Monthly Archives: June 2013

No MSNBC Slow Jam

This set of observations was offered by David Gushee, an ethicist of some note with Mercer University. Not only are the homosexual activists declaring a premature victory in the sexual culture wars, but they have also begun discussions on how much damage we Christians did in the course of the fighting, and have begun to muse about what reparations we must owe. But as far as paying reparations is concerned, and I speak here in what is almost certainly a metaphor, they can take my gun after I am dead and see what they can get for it on eBay.

Gushee laments all the damage we did by remaining faithful to a moral tradition grounded in nature, in the revealed will of God, and extending over thousands of years. And he says this because we hurt the feelings of people he confusedly identifies as the protagonists of the story.

Look at the points he makes about the damage we did. Stare at those points if need be. The first three consist of some variation of “Christians have become identified with.” I see. By whom? Right. The entire writing staff for Tokyo Rose think that we somehow crossed the line. The next three broadcasts are really going to be something. Prepare to be zinged!

Then his last two bullet points amounted to the same thing. Christians have alienated, Christians have contributed to the fears of, those who are completed muddled on what real alienation is, and what we should actually be afraid of. I always knew that victors wrote the history books, but it takes a postmodernist to write them beforehand. Or a postmillennialist.

The only alienation worth considering in this discussion is alienation from God, and we really ought to talk about it more, because it is the driver of homosexual lust. Fear is worth talking about as well, because when heaven and earth flee away from the judgment seat of Christ, so will all impudent Supreme Court justices gather up the skirts of their robes in order to not make it two steps. Woe to those, Scripture says, who frame mischief with a law.

Alienation is real. Fear is real. What is fake is the redirecting and repurposing of that alienation and fear — pretending that somehow those who love you enough to speak the truth are the haters, and those who despise you enough to lie to you about the state of your eternal soul are those driven by compassion.

Another name for real alienation is the outer darkness, and that is where all of this is going. The only sounds we are told about there are the cries of weeping, and the grinding of teeth. There will be no punditry, no editorials, no MSNBC slow jam, and no court of appeal. And the hardest thing about this state of everlasting alienation is that none of it will be an injustice. I don’t know why people talk about social justice so much. Hell is social justice. We need social mercy.

In the meantime, while the sun is still up and shining on us all, every lame attempt to get us to feel bad for having had the temerity to oppose the establishment of sexual dyslexia in the law will continue to find me unpersuaded. Sorry — girl on girl doesn’t spell anything. Neither does guy on guy.

The secularists have run out of stories. The only story that renews itself, taking many wonderful forms, is the story of the knight and the lady and the dragon. Two knights and a dragon doesn’t work. Neither can two ladies and a dragon. But notice how they always manage to keep the dragon . . .?

But to return to our initial point about how they have declared victory prematurely, I want to finish with an observation from Chesterton. He once said that a small taste of paradise on earth was to fight in a losing battle . . . and then not lose it. That’s where we are right now. Dragons are not easy to take down, and there is always a moment in the fight where it seems as though all is lost. But if you were trained by the right stories, you know the meaning of eucatastrophe.

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Michael and Jennifer

We live in a day when the institution of marriage is under assault. Not only are many powerful voices clamoring for a fundamental redefinition of marriage, we are also faced with the confusion of many Christians in how to respond to it. We know that something is drastically wrong, as though the whole world has gone off the rails, but so many things are wrong we often don’t know where to begin.

In that broader context of confusion, when we gather to celebrate this marriage, do we really know what we are doing? There are many lies currently being told about marriage, but long before these lies were commonly accepted, the truth about marriage was being mumbled by those who claimed to be its friends. When the truth is not boldly and confidently declared, this leaves room for lies to be boldly and confidently declared. When glorious truths are muttered, the lies become more and more brazen and open.

So our task, in these times, is to speak the basic truths about marriage clearly and plainly, and weddings are a wonderful occasion for doing this. We need to speak the truth plainly, and we need to do this in two ways. The first, ordained of God, is to speak by speaking. We speak the Word by speaking words. We are to teach, instruct, correct, encourage, and we are to do so verbally.

But there is another way of speaking these truths as well, also ordained of God, and that is what I want to focus on today. I want to speak aloud about the non-verbal ways of speaking the truth; I want to utilize the first way of speaking truth in order to honor the second way of doing it. If we live and love in this way, we will provide a cogent reply to those who would darken the plain truth of God in this matter.

This second way of speaking the truth is by our actions, by what we do.

