Where He Offers Himself

There are many aspects to this Supper, but one of them is that it is an expression of loyalty. In this meal, the Lord offers Himself to all who come to Him in faith, and all who come to Him in faith offer themselves in return, in a devout imitation.

Christ offers Himself. We may describe this doctrinally, but He does not offer us a mere doctrine. We may enact this liturgically, but He does not offer a liturgical shell. God offers us Himself. He gives Himself, and in the power of the Spirit, He gives Himself wholly.

We are to act as dearly beloved children, which means that we are to imitate Him in this. We come here to express our all-in loyalty. There are to be no double loyalties here—nothing else can be permitted to compete with the place of Christ in our hearts.

We do this fully aware of all the distractions that pull at our sleeves on a daily basis. We know of our faults and failings, and our propensity to wander. But that does not exclude us from this meal—God knows what kind of world we live in, and He knows what kinds of temptations we face. What we are dealing with is “common to man,” and God has provided us with Word and sacrament. But note that these are merely instruments by which He provides us with Himself.

If you would profit by this—and why would you not want to profit by it—then you must receive what is actually being offered. When you do this, your loyalties are aligned with His, and His Spirit equips you fully.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

A Refuge for Honesty

In his great psalm of confession, the psalmist says that he has acknowledged his sin to God, and goes on to say that he had not hidden his iniquity (Ps. 32:5). Because we live in a world full of sin, and because we as God’s people live our lives here, when we come to church one of two things must happen. Either we will come to understand our sin and deal with it properly, or we will come here to hide it.

Hospitals are institutions dedicated to health, but they are not places where we go to enjoy and celebrate how healthy we are. You do not go to the doctor in order to lie to him about all your symptoms. What would be the point?

The assembly of the church is a similar kind of thing. We want to come here for a genuine encounter with God, and this means that we must not come here in order to hide our iniquity. He knows about it already. He knows far more about it than we do. He knows everything there is to know about it. He knows when we come to church and do not confess our sins honestly at the beginning of the service. He knows when we move through the rest of the service pretending that we didn’t track in what He knows we tracked in.

When we do this kind of thing, we demonstrate that we are not really worshiping God, but rather are worshiping the good opinion of our fellows.

And this is why our steeple is going to have a cross on top of it. We erect that symbol because we want our town to know, and we want to constantly remind ourselves, that we have been called to a life of virtue by grace. And because it is virtue by grace, the foundational virtue that the grace of God cultivates in us is honesty. And that is how this building needs to be built—as a refuge for honesty.

So let the stones cry out.

Imitate More, Not Less

“Hack writers do not sub-create a world; they simply rearrange furniture in a glibly assumed (and largely unexamined) prefab world. If necessary, they make it an ‘other world’ fantasy by having two moons in the sky or by naming their protagonist something like Shambilar. But this is just moving things around on the surface.  There is no deep structure to it — the author is not exercising enough authority. He is being too timid. There is not enough deep structure because there is not enough deep imitation” (From The Romantic Rationalist, pp. 76-77).

The Divine Potboiler

“How could we not be storytellers? We worship God the writer, God the written, and God the reader. How could we not create? We are created in God’s image, and he creates. He created us so that we would do this. He came down into our world to show us how it is done; his name is Immanuel. God loves cliffhangers. He loves nailbiters. On the mount of the Lord it will be provided. Exile and return stories are everywhere. So are death and resurrection stories. So are the elder-shall-serve-the-younger stories. And the whole thing will come together at the last day, as promised in Romans 8:28, with trillions of plot points all resolved and no remainder. And the great throng gathered before the throne will cry out, with a voice like many waters, saying, ‘That was the best story we ever heard'” (From The Romantic Rationalist, pp. 75-76).

Betting With Real Money

I want to answer two very basic questions. Let’s all wish me luck. First I want to define marriage — what is marriage anyhow? — and I want to explain why the answer to this first question is any business of the civil magistrate. The two matters are wound tightly together, as we shall see.

I have defined marriage before in at least a couple of places.

“A common error among Christians holds that if the sexual act is completed, then the couple are married ‘in God’s sight.’ Many destructive complications occur in contemporary culture because we have adopted the idea that people can be married in God’s sight without being married. It is hard to say where this idea originated, but it has caused a lot of damage . . . Marriage is scripturally defined as a sexual relationship within the boundaries of a covenant commitment that has been formally ratified. The sexual relationship by itself does not constitute marriage” (Her Hand in Marriage, pp. 28-29).

