Grinding My Postmill Coffee Beans

I promised Frank Turk an additional response to Carl Trueman’s jab at King’s College, and so here goes. There were two basic points that Trueman made that I didn’t get to. The first has to do with Trueman’s middle class “chatterati” and their bland biblically-tinged bromides, and the second has to do with how many Christian worldviews there actually are.

Here is Trueman again, with those concerns in italics.

“DG’s critique at Old Life of the bombastic claims about transformationism is akin to one I have made frequently in the classroom about talk of the [singular] ‘Christian worldview’: such things are, by and large, code for the expression of the concerns of the middle class chatterati in a blandly Christian idiom.

I won’t spend a lot of time here defending the Christian middle class, God’s suburban saints, although I would love to. Much of my defense of them will actually be entailed in my second point, and so I can afford to be relatively brief here. The middle class is much despised, and suburbia more so, and when Christians located in such places say things like “homosexuals couldn’t get married when I was a kid,” or “why are they spending three times what they are taking in?” and this is connected in some way with the idea that Jesus wouldn’t go for either of these things, this could be taken as chatter from the chatterati, and it could also be taken as an expression of a blandly Christian idiom. But I don’t take it that way.

I take it as an expression of deep concern from a much-abused middle class — that workhorse class that subsidizes the idiots at the top, most of whom went to Ivy League schools, while the schlubs and chumps went to those land grant jobs before landing an steady job with State Farm — and it is deep concern from a group that has been betrayed, yet again, by the intellectuals. These suburbanites are successfully duped, time after time, because they have jobs they have to get to and it is hard to keep track of the smart guys.

I have had the privilege, over the course of decades, of teaching many middle class Christians what it means to think biblically, what it means to have a Christian worldview. There is nothing bland about it, because it is never bland when the lesson is that you and your children are being sold into slavery, and you are just coming to that realization two thirds of the way through the auction.

One of the things that has mystified me for years is the standard contempt that is shown for the suburbs. The first house that Nancy and I bought was a little postage stamp affair, and I resided it with T-111. We worked hard on that little thing, and I am incapable of thinking about that tiny house without my gratitude having about ten times more square footage than the house had. I would want to argue that this de rigeur contempt for the suburban middle class is yet another illustration of how unaware we are of the means God uses to bring people out of poverty, and how He enables them to provide their children with a better education than the parents had.

But all of this leads, directly or indirectly, to the second question. Here is how Frank put it.

“The real question Carl is asking here is whether or not there’s any legitimate way to represent a singular, universal ‘Christian Worldview.’ You completely escape without answering that at all, and I know you’re clever enough to feel that question poking you in the gizzard.”

Yes, quite, and so here we are.

So how many Christian worldviews are there? Well, there is only one, because there is only one God. We have one God, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We have one Bible. We are, all of us, called to grow up into the unity of the faith. So there is only one Christian worldview. The downside of this point, elegant in its simplicity, is that God is the only one who has this Christian worldview. Only God sees all things. Only God holds them all together in a coherent unity, and only God knows the end from the beginning.

We fall short when it comes to adopting this worldview in two ways, one of them sinful, and the other an expression of body life and Trinitarian glory. We fall short because a. we are sinful, and b. we are finite. In order then . . .

First, we fail to understand this worldview because of sin and disobedience. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children that we may keep all the words of this law (Dt. 29:29). We fail to have a Christian worldview when we sinfully reject some aspect of it that has been revealed to us. If we think that dudes can marry dudes, or if we think that babies have no right to live, or if we think that the Bible has mistakes in it, we are sinfully failing to reflect what God has told us to reflect. This aspect of Christian worldview thinking is common to all Christians everywhere, and is equally obligatory on all. No one has the right to say that Koreans, or Americans, or members of the middle class, or anybody else, have the right to set aside what God told us to believe and do. We are justified through the gospel of free grace, and we grow in our sanctification, learning to repent of our sins, being constantly corrected by the Word.

When it comes to this side of things, we have only one Christian worldview for the same reason we have only one Christianity. There are not many Christianities, the pomos notwithstanding, and for the same reason and to the same extent, we do not have multiple Christian worldviews.

