Letters to the Point, Mostly

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Life Is Uncertain, So Eat Dessert First.

A couple issues back you shared a playlist (Americana), which I found kind of fun. While listening my way through I discovered some musicians I had not heard or heard of, who’s music and singing I enjoyed. You might want to try that again sometime.

James

James, okay then . . .

More Than One Application?

It’s a little late to be writing parables about TGC and Mark Driscoll, but you must have a reason.

From my perch, it is my sincere hope that God does not judge you for publishing diatribes against humanity for being liars and totalitarians when they were merely fallible and caught asleep at the wheel.

FX

FX, the context is what matters. Imagine all this COVID stuff happening in a country with no blood lust, honorable abortion laws, a clear understanding of the creational difference between men and women, and so on. I would want to describe that kind of thing as “merely falliable.” But they’ve been acting like aspiring totalitarians well before all this.

A Merch Question

Where can I get a “Christ or chaos” T-shirt?

Jill

Jill, as of now, you would have to order one special from somebody who does that kind of thing. Let’s hope you do, and let’s hope it catches on.

Ah, Yes, Masks

I am sure you have received many questions about masks; I would like to add one more, pertaining to the principle of stumbling block and liberty.

I have read your take that our Christian liberty means we make room for their standard (wearing a mask) and they make room for our standard (not wearing a mask).

How would you respond if someone brought up 1 Corinthians 8 and attempted to make this a meat sacrificed to idols situation? “By not wearing a mask, you are causing your weaker brother to sin and putting a stumbling block in his path.”

Liam

Liam, the weaker brother in Corinthians is one who used to be an idol worshiper, cannot disassociate the worship from the eating of the meat, sees the stronger brother eating the meat, and thinks he can do that too. But when he attempts it, because of the strong associations in his mind, he gets sucked back into the idolatry. A modern parallel would be drinking around a recovered drunk, who had a long pattern of simply equating drinking with drunkenness. This is more like the weaker brother in Romans who is a vegetarian. You receive him, but not for the sake of disputing. Both sides have to get along.

I am wondering if you could clarify something. When it comes to the coronavirus it seems like we’re basically past the emergency. If you’re below the age of 50 and healthy, the mortality rate is very very low (I would send you links, but I’m sure you get enough of those).

Are we at the point now that young healthy people should not take any extraordinary measures against coronavirus? In fact, are they almost duty-bound to get coronavirus to speed the time to herd immunity?

As a healthy person in my mid-40s, I will admit that I do not want to get coronavirus. But to be faithful, should I not try to avoid it? Is inoculation the way to go? If not this then what is the long-term goal for people who are faithful? We should try to get to herd immunity as quickly as possible, since our elders over 50 shouldn’t be all alone until we get a vaccine, especially since a vaccine is at least a year away, if ever.

Thanks.

David

David, I don’t think we should try to do anything particular in this regard except live out our ordinary lives. Herd immunity is something God does for us, and I hope that He does it. Let’s pray that He does. But this is not like the chickenpox, where some people arrange for play dates so that their kids can get it too. This is a roulette illness, with high mortality rates for some categories of people and innocuous consequences for most.

I just saw the photo of your grandson wearing snorkeling gear to the grocery store. Ha! I am grateful for the warm chuckle that bubbled out of my concerned and somewhat weary soul.

I also like the idea of wearing a burka. We seven have joked about it during our evening meal around the dining room table.

My husband and I appreciate your encouraging words.

Racheal

Racheal, thanks. Keep rolling with it.

It seems to me there are really two separate debates going on with the whole mask thing. On the one hand you have discussion over wearing of the mask and its disease mitigation abilities. This conversation involves epidemiology, statistics, and double blind studies etc, and is concerned with the biological life – the lung’s right to breathe. On the other hand is the recurrent debate of government overreach which, in this case, has as its central controversy masks, though has taken other forms in the past (abortion, Obergefell, etc.) This debate involves ideologies, philosophy and historical nuance and is concerned with Liberty — the soul’s right to breathe. Both sides are concerned about breathing and each side feels suffocated by the other, but each side thinks the other is having the debate on their own turf. In reality, they are two separate debates happening at the same time on opposite sides of campus, each one rebutting an empty lectern. These debates obviously intersect when we get to the prescription phase. When we don’t keep these debates in their own lanes we won’t be able to make a clear, educated, nuanced decision when they intersect.

For my money, it looks like Sweden struck this balance the best (article below). They didn’t mandate masks but put the responsibility back on the people, honoring their freedom and individual responsibility. Many states in the US mandated it from on high and acted surprised when a country which is founded on individual freedom refuses to comply with this new taxation without representation. Because it is a tax.

