Christian Nationalism, and Thomas Achord
First, an update: Thomas Achord has acknowledged the tweets as being his, and his statement is here. And Stephen Wolfe has a series of statements on it here. For my own part, I thought that Achord’s apology was lame but adequate, and would urge everyone to accept it. I thought Stephen’s response was magnanimous, although I wish he hadn’t used the language of “that’s not the real Thomas I know.” It was actually a dark side of the real Thomas, which is why it was sin in the first place. But Stephen did repeatedly note that the sin was real sin. And an additional comment of mine would be that Thomas sinned against Stephen (and all those who supported him in the controversy) much more grievously than Alistair did. So I am praying that the spirit of forgiveness can spread beyond Thomas. In the meantime, the arguments of the book are what should be on the agenda, and I would urge everyone to return to the topic at hand.
Re: Equal Weights and Measures Doug,
Isn’t it a little disingenuous to ask for a common courtesy, and then offer an explanation for why it won’t be given?
That section was strong and reasonable until you went and added those last 2+ paragraphs, which turned your request into an accusation.
Will, thanks for the letter, and I take your point. I went back and made my meaning clearer by reversing the order of the last two paragraphs, and adding something to the last paragraph. Sorry for my ambiguity.
Re:”My Part in a Delightful Little Proxy Row” This proxy war element seems to be essentially over what character the term “Christian Nationalism” will take on in the mainstream imagination. I see thinkers of all sorts trying to get out in front of it; there is a shared perception that no one has firm control of that ground in the dictionary just yet. But all recognize its strategic importance. I haven’t read Stephen Wolfe’s book yet—it is on my list for the near future—but it looks to me like there’s a real fear that his positions are actually defensible, and so the war has to be over the language rather than the points.
But something else occurred to me while listening to Jon Harris (Conversations That Matter) discuss the Thomas Achord situation. Jon pointed out that the personal consequences of this skirmish are very heavy for a man who is basically a regular guy who doesn’t have a large platform. That may be true in principle, but I would also point out that the headmaster of a classical Christian school has an influence far more meaningful, if less broad, than many of the Twitter-borne thought leaders of Respectable Evangelicalism could hope for.
Whatever else is going on here, it seems to me that much of the energy to wrest control of the term “Christian Nationalism,” is coming from the same place that sought/seeks control over institutions and education. So there is a doubly strategic value in going after Thomas Achord. After all, if he is as representative of Christian Education as he is of Christian Nationalism, perhaps we need more Responsible Oversight of such schools?
Wesley, yes. For example, Joel McDurmon has expressly linked the classical emphasis of Sequitur to white privilege, and so this whole thing is also connected—through Achord’s sin—to the classical Christian school movement. Look for others to try to make that connection stronger.
Long-time reader here, couple-time letter-writer, and very grateful for your life, ministry, and family. Thank you for your hard and fruitful work. I am also very appreciative of Alastair Roberts. (If Alastair should happen to read this—thank you, too, Alastair.) I have been distressed over the weekend by the Thomas Achord affair, which is overall just a great grief, but I’m writing in particular about the first line of the Canon Press statement that you posted on Saturday. (I don’t know if you wrote the statement, but as it appeared here I take it you ‘own’ it and can be addressed as a subscriber to it.)
That first line goes: “In an attempt to silence productive conversation surrounding the book, The Case for Christian Nationalism, or to cancel it completely, critics have recently focused a great deal of effort on guilt by association.”
No doubt some critics have indeed leapt on the Achord stuff because they want to dismiss Christian Nationalism out of hand. No doubt, as the statement later says, some have used this to try and get Canon Press to withdraw the book. But nobody is going to read that first line and think you don’t mean Alastair. He is the one who first drew attention to Achord, and the one drawing the most fire for doing so. No effort is made in that press release to distinguish Alastair from other critics. And I really think you should consider apologising to him.
This is, firstly, because you are imputing motives. I learned this principle from you! Your Justice Primer (again, thank you!) contains a whole chapter on “Imputing Motives and Justice”, in which we are told that “Motives can be known only if they are revealed by the evidence and not by mere speculation or imputation.” There is good stuff in that chapter on the difficulty of knowing motives, and the peace-keeping value of not assigning motives. This is your own teaching!
