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Have a (Safe) and Happy Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Side Dishes
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) November 22, 2017The history of cranberries at Thanksgiving…
Andre the Giant. pic.twitter.com/2VQ4YwmOqK
— You Had One Job (@_youhadonejob1) November 21, 2017
So we have come to Thanksgiving 2017, year of our Lord.
On the one hand, we have an enormous amount to be grateful for. Things are still relatively stable. We were able to buy the turkey at CostCo with little difficulty. On the way home, the traffic lights were all still working. The roads were in decent condition. We are able to provide for our families. Today hundreds of thousands of turkeys will be placed on tables, surrounded by millions of smiles.
But on the other hands, when we consider our culture’s understanding of itself, the contradictory confusions are rampant. When we look at our society’s attitude toward sex, sexual fruitfulness, sexual entitlement, sexual abuse, sexual androgyny, and sexual morality, what we have is a cross between a David Bowie concert gone wrong and a Hieronymus Bosch painting having nightmares. We have an established organization that is selling the parts of its human victims, and not only will Congress not stop it, they won’t even stop subsidizing the ghouls.
In the face of this great incongruity, and many others like it, many Christians wonder about the propriety of celebrating Thanksgiving. How can we do something like that when things are so terrible? How can we reconcile such rampant unbelief with pumpkin pie?
But thanksgiving is not some incongruous juxtaposition to the thrashing of a cultural unbelief drowning in its lusts. Prideful unbelief is the disease. Rampant lusts are the pus coming from the blisters. Gratitude and thanksgiving (only through the blood of Jesus Christ) are the only possible salve. Celebrate Thanksgiving today with your people, knowing that this is precisely what an unbelieving generation needs to see, hear, and smell.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:5).
“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21).
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14–15).
Put them all together. God sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies. They can see our joy; they can hear the clink of the glasses as we toast the advancement of the kingdom. The gladness we exhibit around the table is not some weird form of denial, but rather is our sustenance, our joy, our authority, and our strength. The unbelievers are doing their level best to suppress the two fundamental truths that confront them every day, and those truths are the need to recognize the absolute sovereignty of God, and the corresponding duty to render a life of thanksgiving to Him. And we set this contrast before them, like blazing stars against a Bible-black sky, when we do all things without murmuring—when, in short, we live our lives filled to the brim with thanksgiving.
One more thing. When we abandon our responsibilities for deep gratitude, this does not leave a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when gratitude is gone, the Scriptures teach us that the emptied space fills up with demented lusts.
Allow me to appear to change the subject for a moment.
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
Here Paul names a particular sin, stealing, and then tells us what the thief ought to be doing instead. The antidote for his thieving is honest manual labor, of the kind that will result in a surplus that he might be able to share with those less fortunate. The word translated rather here is key. That word is mallon.
He uses the same construction, and the same word mallon just a few verses down:
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 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. 5:3–5).
Instead of sexual corruption, what does Paul say to substitute? Not fornication and lust, he says, but mallon the giving of thanks. What an honest job is to a thief, so also is thanksgiving to a diseased imagination.
But because America, in her sleek and defiant self-sufficiency, is running pell mell away from the disciplines of gratitude, it is our responsibility to celebrate in such a way as to make it impossible for them to escape the plain facts. They did not evolve from the primordial goo, they are descended from Adam and Eve, and God delivered their great grandfather from the Flood in an ark. He sent His Christ to die and rise, and so remake pagan civilization, which gloriously happened. But our fathers turned away, despite having been given staggering amounts of wealth—for which we refused to give thanks.
“Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:12–17).
This is an important part of our message to unbelieving pagans. They must be told that they are to stop being ingrates. Christ is declared to them in all things, and this includes the pumpkin pie.
“Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
This is the God we preach to them. This is the Christ who restores them to fellowship with their estranged Father. This is the Spirit who touches our lives, and makes our laden tables mean something worthwhile again.
Job tells us that man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). But there are different kinds of trouble, different kinds of adversity, different kinds of affliction.
First there is the kind that we pull down onto our own heads.
“For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Prov. 23:21).
“He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: But he that heareth reproof getteth understanding” (Prov. 15:32).
And so it is that we have STDs, cirrhosis of the liver, expensive ER visits after drunken “hold my beer” stunts, prison time, lawsuits for loutish groping, messy divorces, and ruined careers. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Country music really does have an excellent grasp of this principle. “Turned my life into this country song . . . I got nobody to blame but me” (Chris Stapleton).
