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Aesthetic Pitch From a Friend

Regarding “Mud Fence Ugly”

Reformed scholar Calvin Seerveld rightly said “When Christianity abandons the arts, they really do go to hell.” Unfortunately, a century of the Protestant church largely ignoring the cultivation of faithful artists and makers has led the church to simply play copy-cat to secular culture, just 10-50 years behind the curve, “conservatives” conserving the last generations artistic faithlessness.

Christians and pagans both can’t choose what they haven’t seen, and it will take a multi-generational effort of faithful Christian artists to course-correct and begin making art that truly loves our neighbors and glorifies God. This won’t mean merely repeating medieval Catholic aesthetics and arbitrarily cutting off our style at a particular historical date, nor will it means slavishly copying the cool kids of the present, NOR will it mean pretending several millennia of artistic development don’t matter and that we are somehow able to “start fresh” (while actually just naively recreating bits and pieces of what others probably have done better).

We need to be Christians who really do believe the Lord is working out redemption for His people in the happenings of history, and that means we don’t spite the common-grace sun and rain of the arts just because it falls on the unjust too, lest we too be cursed and burned from our lack of artistic fruit (Heb 6). We need to be ready to plunder the artistic knowledge of the world like God’s people plundered Egypt and received the cities and vineyards of the Canaanites. Do they have good artistic possessions? Of course! Does every good thing come from the Lord, the Father of lights? Of course! Are we afraid to possess the artistic land because we don’t believe that the Lord is with us, or that He gives discerning Wisdom by his Spirit to those who seek it? Hopefully not, but if we disobey due to fear, don’t be surprised if the next forty years are subject to futile wanderings in an aesthetic desert until we repent and turn back to the Lord.

We need good churches that are theologically clear, who think the arts matter, and who don’t sneer when a young man says he wants to be a poet, or a painter, or a sculptor, or a designer. It’s not enough to say that it’s hard to support a family as an artist—if the church will have faithful artists, it’s our job to teach them how to do it as courageous entrepreneurs. We need churches that encourage, expect, and affirm artists who act like hard working craftsman, apprenticed to the trade of art-making, rather than unpredictable slackers enslaved to their passions who are easily manipulated by the world.

We need to care about the arts because God made a universe, called it good, and then commanded us to fill it by the glad exercise of responsible dominion over all things, improving, elaborating, and adorning what He has given us just as a wife does with her husband’s gifts. We must refuse to believe that anything, including our spreadsheets or plumbing or factory work or art-making is religiously neutral, for Christ is Lord of all.

It means we don’t ask whether Christians will use the arts in all aspects of life, but rather “which art will we use”. Not whether we will spend money on art, but “upon which art will our money be spent?” It means the art we make and use should be like the Bible: sometimes direct, sometimes oblique; sometimes clear, sometimes requiring many hours of meditation; sometimes shockingly stylized, sometimes deadly realistic; used to help us laugh, cry, work, praise, grieve, wage war, and make peace; sometimes showing us the glory of creation, the wickedness of sin, the surprising treasure of redemption, and the cosmic victory of restoration. It will sometimes be like Jesus, the perfect Image, who the prophet Isaiah said did not on the surface have a beautiful appearance. It will sometimes be like the Father, who’s glory is beautiful to the saved and terrifying to the sinner. It will sometimes be as seemingly unimportant as a cool cup of water given to another in charity.

The world needs Christian artists who can provide leadership to the imaginations of God’s people, and to the elect within the nations who God desires to save.

Shameless promotion: I’m committed supporting the training of the next generation of Christian artists by working for the Maker Institute of Studio Art + Theology. If you care about the Christian future of the arts, we’d love to talk with you. Our first academic year is planned to start August 2024.

Oh, and Angels in the Architecture is in the curriculum.

Cody

Cody, thanks very much. As we used to say, “keep on keeping on.”

The KDY Affair

I greatly enjoy both the writing of yourself and KDY and have been helped by each (with disagreements at time for both). KDY the individual has been a great writer, often challenging TGC-types in his own group with things like “I Don’t Understand Christians Who Watch Game of Thrones,” “I Still Don’t Understand Christians Who Watch GOT,” “Have More Children and Disciple Them.” He was full-throated in denouncing Revoice. Openly calls out the wrongness of same-sex identification. So it seems he has no problems standing up the ‘Respectables’ when needed. It’s also clear to me that KDY has been quietly distancing himself from TGC for a few years now. His writing is out of step with TGC. He pulled his blog from TGC and publishes it himself now. I’m willing to bet he cringes when he sees Taylor Swift-like articles and Brett McKracken’s movie reviews being published. That all being said the fact that he hasn’t fully distanced himself from this group is the ball-and-chain that’s drowning out his argument. Why he stuck up for the ELRC is beyond me. It’s inconsistent with his writing. Why he has chosen to go the ‘respectable’ route in this case, but is willing to have a backbone in most others baffles me. Any ideas why now?

