Prolegomena to These Letters Anyways
So, due to the fact that I was off on vacation for some time, the mound of letters to go through got a bit bigger, and the time available for going through them is the same. That means the selection criteria is going to be a bit more rigorous. So if your letter is not selected, you can at least have the consolation of thinking that under ordinary circumstances, it would have been.
That Liberty Catechism
As I talk with my high school government and economics students about your Liberty Catechism in the context of the Mere Christendom project, we often discuss the three basic forms of external government: family government, church government, and civil government. In these conversations, I often feel the need to be able to articulate a purpose for the entire human project in history. What is it that we, with the aid of these governments, are supposed to achieve?
Of course, one good answer to this is the answer to the first Shorter Catechism question: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That is a broad answer that can point to many things, including piety. However, I’m looking for something that focuses more on our obedience to God through the external fruit of the work of our hands in this present age. What is the purpose of the civilization—roads, homes, businesses, churches, governments, culture, etc.—that we are building? In other words, why are we multiplying, being fruitful, and exercising dominion? How will we know that we are doing a good job or have completed our work, so that we might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”?
In an attempt to help me and my students understand and articulate this, I’ve come up with the following catechism question and answer:
Q: What is the chief purpose of mankind in history?
A: The chief purpose of mankind in history is to prepare the earth to be the eternal dwelling place of God with man. We accomplish this through exercising dominion over the earth with faithful and obedient governance of ourselves and creation.
I think there is a lot of biblical support behind this, but I won’t articulate it here; if I have to do that with you, it is not a very good question/answer. Still, I’ve never heard it phrased like this, and I don’t want to go around making stuff up, so I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts.
p.s. My thought is that this might make a good question to insert prior to Question 6 in the Liberty Catechism: “What is the foundational government that God has established among men?” (I have some ideas for combining other questions to keep it to 52 questions).
Bill, thanks. That is worthy of consideration.
Straight to the Point
Why aren’t you a Lutheran? What are the major problems with the Lutheran tradition that do not exist in the Reformed tradition?
LM, I am sure that a brief response here will come across as inadequate or ill-informed, but I would most likely point to two reasons. The first would be that I hold to Calvin’s view of the Supper, and reject consubstantiation. I do believe in the real presence of the Lord in the Supper, and not in His real absence, but I would deny the local presence of the Lord’s body in, with, and under the elements. I also have real trouble with the doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s body, which I think conflicts with Chalcedon, as well as proving too much. Not only does it make Christ’s body present in the bread and wine, but also in the table and candlesticks. All that said, I like Lutherans. I just couldn’t be one.
Pride Flag on the Chosen Set
I don’t know if you’ve followed the TV show ‘The Chosen’ but recently they were involved in a controversy because a pride flag was being flown on set by one of the camera men.
I’ve seen arguments back and forth among Christians about this. It seems that both sides are focused on the issue of being unequally yolked and whether or not we should work with non-Christians, even in specifically Christian endeavours. However, it seems to me that people are missing the point, which is a spiritual war/territory issue and a discipline issue.
I thought about your evangelical spandex article and how church discipline always takes place and it’s just a question of where to. Equally, workplace discipline takes place and it got me wondering what verses they might use to club a pious young Christian working on the set of the Chosen into silence because he dared to rebuke the camera guy for openly expressing his idolatry.
I think you’re in a unique position to comment on this and was basically taking my chance at tempting you into writing a blog post about the whole thing. What’s your thoughts and how might you suggest the makers of Chosen deal with someone openly flying this flag on their “Christian” film set?
Hope your holiday has been fun.
Blessings in Christ from a brother in Scotland,
Jordan, in the production of a big movie or television series, there are bound to be unbelievers involved. The issue is therefore one of workplace discipline. The person involved should have been told to take the flag down. If he would not, then he should have been fired.
Age of the Earth
Regarding your theses on the Age of the Earth: I am fully on board with most of your theses, especially the first several, most especially #2. With that said, I’m basically an old-universe creationist, and have just a few points I’d like to hear/read your rebuttal on. 1. I have yet to hear a non-circular definition of “day” for the first few days that pin the time of them to our modern 24 hours. Isn’t the definition of a day generally one earth rotation? So any amount of time could exist before God decides to set the Earth’s spin in motion, and the telescopes could honestly be telling us the age of the stars by our modern definitions of time, i.e. days one and two under most definitions could have been that 13.8 billion years without violating even conventional definitions.
2. “Day” is one of the few terms in the entire Bible that God is actually vague about, and tells us such: Not only are we told that to God a day is a thousand years and a thousand years a day, but terms of “day of the Lord” or “day of judgement” are used all over the place to mean something more like “moment in time/epoch”.
