Go ahead and mark your calendars now. This summer (June 16-17) we will be holding our 4th Annual Conference on the Family in Lynchburg, Va. Nancy and I will both be speaking, and more information can be obtained from Providence Church here.
“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
Growing Dominion, Part 108
“House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14).
When we serve God, and He blesses us, one of the things that happens is that wealth accumulates. Since all of us die, what is to be done with all our stuff when we go to be with the Lord? The text here says that we pass it on to our children. This is given simply as a statement of fact, but Proverbs elsewhere says that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children (13:22). There is an assumption that some Christians have that the really “spiritual” thing is to give all their children’s inheritance to missions, but this is misguided. Like many similar issues, it is dangerously misguided because of the element of truth in it. We are to be generous, and we are to leave a generous inheritance (as God enables) to generous children. But the only way they will be generous is if they have been taught and instructed that way as a way of life—as the way of Christ.
This text also shows the clear limits on what parents can do. They can leave their house to their son, and they can leave their wealth to him. But if he is to have a prudent wife, then God will have to do it. That is not something they can settle upon him. This testifies to the truth that everything is ultimately in the hands of God.
I would like to pass on to all of you some questions posed by a correspondent in Australia. He has been observing us toiling away here in our FV swamps, and sent on some questions that I thought were just grand, going right to the heart of the matter. If I were speaking to this correspondent right now, I might resort to a felicitous Latin phrase (the kind I learned from Wodehouse, not Wheelock), which is to say, rem acu tetigisti – you have touched the thing with a needle.
Here they are:
1. Are the children of believers in covenant with God?
2. If so, which covenant are they in? (Are they in the covenant of works, grace, new, privilege, other?)
3. Are they fully in that covenant?
4. Were such children who have grown up to final unbelief ever really in that covenant to begin with?
Because this is not a gotcha game, but a sincere set of questions, I think that I should answer them too. So here goes.
1. Are the children of believers in covenant with God? Yes
2. If so, which covenant are they in? (Are they in the covenant of works, grace, new, privilege, other?) The covenant of grace.
3. Are they fully in that covenant? With regard to membership and the attendant obligation to live by faith alone, yes. With regard to enjoyment of all the blessings of the covenant, that depends on whether or not they are elect.
4. Were such children who have grown up to final unbelief ever really in that covenant to begin with? Yes, they were.
Now since it should be obvious that these questions cut right to the heart of the issue, it would seem to follow that FV critics would have to answer these questions differently somewhere. But where? My money is on #3, but they have to be careful. If they answer too robustly, they will find themselves out of accord with the Westminster Confession.
As we eat and drink in the fellowship of God, we need to remember that in this time of worship and communion, God is constituting and forming a new society. He is not just encouraging us in our private lives—although this is one result of what we do.
There are only two men in the world—Adam and Christ. There are only two cities—the city of man and the city of God. There are only two tables—the table of demons and the table of the Lord. This is the meaning of the antithesis.
Now the formation of this new society is by no means a secret and invisible event. It is most public, and has public ramifications, and presents a potent challenge to those who claim secular ownership of the public square. When the state is god, of necessity political posturing and positioning is the central liturgy. But this meal is not given to us so that we might have the strength to participate in their liturgy. Rather, this meal is our liturgy, and it is a rival liturgy, serving a rival God, in the name of a rival city, and forming a rival culture.
One of the negative results of the Enlightenment—and there have been many—is that interest in Christian liturgy became much more textual, and much less enacted. But when it is enacted, and those enacting it understand what they do in faith, it is the most political thing we can do. Why? Because it is the means that God uses to form His new polis, His city, His society.
This threatens the old order, necessarily, and they always react to it. But that does not matter. God is in His heaven, Christ is on His throne, His people are assembled in response to His command, and He blesses us in full accordance with His Word.
So let the secularists have their petitions—that is a liturgy before an idol that is deaf and dumb. Let confused and compromised traditionalists sign their autonomous petitions—although we do pray for their repentance. We have a table that strengthens and feeds the people of God.
The modern world specializes in fragmentation. Everything is broken apart into little bits, so that autonomous man might have the illusion that this world can be controlled by man, piece by little piece. But we are Christians, who serve the God who made heaven and earth, and who then remade them in Jesus Christ our Lord. We therefore are learning to see all things as a complete and integrated whole.
Among many other things, this means that we must learn to see our worship as a political act. Some Christians want to separate religion and politics entirely, leaving the political realm to the devil and his disciples. Other Christians want to embrace political action, but they want to subordinate the worship of God to the autonomous norms and standards of the secular political realm — to do politics their way (yard signs and petitions) instead of God’s way (hearing His word, eating bread and drinking wine). In other words, they want to subordinate the worship of the triune God to the standards of all the secular baals.
Another option, which is significantly better, wants to worship God rightly, and then watch how this unfolds later on in the world of politics. This is good, but there is still too much distance involved.
We must learn to see that public worship is political. The preaching of the kingdom of God does not have to be made political. It can be made apolitical, but only through compromise. The rituals of the kingdom do not have to be made political—they declare, in a profound and unmistakable way, that our allegiance is to the City of God, and that all kings, congresses, parliaments, churches, denominations, synagogues, presidents, ambassadors, and any other name that can be named, must make their peace with the prince of that City.
So do not isolate this part of your life from the other aspects of your life. Your life must be integrated. But do not isolate this part of your life from your citizenry. You declare, every week, that there is no king but Jesus. You declare that His worship defines all other responsibilities. His authority extends to everything else. His power, His wisdom, His majesty, are above all.
“But this fault is rare in Bunyan — far rarer than in Piers Plowman. If such dead wood were removed from The Pilgrim’s Progress the book would not be very much shorter than it is. The greater part of it is enthralling narrative or genuinely dramatic dialogue. Bunyan stands with Malory and Trollope as a master of perfect naturalness in the mimesis of ordinary conversation” (C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, p. 146).
“Recognizing that a critical mass among Canada’s fine citizenry holds ultraliberal views, I fear that Canada will perhaps be the first western nation to spring a supremacist Islamic trap on its own foot” (Richardson, Secrets of the Koran, p. 165).
“The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs . . . But in artists of less force, the thing becomes a pressure, and produces a definite pain, which is called the artistic temperament. Thus, the very great artists are able to be ordinary men—men like Shakespeare or Browning. There are many real tragedies of the artistic temperament, tragedies of vanity or violence of fear. But the great tragedy of the artistic temperament is that it cannot produce any art” (G.K. Chesterton as quoted in Thomas Peters, The Christian Imagination, p. 64).