Open Letter Responses
What’s with all this reason and dispassionate rationality. I don’t buy it!!!
Mike, you know, I just can’t help it sometimes.
The Open Letter . . .
That was interesting, informative, and intriguing, and probably several other polysyllabic “in-” words. If you had only three olive leaves and that letter is the worth of it, then I couldn’t imagine what the value of a whole olive branch might be.
I can’t speak for any of the kirker enemies up there, for I am neither a kirker enemy nor up there, but I would like to think that if lived in close proximity with a heart of enmity, this is the sort of thing that would crack the stony resolve. Maybe even till the fallow ground a bit. In other words, what a blessing to offer a conciliatory hand. No doubt the Moscow community, in its entirety is reeling from sensory overload by all the things you mention. But a pastoral setting needs a pastor, and this offer to heal from various war wounds is gracious, timely, and much needed. May God richly bless this endeavor!
Was this, perchance, submitted to the newspaper?
Andy, thanks. No, it wasn’t submitted to the newspaper, not because of any animus, but because of the sense that very few people read it anymore.
Re: An Open Letter to the Good People of Moscow
You could not have said it any better. As a semi-frequent visitor to your church and city, I feel some folks in your town don’t realize how wonderful the place really is (not least because of Christ Church).
Jerry, thank you.
Dragon in the Garden Textual Accuracy . . . In the Canon plus short film entitled ‘The Dragon in the Garden’ the characters Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the tree of life. This is not in the Scriptures and I wonder why the writers or production team felt like adding it? If we were to assume anything about this tree’s fruit it seems the safest bet is that it was not eaten because of verse 22 in chapter 3. I’d love to hear your thoughts or reasoning.
Benjamin, here’s the thinking. God only prohibited one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were told that they could freely eat of every other tree (Gen. 2:16), which would have included the tree of life. My thought is that they were prohibited the tree of life as soon as they had fallen into sin, because that would have put redemption out of reach. The tree of life would have sealed their rebellion, so God banishing them from the Garden was an act of mercy.
New Publisher, Yay
Do you know anything about the people over at Axehead Press?
Looks like they’re reprinting some recon stuff, just curious if you had any knowledge about it? I know you and North/Chilton didn’t have any direct ties but generally were working in similar areas of the faith.
Shea, no, I wasn’t familiar. But I am now.
A Kuyper Question
I am familiarizing myself with Kuyper’s spheres of sovereignty with particular attention to what happens when each disconnects its tether from God and runs amuck. The State goes towards totalitarianism and when the Church forgets who she is and climbs in bed with the State, a different flavor of totalitarianism can result. But what happens when the Family snips that tether to God? Is there a way in which this sphere can seek to swallow up the others as the other two tend towards? Or is it more of an internal deterioration, since the other two spheres are made up of piles of families?
Tim, in eras when the family is disconnected from God (and runs amok), I think you get tribalism and warlords.
Why teach kids Latin? I see benefits to learning foreign language: critical thinking, cementing grammar, root words, etc. But why not start kids off on Koine Greek and then take them on to Hebrew, so they can grow in the languages of Scripture from a young age? My main question is: Why start kids on Latin as their first foreign language as opposed to Koine Greek? What am I missing as to the benefits of Latin?
Kevin, as someone who took both Greek and Latin, Greek first, I think it would have been smoother the other direction. And most of the kids are not going to become textual scholars, meaning they don’t stay with the languages. And studying Latin has a huge impact on their English, which they do stay with. There are many more arguments—this is just the quick one.
Another Bible Reading Challenge
About 5 years ago I started on a journey to help whole churches to read the Bible together in community. In the process, I created the Chronological Cross-Reference Bible reading plan. A full-featured Bible App with a text-tracking audio Bible, daily questions, 650+ maps, videos, a full prayer suite, and a private group social experience within the app. My wife and I made a four-volume study journal with around 2,920 open-ended questions keyed to the daily reading. The app and printable study journal will always be completely free, we just want churches to help their congregations read the Bible together. Please consider helping people to daily read the Bible in 2023 with us:
Peter, thanks, and keep it up.
