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In a recent press conference, the president said that his desire was to have our country emerge from this crisis in a matter of weeks, not months, and that it was his desire for the churches of our country to be packed out on Easter.
This is a laudable desire on at least two levels, and we should support and applaud it, as I do. But there is something more that still needs to be said about it. Packed churches are better than empty churches, but in themselves are not nearly enough.The Text
“‘The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.’ Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward” (Isaiah 1:3–4, NKJV).
“Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:10–14, NKJV).Summary of the Text
As Isaiah opens his magisterial book, he immediately confronts the great sinfulness of Israel. But even though they have been greatly compromised, it is a corrupt nation that has kept up the formalities. They have kept up appearances. So Isaiah begins by pulling back the curtain, stating clearly that they have badly strayed. They are a sinful nation. They are laden with iniquity. They are a brood of evil-doers, corrupters. They have forsaken the Lord, and made the Holy One of Israel angry. They have turned away backward (vv. 3-4).
So hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom on the Potomac (v. 10). Listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah on the Hudson (v. 10). What is it to me if the churches are packed out on Easter (v. 11)? Who asked all you people to come in here to trample my courts (v. 12)? Your prayers, your offerings, your songs, your stupid songs are an abomination to me (v. 13). And why? Because God is holy and cannot endure iniquity combined with sacred assembly (v. 13). Our packed churches are a trouble to Him (v. 14), like so much smoke in the eyes.
Amos speaks in much the same way. Away with the noise of your songs (Amos 5:21–23, NKJV). Get them out of my hearing.The Mystery of Lawlessness
There is such a thing as being hellbent. And when people are hellbent on their sin, God could write His judgments in the sky in big block letters, and they would stare stubbornly down at the ground rather than read such pure words. “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Rev. 16:10–11).
But how does this apply to our text, and to our situation? The 2 trillion stimulus relief bill—quite aside from whether that was a good idea—was held up in part because the secularists wanted it to include relief for Planned Parenthood. And California, which has all non-essential services in lock down, has seen fit to allow pot shops and abortion clinics to remain open as “essential.” You must stay at home unless your job is that essential one of dismembering babies. It is hard to comprehend what is more ghoulish—the fact that they do things like this, or the fact that they think it is not ghoulish.
You may believe that the danger we are confronting is that of the coronavirus. You may believe that the great danger we are confronting is the panicked official over-reaction to the virus. Or you may believe, as I do, that it is a combination of the two, with heavy emphasis on the latter. But if you are a Christian, whatever you believe the threat to be, you must also believe that it is a threat that was delivered to us by the hand of God. “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” (Amos 3:6, NKJV).
Now, let us suppose that God lifts His hand from us in His great mercy, and by mid-May things have returned to normal. In mid-May we will be just days away from June, designated as Pride Month, a time of LGBTQ celebrations. Wouldn’t it be better to call it Dog Returning His Vomit Month?
Really? Seriously? Do such rebels really think that a respite would not be the mercy of God? They would much rather think of a much simpler explanation—like God running out of ammunition perhaps? This is like Pharaoh thinking, when the plague of frogs was removed, that Jehovah had somehow run out of frogs. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.” (Ex. 8:15). And though God did not repeat the frogs, it was not because He was out of them. It was because He intended to use the rest of His arsenal.This is a Godquake
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, keep your eyes on what He is doing, not on what our grand poohbahs think they are doing. And above all, do not look at what your own fearful heart is doing.
“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:27–29 (KJV)Asking God to Do What It Takes
Moral stubbornness is a great mystery. When the United States obliterated Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 with an atomic bomb, it is not often remarked that this one devasting bomb was not sufficient to get the Japanese to surrender. That had to wait for the obliteration of another city, Nagasaki, three days later. Taking this simply as an illustration, what should your prayer in this extraordinary time be? Your prayer should be that God would do what it takes to get us to surrender to Him. We don’t want God to just bomb just one city and then leave us to our corruptions.
“If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
Ex. 15:26 (KJV)
Earlier in this chapter from Exodus, the people of Israel had just been celebrating their deliverance from Egypt in the great Red Sea miracle. Three days later they came to the waters of Marah, which were bitter and undrinkable. Moses made the waters sweet by throwing a particular tree into the water, and then he made a statute or ordinance for them, whereby (it says) he tested them. And then he gave them the words of our text, which begin with a series of conditionals. If they diligently hearkened to the voice of God, if they did what was right in His sight, if they paid close attention to His commandments, and obeyed His statutes, then what? Then the diseases of Egypt, which were commonplace enough there to be called by that name, would not be visited upon Israel. We see here that God’s governance of the world is personal. These things are entirely in His hand. The world is not governed by deaf, dumb and blind microbes (Ex. 15:26). Our problem in all this is that we have offended God.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty . . . There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”
Ps. 91: 1, 10 (KJV)
And in this text from Psalm 91, we see that the Almighty casts a shadow, and in that shadow is a secret place, a hiding place. The person who resorts there is one who must dwell there, he must abide there. And the shadow that is cast there is cast by the great Rock, who is Christ. In that resting place, the plague of self-sufficiency and pride will not come near you. Christ drives all of that away.The Sum of the Matter
So if this Easter simply sees our churches packed with Americans, that by itself would be the greatest disaster out of this long series of disasters. But we should long to see the churches packed out with repentant Americans. When we look at the corruption centers called our state capitals, not to mention our national capital, the problem is not that these people represent us. Our problem, to be pondered deeply, is that they represent us well.
And so if the Lord lifts His hand from us, then our behavior after that point, unlike Pharaoh, must be different. But it will only be different if we have seen Christ in the interim.