Many have forgotten the purpose of the masks, which has always been to not overwhelm the healthcare system. As an ER nurse, we have been enormously underwhelmed. We are seeing about 30% less patients over the past 3 months and the hospital system as a whole is hemorrhaging 120 million a month! What kind of pandemic is it when shifts of ER nurses are cut? But at this point people wear masks like it will keep them from getting sick. That was never the point. As the article I cited says about flattening the curve via masks adherence, “you don’t prevent deaths, you just change the date.”

Tim

Tim, thanks much.

I am grieved that my church will not open up despite other local churches. I have written a letter to the pastor and also an email. His response is summed up in the linked video, but his main premise is that we need to not be selfish and think about the community.

I feel conflicted about pressing the issue with him. I sincerely believe we should be open and worshiping our God, but I do not want to cause trouble in the church.

Finally, do you think online church meets the spirit of Hebrews 10:25? Why should we meet in person? I am torn because I don’t have a good reason to back up my strong belief that we should meet in person when there is a very strong argument for online church.

In Christ,

Travis

Travis, online church is better than nothing, but it is more like writing letters than meeting in person. The apostles would write letters when they couldn’t be there, but they constantly expressed their deep desire to be with the saints “face to face.” We should have the same set of priorities.

The problem with the “don’t be selfish” standard is that it begs the question. We are not debating whether we should be selfish or not–of course not–but rather which set of actions is the more selfish. What course of action is doing more damage to other people? I am absolutely convinced that the entire lock down, mask-up strategy has done an enormous amount of damage to others. And I believe we did it because we are a selfish people.

In last week’s letters, you responded to Chuck in Pennsylvania that you would “still kick” against the mask and isolation mandates by pointing to the wording of the statute. I agree with that. But you’ve also talked about higher authorities, constitutions and the Bible. Would you say in Chuck’s case that even if the statute had clearly provided the authorities unambiguous authority to mandate masks and isolation for healthy people that he would still have leave to kick because of the U.S. Constitution and/or the Bible?

Bill

Bill, yes, I would say that.

The subject on the masks has been beaten like a dead horse, so I’m going to continue beating it. Masks are the new fad, but also the new topic to either protest against or protest for. I’m on the side of hating the masks, but unfortunately I wear them when I’m in Target or the grocery store or at a restaurant. Rather not go to an establishment that enforces the mask, if I have to wear them.

Once my profession starts up, I will have to teach in a classroom from 7am until 2pm wearing a mask. Not my cup of tea, but I need to provide for the two-income household our capitalistic society demands!

When asking a fellow teacher (union rep), if I were not to wear the mask at school what would happen? No hesitation: “You’ll be written up and potentially dismissed.” Well, that ends that debate. What do you think I should do? Start my own school?

Rob

Rob, I do think it is reasonable for you to start considering other options.

The Mess in the Public Square

Masks and a Lesson in Narnian Civics

Thank you for your posts and for the way you help believers think through these issues! I wondered if you could recommend a book on the Christian’s engagement with government and all the relevant Scriptures (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2, etc.). Thank you!

Kirk

Kirk, I would start with Gary DeMar’s material, God and Government.

I appreciate all that you’re doing. You and I would disagree on quite a bit but my heart hurts over the “wokeness” and denial of biblical categories for morals. I’ve tried to show how no one could have a biblical understanding of government and support public education, how gender roles are explained away, or how the moral concerns are dictated by their media choices not the word of God. I left grad school 12 years ago pumped to be reformed baptist, and was a devotee of Calvinist organizations like TGC and reformed schools. But even they are starting to sound like a state college professor lecturing on cross sectionality and preaching more like Gustavo Gutierrez then Edwards. It breaks my heart especially after living in a Marxist country and realizing that the very ideology of blaming individualism for everything that is destroying so many lives even now is being embraced. Thank you for not feeling totally abandoned. I hitched my wagon to the reformed world because it was soli deo Gloria, focused on God not man. Now it’s only focus is human flourishing. If I have children and grandchildren I’ll be lamenting to them that I remember a time the SBC and PCA weren’t liberation theology proponents.

Luke

Luke, thanks, and don’t get discouraged. Seven thousand haven’t bent the knee yet.

I see a potential threat to our faithful Christian friends from our trained Marxist friends: Our Bible translations could be flagged as “white translations,” and therefore the churches who use them be flagged as hate groups to be removed. This would make the persecutions look like they are not anti-Christian, but rather like they are just carrying out another Anti-Racist tenet.

If the Marxists are trained as they say they are, they will probably go for a more divide-and-conquer approach in flagging the translations, in a manner similar to the statues. First, they start with the KJV (and prior translations) as low hanging fruit. Then, they go for the more popular conservative versions: NASB, RSV, ESV, etc. Then finally, they come for the popular evangelical translations: NIV and the like, with all the paraphrase versions.

