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The progress of the gospel throughout the world is certainly going to have the eventual effect of making your neighborhood a lot nicer, but that should not be considered as the extent of it. We look forward to the time when every son of Israel is at peace under his own fig tree, but there are also larger geopolitical issues involved. And those issues are directly related to what we are celebrating on this Ascension Sunday.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11).
“And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it” (Rev. 21:24–26).
“Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Is. 49:23, NKJV).Summary of the Texts
Our first text is one we are accustomed to refer to in our Christmas celebrations because the story is given to us in the narrative of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem. But the story is also proleptic or anticipatory. What Augustus did unwittingly, what Herod rebelled against doing, these rulers from the east did gladly, and that was to serve the interests of the holy family. These men worshiped the Lord, and they brought gifts to Him. That is what all the kings of the earth are summoned to do (Ps. 2:12), and which all will eventually do. Revelation tells us that leaves from the trees of life will be made readily available for the healing of the nations, and the New Jerusalem, which is the Christian church, will provide light for the nations to live by. The nations, and their kings, will bring their glory and honor into the Church. What the devil offered to Christ on that very high mountain as a bribe (Matt. 4:8)—the glory of the nations—is instead brought into His Church as bounden tribute. This all happens when the Gentile nations bring sons of God in their arms and come carrying daughters of God on their shoulders. They will support the Church, not as lords over the Church, but as sons and daughters of the church themselves. Just as Jacob bowed down to Joseph, so also the mighty ones of the earth will acknowledge the wisdom of God resident in the Church, and will do so as they bow down.A Voice of Authority
But before the kings of the earth will recognize the great authority that has been bestowed on the Church, something else must come before that time. The rulers of the Church will have to recognize it first, and they will have to repent of acting so embarrassed about everything. The Church is not a social club with an interest in theological topics, in which we dabble during the course of our Sunday meetings. Rather the Church is a militant army that makes the gates of Hades tremble as though they were the gates of Jericho. Often this is in spite of ourselves.
There is something in the carriage of this kind of authority that makes carnal rulers shake, even when it appears that they are holding all the cards. “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid” (John 19:80). Why on earth would Pilate be afraid? The kind of courage and faith that is involved in this kind of encounter is a mysterious blessing from God.Mighty Through God
A robust eschatology encompasses all of history. The “end times” are the last chapter in the story, and so if you really understand the last chapter, you understand the whole book. And as God is the author of the entire story, and because we are His friends, He has invited us to read His story in manuscript, well before final publication. We know the story. We know the outcome here.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor. 10:3–6).
2 Cor. 10:3-6 (KJV)
These words were written, and understood, and acted on, by the apostle Paul, who lived two thousand years ago. That being the case, he was clearly playing the long game. And because he was playing the long game two thousand years ago, we have no business refusing to play that same long game. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11). The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). And why? Because of what happened at the Ascension (Dan. 7:13-14).
So as God gives opportunity, and we stand before rulers and kings, we should be bold to declare what the magi in Bethlehem saw at the first so clearly. We should be willing to echo what Paul said to Agrippa.
“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:26–29).
Acts 26:26-29 (KJV)
Where does such authority come from? It comes from the recognition that the Christ who was crucified was the same Christ who was raised, and the Christ who was raised is the same Christ who has ascended to the right hand of the Father— where He has been given blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, amen (Rev. 7:12).
“Of the three women, the one who was out in front and apparently the spokesman for them all could have been attractive if she had wanted to be, or she used to be attractive, or something of that nature. The other two were in a different category entirely. They looked like nothing on earth”
Ecochondriacs, p. 57
The post How Do I Find a Church With a Spine? | Doug Wilson appeared first on Blog & Mablog.
“The age has no aversion to preaching as such. It may not listen to your preaching. If that proves to be the case, look for the fault first in your preaching, and not in the age.”
Phillips Brooks, The Joy of Preaching, p. 30
“And at just that moment, there was a clatter and a rustle and pother of self-importance at the door of the office, and three women, of the protesting variety, came in.”
Ecochondriacs, p. 57
And more here.Screwtape for Women
And I am talking about the fundamental rules of politics.Jokes I Like to Tell
One time an elderly man and his wife were unfortunately killed in a car accident. But the pain was only momentary, and just a blink later they found themselves standing at the Pearly Gates. The angel on duty there was quite affable, and did his best to make them feel welcome and at home. He had them wait for a few moments until his relief angel came, and he offered to show them around a little bit.
They accepted, and as they started their tour, they were both very pleased at how their day was going. They went inside the gates, and found themselves on an exquisitely manicured lawn, one with a well-kept path that wound up through some stately trees—an arboretum that crested over a small ridge. As they crossed the ridge, they saw below them a building that looked like the fanciest country club that had ever been built, and beyond that building was a clear mountain lake, clear as crystal.
The wife glanced at her husband, wanting to share the moment, but saw that he was starting to go down into one of his moods. She decided not to say anything. Before walking past the building to look at the lake, the angel suggested that they stop in the building, which was in fact a celestial country club, and grab a quick bite to eat.
They went in, and the first thing they saw was a long table, covered with choice meats, fancy breads, muffins, assorted fruits, and more. They recognized some of the foods, but all of it looked delicious. The wife saw some of her husband’s favorites, and risked a glance at him again, sure that he would be delighted. But to her astonishment, by this point he was glowering.
And this time, she couldn’t contain herself. “Honey,” she said. “What’s wrong? This place is beyond wonderful.”
That is when he wheeled on her. “Look,” he said, “if it hadn’t been for you and those bran muffins, I would have been here ten years ago!”Pretty Good . . .
“That left him with nothing but guilt, and the unpleasant sensation of being the moral equivalent of a three-inch green tree frog”
Ecochondriacs, p. 48
So we live in topsy turvy times, do we not? That being the case, we need to budget for the topsies turving, and turvies topsing. We all need to do a little better at anticipating what is coming down at us, especially since it looks to be medium-sized hellish.A Few Alternatives
Some Christians talk about the thin blue line like we all still live in Mayberry, and the only reason that cops would ever pull you over is that a bank was robbed in Raleigh, and the description of your car matches the getaway car. So keep your hands on the wheel at 10 and 2, and just do what the nice officer says. If you get shot, then that would be your own dern fault.
Other Christians have ingested the BLM line, which is not a thin blue one, but is rather is a line of finely-powdered hokum, and which they have been snorting like it was crack cocaine. They don’t really object to the fact of police, but rather object to the fact that they are not allowed to be the police. They don’t mind jackboots at all, but just want them on what they deem to be the appropriate feet.
There is an alternative to these two hard partisan positions. A non-ideological Christian take is willing to state the obvious, regardless of which partisan faction is offended by it. And here it is. Criminals and policemen both share one important characteristic, which is that they both come of a fallen race. Both are capable of grievous sin, and this should be recognized and remembered.
So without vigorous and intelligent policing, there are many places in America that would descend into some kind of a hellscape almost overnight. Those who want to defund the police are yearning for a kind of life that Thomas Hobbes once described as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
And at the same time, there are a number of rotten cops out there, and there are a lot of cowardly cops. The latter are the ones who say and do nothing when they know that the rotten ones are lying on the stand, or when they obediently go out to arrest some pastor for holding church services, or submissively accept the degradation of training standards so that the requisite number of women can make it through.
