Ministry of Reconciliation
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (ESV) This is a direct consequence of the gospel. And reconciliation is predicated on at least one party having been sinned against, and at least one party having sinned against the other. In the case of the macro level gospel message, God is the one sinned against, and we are the sinners who have transgressed the holy standard of conduct. Put another way, we have loved him poorly or not at all. And in having failed to love the Lord as due, the gift of salvation is entirely about God having extended the olive branch to those who were his enemies to make them right - to restore and reconcile us to God in Christ. This being the macro, the implications are inescapable. When we are sinned against and have opportunity to forgive wrongs, we do not only have the option to forgive as we have been forgiven. We have a duty. After all, this is the ministry that has been given to us in Christ - the ministry of reconciliation.
September 28, 2021
Lt. Colonel George F McFarland, 151st Pennsylvania
Lt. Colonel George F. McFarland, my great-great-great grandfather, commanded the 151st Pennsylvania at the Battle of Gettysburg, successfully defending the vulnerable left flank against attack by numerically superior forces from North Carolina long enough to allow for an orderly withdrawal of the First Corps under General Abner Doubleday. As General Doubleday would later attest, "At Gettysburg, they won, under the brave McFarland, an imperishable fame. They defended the left front of the First Corps against vastly superior numbers; covered its retreat against the overwhelming masses of the enemy at the Seminary, west of the town, and enabled me, by their determined resistance, to withdraw the Corps in comparative safety. This was on the first day. In the crowning charge of the third day of the battle, the shattered remnants of the 151st Pennsylvania [...] flung themselves upon the front of the rebel column […] I believe they saved the First Corps, and were among the chief instruments to save the Army of the Potomac, and the country from unimaginable disaster.” To read more of the story, I recommend this article by Marcie Schwartz at The American Battlefield Trust titled 'Trading Rulers for Rifles: The Schoolteachers Regiment: The Story of the 151st Pennsylvania.' Lt. Colonel McFarland was severely wounded in both his legs on that first day of Gettysburg. One of his legs was amputated below the knee as a result, and the other one was permanently disabled though he kept it. The 151st Pennsylvania meanwhile suffered a 72% casualty rate, and the two regiments from North Carolina they squared off against - the 26th and 11th - suffered the first and second greatest total losses of any regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg. That is to say, "The Schoolteacher's Regiment" gave as good or better than they got, despite holding the Union left flank. Due to the heavy losses, the 151st Pennsylvania was mustered out and sent home after the battle. And if that had been the end of George McFarland - holding the line to save the First Corps, the Army of the Potomac, and the Union - that would have been quite enough. But that was not the end of McFarland. After going home, James 1:27 may have been on the good professor's mind, where we read that "religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Returning to the McAlisterville Academy in Juniata County, Pennsylvania, where he had been the principal prior to raising a company of schoolteachers to form Company D of the 151st, McFarland converted the school into McAlisterville Soldier's Orphan School, and founded a printing company and a nursery. "During this same time, the Pennsylvania Legislature, after many debates passed an act accepting from the Pennsylvania Railroad $50,000 given for the “education and maintenance of destitute orphan children of deceased soldiers and sailors”. The following November of 1864, the academy, at the request of Dr. Burrowes, newly appointed as Superintendent of Soldiers’ Orphans, became the first soldiers’ orphan school effective November 3, 1864." The point of telling you all of this is two-fold: For one, I am fascinated and mesmerized by my ancestor, and I enjoy reading and talking about him. But for another thing, I am struck by what an outsized influence one man can have when he endeavors to take a stand in mind, body, and soul. And even once his legs are shot out from under him, a man can still do great good by not giving up on the purpose of his life.
September 26, 2021
Do Nothing From Selfish Ambition or Conceit
In the ongoing pursuit of being transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus rather than conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, I turn now to the question of selfish ambition. What is conceit except for supposing that we are the center of the universe, and that everyone and everything revolves around us? The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi in the second chapter and the third and fourth verses, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Elsewhere, the Lord directs us to "be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." But when in the practice of fearing God rather than fearing men, those around us feel confused and even intimidated by the effectiveness of keeping our heads and maintaining our integrity, we may find ourselves in sticky situations. And as we try to balance being both wise to the schemes of others and also blameless before the Almighty with soberly avoiding anything which might be construed as selfish ambition or conceit, we will find that this is easier said than done. Yet there does seem to be a clarifying detail in that we are told to look to the interests of others. And in that is our test. Are we imitating Christ who sometimes answered entrapping questions with revealing questions of his own? Yet are we imitating the humble obedience to God the Father even where it meant suffering at the hands of wicked, unjust men? If we are, then we can have a good conscience. And are we operating out of a genuine love for those around us - even sometimes our tormenters when we are being tormented? That may not be all smiles and handshakes and "Good mornings" when they are sinning against us. But even where we may confront them, if our motivation is their ultimate good and well-being, then we are free and can have peace in our own minds and hearts. Admittedly, again, it is a tricky thing to be wise as serpents while also doing nothing from selfish ambition. The world would tempt us to strike down Darth Vader only to become the Emperor's next disciple. But Star Wars metaphors aside, a firm reliance on the good Lord coupled with a ready willingness to wait on him and acknowledge him in all our ways will not see us put to shame.
September 25, 2021
Why a Good God Would Allow for Evil and Suffering
The Old Testament book of Job starts with a conversation between God and Satan in which the Lord calls attention to his servant Job. “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8) In what follows, Satan accuses Job of only worshipping God because of all the good things God has given him. God has blessed him, giving him a beautiful family, status, wealth, and health. If not for these blessings, Satan says Job would curse God openly. God next grants permission to Satan to take everything from Job so long as he does not touch his person directly. Before the first chapter is concluded, Job loses his livestock, his servants, and his children. He is distraught, and he mourns. When Job gets the news from three servants in rapid succession that they alone escaped to tell him of these disasters, Job stands up and proceeds to tear his robe and shave his head. But then he falls to the ground and worships God. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21) In the second chapter, Satan attacks Job’s health. And we see a repeat of the scene from the first chapter. God again highlights the righteousness of Job. And again, Satan claims Job will curse God to his face if God removes his blessings – this time keying in on the hypothetical of taking Job’s health away. As with the first time around, God gives Satan permission to test the genuineness of the faith of the Lord’s servant. The only limitation is that Satan is not allowed to kill Job. So Job is struck with sores from head to foot. Next thing you know, Job’s wife is bitterly challenging him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10) As a point of speculation more than revelation, I wonder if Job’s wife thought to herself that her husband cursing God and dying would bring an end to their troubles. Maybe she wanted the easy way out. God Reframes The Question Job 38:1-7 (ESV) "Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
September 21, 2021
How To Disagree Agreeably
The art of disagreeing agreeably seems lost on most in our day and age. Even to use the word "argument" is taken one way - as describing fighting, bickering, quarreling, and contention. If you do not believe me, you may be living under a rock or on another planet. But if you have access to the internet on that other planet or under that rock, do a quick image search on any search engine for "argument," and that will tell you all you need to know about how most folks understand the term now. But there is an older sense of the word which has everything to do with making a proposal using evidence, reason, and respect. As Merriam-Webster puts it in the first definition - and the one I prefer - an argument is "the act or process of arguing, reasoning, or discussing : ARGUMENTATION; b: a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view." Toward the end of MAGA - Make Arguments Great Again - consider Proverbs 9:7-9. "Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning." Perhaps it should be a relief to us to have not only permission but a command here to not correct scoffers and mockers. To tell a wicked man he is being wicked will inspire him to hurt, abuse, curse, and injure you however he can to dissuade you from doing it again. Correcting wise and good men, however, earns their respect. They will love and thank you for it. And why? Because by being corrected clearly and effectively when they need to be, you give them an opportunity to be wiser and better men.
September 13, 2021
In the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we read a number of things which will never be expressed in Veggie Tales, flannelgraphs, or Illustrated Children's Bibles. For one, the Lord God says he is taking away support and supply from Jerusalem and Judah because they have embraced their sin and flaunted their sin, "defying his glorious presence." Included in the list of things which will no longer be stocked are the following: bread water the mighty man the soldier the judge the prophet the diviner the elder the captain of fifty the man of rank the counselor the skillful magician the expert in charms What the people will get instead is a lot of chaos, confusion, and oppression. "My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths." It is telling here that infants oppressing the people is a sign of judgment. To be oppressed by infants is indicative of spiritual and moral decay, and a loss of the strength of character and qualities which are required to be a good parent and see children as a blessing instead of a curse. Furthermore, to say that women rule over a people reveals that men have grown weak and feckless, and no longer lead their families and homes, much less their communities and nation. By contrast, God tells us that marriage and children are to be a blessing. And we can take comfort in the tenth verse of the third chapter of Isaiah where we are promised, "Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds." In days like these, when America seems ripe for judgment - and moreover, when one could argue with merit that we are seeing evidence of already being under judgment - we do well to acquaint ourselves with passages like Isaiah 3, and to ponder the implications of righteousness for the individual, family, community, city, state, and nation. By God's grace, may we be found faithful in that day. And may it be well with us to the end of eating the fruit of our deeds.