In the meanwhile, they will be “translating” the Bible according to the philosophy of the Smithsonian and in line with the tenets of Black Lives Matter. (They might leave Psalm 23 alone, for the comfort of the woke and squishy evangelical masses.) To reject that version would be to reject the translation from the perspective of people of color and therefore be associated with white supremacy.

Thank you for your ministry,

Luke

Luke, things have gotten to the point where it would be foolhardy to read your scenario and say, “that’s crazy.” So is everything else, and nobody seems to be slowing down.

My New Novel

I have been trying to find this Ride, Sally, Ride–is this another novel by Doug. I hope so, but I can’t find it.

Mark

Mark, yes. The promotion for this novel (Ride, Sally, Ride) is going to start very soon, with all the info on how to get it. It is a dystopic dark comedy about true love and the crack-up of the United States. It is set 30 years in the future, although some have commented that my time lines were off. More like three months in the future.

Preaching for a Verdict

RE: Olford’s statement on calling for a verdict. Excellent statement. T. Austin Phelps wrote a book entitled The Theory of Preaching. It has been long out of print. He defines preaching in a chapter that takes many pages (about 100 as I recall). His definition of preaching is: “Preaching is an oral address, to the popular mind, upon religious truth as contained in the Christian Scriptures, and elaborately treated with a view to persuasion.” Each of those phrases is a major head in the chapter. If we haven’t persuaded, we haven’t preached. Persuasion seems to be the fundamental distinction between teaching and preaching.

Fred

Fred, thanks much.

Is MacDonald Really All That?

George MacDonald is a terrible novelist and a worse theologian. After a lifetime of having his books foisted on me on the strength of back-cover blurbs by Lewis & Co., a dear friend has recently made shipwreck of his faith by following MacDonald out of the plot-less candy-land of his fiction into the abattoir of his pathetic heresies.

I’ll read heterodox geniuses (Pascal! Milton! Eliot!), and I’ll read orthodox mediocrity (Crossway books!), but tell me why I should bother with MacDonald’s heretical drivel?

Why will no one else admit this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

Philip

Philip, amen on the theology, and amen on the bulk of his fictional writing, which was hack writing simply for the sake of making a living. But the Curdie books are good, and if you read Lewis’s compendium of quotes from him, he does have a great deal of practical wisdom. So, a mixed bag, and only to be approached by the discerning.

The Root of the Matter

One small issue with your article. You say, “They were attracted to what was called “worldview thinking,” At the very least they wanted to be able to go to R-rated movies without anybody at church giving them grief about it.”

My issue is with the phrase “at the very least.” I think that is wildly understating the issue. This is the whole issue. Unregenerate people desire sinful things of the world, but want approval while doing so. So for decades now, American “Christians” (heavy emphasis on the air-quotes) have been drinking the worlds movies, music, magazines, clothes, etc and justifying it in a myriad of ways. Any pulpit calls for discernment in areas of entertainment or modesty are decried as legalistic. This cancer has soaked so deep into American “Christianity” that TGC openly promotes much of this worldly filth. So what do you expect when the world goes even further into crazy-town. They march right along with them, because they’ve been doing it for decades. This is exactly what we should have expected.

This is why the call to American “Christianity” should not be, “don’t you see that Critical-Race Theory is dangerous” (although this is true). The call should be, “repent of all this wickedness you’ve allowed into your homes.” Only when American “Christianity” wakes up to it’s love of the world and repents of it, will it have eyes clear enough to see the other dangers around it.

Thanks for your writing.

Roger

Roger, there is much in what you do, and it is hard to argue with. I think it would be best if we didn’t argue with it. The fatal compromises began long before all of this.

And Finally, a Crucial Item

In your most recent Plodcast 151 you demonstrated how to pronounce IMPIOUS. Actually, according to Merriam-Webster, you can pronounce it either way — IM-pious or IM-PIE-OUS.

Just call me the Grammar Curmudgeon.

Marilyn

Marilyn, one of the glories of the English language is that if we mispronounce something long enough, at some point the dictionaries have to go along.

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JonathanThe Commenter Formerly Known As fpJP StewartAugus TinianWe Be Libtards Recent comment authors

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John Martin
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John Martin

Hey Phillip, I’m not sure there’s a resurgence of MacDonald love, but since Lewis recommended him in “Surprised by Joy” I had to go there. Besides Phantastes, and the Curdie books (as Pastor Doug mentioned), the Michael Phillips edits of Sir Gibbie, Donal Grant, and Malcolm are good reads. Curiously, at the suggestion of a Christian Bookstore/Coffee Shop owner – I started with Lewis and Frankl, moved to MacDonald and Colson, then to Shaeffer and Piper. It’s through Piper I found Pastor Wilson, and subsequently N.D., the Crosspolitic guys, and Pastor James White. Back to MacDonald, for Lewis and Carroll… Read more »

kyriosity
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Re the dictionaries, Merriam-Webster is always more eager than most to go along with whatever Babelish slides are happening in the world. It’s OK to push back against them a little bit…to hold the line a little longer. Standards of pronunciation are obviously not moral standards, but when they’re being hastened by dictionary editors who actively promote the dismantling of moral standards, we should be suspect regarding their motives.

