I’ve been watching Christopher Benson take up on behalf of BioLogos this last period of time – I guess it’s over a couple of weeks now, but blogging distorts time. It may have only been last week. Anyway, it seems to me that Christopher wants to embrace the dryer-fresh smell of academia in spite of the tattered rags he may be pulling out of the wash. (more…)
In 1990, Frank received his MA in Literature in English from St. Bonaventure University, and years later became a Christian in the basement of his parents' house one night while contemplating suicide.He's married to a woman who's much smarter than him, has two kids who are way more compliant than he deserves, and he has been blogging with Dan Phillips and Phil Johnson at the PyroManiacs blog since 2006 -- so plainly, he rides on the coat-tails of others and the grace of God.By day he is a mild-mannered employee of [withheld to protect them], and by night he causes mayhem on the internet for the sake of the Gospel.When he grows up, he wants to be the Calvinist Gadfly.RSS feed for this author
by Frank Turk
So you know: Pack a lunch.
And before you read a single word of this post, I require of you that you read this post, by me, regarding this essential conflict involved in talking about this topic. If you do not read that post, and you want to reproach me about my post here, I will simply ignore you. You can’t know why unless you read that other link.
Back in 2000, the Jewish World Review published a categorically-brilliant essay by Sam Schulman called “Gay Marriage: fin de linge” in which Mr. Schulman simply and dispassionately dismantled the argument that sexual appetites are the basis for anything but self satisfaction. That essay, sadly, is a dead link, I am certain, that because of its force, JWR received plenty of hate mail and threats.
However, in 2003, Mr. Schulman rolled up his sleeves again and published this essay, called “Gay Marriage — and Marriage” which leap-frogged even the span of his previous essay and made what must be called the definitive secular case against gay marriage. It’s is a shame that this essay is not more widely-known in Christian circles because it would greatly reform out engagement on this topic. You should read it simply to be an informed person. (here’s the PDF for those of you so inclined to read that instead)
I bring it up because on 04 August, 2010, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative denying marriage rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional. (more…)
You know: the subject of God’s love is not an either/or question in the face of orthodoxy. It’s not either you think God loves men or you have the right theology. In fact, I would say that the manner by which you can affirm that God loves men determines whether or not you have the right orthodoxy.
Hence: the Sunday school lesson I sat through a while ago.
We’re reading the Gospel of Mark together in class (it was an adult married class, for the invasively curious), and we had just completed chapter 2 and just begun chapter 3. And Chapter 3 opens like this:
- Again [Jesus] entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And [the Pharisees] watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
The stuff in brackets, btw, are things I stuck in for clarity – I replaced the pronouns with the right antecedents. But here we are in Mark 3, and the question seems to be this: will Jesus do work on the Sabbath?
There have been a slough of books recommended here at Evangel in the last month of so — and to buy them all you’d need a small fortune. But what if there was a book recommended here which was worth a small fortune, but you could in fact download it and keep it for free?
My friends at the infamous blog Triablogue have done exactly this for the English-speaking Christian community by digitally publishing & distributing for free a response to the most recent volley from the likes of John Loftus, Ed Babinski and their likely crew of internet “New Atheists”. The atheist book is The Christian Delusion (a title which looks suspiciously familiar, as if it apes another more famous and more formidable book), and the Triablogguers have aptly named their rejoinder the Atheist Delisuion.
Peter Pike has this to say about the work of his fellow bloggers:
Each chapter of The Christian Delusion is thoroughly debunked by Hay’s philosophical and theological acumen, Engwer’s encyclopedic knowledge of history, Chan’s medical training, and/or Manata’s philosophical prowess. Contrary to the tactic The Christian Delusion used—to attack the weakest arguments put forth in the name of Christianity—the authors of The Infidel Delusion dismantled the strongest arguments atheists had to offer. Indeed, if there truly are “few works as effective” as The Christian Delusion, as Parsons claimed, then Triablogue shows atheism to be in a sad state indeed.
You can download your own copy here, and make a weekend out of it.
You can thank the Calvinists later.