The second kind of trouble is the conflict we find ourselves in with others, and the whole thing is inexplicable to us. A relationship with a good friend goes south for no apparent reason. A previously amicable work environment turns rancid. Euodia and Syntyche have their falling out. A pastor and his elder board, who worked together smoothly for years, suddenly find themselves at loggerheads.
When conflict and trouble arise this way, what we need to do is turn to James for wisdom. He explicitly seeks to answer the question for us. He both poses the question and answers it in one breath, and spends the following passage developing the answer in detail. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1ff, ESV). I have written a goodish bit about this kind of conflict in the past.
The third kind of conflict is a particular kind of conflict with God. Now the first kind mentioned above is conflict with God the way arguments with gravity are conflicts with Him. The second kind might well be something that He is using in the course of this third kind, but it is still helpful to distinguish them. So this third kind of conflict is a struggle with God, in the course of which He helps us in that fight with Himself. The model here is Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, who turned out to be God Himself. “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God” (Hosea 12:3).
The striking thing about this episode is that Jacob wrestled the angel to a standstill, in some mysterious way matching him. At the same time, he refused to let the angel go until He blessed him. In Scripture, blessing is an acknowledgement of superiority. “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior” (Heb. 7:7, ESV). But the most remarkable thing about this great wrestling match is that it was an agonistic struggle for Jacob—it was a great affliction. And what did he do with this affliction? He refused to let it go without a blessing.
If I might, I would like to finish this out by citing Calvin’s commentary on this great passage. Calvin says that God intends “to represent all the servants of God in this world as wrestlers.” Cotton Mather once said that for the faithful, wars will never cease. Calvin again: “We, also, are to learn from him, that we must fight during the whole course of our life.”
Distinguishing different kinds of trouble, as I did above, Calvin also says that “adversity is either the rod with which he corrects our sins, or the test of our faith and patience.” Discipline can be corrective, meaning chastisement for sin. Spanking a child for getting into the cookie jar is discipline. But enrolling the child in third grade is also discipline. This latter kind is positive discipline, inculcating certain habits that the child will most certainly require later on. You do not enroll a child in the challenges of third grade because he did something wrong. You do it because he did second grade right.
“Jacob, therefore, having been accustomed to bear sufferings, is now led forth to real war.”
When God determines to bless us with this kind of trouble, He confronts us with Himself. We wrestle with Him in a mysterious way. But when He does this to us through our external circumstances, He is also doing something internally, something that is much hard for us to see. We see the trouble approaching, and we think we see the entire picture. But if that were the entire picture, why would James tell us to count it all joy when we meet these kinds of conflicts?
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:2–5).
We are to count it all joy because the external trials outside are God’s means of strengthening and establishing us internally. And if we don’t quite see this yet, we should ask God for that kind of wisdom. The promise in v. 5 is not a promise that God will give you wisdom about whether to turn left or right at the intersection. It is a promise to give you the kind of wisdom that sees the point of your trials.
Or, as Calvin puts it, He “becomes in us stronger than the power by which he opposes us.”
God wrestles from the outside, and God equips us on the inside through the means of the pressure He is applying in both directions.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3–5).
James says to count it all joy when we meet various trials. Paul says that we are glory in tribulation. What is the point of this instruction? The point of the instruction is the same thing as the point of your trial, and in both passages it is patience.
You are grappling with the angel, and you are called, like Jacob, to fight to the point of stalemate. When you get to that point, you are to grasp your affliction with both arms, bear-hugging it, and you are to refuse to let go until you have the blessing.
 John Calvin and John King, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 195.
 John Calvin and John King, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 197.
 John Calvin and John King, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 195.
 John Calvin and John King, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 197.
 John Calvin and John King, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 196.
A few of the references in this post do not employ circumlocutions or asterisks. The need of the hour is generational repentance, and repentance names the sin. The biblical word for confess is homologeo, which means to “speak the same thing.” It means that we do not get to sugar glaze our sins, asking God to “forgive them” by means of glancing at them obliquely.Introduction:
We are not dealing with a scandal here or there, or even with a minor cluster of scandals. What this appears to be is a full-scale reckoning.
Consider Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Glenn Thrush, Kevin Spacey, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Clinton, Charlie Rose, Anthony Weiner, James Toback, Ben Affleck, Chris Savino, Roy Price, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, and Lockhart Steele. The Office of Compliance on Capitol Hill has to date paid out $17 million dollars, much of it settling sexual harassment complaints.
Roy Moore flatly denies wrongdoing but is among the accused and, depending upon how the election and further investigations go, may possibly join the list above.
Whatever else you might say, this is not part of a normal news cycle. Something more significant is happening.
