Blogroll Category: People I don't know
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“We demand to know how a loving God can send anyone to Hell, when the real problem is how a just God could send anyone anywhere else” (Mere Fundamentalism, p. 59).
Thanks for the letter. It is good hear from you, and yes, I do have a few thoughts on your situation. We have your wife’s perspective already—Nancy has related to me the outlines of what Angie has been posting on social media for the last six months. The bottom line there is that she says you are a tyrant and an abuser, and that your three teen daughters agree with her completely. In your letter you assure me that nothing like abuse has ever happened, and that what we are reading on social media is either a total fabrication, or is a story with some nugget of truth at the core, but which has been distorted out of all recognition.
Now we live in an era where the official line is “believe all women.” This is a radically unbiblical approach—the biblical process is to “believe all evidence.” Now assuming just for a moment that your wife’s account is true, which it certainly could be, I think we can safely say that to ventilate all her complaints online is a drastically poor way to handle things. It looks like a play for emotional support, and not very much like a plea for a judicious sorting of facts.
Nevertheless, genuine victims sometimes react badly to a bad situation, or they get terrible advice from self-appointed victim advocates, and so they take this approach of public recrimination. So after we got your letter, I asked Nancy to email Angie to let her know we would really like to hear both sides, and to ask her if we could help in any way—if we could provide some marriage counseling, in other words. The reply she got last night was somewhere between “mind your own business” and “drop dead.” So whatever road Angie is on, she is pretty far down it. There were some pretty clear indications in her reply that she is on the verge of denying Christ, and in a couple other places in her email she quoted some new-agey therapists, people whose teaching on abuse in marriage really is toxic.
That being the case, I feel comfortable answering your letter on the supposition that you are telling me the truth, and that you are giving me a fair approximation of the entire truth. This is not to say that she would have no valid points to make if she wanted to, but it is to note that because of her refusal to work on it together with you, this means that we have to do whatever we can do to help from this side only. But keep in mind the fact that the biblical approach to conflict resolution is not at all “believe the man,” any more than it is “believe the woman.” We are obligated to believe the truth, and nothing else. More about the truth in a moment.
You tell me that you are on the verge of divorce, and it certainly looks that way to us as well. She has been threatening online to file at any time, and given the lurid stories she has been telling everyone it is astonishing to her support group/cheering section in the comments—“you are so brave, so beautiful”—that she hasn’t done so already. This being the case, it seems to me you have very little to lose—and this means you might be open to an approach that will feel pretty drastic to you.
Your whole approach to keeping your marriage together in peace has been an approach of lying to your wife. She is now therefore living in a bubble, but it is a bubble that you paid for yourself, and which you constructed for her. She is living in an emotional bubble, a financial bubble, a relational bubble, and much more.
Now here is a good place to interrupt the flow to say something about a husband’s “federal” responsibilities in marriage. As I have taught in numerous places, the apostle Paul teaches that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and that they are therefore to function as covenant heads. This means that the husband is responsible for the state of the marriage. He is the head. This means that, bringing us back to the point, you are responsible for the fact that your marriage is on the brink of divorce.
But because we live in “blame the male” times, this teaching has been radically distorted and misapplied. This does not mean that wives can’t sin, or that whatever happens must be the man’s fault. It does not mean that the wife must always get her way, or have her perspective catered to. She is to be queen in your home, not the queen bee.
There is a difference between fault and responsibility. You are the head, and so you are therefore responsible. But part of your responsibility, had you assumed it properly, would have been to not give way to your wife’s more egregious emotional demands. If you are the responsible head, part of that responsibility would entail not telling lies.
According to your letter, you have been catering your wife’s alternative emotional universe from the time you first said I do. The arrival of three daughters reinforced this pattern. Your wife has trained them up in this same way of reacting, and you have subsidized it. You have sought to keep peace in your marriage and in your household, and you have sought to build this peace on the very shaky foundation of lies.
But lying to a woman is not loving her. Allowing her to lie to herself and to all her friends is not loving her. Letting her read books that are crammed with lies is not loving her. This bubble that she is in is a bubble that was constructed under your watchful (albeit despairing) eye. You watched it all grow, and the most you ever spoke against it to her was buried under dark hints. Given what you wrote to me, I assume that you agree with this.
So what might repentance look like? Repentance means that you must stop lying to her, even for the sake of what you call “peace,” and you must stop any actions that reinforce any such lies. The actions you take must line up with reality—reality as Scripture defines it, and as right reason elicits it from the world as God created it. Speak the truth, live the truth, and love the truth.
This might appear as though I am changing the subject, but I can assure you I am not. And it is just for a moment anyway. You attend a large evangelical megachurch, and they don’t really believe in church membership. You are not formally accountable anywhere. Over the last several years, you asked the elders on at least two separate occasions to intervene in your situation, and nothing came of that. And you tell me that over the last several years you know of at least four marriages in your church that cracked up over infidelity, and nothing happened. There was no discipline of any kind. And you say that at least two of the new couples are still attending church regularly.
I say this because it might be easy for you to assume that whatever you do will not matter to them. You might conclude that you are part of a laissez-faire, come-as-you-are church. And in a weird sort of way, that could be true, but only in a certain direction. They don’t discipline in traditional categories, but they will discipline. If you left Angie and just moved in with your secretary, it is likely that the same thing would happen to you as happened in these other cases, which is to say, nothing. But if you move out in a last ditch attempt to save your marriage, and if you are doing it as a form of husbandly discipline, and if anybody gets a whiff of that, the chances are excellent that you will find yourself on the receiving end of some very Christiany rebukes and admonitions.
But you have to do this anyway. I am not telling you that you have grounds for divorce, because I don’t believe you do. I am telling you that you have to move out, and that from that place, you must start communicating truth and reality to your wife. You must speak the truth to her, and the first truth you must communicate is your repentance for all your lies, offered in support of her lies. What you offer her in terms of financial support must also be true and fair—and I can pretty much guarantee that a fair amount to her will seem like cruelty. She will claim that, at any rate.
Whatever you say or do, your approach must be established on a bedrock of love and concern for her. This is what you must do, and it is a last ditch attempt to save your marriage. When men from the church tell you not to “give up” on your marriage, tell them that you have not given up. You are ready to reconcile. But if this marriage is to be saved, it will have to be saved on God’s terms, not yours, and not hers.
Your concern should be to check and mortify your every impulse to equate true with nice, and you need instead to focus on equating true with facts. Your concern should be to be loving toward her, not to seem like you are loving her. You are a husband, not a marketing department.
So your marriage is on the brink of divorce. That means it is time for some brinksmanship. We will pray. Let me know how it goes.
Cordially in Christ,
“In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle describes the mechanics of wrath in this way. The wrath of God is visited from Heaven on all the ungodliness of men, but he does not go on to describe lightning bolts and hail the size of cantaloupes. No, the wrath of God is described as God ‘giving men up.’ Giving them to what? Giving them up to what they desire. The fact that their desires are maddening lusts does not alter the fact that God is giving them up to what they want, and to what they demand. So damnation is not an arbitrary penalty attached randomly to certain proscribed behaviors. Rather damnation is what happens at the culmination of insisting upon a fundamentally irrational frame of mind” (Mere Fundamentalism, pp. 58-59).
God of Hearth and Home: Where should I begin? First, I would like to say that my breakfast this morning was excellent, a warm sausage-and-egg sandwich with coffee done just right. I do like a good brew in the morning . . . wakes me right up and sets the day straight. But what I mean is this: the family should be eating breakfast with me, not still sleeping in their beds, but I find this arrangement suspiciously impossible, given that I must be off to work at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am, when the others are just barely opening their eyes. School doesn’t start for another 3 hours, you see. But what do I mean by “ungodly,” you ask? Is there such a time of day that could—or should—be classified thus? Does God create an hour that is not good? Well, I suggest that He created the sun to shine and demarcate the day, thus giving us a pretty good indication of when we should be rising and sleeping. At least for those in the temperate zones. My alarm should not be ringing in my ears at 4:00am, that’s all I’m saying. Lest you be confused, I do not suggest that temperate zones are in any way hotbeds for tee-totalers. Felt I should set the record straight there. Beer is good, for as the wise poet once said: “Rain makes corn. Corn makes whiskey. Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky. Rain is a good thing.” But I think he probably should have spelled that final word “thang,” given how he pronounced it to rhyme with “rain.” So, where I was going with this? Ah, yes, I had a question re: your recent essay, entitled God of Hearth and Home. Several questions, actually, but I suppose with a little work I could melt them all down and distill them into a single point of inquiry. Namely . . . “What?”
Malachi, I am happy to respond, and I respond with a question of my own. Huh?
