Fire in the Attic
Thank you for continuing to shed gospel light on these dark times. Over the past year, I’ve struggled to put words to the deep feeling that everything we have experienced is much more a fight in the spiritual realm than even we Christians give credit for. Articles like this (and especially “These Vast Reservoirs of Guilt”—I go back to that one every couple weeks to keep fresh in my mind) have helped me think through the happenings of our time in a much more biblical way. That analysis being rare commodity these days, thank you for your invaluable service.
Matt, thanks so much.
“There are the genuine screw loose “conservatives,” who believe that Joe Biden is a sock puppet for our lizard overlords.” Hey, I resemble that remark! Lizard overlords is code for fascist, left, progressive, liberal Wokers.
Now, Jeff, the nice lady at the front desk made us promise that we wouldn’t get you going again.
“John Piper and the Fire in the Attic”
As usual, I think this is a great post and I found it to be very helpful. Toward the end you said, “preaching done right drives it home.” As you indicated, it seems like moderates have no problem with third person hypothetical truths. They seem to know the way home, but they are hesitant to drive there. On the other hand, woke preachers have no problem driving. Without reservation, they call you an unrepentant racist. It just seems like they are driving somewhere else.
Joshua, right. They are driving somewhere else entirely.
I watched your Man Rampant interview with Joe Rigney. I understand the point he is trying to make and I believe his point is valid. However, I think he is misusing the term empathy. There is a biblical standard for empathy. Empathy, as I understand the term, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.Scripture seems to command empathy when it tells us to mourn with those who mourn. Also, Hebrews 4:15 seems to indicate that Christ empathizes with us when it says “we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched by the feelings of our infirmities”. So my point is there are times when empathy is commanded and there are times when empathy is a sin. When is empathy a sin? When it breaks one of the ten commandments. It breaks the command not to bear false witness when our neighbor is living in delusion and demands we empathize with them. One of the sections in your post is titled, “definitions matter”. Indeed, they do. This is why I am writing this note to draw attention to the fact that Mr. Rigney is being sloppy in his definitions. He message would be scriptural if instead of talking about the sin of empathy he focused on the sin of false witness of empathizing with someone who lives in delusion
John, it seems to me that you are using sympathy and empathy as synonyms. Am I understanding you correctly?
Free Speech Issues Again
On free speech as a Christian principle: is it adequate to see it as a “checks and balances” sort of thing? That is, we have no “thou shalt not censor” command, but due to total depravity we know that no government can be trusted with general censorship powers. And that check-and-balance (like all our other ones) breaks down once there are enough wicked men in power who have figured out where the levers and buttons are. But that “right to free speech” as a Christian principle is fundamentally different than the “right to life” as a Christian principle. Our Heavenly Father gave us that life, and if we spill that blood He will require it of us.
On the other hand, I must admit that bloodshed and censorship work closely together throughout history (and today), so I may be wrong in the clear distinction. Perhaps neglecting free speech works out to neglecting a normal means of restraining wickedness (and thus neglecting to preserve life as required by the sixth commandment).
It’s worth noting that in both cases it’s not primarily that we are “entitled” to the “right” to life or free speech, it’s that God has given us responsibilities towards each other that we can’t opt out of (as individuals or as civic entities). If we get uppity about our “rights” God tends to destroy our idols by taking them away. Because He loves us, and is jealous for His glory.
Keith, there is much good in what you are saying, and I would be happy to use that line as a supporting argument. But at the foundation, I want all our rights that are rights to be God-given.
Pastor Wilson, I have a couple of questions regarding your version of postmillennialism. After listening and reading you for many years, I’ve gotten the impression that you view the postmillennial hope as a possibility, rather than a biblical guarantee. A few years back, at the Evening of Eschatology conference, you even went so far as to use the term “ambiguity” regarding your view of how far the Gospel would go forth and have success. I got the impression, that your view would fit better with those known as “optimistic” amillennialism (Poythress, Baucham, Frame, etc). With that said, here’s my questions: How confident are you that Christ CANNOT return in your lifetime or within the next 100 years? How would your view differ from those who speak of the postmillennial hope more confidently (North, Chilton, Gentry, etc.) Are there any resources that you can point me to that delve into these questions in more detail?
John, I am very sorry to have given the wrong impression. I believe the ambiguity I was willing to grant had to do with whether 95% of the world’s population would be converted, or whether it would be 93%. I am very confident that we are still living in the era of the early church.
I’ve been thinking a lot about post millennialism after watching that YouTube video “An Evening of Eschatology. “ I think you were the most persuasive of the three interlocutors.
