The Crackle of Envy
Superb post on envy as one of the big sources of the darkness of this present world system. One of the things about believing that Christ died for my sin is that I have to believe He died for everybody else’s sins too. I can be content with God’s smaller provision for me, knowing that the evils of the robber baron can be forgiven through Calvary. And bravo! That’s the answer to all the isms that are poisoning the well these days—racism and Marxism and you-name-it-ism.
But if there are sins out there that were not included in the particular atonement. then there’s a lot of stuff that’s unforgiven and cannot ever be resolved no matter how faithfully and authoritatively preachers proclaim the cross.
Filed under the heading of “He who says A must also say B,” I just can’t see any rational way a particular atonement is good news for a world polluted with envy.
Stephen, interesting argument. But flip it around. A universal atonement is simply potential forgiveness, not actual. In order to be “activated,” the person involved must repent, which means that forgiveness can be withheld until they do. So I would prefer to say that Christ secured the forgiveness of all the elect, and in His sovereign wisdom withheld from us the knowledge of who they all are, and told us to treat all unbelievers the same.
I’d like to start studying history (specifically American history and the world wars and things from the last 200yrs) but I fear unknowingly using books/resources that don’t tell the whole truth or are just plain incorrect. How can I go about finding history books/resources that are trustworthy?
It seems like there are four books that could be read alongside Trueman’s Modern Self, all of which sounded the alarm decades, even a century, earlier. Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, Phlip Reiff’s The Rise of the Therapeutic, Rushdooney’s Politics of Guilt and Pity, and Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self. This is leaving a smattering of Lewis and Chesterton to the side. . It would be useful to synthesize Trueman with these older works, commenting on insights from reading them in aggregate. Or, more ambitiously, aggregate these men and offer a biblical view of the Self as an antidote to the heretical view their useful critiques identify. Better still, show how the heretical view their critiques identify are in fact heretical. Write something useful for candidates and credentials committees.
Tomas, thanks much.
Baptism Keeps Coming Up
Hello—I’m a Reformed Baptist in the process of reforming a bit more. I find the arguments for paedobaptism, quite compelling, although not entirely persuasive yet (like I said, still reforming). As I was discussing the perennial issue with another Baptist brother, a question that came up was this: If, under the New Covenant, baptism is the fulfillment of the sign of circumcision, why do we bother baptizing girls?
I found this question humorous, but nonetheless puzzling. Perhaps you can provide me a satisfactory answer. Thank you!
Nathan, great question actually. We baptize men and women both, first, because we find it in the New Testament (Acts 8:12). But if we go on to ask why the wisdom of God saw fit to expand the application of the sign, I would argue that it is in keeping with the universalization of the new covenant. Circumcision was the sign of entry into the priestly and representative people of God, while baptism is the sign of entry into the universal or catholic people of God. And so it is that your daughters will prophesy (Acts 2:17).
Question About Background
This is not related to a post, just an advice question. My son started dating a lady who grew up in a non/anti-Christian home. Her mother has been wiccan and her father and his/their girlfriend are just antagonistic to our faith (yes, her mother and father are still married, but polyamorously). To make a long story short, she attended our [church’s] inquirers class and a year later, after having interacted with our son and my wife and I, accepted the faith and was baptized. My concern is how to grow her in the faith. All our experience has been growing up in the faith (I don’t remember a time in my life before I was a Christian, and I knew my grandparents and 3 great-grandparents as strong Christians); all my friends and relatives have been Christians. What resources would be good for my son to grow her into the fine Christian mother to grandchildren that are planned after they get married (ah, the ulterior motive on my part!)? But, seriously, we would like to see her grow in the faith and are only experienced in raising up children from birth to be Christians. My son and his girlfriend, soon to be fiancé, are in their mid 20s. I spoke to our pastor with this question and he was encouraging, but mainly said teach her the Shorter Catechism. While I think that is a good start, I guess I was hoping for more. Would you be able to advise me?