3. Those who insist that the term “Day” must conform to a literal modern 24 hour one-earth rotation definition suddenly get fuzzy with definitions of “death” when God tells Adam and Eve that they’ll die the day they eat of the tree. One has to interpret “death” on the day they ate of the tree as “spiritual death and an introduction of physical death into the world,” since their physical deaths were years after they ate the fruit. Why is death the term subject to interpretation, rather than the term “day”, which God specifically says is the relative term – see #2?
Ian, thanks for the question. The thing that does it for me is the “evening and the morning.” To tie it in with your question about death, it is like God saying that “the day you eat the fruit you will die immediately and your body will begin to rot.” That would be much harder to take as spiritual death. To me, it is like Genesis is saying 8 pm and 8 am.
I am thankful to God for your ministry. One thing that I’ve been struggling with recently is the idea of people I would consider brothers and sisters in Christ believing that I am not saved. For example, Calvinists who believe that Arminianism is a damnable heresy. I don’t believe that view is especially common, but I am not sure. Based on your previous writings, it’s my understanding that you don’t agree with that view. Please correct me if I am wrong in that. I would also give as an example the idea that those under the “Church of Christ” umbrella are unsaved. Do you have any counsel for the concern or anxiety, for lack of a better term, brought on by this? Perhaps this question is an “assurance of salvation” one as well.
Thank you for your help.
God bless you, and I’m looking forward to my Christ is Lord box!
Gray, you are right that I would not agree with that. Many Christians are better Christians than they are logicians, and I do not deny the saved status of anybody based on an infirmity in their reasoning.
Greetings from Buffalo, NY! I’m a great admirer of your ministry (and prose style), and thought I’d be so temerous (being informed this is not a word this side of the Atlantic) as to reach out and say so. I recently succeeded in coaxing Peter Leithart out of email anonymity, so what the heck! Anyway, I’m currently finishing a PhD in Classics and getting increasingly befuddled at the prospect of teaching at a secular institution, so I wondered if you had any pointers for a professional classicist (and dilettante everything else-ist) of the Reformed persuasion. In other words, where can I teach Dante without wringing my hands about Muhammad getting disemboweled in the Inferno?
Yours in Christ,
Sam, that could be a challenge. I would start with robust Christian schools, and then move on to serious, non-woke schools. But there are not many.
Mother’s Little Helper?
My wife and I have recently taken over a heavily mismanaged Christian youth retreat encampment. We knew full well this would be a difficult task but we were woefully unprepared how difficult it would be. No need for lists of trials here. Lately my wife has started experiencing nosebleeds and high blood pressure due to the stress of it all. Upon medical evaluations she was prescribed Prozac and asked to check here BP twice daily for two weeks before making medication recommendations. She is highly against psychoactives and is insistent on there being an underlying sin regarding fear, worry, faithlessness, etc . . . She has dreams about not ordering enough food or the state inspection doesn’t go perfectly right and a host of many other stresses. To give you an insight . . . she isn’t on any other medications and has never had any health issues. My question is in regards to using psychoactives I’m general and in her case to help get through a short “season.”
J, the problem I would have with this is that it doesn’t seem like it really would be a short season. You really don’t know how long it would go on. At the same time, I share your wife’s suspicion about using drugs like this, while at the same time differing with her assumption that she has some underlying sin problem. Perhaps the sin is in accepting this role in the first place?
One thing I have found refreshing about your ministry is the emphasis on normal, everyday obedience. That we glorify God by abstaining from fornication, getting married, having kids and discipling them, mowing the grass, enjoying a meal, etc. It has made obedience realistic and helped me to find joy in obeying God in little ways. I find myself very drawn to this model of obedience as a simple, every day faithfulness. I would love this kind of quiet and peaceable life as Paul tells us to pray for.
But I also feel a competing impulse. Christ tells us obedience is hard and costly. He tells us if we love family more than him we are not worthy of him. He commends those who give up homes and promises them tenfold in His Kingdom. And this leaves me feeling that the quiet and peaceable life just doesn’t cut it when it comes to being all in for Jesus. That if I don’t do something “radical” or “extraordinary” and sacrifice everything, I am not worthy of being His disciple.
The quiet and peaceable life is attractive. Who wouldn’t want that? The life of supreme sacrifice sounds more like what Jesus demanded and is not so easy.
So which is it? Is the Christian life one of simple faithfulness to God in the little things, which seems mostly centered in rejecting the world’s madness by simply loving my family well and serving the church. Or is the Christian life one of sacrifice and hardship? I long for a life of quiet and simple obedience. But that just seems to easy. It seems like it could be used as an excuse.