I wonder if KDY is writing based on something he’s seeing at his church. One thing I’ve noticed in my church among the fiercest defenders of the Moscow Mood is that they latch onto the serrated edge but miss out on any of the substance that goes with it. Men who use your no-holds barred style in their personal communication. Men who talk about their large families but haven’t changed any of their little one’s diapers. Men who have many of thoughts about how church should function (more like Moscow of course), but can’t be bothered to get involved. I’m not faulting you for that. You are not responsible for how others might take your writing in an irresponsible way. When KDY talks about the “negative long term spiritual effects” I wonder if this is what he’s referring to. It’s possible that some pastors like KDY see this kind of behavior, connect the dots, and conclude ‘this Wilson guy is the source of all this trouble.’ If this is what KDY’s writing against, it is a problem, but he shot at the wrong target.

Last, you should be most grateful for KDY writing this article if for no other reason that the term, “Moscow Mood” is a great line. It’s worth embracing and it should stick around for quite some time.

Anthony

Anthony, thanks. I have no idea if Kevin has to deal with that particular problem, but I do know that it is a problem out there.

We’re Gonna Sola Fide Even Harder

Tom Hicks and his comrades have bolstered themselves and, as of late, are vying for a full time position at Examining Moscow on Twitter. He is not just channeling his inner RSC on Twitter, Tom has also written a piece on you here.

It is supposed to be damning evidence for why you are dangerous. I pray you, sir, unsheathe your pen and respond to Tom Hicks before his “tweets delete.”

Matthew

Matthew, thanks. Yes, I have been hoping to get to that.

Christian Nationalism for Foreign Nationals

I have been tremendously blessed by your content over the years being a reformed Baptist. I agree with you on most things and enjoy the use of rhetoric and metaphors in your blogs. I think you are a story teller like Jesus was and I desire to be one myself . . .

I’m originally from India and grew up in a charismatic church in the Middle East. I’ve always struggled to understand the American individualism and smooth talking, as opposed to direct talk, since coming to the US in 2016 and being part of reformed churches. Foster, you and others were a breath of fresh air but also it took me a while to get used to the spice because that was not characteristic of the direct speak in our churches in India or Middle East. I also struggle with the idea of Christian nationalism and mere Christendom on two accounts.

1. I’m not American and so how can I be a nationalist and what happens if America attacks India or the Middle East where most of my people live?

2. I’m married to a godly American woman who is of a different ethnicity. So did I sin? Or was it sub-optimal? I don’t think so, but my mom thought so till she saw her godliness. Shouldn’t Christ unite than divide over ethnic lines? Is there a solution? I want to share with you what weighed me down more than any of those things. My desire is for the western church to learn from the eastern church and vice versa. In the matter of hospitality and brotherly love, your camp is one I think speaks most closely to what I’ve experienced in the East. Yet, my wife and I visited your church on a business trip to CDA early this year. I could sense in the church service that there were some newer people or people that were still getting to know each other at the church. So I want to give a lot of grace to this critique. We came there with a desire to see, share, learn and partake in godly fellowship so that we could take back that Moscow mood back to Columbus OH where we live. But, not one person except you spoke to us and I am hoping that it is an exception. Back in India, when a new person came to church we made it a point as a congregation to cut short conversations between regular members of the church to greet and get to know the new person. It was an intentional movement because we knew that as the regular members of the church we would be in spaces of community all through the week and even the rest of the day. Would you say that my experience was not the norm?

All this to say, I appreciate your ministry deeply and have shared you with people in India. Praising God for what He is doing through you and hoping that you have many more years in this role!

Johann

Johann, thanks. In Christian nationalism, the nation is not absolute—the Word of God is. It is that standard that makes it possible for us to stand up to our own nation when they are doing wrong. As regards your marriage, no, of course that was not a sin. And about your visit to Christ Church, I am sorry that was your experience. I would say that was not the norm. We are working hard to keep up with all the new folks, and yet we know that some slip through the cracks. I am sorry that was your experience.

Are Babies Saved?

In the Man Rampant episode with Voddie Baucham, you mentioned that you believe that all babies who are killed in the womb as a result of abortion are saved (if I understand you correctly). How do you come to this conclusion? If election is a result of God’s sovereign choice before the foundations of the world, and the hidden things belong to God, how could we ever know definitively who is elect? Of course, we can see outward fruit of regeneration, but in the case of an unborn baby where we cannot see outward fruit of regeneration, how could we know that the baby is saved? I certainly believe it is possible for a baby in the womb to be regenerate (as I believe was the case with John the Baptist), but apart from supernatural revelation that we have in the case of John the Baptist, how could we ever know that an infant is regenerate? If I am correct in understanding your position to be that all babies killed in the womb are saved, do you have a cut off point at which you are no longer sure that the child is saved? E.g. if babies killed in the womb are saved, are babies who die right after delivery saved? What about those who die after two weeks? As pro-life activists have insisted, there is virtually no difference between a baby right before it is born and right after, but would you say that one is saved for sure while we are not sure about the other? I know that you affirm the doctrine of original sin, so I imagine that your position would not be based on an age of innocence, but do you have some other criteria for determining a cut off point?