September 12, 2021
Lincoln's Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher
Just having finished up Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams and David Fisher, I am struck by another thing. For one, Lincoln was a fine lawyer and a great man. For another, the right of self-defense is a tried and true principle of jurisprudence which endures through the ages. When a larger man publicly threatens repeatedly to whip you with the help of his friends, then stomp your face, you can be forgiven for keeping a weapon on your person and being prepared to use it in defense of your person. That is something of the lesson we should take away from the last murder trial Lincoln presided over as a defense attorney. And it is worth noting that Lincoln had something of a reputation for only taking up cases he believed in for clients he could in good conscience plead the case of. I might personally go a step beyond to say that I wonder in reading this how this last case impressed on the man who would be our nation's 16th president the justice and even necessity to defending with manly vigor life and limb when pressed, even as he came to wield in due time authority over a nation which faced an existential crisis from a class and culture of people in the South who would rather see the country torn in two than give up their superiority to some men they regarded as so many cattle. Dare I say it, we find ourselves in a similar predicament in our day - or we may shortly.
September 11, 2021
Omnipotent Moral Busybody Announces Vaccine Mandate Plan
Three pieces to consider today as President Biden announces new requirements that Americans of companies with 100 or more employees must get the COVID-19 vaccine or else be tested at least once weekly. Biden Plans COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for 80 Million Private-Sector Workers by Jack Phillips, The Epoch Times President Biden announces sweeping vaccine mandate for employees of large businesses; plan will affect more than 80 million Americans by Carlos Garcia, The Blaze Governors Immediately Push Back On 'Unconstitutional' Biden Plan: 'Will Fight Them To The Gates of Hell' by Ryan Saavedra, The Daily Wire Fair warning: some of the "push back" from governors here is a bit weak sauce, and carries with it what could be construed as a signal of a readiness to surrender from the outset on this despite a desire to look to constituents like a fighter before surrendering. "We don't like it either," they seem to say. "And we hope this gets defeated in the courts. But we still want you all to get the vaccine. And you should get the vaccine. But we also want you to believe we are opposed to you being forced to get the vaccine. But we also are not pledging to do anything to protect you from such forcing. But we want you to believe we would if we could. But we wouldn't even if we can right now." This then is just one more in a series of important character tests as-late. And the question in our minds ought to be one of principles and precedent - both ours as citizens, and theirs as governing officials. If 100 million Americans can have their livelihood and income and businesses threatened with abolition if they do not inject themselves and require injection of a vaccine which so many of our countrymen do not feel is satisfactorily safe, then what precisely separates this Republic from tyranny? 'Oh, ho!' you may say. 'But, Garrett. This tyranny is being exercised for our own good. Therefore it is not really tyranny after all.' But then I remind you of the quote by Clive Staple Lewis, and will leave you with it as food for thought, whether we are not in the thick of such a circumstance as he describes here. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
September 10, 2021
Trigger Warning on American Founding Documents
The National Archives online catalogue is now putting trigger warnings on America's founding documents, according to reporting from September 8, 2021 by Emily Zanotti at The Daily Wire. Historical materials and documents - including, but not limited to our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights - which may contain "harmful language" have been given a trigger warning at the top of the page if they "reflect racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes; be discriminatory towards or exclude diverse views on sexuality, gender, religion, and more; include graphic content of historical events such as violent death, medical procedures, crime, wars/terrorist acts, natural disasters and more; demonstrate bias and exclusion in institutional collecting and digitizing policies." As the DW piece by Zanotti points out toward the end, one of the recommendations provided by a little noticed report from a National Archives task force suggesting major changes included providing context to the rotunda for the building for the National Archives in Washington, DC through 'dance or performance art in the space that invites dialogue about the ways that the United States has mythologized the founding era.' Setting aside the patent absurdity of dance and performance art in the rotunda being used to undermine and desecrate America's founding, is it too much to ask for more specificity here? What specifically is the "harmful language" being warned about by our own nation's bureaucratic recordkeepers? Where is this alleged racism, sexism, ableism, misogyny, misogynoir, or xenophobia? But then that is not first and foremost the point. And as David Horowitz has put it, "the issue is not the issue; the issue is the revolution." The revolution here is not first and foremost about all of these forms of alleged discrimination. The revolution is about tearing down our nation's founding, and we should all be concerned by what will fill the vacuum. As a brief aside, it would be an interesting exercise to task the folks at NARA with rewriting our nation's founding documents to their likings, and seeing what they come up with. But in all seriousness, this story underscores the great need to pull our children out of the public education system, and homeschool them. Teach your children at home about civics, political science, philosophy, history, critical thinking, and theology. Teach the next generation to be able to govern when this all falls apart, because there is no sustainability to our nation being governed and ruled by persons and parties who resent and despise America. Either we select new leadership and a new government for ourselves which actually loves this country, or else it is only a matter of time before some other more self-confident and assertive nation takes us over and rules us from elsewhere.
September 9, 2021
There is a kind of restraint which is good, appropriate, and wise. Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit. And how we should control ourselves is toward the end of saying what is true and doing what is right, and not saying what is false and not doing what is evil. But there is another kind of restraint which is a bit trickier, and it has everything to do with fearing man. In the first case, when we are led by the Spirit, we act out of a deep and abiding love for and faith in Christ. In the second, we make tactical decisions to avoid telling the whole truth, and we falter as we endeavor to act in ways we know we ought to because there will be a cost. Dovetailing off yesterday's episode, I want to delve deeper into my own personal insecurity. And in doing that, I find that I am not taking my anxieties and worries to the Lord as I ought to be. The truth and wisdom of God's Word warns us against casting pearls before swine or giving to dogs what is holy. Dave, a good friend of mine, reminded me of this in different words recently. Christ did not always answer his accusers and detractors. And neither do we need to always. Sometimes it is better to not answer a fool according to his folly lest you be like him, as the Proverbs say. Yet there is another way to answer a fool according to his folly which refuses to feed into his being wise in his own eyes. And sometimes that way of answering is to not give the foolish scoffer and agitator the satisfaction of any answer at all. Still other times, communicating frustration is appropriate. And that last bit may be the biggest thing I am struggling with from an interpersonal standpoint right now. When being "nice" is so faddish and fashionable in pop-Christian culture these days, it feels sometimes as though the worst sin you can commit is to be not that. And conveying frustration, disappointment, or even sadness at the conduct of those around us is seen as not nice. To be clear, we ought not to be irritable if we are going to be loving. But there is a difference between being irritated by an objective irritant and just being grouchy all the time. All the same, one of the insights the Lord is helping me to realize when I earnestly ask him for wisdom in these trying times is that curbing my own unnecessary and inappropriate irritation necessitates doing all I can about what is actually my part in all this. And having done all to stand, I need to accept that at a certain point it is appropriate to merely stand firm and wait on the Lord in peace and satisfaction and contentment, trusting in his ultimate goodness, faithfulness, and authority.
September 7, 2021
Popularity - who and what enjoys it and for what reasons is in a constant state of flux. Today or tomorrow, trends bestow greater attention and affection for this or that person, place, or thing. And just as quickly, the critical mass evaporates or else shifts to some other. According to Wikipedia, which should itself be regarded as a kind of popular consensus encyclopedia, and the amalgam of what the online world wants to know and believe about everything, popularity as a concept stems from the Latin word popularis, or "common." In a world dominated by modernism and post-modernism, by every kind of idol and rejection of idols, what is regarded as agreed in common may change from day to day, week to week, and month to month. From one year to the next, decade after decade, popularity ebbs and flows. Yet one thing which is increasingly unpopular is to believe in the truth found only in Christ - that God is the Creator and Lord of the Universe; that the Word has been given to us to know truth from falsehood, righteousness from wickedness, and wisdom from folly. If you believe that truth, you will act and speak accordingly. And increasingly, as current trends go and historical precedent should inform us, this particular kind of unpopularity will translate into persecution. We do well, then, to not hitch the wagon of our identity to whether we are well liked by the world for following Christ. And all the more as we see trouble coming, we are wise to grapple with not fearing man, not casting pearls before swine, and not being conformed to the pattern of this world. "The fear of man lays a snare," as Proverbs 29:25 tells us. "But whoever trusts in Yahweh is safe."
September 6, 2021
Opportunity by Edward Rowland Sill
The poem 'Opportunity' by Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887) has been memorized and recited now by two of my sons - first by Solomon a few years ago for the 4H Speech & Demo Day in Sidney, Montana; second by Daniel last Fall for a more private gathering of homeschooling families here in Greeley, Colorado. Published in 1880, the Colorado city which would eventually be renamed after Horace Greeley was a mere 11-years-old when Sill wrote about the king's son picking up the blunt thing the craven had tossed away. "Go West, young man" was the admonition of Horace Greeley, and it was fitting thereby that this city would be named after a man who offered such encouragements in print to people in the East. The fuller remarks concerning westward expansion and Manifest Destiny included more fully the following compare and contrast. "Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country." This morning, though, I woke up to a comment on YouTube from some scoffer who might as well be anonymous that it is so cliché that I have seven children and live in Greeley. The specific video this remark was left on was my reaction to the second Trump Team mid-term campaign ad. It would be all the more fitting if the one who is mocking me there is from Washington, D.C. I almost hope that is the case. But undeterred, I want to think more deeply about opportunity - what it looks like, where it can be found, and what to do with it. And all the more, not less, we should remember that sometimes cravens and cowards lurk around the battle edges and fling away whatever they think unworthy. And as often as not, those things flung away end up being used by the good Lord to win great battles. As 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." We do well to meditate long and hard and persistently on such things, and live accordingly, in humility and confidence and by God's grace.
