Note: the topics addressed in the letters are really all over the place, and so I have done minimal work in trying to group them. I pretty much just have a title for every letter. If this is a problem for you, you can take it up with my session.Show Outline with Links
RE: The Coming Collapse of Secular Man This post reminded of two passages I read just last night to my children from The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis. The first is the passage in which the Ape says that Aslan and Tash are the same, just from different perspectives. The second is when the mice and rabbits come to give Rilian food and drink while he is tied up to the tree for calling out the Ape’s lie as a damnable lie, and then saying that Aslan is most definitely not Tash. The woodland creatures know their king is good, and they know they need to give him food and drink, but they are so bamboozled by the Ape that they cannot recognize a false Aslan and a false prophet when they see one. I think this is the case for a lot of Christians; they have been so bamboozled by the culture (and by some our own great apish evangelical thought-leaders) that they cannot recognize the truth. Thus, when the time comes to stand up for Christ and the truth, they skitter away like mice and rabbits and proceed to close their churches for a year and/or worship God with masked faces.
“There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths.” Fred Nietzsche. Death and taxes however, could not be reached for comment.
Yet Fred, somehow, is dead.
Jason, yes. Somehow.
A Lewis Question
Been following your blog and your you tube vids and much of what you have offered for bout a year now. Much has been a blessing to me and my wife. I am not sure which post this would fit in so I am just writing a general question as I think it would fit into many posts regarding salvation and election and much Calvinistic thinking, etc.
I know you like and admire the writings and thought of C.S. Lewis as do I, so I wondered your thoughts on his quote in Mere Christianity: “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ. We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.”
Does this mean that a tribe somewhere who never heard or was exposed to the gospel, or people group prior to Christ’s coming may be saved even never accepting Christ as we commonly think of it? Or is this something that is weaved into the predestined election process?
Mike, I so know that I differ with Lewis on how common this might be, but I am content with the language of the Westminster Confession. It says that outside the church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation (WCF 25.2). We know from Scripture that there is a real and pressing need for missions, while at the same time it seems to me impudent to lay down rules for God if He wants to save someone outside the means He has ordinarily appointed.
The Old Illinois Problem
Thankful to the Lord for your unashamed boldness for Christ and His Word. I don’t have a response to any post, although I frequently listen to both your podcasts, have books by you and Rachel, and read your blog. My husband and I respect your wisdom and commitment to biblical truth, no matter the cost. With that said, we need biblical counsel.
We understand that, ideally, one would be able to seek biblical counsel from wise, God-fearing family members or church elders/overseers, however, unfortunately, our situation is a little different. We currently live in southern Illinois, and while better than northern, it’s still Illinois and terrible all around and is likely to get worse. By God’s grace, our eyes were opened and we recently left our woke, liberal, man-centered building of a “church” and now attend a faithful church, but have only recently started attending. My husband has a great job and we currently rent an apartment. Again, by God’s grace, we have three kids with one on the way and will officially start homeschooling this fall, as the youngest just turned 5. As far as family, my husband is from a broken home but we have a relationship with his dad and step mom and see them a couple times a year. They say they want us near them, but make it very clear they don’t want us around too long or too much and they constantly tell us how crazy we are for “having more kids.” His biological mom travels for work for a living. As for my side, I have not seen and we have barely communicated with them in the last 6 years. My husband and I have attempted reconciliation, but they are currently not willing. Needless to say, family relationships are very strained.
We listened to your podcast about relocating and we have been praying and reading in the Word and truly feel like we need to get out of Illinois for multiple reasons. However, since our family is not close is it wrong for us to move away from them? We are considering Texas and Florida; both areas we are looking in we have been searching for a biblical church first and have found them (using the Founders-Friendly Churches site and have a list of questions we ask) my husband works in the medical field and has opportunities, and we would be homeschooling. But we would be 12-14 hours away from family. We are currently only 4 hours away from my husband’s dad and step mom. We do not want to fail at honoring our parents and do not want to fail at caring for our extended families, but we have a sense of urgency to move to a state where we can raise our children in the instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
We appreciate your thoughts and understand you are very likely inundated with messages and if you are unable to respond, we completely understand. Thank you again for your time!
