Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is fromÂ The MTP, volume 12, sermon number 676, "Man's thoughts and God's thoughts."Â "God's thinkings are declared by himself to be exceedingly above man's, and yet if ever man is to dwell with God, he must think as God thinks."A more current idea still is, that God will put away the past and give men a new start, and that if they go on well for the future, then in their dying hour, when it comes to a wind-up, God will speak pardon. But soul, there is nothing of that kind in the Word of God.That truthful book tells us solemnly that as far as the matter of keeping the law is concerned, and being saved by our good works, we have all of us but one opportunity, and the moment we commit one sin that opportunity is over; nay, before we began life our father Adam had spoiled that chance for us by his sin. The Word of God never speaks about giving us a second trial.The law says, âCursed is every man that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.â It says nothing whatever of starting you in business again, in the hopes that you may at last make your spiritual fortune; nothing of the kind: and those of you who are trying your hands at reformation, and so hope that in a dying hour you will get peace to your souls, are spending your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which profiteth not, for if you never sinned in the future, what would that have to do with the past?Will a man's paying ready money in the future defray the debts, which he has already incurred? God has a right to the obedience of your whole life; do you suppose that giving him the obedience of a part of it will be accepted as a satisfaction for the whole?Moreover, who art thou that thou shouldst be holy? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. Thou wilt only repeat thy former life, thou wilt go back again like the dog to its vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.As for peace in the hour of death, he who is not pardoned living is not likely to be pardoned dying. Nine out of ten, perhaps nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of professed death-bed salvations are a delusion.We have good facts to prove that. A certain physician collected notes of several hundreds of cases of persons who professed conversion who were supposed to be dying. These persons did not die but lived, and in the case of all but one they lived just as they had lived before, though when they were thought to be dying they appeared as if they were truly converted.Do not look forward to that, it is a mere snare of Satan. God save you from it; for in this case his thoughts are not your thoughts.
by Hohn ChoÂ Â Â Â few days ago, an ordained PCA pastor from Washington, DCâDuke Kwonâsaid the following:When people hear "reparations" many retort"forgiveness is better"which is also what some say to victims of abuse"no, forgive"but forgiveness and justice are not at oddswhat I release as a cross-bearerwhat I'm owed as an image-beareralas, racial oppression is abuseKwon is part of a developing cadre of Asian American social justicians that includes folks like Raymond Chang and perhaps the most extreme of the group, Timothy Isaiah Cho (#NotAllChos), the former Director of Operations of Michael Horton's White Horse Inn. I was busy last week at our church's annual Shepherds Conference, but I set aside the comment above for a reply, because the mentality behind it is one of my pet peeves, the false equivalence that flattens types of offense. (There's another big issue to discuss as well, specifically the increasingly popular idea of reparations, but I'll save that for another time.)I've written previously about sexual (and physical) abuse, and although the exact extent of the problem in certain contexts and communities may be unclear, it is a problem which is common and substantial enough that reports ought to be taken very seriously. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that complementarians in particular have a Scriptural responsibility toward women, who are by far the more frequent recipients of sexual and physical abuse, as well as the fact that such types of abuse constitute actual crimes, which pursuant to Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 are under the jurisdiction of the governing authorities, who are to wield the sword for the protection of the good and the punishment of the wrongdoer.It appalls me, then, when I see social justicians attempt to elevate matters such as microaggressions, or increased socioeconomic status in an already wealthy nation like the United States, or the unbiblical attempt to punish children and grandchildren for the sins of their ancestors, to the same level of importance as major, tangible, current sins and crimes, such as sexual and physical abuse. It is truly a false equivalence. And it is even more appalling when social justicians attempt to equate their pet issues to the holocaust of abortion, which kills nearly a million unborn children per year in the United States alone, a disproportionate number of which are from ethnic minorities. Some like to cite the importance of speaking up for the voiceless and destitute from Proverbs 31:8-9 as a call to "justice" work, but in our age of social media, who is more voiceless than a baby in the womb, and in our rich land where starvation is basically unheard of, who is more destitute than a precious little one who has no possessions or even rights at all?Even in cases of "race" related sins and crimes, the actual numbers pale in comparison to cases of sexual and physical abuse, as well as abortion, by multiple orders of magnitude. I already mentioned the nearly million unborn children aborted each year, and in the United States in 2016, the most recent year with available data, rapes and sexual assaults actually reported (estimated at 23.2% of all rapes and sexual assaults) numbered 298,410, while domestic violence incidents numbered 1,068,120.Compare and contrast these numbers with 7,175 hate crimes of all types and categories in the United States in 2017, of which 5,084 were crimes against persons (as opposed to property), and the great majority (79.2%) of those crimes against persons were classed as intimidation or simple assault, while 15 were murders (0.3%). Similarly, on the much-sensationalized issue of police shootings, as I stated in point E of a past article, more people die each year from constipation (189) than unarmed people of all ethnicities die at the hands of police.If we are to be people of the Book, we need to care about equal weights and measures, because God cares about them, and considers unequal ones to be an abomination, as we see in Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 20:23. Similarly, there are matters of first importance in Scripture, a concept which clearly shows that it is not biblically appropriate to attempt to draw false equivalences between certain types of actions and offenses. Indeed, while any sin will send anyone without the saving grace of Jesus Christ to hell, all sins are not the same in type or degree, and in particular, while hating a brother might be as sinful before God as murder, and looking at a woman with lust might be as sinful before God as adultery, you'd better believe that the horizontal consequences of actual murder and actual adultery will far exceed their mere heart equivalents!So too it is with Kwon's attempt to compare "victims of abuse" to "racial oppression"âand I would argue that before his comparison can have any weight, he would need to establish precisely what he means by "racial oppression" rather than just handwave it or otherwise assume facts not in evidence. Yes, on those rarer occasions when there are actual crimes being committed against people on the basis of their ethnicity, absolutely, the subjects of those crimes have every right to call the governing authorities and see appropriate consequences visited upon the perpetrators, including restitution wherever and whenever appropriate. And when we see restitution in the Bible, most commonly under the Old Testament civil laws of ancient Israel, it invariably takes the form of a definite and determinable sum levied against the actual wrongdoer. Even if there's no crime committed, but there is sinâsuch as actual, demonstrable racism within the church, as opposed to the epidemic of heart reading we see from many social justiciansâit may be that an appropriate authority to enforce order is indeed the church, via the exercise of church discipline.Based on what I've read and heard, everyone reputable agrees that actual incidents of racism are wrong and unacceptable, and indeed, the unanimously strong denouncement of racism by pretty much every sector of our society is both telling and encouraging, especially when we look back over the course of history when that has not always been the case. But most of the time, what social justicians today call "racial oppression" really amounts to marginal or even imagined personal slights, disputable statistical data that according to multivariate analyses have many different causes, and the admittedly bitter fruit resulting from the sins of our ancestors which were horrific but are simply not attributable to people today, as my pastor, John MacArthur, masterfully exposited from Ezekiel 18 and other passages in the sermon series starting here.On a practical level, I perceive many of these false equivalency efforts to bootstrap certain types of ethnic discrimination into more dire problems to be a symptom of the current disease of identity politics and intersectionality, whereby activists regularly compete for finite attention spans and capacity for outrage. The thing is, when identity politics and intersectionalism work their way into practice, women often simply lose out, whether they're stacked against groups centered around ethnicity, national origin and immigration, Islam, or more recently transgenderism.Much of this is due to the worldly philosophy of "allyship" in which identity groups work together out of political expedience rather than biblical righteousness. Allyship says, "You support my cause, I'll support yours, and hey, we'll just shut up about any annoying inconsistencies in the other's case... maybe we'll get to that after we finish sticking it to the man." On the level of political effectiveness, this philosophy might manage to score some points. On the level of biblical ethics, however, it leaves much to be desired. Better by far to speak the truth in love and put away falsehood per Ephesians 4:15, 25, and to walk blamelessly and do what is righteous per Psalm 15:2, and to have integrity per Proverbs 10:9, 11:3, 19:1, 20:7, 28:6, and to have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way per Hebrews 13:18, and to avoid worldly alliances and plans that are not of the Spirit per Isaiah 30:1-3.I am glad to speak up and take action in my own Christian liberty and stewardship with respect to actual injustices, whether of the limited "social justice" variety or more broadly in the area of biblical justice, such as protecting the innocent and the weak from lawbreakers in Romans 13:3, or punishing the evildoer and the violent man from Romans 13:4, or understanding the truth from our Savior in Matthew 26:52 that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword, or submitting even to harsh and oppressive authority such as the mad Roman emperor Nero in 1 Peter 2:13, or valuing the importance of work in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 especially if you want to eat, or making it our ambition to live quietly and mind our own affairs in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, or to pray for those in authority so that we can live peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives per 1 Timothy 2:1-2, or even proclaiming biblical understandings relating to marriage, divorce, family, and gender.And the reason I would do those things is because they're right, and not because certain "allies" expect me to. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? Meanwhile, all of the allies in the world will avail me nothing if either the means or the end is ungodly, as is so often the case with the unequal weights and measures and myopic temporal focuses of many social justicians.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from We Endeavour, pages 96-97, Pilgrim Publications."Study carefully the story of the enthusiastic Christian woman who pouredÂ the alabaster box of very precious ointment upon the head of our blessedÂ Lord and Saviour.Â Her first and last thoughts were for the Lord Jesus Himself."Seek to do something for Jesus which shall even be above all a secretÂ sacrifice of pure love to Jesus. Do special and private work towards yourÂ Lord. Between you and your Lord let there be secret love tokens. You willÂ say to me, âWhat shall I do?â I decline to answer. I am not to be a judge forÂ you; especially as to a private deed of love.Â The good woman did not sayÂ to Peter, âWhat shall I give?â nor to John, âWhat shall I do?â but her heartÂ was inventive. I will only say, that we might offer more private prayer forÂ the Lord Jesus. âPrayer also shall be made for Him continually.â IntercedeÂ for your neighbours; pray for yourselves; but could you not set apart a littleÂ time each day in which prayer should be all for Jesus?Â Could you not atÂ such seasons cry with secret pleadings, âHallowed be thy name! ThyÂ kingdom come! Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heavenâ? Would it notÂ be a sweet thing to feel at such a timeâI shall now go up to my chamber,Â and give my Lord a few minutes of my heart's warmest prayer, that HeÂ may see of the travail of His soul?Â That is one thing which all saints can attend to.Â Another holy offering isÂ adorationâthe adoring of Jesus. Do we not too often forget thisÂ adoration in our assemblies, or thrust it into a corner? The best part of allÂ our public engagements is the worshipâthe direct worship; and in thisÂ the first place should be given to the worship of the Lord Jesus.Â We sing atÂ times to edify one another with psalms and hymns, but we should also singÂ simply and only to glorify Jesus. We are to do this in company; but shouldÂ we not do it alone also? Ought we not all, if we can, to find a season inÂ which we shall spend the time, not in seeking the good of our fellow-men,Â not in seeking our own good, but in adoring Jesus, blessing Him,Â magnifying Him, praising Him, pouring forth our heart's love towards HimÂ and presenting our soul's reverence and penitence.Â I suggest this to you. IÂ cannot teach you how to do it. God's Holy Spirit must show your heartsÂ the way.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 11, sermon number 651, "A sermon from a rush.""If you do not mean your godliness, do not profess it."The hypocrite will yield to good influences if he be in good society. âOh yes, certainly, certainly, sing, pray, anything you like.â With equal readiness he will yield to evil influences if he happens to be in connection with them. âOh, yes, sing a song, talk wantonness, run into gay society, attend the theatre, take a turn with the dice; certainly, if you wish it; âWhen we are at Rome we do as Rome does.'âAnything to oblige anybody is his motto. He is an omnivorous feeder, and like the swine can eat the vegetable of propriety, or the flesh of iniquity. One form of doctrine is preached to him,âvery well, he would not wish to contend against it for a moment; it is contradicted by the next preacher he hears,âand really there is a great deal to be said on the other side; so he holds with hare and hounds too.He is all for heat when the weather is hot, and quite as much for cold when it is the season; he can freeze, and melt, and boil, all in an hour, just as he finds it pay best to be solid or liquid. If it be mostrespectable to call a thing black, well, then, it is black; if it will pay better to call it white, well then it is not so very black, in fact it is rather white, or white altogether if you like to call it so.The gross example of the Vicar of Bray comes at once to one's mind, who had been a papist under Henry VIII., then a protestant under a Protestant reign, then a papist under Mary, then again a Protestant under Elizabeth; and he declared he had always been consistent with his principle, for his principle was to continue the Vicar of Bray.Some there are, who are evidently consistent in this particular, and in the idea that they will make things as easy for themselves as they can, and will get as much profit as they can, either by truth or error. Do you not know some such? They have not an atom of that stern stuff of which martyrs are made in the whole of their composition.They love that modern goddess, charity. When Diana went down Charity went up; and she is as detestable a goddess as ever Diana was. Give me a man who will be all things to all men to win souls, if it be not a matter of principle; but give me the man who, when it comes to be a matter of right and wrong, will rather die than deny his faith; who could burn, but could not for a moment conceal his sentiments, much less lay them aside until a more convenient season.True godliness, such as will save the soul, must not be the mere bark, but the heart, the sap, the essence of a man's beingâit must run right through and through, so that he cannot live without it. That religion is not worth picking up from a dunghill which you do not carry every day about with you, and which is not the dearest object for which you live. Beloved, we must be ready to die for Christ, or we shall have no joy in the fact that Christ died for us.