“Poets are like preachers: they study how to say a lot in few words.”
Plantinga, Reading for Preaching, p. xii
“Trevor Smith was the scion of a family that had plenty of bucks but which had somehow managed to keep that fact from rotting out the floorboards of its collective soul. They had money—quite a bit of it, actually—but for them, money was just bullets . . . Some people cast their bread on the waters, and all they get is soggy bread, or happy ducks. Others were like the Smith dynasty, and nobody quite knew how it worked.”
Q. I understand what you say about God being all-powerful and sovereign, even in disasters like this. But why am I not reassured?
As we learn how to react to situations like this plague and this panic, we do need to do more than simply assert that God is all-powerful. This might leave some with the impression that all we need to have is some musclebound God, never mind that He is malevolent. But I am not trying to encourage you to have faith in Zeus, or in Allah.
If we want to come to God in faith, Scripture teaches us that there are two convictions we must have about Him.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Heb. 11:6 (KJV)
He who comes to God must believe that He is, in the first instance, and in the second, that He receives and rewards those who seek Him diligently.
The shorthand way of saying this is that, first, God is there, and second, God is good.
If you don’t believe He is there, you won’t come, and if you don’t believe He is good, you won’t come.
So you are in big trouble, and you need to come to God. But you need to believe that He is there, and you need to believe that He is good. He is there, because, how could He not be? He is God. And He is good, by definition. Charging Him with evil is incoherent—after you arrest Him, what court are you going to try Him in? Whose laws did He violate? Yours? And so who made you the sheriff of misbehaving deities?
So He exists, and He is infinitely, everlastingly, entirely, ultimately, and completely good. Start with that.
And so then, building on that foundation, come to Him. Have you been exposed to the virus? He is there, and He is good. Have you been laid off? He is there and He is good. Do you have loved ones who are sick? He is there and He is good.
The coronavirus scare has had a narrative arc. There were the initial troubling reports out of China. Then there was time when the alarm was sounded on the basis of the kind of sensational modeling that has a genius for the limelight. Battle was joined, as this was clearly the moral equivalent of war. It is now turning out that the alarms were somewhat overblown. In the meantime, all the howitzer rounds we shot straight up into the air came back down again (our scientists are looking into this), and so enormous damage was done to the livelihoods of tens of thousands.And So Look Where We Are Now
A model produced by Imperial College was one of the things that set off our current coronavirus frenzy. That model projected 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. and 500,000 deaths in the U.K. The scientist who produced that model has now revised his estimate downward somewhat, into territory southwards of 20,000 fatalities in the UK. He wants to credit the draconian lock down response for this “good news,” but the timing of the lock down and the arrival of the revision doesn’t really support that.
An alternative explanation is that the initial assumptions going into the model were wildly, exuberantly, sensationally, wrong.
As we used to say in the Navy, belay my last. As in, never mind. As in . . . oh, never mind.
In the White House press briefing yesterday, Dr. Birx summed it up nicely and emphasized that the data being collected on the front lines do not support the extreme predictions that had been made. She said, wisely enough, that “models are models.” And the problem does not lie in the fact that models are models (that’s what they are supposed to be), but rather in the fact that under-educated reporters have wanted to treat the lurid predictions of such models as the settled results of an in-the-bank science. But they are not, and are only as good as the assumptions that are fed into them. And the assumptions fed into them are governed by what an observant sociologist, if he were on the top of his game, might want to call hive-think.
I had actually said something about this a week or so ago.
But it must be acknowledged that a good part of the contemporary scientific community has been taken over by modelers, not practicing scientists, and if you doubt what I say, go and count up all the false prophecies that have been thrown at us about climate change. Those were prophecies based on computer models, and they were only as good as the assumptions that went into them. If you boil a bunch of cabbage, the end result is going to be boiled cabbage. This is because computer modeling is governed by another set of rules entirely. And those rules are fine and all, but it must be remembered that they are the rules of another discipline entirely. And one of the fundamental rules of computer modeling is the GIGO rule. And GIGO stands for “Garbage In Garbage Out.”Me, just a short while ago, being prescient A Local Matter, If I May?
Our governor apparently gave way to pressure and put the state of Idaho in lock down. Our city council, not to be outdone, extended their emergency order to May 5. And this, with Latah County having no confirmed cases yet. Everybody inside, mom thought she saw a bee.
So if you live here in here in Moscow, I would urge you to go here and sign this petition, which is self-explanatory. Their response to this will indicate clearly whether they are willing to be civic leaders, or whether panic or power or both has gone to their heads.Oh, Yeah, Joe Biden
In every panic or riot, while everyone appears to be throwing dust in the air in the hope of attracting the kind attentions of Diana of the Ephesians, a glance across the crowded amphitheater would reveal nothing but tempest, tumult, and tomatoes. But with a trained eye, you would be able to see a handful of people working the edges, guiding and directing the maelstrom in the rough direction they would like it to go. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes “bull-riders-of-crowds” get thrown. But the point is that when everyone appears to have lost their heads, there are always some opportunists out there making hay while the sun shines. Or whatever it is you make when the sun isn’t shining.
In what follows, keep in mind that I am not a prophet, or the son of a prophet. I am just an old coot on the bench at the general store, and this is just a bit of stick that I am whittling.