THANK YOU! In a side road sort of way, you have once again helped me nail some things down in understanding God and myself. One of the concepts that have been prominent in my theological understanding is the idea of “idolatry” and because of your recommendation of GK Beale’s book, We Become What We Worship, I did see that idolatry is a very big deal all the way through Genesis to Revelation. But then I noticed in my gospel-only readings that this concept came up all the time. Everything was becoming an idol. I was having difficulty making distinctions between idols that are clearly sin and the potential idols that can be made out of anything, including things that I know deep down are good “things of the earth” (Joe Rigney reference). Your conversation with John Piper moderated by Joe Rigney has been foundational in helping me understanding and fighting idols. (I listen to this at least once a year, it is like a classic novel, every time I listen to this I learn something new and helpful) and your article today is another important step. This distinction is huge for me. “With heart idolatry, the thing that is worshiped in place of God must not go.” YES!— thank you! This is so helpful on so many levels. It doesn’t make the battle any easier but it does help me better understand the sin in my heart and the greatness and power of the grace of God. (Titus 2:11-14) And like you say on the plodcast, we need to study sin like we study landmines. So, we can figure out how to maneuver around them. Soli Deo Gloria!
PJ, thanks so much.
Thanks for these helpful words. I wouldn’t disagree with anything you have said here, as I usually don’t. How would you advise a husband whose wife has made an idol out of her vocational pursuits at the expense of family (specifically, her duties at home, bearing of more children [no good medical reasons involved], and freeing up the husband’s time to work)? Asking for a friend. Or maybe not. Ha ha. We are members of a solid church and counseling is available, but for some mysterious reason her work schedule keeps getting in the way.
Long Time Reader
LTR, very sorry. I obviously don’t know the whole situation, and we haven’t heard her perspective, and I haven’t even heard your perspective. And these things can be complicated. But let me hazard something at a venture here. Take care that you don’t try to manage a situation like this one through hints or dark sayings. If you think that that her priorities have become skewed then you need to say this out loud, and clearly, with love and affection. If you are clear, then perhaps you might find yourself in counseling sooner than you thought possible.The Wokeness of Eric Mason
Best part of Woke, Not Woke: “Radical Christian faith is not a defense of the old pagan order, or a striving for a new secular order. Radical Christian faith intends to see the world discipled and brought into submission to Jesus Christ. This will not happen in the next two weeks, but it will happen.” I can see clearly now. Thank you.
Christy, you’re welcome. And thank you for paying attention.
RE: Woke, Not Woke After reading Eric’s quotes and the last ~dozen paragraphs of your Philemon exegesis, I’m just excited and relieved that both sides agree on what the Bible actually teaches! So that means the less alert, more drowsy, less cool and relevant among us are at least seeing God and His teaching correctly, even if we’re sleeping in next to our awokened brethren. We can always welcome them to slap us awoke fully when we reach the Kingdom together, right after they finish slapping Philemon awoke and giving his Marriage Supper of the Lamb portion to Onesimus. After that eternity in fellowship awaits, so at this stage come on guys, what could go wrong? Love the aslope the same as you love the woke!
Patrick, that’s the spirit!
A comment and question. Comment: I think you will find that Pastor Mason is very good at expositing Scripture. Our church did a study on Jonah from him and it was quite solid. The church enjoyed the study and we were greatly blessed by it. I find it curious that he and Thabiti, who both had much good in their ministry, have suddenly jumped on this social justice train. I guess I don’t understand the social pressure that big name preachers have to conform to cultural winds, but I am finding that even solid Bible teachers are susceptible to this phenomenon in a big way. Question: The pattern that both you and Pastor Mason cite in regards to slavery and the gospel undermining it has been my understanding for as long as I can remember. But I was caught off guard when a member of my denomination (EPC) used it to argue against complementarianism in the home. In the same way that the gospel undermines the unequal relationship between master and slave, the gospel brings about equality between husband and wife. It of course assumes that male headship is a result of the Fall. I know my response. I was curious what your response would be.
BJ, the answer to this is exegetical. An egalitarian argument can be constructed that makes a parallel between master/slave and husband/wife, where all that is to be overhauled. The problem for this view is that the apostle Paul grounds the relationship of husband and wife to the creation order, and not as a consequence of the fall.
When we airbrush folks out of the hallway photos, what we are really doing is stripping the next generation of wisdom. Eric Mason can exegete and apply the book of Philemon because we have a book of Philemon, instead of a retraction with an asterisk. Re-writing history may feel good now, but our progeny will be left without necessary tools of survival.
Kyle, exactly right.
Your post was fine. But the post from 2013 was eternally sublime. I like to see His work in history in broad view as a postmill believer. But you caused me to see that His governance is a lot more than turning points in history, but also many events that He uses to bring people together, to cause that “inexorable” progress of the Kingdom. The leaven was a perfect example.
Paul, thank you. And what God is doing in history really is glorious.
On Incrementalism | On slavery, I get the gradual move to eliminate that particular institution biblically because nowhere in Scripture does it order the immediate elimination of slavery, God even allows for it. And you’re one of the few pastors that I’ve come across willing to look at all the appropriate texts regarding slavery and believe the beauty and truth of biblical incrementalism. What would you say, or better yet, what does Scripture say about man-stealing/slave-trading? Should it be eliminated incrementally or does it require a more immediatist approach? If slave-trading/man-stealing requires a more immediate abolition, and the Bible also requires the death penalty for murder, couldn’t there be a biblical argument for a more immediate abolition of abortion? Also, when are you going to try to do a conversation with Apologia Radio over the abolitionism versus incrementalism debate?
Trey, when Scripture identifies something as a crime (e.g. abortion, manstealing), then every Christian should be supportive of its abolition. But incrementalism here means making a distinction between what is morally right and what is tactically possible. With regard to tactics, we should accept and rejoice in every small victory while at the same time remaining unsatisfied with the small victories.Battle Hymn
I am writing to inquire about your opinion of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Someone on Reformed Forum’s podcast Christ the Center recently stated that that hymn should never be sung in church. Given all the background issues, what is opinion of churches singing that hymn in a worship service?
Grant, I would agree that it ought not be sung. But it is not so much “background issues” as it would be the worldview and intention of the writer.Getting Up to Speed
My mind tries to grasp what you are saying in this blog . . . the vocabulary that you use is beyond my comprehension, and I feel that this is a failure in my education. As I try to extend my vocabulary of my first language, and attempt to understand some of your more difficult blogs, I want my children to not have this difficulty. I am in the military, and abroad. My wife and I are considering Classical Christian Education, but at times this seems daunting. We don’t seem to have the resources, and the reality of our situation, moving every two to three years, makes it seem that it will be up to me and my wife to develop a syllabus for our children. Where do I start? How can I listen to Christ Church pastors who seem to be so educated in the Word, history, Latin, etc., and come up with an education, most likely homeschooled, that is thorough, biblical, and good?
Ian, one of the characteristics of the classical Christian school movement is that we are trying to provide an education to our children that none of us received. Fortunately, with the growth of CCE many online resources have been developed, and seem ideally suited to someone in your position. I would recommend that you check out Logos Online, and start from there.Quote the Whole Thang
Doug! Don’t be cuttin’ off the rest of that classic Lenny Skinny bar, originally written from the perspective of someone who VOTED FOR the beloved Governor, modified slightly from its original ‘70s context.
Now Roe-v-Wade does not bother me*
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the Truth.
*Up here in Elizabeth Warren land, where folks used to sing their own sanctimonious tune after the ’72 election (“Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts”) my conscience would both me, IF I’d voted for her. But, having written her office a letter proposing something much like what Alabammy just did, and having received an unsurprisingly head-patting form-letter response (steady-as-she-goes with dumping those babies overboard and getting y’all to pay for it), my conscience bothers me less than reflecting on when I was on the other side, years ago, before my conversion to Christ.
Art, so the takeaway here is to always quote more Lynyrd, and not less Lynyrd?
Or just stop acknowledging or submitting to Roe at all. Roe is not law, it is the unconstitutional, unjust decision of seven unelected judges that is 46 years old and hasn’t aged well.
CS, yes. Roe simply needs to go.What Could Go Wrong?
Pastor Doug, Have you seen this yet? Link. The federal gov teaching parenting . . . what could possibly go wrong?
Garrett, I think I have to say that your suspicions are not entirely ungrounded.Keep it Simple
How would you respond to people telling you to put down theological books and focus more on “simpler things.” I have many friends who don’t see the value in studying eschatology, or ecclesiology, or even soteriology. They see secondary issues as unimportant. I understand being humble in understanding, and gleaning application from theological studies; but what do you think is at the heart of “focusing on simpler things?” Thanks,
Isaiah, many times simpler Christians are nervous because they have had genuine concerns about Christians who are just eggheads. In other words, there are many times when they have a point. And so if we want to showcase the value of learning, we should want to make it plain—through our lives, through rolled-up shirt sleeves and dirt on our hands—that our learning is what has equipped us to be so practical.Suggestion Box
I’ve read your Future Men and to me, it ranks among your most valuable writings. Would you consider expanding on that legacy by blogging Letters to All Kinds of Fathers? Letters to a Pushover Dad, Letters to a Command Man Dad, etc. In my case, I can’t seem to gain the sort of authority a man should have in his home. I’m not a pushover and know how to feed my kids on God’s Word, rich books, etc. But I sense I’m not respected in my home. Liked, but not respected. I’ve long sought an example to look up to, but when I hunt for examples of dads who’ve gained respect, I find only dull men with unexamined opinions and a depressed looking wife and kids, whose method of keeping authority is to run their families ragged through streams of unnecessary commands. I don’t want that kind of wooden respect that comes from constantly keeping people on their toes. Or is that part of the strategy? All that to say, a series of Letters to Hapless Dads would be fun to read and helpful too.
