, who was in possession of one of the No Hate Here signs, stood up in utter disgust, hoiked up his sign with one hand, and gave me the finger with the other. We didn’t have iPhones with cameras in those days, but I still treasure that image in my memory.

He actually took offense (or pretended to) when I said Arby’s. We will come back to this issue of homosexual perversion shortly. This is a process—we began by normalizing homosexual practice, and we will end by outlawing the very category of normal. And we will do it by taking constant, unremitting offense at every expression of the “normal.”

Ungodly But Nice

But the reason we have gotten into this sorry state of affairs is because of our ungodly niceness. Let me return to our near universal assumption that “x has to be in the wrong.” He is the one who gave offense, and it is (in our calculation) a sin to give offense, and so he should apologize.

We are in this basketball game where there are no refs and so we are all calling our own fouls. The Christian team has an ironclad conviction that it is a sin to foul anyone, and we are playing a pack of lying pagans, who know how to flop like they were Belgian soccer players. Charging! They also know how to writhe in pain on the court. Whenever this happens, every five minutes or so, your Christian teammates take you aside and say that you should apologize.

Why? Because it is a sin to give offense. The person who claims to have been offended always has the upper hand. He or she is the one who must be mollified, appeased, placated.

A New Thought

But what if taking offense is actually the real sin? There is the lying and manipulation involved obviously, and to the extent that the offendee believes her own act, there are also the hard heart and bitter feelings to reckon with. In such circumstances, it is a sin to be offended.

And it is a sin that has taken deep root in the church. It is very common for “peacemakers” in the church to exhort an innocent man or woman to “just apologize.” “You are the one who ruffled the feathers, you smooth them.” And there is no future in arguing the point. “Actually, I don’t think I ruffled any feathers. I . . .” That is when you hear a sibilant hiss. “Just apologize.” Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall tell lots of lies.

“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (Prov. 12:16, ESV).

If this is the case with a real insult, how much more should it be taken to heart when the insult was merely imagined? If it is imprudent to take offense at a real insult, how much more imprudent to take offense at things you are making up in your very own head? But the hypersensitive have been flattered for years, and the blunt brethren have been lectured for the same amount of time.

So the pious wing of the church has been in this kind of “training” for decades. And we are now being given elephant doses of God’s reductio. So if the offended person is always automatically in the right, we have gotten to the point where people can pick up behaviors that are calculated to shock and outrage normal people—say a couple of guys in feather boas humping on a parade float in San Francisco—and when normal people are shocked and outraged, as per the plan, the organizers of the parade profess themselves entirely baffled by the inexplicable hatred . . . and truly offended. Checkmate, nice evangelicals. They were offended more profoundly than you were. Ow, ow, ow.

Why It Matters

It has been a long time coming, this “long march through the institutions.” The Gramscian and Alinskyite practices that have insinuated cultural Marxism into everything have been intended, from the very start, to make “the normal” unspeakably offensive. The very idea of normal has been made to stink.

This is because the abnormal cannot really be defended by argument. It can, however, be successfully defended (against cowards) by pitching a fit.

“For the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right” (Is. 29:20–21, ESV).

The prophet Isaiah tells us that in the new covenant, certain kinds of men will be overthrown, defeated, undone. The tyrant will come to nothing. The scoffer will be done. Those who invent evil will be cut off. And how are those inventors of evil described? This is remarkable, because Isaiah not only lived 700 years before Christ, he lived 2800 years before the invention of watch blogs on the Internet. These people are those who “by a word” make a man into an offender (“I am offended”). If someone takes a position in the gates of the city, honestly reproving sin, they lay a snare for him. And if someone is in the right, they turn on the smoke machine of their empty pleas in order to turn that man aside.

And there is a bad cop/good cop thing going. The bad cop does something outrageous, and you say so in the city gates. Then the good cop, the respectable evangelical activist, sidles up alongside you and tells you that you are hurting the cause. You really should apologize for your language of dismissal, which gave considerable offense. Yes, not only so, if that considerable offense is not enough for you, we can always gin up some more. As long as you are resolved to be obedient to them taking offense at some level, they can certainly arrange to get it up to that level.

Last Thing

What is the solution to all this? The solution is the divine gift of not caring what they think. But of course, not caring at all is apathy, and that is also a sin. Caring is another inescapable concept—not whether, but which. It is not whether your conduct will be approved, but rather which group will approve it. It is not whether you care if your conduct is approved, it is rather which group’s approval you care about.

And fundamentally, this a decision that has to be made in your heart before Jehovah God. We must care what God thinks, and if that is settled, the approval of the world can fall where it may.

“For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:18).

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).

The reason we give way before our adversaries is that we care way too much what they think. The reason there are millions of us who are easily dismissed by them is that there are millions of us who don’t dismiss them.