Also, how would you respond to the argument that if all babies who die in abortion are saved, abortion is accomplishing a greater good. We generally accept the principle that it is worth sacrificing temporary money, heath, resources, etc. for the sake of the Gospel because those things are temporary while eternal life in heaven lasts forever, would the same principle not apply to aborting babies if this secures their eternal salvation? I certainly think some of them could be saved, but I don’t see how we could know that they are all saved. It seems to me that the best we could say is that the judge of the universe will do right, but we do not know what exactly the result will be in each case.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please correct me if I have not understood your position correctly!

Will

Will, you have correctly seen my position, but not the reasoning for it. I do believe in original sin, which means that infants are in Adam and are by nature objects of wrath. They are subject to the curse, which is why they are able to die at all. I don’t believe they are innocent, but I do believe that sin is not imputed where there is no law. I believe that infants who die in infancy are saved, but they are saved by grace, and not by right. And as to the cut off point, the omniscient one is the judge, and the judge of the whole earth will do right.

That’s Fine, I Think

This is a question for Doug..

Is there any issue with someone doing a quiet hobby during church service, like crocheting, drawing, or other busywork with hands, while listening to the sermon? An adult person that is.

Thank you,

Katie

Katie, I think this kind of thing would be a matter of wisdom and manners. My reflex response would be to say no to something like drawing, and sure to something like crocheting. The two questions would be whether it interferes with paying attention, and whether it looks like the person is paying attention.

Prophecy Questions

Thank you for focusing on the typology of Christ’s first advent in ‘By Prophet Bards Foretold.’ This got me ruminating on how much the prophets themselves understood of their typology while penning the Scriptures, and how that might relate to the apostles in the NT regarding the final advent of Christ. From 1 Peter 1:10-12 and Ephesians 3:4-11, it seems like the writers of prophecy in Scripture could write true things about a more immediate reality without knowing that it foretold (by the Spirit) something more ultimate/final in the future. They did not have the full type/antitype picture, even though their message included it.

My question is this: Is it possible that when the apostles refer to the future coming of Christ, they did not necessarily see a distinction between his coming in judgment in AD 70 and the final judgment at the end of history? I say this because the language used in the NT often seems to blur or overlap the two realities (coming of Christ, day of the Lord, etc). Obviously, the Spirit knew during inspiration and Spirit-guided interpreters can know this now through careful exegesis, but did the apostles know this while writing or were they similar to the prophets in 1 Peter 1, searching and inquiring while they wrote?

Jeremy

Jeremy, I grasp your question. I believe that they knew there was a distinction, but I also think there is no need to claim that they knew the precise nature of the distinction.

I am not responding to any post in particular. My question is on post-millennialism. How do you good people at Christ Church interpret Luke 18:8? Jesus seems to ask this question in a rhetorical way, as if the answer is obviously no. I am interested because I am one of those people who think that post-mil would be great if it were true. I have always been taught that everything will get worse before Jesus comes back.

Ariel

Ariel, I believe that this is referring to the coming of Christ in judgment on the land (ge) of Israel in 70 A.D.

I grew up in a dispensational premillennial church, and one of the chapters they always hammered away on was Joel 3.

Try as I might, I simply cannot find a postmillennial, preterist, or even amillennial commentary on Joel 3.

I’m so utterly perplexed about this chapter because its Armageddon-style, end-of-the-world nature seems to fly in the face of the postmillennial/preterist interpretation of history. Are there no postmillennial resources on Joel 3?

Any help you can give here is greatly appreciated.

In Christ,

Brooker

Brooker, I take it as a continuation of the judgments of chapter 2, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The decreation language of Joel 3:15 maps onto the Lord’s use of Isaiah’s prophecies in chapters 13 and 34. And then the prophecy of Joel opens up into the gospel era.

What I Would Recommend Writing-Wise

I’ve been watching your videos, hearing some of your sermons, and reading your books for two years now. You could say I’m a fan of yours. I thank you for all that you do, and I believe you are carrying out the Lord’s work faithfully.

I should tell you that I’m currently writing my own blog. Like you, I enjoy writing about Christianity and cultural apologetics. I must confess that my blog posts are somewhat inspired by yours.

Do you have any advice for a younger, newer writer like me? I ask because I aim to become a journalist in the near future. I would particularly like to be a Christian journalist.

Thanks,

Brandon

Brandon, I would really encourage you in this desire. And what I believe aspiring writers ought to learn, know, and do I put into this book.

An Idaho Loser

You’re really an embarrassment to Idaho. What amazes me about judgmental so-called Christians like you is that you typically behave in a manner that is antithetical to Jesus and the life that he lived. He must be truly aghast at the things that are said and done in his name (for many centuries). Maybe you should move to Africa or South America and try to do some real good instead of rabble-rousing here. I’m totally disgusted with the religious right. You misinterpret the Bible regularly. Forgiveness and acceptance is much of what Jesus is said to have preached. You and your ilk are more like Inquisitors in Spain centuries ago! Please go away!