by Phil Johnsonne of my main complaints about all the rhetoric touting "social justice" is that most people who use that expression seem to have a patently unbiblical (and therefore unjust) notion of what "justice" entails. Specifically, the suggestion has been made (and seconded) that in order to even the record of past injustices and level the playing field of "privilege," our whole culture (including you and me as individuals) needs to adopt a new kind of favoritism in all the judgments we make.From now on, they say, the scales of justice need to be tipped in favor of certain ethnicities, gender types, and other disadvantaged people groups. Cisgender white males have to go to the back of the bus. Impartiality isn't what's needed. Reparations are.That mentality has given birth to a dozen or more hashtags, popular fads, and government policies: Affirmative action. Intersectional theory. #BelieveAllWomen. #CheckYourPrivilege. Don't appropriate the symbols of another culture. Don't be colorblind when it comes to ethnic differences. And whatever you do, don't say #AllLivesMatter. That's now racist.Note what all those ideas have in common: they spurn even-handed impartiality. In other words. what's happening in the name of racial reconciliation and social justice is the very definition of injustice, because it's a shameless prescription for prejudice.And again: rigorous impartiality is the sine qua non of true justice.Scripture says, "You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike" (Deuteronomy 1:17). "You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15). "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit" (Exodus 23:2-3).This is basic biblical truth. It's definitional of justice. And it's stressed in Scripture from start to finish: "If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:9).So it's particularly annoying when evangelical virtue-signallers try to pretend they are upholding some vital principle of biblical justice by embracing the wider culture's currently-stylish hierarchy of intersectional victimology; or by binding heavy burdens of blame and scorn on people for their ancestors' wrongdoings; or by telling brothers to shut up because they belong to a "privileged" ethnicity or people group; or by acting as if the oppression suffered by one's forebears bestows a kind of gnostic enlightenment on a person, thereby giving him an automatically superior understanding of social issues; or by shifting the burden of proof in abuse cases from the accuser to the accused; or by refusing to acknowledge that the wider culture's determination to glorify victimhood has resulted in a epidemic of false abuse claims.Here's a sample of the kind of thing that gets Tweeted and re-Tweeted endlessly in the evangelical districts online. (And by the wayâI just screen-grabbed a random sample of what I've seen today. I'm not looking to single out the person who wrote this Tweet or any of the hundred-plus people who retweeted it before I even saw it, so let's keep it anonymous):Seriously?It would be much more plausible to say that the chief takeaway from the Jussie Smollett incident is that victimhood has become such a desirable status in American culture that even this highly privileged Hollywood celebrity faked a racist attack in a desperate attempt to win whatever extra advantages he thought he could get from the intersectional lottery.Furthermore, Smollett's failure to pull it off was owing to his own ineptitude. It does not prove that it's "difficult to get away with" such a prank. On the contrary, the initial reactions to Smollett's claims revealed once again how ridiculously easy it is to gain widespread sympathy with a hate-crime hoaxâeven from people who ought to know better.I need to say one other thing about that Tweet: I don't see how minimizing the damage to the life and reputation of someone falsely accused of a crime is morally any better than trying to excuse or downplay any other kind of abuse. I wonder, for example, what Justice Kavanaugh or the Duke lacrosse team or Paul Nungesser or Brandon Winstonâor who knows how many other lesser-known people in similar straitsâwould think of the last clause of the above Tweet. But among the multitude of evangelicals who "liked" and approved that thoughtless remark were at least one or two evangelicals who are well known as victims' advocates.It illustrates how seriously skewed evangelical attitudes are in the way we speak and think about justice these days. After my earlier post decrying both spiritual abuse and false accusations, I was hit with a barrage of emails and Tweets scolding me for saying that every accusation of sexual or spiritual abuse needs to be impartially and painstakingly investigated. Worse yet, by keeping the burden of proof on the accuser and not the accused, they said, I was in effect siding with abusers and enabling abuse, whether I intended to or not.Evidently lots of evangelicals now believe that to maintain the presumption of innocence in an abuse case is an automatic injustice tantamount to shelling the accuser with a whole new bombardment of abuse.But again, the biblical standard of justice is not the least bit ambiguous, and it starts with an uncompromising commitment to impartiality. True justice cannot favor poor or rich, accuser or accused, Jew or Gentile, female or male, weak or powerful. It abhors false accusations as passionately as it detests the abuse of widows and orphans. It sees every form of "mob justice" as gross injustice. It tolerates no excuses for evil behavior. (Even bona fide victims are not given a pass for their sin.) It stubbornly insists on every duty under God's law and holds every individual to the principle of personal responsibility before God as the Judge of all the earth. "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). That's what real justice demands.In other words, justice as Scripture describes it is a reflection of God's own holy and righteous character. And yes, it is therefore fundamentally and permanently at odds with this fallen, cursed world's notions about justice.So if you find yourself echoing talking points about abuse, victimhood, privilege, oppression or other social-justice topics that you've picked up from the secular academy, the mainstream media, American civil religion, Oprah Winfrey, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Masonic Lodge, the Tea Party collective, or any other worldly source, maybe you ought to give the biblical treatment of those topics a little more careful study.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 34, sermon number 2,004, "The lover of God's law filled with peace.""As a conqueror in the glad hour of victory shouts over the dividing of the prey, so do believers rejoice in God's Word."I can recollect as a youth the great joy I had when the doctrines of grace were gradually opened up to me by the Spirit of truth. I did not at first perceive the whole chain of precious truth. I knew that Jesus had suffered in my stead, and that by believing in him I had found peace; but the deep things of the covenant of grace came to me one by one, even as at night you first see one star and then another, and by-and-by the whole heavens are studded with them.When it first became clear to me that salvation was all of grace, what a revelation it was! I saw that God had made me to differ from others: I ascribed my salvation wholly to his free favour. I perceived that, at the back of the grace which I had received, there must have been a purpose to give that grace, and then the glorious fact of an election of grace flowed in upon my soul in a torrent of delight.I saw that the love of God to his own was without beginningâa boundless, fathomless, infinite, endless love, which carries every chosen vessel of mercy from grace to glory. What a God is the God of sovereign grace! How did my soul rejoice as I saw the God of love in his sovereignty, immutability, faithfulness, and omnipotence! âAmong the gods there is none like unto thee.âSo will any young convert here rejoice if he so loves the law of the Lord as to continue studying it, and receiving the illumination of the Holy Ghost concerning it. As the child of God sees into the deep things of God, he will be ready to clap his hands for joy.It is a delightful sensation to feel that you are growing. Trees, I suppose, do not know when they grow, but men and women do, when the growth is spiritual. We seem to pass into a new heaven and a new earth as we discover God's truth. A new guest has come to live within our mind, and he has brought with him banquets such as we never tasted before.Oh, how happy is that man to whose loving mind Holy Scripture is opening up its priceless treasures! We know that we love God's Word when we can rejoice in it. Fain would we gather up every crumb of Scripture, and find food in its smallest fragments. Even its bitter rebukes are sweet to us. I would kiss the very feet of Scripture, and wash them with my tears!Alas, that I should sin against it by a thought, much more by a word! If it be but God's Word, though some may call it nonessential, we dare not think it so. The little things of God are more precious than the great things of man. Truth is no trifle to one who has fought his way to it, and learned it in the school of affliction.
by Hohn Chos he is wont to do, Doug Wilson wrote and published to the general public a strongly-worded opinion piece regarding a matter of current controversy. I responded to him here, and Phil Johnson added a number of helpful points here. As an aside, I actually wasn't aware that Phil and Doug were friends, which I say only to highlight Phil's fair-minded impartiality in posting my article, and to reiterate that my words are my own and should not be attributed to Phil or anyone else. Regardless, Wilson replied here, which forms the basis of this blogpost. And like Wilson, I won't be addressing everything.For all of Wilson's protestations about "one-sided story-telling" and people being too "free to accuse without consequences" the reality is that my conclusions have been formed based on formal judicial actions and official public documents relating to the cases of Sitler and Wight, and as I mentioned in the comments to my previous article, CREC's final 2017 Presiding Ministers' Report about Wilson. So yes, that means a lot of sworn testimony and opportunities to cross-examine, which is also the case with a large portion of Denhollander's March 1, 2018 summary about Sovereign Grace. In that light, my conscience does not impel me in the slightest to attempt to reinvent the wheel by interviewing or cross-examining witnesses who have already spoken on-the-record. In any event, putting to the side his many criticisms of GRACE and Tchvidjian, the organization that did conduct an investigation of the Sitler and Wight matters was Wilson's own CREC denomination, and I phrase it that way because Wilson essentially formed the denomination, has previously been its Presiding Minister, and is its most well-known minister. Despite the (again, potential) bias of such an in-house investigation, it was interesting to note that the final Presiding Ministers' Report contained numerous clear and at times rather searing corrections for Wilson, some of the most concerning of which are excerpted below:A. Evaluation and Support of WightIn the Jamin Wight case, Christ Church leadership should have been far more careful in evaluating his character and fitness for ministry, and could have done so at an earlier date... In short, the great damage caused by Wight could have been mitigated by more rigorous forms of evaluation and accountability... In dealing with the Jamin/[redacted] marriage situation, it seems that it might have been wiser for the Trinity and Christ Church counselors to have had more individual sessions with [redacted] separate from Jamin, since it appears that [redacted] was often intimidated by Jamin's presence in the joint sessions... The committee also questions the wisdom of some of the language used to describe Wight and his crimes. In a letter to Officer Green, Pastor Wilson of Christ Church denied that Wight was a "sexual predator."11... Weighing in on whether a defendant is a "sexual predator" or whether he is properly charged with a certain crime is almost certain to cause unintended harm. For example, it can easily suggest to victims, even as it did in both the Wight case and the Sitler case, that the crimes against them are being minimized by the church... Also, in a letter to Gary Greenfield, Pastor Wilson stated that the Christ Church session was "distressed over the way Jamin took sinful advantage of your daughter," but "just as distressed at your extremely poor judgment as a father and protector" (emphasis added).12 This kind of language, especially in written form, is virtually sure to be received by victims and their families, as well as by many in the public, as blame-shifting from the criminal perpetrator onto those who are suffering the pain of the crime. As such, it is counterproductive...B. Counseling and Pastoral Care of the GreenfieldsChrist Church should have done more to care for Natalie and her family after the abuse became known. Pastor Wilson appropriately has sought forgiveness for failing to press harder against Gary Greenfield's objections in order to reach out to Natalie. We also believe the church could have provided better counseling services for Natalie (preferably a female counselor specifically trained to deal with sex abuse victims), as well as providing a wider and more sympathetic support network to help her deal with the shame, isolation, and trauma that follow such abuse. It would have been good for someone other than Pastor Wilson to be her primary counselor; she needed to be ministered to by someone with expertise in sexual trauma.C. Communications about Sitler's MolestationsIn the Sitler case, it was a serious mistake for Christ Church leadership not to formally inform the congregation (or, more specifically, all parents of young children in the congregation) of his pattern of serial molestations immediately after it came to light... There were other communication breakdowns regarding the Sitler case. For example, Christ Church elder Ed Iverson, who helped bring Katie Travis together with Sitler, was unaware of the full extent of Sitler's sexual crimes (specifically, he was unaware that Sitler had molested multiple children).15... Finally, with regard to Pastor Wilson's letter to Sitler's sentencing judge, we reiterate our previous cautions about pastors interacting with the legal system.16 In the letter, Pastor Wilson stated that he was "grateful" that Sitler would be "sentenced for his behavior" and that he wanted "hard consequences for him," but at the same time urged that the sentence be "measured and limited."...D. Sitler/Travis Marriage ComplicationsIn the case of the Sitler/Travis wedding, several things could have been done with greater pastoral care and foresight by Christ Church leadership... Under the circumstances, we strongly question the wisdom of Christ Church leadership in supporting and solemnizing the Sitler/Travis marriage. Looking at the court record, everything seems to have been barreling down the tracks, with both the court and the church on their heels. The judge was brought in only ten days before the wedding, and regarding the child, the judge was not brought in at all until after the child was born... Unfortunately, in the Sitler situation, we see no evidence these questions were seriously explored, let alone answered. There did not seem to be time. But would not that fact alone be reason enough to withhold support for the marriage and childbearing, at least until these questions could be adequately addressed?...E. Sitler's Reintegration into the CongregationChurches should carefully consider whether it is feasible or wise to try to minister to a sex offender if the offender has victims in the congregationâeven if the church has the victims' consent. It is very difficult for churches to ensure that all of the inevitable distress, inconvenience, and awkwardness are borne by the offender, and none at all by the victims. This is not meant as punishment for the offender; it is simply part of accepting responsibility, which is the first step on the road to rehabilitation (as many sentencing judges have told defendants before them). Having offenders remain in the congregation can lead to victims leaving, as in fact happened in this case...Pastor Wilson's Blogging Responses...But when it comes to matters such as the Sitler and Wight cases, especially when victims are involved, an entirely different voice needs to be heardâone clad not in battle regalia, but in a humble linen tunic. Not only is this glorifying to God and the right thing to do, it is a kindness to victims, as well as to internet onlookers, who may already be confused by the allegations, and who will likely become even more confused by pastoral responses made with sword and mace. Had biblical humility and prudence been placed more to the foreâand that is what our suggestions are trying to expressâwe believe it would have placed Pastor Wilson and the entire controversy on a higher road.In that regard, let us point out a few specifics we believe are inconsistent with the high road:Engaging in online disputes with a person formerly under a pastor's care, particularly when the person has been sexually abused in any way. It is not wise for a pastor to argue with a sex abuse victim in public over the details of her case. It would be better for the pastor to absorb any wrongful accusations rather than engage in this kind of argument (I Cor 6:7).Discussing sensitive pastoral cases online. Such discussion can make others who need help more reluctant to seek it, for fear of having their cases turned into blog posts or Twitter fodder. It can also give the impression that a church is not a place where victims' voices can be 2heard (and all too often victims' voices have been suppressed in the church). While many in the general public may have no qualms about such discussions of personal matters, pastors should always take the high road.Using unnecessarily provocative language, including derogatory or calloused language about women. Referring to certain women as "small breasted biddies" or "lumberjack dykes" is not likely to serve an edifying purpose in this context. We note that this language has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson's ministry. Pastors should be careful not to give women reasons to avoid seeking help from the church. Instead, we should make it clear that the church is a place where all people are treated with honor and respect, and where victims can find grace.In this particular case, Pastor Wilson's rhetoric has, unfortunately, been found offensive and inappropriate even by many in his own denomination (including other pastors and elders). Pastor Wilson's blog posts regarding these cases have proved to be quite divisive even amongst those who consider him a friend and ally. A more prudent and temperate use of language would be helpful...Interestingly, even after much clicking, I can't seem to navigate to the report from the Christ Church home page, it doesn't appear to show up on the Christ Church domain after even very specific Google searches, and when I go to the direct link, the report is contained within an odd and difficult-to-use document interface that prohibits copying and pasting and downloading.