Ah, but what about our finitude? This is where it can get tricky, but bear with me. One of the fundamental tenets of a Christian worldview (in the first sense, outlined above) is the Creator/creature distinction. The Creator is triune, and each one of us is — relative to Him — approaching mathematical point small. Our perspective is, to say no more, tiny. No, wait, let me say more. It is teeny teeny teeny tiny.

But this is okay, because one of the basic things we are all required to know as part of our Christian worldview training is that we are a bunch of Whos in Whoville. This means that we are taught to recognize that, in areas not revealed to all of us in Scripture, God intends to give us the complete picture through His orchestration, His choreography, His husbandry of the symphony, the dance, the garden. This means — if I may illustrate — that my appreciation of a well-made cheeseburger is part of my Christian worldview orientation, which I contribute as an American, well-versed in these mysteries. At the same time, appreciation of kimchi is something a Korean brother is going to have to supply, because I am not an adept. All my training leads me to shy away from fermented vegetables.

His appreciation and mine are all aspects of the same biblical worldview. We don’t have to come to a meeting of the minds on it because I am playing the clarinet and he is playing the French horn. I am playing second base and he is playing right field. And in case you missed the Pauline echoes in all this, I am the eye and he is the ear. The body of Christ has (and is going to have increasingly) the full-orbed Christian worldview. But God is in charge of that, not us. What we have to do is love each other and do what God says. God alone has the big picture, and we may trust Him to complete it. But an essential part of the small picture that each of us must have is the understanding that God alone has the big picture.

The obligatory biblical worldview we must all have is that which is revealed to us, and which we are called to obey and teach. The fact that there is a lot of worldview that is yet to be revealed should not dismay us. God doesn’t want us to see it yet, but we do know that when it is finally revealed, it is going to be a corker. Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for us. Just think — wine on the lees, well refined. Just think — the mountain of the Lord, full of marrow, full of fat. Just think — all the nations streaming to the banner set up by Jesse, and every last tribe of them is bringing their weird foods with them.

So this is not a postmill axe that I grind. The only thing I am grinding would be the postmill coffee beans. I figure everybody will be here by breakfast, and we are going to need acres of omelets, mountains of muffins, and oceans of coffee. They will, of course, be bringing their stuff. And there won’t be one person there who can eat it all.

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15 thoughts on “Grinding My Postmill Coffee Beans

  1. To boil it down, there are many pieces of the Christian worldview, each held in differing degrees of accuracy and obedience, by the different members of His body. The whole of which only the Head Himself can see.

    Which, on the whole, is not entirely different from the point Trueman was making. At least as I understood him.

  2. Pastor Wilson,

    In speaking of coffee and delicious food, its important to remember (as a certified member of the middle class chatterati) that you are speaking to someone who may not understand your food reference. If one is thinking of gastronomic excellence, the UK is, well,…Are you sure that he really comprehends a mountain of a cheeseburger, full of fat? And as far as the transformation of Christian toilet cleaning, well Thomas Crapper was born in Thorne, Yorkshire, in 1836; the exact date is unknown, but we do know that he was baptised on 28 September 1836.

  3. And one wants to be vigilant regarding these issue because, “First they came for the vinyl siding…” So I would say, “We will fight them on the cul-de-sac, we will fight them at the drive-up latte window…”

  4. Off topic but you touch one of my hobby horses. Revelation says “I am [...] the beginning and the end.” Certainly “God knows the end from the beginning” but still, you’re messing with my OCD.

    As for hating the burbs and all that is in them, isn’t that a species of oikophobia?