A Couple Marital Questions
Is it wrong to reject a potential spouse because of a gross sexual sin in their past-life (before Christ) such as homosexuality, pedophilia or bestiality? Knowing that they have been repentant for years and are completely forgiven for these things, but still feeling icky about joining your body with theirs because of it. Is the feeling icky part enough of a reason to say no to them, or is the icky feeling even justified?
T, it is not sinful to say no for such a reason. You have that prerogative. What could be sinful is a resistance to something that God is plainly arranging for you. But if you are walking in the will of God, and you are willing for God to make you willing (you have surrendered the point in principle to Him), and it is still the case that you would rather remain single than to have to deal with that, then you can lawfully say no. Having said that, I don’t think the ick factor is strong enough reason. What could be reasonable would be if there were any legitimate doubts about ongoing temptations.
In cases of ongoing and severe physical abuse of both a wife and her small children, is divorce a lawful option if the unbelieving husband does not wish for it, and if no infidelity has occurred?
I have a friend in this situation who is uncertain what options are available to her, and is unable to seek out pastoral counsel in person. Reading a wise answer to the specifics of her plight may help her navigate better what she needs to do next.
Thank you for your time,
J, the specifics are often what determines the right thing to do. But assuming the case really is as you have stated, and the abuse is both ongoing and severe, the answer is yes. When Paul talks about this in 1 Cor. 7:13, the word he uses for the unbeliever remaining with the believer in marriage is suneudokeo—which means “pleased to be together with.” If it is plain and obvious that this is not the case, the believer is free to move out of range.
I recall you saying that the ancients knew how to harmonize their great thinkers. It is a point of great admiration my family has for you that you keep peace with those who differ greatly with you but do not deny the faith. Thank you for your example in this area. I too had a youth of pastoral Elmer Fudds hunting wabbits rather than John Owens’ stalking the wolves of lust with a musket. Bitterness as a believer is not an option, and your cheerful responsibility and gratitude to the Lord for His Word is both instructive and heartening.
I also wanted to say thank you for recommending “The Crook in the Lot.” My good Shepherd used that book as an effective balm after I received what I thought was a mortal wound. Thank you for highlighting it.
The road the righteous travel is a getting brighter all the time. Further up and further in,
J, thanks very much.
A Proof About Outside Objectivity
G, do you have a link to that proof?” Here’s one example:
I believe this is the paper in which he developed his “Undefinability Theorem”, in which he showed that for any closed system, truth cannot be defined from solely within that system. He operated in the realm of formal mathematical systems, but the concept is generalizable when one accepts that we exist in a closed system called reality, the universe, creation, etc., and thus truth (i.e., right, and therefore wrong, sin, etc.) must come from somewhere outside the system. The conclusion to the obvious question then is that God has decreed and communicated to us exactly what that entails, and of course we find that in His written word, the Bible.
This also shows why astrophysicists and philosophers insist so loudly on the universe being unbounded, and why a closed, bounded universe is so important (which brings to mind the speculative but sensible article several years ago from Answers in Genesis on the raqiyah forming a closed bubble around the universe . . . but I digress and probably should have done so long ago!)
GR, thanks very much.
More Ukraine Pushback
I recently briefly read and listened to some of your takes on the war in Ukraine. It’s nice to see an evangelical devoting time and typing to this issue. I was hoping to share some thoughts and have your feedback.
Prior to February of this year the vast majority of the young, progressive, pro-Ukraine folks were unaware of the ongoing situation in the region. The beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict did not begin this past February, it has been progressing since 2014 with innocent blood spilled on both sides by both sides.
On this point of youthful ignorance, some Polish friends of mine told me of an instance in which some of their friends were openly harassed by some Americans because they were speaking Polish, and they thought they were Russians. I happen to be a Russian speaking Slavic guy myself, and I find this sad, hilarious, and simply naive. These are the same people who fly the Ukraine flag with the rainbow flag, generally.