However, something just occurred to me and I am somewhat hopeful to get your reaction on it. And it is this: I am aware after having listened to many post-mills conversing amongst themselves that there is what seems to be a strong assumption that the church age is only getting started and that it could/should go on for another 10,000 years or so. I think you also have hinted at that kind of a view yourself. I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong.
If I were a postmill (and I might be) I might think that the gospel and its effects really have reached the entire world.
After all, we are not saying that we believe everyone is going to be saved when that point is reached, right ?
Moreover, “Christ is the saviour of the whole world” and has been for the past 2000 years while the reality has been that since Christ’s death on the cross for us more people in each and every generation have been lost than have been saved.
So I don’t understand the basis of the postmill assumption that the church age will have run its course only when a majority of Christians on the planet have become confessing Christians.
Given these arguments, I think it plausible for a holder of the post mill view to hold an internally consistent belief that the church age is nearly ended in which case Christ will return soon (maybe in our lifetime).
Then, wouldn’t the pre-millennial view and the post millennial view looks very similar to each other?
What would distinguish them ?
Cecil, in that set up, the thing that would distinguish them is the fact that after Christ’s coming, we would go straight to the eternal state with no millennium. But the reason I believe it is going to get a whole lot better is that I don’t think the scriptural descriptions of the golden age (lion lying down with the lamb, earth as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, all the families of the earth will be blessed) comport with what I see looking around at the world today.
A Sad Story
Regrettably, I let my wife start reading your recommendation— Machen’s CHRISTIANITY and LIBERALISM. She likes what he wrote a lot, says he’s a cutie.
DB, this is a risk that we must run in order to have good theology in our homes.
I’ve been listening along now for, well about as long as the pandemic has been raging along. I think your words of wisdom, sarcasm and dry sense of humor have gotten me through this ordeal somewhat on the sane side. I would categorize myself a follower of Christ and a warm-blooded American that believes in the freedoms this country was founded on. My first priority in all things is to do right by God and please Him in all I do. I know without a shadow of a doubt, if the government compelled me to sin, civil disobedience is called for. My question and what I have been struggling with is, what about when I am not being compelled to sin? The example I use is the gun issue. If they demanded my guns (which may be more real than we think), it is not a sin to give up my guns so some theologians, including my pastor, would say you must obey. My reasoning is, no I would not obey because due to history we all know what comes next. The best thing I can come up with is, laws that go against our Constitution, which I view as our highest authority having to do with man’s law, are unjust and therefore I am not subject to them. If this is the closest I can get to a biblical reason I will settle for it but I am searching for truth in this and haven’t settled on any solid truth yet. I’m just looking for the right path to be on. Any help you can provide would be appreciated.
Colby, the first thing I would do is test the sincerity of the principle as it is being held and applied. Ask your pastor what advice he would give a wife if her husband began requiring things of her that were not sinful, but were extremely onerous and pointless. Say he required her to clean every square inch of the kitchen every day, with a toothbrush. According to what he requires of citizens because of Romans 13, he should also require of the wife because of Eph. 5:22. But the biblical principle is that in a fallen world, no human authority is absolute. It can be genuine authority without being ultimate authority.
The American War for Independence
I’ve been listening to the American War for Independence series on the Canon App, and it has been fascinating. Lots of very interesting material there. However, more than anything the series has confirmed for me that George Washington was, in fact, a Christian, and a man of great integrity and character. I would love to digest a full biography of him, but I am leery of getting one, knowing that there are many historians who would love to erase as much as possible Washington’s Anglicanism. Any recommendations for faithful, honest, even-handed biographies of Washington?
Grant, I would start with Peter Lillback’s Sacred Fire.
It has gotten to the point that if you have not been accused of white supremacy or misogyny, I don’t feel like I can trust anything you say. The left has shifted the goalposts so far, that you have to kick the ball out of the stadium to score any points. But you are correct, it is all driven by envy, and envy never saved anyone, it only condemns us to a deeper level of hell. Our only hope is Christ.
ES, exactly right. Never saved anyone.
Singleness as Affliction
Your blog about ‘Singleness as affliction’ has been written a little while back but am hoping you would answer some questions I have regarding what single women should dedicate their time to during their single years.
First, I would like to thank you for writing about that (I also listened to your sermons on that too) because as I read and listened, the weight of guilt that I’ve felt (you know for not cheering for joy at the box of gravel that I’ve received) just slid off of my shoulders.
I am currently reading the book “Did I kiss marriage goodbye”. Not sure if you are familiar with it. The author basically encourages single women to learn from the virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 and try to apply/workout the qualities of this woman to their lives. So she also means that the single years are a great opportunity to become that wife/woman.