But it is necessary for us to insist upon this—a reckoning like this cannot be accommodated or managed by means of legislative reforms, or tougher standards handed down to the HR department. There is a generational complicity involved that can only be addressed with repentance. And by repentance, I mean the kind of thing that followed hard after preaching by John the Baptist.
“And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5, ESV).
We live in a corrupt and evil generation, but the good news is that Scripture does describe true repentance as a gift that has at various times been given by God to cities, nations, generations, and times. The city of Nineveh repented (Matt. 12:41). The men of Judah and Benjamin repented (Ezra 10:9). The people repented under the leadership of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:36). Repentance is a message that must be preached to all the nations, including our own. We are not exempted from this duty by our distorted understanding of the First Amendment, and we are most certainly not exempted by our upright way of life. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
But if America can repent, as other wicked nations in history have done, someone must tell them of their obligation to do so. How will they hear without a preacher (Rom. 10:14)?What We Did:
In a nutshell, we decided that God could in fact be mocked (Gal. 6:7), and that we could sow one crop and reap a different one. We could sow thistles and harvest barley; we could sow morning glory and harvest bumper crops of our much acclaimed amber waves of grain. We could sow the wind, and reap little pleasant zephyrs that would cool us off in the evening.
But now, right on schedule, just like the Scriptures teach, we are reaping the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7).
Bill Clinton was plausibly accused of multiple sexual offenses, up to and including forcible rape. Running interference for him, the media smothered that story—the account of Juanita Broadrick. Ken Starr was vilified for investigating a story that was “just about sex,” and the reckoning for that grand lie has now come due. The Democratic nominee in just this last presidential election was the Queen Bee of complicit enabling, attacking the victims of her husband’s predations as “bimbo eruptions,” and all in the name of feminism.
She did all this with official permission from the feminist establishment to behave in this way. All the creeps that have since been uncovered, from that day down to this one, were given a pass, provided their politics were in order. Others, whose politics were not in order, took up that permission anyway and ran off with it. When the morals are generally corrupted, it is hard to police the boundaries of your double standards.
Feminist writer Nina Burleigh said this, back in the day:
“I would be happy to give [Bill Clinton] a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs”?
Leftist bloodlust, in other words, trumps a culture’s responsibility to treat women with respect. Gloria Steinem famously said that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. Well, men still can’t get pregnant, but abortion has become a sacrament anyhow.
Burleigh argued in effect that she would be willing to do evil, that evil might come of it. The religious right, more understandably, and therefore more hypocritically, decided to do evil that good might come of it. In reaction, a phalanx of evangelical leaders made a deal with Mephistopheles, agreeing to put up with a pussy-grabber, so long as he delivered on the kind of judges they wanted. I understand their temptation in a way that I do not understand Burleigh’s, but either way, when repentance comes, it will encompass us all.
And when I say it will encompass us all, I mean all. Of course, Al Franken needs to repent of his wicked and loutish behavior toward women. But Leeann Tweeden, his first accuser, was not simply “a model.” She was a woman who would take her clothes off for the camera, working for a one-handed magazine—one that catechized young men everywhere, teaching them how to behave like aspiring Al Frankens. And so she needs to repent of that. All who are guilty need to repent, and all who are complicit need to repent.
A special note for the reading-impaired: The previous paragraph does not mean that Tweeden “deserved” whatever Franken did. We as a people are now being confronted by the avenging angel of lust, and he appears to be dealing with a lot more than we counted on. In that picture up top, take away his sword and give him a gigantic weed-whacker. He is headed over to the cluster of weeds at your place of employment next. Anyone who thinks that we are anywhere near done with this is kidding himself. If the guilty flee when no man pursues (Prov. 28:1), what will they do now that the pursuit is joined? A lot of guilty men have to be sweating bullets right about now.A Hypocritical Frenzy or Something More?
Feminists made the deal with the devil they did in order to protect abortion. And by this I mean that they thought that their faction on the Supreme Court was in great danger, and they would do anything to defend Roe. But listen. Here, in the midst of this sex abuse frenzy, we are possibly just weeks away from another battle over a Supreme Court nominee. What if Kennedy retires? If Trump appoints another Gorsuch, it could easily swing the balance of the Court. Have the feminists repented of their willingness to tolerate all manner of abuse in order to protect their right to continue to abuse their own offspring? I think the clear answer is not yet, although when God efficaciously grants repentance it will be a gift that cannot be refused.