Thanks for any clarity you can provide!
Johnathan, thanks. We are told which direction to pray—for “quiet and peaceable lives.” Jesus teaches us to pray that we not be led into temptation. Striving in the opposite direction would be presumption, although we must be prepared, as Job was, to receive it from the hand of the Lord if He so determines.
Birth Control Question
Concerning Eleven Theses on Birth Control – As it stands, thesis #5 sounds as though you think “intent” might justify the use of hormonal birth controls with an abortifacient fail-safe. Can you affirm that it is a sin for a Christian to use something like Plan B in every circumstance?
Gabriel, correct. An abortifacient would be unlawful, independent of intention.
I was wondering, if you were to start Canon Press or some other publishing house today, how would you do so?
Let’s say, you only have a living room to work with. Any resources, tips or tricks you could share?
Thank you for all your work.
Myles, don’t be ashamed to start small. Get a good computer, hone your skills, and then go on the hunt for a good first book.
Rigid Courtship Rules?
Thank you for your ministry. You have impacted my life in many, many ways. Thank you! I have a question and I hope I can articulate it well so as to paint the picture of what’s going on down here in the Charlotte, NC area. As you’re aware, Charlotte is technically part of the Bible belt. When my family moved here in 2001 we made the naive assumption that it would be easy to find a Biblical Church. That phrase is vague so I’ll give you a run down of what I mean. We believe in reading the Bible in context taking account of who the audience is and defining Scripture with Scripture. I would call myself Reformed but I’m not hard-line on cessationism. We believe in the Sovereignty of God, we’re Postmil, theonomic, pedobaptism, etc.—you get it :) We believe that loving God and walking with him in life and having a prayer life is most important.
Here’s the issue we’re running into. In Charlotte and the surrounding areas there is a large community of cultural Christians, but when you actually bring up Christ you get a lot of blank stares. It’s so much embedded into the suburban and rural culture that most people would call themselves Christians in those areas, and so in those churches it’s difficult to find Christian community that is edifying. It’s very sentimental and fluffy. Think of sappy sweet Christianity.
We also have a vast array of large churches that are hyper charismatic and then of course Elevation Church which is our local mega church which really functions more as a club than a church.
On the other hand we have some good Reformed churches on paper, but the fellowship is much the same. Christ is hardly ever talked about. Life with God appears to be non-existent. I cannot speak for everyone in every church of course. This is just our experience. My husband and I have been praying for a church that we can call home for about the last 4 months. We were previously a part of an ARP church, the pastor was even Postmil! But we found that when it came to living postmil it was much the same as everywhere else—avoid the difficult topics, don’t do anything. Postmil in name only. We’ve tried two other Churches over that period of time and are finding the same thing over and over again. Additionally, we have not found any churches that are actively going on the offense when it comes to culture and bringing the Kingdom. We love what you are doing in Moscow. We’d love to be a part of something like that here.
My side of the family is the best fellowship we get, but we desperately want to join a church, honor the sabbath, and delight to send our tithe to a place that is stewarding it for the Glory of God and his Kingdom. The next place we are going to try is Christ Covenant where Kevin DeYoung pastors.
So here’s my question: what is a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a church? Can we justify sending our tithe to a place that is sort of preaching the Gospel but it’s either watered down or avoiding the true battles of the day? I just feel I need some advice on how we are to approach church. The last church that we were visiting was so milk-toasty that both my husband and myself did not feel we could tithe there in good conscience. If I were reading this letter I would assume that there’s no way there’s no decent church around, but honestly, we’ve tried SO many of them over the years and I desperately do not want to be a church hopper. I guess I’m asking what should we do? And also, what should we overlook when joining a church?
Thank you so much for your time.
Lauren, two things. First, let’s crowd source this. Anybody out there know any healthy churches in the Charlotte area? Second, keep looking. Don’t get discouraged. Okay, three things. I would be surprised if you couldn’t find some like-minded folks at DeYoung’s church.
Lack of Theonomy Opens the Door to . . . Theonomy
I recently read an argument against theonomy that goes like this: God did not provide Noah with the ten commandments in the Noahic covenant, therefore, whatever His expectations may be for civil magistrates, they cannot include enforcement of both tables of the law. Therefore, theonomic applications of the law (general equity or otherwise) aren’t biblical. Thoughts?
Brandon, if all the government has to do is enforce the Noahic covenant, then that means radical libertarianism. If it means that the Noahic covenant part is required, but we can add other features as seems best to us, then that means we can adopt theonomy if we feel like it. God didn’t tell us not to.