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Categories: People I don't know

Carl Trueman, Ecclesiastical Celebrity

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 17:11

A discussion broke out yesterday over The Nashville Statement Fortified, and that discussion promptly headed straight back to the doctrine of the Trinity—the same debate that broke out a year or so ago. In the course of an extended back and forth yesterday, Tim Bayly said this:

“Until these guys and gal publicly affirm the eternal asymmetry of the Godhead flowing from God’s Archetypal Fatherhood, they have no standing to say anything about sexuality. Everything they’ve said would indicate their prior commitment to authority being a broken thing which somehow escapes being broken when Christ our Lord is in His incarnate state.” 

I think we need to take these words at face value, and not lump them in with admittedly confused and confusing statements made by Wayne Grudem or Bruce Ware. There is nothing unorthodox about “eternal asymmetry.” Fathers and sons are certainly asymmetrical, and the Father and the Son are eternally Father and Son. Asymmetrical is not synonymous with unequal.

For those just joining us, I would refer you to my previous comments and qualifications on this debate found here, here, and here. Remember that this is a complex debate, and there are more than two positions in it.

Talking with some colleagues yesterday, one objected to Boyer’s statement that “authority and obedience” could possibly be an ad intra Trinitarian reality. How is authority/obedience consistent with one divine will? In this world, I have never seen an exercise of authority and an obedient response that was the result of “one will.” Granted. This is quite true, but neither have I ever seen a father and son with one will, a begetter and a begotten with one will, a covenant of redemption struck by parties with just one will, or a lover and a beloved with one will. And yet this is how the Bible teaches us to talk about God.

We know less about the trajectories of language than we think we do.

If I might, let me take an example from the other side of the fence, from Mark Jones’ (outstanding) book Knowing Christ:

“The actual decision to assume a human nature, however, belonged to the Son. All that Jesus did for his people needed to be voluntary, not forced. This included the decision to take into union with himself a true human nature (body and soul). This decision may be termed ‘the decision’ in terms of its temporal, and ultimately eternal, significance for humanity” (Knowing Christ, p.  27).

As mentioned, Jones’ book is excellent, and I am not here criticizing it in any way. If anybody believes in the simplicity of the divine will, Mark Jones does. But for all his admirable orthodoxy, he is still a finite being talking about triune immensities.

So I do want to point out the virtual impossibility of talking about these things without “sounding like” we might be drifting toward a problem. If the Son is the one who made the actual decision, where did the unified divine will (that which makes decisions) go? If Jesus made this as a voluntary decision, does this mean He was a volunteer? Did the Father think of it first? Did Jesus come up with the same idea independently? Of course not, and I know that Jones is fully orthodox. But what does “the actual decision belonged to the Son” sound like? It sounds like dat old debbel tritheism. Or what could it easily be made to sound like by an uncharitable reader? I am not such an uncharitable reader, incidentally.

That being the case, we ought to stick with scriptural, creedal, and confessional language, in that order, and cut one another some slack as we work through these thorny problems. This means recognizing that in every worthwhile discussion, everyone is going to sound like a heretic at some point. This includes, incidentally, the heretics.

And so this is why I would like to call upon Carl Trueman to organize a summit, a symposium, where these issues could be debated and hammered out. I call on him because he is somebody who could actually pull it off. He should be careful to include all the actual players in this debate, all the responsible voices, and not just put together a collection of the approved ecclesiastical celebrities. I mention these celebrities because this is a group that Trueman mysteriously denies belonging to. But he is the one member who might be able to put that membership to good use—instead of wrapping it in a napkin and burying it.

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Categories: People I don't know

The Apostles Creed 11: He Descended Into Hades

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 15:53

And so now we come to an odd one, one which reveals a fairly large gap in cosmology between a child of the biblical era and a child of the modern era. It is also a testing point, sometimes, for the most stalwart inerrantist. Wait, what? You think that an actual star came down and picked out a house in Bethlehem for the magi? And all God’s people, along with our Christmas cards, said, yup.

Cosmology answers the question of what kind of world you assume yourself to be living in. Is the cosmos mostly empty space, punctuated here and there by fiery gases and jagged pieces of black rock? And with our miniscule lives tucked away in some miniscule corner of it? Or is the whole thing an intricately designed artifact, one that fits easily in the palm of God’s hand?

The Text:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into Hades.  On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Summary of the Text:

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).

Jesus knew that He would die and go to Sheol/Hades (Ps. 16:10). He also knew that He would be there for a brief time. It would be sometime less than four days—Lazarus began to see corruption after four days (John 11:39), and the psalm promises that He would not see corruption. And the episode with Jonah told Him exactly how long it would be. He knew on the strength of Psalm 16 that He would not be abandoned there. Peter, preaching on the day of Pentecost, quoted Psalm 16 as a proof of the resurrection. “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [Hades, translating the OT Sheol], neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:31). Not only was this a prediction of a resurrection, but of a resurrection after a comparatively brief time in the grave. The Christ was to be in Sheol/Hades, but not for very long.