And evangelical leaders made a deal with the devil to overthrow abortion. Repentance is necessary there as well. This is why statements like “the end does not justify the means” were first coined. So while I reject that strategy, and lament the fact that it was adopted, I nevertheless admire what I believe God is doing in and through all this. We have ourselves a presidential wrecking ball, and God is accomplishing His work.
“O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isaiah 10:5–6).
God is bringing us low, all of us. He laughs at the pride of man.
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).
I want to offer a “get yourself oriented” explanation for the lunacy that has apparently descended upon virtually everybody. A fogbank of dunsical folly, stretching the length of the entire East Coast, has worked its way across the nation, and so it is that we hear distant, muffled cries, from out there in the fog somewhere, “Who’s to say what a little boy is?”
Change the metaphor. The degradation and collapse of our civilization proceeds apace, and while millions of Christians in that civilization think that “something is wrong,” few of them have any idea of just how wrong it all is. And we have erstwhile leaders who have assumed the role of reassuring us, trying to make us think that, provided a culture is unbelieving, there is no appreciable difference between its rise and its disintegration. Take a glance to the right in order to check out a recent promo vid on a glossy web site for one of those Big Name Christian Conferences.
And so let’s begin with the theopolitics of this, and then move on to cite a few illustrations of it snatched from today’s headlines. I won’t say what these examples are about exactly, but one of them rhymes with Sal Planken.The Tie That Binds
Every social order requires an arche, a point of integration. That point of integration ties together a society’s beliefs, symbolic customs, shared narratives, and lifestyles. If that point of integration fails, then you don’t have a society that exists as a counter-example to my statement, but rather you have a failed society. For a society to cohere, there must be an adhesive. If these elements are not held together, then what you have is a non-society. Now this point of integration, this adhesive, is what I call the “god of the system.”
For the Muslims, this is the will of Allah. For the Philistines it was Dagon. For the Jews it was Jehovah. For the Greeks it was Zeus. For the Amorites, it was Martu. For the Egyptians, it was Ra. I use the phrase “god of the system” to indicate that this reality of societal cohesion is shared both by worshipers of false gods and worshipers of the true and living God. To appeal to Henry Van Til’s formulation, culture is religion externalized. All cultures are some religion externalized.
For secularists, this point of integration is Demos, the people. The catch for them is that they want to believe that their Demos is a predictable god, just as the Christian God is. Our God is immutable, without variation or shadow due to change. Their god is fickle, but they still like to pretend that what “everybody knows” will always remain that way—when it transparently will not. Stability is a feature of the older order that they have been busy replacing without knowing it. Demos has violent mood swings; Demos needs to be sedated sometimes. Jehovah is constant, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So for Christians, the arche is the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who holds all things together. “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning [arche], the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). He holds everything together; He has the preeminence in all things; He is the arche.
Christians assert that the claims of Christ are universal and transcendental. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He has authority over everything He created, and He created everything. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). There is not a quark or a photon anywhere in this cosmos that was not spoken into existence by the Word of God, who is the Lord Jesus. In short, He is no tribal Deity. And His omnipresent authority does not mean that He is rolled out thinly over everything, stretched out to cover it all. No, all of God is present in every place.
It angers Him when the impudence of men tries to “isolate Him,” tries to locate Him in one place to the exclusion of another. “And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord” (1 Kings 20:28).
It is also great folly to fall into the trap of the “religious,” those who think they can get God to stay put in a decorated box called a sanctuary, provided they layer it with enough gold.
“Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?” (Acts 7:48–50).
Christ is therefore a universal king. He is not Lord of one place, and not of another. He is not Lord of one category (sacred) and not of another (secular). He is not the king of one religion and not of another. He is therefore the king (thus far unacknowledged) of the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, and all others. Our task as Christians here on earth is found in the Great Commission. We are commanded to disciple every Muslim nation, every Hindu nation, the one Jewish nation, every Buddhist nation (Matt. 28:18-20).
And will that happen? Of course it will. It is happening now.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, Which shall stand for an ensign of the people; To it shall the Gentiles seek: And his rest shall be glorious” (Is. 11:9–10).
God’s instrument for accomplishing this is the proclamation of the gospel, the preaching of the crown rights of King Jesus, with His eternal throne established on the everlasting foundation of His shed blood, His three days in the tomb, His resurrection in power and glory, and His royal reception by the Ancient of Days. Preach that, and you will find that that will preach.
God’s instrument for accomplishing this is not a craven and cowardly demeanor on the part of His servants, going out into all the world to find common ground, to split the difference, to search out the lowest common denominator, to seek the peace of Gomorrah, or to tell the world that their deepest felt needs were the compass that Christ steers by.
