by Hohn Chohe introduction to this series is here. As we look at a number of key biblical principles in the area of Christian dating, I'm going to start with the importance of Christian character. In many ways, this is kind of a "no duh" principle, and it's not uncommon for pastors preaching a dating series to lead with multiple sermons on this concept. So my goal in addressing it in this one blog post certainly isn't meant to be comprehensive.But just as there are matters of first importance in the Bible, there are matters of first importance with respect to specific issues as well, and when it comes to dating, nothing is more important than Christlike character. All through Scripture, we are called to imitate Christ, such as 1 John 2:6 and Ephesians 5:1-2. We also see calls to imitate faithful Christians among us, even as they strive to imitate Christ, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:1. So this concept of imitation, of Christlikeness, is very clear in Scripture.I'm initially going to aim this first principle inwardly: Are you displaying Christlike character, before you even start thinking about anything else? As a Christian, you really ought to be doing that to at least some degree, or else you probably shouldn't be dating at all. Without some minimum baseline of tested and proven Christian character, and the ability to demonstrate to others that your profession of faith is genuine, perhaps you should spend some more time working on yourself first.At the risk of being cliché, however, it's about direction, not perfection. Remember that historically, people got married both in general society and in the church quite a bit younger than the 2017 US median age of 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men, and today's modern trend of waiting longer and longer for marriage is actually both historically unusual and on some levels concerning, according to Dr. Al Mohler (a consistent warning he's sounded over the years) and numerous other Christian leaders.Although the idea of getting married before the age of, say, 25 might be an astonishing one to some Christians today, there's nothing inherently or biologically different between young people today and young people in the 1700's, or even young people in the Ancient Near East. Now, cultural expectations of maturity and overall life expectancy have certainly changed significantly, but even so, there's no reason to think that a spiritually mature 18- to 22-year-old Christian man or woman today couldn't get married. With that said, on a practical level, what are some ways that a young single Christian, and the key people speaking into that person's life, might be able to gauge his or her readiness for marriage?When I refer to gauging readiness for marriage, to be clear, my spiritual assessment of a 22-year-old single man isn't going to be the same type of assessment as a 45-year-old husband and father who's been a Christian for most of his life. Too often, I think, single Christians develop an unrealistically high expectation that their potential romantic interests need to match up to the godliness of their Christian parents, pastors, elders, and role models. And if anything, Christian parents, who are obviously going to want the best for their kids, and to protect them, can be even more stringent in this examination. And yet if we believe, as many of us do, that marriage and parenthood will be the most blessedly sanctifying experiences and relationships in our lives, then if anything, it's even more unfair to think that single people who haven't yet embarked upon those adventures ought to be held to the same standard of sanctification as older saints who are well under way on their journeys.Now, with that said, of course there are some assessments to be made in these areas, and some basic minimums ought to be satisfied. And it can get especially tricky when those minimums are considered on a case-by-case basis, by each individual romantic interest (and in some cases, by the parents of that romantic interest, as well). One young woman might look at a guy and say, sure, he's faithful and godly, I'd consider him . . . whereas another young woman and her parents might look at the same guy and immediately shake their heads. This helps explain both the intense desire within conservative evangelicalism for a standard "formula" and the (at times) messy and confusing results when the answer instead is that we need to figure this out for ourselves in our own Christian liberty, stewardship, and wisdom, as we mine the Scriptures for appropriate biblical principles to apply.For single Christian men, I suggest considering three key areas that are especially important for husbands: readiness as a leader, a protector, and a provider, as Tim Challies lays out in an excellent series. For over a decade, Chris Hamilton, the chairman of my church's elder board, has also identified the same three traits of leading, protecting, and providing as fundamental in Scripture for raising boys into young men. And all of this matches my own examination of Scripture on this topic.So as a future leader in the home, does the single man have some kind of goal or vision in terms of what he's thinking and planning with respect to a future wife and family? Proverbs 29:18 is clear on the wisdom of having such a vision, so what is that vision for the single man's future family, and is that vision biblical, in accordance with the Word of God? Having that vision and being able to articulate it to others would be incredibly helpful in terms of discerning how the single man would lead.As a protector, I'm not talking about just physical protection. Buying a gun doesn't check off this box! But will the single man be able to protect his future wife and family from error, from the dangers and deceptions of this world? 2 Timothy 3:1-7 warns about lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful arrogant revilers, haters of good, lovers of pleasure, who are nevertheless holding to a form of godliness. And we're told to avoid them, lest they enter your household and captivate the people under your care. Can the single man identify dangers such as these and guard against them?As a provider, Scripturally this isn't necessarily the highest bar to clear, because as 1 Timothy 6:8 says, we ought to be content with food and covering. Remember, most Christians throughout the history of the church have been relatively poor and would probably view today's modern abundance with a mixture of awe and even apprehension per Proverbs 30:8-9! But food and clothing and a place to lay your head all still cost money. Is the single man able to lay down a security deposit and first and sometimes even last month's rent, and pass a credit check? Even more importantly, is the single man a hard worker, and will he be able to earn some kind of living moving forward?For single Christian women, Scripture directly informs us in Genesis 2:18 that wives are to be helpers to their husbands. Titus 2:4-5 also speaks more expansively about the importance of young women being, among other things, lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, and excellent workers in the home . . . not necessarily a worker at home only, this verse does not forbid jobs outside the home, and we see a clear example of a godly wife in Scripture working outside of the home in Proverbs 31:16-18. But the example does assume, and display, that the wife is being an excellent worker within the home, as well. And I can again recommend Hamilton's message about how fundamental the traits of being lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, and excellent workers in the home are for raising girls into young women.So as a future lover of her husband and helpmate to him, does a single woman know what that entails? Does she have any role models in her life in this regard, has she seen how a godly married couple behaves toward each other? Has she ever worked alongside others closely in a team environment, in a support role? Proverbs 31:11-12 is a helpful passage here, is she trustworthy and benevolent, seeking the good of others even more so than herself (which is a general call to all Christians, per Philippians 2:3)?As a lover of her children, has a single woman spent any time with children, either with younger siblings or babysitting or observing a godly family with each other? Proverbs 31:25-28 paints a picture of a strong, dignified, wise, kind, conscientious, and diligent mother whose children "rise up and call her blessed," a classically maternal image. And again, we're not looking for perfection here, especially in a single woman who has yet to bear any children, but are those traits at least in progress, or anywhere in view? For that matter, in our modern day and age, does the single woman view the development of these characteristics, and even the very notion of motherhood itself, as desirable (or as a blessing, as we see in Psalm 127:3) to begin with?As a worker in the home, does a single woman know how to be an excellent at that, how to manage a household? Is she industrious? How is she with money? Given a certain level of provision, can she supply her household with its basic needs? Once again, we see a helpful passage in Proverbs 31:13-15 on this topic, even as I also feel the need to reiterate that the portrait in Proverbs 31 is of an ideal, of a woman who has been at this whole "wife and mother" thing for quite some time. (And for another thought-provoking take on Proverbs 31, here's an interesting piece by Jasmine Holmes.)Of course, there are many other character traits in Scripture which are critically important for single Christian men and women, such as purity, humility, love, teachability, contentment, willingness to serve and put others first, and most of all, a love for Christ and His church. Again, this article is not intended as a comprehensive word on the importance of Christian character in (or prior to) dating. But prayerfully it will serve as a helpful and practical encouragement. And now that you've considered this question with respect to yourself, next in the series we'll consider this question in connection with the person you're interested in, with our second principle being to cast off consumerism.