Distinguishing Some Terms:

The final judgment, the eternal lake of fire, is what Jesus called Gehenna. But this is different from Hades, which should be understood as the intermediate place of departed spirits. The Old Testament name for this place was Sheol. We must distinguish Sheol/Hades from Hell proper because John tells us that death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). The thing you put into a box is distinct from the box.

Now we are sometimes thrown off because many translations of the Apostles Creed say, “He descended into hell.” The problem with this is that the Lord did not descend into the lake of fire, into a place of torment, into what we understand as Hell. The Apostles Creed was originally written in Greek, and the word at this place is Hades, not Gehenna. The confusion (in English) occurred because Hel was the name of the Norse goddess who ruled over a Hades-like underworld. In other words, our word Hell used to mean something more like Hades. And now it doesn’t—which is why we make a point to say Hades in our use of the Creed.

Symbolism . . .

In Scripture, the ultimate description of the final things is given to us in symbolic language. But do not play with this like a liberal. Liberals say that something is “symbolic” as a coping mechanism, trying to get the reality being represented to somehow go away. But what is greater, the symbol or the reality being pictured? Which is greater, the ring or the marriage? Which is greater, the flag or the country it represents? So if the lake of fire is literal, it is obviously really bad. And if it is figurative, then it is actually far, far worse. “And when we say it is a lake of fire, we have reached the limits of human language . . .”Liberals say that something is “symbolic” as a coping mechanism.

The word Gehenna comes to us from the Valley of Ben Hinnom outside Jerusalem. The “Valley of the Son of Hinnom” (Gei ben Hinnom, Josh. 15:8) naturally collapsed over time into Gehenna. It is where children had been sacrificed to Molech (Jer. 7:31, 32; 19: 2, 6; 32: 35). King Josiah stopped the vile practice, and once desecrated it became a dump, the landfill, where fires were constantly burning (Is. 66:24), and where worms never went extinct. Now the ultimate Hell is obviously not located on the south side of Jerusalem—this is figurative language, but remember what we said just a few moments ago.

In the Old Testament Era . . .

In the time before the Messiah came, the expectation of the godly was to die and go to Sheol. Jonah (most likely) actually died and cried out to God from the depths of Sheol (Jon. 2:1). The psalmist expected that Sheol would swallow him up (Ps. 18:5; 86:13; 116:3).

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, they both died and went down to Hades. In that parable, Hades was divided in two by a vast chasm. The side where Lazarus was had the name of Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:23), while the rich man was in torment in Hades. Nevertheless, it was possible for communication to occur across the chasm.

In our text, Jesus said that He was going to be three days and nights in the heart of the earth. But He also told the thief on the cross that He would be with him in Paradise that same day (Luke 23:43). So then, Abraham’s bosom was also known as Paradise. To the Greeks, this went by the name of Elysium. This is where Jesus went, and preached across the chasm.

The Greek word for the lowest pit of Hades, the worst part, was Tartarus. This word is used once in the New Testament (without any redefinition, mind). Peter tells us this: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).

What Did the Lord Do While There?

While in Hades, the Lord preached. But the preaching was not “second chance” preaching. Rather the word used is one used for heralding or announcing, not the word for preaching the gospel. “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pet. 3:19–20). The Lord was announcing their final defeat to the “sons of God” and Nephilim both. And this, incidentally, tells us how momentous the rebellion at the time of the Flood actually was. Thousands of years after their definitive defeat, Jesus went to them to announce their final defeat.

He Holds All the Keys:

The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the king of all things. The devil is not the ruler of Gehenna—Jesus is. The lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). It is a place of torment for the devil. Furthermore, Jesus holds the keys to Hades as well. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [Hades] and of death.” (Rev. 1:18). Jesus, not the devil, is the King of Hell. Jesus, not the devil, is the Lord of Hades.

When the Lord rose from the dead, He led captivity captive (Eph. 4:8)—all the saints in the Old Testament who had died and gone to Abraham’s bosom were transferred when Paradise was moved (Matt. 27:52). And by the time of Paul, Paradise was up (2 Cor. 12:4). So if you had lived in the Old Testament, you would have died and gone down to Sheol/Hades. But the part of Hades that contained the saints of God has been emptied out, and now when God’s people die, what happens? To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6, 8). We still go to Paradise, but Paradise itself has been moved into the heavens.

That at the Name of Jesus:

And so we preach Jesus, King of Heaven, and Lord of Hades. Hades is the place where He emptied out Paradise, and Hades is the place He will throw into the lake of fire. He is the king, I tell you. And so we proclaim Him, such that at the name of Jesus every knee might bow, whether in Heaven, or on earth, or under the earth (Phil. 2:10).

Paradise is not the New Jerusalem because the New Jerusalem is a glorious figure of the Christian Church. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). As the saints of God are in Paradise, so also the New Jerusalem is in Paradise.

And Jesus is Lord over all of it.

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Categories: People I don't know


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