So let me give a few words of advice to Christian cops, and here is the framework for it. No one is more deserving of our gratitude and respect than honorable cops, and no one is more deserving of widespread disgust than disreputable, lazy, or cowardly cops. And no fair toggling between the categories—the fact that you were restraining some wife-beater last night does not give you a free pass to harass the godly today.How You Wake Up Every Morning
My advice to Christian cops is the same advice that I give to men going into the military. Wake up every morning fully and completely prepared to wreck your career that day. Absolutely everything needs to be on the altar. You should know what line you are not going to cross, no matter what, and be fully prepared for the consequences when you refuse to cross it. It might be the pronoun nonsense. It might be leading women into a fire fight. It might be refusal to countenance a superior officer’s requirement that you lie for him.
This is necessary in other professions also, especially as corporate America is taking a header into the woke sinkhole, but with the police and the military, you are dealing with institutions that still have the structures of their previous discipline in place, which means that if the admirals and generals and chiefs are craven, they can implement their radical social engineering schemes a lot more quickly, and can dispense with resistance a lot more readily. And that means that Christian cops need to be prepared for it.
So you do need to be prepared to wreck your career at Amazon too, and at Ford, and at Apple, but you really need to be prepared for it if you carry weapons on behalf of the state. This is because all our enforcement agencies are in the process of being redirected. I do not mean they are being weaponized, because enforcement agencies by definition are already weaponized. But they are being aimed in a different direction. In the older order, the policing was largely directed at the lawless. Now it is being aimed at the population generally. It is the difference between restraining outlaws and controlling populations.
If the ruling elites succeed in making COVID restrictions permanent, who is going to enforce that? I hope not you.Seven Principles for Christian Cops to Remember
First, you must remember that you are a servant of God. You carry a badge and a gun, and this makes you part of the “existing authorities” that the apostles spoke of (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). But this makes you deputies. You have authority delegated to you by God directly, and Paul repeatedly calls you deacons, or servants. And as Rutherford pointed out, when you are sworn in, this means that you have your authorization from God directly, and you are answerable to Him for what you do. As you answer to your superiors within the department, you must remember constantly that you also answer to a higher authority all the time.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 (KJV)
All of us will answer to God as creatures, and as Christians. But police officers will also answer to Him as His designated servants. The only reason any Christian should pay any attention to you as a cop is that you are an officer of God. Act like it.
Second, remember the oath you took. When you are sworn in, that oath is not supposed to be some kind of photo-op moment, so that your mother can be “so proud.” You said certain words, and those words meant something. Look up the words you swore when you first entered the force, and memorize them. Keep them. Keep your word. Obey your oath. Here is an oath in common use:
“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.”
And if you think that you can haul pastors out of their pulpit without betraying the public trust, and you think you can keep your purity because you “disagree with it” somewhere down in your heart, then you are already a lost cause. And in our polarized time, when absolutely everything has been politicized, f you think that you can keep an oath like the above without conflict and controversy within your department, then you are being delusional.
Third, you must realize that there is a difference between what is lawful and what is legal. What is lawful is determined by the Scriptures. What is legal is determined by—scary thought—graduates of law schools who somehow got into the legislature, or up behind the bench. Sometimes the lawful and the legal overlap, and other times they don’t. So when you are tracking down thieves and rapists and child pornographers, you are doing the Lord’s work. When you are telling official lies about the grandsons of, say, a gadfly blogger, you are not.
Fourth, you must also understand that there is a difference between what is legal and what your chief says is legal. Just as you are being pressured, so is he. You got your last promotion without knowing very much about what is actually lawful, and it is quite possible that your chief got his last four promotions without knowing either. And you do not want the tip of the spear to be aimed at anybody on the sole basis of pressure and politics. So do your own homework. This is your vocation. It is your profession. Read a book.
Fifth, you must be vocal about various policing controversies that arise, as they arise. Talk about them in the break room, and let it be known among your fellow officers that you are not automatically on the side of the police. You are a servant of God, and not a member of some tribe that runs on blind allegiance. When it is clear cut in one direction, say so. When it is clear cut in the other direction, say so. When it lands in a gray area, wait for the trial, and say that this is what you are doing. Say some cop on the east coast kills a guy who was charging him with a knife, and you watched the entire video. Apply your training to the situation, and be vocal about what you would have done. If you are watching yet another Canuck pastor hauled off, say what ought not to be done by those cops. What you are doing here is more than just being garrulous. You are establishing, as a matter of discussion within the department, that disobedience to an unlawful order must always be an option.
Sixth, the rights and wrongs of any given situation do not depend in any way on whether or not you have bills to pay or mouths to feed. That is an entirely different subject, and should have nothing to do with whether or not you are willing to do something appalling.
Seventh, don’t choose the wrong part to play in the story. In this grand story that God is telling, we are given a role in helping to cast ourselves. What part do you want to play? Really? Do you want to be that guy?
‘This is what it is, Mr. Baggins,’ said the leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit: ‘You’re arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food.’
‘And what else?’ said Frodo.
‘That’ll do to go on with,’ said the Shirriff-leader.
‘I can add some more, if you’d like it,’ said Sam. ‘Calling your Chief Names, Wishing to punch his Pimply Face, and Thinking you Shirriffs look a lot of Tom-fools.’The Return of the King
“Preaching is the bringing of truth through personality . . . it must come through his character, his affections, his whole intellectual and moral being. It must come genuinely through him”
Phillips Brooks, The Joy of Preaching, pp. 26-27
“One time they had given him a little monologue, which he had delivered straight to camera, which argued that if you divided the name Adam into two words, a dam, you could see how easy it was for our humanity to become a blockage to the divine energy. If you wanted the energy to flow, you really needed to blow up that dam. It had occurred to Montenegro while he was delivering this particular message that this also had the added blessing of freeing up all the spiritual salmon, but he didn’t say anything about that”
Ecochondriacs, pp. 44-45
You say in Monday’s “Death Cult”: “But a corollary of the second position is that Darwin was wrong about everything . . .” this reality is also a major corollary of the first position as well. Last week, when conversing with my Darwinian atheist maintenance man, I noted his aversion to having children, even though he has been married (to an individual with the required biology to procreate) for 16 years. I asked him how Darwinian evolution is accomplished, how beneficial mutations are proved to be beneficial, and then passed on to the next generation. What possible pairing of individuals also is required to sustain the Darwinian process? I then tried to hammer home the waste and futility of stopping that millions-year-old process cold just because he doesn’t want to change diapers . . . have you ever used this obvious and common heresy against Darwinism to confront folks and presuppositionally preach the gospel?
Brett, I haven’t used it person to person. But I have made the general point before that homosexuality is a Darwinian dead end, which I take as the same basic point.
The Death Cult of Expressive Individualism: Pastor, it was a heady essay, which required more than one cup of coffee to wash it down. But it was especially encouraging.
The summary Four Dogmas at the end read like a foundational creed, which were each written in their day to address particular errors of doctrine or wayward tendencies in the Church.
After reading these, I am now of the impression that we may well need this “creed”–this rallying cry–in OUR day. The “Five Solas,” the “Five Points,” the “Four Dogmas” … there are good a valid reasons why we have to be “re-centered” from time to time. I think it is definitely time.
Thank you for the cogent and unabashed proclamation of Truth.
Malachi, thanks for paying attention to it. That’s the hard part.
The Death Cult of Expressive Individualism (and Tattoos) | This was a great post and excellent take down of individualism with a encouragement to stand as actual Christians in the way we live, not just in the Jesus-juking cliches we use to cover our own unbelief. I did have a question about tattoos and it made me think of this short little post you wrote years ago. You made an interesting point, but never developed it at all. You just left us hanging as to what you meant. I was wondering if you might be able expand on the point you were stating (if you still hold to it). I would ask if you could address it in terms of the broad historic Reformed view of baptism that encompasses both Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists. As related to baptism as your point was, it was about tattooing, not about the dogma of baptism (infant vs. believer’s). Thank you!