Douglas, thanks for the suggestion. I will throw that in the hopper.Try a Little Tenderness
Re: Husbandly Encouragement A while ago you recommended to a man that he encourage his wife on a regular basis, as she was snowed under with many kids and struggling.. My wife and I have just one kid, who is 4 weeks old, and I am surprised at just how effective husbandly encouragement is and how often it flows back as wifely encouragement. Thank you for your wise advice!
Ben, thanks, and good to hear.
“So God does not lose all sense of proportion. He excludes from Heaven only those who refuse to let go of their own wild and disproportionate sinning. God doesn’t demonstrate a lack of proportion. He banishes it from His presence. That is why there is a Hell” (Mere Fundamentalism, p. 58).
Please allow me to begin with the outrageous statement. I will make all suitable and needed qualifications later. Stop complaining already.
Rightly understood, the institution of marriage is foundational to the gospel, and it is a form of idolatry to deny this.
I want to set this claim alongside the increasingly popular idea that traditionalist Christians have made an “idol out of the family,” and I want to compare and contrast these claims. But to get to the edifying conclusion—which involves lots of babies—you will have bear with me for a few moments.Two Kinds of Idols
We know as Christians that we are not supposed to carve or paint an image in order to bow down before it. This kind of practice is natural to the natural man, and we are to avoid it carefully as it is something that is deeply appealing to the flesh. The message of the Bible is clear on this kind of idolatry. Put away all such idols, and have nothing to do with them.
“And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the Lord, that was before the porch of the Lord” (2 Chron. 15:8).
These are what we might call idols, straight up. When God grants reformation and revival, we do more than simply stop praying to such idols. We don’t leave them up to make things easier for future archeologists. It is not sufficient to simply make an attitude adjustment, while leaving the statues in place. No, the Baals must come down. We must deep six them.
“And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it” (Judges 6:25).
But there is another kind of idolatry, and this is the kind of idolatry that must be addressed through an attitude adjustment solely. Because Scripture teaches us to get to the heart of the matter, we must do so, not only in terms of our heart loyalties, but also we must go to the heart of the matter when it comes to clarity of thought. We cannot be children in our thinking.
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).
“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5).
The object of idolatry simpliciter is the statue of Baal that must be removed. But a covetous man is an idolater also. However, in the spirit of the tenth commandment, the object of covetousness is your neighbor’s man servant, his maid servant, his manicured lawn, his new car, and his wife. These cannot be lawfully removed, and actually must not be removed. This is an idolatry that must be addressed through repentance in the heart alone. You cannot fix it through any external jiggering.
Take another example. If a man is simply greedy for money, and not necessarily his neighbor’s money, he also is an idolater, and he must address that through repentance. But once he has repented, on the first Monday morning after his baptism, he still must still go out into the world and handle money. Mammon really is absolute an idol in the hearts of many, and so must be repented. But the Lord Jesus taught us that we were nevertheless to use it (Luke 16:9). He told us, did He not, that we could handle snakes and not be harmed (Mark 16:18)?
With standard issue idolatry, the thing that is worshiped in place of God is a carved or painted image that must go. With heart idolatry, the thing that is worshiped in place of God must not go. In the latter case, what is needed is for God’s people to study their relationship to God carefully, and their relationship to all other people and things, and for them to make sure they understand what Augustine meant by “ordinate loves.” With rank idolatry, the idol is deposed from the god shelf in your home, or from the pedestal in the city square. With heart idolatry, the idol is deposed from a place in the heart.
Not only that, but if your wife was your idol, say, once she is deposed, you find that you love her more than you did before, not less. Before you were loving her with all the resources for loving that an idolater has, which is to say, not very many. Now you are set free to love her as Christ loved the church.When Family is An Idol
Now is it possible for “family”—a gift of God if ever there was one—to become an idol? Of course it is. An idol can be any created thing that assumes a place of importance in our lives that only the Creator should have. So idolatry occurs when we look to any finite thing to provide what only the infinite can provide.
And the Lord Jesus teaches us explicitly that the family presents just this sort of danger.
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
As the parallel passage in Matthew shows us, Jesus is saying that anyone who loves his family more than Christ (Matt. 10:37) cannot be His disciple. Anyone who loves a family member more than he loves Christ is an idolater, by definition.
But this does not mean that the corrective for such idolatry is to treat the wife and kids as if they were one of the groves of the Ashteroth, and mow them all down. What needs in this instance to be mown down are the idolatrous pretensions that have grown up in the heart of the idolater.
I say all this in order to acknowledge that within the ranks of traditional Christians, there are those who have made an idol out of “family values.” That is a problem. It should be addressed, and it should be addressed through repentance. If your favorite family values organization provides you with a newsletter that is a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path, and you don’t really pay attention to your Bible, then you have a problem.
But to the sophisticated critics of such traditionalists, the indicator of idolatry is not that someone is simply being a goober. The indicator is not hokiness. The indicator would be practical—where the father administers the sacraments to his family, where he is the chief priest, principal theologian, pope and poobah in his family, where the teaching ministry of the Church is dismissed with a wave of the hand. That kind of thing really is dangerous.
But it is not dangerous because of simple cultural differences. A homeschooling dad should not be considered an idolater of the family simply because he keeps bees non-ironically.
So before we give ourselves over to the Kuyperian tasks of making craft beer, or hand-fashioned furniture, or managing a shop, or writing the great novel, let us first give ourselves to the foundational task of making babies. And as my friend Chocolate Knox likes to say—get married, have babies, and baptize them.Category Confusion
Now idolatry in my second sense—the heart sense—is a question of motive and intent. It is not a function of what a man is doing externally. And when the family is an idol, it is an idol in this sense.
Two men can work diligently all day, from 8 to 5, commute home, kiss the wife, wrestle with the kids, barbecue something for dinner, watch some television, and then to bed. They could have virtually identical days, and one of them be an idolater and the other not. The thing that must be fixed, if it is to be fixed, must be addressed in the heart.
Now unfortunately, we live in a time when those who worry out loud about whether or not traditional Christians are making an idol of the family tend to be those who have made an idol out of their efforts to undercut, weaken, dishearten, erode, ignore, or just flat deny the family. Defending heterosexual marriage against the homosexual counterfeit is not idolatry. Defending monogamy against polygamy is not idolatry. Defending the fruitfulness of sex against the barrenness-mongers is not idolatry.
I say this having already granted that one such defender could be an idolater in his heart. But that is a question of motive. He would be doing a good thing with a bad motive. But a man can give all his goods to the poor and be an idolater (1 Cor. 13:3). He can be a martyr, and give his body to be burned, and be an idolater (1 Cor. 13:3). He can speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and be an idolater (1 Cor. 13:1). We can say this, and indeed we must say this, without breathing a word against true generosity, true martyrdom, or true eloquence.
So defending the family against the onslaughts of secularism is a noble and necessary task. We must do it. We must not become idolaters of the cause as we do it, but if we find we must repent of any such idolatry, this would mean we would be more equipped us for the fight in defense of the family.
Critics of the family’s defenders, those who glibly throw out the charge of family idolatry, are frequently those who understand that the best defense is a good offense. Their insistence upon singleness-as-gift, barrenness-as-option, openness-to-worldliness as somehow missional is far more exposed to the critiques of a true iconoclast than are a dad, a mom, five kids and a van with stick figures on the back.
The ease with which these things get turned around makes me think of a comment of Thomas Sowell’s that illustrates how easy it is for the serpent to gaslight us.
“I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”
We live in a time when God’s institutions of marriage and family really are under attack. This should be obvious enough, right? Our Supreme Court has solemnly declared the cartoon of same sex unions to be genuine matrimony—and when someone rises up to speak the truth about such things, that is not the time to speculate from fifty yards off about his possible heart motives.
When Athanasius faithfully stood contra mundam, can you not imagine one compromising bishop saying to another temporizing bishop that “this whole issue seems to have gotten under his skin. Entirely too important to him, if you know what I mean?”
Yeah, I know what you mean. Every generation has its zeitgeist, and every generation of the church has its wind surfers.Where Living Stones Are Quarried
And now we are in a position to get to the point. At last you say? Well, I don’t blame you. Here it is.