I’ve been away for a while — work and other commitments have limited by blogging overall, and sadly my availability for Evangel has been one of the victims of that. I stopped by yesterday (Friday, 17 July 2010) to see what’s going on here, and I found Christopher Benson’s piece “Postmodernism 101“, which included what Christopher called “my bibliography for all pomo-curious Christians.” It was an interesting mix of titles (I admit: I have not read all of them).
It came up that Phil Johnson, my friend and benefactor, has written an intro to postmodernism as well — a 20-paged paper titled, You Can’t Handle the Truth: Addressing the Tolerance of Postmodernism, which is classic Phil. He cuts to the chase in the second paragraph of this transcription by saying this:
I’ll tell you plainly: I’m convinced that postmodernism is inherently incompatible with biblical Christianity. In fact, the most essential elements of the postmodernist perspective are hostile to the fundamental truth-claims of Scripture, and for that reason, I would argue that a postmodernist mind-set involves some positively sinful ways of thinking.
Now, after that, you have to imagine that Phil either needs to substantiate his conclusion in the following 19 pages, or he will merely rant. It’s an easy read covering a field which does not have many books which are easy to read, and I commend it to you, the reader, to discover for yourself what Phil does there.
Christopher says blankly about this paper:
Phil Johnson’s position on postmodernism is a conversation-stopper, and not unlike Christians who contend that the great atheists (Nietzsche, Marx, Freud) are a waste of time. To read them, we are told, is to be corrupted. I think there are promises and perils with atheism and postmodernism. Our charge is to exercise loving discernment.
Really? This is a fantastic piece of news — because it frames Phil as a book-hating fundie (alleviating him of the effort of reading all those books he reads, and alleviating the reader of the responsibility to listen to Phil).
This week, Phil underwent back surgery and is in a lot of pain. So in lieu of his response, I’ll fill in for a few pages to attempt to offer Christopher a course correction.
While I have a minute today, I have been working through James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World along with another book which I think is the right theological companion to it, and it turns out that Chuck Colson has published a “response” to Davison’s book at Christianity Today. After all the PR for the work of Colson’s conservative social activism, the money quote comes here:
That brings me to my biggest concern about Hunter’s argument: The “faithful presence” he advocates most likely will result in Christians remaining silent in the face of injustice and suffering. Instead of seeking the welfare of the city in which God has placed us, we are indifferent to its decay and that decay’s impact on the life of our neighbors.
This isn’t a logical necessity: Faithful presence doesn’t per se require silence and indifference. But I’m hard-pressed to come up with an historical example of quietism and commitment to fighting injustice going together. And it is insensitive to the social and cultural context in which Christians are called to live out their faithfulness.
Now, re-read that a couple of times before you go forward here because it’s a more than a little absurd.
A few words before you watch this video.
1. The point is obvious, and it’s been said before, but to see it in this high production value should make you at least be happy that the point is also going mainstream.
2. The stunning irony of this video is that it comes from North Point Media — which is a function of North Point Church, Andy Stanley’s church. It’s a church foundational to the “Catalyst” network of churches which, if you ask me, are among the ones getting poked at in the video.
3. It’s Friday. Sunday’s coming.
I have no idea how long ago I received my review copy of Abide by Jared C. Wilson, but it has had me on a guilt trip every since it came in the mail box.
See: Jared and I sort of met because we both started blogging at Evangel, and I think we weren’t supposed to like each other. He’s a Boar’s Head Tavern guy; I’m obviously a PyroManiac. He’s not really one of the “YRR” crowd even though he has some friends there, and somehow I am – even though I prolly don’t really have any friends there except Zach Bartels and Tad Thompson, may a blessing be upon them. And my guilt trip has come from the fact that Jared’s book deserves a good review, and I haven;t had time to make one. Until now.
Before closing the last thread on bashing Calvinism, I noted this as one of the comments:
If it is contended that people go to Hell because God elects them to Hell, then I absolutely believe that Calvinism is antithetical to Scripture because the Bible tells that God wants all to be saved, that Jesus died for all people, and that God wills the good, and that Hell is not good.
Well, that’s an interesting perspective.