Sarah, your primary responsibility is for your kids, and you have a true but secondary responsibility to honor your parents. When it comes down to hard choices, you have direct responsibility for your children. That said, there is not reason why you cannot move from Illinois, which I would recommend, and still honor your folks.
Bahnsen and Civil Disobedience
Hi Doug! What are your thoughts on Greg Bahnsen’s answer to the question of civil disobedience below?
I believe that king Jesus gives us the limits of our freedom, defines our justice, and the obligations of our leaders. But it will not be a surprise to you, it’s a sad fact, that most political leaders in our day and throughout history have not respected or fully and consistently respected the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ on these matters.
Jesus is not surprised by that either. He’s the Lord over history, not only morally but also sovereignly, he’s decreed the end from the beginning, and knowing that this would be the case, Jesus also gives instructions to his followers, what they are to do when those ministers in the state do not live up to their obligations to him as the King of kings and the Lord or lords.
And Jesus declares in his word that we are not to be revolutionaries, that is not our approach, we do not resort to arms or to civil disobedience to bring about his will in the world.
The only time that we may resort to disobedience, and sometimes have to do so violently, is when we are defending ourselves against unjust oppression and when the civil government tells us to violate the law of God. Listen to the last sentence, when the civil government tells us to violate the law of God.
Many Christians today, I know that they are well meaning but they are still confused here, many Christians have taken that to mean that we may disobey the government when it violates the law of God. That’s a different matter isn’t it? The government violates the law of God and I want to get rid of it and hopefully I have the freedom to vote for another government and so forth, but when the government violates the law of God that doesn’t give me the freedom to violate the law of God and to act in a revolutionary and disobedient way.
But when the government comes to me and says that I personally am to do something that would be contrary to God’s will in my life, either transgressing a prohibition or preventing me from following my Christian duty, then I have the right to obey God rather than men. And it’s my conviction that’s the only time under which we can engage in civil disobedience: in self defense and in order to obey the higher law of God in our own personal lives.
From – Political Wrongs and Crown Rights; Lecture: Q and A Session.
David, I agree with this completely. Our approach is to be reformational, not revolutionary. When we are addressing abuses, we first declare or preach against them. At the second tier, we evade or flee. Jesus said when you are persecuted in one city, flee to the next. And then last, when you are cornered, you refuse to comply. If you have the means to defend yourself, you may, but only in defense.
What is Woke?
My daughter has sent to me a forward on your article John Piper and the Fire in the Attic. Within the context of the article you use the word “woke” forgive me, I do not know the me meaning of the word but I still don’t know exactly what the word is referring to. Will you please tell me.
I would like a clear picture of your meaning.
That’s sad I appreciated the rest of the article very much and look forward to future articles.
NJ, woke has become a shorthand way of describing those who claim to have had their eyes opened to all the different ways our white and hetero-normative society is oppressing them. Their issues are many—race, class, sex, gender, and so on. If someone is woke, you can think of them as a commie.
I just listened to your post on YouTube entitled “The Integrated Life.” I am in tears as I write this—holding back a deluge. I am a 64-year-old who, along with my husband, raised five children in a Christian home. I realized about 7 years ago that I did that with very little grace and much legalism. I sat them down all together and apologized and repented. The oldest is 40 and the youngest is 28, and one of the five is living her life for Jesus, one is carried off into a very liberal theology, one knows he “needs to,” but loves his life the way it is. The other two aren’t apparently interested at all. Listening to your teaching made me really sad all over again. It’s too late for me to change how I did it, and I have vehemently repented to them. My husband and I pray for them every night by name—now with three in-laws and four granddaughters added to the mix. Two of my granddaughters are being raised with no thought nor talk of Jesus; however their parents are allowing me to teach them a Bible study every Sunday night. I am so grateful for that and know better now. You must have come across parents like ourselves who were caught up in the do’s and don’t’s with very little grace. Any suggestions? Thank you so much for your diligence and obedience. And thank you for your sense of humor! I love that! Blessings,
Susan, thank you, and please be encouraged. As my father taught me to say, God takes us from where we are, not from where we should have been. There are many things about this that cannot be changed, but one thing can be—and that is your demeanor, your peace, and your joy. Your central task should be to walk in the grace of Christ, letting Him overhaul you (and there will be painful moments yet). But believe me, if things were as rough for the kids growing up as you say, the transformation in you will not go unnoticed by them.
