Rage on a Short Tether
2 Kings 19:20-21,27-28 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. This is the word that the Lord has spoken against him . . . But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.” Acts 4:25-30 “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Gosh! The Healing by Jesus is a wonder in itself! Always has been. Always will be! Amen!
Adad, thanks for the reminders.
Yea, Gashmu Saith
As an aside, I always like it when “Gashmu saith it” comes up. I’ve used it quite a bit since your series on Nehemiah, usually with a chuckle.
Johnny, yes. It really requires broader circulation.
That Unthinkable 2020 Election. I did vote for Donald Trump in 2016, because I would not vote for Hillary Clinton, and I do not believe in voting third party candidates (at least at this time in our history). Recently, I was sent this article by Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s son, David, and find myself in general agreement with it. I really know nothing of David Bahnsen or whether he holds the same view now that he did in 2012. You may have commented on it previously, but I am woefully behind in my reading. For what it’s worth, here’s a link to his article.
Cynthia, I think that David argues his case very well, but I would add two additional considerations that might mitigate what we think of the folly of third-party voting. The first is that we are not only a winner-take-all form of government, but in federal elections we are that same way on a state-by-state level as well. If you live in a nail-biter state like Florida, I do think David’s arguments are well worth considering. But if you live in Massachusetts where Republicans went extinct in the age of Coolidge, or in Idaho like I do, you can do exactly what David urges (take the votes of others into account) and vote third party with perfect equanimity. That could be a “safe” way of getting the attention of the pretend conservatives of Washington. Second, the context for this piece was the prospect of a Romney presidency, not a Trump presidency. Now what I am about to say is not directed against David, but his piece brought the issue to mind. It is a statement about the general drift of things. I have noticed that really conservative Christians have been hectored for a generation about getting on board with electable candidates, resulting in a perceptible leftward drift of the Republicans over time. And then, when they do exactly the same thing with Trump, they are accused (by Romney fans) of abandoning their principles. Wait. Isn’t that what you wanted us to do?
On Refusing the Free Stuff
[Note – this is not a response to a particular post.] You said somewhere that private schools should not accept public subsidies for student tuition on the grounds that (1) such subsidies rob one taxpayer to pay off another, and (2) such subsidies give the government authority to regulate the curriculum in said private school. Those arguments make sense to me: you shall not steal, and you shall not pass your children through fire to Molech (or Demos). As a Canadian father of a young and growing family, I have a different but related moral decision to make. Up north we have what’s called the Child Tax Benefit where the federal government pays you for taking care of your kids. It can be as high as $6000 per year per child under 6 and $5000 per year per child from 6 to 17 (less depending on your family income). For a family like mine (2 kids under 3), I might get something like $7000 per year. Now, if my children were enrolled automatically as soon as we registered their birth and the benefit simply appeared as a credit on my tax return I would shrug and give thanks for the break. However, enrollment for the child benefit is done with a separate form which you are not required to submit with the birth registration. If you do enroll, the benefit comes as a monthly direct deposit to your bank account. So this is an optional program that smells like the greedy game of trying to get more out of the pot than you put in. I’d be interested to know if your position on this kind of benefit is at all different from your position on private school tuition credits, particularly with regards to the following ideas: 1) Government has the mandate to reward those who do good. Families that have lots of kids are fulfilling their God-given mandate to multiply. So can this justify the use of government power to “pay off” families with kids? 2) The Child Tax Benefit apparently has no strings attached with regards to the method of education or curriculum. The laws regarding home schooling in the Province of Ontario where I live are the same whether or not I take the benefit or not. So apparently the benefit does not reduce my parental control over my child’s education. 3) Do you feel (like I do) that it is inconsistent to rely on public health care (supported by the taxpayer) while opting out of the Child Tax Benefit for moral reasons? In theory you can opt out of the single-payer tax system, but medical bills can be a very heavy burden. How would you get insurance (or even solicit charity from fellow Christians!) in a system where everyone expects the government to foot the bill? So far I have opted out of the Child Tax Benefit but I haven’t met anyone (besides my wife) who is supportive of this course of action. And I’m not sure how to answer the inconsistency between allowing the government to foot the hospital bill at my son’s delivery and then opting out of their generous offer to pay me monthly for keeping him alive for the next 17 years. Am I stealing from my family by opting out? Or is the path of complete obedience not only to opt out of the Child Benefit but also to pay my own hospital bills? Regards,
Isaac, I have taught for years that the principle is that we must seek to refuse the benefits first. As you point out, this isn’t always practical. If I lived in a country with socialist health care, and one of my kids broke a leg, I would certainly take them in to have the bone set. It is an ungodly system, but we still have our private duties in that setting. If I were taken hostage on a pirate ship, would it be lawful to eat the food they gave me (even though they stole it)? Well, yeah. At the same time we should be behaving in ways that prevent fellow Christians from developing the Stockholm syndrome when it comes to these soft nanny-state despotisms. In the case of this child credit, it seems you can refuse the benefit without neglecting a primary duty to your children, and also fulfill a secondary duty of setting an example to fellow Christians who have been suckered into approving of this stuff.