The Jesus Revolution
I’ve been meaning to write you this question for a while and I’m watching you on Babylon. Be on YouTube right now so I remembered. I watched Jesus Revolution recently and I remember you mentioning that your first church when you started was a Jesus people type church. Have you ever written anything about what it was like from a historical perspective during those early days? Knowing you, as I do from so many of your books, you probably have a different story to tell then was in the movie. I think it would be highly interesting to learn about.
Thank you Pastor Wilson for everything you do. I hope to meet you someday in this life or definitely in the next. My wife and I may try to make it out to Moscow to see if it is a good place to retire someday.
Vernon, my wife and I enjoyed the movie very much. I think they did a good job capturing the vibe of that moment. We were less out of step with that kind of thing than we are now, but I do believe that God used it greatly.
Starting with the Will of God
I’ve heard you throw the term “theocratic libertarian” around a few times before which is the point of this question. I love the concept of libertarianism but in my limited studies it seems like libertarianism followed to its logical conclusion devolves into anarchy (and in my opinion nihilism too) and “everyone dong what’s right in their own eyes”.
My question is how do you anchor theocratic libertarianism without it devolving into anarchy?
Many thanks and blessings.
Garth, I think the only way to do it is to reason from the theocratic part to the libertarian part, which is what I try to do in Mere Christendom. But if you start with the libertarianism, then I agree. You end in chaos.
A Pesky Preposition
Thank you for your faithful work for the Kingdom of Heaven and the glory of God! And you and the community of the Lord Jesus Christ in Moscow have influenced my life, my family, and our church! To God be the glory!
My question is simply why do you write that you are “a pastor AT Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho?” (This specific quote is from the back cover of Mere Christendom.) Would it be more precise to say or write “a pastor OF Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho?”
Is Christ Church a place or building or location? Or is Christ Church a people, a fellowship, a flock, and you are one of the shepherds among them?
Jesus told Peter to “Feed my sheep.” And Peter wrote to the elders to “Feed the sheep.” You and the elders at Christ Church (or of) certainly do that! And you are feeding many more of us sheep, also.
Thank you again! And God bless you a lot! May His Kingdom come! And His will be done!
DHS, the serious answer is that we regard the phrases as synonymous. The other answer is that we believe Christ Church is where it is at.
“I do believe there is a deep-seated reason why Baptists struggle with the issue of a national profession of faith. That is because they have a deep tendency to be suspicious of all professions of faith. This particularly happens with children.”
As an illustration of this, I was shocked when Justin Peters in his book “Do Not Hinder Them,” tacitly endorse a view that refused baptism to children who made a profession of faith if they were under 20 years old.
Guymon, yeah, that’s not good.
Women and Theology
I’ve had this nagging inner dialogue going on for some time now on a particular subject, and recently I saw someone else wrote in asking about it. It has to do with women in theology. I am a woman and in my adulthood I’ve found the disciplines of learning theology and church history to be so much fun. I love being a theologian. But sometimes it seems like I’m the only woman in my church who does, and I find it difficult to connect with other Christian women on topics of theology.
I do not mean to say that in a condescending way. I very much admire and look up to the women in my church. They are godly women and amazing mothers and wives, which means that their theology must be good. They are certainly not dumb.
But for some reason when we all get together at Bible study, they tend to go completely silent. It seems like they wouldn’t dare make any gestures toward theology unless they’ve heard the pastor say it first. I do not hold it against them, but I must say, it makes for boring- dare I say, even shallow discussions.
Do the godly women in my church have a good reason for keeping things so PG? If they do, then I don’t want to miss out on the wisdom. I’d love to hear Nancy’s thoughts on this in particular. I’ve read a few of her books already and am interested to know if she (or you) has written anywhere on this particular topic.
The Lord has done a really good work in my life in the past few years, particularly in my marriage. It’s been a process of finding and then shedding away those ever-so-subtle feminist influences that I had invited into my identity. The biblical standards for men and women really are the best standards. As I continue to nestle into the identity God has given me, I’m sure I’ll continue to run into more questions like these. Thank you for taking the time to read them.
Anon, I think part of your challenge is the result of casting it as that of “being a theologian.” That makes it seem like a high and august calling, up there with Calvin, Bucer, and Luther. And if I urged you to keep it practical and Bible-centered, this is the same advice I would give to men studying theology.
The Party Tithe
What’s your thoughts on tithing 11 months and then using one months tithe for a celebration like the Israelites did?