[*] Say it ain't so, Joe, but it's almost as if Wilson is doing his level best to downplay or even bury the public report! I also note with great interest that neither Wilson in his reply article to me, nor his daughter-in-law in the links she kindly provided in the comments to my blogpost, nor any of the other supporters of Wilson in those comments, either linked to or even mentioned this report.Accordingly, it's deliciously ironic to see Wilson question whether or not I am to be "a trusted purveyor of information" and speculate about my "agenda" merely for declining to link in advance to some of his favorite defenses, particularly since Wilson himself is not a constant practitioner of this type of linking, and my blogpost was obviously an opinion piece opposing his position which made no claim to being comprehensive, devoting just two sentences to Sitler and Wight, since my focus was on broader issues.In any event, it's true that no one will ever know the full or complete story, that there's always that one last detail which could potentially turn the case, here in the real world we will always have limited capacity, imperfect information, and fallible minds, and yet we're still called to make discernments and judgments, particularly of people in the church per 1 Corinthians 5:12. Sometimes those judgments will happen in criminal or civil court (with the caveat that I certainly agree with Wilson that believers ought to heed 1 Corinthians 6:1-8), sometimes it will be an ecclesiastical body with authority over the subject, as was the case in the CREC report and Wilson.And sometimes it will happen in the court of public opinion, both inside and outside the church. That's the plain reality of the concept the Bible calls reputation and we see it in places such as Ecclesiastes 7:1, Proverbs 22:1, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 which I highlighted in my previous article, and 1 Peter 2:12. That last verse is particularly interesting, in that it calls us to make sure our conduct is so honorable that even when non-believers (wrongly) speak against us Christians as evildoers, our good works will serve as an even starker witness. So when a watching world condemns us for holding a biblical view of marriage, they will also have no choice but to acknowledge begrudgingly that we have in fact loved and cared for all people regardless of their particular inclinations... and not, say, insulted them as "small breasted biddies" or "lumberjack dykes" in Wilson's inimitable style.To be clear, I stand against "mob justice" and "lynch mobs" right alongside Phil and Wilson. I also deplore the Twitter and mainstream media "rush to judgment" mobs, with the recent Nick Sandmann and Jussie Smollett cases giving us two prime examples why. As I stated in my previous article, I share Wilson's views on the importance of the presumption of innocence and his concerns about the "woke" movement in the SBC and beyond. And I have absolutely zero interest in defenestrating, detaining, deporting, or even denouncing Wilson, really. None of those factors are at issue here. What I am saying is that people make reputational judgments all the time, from Yelp reviews to dating decisions to job prospects to churches, and usually with far less information than months and years worth of public court documents and other hard evidence that we've seen in the Sitler, Wight, CREC, and Sovereign Grace situations. And from that wealth of information, after careful consideration and not rushing to judgment, my utterly draconian proposals are that maybe Wilson should think twice before turning his rhetorical blowtorch up to 11 on the topic of abuse, and that Sovereign Grace should engage an independent investigation. Remember that, the next time someone tries to tell you I'm looking to jackhammer the foundations of Western Civilization.This brings me to the matter of Wilson's reputation, for he does indeed have one, given his high profile and his frequent and eager use of serrated blades on the Internet to propagate his own strong convictions and viewpoints. As a slightly more than casual observer for over a decade, I'd say that Wilson has a reputation for being a brilliant writer with an acid pen. He preaches a generally sound Gospel and promotes a generally biblical worldview, despite some minor to moderate concerns over matters such as paedocommunion, postmillennial theonomy, and Federal Vision, whether he's actually calling it that or not, these days. Obviously, he has a highly devoted flock of congregants, and I say that with genuine appreciation. And he's Mr. No Quarter November, who hates giving even an inch if he can possibly avoid it.[**] And I'd close by saying he's more than a little bit brash and bold, so much so that he often comes off like a bull in a china shop. Wilson himself has acknowledged similar things in the past, but the thing I'd sadly add is that from my perception, it's true to such an extent that I honestly cringe at even the notion of him attempting to counsel and shepherd abuse survivors, particularly in light of the public record on the Sitler and Wight matters. And before he or anyone else accuses me of being uncharitable, I will simply repeat the findings of the final Presiding Ministers' Report:We note that this language has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson's ministry. Pastors should be careful not to give women reasons to avoid seeking help from the church. Instead, we should make it clear that the church is a place where all people are treated with honor and respect, and where victims can find grace.In this particular case, Pastor Wilson's rhetoric has, unfortunately, been found offensive and inappropriate even by many in his own denomination (including other pastors and elders). Pastor Wilson's blog posts regarding these cases have proved to be quite divisive even amongst those who consider him a friend and ally. A more prudent and temperate use of language would be helpful...Despite all of this, Wilson still considers himself to be well-positioned to speak on these issues, apparently because he's a longsuffering martyr who's used to false accusations. In light of the CREC report and the court filings, however, I can't help but think that adopting a course of discreet humility would be far better than the risk of harm and disaster that comes from speaking out of a potentially misplaced self-righteousness.Anyway, Wilson is a big boy who gives far better than he gets, while I'm merely "a gent named Hohn Cho". And I have great confidence that this series of exchanges will have no lasting impact on his feelings, reputation, or honor. My far larger concern, and the reason I was even moved to say anything in the first place, is for the feelings, reputations, and honor of the victims of Sitler and Wight, for Denhollander and Mohler, and for survivors and their honorable advocates. They're inevitably the ones who are harmed by careless and unprofitable words, as I believe many of Wilson's have been, as CREC wisely pointed out. But again, I'm of no real account here, and so I don't have any expectation whatsoever that Wilson will heed what I say.I do pray, however, that as a minister called to the biblical standards and qualifications of an elder and as a man under authority of his denomination, he will ultimately heed the wise counsel of his own denomination's Presiding Ministers' Report.[*] The Website That Shall Not Be Named, for the benefit of Wilson's supporters, has conveniently provided a fully-searchable document with added hyperlinks to other referenced documents. As far as I could tell, the text otherwise appears identical to the version on Christ Church's website, but I will patiently await accusations that it's somehow a fraud.[**] I stand by my perception that Wilson is known for doubling down far more than for apologies, but I acknowledge with thanks his link to point #7 of his Controversy Library, which I had never seen before. It contains links to two apologies from 2005 and 2015 for what I would call negligence relating to co-authors' apparently unintentional plagiarism (the latter of which happens to relate to A Justice Primer, the very book he cited in his original blogpost that I responded to), an apology to friends for a certain paragraph order Wilson used in the Sitler matter in 2015, and what I think is an apology relating to any offense from his "race" conversations with Thabiti Anyabwile in 2013. Whether the form and substance of these statements constitute "material" apologies I will leave to the reader, but having now been informed, I'm more than willing to stop saying that I cannot recall any apologies by Wilson.
(Well, anyway, I try to)by Phil Johnsonf you have friends on FaceBook or people in your Twitter feed who traffic in evangelical scandals, you must be aware that the religious online community is host to some forums where spiritual abuse is always the topic du jour, and some of the regulars who hang out in those neighborhoods have at timesârather aggressivelyâaccused me of lacking appropriate sympathy for their cause.So not a few people have asked for clarification regarding whether I am in complete agreement with the article Hohn Cho posted in this space yesterday.The answer is yes. It's not a totally unqualified yes, but it's a hearty yes to pretty much everything Hohn actually said.My one qualification: I would say even more. And although Hohn contrasted his opinions with the position taken by Doug Wilson, I don't think Wilson is entirely wrong. (I am also pretty sure Hohn himself doesn't believe Wilson is entirely wrong. Also, full disclosure: both Hohn Cho and Doug Wilson are friends of mine.)Let's suppose that Hohn's point of view and Wilson's published remarks represent two points on a spectrum of evangelical opinion, with the spectrum's center exactly midway between the two. The fact is, if you go much further from the center than either of these two men, you'll encounter lots of poisonous passions and dangerous pitfalls lying along that spectrum in both directions. That's not a mere guess; I'm not wildly extrapolating into the realm of pure conjecture. There are, in fact, some extremely noisy people with villainous tendencies at both ends of that spectrum.On the one side, you have the undeniable fact that there's a disastrous epidemic of both spiritual and sexual abuse in churches across north Americaâand the guilty parties are usually men in leadership.Furthermore, that's not really a new phenomenon.Adding to the scandal and compounding the abuse suffered by victims is a tendency among far too many church leaders to give cover to the perpetratorsâsometimes with patently nefarious motives; sometimes because of a willful naĂŻvetĂ©; and sometimes out of sheer ineptitude. Whatever the underlying motive, any attempt to sweep such abuses under the rug is a sinister transgression. It is a true and appalling injusticeâand a blight on the reputation of biblical Christianity and evangelical conviction.My position is and always has been that serious charges of spiritual or sexual abuse should never be automatically rebuffed by the elders of a church. All such accusations do need to be investigatedâthoroughly and without partiality. The fact that either the accused or the accuser might be made uncomfortable or feel threatened is no reason to forego a careful inquiry or (worse yet) to declare a verdict one way or the other without actually doing any serious, in-depth, objective fact finding.To know that someone in the church is guilty of spiritual or sexual abuse and fail to deal with itâwhether deliberately or by neglectâis to abdicate one of the essential duties of a shepherd (namely, the duty of guarding the flock against predators). It's tantamount to the negligence of a hireling; it is not the work of a true shepherd (John 10:12).At the opposite end of the spectrum are the "survivor blogs"âwebsites that specialize in publishing practically any kind of obloquy or unsubstantiated allegation against church leadersâall in the name of victim advocacy. If the target of someone's incrimination is particularly well known and widely respected, the accusation will inevitably receive maximum publicity and encouragement. No proof is required; the denizens of these forums are expected to treat the accusation itself as sufficient evidence. Visitors who inquire about evidence will typically receive a scolding.The stated goal is to provide a "safe zone" for people claiming victimhood, and the policy is to discourage as strongly as possible (I'm tempted to say they prohibit) anyone from expressing doubt or asking challenging questions of the person claiming victim status. Typically, a disgruntled excommunicant (or even an angry apostate) will receive the same approbation, sympathy, and encouragement as a genuine victim of sexual abuse. Violations of 1 Timothy 5:19 are commonplace, and remember: if you cite that verse or ask the accuser for evidence, you'll be rebuked (and possibly overrun with a stampede of angry Tweets). You might even be accused of participating in a coverup.These forums existed and had been weaponized several years before the #MeToo movement demonstrated to the whole world the dangerous potential of the kind of "victim advocacy" where a mere accusation is regarded as sufficient proof.Also like the #MeToo movement, the survivor blogs serve as vehicles through which feminist ideologies and egalitarian passions are brought in and dropped off in endless succession. The idea is to overwhelm and silence (by sheer intimidation, not by rational arguments) what Scripture teaches with regard to the role of women in the church.So let's review: It's true that there is indeed an all-too-obvious scourge of spiritual abuse in conservative churches. I do not for one minute wish to minimize the actuality or the atrocity of that fact. But it is likewise true that the practice of publishing accusations without sufficient evidence is just a different form of bullying behavior; it is positively sinful; and it is no solution to the abuse epidemic. It's an utterly abominable practice whose dangers must not be downplayed.In case you didn't get that, I'm saying that #MeToo-style mob "justice" is every bit as unjust as covering for an abuser. One evil is simply the mirror image of the other.In fact, let me say it once more, as clearly as possible: to support and participate in unsubstantiated accusations is to sanction a kind of serial abuse. Especially in a culture like ours where victimhood is deemed a desirable status, and a significant percentageâmaybe even a majorityâof the most heavily publicized "hate crimes" turn out to be manufactured by the "victims" themselves, it is foolish to think we can actually help victims or deter abuse by credulously accepting every claim of victimhood as if it were gospel.That's the short version of what I'd add to what Hohn said yesterdayâwithout taking anything away from the point he made. There's a vital biblical balance to be struck in this complex issue, and keeping your equilibrium is like walking a fine tightrope. The key to it is impartialityâa virtue that's hard to maintain consistently whether you're an advocate for victims' rights or a church leader tasked by our Lord with staying on guard against wolves, phony apostles, devils in angelic dress, self-appointed apostles, all-purpose critics, divisive people, false accusers, and all others who would abuse the flock of God.There's still more that could be said. For example, every qualified church leader needs to serve the flock, not lord it over them (1 Peter 5:1-3). Being a leader in the church necessarily entails being a slave and an advocate for spiritually oppressed and suffering people (Matthew 20:25-28). These are not differentâmuch less adversarialâroles. It is to the wretched shame of the whole church that even within the fellowship of faith people have begun to think of victim advocacy and church leadership as disparate duties. Both are heroic and perfectly compatible roles as long as we maintain a high regard for truth and a willingness to go wherever the evidence leads.But woe to the church leaderâor the lay Christian who advocates for victimsâif he or she judges with partiality. We're told repeatedly that God is no respecter of persons, and He strictly forbids us to be. Those who spurn objectivity in judgment have therefore abandoned a crucial aspect of Christlikeness and holiness. They are scoundrels, not spiritual heroes.And there are lots of scoundrels hanging around both poles of this particular axis.