Trey, yes, I still hold that view. What I was saying was that such markers are generally indications of a deep “identity hunger,” and that Christians who understand their baptism, and their position in Christ, don’t need such supplemental markers as identity or tribal markers.A Hot New Book About Us
Recently I heard someone reference a book entitled Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America. The reviewer referenced Christian Reconstruction and specifically mentioned you. Could you give me a definition of what Christian Reconstruction is and then maybe some authors or articles I should read about it? Thank you in advance.
Jon, the book you mention is published by Oxford, and the author Crawford Gribben did a good job. Christian Reconstruction was a significant movement back in the eighties, led by men like Rushdoony, North, and Bahnsen, and the idea was to “reconstruct” America with biblical law as the foundation. The author treats what we are doing here as a version of Christian Reconstruction 2.0. It is a fair-minded scholarly treatment of what we are up to, without the usual scholarly technique of going into hysterics.Respectful Dissent
I listened to Plodcast #192 (Challenging Unconstitutional Laws)—which I thoroughly enjoyed – and I wanted to offer a respectful correction to your characterization of the requirements for judicial standing to challenge unconstitutional laws. In that episode you said “you don’t have standing [to challenge an unconstitutional law] unless and until you disobey it.” While you are typically spot-on in your jurisprudential articulations, I’d respectfully submit that this proposition is incorrect. The standing requirements under Article III of the Constitution include only three elements: 1) the plaintiff must suffer some actual or threatened injury; 2) that injury must be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant (which in constitutional litigation is the government); and 3) the injury should be likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–61 (1992).
As the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, when an individual is subject to threatened prosecution under a law, “an actual arrest, prosecution, or other enforcement action is not a prerequisite to challenging the law.” Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U.S. 149, 158 (2014). The Court has emphasized that “it is not necessary that petitioner first expose himself to actual arrest or prosecution to be entitled to challenge a statute that he claims deters the exercise of his constitutional rights” Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 459 (1974). Rather, a plaintiff satisfies the injury-in-fact requirement for standing where he alleges “an intention to engage in a course of conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest, but proscribed by a statute, and there exists a credible threat of prosecution thereunder.” Babbitt v. Farm Workers, 442 U.S. 289, 298 (1979). Put simply, one does not need to break a law to challenge it.
I write this not to be the snide smarty-pants kid in class with told-ya-so sagacity who raises his hand to exclaim “WELL, ACK-SHOO-UH-LEEEEE…..” Rather, I just want to make sure that your listeners and readers are informed that they generally do NOT need to “break” an unconstitutional law and subject themselves to prosecution in order to assert a constitutional challenge. The better strategy is to file a complaint alleging prospective violation of constitutional rights, then move the Court for a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law at issue and declaratory judgment that the law is unconstitutional. This can all be done without making oneself a snack for a hungry pair of handcuffs. That’s not to diminish those who engage in righteous civil disobedience and find themselves behind bars for a noble cause. I simply wish others to know that they do not need to risk incarceration or fine in order to have standing to vindicate their rights.
Joe, thanks very much, and I stand corrected. This is very helpful to know. In my defense, there have been various times when we have checked into challenging an unconstitutional law (of which there has been no shortage), and have gotten legal advice that related to this issue of standing. Given your explanation, this was quite possibly my misunderstanding of what was being said, but it seems that standing does enter into it. At the very least it provides the establishment with a plausible legal obstacle to point to as they deny you justice. The recent denial of Texas in their election suit by the SCOTUS turned on standing, for example.A Question from Outside
My name is Ben and I am a 41 year old, Australian man, living in Japan. My current spiritual position regarding the Christ is to some degree, similar to that of Gandhi, I like your Jesus but not so keen on Christians, for similar reason as Gandhi.
I enjoy watching you, as it is clear to me that you are an intelligent, deep-thinking man, who I have come to respect, despite you being Christian.
There is one main part of the Christian, “Biblical” (unsure of what Biblical means due to lack of unity among Christian Theologians) narrative, that I cannot find a logical flow too. Please help.
The narrative part I struggle with is (please correct me if I’m wrong):
Since I, like everyone else, choose to sin, I am deserving of God’s Judgement for my sin/s. And the punishment of said sin is eternal damnation.
My question is: “Since I, like everyone else, (except Adam & Eve), are born into this sinful state, how can God truly be just in judging me for committing sins I was destined to commit?”
Our “free-will” is not really free at all. I think our will is like a set of old-fashioned scales, then our scales are definitely not on the level. They are heavily weighed down towards the selfish side, causing most, if not all, of our choices to be made with a selfish heart. A heart, I didn’t ask for or have any say in receiving. I was just dumped into this wretched state, into a wretched life, and then at the end destined to be Judged by The Most High, for breaking laws I had no chance of keeping.
Thank you for listening to me.
I understand you are a very busy man, and if you are unable to respond, then I will accept it under the Sovereignty of The Most High.
Ben, thanks for writing. It is interesting to me that you raise exactly the same objection that the apostle Paul brings up in the mouth of an objector. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). Paul’s reply, in the next verse, is to command the objector to simply accept it “under the sovereignty of the Most High.” No injustice is done to us, and we are merely getting what we deserve. Note that the only alternative is that we are getting what we don’t deserve. Which is it? If you say we are getting what we deserve, you have to give a rationale for it, and I find the Calvinist answer here satisfying. The other rationales, particularly the free will argument, I find unsatisfying. But if you reject all these, then you are left with everyone getting what they don’t deserve. And that means a cosmic injustice, or the realization that justice itself is a phantom concept.Thanks for Sharing
“The poets have been singularly silent on the subject of cheese.” Chesterton
The lumberjack parson placed a great quote,
in his fine book about fighting the woke.
A lament over culture, movies and art;
a call out to Christians to do their part.
Silent he said were the poets of old,
mute on the subject of cheese and mold.
Well, no longer silent the poet’s to be;
the call is accepted by little ol’ me.
Great words of wisdom of theology I’ve not,
just love and affection for cheese I’ve got.
Gorganzola, Castello, and Shropshire Blue,
are just some of the many that mold runs through.
For pungent bouquet you look no further,
for the Roquefort be or the mighty Limburger.
No stopping here for such a singular cause,
to slight the others a sin to fromage.
For a lovely slice of Bucheron,
may entice your local Fuchachon.
Maybe a chunk of Tillamook cheddar,
can make a Portland riot so much better.
There is a top cheese for the gang at Mablog,
that is, of course, the Humboldt Fog.
A Stilton to serve at feasting’s end,
with jigger of tawny or cabernet blend.
In Coeur d’Alene, our fresh mountain air,
flavors our sauces made of Gruyere.
Fear not great bard, so bearded and stout,
there is a cheese for you, I’ve got no doubt.
From ballpark nacho to cheese in the can,
the best cheese for you in cheese in the hand.
Brendan of Idaho
Brendan, thanks for sharing. Though I am not so sure about the cause/fromage stanza.Education Question
It would be fair, I think, to say that you have thoughts on education ! I have read and appreciated a number of your blog posts on education ( for example, Hellbent Education from last Oct. )
I am writing to solicit your thoughts on *paying* for education, in particular college level education. My wife and I have two kids enrolled in a Classical Christian school and we love it. It’s a total oasis for us here in the “People’s Republic of Oregon.” We would give up a lot to keep them in Classical Christian Education.
When it comes to college, there are a great many schools in this country to which I would not pay one dime to send my children there to be “educated”.
In recent conversations with a financial advisor I’ve been recommended to set up “529” savings accounts for my kids ( currently 5th and 2nd graders ).
