Just Come

No man was ever condemned for trusting in the Word of the Lord. Men have been condemned for trifling with it in unbelief, but no poor beggar was ever turned away who came to Him in faith. He turns the proud and haughty away, and scatters the mighty of the earth. But for those who come to Him simply, He receives them simply, and simply receives them.

Coming to God is not complicated. Come to Him as a gracious Savior and You will find how simple it is. Self-righteous men always want to make grace complicated, and they want to make the law, considered in itself, easy. This abstracted law is what they use to construct a ladder which they think will be the way to climb up into heaven. They want the law easy. But in order to make it easy they have to turn the grace and forgiveness of God into a complicated system that no man can really understand. The whole thing gets covered in smoke and darkness.

If you want this gladness and simplicity of heart, when it comes to the Scriptures, or the providences of God, or the decrees of God, then observe this one simple charge. Do not take anything from God in order to chop it up, or divide it into pieces. The grace of God encompasses everything—the garden and our expulsion from it, the law and the gospel, faith and works, love and hate. Receive this, and the Word, a two-edged sword, divides you, and arranges the pieces on the altar, and you ascend to God in the smoke of the consecration offering. And in receiving this death, the good Lord gives back life to you. He gives, always gives, thirty, sixty and one hundred fold.

So the grace of God really is simple. The kindness and forgiveness of the Lord is present. It is here today. The Holy Spirit invites you, simply, “Come.” The bride, the wife of the Lamb, the church of God, extends the same invitation. “Come.” There it is in one word. Come.

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Learning the Difference

Grace is a river that consistently overflows the banks. The goodness of God is always in flood stage. We, afflicted with various forms of unbelief, are always quick to believe that God is somehow trembling on the threshold of a miserly disposition. If we provoke Him just one more time, He will throw all His promises away, and separate us from the goodness of the gospel, as far as the east is from the west. But of course, this is perversion. It is grotesque. The cultivation of this kind of attitude is not godly or holy, but quite the reverse. God calls us to humility, not to the vocation of being a head case.

So, you are coming to worship God right now, and must therefore fix these things in your mind. He delights in our approach. He welcomes us as we come. When the gates of heaven open, as they are right now, and we come in, He smiles upon us. This makes us tremble, as it ought to. It fills us with awe, as it should. But the glorious fear that makes us tremble at this point must not be a servile or craven rejection of His promises. Love and faith tremble in one way. Guilt and condemnation tremble in another way. One of our basic duties in worship is to learn this difference. If we do not learn this distinction, and pursue the promises, then we will either implode in a frenzy of self-condemnation – or, as many have done, we will drift into a worship that is nothing more than a complacent middle class approval of decency and traditional values that will simultaneously not tolerate the Christian faith being questioned, or observed.

So take courage. Embrace fear. Worship your God now, in the beauty of holiness.

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Not That Long Ago

“We live our lives like fruit flies, measuring everything by the length of our own little span, which isn’t that long. We then assume that ancient history really was a long time ago, but it was not. No doubt somewhere in your town lives a person who is 100 years old. When that person was a baby, she could have been placed in the lap of someone (also 100) who was born when Thomas Jefferson was president. He in turn was born during the reign of William and Mary. And so on. Five such lives, end to end, take us back to the discovery of America. Five more, and we are visiting William the Conqueror. A total of twenty such lifetimes takes us back to the time of Christ. It was not that long ago” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, pp. 157-158).

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The Pale Galilean Still Conquers

“Max Weber’s interpretation is rooted in Nietzsche’s reading of Judeo-Christianity as the resentment (ressentiment) of the weak against the strong, the slaves against their masters, the victims against their persecutors. The literal madness of Nietzsche’s attitude is that, close as he was to recognizing the truth of human culture, he willfully espoused its lie. He views the rehabilitation of the victim as a futuile and destructive rebellion against the iron law of superior strength. The very frenzy of a Nietzsche suggests that the truth of culture is about to burst upon the intellectual scene of the modern world. The forces of repression are really the same as the forces of revelation. The more hysterical repression becomes, the more visible it must also become as repression” (Girard, A Theater of Envy, p. 281).

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Westminster Eight: Of Christ the Mediator

1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man (Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19–20; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:5), the Prophet (Acts 3:22), Priest (Heb. 5:5–6), and King (Ps. 2:6. Luke 1:33), the Head and Savior of His Church (Eph. 5:23), the Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2), and Judge of the world (Acts 17:31): unto whom He did from all eternity give a people, to be His seed (John 17:6; Ps. 22:30; Isa. 53:10), and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified (1 Tim. 2:6; Isa. 55:4–5; 1 Cor. 1:30).