by Hohn Chot has been an eventful week on the topic of sexual abuse and the church, as the Houston Chronicle published a series of articles on the scope of the problem within the Southern Baptist Convention, a problem which has been exacerbated by the relative lack of oversight, information sharing, and accountability within the highly decentralized organization. Highly-ranking SBC leaders have already spoken out, acknowledged the magnitude of the problem, and promised reforms, including and most importantly for the purposes of this piece, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.The statement is a good model for taking ownership and responsibility for one's own past words and actions, and although a few critics have persisted in demanding Mohler's resignation or questioning his sincerity, and others are (perhaps more understandably) adopting a "wait and see" attitude, the general response from interested Christians has been appreciation, and gratitude to God, and this latter group includes internationally-recognized sexual abuse expert and survivor advocate, Rachael Denhollander.I was honestly somewhat surprised to see criticism of Mohler from the other direction, however, with one commenter Monday calling it a "gratuitous and unnecessary apology" in the midst of an article that missed the point so badly that I can only assume it originates from a massive blind spot. The author, Doug Wilson, is certainly no stranger to either controversy or verbal pugilism (ha!), and yet despite that fact I cannot recall even a single time over the past decade-plus that he's ever actually issued a material apology or owned up to a significant mistake in thinking, so perhaps the blind spot lies somewhere therein. Perhaps more likely, however, is the reality that Wilson's perspective on sexual abuse is so astonishingly wrong-headed that it has led to tragic results in at least two cases which have been documented thoroughly in the public record. If the records are a bit too dry for you, Rod Dreher went into the Sitler case in some detail a few years ago.Given Scripture's clear admonition to us in Matthew 7:3-5, one might think that perhaps Wilson is not the most appropriate or helpful messenger on the topic of either apologies or sexual abuse, even as Mohler heeds his own conscience in extending his own apology and seeking forgiveness for his own overt statements and actions in support of C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly known as Sovereign Grace Ministries). And that is precisely where Wilson misses the point. He spills much ink on the concept of the presumption of innocence, despite the fact that aside from some secular Title IX administrators and other radical left wingers, most people are not really contesting that point, certainly not that I've seen within the church.The point here relates to integrity of speech. Mohler is not apologizing for his presumption of innocence. He is apologizing for going far beyond that in his own past, overt statements of support for Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, which he made without sufficiently investigating the other side of the story per Proverbs 18:13 & 17, and with partiality in judgment per Proverbs 24:23 & 28:21. Obviously, Mohler is personally convicted over these matters, and when one has erred publicly, one ought to make amends publicly as well. As someone in a position of spiritual authority myself, I would be loath to get in the way of a man moved by the Spirit to correct himself, lest he risk grieving the Holy Spirit per Ephesians 4:30 or searing his conscience per 1 Timothy 4:2. And for any Christian minister, we know from 1 Timothy 1:4-5 that maintaining a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith are fundamental to efforts toward loving instruction and advancing the Kingdom of God.There's another important point to consider here, however, and that is the fact that an elder must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church, as clearly stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. One need not discard either the presumption of innocence or the requirement in 1 Timothy 5:19 for a charge against an elder to have two or three witnesses in order to note that there exist differing levels of proof, and that the Bible nowhere requires conviction of a crimeâwhich requires "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" under our criminal justice systemâin order to establish that an elder is not qualified for the office, as Wilson seems to imply. Indeed, for many matters relating to moral failure, there will never be a criminal conviction, because adultery, to use one example, is simply not enforced as a crime in any US jurisdiction.Instead, in even the T4G statement itself (since deleted) that Mohler, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan released to defend Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, they indicated in an apparent nod to being above reproach and having a good reputation with those outside of the church that "A Christian leader, charged with any credible, serious, and direct wrongdoing, would usually be well advised to step down from public ministry."What Mohler now seems to acknowledge is that the charges against Mahaney and Sovereign Grace were more serious than he'd initially believed. As a trained attorney, Denhollander has done an admirable job of highlighting precisely why this is, and her devastatingly detailed March 1, 2018 summary not only provides a credible charge with witnesses that has existed for years, for those who took the time to investigate,[*] in my view it basically establishes a prima facie case that demands a substantive response. It is simply light years more substantial than mere gossip, or biased axe grinding, or anonymous complaints.Sadly, from my perspective, the response from Sovereign Grace has been to attack straw men, disingenuously deflect, point to procedural maneuvers as a vindication, and steadfastly refuse to address the issue in an (increasingly vain) effort to move along in the apparent hope that people will just forget about it.[**] They're also eager to tout their relationship with "Ministry Safe" as an apparent talisman against criticism, but given the fact that Ministry Safe has become the go-to organization for many major insular entities when accused of sexual abuse (including Doug Wilson's own denomination, and others such as the United States Olympic Committee, Bob Jones University, and Nazarene Global Ministries), at the risk of seeming jaded, I've become rather skeptical of how strong the safeguards implemented by the husband-and-wife legal team at Ministry Safe truly are.Regardless, in light of this background, I literally laughed out loud when Wilson scolded, "[Denhollander] has gotten out of her lane." It's a backhanded insult that attempts to define and confine her only in relation to her direct testimony as a survivor, when in fact she has become the best advocate for and expert on sexual abuse reform that I have ever known. She's really a textbook example of what earnest and well-intentioned Christian "social justice" advocates might be able accomplish, were they laser-focused on a real and present issue with tangible and measurable injustices, and proposing specific and effective reforms consistent with biblical principles. Her "lane" is precisely sexual abuse and the law, and despite Wilson's patronizing comment about not being trained to identify ambulance chasers, the legal code of ethics which Denhollander presents and teaches on actually requires lawyers to identify and avoid ambulance chasers.The comment was so ludicrous, so lacking in self-awareness and situational understanding, that I have to wonder whether any of it stems from discomfort that Denhollander has righteously barged into the lanes of coddlers and enablers of abusers who would vastly prefer that she simply shut up and allow them to remain under cover of darkness, rather than expose them pursuant to Ephesians 5:11.On that note, as someone who deeply appreciates statistics as a basis of measurement and comparison, especially in relation to demographics, I wanted to challenge Wilson's attempt to dismiss the Houston Chronicle articles. First, the reporters were only able to catalog cases where reporting could be found, so the count necessarily excludes many rural areas that have very limited reporting, and cases that were not considered newsworthy. Second, obviously, the cases fail to include situations where direct or indirect or cultural pressure resulted in no report being made, this number is currently unknown due to a lack of studies on the topic, but investigations into various organizations such as the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Bob Jones University, Ethnos 360 (formerly known as New Tribes Mission), the Independent Fundamental Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention as mentioned previously, and Protestants generally all sadly seem to indicate a major problem. Third, it has been known from insurance reports since at least 2007 that the scale of the sexual abuse problem in Protestant churches is arguably at least as large as the one in the Roman Catholic Church, which nearly all observers (including Wilson) agree is a genuine scandal.Finally, I wanted to say a word about Wilson's concerns regarding the trajectory of "woke" justice and capitulation on biblical principles to the worldly spirit of the age. Candidly, I share a number of his concerns, and have said as much on this blog, many times. I'm well aware that numerous egalitarians are using legitimate concerns over sexual abuse to attack the notion of biblical complementarianism itself, just as certain other social justicians are using a legitimate hatred of the sin of racism to attack a biblical understanding of what it means to regard no one according to the flesh, in true unity, which refuses to elevate the importance of trivial surface distinctions between Jew and Greek.But whether from the left or the right, pragmatic concerns over trajectory and potential results should never trump basic biblical ethics. Mohler obviously believes that in his prior full-throated defenses of Mahaney and Sovereign Grace, he spoke too soon, with partiality, and without sufficient investigation. It is right and proper that he make equally public amends for that, just as it is right and proper that Mahaney and Sovereign Grace provide a substantive response for their actions in light of Denhollander's prima facie case. The alternative is a cloud of scandal persisting over their ministry as they remain subject to legitimate reproach, and establish and confirm an increasingly poor reputation with those outside (and inside) the church.An independent investigation, which Denhollander, Mohler, and even all Wilson appear to support, despite the latter's skepticism about the existence of an appropriate organizationâand by the way, my understanding is that although Denhollander has spoken well of Boz Tchvidjian's GRACE organization, she has not at all insisted it is the only legitimate organizationâwould be one way of commencing to clear that cloud. With every passing day of intransigence, however, Mahaney and Sovereign Grace make the dispersal of that cloud more and more difficult, and at this point I do wonder whether they will ever recover any credibility whatsoever. Like Wilson, they've badly missed the point, whether it's their responses to sexual abuse cases, their attitudes and actions toward survivors, or their doubling down on a continuing strategy of stonewalling and diversion after being called on it.Learning from Mohler's apology, rather than Wilson's defense, would perhaps be the bare beginnings of a start.[*] I was one who failed to do so, instead simply accepting the assurances of people like Dever, Duncan, and Mohler, until a bit under two years ago when a blogpost commenter pointed me to Mahaney's May 22, 2014 statement in which he claimed, "I look forward to the day when I can speak freely. For now, the simple and extraordinarily unsatisfying realityâfor myself and othersâis that in the face of an ongoing civil lawsuit, I simply cannot speak publicly to the specifics of these events." And yet even after the dismissal of that lawsuit, Mahaney has refused to address any of it substantively, an omission that seems so out of step with his May 22 statement that it again implicates the issue of integrity of speech.[**] A point-by-point establishment of these patterns I've perceived is beyond the scope of this blogpost, but pick just about any public response by Sovereign Grace over the years, and I'd be happy to break it down and fill out my opinion more specifically.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is fromÂ Speeches at home and abroad, Pilgrim Publications, page 72."All our members should be at work, with no exceptions, unless it be such as extreme sickness or disability."Â I was taken aback the other day when I heard a minister of large experience, who has been for many years a pastor of a very useful church, say that he did not think that more than five per cent of the members of our churches were actually serving God by direct Christian effort.I began to inquire among my brethren, and although I challenge the statement as applying to the church of which I am the pastor, I have reason to believe that it is sadly near the truth as to many churches; for while a large number of workers would be reckoned up in our statistics, it would be found that the same persons are filling several posts of service, and so are counted several times over.Those who work in one direction are usually the first to occupy yet another part of the field; but a still larger proportion were doing nothing beyond paying their subscriptions, listening to the preaching of the gospel, and, I hope, behaving themselves with moral decency. It is really a very degrading state of things, if such is largely the case.My esteemed brother, who is a very apostle of Christ, Mr. Oncken of Hamburg, in forming Baptist churches in Germany, lays down as one of the first questions to be asked of a person applying for membership, âWhat will you do in the service of Jesus Christ?âPerhaps the candidate says, âI can do nothing,â and in that case the pastor replies, âI cannot receive you; we can have no drones in this hive.â Or perhaps the candidate will reply, âWhat do you think I can do?â and the pastor will say, âSomething you must do; you can only become a member of this church by engaging in some Christian service.âÂ I would almost carry it so far as to say, "Unless you are laid aside by illness, you must continue to do something, or be excommunicated ipso facto by your doing nothing.â That might be too extreme a rule; but the spirit of it is right.If it were a generally understood regulation that one of the conditions of church membership was service, we might see our churches rising to a far higher degree of zeal for God than they have ever yet attained.
