Prophetic Language, Huh?
Greetings in the name of Christ. I have benefitted from your writing over the years and I agree with you on many of even the most controversial topics you cover. Yet your terribly poor judgment in using that filthy word, and your recalcitrance in now refusing humbly to repent, calls into question whether I am wise to trust you as I have. You kid yourself—and demonstrate the very arrogance of which you are (often unjustly) accused—by likening yourself to the prophets. Your appeal to them actually exposes the wrongness of your word choice; there are light years between “whoring” or “spreading your legs” and c***. (The title of today’s post notwithstanding, even the MPAA would take my side on that last assertion.) Ravi Zacharias once preached a beautiful sermon in which he posited that “there is never a reason to be unkind.” Harsh, yes. Impolite, probably. Even violence has it proper place. But as I enter my fifth decade of walking with Christ, I have not yet found Ravi’s maxim ever to be untrue. As a brother in Christ and co-laborer with you, I would encourage and admonish you: There is never a reason to be filthy in your speech. And when you have been, the proper response is not to falsely equate filth with poignancy. Rather, it is to apologize to God and to every reader who had no reason to expect—and no need to read—a vile word when a merely harsh one would have made the point just fine. Grace and peace,
Bruce, thanks for taking the time to take me to task, and thank you for the grace evident in your words. If I might push back slightly on one of your key claims, I do agree it would be arrogance to claim that I am in any way Ezekiel’s peer. But I don’t think it is arrogance to claim him as my superior, and to seek to imitate him in comparable circumstances. I also note that you picked the milder of my two references to Ezekiel. Remember that the prophet slammed those Israelites who lusted after Assyrian warriors, who were hung like donkeys, and who ejaculated like horses. Given the overall teaching of Scripture, there is no call to be talking that way all the time. But neither is there a basis for an absolute ban.
On “On the Nature of Prophetic Language” When I read your take on the Bolz-Weber controversy, I found myself having to read, reread, and look up (as I often do with your writing) that particular word you used to find out if it had some sort of Victorian context of which I was previously unaware. As you can imagine, all I found was how you intended the word to be used. Being as I am a long time reader, I was not so quick to punch my ticket on the outrage express, as I’m certain was the case for many of my contemporaries because there is always context and this post did a great job highlighting that. It is all too easy to express outrage over word choice than it is to understand why such words were used, and in our 140-character culture, nuance isn’t something with which people are all too familiar. I appreciated these words, not only because they helped to illustrate what is off about American Christendom, which tends the flowers while the forest is on fire. I’m sure the people of Israel thought the thrust of Phinehas’s zeal was a bit too, shall we say, pointed.
Jared, thank you for thinking it through with me.
Thank you so much for your blog entry, “That Lutheran Jezebel Lady.” It was truly a gift. Now, whenever my father-in-law tries to use something you said in an argument, or forwards one of your articles to his family, I’ll be able to respond by reminding him that you’re the guy who calls women cunts (“no they called themselves that,” I imagine you protesting idiotically), and that you think his daughter, my wife, by leaving the church as you conceive it, is asking to be raped. I doubt it will change his mind, but it will shut him up, or at least distract him. Thank you for this.
Jason, you might well succeed in distracting him, because it appears that you are pretty good at it. No, I didn’t call women that. And I don’t believe that women are asking to be raped by leaving the church “as I conceive it.” If your father-in-law sends any of my future posts to you, I would ask you to read them more carefully than you did these.
Question about “On Getting Your Sushi at the Flying J.” Pastor Wilson, Thank you so much for addressing the Shepherds Conference in this blog. I heard you discuss it first on Cross Politic, and having heard your arguments there, I was better able to understand your writing on the blog. Perhaps it’s because I’m not as well read as you are, but I often have difficulty understanding the points you make on your blog. I usually agree with what I can understand, and I can recognize that you are being witty and profound, but the punch line often sails right over my head. What did you mean by this quote (while you were discussing inerrancy): “The liberal can say, ‘Paul taught wives to submit to their husbands, ho ho ho.’ The evangelical has to think to himself, ‘A servant leader has a supple spine, which God gave him so he can find out what mama wants, and pretend he thought of it himself.’? As a Christian wife who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture and who strives to obey the Lord and submit to her husband, I’d love for you to explain what you are actually recommending to men here. And how does this point about submission tie to the ideas about inerrancy and how Paul teaches about slavery in Scripture? Thank you for your help in clarifying these ideas!