Jesus Christ is the Elect of God. This election is not the same as the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father, but is rather a sovereign appointment to the position of a Mediator. The appointment presupposes a human race, in need of a Mediator. The basis of this ordination is the good pleasure of God.

The only-begotten was chosen to fill many offices. The first was that of Mediator, bridging the divide between men and God. He was ordained to teach His people, filling the office of Prophet. He was chosen to be our Priest, presenting a sacrifice on our behalf to God. He was chosen to be King, so that we might have someone to rule over us. His position of authority is organic; He is the Head and Savior of the Church. He will inherit everything, and will be the sovereign judge over all things. From all eternity, a particular people were given to the Son to be His seed, and what we call history is actually the process in which we see the outworking of that gift. In history, we were redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

2. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature (John 1:1, 14; 1 John 5:20; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4), with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin (Heb. 2:14, 16–17; Heb. 4:15); being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance (Luke 1:27, 31, 35. Gal. 4:4). So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion (Luke 1:35; Col. 2:9; Rom 9:5; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:16). Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (Rom. 1:3–4; 1 Tim. 2:5).

The second person of the Trinity, being infinite, added the finitude of human nature to His attributes. The finitude of the human nature of Christ is not to be understood as a subtraction from the divine nature. In taking on human nature, He took on all its essential properties and limitations, the only exception being sin. The fact that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost did not make Mary a “surrogate mother.” He was conceived without a human father, but was conceived “of her substance.” In other words, she was His mother in every sense of the word.

The two natures were inseparably joined in this hypostatic union, which is to say, the Incarnation was permanent. Neither of the natures was altered by this union, meaning that the one person involved, the Lord Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man. If we conceive of this union in a way that makes sturdy common sense to us, then that means we have fallen into heresy. This is the miracle of miracles.

3. The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure (Ps. 45:7; John 3:34), having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell (Col. 1:19); to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth (Heb. 7:26; John 1:14), He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety (Acts 10:38; Heb. 12:28; 7:22). Which office He took not unto Himself, but was thereunto called by His Father (Heb. 5:4–5), who put all power and judgment into His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same (John 5:22, 27; Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:36).

The human nature of Christ did not “tag along” as He fulfilled the ministry appointed to Him. The Spirit of God was upon Him, sanctifying and anointing Him as man above all measure. Because of the work of the Spirit, Christ was filled with all wisdom and knowledge, and in Him all fullness came to dwell. The human nature of Christ was not a hindrance in the work of mediation, but was rather an essential aspect of His qualification to execute that office.

He did not push Himself into that office, but was called to it by His Father. The Father entrusted Him to do render all judgment, and commanded Him to fill His office.

The expressions of Scripture which describe Him as growing, obeying, being filled, resisting temptation, etc. are all to be understood of Christ in His humanity.

4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake (Ps. 40:7–8; Heb. 10:5–10; John 10:18; Phil. 2:8); which that He might discharge, He was made under the law (Gal. 4:4), and did perfectly fulfill it (Matt. 3:15; 5:17); endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul (Matt. 26:37–38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46), and most painful sufferings in His body (Matt. 26; 27); was crucified, and died (Phil 2:8), was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption (Acts 2:23–24, 27; 13:37; Rom 6:9). On the third day He arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3–5), with the same body in which He suffered (John 20:25, 27), with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father (Mark 16:19), making intercession (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24; 7:25), and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world (Rom. 14:9–10; Acts 1:11; 10:42; Matt 13:40–42; Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:4).

Christ willingly submitted to this requirement of the Father. In order to enable Him to perform His ministry, He was born of a woman, under the law. He lived in obedience to the law perfectly. Despite His obedience (and in some senses because of it), He suffered grievously. He was crucified, He died, and was buried briefly. He was not in the grave long enough to see corruption. When He rose from the dead, it was with and in the same body He had during His passion. He has that same body now that He has ascended into heaven, where He has a position of ultimate authority at the Father’s right hand. In heaven, He prays for His saints, and will return from heaven to judge all men and angels, which He will do at the end of the world.

5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of His Father (Rom 5:19; Heb. 9:14, 16; 10:14; Eph 5:2; Rom. 3:25–26); and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto Him (Dan. 9:24, 26; Col. 1:19–20; Eph. 1:11, 14; John 17:2; Heb. 9:12, 15).

