Clear Thinking in the Melee

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We have gotten to that stage in the battle where the forces have fully joined, and there is no longer — properly speaking — a front. We do not have a distinguishable line anymore. It is more like a melee, with different colored uniforms everywhere. And this is why every topic has been swept up into the conflict.

Where can you go where the ruling elites will agree to leave you alone? Can you change a light bulb? Can you fry up some bacon? Can you decline joining in the mandatory celebrations of a same sex mirage? Can you keep your doctor? Are you allowed use plastic bags?

Chesterton said somewhere that our task is to fly the flag of the world — and we should know that this is something that is certain to bring us into conflict with the world. We affirm a fundamental creational loyalty to the world, and constantly thwart the world’s desire to become disloyal to itself. This is why it is good to be earthy, and bad to be worldly. Worldliness is just a clever way of deserting the world.

This is why a battle in a philosophy class over the correspondence view of truth is connected to the marriage debates, which in turn is connected to the environment, which in turn is connected to just war theory, which in turn is connected to the correspondence view of truth.

Everything is connected. Everything matters. Nonsense tolerated anywhere will metastasize, and the results are always ugly. “When the people have got used to unreason they can no longer be startled at injustice.”

In the broken windows theory of law enforcement, disregard of the law in petty things signals an unwillingness to deal with anything, and so the situation rapidly deteriorates. Some broken windows tolerated will lead to many more broken windows, and it gets worse from there.

It is the same thing with nonsense. When we refuse to police the boundaries between sense and nonsense in our daily affairs, it is not long before that boundary is ignored everywhere. This is just another instance of the centrality of peripherals.
And by “centrality of peripherals” I do not mean to veer into a form of Zen Presbyterianism. This does not mean favoring the peripherals instead of the center. That would be the sin of majoring on minors, swallowing camels, and all the rest of it. But remember, the fruit — which Christ required for identifying the nature of a tree — is way out on the edges of the tree, and is at the farthest point away from the root. We must recover the understanding that peripherals are central because the center is important.

This is one of the reasons why Chesterton is so good in discussing the ordinary issues of life. He can pluck any fruit from any branch and, without changing the subject, trace the life of that fruit back to the root. Take manners, for example. Manners can be described as love in trifles, love at the periphery. The collapse of manners in our society — a peripheral thing, surely! — represents a true downgrade. But here is Chesterton: “Love of humanity is the commonest and most natural of the feelings of a fresh nature, and almost everyone has felt it alight capriciously upon him when looking at a crowded park or on a room full of dancers.” Those activities are out at the edges, but by looking at the edges we can see the center. You give the last piece of pie to God, who doesn’t eat pie, by giving it to your neighbor, who does. That is the point of courtesy, manners, etiquette — consider 1 Pet. 2:17; 3:7; 1 Tim. 5:17; 6:1; Eph. 6:2; Rom. 12:10; 13:7.

Another example of the same kind of thing is found in the realm of aesthetics. Relativism has compromised us as  nowhere else. A clear-headed man will want to say that some music, paintings, sculpture, etc. are just plain dumb and stupid. But we immediately hear the retort — “who is to say . . .?” Our inability to identify rotten fruit on the branches means that we are especially unable to identify a problem at the root.

“There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth. The principle of art for art’s sake is a very good principle if it means that there is a vital distinction between the earth and the tree that has its root in the earth; but it is a very bad principle if it means that the tree could grow just as well with its roots in the air.”

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James Bradshaw
James Bradshaw
7 years ago

“Where can you go where the ruling elites will agree to leave you alone?” I will concede that we are over-regulated.   The question is: were we ever “freer” in this nation?  Perhaps if you were a white, heterosexual, Christian male … maybe.   Even then there were limits.  Laws were passed in this nation in the 1930s and 40s that limited the ability of Jehovah’s Witnesses to distribute their literature.   Today, you’d be hard pressed to find any home that hasn’t been visited by these pleasant, if slightly off-beat, folks.    Then there was forced segregation and Jim Crow laws.   Women at… Read more »

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

James Bradshaw
 
Our faith is not negotiable. We are not negotiating with the world. What you are for or against is irrelevant to what we think or do.
 
cheers.
 
 

Job
Job
7 years ago

James brings up an interesting point about freedom. Is it possible for each group to be free or will one group’s interests necessarily lead to encroachment on others’? If the latter, then which groups’ freedoms should be constrained in order to maximize liberty for the entire community?   Take for example women’s suffrage. Women tend to vote for welfare programs that encourage single motherhood, which makes fathers obsolete and increases the illegitimacy and crime rates. Does this mean women’s suffrage is harmful to the commonwealth? How about to black men, who have lost even their own community while being ostensibly… Read more »

Don Smith
Don Smith
7 years ago

What God’s Word says about what we think or do is the most most relevant influence on what we are for or against. Good post Pastor Wilson.
 