Let’s make sure we get a couple of things right if this is where the discussion is going:
 Some people in the reformed camp would contend double predestination — that God actively elects the salvation of those who are saved and actively predestines the damnation of those who are finally sent to hell. I admit I understand the logic of this and can gravitate this way, but I also am certain that this is not the classic reformed position. It is a later systematic adaptation, and I would put it up for discussion as to whether it’s actually hypercalvinism or not. It may not be, but I’m saying that I can see how it might be. The person from the comments, above, is against double predestination, and I thank him for it.
 The classic reformed position is that God elects the saved and simply doesn’t do anything for those not elected from an eternity-past standpoint, offers them the Gospel as a choice in the present, and will condemn those who do not repent and believe on the basis of their works in the final account. The elect are predestined, and those who do not come to faith are condemned for their sin. The WCF says it this way:
God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgement is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged; but likewise all persons, that have lived upon earth, shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.
The end of God’s appointing this day, is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fulness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgement, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
And for good measure, the WCF also says this:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.
… [To those not elect], God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.
The LBCF says it in a different way:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.
So as we hail down the scorn upon myself and the other calvinists poking about, let’s remember that the idea that some are actually actively predestined to hell in an active way is of somewhat-dubious paternity.
 In the final account, God does actually condemn people to hell. This is an inescapable and undeniable fact of Scripture. Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man spells this out plainly; His warning about the consequences of sin makes it clear in Mark 9. “Well, Turk: those people may be in Hell, but God didn’t send them there,” may come the rejoinder — to which I say, “horse-feathers.”
In Rev 20 is says with no qualifications:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
There is only one who is seated on the great white throne, and he judges all the dead who are brought before his throne. And by his judgment, they are cast into the lake of fire.
So as one contends for God’s character, contend for all of it — both the love and the wrath. It’s not any kind of shame to say that God wants Justice.
Great link from Challies at SBTS “The Towers”, from Chuck Lawless, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. Seven sure-fire ways to blow up a church.
Apply it liberally to yourself in whatever context you find yourself in. It’s great advice overall on how to interact with people and live as if you believe something (particularly the Bible) is true.
For example, a lot of people are hot for teaching the word because they are “gifted by God” (a phrase which, let me say plainly, I love and hate). What’s the difference between someone who is a “gifted teacher” and someone who is a “pastoral teacher”?
Or what about discernment — a lot of people claim to have “discernment”, to which I say, “bully for you”. What’s the difference between having “discernment” and “a pastoral discernment”?
Now remember: these last two questions are examples of the primary question, which is, “what do we mean when we call something ‘pastoral’?”
This is one of those question which will either lead to a very vigorous 200-comment thread, or it will fizzle because the topic is extraordinarily-mundane. It is, however, at the core of the two books in question.
Let’s see what happens.
The other book I’m reading right now is the latest from 9Marks ministries, by Jonathan Leeman,The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrine of Church Membership and Discipline. Just like the book by James Davison Hunter I recommended on Saturday, I recommend this one full-throatedly — even if this is not a complete review by any means.
If Hunter’s book is a game-changer for your view of church, culture, and politics, this book is the game-changer that, frankly, I wish I had written. Leeman’s book is unbelievably-careful to begin at the beginning or the idea of “church” and end at your front door, challenging you to be what God wants you to be among the other people called out to be the church together.
Both of these books deserve a chapter-by-chapter treatment in order to fully and fairly review them — and there’s no way I’m going to get that done this week. However, you could get a leg up on that endeavor by buying either one and starting to read them for your own edification.
There is not a more important issue for Evangelicals today than the topic(s) covered by this book by Leeman, and from a different approach angle by Hunter. I look forward to leveraging both of them with you in the future here.
Got this book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity Today, in the mail Thursday night, and for those following on FB and Twitter you know I was laid up with a foot injury on a beautiful day, so I had some time to read the new insights of James Davison Hunter.
The only downside is the cover, which was plainly designed by some enemy of this book who was intent on it never once selling a copy to a human being. If they had wrapped it in plain brown paper it would have been more interesting.
After that, the book is (as the readers of Hunter should expect by now) brilliant and insightful, and you personally should order a copy in spite of the cover and read it so that you can be challenged in some pretty foundational ways when it comes to the way you approach “politics” and “mission” and “evangelism” and “church”.