The Confession here does not make a point of distinguishing between the active and passive obedience of Christ. According to this division, there were two aspects to the obedience of Christ. The first was the active perfect obedience of His sinless life. The second was the “passive” obedience rendered when He submitted Himself to the ignominy of death on the cross. Through the Spirit, His entire obedience was offered to the Father, and satisfied the justice of God the Father. This offering purchased more than simple forgiveness and reconciliation—He secured by this offering an everlasting inheritance to be enjoyed by all the saints given to Him by the Father. While the point of this division is an important one, we need to recognize that it is the righteousness of Christ’s entire obedience that is imputed to us, and not the righteousness of Christ on even-numbered days

along with the righteousness of Christ on odd-numbered days. If theological divisions help us understand that we have all of Christ, then well and good. If not, we should perhaps not overanalyze it.

6. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and to–day the same, and forever (Gal. 4:4–5; Gen. 3:15; Rev. 13:8; Heb. 13:8).

Every saint in the history of the world has been saved in the same way, by the same gospel. The saints who lived before the Incarnation were saved by looking in faith at the promises of God, including the gospel preached in the types and sacrifices. The entire Old Testament points to the coming Christ, and believers were those who believed that God would fulfill His word. God, for His part, knew what He was going to do, with no possibility of anything else being done, and so He could apply the virtues, efficacy, and benefits of Christ’s death to these forward-looking saints. But of course, this would not have been possible unless God had predestined the obedience of Christ.

7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself (Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 3:18); yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature (Acts 20:28; John 3:13; 1 John 3:16).

This is simply the teaching of the Definition of Chalcedon. What is predicated of one nature may be predicated of the person, but not of the other nature properly. But in the common way of speaking, a man might say, “Christ, the divine Son of God, resisted temptation.” It is proper to speak this way, but only if we remember the nature of the divine and human “categories.”

8. To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same (John 6:37, 39; 10:15–16); making intercession for them (1 John 2:1–2; Rom. 8:34), and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation (John 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7–9; John 17:6); effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit (John 14:16; Heb. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:13; Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18–19; John 17:17); overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation (Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25–26; Mal. 4:2–3; Col. 2:15).

Once Christ has purchased redemption for His elect, He is not done with them. He also applies this redemption to them, He prays for them to the Father, He teaches them the way of salvation, He sends His Spirit to persuade them of the gospel, which brings them to faith and obedience, He becomes the ruler of their hearts by means of His Word and Spirit, and He conquers all their enemies—in such a fashion as seems good to Him.

Westminster Seven: Of God”s Covenant With Man

1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant (Isa. 40:13–17; Job 9:32–33; 1 Sam. 2:25; Ps. 113:5–6; 100:2–3; Job 22:2–3; 35:7–8; Luke 17:10; Acts 17:24–25).

We must always recall the Creator/creature divide, a divide which exists in the very nature of things quite apart from the issue of sin. Our sinfulness is one thing, and our finitude another, and the two things must not be confounded or confused. It is not a sin to be a creature. At the same time, there are ramifications to being a creature. The first is that there is a natural duty to render obedience to God—a certain necessity attends it. At the same time, no external necessity requires that God stoop to bless us through His presence, other than the necessity resulting from the graciousness of God’s character. When God condescends to commune with us as creatures, He does so by way of covenant.

2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works (Gal. 3:12), wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity (Rom. 10:5; 5:12–20), upon condition of perfect and personal obedience (Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10).

Periodically, great Homer nods and I believe that is the case here. While there is no necessary problem with the doctrine, the Westminster divines have badly named this covenant. To call this covenant with Adam a covenant “of works” leads people to confuse it either with the Old Testament economy, or with pharisaical distortions of the law. This misunderstanding is evident in the scriptural reference given for this point. To call it works opposes it, in the scriptural terminology, to grace. But the covenant given to Adam prior to the Fall was in no way opposed to grace. It would be far better to call this pre-Fall covenant a covenant of creation. In this covenant, life was promised to Adam and his descendents as the fruit of perfect and personal obedience. But notice the word fruit—as a covenant of creation, grace is not opposed to it, and permeates the whole. If by “covenant of works” is meant raw merit, then we have to deny the covenant of works. But if this covenant made with Adam was inherently gracious (as many Reformed theologians have held), then the only problem is the terminological one. And, with regard to whether the covenant was gracious, a simple thought experiment will suffice. If Adam had withstood temptation successfully, would he have had any obligation to say “thank You” to God. If not, then it is not a gracious covenant. If so, then it was.