Some people have not forgotten that there is a presidential campaign on., and there are lot of things getting moved around and rearranged while we are all distracted by the virus. The establishment Democrats rallied behind Biden and stopped the Bernie threat. This was done because both candidates would be disasters in the general election, but Bernie would have been an entrenched disaster. He would be right there on the top of the ticket until that ticket made its way down to Davy Jones. Biden, on the other hand, is an entirely moveable disaster, and the play is already being run on him. His responses to the coronavirus debacle have been kind of a mash-up of a blinking hostage video, a stoned deer in the headlights, and a slow motion video of the cheese sliding off the Triscuit. And then, on top of that incoherence, comes now a former staffer from decades ago, accusing Biden of sexual assault. Now we should apply the biblical standards to all such allegations, and I do, but if we apply the Biden standard to them, then we have to believe the woman. Right? And if we believe the woman, it is clear that even as we speak the skids are being greased for, as political theorists might describe it, some kind of switcheroo.
Trump, on the other hand, is someone who has not forgotten for a minute hat he is running for president and, just between us girls, it appears to me that he is doing little else. These are just the musings of someone who sits afar off, but this whole spectacle has the feel of a situation that Trump is taking as a thinly disguised presidential debate. It is not that for the doctors, nurses, and patients, or for the churning general populace, but it is certainly that for all the operatives on the edges of the crowds, trying to steer this thing.
But it turns out that Trump is a natural-born showman, and his approval ratings are the highest they have been in his entire presidency. He can throw trillions around with real panache, and I say this with a grudging and reluctant admiration.
“The preacher who reads widely has a chance to become wise.”
Plantinga, Reading for Preaching, p. xi
“I know this is a bull ride at the rodeo. And not eight seconds either. I know I have to ride until the bull pukes.”
Q. In uncertain times like this, what is the first thing we as Christians should remember?
The very first thing to remember in unsettled times like this is that God is in control. God is sovereign over all things, and He is sovereign in this particular circumstance. He is the God of galaxies and He is the God of germs. And He is the God of governments.
His sovereign authority is both extensive and intensive. We sometimes think of His authority as being kind of a “big picture” authority, and are happy with the image of Him looking down on the galaxies. But Jesus teaches us to push our understanding of His sovereign authority into all the tiny places. God is the one who numbers the hairs on your head, and most of us would consider that an irrelevant or trivial bit of information. A sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father (Matt. 10:29). Jesus applies this with a very clear fear not because we are worth more to Him than many sparrows (Matt. 10:31).
But suppose for a moment that this divine control over all things were not the case. Then we would really have something to worry about, right? When bad things happened to us, and we were trying to make sense out of it all, one of the possible explanations would have to be that we had simply gotten caught in the machinery. Either the bad things that happen to us have a purpose and meaning, or they don’t. If they do have purpose and meaning, then that meaning must come from God.
Like a man walking a tightrope, there are two great hazards that confront us in this—meaning we could fall off to the left, or fall off to the right. The left would be the prospect of catching the coronavirus and having a hard time with it. The right would be for government officials to make panicked decisions that threaten to wreck your livelihood. But remember that all such things are in the hands of a sovereign God.
The God who numbers the hairs on your head is also the God who knows how many times a virus spins when it is coughed into the air, and how long it will float there. And if God can turn the king’s heart in any direction He wishes (Prov. 21:1), then He can certainly do it even if the room is filled with panicked advisors.
The virus is a natural evil and panic is a moral evil, but God is one who can direct all things, even evil things, into an outcome of blessing for His people. Remember how He turned the devil’s malice and the treachery of Judas into the salvation of the world (Acts 4:26-28)? Remember that?
All things really do work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). And that all things includes the time of COVID-19 and the time of COVID panic. All things.
Join Dr. Tim Edwards for a lesson on Beginning Hebrew at the NSA Virtual Visit Weekend 2020!Posted by New Saint Andrews College on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 Dr. Mike Lawyer on the Fight Laugh Feast Network
Just dropped in the club portal. Biblical Counseling with Dr. Mike Lawyer. We get into all sorts of stuff… depression, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD, Multiple Personality Disorders… More episodes coming! If you have not joined the club yet, sign up here: https://t.co/X9BDXrrBUS pic.twitter.com/AEydQ3xWmQ— CrossPolitic (@CrossPolitic) March 25, 2020 The New Sermon Podcast Feed
Subscribe to our new sermon podcast feed! Easiest way to find it on your podcast app is to search 'ChristKirk'.https://t.co/jcDyxMkE13— Christ Church (@Christ_Kirk) March 25, 2020 Lots of Good Ones This Time
And more here . . .Wake Up, Sheeple Worship Interrupted: A Judgment of God Worship Interrupted: A Judgment of God
"Joel teaches us that when God’s people turn away from Him, the central thing they have turned away from is worship of Him. And so He removes His blessings from their midst, and the central sign of that judgment is the removal of public worship from their midst. If we were ever in any doubt about whether we are under the judgment of God, let there be no mistake: we are under the judgement of God because we are not worshipping God together this morning. He has taken away the grain offering and drink offering from the house of God.But if we will call on the name of the Lord. If we will turn back to Him with all our heart, and seek His word and seek His ways, He will pour out His Spirit upon us once more and deliver us from all our enemies." – Toby J. SumpterWatch or read the whole sermon: christkirk.com/sermon/plagues/Posted by Christ Church on Monday, March 23, 2020 Listen to or read the entire sermon. As Seen on the Web
“Like the faithful farmer Robert Frost describes, resourceful preachers are always out to ‘clean the pasture spring’.”
Cornelius Plantinga, Reading for Preaching, p. ix
“She was doing pretty well until about three minutes into his presentation. He gestured expansively, with the kind of gesture that he had found so effective in the impressing of freshman girls, and Maria almost lost it. His right hand moved languidly toward the ceiling, and Dr. Rollins was unable to keep himself from looking at it as it went. The board members, being all men, didn’t notice, but Maria did, and started biting her forefinger.”
I speak, of course, in metaphors.