I’ll post something more meaty next week when I’ve had time to digest a bit, but this book is a strong tonic.
The people and their leaders all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, “We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King.”
Pilate asked him, “Is this true that you’re ‘King of the Jews’?”
Undoubtedly you have read something about the FBI raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
From that linked story, there’s this self-description of these people the FBI is taking into custody:
Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment. The only thing on earth to save the testimony and those who follow it, are the members of the testimony, til the return of Christ in the clouds. We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t. We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming … The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it. We will reach out to those who are yet blind in the last days of the kingdoms of men and bring them to life in Christ.
Some trust in chariots. Some trust in horses. Some, apparently, trust in “equipment”. Do yourself a favor today and, if anyone asks you or it comes up in conversation, make sure you say out loud that Jesus doesn’t ask us to be lawless men. The only end for lawless men is that they will be punished by the law.
The Gospel calls us to something else which exceeds the requirements of the law.
A while ago I posted a few thoughts on the idea that Evangelicalism is somehow dying, and while we’re waiting for the next round of statistical data to roll in, the Christian Science Monitor — which first popularized the idea that Evangelicalism is about to collaspe — has come up with this hearty piece on something else happening in Evangelicalism.
When people today hear the name John Calvin, they think mainly of predestination – the controversial idea that God has foreordained everything that will happen, including who will and won’t be saved, no matter what they do in life.
What people often forget is that the 16th-century French theologian transformed Western thought both by what he taught and how he taught it. His 700-page “Institutes of the Christian Religion” became the reference manual for Protestant faith. And his detailed and explanatory style of preaching – he spent five years expounding on the book of Acts, verse by verse – became an example for generations of clergy.
Detractors, and there are many, see Calvin as a harsh theocrat who punished heretics (including one who was famously burned at the stake) while molding the city where he preached, Geneva, into a model of his fatalistic and hopeless ideology.
But supporters view him as a man who recovered God-centric Christianity, set the stage for religious freedom, and encouraged countless believers to read the Bible for themselves.
“Like it or not, he is one of the great minds that shaped our modern world,” says Gerald Bray, a professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala. “Ideas of democracy, open-market capitalism, and equality of opportunity were aired in his Geneva and put into practice as far as they could be at that time.”
You might read the whole thing before you register your objections in the comments.
This came up in my tweet_stream last night:
I’m sure my friend Paul Edwards will deal with that question a few times in the next few weeks (and until the legislation is either overturned or something much worse happens), but I read that question a few times and was left scratching my head.
“Should Christians be upset or happy” about ObamaCare?
I admit it: I think the question is not a good one. because let’s face it: should Christians have been happy or upset before ObamaCare? Did ObamaCare change who we are as Christians one iota?
See: I get it. I met with a guy yesterday with a really big small business who has 51 employees, and now he’s impacted and his life as a business owner is changed. His outlook for his business is changed. I’m not going to lecture about capitalism here, but his life changed and as a businessman, his future as a businessman changed.
As Americans, before ObamaCare we were all carrying around $40K in national debt, and now God only knows how much debt per person we’re carrying around. Our future as Americans has changed. I admit I’m worried about that in a wholly-temporal and what-kind-of-world-will-my-kids-live-in way.
But as a Christian? How do I feel as a Christian about ObamaCare?
I feel like it’s just another false religion competing with my great God and Savior for the attention of people who, in their guts, know they are lost and need saving. And somehow I have an obligation to show off that my God and Savior does not put me in debt but in fact frees me from the debts I have made.
I hope that’s how you feel about ObamaCare. And that you act like that’s how you feel.
They’re reporting at Breitbart.com that since the Health Care reform initiative was such a grand-slam, they have to now move on to Global warming.
“Climate legislation is the single best opportunity we have to create jobs, reduce pollution and stop sending billions overseas for foreign oil from countries that would do us harm,” [Sen. John] Kerry said.
“If we sell those arguments we’ve got a winning issue on jobs, on security and on public health. This can happen.”
For those of you who don’ really follow the currents in climate change, here’s a link to my historical tracking of climate change conventional wisdom at my home blog. Consider it instructional reading.