September 5, 2021
Labor Day Weekend
The first Monday in September looms just around the corner, and that means Labor Day in the United States. Originally conceived as an annual celebration and honoring of the labor movement in this country, Labor Day now as often as not marks the beginning of a new school year and the unofficial end of summer. For me personally this year, Labor Day Weekend caps off my first week back after quarantine for my wife's positive COVID test. And with that first week back, I find myself pensive about nearly a decade in the Oil & Gas industry. One of the biggest lessons learned in nearly a decade of working life is that supply and demand dynamics have a dramatic effect on working conditions. This holds true for commodities like oil and gas, and what price they command on the market is tied to how much people are consuming relative the amount available to consume. But this also holds true for labor. When I first moved back to Eastern Montana from Southern Ohio in 2012, the scenery and local culture were by no means the only changes. The labor markets could hardly have been more contrasting. Southern Ohio in 2012 was still lopsided from the Great Recession of 2008, with more prospective workers looking for jobs than there were jobs available. This in turn drove down wages, benefits, and working conditions, with employers knowing they could pay less and treat their employees rougher and still have workers as their employees were told to "just be happy you have a job." Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota, by contrast, were home to the Williston Basin, better known as "The Bakken" for a shale play that was booming then. Every business great and small was hard up for workers. And this not only drew job-seekers from far and wide; it also drove up wages, benefits, and working conditions, as employers were loathe to needlessly upset or offend the employees they already had for fear they would leave for a better opportunity at some other company in the area. After nearly a decade in the Oil & Gas industry, I have seen the market go up and down, and rampant speculation around the water coolers has persistently centered on how regulatory and tax environments, as well as broader economic factors at home and abroad related to supply and demand would effect the prospects of hard-working men and women and their families. Big Government types are quick to offer solutions predicated on higher taxes and more regulatory oversight. But the truth is that the best thing for labor is competition between prospective employers. When employees have options to take their skills, experience, and services elsewhere, employers bring their A-game to the process. Labor Day 2021, I think we do well to ponder such things deeply and make the most of the decisions we make and how we relate to our working lives accordingly, whichever side of the equation in which we find ourselves.
September 4, 2021
Roe v. Wade and the United States Supreme Court
Nathanael Blake published a piece at The Federalist August 31st, 2021 titled 'A Supreme Court That Capitulates On Roe V. Wade Will Unleash A Whirlwind' in which he lays out what is likely to happen among conservatives in America if a 6-3 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court upholds rather than overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case which established abortion as "the law of the land." He is right to posit that such an outcome would implode the Republican Party, which for nearly 50-years has funded and ran its campaigns against abortion, and extracted a great deal of loyalty from voters who are incensed by the State-sanctioned mass murder which is euphemized as "abortion." The history of the Republican Party in America is replete with moderates who care more about being "bi-partisan" than they do about staying faithful to the promises made to their constituents who elected them. Since the Civil War and Reconstruction, moderate Republicans have routinely sold out conservative causes for the sake of short-term personal comfort and deal-making with the opposition. Yet we do well to remember ourselves and remind moderate Republicans, be they on the Supreme Court or anywhere in or out of power, of what Proverbs 24:10-12 says. "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?"
August 31, 2021
Problem Solving and Troubleshooting
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. But anyone who is unwilling to admit there is trouble is going to be impervious to calls from problem solvers to participate in the troubleshooting process. We will not solve problems we refuse to admit we have, in other words. And while this all may seem very obvious and self-evident, the current state of things in the United States of America increasingly beggars belief in the wisdom and decency of the mushy middle folks. "It's just so hard" may be true. But there's more to the story than that, and we do not make things less hard when we are more stubborn than the facts about not acknowledging or reckoning with the facts of the situation. It will be less hard to know what to do about all these things if we stop trying to play pattycake with the folks on the Left - inside and outside the Church - who with each passing day show themselves to be inept control-freaks who view themselves as the ultimate judges and arbiters of truth and justice. The Leftists among us will, if given enough time, erect golden statues of themselves and demand we all bow down and worship, or else. And when the 'or else' takes the form of very hot furnaces made for disposing of non-compliant people, we will have to know which side of the furnace we stand - whether the inside or the outside. But if there is a line - like bowing down to a golden image of the king, for instance - which the mushy middle folks will eventually refuse to cross, it is not impolite or unloving for us principled types to start asking them to tell us where specifically it is.
August 29, 2021
Dr. Eric Mason and the Council of Philadelphia
In Episode #56, 'Reservations Regarding 'Lead' by Paul David Tripp,' I laid out my concerns with what Tripp was and was not saying in his book regarding leadership in Christ's Church. Among the things I highlighted was a concern about the emphasis placed on eliminating "sexism." My trepidation here should not be mistaken for a defense of sexism. But as anyone who studies the news cycle knows, particularly where politics is concerned, accusations of "sexism" these days more often than not are leveled at anyone who merely disagrees with, criticizes, or contradicts a woman when she's advancing liberal or Leftist causes. The same goes for accusations of "racism" and people of color. Sexism and racism are actual things we ought not to embrace. But the Devil is in the details of when, how, and why. And if denunciations of "sexism" are too broad and general and stressed through repetition, theological liberals in America will seize on them as grounds for insisting on the ordination of women as overseers and deacons, in direct contradiction to God's Word. Some of the feedback I've recently got on Episode #56 led me to dig deeper and see if there was anything to confirm or refute the deductive reasoning I employed in that episode regarding Tripp's personal views on this subject. And being home on quarantine the past week-and-a-half has given me ample time to research. So I share here the results of my researches. It should be noted clearly that I have found nothing yet which states one way or the other Tripp's position on the ordination of women as overseers and deacons, whether he is supportive or opposed to it. However, in my searching, I would draw your attention to something I found regarding the man Tripp identifies as his own pastor, Dr. Eric Mason of Epiphany Fellowship Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. More specifically, consider the curious case of a Twitter back-and-forth from 2018 in which Dr. Mason publicly called for a Council of Philadelphia to "call those who are heretics on this stuff heretics and make a move to clear the air of these false doctrines on race [and] justice like the church of antiquity." In the Tweet preceding this, Mason lets slip something else I want to draw your attention to. "We need a modern day ecumenical council on race [and] justice! We need canons and synods and creeds on this! Come to Philly and we can call it the Council of Philadelphia! Limit it to 300 key men and women pastors and scholarly secretaries. Rebuke the heretics [and] affirm the sound." (emphasis added) Reading down through the other comments, several respondents caught what I did, and seized on Mason including women pastors in his invitation. Some asked him if he had missed a comma, while others insisted as much. However, as far as I was able to see, Mason never clarified what he meant in this regard. Whether Paul David Tripp's pastor is being misunderstood here is somewhat beside the point to my chief concern with Tripp, Mason, and the whole Woke Church crowd. From this exchange and many others from leading Evangelical in recent years, it becomes clear this whole Woke business is being regarded by them as a primary issue, not a secondary one on which we can disagree. But then there is the definite possibility that Mason subscribes to theological liberalism with the ordination of women just like he subscribes to theological liberalism with regards to racial issues. It seems all the more that my initial concerns and suspicions were justified.
August 26, 2021
On the encouragement of Micah Hershberger, I did a new thing for the first time yesterday. I recorded a reaction video. You can view my foray into this internet trend here: Reaction to JD Hall on Protestia 'Podcast ALONE' Rant. In my entirely subjective and self-serving opinion, I think it's not half bad for being my first try. But you can watch and be the judge, and do be so kind as to let me know if you have any other videos you'd like to see me do a reaction to. But then you may be wondering why I am doing this. And I'll tell you - it has everything to do with the intersection of my quest to get better at communication, how and why Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, and a keen desire to bring my whole person into this effort to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind. That isn't to say that every reaction video is going to be me presenting my best self. But it is to say I think we need to be looking our actual self in the mirror when we need touching up and greater discipline, rather than looking at an image of our idealized self and trying to reckon with that. Reaction videos are admittedly - at least according to some critics quoted and referenced on the Wikipedia article on the subject here, at least potentially "graceless" and "narcissistic." But then how many folks are trying to take to the reaction video enterprise with a view to loving God and their fellow man, or a public dependence on God's grace, or out of a desire to improve social graces? Now you know of at least one person - yours truly.