And secondly, the implication that the focus on Achord is an attempt to avoid serious engagement with the book itself seems very poorly founded. Alastair’s first mention of Achord on Twitter came in the context of a discussion based on his own wife’s detailed engagement with the arguments of the book! He and Shenvi were talking about how the dynamics of some of the book’s arguments are reflected in Wolfe’s immediate circle. This is directly relevant to the book! It was not “guilt by association”, unless all discussion of Luther is banned when we talk about Melanchthon and vice versa.
Like I say, the whole thing is a grief. But I would love to see peace between two men who have blessed me. I would really encourage a retraction of that opening line and an apology to Alastair.
May God bless you,
Peter, thanks very much, and we would like to see peace restored as well. But as you might well imagine, there is a lot going on behind the scenes in this. That said, I take your comments on board.
In your post “Canon Press With a Christian Nationalism Press Release”, you wrote, “Truthfully, Kevin Bacon says some reprehensible things. How many degrees of separation must we maintain from him?” It turns out that since you appeared on “Takeaways with Kirk Cameron”, of which the eponymous host starred in the 1995 remake of “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” with Paul Dooley, who in turn was in “Telling Lies in America” with Kevin Bacon, you already have a Bacon Number of three. Which of course means that Mr. Bacon is only five degrees away at most from Mr. Achord.
Dave, the reference to Kevin Bacon made a letter like this simply inevitable. Nothing that anyone could do about it.
On “The Case for Christian Nationalism” . . . Someone sent me this recently. I did not write it but I wish I had.
“Moreover if your brother sins against the woke consensus, tell him his fault on Twitter. But if he refuses to hear your tweets, you shall raise spurious accusations against him, that in the mouth of two or three blog posts every word may be established. But if he will not listen to the internet multitude, tell it to his employer. And once he has lost his livelihood, let him be to you as a nazi, then see if you can get him audited by the tax collector.”
Nyle, words to remember. Although, as it turned out in this case, the accusations were not spurious.
Respectfully, sir, I believe that you have accepted the common liberal error of the superficiality of race in “My 360° Whiteness Review”. The scientific literature suggests that races are valid biological categories. I hope that this wealth of information is both necessary and sufficient for the increase of your knowledge: It is also regrettable that you missed a good opportunity to address the demographic elephant in the room. White demographic decline has been the cause of much angst for white people and even amongst white Christians, for it is possible for one to change his religion, but it is impossible to change one’s race, unless race is just a social construct. How should white people respond to this existential threat that is far more dire than some Portland professor’s opinions or even reparations, which has, on average, been ongoing under the name of L. Johnson’s “War on Poverty”?
Nathan, no. I have accepted no liberal error on this. Show me race in the Bible. You cannot. You can show me ethnicities, and biological diversity (can the leopard change his spots . . .), but race the way you guys use it is simply not in there.
Closing Song in the Doc
What’s the song at the end of the “How to Save the World” documentary? “Are you looking for the city . . .”, it’s really good.
J, thanks. That song is below.
Are You Looking for the City? (MP3)
Shall I explain what’s going on with these songs? I am in the process of emptying out the archives, and giving you all a chance to share in the joy. I will probably add this explanation to all the songs I add here.
Back in the seventies I was in a band called Mountain Angel Band. In the course of events, we cut an album, three songs of which I wrote. They will appear in the Mablog s…
Yes, a Great Failing No Doubt
In your “Thanksgiving 2022” post, you inserted eight unnecessary commas in one sentence containing a list of “tokens” for a proper celebration of Thanksgiving. Doug wrote, “Those tokens include pumpkin pie, and family, and singing “We Thank Thee,, (oops) Our Father,” and pecan pie, and turkey, and gravy, and hearts full of gratitude.” By using the same repeated conjunction, he’s emphasizing the long list of wonderful, Thanksgiving tokens we can and should enjoy.
However, when using this literary device called “polysyndeton,” which Doug does often, commas are not needed. Use conjunctions only: “Those tokens include pumpkin pie and family and singing “We Thank Thee, Our Father” and pecan pie and turkey and gravy and hearts full of gratitude.” Amen! (See how that is less disjointed and more impactful?)
