Creed Pres

The Creed of Presbyterians (NL: Fredonia Books, 1901)

I enjoyed this very much. It is a bit too rah-rah in places, and I read an early version of it (1901), written before the author was bedazzled by Barth. At the same time, it was heartening to be reminded yet again how much good Calvinists have introduced into the world.

Envy Impaled

Doug Jones was good enough to reply to my recent post on envy, and his reply showed up the necessity of making a couple of additional points. The basic point remains unchanged, although if I want the board to stay up I will have to put a couple more nails in it.

First, the mere fact of conflict does not enable us to say that every party in the conflict is gripped by envy. The goal of the envious is to make the conflict look like it was caused by the object of his envy. Envy specializes in false flag operations. The passages I cited showed that Jesus and the apostles found themselves in conflicts, and found themselves there because of envy. But the envy was located in their adversaries, not in them. So the formula is not: conflict > envy in all combatants, but rather conflict > envy here somewhere.

Reading the story means that you have to have the ability to look at the conflict, know that envy is a likely driver, and then successfully identify the protagonist and antagonist. If you read Beowulf and find yourself sympathizing with Grendel, that should be a danger sign.

Second, to identify the dark impulses of envy is to describe the human heart as Scripture describes it. If you were to walk up to a stranger on the street, stop him, and tell him about his specific dark impulses, then that would be an ungodly attempt to read hearts. But if you saw the apostle Paul drawing bigger crowds than the scribal ditherers ever could, and then saw those same scribes stirring up a mob, “dark impulses” is a good way to describe what is happening. When this is preached and declared (as the Bible does), the hope is that the Spirit will cause the declared Word to penetrate the hearts of the envious so that they will admit to themselves what has been kind of plain to them for a while — that they are consumed with envy. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). An effective preacher unleashes the Word in a situation that looks like this, but it is the Word that does the discerning of the thoughts and intents of the heart. When that is done, it is done for the person afflicted by it, and the result is repentance. But repentance for envy is not going to happen without the sinfulness of envy being declared. And how shall they hear without a preacher?

The Crawling Snake of Envy

I said recently that envy is the great invisible driver in our modern political conflicts. On what basis can I say this, and is this not a case of trying to read hearts?

First, we see the simple statements of Scripture as treating envy as public, visible, identifiable. But first, hold your horses. A bit further down, I will conclude by reconciling my point that envy is “visible,” and yet is the “great invisible driver.”

So then, where does Scripture describe envy as a public kind of sin? Pilate knew why Jesus was on trial before him, and it had nothing to do with the actual charges.

“For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy” (Mark 15:10).

Stephen, narrating the story of Joseph and his brothers, interpreted their hostility toward Joseph as driven by envy, even though the Genesis account doesn’t mention the envy by name (Gen. 37:4). The writer of Genesis says that the brothers saw that Jacob loved Joseph more, and they hated him — which is an instance of envy.

“And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him” (Acts 7:9).

Luke records the fact of mobs forming, but he is also able to tell (at a glance) why they were forming.

“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).

“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people” (Acts 17:5).

Failure to see envy is therefore not an instance of nobly refraining from reading hearts. It is actually a refusal to read the story. So then, do not try to read hearts, which only God can do, but feel free to read the story. Envy has public manifestations, and if you have those manifestations, then you have envy. That is what you are reading.

In addition to the fact that envy results in very public behavior that is readily identifiable, the Scriptures also teach us to see envy as a driving element of all conflicts. So to ask whether or not envy is present in our politics can be answered by asking whether conflict is present in our politics. Conflict is the smoke, but envy the fire.

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not . . . Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:1-2, 5).

What does envy travel cheek by jowl with? Who are its traveling companions? Well . . . “envy and strife” (Phil. 1:15), “envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings” (1 Tim. 6:4), and “malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Let me ask a simple question — in our political contests, do we have strife, railings, evil surmising, malice, and hatred? Sins are like grapes — they come in bunches, and with this variety of grape, envy is chief among them. In our modern political discourse, envy is like a rancid cluster from Eshcol, with two socialists carrying their economic agenda on a pole between them (Num. 13:23). It is not at all hard to identify — I mean, the grapes are the size of baseballs.

This just in. Michael Moore, champion of the working guy, is the owner of nine houses, including a Manhattan condo. Am I revealing an envious heart along with these details? Not a bit of it! I don’t want to take away any of his houses, and in fact, I am willing to wish that he acquire a couple more. What I wish he would lose is the Everyman Shtick. And the baseball hat.