Robert

Robert, you are so right to rebuke us for being so judgmental. It is our besetting sin. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to show us how it is supposed to be done. It is so important to have good models.

Our Infinite Triune God

Re: On Authority, Order, and Equality within the Godhead

Reading this reminded me of something that was bothering me. Several times this statement uses the word “infinite” with respect to the Godhead. On what Biblical basis can “infinite” be used to describe God? I can accept “eternal” as time can and will extend for infinity, but an infinite attribute of God would swallow up the universe and then some. Something that is infinite is really, really BIG!

Now I understand the these infinite attributes are in no way physical, but anything described as infinite would be all encompassing to the detriment of other, finite, attributes.

Ron

Ron, I don’t believe that God’s infinitude need displace anything. “Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).

To Be Mentored

I’ve been a listener/reader of your stuff for about a year now. I appreciate your straight-forward approach and Get the Girl was a very encouraging and challenging book to me.

I have a question about finding mentorship as a young man. I’m in my 20s and am fresh out of college moving to a new city. I’ve never had really solid, close, and consistent mentor/mentee relationship with an older believer in my life. I used to think having a “mentor” was one of those marketing gimmicks that rolls through the Christian scene every couple of months, but as I’ve stepped out into adult life for the first time i truly realize how much I don’t know and how helpful having an older believer to talk to and ask questions of would be incredibly helpful.

My question is how do I go about finding this when moving to a new city? Do I just find the first solid Reformed church I see and start talking to the old folks? Or is there a better way to go about this that would be more effective? I appreciate any advice you have!

Thankful for Christ’s work through you and your help,

Sam

Sam, I have no objection to close discipleship training, but I tend to pull away from the mentor/mentee approach, which I think assumes too much at the beginning of a relationship. I would seek out a solid Reformed church that preaches the Word, identify what teaching venues they currently offer, and throw yourself into those. I think individual instruction and discipleship is most likely to arise out of that.

Learning to Be Combative

How would you counsel a man in starting fires/picking fights? What would be your guide in picking up the flamethrower, so to speak? I am an apprentice in this art and want to understand how to fight well–jovially and in good faith.

Many thanks for your fiery ministry!

GS

GS, don’t start with your mom. And I wouldn’t start with firefights with the workers of iniquity either. As a young man, you probably have a peer group, and in that peer group certain common sins fly that shouldn’t. I would start by having awkward conversations about tolerated sin within the peer group. You will learn a lot.

Not Enough Tears?

I recently read DeYoung’s article about you and the Moscow Mood. I love you both and have really benefited from both of your work and ministries. So I’m looking forward to how you two may continue to interact. Here is a question I’ve had about you for a while, and DeYoung’s article reminded me of it. I think I recall a video of your family talking about you (you had left the room to take care of your dad, I think) where they said they had never seen you cry. That struck me as interesting. And as I considered everything I’ve ever heard or read from you, it occurred to me that NO WHERE do I recall a tone of weeping or sorrow. Righteous anger, yes. Biting sarcasm, yes. Prophetic truth-telling, yes. Biblical teaching, yes. Even tenderness, yes. But a sense of weeping? Deep sorrow? Mourning? No. Not to my recollection anyway.

It seems to me that for someone to really imitate Jesus Christ, and others like Paul or Jeremiah, one would have to have the character quality to, at least occasionally, weep at one’s own sin, weep at the sin of God’s people, and weep at the state of the lost.

So my question is (and I’m asking this as a greater admirer and someone who is very thankful for your work and wants to see your influence and the influence of Moscow continue and grow stronger): When was the last time you wept at your own sin, the sin of the church, and the state of our lost world? And if the answer is a long time ago or hardly ever, might that not indicate some lack in you and a potential weakness that will be reinforced to others who look to you?

Nick

Nick, thanks for giving me this opportunity to share my feelings. As a result of family culture, lineage, and personality, there is a definite absence of weeping. There have been great blessings that came from this, but I believe there are some deficiencies involved also. I think I saw my father cry once, and he was in his nineties at the time. But the absence of crying does not mean an absence of intensity of feeling—but it does express differently. I do periodically get choked up, and when it happens while delivering a sermon . . . I hate it.

Lordship Salvation

I was reading Berkhof’s Reformed Dogmatics the other day and found a section where he recounts the Gottschalk controversy where he ultimately comes to the conclusion that “this controversy proved to be after all little more than a debate about words. Both the defenders and the assailants were at heart Semi-Augustinians.” I imagine there is very much of this “debate about words” going on today in many different theological areas. With that, I’ve wondered: Does your view of faith and works resemble what MacArthur brands as Lordship Salvation in any way? I don’t believe he teaches a works based gospel, and understand his reasoning, but I have seen detractors lump you and him together in their accusations regarding that issue. Me being way off in left field on this could also be a likely reality. I am grateful for the work that both you and he have done for the Kingdom but have wondered if there is perhaps some common ground in how that issue is addressed.