Rachel, thank you for the question, and sorry for being confusing. So imagine a liberal who doesn’t want to submit to the Bible’s teaching on marriage, and an evangelical who doesn’t want to submit to it. The liberal can refuse to submit, but doesn’t have to distort the meaning of the text in order to do so. He just rejects the text. The evangelical can’t simply reject the text (because he is an inerrantist in his head, although not in his heart). That means he has to pretend that the Bible is actually teaching what he is doing. The way this ties in with slavery is that any evangelical who openly affirms what the Bible teaches about slavery will find himself (because by definition he has to agree with it) in a world of trouble. So it is that many evangelicals refuse even to touch what the Scriptures teach on that subject.
Atheism and Rights
While I agree with much of what you say, I’m finding the argument that rights don’t exist apart from God less and less persuasive the more I think it through. It’s not that atheism provides any real path to rights; it’s that I’m not sure God does either. The right to life? God can strike me dead on a whim if he chooses. Liberty? Only if you define it as liberty to do what God wants you to do; I seem to recall the Soviets had a similar definition. The pursuit of happiness? Where in the Bible do you find that one even hinted at? God is not a democratically elected leader who answers to his constituents; he’s an absolute monarch who gives and takes away at will, and the rights he grants are only as secure as his continued willingness to grant them. So maybe the reality is that the idea that we have rights is an illusion no matter what one’s world view may be. If I’ve overlooked something, I’m happy to be set right.
Mike, we don’t walk into the throne room of God demanding our rights. But the reason we have rights down here, over against other men, is because God gave them to us. God-given rights are a legacy from God, a shield He gave us to protect us from our fellow creatures. Thus I have a right to life with reference to all other men. But the Lord could take my life (without murdering me) because He is the one who gives life in the first place.
Regarding Dr Dalbey’s “Response to Revoice,” yes, where the indignation is directed is notable, but I found this particular carefully worded sentence significant: “We do not agree with all of the views that were shared or taught at the Revoice conference.” This seems to imply more agreement than disagreement with those views, does it not?
Jon, or at the very least it indicated some areas of agreement and some of disagreement. It would have been enlightening to find out what those agreements and disagreements actually are.
What Goeth on with the KJV, He Wots Not
Thank you for maintaining a firm stand on the truth for the kingdom of God. You have been a source of wisdom, encouragement, motivation, and laughter to me for several years. In that time, I have had a nagging question which I would like to ask you. Why do you almost always use the King James Version? I’ve seen you use others in a pinch, so you don’t seem to believe in “King James Only.” And though I love its literary magnificence, I think using it today for primary Bible reading is less than beneficial for most because its language is so outdated as to be confusing at times and misleading at other times. I say this not to be critical but to point out why I have been a bit confused by your use of it and confident that you have a good reason. Thank you for entertaining this question out of the peanut gallery, and thank you for everything you do!
Jessica, yes, you are right that I am not an advocate of the King James only school of thought. And there are times when I believe the KJV is opaque, and that is when I quote other versions, for the sake of clarity. But for most of the time I have three basic reasons for preferring the King James. First, it is in the public domain, and is not the copyrighted property of a contemporary business concern. Second, I believe that the manuscript tradition that underlies the KJV is more accurate than what underlies most modern translations. And third, the translation philosophy of formal equivalence (a high concern for strict accuracy) is more to my liking. As a postscript, I would echo what you mentioned, the literary magnificence. I believe that anyone with a serious desire to be a writer should be steeped in the cadences of the King James.
Sanity and Insurrection
There have been other Christian Manifestos, but this is the one that is needed today. Wow, people, send this to your friends. My one question, however, is in response to a question that you pose regarding education. “What on earth is it going to take to get us out of there?” Part of that question might be $. How can we provide for working class Christian families to afford to get there kids out and how can we provide appropriate and living wages for those doing the work of Christian education?
DC, you are right that this is a real problem. My suggested solution would be for churches to start writing support in their budgets for working class families that are dedicated to a Christian education, as well as support for Christian schools themselves.