Envy is the purloined letter of vices. It is hidden in plain sight. For those who have eyes to see, it is everywhere. For those who have a vested interest in not seeing it, things are quite different. Vested interests are quite an interesting phenomenon. As Upton Sinclair put it once, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” And it is impossible to get a man to see something when his entire notion of a self-identity and respect depends upon his not seeing it. Men can take perverse pride in a lot of vices — drunkenness, fornication, anger, pride, casino heists — but no one wants to acknowledge the crawling snake of envy, however big it is — that dark impulse to hurt anyone who seems to have a superior capacity for happiness. It is almost impossible to see that snake without feeling like a snake, and so we have whole industries and political movements dedicated to helping us not see what we in fact are.

So what I mean is that envy is visible in principle, for those who have the vantage to see it, but that it is invisible whenever it is pridefully unacknowledged — which is virtually all the time.

We are in fact an envy-ridden people, and to see that fact straight on would be indistinguishable from repentance. And so we don’t look at it straight on.

The Scruffiest You Ever Saw

Let’s begin by distinguishing two different kinds of resistance.

In the first, let us begin by supposing a godless despotism that has been a godless despotism from its founding. There is no heritage of restrained government. If one of the subjects of this realm were converted to God, started preaching the gospel, and was told to cease and desist, it remains true that he must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). The issue is a matter of straight-up seniority. Should a private in the army obey the captain or the general, assuming their commands to be mutually exclusive? At the same time, assuming the same scenario, the cost associated with making this choice will frequently be martyrdom. The issues here are easy to understand, but would require great courage to follow out.

The second scenario is quite different. Courage is still required, as it always is, but so is an adroit use of what the French call les brains. What do we do when the Spirit of God has been working in a civilization for many centuries, and as a consequence a number of constitutional limits have grown up, restricting, restraining, and prohibiting autocratic power? Attempts at autocratic power will continue to be made (because sinful men still exist, and are always inordinately attracted to politics). But they will also be resisted in such attempts by righteous men, who know how the law is supposed to work.

Let me highlight the issue before diving into the weeds. Suppose the Constitution says that “the president may never, under any circumstances, appoint more than two judges to the Supreme Court who were born in the same month.” Of course, politics being what they are, some president will eventually appoint three men who were all born in February, and the argument will be very complicated and involve leap year, phases of the moon, and some advanced math from a Harvard mathematician that the White House has on retainer. But those resisting the president at this point will simply point to their copies of the Constitution and then at their calendars, and continued to submit to the highest authority. Those resisting him continue to submit to Romans 13, while the president continues on in his rebellious ways. I say this because the Constitution is a higher authority than the president.

I recently wrote on how this understanding of civil authority was foundational to the American War for Independence. One commenter, a Brit, said that my thinking was certainly ingenious, he would give me that, but that our rebellion was directed against very the birthplace of civic liberty, the home of the first and finest constitutional monarchy, and so on. My reply is that this is of course true, and it is the very reason why it happened. Liberty grew in England before it grew in America, and as it grew, it wrote down arguments. Those arguments went into books, which Americans brought across the water with them.

The Americans resisted because they were Englishmen, and they knew their rights under the English Constitution. Edmund Burke, foe of the leveling French Revolution from the get go, nevertheless supported the cause of the Americans on the floor of Parliament. He did this because he knew that the Americans were defending a point of constitutional law. In the American Revolution, the colonists were the conservatives, and their foes in Parliament were the innovators. This is the opposite of what happened in the French Revolution. The distinction between those two revolutions, besides a couple of decades, was the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness.

The Americans rejected an unconstitutional taxation, refused to comply, and defended themselves with arms against the king. Their adversary in this, Parliament, had done far more than that to the king the century before. They had chopped off the king’s head, thus making the Americans the moderates. My point here is not to say anything about the execution of Charles, one way or the other — another time perhaps. It is simply to point out that Charles I was handled more roughly than George III was.

Parenthetically, (let me say that there were three stages of resistance to tyranny that developed in the political theory of the Reformed. The first was to preach against the tyranny, the second was to flee, and the third was to take up defensive arms. Open revolution, trying to overthrow the constitution of the society by armed force directly, was not one of the options.)

In constitutional societies, such as England was, there is a constant ebb and flow in these affairs. Men in office will attempt to get away with things that their written terms of office obviously prohibit. Those who allow them to do so (in the name of Romans 13!) are actually the ones disobeying Romans 13. Those who resist them will get called a lot of names by scoundrels in authority, but that is part of the cost of submitting to Romans 13.

England was a cradle of liberty, but that does not mean that there wouldn’t have to be an ongoing battle there to preserve it. The same thing is true of America. We developed one of the finest constitutions in the history of the world, but liberty must always be defended with vigilance. We have one of the finest forms of government in the world, but the current guardians of our halls of civic authority are among the scruffiest you ever saw. Imagine a marble palace, with halls of glory, inhabited entirely by ruffians who do nothing but scratch themselves and spit in the corners.