Yesterday the prime minister of India put a billion people, more or less, into lock down. He did this because there was a “spike” in cases — 519 cases, to be exact, and 10 reported deaths. Leaders are vying with other world leaders to show everybody how compassionate they are, and if thousands are trampled as a consequence of the pro-active leadership, that’s just business, baby. This was done because of The Spike, let us call it, and out of 1.3 billion people. This is, like, and I am rummaging around for the right phrase to describe it, um, and one is not coming immediately to mind, errr, but it is kind of like taking India’s temperature, finding that it was 98.6, putting that on a graph, finding out with a microscope that it was actually 98.600000009, and slapping the patient into the ICU.
So the panic continues to spread, not nearly as silently as the virus, and with the hot potential to destroy far more than the virus ever thought of. The virus hath slain its thousands, the panic its tens of thousands.
And when a panic takes hold, there is no reasoning with it in the moment. Every caution, every warning, every “calm down,” is just more fuel to the fire. While the panic is on, there is no reasoning with it. The only thing to do is to wait until it passes (which all panics will do, of necessity), and then you can count all the bodies.
Then, in the cool light of aftermath, somebody will write a thoughtful think piece for The Atlantic. People will nod in agreement. “I thought so at the time,” someone will mutter. Yeah, right.
“Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion.”
1 Sam. 14:20 (ESV)
And when Jehoshaphat went out to battle with the choir in front, praising the beauty of holiness, he encountered an enemy army that had mysteriously turned on one another.
“For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.”
2 Chronicles 20:23 (ESV)
Now it would seem obvious, would it not, that when you go to war, you should fight with the enemy army, and not with one another? But if you venture to suggest something like this to a fellow soldier (who is attacking you), it just makes him hate you all the more.
We have officially gotten to preposterous and lunatic levels. The world around us is now officially cracked, demented, delusional, freaked out, fried, baked, insane, bonkers AND bananas.
Excuse me. I am going to sit down for a moment. This is March. Not November.An Aside, and By the Way
I would like to use my indoor voice for this section, and breathe into a paper bag between paragraphs.
This last Monday, the Logos School Board met and thoroughly reviewed the situation we are in with regard to the coronavirus, taking into account the recommendations and most up-to-date evaluations of our governor and public health officials. We approved the school reopening with a modified flex-schedule next week (we had already extended spring break for a week). The flex-schedule would permit us to follow all the protocols needed that would protect the health of our students, and we also approved a commitment to work with any families who did not feel comfortable coming, or who were barred from coming (as some of our folks live in Washington state, and they are in lock-down).
And then on Tuesday, the ministerial session of Christ Church met, and decided we were going to return to our normal services, with numerous health protocols in place, as the emergency order issued by our mayor allowed an exemption for religious services. Last week, we did not find out about that exemption (in writing) until late Saturday, when it was too late to change the plan.
But then, also on Tuesday, we received a notice from the city that the mayor is now shutting everything down, schools and churches both. For Logos, we had a plan B in place, so our marvelous staff there is moving to work with parents to enable the students to complete their work from home. Christ Church also has a plan B, which we are working on as I write. I will let you know more about that when we know more, so stay tuned. New Saint Andrews was already in a position to move all their classes on line, which they have done quite seamlessly.
I say all this because I am saying some hard things in this piece, about courage and panic and frenzies and such, and I am going to be saying them from down here in a bunker. I just wanted folks to know that I did not come down here willingly.Sowell Again for the Win
I have quoted Thomas Sowell on this kind of thing before, and will no doubt have occasion to quote him on this again, but here it is now, fresh and for this morning. Progressives think in terms of solutions and conservatives think in terms of trade-offs. Progressives ask what it will take to stop the virus, and conservatives ask what it will cost to stop the virus.
And further, when conservatives ask what it will cost to stop the virus, the progressives immediately wheel on them, and accuse them of “being mercenary,” of “setting a price tag” on precious human life and, if the progressive involved is a woke evangelical lefty, he will hide his peculiar myopia by using terms like “Mammon.” When you raise concerns about “the economy,” and “lost revenue streams,” he says, you are revealing to the world that idol standing there in a recessed alcove of your heart, like you won an Oscar or something.
No, actually The shutdown in California is costing billions of dollars a week in the restaurant business alone. We are talking about people. Conservatives who talk about costs are talking about costs to people. Progressives who ignore the costs are ignoring the costs to people. When you call the witch doctor and summon the aerie spirits of real solutions now, you will always be surprised by the appearance of the bill. What’s this? Why were we not informed?But Remember Who Sent This
This is an extraordinary moment, an extraordinary time. Some people see the extraordinary threat exclusively in terms of an extraordinary virus. As far as it goes, fine. Nobody is saying the virus is nothing — it has killed a lot of people, as do a lot of other things that we routinely ignore. Yesterday I heard the very insightful comment that the coronavirus is the flu with a brilliant marketing team. So this virus is a virus out of the way. It is not ordinary. It is extraordinary.
The over-reaction to the virus is even more extraordinary. And it poses, in my view, a far, far greater threat. But just as we shouldn’t panic about the virus, because doing so only makes things worse, so also we shouldn’t panic about the panic. Doing so will only make that way worse.
Thomas Watson once said that we focus on who brings afflictions to us, rather than on the one who sent them to us. This monster threat, a hundred times more serious than the virus, is also from the hand of God. He sent this to us. This is all part of His perfect design, for His glory and our good, and so perhaps you are now asking why God sends frenzies like this.
There will be more to say about all this in the near future, and I hope to do so.
The post In Which I Consider the Propriety of Tying a Bandanna Around My Head and Coming Off the Top Ropes appeared first on Blog & Mablog.