More on Boz
Pastor Wilson, Sir, I’m terribly ignorant of any specifics about your church’s dealings with Boz Tchividjian, and as such would generally refrain from comment. However, searching his name, Google happened to bring up a twitter comment from him, presumably about your recent column on Rachael Denhollander. Ignorant though I am about the specific situation, what he said in his tweet spoke volumes to me, causing me to resonate with your concerns. He said: “It seems like he is still upset that GRACE called him out on officiating the marriage of a known sex offender and his attempted denigration of a victim of child sexual abuse.” If he takes pride that his ministry is busy “calling out” pastors for doing things that are entirely legal, ethical, and biblical, then your concerns do not seem unfounded. There are many sex offenders, guilty of a variety of sins, who most certainly have every civil and biblical right to become married. Such situations may require especially sensitive pastoral care, structured supervision, and careful guidance, to be sure. But the fact that he can simply critique you in toto for “officiating the marriage of a known sex offender. . . is absurd. I would do so myself, given the proper circumstances. Perhaps I may be “called out” by his ministry myself someday. Moreover, he accused you of “attempted denigration” of a victim. What in the world is “attempted denigration?” You tried to denigrate her but all your words accidentally came out as kind compliments? That seems a bit like “attempted slander.” One either denigrated a person or didn’t. If you actually used denigrating words about a victim, he ought simply say you “denigrated” him or her, an accusation he could back up simply by quoting said words. But accusing someone of “attempted denigration” conveys to me a willingness to assume or interpret things in the worst possible light while using vague and nebulous accusations . . . as though your words themselves would not convey denigration without significantly creative interpretation. “Well, his words weren’t actually denigrating . . . but I’m sure what he meant was . . . If your words to this victim were denigrating, he ought simply quote them, and any reasonable observer would recognize them as denigrating to him or her. Similarly, if there was some particular aspect of this marriage that you handled in what he finds an unethical manner, let him accuse you of that specific error. But if all he can do is accuse you of committing a perfectly legal and honorable action, and of “attempted” denigration, it raises my suspicion that he lacks any real grievance against you, and can only accuse you of the most vague (and meaningless) generalities. Knowing nothing about the situation, but judging from his tweet alone, I must confess . . . it appears your concern is not ill-founded.
Daniel, you have surmised correctly. Not only did he do all this, but he did it from the other side of the country, while in possession of a fraction of the facts. It was not just or right, but in his favor it can be said that he probably drummed up some business.
My question is about “Rachael Denhollander’s Accomplishment (and Mistake).” I’m fully on board with your assessment that Boz and his ministry should have reconciled with you without threatening a lawsuit. But you’re fully on board with cooperating with law enforcement and having trials when it comes to some of the sexual abuse cases you’ve dealt with, even though those involved were Christians. Where do you draw the line?
Seth, great question. I believe that the prohibition in Corinthians is a prohibition against civil lawsuits, and is not addressing criminal law at all. So if two Christians in business have competing interpretations of a business contract, that should be adjudicated by the church and not in civil court. But if one Christian discovers that the other Christian embezzled 100K and ran for the border, he should feel absolutely free to call the cops.
Wolves and Sheep
As a survivor of inappropriate behaviour at the hands of a pastor, and as a sister who shares a mutual faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ I feel led to caution you. We live in a time when many within Christendom are the “whitewashed tombs” referenced by The Lord in Matthew 23. I believe that as the coming of the Lord approaches the bride is being made ready, she is being purified and part of that process is what we are seeing now. Women like our sister RD have been called by the Lord and are instruments in that purification of His bride. Please examine your heart. Do you have the character, nature and attributes of Jesus? Are you feeding His sheep as He asked over and over again in John 21? Are you a protector of those sheep? Or, are you a defender of the wolves?
Molly, the Lord told us that the wolves would come decked out in sheep’s clothing. The wolves don’t advertise themselves as wolves. To much of the flock they don’t look like wolves. I wasn’t attacking Rachael, but was rather cautioning her about the danger of throwing away the good she has done, which is going to happen if she teams up with the wolves. She really needs to be more careful.