So Christ’s saving authority is absolute. It is universal. It is transcendent. It is consummate, final, complete, simple, unlimited, total, and utterly unrivaled. Thus far the Christian gospel.
Now when worshipers of false gods seek to approximate and counterfeit this, they have to take their local deities on some kind of a promotional tour. What this means is that the local deity has to become the god of some empire or other, and the followers of Christ must be harried, persecuted and marginalized. In centuries past, this promotion of a local god was done by means of overt conquest . . . in these times, it is done by the lying tricks of the cultural Marxists, the sitcom laugh track being just one of them. Gramsci called for the long march through the institutions, in just the same way that drywood termites commence their long march through the floor joists. Their idea was to get Demos to stop trying to make sense, and to just follow the gonads.So What Is Truth?
Truth is that which serves and worships the Deity. Christians believe that truth is absolute because their God is absolute. Truth is an attribute of the eternal God. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Pilate asked what truth was when the final and ultimate answer to that question stood bleeding in front of him (John 18:38). True truth is that which therefore honors the true God, which it has to do, being an aspect of His Being.
The world is structured in such a way that devotees of localized religions and finite gods, despite themselves, have to function in the same way. Truth will always be defined as service to the god of the system. When someone say that “that is true for you, but not for me,” what they are doing is confessing their faith in a finite god. Your god requires you to say and do certain things, as does mine. This approach is polytheism—and the political name for that is pluralism.
And when the false universalism of empire, or of globalization, fails—either fails to cohere, or coheres for a time before collapsing—what is the result? The result is that all unbelievers default to their respective natural tribes. These tribes may be ethnic, national, ideological, or political. And truth becomes whatever the god of that little system requires. But little systems requires the truths to be little truths. “That’s true for me.” “That’s true in our faith community.”
Absent a universal arche, there is nothing whatever that can be done to stop this—it is a necessity. Courses in logic won’t fix this because man is of necessity religious, and truth is always a matter of religious dogma. Examples to follow, further down.Tribal Truth
So when the god of an empire fails, or the god of the cosmopolis no longer commands the respect of the people, if the people have not in the meantime been converted to Christ, then they will necessarily default to their local baals. Nobody thinks the United Nation has any religious mojo anymore. Neither does the federal government. Those centers have lost their adhesive powers.
And so when it defaults, it defaults to locally congregated groups. For some it is ethnicity. For others it is ideology. Truth is what serves the interests of Black Lives Matter. Truth is what advances the hard leftism of Bernie Sanders. Truth is what reinforces the assumptions of the alt-right. Anything but Jesus.
Now some might object and say that I am lathering too much theology over the top of this. We have always had hyper-partisanship, have we not? And isn’t that what you are talking about? People who are so “into” their cause that absolutely anything is pressed into the service of that cause?
Yes, we have always had that, but such fanatics have been outliers. When a society is intact, the center holds, even if it is a false center. But when a culture starts to balkanize, and the hyper-partisanship becomes standard operating procedure for most groups, then local tribal truths start to play smashmouth with other local tribal truths. And when someone points out a contradiction this has the effect of just highlighting the conflict, which is the whole point, and the other guy just doubles down. And the conflict intensifies.
So we have always had people who could not be convinced by any evidence whatever. There is the story told about the guy who was always critical, never saw the good side of anything or anybody. This exasperated his friends a great deal, so imagine the delight of one of those friends who bought a retriever for his duck hunting, and discovered on his first outing that his dog knew how to walk on water. His first thought was that this would impress his critical friend. So he took him out duck hunting the next day, shot a duck, and the dog ran out over the surface of the water, and returned to the blind with the duck. The critical friend said nothing. This happened two more times, and still the critical friend said nothing. In the truck on the way home, the exasperated man asked in frustration whether his friend had noticed anything. “Well, yes,” the man replied. “I didn’t want to mention it because you all never want to hear my perspective. But since you asked, I did notice that your stupid dog can’t swim.”
We have all known people for whom no evidence was sufficient. But what is happening when this is descriptive of all the major factions in a culture?
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.And This is Why . . .
So let’s start with the Franken example. The point of this is not the tawdry scandal itself, but rather the way people are talking about it, how they process it, how they rationalize after the fact.
I saw a reporter in the White House press corps, pressing Sarah Sanders on why the president had tweeted something rude about Franken, and hadn’t done the same thing concerning Roy Moore. Isn’t this inconsistent? Well, no—whether or not you believe that Moore is guilty or innocent.