When God loved us in Jesus Christ, He certainly told us what He had done for us – how Jesus died on the cross – but let us never forget that He actually did it first. Before the gospel message declared to us the fact that Jesus died and rose, Jesus actually died and rose. Word and action go together. He told us what He had done. Let us not love in word only, the apostle John tells us. Speaking and doing go together.

A husband must tell his wife that he loves her, of course, but this should be a word that follows after the reality of him laying down his life for her. The Bible is very plain on this point, and it is the fundamental place where we have allowed our thinking about marriage to become confused. Husbands, Paul says, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her.

Husbands, the Bible does not call you to be a big talker, but rather a big sacrificer. When a man is called into marriage, he is being called into a daily imitation of the way of Christ, and that way of imitation summons him to lay down his life. When Jesus died, He was not inconvenienced in a minor way. When Jesus died, He was not briefly interrupted. When Jesus died, He gave His bride everything He had to give, up to and including His blood. This is the model for Christian husbands.

But wives, this does not mean that the husband does everything, and you do nothing. Christian marriage is not a free ride for the wife. No, it means that your death (for all disciples of Jesus must take up their cross) is a responsive and imitative one. Jesus died for the church, but it is also true that the church died in Jesus. Jesus initiates the sacrifice, but it is the sort of sacrifice that gathers us up into it. This is what our baptism means – we are privileged to share in the death of Jesus. We were baptized into His death. Christ’s sacrifice took the initiative; our sacrifice is based on that, and is responsive.

In a well-ordered marriage, husbands are privileged to imitate that sacrifice of Christ, on a lower level, which means that their wives are invited to be gathered into this sacrificial pattern of living for others, a pattern that is established in that particular household by the husband. That sacrificial pattern will not be the pattern of the entire household unless the husband and father of that household embraces it.

A godly woman married to an ungodly man can speak wonderfully about the grace of God. But the marriage does not speak clearly unless the husband does, and unless the wife responds to him. The apostle Paul teaches us that these two—husband and wife—have the tremendous privilege of enacting the great mystery of Christ and the church. This mystery, this gospel, is what the world does not know, and which Christian couples must learn to declare. And, as has been the pattern throughout the history of the church, the declaration is a resurrection declaration, and that can only happen if there has been a death.

And so, Michael, this is my charge to you. From the very first day of your marriage—which is today, in fact—lay this pattern down. This is how the Hervey household functions. This is simply what we do here. But you don’t lay this pattern down by laying down the law. You are a head, not a boss. You don’t lay down the law, you lay down your life. And this is where faith comes in. Jesus plainly teaches us that this is the only way to gain true authority. Do you want to be great in the kingdom? Jesus asks. Then you must do as He did, and become the servant of all. This is the way of true kingdom authority, which is the only kind of authority in the home that a Christian man should ever want to have. When you lay down your life, instead of the law, you discover that this sacrificed life . . . has become the law, the law of resurrection life.

Jennifer, be eager to follow Michael’s lead in this. Do not be so eager that you take the initiative, but when he takes the initiative—which he is promising to do—you should be right there. This is no small feat; it has been observed that Ginger Rogers did absolutely everything that Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. Remember that you will be sacrificing, just as he is, but you are keying off him. You take your cues from him. This only declares the gospel in the way I am discussing when both husband and wife are walking in imitation of Christ, but when both do this, the effects are potent. And to a confused and disobedient world, the results will be astonishing. He is to bring the sacrifice, and you are to be the glory of sacrifice.

So I charge both of you to receive by faith what God made you for—love and respect, sacrifice and response, masculinity and femininity, death and resurrection.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

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A Little Black Twisty Thing

As Christians continue to process the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s supreme arrogance on the same sex mirage issue, one of the things we must continue to remember to do is review the basics. This of course will include constantly reviewing what the Scriptures explicitly teach on the matter of same sex sexual activity, but it is also important for us to go a layer beneath all that.

We also need to keep reviewing what the Bible teaches about the nature of man’s nature, and the nature of man’s choices. A hidden driver in a lot of what is going on around us is something that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with human sexuality. But it really does. The roofline is cockeyed because of blunders in the foundation work.

We have to identify, and reject, two false doctrines concerning man — one oddly mixes genetic destiny with Pelagianism, while the other oddly mixes heroic choices with absurdity — a form of existentialism.

One says that homosexuality is baked into the genes, nothing can be done about it, and hence no one is to be blamed for it. Blaming a homosexual for expressing his sexuality this way would be like blaming someone for having red hair.