Welcome to the Plodcast! This week Doug chats about the Covid-19 crisis, unpacks the word aschemoneo, and plugs Mark Hall’s Did America Have A Christian Founding?
Get Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards with an introduction by Joe Rigney today: https://canonpress.com/products/religious-affections/
“‘Some might have expected a flood of controversy like this to damage our . . . testimony.’ He remembered just in time that Dr. Tom hated the word brand, and so he veered at the last minute over to testimony. Tomayto, tomahto.”
I really appreciate your post – Three Reasons Why the White House Must Not Panic. My husband and I own a small business in Pennsylvania. As news of the coronavirus began appearing we were not apt to panic about it; however, as the news of mandatory closures of businesses (before our state had more than a hundred cases) began pouring in we very quickly began to panic about our ability to survive. News stories declaring this could last for 18 months and friends already essentially declaring bankruptcy before our quarantine was 48 hours old just increased our panic. Recognizing that things were quickly getting out of control, we turned to the Bible, repentance, and prayer. God’s peace just as quickly took over our hearts and our family motto became, “We will not panic.”
However, as I visited the grocery store for our weekly essentials, it was clear that our society is currently dealing in panic. We all know about no toilet paper, but no pasta, pasta sauce, canned goods, eggs, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. From the look of our country grocery store you would think that a bomb had just dropped nearby and a war was on. The reason people are panicking is because nearby counties have shut-down completely and people are concerned that soon they won’t be able to go to the grocery store. I bought what I could, smiled to everyone I could, and thanked the workers. As I left I reminded myself — “We will not panic!” And sang some hymns on the way home.
I completely agree with you that the White House must not panic! It has also struck me that we as Christians must not either. As my husband and I asked ourselves, what is the role of the church in this, it is becoming ever more clear — show them His peace. We are struggling to know how to do that when the society seems to want to burn down around us. Our household is one thing; however, Christian family and friends are just as panicked as everyone else and our churches are currently closed.
How do we share the good news of Christ and His peace with others when we are relegated to our proverbial four walls. Do we defy orders, open our churches, post the good news of Jesus Christ on our Facebook account, or just sit back and watch things unfold? I know what our society needs but do not exactly know how to do it in a way that influences the culture. Knowing that the Lord is good, always, and that He has an uncanny ability of giving ideas to many of His followers at the same time, I was very pleased to see your post; but would love to hear some suggestions about how “no panic” looks outside of the White House.
K, thanks. I hope there will be more practical teaching coming.
RE: Three Reasons Why the White House Must Refuse to Panic
Gotta love the Internet Archive for your missing article…
Mike, thanks. And everyone else, remember, the issue is not whether this article was great or terrible, but rather whether an orthodoxy of publicly-allowed responses is being developed.
The White House should be as panicked as they have the wits to be. The entire country is in the process of finding out that when we’re in the middle of an actual crisis, maybe electing an incompetent, self-absorbed narcissist who refuses to listen to advice wasn’t such a great idea after all. Even if the alternative was that poor children have health care.
Mike, you need to amend that to some poor children have health care. Because other poor children are chopped up into constitutional pieces and sold for parts.
Re. Three Reasons Why the White House Must Refuse to Panic
“Computer Modeling is Not Science.” Amen and amen. I do that sort of thing for a living and here’s the nut of it: It’s easy to predict the future, it’s just hard to be right. Shakespeare said something similar.
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
Rob, thanks very much.
This article was very similar to some of my recent thoughts. I am much more concerned about what the governments are doing to us than what the virus might do. The DoJ was recently asking for authority to suspend constitutional liberties. And I am concerned at how quickly we have ceded our constitutional right to freedom of assembly. We have allowed the government to control the conversation on this. They have said that gatherings of more than 10 people are “banned.” But it seems to me that this is unconstitutional (correct me if I am wrong). And we should not be OK with the language of gatherings being “banned.” In this coronavirus situation it may be the right thing to do not to gather out of love for our neighbor and concern for our communities. But we should not say that we are obeying the government mandate not to gather. We should say that we are choosing to comply with the government’s recommendation. We should be clear that we make the choice to voluntarily abridge our rights for the good of others not because the government is ordering us to. It seems to me that by allowing the conversation to go the way it has we have implicitly handed over our right to assemble. And that is not a happy trajectory.
Craig, I would differ with one thing. If this were the Black Death, I think the government would have the legitimate authority to shut down public gatherings for the time being. Quarantining is a biblical concept. But it is not appropriate to do this on the basis of what somebody thinks might happen.
RE: “Like taking a header into the river to get out of some drizzle”
I’m happy to see you linked Ioannidis, as he is one of the few people brave enough to swim against the panicky current here. Others include William Briggs (wmbriggs.com) and the psuedonymous “Z Man,” who has an excellent post outlining the moral hazards attending to elected office in time of crisis: “The Garden Gnome Gambit.” I think he hits on the incentive structure that caused so many politicians to pick up and run with this thing, including President Trump himself. It’s hard to see where the unwinding might start, though this bit about chloroquinine smells a lot like your third “tada!” option.
For myself I find the panic, and the mockery and unpersoning (by people who jolly well should know better) of those questioning the severity of the pandemic and the warrant for the response, far more frightening than the virus itself. As of today there have yet to be 300 persons sent off to this judgement with this virus as God’s instrument, if the official stats are correct. This is “extremely rare form of cancer” or “slipped in the tub and broke your neck” territory.