Here’s my concern : with the monstrosity known as the “Equality Act” lurking in Congress, should it become law, it seems to me a lot of schools are either going to have to “go woke or go broke”, because they won’t qualify for federal student loans if they remain orthodox from a Christian perspective. I’ve noticed that Oregon’s 529 plan is available for any institution that qualifies for federal student loans.
I am worried that funding such a plan would be putting my money in a place where I’ll be unable to spend it at an institution I’m willing to send my kids to !
I notice that New Saint Andrews doesn’t participate in the federal student loan program, which seems a very wise choice to me.
Does my concern seem reasonable and are you or perhaps some of your readers on the blog aware of education-specific savings opportunities that do not come with “woke” strings attached?
Thomas, yes, your concerns are entirely reasonable. But I will have to crowd-source your question about sane savings opportunities. Anybody?Atonement Question
Regarding the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I have read that in the first instance, Christ died for His Father —in the sense that Christ satisfied, completely, His Father’s wrath towards sinners. But it is His elect which will be drawn, by the Spirit to belief. The penalty for sin is death (present tense) and the rejection of Christ is the ultimate penalty—separation from God. Is this view reasonable, or is it at final judgement, where God’s wrath will be poured out on those who rejected Christ?
Blair, I would prefer to say that the unbeliever is under God’s wrath already, and then at the day of judgment, the wrath is made finally manifest.“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). The wrath of God remains on the unbeliever.Income Inequality
“That little lizard self inside”—a question re: wealth inequality. Whereas it is clear that much concern for social justice can be traced to envy, is it not also clear that a deeply polarized society is a great social evil? That is, if your thought experiment results in a coterie of super-rich people and a different, fairly prosperous group, isn’t it true that you have really constructed an oligarchy? I would think that would be good reason not to push the button. What do you think? What does your invidiometer report?
Joel, I would answer that all governments are oligarchies, almost by definition. And if “the few” who were ruling were under the law, and observed the tenets of biblical justice, I would have no objection. But given the fall of man, there would have to be constitutional safeguards to ensure that such was the case.
As a matter of government policy, I am fine with people being rich, even filthy rich, so long as the poor have their basic needs met. That said, having a billion dollars has always struck me as a form of mental illness not unlike hoarding anything else, like plastic bags, newspapers, or cats. If you’ve got more money than you could spend in a hundred lifetimes, and people around you are homeless and in need of health care, then you’re basically just a hoarder, only you hoard dollars rather than cats. And by the way, what kind of person holds on to a billion dollars when others are homeless and in need of health care? So let’s make a deal. I won’t support impoverishing the rich if you will at least acknowledge that their choice to stay rich is not a good thing.
Kathleen, I wish we could make a deal, but I don’t think we can. Someone with a billion dollars doesn’t sit on top of a pile of gold coins, like Scrooge McDuck. If a miser were to do that, I could agree—it would be a serious problem. But if someone is a billionaire, and he employs tens of thousands of people, that is quite a different thing.Tree of Knowledge
I recently listened to the podcast, Would There Have Been Civil Government Without the Fall? While I enjoy all of your podcasts, I was especially excited to hear about your theory that the Tree of Knowledge might’ve been allowed at some later date.
This is a question that I’ve also asked (was it prohibition or preparation) but could find nothing about online. So I’m actually raising it in the last chapter of a blog-to-book that I’m working on, called God in the Garden: Understanding God’s Love and the Sin that Changed the World.
My question to you is this something you have heard from others, or was it a theory you came to on your own? I’m interested in learning your and others’ thoughts on the subject as I finish the book. Anything you could point me to would be incredibly helpful.
Thanks for all of your spiritual insights and commentary!
Jim, I think I may have first heard something along this line from James Jordan or Peter Leithart. I am sorry I have nothing more specific to cite. But the particular adaptations I think are mine.Follow Up
Greetings from Wisconsin.
There was a letter written by a fellow named Stephen, in response to your article on envy, to which you responded on May 4th. I appreciated your response and would like to add my two cents, if you don’t mind. By way of recap, Stephen suggested that a universal atonement is more consistent with your thoughts on envy, forgiveness, and so forth. You responded thusly:
“Stephen, interesting argument. But flip it around. A universal atonement is simply potential forgiveness, not actual. In order to be “activated,” the person involved must repent, which means that forgiveness can be withheld until they do. So I would prefer to say that Christ secured the forgiveness of all the elect, and in His sovereign wisdom withheld from us the knowledge of who they all are, and told us to treat all unbelievers the same.”
I would like to add that the atonement is proof that God takes sin seriously, both the sins we commit, and those we have committed against us. He has indeed nailed my record of transgressions to the cross, thereby taking it out of the way. So, another reason why I, and all Christians can, and should, be free from the sin of envy is that even if someone has more than I do because he has cheated his way to it, I know that God WILL deal with it. I am freed from having to carry around the burden of my sins AND I am free from the burden of having to carry other people’s sins.
The atonement is how God sets everything right. Considered from one angle, it is also the earnest on God’s promise to someday fully and finally set everything right, on the ground as it were. He will deal with the robber baron’s sins by exacting his perfect justice in the matter. He will do this either by applying Christ’s blood to him, thereby washing, sanctifying, and adopting him, or by justly condemning him, taking all of his ill-gotten riches, and sentencing him to pay for his own sins.
I have heard the argument before that a universal atonement is necessary for the command to forgive others to have any teeth. All due respect to our good brother, Stephen, that simply is not the case.
Andrew, thanks. And amen.Orthodox Blasphemy
Religious liberty and blasphemy:
After reading your post, I realized it might be relevant to how I address the Catholic “Mary.” Since this entity has nothing in common with the real Mary and a frightening amount in common with Ashteroth, Venus, Freyja and every other “queen of heaven” I’ve sometimes said the the Catholic Mary is an abominable tramp. Are you suggesting I should lighten up and say “the Catholic Mary has no connection to the true Mary, and is really a republishing of the queen goddess of pagan pantheons.” After reading your post I realized part of why I liked saying the former rather than the latter is I like to be shocking and controversial . . . and nothing makes me feel okay about my desire to offend like doing it for the kingdom. I’ll heed your advice. It was fun while it lasted . . . though maybe for the wrong reasons.
Luke, yes. I would suggest that you make that alteration permanent. And it is a good example of the kind of thing I was talking about.
Having just listened to this video, Religious Liberty, Blasphemy, and a Forthcoming Movie, I pulled off LinkedIn a link to my post for concern that I’ve blasphemed. If you would be so kind and peruse and give me feedback, I’d be much obliged. Another few questions I’ve been wrestling with are following; direction and insight would be marvelously helpful. Thank you Doug.
Laura, I may have missed it, but that didn’t seem problematic to me.Jokes I Like to Tell
Please tell this “Jokes I Like to Tell” is going to be a reoccurring segment on the Cluster Muster AND that this is laying the groundwork for an upcoming future book. Get Forrest Dickinson to throw in a funny caricature on the opposite page and this could be a fun family read-a-long/laugh-out-loud.
Todd, yes, I hope it will be a recurring feature. Whether it turns into a book will depend on whether or not I run dry.Worship in Exile
Do you have recommended sources of liturgy for the worship-from-home church in exile?
David, you might find some good resources in Terry Johnson’s book, Leading in Worship. It is really expensive on Amazon, but hunt around for it.Ride Sally
Ride Sally Ride Movie | First, this was absolutely an excellent, practical help in understanding how to attack false gods biblically without blasphemously sinning in the process. Thank you for the first part of the post. Secondly and most importantly, if I had the money I’d be a Legendary or Above and Beyond Backer to ensure this movie gets made. If and when this movie is made, will it only be on the Canon App for subscribers (because 80 bucks a year is expensive for some of us) or will it be made for Loor?
