The Demeanor of Calvinism
I am very much in your debt for introducing me to C.S. Lewis’ English Literature in the 16th Century. The section from which you quote (pages 32-46) is one of the best pieces of historical writing that I have read. The awkward part, though, is that, when read in full, Lewis is warning against the theory you express here: “And here is the central point—this demeanor, this Spirit-given, Christ-exalting demeanor—is an essential part of the program.” I know that you recognize the danger, in other realms, of making “demeanor” the sine qua non of a philosophical system. The essential emotion that binds economic leftists together, from Karl Marx (whose 200th birthday is today) to Bernie Sanders, is compassion for the plight of the oppressed. This emotion is a good and noble one—but when they attempt to build a program centered upon that demeanor, as Lewis says (p 34), “very troublesome problems and very dark solutions will appear.” The “horrors” that ensue are very much not intended by the originators of the new system; nonetheless they are its inevitable “byproduct.”
John, thanks. I am not sure there is a clash. All I mean by this is that people who preach forgiveness should actually have received it, and be people who actually extend it.
Our Very Own Apology Tour
Doc Wilson, great article. In your disclaimer, you say this: “Clearly, they say, I must be a defender of sexual offenders because I believe in due process. This is entirely false. I have made this clear in many ways . . .” I wouldn’t even go as far as to say this. A statement like this already puts you in the corner with your hands up. “I’m not defending sex offenders! I swear! Please believe me!” It’s not unlike putting yourself in a position to deny being a racist—as soon you start talking about it, people see that little headline in their brain: “Man denies racism, begs for understanding.” A statement that, in my humble opinion, is more suitable to your position and the famous Wilson rapier wit goes like this: “Clearly, they say, I must be a defender of sexual offenders because I believe in due process. Here’s my response to those individuals: If you really believe that, then I probably can’t convince you otherwise and you won’t believe anything I say anyway short of a full recantation of every belief I’ve ever had. If that’s what you want to hear, you’re going to be disappointed. For the rest of you who like to think reasonably, let’s continue.” This puts your opponents on the defensive and give you the upper hand in the discussion. Just my opinion. Thanks,
Austin, thanks and let’s get right to the point. I think you are right
I continue to be thankful for your voice on such issues as so-called social justice and the cult of apology. But I mourn the fact that those soft folk who peddle these things in the name of Christ (should I name Russell Moore, David Platt, et al, or does everyone already know of whom I speak?) are unwilling to hear you, even if they do so only so they can formulate a rebuttal. But you have some clout, and I do hope you’ll make some concerted effort to have that influence bear fruit amongst the religious ruling class. The rest of us are banned, blocked, downvoted, unfriended, and called to repent, in order to kill our influence before it even begins. The conversation is controlled, and you’re one of the few who seems to have a chance of still having a voice.
Mike, thank you. I will keep on keeping on, as we used to say. But there are plenty of folks who want to put an embargo on all dissident voices, and then pretend that the silence is somehow consensus and unanimity.
When I read that Thabiti post on Gospel Coalition I said out loud—hashtag intersectionality. Evangelicals led around like a dog on a chain. How can it really all be this obvious and this boring? That funny Twitter post was a crack of light in the gloom.
Kat, thanks. And the dress really was cute—but only because it was in Utah and not here in Idaho.
Regarding “Sorry Not Sorry,” plus your recent interactions with Thabiti: As context, I appreciate your willingness to look asquint at the egregious apology culture, and to engage it critically. I particularly respect your insistence on two points: 1) Not apologizing for a gift, even a gift that “privileges” me over another; and 2) Questioning the value of “repenting” from complex or non-concrete sins. (also your pushing to define specific problems instead of the Blob of “racism”) That being said, I’d like to hear you address the following argument, because I think that’s what a number of these “soft evangelical Reformed left” types are really getting at: Premise 1: Most white evangelicals have not been directly racially proud or racially hateful toward brothers and sisters of other ethnicities. Premise 2: However, aggregated acts of racial pride, racial hatred, etc. have created a “system” that has historically held non-white men and women back politically, economically, etc. Conclusion: Whatever we might think about “repentance” as a right response to this, Christians should make efforts to restore men and women of color to more just positions in our legal system, our church leadership, etc. Granting that we have to further define “restore,” address specific circumstances, etc., would you agree with that conclusion in general? If not, why not?