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

@Job writes: James brings up an interesting point about freedom. Is it possible for each group to be free or will one group’s interests necessarily lead to encroachment on others’? If the latter, then which groups’ freedoms should be constrained in order to maximize liberty for the entire community?   I think our model for answering that question is the book of Judges and the relationship of the Israel to the Caananites. While we do not (yet) have temple prostitutes in America (although, we could argue that television is the altar and porn the introduction to it) , the dividing… Read more »

James Bradshaw
James Bradshaw
7 years ago

Timothy writes: “Our faith is not negotiable. We are not negotiating with the world.”
What does that even mean?   What’s not negotiable?    Perhaps the question is: what do you think your faith demands of you?  Does your faith allow you to live in a society where its laws tolerate the preaching of false and heretical faiths (such as Mormonism), or does it require you to attempt to try to limit or even punish its expression?  
 

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

James,

We are required to inasmuch as possible get along with all men. There are limits to that.
Modern America is pushing up against those limits; when push come to shove, our (my) allegiance is to God and not America.
There is also a spiritual law at work that I doubt you can see, but here it goes. Evil cannot abide the good and will work to destroy it–it cannot “just get along”; it must (attempt to) destroy.
 

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

Pastor Wilson, another beautiful post, btw. Your work is a blessing from God.

RFb
RFb
7 years ago

Pastor Wilson,   You made me laugh. I have had the privilege to teach at many levels of public safety, and for the most part it is rare to encounter someone familiar with James Q. Wilson (Wilson and Kelling). But no, right here in semi-podunkopolis Idaho, a Christian pastor quotes a seminal work responsible for some of the most effective law enforcement to the extent that the implementation thereof literally took back the street from the thugs in major cities, and then weaves that into an expository regarding Christian faith. You have the gift of copiousness.   timothy,   “Our… Read more »

Dave
Dave
7 years ago

One only needs to watch a Mark Dice video to realize that every  sensible boundry is already breached and that we are trying to grow trees with their roots in the air right now.  Our rulers call good and evil good without strong rebuttals from the pulpit or the peanut gallery.  James’ comments illustrate the confusion and inability that modern Christians have in sorting out good from evil.

DCHammer
7 years ago

Me thinks Reepacheep would have been able to explain his position to his adversary.  I don’t think anyone has answered James’ opening comment yet. 

David
David
7 years ago

James, regarding your opening comment. Both your examples require the removal of a legitimate freedom. Should I be forced to work slavishly for an employer I did not want to work for? No. Should I be forced to bake a cake for a couple of boys whose business I do not want? No. You seem to think that a black liberty is superior to a white liberty. Why is that?

@DCHammer
@DCHammer
7 years ago

@DCHammer,
 
I have engaged James a few times in debate on these boards so I believe he has adequate context to understand what I am saying.
If you have a specific question (relevant to Pastor Wilson’s post) then please ask away.
 
@RFB, thank you. That is quite the honor!
I pray that I have half the courage as that giant of the faith.
 

timoth
timoth
7 years ago

Oops, I accidently put @DCHammer in the *name field. The previous comment was mine. Sorry for the confusion–coffee has not kicked in yet (:

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

I don’t see James as saying “black liberty is superior to white liberty”, but rather two things.   One, that American, and by extension conservative, conceptions of liberty through history have been a tad white-centric.  The good old free days weren’t so good or free for significant portions of the population, and it sounds a little tone-deaf to carry on about the coming tyranny when non-whites are freer and have more opportunity than they’ve ever had.   Two, that the stakes are low.  In the days of Jim Crow, blacks were prevented from having normal lives at all.  Now we’re… Read more »

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
7 years ago

James Bradshaw, you’re right, of course.  The inconveniences to Christians today are very mild compared to oppression in the past.  In fact, they could never be anything but mild.  Christians are free in Christ.  Even if they were being rounded up and exterminated, we’d be the freest people in the world.  Free in Christ, free from sin, with an inheritance and the crowns of martyrs waiting.  Any level of oppression is just a mild inconvenience.   But homosexuals (for example) today are not free.  They are deeply enslaved to sin, under the judgment of God and the power of Satan.… Read more »

RFB
RFB
7 years ago

Its kind of funny. Small t timothy’s response seemed very plausible to me as a suitable answer. I think that any so-called “question” that tries to deconstruct the principles of “The Faith” once given by appealing to any past sinful practices is a smoke screen. “You cannot now believe in and advance mere Christendom “because sin”. 
 
I do not think that Phinehas would have any problem understanding timothy’s response.