A Single Pastor
I am a young, single Baptist pastor from the frozen, socialist wasteland of Canada (forgive me on both counts). I have a few questions that I hope you can answer, as my research has been found lacking. In our shared Reformed tradition, what is our view on single pastors? What exhortation can you give to a pastor who is currently in the proverbial thicket of singleness? Further, what resources (if any) would be of help to me in this area of inquiry?
Thank you for reading this (I trust, anyway). Is there anyway or specific area in your life I can be praying for you?
Your brother in Christ, by the power of the gospel,
Brian, you can be praying for us that we would handle the growth of the ministry here in all wisdom. As far as being a single pastor goes, assuming you are not gifted with celibacy, I would just say these three things. First, prioritize getting married. It should be the first thing on your prayer list. Second, don’t use your pastoral office as a means to that end (e.g. as a means of applying pressure to a young lady). And third, mortify every form of sexual sin in your life. As Paul told Timothy, flee from immorality.
You probably get a lot of messages, so I guess the odds of you having time to engage with this are rather small, anyway, its worth a shot.
I am not interacting with any of your posts, rather I am asking if you could perhaps write something on drugs and Christianity. Let me explain; as a second-year student I have found myself in multiple situations where I am interacting with other young people around the topic of drugs, namely marijuana, mushrooms, and other substances with psychedelic/mind altering effects. As I have not tried any of these things myself (despite a fair amount of peer pressure) I am slightly at loss with how to communicate to these people (mostly atheist/agnostic) about this. I also am struggling to fit all of this in with a Christian worldview. I don’t know anyone who can answer the questions that both I and these “friends” of mine have. For example: what does a Christian do when it comes to these “other realms of consciousness” that are available through these substances? What do I say when others tell me it “brings them closer to god” (whatever god means to them)? How do I promise better experiences with faith in God when God seems much less real (less tangibly present) than those experiences?
Also, what is the best reason I can offer for NOT partaking in these activities? (I have my reasons, but sometimes they don’t seem quite good enough…).
These are only the start of all the questions around this topic. It’s become such a huge thing with young people all over the world, and the amount of wise, biblical council on this is less than tiny.
It’s either pastors who have no understanding of the secular world and young hedonistic culture, or it’s young hedonists who think that Christians (including me) are boring, stuck up, with closed minds and no room to enjoy life.
In a crazy world, I’ve found your posts/sermons/podcasts to have an encouraging ring of truth to them, even though sometimes it’s not what I want to hear. If there’s any way you could sometime in the future shed some light on this topic, I (and probably quite a few others) would be grateful.
It’s a controversial topic, but you seem to like those…
Milena, as it happens, I have recently turned in a manuscript to Canon Press for a small book called Devoured by Cannabis. It should be out this year, and it will address all your basic questions.
Regarding “When Leaders Let You Down.” Thank you for providing the mental head slap we needed at a time like this. It’s hard enough to be a righteous judge. Nearly impossible to do it from afar when digital courage deceives us into believing we’re near.
Additional insights in future posts are appreciated.
Sage, thank you.
First of all, thank you for being a consistent voice of reason and faithfulness and for embracing all of what the Bible teaches, even the more culturally difficult passages. Your commitment to Scripture has been a source of stability and clarity in the years I’ve followed you.
Regarding your post “When Leaders Let You Down” and the question you posed of “How long do I stay and fight”, I was hoping to get some advice. I’ve attended my church for almost a decade and have always overlooked a few seeds of wokeness, but some troubling fruit has been made apparent this last year. In-person gatherings were suspended for about three months in 2020 and the church continues falling over itself to appease anyone with an ounce of COVID-fear: mandatory masks, forced distancing, evacuate sanctuary ASAP after service, etc. This, along with questionable commentary on race, has weighed on my conscience and I’ve recently stepped out of all leadership roles I held in the church and am searching around for other faithful congregations for me and my wife to attend. I’ve been meeting with the elders to voice my concerns—I want to respect them and give them a fair hearing but also share the red flags I see.