John, I believe that the Dt. 14 tithe remains one of the ways the tithe should be spent.
An ACCS Man Who Voted for Biden
In response to “Fault Lines: The Classical Christian Ed Kind,” I wanted to write as the Upper School Principal of an ACCS-accredited school who voted for Joe Biden in the most recent presidential election.
I also write as a Christian man deeply dedicated to the formation of wisdom and virtue in the students entrusted to my care, as someone who loves God and his Word, and as someone who values the intellectually honest pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty via interaction with the great tradition of Western civilization.
It is not clear to me why the circumstances of my vote for President automatically means that my school is a “conforming jelly” which by implication is not a “true counter-cultural force.” Of course, you don’t mean to imply that all conformity is bad. ACCS and SCL schools both want faculty members who willingly and obediently put themselves in conformity to the teaching of God’s Word and the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is true of me, and true of my faculty, and I’m sure it is true of most CCE schools. We have Statements of Faith and Statements on Gender & Sexuality which articulate clear conformity to God’s Word and opposition to the dominant cultural trends of the day. Our schools verify that faculty and staff adhere to these principles based on robust interviews and continual observation of and conversation with them. As a principal, it is my duty to ensure conformity to God’s Word and documents which rightly divide it in relation to our school’s mission. You certainly agree with all this. How does voting for Biden disqualify me from being able to do so rightly and well?
Are you suggesting that every ACCS school needs to add a new question on its teacher and staff applications asking potential hires to unspool their voting history? Could no one have voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and remain committed to the essential features of Christian orthodoxy and the foundational principles of CCE? Such a proposition seems far-fetched at best, and is definitely in need of justification from the one putting it forward.
Biden-Voting ACCS Principal
BVAP, thanks for writing. You can’t be in “opposition to the dominant cultural trends of the day” while at the same time voting for them.
Second Tier Issue?
On the Importance of not Egalitarianism Hey Doug! I’ve been thinking about the severity of ordaining lady “pastors” recently. Most would consider this a “2nd Tier” issue. However, when the New Testament speaks so clearly about women not being eligible to be elders, can this be so?
Is Egalitarianism more severe than a 2nd tier issue? Thanks in advance.
C, yes. I believe egalitarianism is a first tier heresy. Women’s ordination is just one manifestation of it.
Own Your Privilege
I’ve been chewing on a thought of late, listening to the debates over “Christian Nationalism” and regularly being presented with the various modern dogmas of identity and “oppression.” That thought is that maybe we could take another of their terms and make a solid effort to redeem it, namely, the “privilege” label. See, they love to swing that around with generally fixed demographic qualifiers such as “white” or “straight” or “male” (as much as they’re trying to get people to convert away from the latter, they still use them as fixed categories, but enough on that. And it occurs to me that maybe the key problem is that they’re aiming to accuse people of some innate or structural advantage unavailable to others. But when i look at history and the general shape of the planet in terms of culture, politics, power, and plain old wealth, i see that there has been a great deal of privilege (perhaps better called “blessing”) for those in historically Christian nations. Indeed, many have made strong case that it was indeed the Christianity of those nations which led to the privileges of wealth and power and rich culture. This led me to the notion that it might be fitting to boldly claim that we do, after all, have much privilege, but that it lines up far less with those enjoying said privilege with them being “white” or “straight” or even “male.” Rather, it is “Christian privilege.” And being that “Christian” is not a fixed or exclusive identity, but rather something we are eager to share, it seems to me that we might factually and confidently take those finger-wagging accusations of dastardly “privilege” and respond something like, “Yes, but we call that ‘Christian privilege’, and you are welcome to join us in having it.”
It’s a raw idea at the moment, but I’m rather keen on us Christians taking the linguistic upper hand and think this may have a modicum of promise toward that end.
Nathan, I think this is a really promising approach.
A Three-Year-Old in the Pew
My husband and I have been reading through your book ‘Future Men’. My son is only 3 but we always have believed “begin as you mean to go,” so reading it even now has been extremely beneficial.
I’m wondering if you can provide more insight as to what you would expect of a 3-year-old in the pew.
In other words you say “It is easy for them to become restless, particularly when the only thing that is expected of them is to sit quietly.” What would you suggest doing to get him more involved in worship?
We do sometimes lean over and explain things or say “did you hear that? We talked about that yesterday.” But then he goes right back to daydreaming I’m sure, lol.
Anyways, just looking for more insight!
Thanks a bunch,
Bonnie, at Christ Church we have a coloring sheet that is geared to the theme of the sermon. Another thing that some parents do is engage their children with attention games. How many times did the pastor say Nazareth?