My recollection from reading this blog for a number of years is that you have a good opinion of the work of Rene Girard. If one was interested in reading some Girard, what would you recommend as a good place to start? And where would you go from that starting point? Thanks.
Jon, I would suggest one of two possible places to start. The first would be the book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. The other would be an anthology of his writings, called The Girard Reader.
The New St. Andrews MFA
This is unrelated to any recent blog post, but I’m wondering if there is an age cutoff for who can sign up for the Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at NSA. My dad is, ahem, 69 years old, but he’s done some fiction writing (doubt you have the time or interest, but if you do check out The Oerken Tree on Amazon) and I really believe he has some God-given talent that could really be nurtured in a program like this. But I also realize his age may prevent him from being considered. So I guess my question is, would it be worthwhile for him to apply to the program/submit some of his writing for consideration? Thanks,
Thomas, we would have an age floor, but no age ceiling. It is a limited enrollment program, and so applying does not mean acceptance, but I would encourage him to apply if he would like.
More Leaning In
I’ve read all your letters to the editor posts, but I haven’t kept up, is this the first time someone has responded to one of those posts? Ah, even if not, here goes. I would heartily disagree with the reader (Peter) who took issue with your use of the phrase “lean in.” He did quite well in articulating the unpleasant leftist associations the term engenders (oh, too close to “gender,” lemme try again), the leftist associations the term triggers (oooh, wait, that’s not gonna work either!), he suitably articulated the leftist associations the term provokes, but I’m not so sure surrendering the term is the answer. This seems much like your exhortations about “conserve” and “progress” being transitive verbs: What does/should conservatism conserve? What do progressives want to progress to? The question is, what is it we’re being asked to lean in to? Abortion? Darwinism? Feminism? #MeToo? . . . No thanks. But if you’re gonna utilize the term for the sake of Christ, then heck, I’ll lean in! It’s actually a bit refreshing to see what is typically lefty-lingo put to good use.
Also (different topic here), a different reader from the same post, Joseph, really hit on something. He said up front he isn’t a fan of lesser-of-two-evils voting, but then went on to articulate a plausibly biblical principle for voting for Trump in 2020—namely that recent history and the current resulting trajectory seems to indicate that God is using Trump for good in many ways. I agree with both the observation and the case he makes based on it, but I want to make two observations about this. First, this type of nuance in attempting to discern what constitutes responsible Christian voting is precisely why I have never been convinced that voting for the lesser of two evils is the categorical moral problem some suggest. On a grand sliding scale with Jesus on one end, and Hillary on the other (sorry not sorry!), basically every imperfect candidate is technically a vote for the lesser of evils. Now, one may protest that this may be so unobjectionable as to be almost useless, that it points out nothing other than universal human frailty and sin. But it’s more than that – namely, that these decisions are arts and not sciences, and the points along the spectrum past which we ought not cross, given certain preferred Christian outcomes, are not always marked objectively for us. We can’t read hearts, so there’s some guesswork involved. Educated guesswork, hopefully, but guesswork nonetheless. I’d have laughed out loud 6 years ago at the idea of voting for Trump. But here I am and I don’t regret it—not b/c I don’t have the exact same objections and reservations and eye-rolling moments in response to The Donald as you and my other Christian brothers do, but b/c I simply can’t ignore the landscape and trajectory that you, Peter and others so rightly point out, and thus nor can I ignore the resulting nuanced approach that gives a Christian worldview imprimatur to the idea of voting for a guy next time, that one might not have voted for last time, even though many of the same points of objection concerning his character still remain. And secondly, I would also like to point out (and this dovetails with the point above), that many of us who voted for Trump in the ’16 general election (I voted for Cruz in the primary), were employing the approach you and Peter are entertaining for 2020 when we did. Now, this is not at all to say “told you so!” Not at all. (If you’d asked me on election day, I’d have prognosticated a only decent (not great) chance, say, 50-60% that we’d be significantly surprised with good things. But I in no way foresaw the extent of it.) Rather, I bring this up b/c I think that in all the ’16 election season debates between Christians about whether Trump was a morally viable choice for believers, the debate was sometimes reduced to a rather simplistic exchange about voting for the lesser of evils in the abstract. And since we knew the “lesser” here was no moral jewel, and lacked even principled ideological consistency, we figured that biblically it just had to be a no-go. The type of nuance and discernment you and Peter refer to as an option for 2020 sort of got lost, or maybe never quite articulated very well in 2016 (at least not in all circles, although I seem to remember you articulating it well even though you didn’t come to the same conclusion concerning your own vote), and I think that’s important to remember for future such discussions. We can’t foresee the future, but speculating, imperfectly as we might, that the situation may be ripe for unexpected blessing (b/c of his anti-establishment bent), and taking a calculated risk based on that, even without a past governing track record by Trump at that stage, seems to be to be a wise and careful attempt at being obedient—as long as we don’t lord that conclusion over others as obligatory, and as long as we don’t presume that the Lord is somehow obligated to bless or vindicate our attempt at foresight. (My apologies for the length)
Matt, you are forgiven for the length.