For the reporter, it was simply a matter of “a” sexual accusation made against a member of his tribe, and there was also “a” sexual accusation made against a member of the opposing tribe. The fact that they were wildly different situations was totally ignored—and here is the different. The one person denies it ever happened, and in the other instance we have a photograph of him doing it.
That kind of difference doesn’t matter if truth is whatever advances the cause of your tribe. If there is any kind of semi-plausible argument that can be made, and enough people are willing to push it for the sake of the tribe, then that is what truth is.
This works when we are talking about the true and living God. Truth really is what pleases the triune God. But this approach results in absurdities everywhere else. All local gods of necessity come a cropper, all of them face plant like Dagon.Blocking Your Own Teammate
Another example of this problem is something I have seen in nominally conservative circles. One similarity between two disparate individuals is picked out, the whole thing is flattened, and that one similarity is regarded as the only relevant thing. For example, I have been told before that my satiric language, directed at the forces of secularism and unbelief, is equivalent to the cutting language used by Euodia on Syntyche. Elijah mocking the priests of Baal is equivalent Shimei mocking David. After all, are they not both “mocking?”
This objection reveals that the true tribal allegiance is to the referees (falsely understood), and not to one of the teams. Many professing Christians have fallen for this. They know enough not to cheer for the devil’s team, but they don’t know enough not to cheer for what they believe to be the “neutral” refs. But everyone pretending to neutrality is on the devil’s team, whether they intend it or not.
So this is like saying there is no difference between your left tackle blocking the man across from him, and your right tackle pulling and blocking your own right guard. Are they not both blocking? Or if your running back gets spun around, and starts running with the ball in the wrong direction? Is not the essential thing that he be running, and maintaining good ball control? Well, that is essential to his task, but it is not the only thing that is essential. Running in the right direction is also suggested.The Grace of Privilege
All the talk we hear about white privilege, or white fragility, or ubiquitous white racism, is an example of the same kind of thing. And, by the way, I am not here talking about blacks and whites who know that the only true possibility of ethnic reconciliation is to be found in the gospel of Christ—the teaching that blacks and whites are equally trapped in sinful rebellion against God, and are offered forgiveness on equal terms, which is to say, on the basis of the blood of Christ. That is real reconciliation.
But there is a tribal truth version of ethnic reconciliation out and about. In this version, being white automatically entails guilt. Possessing any kind of privilege at all (parents not divorced, taught math as a child, growing up in a crime-free community, etc.) is considered to be a mortal offense against underprivileged groups, instead of being what it actually is—a gift from God. Egalitarianism is driving this, and envy is what drives egalitarianism. The tribal god is demanding that the happiness of people in other tribes be denounced.
And then when certain whites, suffering from what can only be called incurable whiteness, join in with this, and call upon fellow whites to recognize their inescapable racism, this is what is happening. Contrary to the opposing tribe, which would be the alt-right, the whites who do this are not being race-traitors. It is far worse than that. They are reality-traitors.
The problem is not that they are betraying their people. Rahab did that, and was thereby justified (Jas. 2:25). The problem is that they are betraying the arche that rules over all nations, all ethnicities, all tribes, all men. Truth is not what serves and helps blacks. Truth is not what serves and helps whites. Truth is not what helps the progressive left. Truth is not what helps the reactionary right. Truth is the belt around the waist of Messiah the Prince.Conclusion
We are caught in a maze of confusions because we continue to insist that secular democracy, which of necessity denies any ultimate arche, is a viable system. It is not. It is moribund, defunct, teetery, doomed, done for, and perishing. It is lying on its back in the pasture of its discontents, with all four feet pointing toward the sky. In the great words of that Monty Python parrot skit, it has joined the choir invisible.
Some of you may not have seen this one. I have had a number of my blog posts on racism gathered into one e-book. You may click here, or on the cover below in order to get to the Mablog e-tail outlet. The cost is one clam for shipping and handling. You have no idea how many ones and zeros get knocked around during one of these purchases. It is available in Mobi, EPUB, and PDF.
And if anything in the title of this post offended you, you need to get the book.
The post The Answer to White Racism, White Fragility, Black Fragility, and Black Racism Is Always the Gospel appeared first on Blog & Mablog.