posted by Phil Johnsony friend and one-time joint pastor of GraceLife wrote this brief post on FaceBook yesterday, and it was so good I wanted to save it here for easy access. FaceBook posts always disappear into the timeline, and it's really hard to search for them, so let's preserve this here:When like-minded brothers and I voice warning about the so-called Christian justice movement, it would do you good to recognize something important.(I speak primarily to those who are confused and trying to sort it out; I realize the main speakers, writers, and promoters have chosen their way and resent the fact that we won't hop on their train.)We are trying to safeguard you and your faith. We think there is a genuine danger to this movement that will lead you far away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.The burden of proof is not on us to defend a continuance of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, but entirely upon those men who point to an immoral heretic as grounds for re-defining the very nature of what historic Christianity should be and do. We don't believe these men have come close to making their case.We see them driving people from their churches with harsh words and judgment. We see them calling their opponents racist Confederates. We see their defensiveness when sincere concern is expressed against their agenda.We assess all that and say, â€śThat is not the Spirit of the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep.â€ťWe fear lest the precious good news be obscured and hidden by men with a grievance trying to accomplish political and economic goals rather than pursuing the interests of Christ Jesus, who plainly said His kingdom is not of this world.To be sure, we are men of clay feet. We never said anything different. We are near Paul at the front of that long line of men who are foremost among sinners.But over time we've seen these kinds of movements come and go. They're fundamentally all the same. Biblical preaching and the transforming power of God's Word isn't enough to them.We disagree. And we're not moving. The angrier they get, the more resolved we areâ€”whether we are in the majority or minority is of no consequence to our position.We do it preeminently for love for Christ, who loved us and gave Himself up for us in His atoning death on Calvary. Loyalty to Him allows us no other option and we wouldn't take a different path if we could.But know this. We do it in love for you, too. We seek to feed His lambs and tend His sheep.We believe that's the ultimate justice we can render in respond to Christ, who not only saved us, but who also in one way or another has put us in a position of ministry. Don Green Pastor Truth Community Church, CincinnattiAnd follow Don on FaceBook. He's not the most prolific FaceBook celeb, but when he posts anything substantive, he always has great stuff to say.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 11, sermon number 659, "Simeon.""I like a doctrinal religion." I do not believe in the statement of some people, that they have no creed. A man says, for instance, â€śI am not a Calvinist, and I am not an Arminian, I am not a Baptist, I am not a Presbyterian, I am not an Independent.â€ť He says he is liberal. But this is only the license he claims for his own habit of disagreeing with everyone. He is one of that kind of people whom we generally find to be the most bigoted themselves, and least tolerant of others. He follows himself; and so belongs to the smallest denomination in the world. I do not believe that charity consists in giving up our denominational distinctions. I think there is a â€śmore excellent way.â€ť Even those who do not despise faith, although they almost sacrifice it to their benevolence, will sometimes say, â€śWell, I do not belong to any of your sects and parties.â€ť There was a group of men once, who came out from all branches of the Christian Church, with the hope that everyone else of true heart would follow them. The result, however, has been, that they have only made another denomination, distinct alike in doctrine and discipline. I believe in creeds, if they are based on Scripture. They may not secure unity of sentiment, but on the whole they promote it, for they serve as landmarks, and show us the points at which many turn aside. Every man must have a creed if he believes anything. The greater certainty he feels that it is true, the greater his own satisfaction. In doubts, darkness, and distrust, there can be no consolation. The vague fancies of the sceptic, as he muses over images and apprehensions too shapeless and airy to be incorporated into any creed, may please for awhile, but it is the pleasure of a dream. I believe that there is consolation for Israel in the substance of faith, and the evidence of things not seen. Ideas are too ethereal to lay hold of. The anchor we have is sure and steadfast. I thank God that the faith I have received can be moulded into a creed, and can be explained with words so simple, that the common people can understand it, and be comforted by it.
by Phil Johnsonnless you have been living in seclusion somewhere, you will have noticed that a radical putsch is currently underway to get evangelicals on board with doctrines borrowed from Black Liberation Theology, Critical Race Theory, Intersectional Feminism, and other ideas that are currently stylish in the left-leaning secular academy. All of these things are being aggressively promoted in the name of "racial reconciliation." This has suddenly given rise to a popular movement that looks to be far more influential—and a more ominous threat to evangelical unity and gospel clarity—than the Emergent campaign was 15 years ago. The movement doesn't have an official name yet, but the zealots therein like to refer to themselves as "woke." Evangelical thought leaders boast of their wokeness and vie with one another to be woker-than-thou.In many ways, today's Woke Evangelicals are merely an echo of their Emergent forebears. The central threads of their rhetoric are identical, and many of their goals are similar—starting with their campaign to convince other evangelicals that gospel clarity alone will never reach a hostile culture. To do that, they say, we must strive for postmodern political correctness. We need to try to "make Christianity cool." Nowadays, that means race must be an issue in practically every subject we deal with. Meanwhile, diversity, tolerance, inclusivity, and a host of other postmodern "virtues" have begun to edge out the actual fruit of the Spirit in the language and conversation of some of our wokest brethren.The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Together for the Gospel (T4G) were founded little more than a decade ago to bring Christians together around a shared commitment to the foundational doctrines of gospel truth. Earlier this year both organizations sponsored conferences promoting Woke dogmas. Both of them, for example, paid homage to Dr. Martin Luther King not only as a great champion of civil rights (which he certainly was), but also as an exemplar of gospel truth and authentic Christian conviction (which he emphatically was not). Those of us who don't believe that kind of "wokeness" reflects biblical integrity have been scolded, shamed, and called racists by key leaders from both organizations.In other words, these two organizations that were originally founded to unite believers in the proclamation and defense of the gospel are now dividing evangelicals over something other than the gospel. Under the guise of being Woke they are championing ideological dogmas and political policies that no biblically-minded Christian in any generation of church history ever considered germane to the gospel. They are actually shifting the evangelical focus away from true gospel issues.In short, I fear both TGC and T4G are dangerously close to becoming exactly what they were founded to oppose.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 49, sermon number 2,824, "Mocked of the soldiers.""Far be it from us to seek a crown of honour where our Lord found a coronet of thorn."I do believeâ€”I cannot help believingâ€”that our blessed Master, when he was in the hands of those cruel soldiers, and they crowned him with thorns, bowed before him in mock reverence, and insulted him in every possible way, all the while looked behind the curtain of the visible circumstances, and saw that the heartless pantomime,â€”nay, tragedy,â€”only partially hid the divine reality, for he was a King, even then, and he had a throne, and that thorn-crown was the emblem of the diadem of universal sovereignty that shall, in due season, adorn his blessed brow; that reed was to him a type of the sceptre which he shall yet wield as King of kings, and Lord of lords; and when they said, â€śHail, King of the Jews!â€ť he heard, behind that mocking cry, the triumphant note of his future glory, â€śHallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth; and he shall reign for ever and ever!â€ť for when they mockingly bowed the knee to him, he saw all nations really bowing before him, and his enemies licking the dust at his feet. Our Saviour knew that these ribald soldiers, unconsciously to themselves, were setting before him pictures of the great reward of his soul-travail. Let us not be discouraged if we have to endure anything of the same sort as our Lord suffered. He was not discouraged, but remained steadfast through it all. Mockery is the unintentional homage which falsehood pays to truth. Scorn is the unconscious praise which sin gives to holiness. What higher tribute could these soldiers give to Christ than to spit upon him? If Christ had received honour from such men, there would have been no honour in it to him. You know how even a heathen moralist, when they said to him, â€śSo-and-So spoke well of you yesterday in the market,â€ť asked, â€śWhat have I done amiss that such a wretch as that should speak well of me?â€ť He rightly counted it a disgrace to be praised by a bad man; and because our Lord had done nothing amiss, all that these men could do was to speak ill of him, and treat him with contumely, for their nature and character were the very opposite of his. Representing, as these soldiers did, the unregenerate, God-hating world, I say that their scorn was the truest reverence that they could offer to Christ while they continued as they were; and so, at the back of persecution, at the back of heresy, at the back of the hatred of ungodly men to the cross of Christ, I see his everlasting kingdom advancing, and I believe that â€śthe mountain of the Lord's house shall be exalted above the hills,â€ť and that â€śall nations shall flow unto it,â€ť even as Isaiah foretold; that Jesus shall sit upon the throne of David, and that of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end, for the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honour unto him, â€śand he shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!â€ť Glory be to his holy name!