August 25, 2021
In celebration of the 200th episode of this podcast, I want to do a recap on what I have learned, am learning, and hope to continue on learning as we continue on this journey of talking about everything. First things first, communication is hard, and there is more to it than just figuring out what you want to say because how we say things is a critically important part of what in the end people actually take away. When I started out blogging in earnest in 2015, each piece of writing required read-through after read-through, with little tweaks and edits each run before it was ready to be published. So also with podcasting, though in a different way, I listen back through each episode at least once before contentedness settles in that what has been said adequately represents my actual position. All the same, things I don't mean to be taken a certain way still make it through regardless. And such is life. That is the risk we all take when we communicate or do anything. The only thing for it is to keep on refining. For now, then, here were the most popular episodes of the past 100. #175 What is Going On at McLean Bible Church - 7/27/2021 #103 Voddie Baucham's Fault Lines - 4/24/2021 #144 Making Sense of The Great Resignation - 6/17/2021 #135 American Trucking Simulator - 6/3/2021 #121 Reservations Regarding 'Lead' by Paul David Tripp - 5/18/2021
August 24, 2021
Present Yourself to God
Still being home on quarantine last night, I did not have an opportunity to deliver the second sermon I prepared for the Preaching & Teaching class at Summitview Community Church, though I did prepare a sermon. However, being home as we were yesterday morning, I did preach both the first and second sermons for class to my wife and children over breakfast, and it is a funny thing to realize that even preaching to your own family can induce feelings of nervousness. To hear the first sermon, you can go back to the episode I recorded last week titled 'The Breath of God' concerning 2 Timothy 3:16-17. But in this episode, I would like to share with you the second sermon concerning 2 Timothy 2:14-15. Here Paul tells Timothy, “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Feeling convicted as I did after teaching my children and wife such yesterday morning, I went back and listened to my episode from yesterday with fresh ears, and I heard myself saying some things which I was not convinced could be called "rightly handling the word of truth." So I went back and edited the audio to remove the offending part. If we are servants of God, we are not to be quarrelsome, about words or any other thing. Nor are we to embrace "irreverent babble" as Paul calls it in 2 Timothy 2:16. Rather, we are to avoid such, even as we strive to rightly handle truth and present ourselves to God as approved workers who have no need to be ashamed. That said, some of us say things which are not good in other ways. And just because I sometimes offend in saying things which are true but delivered too harshly, and I need to get better at that, the mainstay issue confronting many American Christians today is an undue deference to claims and practices which God's Word says are false and evil. As Isaiah 5:20 puts it, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" And let it not be said of us that we do any such thing ever, whoever we might offend, and whatever temporary benefits or security we might desire by flattering. We must not confuse flattery for gentleness, or ambiguity for humility. Rather, we must be bold in telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable," therefore we must "do [our] best to present ourselves to God as workers who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
August 23, 2021
God Forbid Biden Represents America Much Longer
One week after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, we do well to do a brief inventory of the fallout at home and abroad. Three points to consider from reports at home and abroad over the past few days. 1. Biden Not Only Gave Afghanistan Back to the Taliban; He Also Armed Them Biden not only gave Afghanistan back to the Taliban. He also allowed them to take possession of military bases, vehicles, communications equipment, small arms, and ammunition. The New York Post reports the Taliban now has billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. weapons, including Black Hawk helicopters, Humvees, and up to 600,000 rifles The Daily Wire reports the Biden administration is considering air strikes to destroy American weapons in Taliban possession. 2. France is Lecturing America About the Need for Swift, Decisive Action Biden is trying so hard to control the narrative, his administration is trying to censor the president of France. The Blaze reports the White House is accused of removing from the transcript of Biden’s call with French President Macron a plea from the French leader that Biden share ‘moral responsibility’ for rescuing Afghanis 3. Hollywood and British Lords Roundly Condemn Biden for Bungling Hollywood royalty and British Lords are coming down hard on Biden, and rightly so. The Blaze reports Angelina Jolie is ‘ashamed’ of Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, describing it as having been undertaken in “the most chaotic way imaginable.” The Daily Wire reports British Lords roundly condemned Biden administration for catastrophic bungling in Afghanistan, calling this a loss for not only the U.S. and her allies, but the West as a whole. How Will Our American Generation Be Remembered? The blessing and curse of representative government is that when we Americans are led by great men, we can walk tall on the world stage and in the annals of history. But when we are led by the corrupt and ineffectual whose best defense for overseeing catastrophic failure is either incompetence or cognitive decline, then also are we represented. Perhaps it is fitting that Biden is the so-called leader of the free world right now. Confused, defiant, willful, stubborn, and dishonest - the humiliation is too much to be borne, unless this is God's judgment on our nation. The wind has been sown, and perhaps now we reap the whirlwind. However, I for one do still pray that the good Lord delivers us from evil and leads us not into temptation.
August 22, 2021
Wokism and Modern Day Judaizers
Nearly 2,000 years ago, a very real danger presented itself to the early Church. As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia, the claims of the Judaizers represented a different gospel than the one he had preached to them, by which they had come to a saving faith in Christ. Central to the controversy was the Old Testament Law, and circumcision in particular. Gentile believers in Christ had been told by Paul that repentance and faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross was primary. The death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah was a promise for all who believed, whether Jew or Gentile. But then the Judaizers came insisting that circumcision was also necessary. And Paul was very clear and direct in confronting them, and in warning the Gentiles not to believe their alternative claims. Not only new converts were deceived and led astray. The Apostle Peter was even intimidated for a time. And Paul told the church in Galatia that when he had been in Antioch, he had rebuked Peter to his face publicly for having tried to appease the Judaizers by no longer associating with Gentile Christians. Peter had been afraid of offending the Judaizers. But in his effort to placate them, he had undermined the gospel message. At heart was not circumcision in and of itself. Paul demonstrated that clearly when he had his disciple Timothy circumcised before undertaking missionary work with Jews. Rather, the chief concern was that circumcision was being made into a primary issue, and the Judaizers were dividing the early Church in a way that represented a real threat not only to unity among true believers, but to the very message of the gospel. In America today, the modern equivalent of the Judaizers is this new brand of Woke Christianity which insists that embracing Leftist ideology is the "works" when James the brother of Jesus says that "faith without works is dead." If we are not clear about that, and if we do not confront this threat of false teaching from within, we will undermine the gospel just as Peter did for a time before he was reproved by Paul at Antioch. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." If social and political activism according to the new Woke orthodoxy are the "good works" which God prepared for us to walk in, we should all be asking how the Church - even the Apostles and all the Church Fathers - missed this for 2,000 years. But then that is just it. They did not miss this because it was not there, and it still is not. Nor will it ever be there, however persistently the manipulative claims confidently issued from the most persuasive sources might tug on our heartstrings.
August 21, 2021
Woke Christianity is a Primary Issue to Woke Christians
Woke pastors, woke churches, and woke Christianity are front and center in America. But is Wokism a primary, secondary, or even tertiary issue? Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, charges of White Supremacy, "White-Centeredness," inequity, and America's original sin being racism. All of these and more have been picked up, embraced, and preached from pulpits and books and YouTube channels by prominent, popular, leading Evangelical Christian pastors in recent years. Many Christian laypeople are still grappling with what to make of it all. And we know that we are called to unity of mind in Christ as believers. Ephesians 4:1-6, for instance tells us clearly. "...Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." But why does unity in Christ always seem to mean embracing theologically, politically, and socially liberal positions as valid and true? Why do calls for unity never seem to work in the opposite direction toward conservative, historically orthodox stances? Perhaps rather than asking conservatives to do yet more never-ending soul-searching for whether they have prioritized Wokism too highly, regarding as a primary issue something which is secondary or tertiary at best, we should instead examine more closely the claims of primacy being made clearly, boldly, confidently, and repeatedly by the likes of Paul David Tripp, David Platt, and Tim Keller. Read and listen to them in their own words. Do they consider these to be primary issues? They do. And if such men regard Woke ideology and theology as central, primary, and essential to Christian life and thought, should those who seek to correct and reprove this false teaching be regarded as the divisive ones who have lost sight of the primacy of Scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ? Take heed to what 1 Corinthians 14:7-8 says. "If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?"
August 20, 2021
The Breath of God
Before my wife contracted COVID recently, I planned and prepared a short sermon for the Preaching and Teaching training I have been undergoing with several men from our church in Evans, Colorado. My text for the sermon was and is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." Having our plans change Sunday morning when my wife lost her sense of taste and smell, I did not deliver this sermon as planned. Hopefully there will still be an opportunity in the future to do so with the other men in that class. But in the meantime, I would like to deliver the sermon here, and to you. And having a bit more time to unpack the sermon on this podcast than is feasible in class, I would like to unpack this sermon a bit more than just reading its manuscript to you.
August 19, 2021
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Continuing on the cultural enrichment project in my home, and perhaps needing a little levity, my seven children and I sat down last night to watch 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,' the 1954 musical starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell. As my son Solomon pointed out near the end of the film, this is in part a story about Stockholm Syndrome. But it's more than that. And we ought not to take this too seriously. It is a comedy, after all. The year is 1850. Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank, and Gideon Pontipee occupy the family farm in the mountains of Oregon. When eldest brother Adam comes back from town with his bride Milly, his younger brothers - dirty, rude, and utterly devoid of all charm and grace - realize they want wives too. Milly sets to work reforming her new brothers-in-law, cleaning them up and teaching the rough-and-tumble lot some manners. It just so happens that when they all attend a barn-raising with the local townsfolk, the unwed brothers take a liking to some of the girls from town. And those girls take a liking to them too, what with their now-tempered confidence. Don't necessarily try this at home, kids. But it all ends up happy in the end when the whole lot take their vows. And I think we could all learn a thing or two about being civilized and polite, but not too-too civilized.
