Blogroll Category: People I don't know

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Miserable Wives

Blog & Mablog - 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.

Cordially,

 

Douglas

 Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

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Categories: People I don't know

The Ark and the Tent

Peter Leithart - Mon, 25/09/2017 - 12:00
When Moses ascends Sinai with the priests and elders, they see the God of Israel resting his feet on a sapphire pavement above them as they eat and drink (Exodus 24). The scene has a triadic structure: mountain, pavement, and Yahweh above. That structure is replicated in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25). The […]
Categories: People I don't know

The Apostles Creed 13: Ascended into Heaven

Blog & Mablog - Sat, 23/09/2017 - 16:45
Introduction:

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.

Ascended:

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.

Notes

[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

Blog & Mablog - 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

Blog & Mablog - 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

Blog & Mablog - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 22:16

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Categories: People I don't know

Scientific Miracles

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 15:00
Bill Gates is looking for an energy miracle. Fossil fuels pollute, but they are far and away the cheapest and most efficient fuels. Nothing else has come close and, argues Mark Mills in The New Atlantis, we cannot imagine anything coming close, given the current state of physics. To get a miracle, we don’t need […]
Categories: People I don't know

Modern Sphinx

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 15:00
Modernity, Sergei Bulgakov once said, is a sphinx. It poses a riddle, and those who cannot or will not answer the riddle are devoured. The editors of Political Theology in Orthodox Christianity cite this at the beginning of their study to highlight the ambivalence of modernity. It has both constructive and destructive qualities, and the […]
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Bach the Modern?

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 15:00
“One of the factors that has rendered [Bach’s] Matthew Passion so successful over the course of its reception,” writes John Butt (Bach’s Dialogue with Modernity, 36), “lies in its evocation of subjectivities that somehow resonate with those of the broader modern condition.” Bach’s Passions target “the individual believer, cultivating one’s sense of sinful responsibility for the […]
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Liturgy In Secular Imagination

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 13:30
Alastair Roberts’s contribution to Our Secular Age, a collection of essays on Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, focuses on the effect of secularism on liturgical piety. Taylor identifies “authenticity” as one of the features of our secular age, and Roberts observes that this can take the form of a consumerist approach to liturgy: “This age […]
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US By TR

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 13:30
Graham Allison’s Destined for War is a study of contemporary politics, Sino-American relations in particular. Along the way, he asks what we would think if China started acting like the U.S. did as we rose to global prominence. The career of Teddy Roosevelt makes the point: “ In the decade that followed [TR’s] arrival in Washington, the […]
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Late Bloomer

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 13:30
William Golding, writes Allan Massie in a review of John Carey’s biography in the TLS, was “a late starter, one oppressed in youth by doubts and feelings of social, and perhaps intellectual, inferiority. Until his middle forties he was a poor, reluctant and unsatisfied provincial schoolmaster.” He more than made up for his slow start. […]
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Fire Makes the Man

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 12:00
John Lanchester reviews James Scott’s latest (Against the Grain) in the New Yorker. Scott contends that human civilization is the product of our mastery of fire. Fire enabled humans to cook food, and that gave us, Scott argues, and evolutionary advantage. Chimps put a lot of (unconscious) energy into digestion, since they eat raw, hard-to-digest foods. […]
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Twenty-Something Radical Orthodoxy

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 12:00
A couple of years ago, Kyle Nicholas summed up “The Progress and Future of Radical Orthodoxy,” now entering its early adulthood. Though the movement has waned, he argues for “its continuing relevance.” “Amidst scathing critiques from every corner,” he points out, “Radical Orthodoxy has continued to bear fruit on both sides of the Atlantic for almost a […]
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Homily on Grain

Peter Leithart - Fri, 22/09/2017 - 12:00
In his Material Eucharist (30), David Grumett summarizes the “Homily on the Grain” from the Syrian poet Cyrillonas: “Alluding to the incarnation and to Christ’s two natures,. he describes the grain falling into the earth and its kernel encased within a dual outer husk. This echoes the image that Jesus offers his disciples after his […]
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The Content Cluster Muster (09.21.17)

Blog & Mablog - 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 pic.twitter.com/QVdZ2uo3t5

— Nathan Brown (@nolanathan) September 13, 2017

‘Murica

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

On the Structure of Leviticus

Peter Leithart - Thu, 21/09/2017 - 13:00
Leviticus is divided into thirty-seven speeches, each introduced by “Yahweh spoke to Moses” (see Warning, Literary Artistry in Leviticus). The 19th speech – the central one – is Leviticus 16, instruction for the “day of coverings.” From this, one can derive a simple chiastic outline of the book (I’ve discussed this in more detail in […]
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Post-Confederate Memorials

Peter Leithart - Thu, 21/09/2017 - 12:59
Joseph Bottum offers a Girardian analysis of the current craze for knocking down monuments (Weekly Standard). Along the way, he explores the origins of the Confederate memorials, observing that “The list of removed statues and memorials seems mostly to prove what busy beavers the United Daughters of the Confederacy were from the 1910s through the […]
Categories: People I don't know

The Cross of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, 4

Peter Leithart - Thu, 21/09/2017 - 12:00
IV. Cross of Reality Christianity’s history is the story of the cross’s penetra­tion into human experience and society. New epochs are formed when the cross begins to mark a new “sphere of our minds or bodies” (CF, p.165). In the new era that Rosenstock-Huessy saw coming, the cross needed to pen­etrate into social life. In […]
Categories: People I don't know

Two Dudes on a Wedding Cake

Blog & Mablog - 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.

Cordially,

Douglas

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

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