In your post titled “Like Taking a Header Into the River to Get Out of Some Drizzle,” you linked an article written by a Stanford professor titled “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data,” which, ironically, used some of the most unreliable data to date to draw completely erroneous conclusions about the COVID-19 pandemic! Please listen to the interview with Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Eric Ding, rated in 2018 among the top 1% of scientists in the world, who provides a much more informed approach:
I do appreciate your encouragement to “Remember that God is always good, all the time” for those who look in “genuine faith to Jesus Christ.” That truly is the late breaking, bombshell, eternally good news! All other news will always be subordinate to that.
Michelle, thanks very much.
Thank you for the intellectual rigor behind the current events in Contagion, Cooties, and ‘Rona. Trying to comb the expanse of journalism that seems to continually fan the fear surrounding this pandemic is hard but is refreshing to see Christians trying to make sense of it all with sober-mindedness. The pandemic is making me muse the eschatological implications in our response to it. So, how do you as a postmillennialist make sense of CoVID-19 in the grand scheme of time and history? How would this perspective change our evangelism and service to our neighbors with a positive eschatology?
Global pandemic! Earthquake in Salt Lake City! Tom Brady leaves the Patriots! How is it that we are not all dispensationalists now?
Seriously, God has frequently used methods of creative destruction to advance His purposes and kingdom. This is no exception.
Thanks for the wisdom that you shared in “Contagion, Cooties, and COVID-19”. Your warnings against panic are especially needed. On the question of jurisdiction, I want to point out that the restrictions you cited from Leviticus concerning lepers were reactionary. A person is exiled after an infection has been confirmed. Quarantining a person who has leprosy seems different than isolating everyone who might get leprosy.
Josh, this is exactly right.
Read your essay about the COVID19 thing. Wonder if you’ve done the math. Have you considered the economic impact of leaving this thing unchecked? What about the economic impact of those who almost die and no longer can work because they are now medically disabled. Having the nation pausing and reflecting for two weeks could actually be a good thing. Spending billions of dollars of paper money that has no true value is just more of the same thing politicians do every day although a bit, admittedly, heavy on the turbo charge. Being cavalier about 1 to 2 million people dying that could be altered by a two week pause seems callous. I imagine we could actually love our neighbor by not getting sick and not being a vector of disease. That means stay home for awhile and pause and reflect on how kind He is and perhaps have time to share the good news with our neighbor while we chat over the fence because we have nothing else to do rather than frenziedly scattering off to work as seems to happen pretty much every other day that’s not infected with this quite unique COVID19. Cheers!
Karl, our responsibility to love our neighbor works in two directions. At some point, the cure can get worse than the disease. California is losing billions of dollars a week in lost revenue — that is money that is not going to people in marginal situations. How many businesses are going to close? How many foreclosures? How many bankruptcies? How many suicides?
When we are deciding on whether to go this direction or that, we need to take responsibility for our actions for either direction.Not Wobbly
I recently learned that you also were once a steely-eyed killer of the deep (submarine sailor). I was pleased but not surprised; courage, logic, and panache (once hallmarks of the US Submariner) permeate your work.
In a recent blog post or Plodcast, you exhorted us to ensure that those to whom we give are not “wobbly.” I’m confident I know what you mean. However, do you have recommendations of groups that qualify (at least for the moment) as non-wobbly?
Thanks for all you do.
Scott, apart from the stalwart ministries out here, of course, I have in mind organizations like American Vision.Default Lies in the Stars
Honest question here: do you think the American government could ever truly default on its loans? Most people I’ve talked to don’t seem to think it’s a genuine possibility due to the dire consequences it would entail. What circumstances do you think could lead to this? Thanks!
Justin, the circumstance that would lead to it is that of not having any more money. And the consequences would be dire. But if you have spent yourself into the corner, then you are in the corner.You Are Most Welcome
This is just a thank you note to you, Mr. Doug Wilson.
My name is Samuel and I am a Christian from Chandigarh, India. Being raised in a semi-lukewarm theologically-starved Christian family in North India, I came to faith in Jesus in College (St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi) when wrestling with intellectual questions of apologetics and existential questions of meaning. Around the time of my conversion God used the people who were discipling me to bring me to the teaching ministry of people like Tim Keller, John Piper and the Gospel Coalition. And by God’s sovereign grace I was justified when I put faith in Jesus’ atoning work. It took me a while to figure out what really was happening to me and Scripture began to teach me to think in its terms as to describe the new desires I had found in myself. I had been introduced to the Reformed faith by the man who was disciplining me (his name is Robin) and the resources from Desiring God and the like were a great blessing. Yet, it was only when I joined the University for a Masters programme that I became aware of the distinctive glories of the Doctrines of Grace and the Reformation Solas passed down to us by the Reformers. It was 2018, one year after the 500 years and various online ministries were pumping out content surrounding the Reformation. Also, I had just broken up with my first ever girlfriend who had been Roman Catholic. Coming from an Episcopalian background, I didn’t know there were distinct differences, yet after I had been converted I soon realized that our relationship couldn’t continue. After the break up, God united my heart to fear his name! He consolidated the five solas and the TULIP in my heart so that I believed it with all my heart and mind. I got a copy of the Westminster Confession (by G I Williamson). Dr. R C Sproul and Dr. John MacArthur among others have been a great help in clarifying many of these important doctrines. Yet, there was something missing.
Soon, I found myself reading and listening to pastor Paul Washer and Dr. Voddie Baucham on Biblical Manhood. This was something no one ever told me! I knew I was a man but no one ever taught me to apply the Bible, unashamedly with regards to these issues. The problem passages in Titus and 1, 2 Timothy were shoved in my mind’s basement until now. I knew this was an area to grow in.
Then I met Canon Press on Youtube. I’ve grown so much since I discovered your Youtube channel, blog since December and resources of others like pastor Tom Ascol, Jeff Durbin, James White.