It is quite true that in the resurrection, there will be no marriage. If marriage continued on in the same way as what we experience down here, then the Sadducean question would stand—whose wife is she (Matt. 22:28)? The family is a temporal, historical institution, and it will not be continued in its current form in the resurrection.
I say “in its current form” because I do not believe that a man will be wandering around Heaven with his hands in his pockets, when by chance he runs into his wife of fifty years, whereupon he will say, “Oh, hi. It’s you.” It does not yet appear what we shall be (1 John 3:2), and we know it will be beyond all mortal reckoning. But I think we can be assured that it will not be a downgrade. It will (of necessity) be a transformative upgrade.
Now Heaven will be made up of innumerable saints, and every last one of them is a living stone that will make up the everlasting Temple. Now the earthly family—the historical, temporal, earthly family—is the only quarry from which such living stones can be hewn. I do not say that every such stone is taken up into the Temple, but I am saying that every stone that is taken up into the Temple is a stone that was quarried here on earth. The redeemed souls have to come from somewhere.
Think about it. There is only one lawful way to bring an everlasting soul into existence, and that lawful way is sexual intercourse within the bonds of a covenant marriage. And when I say “covenant marriage,” I am referring to the kind of marriage that is registered at a county courthouse near you. I am speaking of our earthly unions as the supply depot for what God is going to do with all the saints in the resurrection.
We are not playing with counters. We walk alongside eternal realities all the time. That romantic getaway weekend? The one where your third child was conceived? That child is going to live forever. That child is an eternal spark. And you almost didn’t go because of the car trouble. Not only will that child live forever, but she will grow up and marry, and she will have five children. They will live forever too. And they will marry. And before all is said and done, your daughter will be the ancestress of hundreds of thousands of people. And all because your friend from church, the car mechanic guy, came over and fixed it.
In our experience down here on earth, there are three institutions that are instituted by God. They are the family (Matt. 19:6), the civil order (Rom. 13:1), and the church (1 Tim. 3:15). Of these three, it is true that only the church will last forever. But every last brick in that church—that will last forever—was conceived in an earthly bed.
What kind of sense would it make for a brick maker to worry about whether or not he was forgetting the importance of bricks, in that he was placing an undue emphasis on clay? Or for a cook to do the same with his omelets? When he reaches into the fridge for the eggs, there is not an omelet in sight. Supposed he stopped looking for the eggs, and did this for the sake of remembering the omelet? After all, he said, ignoring the eggs, the omelet is the important thing.
Only human souls can be saved, and there is only one lawful way to get a human soul. The lawful point of origin for all such souls is the family.
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: For I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him” (Is. 51:1–2).
We have in this psalm a prayer offered up in the midst of desperate affliction. The afflicted are those who feel most in need of answered prayer. They are also those who feel like getting an answer is a true long shot. But affliction makes them eloquent anyhow, and it is the kind of eloquence that moves Jehovah. Moreover, the fact that the affliction could be the result of our own sin doesn’t really alter that. God loves the cry of the desolate.The Text:
“A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord. Hear my prayer, O Lord, And let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: In the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; So that I forget to eat my bread . . .” (Ps. 102:1-28).Summary of the Text:
This is a psalm of affliction, and so it begins with the cry of the psalmist, asking that his plea come to God’s attention (v. 1). He asks that God not hide His face in this time of trouble (v. 2), and asks for a swift intervention. His days are like smoke, and his bones are like cinders in a cold fireplace (v. 3). His heart has been cut down by a scythe, and it withers on the ground (v. 4). He loses his appetite (v. 4). His skeleton has skin stretched over it (v. 5). He is lonely and deserted, like an owl in the ruins (v. 6), and he is like a solitary bird on the roof line (v 7). His enemies won’t let up (v. 8), and his food and drink are ashes and tears (v. 9). His enemies do this to him, but God is behind it all (v. 10). His days are a lengthening shadow, and he is like crisp brown grass (v. 11).
The psalmist is in deep trouble, and he knows he is praying to a God who isn’t in deep trouble. This is why prayer makes sense. God will endure, and He will be remembered always (v. 12). Because Jehovah is forever, the restoration of Zion is inevitable (v. 13). God’s servants love her very bricks, and show honor to the dust of her streets (v. 14). Not only will Zion be restored, the heathen and their kings will notice His glory there (vv. 15-16). God will regard the prayer of the desperate (v. 17). This is going to happen, and God’s people will praise Him for it (v. 18). God peers over the balcony of the very highest heaven, and what does He regard down here? He sees the groaning of the ones in the dungeons (vv. 19-20). The God of highest heaven sees down to the lowest condition. These are the ones who, when delivered, will declare the name of God (v. 21), and all together they will praise Him (v. 22).
God is the one who ordained all this. He brought in this time of great weakness (v. 23), and so the prayer is that God not cut him off in the midst of his work (v. 24). God’s work is forever (v. 24), and He is the one who created all things (v. 25). What He created will perish, while the Creator Himself will not (v. 26). Creation will wear out like a pair of old jeans, while God is constantly the same (v. 27). And because God is constant in this way, the children of His servants will be like Him, and not like the created order which will necessarily wear out (v. 28).The Grace of Affliction:
Scripture teaches us that God brings affliction into our lives—affliction being defined here as something that you are overwhelmed by, something that you do not honestly believe you can handle—in order to teach us how small we are. He gives us particular things we cannot handle to teach us the important lesson that we cannot really handle anything. All of life, which we cannot handle, is divided into two categories—that which we know we cannot handle and that which we erroneously believe we can handle. God arranges visits to the first category to remind us that it is all the first category.
Why does God do this kind of thing to us? Because we desperately need it. Our troubles are hand-stitched for us, and they fit the outline of our lives perfectly. “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). This is it in a nutshell. “That we should not trust in ourselves.” But if we cease trusting in our own abilities (because we know that in our own ability we cannot rise from the dead), what must we do? We must trust in someone else—one who can raise the dead. And we must realize that apart from His grace, we are always “dead.”Faithful Logic in Affliction:
The psalmist here is at the bottom trench of all his troubles. He is under a pile, which he describes in exquisite detail. He is a flitting shadow. But he then turns to describe God (v. 12). “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever . . .” Here is the logic, running hard on a straight line, like a well-hit line drive. 1. I am a little wisp of smoke (v. 3). 2. God is eternal (v. 12). 3. Because His character is constant, Zion will be restored (v. 13). 4. When Zion is restored, God will regard the prayer of the destitute (v. 17). When smoke prays, God listens. 5. I am among the destitute; I am smoke; do not take me off in the middle of this trouble of mine (v. 24).
Luther once wrote that “much religion lies in the pronouns.” This is my God, and so this is my promise. I am His smoke.Of the Son He Says:
The first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews seeks to show that the Son of God is much greater than the angels. God says things to Him that He never says to angels (Heb. 1:5-6). He declares that the angels are simply ministering spirits (Heb. 1:7). But of the Son He says . . . “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre” (Ps. 45:6). In addition, God speaks these words, from conclusion of this psalm, to the Son. God says to the Son, “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth . . .” God says of the Son that He is the Creator of all things. Although the creation will grow threadbare, the Son is the same, “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
And while we believe the doctrine of covenantal succession (the doctrine that Christian parents are invited to believe God for the salvation of their children), let us never forget that this doctrine finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ—as do all life-giving doctrines. Who is God talking to? To the Son. And what does He say to Him? “The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee” (v. 28). Everything coheres in Christ, and outside of Him, all things come apart in your hands.
When God created the cosmos, He did so freely, creating it from nothing. A central and foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing. Now obviously, the nothing in that expression is not a preexistent material. It is, quite literally, “no thing.” Because it was not anything, it could not merit or deserve the kind gift of existence that was then bestowed. Nothing can’t earn anything. Using a mathematical analogy, it was like going from zero to a positive number.
But after the creation, when our first parents rebelled against God’s good gift to them, as a consequence, the world was plunged into darkness. And we see, within the first pages of the Bible, that God in His goodness and grace determined to bring us back into fellowship with Him. And so back to the mathematical analogy, He has now taken us from some negative number to a positive number. Going from zero to a positive number was certainly the grace of God, and thoroughly undeserved, but how much more is it grace to go from a negative number to a positive? The former was unmerited goodness from God. But we are now the recipients of demerited goodness from God.
God’s original plan for mankind was for human history to culminate in a glorious wedding—with the Son of God taking as His bride a glorified humanity, a humanity which had not earned or deserved that kindness. That would have been great grace. But the sin of our first parents, and our complicity in and through them, delayed this glorious consummation—but did not undo it. Rather what it did was make the grace, when it came, that much more astounding.
What God did was this: He sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of all His people, so that we might not forfeit our marriage to Him. That wedding was still going to happen. Because of this, we come to our wedding day, still glorified, but now glorified through God’s forgiveness. The first bride would have been spotless, but we now look forward to the day when the bride will be spotless because she is forgiven.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25–27).
And so this is why the last book of the Bible comes at last to a final crescendo through the device of a wedding.