Trey, nothing is set in stone yet. But a likely plan is to have the initial release on the Canon app, and then a more general release later.Highest Authority?
I have a question regarding your position on the Constitution as this highest authority in the US.
Question: Is the 2A still relevant since, 1) the states are no longer free, 2) the general government has monopolized the militia.?
If it is still relevant, who should take up the responsibility of regulating the militia?
Jacob, as a God-given right, the right to keep and bear arms does not wax and wane with the opportunism of the statists. So when it comes time for a non-coopted militia to form, God will raise up the individuals necessary. But I think it is likely to include coopted militias declaring their independence.Fault Lines
Have you read or heard about Voddie Baucham’s new book “Fault Lines?” It’s really a good word for the church these days, and I highly recommend it to you.
Jerrod, I have it, and just barely started it.Postmill Newbie Question
I have only been a postmillennialist for around a year and have a couple of questions.
In Revelation 20 when Satan is released for a season do you think that will appear to be a large scale setback for the church/gospel to some degree? Would that account for the persecution language in Thessalonians?
Also was there a time in history where the world seemed to be more Christianized than it is now, like for instance at the start of America 1600’s ish or shortly after?
Ben, there was a time when the Western world was more Christianized than now, but not the whole world. The church is in a stronger position now than it has ever been. And postmills are divided on the question of a latter day rebellion. I think that a brief abortive rebellion against God near the end helps to make sense of both Rev. 20 and 2 Thess. 2.Theocratic Free Speech
Yes, to everything in this article, including: “This ties in, obviously, with the theocratic case for freedom of speech that I have been wanting to make. All these things tie together.” But I missed where you ” tied it together” to further your position that “free speech” overrides the theocratic law against blasphemy… true blasphemy . . . against God.
BJ, thanks for continuing to urge me to keep after it. I do want to publish a book on it that answers all your questions.A Good Biography?
Apropos of no post in particular: do you (or your readers) have a recommendation for a biography of the late Duke of Edinburgh? Written-by-a-God-fearer preferred.
Keith, sorry, I don’t. Crowd source time? Anybody?Elijah Mocks
Religious Liberty, Blasphemy, and a Forthcoming Movie
Great article, Doug, and thanks again for your ministry.
1 Kgs. 18:27 “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
So is this the kind of blasphemy of Baal that is sinful, or is it the everything-is-fair kind of sanctified “trash talk” when it’s a public contest of the gods? I mean, Elijah is sure putting Baal in his place!
Mark, I don’t believe that Elijah was out of line at all.Two Related Questions
Is it important for a man to learn how to drive ? I personally hate driving and cars in general, it is a massive responsibility and I do not feel up to it, I prefer public transport, walking and cycling. I detest how private car ownership has become so common, but I feel as they though I should drive because it is perceived to be a masculine trait like perhaps riding a horse would have been.
Do you have any biblical guidance for me ?
O, I don’t have any direct guidance, but I would recommend that you learn to drive. That doesn’t mean you have to drive around like everybody else, but you should be a position to if needed. In our culture, I think it is a masculine trait, like riding a horse.
In light of Ephesians 5:31 and Genesis 2:24, When should a man leave his home ? Western culture makes fun of single men living at home with their parents, but is it biblical for a man to live at home and only move out if he is to get married ?
Love in the Lord
Adam, the problem is not so much where you live as it is how much you are contributing to the upkeep of where you are living. The issue is whether you are helping to support your parents, or they are supporting you.
Could you share your thoughts on the morality of Christian churches and organizations accepting money through the Amazon smiles program? Through this program, Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of their customer’s purchases to registered charities. Amazon states that they rely on the SPLC to determine which registered charities, “engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, [and] hate.” Furthermore, in their participation agreement, an organization agrees that they “do not engage in, support, encourage, or promote: intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age.”
You can look up specific organizations that are registered on the website. I was surprised to see how common it is for otherwise orthodox churches and organizations to participate in this. I imagine many of them probably agreed to participate in the program without reading the participation agreement. I appreciate all of your work. Keep up the good fight.
Joshua, look on the bright side. Maybe these Christian organizations are part of the resistance, and are simply lying to the Man. Like the Hebrew midwives.Chan Problem?
What is your beef with Francis Chan as contrasted to Hazlett?
Ron, not a big beef, but it is the background “zero sum game” assumption about wealth.More on Weed
Re: devoured by cannabis Doug,
Nice work on weed, I couldn’t agree more, and appreciate your detailed and scholarly approach to both special and general revelation information on the topic.
Question: I think your basic argument against using marijuana in any unresearched, non-medical form rests on how one understands what the “glad” part of “wine making glad the heart of man” in Psalm 104. “Samah” seems to be a rather vague and perhaps broad term to describe specifically EtOH’s propensity to relax and cause “gladness” on the righteous side of inebriation. But if I understand your discussion of the effects of cannabis correctly, any physically felt effects of alcohol are the beginnings of intoxication and to be avoided, just as the immediate effects of marijuana. And yet we have this passage about wine making glad man’s heart, the Prov 31 passage commending etoh’s sedative effects for the dying, and Jesus’ wine miracle noting the “well drunk” folks at a celebration. Could marijuana be considered to also make one’s heart “glad?”
Can you clarify what you think exactly is meant by Psalm 104’s “making glad?”
Nathan, I take it in the celebratory, festive sense—what you are doing in the toasts at a wedding.Funeral Standards?
If a church member asked you to do a funeral for their gay relative would you do it? Should funerals be seen as a place mainly to bring hope to those present rather than remembrance of the one who is passed? And is there any condition by which a Christian should not perform a funeral? Thanks Doug!
Ross, yes, I would, if allowed simply to present the gospel. I wouldn’t go the eulogy, but I would be willing to preach Christ on such an occasion.Baptized Again?
Dear Doug, I want to thank you for all you do to minister to God’s people. In one of your earlier posts you brought up issues that arise when a Christian is baptized more than once. We are currently members of a Reformed church and have been for many years. Unfortunately we have developed cliques in our body that has affected many areas of our worship and fellowship which has broken our hearts. I have talked to the pastor several times and nothing has changed or been addressed. In my search of the possible conservative churches in my area that I believe l can be at peace with their doctrines and worship the leading candidate is baptistic and will not accept my wife’s adult sprinkling or my son’s infant baptism. Without their being re-baptized they could not join or take communion. I would appreciate any guidance you could give regarding this matter. Thank you.
Clay, I am very sorry for your dilemma. But I couldn’t go to a church where those conditions were enforced.Prince of the Power of the Air?
I hope you and your family are well. This is going to be a bit of a strange question, but I do think the church needs to address it: What is going on with all of this UFO stuff? There seems to be a lot of eyewitness testimony, military reports, and videos of UFO’s, including the USS Nimitz UFO incident back in 2004. There seems to be a lot of people trying to figure out what the truth is. I have seen some of it, and there does seem to be something to it. How should Christians look at these things going on? Is it demonic? Is it the government or a foreign power? What do you think is going on?
Grant, I don’t have a lot to say about this, but the little I know seems to indicate a demonic influence, where it is not just speculative imagination. Certain occult things accompany UFO reports, like automatic writing, etc.