Our Thanksgiving celebrations included all the aforementioned tokens except for, regretfully, the pecan pie and the singing of “We Thank Thee, Our Father.” I’m determined to add both to our Thanksgiving celebrations next year, Lord willing, especially the pecan pie.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you and your staff for all you do through Christ Church, Canon Press, Canon Plus, Blog and Mablog, the Plodcast and Femina podcasts, and so much more. What is preached and published and produced is edifying, challenging, and encouraging. Thank you very, very much for faithfully doing the work God prepared in advance for you to do. We are grateful and blessed. May God continue to richly bless you and yours.
Michelle, yes. Nancy has spoken to me before about this comma thing, sometimes quite firmly. But here is my feeble and no doubt ungrammatical defense. I try to write in a way that reflects the spoken word, or at least the way I would speak it. And what I am trying to do with the commas in such lists is to indicate a slight pause for emphasis. It would be even more pronounced if I used periods, which would be more emphatic but more of a pause than I wanted. “Those tokens include pumpkin pie. And family. And singing “We Thank Thee, Our Father.” And pecan pie. And turkey and gravy. And hearts full of gratitude.” That is a daisy chain of sentence fragments, right there, and it is like encountering a speed bump every ten feet. But there would be times when, if I left out the commas, my denotative meaning would be exactly the same, but that little pause wouldn’t be there.
A Book Recommendation
Thanks for all your work. We attended one of your HomeSchool Conferences—about 15 years ago in Covington, Kentucky—and enjoyed it…especially when you pointed out that if we can all use gerund verbs carefully, it can help us.
I’ve enjoyed the book “To Be Or Not: An E-Prime Anthology”—for the last 30 years, or so.
Have you read it? If so, what do you think of the language, “E”-Prime?
Thanks, again, for your direct nature.
Joel, thanks for the book recommendation. I like it when people recommend books. I just ordered it.
A Theological Question
I appreciate your work for God. I have a theological question that crops up for me from time to time. Though it isn’t something that really deters my faith in the saving power of Jesus, I have never heard any answers to ever make it plain in my understanding. Of course, God may just be like that in His ways.
So here it is: in the context of Christ’s crucifixion, the intention of being put to death was that He was a radical religious leader in the eyes of the spoiled Pharisees. The crowd joined in by some reason I do not fully understand (but that they loved darkness and their deeds were evil), and Jesus was a man condemned by Jews’ orchestration with the government to see Him to the cross. How does this situation translate to God’s requirement for a sacrifice once and for all? Besides His perfection, yes, besides His All-Godness, yes, besides His amazing timing in terms of the Passover . . . because His death was not clothed like some sort of ritual of voluntary sacrifice, but one of conspiracy to put an end to His successful ministry—how and why did we all get the idea that this was actually a sacrifice of the Lamb? How long do you reckon that took to solidify in the minds of those who even witnessed Him after His Resurrection and Ascension so much so that they went from figuring out His parables to going and telling it on the mountain?
Thank you for your time.
J, I think it was opaque to the disciples until just after the resurrection. Then the meaning of things He had said earlier became clear (“give His life a ransom for many”), especially as Jesus opened the Scriptures for them (Luke 24:25-26). As to why God decided to do it this way—a perfect sacrifice offered up by wicked hands—that is harder to explain. But I suspect it was because God wanted to use the agent of our Fall as the instrument of our salvation. So . . . if the rulers of this age had understood what they were doing . . .
The Periodic Postmill Question
You can add this to your weekly Postmillennial section:
A friend and I made a questionnaire aimed at understanding the average Christian’s understanding of eschatology and sent it to a few dozen people. One of the questions was an open answer “What is the gospel?” Interestingly, only one person mentioned the Kingdom of God in their answer. Granted this isn’t a large scale study, but we have passed the couple dozen mark and still, only one mention of it. There appears to be a knowledge deficit.