  5. Doug is spot on here. The Hart/Trueman Show’s interest in anti-”transformationalism” is really, really strange given that fact that no one is arguing for a singular definition of worldview nor is anyone defining what “transform” means. The ambiguity is intentional. What text are they specifically arguing against or is it simply their own reading what worldview and transform could mean? What’s really ironic is that Trueman’s critique is, in fact, a good representative “the concerns of the middle class chatterati in a blandly Christian idiom.” Perhaps the moral of the Hart/Trueman show is simply this: unless you have an OPC ethos, you’re off the reservation. I am scratching my head with Erskine College’s Bill Evans on these two peas in a much-ado-about-nothing anti-transformationalist pod. http://theecclesialcalvinist.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/lets-give-credit-where-credit-is-due/

  6. I found Trueman’s semi-mocking examples of toilet scrubbing and turkey carving to be a bit revealing about why he doesn’t think too highly about the possibilities of cultural transformation. My wife and I briefly met Carl and his wife some years ago and quite liked them, but when I read this post of his I felt sorry for Carl’s wife if she should read his post at the end of house cleaning day. Transformation of culture comes through reformation of the church (unless I am really reading history incorrectly). One of the major facets to the reformation of the church is when it comes to realize that there is no task so menial or so seemingly insignificant that it cannot be done as an act of glorifying God with a grateful heart. When this is the case, transformation can happen because reformation already is. I think of the famous example of Luther, where he spoke of cleaning diapers to God’s glory.

    “What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and work flow.”
    ― Martin Luther

    “Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.”
    ― Martin Luther

    When Luther was teaching this, it was not incidental to the reformation of the church. This was, in his mind, a central application of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. For a Christian, all tasks are sacred. It surprises me that Trueman would pick toilet scrubbing as an example of something that you couldn’t plan a conference on how to do it Christianly. Perhaps the toilet brush strokes and the bowl cleaner are the same for Patsy Pagan and Christine Christian, but it is not technique that will bring about any type of church reformation or a broader cultural transformation. It is the heart attitude; are we doing all we do for God or for something else? If for God, then he will continually work in us to shape us and that will spill over (no pun intended). I think Trueman picked toilet scrubbing because he couldn’t think of any more mundane and thankless task today, and he said that he hasn’t seen any conferences on it to date. Luther picked diaper cleaning because he couldn’t think of any more mundane and supposedly profane (irreligious) task, but his statements above show that, on a small scale, he has already taught a conference on how to do these things with a Christian worldview. It is in the everyday lives of believers as individuals and together as the church that reformation happens. When it is true reformation, it spills over to begin to transform culture. Therefore, cultural transformation won’t start at all but that it starts with toilet scrubbing.

  7. My apologies on the lack of formatting. Hopefully this posts better:

    I found Trueman’s semi-mocking examples of toilet scrubbing and turkey carving to be a bit revealing about why he doesn’t think too highly about the possibilities of cultural transformation. My wife and I briefly met Carl and his wife some years ago and quite liked them, but when I read this post of his I felt sorry for Carl’s wife if she should read his post at the end of house cleaning day. Transformation of culture comes through reformation of the church (unless I am really reading history incorrectly). One of the major facets to the reformation of the church is when it comes to realize that there is no task so menial or so seemingly insignificant that it cannot be done as an act of glorifying God with a grateful heart. When this is the case, transformation can happen because reformation already is. I think of the famous example of Luther, where he spoke of cleaning diapers to God’s glory.

    “What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and work flow.” ― Martin Luther

    “Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.” ― Martin Luther

    When Luther was teaching this, it was not incidental to the reformation of the church. This was, in his mind, a central application of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. For a Christian, all tasks are sacred. It surprises me that Trueman would pick toilet scrubbing as an example of something that you couldn’t plan a conference on how to do it Christianly. Perhaps the toilet brush strokes and the bowl cleaner are the same for Patsy Pagan and Christine Christian, but it is not technique that will bring about any type of church reformation or a broader cultural transformation. It is the heart attitude; are we doing all we do for God’s glory or for something else? If for God, then he will continually work in us to shape us and that will spill over (no pun intended). I think Trueman picked toilet scrubbing because he couldn’t think of any more mundane and thankless task today, and he said that he hasn’t seen any conferences on it to date. Luther picked diaper cleaning because he couldn’t think of any more mundane and supposedly profane (irreligious) task, but his statements above show that he has already taught a conference on how to do these things with a Christian worldview: it was called the Protestant Reformation, and it certainly went on to transform culture. It is in the everyday lives of believers as individuals and together as the church that reformation happens. When it is true reformation, it spills over to begin to transform culture. Therefore, cultural transformation won’t start at all but that it starts with toilet scrubbing.

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