Assuming the Center
I think I have read about “assuming the center” in your writings, but I forgot what you mean by it.
From your final statement, I assume you mean living like we believe that Jesus is Lord now. Right?
But, what do you mean by “the center”? Christ reigning at the right hand of the Father? And what is assuming?
Trey, I mean living as though Jesus is Lord, and that we His people have been appointed to rule with Him as kings and priests. The center would be the existing power structures, and anything else that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. We enter into those societies as though we have the authority to tell them that they must submit to the authority of Christ.
Took a Risk With the Elvis Thing
You lost me making fun of Elvis Costello. But up until then you seemed to be making good sense so maybe I’m the problem.
Frank, perhaps we can agree that this was what the apostle had in mind in his discussion of adiaphora.
Theonomy and Resistance
I’m having some difficulty thinking through how Theonomy and, specifically, a Christian theory of resistance can and have been applied at various stages in history. I whole-heartedly believe the statement by John Knox that “resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” I think I can easily back this statement from Scripture. I can see how this idea was promoted during the War for American Independence and, to a lesser extent, the War of Northern Aggression; I cannot, however, see this apply during the early church (circa A.D. 100- 500). I do not see any Christians taking up arms against Nero, Diocletian, or any of the other pagan tyrants. Instead, I see them doing what appears to be the exact opposite of my godly colonial forefathers: they go to the lions with a godly smile on their face without taking up swords to fight against the injustice done by these tyrants who are openly violating God’s Law. What am I missing here? Are modern theories of Christian resistance at odds with the early church?
James, there is no difference in the theology of the thing. The difference had to do with the facts on the ground. When the Reformers were in the same position as the fathers of the early church, they behaved the same way. Tyndale went to a martyr’s death just like Polycarp did. But when Huguenot nobles were converted, one of the things they had at their disposal was . . . armies. What does a threatened Christian leader do with his army? So the Reformers developed a three-stage policy of resistance to tyrannical persecution. First, you preach against the oppression, you testify. Second, you flee, as Jesus instructed us to do. And third, when the first two have proven ineffectual or impossible, and you are in a position to do so, you take up defensive arms. If you are not in a position to take up defensive arms, then you follow in the footsteps of Polycarp and Tyndale.
A Willingness to Slaughter Babies Should Tell Us Something
Your point about rural/urban, red/blue etc and the current judgement we are experiencing is telling. Up here in Canada, we have jailed pastors (because they are committed to shepherding their people). At the same time we have those same pastors being denounced by “evangelicals” who insist upon “loving their neighbors” by keeping churches closed. At the same time we have “evangelicals” warning that in the coming federal election, we must vote conservative —because we can’t afford to lose our rights under the liberals.What I believe is that as a Christian community we must vote in a way that demonstrates repentance for the way the church has been mostly silent—in particular with regards to abortion and sexual perversion. If we simply vote for the conservative party (which has determined to maintain both atrocities) then how is the church not implicated? Our choice is either, withhold our vote and let the conservative party be informed why, or vote for a party which makes the abolishing of abortion primary (if such a party exists). Here, in Canada, the federal conservative party (under the leadership of a professing Christian) voted against opening up the abortion debate. We have no laws on the books regarding abortion—it is a free for all, and richly deserves God’s judgement. I have hope for America, you will not let abortion continue without, at least, being discussed /debated and challenged.
Blair, yes. Things look pretty grim.
Could you please give me some brief counsel? I recently read some of Elisabeth Elliot’s “Discipline,” particularly the chapter regarding the discipline of the body. I realized how much I have let myself go, so to say. There are more than a few cobwebs in the Temple.
Do you have any pointers on how to gain mastery over my body, as Elliot quotes from Paul? I feel soft and unmanly because of this, and I fear I’ve been constantly dishonoring the Lord in this way by letting His temple go to neglect.
In brief, is God honored by me trying to stay physically fit? Not necessarily “sculpted,” but I’m not interested in being built like a bag of milk anymore either. Could you please kindly help me discern.
Thank you very much,
Jake, sure. The trick is to honor your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit without falling for what the world is saying about it, which is the line making the body a private temple to Self. And part of that means sticking close to the text. Paul says that all other sins are outside the body, but fornication sins against the body, which is the temple where the Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:18-19). That said, wanting to stay fit and healthy is a matter of good stewardship, and is a good idea.
The World Wars
Thank you for all the work you do. I had a question about resources. Can you recommend a solid, fair, accurate book(s) that recounts the history of WWI and WWII? I am having trouble navigating all of the resources that are already out there and would appreciate a recommendation.
Eric, I am sorry I don’t have one resource that is a go-to. I have pieced together my views on those wars from things I have read from all over. But I do think a good starting point would be Paul Johnson’s Modern Times.