David, thanks for the wonderful story. What a glorious problem to have. The Shorter Catechism is good, but I would put it alongside some practical teaching on the nuts and bolts of living like a Christian. Something like this.
Stickergate: Lots of us are concerned for your son and grandsons, given the legal harassment by the City of Moscow.
Are there any updates on “Stickergate”? Thanks.
Jack, thank you for checking. The case is dragging on, and various motions to dismiss are on the table. Don’t worry—if anything definitive happens, we will publicize it loudly.
A Tourism Site?
At the urging of my wife, I started listening to your podcast. More people need to hear what you have to say, and I would like to help in my way. I have started a company setting up tourism websites for smaller towns. If you have any interest, I would like to post an ad/link to your podcast (or whatever site you choose). This is completely free and I ask nothing in return. You can review the types of sites I create at visitrogersville.com; this is our inaugural site and the site meets your approval, you can send me a 300×300 dpi image or I can create one for you (at no charge of course). Thank you and God Bless.
Stewart, thanks, and nice work. Please feel free to create a site for Moscow. But any tourists who come should be aware that not everybody here thinks we are wonderful . . . just yesterday a lady on the street passed me with the comment that I was a “scourge on our town.”
From several directions now I have had the TV series “The Chosen” recommended to me glowingly. Most recently by a dear friend and older lady who is has been repeatedly insistent it is something I need to partake of, and promptly.
I explained to her with a sort of gentle vagueness my Second Commandment concerns, but the issue is now standing between us somewhat. More than that, even, I have realized I need to spend some time buttressing up my theology on the matter, because the show doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon; neither do the friend’s invitations into the fanclub.
I have perused a few confessions (Westminster, Heidelberg), read a few church fathers (Owen: “In this way Roman Catholics are deceived. They delight outwardly in images of Christ depicting his sufferings, resurrection and glory. By these images they think their love for him grows more and more strong. But no man-made image can truly represent the person of Christ and his glory. Only the gospel can do that . . .”), then dug up an article of yours from a while back (Ten Theses on Icons of Jesus). All of which seem to reinforce my suspicion that fictional or artistic depictions of Christ are no bueno, or at the very least, should be handled with supreme reverence. The movie “Ben-hur” comes to mind, where even Hollywood had the good sense to only show His hands and feet, and perish the thought of putting words in His mouth.
Which is another concern altogether, I suppose. Hearing fictional dialogue written by men in the mouth of the Lord makes me quail a little.
All to say, I may be coddling my own conscience (I know mature Christians who have no problem with films like this one and The Passion, etc, and as something of a new believer myself I don’t want to come across as over-confident), and I definitely don’t have a good sense of how strongly to press a sweet elderly Pentecostal church lady into looking hard at her theological presuppositions, even if she’s pressing me to look hard at my own.
(I’m also aware that you may have addressed this sort of topic at length before, in which case I will keep digging through the archives and spare you the repetition.)
With much gratitude for your work, your time, and your wisdom,
Dear Jolee, I think that your instincts are right, and I would echo the quote from Owen you provided. I have not treated the subject in great depth, but there is a section on images and such here. Actors who think they are up to the challenge of portraying Jesus remind of that vaudeville lion thing as Aslan for the early BBC production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Is Rome the Big Threat?
America’s Stony Heart. Hello Mr. Wilson! I believe that the single greatest idol in America is false religion, disguising itself as Christianity. At the top of this list would be the Romish “church” which has taken over our country head to toe. It is here we must look—at the ecumenism with Rome; that Great Harlot and Antichrist. This false religious and political system is an affront to Christ, yet many professing Christians see no problem yoking themselves to it for the sake of ‘culture’. This is an abomination to the LORD.
Lara, thanks for writing. I yield to no one in the strength of my Protestant convictions, but if you believe that Rome is the great threat of the moment, I am afraid that that two of us are living on different planets.