So I was driving in to work today, and the news/traffic/weather station I listen to on the commute every day comes up with this story about the 9-1-1 call Corey Haim’s mom made to the police when she found her son unconscious and not breathing. They actually played the tape the police released.
I turned the radio off. That’s not news: it’s voyeurism.
I could turn this into a post about justice vs. liberty, but that’s just being part of the problem. I’m not interested in being part of the problem.
This is just sort of an excursis, given the progress of my discussion with Dr. John Mark Reynolds. As I was reading today here at Evangel about this and that, the point about abortion seemed to be very well made by Dr. Beckwith in the comments — and good on him for getting it essentially right.
But here’s what I’m thinking: when we make the case regarding what to think about abortion politically, is the more-formidable case against abortion, “We deplore abortion because it is an abrogation of the liberty of the fetus?” Or is our case — the right case for the sake of the life of the child — “We deplore abortion because it is injustice against the innocent, and it is the state’s role in this life to protect those who are innocent from violence?”
It seems clear to me that the “liberty” argument is plainly the pro-choice argument, and the “flourishing” argument is the pro-choice argument. The argument for justice and for the sake of rightly dealing with those who are both innocent and helpless is the case for the life and protection of the unborn child.
This is an issue we all agree on, isn’t it?
Continuing with my reply to JohnMark Reynolds’ original response, JMR said this:
My view of the forms of government described in the Bible follows this pattern. The Bible gives us no sanctified form of government for this life.
See: I think that JMR has made a somewhat-obvious oversight here: the Bible certainly gives us one form of government which is sanctified “in this life”: the government of the local church. And the really-stunning thing about that form of government is that it is primarily concerned with what? Maximizing the liberty of the individuals who opt in? Prolly not.
Not sure anyone can make that case. But even if that was the only example, and JMR’s response was, “well, I mean ‘civil government.’ We can’t apply how God wants the church run with how God thinks we might run the world,” (which, to be certain to say it, overlooks even the most rudimentary ability to reason on the part of those who might read the Bible) is a full-fledge constitution or political road-map even remotely necessary to apply moral principles in such a way that we can then rightly deduce how to work them out in a political philosophy?
My opinion is that this is the right application of liberty in this context: applying the relevant moral presuppositions necessarily in Scripture in order to obey as we ought to obey.
The government God established on Mount Sinai was for that people, at that place, at that time. Some laws were as shadows for the rest of us (dietary laws) to teach deeper theological truths and have no relevance to me today. (I can eat ham!) Other laws were the best that could be sustained in poor and nomadic cultures. Our much richer and non-nomadic culture can, for example, establish prisons.
It would be good here to make sure we re-establish my original complaint to Dr. Reynolds – because if we do that, and then look at his approach to dismissing it, we will find an instructive lesson.
What I said to him back when this exchange started was:
Let me suggest 3 things:
1. Liberty is not, in and of itself, a virtue. Demanding that any government be restricted to minimizing the “loss of liberty” is not a principled requirement — let alone a biblically-principled requirement.
2. It’s interesting what the Bible says about who runs a government and therefore how much lordship over goods they ought to have. I would be interested to see JMR work that out over any period of time he’d like to invest in it.
3. As a convinced member of the vast ring-wing conspiracy (and also the subversive cult inside that conspiracy comprised of right-minded Calvinists), I don’t invest much in what either the right or the left forget daily about politics, economics, and sociology. Since all of these ought to be informed in some way by theology — that is, the right place of God, and the right place of man when compared to God — I expect that the secular left and the secular right will find themselves in the same place quickly since they are excluding the same necessary premise for all things.
The argument track he consistently works toward to responding is this: we have more stuff than they had when the books of the OT were written, so those books don’t speak directly to our experience. That is certainly what he has done here.
Now: what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with saying, as above, that we are not nomadic goat-herders? The problem with this reasoning is that no one is advocating that we need to be nomadic goat-herders. What I am saying, and have said, is that Liberty is not the primary objective or limiting factor of government. Justice is the primary ministry of civil Government. To keep the one-hit wonders from countermanding this thread on church authority, I’ll give a little Luther on this subject rather than the WCF:
You might say: “Why then do we have so many laws of the Church and of the State, and many ceremonies of churches, monastic houses, holy places, which urge and tempt men to good works, if faith does all things through the First Commandment?” I answer: Simply because we do not all have faith or do not heed it. If every man had faith, we would need no more laws, but every one would of himself at all times do good works, as his confidence in God teaches him.