Cussin’ in the Covenant
I respect both you and Denny Burk. When someone I respect has a bone to pick with someone else I respect, I watch carefully to see how they interact with each other, and I am challenged to determine my own response to the offensive “bone.” Given that Denny’s article here is directly addressing (and linking to) some of your own words, I am wondering if you think his article is worthy of a response, or if your response would only be rehashing the comments you have already made (which Denny has obviously read, but found them unconvincing). Is there more you would have Denny consider? Does anything Denny said cause you to rethink previous comments? I’m not looking to start a back-and-forth argument between you and Denny on this issue, but if you think it’s worthy of further constructive discussion, I’d very much be interested in how you would find common ground and how you would defend/delineate the points of disagreement on this issue.
Steve, thank you for the question. I respect Denny Burk also, and I thought that his post was a thoughtful interaction with what I have argued for, and which I have on occasion practiced. I was particularly grateful for how he linked to my article on “bad words,” letting me speak for myself on it. He is obviously a fair-minded interlocutor. But just as he found my arguments unpersuasive, so also I found his. Three quick comments:
First, I don’t really see the ethical difference between low register phrases and low register words, especially when they provoke the same reaction from people, and for all the same reasons. There is just no getting around the fact that Ezekiel shocked the Israelites by telling them that they were under judgment because they had lusted after Assyrian warriors who ejaculated like horses (Eze. 23:20). And it doesn’t much matter how you phrase that, although our various translators valiantly try.
I do sympathize with Denny’s desire for purity of speech. Not only do I sympathize with it, I agree with much of what he said. But there can be a dark side to it. I grew up in an evangelical world where over time our standards of speech morphed into a fastidious refusal to recognize what the Bible was even saying. In other words, we set aside the Word of God for the sake of our traditions. Noah Webster once produced a Bible that had been edited so as to make it suitable for family reading.
The second has to do with the words that have both a positive and negative usage. Denny pointed out (and I agree) that some of the things Paul prohibits are just plain old sins, and you can’t find a good version of them anywhere. There is no good kind of impurity, greed or idolatry. Amen. But what about anger? “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). But just a few verses earlier (v. 26), he says to be angry and sin not. It is in the imperative—be angry, and do it without sinning. The word is the verb form of the same word from v. 31. So some of the prohibitions are absolute, and some are not, and it part of the same section of Ephesians that we are discussing.
This is not saying that there are contradictions in Scripture. I am arguing that the contradictions are in us. If Paul tells the Galatians that he wishes the Judaizers would over-achieve and cut the whole thing off (Gal. 5:12), and then in the next breath tells the Galatians to love one another (Gal. 5:13-14), and goes on to add that they are not to bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:15), we go astray if we say Paul was contradicting himself. But he most certainly is contradicting us. Paul was either contradicting himself, or—and this is the right answer—love is very different from what our traditions make it out to be.
And third, it is true that the people at Nazareth were amazed at the gracious words that came from Jesus’ lips (Luke 4:22). But it is at least worth noting that by the time Jesus was done with that particular sermon, the congregation was so angry they attempted to murder Him.
You lost me at ‘shitstorm’ No, no . . . you didn’t really lose me because I am an avid consumer of Canon Press material and particularly this blog, and a little cussing cannot scare me away or even cause me to place any abrupt judgments upon you. I admire your wit and wisdom greatly. However, I do not understand the use of foul language in really any circumstance, which would seem to be a willingness to lose credibility with a number of readers. It would seem to potentially spur a suspicion that perhaps there is hidden sin lurking within a pastor who has, presumably, no conviction of publishing foul language. I don’t mean to be a pearl-clutcher and would offer to you that if that is your counter argument (it may not be) that it is disregarding the conviction that passages like Psalm 1 or Ephesians 3:4 place on your brothers and sisters in Christ. My primary concern is that unlike myself, others who may not be as familiar with your ministry, will not return to hear your often profound words because they have deemed you as not credible or lacking discernment. Regardless of your take on this, I am grateful for your ministry and for your boldness to proclaim truth. Just sharing a genuine concern in love. Soli Deo Gloria!
Heather, thank you for a kind and thoughtful letter, like Steve’s above. I really do appreciate it.
For the response, there are two considerations. First, is it biblical? And second, even if biblically lawful, is it rhetorically ineffective or counterproductive? This latter concern is what I take to be yours, along with a side concern about whether this indicates any leakage from my inner antinomian—the tell being a kind of green fluid on the garage floor that looks like antifreeze.
For the biblical concerns, I would refer everyone to the same article that Denny Burk kindly linked to.
So is it counter-productive? I am sure that in some instances, it is. But in my experience, a pastoral willingness to call a spade a spade has been greatly encouraging to many saints who have been greatly discouraged by their captains teaching them that we are to go into battle armed with the verbal equivalent of feather dusters.
One last thing, and I hope it is an encouragement on the personal side. I am not a cussing pastor, I don’t speak like that in my day-to-day life, and the occasions when I have “offended” in print might possibly tally up to a baker’s dozen—and I am in my late sixties. I believe a little bit goes a long way.