“The first is that you must have an explicit covenant surrounding a sexual relationship. Not everyone who is sexually united is married, and not everyone who has exchanged vows is married. The covenant exists when the two elements are there together: covenant vows surrounding a covenant union” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 33).

Thus far the assertions. Why do I believe that the two essential elements in a marriage are sexual union (of the sort that could result in pregnancy) and a publicly recognized covenant? To use the language of the philosophers, these are necessary conditions but not sufficient conditions. A necessary condition means that without it you do not have the thing in question. A sufficient condition means that with it you will have the thing in question, of necessity. Thus the presence of oxygen is a necessary condition for a blazing fire but not a sufficient condition.

You cannot have a marriage without old school heterosexual copulation and you cannot have a marriage without a covenant. Nevertheless you can have a covenant without a marriage and you can have sexual intercourse without a marriage.

Remanded to Sensitivity Camps

When two armies happen to meet, the battle is not necessarily over the terrain they are fighting on. Sometimes it is that, of course, but there are also occasions when the place where they are fighting and the place for which they are fighting are two entirely different places.

The current battle is at the place of same sex mirage. It is where we are fighting right now, and may God grant success to us here, holed up in our little gender-normal Alamo. Our God is able to deliver us, but even if He does not, be it known, o king, that we will not consent to applaud the use of a man as though he were a woman.

Homosexual vice is a bad business, one that the apostle Paul describes as the end of the ethical road. But that is simply where the battle is right now, not what the battle is over. And so, since I have raised the point, what is the battle over? The battle is over the right to define the world.
Man wants to be God, and he wants to be able to declare the way things shall be, and then have them be that way. He hates God and wants to replace Him, and wants to replace how the way things stand fast whenever God declares them. Man wants to speak the ultimate and authoritative word.

Some people have asked from time to time, usually with some petulance, why I write about same sex mirage so much. The answer is found in the disputed nouns — the marriage/mirage issue. The issue is not an instance here or there of same sex coupling; the central issue is what we as a culture are going to call it when it happens. We have always had those who were in the grip of this lust; why should Christians raise an uproar about it now?

In Drag

In which a discordant note is struck between what I wish to be and what I am.

Well, I would say mildly, we are not the ones raising an uproar. You can tell what the real issue is by where the enforcement is. When do the cops show up? When do evangelical bakers get remanded to sensitivity camps? Whenever we refuse to use their vocabulary, the goons come out. That alone, that by itself, should tell you what the real issue is. Under their regime, you do not have to commit homosexual acts. But under their regime, you must agree to pretend that what they have decided to call it has in fact come to pass. But it hasn’t come to pass.

At the end of the day, you have two dudes in bed, with no decent place to put things, or two women there, with nothing real available for either of them. The emptiness, the vanity, the loneliness, the folly, is manifest. And comes now the state, demanding that whatever else we do about this, we must agree to call this state of high loneliness and desperation a state of holy matrimony. I might not be as courageous as I think I am, or as faithful to Jesus as I think I am, and so you might be able to get me to say something like that after pulling out my fifth fingernail. But if you think you can get me to do it by coolshaming me into an approval of round squares, then I guess I had better type a little bit more, in order to make my sentiments clear.

So in a city of one million, I would much rather have a thousand illicit homosexual acts, unrecognized by the public, than to have just one illicit sexual act, covered over with the thin film of all our solons calling it an official marriage. Why? In the former instance, we have a thousand instances of sin. In the latter we have a million. There is a difference between a city with sin in it, and a sin city. In the former, the sin is instances of homosexual sin; in the latter the sin is with our shared language, the currency of all. Both strike at the image of God in man, but the latter is far more serious.

Because the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the latter sin is heinous. You could drop the sexual element out of this altogether, and still have the same problem. I would want to be fighting in the same way if federal judges were declaring that two and two make five, and were applying stiff fines to all born-again mathematicians. We happen to be fighting in the sexual arena because when a people are addled by their lusts, or are grossed out by people so addled, it is far easier to distract them all from the real issue.

The real issue is that man bears the image of God. He is not a god in his own right. He cannot declare, and have it be necessarily so. He must be content to repeat what God has said. Man’s only possible glory and dignity is as God’s vicegerent. And that is dignity enough.

When he sets up shop on his own, everything spirals down into autonomous folly. Revolts against God’s holy order cannot achieve a higher dignity for us. We cannot achieve linguistic independence. God’s gravity is infinite, and there is no escape velocity. We cannot speak the word, and create a new sex — we can only blur the meaning of words, and go out in drag. We can also fine people who refuse to go along with our big pretend.