But now there are four kinds of men: the first, just mentioned, who need no law, of whom St. Paul says, I. Timothy i, “The law is not made for a righteous man,” that is, for the believer, but believers of themselves do what they know and can do, only because they firmly trust that God’s favor and grace rests upon them in all things. The second class want to abuse this freedom, put a false confidence in it, and grow lazy; of whom St. Peter says, I. Peter ii, “Ye shall live as free men, but not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness,” as if he said: The freedom of faith does not permit sins, nor will it cover them, but it sets us free to do all manner of good works and to endure all things as they happen to us, so that a man is not bound only to one work or to a few. So also St. Paul, Galatians v: “Use not your liberty for an occasion to the flesh.” Such men must be urged by laws and hemmed in by teaching and exhortation. The third class are wicked men, always ready for sins; these must be constrained by spiritual and temporal laws, like wild horses and dogs, and where this does not help, they must be put to death by the worldly sword, as St. Paul says, Romans xiii: “The worldly ruler bears the sword, and serves God with it, not as a terror to the good, but to the evil.” The fourth class, who are still lusty, and childish in their understanding of faith and of the spiritual life, must be coaxed like young children and tempted with external, definite and prescribed decorations, … until they also learn to know the faith. [Treatise on Good Works, XIV]
Note that carefully: Explicitly, Luther says that rules/laws are established to curtail the abuse of freedom. That is: because men are, at best, not followers of their faith in God, Luther appeals to Rom 13 to underscore the work of Government. Luther’s view was that if we live outside of grace and faith, we deserve the law. It is made for us. And it is Government’s cause to make sure this happens.
And we should think carefully about this: this is the model of the government God declared at Sinai, and the first act of the government which will be headed by Christ upon his return. This has nothing to do with agrarian cultures: it has to do with the way God has ordained government for us – and for our own good.
We also have a richer political and philosophical vocabulary. This is partly because we have learned the lessons (however imperfectly) from the wilderness government.
that’s an interesting assertion. I’d like to see up to three lessons we have learned “from the wilderness government” which ought to be useful in the interpretation that more liberty and less government is the right political philosophy.
Of course, the wilderness government did not last . . . and Israel was ruled by judges and later by kings.
I think it’s important to note that “the wilderness government was ruled by the Law from Sinai, and in that respect it was adjudicated by Moses and the men appointed by him to judge according to the law.
That is: the chief social objective of “the wilderness government” was justice. It certainly had the soteriological objective of setting a people apart for God’s purpose, but the way that worked out daily was the civil judgment to settle grievances among the people and the covenantal judgment against sin which was settled at the temple by sacrifice.
Here’s a bit to ponder, though:
There is much to learn in each period from Israel’s sacred history. We get ideas about the nature of man and some ideas about government, but not a full blown political philosophy or anything like it.
Interesting, right? “much to learn”?
What we should do is, again, go back to my original statement to Dr. Reynolds and see if I was pleading for a “full-blown political philosophy”. I was pleading for setting the right thing as first and foremost in our political philosophy. Liberty is not, in and of itself, a virtue. Demanding that any government be restricted to minimizing the “loss of liberty” is not a principled requirement — let alone a biblically-principled requirement. This is my main and central point. Arguing against a demand for a “full blown political philosophy” simply rushes past my point to make sure the philosophy department gets to have its say after all.
There is much of value to glean, but doing so is not simple. Our rulers are not David. They don’t have God’s special promises to David . . . so when our fallen rulers compare themselves to David (as one governor recently did) to justify staying in power, they are wrong. Governors are not monarchs!
I am certain I didn’t say they were. If Dr. Reynolds kept his eye on my actual concern rather than the concern that we should treat elected officials who are established by “we the people” as if they were established by Yahweh’s anointing through the prophet, a lot of the dust-up here would be eliminated.