August 18, 2021
Just Like Elections, Ideas Have Consequences
As a follow-up to 'Afghanistan Reconquered by the Taliban,' let us take a closer look at the ideas that contributed to the failure of the Afghan government to hold the country against Taliban aggression, and the failure of the U.S. government to nation-build a feudal-minded Islamist culture into the 21st century. Meanwhile, Hank Barrien at The Daily Wire reported yesterday 'Seizing on U.S. Weakness, China Warns Taiwan U.S. Will Not Defend Them.' NBC News presents President Biden's full speech addressing the nation on Afghanistan yesterday, taking no questions from reporters, and promptly returning to his vacation at Camp David. For more backstory on Afghanistan, check out 'Why Afghanistan Is Impossible to Conquer' by Real Life Lore on Nebula, and 'Afghanistan 1979' on Curiosity Stream. Also read 'Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power' by Victor Davis Hanson. In sum, ideas have consequences. Elections have consequences because ideas have consequences. And ideas are upstream of elections. And as Sextus asks Messala in Ben-Hur (1959), 'How do you fight an idea?' Messala was right about one thing. You fight ideas with other - and better - ideas.
August 17, 2021
Afghanistan Reconquered by the Taliban
News reports this morning are that Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is surrounded. The Afghan government has announced it will oversee a peaceful transition of power. The Taliban for its part has issued a statement that everyone can stay home with no need to panic. All are forgiven for their complicity and cooperation with American and allied forces over the past two decades. As reported by Paul Sacca at The Blaze, President Biden issued a statement while on vacation at Camp David that America will commit 5,000 U.S. military troops to evacuating American and allied personnel still in-country. Not only was this outcome entirely foreseeable, it was foreseen, whatever the assurances a month ago that 100,000 Taliban fighters would absolutely not overrun 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police. Our reasons for originally going into Afghanistan were valid and just, even if our efforts at nation-building were naïve, foolhardy, and doomed to fail from the start, at least along the lines they were pursued. The reasons the ruling class in America and allied countries thought Afghanistan could become a moderate, Pro-Western democracy are the same reasons they opposed the populist policies of President Trump at-home in the U.S.A. The post-war consensus of secular, global values vastly underestimated the "Old Gods" as R.R. Reno calls them - loyalty to God, family, nation, and culture. Holding them in contempt as the cause of destructive conflicts like World War I and World War II, our betters around the globe thought they could create peaceful, prosperous, sustainable new political situations the world over by boiling us all down through various ways and means. Their errant, self-indulgent, conceited ideas proved fictitious and unrealizable once again. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the 300,000 Afghani soldiers and cops surrendering without a fight show us that in a way all the hypothetical and theoretical arguments somehow fail to.
August 15, 2021
JD Hall and Discernment Blogs feat. Micah Hershberger
Eastern Montana native and resident of Sidney, Montana - Micah Hershberger joins me on this episode to talk about discernment ministry bloggers in general, and Jordan "J.D." Hall more specifically. To what extent should we get into the personal lives of public persons in the Church, politics, and popular culture? How can we guard ourselves against self-promotion and conceitedness - in ourselves and those we listen to - when it comes to engaging in public discourse and the marketplace of ideas? Tune in as we strive to separate fact from fiction and distinguish the good from the bad and the ugly in the sphere of apologetics and the world-wide-web of self-proclaimed Christian polemicists.
August 14, 2021
Loudoun County School Board Meeting Fireworks
A Loudoun County, Virginia school board meeting made headlines Tuesday, August 10th after proposals regarding Critical Race Theory, transgender pronouns, mask mandates, and vaccines prompted fiery responses from parents and teachers. Sarah Taylor at The Blaze reported that Laura Morris, a fifth-grade teacher in Leesburg, Virginia resigned publicly stating among other things: "This summer I have struggled with the idea of returning to school, knowing that I'll be working yet again with a school division that, despite its shiny tech and flashy salary, promotes political ideologies that do not square with who I am as a believer in Christ." Phil Shiver, also at The Blaze, reported that at the same meeting, an unnamed father identifying himself as an Iranian Christian immigrant spoke also. "These are our children, not yours," he added defiantly. "Their job is not to raise my child or my neighbor's child. Their job is to teach our kids math, science, biology, literature, and that's it. Not ideology. Now you want to push garbage crap like 'pronouns.' "How the hell does that keep a kid from succeeding? How does that help them?" he shouted. "You wanna push that garbage down my kids' throats, I will make you call my kids king and queen. That's how you will address my son and daughter. And when you look at me, you will call me master." Kudos to these two, and well-said. You are my heroes, and we need a nation full of parents and teachers willing to take a stand now just like you did. On a related note, order a copy of my book, 'And This Is Why We Homeschool,' available on paperback and Kindle E-reader from Amazon.com, or orderable from the homepage for the book at AndThisIsWhy.us - and find out not only why we homeschool, but why you should too.
August 13, 2021
Regarding J.D. Hall as a Mad Dog
I have very real concerns about J.D. Hall being embraced as a partner in this campaign against Woke Christianity and radical Leftism in America – concerns that his partnership serves as a kind of poison pill for such efforts and will ultimately help rather than hinder Wokism and Leftism, both inside and outside the Church. These concerns are not merely hypothetical, but are borne of my personal interactions with Jordan, having attended his church for a brief time, and having gotten to know him directly, family-to-family, over the course of several months. To be clear, we did not move to Sidney, Montana or start attending Fellowship with any foreknowledge of the his controversial backstory. I was completely clueless as to who Jordan was prior to that first Sunday in 2013. As memory serves me rather fuzzily, it may have actually been a few years before I read up and researched the controversies surrounding Hall and his public life. But in any event, I was not acquainted with his infamy when we decided to attend, nor when I felt strongly led to stop attending. But I wrote about Hall twice at On The Rocks Blog – once in November of 2017 after he and another man from his church were dragged out of a Pentecostal revival in Dickinson, North Dakota; another time in January of 2020 when my earlier publication was picked up by a local reporter at the Sidney Herald and was being used to try and quash efforts at making Richland County, Montana into a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary. In other words, I have written publicly about Hall as the intersection of occasion and conscience has necessitated, and no more. But let me be clear: whatever he likely thinks or is liable to say, I am not obsessed with Jordan Hall. But still having friends and family in Eastern Montana, and having lived in Sidney, Montana for several years, I maintain roots despite having moved to Weld County, Colorado two years ago. And I still hear about Hall's antics from time to time, without prompting or pursuit on my part. Before moving to Northeastern Colorado, I had even entertained some thoughts of running for public office at a certain point – for Montana House District 35, for instance, if Jordan ever ran for that seat. And I had close ties with a few persons who were very involved in Eastern Montana politics and had encouraged me to join onto movements – Richland County Republicans, for instance. I ultimately declined to join that last movement in particular when I learned that Hall was the leading spokesperson. And I declined precisely because I believe him to be a mad dog who will in the end hurt the causes and people he embraces, and who embrace him in return. It is one thing to say that a guard dog is good to keep around when there are wolves in the wooded hills. And I do say that, heartily. But when the guard dog either cannot or will not distinguish between the wolves and the sheep, and might as soon bite your guests and family as defend them from the wolves, that sort of guard dog is more of a liability than an asset. So also with J.D. Hall. So consider yourselves warned.
August 12, 2021
A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood by James P. Byrd
Both the North and the South, Union and Confederate, knew their Bibles. As President Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, which was as much a sermon to the nation as it was a summary of the Civil War, men on both sides of the conflict "read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other." In James P. Byrd's excellent book on the subject - A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood: The Bible and the American Civil War' - the extent to which Americans were familiar with God's Word is laid bare with quote after quote, and one Biblical reference after another in a long procession, like soldiers marching. But did Americans understand God's Word? And did Americans apply what God had said to every facet of life consistently? The tragic conclusion I come to after studying this in some depth is that the Civil War would never have happened if the answer to these questions had been in the affirmative. Yet we find ourselves in a very similar predicament in our day, and not by accident. We are not divorced from the theological problems which plagued professing Christians in the United States before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. If anything, we are more deeply mired and entrenched in those same problems in part because of how that conflict came to be, was handled, and is still thought of and taught about today. To understand this issue better and more deeply, I would recommend Mark A. Noll's 'The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,' Nathan O. Hatch's 'The Democratization of American Christianity,' and Douglas Wilson's 'Black and Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America.'
August 11, 2021
Risks and Rewards in Extemporaneous Thought
As part of a training I am going through these weeks, our class is going to be tasked with delivering three small sermons. The first will be manuscripted, the second will be outlined, and the third will be - if memory serves - extemporaneous. Merriam-Webster defines 'extemporaneous' as "composed, performed, or uttered on the spur of the moment." What could be more dangerous? Speaking off the cuff is risky business. But then it is also a potentially rewarding business to learn how to do it well, because it has more of a believable quality to it. When I go down to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee in the morning and see my sons sitting there at the dining room table, I do not pull a script from my pocket to bid them 'good morning.' I improvise. When I go to work and my boss greets me on my way through the door, I cannot ask him to wait while I refer to my outline - not if I want to escape a queer look. Then again, scripting and outlining can go a long way to improving the quality of our communication when we have no choice but to improvise. How we script ourselves and edit ourselves can carve meaningful channels of discipline and the organization of information into our brains which are still there when someone surprises us with an unplanned conversation. Any way you slice it, I am excited. If I say something dumb, okay. What else is new? Now let us fix it. And if I say something helpful, great! Let me know that was helpful so I can keep the good stuff coming like that.