Here are a few of the questions I’m asking to evaluate how big the woke-fruit have grown:
-Would the church stop meeting if the city/state asked? What about enforcing double-masks?
-What metrics are being referenced in order to relax safety measures? Have any lines been drawn?
-How do the elders define racism? How do we pursue reconciliation?
If you had a few questions I could add to assess if it’s worth it to stick it out and try and affect change or if we’re better off going to another church, I would greatly appreciate it!
Scott, it seems to me from what you describe that it is time to find another church. The fear is unseemly, but the woke stuff is deadly. But I would also ask them if they as a session would be willing to read and study published materials that are critical of critical theory.
Thanks for the App
Just wanna say thank you for the Canon App and the free month… AND the reasonable price for a monthly subscription. So, thank you. (I don’t work at Canon if anyone wonders)
JP, thank you. The general response to the app, for those interested, has been a roaring success. And many more resources are coming.
A Question about Military Service
I live in San Diego, Ca and am currently 11 years into my military service. I am married with two children and own a home. As you can imagine, times have changed since I joined. Conservative values, once esteemed, are now scorned and even mocked at times. Liberalism is all but the dominate ideology in the military, and even in my community (Naval Special Warfare) it has taken hold. I deeply desire to be obedient to God’s Word and wise in all that I do. My hope was to make it to 20 years in order to provide a stable environment for my family financially and eventually leave California for greener pastures. However, as of late, it is becoming increasingly evident that my quest might be impossible. Recently the COVID-19 vaccine has emerged as an immediate threat to my convictions. The vaccine is not mandatory as of this minute, however, it is obvious that it will eventually be “forced” on me through threat of being non-deployable, essentially rendering me incapable of doing my job. I have three primary concerns regarding this vaccine. First, the aborted babies that the vaccines were made from and tested on. Secondly, I believe it is nothing but a propagandist tool of the left. Lastly, there’s no long term research on the health affects. All this being said, what do you believe is the best way forward? Is this the hill that I die on or are there external factors and/or other biblical commands and wisdom that trump my convictions above? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
Charles, yes. It appears to me that the military is going woke, and, given the structure of the military, it is in more of a position to enforce it. Of course, I don’t know for sure, but if I were in your position, I would be looking for a good exit ramp.
Serving on a School Board?
Thank you for your work and ministry. You have been an example and an encouragement to me. While being exposed to your family series in 2001 while at The Master’s Seminary, I have come to especially benefit from your tongue and pen in these last 10 years of pastoral ministry in small church in the South. I primarily minister to Marine Corp Families and need more of your straight talk about practical religion. But I write for your advice about serving on a Classical Christian School board. Apologies for the length of background. (Though, as a pastor and preacher I believe in backgrounds.) My church is decidedly Dutch in our soteriology (T.U.L.I.P. is beloved position) but we are also credo-baptists aiming to be consistent. Thus we are not like any baptist churches around us. We practice a nouthetic model of counseling that we offer to the community. Add to this is our committed cessationism. I am, and as a church, we are strangers in our land. (Though not as strange as you guys would be here.) Our elders are united and persuaded on the need for Christian education though we are not united on Classical Christian Education. Personally, I have been classically home-educating my children, while most in our church homeschool. With these distinctives I and my church tries to be catholic and fundamentalists (the Machen type). We have worked with OPC, PCA and SBC churches in our area on different ministries. I have enrolled my middle two children in a ACCS school in a city 50 minutes away from my home. I plan to enroll my last child when he is old enough. I am happy with the school and I am convinced of Classical Christian Education in a school setting if possible. I am leveraging my retirement to make it happen for my children. I would like to start a school in my city in two years. I tell you this to illustrate my experience and commitment to Classical Christian education. But here is my question for you: My children’s present ACCS school asked me to sit on the school board. Should I accept a position on this school’s board given my disagreement with their choice of Novara Science?The school presently uses Novara Science for their high school science curricula. This is a problem I have not addressed because my children are not in high school yet and I hope for our church to start a school in 2 years. There is more to my question. The school is primarily supported by pastors and members of two Southern Baptist Churches and one PCA church. The PCA church’s pastor is “Woke.” He is an adjunct teacher of Bible at the school. His wife and daughter also have teaching and administrative roles in the school. The PCA church has the most weight to throw around in the faculty and staff of the school. The PCA church is not addressing his position though it has been brought up. I don’t know how the PCA deals with things like this, but as fundy, baptistic pastor, I just deal with things directly. Consequently, I have not done well in political ministry settings. I fight instead of compromising on my convictions. Sitting on a board with women and people with a woke pastor is not what I have been trained to do well. I was trained to pastor through preaching exposition, counseling nouthetically and discipling Marines. Thus, should I take a place on the board? Thank you, sir.