So I have started compiling some information to make a 6-week study answering Who, What, When, Where, Why, How in regards to the Kingdom. Problem is, I am kinda new to post mil myself. I’m going through Gentry’s book, which has been helpful, but I was wondering other books you may suggest on the Kingdom. Is John Bright’s The Kingdom of God any good? One quote I read that I liked is “Had we to give [the Bible] a title we might with justice call it The Book of the Coming Kingdom of God.” From the reviews, looks like he is not post mil, but I am also looking for a solid breakdown of the Old Testament understanding of the Kingdom.
Tim, sorry. I have not read Bright’s book. And I wish I had a good recommendation for you. Hey, you people out in the cloud! Any takers?
A Confession Question
What is your biblical take on repenting/confessing sin to parents? Specifically when the sin wasn’t against them. I’ve heard you say that boys who struggle with porn should confess that to their parents. Should you apply that principle elsewhere too? Is that just if your still struggling with it? And what if you have unbelieving parents?
Daniel, the answer to this one is that it all depends. For example, if you are thirteen, struggling with porn, and your non-Christian parents are encouraging it, then there would be no sense in confessing it. But in many other situations, there would be great help in confessing it. There is not a hard and fast rule.
I am not asking about any particular post, but interacting with thoughts on forgiveness. I have appreciated your recent teaching on forgiveness being a transaction that can’t be completed until the offender repents and asks for forgiveness. In your recent sermon, A Good Grief, you also taught that forgiveness is for actual sins committed and not for mistakes made. My question has to do with Jesus’ statement on the cross, when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Who specifically is Jesus asking forgiveness for? Is he praying for God to bring to repentance the elect among the crowd? Is he asking for a blanket forgiveness for the particular sin of putting Him on the cross? How does this fit into your other teaching on forgiveness?
I am in the midst of writing a prayer liturgy and want to make sure I have the theology correct on this point. Thank you for your help.
L. K. the plea of the Lord on the cross (and Stephen’s, when he is dying), is a prayer. It is not a bestowal of forgiveness. I would place it in the same category as the Gethsemane prayer. “God, if it is Your will, forgive these people.”
Weddings and Wedding Liturgy
About your wedding liturgy in last week’s letters: I wonder if a little egalitarianism slipped in with the phrase “Her Mother & I.”
Ex 22 & Nu 30 both speak only of a father’s judgment in allowing vows. I’m sure it’s a small thing and debatable, but when I gave away my daughters I used the phrase “I do” for that reason. I guess it’s important to me because so many people seem to think that part of weddings is symbolic and not scripturally mandatory.
Craig, I have done a handful of weddings where the father says “I do” instead of “her mother and I.” I don’t object to it, and have no doctrinal problem with it. But as we use it, it is not egalitarianism, but simply manners. At the reception, it is appropriate for the father of the bride to welcome everyone, and say, “we welcome you to this celebration” even if he is the one paying for everything. It is simply a courtesy.
It was interesting to read through you / your church’s cadence for wedding services. It got reflecting on the weddings I’ve attended through the years. I’ve noticed a strange dichotomy. Most church wedding services I attend today are subdued. Soft music while the wedding party enters. Readings from Scripture. Encouragements for the couple. Vows. etc. Then you move to the reception. Turn down the lights and turn the volume way up. Bring in the way too loud music and MC. Open up the bar for drinks. Cue up a bunch of trashy music for everyone to dance away. I very well might be an old fuddy-duddy here. But it always strikes me strange when ‘Christians’ use weddings as an excuse to party like the heathen.
I don’t want to be in the place of Michal criticizing David for dancing. But Scripture also tells us that we are to be ‘thought strange since we don’t run to the same excess of riot.’ And it sure seems like modern weddings lean way into the excess of riot category. What think ye? As the pastor, I’m sure you are always invited to the reception. How do you handle it when the wedding reception you’re at turns into a rave?
Roger, my reactions are mixed. Sometimes wedding receptions seem to be teetering on the edge of an out-of-control rave, and I don’t like it at all. But in my experience, most of the weddings here— loud music and dancing and all—are just people being people, having a good time.