by Justin Petershen most of us think of John MacArthur we think of the precision of his preaching and the care with which he has handled God's word. We think of the courage he has displayed in interviews with Larry King and more recently Ben Shapiro as he has boldly declared unvarnished biblical truth and yet done so with love and compassion. All of these things are true.There is another aspect of John, though, that has had just as much impact upon me as has his preaching. His humility.Though I do not pretend to know him nearly as well as do many others, I have had the opportunity to see his humility come through in a couple of totally unscripted moments. One such opportunity came on a Sunday morning in November of 2017. I was guest preaching at the Grace Life Pulpit, led by Phil Johnson and Mike Riccardi. John knew that I was there with my wife, Kathy, and invited us to sit on the front pew with him during the morning worship service.Kathy and I were not there by ourselves, however. Also with us was one of Kathy's close friends, Franke Preston, whom God soundly saved out of lesbianism just a year or so before, and Franke's then 19 year old niece, April. After Grace Life Pulpit the four of us walked to the sanctuary and sat down on the front pew. Kathy sat to my left followed by Franke and then April.A few minutes after taking our seats John walks into the sanctuary from our left so the first person to whom he comes is April. He extends his hand to shake hers and said, "Hello, what is your name?" She responds, "April. What's your name?" Without missing a beat and without the slightest hint of surprise he responds, "Hi April, I'm John. It's so good to have you here with us this morning."You see, April is lost. She does not know Christ. She had never heard of Grace Community Church and had no idea who John MacArthur even was. Imagine this scene for a moment and put yourself in John MacArthur's shoes. You walk into the sanctuary of Grace Community Church on Sunday morning for worship, greet someone on the front pew sitting there by invitation, she looks you in the eye and asks, "What's your name?" I'd be willing to bet that it is not often John MacArthur is asked that questionâmuch less on a Sunday morning by someone sitting in the front pew of Grace Community Church. It had to have been at least somewhat surprising to him that this young lady did not know his name, but if it was, you would have never known it by observing this brief but revealing interaction between a seasoned pastor and a young lady who does not know Christ. He was so kind and gracious with her. It was an impromptu reveal into John MacArthur's heart that I will never forget.Now, lest you think I am giving him undue accolades, I understand theologically that none of us as believers does anything with 100% pure motives. We live in a fallen world with fallen bodies, fallen wills, and fallen motives. Yes, we are new creatures in Christ; the old things have passed away and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our hearts of stone have been graciously and sovereignly replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). But within every believer resides rebel outposts of sin that not even the most godly among us can completely put to death this side of glorification (Romans 7). John MacArthur is not an exception to this; a reality, I have no doubt, he would be the first to confirm.But if anyone had reason to be prideful it would be John. He has preached through the entire New Testament verse by verse, has written dozens of books including a complete commentary set and systematic theology. He has likely done more to champion expository preaching, sound doctrine and equip pastors and churches than anyone in the modern era. He has now had a full half century of faithful pastoral ministry unblemished by scandal. There are very few men of whom this can be said. There can be no doubt that he has had to put to death the temptation to be prideful. But, at least from what I have observed, John does it as well as anyone.The Apostle Paul was granted the magnanimous privilege of being caught up into the third heaven. Paul writes, "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment meâto keep me from exalting myself" (2 Corinthians 12:7). Though Paul does not specify exactly what this "thorn" was (The Greek word ÏÎșÏÎ»ÎżÏâskolopsâis better rendered as "stake." This was no minor annoyance.), he does say that it was given to engender in him humility. It seems most likely that the skolops was a false apostle in the Corinthian church who opposed Paul and tried to turn others in the church against him.John MacArthur has certainly had his detractors and to this day has been unfairly maligned and slandered. He has had more than his share of skolops. But I have never seen him return evil for evil. I have never seen him disparage those who disparage him. As the skolops developed in the Apostle Paul genuine humility, its modern-day equivalents seem to have done the same with John MacArthur.I pray that one day April will come to be known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). If so, she will almost certainly eventually come to know who John MacArthur is and will remember that Sunday morning he beautifully displayed to her true Christian humility.I have learned much from John MacArthur's 50 years of faithful ministry. I have learned much about how to study and preach God's word. As thankful as I am for these things, I am equally thankful for the model of genuine humility he has been to me and countless others.God gives true humility to His slaves, not to glorify them but to glorify Himself. The humility I have seen in John leaves me in awe of God for I know that this is the good fruit borne from a lifetime of study and application of the scriptures."God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:7). I am thankful for the tremendous grace God has given to John MacArthur.JustinPeters
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from Speeches at home and abroad, Pilgrim Publications, pages 73-74.I remember when I came first to London preaching to eighty or ninety in aÂ large chapel, but my little congregation thought well of me, and inducedÂ others to come and fill the place. I always impute my early success to myÂ warm-hearted people, for they were so earnest and enthusiastic in theirÂ loving appreciation of âthe young man from the country,â that they wereÂ never tired of sounding his praises.Â If you, any of you, are mourning overÂ empty pews in your places of worship, I would urge you to praise up yourÂ minister. There can be no difficulty in discovering some points in whichÂ your pastor excels; dwell upon these excellencies and not upon his failures.Talk of the spiritual benefit which you derive from his sermons, and thusÂ you will induce the people to come and listen to him, and at the same timeÂ you will do him good, for the full house will warm him up and make him aÂ better preacher, and you yourself will enjoy him the more because you haveÂ thought and spoken kindly of him.Â I have already said, those who are doingÂ no good are the very ones who are creating mischief. Have you everÂ observed that exceedingly acute critics are usually wise enough to write noÂ works of their own? Judges of other men's works find the occupation ofÂ the judgment-seat so great a tax upon their energies that they attemptÂ nothing on their own account.Â Mr. Gough used to tell a story of a braveÂ man and admirable critic in Russia, who on one occasion was visited by aÂ bear. Now, there was a ladder which led up to the room on the roof, andÂ the aforesaid hero climbed it nimbly, and for fear the bear should comeÂ after him he took up the ladder, and left his wife with Bruin below.Â HisÂ wife, who must have been his âbetter half,â seized a broom, and began toÂ belabour the beast right heartily, while her heroic lord and master looked onÂ from above, and gave her his opinion as to her proceedings in some suchÂ terms as these: âHit him harder, Betty.â âMore over the nose, Betty.â âTryÂ the other end of the broom, Betty,â and so on in the most judiciousÂ manner.Â Surely his spouse might have said, âGood man, you had betterÂ come down and fight the bear yourself.â Those who are doing nothing areÂ sure to be great in discovering flaws in the modes and manners of thoseÂ who bear the burden and heat of the day. Surely they would be much moreÂ nobly occupied, and usefully occupied, if they would show us our faults byÂ doing better themselves.
by Jeremiah Johnsont will come as a surprise to some to learn that the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel contains no ultimatums. There are no threats about repercussions to follow for those who don't fall in line with its affirmations and denials. Not one use of the menacing phrase, "or else."And yet, if you give ear to the persistent bleating of some overwrought discernment bloggers and evangelical gadflies, you might think the drafters of the Dallas Statement are guilty of making empty threats. That their collective bluff has been called, that they caved to compromise, and that they betrayed their fellow signatories, if not the very gospel itself.Hogwash.To refer to such foolishness as mere jumping to conclusions severely underplays its recklessness. We'd almost need to invent an entirely new sport just to adequately illustrate the perilous logical leap involvedâone that includes a trampoline, a pole vault, roller skates, and a blindfold.What triggered this chorus of complainers and their misguided manifestos? Of all things, it was the announcements of the guest speakers at last month's G3 Conference and the upcoming Shepherds' Conference. Both events feature speakers who, to varying degrees, have personally promoted the popular doctrines of the social justice movement in the church (or have expressly supported those who do).The response from some corners of the church has been the sadly predictable rush to judgmentâto disavow the conferences and decry the supposed failures of their respective figureheads, Josh Buice and John MacArthur.I don't know Buice personally, but I had the privilege of attending the G3 conference, and can vouch for the fact that the conference themeâmissionsâremained unadulterated and unambiguous throughout, regardless of who took the stage. Not only was there an absence of crosstalk regarding social justice, Buice and the organizers hosted a pre-conference that put specific emphasis on defending the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. We heard from many of the original draftersâVoddie Baucham's message was particularly strong in its denial of social justice rhetoric. Neither G3 or the pre-conference were home to capitulation or sissified speech regarding the threat presented by the social justice movement. Put simply, it did not live up to the hype about all the confusion it might have caused.On that point, a brief aside: I believe the single greatest cause of concern and confusion on this issue of who is speaking where is the constant barrage of handwringing articles about their potential to cause confusion. It should go without saying that when your calls for discernment are actively fomenting confusion, you're doing it wrong.Never mind that the Dallas Statement wasn't about delivering an anathema, or even a prelude to one. The point wasn't merely to delineate new dividing linesâgive the drafters more credit than that. Yes, it was a rebuke, but a loving, brotherly one, with an eye toward restoration. That sense is largely absent from the way believers today mark out and discuss their differences. God's people shouldn't be so eager to write off and dismiss one another. At the very least, we ought to be able to talk with and about one another in a way that evidences a sharp contrast to current social discourse, bringing salt and light into a world in desperate need of both.By way of example, here are a couple paragraphs from the closing chapter of John MacArthur's book, Strange Fire.I titled this chapter "An Open Letter to My Continuationist Friends" because I want to emphasize, from the outset, that I regard as brothers in Christ and friends in the ministry all who are faithful fellow workmen in the Word and the gospel, even if they give a place of legitimacy to the charismatic experience. I have good friends among them who label themselves as "reformed charismatics" or "evangelical continuationists."The Charismatic Movement is teeming with false teachers and spiritual charlatans of the worst kind, as can be aptly illustrated by turning the channel to TBN (or any of several smaller charismatic television networks). Certainly I do not view my continuationist friends in the same light as those spiritual mountebanks and blatant frauds. In this chapter, I'm writing to Christian leaders who have proven their commitment to Christ and His Word over the years. Their allegiance to the authority of Scripture and the fundamentals of the gospel has been consistent and influentialâand it is on that basis that we share rich fellowship in the truth.Those so eager to signal the death and destruction of the Dallas Statement need to reread it in the spirit of those paragraphs, and the compassionate concern they communicate. God's truth is always an anvil, but not every situation requires our heaviest hammer.You might think that G3's uninterrupted focus and uncorrupted pulpit would lead to more measured and circumspect pre-reactions to the Shepherds' Conference, or a ceasefire in the glowering prognostications altogether. You'd be wrong.If anything, G3's lack of compromise has emboldened these prophets of doom. Full of their own virtue, they appear more confident than ever that the Shepherds' Conference is a bellwether of capitulation and corruption, and that John MacArthur is leading the charge.That's right, the same John MacArthur who this week marks fifty years of faithful ministry in the pulpit of Grace Community Church. The same man whom church history will likely regard as this generation's premiere expositor of God's Word. The man who has shown time after time to be willing to take the unpopular stances that Scripture demands, and has held fast to the Word throughout countless battles for its authority, sufficiency, perspicuity, and relevance. It is that John MacArthur who they argue has now caved to corruption and compromise.Frankly, I've had more than my fill of seeing these discernment wonks cite their respect for John MacArthur's decades-long track record of integrity, discernment, and faithfulness as the prelude to questioning his integrity, discernment, and faithfulness. If you really have so much respect for the man and what the Lord has accomplished through him, might that not lead you to reflect on your own, comparatively short track record of expertise? At the very least, shouldn't it give you some inkling that the flaws you're attempting to identify in his discernment are just as likely to be present in your own? Such humility is in short supply in the church these days, especially among those angling for the role of evangelical Jiminy Cricket.At the very least, can't you holster your weapons and wait for an actual offense to take place before writing off the man altogether? Does a half century of integrity and faithfulnessânot to mention the personal spiritual influence you profess he has had on youânot merit at least some measure of circumspect restraint? Doesn't love hope for the best rather than presume the worst?And if your conscience is so weak that the mere presence of these speakers is tantamount to a betrayal of the Dallas Statementâor perhaps the gospel itselfâlet me encourage you to hold back your word vomit and not inflict yourself on the rest of us. The church is chock full of spiritually immature confusion; we don't need yours, too.That might be the great tragedy of this latest rush to judgment. The churchâof all placesâought to be the last bastion of circumspect wisdom and thoughtful responses. We ought to be the most patient and forbearing, and the least likely to overreact and jump to conclusions. We ought to be able to see the counterproductive trends that dominate the world's discourse today, and we ought to strive to be markedly better.If you can't bring yourself to do even that, then you ought to pack it in altogether. Your tongue is a dangerous flame, and this world is already on fire. We couldâand shouldâbe doing much more important work with the time it takes to stamp out your ginned-up controversies and endless outrage. For the edification of the saints and the growth of Christ's kingdom, please shut up and step aside.Maybe learn to code.