by Hohn Chone of the things that I so appreciated about Pyromaniacs back in the day was the sheer breadth of topics that Phil, Dan, and Frank covered. I was regularly blessed by biblical critiques of the latest evangelical fads, solid thoughts about theology, timeless quotes and passages from Spurgeon, formative articles on seeing our culture through a Christian worldview, and incredibly helpful practical pieces like this one from Dan Phillips, on Christians dating non-Christians, which I've cited many times, as recently as yesterday.In that spirit, I think it's important for this blog to speak to a variety of matters. And while I'm no polymath like Phil, I've spent the great majority of my Christian life in ministry alongside primarily single folks, and so I'm passionate about the topic of singleness and marriage. So having written my first two posts on the innocuous and uncontroversial subject of "race," I've now decided to dip my toes into the far more placid waters of Christian dating, and this post will serve as an introduction to an occasional series.As an initial matter, please note that I'm using the term "dating" somewhat loosely, in that I'm really talking about any intentional process that two Bible-believing Christians might follow in figuring out whether or not they ought to get married. One could call it dating, one could probably even call it courtship in certain contexts. In fact, Josh Harris, who over 20 years ago (when he was a 21-year-old single man) wrote "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" (a book which was widely credited with starting the "courtship" craze in Christian circles) subsequently defined courtship in a 2005 sermon as "a purposeful relationship in which a man and a woman are intentionally considering marriage" . . . which sounds a lot like what I would call intentional dating.Even just a few months ago, Harris said, "I learned that intentionality can be taken too far, to where people can put the relationship under a microscope: Is this the person I'm going to marry? With such tremendous pressure, it's devastating when the relationship doesn't work out. It makes it hard for single people to get to know other people in a more relaxed environment . . . We don't do well with complexity. People latch on to movements for simple answers and promises. Even now as I revisit this issue, I don't want to fall into the trap of thinking this is the real answer. We need to go to God humbly as a community and recognize there's no one-size-fits-all approach."Given how intensely the courtship concept has been applied in certain conservative evangelical circles, it's very interesting to see Harris' evolving views on this topic. And I wholeheartedly agree with many of his more recent comments, particularly that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And one of the main reasons why is that we need to remember, the specific topic of dating isn't even in the Bible! We do have some descriptive examples and civil laws of Old Testament Israel relating to how people got married in the Ancient Near East, and some of those examples might even be helpful as we consider Christian dating today . . . but to be candid, some of the examples are, shall we say, not so helpful.In the absence of clear imperatives on how specifically to go get a spouse, we're left with some excellent and timeless biblical principles, as well as some commands on general Christian behavior. The commands are straightforward. I can declare with confidence that in dating, one must abstain from sexual immorality, because that's what 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says. But it gets harder when we move to broader biblical principles, and that's because in any given situation, people apply biblical principles differently, they apply them with greater or lesser degrees of emphasis, and they sometimes even dare to apply entirely different—but still valid—biblical principles.This means there's necessarily a lot of Christian liberty when it comes to dating. And so despite the yearning we've seen in the courtship culture and elsewhere to turn dating into a rigid, easy-to-follow formula, the reality is that there is no biblical formula. Speaking generally, there is no "you must approach it this way" or specific how-to guide in Christian dating. That can be one challenging part of Christian liberty, and it can become even more challenging when one realizes that certain things might be fine for one person in his liberty, but they might not be fine for another person in her liberty. And when we get right down to it, many times, we're merely talking about competing preferences that need to get hashed out.In light of all of that, in future articles in this series, I'm going to be offering some observations and viewpoints. And as with any topical series, there are any number of specific biblical principles we could discuss—so I'm not saying the points I ultimately choose to highlight are the only important ones, or that it will be anywhere close to a complete word on this subject. They're not at all intended to be dictatorial edicts from on high, but rather as words intended to help from a fellow laborer and brother, speaking to his family in Christ.Now, my genuine hope and prayer is that the perspective I'll be presenting will be centered on biblical principles, and that the opinions will be at least slightly informed, based on my over 13 years of experience in singles ministry. But at the end of the day, if you find something I say to be helpful, great, and if you don't, no problem. No offense taken if you don't follow my advice, I promise. Next time, I'll start the series with a discussion of the importance of Christlike character, and what that might look like practically in the context of Christian dating.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonThe PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from Words of Wisdom for Daily Life, pages 138-39, Pilgrim Publications."Alteration is not always improvement, as the pigeon said when she got out of the net and into the pie."â€śBe sober.â€ť Keep the middle way: hold to the golden mean. There are many persons to whom this exhortation is most needful. Are there not men around us who blow hot to-day and cold to-morrow? â€”their heat is torrid, their cold arctic. You would think they were angels from the way they talk one day, but you might think them angels of another sort from the manner in which they act at other times. They are so high up, or so low down, that in each case they are extreme. To-day they are carried away with this, and the next carried away with that.I knew a Christian man right well to whom I was accustomed to use one salutation whenever I saw him. He was a good man, but changeable. I said to him, â€śGood morning, friend? what are you now?â€ť He was once a valiant Arminian, setting young people right as to the errors of my Calvinistic teaching. A short time after, he became exceedingly Calvinistic himself, and wanted to screw me up several degrees; but I declined to yield. Anon he became a Baptist, and agreed with me on all points, so far as I know. This was not good enough, and therefore he became a Plymouth Brother; and after that he went to the Church from which he originally set out. When I next met him I said, â€śGood morning, brother, what are you now?â€ť He replied, â€śThat is too bad, Mr. Spurgeon, you asked me the same question last time.â€ť I replied, â€śDid I? But what are you now? Will the same answer do?â€ť I knew it would not. I would earnestly say to all such brethren, â€śBe sober. Be sober.â€ť It cannot be wise to stagger all over the road in this fashion. Make sure of your footing when you stand; make doubly sure of it before you shift. To be sober means to have a calm, clear head, to judge things after the rule of right, and not according to the rule of mob. Be not influenced by those who cry loudest in the street, or by those who beat the biggest drum. Judge for yourselves as men of understanding. Judge as in the sight of God with calm deliberation.