Many thanks!

Luke

Luke, yes. I am grateful for the stand that MacArthur took on that issue. Christ is not received on an installment plan . . . first as Savior, and then later as Lord.

The Hit Comes Later

I live in a city in the Midwest of about 1.3 million people. I attend a faithful and vibrant Reformed church that also has a ACCS school that was just launched (literally the only one in the entire city). I can’t tell you how many people want to come to our church AND send their children to our school but don’t do so because it would be an inconvenience for them to drive an extra 10-20 minutes a day to do so. Instead they attend ho hum churches that usually don’t line up with their theology and send their children to local public schools/non classical Christian schools that are closer to home.

You’ve been in the game a long time . . . what gives? Any word you have for these types of people?

Tim

Tim, yes. I would say to them that two things are obvious about the debt they are seeking to pay off. The first is that they believe they can handle the monthly payments, and perhaps that it true. The second is that they clearly know nothing at all about the enormous balloon payment that is coming their way within ten years or so. And when that day arrives, and their delightful little girl wants to be called Bruno, and here are her pronouns, they will look back with yearning on the lost opportunities found in those extra drive-time minutes.

Knowledge and Regeneration

This question is a follow up to my Justin Peters question: Peters was saved while he was serving as a pastor, and it was only, according to his testimony, after he understood and believed that repentance is gift from God did he get saved.

You said “nobody is saved by Calvinism.” Agreed. But you might agree that Calvinism is the best representation of the gospel. And God requires one to understand certain proposition before He gives saving faith.

So my questions are: what are the bare minimum propositions one has to believe in order to be saved? And are there any resources on this subject you would recommend?

From what you’ve said previously, the proposition that “salvation is by faith alone by grace alone” and “repentance is a gracious gift of God” are not necessarily to be understood before the gift of saving faith is given, for that would rule out Arminians.

Sincerely,

Peter

Peter, knowledge comes from regeneration, not the other way around. In the providence of God, He promises to bless a clear and accurate presentation of the gospel (which would be Calvinistic), but he is not limited by that. I believe that an ordained evangelist being examined by presbytery should be like an electrician becoming a journeyman. You want him to understand all of Turretin’s schematic drawings of all the circuits. If he doesn’t, you run the risk of your house burning down. But a two-year-old can still turn on the lights.

Retaking the Mainlines

In my last letter, I asked for your thoughts on Operation Reconquista, an effort to re-take the mainline Protestant denominations back for conservative, traditional theology. I was highly grateful and happy that you responded in your always welcome trademark snark and wit (that my wife and I quite enjoy), but I found your trademark willingness to fight notably absent. Not to be dismayed, I’d like to ask a couple of follow up questions.

What then shall we do with the wonderful tradition of the mainline Protestant denominations, including their beautiful buildings, most of which were built out of a glorious understanding of theology and its out-workings, especially in architecture? Shall we cede that ground to the liberal invaders (for invaders they most certainly are, notwithstanding the fact that they are quite entrenched at this point)?

Secondly, does your strategy of “great if it works but don’t kid yourself” carry over to the leftist influence in American government as well? Are we to let the wonderful institutions and buildings in this country, even the Capitol building itself, fall solely into the hands of the liberals or should we seek to reform, revive, and restore these institutions to their former faithfulness?

Is there not great merit and worth in fighting back the onslaught on the very ground that once belonged to our forebears?

I say this in all the charity and encouragement that I can muster. I hope this is an exhortation to consider a different effort. I am grateful for your influence and work. And I anxiously await your response.

Many thanks again,

JR

JR, here is the challenge. I believe in the good fight, and would want to encourage everyone who is still in the fight. But in the mainlines, I don’t see how it is possible to fight honestly. The reason liberals can take things over is that they are not honest. They fight dirty. They lie about their intentions. We can’t do that. I would prefer to grow healthy vibrant evangelical churches that are then in a position to buy the sanctuaries of the mainlines from their moribund congregations. This is already beginning to happen.

Reading on Revival?

I am trying to learn more about the detrimental effects the 2nd great awakening has had upon modern Christianity, and the ways in which it differed from the 1st GA. Do you have any resources (books or articles) that you would recommend on the subject?

Thanks,

CC

CC, I would start with Iain Murray’s Revival and Revivalism.

Say Again?

Forgive me, I believe I asked a similar question some time ago, but lost the answer. Glenn Beck is calling for renewing our covenants with God. While he does have attachments to some of the weirdness that is Mormonism, it still makes me wish to study what covenants we’ve neglected which we’re under here in America. I know about the Mayflower compact and some of Lincoln and Washington’s actions, but I remember you once mentioned a book about some of the covenants we’ve inherited from Britain. Can you please re-link it, along with any others you or the readers can recommend?