by Hohn Chohis week at Grace Community Church and beyond, we are celebrating faithful ministry from the same pulpit by Pastor John MacArthur for the incredible period of 50 years. For many earnest Christians, it's an opportunity to thank the Lord for the work of His servantâor to use a better translation, His slaveâwho has been laboring joyfully for God's Kingdom and the benefit of His saints. Here's a great interview between MacArthur and Phil Johnson to mark the occasion.And of course, it is inevitable that any Christian engaged in public ministry over five decades of faithfulness will come under attack. We can see this throughout church history, and also in Scripture, which warns in John 15:19 that precisely because God has chosen the faithful out of the world, the world will hate us. That's a theme the apostle John echoes in 1 John 2:15 and 1 John 3:13. And yet the Word also promises us in Psalm 34:19 that "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."The latest "controversy" is brought to us by a website that even upon cursory inspection appears to be, shall we say, of questionable repute. In its "About" section it states plainly, "We don't claim to not have spin. Our biases are evident." And sprinkled throughout the website are stories labeled with the "Conspiracy Theory" tag and links to clickbait ads with lurid and tawdry titles. I'm not going to dignify the hit piece with a link, but the essence of the claim is that MacArthur lied about his associations and experiences during the Civil Rights Movement.Johnson responds briefly but clearly here. I would only add that neuroscientific studies demonstrate that memory is a highly fallible and unreliable tool under even excellent circumstances, much less after you add multiple decades of intervening time and the rigors of increasing age. The term "fade to gist" (coined by Dr. Charles Brainerd of Cornell) seems particularly apt, and whether Charles Evers was actually present or merely on the phone after a call from his secretary, or James Earl Ray was standing on a toilet or a bathtub, or a trip to the crime scene took place hours or days after the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, the underlying "gist" would seem to be the same, and generally in line with MacArthur's consistently-related accounts.That the article author, as well as Charles Evers' "interviewer" (who comically attempted to conceal his voice, but in such a low-tech manner that a few moments of investigation with readily-available tools apparently exposed the ruse), would manufacture this fake "controversy" in their continuing, axe-grinding grudge against MacArthur is no surprise, given their incorrigibly vitriolic hostility toward him in recent years. The Word may have something to say to them in Proverbs 6:16-19 and 10:18. Neither is it surprising that certain WVW cronies and "watchblogs" and "discernment ministries" would give maximum exposure to this hit piece, because that's just their stock in trade.It's both saddening and at least mildly surprising to me, however, that certain professing Christian "social justicians" would seize upon this thin reed and attempt to use it like a club against MacArthur. The seeming eagerness to pass along this false report in violation of Exodus 23:1 by some on Twitter has been something to see. Could it really be that simply because MacArthur has disagreed with them plainly and biblically on the topic nearest and dearest to their hearts, that they would actually be excited to see a faithful man of God be taken down, regardless of the motive of the accuser and even more, the validity of the accusation? That's an attitude more akin to someone bewitched by an idol, than a believer!Anyone wishing, hoping, or preferring that MacArthur lied rather than the far more reasonable, understandable, and most of all charitable explanation of a misrecollection by one or more parties really ought to have his head (and even more, heart) examined.You'd think that they'd gain a clue from watching the mainstream media over the past few weeks, as it's been burned leaping to conclusions forwarded by people with an agenda, whether it's the Buzzfeed report about the Mueller investigation that was refuted by Mueller's own team, or Nick Sandmann and the Covington Catholic kids who were unfairly excoriated by an American Indian Movement activist with a history of false statements.Sadly, however, in one of the great ironies of the "social justice" movement, the mavens of so-called tolerance are hardly tolerant of others who decline to subscribe to their overzealous worldview. This movement which calls for charity and mercy toward the most vulnerable is actually among the most uncharitable and merciless for those who refuse to toe the party line. I shudder when I think of Matthew 7:2 and even more, James 2:13, from the famous passage on partiality, as applied to some of the most severe and unrelenting "social justice" commissars.I'd urge Christian social justicians to pray and repent of any celebration of scurrilous attacks against faithful proclaimers of the saving Gospel. I'd urge them to tread very carefully in this regard, and to examine their own lack of forgiveness for matters like this, and even more, past wrongs of decades or even centuries ago, and current offenses of the microaggression variety. As my fellow elder, Mike Riccardi, said elegantly, "Woke theology teaches Christians to regard one another according to the flesh, to nurse bitterness, keep records of wrongs, and build walls that Christ has torn down. Gospel unity teaches Christians to regard one another in Christ alone, to forgive, absorb wrongs, and be at peace with all." I haven't yet found a better short biblical summary for what many of us who are in accord with the Statement on Social Justice find so wrong with the Christian "social justice" movement, and so I'll just leave it at that.Anthony BradleyMarty DurenKyle HowardDwight McKissic: (retweets of Bradley and Duren)Relevant Magazine
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 38, sermon number 2,281, "Our Lord in the valley of humiliation.""The lower he stoops to save us, the higher we ought to lift him in our adoring reverence."Did Christ humbleÂ himself? Come, brothers and sisters, let us practise the same holy art. HaveÂ I not heard of some saying, âI have been insulted; I am not treated withÂ proper respect. I go in and out, and I am not noticed. I have done eminentÂ service, and there is not a paragraph in the newspaper about me.âÂ Oh, dearÂ friend, your Master humbled himself, and it seems to me that you are tryingÂ to exalt yourself! Truly, you are on the wrong track. If Christ went down,Â down, down, it ill becomes us to be always seeking to go up, up, up.Â WaitÂ till God exalts you, which he will do in his own good time. Meanwhile, itÂ behoves you, while you are here, to humble yourself. If you are already in aÂ humble position, should you not be contented with it; for he humbledÂ himself? If you are now in a place where you are not noticed, where thereis little thought of you, be quite satisfied with it.Jesus came just where you are; you may well stop where you are; whereÂ God has put you. Jesus had to bring himself down, and to make an effort toÂ come down to where you are.Â Is not the Valley of Humiliation one of theÂ sweetest spots in all the world? Does not the great geographer of theÂ heavenly country, John Bunyan, tell us that the Valley of Humiliation is asÂ fruitful a place as any the crow flies over, and that our Lord formerly hadÂ his country house there, and that he loved to walk those meadows, for heÂ found the air was pleasant? Stop there, brother.Â âI should like to beÂ known.â says one. âI should like to have my name before the public.â Well,Â if you ever had that lot, if you felt as I do, you would pray to be unknown,Â and to let your name drop out of notice; for there is no pleasure in it.Â TheÂ only happy way seems to me, if God would only let us choose, is to beÂ known to nobody, but just to glide through this world as pilgrims andÂ strangers, to the land where our true kindred dwell, and to be known thereÂ as having been followers of the Lord.Â
Response to "Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can Support": Part 1by Dr. Colin Eakinere we go again. With a tiresome repetition like that of tax bills, springtime allergies, and NCAA football champions from the deep South, a quasi-Christian media outlet has published another appeal to "evangelicals" to lay down arms and come to some general agreement as to what the Bible says about origins.These appeals, mind you, always seem to arise from those proposing an alternative to the straightforward reading of the text, one which will update our biblical understanding based upon "new revelations" from the worlds of both "science" and "biblical scholarship." We are now being told by "experts" how "ancient Near East cultural understanding" can broaden our grasp of how the Bible reconciles with the world we see around us. The articles always seem to be written as if truly enlightened evangelicals have no problem with the latest learning and have advanced well beyond these core proposals, but here are some basics that even evangelical Neanderthals (pardon the pun) should be able to get behind.The latest salvo is from Todd Wilson, president and co-founder of the Center for Pastor Theologians, which was published January 4, 2019 in Christianity Today. Wilson begins by disclosing how, some time ago, his conservative-on-many-issues congregation had some "heartburn" when its closely held, literal six-day creation scheme was assaulted by its new pastor's belief in evolutionary creationism. This understandably led to a "tension-filled season," during which the church "grappled" with its "doctrinal boundaries." The upshot of this grappling was the codification of "ten theses on creation and evolution that we believe (most) evangelicals can (mostly) affirm," what they termed (in an apparent nod to C.S. Lewis) "Mere Creation."How did they do with their theses? Herewith is a commentary on their evolutionary "Wittenberg door":The doctrine of creation is central to the Christian faith.They got this one right. In fact, this is a dead-on, stand-alone truth. Wilson proposes that the doctrine of creation belongs in the same strata as the doctrines of the Father, Christ, the Spirit, and soteriology at the core of the Christian faith, and he is absolutely correct. Make no mistake: Genesis 1-2 is so vital to proper biblical understanding that if one does not comprehend it rightly, one will err repeatedly in attempting to assimilate the remainder of the Word of God. Want to know a simple way to confirm one has found a biblical church that likely gets the gospel right and upholds sound doctrine in other areas? Ask its pastor if he reads and teaches Genesis 1-2 in a literal, historical manner. The correlation is remarkable.The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, inspired, authoritative, and without error. Therefore whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God's instruction, without denying that the human authors of Scripture communicated using the cultural conventions of their time.Here, again, they got it rightmostly. We might add to the inspiration, authority and inerrancy of the Word of God its completeness, sufficiency, perspicuity, necessity, efficacy, certainty, immutability, universality, vitality, and theocentricity, as these qualities are no less applicable to the Word of God. But we concede the point. Further, it is axiomatic that whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God's instruction. In other words, when the Bible speaks, God speaks.The dog whistle in Thesis #2 comes in the last clause. Wilson writes, "No amount of stress on a 'high view of the Bible' should cause us to inadvertently downplay the human side of the equation."Okay, fair enough on its face. The Bible did have human authors who wrote according to "cultural conventions" of their time. If that is all that is intended, fine. And if he is also implying that readers of the Bible must be attuned to the grammatical and contextual aspects of the writing, more power to him. But if the implication is that the humanity of the Bible's authors somehow obscures God's actual message and thereby diminishes our confidence in understanding it, he is wrong. The humanity of the authors of Scripture does not in any way confound the communication of God in His Word. Just because the Bible had human authors beginning 3500 years ago does not mean that their "cultural conventions" somehow limit our modern comprehension of what they were saying and how it applies today. God inspired His human authors and their "cultural conventions" to say exactly what He meant to say and how He meant to say it, with a message that transcends time, as comprehendible today as it was to those to whom it was first written.Genesis 1-2 is historical in nature, rich in literary artistry, and theological in purpose. These chapters should be read with the intent of discerning what God says through what the human author has said.Wilson begins to reveal his true colors in his commentary on Thesis #3 when he writes, "Of course, there is much to debate about how to interpret Genesis 1-2" (those colors come into even greater relief later in the article when he favorably references theologian Karl Barth and historian Mark Noll, as well as his use of the NRSV). He goes on to suggest the need for "a balanced approach to the question of the literary genre of Genesis 1-2." Wilson subdivides Genesis 1-2 into a proposed composite of historical, theological and literary types, and insinuates that if this portion of Scripture can be designated as literary and theological as well as history, it would somehow diminish its reliability as a source of historical information.Says who? Only those trying to retain some claim to orthodoxy as they simultaneously seek to undermine the information of the text by reclassifying it as something other than history. So let us be clear here: Genesis 1-2 is history. A sixth-grade student can identify it as such. Yes, the text does yield tremendous theological implications, as any biblical historical text might, and it has a certain literary style. But neither of those designations alters in any way the factual, historical information we are reading about the world and its occupants. Genesis 1-2 is God's clear-cut revelation of how things began, designed to inform the highest order of His creation about something they would have no other way of knowing. Only those who wish to impose faulty paradigms on Scripture have any inclination to consider Genesis 1-2 as some form of literature other than history (e.g. legend or poetry), as if that literary designation might somehow disable its plainly evident interpretation.God created and sustains everything. This means that he is as much involved in natural processes as he is in supernatural events. Creation itself provides unmistakable evidence of God's handiwork.Again, pretty good, up to a point. God certainly has created everything and sustains it moment by moment (Job 12:10; Acts 17:28; Heb. 1:3). His direct handiwork is no less a part of natural processes as it is with supernatural ones. Wilson makes a good point about the tendency even of evangelical Christians toward deistic thinking, often slipping "into patterns of thinking that exclude God from the routine workings of nature, like the rotation of the stars, the formation of clouds, or the grass as it grows." He rightly references Psalm 104 as evidence of God's continuous, direct ordering of the natural world.But the Bible nowhere states nor implies that study of the natural world can divulge any knowledge about its origins. Yes, as Wilson offers, "the heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1), but not in any way that brings to light the process that led to their formation. In fact, it is no coincidence that after David extols the natural, or general, revelation of the cosmos in the first portion of this Psalm (Ps. 19:1-6), he follows it with an exquisite overview of the special revelation encompassed in the Word of God (Ps. 19:7-11). Why this juxtaposition of the general and special revelation of God? David knows that general revelation only goes so far in revealing who God is and what He has done, and that ultimate knowledge of God and His work must come from His self-revelation, as can only be found in His Word.Adam and Eve were real persons in a real past, and the fall was a real event with real and devastating consequences for the entire human race.Wilson gets this thesis exactly right as stated, which is commendable. But his substantiating commentary is so problematic that it leads him to unbiblical conclusions. Yes, Adam and Eve were real persons in the real past, who really fell with real and devastating consequences for each and every one of their descendants. Wilson then (correctly) reports that this reality is under considerable challenge within modern evangelical Christianity. Why is that? Because, according to Wilson, "the genetic evidence, at least as we now understand it, makes belief in an original human pair doubtful if not impossible." He then predicts, " . . . in 20 years' time, support for Adam and Eve as real persons in a real past will be a minority view even within evangelicalism." And what if that happens? Wilson continues: "Should this come to pass, I remain confident that the Christian faith will survive, even though this will require some reconfiguration of our deepest convictions."Just how "Christian faith will survive" despite the "reconfiguration" of its "deepest convictions" is not at all clear from Wilson. In reality, this would be an utter impossibility, because when one reconfigures the deepest convictions of a particular faith, then that faith is no longer said to exist. Give up a real Adam and Eve with a real fall bringing real consequences to the entire human race, and you might as well describe a new religion, for you have just severed orthodox Christianity from its doctrinal moorings. To deny a real Adam and Eve is to call the Bible erroneous and God a liar, because He says all humans derive from this original pair (Gen. 3:20; Acts 17:26). To deny a real Adam and Eve is to contradict the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who references them as the basis for understanding God's concept of marriage (Mt. 19:4; Mark 10:6). And to deny a real Adam is to nullify the manner by which God says humans might be reconciled to Him, because the only ones He justifies are those born into sin through Adam and then reborn into righteousness through Christ (John 3:3-7; Rom. 5:15-19; 1 Cor. 15:45-49).Wilson says Paul's argument in Romans 5 along with Adam's presence in genealogies (Gen. 5; Luke 1) keeps him tetheredfor nowto the traditional view of a real Adam and Eve, but he leaves open the possibility that future scientific developments might cause him to reconsider. Which begs the question: what might those future "scientific developments" be? Science relies upon the certain operation of uniform constants. Given that, on what basis can we be certain that the scientific constants we can measure today, such as the speed of light, were operating in the same manner at the moment of creation? We cannot. So if we are only speculating that the constants of today were present in unchanged form at creation, how then are conclusions based upon such speculation "scientific?" This is an unsolved quandary for Wilson and all his evolutionary ilk. The same goes for the "genetic evidence" to which Wilson alludes. Wilson is basing his conclusions upon genetic similarities found between humans and certain other species. But genetic similarity does not confirm shared ancestry. Moreover, genetic inheritance would depend upon genetic makeup at the moment of creation, which, again, cannot be known for certain.On a textual level, whatever happened to the "full-throated" endorsement of inerrancy Wilson proclaims at the beginning of his article? As an inerrantist leader of "pastor theologians," one presumes Wilson would always subject his doctrinal beliefs to the exact text of Scripture. Specifically, we expect him to know that when God uses the term bara for "created" in the first statement in His Word, He is specifying that such a work is ineligible for scientific inquiry. As opposed to the other Hebrew terms for "create" in the Old Testament (e.g. yatsar and asah), the term bara is used only with God as its subject, and only in the creation of marvels never before known. The use of the term denotes a development of something completely outside the boundary of the established order, and not subject to the constraints of uniformity that govern science. As such, God's use of the verb bara in the first verse of His first book should notify all to pay attention, because the information that follows cannot be discerned through observation of natural phenomena (i.e. scientific inquiry).Untroubled by this, Wilson then proceeds to a very troubling deduction: "It may be the case that faithful Christians will develop biblically legitimate and theologically sensible ways of explaining the gospel apart from a real Adam and Eve." For someone claiming to uphold the inerrancy of Scripture, this is certainly an incongruous detour. How in the world could Christians ever be "faithful" by refuting what God has explicitly said about this pair of original humans? And how would a revised "gospel" look if the "last Adam" did not become a "life-giving spirit" because the "first Adam" never became a "living being?" (1 Cor. 15:45)? Apart from a real Adam and Eve, the entire structure of Christianity as presented in God's Word becomes a house of cards.Finally, instead of a clarion call to defend God's Word against any and all specious theories masquerading as knowledge, Wilson concludes, " . . . the better part of wisdom is maintaining a spirit of engaged conversation on this issue" (italics his). Really? What happened to the New Testament's repeated calls for the vigorous censure of falsehood (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9; Eph. 5:11; 2 Cor. 10:5; 2 John 8-11; Jude 3-4)? It is the harbinger of apostasy for believers to have their doctrinal convictions always subject to supposed discoveries of worldly knowledge, be they scientific or sociologic. Paul warned the Ephesians that they should "no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14)the precise muddle in which Wilson, by his own words, appears to find himself.We will continue with evaluation of Wilson's final five theses in the next post.Dr. Colin L. Eakin PyromaniacDr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopĂŠdic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.
