Falling on Us Like Epistolary Dew on the Roses of Truth

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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

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.

American History?

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?

Cloe

Cloe, I would start with some of Gary DeMar’s books on it—like this one. Then Gregg Singer’s A Theological Interpretation of American History, and Rushdoony’s This Independent Republic.

Modern Self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

The Chosen

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,

Jolee

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.

In Christ,

Lara

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?

Thanks

James

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.

Radical Enough?

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

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

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.

KJV Question

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

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

Hi Doug,

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

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

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

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.

Taking Money

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

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.

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Jane
Member

Rob, you have company, though I will not say whether it be good company or not. I, too, thought of that bit from O’Brian when I saw the “Would There Have Been Civil Government Without the Fall” article.

Kristina Zubic
Member
Kristina Zubic

Jane, I want to thank you, Rob, and the others who’ve brought the Master and Commander series to my attention. Years ago, I cried when I reached the end of the Hornblower books. Perhaps one can go home again.

James
Guest
James

I have read radical, and I can say that there is little in it to dispel Samuel’s concerns. It is probably an overreaction to the prosperity gospel, and in some ways is the other side of the coin, though it is probably, in comparison to prosperity gospel, the lesser of two evils. Prosperity gospel says that we should give what we have to the rich, and that God will reward us in this life, Platt’s radicalism comes across as saying that we should give what we have to the poor, perhaps until we are poor ourselves, or else we can’t… Read more »

Ken
Guest
Ken

May I gently suggest that if a town needs scourging, then “a scourge on our town” is a Godsend? Jeremiah didn’t win a lot of popularity contests in his day.

kyriosity
Member

A scourge is a whip. Now who do we know who used one of those to clear out some corruption? 🤔

Zeph
Guest
Zeph

David, after you finish the book that Doug recommended, I would encourage biographies of people who have been led to the Lord out of different religions. It can be helpful because, if this woman becomes your daughter in law, she still has to deal with her parents. She can learn from how others have had to deal with this even if their circumstances aren’t the same.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Lara, I think that if there was ever a time in the US when Catholic politicians took their marching orders from the bishops and the pope, that day has long gone. These days, Catholic Dems ignore the bishops on abortion and LGBT; Catholic Republicans ignore the bishops on capital punishment and immigration. When I was young, movie studios did almost anything to avoid the dreaded Condemned rating on a film because that meant most Catholics would refuse to see it. Hollywood deferred to clerical sensibilities and Catholics deferred to the hierarchy. I don’t think there’s much deference coming from any… Read more »

Elliot
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Elliot

Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed in 2017, was raised a Catholic but was married in an Anglican Church in the UK and, since his marriage, has attended an Episcopal church.

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

It’s complicated:

Gorsuch’s brother, J.J. Gorsuch, explains: “Neil was raised in the Catholic Church and confirmed in the Catholic Church as an adolescent, but he has been attending Episcopal services for the past 15 or so years.”

Michael Trent, a close boarding school friend of Gorsuch says he believes Gorsuch would consider himself “a Catholic who happens to worship at an Episcopal church.”

The Rev. Susan Springer, St. John’s rector in Boulder said she doesn’t know whether Gorsuch considers himself a Catholic or as an Episcopalian.

(from Are SCOTUS Justice Gorsuch’s Episcopal connections showing?)

Nathan Smith
Member

I’ve got a friend who is Catholic. Nice young lady. Well, I guess we’re both getting near middle-aged now. But anyway, she told me about a date she was on once, the fella tells her the catholic church is the Antichrist. “The date pretty much over then,” she said.

dchammers
Member

Rob, Jane and any other Patrick O’Brian fans: O’Brian seems to have “authority” as recurrent theme in his books. Here is from “H.M.S. Surprise.” (The quote is Dr. Maturin speaking.) “A possible explanation may be this: in addition to professional competence, cheerful resignation, an excellent liver, natural authority and a hundred other virtues, there must be the far rarer quality of resisting the effects, the dehumanizing effects, of the exercise of authority. Authority is a solvent of humanity: look at any husband, any father of a family, and note the absorption of the person by the persona, the individual by… Read more »

Jane
Member

And there is yet another passage where he goes off on how irresistibly corrupting the office of judge is to any man, no matter what his prior character.

I don’t buy Stephen’s attitude which I suspect is a cover for O’Brian’s, but it s interesting. Power has a tendency to corrupt which makes authority dangerous to us mortals, but scripture teaches us about godly authority as well.

kyriosity
Member

Thanks for the reminder to see if the new library I added to my app has these in audio, and they do, so I’ve finally got the first one on my hold list. Been wanting to read them for ages!

Jane
Member

Are you still on Scribd? They have them as well.

kyriosity
Member

Yeah, but they’re so limited in how many I can listen to in a month that I scour the library for titles that they are more likely to have.

Jane
Member

A word of warning: you will not approve of the moral behavior of some of the major characters of the series. But on the flip side, you will not have to endure obvious descriptions of that behavior.

dchammers
Member

Kyriosity, I think there a couple choices of narrators for the O’Brian audiobooks. I would highly, highly recommend Patrick Tull as the reader. This may sound a bit overblown, but hearing Tull read O’Brian is some of the best use of the English language I have come across. The first book in the series, “Master & Commander,” I found to be a wee bit tedious as I felt like I was going to sailing school, and I was. I was engaged enough to push forward and the rewards have been rich. Even O’Brian’s throw-away lines are better than anything else… Read more »

kyriosity
Member

Thanks for the tip on the narrator. I fancy myself a bit of a connoisseur of that art…but I’m probably just a fussbudget. 😉 And I’ll just have to take whichever one the library happens to have.

Jane
Member

I’m an O’Brian Facebook group and Tull is generally considered nonpareil.

dchammers
Member

“In Whitehall, a grey drizzle wept down up the Admiralty, but in Sussex the air was dry – dry and perfectly still. The smoke rose from the chimney of the small drawing-room at Mapes Court in a tall, unwavering plume, a hundred feet before its head drifts away in a blue mist to lie in the hollows of the downs behind the house. The leaves were hanging yet, but only just, and from time to time the bright yellow rounds on the tree outside the window dropped of themselves, twirling in their slow fall to join the golden carpet at… Read more »

Robert
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Robert

Thanks for answering my question about the KJV, pastor Doug.
My preacher and my son’s family’s preacher use the NASB.
But since I have used the KJV all my life I am quoting the KJV to my little grandson.
I guess one way of handling it would be to occasionally replace/translate the “archaic” words with modern and/or explain the meaning in modern language.

Laurel
Guest
Laurel

I think it’s good for children to understand that languages change over time and reading from the KJV is an excellent opportunity to explain that.

Robert
Guest
Robert

Thanks!