August 9, 2021
Theology and Politics in Raya and the Last Dragon
Sometimes I think we have grown immune to what the acronym 'PG' in a movie rating actually signifies. What is 'parental guidance' anyway? Is it merely parents watching a film with their children, oohing and aahing and laughing along with their sons and daughters? Too often, we imagine that a movie is safe so long as it does not contain sex and violence - at least the kind of violence where blood and viscera are shown. If my children do not learn crude terms from a film, that means the dialog and messaging are clean. And so long as we do not see more than a baby's bare bottom very briefly, all ages are welcome and we can step out of the room to attend to our adult responsibilities while the little ones are distracted for an hour or two. What we too seldom consider is the need for us as parents to be active agents in the cultivation of the worldview our children develop. They need to apprehend what is true, good, and beautiful, and to differentiate these from what tis false, bad, and ugly. Raya and the Last Dragon is a beautiful film. In terms of visual artistry, you could not ask for a higher standard. The colors and textures are vivid. The characters and costumes are dynamic, and the cinematic scenes are well framed and proceed like a parade and feast for our eyes. Beyond this, however, the danger may be the greater for how susceptible a piece like this leaves us to being distracted by the shiny object. I feel the same concern with Raya and the Last Dragon that I felt after watching another Disney animated film four years ago. In my piece published June 27, 2017 at On The Rocks Blog, 'The Morality of Disney Movies and The Problem with Moana,' I explained how we need to take care regarding the statements and impressions embedded in these stories. And here I will recommend again Mark Pinsky's book, 'The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust.' We do not want to be kill-joys as parents, watching popular films and tearing them to pieces bitterly or malevolently. Nor do we want to fall prey to the same error the Apostle Paul warns against in Colossians 2:20-23. "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of man? These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." Better than saying "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch," we as parents can and should teach our children to be discerning in light of what God says is true, good, and beautiful in the Bible. By all means, watch Raya and the Last Dragon with your children. But be sure to really, truly watch the film with them, and listen to what is being subtly communicated in every scene and line of dialog. And help your children learn these things as well. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
August 8, 2021
What Is Marriage - Man and Woman, A Defense
Once upon a time, "the right side of history" was the side where marriage was defined as a man and a woman committed to one another for life. Marriage was not a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. Whatever we wanted to call those alternative lifestyles, they were just that - alternatives. But then came loud calls for affirmation and legitimizing of everything which is not marriage. The folks who were not in a faithful, monogamous marriage wanted all the honor and recognition that comes with marriage for themselves, but without putting in the actual work to deserve it. Defenders of traditional marriage said that redefining marriage more broadly would not expand marriage, but would rather undermine and destroy the institution. And like the prostitute who stole the baby of another prostitute after her own baby died (probably due to neglect or contempt), wise King Solomon's command that a sword be brought to split the live baby in two so each could have half was just fine to the so-called "marriage equality" crowd. In other words, the "love is love" folks showed themselves content to have half of someone else's now-dead baby rather than the other harlot getting a whole live baby all to herself. And so the powers that be in the United States of America redefined marriage to include other relationships besides a man and a woman committed publicly for life to one another. Right around the time when all of this was decided, Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson, and Robert P George wrote 'What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.' Published at the tail-end of 2012, reading this book is like stepping into a time machine. Remember the bygone days when we were arguing about the traditional definition of marriage? Those were the days indeed. Plenty of arguments can be made from a legal, philosophical, sociological, historical, cultural, and practical standpoint without bringing religion into the equation. And these three men brought those arguments here. But by the time they had published their work, the matter had already been decided. And now we reap the whirlwind. What will future generations say of us? Likely, we will spend a number of generations reaping what wind was sown in the form of broken children growing up to be broken adults who beget still more broken children, and so-on and so-forth. All the same, I am reminded that the first thing God is recorded as having said was not good was that the man should be alone. Furthermore, I am still old enough to remember when God making a help-meet suitable for Adam was interpreted without controversy as Eve, a woman. And I am still stubborn enough to agree with God that this arrangement as a means to fulfilling the Dominion Mandate was looked on by God and not just called "good," but "very good."
August 7, 2021
Doug Wilson and John Piper
Consider with me the curious case of Doug Wilson and John Piper, prominent American evangelical pastors with large, high-profile ministries, colleges, and major platforms for preaching and teaching. From the 2000 Ligonier National Conference: Mohler, Piper, Sproul, and Wilson: Questions and Answers #1 - Ligonier Ministries - 34:25. From the 2012 Desiring God conference for pastors: "A Pastor & His Worldview" / John Piper and Doug Wilson - 1:59:41. These two disagree in some significant practical details regarding the way we think and communicate about sin and folly inside and outside the church. On the one hand, you have the polemicist Wilson who routinely employs biting sarcasm to highlight and ridicule persons and movements who are calling good evil and evil good. On the other hand, you have Piper who has grave and abiding misgivings about emulating anger and disgust, even where we find examples in the Old Testament and New Testament of God's servants expressing such in their rebukes of sin and folly and their calls to repentance. But I want to draw your attention to the manner in which they express their disagreements and agreements with one another. For all that we can, and should, bemoan the often frenetic and superficial way dialog and debate are handled in modern American society - inside and outside the church - at least some of the antidote to the chaos and disfunction may be these sorts of long-form, respectful, in-depth dialogs. When everyone is chasing the 30-second soundbite and the mic-drop accolades of teaming throngs of internet fanboys, where so-and-so just "destroyed" such-and-such or whomever, perhaps we need to be measuring our disagreements in hours and days rather than seconds and minutes.
August 6, 2021
Oh, the Humanity!
In 1937, news reporter Herbert Morrison uttered a phrase which has endured for eight decades. Reacting to the Hindenburg fire, he was heard in footage of the disaster crying "Oh, the humanity!" The largest aircraft ever constructed to-date had caught fire on its maiden voyage. A luxurious zeppelin filled with hydrogen with skin made of the same stuff matchsticks are erupted in a giant fireball. 30 people died. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, modern man had not taken enough care to consider the components for this flying machine. To say this thing which Morrison said is so interesting, though. Why wail and mourn humanity in a moment like this? Certainly, the loss of individual life was tragic and stomach-turning. But why cry aloud about humanity in the abstract? In our day, the consequences of modern man increasingly divorcing himself from the reality of our origins have the American Medical Association announcing last week that sex should be removed from birth certificates moving forward. Sex and gender are no longer meaningful distinctions between people. "Oh, the humanity!" But this is what happens when we become doggedly humanistic. We forget that we were created in the image of Almighty God, and that it is our Creator who establishes what is and is not meaningful by way of distinctions. God did not need to sink the Titanic anymore than he needed to set fire to the Hindenburg. And he will not need to bring ruin on us, but he might as a mercy to put us out of our collective misery. When man forgets God, his reason is turned to folly and he might as well say "Oh, the huge manatee" as "Oh, the humanity." What, after all, is the difference? When honest absurdities make more sense than very serious untruths peddled on a massive scale, we should eye on the lifeboats and parachutes and keep them close at-hand.
August 5, 2021
Coolidge by Amity Shlaes
The 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge often gets a bad wrap. Amity Shlaes makes clear in her excellently researched and written biography of the man who held the highest office in the land from 1923-1929 that there is much more to admire than we have been led to believe. Where too many conclude that "Silent Cal" was passive, I see him as Shlaes portrays him - respectfully and circumspectly restrained. As almost an opposite in temperament and governing philosophy to my favorite president to study, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge was always concerned with setting bad precedents and fostering undue dependence. In Coolidge's mind, good intentions in the short-term were no excuse for causing potential trouble for future generations. More concerned with removing bad laws than adding good laws to the books, Coolidge embodied the principle that "less is more." Less government from the top makes room for more self-government and self-sufficiency on the part of the common man. Less talk makes room for more listening. Less expense makes room for more saving for the future. By not elevating himself as most men with power do, Coolidge in turn held up for America and the world an example of self-restraint at a time when technological innovation and political trends were promoting a more grandiose and ultimately illusory mindset about humanity's prospects. Despite what you may have read or heard elsewhere, Coolidge was not to blame for the Great Depression having been so disastrous economically, socially, and politically. We can thank first Hoover and later FDR for that. If only they had possessed the humility and sobriety of Calvin, a normal and healthy market correction would have been much milder and short-lived rather than being protracted and exacerbated through intervention and experimentation. Coolidge stands as an understatedly heroic figure for the ages precisely because he was endeavoring stubbornly not to impose his will left and right as most presidents in the past century have. Even in his famous announcement, "I do not choose to run for President in 1928," we have a mercifully contrasting vision of public service moderated by consideration of his and his family's personal needs to lead a quiet life tending to their own private affairs. Do yourself a favor, then. Check out this excellent biography by Amity Shlaes about an entirely underrated and underappreciated public servant we could all learn a thing or two from.