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).
“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Rev. 19:9).
Every Christian wedding is a picture of this reality. Every marriage between believers is a declaration of what God has been up to from the beginning. That final wedding, the marriage supper of the Lamb, will be the ultimate symphonic moment, when every note ever struck, by every true marriage covenant ever made, will all resolve into that final and ultimate chord.
That final day, the final hour, will be the ultimate gospel proclamation. And we need to remember that all our proclamations of gospel throughout history, however lame they may have seemed to us at the time, will be taken up into that final gospel moment and be a glorified part of it. In a similar way, this wedding is part of what God is weaving into that final wedding day. This is not the ultimate wedding, of course not, but it is part of the ultimate wedding prep.
Gavin, my charge to you is this. As God delights in His people, so you also are to delight in your family. And in order to have a family to delight in, you must begin by delighting in your bride. As a wise Puritan once said, a man must choose his love, and then love his choice. The feelings of love and delight that you have on this day are feelings that are perfectly natural, and lawful, and ordinate. But weddings are one thing, and marriages another. You are to model Christ, and the sacrificial life of Christ, over the thousands of Monday mornings that are coming. And you need to remember that love is not an emotional high, as pleasant as those may be. You are to love your bride by treating her according to the law of Christ, from the heart. Put another way, your covenant commitment in the vows you are about to take is the concrete foundation. Your emotions are to rest upon that foundation, not the other way around. Love supports your emotions. Emotions may be enjoyed, but they don’t really support anything.
Katie, my charge to you is similar. You are taking vows also, just as Gavin is. They are not identical vows, but they are almost identical. And the thing that is striking about these vows that they commit you, in the same way that they commit him, to do the right thing, period, end. And a number of situations are posited—richer, poorer, plenty, want, joy, sorrow—which tell us that the commitment being made here today is in no way dependent upon your emotional state. As I said just a moment ago to Gavin, your emotions are to rest upon the foundation of covenant love. The vows being exchanged here in just a moment are the foundation, not the other way around. Love is to be defined as God defines it. When Jesus went to the cross, He did not do this on an emotional high. It was hard for Him to do, and it was the greatest act of love ever performed. We are Christians, not Romantics, and not sentimentalists.
And so Gavin, you are to be a Christian husband, not a flighty one. Katie, you are to be a Christian wife, not a soupy one.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
“We don’t want the last judgment to stop every mouth. We don’t want the realities of the last judgment to stop our mouths. We are modern men and want the doctrine of the last judgment to give us an opportunity to run our mouths” (Mere Fundamentalism, p. 57).
As we gather together for yet another glorious wedding ceremony, we are doing so in order to witness an oath. That is the centerpiece of what we are doing. That is why we are here.
Now different cultures adorn the wedding oath differently, but the center of it is the same. Customs can vary from one group to another, but because marriage was instituted by God in the Garden, that central reality is inviolable. So the language of the vows exchanged may vary, and the wording may change, just as the dress of the bride and bridegroom may vary, but the thing that the vows are there to guard and protect remains a constant. When we get to the vows, as we will do in just a few minutes, we have gotten to where the real action is. That place is where the covenant is enacted, to be fulfilled later.
Now an oath is much greater than we are. An oath stands as an invocation of a transcendental realm, and because God is ultimate and tri-personal, that realm is personal. It therefore stands outside of us, distinct from all human cultures. We appeal to this reality from within our experience, but what we are doing is anchoring key aspects of our lives to that transcendental reality.
This is why Jesus teaches us not to swear over frivolous things, or on a stack of Bibles, or by heaven or earth (Matt. 5:34-36). In the ordinary course of life, our simple yes or no should be sufficient.
So in “matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God,” as the Westminster Confession says (WCF 22.2). An oath is like a flying buttress—it is necessary to reinforce a great cathedral. But if you need some to reinforce your grass hut, then perhaps you should concentrate on keeping your promises more scrupulously.
When we take on an important office, or when we testify in court, or when we marry another person, an oath in the name of God is entirely appropriate. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name” (Deut. 6:13).
And so what a wedding vow like this means is that we are all here assembled in the presence of God. We are not just enacting a custom of our people. We are not just doing the drill. We are told in Scripture that God has placed eternity in our hearts, and we instinctively know that occasions like this one are weighty and full of glory. But unless we are fashioned in the image of God, there is no glory, there is no weight. Because we are fashioned in His image, we know that when we are establishing a covenant that manifests that image plainly (Gen. 1:27), we have a responsibility to invoke His name. And in the Scriptures, we cannot invoke His name without invoking His presence.
So God is here. God is with us now. God is listening to us, and He delights in what we are doing. We mean business, and His presence means that we mean business in the dawn of eternal results. Remember the insight of the atheist philosopher Sartre, who said that without an infinite reference point every finite point is absurd. He tried (unsuccessfully) to lean into and embrace that absurdity, but it is not really possible. But it remains true that without an infinite reference point, every finite point—and marriage is a finite point—is absurd.
Christ is the cosmic center, as the apostle Paul insists (Col. 1:18), and this means that He is the necessary center of every healthy marriage as well. According to the Shorter Catechism, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (WSC 1). This being the case, and because marriage is right at the center of human affairs, we can see that the chief purpose of marriage is also to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Alex, if your marriage only contained the two of you, then your marriage would be doomed. It is therefore your responsibility, as the spiritual head of your home, to include the practical and functional authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in all that you do. And this does not mean relying on a nebulous spiritual Jesus-y vibe, but rather paying close attention to His Word, reading it in your home, relying on it as you make decisions together with Darcey, and as you bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You want to keep Christ close because it is your responsibility to imitate His love for the church in how you love your bride, and how you keep on loving her. This kind of love requires fuel, and a husband must live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. My charge to you is to have your home, being established just now, as a home that is built on the rock of the Word. Do that, and you need fear no storm.
Darcey, as this home takes shape, it will take the kind of architectural shape that the blueprints require. It will be your task to adorn this home, and to adorn it in ways that are consistent with Word as well. Just as Alex must follow the Word as he builds the house, so you also must follow the Word as you make it a home. Neither of you are to function autonomously. Your husband has been given an eye so that he can see the Scriptures, and see also what he must do. You have been given an eye also, so that you can see the Scriptures, what your husband has done, and what you must therefore do. Under Christ, your husband will place certain resources into your hands. Your task is to glorify whatever that is, and give it back to him. And that process will continue for the rest of your life together, getting richer and deeper and weightier with every passing year.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
“We often talk as though Hell were nothing but a gigantic miscarriage of justice, the end result of God somehow losing all sense of proportion. We want to think of the Last Judgment as requiring an impressive explanation and defense because we think of it as that day at the end of the world when God loses His temper. And would He apologize for that at some point and let everybody into Heaven? But actually the doctrine of Hell is the doctrine of nothing but justice. It is nothing but due proportion. That’s why we really don’t like it” (Mere Fundamentalism, pp. 56-57).
Alabama has done a wonderful thing in outlawing abortion. I want to commend her legislature and her governor for doing the right thing, and every thoughtful Christian should be humming under their breath: “in Birmingham they love the governor, we all did what we could do.”
There will be many occasions in the months to come to write more about this issue and the pending showdown it represents, but I wanted to say just one thing about all of it at the outset.
In 1973, the Roe decision was a federal power move, calculated to pressure the states. Unfortunately, all the states went along with this ghoulish decision, including those states which would have continued to outlaw abortion if it had been left up to them. They were willing to outlaw abortion, but were not willing to fight with the federal government over their right to outlaw abortion.
But thanks to a generation of pro-life activism, the issue has been kept alive (unlike millions of children), and it appears that a number of states are now showing a willing to have that fight.
What the Georgia heartbeat bill does, and what Alabama has just now done, is calculated to reverse the pressure. Instead of the feds pressuring the states, we are seeing the states pressuring the feds. The Supreme Court needs to be dealing with a host of incoming lawsuits, and these lawsuits need to be emanating from numerous states that are showing themselves to be intransigent on this issue. The more states the better.
Stop deferring to Roe. It is no more settled law than the Dred Scott case is.
As always, more here.How far would you go for fried chicken?
South African man arrested for eating at KFC free for a year by saying head office sent him to taste if they are up to standard. pic.twitter.com/1V4eD7IR2i— The African Voice (@teddyeugene) May 12, 2019 RIP, Tim Conway For the Adrenaline Junkies
Do not miss this. pic.twitter.com/sV3MrDDtvw— Brit Hume (@brithume) May 14, 2019
“Those who are spiraling downward in the final lostness are people who are in the process of losing the capacity for relationship. Scripture describes that kind of relationship as one which bites and devours, or which wants a relationship with others so that someone might be within striking distance. But eventually everyone moves out of range for their own sake, and is angry that others moved out of range for their sake. So the end result of this process is an endless, ceaseless gnawing, relentlessly pursued by former human beings. This process might be called the ultimate gollumization of a once noble creature. How far away from God can an imitative and reflective creature like man get and still reflect His image? What is there in the outer darkness to reflect? ” (Mere Fundamentalism, p. 56).