This bothers me a little just because the text clearly talks about a “wife” and not just every woman. And obviously there are things that a woman could only learn when she is married. Is this a correct way of reading the text?
Also I think it bothers me because: Let’s say that I was never to marry, that this affliction would last until the day I die then would I have wasted my time learning to be “the perfect” wife? Obviously I do not know if the Lord has purposed for me to marry but wouldn’t there be better things to concentrate on than just preparing to be the wife to a husband that may never come? Can another text of Scripture be more suitable for single women to know what they should mature in rather than using the Proverbs 31 passage?
It seems to me that studying the Proverbs 31 wife (because of the end goal of marrying right) could be more of a distraction rather than a sincere and joyful pursuit of God and who he wants me to be (especially if His will is that I never marry). Also, I guess it is painful to think that I may be pursuing these qualities while possibly never being able to exercise them within the context of marriage.
Thank you for reading me.
Rachel, thank you for writing. I am glad the Lord gave you some relief from that false guilt. No, I am not familiar with that book, but here is what I would say to your question. I believe that a woman does not need to be married or prepping for marriage if she is pursuing the domestic arts. If she does this, and does get married, then it will have been good preparation, but she can have more immediate goals in mind. Say she gives herself to learning how to cook. That can result in any number of blessings independent of marriage—being a hostess, showing hospitality, becoming a favorite aunt, and so on.
Random question. I’m following the Bible Reading Challenge and just did Esther. What’s your take on Queen Vashti’s refusal to appear before the king? The king was drunk when he commanded her to come out so he could show her off. So the request was certainly full of vanity and made in an impaired state. An all around bad idea. But that doesn’t make the request itself wrong on it’s face though, does it? The Bible doesn’t record that the king requested her to come in an immodest state or perform in a sinful way. So was Vashti right to refuse the command of her king and husband?
Roger, you are right. The Bible doesn’t give us a hint about her reasons for refusing to come. Given the contrast of Esther coming to the king without being asked, and Vashti refusing to come when asked, inclines me to the view that she was in the wrong for not coming. In order for that not to be the case, there would have to have been some sort of breach of decorum involved.
Preparation for Ministry
In the conclusion of your article titled Scorn Proof, you mention the type of men the Lord must raise in order to bring reformation to the evangelical church, to the which I say a most hearty amen. Since reading that article, a fire has burned within me. The need for such men in the pastorate of my denomination (SBC) is indeed great. As a layman of the church, I wonder how I can help to address this need. To this end, I’m considering going to seminary and/or pursuing pastoral ministry. But as I see the type of men seminaries are producing these days, it made me wonder what your thoughts on seminary were and whether you had any recommendations.
Also. I know counsel is a dangerous thing, but if you had to give three pieces of advice to a prospective/new pastor, what would they be?
JT, asking me to recommend a seminary is not exactly asking a disinterested party. As far as the three pieces of advice go, here they are. One, learn to walk with God by confessing your sins regularly and honestly, and pursuing His truth. Two, read your Bible, over and over again. And third, never ever, under any circumstances, apologize for anything in the Bible. And don’t explain anything away either.
Masks and Slavery
First a question then some reflection. I hope that’s ok. The question: What do you think the Venn diagram is of those who get the vapors over your writings on slavery against those who are compelling themselves and others to mask themselves because the government said so? My bet is that it’s may not be a perfect circle, but it sure will be an ironic one.
The reflection: The events of 2020 leading into the inauguration of 2021 have left me angrier than I have been in my life. It has taken me time to figure out why, but I realized (thanks to your writing here) that all the major institutions have been trying to control my thoughts and actions through inciting feelings of shame for not accepting their worldview on things. The most frustrating of which have been our Christian brothers and sisters who impose their spiritual fragility on the mass of Evangelical America, the pinnacles of this being David French, Rod Dreher, and Russell Moore. Men who want to shame me for voting for Trump. Let me unpack that: French, Dreher, and Moore want to shame me for voting for (to just take two instances): 1) The right to life of every conceived person in this nation. God abhors murder, and the Constitution doesn’t allow the taking of life without trial by jury. Ergo abortion is a moral and legal wrong which must be stopped. 2) Unregulated immigration allows human trafficking. God abhors kidnapping, and kidnapping is a federal crime. Flawed though he is, Trump at least supported correcting our country’s current failure on both these issues. The Democrats, however, run headlong into the fray contending WE DON’T DO ENOUGH OF THEM, thus fully rejecting the image of God in man and denying the responsibility of government to recognize and protect it. Critical difference, that.