DCHammer
7 years ago

Matt, the stakes are (relatively) low today, but there’s blood in the water.  The history of this world is the history of the seed of the woman vs. the seed of the serpent.  It always lead to bloodshed and sometimes oceans of it.  The same atheists who wanted to send Christianity to the dust bin in Voltaire’s time see that opportunity again. I know it isn’t bloody but front page of the WSJ today was Mozilla’s CEO being forced to resign because of $1000 check he wrote years ago to Prop Whatever in California that designated marriage between men and women.… Read more »

Moor
Moor
7 years ago

This post made me think about a geeky D&D-themed thing I once tweeted:
“Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder, but then again, so are Prismatic Ray and Disintegration.”
That is, as I think I understand this post to be saying, we cannot indiscriminately argue for the first part of that proposition without also accepting the negative consequences of the second part.

katecho
katecho
7 years ago

DCHammer wrote: “I know it isn’t bloody but front page of the WSJ today was Mozilla’s CEO being forced to resign because of $1000 check he wrote years ago to Prop Whatever in California that designated marriage between men and women. The homosexual juggernaut is a now a very big stick that will soon be killing and imprisoning people.” Fear.  Fear and retaliation, and intimidation.  These are apparently the favorite tools of the homosexual juggernaut.  Perhaps they were never really opposed to these weapons, but only to not being able to use them themselves, until now.  Are they really against… Read more »

James Bradshaw
James Bradshaw
7 years ago

Katecho writes: “Clue for James Bradshaw:  it’s not about wedding cakes, it’s about control and intimidation.” As I’ve said here and elsewhere: you won’t find me suing small business owners for denying their services, and I’m perfectly capable of working for and with people with dissenting views.   As a matter of fact, I’m in the software industry and work on a team with a guy who thinks Alex Jones and Prison Planet is a reliable source of news (along with World Net Daily).  We get along just fine, though.  Are some gay activists going to extremes? Perhaps.  Ask yourself if… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

As much as slavery of the body inhibits freedom, freedom of conscience is a much more fundamental freedom. To harm the body is not as evil as forcing men to blaspheme. Just give this one offering to Caesar and you can worship your God for the rest of the year. Just bake this one cake wishing happy nuptials to the homogamous couple and you can bake for churches the rest of the year. Don’t you see that if the baker believes that writing out such words for an event he thinks contradicts the creational order, and as a result he… Read more »

Dave
Dave
7 years ago

James, just because you won’t sue anyone doesn’t mean that America isn’t on the wrong path.  For years homosexuals were pampered by the government and by industry.  In the military, homosexuals are promoted even though they can’t do their jobs.  Such discrimination against heterosexuals is more common now than it was 40 years ago.  During the last two draw downs, homosexuals were retained, because of sexual views — not excellence in performance, while more qualified heterosexuals were forced out.  One of my friends said that he was going to offer sexual favors to his boss so that he would be… Read more »

Steven
Steven
7 years ago

James, you raise a good question in your first post. But remember the point of the post: everything matters. Small problems turn into big problems. So no, forcing a billionaire to resign is not as cruel as buying and forcing a man to work your plantation. Mr. Eich is going to be okay. The slave who was beat to death isn’t. But the point, in response to your question, is that both situations, or any evil social/political situation, is fruit off of a corrupt tree. It’s not about degrees but about roots. These recent injustices in regards to free speech… Read more »

John Henry
John Henry
7 years ago

Disclosure (not full):  I’m drawn to this blog for purely unmeritorious reasons that I’ve slowly overcome–no longer reading with the bitterness of coming from a community that embraces this kind of thinking, talk about ideas having consequences–and now I can read with a kind of peace of mind. Here’s why: obsolescence for either meritorious reasons (e.g. seeing the radically overstated foundations provided for the views expressed by thinkers like Mr. Wilson) or unmeritorious reasons (e.g. not wanting to be associated with a cause so consistently and successfully castigated, like the cause expressed by Mr. Wilson) is coming for this camp.… Read more »

Roy
Roy
7 years ago

Henry, you may very well be right. It also may be a lucky guess. Job’s friends thought they had the answers. What subjects do you propose as adequately edifying to allow conversation?
(full disclosure: not old, but a middle aged white man who is seeking meritorious edification)

Steve Perry
Steve Perry
7 years ago

James writes, ” Are some gay activists going to extremes? Perhaps.”  Perhaps?  How about working with a church organist, who confess that “yes” he is gay, and after working with him to follow Christ biblically, he sues the church because he is let go.  And the result of the church being legally exonerated, it’s set on fire along with the  parsonage by a molotov.  Simply getting enough signatures by the voters in SF to decide themselves on the legitimacy of domestic partnership’s (which was turned down by the voters, but later approved autonomously by the board of supervisors), multiple death threats… Read more »