Biblical Chronology and the TR
James Jordan, in writing on biblical chronology, makes an argument that seems to show the Textus Receptus (TR) is in error, but the Alexandrian is not. To wit, Acts 13:20 in the TR puts the time from the Conquest to Samuel as ‘about 450 years’. However, 1 Kings 6:1 states that from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon was 480 yrs. If we take the TR’s 450yrs for the Judges and add 40 years for the wilderness period, 7 for the conquest, 40 for Saul (Acts 13:21), 40 for David, and 4 for Solomon we are already at 581 years and we have not yet added in an unknown number of years for Samuel. This is well over the 480 yr tether in 1 Kings 6:1 that is crucial to biblical chronology. In contrast, the Alexandrian text does not have this problem. James Jordan discussed this problem in good detail in p40-44 here, coming from a position sympathetic to the TR:
Do you think this is a solid argument against the TR?
Relatedly, there were indications >20yrs ago from James Jordan that he was writing a book on biblical chronology entitled ‘The Date of Creation’. I wonder if you happen to know if this important work will ever come to light, or might be able to ask?
Henry, I don’t know anything about that book. Sorry. And I think we should distinguish arguments for a particular reading of the TR, which can be legit, and the TR as a whole.
I hate to say it but I think you’re living in a bubble! We did have a red wave in 2020 when Trump won and in the 2022 midterms but it was circumvented through CHEATING! Massive premeditated cheating in both “elections!” Take a look at Arizona—blatant cheating! It’s hard to hear your take when you don’t seem to understand what is happening in these swing states. (Also, by not voting for Trump in 2016, you were effectively voting for HRC.) The RINO Republicans are not what we think of as Republicans. They are part of the uniparty and we don’t trust them at all! You’re losing me here on your “business as usual” political takes and it’s disappointing!
Rick, it is kind of plain that you must be new here.
Different Ways to Do It
You may have noticed the growing trend of collaborative Christian schools that split time between the home and school. Sometimes they are called hybrid or University-model schools. At school, the students receive instruction in a corporate classroom from a professional teacher; at home, they receive loving guidance and support from a parent, usually the mother. These schools claim to maximize the benefits of each type of schooling, while minimizing their disadvantages. What are your thoughts on this model? Can a classical Christian school with a collaborative schedule be as effective as a classical Christian school with a traditional 5-day schedule?
Anon, yes, I think this model can work. There is no one “right way” to do this.
My Father’s Legacy
Your father’s swan song was to get back to the basics of deliverance from the source of our sinfulness. Well, maybe not in those exact words, but the Protestant church has lost Paul’s heavenly gospel in the shuffle of other issues. God will not honor any other way of taking away the sin of the world except the way of Paul’s perfect position and resting there. Jim Wilson got it right. He kept the main thing the main thing.
Pat, thank you. Yes, yes, he did.
An Awkward Time
My oldest son is a good kid whom I believe to be growing into a godly young man. His major sin is that he tends to barrage his family with what I would class as minor discourtesies: invading personal space, coughing or sneezing without covering his mouth, chattering foolishly in a loud voice, banging plates and dishes around, things like that. We’re all getting worn down by it—especially one of his sisters. I am budgeting for the fact that the energy behind these follies can be channeled to good use, and that to a certain extent, his sister needs to accept that boys are boys. But even so, he needs to change, and has been resisting my efforts to train him in this area for years. Approaching the situation with humor seems to help. But my wisdom is falling short of the task, especially as he is now turning thirteen, and in many ways, his tendencies or sins are the opposite of what mine were at his age, making it hard for me to understand what is going through his mind. The window for addressing these issues seems to be vanishing.
Douglas, stay with it. Boys that age need constant regular reminders (that are not irritated reminders). As you say, humor is good. But stay with it.
Application for Today?
Deuteronomy 23:1, “No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may enter the Lord’s assembly.” Does this text have implications for our current gender/identity/mutilation culture?
Joel, yes, it does. It shows that there is a biblical definition of masculine “normal.”
That Tumble Down the Stairs
The Substance of Things Hoped was worth it just for your account of that interesting surprising tumble down the reformational stairs; surprising because it happened in just about the reverse of the order I would have expected. Just a few thoughts/questons as a non-postmillenialist considers postmillenialism: 1. The notes always include postmillenialism’s fall from 19th century grace after and because of the First World War. Many Christians would say the world has not moved in a direction that inspires postmillenial optimism since then. If postmillenialism is very apparent in Scripture it should be so apparent to Christians generally, any circumstances on the ground notwithstanding. What can be seen happening should not be different than what postmillenialism says is happening. Do you see any circumstances in the contemporary world that are reassuring to a postmillenialist, or is it a matter of walking by faith?