Response to "Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can Support": Part 2(See part 1 here.)by Dr. Colin EakinChristianity Today has published an article by Todd Wilson entitled "Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can (Mostly) Support." These thesestermed "Mere Creation" when first developedwere the result of some "grappling" (Wilson's term) that occurred when he brought his belief in evolutionary creationism to his new church and its commitment to a literal six-day creation paradigm. What was the outcome? Part 1 of this two-part post reviewed the first five theses along with Wilson's supporting commentary. We now continue with a look at the final five theses, with some concluding remarks.Human beings are created in the image of God and are thus unique among God's creatures. They possess special dignity within creation. This is a true statement, taken right out of Gen. 1:26-28. But don't miss how Wilson's embrace of evolutionary creationism places himself in a real pickle as a result of this thesis. Evolutionary creationists cannot say that the version of humans we see today are the ones made in God's image. Why not? Because evolution presumes the human species, like all species, is constantly progressing to a more highly developed form through environmental adaptation. In an evolutionary paradigm, every species is always evolving to a higher order of being, and this must also include humans. Thus, for the evolutionary creationist, there is no way around this dilemma: either humans are never quite made in God's image, because they continue to evolve, or they are made in God's image because God is evolving just as they are. Both are profoundly unbiblical perspectives. There is no final conflict between the Bible rightly understood and the facts of science rightly understood. God's "two books," Scripture and nature, ultimately agree. Therefore Christians should approach the claims of contemporary science with both interest and discernment, confident that all truth is God's truth.Two books of infallible truth? Hardly. Jesus declares God's Word to be truth (John 17:17). He says, " . . . If you abide in my Word . . . you will know the truth . . .." (John 8:31-32). Thus, believers can be certain that if their convictions about anythingnatural or spiritualare anchored to the Word of God, they will always be aligned with God's truth. But God never made the same promise about His creation. He never said to anchor oneself according to discoveries about the natural world made by finite minds. He never said that the origin of the universe and everything in it could be uncovered using scientific constants of today applied to the beginning of time. In fact, He says the exact opposite. In Chapter 3 of his second epistle, Peter specifically instructs the reader not to assume uniformity of natural processes at the beginning and end of time. He writes that foolish scoffers will be the ones to say, " . . . all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation" (v. 4), with the obvious implication that you do not want to be a foolish scoffer. Peter goes on to unveil that catastrophic events outside the bounds of uniformity marked the creation of this world, and will also mark its end. Using this paradigm, where uniformity of nature is not presumed at the bookends of time, we have a framework from which to acknowledge the uniformity we see in the present, while at the same time we can trust the Bible's literal rendering of how the world began and how it will end.Note also that if you take Wilson's "two books" proposal to its logical conclusion, it actually makes all truth relative. How so? Wilson contends his two sources of truth will ultimately agree, but he admits that this might only be seen in eternity. Until then, what happens when they yield conflicting conclusions? Which source gets the final say? The Bible? Science? Sometimes one and sometimes the other, whichever seems to be the most compelling? That is the definition of relativism, and is certainly not the approach of a biblical inerrantist. Ironically, this was the approach of the mainline Protestant church and other institutions (e.g. Fuller Seminary) in the 20th century, when in a Faustian bargain they surrendered biblical inerrancy in order to curry favor with the world. The result? A landscape of institutions fast declining into irrelevancy, having no discernible sign of (nor any interest in) biblical orthodoxy whatsoever. Mark this: whenever one sees the proposed "two books" paradigm in operation, the Bible is always subordinated to the latest so-called "scientific" discovery, with a predictable corresponding deterioration into heterodoxy, then apostasy, and ultimately heresy.The Christian faith is compatible with different scientific theories of origins, from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism, but it is incompatible with any view that rejects God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins.The Christian faith is not compatible with evolutionary creationism, theistic evolution, or whatever term of the day is in vogue. But don't take my word for it. This assessment is according to the ultimate Master, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Where? As noted previously, Jesus Himself refers to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event in Mark 10:6 (cf. Matthew 19:4), where He quotes from both Gen. 1:27 and 5:2: "But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'" In those twelve words, Jesus utterly refutes the underpinnings of evolutionary theory.How so? First, Jesus uses the past tense"made"to confirm the creation of the first humans as a finished product. In other words, the process was immediate and complete, not developmental and ongoing, as must be the case with evolution. Second, Jesus states that this male and female were created "from the beginning of creation," and not billions of years after the world was formed. And sinceaccording to Jesushumans were created "from the beginning of creation," the sixth day on which they were created must have so close in time to the first as to be nearly indistinguishable in the whole of creation. Third, by claiming that, "from the beginning, God made them male and female," Jesus is here establishing human sexual reproduction as the means by which the species has procreated from its inception. This statement of Jesus invalidates the possibility that humans could have ever derived from single cell organisms via asexual reproduction. With an eloquence and economy of words that only the Lord Himself could devise, Jesus completely exposes and repudiates the lie of evolution.How do we know Jesus was referring to a specific Adam and Eve in His reference to male and female originating at the beginning of creation? From the context of Jesus' statement. In Mark 10, Jesus is explaining God's perspective on marriage and divorce. As He continues (Mark 10:7-8), Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'" To what reason is Jesus referring? He is referencing the prior verse in Genesis 2:23: "Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'" What man? The only man referenced in Genesis 2, and actually named in verse 20: Adam. Thus, these verses specifically relate to the instantaneous and mature creation of woman from Adam. In fact, the only man and the only woman in the Bible up until this point were the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. So, by referencing Genesis 2, Jesus clearly affirms his belief in the creation of a literal Adam and Eve on the sixth day of the earth's existence. It may be that, according to Wilson, "Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins." But Jesus is clear where He stands on the issue.Christians should be well grounded in the Bible's teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.This thesis is in itself an oxymoron. How so? Ask yourself, how can Christians be "well-grounded in the Bible's teaching on creation," and yet not defend that ground when confronted with any challenge to that ground? Being "well-grounded," by definition, means to stand your ground. It means to understand something in a way that will not move you from your foundation. Well-grounded Ph.D. students in any other field are expected to make a defense of their foundation of knowledge when their course of study is complete; no degree ensues without it! But Wilson wants well-grounded students of creation to bend at the slightest breeze of opposition, if that opposition is coming from someone who professes to be of the same faith. This isn't biblical humility; this is post-modern, theological drivel! Following this advice, Jesus would have remained politely silent or even agreeable when Satan presented Him with what he had learned from Scripture (Matt. 4:6). As it happened, Jesus did not respect the conviction of another (in this case, the devil), but rather aggressively advocated an opposing position, rebuking Satan's false interpretation of Scripture with His own true one (Matt. 4:7).In contrast to Wilson's idea, biblical humility occurs when one completely submits one's own contemplations of the world to God and His Word. The humblest Christians are those who stay most true to the Word of God, not letting the appearances of the world disengage them from commitment to the truth of the text (Prov. 3:5-6). This goes against the trend in post-modern evangelical Christianity, where a so-called "hermeneutic of humility" has arisen, which in reality is nothing of the sort. This hermeneutic suggests that certainty and intransigence in presenting one's own convictions on a topic of controversy is arrogant and spiritually immature. Wilson claims, "In practice, humility and a desire to preserve ecclesial unity mean respectfully listening to the views of others. It also means not agitating for change or grandstanding with one's own views. On a complex, sensitive, and contentious issue like origins, it is best for evangelicals of goodwill not to aggressively advocate for positions on which evangelicals disagree." Elsewhere he writes, "It is a sign of childhood or adolescence to be agitated by a less than black-and-white world."Really? Jesus was polemically agitated in His hostile interaction with the Pharisees on "complex, sensitive and contentious issues," such as the kingdom of God, proselytizing, the Sabbath, tithing, persecution of His faithful messengers and the like (Matt. 23:1-36). Later in the NT, the Apostle Paul writes that we are to be imitators of him, as he is of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). So what does Paul recommend when the truth of God's Word is under assault, passive regard or confident rebuke? His model is Christ as he compels the church in Corinth to, " . . . destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete" (2 Cor. 10:5-6). So Jesus gets agitated when the black-and-white instruction of God is assailed, and Paul does the same. How can the true believer do anything less?Why was Paul so incensed at arguments and lofty opinions raised against what God has said in His Word? Because false teaching in one area has a way of spreading to all areas, and with false teaching comes proclivity to sin; the book of Jude lays this out plainly. Because of this, Paul writes to that same church in Corinth, "Who is made to fall (i.e. drawn into sin), and I am not indignant?" (2 Cor. 11:29b). According to Paul, righteous indignation in the face of false teaching is the appropriate and indeed, biblically prescribed reaction for those who would establish themselves as true followers of Christ. As Pastor John MacArthur has said, one sign of Christian maturity is when God is dishonored and you feel the insult. Now obviously, not every theological difference is a polemical hill on which to die. But as we have already established with Thesis #1 in Part 1, the issues at stake if a literal, historical view of Genesis 1-2 is surrendered are comprehensively devastating to the Christian faith. This is why, on the issue of creationism versus evolution, the admonition of Paul pertains: " . . . the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26).Everything in creation finds its source, goal, and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.This is the sort of statement one expects from someone who is not a true biblical inerrantist, and therefore struggles to comprehend the true plan of God, as found in His Word. It is true that Jesus Christ is the source of creation (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3), that all things presently hold together in Him (Col. 1:17), and that, in time, all things will be united in Him (Eph. 1:10). It is not true that everything in creation finds its source in Jesus Christ, for that would make Him the Author of evil, which the Bible repudiates (Hab. 1:13; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5). It is also untrue that the "whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal." Much of creation is headed for devastation and ruin, when Jesus returns to judge the earth, inflicting vengeance and promising eternal destruction on those who rebel against God and do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8-9). We'll concede Wilson's larger point is true, that ultimately everything in this worldincluding evilis ordained for the glory that the Father is bestowing upon His Son. But the Son's preeminence above all things is precisely why it is so important to see what Christ has to say about origins (see Thesis #8 above). Since our Master's position on origins negates any consideration of evolution, so must our own.Conclusion: As you can see, the theses upon which Wilson and his church have joined in agreement on the issue of creationism versus evolution leave much to be desired. These ten "theses" should cause the biblically committed believer to grieve for both Wilson and his congregation; Wilson for his meager understanding of both biblical inerrancy and the limits of science, and his congregation for their error in judgment that brought him to their pulpit. No effort to bridge the divide between those who believe in some sort of evolutionary creationism and those who hold fast to a literal creation scheme will ever be successful. While one side holds fast to the truth of the text, the other routinely jettisons these textual convictions whenever human reasoning based upon so-called "science" commands, regardless of formal protests of inerrancy or a "high view" of Scripture. And once one begins to allegorize the Scripture to accord with the unsubstantiated conjectures of finite minds, where is the end point? Why stop playing fast and loose with Scripture at Genesis 2? In fact, most evolutionary creationists do not stop there, which is why most who side with evolution also stray into ideas of egalitarianism, supersecessionism, preterism, postmillennialism, and similar sorts of theological error. Wilson's article should stimulate biblically-faithful believers to commit themselves to uphold the biblical record of Genesis 1-2 in a literal historical manner, and refute those who would peddle any evolutionary alternative.Dr. Colin L. Eakin PyromaniacDr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopĂŠdic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.