Will, I would recommend against taking a place on the school board. If it were just the Novara issue, I would accept the offer after you had notified everybody that you would be working to get rid of that text. But the woke issues are most likely out of the lymph nodes and pervasive throughout the body. I would concentrate your efforts on getting your own school started, and with firewalls against this kind of thing built in.
Random Question about Baptism
Greetings Pastor Wilson, I just finished reading chapter 19 in ‘”Reformed” Is Not Enough’, and it got me wondering whether or not a thought of mine was worthwhile. So, I’m dumping this potentially worthless idea in front of you. In 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 10 we are told that the waters of the great Flood, and the waters of the Red Sea were baptismal waters. I noticed that in both places, when unbelievers were plunged into these baptismal waters (immersed, no less) they were drowned and damned. Is there any merit in thinking that the baptismal waters are the effectual waters of drowning? The problem I see so far with my thought is that the pre-Flood World and the Egyptians soldiers were not covenant-breakers, because they were never in the covenant. I would love your input.
Warren, I think there is something to it. Baptism is simultaneously condemnation of sin and salvation from sin. And Noah’s flood was both. There are some aspects of this that don’t fit, but that is all right because a type (or metaphor, or symbol) is not intended to do everything.
I recently discovered your podcasts and am much happier than the ecstatic state I was already in ! What is the difference between “Blog and Mablog” and Plodcast?
Evan, always glad to add to somebody’s ecstasy! The Blog and Mablog podcast is simply my audio recording of posts that I publish here. I usually read the ones from Monday and Wednesday. The Plodcast is more of a regular podcast, with running features—commentary on current events, study of biblical words for sin, and book reviews.
I’m part of a church that’s a bit late in promoting Christian education to the congregation. Part of our effort to catch up is setting up a scholarship fund for church members, but we’re not sure exactly how to start. Do you have any recommendations for resources or books that cover church scholarship funds?
Sean, I am sorry but I don’t know of any literature on that. In our case, we simply created a line item in our church’s Deacon’s Fund, called it the Christian Education Fund, and asked our deacons to administer it along with their other duties.
No Prophetic Powers Needed
I’m really impressed you published the Ravi Zacharias story 8 years before it broke in Evangellyfish.
Talk about gift of prophecy, sure you’re not Charismatic?
David, I am pretty sure I am not charismatic. These things happen pretty regularly, and all you need are eyes in your head. In fact, after Evangellyfish was published, we shopped it around and got some pretty entertaining rejection letters. Things like “this is pretty funny, but we better not.” Another rejected it because it was “sensational.” And right after that rejection, the whole Ted Haggard scandal broke, which put my fictional account in the shade.
It’s easy to see the parallels of current political and religious movements to the Social Gospel of the early 20th century. We like to point out that mankind cannot create a heaven on earth and utopian dreams are unrealistic. How do we distinguish those efforts, however, from our own efforts to renew culture and rebuild civilization? Are you and Tim Keller doing the same thing, just with different methods, or is there a deeper difference? (replying to every blog post ever written)
Dana, the problem with the social gospel approach is that they left the gospel out of it, which is like leaving the Spirit out of the fruit of the Spirit. Tim Keller holds to the gospel, but I believe that he has anemic views regarding how much of an impact the gospel should have on the surrounding culture. I believe that the calls to repentance need to go down to the bedrock of our rebellion.