Now I am about to show that resistance to encroaching tyranny is a biblical necessity. Not only is it lawful according to the laws of God, it is also lawful according to the laws of our land and the long heritage of our civilization. When such resistance occurs in a stark despotism, our weapon is our blood on the sand of the Colliseum. When such resistance becomes necessary in a society where there has been a heritage of liberty, it will be because corruption has set in. Our opposition to that corruption will not be met with loud shouts of acclaim from the corrupt establishment. We will not find ourselves walking across the golf green of reformation accompanied by the polite golf applause of the regnant scoundrels and mountebanks. That’s not how it works. There will be disputes, and court cases, not to mention some yelling, and don’t forget some IRS audits.

Let me quote a series of documents before making that point again. The first is from the Declaration:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

This is from the Idaho Constitution:

“All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary . . .”

Then there is this little gem from the New Hampshire constitution:

“Whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind” (Article X).

And what Abraham Lincoln denied to the states, he explicitly granted to the people generally. This inconsistency on his part should not blind us to the implications. He is claiming far more than I would. Here is what he said in his First Inaugural:

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

Now in order to do anything of the kind, “the people,” an inchoate mass if ever there was one, would have to organize themselves, and they would not be able to do with this with the support of the current regime of corruptocrats. If they had the support of the existing corrupt establishment, there would be no need to organize. They would only need to organize because the mountebanks in power were saying things about the law, and the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and the enumerated powers, that were the very reverse of the truth.

I know that I have used the word mountbanks twice in the same post, not my usual form, but I feel strongly about this. Maybe I should have said saucy fellows, but out to the sixth decimal place.

American Shakedown

Envy is the great invisible driver of all our modern political conflict. If there is any sin that self-deception intends to keep well out of sight, it is envy. If there is any vice that grows the more you try to placate it, it is envy. If there is a characteristic sin of our age, it is the gnawing reality of envy, the ressentiment revolution. For those who want to read more, I would recommend Herbert Schlossberg’s Idols for Destruction — a true classic.

“A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; But a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; But who is able to stand before envy?” (Prov. 27:3–4).

Nations are made up of people, and therefore nations can commit all the sins that people commit. Likewise, nations can feel the brunt of such sins comitted against them. We can experience the rule of fools, heavier than wet sand. We can feel the cruelty of wrath, and the outrageous nature of anger. But what nation, what generation, what people, can stand against envy?

This is what explains race hustlers like Sharpton and Jackson. This is why we have a crisis on our southern border — not because open and honest immigration for workers is a problem (it isn’t), but rather because the left is seeking to play sugar daddy for the aggrieved future voter. This is how the Washington Redskins have apparently hurt somebody’s feelings. This is how we have cultivated a whole host of international resentment, not with bombs, but with aid. This is why the high parody of same sex mirage was not greeted with a heteronormative horse laugh.

On the Lam for Jesus

And of course we should all know that Christians ought not to be scofflaws. We are to be among the best citizens a magistrate ever had — we should be diligent and hard-working, dutiful and responsible, so that we might put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. We should bake the best cakes in Colorado, but not for the homo-fest, sorry.

But wait . . . doesn’t the Bible say that we must do whatever they say we must do — cakes, flowers, incense to Caesar, the works? Well, no (Acts 5:29).

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Pet. 2:13–17).

So let’s take a look at some of the actions of the man who wrote those words — and not in order to charge him with hypocrisy.

“And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him” (Acts 12:7–10).

Peter then went over to John Mark’s house, left a message, and disappeared from the book of Acts a wanted man, on the lam, with his picture in all the post offices.

This was what we might call a jailbreak, and it was not just a bit of innocent fun. The guards involved were executed for negligence they had not been guilty of (Acts 12:19), and yet, despite the seriousness of the issues, Peter did not consult with a bunch of modern Christians, who would have urgently advised that he turn himself in — citing, as they did so, with tears in their eyes, 1 Peter 2:13-17.

An idea worth developing . . .

An idea worth developing . . .

What we desperately need in these times of amoral chaos is recognize that the obedience of the Christian man will frequently be taken by tyrants as something other than the righteous obedience before God that it actually is. What did Jehoiada do? He honored the king. What did Athaliah call it? She called it treason (2 Kings 11:14). While we are not surprised that she would call it that, we are surprised that lots of modern Christian political theory listens to her.

I am reminded of that great line in Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. “Sir, you speak treason!” “Fluently.”