A few posts back, I noted the fact that a counter-accusation against The Washington Post was circulating, and linked to it. The story said that WaPo had paid money to women to testify against Moore. I said that I didn’t know if there was anything to that or not — but I now do. A friend sent me a link about the source cited in that story which shows definitively that the source is a huckster, a con, a mountebank, a fraud. The link he sent me is here. And if you go back and watch the news story I originally linked to, you can see that there was more than a little prestidigitation going on. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
One of the central features of the new covenant is the glorious reality of forgiveness of sins. In Hebrews 8, Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant is quoted at some length (Heb. 8:8-12). But several chapters later, it is quoted again, but this time in abbreviated form. This abbreviation shows what aspects of the new covenant are being emphasized as central. There are two such aspects—they are the internalization of the law (Heb. 10:16) and the remission of sins (Heb. 10:17-18). It is therefore not surprising to find the forgiveness of sins included in the Creed.The Text:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.Summary of the Text:
“And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:15–18).
The apostle Paul is recounting his conversion, and how the Lord Jesus appeared to him. He asked the Lord who He was (v. 15), and received the answer that it was Jesus, the same one he was persecuting. Jesus then told Paul to stand up so that He could make him a minister and a witness, both of what he had seen and what he would in the future see (v. 16). The Lord promised to deliver him from the people and from the Gentiles, those to whom he was being sent (v. 17). As he preached to them, there would be three aspects to their coming into their salvation, which is described as “forgiveness of sins” and an “inheritance among the sanctified.”Three Stages of Conversion:
The first thing is that his preaching would “open their eyes.” The second is that they would be turned “from darkness to light.” The third is the transfer; they are moved from the power of Satan unto God. This is what it means to be ushered into the forgiveness of sins.
To have your eyes opened is here to be made aware of your need. A person in the dark who has had his eyes opened becomes aware of the fact that he is in the dark. But to be in dark despair is no solution; it is simply the awareness of the need for a solution. The second thing is to turn them toward the light, which is the gospel message. At this point they are made aware of the fact that they are in the dark here, but the light is over there. The third stage effects the actual change, where the person is moved from the dominion of the dark into the dominion of the light. That dominion of light is described as receiving forgiveness of sins, and the inheritance of the saints.
First, we are in the dark looking at the dark. Then we are in the dark looking at the light. After that we are in the light.Intelligent Evangelism:
Giving the gospel to people who have not had their eyes opened is like turning blind people toward the light. Giving the law to people without preaching grace is like healing a blind man down in the depths of a dark cavern. How would he ever know he was healed?
The holiness of God’s law, God’s righteousness, is what opens eyes. The message of Christ crucified and risen is what shines the light. When the person’s eyes are opened, then they should be turned. The last step is what actual conversion accomplishes.What Forgiveness Entails:
Forgiveness does not mean that God will now accept your excuses. Forgiveness does not mean that God has somehow lowered His standards. Forgiveness does not mean that things weren’t that bad to begin with.
Forgiveness, being grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has to be complete and total. You are cleansed. You are washed. There is nothing in between you and God. In the Book of Life, there is no asterisk by your name. If someone is forgiven at all, they are forgiven completely. There is nothing shaky about it. All your sins, past, present, and future, have had anvils tied to them all, and have been thrown into an ocean of mercy, there to drown at their leisure (Micah 7:19). In the resurrection, you will be at the eastern end of forever, and your sins will be at the western end (Ps. 103:12). This is the good news.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).Freely You Have Received:
Those who are recipients of God’s gifts truly are people who are prepared to give in the same way they have received (Mark 10:8). If we received forgiveness, but are surly when required to extend it, this demonstrates that we never really grasped the concept. A man who refuses to forgive is not a man who has had his eyes opened, or who has been turned from darkness to light, or from the power of Satan to the power of God. No, he is just a man who just said that this is what happened. We can see whether it happened or not in the forgiveness he shows.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14–15).
So is forgiveness of others a “work” we must perform in order to earn our own forgiveness? Not a bit of it. Rather, it is simply a recognition of the truth that when God rescues a man from drowning He does not leave him on the bottom of the pond.
When envy has you by the throat, what can you do? It might appear to you in virulent forms, or it might seem almost invisible—camouflaged nicely to fit in with what you have come to call the principle of the thing. Envy is one of the hardest sins to admit, and it is one of the most widespread. So if you struggle with it, or you think you might be struggling with it, what do you do?
Standing opposite to the sin of envy is the grace of gratitude. Thanksgiving for all things, and particularly thanksgiving for the gifts that God has given to others, especially the others you are tempted to envy
But it is all very well to say gratitude is opposed to envy. How to feel grateful? Is there a magic switch somewhere? No, no magic switch, but there is a gospel. There is an answer. When Jesus died on the cross, the object of sinful envy and hatred, He was crucified in order to be the very death of envy—and He was.