Joseph, of course the system needs to grow toward genuine color-blindness. But you cannot do this by cultivating a hyper-sensitivity to color, which is what we are doing now. Our task is to build as just a society as we can, and pulling people over for driving while black is not the way to do it. But putting our thumb on the opposite scale does not “make things even,” it rather sows the seeds of the next round of conflict. The civil rights movement in the sixties got as far as it did because what was being said resonated with the consciences of most whites. What is being said now offends the consciences of most whites, but they keep silent out of fear, and that is the precursor to a big mess—coming to town near you.
I’m nowhere near your level of cultural awareness, but I apparently have followed you long enough to recognize some things you are seeing. I posted the following to FB yesterday: // Me: Online Christian culture seems to be borrowing some plays from the militant progressive agenda. It’s become common to see a sort of piling on, even when we have no connection to a situation or incomplete information. The new norm is shrill outcries from afar, ungracious demands for public penitence, and in general, mob rule. And none of it is a good look for those desiring to advance the Kingdom. My brother’s reply: Going to translate for the lay-folks among us . . . “Christians” need to stop with the self-righteous indignation and societal judgement on every issue and rather approach them with fervent conviction and love. Me: Certainly that, yes. But I guess I was thinking more broadly in terms of the culture we find ourselves in and who’s influencing who. Francis Schaeffer once said, “Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years.” Sadly, his timeline needs crunching for our setting. I would amend it to, “Show me the trending hashtags this week, and I’ll tell you what the ‘Online Christian Culture’ will be in a tizzy about next week.” (I know, not as pithy) But a tizzy it will be—sides will be taken, blogs will be written, fingers pointed, subtweets will fly, and in general, the OCC players (not all) will run around breathlessly trying to prove to the world that the church has a relevant message for that issue, too!
Andy, a hundred amens.
Thank you for your post, Mr. Wilson. The sex change and dental work example was really insightful. But where can we get more information, i.e. books, about how to argue well for godly dominion? I didn’t grow up in this matter (most things were assumed), and am anxious to teach my small children these things.
Lindsey, start with Nancy Pearcey’s fine book Love Thy Body.
Regarding Biblicism and Natural Law, if you think back to right about the time Trump was elected, the whole Bruce/Kaitlyn Jenner thing and transgender bathroom laws were right at the front of the stove, bubbling over on high boil, with the sauce dripping down into the flames making spitting noises and generally stinking up the whole kitchen. Now, I’m not going to say this was THE reason Trump won, because that would be wrong. But, I do think the vast majority of the vast American Public recognized it for the load of horse biscuits that it was. (Yes, that was a very poorly mixed metaphor, but I’m going somewhere with this.) I think if the left wants to make this their soup du jour, all we have to do is lower our heads a bit, look over the top of our spectacles and calmly and lovingly say, “Well, God bless your heart, honey. I know y’all have your fantasies you think about late at night when you’re all by your lonesome, but honestly, if you have man parts and that XY chromosome thing going on, no matter how much you fantasize about wearing a bra and panties, you’re still a man cuz the good Lord made you a man. Now run along and stay out of the little girls’ room. And take off those heels. You’re gonna hurt yourself if you ain’t careful.”
Dan, think they’ll go for it?
As for “Starting in California”. . . well, it’s already started: link
J.P. yes. It is a shame that Summit didn’t stay and fight though.