“‘Divorce?’ He had no right to be amazed at the prospect of divorce appearing suddenly like this, but it is often the case that delusional people experience feelings that they have no right to experience”
Ecochondriacs, p. 42
The battle of our time is the war between those who demand their right to be creators, over against those who seek to defend their right to be creatures. Everything comes down to that simple division.The Two Ways
A corollary of the first position—that we must be untrammeled creators, that we must be as gods, that we must ascend the sides of the north—is that the raw material of the cosmos (whatever it is) must be assumed to be infinitely plastic. The process of getting to that point is initially exhilarating, especially when it comes to loosening the requirements of our sexual behavior, but the process, once begun, is not so easily stopped. Before long, the exhilaration is replaced by terror as we find ourselves standing on the lip of an abyss.
But a corollary of the second position is that Darwin was wrong about everything—entirely, and utterly, and completely wrong. God, out of the good counsel of His will, spoke the authoritative word, and where before there had been nothing, there was now Heaven and earth—not the detritus of some big explosion, but rather an enormous jewel, cut by infinite wisdom, and now on display. When He was done at the end of the creation week, this world was well-stocked with all creatures great and small. At the apex of this creation, He placed mankind, His own image, male and female (Gen. 1:27). When He gave us the cultural mandate in the words following (Gen. 1:28ff), He granted us the dignity of being sub-creators, with the granted authority to rearrange the materials He supplied to us, but only with the proviso that we constantly remember that He was the only true Creator.
Because our first parents disobeyed the instructions given to them, our race fell into sin. At the instigation of the devil, we became children of the devil. But God, in his infinite grace, reserved for Himself a seed—fallen, like the rest, but preserved by grace (Gen. 3:15). God promised that a time would come when the woman would have her revenge, and the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head, and the long war would be finally won.
And so it is that the antithesis was established. This is the foundational antithesis, and the story of our battles with one another runs down through the entire course of history. There are those of us who want to be creators, and there are those of us who want to be creatures.Secular Society
In order to have a genuinely secular society, you need to banish any notion of a transcendental authority over that society. Odd little groups within your society might think that there is a transcendental authority outside, but a true secular society demands that with regard to the public square, all such benighted persons act as if there is no such transcendental God. It is to the shame and disgrace of the church that many of us have gone along with this charade.
Ir is possible to recognize that you live in a pluralistic society without granting that society’s right to be pluralistic. When Paul was in Athens, he knew how many idols the city had. He granted that he was preaching to a very religious people, with gods all over the place. What he did not grant was their right to be worshiping all those gods. Hence the sermon.
And this is blithely overlooked by sophisticated Christian thought leaders, by which we really mean thought followers, who take us aside in order to chide us gently. “When you speak that way,” they say, “you are failing to recognize that we live in a pluralistic society . . .”
Well, yeah. Why did you think the sermon was entitled “The Wickedness of Pluralism”?
This is what happens in the downward spiral of secularism. The authority of God is rejected, and the authority of man is erected. Once that happens, a hunt for residual traces of God’s authority begins, in order that those may also be banished. As we continue with the task of banishing them, we discover that we have been eroding the authority of man as well. It turns out that reason, and experience, and morality, and hetero-normativity, are all included as very clear traces of divine authority. This is the process that is at work when you find yourself accused—because of your bad habit of routinely showing up to work on time—of white supremacy. Stands to reason, right? But be careful, because using phrases like stands to reason is also white supremacy.
“We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.”Chesterton, Heretics A Universal Corrosive
I have said on other occasions that relativism is a universal corrosive—it eats out every container you try to keep it in. This is built into the very nature of the rebellion, because relativism hates every form of constraint, and containers are a form of constraint. But we soon discover that this reality is not limited to the limits established by the containers. Relativism also hates the restrictions of nature, including any nature within the substance that filled the container. It turns out that being a created thing imposes some severe limits, which are intolerable to the epistemic rebel.
Think of it this way. God created the world in such a way that every creature has extensive limits (a boundary, a skin) and intensive limits (a nature). Put another way, every creature is finite—it has a beginning and an end, in both space and time. In addition, every creature is also a particular thing, and not a different sort of thing. But both these limitations are intolerable to autonomous and rebellious men, and so they set a disastrous series of falsehoods in motion.
After their corrosive lies eat out the containers that used to hold them (societal expectations, sexual morality, etc.), the corrosive lies begin to devour the liars themselves. It used to be that society’s expectations were suffocating, and the legacy of Christian morality was maddening. But having overthrown those, I soon discover that this male body I was born with is trying to tell me what to do. I find that this nose of mine is dictating terms, and so I need to put a metal rod through it. My skin is also more than a little problematic, and so I shall ink it up in ways that will declare to the world who is really the boss.
This cult of expressive individualism is maintaining that deep down within every person is a real ego, the genuine article, which has the authority to contradict absolutely everything outside that little walnut shell of a soul. And so we live in a generation that is maintaining, with solemn faces, that when we work our way down to that central ego, peeling off all the superfluous layers, tattooing them as we go, when we get down to that little imp, that central liar, we will have finally found the truth. What we will have actually found is the mystery of damnation.
Our problems with all of this dunsical folly began with the rebellion of Nietzsche, and the marching creed for this rebellion was formulated by Sartre when he said that “existence precedes essence.” Okay, but what the heck is that supposed to mean? He means that matter has no meaning, no shape, no form, and that the material world is an inchoate mess, awaiting the word of its god. Any meaning that it is to have must to be imposed on it by the will of the being that is doing the imposing— that entity ideally being a French philosopher with lots of nubile bluestockings around. Thus any essence that a being has is autonomously established by that being himself. This is what I was referring to when I spoke of those who demand to be creators.
But it works like this. This world of meaningless matter is a gelatinous mass, quivering like jello on a plate. How it got on to a plate we will not inquire. How the plate was made is a question that will take us too far afield. It’s just there, all right? Then the will of the heroic existentialist fashions the signet ring of his own identity, forging it in the glowing furnace of his own autonomous choices. He then presses that signet ring of his own making into the gelatinous mass, and ta da there it is—his homegrown identity. Now for some bizarre reason, Sartre maintained that such choices had to be made in “good faith,” failing to recognize that his whole system rendered any such qualifications both absurd and meaningless.
Someone may complain that my references to Nietzsche and Sartre and such like are all irrelevant because nobody would call themselves card-carrying members of these epistemic cartels. But depend upon it, the girl at the mall with neon Halloween hair is a disciple of Sartre, whether she wants to admit it or not.A Corrosive That Keeps on Corroding
But there is a problem. How did we turn an exquisitely fashioned world into a gelatinous mass? How did we come up with a plastic body of matter that could receive the imprint of our autonomous choices? We did it with the corrosive solvent of unbelief. We stopped believing in a transcendent God, a God who revealed Himself to us in nature, in His Word, and in His Son. In short, we stopped believing in Jehovah. We said in our hearts, fools that we are, that there is no God (Ps. 14:1; Ps. 53:1).
We used to live in these very predictable containers. There were binary containers like male and female. There were objective physical containers like tall and short. There were logical containers, like true and false. We were hemmed in on every side, and it was starting to feel a tad claustrophobic.
Then the peculiar forms of cascading unbelief, released by men like Descartes, and Kant, and Nietzsche, and Rousseau, began by eating out the containers. After that, the unbelief began to soften those things that had once been stored within the containers, and what was once a solid identifiable thing became more malleable and plastic—the kind of thing that would receive the imprint of a philosopher’s signet ring. Just press a little harder, and there! You are a girl now.
But there is a problem they have been slow to anticipate. The unbelief that ate out the walls of the containers, and which softened the realities within the containers, is an unbelief that has not yet reached the full extent of its leprous capacity. The unbelief was not done. There is a lot more where that came from.