ead this:And then this: "What Mr. Johnson Apparently Doesn't Understand" Now,I did not call Thabiti Anyabwile "a racist schlub." I explicitly made that clear in a tweet before he even posted his article. Yes, I knew he made public comments disagreeing with or criticizing Obama. That, however, is no answer to any point I made. What he did not do was upbraid black evangelicals as a group for the sins of the Obama administration. Nor would he. Nor should he.I get that "white evangelicals" aren't an entire race. Same with "black evangelicals." They are, however, subgroups within the body of Christ classed by their ethnicity—in this case, in order to criticize, blame, and castigate one group and set them against the other. I stand by the assertion that this is a racist tactic. PS: Everyone who followed my Twitter feed or Facebook page during the election knows I never supported Mr. Trump for the presidency. For the first time in my life I didn't vote the top of the ticket in a presidential election. In fact, my public criticism of candidate Trump was so firm and so high-volume that my pastor scolded me for being too focused on the issue and too aggressive in expressing my opinion on a political matter. So there's no way I'm going to make a phony confession of guilt just because some woker-than-thou church leader lumps me in with the ethnic group he wants to blame for Mr. Trump's character or policies.I'm guessing my black evangelical friends who never supported Obama feel exactly the same way.
by Hohn Choargaret Thatcher famously said that the problem with socialism is that you always run out of other people's money. Well, the problem with affirmative action is that you always run out of impartial ways to implement it. As a case in point, let's take a look at Harvard's current affirmative action policies.The Harvard FiascoA group of Asian plaintiffs is suing Harvard, which has been adamantly resisting discovery of its highly secretive admissions process. Fortunately, that stonewalling largely failed, and hundreds of pages of motions, memos, and expert reports and rebuttals (the most important of which are available here and here, and are the source for the data and quotes below) were released ten days ago.Having gone through much of it, the most compelling points are those raised by the plaintiffs. They have reasonably demonstrated that over a six-year period, as a group average, Asian applicants had the highest academic ratings (including GPA, test scores, AP exams taken, AP exam scores), highest extra-curricular ratings, highest alumni interview overall scores, and either highest or second-highest scores on letters of reference from counselors and teachers.But then there's the "personal" rating, which is described nebulously as "[w]hether that student would contribute to the class, classroom, roommate group, to the class as a whole, their human qualities . . . It is a little hard to talk about in general but sort of add it all up and get a feeling" and as including "perhaps likability, also character traits, such as integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness." This personal rating is determined only by Harvard admissions staff, who in the vast majority of cases have never even met the applicant.And in this highly subjective area, Asian applicants are being absolutely crushed.A significant number of Asian applicants receive the strongest scores on their personal ratings in only the very top 10% category of Asian applicants. In contrast, a significant number of applicants receive the strongest scores on their personal ratings for approximately the top 60% of white applicants, the top 70% for Hispanic applicants, and the top 80% for African American applicants.This is an astonishingly major difference, statistically speaking. To put it in plainer English, either the bulk of the Asian cohort year-after-year was made up of misanthropic miscreants in comparison to their fellow white, Hispanic, and African American applicants, or the Harvard admissions staffwho again, had never even met the applicants in the vast majority of caseshad their fists on the scale when it came to the highly subjective personal ratings.Regardless, especially after being amplified by Harvard's favoring of people who have strong scores across multiple areas, the subjective refusal by admissions staff to rate Asian students more highly across the entire personal rating category has had the practical procedural impact of significantly decreasing Asian admission rates, while significantly increasing the admission rates of every other group. The disparity is so vast that "[a]n Asian-American applicant with a 25% chance of admission, for example, would have a 35% chance if he were white, 75% if he were Hispanic, and 95% chance if he were African-American." This use of a subjective determiner to effectively put a cap on a group deemed to be undesirably overrepresented is eerily reminiscent of the Jewish quota earlier in the 20th century, and is a classic example of an abuse of administrative discretion for an improper purpose.In my opinion, the media has generally covered this story quite poorly, with lots of cursory analysis and ideological pieces, but this piece from The Economist is excellent. And here's a powerful opinion piece from one of my favorite secular writers, Wesley Yang, which may help explain some of the emotional resonance of this issue.Regardless, even if one takes the position, as the Supreme Court has, that fostering "diversity" in education is a positive goal, the process of how one gets there is of critical importance, and under current law, "race" cannot be the predominant factor in the analysis, nor can one rely on plainly unfair procedural measures to accomplish one's goals. And although Harvard is obviously denying wrongdoing at this stage, I believe the entire subjective determination of the personal rating stinks to high heaven.Why Christians Should CareAt this point, some of you may be wondering what all of this is doing on a Christian blog. Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, there's a discussion happening right now in greater evangelicalism on the topic of "social justice." I actually don't care for that term, which I simply don't see in Scripture despite the best efforts of some to read it into (primarily) the Old Testament. I greatly prefer the term "biblical justice," which goes beyond the issues most favored by social justice proponents, to encompass a much larger scope of issues, particularly Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, the latter of which was written to Christians being persecuted by the mad Roman emperor Nero and nevertheless called them to submit to every human authority and governor.But let's just roll with the term social justice for the moment. Most often when I see proponents of that term using it in the church, they are typically engaging in at least two threshold logical errors. The first error happens when the calling of the corporate church to make disciples is conflated with the calling of individual Christians to do good works (e.g., acts of charity, doing justice, loving one's neighbors and even one's enemies, etc.). In other words, there's a distinction between corporate and individual ethics in the Christian life.The second error happens when the latter calling of individual Christians to do good works in their own stewardship and Christian liberty is mistaken for a command to agitate for social change, usually in connection with some vague or even unspoken public policy favored by the social justice advocate. But the fact there is no such command to agitate for social change in the Bibleand to the contrary, many verses actually seem to cut against that very concept (see, e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Proverbs 24:21, Titus 3:1-2)is often conveniently lost or ignored.Each of these errors could be the topic of its own blog post or even series . . . but there's a third logical error I'd like to discuss right now, which is the sometimes incorrect assumption that the public policy supported by the social justice proponent is even good, positive, or most importantly to Christians, biblical to begin with. Support of "diversity" and affirmative action has almost become a shibboleth of polite American society, and certainly among most coastal elites. But what would the Scriptures say about a policy like Harvard's?The Scriptures on PartialityIn the Old Testament, there are numerous references to avoiding partiality in judging. Even if one takes the viewas I dothat we are no longer under the Old Testament civil law, seeing God's heart for some of the underlying principles can still be very helpful, especially when the civil law concepts are repeated elsewhere in Scripture, as is the case with the concept of partiality.For this reason, verses such as Exodus 23:3 and Leviticus 19:15 are illuminating, because they show that partiality is still forbidden even if that partiality were to be exercised in favor of the poor. Fair and impartial judgment is still required! Similarly, Deuteronomy 1:17 calls for impartial judgment for the small and great alike, and there is a specific call not to fear man in rendering such a judgment . . . even if, say, one might be at risk of condemnation by certain well-placed academics and intellectuals of our day.Moving to the wisdom literature of the Proverbs, we see that impartiality is a wise principle for all people to live out, not merely the judges and civil authorities . . . or, in the case of Harvard, an institution that takes a huge amount of federal money and sits in judgment over many applicants. Proverbs 24:23 is crystal clear in this regard, stating flatly that it is not good to show partiality in one's judgment.Even more interesting, perhaps, is Proverbs 20:10 (see also Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, 20:23), where God considers differing weights and measures to be an abomination. Numerous commentators have applied this concept beyond the world of merchants to encompass general corruption and other double standards, and Albert Barnes writes in his commentary that this verse has "a wider application to all judging one man by rules which we do not apply to ourselves or to another." In light of the Harvard lawsuit, it's hard to think of a more apt description for similarly-situated applicants differing so dramatically in their results, with the only major distinction being their ethnicity.When we move to the New Testament, God is plainly declared to be impartial specifically in the area of nationalities (ethnei, from which we obtain our word ethnicity) in Acts 10:34-35. And the showing of partiality is clearly called sin in James 2:9.The Bottom LineOf course, none of this prohibits individual acts of mercy and charity, but whenever we move to the level of the "systemic," as many social justice advocates love to do, we increasingly run into the dangers of showing partiality on a broader scale. In that vein, one of the most ironic things about Harvard's affirmative action policies in admissions is that, while ostensibly designed to help account for past discrimination and arguably even present claims of discrimination against ethnic minorities, the policies themselves are acting as instruments of discrimination and partiality!Indeed, despite the fact that Asians themselves are an ethnic minority which has suffered from discrimination in this country, these Asian applicants have not only failed to benefit from Harvard's practices, but they rather appear to have been penalized for their ethnicity. This is all the more curious given that Asians are not typically blamed for systematic oppression of and discrimination against other ethnic minorities in America.To tease out that concept a bit more, it's both interesting and telling that many of the Asian, Hispanic, and African American applicants to Harvard are actually first or second generation immigrants who could not credibly claim to have any nexus whatsoever to the worst examples of systemic discrimination in American history. So even if one accepts for the sake of argument some kind of biblical restitution model to support affirmative action, I would argue that certainly as it pertains to all immigrants specifically and all Asians generally, the wrong people are being benefited and penalized. (Of course, biblical restitution would typically require some kind of concrete underlying crime or sin with quantifiable and finite recompense, as opposed to the often vague and implied systemic behavior examined by complex multivariate analysesof which "race" is only one variablewith seemingly infinite remedies demanded.)To be clear, I am not some Asian nationalist who's looking to advance his ethnic group's interests out of some misguided sense of tribal pride. Indeed, my preference and desire would be for as much of this race-centric nonsense as possible to "go the way of all the earth" and into the dustbin of history, because this is what I believe the Scriptures and biblical justice would support.But when a story involving a specific institution's own race-centric policies establishes them to be as outrageously unfair as Harvard's, well, let's just say that I would appreciate the elegant poetic justice if these policies were to go to the Supreme Court and contribute to their own undoing, nationwide. Would that we could someday reach a point where even the conventional worldly wisdom stands decisively against such blatant offenses to biblical justice as the Harvard Asian admissions fiasco. Until then, I would be pleased if at least we in the church could understand and appreciate the Scriptural importance of impartiality.Hohn ChoHohn is a lay elder at Grace Community Church and an attorney by vocation. Yes, Hohn Cho is his real name, not a pseudonym. And yes, he lives up to it.
by Hohn Chon my pre-Christian life, I was a political leftist who considered identity politics to be the pathway to a more enlightened future. I was deeply invested in what I like to call a "race-centric" view of the world, so much so that I would bristle and correct anyone who dared to use the word Oriental in my presence—with a toxic blend of self-righteousness, condescension, and pique that is sadly so common in much of today's political discourse.If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in "wokeness", I far more. As a student, I marched and protested and helped occupy buildings for the cause of affirmative action in faculty hiring, and my course of study was all about ethnicity in America. I was steeped in concepts of critical race theory at one of the most liberal campuses in the nation, and considered myself to be a full-blown socialist (not the weak-tea Bernie Sanders types that we see these days).Fast forward to today, and thanks to God's free gift of salvation, followed by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit working through the perfect Word, I can honestly say that verses such as Galatians 3:27-28, Colossians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:16, and John 3:30, among others, have thoroughly demolished my race-centric worldview. And so it is that I marvel when I see significant portions of the conservative evangelical church appearing to move more and more toward a race-centric worldview, while the Gospel is seemingly emphasized less and less.Now, I will readily admit that even the most race-centric evangelicals would likely dispute that characterization quite vigorously, but the reality is that when race seems to be all that a person talks about, other topicsincluding the Gospelstart to recede into the background. This is the very point that Phil made to Thabiti Anyabwile in his article, "Against Mission Drift."As it has been in the world, this discussion is fraught with challenges in the church. Some people object to using the term "race" while others might prefer or actually insist on it. There are explicit or implicit questions about who is allowed to speak on the topic, or at least speak with any degree of perceived credibility. Actual data and even Scripture are sometimes minimized or ignored in favor of emotions and experiences. Positions are staked out, often at increasing distances from one another, the temperature rises, cognitive biases hinder understanding, unfair generalizations abound, and soon you realize that you're in the middle of a giant mess and you've lost sight of the exit.And very often, you see people bemoaning others' tone and diction. Offense is taken, accusations fly, people become defensive, and the odds of having a meaningful discussion plummet. This is a real shame, because in order to make any progress on an issue as intense and emotionally charged as race, the order of the day must be level-headed civil discourseand in the church, always keeping central what the Word of God says.As with any passionate endeavor, however, if one decides to engage, there must also be a willingness to have a thick skin and "overlook a transgression" as we know from Proverbs 19:11 and 1 Peter 4:8Which brings me to the subject of my post. The often hair-trigger reactions to others' tone and diction are unsurprising in a world where "microaggressions" are actually a thing.Merriam-Webster defines a microaggression as "a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)." I can understand why the world would buy into this concept, as it pushes all of the worldly buttons: the elevation of self, the smug moral righteousness that can come along with self-positioning as a victim, the clinging onto offense and unforgiveness, the rhetorical escalation of small slights into matters of first importance, and ultimately, the great sin of pride.In the church, however, this really ought not be, as we have the perfect Word to guide us. In that sense, even the very nature of the secular word "microaggression" is telling, because micro admits that the behavior being complained about is tiny, while aggression is self-refuting, as it typically requires overt hostility or violence, and not acting merely "subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally".Instead, I would argue that a more biblical term for calling out small slights of this nature would actually be speck-plucking from Matthew 7:3, representing a microscopic focus on others' shortcomings while ignoring one's own. When we apply the concept of speck-plucking to race, seemingly the most common source of "microaggressions" today, the concern comes into stark focus, especially in light of the worst race-centric pundits' own propensity to make sweeping race-based generalizations (see, e.g., "white evangelicalism", "white fragility", "white guilt", "white privilege", etc.). They really ought to remove the planks from their own eyes, before critiquing others' subtle, unconscious, or unintentional comments or actions!This dynamic of racial speck-plucking is all the more puzzling when one understands that gauging whether or not someone else "subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude" involves a significant likelihood of false positives, so much so that the first question should never be, "Are you offended?" but rather, "Did the other person intend to offend you?"Among Christians, hopefully the answer in the vast majority of cases will be, "Of course not!" If the world will know us by our love for one another (John 13:35), then we should exercise love toward one another, which according to 1 Corinthians 13:7 "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." And ultimately, 1 Corinthians 4:5 tells us that we are not to pass judgment upon another person's heart motives toward us; it is instead the Lord who will reveal and judge.But the practice of fixating on speck-plucking carries with it another grave spiritual danger, and that is the sin of unforgiveness. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave in Matthew 18:21-35, after a slave's plea for mercy, the Master forgives his debt of 10,000 talents, which is billions of dollars in today's currency. This slave then proceeds to physically abuse another slave for not repaying a debt of 100 denarii, or 100 days of wages for a laborer. The debtor slave makes a nigh-identical plea for mercy, which is heartlessly rejected, and the debtor slave is thrown in prison. Upon hearing of this, the Master then hands the unforgiving slave over to the torturers.The entire passage is a beautiful but sobering picture of a Christian's response to salvation, as well as the reality that we who know that we have been saved from an unpayable debt and an eternity in Hell are to be kind and patient and forgiving even when wronged by others. I think many Christians understand this parable reasonably well as an abstract concept, but moving into the details, it's noteworthy that the example chosen as a debt to forgive, 100 denarii, is actually several thousand dollars by today's currency. This is not an insignificant sum!In light of this, I would be deeply concerned for any Christian who would seize upon a perceived "microaggression" and elevate it to the level of a confrontation, an issue between brothers. The way that we handle personal offense, suffering wrong, and being sinned against can be a powerful reflection of our own spiritual maturity. And to the extent a person escalates speck-plucking to the level of offenses or censorious accusations, were I shepherding that person, I would gently attempt to demonstrate from the Scriptures I describe above that responding to a perceived offense is actually an area where the person could grow spiritually.Bringing it back to the example of the speck, immediately prior to the famous speck-plank reference in Matt. 7:3-5, we see our Savior say in Matt. 7:2, "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." So if we're actively engaged in speck-plucking toward others, we will have that returned to us in full measure . . . something that any rational person would want to avoid.James 2:13 is arguably an even more directly applicable verse along these lines. As a closing comment on a passage about the sin of showing favoritism to people based on their wealth and social classand analogously, any class, such as raceJames exhorts Christians to show mercy to each other, and warns that "judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy."This warning was an especially apt one for early Christians who were overtly favoring the rich over the poor, in keeping with the heavy social stratification of Rome and the Ancient Near East. But I believe it's just as apt for today's environment, where hypersensitivity over race has led to a social media uproar over a high school girl's wearing of a Chinese dress, excoriations of a Jewish journalist for complimenting immigrants, and the mob-demanded firing of two former employees at a Portland bakery who appear to have done nothing objectionable. If there is mercy in any of these judgments, I am unable to see it.Sadly, even some within the conservative evangelical church appear to be heading down a similar path to the world. The race-centric nature of much of the recent discussion has seen prominent leaders such as Anyabwile saying, "My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice" (which Phil has already commented on). And Matt Chandler calling 300 people who left his church over his view on the topic of race "fools," in a manner that reminds me of the warnings in Matthew 5:22. . . because obviously, he spoke to all 300 people who departed, and none of them had any valid reasons to leave. And Eric Mason declaring that "pushback from a privileged position will get shut down," which could perhaps be summarized as "disagreeing while white". Although these types of statements are not (yet) to the level of the ones in the prior paragraph, the amount of mercy shown to their targets is still depressingly thin, especially in light of James 2:13.I take no joy in highlighting these public, unambiguous comments, all of which remain to this day without retraction. These men are conference speakers, authors, and most of all pastors accountable to James 3:1 who have significant influence in the conservative evangelical church, and their comments do not represent "microaggressions" nor are they merely specks to be plucked. They have not personally offended me; rather, I am deeply grieved to see even some men who preach a faithful Gospel seemingly following a path cut more by the world than by Scripture.The current controversy over race-centric worldviews in the church is one that will require civil but robust discussion in order to attempt to make progress. May we do so with charity, yes, but also with stamina and perseverance, and without sweeping generalizations or hypersensitive speck-plucking.Hohn Cho
by Phil Johnsonegarding the previous post, let me underscore my answer to an objection that keeps coming up. One of my critics on Twitter stated it as succinctly as anyone. He wrote, "Attraction and lust aren't the same thing. [Therefore] your proposition collapses entirely."I'm aware, of course, that the words attraction and lust have different shades of meaning. Not every attraction entails lust. Attraction is the action or capacity of eliciting interest, affection, sympathy, fascination, or some similar eager response. It's possible—even desirable—to be attracted to things that are altogether holy and good, or even morally neutral, without being guilty of lust.Lust is a sensuous appetite or desire that is inherently sinful—or one that leads to sin. To explain the idea of lust in the sense Scripture uses the word, it is any desire or affinity for something that God has forbidden. "All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world" (1 John 2:16).In short, you cannot define lust without the idea of attraction. What distinguishes a neutral attraction from a sinful one is both the object of desire and the source of your inclination. To desire what God forbids is a sin, full stop. And such desires are "not from the father." This is never treated as an ambiguous or murky concept in Scripture.On an entirely different topic, several people have already eagerly responded to my call for potential Pyroposts and/or regular contributors to this blog. I haven't had time to reply to any of them yet, so if you submitted something and haven't heard back from me, please don't read my lack of response as apathy or negativity—at least not yet. It's been a terribly busy week. I am trying to clear my desk and calendar. Friday night I'm taking the redeye to NYC with Darlene and our eldest granddaughter for a rare week of pure vacation. I intend to evaluate contributors' submissions when I return.The upside is that if you intend to submit an potential blogpost and haven't done so yet, you have at least a week of breathing room. And if you submitted but wish to revise your submission, you have time for that, too. Here are some guidelines and caveats for potential contributors: I don't intend to furnish reviews or critiques of articles that are submitted for consideration. That would be too time consuming.If I decline to post your submission, it doesn't necessarily mean I didn't like it or didn't agree with you. There are lots of fine blogposts out there that just don't fit PyroManiacs tonally or stylistically.Our tone and styles have been so far-ranging, you may wonder what I'm looking for. Here's a list: It needs to be something I would agree with entirely.It needs to be crisp and riveting, not turgid or lackluster.Specifically, it needs to have elements of wit, passion, controversy, or high interest. For the purposes of this blog, it's better to be provocative or even comical than tedious or pedantic.Above all, you need to demonstrate amazing writing ability and sharp verbal skills.Suppose you write a discourse on the doctrine of eternal generation that is completely accurate. I like the topic. The doctrine is certainly an important one. And it's an issue that many people are ignorant of or misunderstand completely. The topic would seem to be good fodder for a Pyropost. Nevertheless, if your writing style is dry or merely academic, even if you explain the doctrine in a totally orthodox and biblical way, it's probably not going to be something I would post here. There are several sound, conservative blogs out there publishing that kind of thing. We want PyroManiacs to stand out, not blend in.I do intend to start posting the weekly Spurgeon excerpts in a few weeks. Kerry Allen has offered to help supply material. I intend to take him up on it.