A Pointed Question
I hope this message finds you well and in good spirits. I have a practical question to ask which has me on the rocks.
I will be moving my wife and child soon to further my education. The greatest factor in this move will be a solid local church. There is a CREC church close to our parents which seems to be a good fit, but it is closely associated with Theopolis. I have serious misgivings about Theopolis—namely, their conceptions of ecumenism and regeneration.
In your opinion, does the CREC umbrella retain enough Reformational substance that I can be confident in taking my family to a church associated with Theopolis?
To put it another way: If your kids were babies, and you had to choose between an empathetic baptist church, a typical PCA church, and a Theopolis-CREC church, which church would you take your family to for the indefinite future?
James, of course there are many unmentioned variables here, but I will take the question in the spirit you raised it. There are churches associated with Theopolis that are fine Christian churches, and so I would have no problems worshiping there with them. If I wound up in such a church, I would expect to be teaching my children how to answer the concerns raised in the two areas you mention. But CREC churches do practice discipline, they do have a backbone, and where they are not “Calvinistic,” it is because they are Augustinian. Having said all this, it is also possible that I might find a church home that was a better fit for our family that was not in the CREC—but I would expect such a church to have good fellowship with the CREC church. There. That’s my ecumenism.
I would love to see your long-form thoughts on David Platt’s book “Radical.” I’ve nearly finished and have strongly conflicting thoughts.
On one level, it’s a much needed rebuke to the comfortable, lazy, possibly-reprobate Evangelical church. But on another level it is a foundational misunderstanding and constriction of the Great Commission and a repudiation of God’s good gifts. I feel like I can’t recommend the book except alongside Joe Rigney’s “The Things of Earth.” Platt condenses the Great Commission to external missions (somehow, spreading the Gospel is only meritorious if it happens outside the believer’s native area) and completely neglects any discussion of building a Christian society. To top it all off, he (repeatedly) ties agreement with his understanding to the veracity of the reader’s Christian profession. True, he tries to back off from that, but then goes right back to doubting the reader’s profession if they disagree.
I want to remain open to the Spirit’s leading, but also don’t want to fall into a pompous asceticism that throws God’s gifts back in His face.
I’d love to see your thoughts on this. I’ve met many good, sincere people for whom this book is very important. In many cases, it has caused them to embark on a very sad course of works-righteousness where the holiness of the believer is inversely proportional to the amount of things they have. And curiously, it’s always the big, sentimental things (wedding ring of 50 years, for example) that get sold, not the electric can opener or the riding lawn mower.
Samuel, thanks. I’ve not read the book, but suspect that I would have similar concerns to yours.
Dawkins Getting Canceled
Richard Dawkins used to loom very large in public discourse, at least in some areas. A super prominent public atheist and evolutionist, if nothing else. I was wondering if you had noticed this development—and if you had any comment on it.
Greg, I had heard something about it. Of course, Dawkins is right in the moment, but philosophically naive. The trans people are being more consistent with the atheistic premise—if it is evolution “all the way down,” then there is no such thing as a biological nature to violate.
This is a general question, please, regarding your use of the KJV.
I mainly read and memorize out of the KJV largely because I was raised on it and I’m in my 60’s and it is confusing to memorize out of other versions, so I stick with it, and continue reading this version in order to become more and more familiar with it (though sometimes reading other versions), but I know there are other good, more solid reasons for still using the KJV.
My question is prompted by my new little grandson.
Do you teach your children/grandchildren out of the KJV? . . . and quote from and have them memorize from the KJV?
If so, how do you “bridge” the “archaic language” gap (e.g. Thee, Thou, etc., etc.), especially nowadays, since the KJV language familiarity has largely disappeared from the general culture (and even church)?
Thanks a lot!
Robert, I preach from the KJV, and so our people are familiar. A number of our people use the NKJV, and I believe that includes a bunch of my grandkids.
A Little Logic
What’s wrong with this syllogism?