Ian

Ian, I believe you are referring to The Anglosphere’s Broken Covenant by Michael Wagner.

Speaking in Code

My wife and I have agreed several times that we shouldn’t argue in front of the kids. Yet when disagreements come and I suggest we talk about it later, once we’ve cooled off and the kids are not around, she demands we discuss everything ‘right now.’ How am I to navigate this? I really don’t want our kids to see us arguing.

MH

MH, if she agrees when it is not in the heat of the moment, but forgets all that when the disagreement arises, what I would do is have another talk with her (in a calm setting), where you not only agree to not do this any more, but also agree on two other things. The first is that you agree on some kind of non-verbal signal that means “this is happening again, and we need to stop.” You would both agree to shut it down immediately if that signal is sent. And secondly, you need to both agree that if this is forgotten in the heat of the moment, that the offending party will go to the kids and seek their forgiveness for the disagreement.

Sorry. Really Can’t Remember

Do you have any book recommendations on how to read, study, retain, consume, and manage information?

Sincerely,

Peter

Peter, I have probably read something like that. but I forgot what it was . . . seriously, I have read books like that, but the people who write them have minds that work very differently that mine does. I just throw everything in the crock pot, and eat the results. I don’t mind, so long as its hot.

Okay, But . . .

Where’s the line between duty and love? The way I look at it, I have a responsibility to protect, provide, and lead my wife and kids. I have a responsibility to worship with fellow believers every Lord’s day (morning and evening service), to give tithe, and to give some more cheerfully. Other than that, I try and do what I love with my time.

Am I obligated to give more of my time to other people? After fulfilling my duties, I find working and studying to be a better use of my time than socializing. I also find it infuriating when people seek help for the troubles they face after being irresponsible. How do I look at this correctly?

Sincerely,

Jake

Jake, there is a sense in which you are quite right. You don’t want to hand a blank check to the guilt manipulators, who never hesitate to put you on the hook for a “little more,” always a little more. God requires certain definite things from us, and we should rejoice to do them, and then we should feel the liberty to hang out under our own fig tree. That certainly is part of God’s blessing. But at the same time, there is going to be a temptation associated with this. There is a difference between living as a Christian, on the one hand, and settling down into a comfortable and politely religious middle class life on the other. The thing to guard against is that infuriating feeling toward others when they do what every true Christian has done—which is to seek help in our troubles after having been irresponsible.

Many Thanks, and I Quite Agree

I think Paul’s thoughts about Philemon are very similar to mine about Nancy — “I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you” (Philemon 1:4-7).

Nancy has been a source of refreshment to me for almost 50 years. May the Lord continue to use and bless you both.

Susan

Susan, thank you for writing. She is an enormous blessing to everyone.

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Ryan
Ryan
2 months ago

To Johann, I agree that your experience is not the norm. My family visited Christ Church in the summer of 2022 and we were blown away by all the people who came up to us to meet us. My wife was shocked. We hadn’t had that kind of experience to that degree at a church before, and I’ve been to quite a few churches for being an average layman who doesn’t travel that much. My guess is that since there are so many guests each week it’s hard to get to everyone and people can slip through the cracks, as… Read more »

Julie
Julie
2 months ago

Johann’s hospitality experience at Christ Church is the modern American way. We either falsely assume someone else is extending the fellowship of Christ to “the new people” or we assume that they belong to their own clique or smaller communities within the greater church “community” or we embrace the fact that we are largely let off the hook for showing hospitality because the new status quo is that we must selectively serve, which is the only honest way one can meaningfully bless others in a giant church filled with “smaller communities” and “strangers” sharing the same worship venue on Sunday.… Read more »

Jennifer Mugrage
2 months ago
Reply to  Julie

Or, we have heard horror stories where someone was hurt by a well-meaning question or comment, or was overwhelmed when a stranger came on too strong. We don’t want to be “that guy.” We leave the greeting to someone with better social skills, who will do it right and not cause unintentional offense.

agb
agb
2 months ago
Reply to  Julie

Or one doesn’t actually know that the person is new. That can happen too.

Mark H.
Mark H.
2 months ago

Johann’s experience is especially common if they came with someone else. We have observed in our church that couples or families who come alone are consciously drawn in, but if they came with someone else, we tend to assume that they are taken care of.

Andrew Trauger
Andrew Trauger
2 months ago

To Anthony’s post, the reasoning seems analogous to blaming Smith & Wesson for making really good guns, Ginsu for making really good knives, or Louisville for making really good bats. Just because a good thing is misused by those who have neither wisdom nor restraint is no reason to blame the manufacturer or the distributor. Hot theology doesn’t kill people…

And to be sure, there have been many manufacturer’s warnings affixed in all the obvious places. “Use responsibly” it says. Don’t be a thunder puppy, or a meathead, or a doofus, or a jerk.

Jennifer Mugrage
2 months ago

Ben Shapiro once said, “I have very few emotions.” Some people are like that.