by Phil Johnsonull disclosure: Here is the development that finally provoked my sense of consecrated indignation enough to motivate me to start blogging again:It's the latest "evangelical" superconference. As you see, their own ad copy tells us they are devoted to "supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic Christian tradition." The conference is being organized and supported by a large cast of evangelical thought-leaders—including some people generally assumed to be sound and reliable spiritual guides.Fred Butler blogged about it yesterday, and it'll save me some work if you read his assessment of the actual conference itself. (You may need a translator for the cornpone-and-pot-likker dialect he slips into occasionally, but the cardinal points he makes are unassailable.)Anyway, I want to comment on the conference's underlying theory, because it strikes me as a Really Bad Idea (and a patently unbiblical opinion). Nevertheless, it seems to be gaining traction rapidly—even among many influential and hitherto trustworthy evangelical leaders. It's the notion that homosexual orientation is morally neutral. The claim being made is that gay desires are not really sinful unless they are acted upon. So a person can fully self-identify as lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, transsexual, gender-fluid, or otherwise "queer" and be a church member in good standing—as long as he, she, xe, (or whatever) remains celibate.I first began to realize realized how widespread that idea has become in the evangelical community two years ago, when the following Tweet was posted from the official Twitter account of The Gospel Coalition (TGC):"It's more masculine to be attracted to men yet obedient to God than attracted to women and disobedient to God."I referred to TGC's Tweet as a "hazy, misleading sophism" and added, "Lusting for something sinful is not 'obedien[ce] to God.'" A long argument ensued, with several friends on my FaceBook page and lots of my Twitter followers expressing shock and surprise that I would hold an opinion so egregiously out of step with postmodern political correctness. The "proper" postmodern opinion was succinctly stated by an exasperated commenter on my FaceBook page: "Desires are neutral until they are used sinfully," he wrote.I fear that idea is finding currency among leading evangelicals. But it is dead wrong and subversive to genuine holiness. Scripture is chock full of statements emphatically condemning evil desires—from the Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) to Jesus' words about mental and visual lust in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:27-29). What, after all, is lust but raw, sinful desire?Those who argue that LGBT "orientation" is morally neutral often point out that an unmarried heterosexual man's attraction to women isn't necessarily deemed sinful, assuming he remains celibate. Why, then, should we consider a celibate gay man's attraction wrong, as long as he doesn't act on it?I'd like to suggest two replies to that. First, a celibate heterosexual's attraction to women might indeed be sinful, if, say, he is attracted only to married women or underage girls. It would likewise be sinful if he allowed his interest in a particular young woman to become a fixation that distorts his perception of reality. A perfectly innocent attraction can even become a sinful passion for the person who indulges in immoral fantasies. No sane and reasonable person would try to argue that heterosexual desires are always wholesome. Second (and this is pretty straightforward:) Scripture says inordinate affections are sinful and commands us to mortify them (Colossians 3:5). I didn't make that up.But my Bible uses the expression "evil desire" in Colossians 3:5. How do I know if a desire is "evil"?In short, Scripture teaches plainly that any desire is sinful if it entails a wish for what we cannot righteously have. Far from "supporting, encouraging, and empowering" people with perverse sexual desires, Scripture repeatedly urges us to repent of all sinful desires—especially those wicked sexual passions that so easily entrap young minds (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 2:11). All of us—not just LBGTQ folk—are commanded to renounce and mortify every desire for anything God has forbidden. Those who think people beset with perverse desires can wear their peculiar lusts as badges of group identity merely demonstrate that they haven't a clue what repentance means. Furthermore, to omit or purposely obscure the Bible's clear call to repentance is to show contempt to one's unbelieving neighbors.Let me be clear: I, too, have friends and close neighbors who identify as LGBT, and I abominate the way some Christians seem to think it's OK to heap unbridled scorn, mockery, or insults on them. All our neighbors should be shown Christlike, loving compassion with the dignified respect that befits anyone who bears God's image.But to encourage them in their sin or offer them the false comfort of approval for their sinful desires is a serious breach of the Second Great Commandment.Let's not try to make any sin seem less wicked than it is.I would not necessarily single out homosexuality as the chief example of abominable sin if our culture didn't constantly insist on treating homosexual desire as a privileged category. Sodomy is only one of several notoriously odious abominations, and Jesus expressly said the hard-hearted unbelief of those who have actually seen and know the truth is a worse sin than all the evils of Sodom (Matthew 11:24).Furthermore, I'm happy to assert, emphatically, that any evil attraction is appallingly sinful, including that heterosexual tendency to want to click on clickbait when the link features a picture of some scantily-clad tart.But this one class of sins (LGBT etc.) is the only one that demands special status and unconditional affirmation.So perhaps the main point I want to make will perhaps be clearer if we consider one of the sexual perversions that hasn't yet successfully lobbied for social acceptance and special rights.Here's a real-life example:During my first year at Grace to You (1983), a man wrote our ministry looking for affirmation and encouragement. He wanted us to agree with his belief that mere attraction to a forbidden object is not inherently sinful. He gave a convincing testimony about his conversion from a life of sin and rebellion. He said he was now serving as an AWANA leader in his church. Then he got specific about what he was asking us to sanction.He said he felt sexually drawn to "large farm animals." (Those were his exact words.)I wrote back, citing Matthew 5:28, and told him it is our position that the desires he was describing are not morally neutral at all but a sinful perversion that he needed to repent of and vanquish through the means of grace. I'd give him the same answer today, even after reading reams of sophisticated evangelical reasoning trying to argue that "attraction" and "lust" are categorically different.One other point needs to be made before I wrap this up.People sometimes suggest that all sin is equally vile. That's simply not true. It's true that all sin is damnably wicked, but Jesus Himself made clear that some sins are worse than others (John 19:11; Luke 10:12-14). And Scripture clearly portrays certain sexual perversions (lesbianism and bestiality among them) as unusually and unnaturally perverse. (See, for example, Romans 1:26-28.)All of this raises an important question: How far do the culturally-engaged evangelical trend-setters want to take the notion that mere attraction is morally neutral? I hope we'd be concerned about the sanctification of someone who insisted on self-identifying as a pederast living a celibate life. Or my cowboy correspondent who harbored a secret desire for a closer relationship with his livestock. Or people drawn to any number of kinky fetishes too perverse to even talk about (Ephesians 5:12).Yes, all of us struggle with evil desires. That's part of our fallenness. Even Paul struggled with covetousness—evil desire (Romans 7:7-25). But Paul's whole point was that those desires (even if never acted on) are sins to be mortified, not prize ribbons to be worn as badges of one's identity.