The other existentialist option says that existence precedes essence. Whatever someone becomes is what they choose to become, and that choice is imprinted on the raw stuff of reality, which cannot be known, so we needn’t worry about it. Someone’s adopted persona, including their sexual persona, is a construct, and the one in charge of that construct is the individual making the choices. The painter moves his temporal brush over the ultimate canvas of absurdity. Sartre said that the only thing that mattered was to move your brush in good faith — as though there were any such thing. But in this scheme the only thing that really matters is the chooser choosing. The universe is bad weed, but everybody gets to roll their own.

One doctrine says that a man cannot be faulted if he had no choice. The other says that a man cannot be faulted if he made the choice. One says that nature is determinative, and that therefore it would be unjust to blame someone for what they are. (Unjust? What’s that? Blaming people is just in my genes.)

The other way says that choice is determinative, and once the choice is made by the sovereign individual, that decision must be respected by everybody, hear? This is why people are so hot to talk these days about gender, instead of about sex. Sex is what God did; gender is what we think we’re doing.

Now I am going to go into this luxuriant thicket of nonsense with the machete of Calvinism. Those Christians who know that we need to respond to the homosexual challenge need not be explicit Calvinists, as I am — though that would be jolly — but I do believe that the only cogent responses to these hidden drivers will have to come from somewhere in the Augustinian tradition. Here’s why.

The Pelagian assumption is that one cannot be blamed for what one cannot help. If that assumption is shared by conservative Christians (as it often is in the circles of evangelical semi-Pelagianism), it will be terribly difficult to answer the homosexual argument that this “is just the way they are.” And you can’t fault someone for that. This is why many Christians find these arguments strangely persuasive, and they don’t know why.

Now I happen to believe the research hunting for the gay gene is a lot of yelling up the wrong rain spout. I don’t think they are going to find it. But that is neither here nor there — it doesn’t matter to a Calvinist if they find it. Suppose they do locate the gay gene, and the research is conclusive, such that no thinking man can deny it. They bring me to the laboratory to show me the proof under the microscope, and as they do so, they are grinning widely. My response would be to acknowledge what they had proven, and say further that I did not think that I would live to see the day, but that I had. “There it was, with my own eyes I saw it! Scientific proof of total depravity. It was a little black twisty thing . . . just like what you might think.”

I would say something like this is because the Pelagian assumption is false. Pelagianism argues that obligation is limited by ability. They say to say we are by nature objects of wrath and to say we are also by nature creatures with a particular color hair is to use that phrase “by nature” univocally, and that this means we can no more be blamed for one than the other.

But sin is defined by the nature and character of God, as expressed in holy Scripture. He defines certain attitudes and actions as sinful, and so they are. He does not define hair color as sinful, and so it isn’t. See how straightforward life is? The phrase “by nature” must therefore be taken equivocally — in two different senses.

Sin is not defined by what I have the ability to stay away from. Why all the fuss and bother to find a homosexual gene? We can already illustrate this excellent principle using heterosexual desire, which is of course genetic. The fact that sexual desire is indisputably genetic does not mean that the subject is not responsible for his lustful thoughts and actions. God’s Word says he is responsible, and so he is responsible. He doesn’t get to point an accusing finger at the (genetically caused!) testosterone flood that derailed all his innocent boyhood activities, those which involved his paper route and his Lego collection, to a thought life that was uniformly girlz, girlz, girlz. There is absolutely a genetic basis for all of this, and he is still being a freak show.

In other words, God faults us for certain aspects of what we are. We are by nature objects of wrath. Jesus does not just point to the sinful actions we do, that rotting fruit on the ground, but He also points to the kind of tree we are. The kind of tree we are can do nothing but produce that kind of fruit, and far from eliminating our moral responsibility, it heightens it.

When Jesus called the Pharisees snakes, He was not showing them an argument to use to get off the hook. “Hey, we never asked to be snakes.” No, they didn’t, but He was going to crush their head anyway.

In short, moral responsibility is defined by our relation to God. It is not defined by our inabilities because there is such a thing as a moral inability, which is culpable. Physical inability — such as my inability to fly to Hawaii by flapping my arms — does remove obligation. Nobody blames me for not doing so. But there is a kind of inability that we do find blameworthy. Take, for example, the well known inability of orc chieftains to participate peacefully in flower garden tours.

The Pelagian argument is valid, which means the only way to deal with it is by denying the truth of one or more of the premises. Some form of the Augustinian tradition is the only real way to do this. And by participating in the Augustinian tradition I do not include drawing a paycheck under false pretenses from a wobbly Augustinian institution.