Since many people have been writing you about the aborted fetal cells and vaccines, it seems appropriate to send out my current conundrum. I work in a research lab, and without going into details, one of the things we do is produce a certain proteins from mammalian cell lines. These proteins have been and are being used to help design vaccines and diagnostics for major disease burdens worldwide. Up until recently, the cells we had used to produce these proteins were derived from monkeys or from Chinese hamster ovary cells (feel free to look that one up). However, a decision was recently made to transfer a substantial amount of our work to these cells called HEK-293 cells (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HEK_293_cells). What I didn’t realize for a while was that the HEK stands for Human Embryonic Kidney cells. Apparently these cells were originally obtained from an aborted child from the Netherlands in 1973. My initial reaction to learning this was shock and horror. I’ve been able for the most part to avoid any direct work with these cells, but as the lab continues to expand the use of these cells its becoming increasingly difficult to avoid working with them or with the proteins that they produce. And so I suppose my question is how should I think about this? For some reason, the fact that these cells have been substantially genetically edited and are nearly 45 years removed from the murder of the human they originally belonged to makes it seem more gray. For instance, I don’t think it would feel quite so horrific if the cells were derived from a murder victim from 200 years ago (if that were possible), but it would feel unconscionable if they were produced from an abortion 45 days ago. Is my thinking defective here? Am I guilty of some sort of logical fallacy? Anyway, obviously my situation is narrow, but the concerns about the use of aborted fetal cell lines is apparently more lively than I realized (according to the letters, at least). Thanks for your ministry and the help you provide for many of us to think through these things clear-headedly.
Matt, the first thing I would do is make sure you have all the facts straight. Make sure that the cells you are being asked to work with really are in direct lineal descent from the murdered child. And if that is the case, then I would encourage you to start praying about finding another job. But if you find out that your industry is simply complicit in this kind of thing, as most modern corporations are, I don’t believe in contagion by association. Suppose the human cells were being worked on by the same company, but by a different department. I don’t think that would require quitting.
As far as the time question is concerned, I think the issue is operation within the same culture, such that our behavior now will either encourage or discourage certain behaviors in others. If a man digs up a man who has been dead three weeks, he is a grave digger. If he has been dead for three thousand years, he is an archeologist. But the former is all happening within the same society, culture, and economy—which is where most of the disrespect arises.
Greetings sir, I’m writing to address a fundamental incoherence in “That Lutheran Jezebel Lady.” After addressing the tone-deafness on display amongst evangelical observers (and well done there), you pointed out a real problem, which is that the law is regularly proclaimed to our young people with great force, while the gospel is not. You offered your own personal testimony that this was your experience as well, in your youth. And then you completely dropped your watermelon, asserting that this deficiency in the preaching somehow resides in the hearers. Huh? As a smart guy once said somewhere—how shall they hear without a preacher? And this would have been just as strong a point in your post, and more salutary: The problem is that we have preached the Law extensively, and barely preached the gospel at all. Boltz-Weber wants to solve the problem by not preaching the law at all, and the White Horse girls want to preach the law badly. And the real solution is to preach the law clearly, and thunder the gospel.
Tim, yes and amen to thundering the gospel. But when the gospel comes to me it comes as undeserved grace. I don’t get to demand it. And if I die without having heard it, I die in my own sins. As Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band put it, “ain’t no one to blame but myself.” But I am not to blame for not having heard the gospel. I have the blame for my own sin, for which the gospel is the only solution.
Selling the Parts
Regarding the selling of dead babies in the last paragraph of your “On Getting Your Sushi at the Flying J” post. I have been very curious as to where I can find credible sources that either suggest and or prove these allegations. I believe it to be true but the only place I have found such records is at Infowars, lol. Don’t get me wrong—Bill Hicks has a lot of good things to say, particularly about abortion and the Democrats. Unfortunately nobody believes me when I talk about these things and then cite Alex as my source. If what Alex is saying is true then it certainly makes sense that Democrats are running towards infanticide because live babies are worth up significantly more than dead babies. Thoughts?
Thomas, the best way is to search for the videos released a couple years ago through David Daleiden’s sting operation through the Center for Medical Progress. They make it very clear.
The Distinction of Office
Distinguishing between the person and the office is so helpful! As you said, one feels the difference intuitively but it’s not as easy to articulate it the way you have done. It’s a bit different but I can see how a parent could apply this sort of principle to their relationship with a child who has sinned. Forgiveness—true forgiveness does not necessarily mean that all the consequences for the sin automatically fall away.
Anton, yes. This principle applies in any number of areas.