Liberty is not, in and of itself, a virtue. Demanding that any government be restricted to minimizing the “loss of liberty” is not a principled requirement — let alone a biblically-principled requirement. That is my main point, and it is a wholly-Biblical point. I’d like to talk about that rather than the sins of stupid political panderers who give the Christian faith a bad name.
Again: there are principles, but they must receive modern application.
Let’s talk about one: liberty is not the chief end of government – justice is.
Israel’s sacred history is God’s unfolding plan of redemption, not a political guidebook!
And it happens to speak about the main end of government as God intends it for his people whom he is redeeming. It is an “also”, not the “only”. There’s no way to construe what I have said anywhere ever as saying otherwise.
The last bit will have to wait until Monday for a further treatment; may you all have a good weekend, and spend the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house with the Lord’s people.
I think the heart of our disagreement is the Bible and how to read it.
I think that’s unquestionably true.
I think the Bible is true and binding on a Christian. If it says a thing, we must do it.
I think this is also unquestionably true. However, for a guy who’s pretty concerned with how things get defined, I think JMR – especially in the light of his following comments – needs to be more specific about what he means here.
So in an effort to make sure we understand what I mean when I say, “If it says a thing, we must do it,” here’s what I mean confessionally:
I saw this via Twitter last night and got permission from my friends at GTY.org to republish it here. It’s by Dr. John MacArthur.
John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. Grace to You radio, video, audio, print, and website resources reach millions worldwide each day. Over four decades of ministry, John has written dozens of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, The New Testament Commentary series, The Truth War, and The Jesus You Can’t Ignore. He and his wife, Patricia, have four married children and fourteen grandchildren.
The original post is here.
You don’t have to be an astute observer of the evangelical scene to notice the unrelenting barrage of outlandish ideas, philosophies, and programs. Never in the history of the church has so much innovation met with so little critical thinking.
Giving a thoughtful biblical response becomes harder and harder all the time. Merely sorting through all the evangelical trends and recognizing which of these novelties really represent dangerous threats to the health and harmony of the church is challenging enough. Effectively answering the huge smorgasbord of accompanying errors poses an even greater dilemma. New errors sometimes seem to multiply faster than the previous ones can be answered.
To sort it all out in a godly way, cutting a straight path through the wreckage of evangelicalism, several old-fashioned, Christlike virtues are absolutely essential: biblical discernment, wisdom, fortitude, determination, endurance, skill in handling Scripture, strong convictions, the ability to speak candidly without waffling, and a willingness to enter into conflict.
Let’s be honest: those are not qualities the contemporary evangelical movement has cultivated. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Consider the values and motives that prompt postmodern evangelicals to do the things they do. The larger evangelical movement today is obsessed with opinion polls, brand identity, market research, merchandizing schemes, innovative strategies, and numerical growth. Evangelicals are also preoccupied with matters such as their image before the general public and before the academic world, their clout in the political arena, their portrayal by the media, and similar shallow, self-centered matters.
Maintaining a positive image has become a priority over guarding the truth.
The PR-driven church. Somewhere along the line, evangelicals bought the lie that the Great Commission is a marketing mandate. The leading strategists for church growth today are therefore all pollsters and public relations managers. In the words of Rick Warren, “If you want to advertise your church to the unchurched, you must learn to think and speak like they do.” [Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 189] An endless parade of self-styled church-growth specialists has been repeating that same mantra for several decades, and multitudes of Christians and church leaders now accept the idea uncritically. Both their message to the world and the means by which they communicate that message have been carefully tailored by consumer relations experts to appeal to worldly minds.
Many church leaders have radically changed the way they look at the gospel. Rather than seeing it as a message from God that Christians are called to proclaim as Christ’s ambassadors (without tampering with it or changing it in any way), they now treat it like a commodity to be sold at market. Rather than plainly preaching God’s Word in a way that unleashes the power and truth of it, they try desperately to package the message to make it subtler and more appealing to the world.
Runaway pragmatism and trivial pursuit. The most compelling question in the minds and on the lips of many pastors today is not “What’s true?” but rather “What works?” Evangelicals these days care less about theology than they do about methodology. Truth has taken a backseat to more pragmatic concerns. When a person is trying hard to customize one’s message to meet the “felt needs” of one’s audience, earnestly contending for the faith is out of the question.