Since the point is to carve out room for our lusts, and not to be intellectually consistent, as soon as it becomes obvious that fate won’t deliver the goods, we will turn to choice — raw, unbridled choice. Genes be damned! What matters is that I self-identify! And as I do, as soon as I do, all you haters who want to keep me out of the women’s restroom, which is the only place I find any solace anymore, must learn to respect my choices. Does this eyeliner work with the pink contacts?

In order to make choice sovereign in this way, it is necessary for reality, if it has a nature, to keep that nature to itself. We expect nature to keep quiet about it, and it was Kant who most helpfully bolted and padlocked that door for us. A reality that expressed itself would necessarily intrude on our choices. So we pretend that we have no access to things-as-they-are, which leaves us here with . . . Yay! Choices!

In this blunder, for all intents and purposes, nature serves as a blank screen on which we project what we have going on. Nature brings no authoritative information to the game — that would be too constraining and way too off-putting. So we “retreat to commitment,” which is to say, we retreat to our faith community’s projector, which we then point at the screen of who knows what.

But Sartre at least had enough sense to know he was being absurd. Without an infinite reference point, every finite point is absurd. Our current crop of sophomores just got here, which is why they think this is a party where the cool kids still are. But if there are any cool kids left, which is actually uncertain, they are passed out drunk in the back yard.

Who is vulnerable to what? Pop evangelicalism is vulnerable to the first irrationalism, while the academic Reformed are vulnerable to the second. Pop evangelicals have a long history of semi-Pelagianism, and so they have real trouble learning how to give the answers of hard Calvinism. The academic Reformed had just enough hard Calvinism as an undergraduate to be inoculated to it, but they feel they have read more than enough Barth to make up for all that now.

After the reception, the new head of the biblical theology department looked across the seminar room at his new intern, his chest heaving with barely restrained emotion. “Troy, Troy . . . You had me at perichoretic . . .”

So hold your peace, rebellious pot. The Lord is God, and you are not. God is God, and His majesty applies in two relevant ways here. His majesty and person define what the word good means, and His majesty as expressed in creation defines what nature means. This requires that it also defines what against nature means.

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Just Like Tomorrow Morning Is

With the Supreme Court doing its part today to advance the homosexual agenda, while trying not to provoke a major backlash, as happened with Roe v. Wade, I thought a little encouragement for the saints might be in order.

All this reminds us again that there is no political solution to what ails us. We are a nation with the staggers, and our prophets and judges all have paper bags over their heads. There is such a thing as political and legislative faithfulness, but there is no such thing as political and legislative salvation. God brings us to the end of our puny little abilities so that we may trust, not in ourselves, but in Him, the God who raises the dead.

So we remind one another — as we ought to — that there is no political solution. There will be political consequences when the solution arrives, but there is no political solution. This is true as far as it goes, but there might be an assumption buried in there that is not so true.

As the old joke has it: “Well, I guess we have to pray about it.” “Oh, has it come to that?”

Realizing that there is no political solution, and that only Jesus can save us from this, is quite true . . . but might be just a couple steps away from unbelief. It is like being in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and your weakest batter has two strikes on him and no balls, and he hurt both his wrists getting the bag of sunflower seeds open. Only God can pull this out now is often an introduction to the thought and He’s not going to.

But that is not where we are at all. The salvation that Jesus is bringing to us is not a possible salvation, or a probable one, or a likely salvation. It is an inexorable and necessary salvation. Reformation, revival, salvation, forgiveness, and a spirit of deep repentance is coming at America just like tomorrow morning is.

Because our only salvation is found in resurrection from the dead, and because resurrection from the dead is an inexorable fact of life now — ever since Jesus rose on the third day, He set resurrection power completely loose in the world — the deliverance we long for is a certainty.

In other words, it is not “there is no salvation except in the off chance . . .” Rather, it is “there is no salvation in any other name except the one that has been given to you forever.” That one name is the name of Jesus. Luther doesn’t say, but I suspect that name is the one little word in his hymn that fells the pandemonic captain, and it is the name that remains, no thanks to the jurisprudential scurrying of the black-robed strokers of chins.

If our way out were political, we can be (and have been) thwarted, out-spent, out-maneuvered, lied to, and betrayed. But if our way out is Jesus, not only do we have a sure and certain hope, but our adversaries have no hope at all.

And so what do we have to do? We simply have to stand still and watch (Ex. 14:13).

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The Dawn of a New Day

This is just a brief note about the Supreme’s latest on the same sex mirage issue. I don’t want to say very much before all the legal ramifications are clear (they appear to be mixed), but at the very least, the force of Scalia’s dissent should indicate that we are still in the hand basket, we continue to bounce along merrily, and that eerie glow on the horizon grows ever brighter. Must be the dawn of a new day.