Concerning the Post: Adultery and Forgiveness Pastor Wilson, If a man commits adultery and then repents, his wife is required to forgive him. However, she may decide that she cannot allow him back into the “office” of husband. This make sense to me, but I also wanted to ask: Is it also the case that if the wife divorces the adulterous man, he is never allowed to again be in the office of husband of any woman? That is, if he walks in purity and faithfulness year after year as a single man, does his past adultery still bar him from ever marrying again and being in the office of husband over a different woman (just as an elder may never be allowed to be an elder again due to adultery)? Related to this, do you know any resources that might give principles to help a pastor/counselor in training deal with all the practical questions related to this sort of situation? Many questions come to mind: How do conjugal rights work with couple during the months while they’re still married but the wife is deciding about the divorce? What principles might guide the parents in relating to the children in this situation? etc. I know that these will largely be case-specific but any helpful resources would be appreciated. I’ve really appreciated these letter scenarios. Thanks
Neil, the possible answers can spread out as far as the hypothetical scenarios do, but here is my best estimate. Because we are addressing areas that Scripture does not teach on directly, I don’t want to thunder dogmas here. But what I am about to say makes sense to me. An adulterous husband who is divorced continues to have obligations to his ex-wife that she does not have to him. She does not need to want to reconcile, while he does need to want to reconcile. I believe that he should stay single, walking in repentance, so long as there is any biblical or reasonable possibility of reconciliation with his ex-wife. But if, for example, she remarries, then I believe he is free to remarry—because reconciliation is now out of the question. But I don’t believe that the guilty party should be the one to put it out of the question. I don’t believe that a couple should be having sexual relations if their commitment status is in limbo.
Regarding the Adultery and Forgiveness article, you make the point that the wife’s divorce of her husband is essentially a decision to remove him from office: “. . . he has violated the trust of his office as husband, and you are, in effect, the trustee who must make the decision on whether he needs to be removed from that office.” Later, you say to Sally, “When it comes to the adultery proper, you are the wronged spouse, and you are the one who has grounds for divorce. John does not have grounds for divorce.” If the roles were reversed, would John be doing the same thing in divorcing Sally as wife as she would be doing by divorcing John as husband? Would John also be removing the wife from an “office”? If so, what office does the wife hold? If not, what would John be doing if he were justified in divorcing Sally and subsequently did so? Many thanks,
BLT, yes, both are doing an analogous thing in removing someone from the respective offices of husband and wife. But Sally removing John is more delicate because she is removing someone from a superior office. But if John removes Sally from the office of wife, the same basic principles that I was arguing for still apply. He may forgive as a person, but not want her to hold that office anymore.
Don’t you think you are conflating roles in your argumentation? Specifically, an elected position (eldership) with an ontological change that becomes a reality (at marriage)? Also, can you imagine if Jesus forgave us in the way you are describing (forgiving our transgression, yet casting us away from his presence)? I don’t think you can since it doesn’t even make any sense, and if so then what kind of forgiveness are you trying to promote here?
Nick, two things. First, the idea of marriage as entailing a metaphysical or ontological change is actually more like a Roman doctrine of marriage, and not a Reformed view. The Reformed hold to marriage as defined by covenant—and covenants can be broken. And when you compare my illustration to how Jesus forgives, I think you are missing a key element. For finite creatures, removal from certain offices is tantamount to removal from that person’s presence, as with a husband and a wife. But it is never that way with the Lord. If we are forgiven personally by Him, then we are necessarily in His presence. So to drive my point home, suppose we have a pastor, called and chosen for that office by God, and this pastor disgraces his office through a moral failure. He is removed from the office (to which God called him), and he is removed from that office in the will of God. At the same time, he can be forgiven by God and enjoy true fellowship with God.
Friends with Bad Guys
Sir, a question in general about the appropriateness and boundaries of showing “friendliness” to pagans who are “apostles of the world.” I share your concerns with showing any kind of “shared concerns” with the likes of Bolz-Weber, as you observed in the recent article. I’ve also recently been going through your older writings, and noticed a similar concern you addressed about N. T. Wright engaging in “rational discourse” with proponents of homosexuality. About which I also agree. At the same time, there must be some nuance here, as I also have no issue with you having the “respectful debates” you had with Christopher Hitchens. And he was certainly an apostle or the world if ever there was one, and his positions were certainly as dangerous in their way as those of Bolz-Weber. I imagine it is one thing to treat the person with respect, while being clear you think their position is right from the pit of hell, as opposed to “engaging” in a manner that would suggest that their position itself deserves respect. Or perhaps there is some benefit of engagement if the purpose is to “answer a fool according to his folly,” but in a manner that ensures you don’t “become like him yourself”? I’m guessing you’d have no issue sharing the stage with Bolz-Weber for a debate, but I suspect that would look very different than the way N. T. Wright would share the stage with her? I would certainly appreciate your thoughts on the distinction. Respectfully,
Daniel, I think you appear to have figured out the distinctions yourself. When dealing with a rank unbeliever, it is certainly lawful to be friends with pagans, as Paul was friends with the pagan rulers in Ephesus (Acts 19:31). But it might not be smart. You must always keep in mind the fact that the current of the river must of necessity run one direction or the other. Either you are effectively evangelizing them, or they are effectively “evangelizing” you. If you can’t prevent the latter from happening, then you need to stay away.