What’s more, I can say (if one were to ask) that this issue is horrific and extremely complicated. It is not just a matter of “those Russian orcs” and “the Ukrainian patriots.” That is only part of it in some ways, at some times, in some places. Ukraine is simply not a bastion of democracy and freedom in post-Soviet East the way the mainstream, left media portrays it. The young progressives don’t seem to be aware that LGBT rights are indexed as being higher in Tajikistan than in Ukraine, at the time of this writing.
The Ukrainian people caught in the mess, as well as the Russian people, deserve far better than a bandwagon of dim-witted, Western leftists parading for the rights of a people they just found out exists yesterday. They don’t care about Ukrainian language, culture, history, or Orthodox heritage. Russia as a bad guy is an easy sell, so whatever supposed good guy that’s paired off with that bundle will get eaten right up.
It seems to me that there is a general pattern carrying on about all this. Those who just tuned in to all this when they were told to (in other words, this past February) are very adamant: the Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom, and Putin is Sauron in the flesh. Those who have been paying attention the whole time, especially on an immediately personal level, seem to have a different take, something more akin to simply: Boy, it’s rough, what a mess.
I’m sure you’ve heard this all before. Even among my own circle involving Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians: it’s not a clear consensus. Ukrainian people have come out of their homes in some regions, shouting at the Ukrainian soldiers to leave, to let the Russians come and integrate among them. Other places, the Ukrainians make the sign of the cross over their troops.
What seems clear to me is that this is anything but clear. Could I ask if I may encourage you, my elder brother, to perhaps tap the brakes slightly on the pro-Ukraine front, if my understanding of your position could be accurately summed up as that. The Ukrainian government has recently been at work banning the worship of Christians who do so in “unapproved ways.” Orthodox bishops, monks, priests, and faithful are outraged, saying that such authorities are not real Ukrainians.
In any case, I thank you for reading this and for any response you could offer. I pray longingly for a time coming soon when Ukrainians and Russians, brothers as we are, will ceasefire on their own family.
Thank you, and may the Lord bless and keep you.
С нами Бог
Anton, I think we are pretty close in our understanding. If you read everything I have written about the war, I think you will find that I agree with you completely on how it is a huge tangled mess. I do hope that Russia loses, badly, but if they do, and depart from Ukraine entirely, there will still be a multitude of “bad guys” there that faithful Ukrainian believers will have to resist. And faithful Russian believers have their own set of bad guys.
Health and Wealth Question
What is the best way to distinguish covenant blessings theology from the health and welfare gospel, which I understand to be a heresy?
Laura, the central problem with the health and wealth guys is not all the verses they cite (and they have a lot of them), but rather the passages they leave out. The best way to illustrate this is by taking a close look at the victors by faith in Heb. 11:32-38. The first part of that list is glorious—men stopping the mouths of lions, putting enemies to flight, and so on. Thus far the health and wealth guys. But then, starting in v. 35 and just as much by faith, and a different kind of glorious, you find men being tortured, imprisoned, sawn in two, and so on. A teaching on material blessings that incorporates that entire passage can be trusted, in my view.
Re: Deuteronomy Harvest, I think health and wealth adherents might say “Yes and Amen” to this. Where, in your mind, do they take things too far?
JH, thanks. And see above.
A Reading List
I recently watched a video on Canon+ where you referenced—in response to (paraphrasing) a lifetime of educational malaise and neglect—a book where you listed 25 or so canonical works that are upstream from many other major ideas and books, and thus should be prioritized by those interested in reclaiming intellectual vigor that was withheld from them in the public school system. I don’t remember the book’s name, nor do I remember precisely the video where you referenced it (I think it was from the “Public School Rehab” series). Would it be too much trouble to list the books here, or at least the book you wrote where the list can be found?
Back in the late 90’s, before I was even a Christian, I was impressed with the notion that either my schooling was deficient or I had not applied myself adequately, so I picked up on a number of books and treatises from our nation’s founding period and those whose works directly influenced them. The furthest back I went was Locke and Hobbes. At the time I had read the Bible only once from front to back—even then with very little understanding, and zero reverence.