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Jabba the Hutt With a Thyroid Condition

Chesterton observed — and why wouldn’t he? — that we drastically misunderstand the nature of our sin and rebellion. We like to flatter ourselves in our discontent, saying that the spirit of rebellion rises up within us because of all the things that are wrong. But the reality is the other way — things go wrong because rebellion has risen up within us.

Satan did not revolt against God because of the grim conditions of Hell. Hell is the result of him revolting against the delightful conditions of Heaven. Adam did not rebel against God because he was tired of living in a slum. No, his children live in slums because he grew tired of living in Paradise. Thus far Chesterton.

Now that history is mixed — good and evil mingled together — we have multiple opportunities to make our confusion on this point more plausible. There are evils present, and so we may readily point at them, but our revolt is actually against the good things that are present. That’s our story, and we continue on our way, sinners in search of plausible deniability.

This is the fundamental difference between radicals and reformers. Both recognize that good and evil exist, but the radical wants to blame the good as the root source of all evil. The reformer wants to fight evil, and so he does. The radical resents what is truly evil, but what he fights is the good. The reformer doesn’t resent evil — he is no sentimentalist — but he does hate it. St. George fights the dragon, and does so with a good will.

The radical blames sex; the reformer blames lust. The radical blames money; the reformer blames mammon. The radical blames the systemic nature of oppression; the reformer blames men and women.

Radicals want to mess with the categories. They operate with an intellectual dishonesty that is truly fundamental. How can you tell? It really is simple — they call good things evil, and call evil things good (Is. 5:20). The distinction between men and women is a good thing, and so they blur it with metrosexuality. Worldliness is a true evil, and so they pursue it in the name of cultural engagement. The ability to raise the poor from poverty by teaching them how to make money is a good thing, and so they blur it by condemning the ability to make money. Nowhere are the sentimentalist contradictions of radicalism so apparent as here. The fact that people are poor is an outrage, and the fact that the means exist for bringing them out of poverty is an even worse outrage. The disease is wicked, and the medicine worse.

So what we should be after is true engagement, not surrender. What we must pursue is cultural engagement, not cultural surrender parading itself as engagement. In order to keep our bearings, and in order to keep our heads, we have to reject every attempt to get us to compromise our fundamental allegiance to Scripture as God’s infallible Word to us. It all comes back to this. Yea, hath God said is a strategic move so that we may jump in there with here’s what I think.

The radical thinks that human sexuality is up for grabs. The reformer knows what God’s intention from the beginning was. The radical has no understanding whatever of basic economics. The reformer knows that envy distorts economic understanding, and is the only thing that really does. The radical believes that he has a vision that justifies all his social tinkering. The reformer knows that he cannot possibly understand anything so complicated as the simplest human economy, which is why God gave us His law.

Here is how the whole pattern of cultural engagement has played out in our nation, and in our generation. After evangelicals were forced out of their position of privilege in the public square in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they retreated to their cultural ghettos. When the general cultural apostasy forced them out of their abdication in the seventies, they came back into the process in force, and the religious right became an identifiable factor in national affairs again. Those who had taunted these religious conservatives for being disengaged were dismayed by what their engagement looked like, and so they began to taunt them for that. We were only to be allowed back into the public square if we immediately veered over to the left.

It turns out that what the radicals had meant by cultural engagement was actually code for “get with the program,” and the program coordinator, as always, needed to be a state so swollen it looks like Jabba the Hutt whenever his thyroid was acting up.

So we should be in the market for young Christian men and women who are willing to be trained in genuine cultural engagement. They won’t be embarrassed by old-fashioned virtues, like hard work and discipline. They will respect authority and defy the authorities. They won’t get fired from jobs because of laziness, and they will get fired from them because of something they said about homosexuality. They won’t resent money and success, and they won’t be dazzled by money and success. They will laugh at the hipsters, and they will laugh at themselves laughing at the hipsters. They will loathe the enticements of corrupt entertainment, and they will love a true story. They would rather die than become one of the cool kids. They will be cool.

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Legally Speaking

“Not that they knew about it at the time, but Shattuck had pulled all their shirts up over their heads and rolled all their socks down, creating a little black wool bead around the tops of their expensive Italian shoes” (Evangellyfish, p. 164).

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A Basic Character Trait

“Forgiveness comes from someone whose heart is disposed to kindness and tenderheartedness; we are therefore talking not merely about isolated acts of forgiveness, but also about a deep-rooted disposition to forgive. A forgiving heart is a character trait” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 94).

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