On Getting Thoughts Out
Analog Versus Digital Writing . . .
I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on the digital age, and whether you believe there is a need for writers to divide their time between writing, via the pen, and typing (if we were to narrow the categories down).
I imagine you have already intuited my intent here—but I’ll say it anyway. How do you personally balance the benefits (and potentially some principled necessity) of writing physically, and typing out your writing for all the benefits of spell check, time efficiency, etc.?
Beau, thanks. I think there is a good answer to your question, but I am afraid I would not be a good example of it. I have been a keyboard guy since the early eighties. Almost all of what I have written for publication has been through typing. That said, I think an argument for writing longhand for a certain amount of content could be made this way—we want the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly, and writing by hand (most likely) uses a different part of the brain. It like listening to books and reading them—I do both, and thank God for both. But listening to Scripture drives the Word into me by driving down different streets. You get to know the town better that way. Sometimes it is good to drive routes that are off the arterial. That is probably a weird answer.
Tinkering With Nature
I enjoyed your recent Plodcast Tinkering With Nature.
Do you think it’s a good summary to say that the correct use of medical technology is to restore the natural function of something that was broken in this fallen world, but goes outside its boundaries when used to create, erase, or change something in a way that goes against nature, as designed by God?
As a related topic, I’m curious what your thoughts are on IVF. My current opinion is the following:
I think a lot of fertility treatments are in “correct use” category—using medicine or surgery to try and restore the natural function of a damaged reproductive system, whereas IVF crosses a line that God has drawn, trying to create life outside of marital act, in a lab, oftentimes killing many brand-new babies in the act and freezing other fetuses indefinitely. It seems so weird to me that many Christians think of this as just another option in their search for fertility treatments. Just because scientific technology has reached a point where we can do this, doesn’t mean we should.
I have been greatly blessed by your interest in such a variety of topics, and the way you think about them through a Christian, Gospel worldview. Thank you for taking the time to write and share with so many people!
Teresa, yes, I think your summary is a good one. And I agree entirely. Medical technology will either submit to God and His Word, or it will wind up trying to play God.
More on the Nephilim
If your reading of Gen 6 is correct, why does God punish humanity for what was essentially an angelic sin?
The way I see it is that that the “sons of God” taking “daughters of man” has been a problem plaguing the covenant community from the very start. This problem appears again and again all throughout Scriptures and in the same format—covenant man taking wives from a non-covenant pool.
This problem began early on in OT Scriptures. This exact same problem ends OT Scriptures (Neh. 13:25)
The text links appearance of Nephilim and act of integration spatially—these 2 observations happened at the same time.
Does the text necessarily demand that this “link” be a gynecological one?
Thank God for your ministry. Stay strong.
Yevgeniy, I do agree that marrying unbelievers is a problem, and the Scriptures prohibit it. But if the DNA of the Nephilim were preserved on the ark (through Ham’s wife), that could account for Noah’s curse being placed on Canaan. All the giants in the land of Canaan were descended from that line, and they were giants.
CRT in the Pulpit
My wife and I recently moved back to our home state of Texas and are currently looking for a reformed Presbyterian church to attend, but it seems as though every church we visit has espoused CRT. My question is this, if CRT messages are not regularly preached from the pulpit, if at all, but CRT is espoused by one or more of the elders in the church, is this a reason to disqualify this church in our search for a new home?
Dylan, if CRT is tolerated in the leadership anywhere, and there is no controversy over it, then I would stay far away. If there is controversy over it, then that is a sign of health. But you could only stay if the good guys won.
About the Heavens
I am not writing regarding a specific post topic; rather, I have a question which stems from various statements you have made in reference to ‘the heavens’. I am curious to know if you have ever considered the possibility that God took Abram outside to ‘count the stars’ in Genesis 15 during the daytime, and therefore Abram only saw the sun? I know popular thought pictures Abram looking at innumerable stars at night, but multiple times in the text (i.e. vs. 12 and 17) it refers to the sun setting subsequent to Abram being taken outside. Please forgive me and disregard if you have already addressed this—it is one of those things in Scripture that once you have seen it you can’t unsee it, and I would be most appreciative of your thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Your ministry is a sincere blessing to me and has had a profound impact on my spiritual development.
Elizabeth, my take would be that God showed Abraham the stars in the course of a vision (Gen. 15:1), and what he saw was a multitude of stars.
When to Bring Up . . .
Dear Uncle Doug,
Since they’re “coming for my children, to convert them bit by bit” . . . At what age should we start talking to our kids specifically about LGBTQ issues?
Crystal, I would do this “as you rise up, as you walk along the road.” When they are old enough to read bumper stickers and ask about them, I would answer them, straight up. I would adjust the level of detail in your answer according to age, but I would start interacting with them on the subject when the world starts interacting with them on the subject.