Now, I have a vision for my family. I know I’m made to work and protect. And this is good. And God’s will for me. I’m 22. Want to be married by 24. Thankfully, our Indian Culture is way more conservative than what I hear you addressing in your talks, yet it lacks a Biblical Foundation. We must preach the Gospel.
One more thing I want to thank you for is awakening my eyes to political realities. My college environment is highly leftist and I used to lap it up without question before but through your ministry and some other thoughtful Christians, I’m beginning to see how much cultural Marxism and promiscuity and feminism is infected even the conservative (Hindu) Indian Culture. I’m called to live in this tension and proclaim the Good News of Jesus.
Right now, I’m a student of Mathematics. I’m working hard to prepare to apply for a PhD. Right now, I’m discipling younger men at my college and teaching them the same things that I’ve learnt and teaching them to teach it to others. I’m also helping some of the sisters on my campus to disciple other women. I don’t know if God has called me to be a pastor yet, but I love to teach the Bible and aspire to all the things in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. Nonetheless, the goal is to become a professor of Mathematics and to disciple young men in the church in India where there is so much theological illteracy (but tech is changing that). The goal also is to raise a family of faithful Christians who will carry on this legacy in the generations to come. Also, I’ve been deliberating the idea of a Christian University here in India where all of the academic subjects are taught from a Christian Worldview, taking inspiration from New Saint Andrews College and The Masters University.
I want to thank you for your Chestertonian Calvinism. Thank for the whole ministry of Christ Church. Thank you to pastor Toby, pastor Ben and pastor Aaron and Ben Zornes and all the others. Thanks to sister Rachel and sister Rebekah and ma’am Nancy. Thanks for Ploductivity. Thanks for everything.
Samuel, you are most welcome, and may God richly bless your endeavors and your life.
Luther “said that the ultimate test of a good preacher is whether he is prepared to face ridicule and to lose his life, his wealth and his good name because of his preaching.”
Luther as quoted in Stott, The Challenge of Preaching, p. 108
“The carpet was a rich burgundy color, and the wainscot around the room was a nicely matched cherry. The room was solemn, elegant, dignified, and not ready for the meeting that was about to happen in it.”
I can only imagine what kind of pressure the White House is currently getting, and when the imagination gets going, I think I can describe for you what kind of doomsday scenarios are being played out for them and run by them, with graphs, pie charts, oscillating models on computer screens, and all the rest of it.
And I also believe there are compelling reasons why the president should not react on the basis of any of this, and these compelling reasons, outlined below, should also be an encouragement to White House staff to not freak out.
Rudyard Kipling’s poem If, states it well:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too . . .
Now a retort could always come back in the words that parody of If from the 1930’s, which said, “If you can keep your head when everybody around you is losing his, then it is very probable that you don’t understand the situation.”
So which is it? I want to maintain that it is usually those who are losing their heads who are the ones who don’t understand the situation, and that they are frequently the ones most vehement in their views, and of the need for us all to act now. As I said, that is usually how it goes, and all the indicators are that this situation is no exception, except that this one is on stilts.
As you read through the first of my three reasons, please notice that it also includes the basis for my right to speak into this situation. I begin here because I want to establish my right to even have three reasons, and my additional right to share them with you all. Who am I to be popping off this way?How Disciplines Overlap
Let us use a neutral term for it, and say that we are in the middle of a great “stir” over the COVID-19 virus, and this means that there is a great deal of heated discussion online about all of it. When certain voices, like mine for instance, urge everyone to rediscover the virtues of calm in the face of peril, one of the common jabs or taunts in return is the one that says that you, Wilson, have no degrees in epidemiology , and so maybe you ought to pipe down and show enough humility to be willing to listen to the experts. Why are you, a laymen in these things, willing to opine, conclude, venture, suggest, or bloviate about anything? Hmmm?
I have heard this quite a bit. “But the experts . . .”
Disciplines overlap, and they overlap routinely. But specialists frequently do not know that they overlap, or they tend to forget how they overlap. Generalists, by definition, know the nature of overlap. Now the expert opinion of the specialist is valuable within the confines of his discipline, but in the area of overlap he is just another one of the guys. An epidemiologist might know absolutely nothing about economics, and so how is it we are allowing him to write out what amounts to an economic prescription for an epidemic? This is like some poor schlub going to the rich doctor, and the rich doctor writes him a prescription for a bottle of pills costing ten thousand dollars. What’s with the shocked face? the doctor wonders.
A mathematician walked into a greasy spoon diner, and ordered three eggs over easy. In the course of time, out came two eggs over easy. The mathematician naturally complained about his missing egg, and the cook came out from the back to discuss it with him. And he said, somewhat peeved, “I have been cooking eggs back here for twenty years, and I don’t need some culinary layman off the street to come in here to tell me how to cook my eggs.” And the mathematician replied, “Ah, but this is an area where our respective disciplines overlap. I could not cook an egg if my soul depended on it, but as a professional mathematician, I do know how to count them. And there,” he said, pointing to the plate, “you will be pleased to discover two eggs. Not three. I ordered three eggs.”
Expertise in one area does not automatically transfer to expertise in other areas. Just because someone is a star second basemen for the Yankees does not mean that he knows how to identify the best value in aftershave lotions. He might, but we don’t know.
This is a commonplace fallacy that goes on all the time, all around us. Granted, sometimes an ignoramus just pops off, talking of he knows not what. The experts roll their eyes at this, as they have every right to do. But other times experts think that people have gotten out of their lane when they are the ones who failed to recognize the parameters of their lane. They failed to recognize that they had strayed into an area where disciplines overlap.
