With Maggots Under Their Tongues

My friend Peter Leithart thinks the “most promising, and most peaceable” way out of our current marriage law impasse is a bill currently making its way through the Alabama legislature. “SB377 would remove the duty of confirming marriages from county probate judges and allow marriages to be recorded by the state after filing a simple contract between two people eligible to be married that is solemnized by a pastor, attorney, or other authorized witness. “This means that should the bill pass, only heterosexual couples will be eligible, but if gay marriage is legalized across the country by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that eligibility would be expanded to homosexual couples.” And that last phrase shows why this proposal presents no way out at all. If the Supreme Court decides in favor of traditional marriage, then Alabama doesn’t need to change anything. And if they decide against, then the change will have been worthless. It will have been worthless because states which are in agreement with the biblical definition of marriage will then be required to deny righteousness and affirm unrighteousness, and we will continue to have all the same “celebration” battles over registered couples. This battle is over social and cultural approval. The battle is happening because a particular class of persons wants their sexual perversion to be their ticket into the high nobility of the civil rights movement — what they want is for the march to be from Selma to Sodom, not realizing it then proceeds from Sodom to the Sea of Fire. As long as Christians have the legally protected right to withhold their approval of sodomy in public, this battle will continue. The battle isn’t going anywhere. Neither am I, incidentally. On top of all that, back in the day when your great grandparents simply showed…

A Reservoir of Blood Guilt

“According to Scripture, blood is something that returns to those who shed it. It also returns to the land where it was shed. And our vast reservoir of guilt is larger and deeper than it has ever been. The only blood that does not return with compounded guilt is the blood of Jesus” (Rules, p. 120).

Itself a Fine Example of Contextualization

“The trouble is that too many of us push exegesis back in our preparation, and we clothe the message in a short red dress of contextualization by focusing on culture and our ability to connect with it. It’s like we want to spin her out away from us in exciting circles, showing off her long legs and high heels” (Helm,  Expositional Preaching, pp. 40-41).

Review: Descent Into Hell

Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams My rating: 4 of 5 stars I read this book once way back in the day, in my teens or twenties sometime. It was vivid, and I remembered details of the book, and other details from Williams’ other novel. That said, I thought that Williams was a gifted weirdo. I decided to read this book again, and really enjoyed it. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s comment that when he was 17, his father was an idiot, and when he was 21, he was amazed to see how the old man had grown in four years. View all my reviews

Arms Full of Justice Swag

In light of the recent events in Baltimore, everyone wants to have an honest conversation about race. The difficulty is that in this honest conversation about race, nobody is allowed to say anything that is true. We have gotten to the point where the simple truth is inflammatory. Now the obvious truth should be about as inflammatory as a CVS pharmacy, but unfortunately, the logic of that observation is now officially running in the wrong direction. So allow me, if you will, to say some things that I believe to both true and relevant. Here are seven observations related to race relations and public order. 1. Some of my compatriots on the pasty end of the color spectrum start to panic whenever I write about race. They believe that I am not helping, and that whatever I have to say will be detrimental to race relations within the body of Christ. But the black brothers in Christ that I count as friends don’t feel the same way. They are not obligated to believe what I say, but I do want them to feel an obligation to believe that I am saying nothing other than what I believe to be true — and that that is the only reason I am saying it. Too many trendy evangelicals, if politically correct sentiments were water, act like those long-range lawn sprinklers, the ones that have a 360 degree reach. When my black friends read what I say, they know that I believe what I am saying. When a pale fellow, pale both ways, gives them various Jesified CNN talking points, they are never sure. So if you really want an honest conversation about race, stop saying what you are expected to say, and start saying what you actually think. That’s what honesty means,…

Surveying the Text/Amos

Introduction: Now let us consider the prophecy of Amos. Apart from what is revealed in the course of his writing here, we know nothing about the man. Among the minor prophets, he occupies the vanguard in this period of Israel’s history, even though he is placed third in the canonical order. He is very much a prophet. The Text: “The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither” (Amos 1:1-2). Overview: Tekoa was about ten miles south of Jerusalem, and this small town in Judah is where Amos was from (v. 1). But Amos was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, and so it was that he conducted that ministry as a satiric outsider. He prophesied two years before “the earthquake,” a notable event remembered in Zechariah 14:5. The most likely date for his ministry is between 760 and 755 B.C., right near the end of Jeroboam II’s reign. The earthquake serves as a great metaphor for Amos’ message of impending judgment. As mentioned at the first, Amos was a shepherd, and if there is anything that a shepherd dreads, it is the sound of a lion’s roar (v. 2). The Lord, who had been Israel’s shepherd, had now become Israel’s predator. In the prophecy of Amos, the Lord was roaring. Moreover, He was doing this from Zion, and His voice was from Jerusalem. That was where God had established His name, and yet the…