Now a Christian well into my 40’s, I’m coming again to a similar impression that, while my efforts and intent to self-educate wasn’t inherently bad, I may have read everything out of order, and with a poorly constructed framework to begin with. It’s a blessing that my kids are young and there is time to pass on to them what I now wish I learned earlier, God willing
Cam, you can find that list in the last part of The Case for Classical Christian Education.
A Letter About the Judeans, and Maybe the Jews
If the biblical authors are comfortable using the same word, Ἰουδαῖος, when speaking more broadly of Jews, or more specifically of Judeans, and they allowed context to expose the contours of meaning, why is it important for the modern translator to be more precise than the original authors? Seeing how overbearing translators tend to get, I find it more important to seek concordance in a translation where possible and then let the pastor/teacher/commentator expose the nuance. So back to the question: What’s the payout here? Why is it important in 1 Thess. 2 to be so precise? What’s the benefit? What do we gain by highlighting this?
Since I’m not seeing any significant payload in this passage that would cause you to highlight this as particularly important, it’s got me wondering if the payout comes somewhere else in the NT, where having this hermeneutic in mind helps you keep things straight in those other texts.
Chris, I think it would be appropriate simply to use one word if we were aware of the semantic range of that one word. The ancients would have been aware of it, so context worked for them. If we are not aware of it, and have only one definition operating in our minds, then we are going to blame the Jews for something the Judeans did. It is quite true that there was Jew/Gentile hostility in the first century, just as there is now. But it is also the case that there was a good deal of Judean/Galilean hostility, which most of us know nothing about, and hence we often miss what’s actually going on. A really good book on this is The Makers Versus the Takers by Jerry Bowyer.
A Question About Being Reprobate
You referenced Romans 9:22ff in “Pharaohs and Herods,” I have a question about that verse:
Is it possible to be “vessel of wrath fitted to destruction,” know it, desperately want not to be, and yet be one anyway without any hope or possibility of salvation? I am not saying that in such a case a person is not responsible and deserving of wrath, nor an I claiming unfairness on God’s part.
I just ask because sometimes I wonder if I am such a one.
DS, the short answer is that no, that is not possible. The Scriptures do teach us that there are those of reprobate mind who have hardened themselves beyond the possibility of repentance. We know from our Bibles that there are such. But a certain kind of introspective believer takes that fact, and turns it into a lottery. “What are the odds that such a destiny will land on me?” What we ought to do, after discovering that there are such people, is look for the Bible’s description of them—what do they want, how do they act, and so on. And none of them desperately want to be saved. One of the characteristics of people who have committed the unpardonable sin is that they do not care whether or not they have committed it.
A Question About Makeup
I want to start by stating that I am incredibly grateful for the work that God is doing through yourself and the others at Canon Press.
I am asking for your advice. I am engaged and the wedding is in a few months. An ongoing discussion/argument that I have with my fiancée pertains to her use of makeup. While I don’t view a woman’s use of makeup to be immoral, the way makeup is advertised and popularized today seems to encourage young women to see and cover blemishes that aren’t really there. My fiancé never leaves her house without makeup on. Even when we go hiking, she is wearing makeup. In addition, I know that she struggles with her body image, and so my suspicion is that on some level, she feels uncomfortable without makeup on, and this breaks my heart. Whenever this subject is discussed, she gets uncharacteristically upset, and this leads me to think that my suspicions may be correct.
I have two questions from this. One, do you think that I am barking up the wrong tree here? And two, is it wise to continue pursuing this point with her in the hope that she will see herself as I do? Or is there some other way in which I can encourage her to feel confident in the way God has crafted her?
Blessings to you and your family.
A, it is hard to tell from this distance, but yes, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. From your description, it sounds like she is simply using makeup, and so you are not describing someone who way overdoes it—it is not like she puts it on with a trowel, and comes out looking like a lady at the circus in grease paint. If that is right, then the way you are going to successfully address any body image issues she has, or insecurity about how she looks, by loving her as Christ loved the church. By talking with her about it, or by having disagreements with her about it, you are only going to exacerbate the problem. I would drop it.