One of the finest examples of this kind of blunder (and it really is a howler) can be seen in the opening lines of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” Now Sagan was a professional astronomer and astrophysicist, and I could no more tell him how to run his observatory than my hypothetical mathematician could cook an egg. But I am trained in philosophy, and could see immediately that Sagan opened his entire argument with some amateur philosophy, and ramshackle philosophy to boot, and not with astronomy at all. There is no way for Sagan to look through a telescope and see philosophical materialism.
So the epidemiologists can tell us what is likely to happen if everyone with coronavirus coughs on three people, and if those three people cough on three others. But the epidemiologists CANNOT tell us what the economic ramifications will be if every last American goes down into their basements for three weeks. They don’t have a clue.Computer Modeling is Not Science
The scientific method that we should be grateful for is a method that submits itself to the possibility of falsification. This is going to sound kind of “old school,” but my argument here is that “old school” science is precisely what we need right now. We need data, not high-speed speculation.
Real science develops a hypothesis and then comes up with an experiment that tests that hypothesis. The experiment is done, the phenomena are observed, the results are recorded, and then others should be able to do the same experiment and get the same results.
Computer modeling, however, is a different kettle of things that swim in kettles. Computing modeling is a tool that can be used by science, if the scientists are judicious. But it must be acknowledged that a good part of the contemporary scientific community has been taken over by modelers, not practicing scientists, and if you doubt what I say, go and count up all the false prophecies that have been thrown at us about climate change. Those were prophecies based on computer models, and they were only as good as the assumptions that went into them. If you boil a bunch of cabbage, the end result is going to be boiled cabbage.
This is because computer modeling is governed by another set of rules entirely. And those rules are fine and all, but it must be remembered that they are the rules of another discipline entirely. And one of the fundamental rules of computer modeling is the GIGO rule. And GIGO stands for “Garbage In Garbage Out.”
A computer model is only as good as the assumptions that are fed into it. The computer makes everything go really, really fast, and can give you an authoritative looking display, but if wild speculations are fed into the model, then what you will get out the other end will be what wild speculations look like after they have been thrown against a brick wall at warp speed.
But for some reason, establishment types are not nearly as dubious about computer modeling as they ought to be. And so everyone should remember the Gadarene Swine Rule. Just because a group is in formation doesn’t mean they know where they are going.
I am not against computer modeling, just as I am not against the cooking of souffles. But the cooking of souffles is not science, and putting hysterical assumptions into a computer is not science either. It is this kind of thing that possessed the governor of California to set his hair on fire. And it is this kind of thing that the president must not have anything to do with.
A related point is that this is our very first social media pandemic. During the Black Death, and the Spanish flu, the panic levels were high. But just imagine what would have happened if the medieval world had been in possession of social media. The chances are excellent that the panic would have spread way faster, arbitrary scapegoating and blaming would have occurred way quicker, and a lot more Jews would have been burned way sooner.
There is no value in speeding up our ignorance. There is no value in accelerating wild rumors. There is no value in taking a panic, giving it the amphetamines of a fiber optic connection, and then believing every word. If we are doing something stupid, the solution is to stop it. The solution is not to find a way to reduce the friction for those intent on passing on the panic and stupidity.Hear From Every Side
Orthodoxy is not necessarily the enemy of truth, but arbitrary and capricious orthodoxies most certainly are. The very last thing we need in a moment like this is the suppression of dissenting voices. But as things are currently going, I expect in short order to be called a virus-denier.
At least one of the social media big boys has begun squashing reports that are somewhat optimistic. Or forget optimistic — maybe just ones cautious about what and how much we actually can know. I went to link one of the articles I had seen earlier, and lo. Lookee what ain’t there now. The point is not that someone wants to debate the point. The point is that in our world of totalitolerance, debate is always subversive, and will not be allowed. They are not just going to lock down a Californian cocktail waitress, thereby ruining her life; they are also going to lock down dissenters, about which more in a hot minute. The smelly little orthodoxies that the Chicoms were defending when they covered up the origins of the Wuhan virus are different from our smelly little orthodoxies about how best to end the Wuhan virus in this one respect — they smell different. The way rancid beef and addled eggs smell different.
So read more widely (while you can). Expand your mind. Don’t go down the contagion-means-we-are-all-going-to-die wormhole. Look here and here and other places too. And when I say “hear from every side,” I mean much more than hearing from different sides of the medical debates (although that would be included). I mean hearing from the sectors that will be paying for all of this.
And turning to the White House (which, as I would remind you, must refuse to panic), I would give this last exhortation. You are being fed a long line of scary scenarios having to do with the COVID virus. Some of the scenarios are brighter than others, and some are darker than others. The specialists giving you these breakdowns are just doing their job. Good on them.
But my concern here is that the measures that are currently being taken and proposed are going to crash the economy, and crush civil liberties. You need to hear from people who are experts in those areas. The human cost of our current panic will, in my view, soon dwarf the possible human cost of the coronavirus itself. That view may be right, or it may be wrong, but the thing that is really wrong is that the question is not even being examined. If we keep this stampede up, what will be the cost and who will pay it? This is not an unreasonable question. I have ventured to ask it before.
So it is up to the non-panicked White House — before doing ANYTHING draconian — to recruit, summon, assemble at least two other task forces. I outlined the limits of modeling earlier, but if you are going to do it at all, balance your decision-making by looking at different kinds of scary scenarios. Are there no economic modelers out there?
Are there no real civil libertarians left? I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who spent the last three years trying (unsuccessfully) to persuade me that Trump was “literally Hitler,” who then turned around and voted to give him the keys to the whole joint. That’s not a civil libertarian. That’s what we call a joke.
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