3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second (Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3; 3:20–21; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 42:6), commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved (Mark 16:15, 16; John 3:16; Rom. 10:6, 9; Gal. 3:11), and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe (Ezek. 36:26–27; John 6:44–45).

Since the first covenant was broken, another covenant was necessary. It is also necessary not to confuse this first covenant with the Old Covenant and the second covenant with the New Covenant. The first covenant under discussion is the ante-lapsarian covenant; the second covenant spans all human history after the Fall. In this second covenant, a covenant of grace, God offers salvation and life to sinners through Jesus Christ. As the message of this covenant comes to a sinner, God promises salvation through faith. In this covenant, God also commits to grant His Holy Spirit to all those ordained to eternal life. When this gift is bestowed, the Spirit makes the sinner willing and able to believe. When he believes, God hears his cry for salvation. God requires faith of the sinner, and gives what He requires.

4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed (Heb. 9:15, 16–17; 7:22; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

This covenant of grace is described in Scripture as a testament. As a testament, we find ourselves more than just parties to a covenant. We are also set forth as heirs. The fruit of the covenant is directly related to the death of the Testator.

5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel (2 Cor. 3:6–9): under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come (Heb. 8, 9, 10; Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11–12; 1 Cor. 5:7); which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah (1 Cor. 10:1–4; Heb. 11:13; John 8:56), by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old Testament (Gal. 3:7–9, 14).

This covenant of grace has undergone differing administrations. In the time of the law, the covenant of grace was administered with a view to the future. The saints of the Old Testament looked forward in faith to the fruition of all the promises, prophecies, etc. Everything in the Old Testament looks forward. By the grace of God, the gospel presented in this fashion was “sufficient and efficacious” through the Spirit to establish the elect of God. The elect in the time of the law had full forgiveness of sin, and were partakers of the gift of eternal life. The covenant of grace under this administration is called the Old Testament. It is important to emphasize that according to the Westminster Confession, the Mosaic economy was an administration of the covenant of grace, not an administration of the covenant of works. The language is very plain here: the covenant of grace was administered one way under the law and another way in the time of the gospel. Those who want a recapitulation of the covenant of works within the Mosaic economy are either running the grave risk of blurring the two covenants, which is problematic, or they are denying the teaching of the Confession here and saying that the Mosaic economy was a covenant of works, which is dangerous.

6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance (Col. 2:17), was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 28:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–25): which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy (Heb. 12:22–27; Jer. 31:33–34), to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 2:15–19); and is called the new Testament (Luke 22:20). There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations (Gal. 3:14, 16; Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:21–23, 30. Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:3, 6, 16–17, 23–24; Heb. 13:8).

Under the time of the gospel, this one covenant of grace receives a different and simpler administration. The substance of the covenant has come, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the ordinances and sacraments are therefore altered—necessarily so. The ordinances of this administration are the preaching of the Word and the administration of the two sacraments Notice that the covenant is “dispensed” through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. The sacraments here are not called reminders, but rather dispensers.

The things we are called upon to do in this administration are simpler, and have less “less outward glory.” But in the gospel economy, the last are first, and this diminution of glory results in greater glory. In the simplicity of Christian worship, the gospel comes in power to all nations, both Jew and Gentile. This manner of worship is called the New Testament.

The division between the covenants, therefore, does not come between Malachi and Matthew. The two testaments simply describe one and the same covenant of grace. The sin of pharisaism is not a separate covenant made by God at all, but rather a distortion of the covenant of grace as it was given in the time of the law. God never commanded men to save themselves. Salvation has always been by grace alone through faith alone.

With the Look of Real Wood

I don’t often read a book twice because time is short and there are so many others to get to. Of course such a sweeping statement would not include the Narnia stories and The Lord of the Rings, or Code of the Woosters, which will always repay multiple readings.

In theology, I read Luther’s Bondage of the Will a couple times because it was simply so good. I read Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination twice — once as an Arminian and then again, years later, to see if he was as much of an idiot in the chapter on the atonement as I remembered, which he wasn’t. The idiot, as it turns out, was somewhere else. Chesteron’s Orthodoxy I have read more than once (not sure how many times) because he is so bracingly sane. I am currently reading Schlossberg’s Idols for Destruction for the second time simply because prime rib is very good. But most books I read are one-timers, and I also have a shelf of books that did not inspire me to get all the way through. Maybe someday.