That which is solid can be rendered plastic, and that which is plastic can be rendered liquid, and that which is liquid can be turned to steam. Try pushing the signet ring of all your autonomous choices into that cloud of steam. Quite the identity you have there, vapor man. And then think about what it means to make such an attempt when your signet ring has also turned into into steam.
Like Keats, the names of all these men are written in water. These are men who are desperately trying to escape the assignment that God gave to them, that assignment being to bear His image.
We are observing the almost complete fulfillment of C.S. Lewis’s prophetic little work of genius, written back in the 1940’s. We are observing the abolition of man.
Lucy shuddered and nodded. When they had sat down she said: “Such a horrible idea has come into my head, Su.” “What’s that?” “Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?” “We’ve got enough to bother about here and now in Narnia,” said the practical Susan, “without imagining things like that.”C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
Our Most Necessary Christian Response
What should the response of Christians be? How are we to react to all of this? There are certain fundamental doctrines that we need to move back to the center of our lives. And just to be difficult, let us not call them doctrines, but rather dogmas. And let us not just mouth them, but also live them.
Christians must recover a holy dogmatism. And dogmatism does not mean bombast and bluster. As Chesterton put it, “Dogma does not mean the absence of thought, but the end of thought.” We are not to pursue the truth like we were on some kind of a snipe hunt. We pursue the truth until we find it, and then we are to hold it fast.
So we are to be dogmatic, but dogmatic about what? I would suggest four things—creation, law, grace, and life.
Only Jehovah God is the Creator, and we are His creatures. It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3). As creatures, we have boundaries and natures, and have not been given the luxury of inventing ourselves, or reinventing ourselves, or of creating ourselves. We used to be nothing, and now we are something, and so we embrace the glory of limits. Created, finite, limited, and contingent beings have been given the gift of eternal life, and we will luxuriate in our boundedness forever and ever. It would be better to be a molecule in the paving stones of Heaven than to fill up the entire outer darkness with our triumphant howling. We will always be creatures. In Heaven, we like it.
Only Jehovah God is the Lawgiver, and so our morality is assigned to us, like our natures and our limits. God spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden, and He told them what not to do. God spoke to Moses on Sinai, and told Him what not to do. The Lord Jesus sat down on the Mount of Olives, and told us what not to do. Our source for what constitutes moral behavior is to be the law/word of God, and must not be the results of a vote that we took, with every dirty heart we could find eligible to vote. Morality is defined by divine authority, and not by jiggered consensus. But when we return to divine authority as our foundation for morality we discover, to our dismay, that we are sinners. And this leads to the next point.
Only Jehovah God is the Savior, and He did it with His own blood. We secured our damnation by valuing “self” above all else, and the Lord secured our salvation by refusing to value Himself in that same way. He saved us by giving Himself as a sacrifice, and when we receive the efficacious results of that sacrifice, we are enabled to imitate it. We do not duplicate it, but the way of a disciple is the way of imitating it. The objective gospel is the message of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, and our assigned task is to believe that this gospel is ultimate truth. Not a tiny truth, not our truth, not a makeshift truth, and not a truth much appreciated in our faith community. No, Jesus Himself is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Only Jehovah God is our life (John 14:6). The doctrine of creation must be lived, not just affirmed. The doctrine of God’s moral authority must be lived, not just affirmed. The doctrine of the grace that is exhibited in Christ Jesus must be lived, not just affirmed. The Christian life is a life, not an esoteric ideal. As I am fond of saying, theology comes out your fingertips, and whatever it is that is coming out your fingertips represents your true theology. We must live as though God called the cosmos out of nothing just a few thousand years ago, because He did. We must live as though God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone with His own finger, because He did. We must live as though our own elected leaders rammed that spear into Christ’s side, because they did, and as though they are still trying to bribe the guards into lying about the resurrection, because they are. We must live as Christians.
And one last thing. There is a necessary context for these doctrines of creation, law, gospel, and life. The corrosive rot of unbelief tries to maintain a metaphysical framework that allows for its continued unbelief, and we must have nothing to do with it. To place the content of the Christian gospel within that unbelieving metaphysical framework is a denial of the gospel. The frame for our affirmation of these four doctrines must therefore be the Christian metaphysical framework, which is that Jesus is Lord.
Unless He is Lord of all, and Lord over all, all your mouthing of Christian cliches is just trying to form a signet ring of your own out of random Jesus-words, and waiting in line for your turn to press it into that gelatinous mass.
Remember that the Spirit moves throughout the earth, converting and restoring individuals, fashioning them into saints, into believers. As His fruit is manifested in them, one of those fruits is self-control, self-government, or self-mastery. This self-government is the basic building block for establishing non-tyrannical governments in the other spheres that God has established among men. Without self-government, families can become autocratic tribes, with one domineering personality. Without self-government, the church can become a grasping and despotic monster, as happened with the medieval papacy. Without self-government, the civil magistrate can become an overweening and covetous thug, as has happened in our day.
It is easy for us to blame these governing entities for filling up the vacuum, but we really ought to find fault with ourselves because we (and our lack of self-control) are the ones who created that vacuum in the first place. When the people are slaves to sin, they cannot enjoy the balance of form and freedom that God has ordained for humanity. A family filled up with scheming manipulators will not be at peace with one another. A congregation of porn-users will not see the law of liberty unleashed in their midst. A nation of fornicating potheads will not enjoy civil liberty. As well expect to plant thistles and harvest barley.The Texts
“And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it” (Rev 21:24-26).
“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2).
“Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought (Is 60:9-11).
“And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:12).Summary of the Texts
Instead of just one text this morning, I have selected a mash-up of texts. In doing this I am not attempting to pull a fast one, but am rather following the example of the New Testament writers, who frequently present us with a collage of quotations from all over the Old Testament.
In that spirit, the New Jerusalem in Revelation, the Isaianic Zion, and Ezekiel’s great Temple, are all one. Comparing them with one another, and seeing what is said of them, we see that they are all symbolic images of the Christian Church, neither more nor less. The Jerusalem above is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26). When we gather to worship God, as we are doing right now, we are assembled on the heavenly mountain, the heavenly Zion (Heb. 12:18). Come, the angel said to John, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. And who is that Bride? It is the Christian Church (Eph. 5:25). And then he showed him the New Jerusalem, adorned as a bride for her husband (Rev. 21:2). The great Harlot was the old Jerusalem, now divorced and put away. The New Jerusalem is the Holy of Holies, a living shrine of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:19; Rev. 21:16). So much is basic.
My point with these texts is to show you the distinction between this Church and the redeemed nations of men. The boundary between them is porous, but still clear. Ezekiel’s Temple does not grow and fill the earth, but water flows from her until it inundates and heals the earth. The earth does not become the New Jerusalem, but the kings of the earth bring their honor and glory to her, and acknowledge and support her. Kings will be nursing and nurturing fathers to the church, and queens will be nursing mothers (Is. 49:23). They simultaneously support the church and submit to the church. What they don’t do is vaporize into the ether. The great Zion of Isaiah does not swallow the world, but the ships of Tarshish sail to her, with all their wealth. There is an ongoing traffic of peace between them.Real Harmony
When men are forgiven and set upright again, they find themselves functioning within the framework of three basic governments. The first is the government of the family, following the order that God has established. The husband is the head, his wife is his body and the executive, and together they shepherd their little ones. The family is the Ministry of Health, Education, and Welfare. The second is the civil magistrate, which is the Ministry of Justice. Their task is to make it possible for you to walk across town safely at 2 in the morning. And justice here is defined by the Bible, and not by the hurt feelings of somebody. The church is the Ministry of Grace and Peace, who is the Holy Spirit Himself.