Death Panels Really are a Deal:
Death panels: In agreement with the article and the previous letter from the physician in regards to the angle of lack of personal responsibility driven via third party payers, I like to add another perspective. Given that my veterinary degree required, among other excruciating experiences, a lot of the same textbooks as those of a “real doctor” (i.e. MD) I feel at peace to claim authority on the subject of medical intervention and my opinion is that the whole “death panel” issue will only get worse. Of course in veterinary medicine most clients do not have insurance for their pets. This means that it is common that though I do know a solution to a pet’s problem because of price the owner will opt for euthanasia instead. Bottom line it is a cost-analysis decision; spend $4k on cancer treatment (or whatever) or $350 to euthanize and then another $300 for a new puppy. This is reality and I can live with that. What is also reality, and harder for me to live with, is another angle on this that is just as pervasive—yes, pervasive, as in very common. In this case, the owners come in and the vet either knows what’s wrong but realizes that the care will be very time-consuming and if they charged what it ought to cost (in terms of time value) that the owner would probably think of them as someone who “did not care about the animal but just about the money,” or that even with appropriate care the patient might not do well and then the owners blame them for “not getting them better.” Other times the vet is clueless about what the problem is but does not want to admit it or does not want to take the time to figure out what is going on (very common), so instead they just take a WAG and throw out some sort of problem that “is terminal anyway” and recommend euthanasia. I hear this all the time: “yeah, took Fido in to dr. so-and-so and he said it was ___________ (cancer, organ failure, etc.) and so we put him down.” Never mind the fact that Dr. so-and-so didn’t do a single diagnostic test to confirm this. The point is that euthanasia becomes a cop out for the doctor. It becomes a way for them to seem like they are “doing what’s best for the patient” while in reality they are just being lazy, greedy (only wanting to do the easy money/high return procedures or cases), or covering their own tail (pun intended) when they don’t know or care what is going on. And this is only possible because euthanasia is an option . . . dead dogs tell no tales. So, now that euthanasia of people is an option, what do you expect—them not to use this cop-out?
B.C.—in other words, veterinary medicine has been kind of a pilot project.
Slavery, Of Course
Your blog is always enjoyable and thought provoking. Today I’m referencing your “Salvation & Slavery” post. I’m an elder at a local RCA church in Lynnwood, WA (there are orthodox RCA churches, I am glad to report!) and I preach about once a month as well as directing worship. I have a query, and just for context at the outset, I’m fully convinced of the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of scripture. This last year I’ve done some independent study on the biblical rationales that were provided by both opponents and adherents of American slavery. I’ve read some southern Presbyterians that were “pro” and also “anti” pastors/theologians like George Bourne. Additionally, I’ve read the accounts of many slaves, like Douglass, and they are truly heartbreaking. Especially with the accounts that often highly religious slaveowners seemed as bad or worse than non-religious slaveowners. Ugh. I’m wondering if you have a recommendation for any books (current or older) that provide a solid exegetical case against chattel slavery, and adequately take into account the go-to verses for those that were historically pro-slavery. I know the Bible, taken as a whole, clearly presents the truth of all men created in the image of God, and that there is at the very least an implied trajectory from OT to NT of freedom in Christ and the beneficent treatment of all human beings in our care and sphere. I guess I’m just looking for help on more knotty passages like the one you cited in Leviticus 25:44-46 and such, that appear at first blush to be permitting SOMETHING, even if not to the degree of chattel slavery. I see many parallels, sadly, between chattel slavery and abortion—the primary connection being the treatment of other people as less than fully human. And so I want to be girded with as much apologetic armor as possible both for my own edification and the edification for those I teach. Any help you can render would be appreciated. Blessings to you as you continue your work!
Ben, this is not exactly what you asked for, but I would recommend Mark Noll’s book The Civil War as Theological Crisis, Eugene Genovese’s book A Consuming Fire, and my book Black & Tan, in that order.
Thank you so much for this article. So very timely and needed. I will say that you might want to take a look at the concept of indentured servitude a bit more as in some areas such as Scottish and Irish indentured servants they were often treated worse than regular slaves being worked to death before their contracts were up. Owned slaves were property that you took care of to keep the value up. A minor quibble though that does not change your message. That said, you have a glaring typo in the last paragraph, or at least I hope so. “They might be crapitalistic greed.” I assume you mean “Capitalistic greed.” Thank you again! Sincere regards, you brother in Christ,
Lee, thanks and point taken about indentured servitude. And no, that was not a typo. Crapitalism is my name for crony capitalism, as distinguished from genuinely free markets.