Sexual Justice

If you stick around, in just a moment I am going to be dealing with the problem created by registered sex offenders attending church. However, before we get there, I want to say something about the cultural context we find ourselves in. And that said, I want to warn you beforehand that the point I am going to draw from that context is probably not what you think I am going to draw, so please hold your wrath until you finish the paragraphs following.

There is no way to pornify a culture the way we have done without making porn far more available to kids than it used to be. And kids obviously learn from what they see, monkey see monkey do. This includes what we call “mainstream” entertainment, and not just the triple-x stuff. We now have young kids who have seen, or who have heard about on the playground, practices that previous generations learned about in their second year of med school. Nobody should be surprised when when some junior high boy tries out some of what he has seen or heard about on his younger sister. When sexual corruption becomes ubiquitous, many more kids are going to get swept up in it. Call it the collateral damage of the sexual revolution.

But I am not saying this in any exculpatory way. Corruption is corruption, and being steeped in corruption from childhood does not remove any personal responsibility. We are a sinful race. So this point has nothing to do with the making of excuses for the perpetrators of sex crimes — while it is true that many victimizers were victims themselves first, that doesn’t make any of it right. Personal responsibility is assigned by the Bible, and not by our experiences.

So why make the point about pornification then? What this is intended to do is point out that those who promote and advance such corruptions in one area ought not to be entrusted with adjudication of crimes and offenses of a sexual nature in another area. Our establishment no longer knows what sex itself is supposed to be, and so cannot know what sexual justice is supposed to be. We therefore ought not to rely on their “wisdom” about sexual justice as it relates to children. They don’t have any wisdom. Our cultural milieu tolerates and teaches courses in our universities (!) which solemnly maintain that all instances of PIV (penis in vagina) are rape by definition,  dogmatically pronounce that TMI sex education for grade schoolers is a moral necessity, say that doing the anal honors should be considered a high privilege, and now with much of the legal resistance to same sex mirage out of the way, has already been preparing to mainstream pedophilia. The last thing in the world Christians should do is join in with any stampeding opinions about any of this from the secularists. They don’t know what sex is for, and they therefore don’t know what sexual justice is.

Here is (just) one example of secularist dogma that Christians are bound to reject. “Sex offenders don’t ever change.” This is not only an error, it is an error which strikes at the heart of the gospel’s efficacy. Now it is quite true that sex offenders don’t ever change themselves, but this is true for the same reason that thieves and adulterers never change themselves. Christ came into the world to save sinners, including the really screwed up ones.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

The words translated here as effeminate and abusers of themselves with mankind refer to homosexual behavior, plainly and unambiguously. Anyone who says otherwise is blowing some scholarly smoke at you. And in the ancient world, who does not know that this kind of practice routinely included young boys? But my point in citing this passage is not to prove that this kind of behavior is immoral, as much as that point might be needed in other discussions, but rather to demonstrate that “sex offenders cannot change” is a lie straight out of the pit of hell. Among the Corinthians, do you think there were any converts who had been given over fully to the ancient ways with a whole series of young boys? “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Thus, if a sex offender is kept outside the congregation, and is served communion in a back room, then what you are actually doing is making a liturgical statement that he ought not be served communion at all. If he is vile, and cannot change, then excommunicate him and be done with it. Your justification for such excommunication would then have to be that “such people never change.” But if he can repent, and be brought to the Table, then he must be brought to the Table with all the other forgiven sinners — which perhaps includes the rest of us.

Caleb and Mallory

The word I want to emphasize at this wedding is the word heritage. We have the privilege today of witnessing, not only the wedding of two individuals in Christ, but also the wedding of two distinct, but very complementary, heritages. I want to talk about the unique blessings that we are praying that God will bring out of this blessed union.

The two streams that are coming together here are the streams of covenant commitment, centuries of it, and evangelical warmth and application, three and four generations now. They are coming together in a distinct way—not to say the former has no warmth, or that the latter has had no notion of covenant. I am rather speaking here of varying cultural manifestations, which is a matter of emphasis. And in this wedding, I see only the strengthening of both heritages.

The Lord Jesus taught us that foundations are important in the building of houses. If you have no foundation, you cannot withstand the inevitable storms that come (Matt. 7:24). The way we build houses today, that foundation is provided by the footings, and by the concrete walls that we pour to rest on those footings. That is what covenant commitment is like. This is just the way it is. Covenant understanding won’t shift or budge on you. Straight lines, unyielding, cold, gray, covenant concrete. Every house needs that, and needs it underneath absolutely everything. This not unloving—it is the foundation of love. You can always take it as a fixed given that these are my people. The lines of the house are straight because the foundation lines are straight.