The third chapter of Woke Church is really quite good, and therein lies a tale.
I want to commend Eric Mason in this, and for two things. First, in my interaction a few years ago with Thabiti, I pressed the point that Scripture really does contain more than a few angular texts when it comes to issues like slavery. People who profess to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture need to deal with this fact, and not just wave their hands over the problem. Thabiti acknowledged that fact but didn’t really delve into the issues in any satisfactory way.
Eric Mason does interact with the text in this chapter, and—this being my second point—he deals with Philemon and Onesimus in a very capable and exegetically responsible way. In fact, his treatment of the Philemon as slave owner and Onesimus as runaway slave is much the same as how I dealt with it years ago, about which more in a minute.
This presents us with what some might consider as a problem that should be numbered among other conundra. How can I be a racist for saying something about Philemon and Onesimus and Eric Mason be woke for saying the same thing about him? It is a mystery, my son.
What follows is a small string of quotations from this chapter of Mason’s, followed by a link to my treatment of Philemon and Onesimus.
“Philemon was a slave owner, and the church met in his home. For the church to meet in someone’s house meant that they were a big deal. A total baller. They had a middle courtyard that was open and they would have gatherings there. They likely had slaves serving at the gatherings” (Loc. 811).
“Paul had specific instructions for both of these men that are [a] powerful help to us as we ponder how to start acting like family” (Loc. 829).
“And because in this family God is the Father, I choose to obey. Onesimus did that. He willed himself to return to Philemon in obedience to Paul’s instructions” (Loc. 836).
“Paul is saying three things to Philemon: 1) don’t beat Onesimus when he comes back; 2) treat him like your family; and 3) commission him as a missionary and send him back to me” (Loc. 845).
“Paul is calling on Philemon—in front of everybody—to exalt Onesimus, his former slave, as a spiritual sibling and co-laborer in the gospel!” (Loc. 852)
“Now, that’s how you change a system. You change a system by converting the poor and the elite at the same time” (Loc. 860).
Allow me to extend the most cordial of invitations to all who are interested in the truth. Please read through this third chapter of Mason’s, and then follow this link and read what I have written on the book of Philemon. The only possible conclusion for the fair-minded is that I am being kept at arm’s length, not because the cool kids want to distance themselves from racism, but rather because they don’t want to distance themselves from their of politics.
Yes. That is how you change a system. You do it through the authority of a gospel that speaks to slave-owners and slaves alike, and grants them both forgiveness and ushers them both into a life that has been freed from the spiritual paralysis of recrimination. You teach them that in Christ they are responsible to knock all that off.
What you don’t do is have the pastor of First Memorial of Colossae (c. 215 A.D.) issue a public apology because their church was founded a couple centuries before by a slave-owner, and actually met for a time in his house. What you don’t do is airbrush Philemon out of the photos hanging in the founders’ hallway. But enough about John Broadus.
So, in sum, this was quite a good chapter. As such it is not going serve Mason well as a premise that contributes in any way to the conclusion of woke.
Actually, let me correct that. Either it will not contribute to any woke conclusion, and so will be left behind, or Mason will stay faithful to the text of Scripture, as this chapter did, and nevertheless presume to call itself woke. Just one more lame, evangelical knock-off. At which point the genuine radicals who are championing the whole idea of genuine woke will just stare at him, as though he just came up and addressed them as “fellow kids.”
“Sin must be against someone. It is not primarily a matter of being against a rule—for a rule does not exist without a rule-giver, or the specified persons that the rule concerns . . . whenever the law is broken, that means that someone has been wronged, grieved, or hurt” (Mere Fundamentalism, pp. 52-53).
Since I was mentioned….
I would like the chance to clear up what I mean by “apostate” as it relates to Matthew Lee Anderson. First, I am not proclaiming that I have knowledge of his eternal destiny. Here’s what I do mean. MLA is:
1. So liberal that the thoroughly milquetoast Nashville Statement was too conservative for him. The Nashville Statement wasn’t bad, but it was a consensus document if there ever was one. You can tell that much of the language was watered down so they could get more signers. Anderson attacked the statement from the left.
2. An unrepentant speaker at and supporter of the antichrist Revoice Conference. He didn’t only speak at the conference one time (which could be forgiven if he repented). He is on the Revoice Advisory Board. Even if you wanted to try to make the tortured argument that Anderson wasn’t endorsing the conference by speaking there, or that he wouldn’t agree with everything said there, his membership on the Advisory Board makes it perfectly clear: he’s a true believer in the Revoice Heresy.
So he’s clearly outside of Christian orthodoxy in his profession, and he’s on the board of Revoice, a conference that exists to be a stumbling block to vulnerable people. Those things, taken together, mean that Anderson is in the category of people who Jesus said would be better off if a millstone were hung around their necks and they were thrown in the ocean. He’s also in the category of people who would be under intensive church discipline at any Bible-believing church, culminating in his excommunication if he didn’t repent.
So if he’s better off with a millstone around his neck, and he’d be excommunicated by a biblical church, what else can we call him, except “apostate?”
For clarity, that question isn’t meant to be rhetorical. I’m open to feedback on this. Perhaps I’m drawing the line in the wrong place. But it’s kind of astonishing how outraged people get at the fact that I think Revoice Conference speakers are outside the camp. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not obviously wrong.
One final point: I recognize that I’m not a famous pastor or a seminary professor. I’m just a regular guy who watched a bunch of well-connected people launch a full frontal assault on Christ’s church, and then everyone just went on like nothing happened. If you ask me, speaking at Revoice should have been career ending. It should have been the kind of thing that shatters the speaker’s entire ministry, such that they’re having to start over from scratch. Nothing like that happened.
So maybe I’m drawing the line in the wrong place, but it seems glaringly obvious that I’m doing better than basically all my critics, who haven’t drawn any lines at all.
Update: I edited that post to add this: I’m leaving the original post in place (unaltered), since it’s been up for two weeks. But on the advice of one of my elders, I’m withdrawing my charge that Matthew Lee Anderson is an apostate. I maintain every bit of my position on the Revoice Conference (it’s wicked, evil, and a stumbling block that could send people to Hell by encouraging them to make provision for the flesh). But it’s premature and presumptuous for me to render a judgment on Anderson himself. May God grant him repentance, and be gracious to him by placing elders above him that will immediately begin church discipline unless and until he ceases participation in the Revoice Conference.
Tim, thank you for your work, and for the clarification.On RHE
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. So many in my circle have gone to either extreme—including an odd branch that have started memorializing her in quotes and sainting her because she is dead while in life they would not weigh in one way or the other. How would you suggest we talk to those who object to any disagreement because her death is recent?
Kate, when a public figure dies, it is noteworthy, and if it is noteworthy, we should talk about it, and should be able to say something other than ummmm. When the death is recent, we should seek to speak respectfully.
Re: RHE, RIP. Reading your article about this woman’s death reminds me of the black plague song “Ad Mortem Festinamus,” the chorus of which is, “We hurry into death; let us quit sinning.” I heard that song this Easter, and have been pondering that perspective, one which is not common even in the Church in our culture. I’m twenty-four, and have struggled with self-injury since I was thirteen. I became regenerate at age eighteen, but this is my most persistent sin pattern, and the longest I’ve been able to go without falling back into it has been a little over a year. I just recently fell again after about eight months clean. Now, I have wonderful friends and mentors who have helped me with this issue when it crops up, but your writing has always been very helpful to me: you have a gift for getting to the heart of the issue without forfeiting important details, and the way you write somehow makes me think about even very familiar subjects in a new way. I’ve done a lot of searching online for explanations from Christians of why this is such a terrible sin (which I do not question, to be clear), as opposed to simply a “maladaptive coping mechanism,” as the world says; I’ve not found anything except a reference to Leviticus 19:28, which doesn’t really seem to apply in my case. Everything else just assumed it was wrong and offered solutions for Christians struggling with this sin, but part of what helps me not sin is understanding why exactly it’s so bad to do so. Yes, it is always right to obey God even without a full understanding, but it’s also good and right to seek that understanding where possible—I believe that’s part of loving God with all my mind. I don’t have any demons, like the man in the cave, though I’m aware that such an action is a nice invitation for them. I can assume that it must be an act of worship to some false god, but I’d like to think that I’m not quite the same as the priests of Baal. I also know that blood is very important symbolically in the Bible, but I only have a vague understanding of how important it is, based on the ceremonial laws about it that don’t make much sense to me (and Jesus’ blood, obviously). I know the verses about our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit, and I know that comes into play here, but those are in the context of sexual sin. Basically, I have a bunch of loose ends, and I’m having trouble tying them together. I know that the issue goes way deeper than anything I’ve read on it—from pagans and Christians alike—and I was wondering if you would ever address such a topic, or if you know of a good resource that actually explains the matter in depth. This is a very old problem, so I’m sure Christians have written well on it before, but I can’t buy every book searching for the truth. Any direction you can give would be appreciated. Love your ministry.