So why would our evangelical Betters be so hostile to men and women who are rightly concerned about our government’s concerted rejection of the principles which keep the Evil Man at bay? Because to vote for those things was to vote for Trump, and that is just so . . . embarrassing. Instead of looking at themselves and marveling at the shame they feel for having to stand up in the public square to protect truth and righteousness—and humanity—they turn that shame outward and try to burden us with it for being more principled than they. Once I saw that, I realized why I have been so angry. I’m being manipulated to feel shame for defending the weak, because the French-Dreher-Moore axis just can’t bear to attend a socially-distanced-gathering and worry that people are judging them because Trump said mean things on social media. I, for one, will not atone for their weakness. That is between them and the Creator of all things.
So, my resolution for 2021 has been to hold my head high. If “Impeachment 2.0” teaches us anything, it should be that our Betters are not done trying to manipulate Christians through shame. But I am loved by Christ, and perfect love casts out all fear. I will not feel shame for protecting those who are weak and without a voice by voting for Trump. I will not feel shame for resisting mask mandates in my church because God is Lord of his church, not the unelected county health czar. I will feel no shame for this, because shame hides the light of the word. My one vote and lone voice do what they can to protect the least of these, those made in the image of God, the aborted babies and kidnapped young girls sold into slavery, that our government allows to be killed and abused for their benefit. French-Dreher-Moore chose to protect their image among man. They have their reward in full.
Thanks for your continued writing as it is helpful in resisting the shame train. Grace and peace.
David, thanks. The “shame train” is a great phrase. May I use it?
The Ravi Scandal
I’ve been discouraged by the number of Christian leaders who have been caught up in scandal over the last few years. The report on Ravi Zacharias recently has been another disappointment. I see these Christian leadership scandals usually fall in a few categories: sexual immorality, domineering leadership, and minimization/coverup of sins. These sins are compounded by the fact that these Christian leaders are so revered in their churches/organizations, that no one is able to hold them accountable.
I don’t distrust you. But I am curious: what measures do you have in place to protect yourself from these kinds of sins, especially as you have somewhat of a public platform? What should other people who desire to minister in the public square be doing to protect themselves from sin?
Roger, the question is entirely reasonable. It is important to have safeguards in place that reflect your view of the slipperiness of the world, and not your view of the minister you just called. If you suspect him directly, you shouldn’t have called him. But if you suspect the devil, you are doing no more than you should. There are any number of things I could say, but let me point to just two. Throughout my time in ministry, I have followed what is now called the Mike Pence rule, but which I got from my father, who may have gotten it from Billy Graham. I would sum that rule up as a variation on “don’t be stupid.” Another example would be the fact that all the pastoral offices at Christ Church have glass doors, and counseling after hours is not done if there is only a male counselor and a woman receiving counsel. We regard these sorts of things as simply common sense, and not as legalism.
I have listened to Ravi Zacharias since I was 14.
In light of your previous comments on not convicting before hearing evidence since all are innocent before proven otherwise, can you offer thoughts on TGC piece? Since he can’t respond, why condemn him?
Not saying the allegations are false. It wouldn’t surprise me, to be honest. That would seem a suitable temptation for anyone who does extensive travel.
If true, how heart-breaking! No wonder Christians are mocked!
Thanks for your thoughts,
Michael, I really can’t comment on the particulars of the case because I honestly haven’t read up on it. But like you, it strikes me as something that certainly could be the case and, if true, then appalling. The one thing I don’t like is all of this coming out after his death—but that may also be a function of his ability to keep things covered up while he was alive.
Envy and Covetousness
Why do you use “envy” instead of “covetousness” when speaking about the sinful impulse behind Marxism? I’m assuming that either 1) you are using them synonymously or 2) you are intentionally using “envy” for its connotation. If 2, could you explain that? Thanks!
Nathan, it is #2. I believe that envy is a kind of malevolent covetousness. It wants what the other person has, but the additional element is the willingness to destroy it for everyone if denied.
In response to your post And So, Children, Let’s Review:
I think Christians and other conservatives ought to properly share some sympathies with commies when it comes to the problems of wealth inequality, even if we’re radically opposed to the commies’ main proposed solutions. “Wealth, like suffrage, must be considerably distributed, to sustain a democratic republic; and hence, whatever draws a considerable proportion of either into a few hands, will destroy it. As power follows wealth, the majority must have wealth or lose power.” John Taylor of Caroline
Eric, I actually agree with this entirely. But there is a distinction between income inequality, in itself, and grotesque wealth riding on the back of grinding poverty. Every Christian should want to alleviate the latter. But if you have nine millionaires and one billionaire, you have striking income disparity, but no real hardship and no injustice. That was the kind of thing I was talking about.