I say all this because I have just started my third read through Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity. I am doing this because it is one of the best books I have ever read, a profound book that needs to be urged on another hundred thousand Christians or two. It is the kind of profound that doesn’t requires mountains of turgid prose to carry it; turgid profundity is rarely profound in the basic sense of the word anyway. If Copernicus had dashed off the sentiment that maybe the earth goes around the sun, and had done this on the back of a napkin at a restaurant, the pithiness would not take away from the profundity, but would rather add to it. I am reading Leithart’s book again because I am convinced that it is a bomb that has not yet gone off, although that is just a matter of time. It was published in 2003, and so far we have not yet gotten to the red wire/green wire moment in the movie. But we are almost there. The only person hurt by the book thus far has been John Robbins, and that is only because he was frightened by the title.

Leithart is advancing the idea that “the Church is a culture, a new city, a polity unto herself” (v. 7). He is against Christianity as an ism, a set of ideas that individuals adopt or not, as it suits them. As such, “Christianity is the heresy of heresies, the underlying cause of the weakness, lethargy, sickness, and failure of the modern church” (p. 13).

“Christianity is biblical religion disemboweled and emasculated by (voluntary) intellectualization and/or privatization” (p. 17).

“In short: Paul did not attempt to find a place for the Church in the nooks and crannies of the Greco-Roman polis. The Church was not an addition, but an alternaticve to, the koinonia of the polis” (p. 27).

“The Church’s competitors are nation-states and international political bodies like the United Nations” (p. 34).

“Christian political activism is as modern and worldly as Christian political quietism, since both are based on the (false and heretical) assumption that being the Church is not already political activism” (pp. 35-36).

“Religious factors are not secondary additions to cultural effort; religious factors are always already there, always incarnate in the cultural pursuits themselves. Culture always embodies religion” (p. 37).

“The gospel is the announcement that God has organized a new Israel, a new polis, the Body of Christ, and that the King has been installed in heaven, at the right hand of the Father; thus the gospel is politics” (p. 37).

None of this is to say that City of God has reached its maturity, or that we don’t have many things to work out, problems to solve, and so on. It is simply the recognition of what God has actually done in principle by establishing His kingdom here. And we were told to pray for the kingdom to come, not for the kingdom to go.

Now, why is this post under the postmodern heading? Because in these individualistic times, it is easy to think that the Church is a koinonia-fellowship over against the “just me and my Bible” approach of many modern individualists. Many of the emergent churches are trying to emphasize community more, and to (sort of) lean against the rampant individualism of modernity. Now the corporate identity of the Church is inconsistent with this kind of modernist individualism. But it is quite possible for sects, cults, and other social organizations to challenge this kind of individualism without ever challenging the ruling polis. This makes the Church into a sect, into a disciplined sub-group within the public square, a purveyor of what Leithart identifies as Christianity. But the price of admission is that the group has to agree to never, ever, rock the boat. The Church, by this understanding, challenges free-floating individuals, as though they were the competitors. But this is just one more special group competing for market share. The Church scrambles for members, just like Rotary Clubs do, or ham radio operators, or creative anachronism fans, or square dancers.

But read this again:

“The Church’s competitors are nation-states and international political bodies like the United Nations” (p. 34).

I can understand why many Christians would be reluctant to do this. “But we do not preach the gospel faithfully. We preach Christianity. And therefore we avoid the clash” (p. 34). I am reminded of Ambrose Bierce’s junior officer in the Civil War, who protested to his commander that “any further display of valor by my troops will bring them into collision with the enemy.” But I cannot understand why anyone who was reluctant in this way would ever dream of calling himself “postmodern.” Ha. I repeat my earlier point. A genuine postmodernism, the real article, as opposed to the thin veneer versions going around these days (“with the look of real wood!”) has to challenge the ruling polis in the same way the early Christians challenged Rome. It does not pretend to have challenged Rome simply because it has emphasized problems with Mithra worship, or that of the JWs, or the individual selfishness of Demetrius of Corinth, or the corporate policies of WalMart. The Church challenges the ruling gods. Christianity, as Leithart defines it, is very careful not to do anything of the kind. The Church challenges the false theonomy of the false gods. The Church is a trouble-maker. The Church says that there is another king, this man they call Jesus.

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Scripted Authenticity

“A considerable number of events are staged to attract television cameras. When a political candidate goes to a closed factory or stands outside the slums so that a camera can capture the scene, the candidate is manipulating television coverage. Some people get so good at figuring out how to do this that they get paid for it. Of course, they are not called manipulators. They are called political consultants . . . Andrea Mitchell . . . quotes Larry Speakes, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, as saying to the news media, ‘Don’t tell us how to stage the news, and we won’t tell you how to cover it.’” (Neil Postman, How To Watch TV News, pp. 81-82).

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