Sin in 3D
Pastor Doug, you cannot believe the effect this statement has on me. Your articulation of the process of sin is exactly what I’ve watched and experienced up close and personal. I’ve printed it and have it at my desk. Thank you so much for the comfort it has brought and for the reminder for us to run from sin. “Our sin can be broken out in three words beginning with d. Our sin is deceptive; our sin is demented; and our sin is diabolical. Sin lies to us in the first instance. Sin complicates itself into ever increasing complexities, until we find ourselves living in the middle of crazy. But because we were created to be righteous, we hate the guilt created by our craziness and complicity, which makes us lash out at others. We become devils; we become accusers. And when someone presents the gospel in the midst of all of it, we attack him . . .”
I am replying to your question about Chrome. Yes; I can no longer access your site on my laptop which is powered by Chrome. Oddly, I can still get to it on my phone through Chrome. I am at a loss as to how to resolve this. It’s become quite awkward to read your fine material.
George, very sorry. Any Chrome users out there have this problem? And if you did, did any of you figure out a fix that George might use?
The Marital Quandry
Re: Masculinity without Permission (Pretty sure this is too long for you to repost in the weekly mailbag, but I wanted to toss in my voice in hopes of future response from you in future articles. Thanks for reading!) Pastor Doug, I want to raise a point you have already written about extensively elsewhere (most clearly to my knowledge in My Life For Yours) and touched on in this article, but which I fear simply does not get enough attention in the airwaves. From my experience in my own marriage, and amongst my friends, relatives, and list of subscribers to my utterances on social media also known as Facebook friends, I think men in general are on the wrong track on how to apply your very good definition of masculinity as “the glad assumption of the sacrificial responsibilities that God assigned to men,” specifically towards their wives, and I think Christian leaders face a real danger here whenever they encourage men to take up their masculine mandate no matter their wives’ and society’s response. To clarify, I don’t believe the danger lies in the indisputable truth of said encouragement, for it is true, but, as is so often the case in today’s world, the danger is one of misplaced emphasis. It seems that, to my eyes, most men (I used to just say young men, older men have since taught me otherwise) certainly do not get how, in practice, the definition of masculinity you espouse works out in their marriage. Thus, I would advocate an unfailing repetition of some unpacking of this definition in the lives of a married men as often as possible, especially when calling men to arms to assume their role no matter the backlash. Here’s my take on this kind of unpacking. While it is absolutely true there stands today a legion of screaming harpies who are advancing their social gospel to retrain men to be subservient and at all costs not act like men, and while it is true we men should flatly tell these people no and then stick around doing whatever they told us to stop until they can see we mean it, I’d vigorously argue that in 99% of cases, adopting this flat-telling spirit in your relationship with your wife is the wrong thing to do. At best, it’s dense, proof-positive you aren’t paying much attention. At worst, it’s a dereliction of your biblical calling, and evidence that when Pastor Wilson says, “masculinity is the glad assumption of the sacrificial responsibilities that God assigned to men,” you actually hear, “masculinity is the murmm assumption of mrm mmmr responsibility that God assigned to MEN” (and you contextually translated “responsibility” to mean “authority”). My fear is this. When men are taught not to care when “momma ain’t happy,” because the world these days is filled with tarts and harpies, and we need more intra-vertebral gorilla glue to steadfastly do what we gotta do, and then on the other side of the spectrum we must always be concerned for the poor Abigails who are faithful to God under a barrage of the real bona fide deal of toxic masculinity, I don’t see where the other 99% of us fit who have garden variety sinners of wives that genuinely love the Lord but haven’t quite arrived at Proverbs-thirty-one-hood yet. You know, the kind that exist in that all too common gray area of wanting to be Abigail in morning devotions and wind up throwing feathered harpy darts at their man later on, after the baby is put to bed. We, the church, are refreshingly quick to warn gravely and in detail the devastating effect of the modern ubiquity of pornography on the spiritual lives of men, husbands. I think we often miss the not-quite-parallel but still-devastating effect the ungluing of all social mores and the sheer (and glorified!) vanity of social media has had on the spiritual lives of women and wives. Women today are constantly reminded by their morally unrestrained peers on Facebook how they will never be as happy and pretty and as fulfilled with their family as she is in her Instastory. The result of these temptations aimed at born-again Christian women is, put one way, no bueno, and yet here we are, astonished that this incessant incitement to envy could ever actually manifest itself in some sin against the way a woman speaks to her husband. “Back away, sir! She