That is precisely why, for many years now, evangelical leaders have systematically embraced and fostered almost every worldly, shallow, and frivolous idea that comes into the church. A pathological devotion to superficiality has practically become the chief hallmark of the movement. Evangelicals are obsessed with pop culture, and they ape it fanatically. Contemporary church leaders are so busy trying to stay current with the latest fads that they rarely give much sober thought to weightier scriptural matters.
In the typical evangelical church, even Sunday services are often devoted to the trivial pursuit of worldly things. After all, churches are competing for attention in a media-driven world. So the church vainly tries to put on a bigger, flashier spectacle than the world.
Evangelical fad surfing. Contemporary evangelicals have therefore become very much like “children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4: 14). They follow whatever is the latest popular trend. They buy whatever is the current best seller. They line up to see any celebrity who speaks spiritual-sounding language. They watch eagerly for the next Hollywood movie with any “spiritual” theme or religious imagery that they can latch on to. And evangelicals discuss these fads and fashions endlessly, as if every cultural icon that captures their attention had profound and serious spiritual significance.
Evangelical churchgoers desperately want their churches to stay on the leading edge of whatever is currently in vogue in the evangelical community. It almost seems like ancient history now, but for a while, any church that wanted to be in fashion had to sponsor seminars on how to pray the prayer of Jabez. But woe to the church that was still doing Jabez when The Purpose-Driven Life took center stage. By then, any church that wanted to retain its standing and credibility in the evangelical movement had better be doing “Forty Days of Purpose.” And if your church didn’t get through the “Forty Days” in time to host group studies or preach a series of sermons about The Da Vinci Code before the Hollywood movie version came out, then your church was considered badly out of touch with what really matters.
It is too late now if you missed any of those trends. To use the language of the movement, they are all so five minutes ago. If your church is just now experimenting with Emerging-style worship, candles, postmodern liturgy, and the like, then you are clearly way behind—that train already left the station…and crashed.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that all those trends are equally bad. Some of them are not necessarily bad at all. For example, there can be great benefit in teaching a congregation how to respond to something like The Da Vinci Code. But contemporary evangelicals have been conditioned to anticipate and follow every fad with an almost mindless herd mentality. They sometimes seem to move from fad to fad with an uninhibited and undiscerning eagerness that does leave them exposed to things that may well be spiritually lethal. In fact, the question of whether the latest trend is dangerous or not is not a welcome question in most evangelical circles anymore. Whatever happens to be popular at the moment is what drives the whole evangelical agenda.
That mentality is precisely what Paul warned against in Ephesians 4:14. It has left evangelical Christians dangerously exposed to trickery, deceitfulness, and unsound doctrine. It has also left them completely unequipped to practice any degree of true biblical discernment.
The sad truth is that the larger part of the evangelical movement is already so badly compromised that sound doctrine has almost become a nonissue.
The mad pursuit of nondoctrinal “relevancy.” Even at the very heart of the evangelical mainstream, where you might expect to find some commitment to biblical doctrine and at least a measure of concern about defending the faith, what you find instead is a movement utterly dominated by people whose first concern is to try to keep in step with the times in order to be “relevant.”
Sound doctrine? Too arcane for the average churchgoer. Biblical exposition? That alienates the unchurched. Clear preaching on sin and redemption? Let’s be careful not to subvert the self-esteem of hurting people. The Great Commission? Our most effective strategy has been making the church service into a massive Super Bowl party. Serious discipleship? Sure. There’s a great series of group studies based on The Matrix trilogy. Let’s work our way through that. Worship where God is recognized as high and lifted up? Get real. We need to reach people on the level where they are.
Evangelicals and their leaders have doggedly pursued that same course for several decades now—in spite of many clear biblical instructions that warn us not to be so childish (in addition to Eph. 4:14, see also 1 Cor. 14:20; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Heb. 5:12-14).
What’s the heart of the problem? It boils down to this: many in the evangelical movement have forgotten who is Lord over the church. They have either abandoned or downright rejected their true Head and given His rightful place to evangelical pollsters and church-growth gurus.