by Phil Johnsonhe issue underlying practically every popular evangelical trend we have ever decried here on PyroManiacs is the same moral defect that was the besetting sin of the Pharisees—namely, a craving for human applause. The current ranks of evangelical leadership are filled with men who care far too much about what the world thinks of them. The intellectually sophisticated among our Top Men tend to covet academic esteem, especially from unbelieving scholars. Those who are less—um, cerebrally endowed—just yearn to be admired for being über-cool. Between those two extremes are a legion of evangelical movers and shakers who think they can achieve both goals. Lately, they have sought to do this by cultivating a noisome air of political correctness.Scripture could not be more clear about the value of this world's approval. Jesus said, "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets" (Luke 6:26). And, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). And, "you will be hated by all for my name's sake" (Matthew 10:22). And, "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets" (Luke 6:22-23).It's a theme that runs throughout Scripture, starting with Cain's murderous contempt for his own brother's righteous offering, and finally summed up in 1 John 3:13 with this admonition from the Apostle of Love: "Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you."Christians are expressly forbidden to embrace the world's values or seek its approval: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).The world is of course our mission field, so we're commanded to love people (including our enemies) as God does (Matthew 5:44-45). But worldly values, entertainments, and ideologies are full of spiritual poison. The current evangelical infatuation with such things is tantamount to treason against God. That's what James was saying when he wrote, "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).The notion that we must win the world's esteem before the gospel can do its work is, I'm convinced, a spiritually crippling error. But it's also the presupposition underlying most of the trends currently vying for widespread acceptance within the so-called evangelical movement. In reality, for three decades or longer the broad movement has been softening its commitment to (and in many cases totally abandoning) the two most important evangelical convictions—sola Scriptura and sola fide. Those cardinal biblical doctrines are now being replaced by secular dogmas: "wokeness," "social justice" (a liberal counterfeit, not biblical justice), critical race theory, gender fluidity, and an ever-increasing number of ideologies bred and popularized in secular academic circles.That now includes the normalization of LGTBQ perversions by evangelicals who argue that illicit desires in and of themselves aren't really sin; they are morally neutral expressions of one's "sexual orientation." (More on this subject in the days to come.)The "gospel-centered" movement that many of us were so enthusiastic for just one decade ago has gone with the drift. The Gospel Coalition has for some time now shown a pattern of embracing whatever new moral issue or political cause is currently popular in Western culture by arguing that this, too, is a legitimate "gospel issue." They are by no means alone in this. Everything from the latest Marvel movie to gun control legislation has been deemed a "gospel issue" by some savvy evangelical writer at one or more of the most heavily trafficked evangelical websites. But if everything is supposedly a gospel issue, the expression "gospel-centered" is rendered meaningless.As I said in a Tweet earlier today, we must not abandon the focused simplicity of Luke 24:46-47 in favor of a social gospel that encompasses a large complex of racial, economic, and political issues. Every denomination, every educational institution, and every church that has ever made that error has seen a quick demise. I for one don't intend to watch in silence while the current generation repeats that mistake.
by Phil Johnsont's been more than six years since I retired from the blogosphere. For half a decade, whenever someone would ask if I missed blogging, my honest answer was, "Not at all. Never even once." There wasn't a single moment in all those years when I thought, I wish I were still blogging so I could write something more than a Tweet about this issue. In my seven years of blogging, I had posted on practically every issue I really cared about. I ran out of opinions.Some HistoryI began blogging in 2005 because I was concerned about my fellow evangelicals' blithe acceptance of the so-called Emerging Church Movement. It seemed as if every elite evangelical agency—from Christianity Today to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC)—was foolishly hoping the Emergent Narrative would be The Next Big Thing. They were practically cheerleading for the movement! D. A. Carson was a rare voice of dissent, but his reply to the Emergent idea was (in my view) much too tepid to be an effective critique.I had tried posting some opinions in the comments sections of a couple of popular blogs, but they made it clear they were not interested in dissenting views. One famous blog closed their comments completely when I tried joining their discussion. So on the last weekday of May 2005 I formally opened my own blog. My main goal was merely to articulate and catalogue my own misgivings about the drive to postmodernize evangelical Christianity. I had no expectation that anyone outside my circle of friends (and my Sunday school class) would be any more interested in my opinions than those blogs that had shooed me away when I commented.My first real blogpost went live the day after Memorial Day that year. It was a poke at the "Young, Restless, Reformed" movement, though I wrote it a year and a half before Christianity Today and Collin Hansen gave that movement its name.Right away, readership far exceeded what I anticipated. I immediately realized that I had inadvertently jumped into the deep end of the pool without any floaties.PyroManiacS: The birth of the Group BlogSo six months in, I invited Dan Phillips and Frank Turk to partner with me in the effort. I'd never met either one of them before, but I'd read their comments on line, and I knew 1) that they shared my views about the folly of postmodernism, and 2) that they were gifted writers with minds full of verbal mischief, more than capable of the kind of critique I wanted to level against the Emergent movement. So we launched the team blog in January of 2006.We wrote a lot of good, thoughtful posts attempting to provide Emergents with the "conversation" they were saying they wanted. But we quickly noticed a couple of surprising trends. First, the more purposefully rational and irenic our content, the less discussion our writing evoked. Second, no matter what we wrote or how we wrote it, there were swarms of smug postmoderns prepared to deconstruct our prose, pleading for every kind of "tolerance" other than tolerance of others' ideas, preaching love and kindness while eagerly spoiling for a fight with us.The High-Water MarkFrankly, making fun of postmodernism's foolish inconsistencies did far more good than trying to reason with postmoderns. Looking back, it seems to me that the Po-Motivators® may well have done more to open readers' eyes to the dangers of evangelical postmodernism than all the text we wrote combined. I'd hate to think those posters were the blog's high water mark, but it's true that the advent of the posters marked the turning point after which our postmodern critics dropped some of their trademark arrogance, and some of them actually left the Dark Side and joined the discussion we were having.Anyway, the Emergent movement finally died, and we're thankful for that. When we knew the fad was well and truly over (that the popular movement phase had passed, anyway), blogging seemed less urgent and less appealing. I formally retired in 2012 on my 59th birthday, and most of the evangelical blogosphere breathed a deep, cosmic sigh of relief.At the time, I remarked to anyone who raised the subject that although Emergent was dead and discredited as a movement, it had unleashed countless postmodern ideas and deconstructionist methodologies into the evangelical community, and these would bear some nasty fruit within a decade or less.I see the fulfillment of that prophecy in a myriad of ways today—including the emboldening of Andy Stanley, the rise of a quasi-evangelical brand of Critical Race Theory, eroding definitions of "biblical inerrancy," evangelical waffling on the moral questions raised by people who classify their own "sexual orientation" as LGBTQ, evangelicals still craving academic recognition or popular esteem from worldly minded people, the recent drift of Russell Moore and the ERLC—and other related or similar issues.So Here's the Thing . . .I suddenly have the itch to write about some of these things. Not every day, of course, but from time to time—perhaps weekly or so. Dan Phillips is now blogging to a bigger audience at PJ Media, and Frank Turk is more determined than I to maintain his retirement from controversial social media. Still, I'd love to get occasional contributions from them—or from others, such as Darrell Harrison, Justin Peters, Josh Buice, or anyone else who shares both my passion for biblical Christianity and my contempt for every effort to make the evangelical movement more politically correct. Consider this an open invitation to submit articles you think might be of interest to my readers. If you write enough blogposts that fit, I'll give you a set of keys to the blog and make you an official PyroManiac.Watch this space for my first actual issues-oriented re-entry into the blogosphere. If the Lord wills, I'll post it sometime next week.
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