could be one of them.” Toss in an absentee father and, frequently, some pretty devastating sexual history (I’m pretty sure most women who God mercifully saved in college don’t feel nourished and cherished by their high school boyfriends), and the matchup goes like this: in the one corner, we have men constantly embattled with wandering eyes; the other, women with wandering lips (and rather sharp tongues that sometimes escape those lips). All this constitutes no excuse for anyone; ungodliness is ungodliness, in every form, and we rightly denounce all of the aforementioned. Yet we’ve arrived at an impasse in many marriages I’m convinced is the result in large part of a mislead husband. With constant social pressure for men to disarm and deneuter themselves, it can be easy for us to adopt a hair-trigger response in accusing our wives of being part and party to the harpies. But even for those of us who aren’t hair-trigger about it, it’s easier still to conclude, from a long stretch of serially disrespectful treatment, that my wife must be one of the fem-bots. This, I believe, is where the error lies, not in the surface problem of a false conclusion towards one’s wife, but in a mistaken masculine identity in marriage. Ephesians 5 instructs us to nourish and cherish her as would Christ, Colossians 3 tells us not to be embittered against her, 1 Peter 3 to honor her as the weaker vessel. One way to describe the picture Scripture paints of a masculine husband towards his wife is that he is her pastor. When she wanders, as all the flock does in some way, he is not quick to assume she is false, but recognizes that all sheep are weak and prone to wander. As her pastor, he naturally seeks first and foremost to pray for her growth and repentance, and before ever issuing her correction, he makes sure to identify the root temptations she is giving in to that results in her sins. Is she a chronic worrier? Her sharp tongue is likely a sinful attempt to release and assuage her acute anxiety. …And of course the list goes on. Not to belabor the point, but I’m convinced language such as “nourish . . . cherish . . . just as Christ” and the rest is a clarion call for men to take the brunt of the wayward sin in our wives’ lives until these weaker vessels are nourished, cherished, prayed over, and hoped for rather than embittered against until God bears spiritual fruit in their lives in whatever these areas of sin are. So often, these areas are exactly the same areas that Scripture commands them to be different in, such as “wives, respect your husbands.” It stands to reason this admonishment comes from the very fact of how sorely it is needed. I’d reckon very few Christian women, especially these days, are out-of-the-box Abigails. However, neither are they attempting to fulfill the social harpy gospel when they routinely disrespect their husbands. Like many of us men who want to grow in our fidelity but find this difficult in the face of the many sex bot, porn industry and naked tourist news articles on Fox and Drudge, many women want to grow in how they speak to their husbands but the forces that be our world offer a deluge of discouragement and temptation. A good number of them fall far short of what they know they should be, yet the Holy Spirit is still at work in their lives, and there is every reason to hope for their eventual growth into excellent wives. How do we counsel the men married to these women? Men who, if they are sane and have any spine, are exceedingly alert to the “vast conspiracy to neuter them” to the point of justifiable paranoia against every form directed at them of women tearing them down? Having already given my take, I believe it bears much repetition given the need for deeply confused husbands. So here goes the repeating: Husband, be on guard for social harpies, but to your wife, above all else be her pastor, her advocate, be in her corner and always bear hope for her growth in the Lord, even when things look grim. Do not, at all costs, lump her in with the lot of the harpies until every possible caution and examination conclusively proves that she is (including outside counsel, e.g. your church leadership). And if she is a harpy, she is still your wife; stand firm against her ungodly wishes, but do so gently as a Wilson-esque extra-velvety brick would do. Always, and whenever necessary, bear the brunt of the cost of her sin against the marriage, absorb and quickly forgive her wanderings. Doing so does not make us milktoast-serving servant leaders. We have surrendered and ceded nothing to the vast neutering conspiracy by having enlarged pastoral hearts toward our wives. In actuality it makes us much more like our proto-masculine Savior. This is His kind of glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.
Patrick, I take all your cautions, and understand them. But even with all that said, we need a way out into genuine Christian marriage, and we can’t navigate that passage if the standards of Scripture apply to the men and not (quite as much) to the women. That said, I agree with you about the need for gentle leadership in this area, and I really agree with your caution that men not be quick to categorize garden-variety sin in a marriage as “feminism.” Nevertheless, it should be possible for a man to resolve before God, however gentle he is going to be with his wife (as he should be), he will not tell her gentle lies. He will not apologize, for example, as a way of making up. He will apologize when he violated a scriptural standard.