Self-Examination and the Supper

When it comes to observance of the Lord’s Supper, and especially when it comes to regular, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, there are a number of questions that we have to address and answer. One of them is what devout preparation for participation looks like. Paul teaches us that we do have a duty to examine ourselves. He uses the same word—anakrisis—in a couple of different places. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5). This means that the issue is not whether preparation for the Supper consists of self-examination. Of course it does. The problem is that a great deal of confusion exists over what constitutes lawful and sane self-examination. We must take it as a given that self-examination is necessary for every approach to the Table. We must not take it as a given that we have a good grasp of what healthy self-examination looks like. Too often the people who try to examine themselves give way to morbid introspection, and the people who are not given to morbid introspection are only free of this vice because they have never attempted to obey Paul’s requirement in any way. When you examine yourself, you are not looking for sin. If the presence of sin disqualified us from the Supper, then no one could partake. What you are looking for is love of sin, devotion to it. If you examine yourselves and find that Jesus Christ is in you, you will not find loyalty to the world, the flesh and the devil. You…

More Growth Problems

When real ministry is occurring, one of the things you can expect to see is something of a mess. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: But much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4). Dying churches are usually clean and tidy. Growing churches, flourishing churches, are characterized by “situations” that crop up, quite regularly. In the book of Acts, the church enjoyed a rapid explosion of growth. The result of this growth was a ball drop in their mercy ministries. The Hellenistic widows were overlooked in the distribution of food (Acts 6:1). When the problem was voiced, the church addressed it forthrightly, carefully, and scripturally, appointing seven godly men to oversee the distribution. What was the result of this godly response? Well, the result was more growth (Acts 6:7). In other words, if you address the problems caused by growth scripturally, the solution is going to be more problems caused by growth. Building a sanctuary can be seen in two ways. One way is to see it as carving out a niche, a place where we can go to stop growing, a place where we can nurse along our market share. The sanctuary is seen as a retreat center. The other way of seeing it is to view it as a staging area, preparing for the next great advance. The former is death, the latter is what we want to insist upon. In other words, if we are thinking that all we need to do is establish a couple of Reformed churches in Moscow, and then we can call it good, we have stepped away from the Great Commission. The house is all the elect whom God will call on the Palouse. Our sanctuary is just one part of the down payment. So let the…

Book of the Month/May 2015

A Small Cup of Light: A Drink in the Desert by Ben Palpant My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is simply a superb book. It is beautifully written, theologically rigorous, elegantly typeset, and carefully designed. Every page was easy to look at and equally easy to turn. This is book for anyone dealing with (apparently) inexplicable suffering. That may be you, or it may be someone close to you. In this book, Ben Palpant raises all the hard questions without flinching, and offers clear and careful answers that go all the way down to the right part of the soul. He does this without patronizing anybody, or patting the back of the reader’s hand once. I don’t want to say too much about it because, even though it is non-fiction, I don’t want to create the spoiler effect of telling you in summary what he says so well over the course of the book. But I will tell you one thing. Palpant is a teacher in one of our classical Christian schools here in the Pacific Northwest, and one day, some years ago, the lights in the city of his mind began to go out, one by one. Everything shut down. He didn’t know what was happening, or why it was happening. “What I wanted most of all, and what they couldn’t deliver, was a name for my illness” (p. 26). The harrowing story of the many months that followed is remarkable for how complicated it all is, and how simple it remains. I know that many would be encouraged by this book, and want to urge them to it. The Puritans were great on the subject of affliction, and here in this book we have that same set of sensibilities in modern guise. One Puritan once said that…

Long Gone

“It is not possible to build a culture around a denial of God-given standards, and then arbitrarily reintroduce those standards at your convenience, whenever you need a word like evil to describe what has just happened. Those words cannot just be whistled up from the place where we exiled them. If we have banished them, and their definitions, and every possible support for them, we need to reckon with the fact that they are now gone” (Rules, p. 118).

Real Originality

“Originality in man, then, is not the power of making a communication of truth but of apprehending one” (Shedd, p. 10).

Abortion and Infant Baptism

Last week I saw a Facebook thread that had been kicked off with a comparison of abortion and infant baptism. Quite a discussion ensued, as you might expect. The initial point being made concerned things parents do that they have no warrant from God to do, and since I am writing here as a paedobaptist it is not surprising that I agreed with the pushback the post generated. There is an important difference between slaughtering your children and dedicating them to God. At the same time, there is a sense in which I want to commend the instinctive wisdom of the initial observation — a wisdom that is often missing from the saints who practice infant baptism. The meaning of baptism is death. The initiatory Christian rite is baptism (Matt. 28:18-20), and as Bonhoeffer observed, whenever Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3–4). Every religion worth its salt claims the children, and every religion does in fact do so — false religions included. The problem with Molech was that he was a false god, an idol, a…

Glorious Inequality

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11) The Basket Case Chronicles #189 “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Cor. 15:40–41). Paul’s point here is to emphasize that God loves variations in glory, and that this love is not going away after the resurrection. If you look at the sky, you will see that celestial glory differs from terrestrial glory, although both are glorious. If you look at the sky, you will see the glory of the sun, and if you look at the night sky, you will see that the moon’s glory differs from that of the sun, and the glory of the stars differs from both sun and moon. God loves inequality, but it is inequality in degrees of glory. This is how he prepares us for the next thought. Man is the image and glory of God, and he is this now, and woman is the glory of man now—but in the resurrection we will see as much of a glorious transformation from our glory now and our glory then as we currently see between the sun and the stars.

Freshness and Force

“The sacred orator is quickened by the analytic study of the sacred volume into a freedom, freshness, and force, that are utterly beyond his reach without it” (Shedd, p. 7).