L, yes, that would be a good topic to address in detail at some point. It is much needed. In the meantime, let me just say this. Guard against the assumption that you are sinning against self, as though your body belonged to you and you are sinning because you are going against the manufacturer’s instructions. Rather, your body belongs to Him, and it bears His image, not yours, and so attempts to injure yourself are attempts to strike at Him. Now that raises the question of why you want to strike at Him, and in your prayers I would suggest that you investigate your relationship to another image of Him, which would be your father.
Rachel Held Evans: In trying to follow your train of thought on RHE’s death, you were clear in your post that: 1) death is not an all-purpose disinfectant for sin, i.e. Hell is real 2) unfaithful men use death as an occasion to lie 3) many funeral testimonies evidence a strong disconnect between the life lived and the testimony given (are we speaking about the same scoundrel?) 4) Paul would not speak about Alexander the Coppersmith’s death in the same way as Euodia and Syntyche, 5) we should not use death as an occasion to score doctrinal points or rejoice when our enemies fall. My question is related to the following statement in the letter, “So the best thing we can do in a circumstance like this is to stand by the gospel we profess, walking none of it back, extend genuine condolence to the Evans family, hope for the best with regard to RHE, and put all our disputes, whether weighty or insignificant, into a context of a momentous and everlasting glory and joy.” And your response to a letter on the subject in which you stated, “I don’t think we have any business speculating on what was the case, and should just limit ourselves to what we hope was the case.” I have trouble with the idea that the only way to accomplish the five objectives listed above is to refrain from any sort of speculation about the eternal destination of a sinner and simply hope for the best with regard to Alexander the Coppersmith’s death. This is problematic to me because: 1) it seems to involve a strange double standard. When a believer with a long track record of faithfulness dies, do we not rightly, as those who grieve with hope, express a strong scripturally-based and evidence-based confidence that we will see them again, knowing full well that we are not God and cannot judge these things absolutely. Why is this wrong on the other side? Why the asymmetrical standard here? If Jezebel dies, then we simply hope for the best and ignore the lifelong evidence that indicates to any sane person the contrary? Can’t a person make an equally scripturally-based and evidence-based calculation that allows for surprises on the last day? 2) how are we to distinguish this posture from wishful thinking? 3) doesn’t this diminish the seriousness of Hell if the rules of the game are that when a notorious sinner dies with no evidence of repentance we need to bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best. Clearly hoping for the best is different than whitewashing Jezebel’s life, but doesn’t an asymmetrical agnosticism here (because we don’t do this with those who exhibit strong evidence) undermine the actual danger of apostasy for those who would imitate the life of the apostate? The reality is, RHE taught many, many people to doubt the existence of God and in her last few days indicated strong skepticism about the reality of the resurrection. To retreat to total agnosticism at this point seems to trivialize the danger people face who would follow her in unbelief. It seems better to acknowledge with a heavy heart that based on everything we know about her life and her last days, no Christian has any reason for confidence that she not burning in Hell. We take no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, and hope that somehow she might have repented at the last moment, but we have no strong reason for a confident expectation that this is the case and that is what makes this an unspeakable tragedy that we are reduced to hoping against all evidence that there is more to the story than we know. And this is obviously why it is so important to repent and believe the gospel while you have time because a day will come when you run out of time. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this is either insensitive or trying to score theological points. It seems like there is some sort of middle ground between dogmatically declaring a person is either in Heaven or in Hell, on the one hand, and on the other hand refraining from any speculation and hoping for the best. If we speak with measured confidence about believer’s destination in death, why is it wrong to speak with measured confidence about notorious heretics in death? Thanks for your ministry.
Timothy, thank you for the measured and well-thought-out question. I do not have a problem with what you are saying, depending on the circumstance. But even hard-boiled heretics in Scripture get two and three warnings before they are cut off. In RHE’s case, I believe that she was a confused woman who initially got a tremendous volume of accolades for going in a problematic direction. If she was the Jezebel you describe, then all is as you describe. But I see a distinct possibility that God in His mercy cut her off before she finally got there.
Thank you for this. I have been struggling with her illness and death because she has helped to lead so many astray (including my own daughter). I have prayed that in her coma, she would see Jesus Christ for who he really is rather than who she wants Him to be and thus repent of her sin. I do know that today she has absolute clarity.
M, thank you.
Deeply true, sir. I was blessed by these words. You didn’t speak only to those who followed through the discussions with RHE, but surely spoke to hearts like mine too.
LA, thanks.What’s the Deal?
Ever since I read Life After Google, I have been using Brave browser. It has a “tip” feature for tipping websites that one visits often. I’ve used the BATs (basic attention tokens) from my account to tip your website but I get a message that—“this creator has not signed up.” I was hoping that the BAT would actually be some kind of a support for your work.
Jason, didn’t know about that. Let me check into it.Trump, the Ever-Ready Topic
With regard to King David and Donald Trump, I’d have to say you rather failed to answer the question which you posed as the one that ought to have been asked by David French. What would Nathan say? Or do? As best I can tell, Trump has in some ways reformed his behavior compared to, say, ten years ago. But as best I can tell, there’s no repentance there, merely a greater public role inhibiting further escapades and perhaps a decreasing libido with age. So, ah—it’s all well and good to say Nathan supported David, but David repented. What would Nathan say to an executive who refused—or at best, failed—to so repent? I am not going so far as to say a man could not vote (as you seem likely to decide) for Trump in 2020 in good conscience, but we really need to do so understanding the choice as a least of evils (or perhaps divine-scourge/blessing-in-disguise, as your other recent writings suggest). This piece really comes off as pushing a Trump-as-David narrative that belies your serious warnings about taking our rulers’ sins seriously. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it’s alarming. Also, apologies—my reading’s a bit behind the times, and I think it likely others have made this point and likely better already.
Jonathan, thanks for the opportunity to make it clear that I do not believe that Trump is a man after God’s own heart.Bible Reading Challenge Question
I’m hoping to do the Summer BRC with my wife and (Lord willing) any willing men in the small group that I lead. Out of curiosity, is there any specific rationale behind how the readings are ordered? I looked on the Christ Church website at the link you posted but could not find any additional info. Thank you,
Cody, yes, there is. We start with John because it is the Genesis of the New Testament. Then to John’s letters. Revelation is kept for later because of all the people who are reading their Bibles for the first time. That book is not exactly the ideal starter kit. Then Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians as a group. Luke and Acts are together because they have the same author. The remainder is just to fit the rest of the NT into the available spaces—so that we don’t leave unfinished letters hanging before a catch-up day, or before a Saturday.Baptism and Church Discipline
I’m still trying to fully understand the implications of bifurcating covenant members of the church and actual believers, particularly adults who have been baptized at some point in their life and how the church is to respond with discipline when they get involved in blatant heinous sin or apostatize. I have exercised the discipline of withdrawing glad fellowship from both family and friends who claim the name of Christ and are also found to be practicing heinous sin. My challenge to them has usually been to drop the name of Christ or drop the sin. As long as they do one or the other (depending on the sin) I will reenter glad fellowship with them. Sometimes I lose the relationship altogether and sometimes the person’s eyes are opened and they forsake the sin. Not until I began researching the doctrine of infant baptism did I begin to consider new implications for this sacrament and how the church was to function. Does this doctrine call for us to treat baptized members of the church as forever members? If they apostatize, are Christians still allowed to offer a blessed relationship with them because they are outside the church by dropping the name of Christ and therefore classify them as non-believer, a group we are no longer required to judge? Or is it because they are baptized, we are to maintain their status of “believer” and continually discipline through the withdrawal of glad fellowship until they come back to Jesus, even though they do not claim to be Christians?
Rope, I believe you have the basic principle correct, but the covenantal view of baptism does add an additional layer to this. A baptized person who has not been excommunicated is still a Christian in some sense. And that person cannot get off the hook simply by saying that he is not a Christian anymore. His baptism is still talking, in other words. But it must be acknowledged that the resultant confusions are the responsibility of a Church that has not disciplined as it ought to have.More on Evolution
This is off-point relative to this post, but knew you would like to see this: link. It is a further explanation of something you explained very well in The Other Side of the Coyne. Sadly, Gelernter is not a believer, but I pray his conversion through the Spirit’s drawing. https://www.claremont.org/download_pdf.php?file_name=1513Gelernter.pdf
Jim, thank you.Religious Liberty in Public Spaces
Granted that religious freedom is a Christian value, would it be wrong for a town in the throes of Christian revival to ban the construction of non-Christian buildings of worship, on the grounds that such false worship is harmful to the common welfare? Is that too slippery of a slope to start on?