2. When I think of postmillenialism I can’t help being reminded of the secular myth of progress and it’s religious parallel, the social gospel. Isn’t the social gospel a form of postmillenialism, and evangelical postmillenialism’s third cousin once removed? Do you ever find that chagrining?
3. What difference does it make? Not a rhetorical question; I believe one’s eschatology should make a practical difference. What would you do differently if, instead of a postmillenialist, you were a premillenialist? An amillenialist?
John, since the First World War, for example, Africa has become Christian. It has been really messy since the First War, but that is just one example of many. I prefer to think of the secular idea of progress as a deracinated form of postmill thinking—what happens when optimistic eschatology forgets about Christ. And what difference does it make? I would hope that I would be doing the same things as now, but without any good reasons for it.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my letter. One of my (non-Christian) professors commented on the different versions of sola Scriptura taken by the Reformers. He mentioned that for Luther Scripture should be a check on tradition, whereas Zwingli restricts church practices to what is explicit in Scripture.
First, I am wondering if that observation is historically accurate. Second, what is the proper view of the relationship between Scripture and tradition/the Church? It seems to me that this is a chicken-or-the egg situation. What comes first? The covenant community or Scripture? Wasn’t Moses writing within an already-formed community? Even though God did speak first in Creation, the Exodus, etc, doesn’t the knowledge of that speech come down to us through the Scripture text which arises from a covenant community? Does this mean that there is equal authority between the Church and Scripture? That, of course, sounds fishy to me but I’m not sure how to argue against it based on this chicken-egg conundrum.
I would appreciate any answer, however brief. Thank you.
Isaias, thanks for the question. I would heartily recommend Keith Mathison’s book, The Shape of Sola Scriptura. It really is fantastic, and I think would answer all your questions.
Two brief points (and an exhortation) regarding your post some weeks ago entitled, “11 Reasons Why We Should Not Consider Thomism to be the Theological Equivalent of the Butterfly’s Boots.”
It was Dominic’s encounter with the Cathars, not the Waldensians, that led him to establish the Order of Preachers. As you surely know, the Cathars were hardly proto-Protestants, but rather latter-day Manichees.
Second, concerning the processions ad intra, Thomas was well aware of the frailty of human language, and adverted to this weakness on many occasions. That said, his tentative analogy of the Son’s procession with a conception of intellect, and the Holy Spirit’s procession with the impulse of love, is not unique to his teaching, and is a not unreasonable attempt to understand how generation and spiration might be understood with respect to immaterial realities; it dates back to Augustine, at least, and ultimately rests upon Scriptural exegesis (cf. his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John). Whether his exegesis withstands scrutiny, one may well ask; however, there is no doubt that Thomas, who spent the better part of his youth in a Benedictine monastery immersed in the divine office, regarded himself firstly as an expositor of the sacred page, secondly as a pupil of the fathers (particularly Augustine), and thirdly as an inheritor of the riches of the pagans.
In any event, I understand the source of your misgivings, but if you fear that Thomas leads to an un-Scriptural “slab of frozen-infinite-deity,” I simply (no pun intended!) urge you to read his commentary on the Gospel of St. John, wherein he remarks, for instance: “He [John] further says, ‘Only Begotten,’ to show that God does not have a love divided among many sons, but all of it is for that Son whom he gave to prove the immensity of his love”, or perhaps his Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, wherein he exclaims, “Now the mystery of the Incarnation has God’s will as its cause since he willed to become incarnate on account of his intense love for men.” Here is fire, not ice!
Abide in all that is good, true, and beautiful, as far as you are able, by the grace of Christ the Lord.
P.S. If you really want to grasp the heart and mind of Thomas, read the two part intellectual biography by Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., translated by Robert Royal.
Philip, a sinner
Phillip, you are right about the Cathars, who really were heretical nutjobs. But the Dominicians also went after the Waldensians, who were proto-Protestants. And thanks for the good quotes, and for the book recommendation.