August 4, 2021
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
"Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene." When we look at these words from the Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy, we should do an inventory of our attitude toward the truth and communication. Do we bicker about semantics? Do we present ourselves to God in a way which we would not be embarrassed by were the instant replay brought up on the jumbotron? Paul tells Timothy to avoid irreverent babble. What is that but the working out in language of our lack of wisdom because we do not fear God? Forgetting our Creator, we conclude that there is no Judge. We then become nihilistic and frivolous. We say things flippantly which we either know are not true, or else do not care whether they are true. And who gets hurt by that? Who cares? Yet Paul tells us that irreverent babble leads to more and more ungodliness. What we say, then, is the precursor to what we do. So if we are going to wrongly handle the word of truth, not be studious, and quibble about trivialities in definitions and grammar, or be godless in our expectations regarding the spoken and written word, what will come next is that we live like the truth has no bearing. We treat one another and ourselves in a contemptuous, callous, careless way. By God's grace, we can study to show ourselves approved workmen who need not be ashamed. We can be more intentional in our speech and conduct. We can do good instead of evil, and speak truth instead of falsehoods. And by God's grace, we can bring the effects of disinfectants into corrupt, polluted, gangrenous situations.
August 2, 2021
Maximus Decimus Meridius
My oldest son Josiah turned 14-years-old yesterday, and we celebrated in part by watching the movie Gladiator. The film opens with an epic battle between Rome and the barbarian hordes. Then secret meetings are called by the emperor. Commodus soon casts Maximus as the rebel. Yet it is Commodus who murders his father, Marcus Aurelius, and usurped the throne. So long as everyone around affirms the madman as the rightful ruler, Rome is doomed. It is not a question of whether, but when. Excepting the proper and needful defiance of Maximus, the whole empire descends into chaos, poverty, and starvation. "Fear is the mind-killer," as Frank Herbert famously put it. So long as Commodus is able to terrorize everyone into affirming him and treating Maximus as the traitor, the truth will not win out. Neither will justice. But insofar as Maximus is given a free hand to stand on principle, he is maintaining the best of what the tradition of Western Civilization affords. Who knows what Marcus Aurelius told Maximus in private about restoring the Republic prior to the suffocation of the hoary-headed philosopher king at the hands of his immoral son? None save Maximus until the end. So Maximus is to be taken outside the camp and executed for refusing to kiss the hand of Commodus. And not only he, but also his wife and son are to be killed by the dutiful soldiers of Rome. This is not to punish Maximus still further, but to serve as a warning. Whoever would dare to oppose Commodus can expect the same. Whatever faithful service they rendered to the wise, good king who preceded this pretender is now forgotten or even resented. Meanwhile, Senators Gracchus and Gaius work behind the scenes, meeting with Lucilla in secret to discuss the situation. Rome will starve in two years because all the stores of grain are being sold to finance the bread and circuses designed to win a fleeting, temporary love for Commodus. They settle on waiting until Commodus has more enemies than friends. That is when they will strike. Only that day will never come so long as all are too afraid of personal loss to risk meaningful, manful opposition. Does all of this sound familiar? It should.
August 1, 2021
One of the consequences of being an honest non-conformist is that people who love standardization and so-called normalcy have their attention drawn to me, often with less-than-harmonious, happy effects. I am not anti-authority, per se. But being a non-conformist who comes by it honestly on both my father's and mother's side, popular and typical ways of relating to authority are a puzzle to me. When someone tells me to jump, I do not necessarily ask how high I should jump. Rather, the question which comes first to mind is whether this person actually in fact has the proper authority to be making this particular request in this particular situation. And if they do not, or if it is not clear that they do, the mere fact of raising the question is more often than not enough to produce conflict. Growing up, my Dad especially impressed on me the importance of Romans 12:2, which says "...do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Now it is worth noting that the very next verse should contextualize. "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." What Paul is getting at here is the need for humility even amidst our God-ordained non-conformity. Where this gets sticky is at precisely the point when non-conformity leads to pointed questions of just who do we think we are that we would dare to do things differently than others do them. It is admittedly hard to answer that we are trying to maintain integrity and excellence whatever everyone else is doing without being accused of lacking humility. What is more, it is admittedly difficult to remain patient when the very fact of non-conformity, or of questioning conformity, is taken as proof that we are arrogant, stubborn, or rebellious. Hear me now, then, and mark this well. Christians ought not to be rebels without a cause. Moreover, we ought not to be rebels at all. But it is easy to be mistaken for rebels when we question whether lower authorities are acting in accordance with higher precepts and principles derived from greater authorities. Therein lies the rub. However much the larger body politic needs non-conformists to question why everyone is going about things in a certain way, the non-conformists are historically the ones who get the pointed questions first of where they get off doing things differently. And when the cause of standardization and normalcy becomes an end unto itself, the clipping of wings and rounding off of square pegs follows close behind.
July 31, 2021
Whole-heartedness and Continuity of Thought
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” So says Alexander Pope, 18th century poet in his rare poetic essay, ‘An Essay on Criticism: Part 2.’ Most essays are written prosaically. Hence, our expectations so disturbed, we might fault Pope for having surprised and confused us. Transferring the embarrassment of surprise from ourselves to him has some advantages. But greater advantages are had from embracing rather than criticizing this work regarding criticism. That really is the point, after all. For every single writer, ten critics wait in the wings. And too often, those critics – joyless in their outlook – rob joy from others even as they criticize for the sake of criticizing. So what if Pope wrote his essay in poetic form? Perhaps that is not a mistake, as Bob Ross would say, merely a happy little accident. And where is it written that persuasive essays have to be prosaic rather than poetic, mathematical rather than artistic? In every man, woman, and child there is both a head and a heart. Some live the life of the mind, while others are carried along by the wind wherever their emotions take them. But if we – as writers and critics – can endeavor to show up as the whole person, both head and heart, in whatever our hand finds to do, as unto the Lord, that is much better than half-heartedness and half-baked ideas. Once upon a time, before my wife Lauren was Lauren Mullet, back when she was Lauren Duff, she had a Yahoo email address. ‘Entiercoeur@Yahoo.com’ is where I sent my letters to her when I did not handwrite them. And when I first asked her to be my girl in high school, it was over Yahoo Messenger, and it was to Entiercoeur that I messaged. That was her name, and that was how I knew her. And that was, whether I knew it at the time, a large part of why I loved her. If I had taken French instead of Spanish as my second language, and if I had tried to dress to match her after a fashion, I might have called myself ‘Entieresprit’ – Whole Mind – for I was living the life of the mind, and I still am. But how much better am I to be completed, challenged, encouraged to a full heart in addition to a full mind? “It is not good that the man should be alone,” the Lord God says in Genesis when first a thing that is not good is commented on by the Supreme Judge and Creator of the universe and mankind. “I will make a help-meet suitable for him.” Just so, I imagine that God looked on a young Garrett Mullet much the way he looks on this now older self of mine, commenting in High Heaven that it is not good for me to be alone and that a help-meet suitable for me has been fashioned and provided.
July 30, 2021
Just Say No To More Mandates
Remember those commercials on Saturday mornings when we were kids. The crime dog came on the screen and told us all to stay in school and not do drugs. And what was the simple strategy for how to accomplish this? "Just say 'No'" is what the crime dog taught us. Now here we are. The ability to "Just say 'No'" is as important as ever, but we may not recognize it in this form just yet. Mask mandates, vaccine mandates - they may seem like no big deal to most folks. But they are a very big deal for what they represent, and for what will come after them if we acquiesce against our better judgment and interests, and regardless our legitimate health and safety concerns.
July 29, 2021
Interview with Daniel J. Mullet, Truck Driver
Ten-year-old humorist and all-around charming guy, Daniel Joseph Mullet joins me on this episode of the podcast to talk about what he has learned driving a big rig in American Trucking Simulator, the state of the world today, our favorite colors and numbers, and more. Stay tuned until the end to hear Daniel's advice for cold-call sales of grass-mowing services.
July 29, 2021
What is Going On at McLean Bible Church
What is going on with David Platt and McLean Bible Church? ChurchLeaders.com ran a story July 22, 2021 titled 'David Platt and McLean Bible Church Elders Sued After Recent Elder Vote Exposes Major Problems.' Christianity Today came out with a similar piece the same day, titled 'Platt’s McLean Bible Church Hit With Attempted Takeover, Lawsuit from Opposition.' For footage and a breakdown of what happened at the church service and congregational meeting in question, check out A.D. Robles video from July 21, 2021 titled 'Chaos at McLean Bible Church Business Meeting/Worship Service.' The long and short of it seems to be that the increasing Wokeness of many evangelical Christian leaders in America - notably including David Platt - is receiving impassioned pushback from lay Christians. At first blush, it may seem as though the laypeople objecting are the ones out of order. And they no doubt are sometimes. But then that is to be expected when the leadership is itself also out of order, presuming to write Progressive politics into God's Word and present it as a new and better orthodoxy. As Proverbs 18:17 tells us, "The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him." And whatever is really going on at McLean Bible Church, a team of security guards escorting a member from the building rather than allowing for a cross-examination of leadership does not speak to an abundance of integrity in the process or paradigm of those leaders.