Scott
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Scott

I am sorry, Doug, but when you include K.D. Lang on your playlist, I wrote-off your playlist, and I’m going home to burn all of my old Credenda Agenda mags. I didn’t scroll down far enough, but I’m guessing that Queen’s “Killer Queen” was on the list, too. By the way, I’m saying this in good humor, but how on earth does a bull-dyke make it to your list, and I didn’t seem to see Alan Jackson or George Strait. Are you off your rocker?

Gray
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Gray

I will lethargically grant George, but Alan Jackson? That makes me feel ancient. https://youtu.be/4WXYjm74WFI

JP Stewart
Member

Yeah, if you’re to bring up country, at least mention Hank Sr., Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard or the recently deceased Charlie Daniels. Not commercialized 80’s/90s guys who mostly performed stuff written by other people.

Kristina Zubic
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Kristina Zubic

Re. Luke’s letter about our “racist” translations: what would they do if we ALL learned Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and didn’t need translations anymore? (P.S. Excellent playlist — many of my own faves! P.P.S. Excellent GIF too.)

Jonathan
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Jonathan

New York population density: 421 people/sq mi (27,000 people/sq mi in NYC itself) Belgium population density: 970 people/sq mi Sweden population density: 64 people/sq mi Finland population density: 47 people/sq mi For a disease that spreads from person-to-person, anyone who tries to compare two countries because they have the “same population”, when one country is 15x more densely populated than the other, is either being ignorant or deceptive. There are things that New York did wrong and things that Sweden did right, I don’t know much about Belgium but I’m sure they didn’t do everything perfect either. But to ignore… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

And for those who have said in previous letters that Sweden did “business as usual”, in reality they closed down all high schools and colleges, banned large gatherings, and encouraged people to not go on vacation or engage in non-essential travel. All visits to nursing homes were banned. Citizens were asked to voluntarily wear masks and remain 2 meters apart in public. Many employers furloughed workers and those who weren’t furloughed were encouraged to work from home. Some reports indicate that transport use decreased by 75% and major vacation spots reported a 95% drop. Also, Sweden was one of the… Read more »

adad0
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J’,
While our humors have bumped in the past, I actually find your above comments interesting and useful. 👍 let’s hope it’s a trend.😏

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

Japan population density: 867 people/sq mi
Belgium population density: 970 people/sq mi

Belgium: 849 deaths/million with full lockdown
Japan: 8 deaths/million with no lockdown

Makes you think…

We Be Libtards
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We Be Libtards

The beauty of being a libtard is we don’t have to think, we only have to parrot.

Augus Tinian
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Augus Tinian

k

JP Stewart
Member

I’ve noticed progressive “Christians” have largely turned into single-issue Coronatarians now. They realize their woke views are largely shared by rioting terrorists who have done billion$ in damage, killed a double-digit number of people, assaulted countless others and continue to illegally block roads and destroy property on a daily basis. They’re also shared by cancel culture Marxists who would happily ruin the career and livelihood of anyone who says anything good about Western civilization–like this guy. https://tinyurl.com/y3r6oouu So now they berate the rest of us about wearing masks, social distancing and accepting church/business closures….though they never complain about shoulder-to-shoulder “protests”… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

FP, does comparing those Japan numbers to the Belgium numbers actually make you think? If so, I’m interested to hear what the results of that thought process were. What did Japan do well that Belgium failed at? Why did it work so much better in Japan than in Sweden? Why was Belgium on a far worse trajectory than Japan even before they instituted lockdown? And why havent any US governors adopted Japan’s system?

For those who’d rather talk about me than the issue, I’m really not that important.

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
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The Commenter Formerly Known As fp

Good questions, Jonathan. Perhaps you could take a stab at answering them vis-à-vis Finland and Sweden, now that we’ve controlled for the lockdown variable.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Controlled for the lockdown variable? If you think we’ve done that then you don’t seem to know what that means. Sweden and Finland have almost the same population density, very similar culture, similar urban areas, similarly strong medical systems, and similar population demographics. They have roughly similar #’s of people working from home and single-person households, in fact Sweden actually has more of both. I am unaware of any factor that would explain the 10-fold difference in COVID-19 deaths other than their differing government response to the lockdown. And the difference was that Sweden only had a half-lockdown (banning large… Read more »