Because the word justice is so abused in our day, I need to say something briefly about the civil magistrate’s duty to enforce justice. Injustice is not the violation of someone’s rights, however those rights may be defined. Injustice is the violation of God-given rights. God gave us all the right to a fair trial if we are accused of some crime. And so, if we get an unfair trial, the kind that Jesus got, this is an injustice. But God did not give us the “right” to $15 an hour. For if He did, that means that somebody else has the obligation to pay you that amount. And when the state steps in to enforce that kind of obligation, the results are always tyrannical.The Relationship of the Three
In God’s order, not one of the three is permitted to domineer over the others. Each has its assigned task, and each one needs to tend to its own knitting. The church does not declare war, or collect the trash. The family does not administer the sacraments. The state does not review cases of church discipline. And not one of these spheres is dependent on any of the others for its existence. Now in times of crisis, as when Rome was threatened by the Lombards, one government may pick up some of the responsibilities of another. Say there is a failed state, but the church is still present. Or in other unusual circumstances, it may be the same way, as when Paul prohibits Christians filing civil suits against one another before unbelieving judges (1 Cor. 6:1-7). Ordinarily, the church ought not to be adjudicating property line disputes, but we should prefer that to the scandal of asking pagans to define justice between two believers.
But with that said, there is definitely a hierarchy of honor in this glorious and eschatological fulfillment. And this is what it looks like. The church does not fill up the world, and the church does not make every day into Sunday. But the knowledge of the Lord does fill up the world, as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). How does this work? In our texts, notice the flow in two directions. The living water flows from the church out to all the families and nations of men, and all the families and nations of men flow to the church. But they don’t stream to the church in order to live there. They don’t come into the church to establish permanent residency. They come to eat from the tree of life, and then they go back out again with a benediction, with the peace of Christ upon their heads.
So picture it this way. The worship of God is central to all of life, but it does not devour all of life. The sun does not burn everything up, but it does give light to everything. The water does not flood the world, but it does irrigate the entire world. The anchor fastens the ship, the ship does not turn into a gigantic anchor. The cathedral is at the center of the town, but does not “take over” all the activities of the townspeople—their printing, their auto mechanics, their software designing, their lawn mowing. In one sense all of that is none of their business. But at the same time the church instructs the townspeople in the adverbs—how these things are to be done, meaning, honestly, before the Lord, with one eye always on the text, and with a hard work ethic.
The church is therefore at the center of the kingdom, but the church and the kingdom are still very different.And Christ is Lord of All
So the authority of Jesus—the kind of authority that is granted to a sacrificial king—is an authority that mediates the kindness of the Father, and He mediates that kindness with the center fixed and all the edges in play. The church teaches you how to be a father, but does not take over the role of a father. The church instructs the magistrate, but does not rival the magistrate. The church teaches wives to submit to their husbands, and models that submission through dutiful and cheerful submission to the authority of Christ as found in the Scriptures.
Reflecting Christ, the church suffuses all of life, the way sunlight fills up the day. It does not displace ordinary life, the way one billiard ball displaces another. Rather, it informs and instructs ordinary life—wherever you are in the town, out in the kingdom, whatever you are doing, whether changing a tire or changing a diaper, you can turn around and look, and from that place you can see the church spire. And whenever you do, whatever you are doing, you are reminded that you are part of the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.
This is a passage in which we can clearly see the basic Pauline cast of mind. How does the apostle Paul think about the relationship of gospel truth and gospel living? How do the two fit together?The Text
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2 Thess. 2:13–17).Summary of the Text
Paul acknowledges that he has an obligation to be grateful for the Thessalonians (v. 13). They were brothers who were beloved of the Lord, and his gratitude includes the fact that God had chosen them for salvation, using the two instruments of sanctification by the Spirit, and their belief in the truth (v. 13). God called them to that salvation by means of the gospel (v. 14), so that they might come to obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 14). We enter into that glory through the cross—if we die with Him, we will also live with Him. That being the case, they were instructed to stand fast (v. 15). Hold on to the traditions you have received, the apostle says, whether verbally or through an epistle (v. 15). He then wraps up this exhortation with a benediction. May the Lord Jesus and God the Father—who has loved us, and given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace (v. 16)—comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (v. 17).Apostolic Tradition
This section of Thessalonians is one of two places in the Bible where tradition is mentioned positively (see also 1 Cor. 11:2). Everywhere else it is negative. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for setting aside the commands of God for the sake of human traditions (Mark 7:8-9, 13). Paul warns the Colossians to beware of philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, and the rudiments of the world (Col. 2:8). Paul states that in the time of his unbelief, he had been “exceedingly zealous” of the traditions of his fathers (Gal. 1:14), which was not a good thing. The apostle Peter reminds his readers that they had been rescued from their vain way of life received by tradition from their fathers (1 Pet. 1:18). Protestant Christians are therefore justified in giving a wary stink eye to any exorbitant claim made on behalf of tradition.
But there are several places where tradition is lauded, and one of them is here in 2 Thessalonians. Fortunately, we are given two important clues about the content of this apostolic tradition. First, in our text, Paul says that “the traditions” were what they had been taught, whether by spoken or by written word. In other words, we should expect the oral traditions, which we do not have, to be very much like the written traditions, which we do have. We see the same in 1 Corinthians. And second, in the next chapter, Paul gives us a sample, using the word tradition. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thess. 3:6). So what was that tradition? Work hard. Show up on time. Don’t call in sick when you aren’t. Don’t be a malingerer. In short, the apostolic tradition is not esoteric at all. Change you oil every three thousand miles. Rotate your tires.The Pauline Cast of Mind
Earlier I mentioned the Pauline cast of mind. Here it is.
When Christians live as Christians should live, this is an occasion for gratitude to be rendered to God. When we live right, we should thank Him. The initiative in salvation lies with God. God is the one who chose you for salvation. And why? Because He wanted to. He chose the slave to sin that He was going to liberate, and His method of liberation was to give the holiness of the Spirit and the faith that enabled us to believe the truth. When we abandon all attempts to hang onto our own glory, surrendering all of it in a God-glorifying gospel, what is the result? He calls us by that gospel, and He calls us up into the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus. When we surrender the glory of man, He invites us up into the glory of God. These things being the case, we should contemplate them, and respond in an appropriate way. What is that?
First, stand fast in the truth of what we are saying. Second, hold to the apostolic tradition, which is that you should get a job. Here is the gospel, so stand up straight in it. When you stand up straight in the gospel, the Father and the Son, who called you to that gospel in the first place, will preserve you there. God will do this because He loves you. He has given you an everlasting consolation. He has given you good hope through grace. He will comfort your hearts. And then what will He do regarding the rest of your life? He will establish you in every good word and work.
God tells human masters not to govern through threatening. In the gospel, God’s Spirit governs us without threatening, without condemnation.
There is consolation here, indeed. There is hope and there is comfort. The grace of God is abundantly present. But we must take care not to import our own “traditions” into this picture. God’s comfort is not a Big-Rock-Candy-Mountain kind of comfort.
Notice that God does not promise to float you like a feather on a zephyr up to Heaven. It is not that kind of a good time.
He establishes us in every good word and work, and work is what? It is work. The fact that there is the promised glory of a golden harvest does not erase the fact that there are months of work out in another kind of golden reality, the heat of the summer sun.
This is the way of Christ. It is the apostolic tradition. Salvation is all of grace, which is why we work so hard. Salvation is all of Christ, for all of life, which is why it sanctifies all of our work.
“How you learned how to type with those bratwurst fingers of yours beats me”
Ecochondriacs, p. 36