This is the only salve for this wound. This is the only thing that a sinner can do about the perpetual craving to be somewhere else, to be someone else. When you look to Jesus Christ on the cross, you are someone else—I have been crucified with Christ, Paul says, and I no longer live. If you are going to be someone else, be—by faith—the someone who was flayed for sin. Through your baptism, see that you identity with the one on whom all the vain desires of men were placed, and there slain.
We considered last week the problem posed by repetition, as well as the great blessing that flows from repetition.
Some, seeing the very real problem of getting into a liturgical groove, have sought to address the problem by changing the liturgy constantly. But this approach seeks to address a spiritual problem through mere physical means—which is like trying to help out a troubled marriage by rearranging the furniture in the living room.
Liturgy is like a dance. When you are first learning a new dance, you are not really dancing but rather counting. One, two, three, one, two, three. But once you are accustomed to the dance, and you know it, you are freed up to think about the one you are dancing with. Of course, with this freedom comes the freedom (and temptation) to think about something else entirely, or someone else entirely.
This problem will not be removed by eliminating the defined dance steps. What happens with some modern dances, when people simply gyrate aimlessly? Well, they are still free to think about something else, or someone else, only now a lot sooner, because they never have to think about counting.
The Lord’s Table here is the culmination of our worship service. We have been thinking of Christ, and worshiping the Father through Christ throughout the course of the whole service. If you are used to what we do here, it is quite possible that your mind has been wandering while your body still stands and sits at the appropriate times. And now your body is here, about to partake of the bread and wine. What will keep you from taking this for granted? The means that God has assigned is the declaration of the Word that accompanies the sacrament, and repentance and faith stirred up by the Holy Spirit of God in your heart.
You are receptive to that work, so come to the Table, and welcome.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
While some might wonder why I write so much about life between the sexes, you have to admit that when your culture is a teeny kayak on the swirling lip of a huge sexual maelstrom, it is hard not to. Not only does a new scandal break every day or so, but in response to each new scandal, armies of people then write enormous volumes of nonsense about it. It is like living in the El Dorado of material suitable for satire.
And so shortly before the Al Franken news broke, The New York Times published a piece by an editor named Katelyn Beaty, an editor for Christianity Today. In the course of her piece, she said this:
“The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, ‘I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.’ If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.”
Let us approach this two ways. The first is to lean in to Beaty’s simplistic reduction, and point out that even on her own terms, the Pence rule is starting to appear more and more sensible. What has it been about the behavior of powerful and well-situated males over, say, the last month, that has given Beaty the urge to give gents such a strong vote of confidence? Furthermore, how many women who go to college today will be sexually assaulted over the course of their four years? What statistic is the received wisdom? Twenty-five percent? If you believe that statistic, then stop yapping about the Pence Rule. Embrace the Pence Rule—for the same reason that airlines have you buckle up. Just simple risk management, right?
If we actually do live in a rape culture, as some people incessantly tell us, then the Pence Rule makes perfectly good sense. If we don’t, then it is not the same urgent necessity, but that means we should stop claiming that we do in fact live in a rape culture. Do not manufacture crises in order to get funding for the Women’s Center on campus, and then expect us all to forget the statistics you touted once the building is complete. Or once the election is over.
But there is a second way to reply to Beaty’s reductionism. It is to deny her supposition. She says “if that is the case.” But the problem is that it isn’t the case.
She says that refusal to meet with a woman one-on-one is tantamount to saying that you can’t because it creates too great a temptation to assault the good lady. But there are a host of other reasons why a gentleman might decline to meet with a woman one-on-one. It might be to guard against false allegations against him, by that woman or by third parties—whether it is an investigative reporter or just the town gossip. It might be to protect against the appearance of impropriety, giving no room for jealousy to arise in his marriage. It might be to guard against actual impropriety. It might be to keep a distance so that temptations to impropriety don’t ever arise. It protects against sexual aggressiveness from the other direction. Or finally, maybe Pence doesn’t meet with women one-on-one in order to avoid all those regrettable micro-aggressions.
Think of it this way. Do you think that Roy Moore now wishes he had followed some variant of the Pence Rule faithfully? If he is guilty of the alleged offenses, following the rule would have protected him from immorality. If he is not guilty of them, following the rule would have protected him from these accusations.
Or fast forward thirty years. Suppose Roy Moore was at a nice restaurant with some cute intern, and he was explaining to her how a bill becomes a law. If a photographer from the Post showed up, camera at the ready, would he ask Moore’s permission before taking the shot? “Because, after all, we professionals know that this is probably just business. We at the Post do not wish in any way to hinder the advancement of women . . .” The way some people expect us to not be able to see through their protestations could make a cat laugh.
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