Cherrera
Cherrera
2 months ago

Mr. “Facts Over Feelings” became quite emotional when Israel-Hamas broke out–and has hardly viewed the conflict from a cold, rational perspective.

Watch what people do, not what they say.

AKA
AKA
2 months ago
Reply to  Cherrera

Worth noting, he said “very few,” not “none.” Reading comprehension is a thing.

Cherrera
Cherrera
2 months ago
Reply to  AKA

Aren’t you prissy? Shap-man has done more than enough to make my case.

Zeph
2 months ago

Will, in addition to what Doug said, here is some Scripture to support infant salvation. Look at Romans seven and eight. Here is a member of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day talking about when he died because of sin. Before he sinned, he was alive, When he sinned, he died. That is when he needed saving. Every infant who dies around the world is saved.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
2 months ago

Katie,I’m a knitter who can ply my plastic needles quietly while keeping my eyes on the speaker with every appearance of rapt attention, seldom having to get down on the floor to retrieve a wandering ball of yarn. If I discover that I dropped a stitch a few rows back, I can be trusted not to say “Damn” out loud. If it were socially acceptable, I would knit through all lectures, sermons, meetings, concerts, and plays. But I think there are good reasons why it isn’t. It is distracting to the people around me and to the speaker if he… Read more »

Zeph
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Little kids are the ones who draw at church.

Jennifer Mugrage
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Agree

agb
agb
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

She just needs to take notes on the sermon in her sketchbook. Illuminate them with little caricatures of jousting rabbits or something.

Julie
Julie
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Amen – well said! For the same reasons, I frown upon bringing coffee drinks to church and chewing gum – all for the sake of “enduring” the sermon portion of worship. What shame this is, until one must really be tolerable such as when having to listen to the disengaged parishioner a couple rows back clipping his fingernails. Yes, this actually happened. Knitting and chewing gum are definitely preferable distractions if we are to come to church prepared for God to bore us.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Julie

I’m also startled at the number of people who can’t get through a 75 minute service without a water bottle. Not when it’s 90 degrees and the A/C isn’t working but all the time. When did we become so chronically dehydrated that we need to be tied to our water bottles like an astronaut tethered to the mother ship? Coffee is even worse. If that’s okay, why not an almond croissant to go with it? I’m also not crazy about people bringing their cats and dogs unless they’re actual service animals. “I don’t feel emotionally safe without my cat” isn’t… Read more »

Brandon
Brandon
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I like to have a small bottle of water because my throat gets pretty dry after singing. Also, I have a niece that used to attend the church that we attend. She would bring in her tablet, upon which she had downloaded a coloring app, and she would sit and color during the sermon. And she’s in her mid- to late- 20’s. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I believe it shows a deep disrespect to not only the preacher but to God Himself when your attention is on something other than the preaching and… Read more »

Cherrera
Cherrera
2 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

I put water and black coffee (possibly a little cream/sweetener if you’re a wimp) in a different category than a vanilla-caramel-mocha-peppermint sugar bomb drink from Starbucks or food. I see people bringing snacks for the kids, which leaves a mess and teaches them they can’t go an hour without “treats.”

Dave
Dave
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Jill, pythons only want to embrace you. There’s no terror there, it’s just their way of saying hi.

Julie
Julie
2 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

We should bring almond croissants or our infidel cats to church if they improve the quality of our fellowship at donut time. I think we need the water bottles, lattes, gum, donuts, and loving pythons as our particular Sunday vices. Some/many-? of our pastors are serving up dull (not challenging or convicting) sermons and we simply get agitated sometimes biding our time until we can take the sacraments and feel satisfied–after that we may or may not grab a donut and quick conversation, I mean fellowship, before having to start another week feeling greatly undernourished….because of weak sermons & fellowship… Read more »

TedR
TedR
2 months ago

Peter,

I’ve been fascinated by Ryan Holiday’s (https://ryanholiday.net/) approach to information management, particularly his note taking habits when reading and preparing to write a new book.

That said, Ryan is deep in the world of stoicism, which can be useful to study but in my mind, poisonous to worship. So, there is a qualifier with him but I don’t think that diminishes some of the wisdom he has attained.

M
M
2 months ago
Reply to  TedR

Can you elaborate on how stoicism is poisonous to worship?

Mrs L
Mrs L
2 months ago

For Peter- ‘How to Read a Book’ by Mortimer Adler (and someone else- sorry to him for forgetting his name!).

Ken
Ken
2 months ago
Reply to  Mrs L

Charles Van Doren–yes, he of the 1950s TV quiz show scandal.

Ken B
Ken B
2 months ago

I was amused at Robert telling Doug off for being judgemental.

Commenting recently on YT on the subject of the C of E bishops pushing through gay blessings I was told I was one of those self-righteous people and a bigot, ‘judge not lest you be judged’ being quoted.

When I pointed out she was doing precisely what she was accusing me of doing she replied ‘you are of those who only selectively believe scripture’.