1. The Book of Revelation conveys theological information in symbolic, not literal terms.
2. There is a reference to the “thousand year” reign of Christ in the Book of Revelation.
3. Therefore the “thousand year” reign of Christ conveys theological information in symbolic not literal terms.
Thanks & blessings
Brendan of Ireland
Brendan, in order to be translated into a successful syllogism, you would need to ensure that your term “theological information” was distributed. In other words, you would have to start by maintaining that Revelation conveyed theological information in symbolic terms, and in no other way. You would also have to show that the millennium was intended to convey theological information.
Thanks Re: Education
I just wanted to reach out to say that I enjoyed your book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. Our daughter was supposed to go into public school kindergarten this past year (New York State). I was even fighting to keep the schools open at one point (letters and attending rallies). Once we began to see the full extent of what the public education system had become, though, we quickly changed our minds and decided to home school.
We are blessed more than most as my wife was a Christian school teacher, and I work from home and can support her at times. My heart really breaks for all the kids in the city who aren’t even allowed to go to school this past year. They will be so far behind. We have set an entire generation up for failure. I can only imagine how bad it will be when they grow up. It’s terrifying, to say the least.
Our own search for alternative education hasn’t been easy. Over the past year, we considered moving to another state, looked into traditional local Christian schools, and continuing to home school, but nothing seemed right. That was until I learned about Classical Christian education from Rod Dreher. After further investigating it, I discovered your book and Dorothy Sayers’ essay.
It was incredibly insightful, and I can’t believe it’s been almost 30 years since you wrote it. It is still very timely and has been incredibly helpful in our journey of “rediscovering” education. We learned that there is even a Classical Christian school here in Rochester, New York, and were excited to attend an open house. As God leads us, I look forward to finding a way to have my daughter attend and finding ways to help the classical Christian movement. You were right in your book when you said that education is not the Savior; Jesus is. Yet, I would say educational freedom may be our generation’s greatest cause. So much depends on it!
All the best,
Jim, thanks very much, and blessings on your journey.
Civil Government and the Fall
Re: Would There Have Been Civil Government Without the Fall? Of course there would. God loves hierarchy. Patrick O’Brian (!):
Rob, thanks much.
Involuntary Church Planters
Thanks for all your writing and preaching. God has used it graciously in my life and in my family’s life. My question relates to an amalgamation of “letters” I have read this past year and also in relation to your encouragement to Christians who are seeing our country fall apart. My question is two-fold, you’ve encouraged people to start churches or pray about starting them . . . how would you start one or counsel someone to start one today? Are there specific resources you would recommend for a “church planter”?
The second part of my question relates more to the method in light of the seeming persecution and challenges the Church is facing here in the US and the growth of that, barring God’s divine intervention. Should a new church have a “public” appearance or be focused on home/house church in order to be proactive and planning for future forms of persecution? More of secret church style?
Thanks for taking the time to read.
Jeremy, as I have advised people to start a church, it has not been with vocational church planters in mind—where a church trains and sends out a man or group to start a new work. That is straightforward Great Commission work, with us seeking to be obedient. But there are other scenarios, as when persecution scatters the saints, and they go everywhere, taking the gospel with them (Acts 8:1). This helps fulfill the Great Commission also, but the plan is more of an impromptu God thing. So if a family cannot worship because the churches in the area are shut down, they should start worshiping in their living room, and they should welcome other like-minded individuals. As it grows, if it grows, they should take it from there.
From the co-belligerents article: “If you are a Christian college, should you take any kind of federal money for any reason? Of course not, and don’t be silly.” Would this also mean that a K-12 Christian school shouldn’t take the “forgivable” loans offered by the federal government to offset payroll expenses during the faux-pandemic?
Bernard, yes. I would include that kind of thing. The government would love nothing more than to get their hooks into private Christian education K-12, the way they already have with almost all Christian colleges. And that compromise is not going to bode well for us when monstrosities like the Equality Act are finally passed.