Like Raccoons in the Garbage

So this is to follow up on the previous post. Working together is harder than it appears.

One of the first things to distinguish is someone who wants to go the same place you do, but has a different view about how best to do it, from someone who wants to go somewhere completely different, but wants to use the same methods you are using. Distinguish principles and methods — where you are going is more important than how you get there. This is not to say that how you get there is unimportant; it is simply less important.

So if one man wants to drive to the East Coast in a Ford, he has more in common with a man who wants to do the same thing in a Chevvy than he does with another man driving to the West Coast in a Ford. Couple this with the fact that it is possible to pass someone on the road who is going the opposite direction, and at the precise moment when you do that, you are in exactly the same spot. Further, somebody else who is going to the same place you are might be a hundred miles behind you.

And sometimes it is hard to tell, when you are in the same spot, if you actually are headed in opposite directions. The whole thing can be quite confusing. All of Israel thought that Reuben and Gad were veering off into idolatry when they weren’t (Josh. 22:15-16), and Paul saw and understood that Peter was fatally compromising the gospel when it came to seating arrangements at the Antioch potluck, and when it almost certainly would not have occurred to Peter to put it like that (Gal. 2:11).

Barnabas saw that Paul was headed in the right direction before anybody else saw that (Acts 9:27), and Paul saw that Peter was headed in a wrong direction before anybody else saw that.


Changing the subject only slightly, my mother went to Prairie Bible Institute back in the day, an institution that at the time was using temporary buildings. Why not nice stone and brick buildings? Well, the president said, he had no interest in building nice buildings for the liberals. Since everything always goes liberal, let’s keep what we build for them at a minimum. Now it is easy to laugh at this, but did anything happen in the twentieth century to actually put the lie to this pessimistic assumption?

The policy is shortsighted, if it is shortsighted, because it doesn’t line up with Scripture, and not because experience has taught us that evangelical seminaries, publishing houses, denominations, and colleges never go liberal. I believe that things are getting better over the long haul because of the prophet Isaiah and the psalms of David, and not because Christianity Today, InterVarsity Press, and the PCA have inspired me by a rock-ribbed biblicism that grows stauncher by the year.

Now in this context, what statement is being made when you team up with somebody? A lot depends on the nature of the yoke. If you are bringing someone on to the local session, you ought to be saying that you believe there is a fundamental like-mindedness. If you invite someone to your conference, it means at the least that you want to be friends and that you believe his ministry is going more good than harm. Or maybe it is doing more harm than good, but not by much, and you want to play the role of Priscilla and Aquila to his Apollos (Acts 18:26) simply because the trajectory is promising.

You play cards with the hand you are dealt. You don’t stare at a lousy hand, and resolve the problem by wishing upon a star. That’s not a move found in Hoyle.

In order to sort all this out, you have to have a sharp and clear distinction between the fundamentals and the secondaries, and you have to have the right kind of suspicious mind concerning your own rascal heart. Rascal hearts find just the wrong thing to do at just the wrong time, just like raccoons can find the garbage cans. Someone who is sound on the fundamentals, but who has a quirk or two, and more personality than you might like, is a prime candidate for setting up a hue and cry against him. His talent makes him a threat to your esteemed position, and his quirks make him vulnerable to the charge that he is not the kind of confessional man we want to encourage. Turf wars in the body of Christ have always been common enough, but they still need to be decked out in the appropriate vocabulary. “Strikes at the vitals,” and “compromising the gospel” are very useful phrases, or at least they are if this kind of thing appeals to you.

Now, with this said, what issues are fundamental in our day? This is key — one of the common mistakes is that of thinking that the decisive point in the 16th century has to be the decisive point today. This is yet another failure to read the narrative right. Principles are constant, but plot points aren’t. But, lest this point be mistaken, as it always is, our Protestant fathers in the 16th century were right to take the stand they did, and the pope and his Council were wrong.

However, the fact that I cheer for one side over the other at the battle of Gettysburg does not mean the battle of Gettysburg is still being fought. We are at a different place in the war; the terrain is different and the circumstances are different. The uniforms are different – but the long war is always the same.

Surrendering a place that is currently being contested, and justifying this surrender because you are a sound military historian, and understand who was in the right at Gettysburg, is folly and cowardice. Attacking others in your army who are courageously fighting where the current battle is raging, and all because you suspect that they are not as sound as they could be on Gettysburg, is more folly and more cowardice.

But before moving on, let me affirm, once more, three basics. I embrace the five solas, I whoop until hoarse for the five points of Calvinism, and I heartily lament Jeb Stuart’s ill-fated ride around the battle. So let us not be distracted by Scott Clark’s parsing of Pickett’s Charge, or whatever it is he thinks he is doing.

Where is the battle now? What are the issues that threaten the purity of the gospel now? Where are the compromises now?

The real rot that we must contend with begins with Darwin, not Bonaventure, and any and all accommodations with Darwin. Darwin gave modernity the mechanism it needed to throw off the authority of God’s Word, and the sovereignty of the Lord Christ. Darwin is foundational to the secularist modernity project, but there is more. He is also foundational to the postmodern goo cauldron that is our culture today, and every form of what I have called pomosexuality. It is striking that postmodernists never want to be post-Darwinian. The whole thing, modernity and postmodernity, is part of one sustained play in the football game. Modernity was the quarterback in the shotgun position, and postmodernity is the quick pass to the flat. When someone helpfully tells me that the receiver in the flat is post-shotgun, my response will generally be to tell them that I don’t find their distinctions all that helpful.

And this is why theistic evolution is a big deal, and this is why compromises with every form of gender bending is a big deal. And this is also why a large number of people who are “contending for the gospel” . . . aren’t really.

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