It was a classic case of this person has reached rock bottom and has started to dig!

Cherrera
Cherrera
2 months ago
Reply to  Ken B

Did she throw in “He that is without sin cast the first stone” as well?

Ken B
Ken B
2 months ago
Reply to  Cherrera

Not on this occasion. Self-righteousness can be a legitimate criticism (I thank thee Lord I am not like [activist of choice/Pastor Smith]), but I think any accusation of bigotry is itself an act of bigotry.

With all the worship of self that goes on these days self awareness seems conspicuous by its absence.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ken B
Rob
Rob
2 months ago

Jake, I believe the distinction to be made regarding helping people out of their self- made troubles is how often it is happening and whether or not it looks as if they are learning from their mistakes. Yes, we all make mistakes but are we taking responsibility for our actions. Any help to others that “enables” irresponsibility is actually hurting more than helping. After the “umpteenth” time a frank discussion is in order. I’m sure Wilson would agree if pressed on the matter a bit more.

Ted
Ted
2 months ago

The problem of NOT welcoming and engaging with visitors is one of the most obvious widespread problems in Christendom. Our family visited Christ Church in Moscow in the fall of 2018 and we were warmly received; we were especially grateful that one couple came and visited us at the fairgrounds (where we were staying in our RV) on Sunday evening and we had good fellowship together over pizza. During our 6-month RV trip across the USA we visited a different church each Sunday morning. Over the course of that 6-month trip, in exactly three congregations did someone seek us out… Read more »

John Middleton
John Middleton
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted

Ok, I’ll admit, I can’t tell if this is satire or serious.

I suppose people go to church for a variety of reasons, but for me it’s never been that I was lonely. Being put in the awkward position of having to choose between spur of the moment going to lunch with a stranger or trying to decline gracefully would make me not want to go back there again.

Jane
Jane
2 months ago
Reply to  John Middleton

I understand not being comfortable with accepting a spur of the moment invitation from strangers. There are times I would, and times I wouldn’t.

But it shouldn’t be THAT much of a problem. Just be ready with, “Thanks so much, I have other plans.”

I’d rather not ask all churches everywhere to shut down the kind of hospitality that might be a tremendous blessing to someone else, just because I’m only moderately likely to want to accept it myself, or even if I could never imagine accepting it.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jane
John Middleton
John Middleton
2 months ago
Reply to  Jane

Yes, it is possible to exaggerate how much of a problem it would be. It’s not as if I think an invitation is being mean to me. Your suggested response is reasonable, except, if I don’t really have plans it’s not quite honest. I guess I could reason that my plan was to figure it out. In any case, I generally don’t want someone I just met making my plans for me. Then too, like I said, I don’t go to a church because I’m lonely and desperate for companionship, and I don’t think it should just be assumed every… Read more »

Jane
Jane
2 months ago
Reply to  John Middleton

“Plans” are anything you want to do. Presumably in all honesty in a situation like that, you had planned to eat lunch by yourself. That’s legitimately a plan, even if you hadn’t yet decided on the specifics.

Considering someone “lonely and desperate for companionship” is not the only reason to extend hospitality. I really don’t know what you think the alternative is — not extend hospitality, which functioning adults are free to and capable of refusing, because not everyone is deeply desirous of it?

John Middleton
John Middleton
2 months ago
Reply to  Jane

It’s not as if hospitality can only mean inviting the visitor to lunch, and anything else falls shamefully short, as seems to be implied. The alternatives are all kinds of things churches do that only someone looking to have their feelings hurt could take as unhospitable.

The notion visitors are lonely, and “Our own family was desperate for fellowship” does seem to be what inspired the idea. Just don’t project loneliness and desperation for fellowship onto every person who walks through the church door.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted

Sad to say, you can go to the same Catholic church weekly for ten years and not have anyone speak to you except for mumbling “Peace be with you” at the Rite of Peace”. It might be different outside the big cities but I think Catholic churches are notorious for this wherever they are. But when I took my daughter to our local Episcopal church for the first time, I was greeted by everyone, taken out to lunch by the parish council, and had a home visit from the priest a few days later. Within a month I was teaching… Read more »

Ken
Ken
2 months ago

I will have the temerity to suggest Doug’s endorsement of Murray’s gem on revival and revivalism needs additional endorsement by endorsing the book. One of my better reads of the past year. Learned loads.

Andrew Lohr
Andrew Lohr
2 months ago

Are babies saved? To Will: Faith cometh by hearing (ordinarily), hearing begins in the womb (Luke 1, science agrees), so an unborn or newborn baby who has been hearing family devotions, church services, even being preached to, at the very least has an opportunity to believe, that other babies lack. Jesus was conceived–went from one egg cell to two cells, etc–by a material material of the Holy Ghost, so who’s to say the same Spirit can’t work the regeneration miracle in the womb, who kept Him holy from one cell onward? / And on the other end, every time we… Read more »