July 27, 2021
Yet Another Response From Kwon and Thompson
Kwon and Thompson have struck once more their hammer blows against DeYoung's review of their book. Publishing 'Distinctively Christian? An Additional Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung' at The Front Porch, they get more into the substance of DeYoung's criticism this time. Mercifully, they are more succinct. Yet tragically, they are not more correct than they were before. Consider again the poem by 18th century Englishman Alexander Pope, 'An Essay on Criticism: Part 2.' "A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again." For our part, perhaps reading the entirety of that long poem would be a better use of our time than studying overmuch the tired and very old complaints of Kwon and Thompson. Like the house of Israel to which the prophet Ezekiel delivered the word of Yahweh, they contradict the justice of God and say that "The way of the Lord is not right." And what is it that Ezekiel 18 says? "Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD." Even if Kwon and Thompson were correct that we, like the 18th century bishop Tillotson arbitrarily reasoned, should limit restitution for theft to one generation, they wrongly claim that only one generation has passed since Jim Crow laws were struck down in America. A quick search of the internet for how long a generation is tells us simply enough that it spans 20-40 years. And even if we take the upper range value and judge the White American Church with the same strictness with which God judged the children of Israel who grumbled against him on the edge of Canaan, we are now more than a generation removed from 1965 - over 50 years ago. So their argument fails here too. Yet they persist in accusing and condemning the White American Church in the present unjustly on these grounds. And even God himself would seem to be guilty of White Supremacy, in their view, where God gives the Promised Land to the next generation of Israelites after their grumbling generation - save Joshua and Caleb - died in the desert. Social Justice apparently recognizes no statute of limitations, nor does it respect individual guilt and innocence. Whatever their protests to the contrary, their argument is as simple as all White Americans being guilty merely by virtue of being born White.
July 26, 2021
Erring on the Side of Caution
The phrase "err on the side of caution" annoys me. Subtly baked into it is the foreknowledge that a course of action is error, and we are accepting that. Given the fact that a double negative makes a positive, I make a concerted effort to push back on cautious errors. We should err on the side of caution when it comes to erring on the side of caution. That is to say, why err at all if it can be helped? "To err is human; to forgive, divine." So says the poem by Englishman Alexander Pope in 'An Essay on Criticism, Part II' published in 1711. By God's grace, there is forgiveness in Christ for our errors. Yet we should endeavor to not err, by God's grace. And where we see an error we are about to commit - whether one of caution or brashness - we ought to ask of ourselves and God how to do what is right and proper in light of the circumstances and God's Word. Consider this: Christ our Lord never erred on the side of caution. We know this because we know that he never erred at all. Yes, "he was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin." And Hebrews 4:15 comforts us with the reminder that we do have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weakness. But what do we find? When caution was warranted, Christ took care. And when boldness was required, Christ was direct and aggressive in the best senses of those terms. It inescapably follows that we should study the actions and reactions of our Lord to discern better when caution is correct and when boldness is. In so doing, we will ourselves better master when we ought to be cautious and when we ought to be bold. "The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion." So says Proverbs 28:1. And, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." What the Apostle Paul is getting at with his disciple Timothy is that teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness has as its end our completion and equipment for every good work. This means we adopt a position of humility, yes. But we also speak and act in boldness. And the truly difficult maintenance is in living, working, and relating from a depth of both humility and boldness. Christ was tempted in all the ways we are - both to be cautious when boldness was necessary, and to be brash when gentleness was appropriate. But he deftly maneuvered between these two sets of sharp rocks. And by God's grace, so can we.
July 25, 2021
America Drifting Ever Closer Toward Totalitarianism
The idiots need to be told what to do says the arrogant rich man brought on as a guest by Joe Scarborough. "You don't have a choice." But of course not. And I suppose you do, Mr. Hubristic Know-it-all. But let us all celebrate our fearless leaders in the Senate sub-committee voting this week that our daughters must sign up for selective service - also known as "the draft." Here is that much vaunted "equality" we have heard so much about. This individualist is not having it, particularly where his own daughter is concerned. If we cannot say that America has become totalitarian just yet, we must be close. Whether renewed discussion of whether to impose lockdowns and mask mandates produces one result or the other, the underlying premise is the same. You and I get to do what the centralized authority explicitly permits, and nothing more. We have rights only so far as they are granted by our government, and nothing more. That is what totalitarians believe. For our part, we need to study diligently where the line is, and be ready to hold it. Though many may say - wrongly, I would add - that individualism is just another word for selfishness, it is actually collectivism which creates the ideal growing conditions for the worst and most pernicious kind of selfishness. When all our life choices must be filtered and strained through the collectivist rubric, nothing whatsoever about our lives is sacred. For that matter, neither is anything about the lives of those around us. In a totalitarian society, there is no God either to fear or to love. And while the wicked may celebrate being free from the constraints of the Lord of the universe, they will not celebrate long. Horror vacui - nature abhors a vacuum. And in the absence of the Lord God Almighty, one strong man (or woman) after another will strive to sit on his throne and fill his shoes. We may all be made in God's image, but we are very poor substitutes for him, especially when we have no knowledge or fear of him or his ways. In a totalitarian state, you have no right to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Nor are you truly free to love your neighbor as you love yourself. You are free only to love the state as a representative and embodiment of all your neighbors. Pay your taxes and obey uncritically. That is the whole duty of man. Fortunately, the laws of the universe which God instituted in eternity past will not sleep forever. Indeed, they are not sleeping now. There will come a reckoning for this folly, and we ought to pray that it comes swiftly if there will not be repentance and renewal first.
July 24, 2021
Unpacking the Response to the DeYoung TGC Review
A fault line in American evangelical Christianity is increasingly apparent. As Exhibit A and B, consider two articles of the past three months: one ‘Reparations: A Critical Theological Review’ published by Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition on April 22, 2021 dealing with the book ‘Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Renewal’ by Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson; the other, ‘Sanctifying the Status Quo: A Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung’ by the authors of that book DeYoung reviewed and critiqued, published July 19, 2021 at The Front Porch. Wrapping up an examination of these two pieces, let us turn our attention more fully to the response of Kwon and Thompson to DeYoung and see it for what it is. While assuring us all that they do not believe DeYoung to be in any way, shape, or form a racist or White Supremacist, the authors nevertheless also insist over nearly 10,000-words that DeYoung is doing the dirty work of White Supremacy. This they do by attacking his methodology as being White-centric, excluding black voices, minimizing White Supremacy, and prioritizing White comfort. The argumentum ad hominem is strong with this one. And it has an all-too-familiar feel to it for me which I recognize from many painful interactions with old friends and family who have embraced Woke ideology, particularly when wedded with a form of Christianity. Smiling, friendly, and complimentary, they nevertheless bury the rhetorical knife deep between the ribs repeatedly and without mercy as they carry out their revolutionary work. In sum, Kwon and Thompson demonstrate in their response that the truth is malleable. We should all come away from their piece with a renewed appreciation for the importance of Western civilization even as they make an all-out assault on its foundations. Like sappers digging subterranean tunnels to plant petards beneath a besieged city's walls, these two pastors need to be called out as the traitors in our midst they truly are.
July 23, 2021
Reviewing the DeYoung TGC Review of Reparations
In our last episode, 'An Interesting Back and Forth About Reparations,' I introduced a pair of links regarding the book 'Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Renewal' by Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson. The first link is a review of that book at TGC by Pastor Kevin DeYoung. In this episode, I want to talk about DeYoung's review. To give a review of a review may seem like an odd thing to do, but I think we can learn a lot from examining closely DeYoung's treatment of this work. DeYoung is well-spoken for the most part, but he is like us in this one key regard. We can all get better at communication. And though I agree with all of DeYoung's concerns stated in the nearly 6,000 word piece he published, he does pull his punches and send mixed signals. How is it possible for a work from two pastors to be presenting a competing worldview and Biblical framework, to be wrong in so many key and foundational ways, and for those two pastors to still be publicly affirmed for loving Jesus, the gospel, and the church? Why compliment them for their work while at the same time calling out that same work for being dangerous, misguided, and antithetical to orthodox Christian life and practice? Perhaps it is not necessary to or helpful to attack them personally. But what about describing them clearly? Are we still trying to wrestle with what precisely to make of Critical Race Theory and anti-racism, and proving indecisive and muddied as a result? Are we afraid of being decried as a "White Supremacist" and racist, and consequently pulling our punches to the greatest extent possible? If so, the concerns are not unfounded. Caution is warranted. All the same, we need to steer well clear of flattery and ambiguity. The truth of where the new brand of Woke Christians are coming from is, just like the subjects they often prefer to talk about so confidently, a bit complicated. Nevertheless, the complexity of the whole business is more a reason to be clear and direct rather than a reason to be less clear. And so, in the interest of encouraging greater clarity and boldness, I contend that we who care about doctrinal purity and faithfulness to God in every facet of life need to be more bold ourselves even as we refrain from affirming a twisted kind of boldness on the part of men like Kwon and Thompson where their aggression should be mor