Matt, I have not reached a final settled conclusion on this, and I believe that is it a complex subject that requires thoughtful treatment. But I would say (tentatively) that if Muslims should have the right to own property (as they should), then they should be allowed to pray in their own spaces. But in an ideal biblical republic, minarets would not be allowed, because the call to prayer is laying an ownership claim on the public spaces, whereas church bells would be allowed.Different Reactions
Just as a point of curiosity, I cannot help but notice that unlike pro-life fury at Roe v. Wade, which has blazed unabated for nearly half a century and has produced unremitting rear-guard actions to undermine Roe at every turn, I’ve heard nary a peep recently about the Supreme Court rulings on those other great social issues, gay marriage and sodomy laws. I’m not aware of any bills being introduced to undermine them at the state level. There are no attempts by the states that I’m aware of to make those practices more difficult. I’m not even seeing conservatives run for office on that issue. Other than Westboro Baptist and Steven Anderson (and occasionally you), nobody is even talking about it anymore. So, is this another example of incrementalism—first we work on abortion, gay issues can wait—or is there some other reason for why abortion remains a major issue but gay rights seems to have faded from view?
Mike, I believe that it is because with the advancement of ultra-sound technology, the humanity of the victim is obvious. Christians need to learn to be more motivated by the Word than by the image.
“Sin is necessarily parasitic. Sin is bent righteousness. Sin cannot exist in its own name, it cannot stand on its own feet. Goodness, being an attribute of God, simply is. Evil is a knock-off, a corruption, a twisting, and a deviation” (Mere Fundamentalism, p. 52).
Recent years have seen the rise of a pro-life abolitionism, and there are aspects of this that have been quite good. We could all use a little more impatience with some of our pro-life politicos, too many of whom have been like the constables in Penzance. “We go, we go, we go!” “Yes, but you don’t go.”
At the same time, the demand for the immediate abolition of all human abortion has sometimes taken a form that has confused a situation that was already confused enough. There are two things we require—the first is that we keep the mission clear, and second, that we keep the demands simultaneously realistic and inexorable. More about what that means shortly.The Mission
So what is the goal? What is it that we must keep clear? In all that follows, keep in mind what the long game has to be. For anyone with consistent, biblically-based pro-life convictions, the only satisfactory outcome is the abolition of all human abortion—first, in the law, and second, with regard to the actual practice of it, as much as can be restrained by enforcement in a fallen and imperfect world. That is the mission.
So what do I mean by realistic and inexorable?Conquering Canaan
Let us take Israel’s conquest of Canaan as a historical event that illustrates the nature of the challenge and difficulty.
In the first place, the assignment given to Israel was clear. The iniquity of the Amorites was now full (Gen. 15:16), and so God ordered total war against the seven nations of Canaan. Israel was not to stop her warfare until these nations had been eradicated and removed from the land.
“When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou” (Deut. 7:1).
At the same time, even while Joshua was at their head, and Israel was still fighting faithfully (as opposed to fighting in fits and starts), the conquest was not to be instantaneous. God’s declared intention was for them to displace the Canaanites “little by little.”
“And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee” (Deut. 7:22).
So what problems might arise from this “little by little” business? Obviously the problem with such gradualism is always the threat of mission drift and compromise. This temptation will be present even when the gradualism is assigned and required by God. In other words, because God had said that it was to be done “little by little” lest the wild beasts grow too numerous, it therefore became possible for Israelite men to claim they were going slowly “because of the wild beasts” when they were actually going slowly because they had not grasped the lessons of Baal-Peor.
“Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal-peor: for all the men that followed Baal-peor, the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you” (Deut. 4:3).
In other words, when God’s Word tells us to go slowly and deliberately, this provides us with a built-in excuse for slow-walking the whole thing in the wrong way. When others see what we are doing, and see through the excuses, this creates the temptation for them to say that all gradualism is simply a lame excuse for compromise.Triage and Finitude
We are living in a world filled with sin, and not just the sin of abortion. We are finite, and our resources are limited. It is as though there has been an enormous spiritual battle, and we are manning the field hospital—and with limited supplies, limited knowledge, and limited staff. If we start treating patients on the south end of the field hospital, then patients on the north end are going to die before we get there. And we can’t fix this problem by starting on the north end.
“You cannot do simply good to simply Man; you must do this or that good to this or that man. And if you do this good, you can’t at the same time do that; and if you do it to these men, you can’t also do it to those” (C.S. Lewis, “Why I Am Not a Pacifist, The Weight of Glory, p. 75).
In addition, as we labor for the gospel in a world where we “can’t do everything,” we have to reckon with the fact—as Dr. Dimble did in That Hideous Strength—that we might have a “whole Belbury” tucked away inside us, waiting for the right moment to betray us. One of the ways this happens is that we become impatient with the apparently ineffectual efforts of previous pro-lifers, and we move from considering the possibility that some of it is the result of compromised thinking, which is true enough, to the assertion that all of it has to be compromised, which is as false as it gets.Inescapable Incrementalism
Because of our finitude, this means that whatever we do, however we approach the problem of abortion, we will have to be incrementalists one way or the other. Here are some of the different configurations that such incrementalism can take. If we consider these carefully, we will see that all of us are incrementalists. This is an inescapable concepts. It is not whether we are incrementalists, but rather which kind of incrementalists we will be.
Incrementalism has compromised, fatally, if it ever says (or thinks), “And if you grant us this restriction, then after that, it is all right with us if you kill the baby.” It is not really incrementalism, but rather surrender of the principle.
So here are some different forms of incrementalism. And depending on the situation and circumstance, I am in favor of them all.
Pre-requisite incrementalism: In order for any law to be respected enough to be enforceable, the morality that undergirds the law must be held in honor by the people generally. This is why the Christian faith, inimical to the gladiatorial games from the start, did not result in the final cessation of the games until 404 A.D. And this also explains why the apostle Paul was not “compromising” when he wrote a letter to the Roman church without a single reference to those games being held in their city. What he was doing—preaching the gospel, planting churches, etc.—was eventually going to end the games. But to get up a petition to end the games without doing this first would have been tilting at windmills. His strategy for eliminating slavery was similar, and a bit more obvious.
Now in our circumstance, one reply to this might be that American has tens of thousands of churches, and millions of professing, evangelical Christians. What are we waiting for? What is the missing pre-requisite here? The answer is that what is missing from our churches is theological instruction that instructs a spiritual church how to have an earthly impact without becoming carnal. In short, what is missing is the theology of the magisterial Reformers.
Strategic incrementalism: let us say that Dwight Eisenhower delayed D-Day by a few days because of weather concerns. It would be inappropriate to accuse him of going “soft on the Nazis” because of this. His reply would be that he wanted to inflict as much damage as he could on the Nazis, and he thought the weather a few days out would help him in that effort.
In a similar way, suppose a state-level pro-life group delayed the introduction of a pro-life bill until after the gubernatorial election, because they believed that the challenger would be more likely to sign it if it passed, and that his opponent would be able to effectively use the prospect of such a bill as a means of preventing a pro-life governor from being elected at all. Such a delay would be an example of strategic incrementalism. While you delay the introduction of your bill, babies are dying. And that is true—they are.
Please note that it is not necessary for this calculation to be accurate in order answer a charge of complicity in the abortion carnage. Eisenhower might have been wrong about the weather, but he really was fighting Nazis nonetheless.
Local political incrementalism: When pro-life activists introduce a bill in this state legislature (as opposed to that one), they are not saying that it is all right to kill babies in the state where they did not introduce a bill. This goes back to our finitude. We cannot do everything, and we cannot be everywhere at once.
Now if abolitionists introduce a “pure” bill in a state legislature, one that outlaws absolutely all human abortion within that state’s boundaries, with penalties to match, and that measure fails, and they come back again in the next legislative session with an identical bill, how are they being incrementalists? Are they not simply “immediatists” who lost?
So long as there is an ongoing political union between states that protect life and states that do not, this strategy is necessarily a form of incrementalism. If you have followed my argument, there is nothing wrong with that, but it is a form of incrementalism. The only geographical approach that would not be incremental would be if a local political entity protected all human life the way it ought to, and was in a state of perpetual war against all political entities that did not.
Stage-of-life incrementalism: An example of this would be the heartbeat bill that was just signed in Georgia, for which measure we should praise the Lord. No pro-lifer with brains in his head believes that it is acceptable to kill babies prior to a heart-beat, and no pro-abortionist with brains in his head believes that we are going to stop once we get our heartbeat bills. Of course not.So Then
My argument here is not that faithful Christian abolitionists should become incrementalists. My argument is that they already are. All of us are. There need be no quarrel between us on that point, and to the extent that we spend time and resources quarreling, this just slows down the inexorable advance of the pro-life cause.
Going back to Eisenhower and the weather, there may be real and weighty differences of strategic opinion. This is not to minimize any of that, and it is not to argue for a weird sort of egalitarianism with regard to any and all pro-life strategies. Some are shrewd, some are foolish, and some are ineffective.
That’s as may be, but all are wearing the same uniform.