In last week’s letters column (2/16, “Many Letters, None of Which Urged Us to Kill the Wabbit”), you responded to Colby’s question about government authority (“Shamdemic”) saying, “the biblical principle is that in a fallen world, no human authority is absolute. It can be genuine authority without being ultimate authority.”
This reminded me of what my Arminian friends say about God’s sovereignty. They affirm that God is genuinely sovereign, but that he exercises his sovereignty in a way that is not absolute. Calvinists typically respond along the lines that if God is not sovereign over absolutely everything, then he is not truly sovereign. Your comment was specifically about human authority in a fallen world, which is an important qualification, but I wonder if you could comment further about the (mis)application of the principle that God could have “genuine sovereignty without it being absolute sovereignty.”
(Similar thoughts could be applied to the “liberal Christian” assertion that the Bible carries “genuine authority without being [the] ultimate authority.”)
Steve, authority and responsibility go together. If God created all things out of nothing, knowing what would come of it, He is responsible for it. And if He is responsible for it, He has authority over it. Limited authority makes sense for humans because we are limited. Limited authority for an absolute being is, I believe, nonsensical.
I am a relatively new follower of your blog and wanted to ask you about a topic related to several recent posts. I was wondering if you could comment on an article that was sent to me in response to the question of diversity and representation within church congregations. I know several people who would probably agree with the sentiment shared by the author of this article (who I think is a pastor from Ohio), but the article itself seems to make several assumptions linked to Critical Race Theory. However, I feel that this line of thinking has permeated through several church congregations and certain aspects of it are not biblical. Do you have thoughts on what this author is putting forth here?
Katie, I have no problem with some aspects of this. We do identify with people who are more like us in certain respects, and so on. But this should be a minor concern, at most. If our basic identity is in Christ and His Word, we should prefer to be with people who don’t look like we do, but who honor God the way we should want to. And it is a short step from this kind of thinking to accusations of “racism,” directed at churches that don’t have enough diversity on the elder board. And the fact that the church is located in northern Alberta is not thought to be a reasonable defense.
Always Time for a Wodehouse Question
You often mention PG Wodehouse, but I’ve never read anything by him. Do you have any recommendations of where to start with him?
Anthony, I would start with either Leave It to Psmith or Code of the Woosters.
Your piece on “John Piper and the Fire in the Attic” declares his *God Is the Gospel* the best piece of devotional theology you have read. But, according to this article in CT yesterday, John Piper is neither a reliable nor a competent theologian, doncha know. (Or could it be that CT is no longer a competent organ of evangelical discourse?)
Don, I would go with the latter as a safer bet.
The Unmarried and Marriage
While I don’t think the boosters of early marriage and fruitfulness are guilty of idolizing marriage, I do think the whole Reformed world does a lousy job of ministering to people who are in their 30s, 40s, and later, who are single, not because they want to be, but because hard providences, or persistent consequences of bad choices, or both, have made them unattractive marriage partners. Some men and women are single into middle age, not because they want to be, or because they are lazy about seeking marriage, but because they’re not a good option for anyone else who is a good option. One of the temptations for both men and women (but especially men) in this position to see their sex drives as a curse, because they have the same urges as married men and women, but they can’t make any lawful or productive use of their sexuality. It seems like the church doesn’t know what to do with these people, and has no helpful words for them.
Daniel, yes. This is a real problem. My point has been that we need to face the problem realistically. It won’t go away simply because you start calling singleness “a gift.”
Thank you for all the amazing content. I grew up independent, fundamental Baptist and you just about have me reformed and postmill. I love the local mission you have in Moscow. Do you send out church plants? We have a huge need in Portsmouth, NH. Very similar to Moscow. Not too big, college nearby, close to big cultural center (Boston) and hardly any churches. Please spread the wealth! Thanks again!
Andrew, we have done some church plants, but we need to keep them closer to home. I wish we could do more.