by Phil JohnsonA friendâactually a very good friend of mineânoticed that I had spoken on "virtue signaling" at the G3 pre-conference, and he put a comment on my FaceBook page asking if signing a manifesto like the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel might not be legitimately seen as "the conservative equivalent of liberal virtue signaling." Here's my reply:f you listen carefully to the definition I gave, virtue signaling is when you affirm a trendy, politically correct, or socially popular position in order to claim the moral high ground or garner praiseâespecially when you have little intention of doing anything else about the issue you are publicly wringing your hands over.So my conscience is clear.Still, it's certainly possible that someone wishing only to trumpet his own notion of "stylish orthodoxy" might think signing a conservative group's manifesto could accomplish that self-aggrandizing purpose.But one could say that about anyone in any context who makes his or her opinions known publicly. Blogging, FaceBook comments, even sermons delivered from a sound church's pulpit all carry the same risk.So unless a person is willing to keep all his opinions to himself, he ought to examine his own motives on a regular basis. Because Scripture does say, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak."This is therefore a good reminder. "Let a person examine himself."But Scripture also says, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience." So silence isn't always a virtue.Anyway, I take your feedback as a good reminder, and not a rebuke. Anyone who knows you should understand (as I do) that you were not just trying to pick a fight for the sake of being contentious.ut:Â Â Â When one sees a massive bandwagon rolling by, filled with people who have all suddenly become concerned with a specific issue that is being hard-peddled to them by celebrities and trend-setters, and all these people are both trumpeting their own wokeness and shaming everyone who isn't woke yet (including aiming their newfound scorn at respectable Christian leaders who may not share the now-trendy opinion)âone can hardly help concluding that this is another wave of just what we saw when Emergents were saying similar things and shaming the rest of us for not being sufficiently postmodern."Woke," it turns out, is the new postmodern.The current wave of political correctness has simply put a veneer of evangelical moral outrage on the idea of "social justice," without carefully delineating how the term "social justice" as it has been employed in modern and postmodern secular academic circles (and in liberal religion) for more than a century now. And if you look at the landscape carefully, you'll see that leading the parade of those who are clamoring for a "woke church" is a pack of socialists and liberation theology buffs.Pointing out that fact is hardly an example of "virtue signaling."Here's that message from the G3 preconference:
by Hohn Chohe introduction to this occasional series on Christian dating is here.Part one, "Christlike Character," is here.The recent news of longtime Christian heartthrob Tim Tebow's engagement to Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who happened to be the winner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant (formerly owned by now-President Donald Trump, interestingly) in 2017, reminded me that I should return to my occasional Christian dating series, and so here is part two: Cast off Consumerism.John 15:19 states, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." This is true in all of the obvious ways, such as the persecution we face as believersârelatively mild here in the US, but intense or even fatal in other countries. But there's a more insidious way that the world hates us, and that's by pushing a worldly mindset onto us, sometimes so subtly that we don't even realize it's happening.If we've been taught faithfully and hold to basic Christian principles, perhaps we might successfully recognize that the world's complete acceptance of pre-marital sex as an assumed given is biblically wrong and sinful. But what about the often unspoken assumptions of self-centered consumerism that pervade just about every area of our American lives? Sure, as well-taught Christians, we might know theologically that the only thing that we truly deserve is hell, and that it's only through Jesus that we can be saved, and anything good in our lives is all a grace gift from God, and we're not entitled to any of it.So why is it that when it comes to dating, so many of us-and I say "us" because I experienced it keenly as well when I was single-supposedly well-taught Christians suddenly become believers in the prosperity Gospel? "Wow, if I just pray more, if I just serve more, if I just do more for the Lord, He will send me exactly what I want, and I'll suddenly have my best married life now! And then surely I'll find that godly submissive woman who moonlights as a fashion model." (But only in very modest fashion styles, of course.) Or on the flip side, "I'll find that handsome and independently wealthy seminary student who's a bold and decisive leader, but who's also sensitive enough to listen to me, and then do exactly what I think is best." If you prefer, you could even substitute another homeschooled Heisman Trophy winner or Miss Universe, perhaps.I believe part of this stems from the fact that for American Christians, our consumeristic and worldly society here beats into us from just about the first moments we can remember that it's all about us, that we deserve only the best, that we should have exactly what we want, exactly when we want it. We want our potential spouses just like we want our Burger King Whoppers, tomatoes and pickles are great, but no way do I want any onions or mustard or mayo. I'll take two from column A, none from column B, and let me write in a response for column C. Go ahead and start working on that, I'll just be over here on my state-of-the-art smartphone while I wait.But the highest focus of Christian dating really shouldn't be self-centered, it shouldn't just be about your own agenda and preferences, or even making sure the person you date checks off all of the right boxes and none of the wrong ones. Again, we don't deserve a spouse, we're not entitled to a spouse, God is not obligated to send us a spouse. If we remember that, if we remember that marriage is less about personal pleasure and far more about serving your spouse selflessly and considering that person as more important than yourself, all for the glory of God, as we see in Philippians 2:3? If we can keep that in mind, I think people would do a lot better in this area of dating, both mentally and spiritually, because then our mindset would be starting to conform to what God's Word calls us to.If we truly want to get down to some "real talk" as they say... where do you think your standard of beauty comes from? Did it develop all by itself, with no help from anyone or anything? Or might the media that inundates our lives have something to do with it? Every day, we're told that our standard of beauty ought to be a rail-thin made-up airbrushed supermodel, or a tall, dark, and handsome Disney Prince Charming. The problem with that, of course, is that neither of those images is real! They're carefully constructed fantasies designed to move consumers.And these fantasies aren't just innocent marketing choices that are morally neutral, as some people might like to think their beauty preferences are. The world is actively promoting a non-existent fantasy that encourages self-absorbed consumerism and unrealistically high standards, often served up with a heaping side order of increasingly bitter discontentment. The reality never seems to be good enough, and then many Christians who might already be burning with passion "refuse to settle"-whatever that means-and extend their singleness, resulting in fewer children raised in godly homes, more sexual temptation (and falling to that temptation), and in many cases prolonged adolescence or "adultolescence" as it's sometimes called. None of that is morally neutral! Meanwhile, those who are called to marry and actually move forward boldly with it encounter numerous challenges of their own, of course, but when they persevere, they tend to enjoy some of the greatest earthly blessings in terms of sanctification, friendship and companionship, sexual intimacy approved by God, parenthood, and many others.On this topic of beauty, consider instead what God says in Proverbs 31:30. God's Word is the ultimate ward against consumerism, and Scripture tells all of us that in seeking a spouse, we should be conforming our priorities to God's, and the course of wisdom is to focus on people of character who fear the Lord, and specifically not on social skills and looks. After all, very few people get better looking with age, people go gray or lose their hair, they gain weight, they get wrinkles. And maybe instead of charming, they're socially awkward, seemingly a mortal sin these days. And yet so many godly married couples I know will tell you that they are more in love with and attracted to their spouse than they ever were at first.Having said all of that, I know that for so many people, it's still primarily about looks, about that magical spark of chemistry. I know that, and I get it. And to continue with the real talk, I never suggest that anyone consider someone who repulses them or even provokes a negative reaction, because based on ample experience, I've never really seen that work out. The bridge is simply too far to cross. But if there's at least a mildly positive reaction, or perhaps even a neutral one? I actually have seen that work out numerous times, especially when the people involved have given it a genuine good faith effort and are praying earnestly.On that note, we've seen some evidence even from secular science that it may be possible (on a neurological level, even) to take some level of control over falling into or out of love with someone. If that's something even a secular person could do, how much more should a blood-bought believer with the power of prayer and the indwelling Holy Spirit be able to accomplish?If you're single and there's some godly man or woman interested in you, and you know in your heart that it could be a good thing, maybe you don't find them ugly but perhaps you also aren't super attracted to that person, you know one thing you could try before just giving up? Literally get down on your knees and pray, really earnestly pray. Not just a "pray about it for five seconds right before bed" kind of prayer, but persistently humble yourself before God and beg Him to change your affections, to let you appreciate the little and big things about that godly person, to allow you to begin seeing him or her the way that God does.Before you dismiss this suggestion as an obvious one, from a non-scientific poll I've taken over the 13 years or so that I was involved in singles ministry, the percentage of people who actually admitted to trying this kind of deep and sustained prayer constituted a slim minority indeed. And for the significant majority who didn't, out of my love and care for them and desire for their best, I have to wonder whether some of them might have been a bit too caught up in their own preconceived notions about what their future spouse ought to look like, or even what other people might think about the person on their arm.Anyway, perhaps you still might think that I'm being naĂŻve about this, even while I might think you're not having enough faith about this. As is often the case with things like this, I'm guessing the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. But if I could leave you with one last thought on casting off consumerism, here's an interesting secular study that talks about human dating behavior today. There's a ton to unpack, some of it rather depressing, but the reality is that in the world, almost everyone seems to be focusing on looks, and almost everyone is routinely breaking Romans 12:3 in thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. It's as if the guy from the brilliant classic Christian dating article, "Brother, You're Like a Six" were CTRL-C copied en masse into a Google PageRank algorithm.If you adopt the world's methods, the world's consumerism, odds are you'll end up with the world's results, which will probably look a lot like the secular dating study and our society's steadily increasing average ages to marriage. Instead, heed 1 John 2:15-17 and cast off worldly influences wherever you can, focus on serving and sacrificing for others per Philippians 2:3, strive for contentment which 1 Timothy 6:6 tells us is a necessary component for spiritual growth, elevate the importance of godly character in others per Proverbs 31:30 rather than regarding others according to the flesh per 2 Corinthians 5:16, and trust and believe in the power of James 5:16's effective prayer. In other words, strongly develop fundamental Christian disciplines and character traits, and then dare to apply them even in the most personal and intimate areas of your own life, such as dating.If you do that, whether you end up getting married or not, I trust that regardless, you'll have the peace and comfort and joy that comes with knowing that you're walking in obedience to how God calls us to live, which is of eternal value that will far outlast any earthly, temporal marriage, no matter how wonderful and fulfilling.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 27, sermon number 1,578, "Taught the we may teach.""We are to be impartial in our study of the word, and to be universal in its reception."Â Set your wholeÂ heart on the word. Some people like to read so many chapters every day. IÂ would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soulÂ asoak in half a dozen verses all day than I would, as it were, rinse my handÂ in several chapters.Â Oh, to bathe in a text of Scripture, and to let it beÂ sucked up into your very soul, till it saturates your heart! The man who hasÂ read many books is not always a learned man; but he is a strong man whoÂ has read three or four books over and over till he has mastered them. HeÂ knows something. He has a grasp of thoughts and expressions, and theseÂ will build up his life.Â Set your heart upon God's word! It is the only way toÂ know it thoroughly: let your whole nature be plunged into it as cloth into aÂ dye.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 23, sermon number 1,377, "Taking hold upon God.""There is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee."Â Isaiah 64:7"We have in these days a race of time servers and word spinners to succeed the real men."I do not know that the condition of the church of God at the present timeÂ is quite so bad as that which is here described. It would be wrong to boastÂ of our condition, but it would be worse to despair of it. It would not beÂ honest to apply the words of our text to the church of the present day.Blessed be God, we could not say, âThere is none that calleth upon thyÂ name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee,â for there are many whoÂ plead day and night for the prosperity of Zion. Yet in a measure we areÂ somewhat in the same plight as that which is described by the prophet, andÂ there is much to mourn over.Â Prayer languishes in many churches, power inÂ intercession is by no means a common attainment, and meetings for prayerÂ are, as a rule, thinly attended, and not much thought of. Sin abounds,Â empty profession is common, hypocrisy is plentiful, and the life of God inÂ the soul is but little esteemed.Notice carefully that according to our text the prophet traces much of theÂ evil which he deplored to the lack of prayer. After he has compared theirÂ righteousnesses to filthy rags he adds, âthere is none that calleth upon thyÂ name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee.âÂ When there is aÂ degeneracy of public manners, you may be sure that there has alsoÂ occurred a serious decline of secret devotion. When the outward service ofÂ the church begins to flag and her holiness declines, you may be sure thatÂ her communion with God has been sadly suspended. Devotion to God willÂ be found to be the basis of holiness and the buttress of integrity.Â If youÂ backslide in secret before God, you will soon err in public before men. YouÂ may judge yourselves, my dear hearers, as to your spiritual state by theÂ condition of your hearts in the matter of prayer. How are you at the mercyÂ seat? for that is what you really are.Â Are the consolations of God smallÂ with you? That is a minor matter; look deeper,âIs there not a restraining ofÂ prayer before the living God? Do you find yourself weak in the presence oftemptation? That is important; but search below the surface, and you willÂ find that you have grown lax in supplication, and have failed to keep upÂ continual communion with God.
by Hohn Choor my handful of regular readers, I apologize for the extended silence. November and December are always my busiest months of the year, and this year it was even more hectic than usual. Happily, things are calming down quite a bit, and I'm determined to keep calm and blog on. And lately, I've been meditating quite a bit on Romans 13, both the first seven verses on the topic of submitting to government, and for the topic of this post, Romans 13:8, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."On a horizontal level, precisely because of this verse, my desire is to owe nothing to anyone except love. This is something which the Scriptures command and exhort us to do. And thus it isâat least conceptuallyâsomething possible for us to do, to some extent. Now, when I say that my desire is to owe nothing to anyone, I don't say this in an arms-folded, "I got mine and everyone else can go pound sand" kind of way, but rather in an earnest way that makes the paying of debts and the fulfilling of commitments an affirmative burden on my conscience.And so it is that the (increasingly rare) occasions I have an empty inbox and task list are a source of great satisfaction for me, as is my gradually dwindling list of financial obligations. Accordingly, it is at best disconcerting when certain people point their fingers at me, and others like me, and claim that we owe them something, when to the best of my knowledge and recollection, I owe nothing to these folks. In many cases, I've never even met them before!How and when does this happen? Well, in the United States, we often see it in the context of discussions about "privilege" and social justice. The vastly simplified argument goes something like this: Some people were born into more privilege than others, and some of the folks with the least privilege (with ethnicity being the most common category cited by many "social justice" advocates here) even have the deck systemically stacked against them by society. This is fundamentally unfair, and so the ones with less privilege are owed something, with the payors being society, or the more privileged, or both.My response to these arguments has been that they appear to be based (whether knowingly or unknowingly) on concepts borrowed from secular Critical Race Theory rather than drawn from the Bible. I think Kevin DeYoung said it well in a blog post last year:I have my concerns with the term "social justice" and with all that it connotes. But what if we press for a less culturally controlled and more biblically defined understanding? Several years ago, I worked my way through the major justice passages in the Bible: Leviticus 19, Leviticus 25, Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 22, Amos 5, Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-46, and Luke 4. My less-than-exciting conclusion was that we should not oversell or undersell what the Bible says about justice. On the one hand, there is a lot in the Bible about God's care for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. There are also plenty of warnings against treating the helpless with cruelty and disrespect. On the other hand, justice, as a biblical category, is not synonymous with anything and everything we feel would be good for the world. Doing justice means following the rule of law, showing impartiality, paying what you promised, not stealing, not swindling, not taking bribes, and not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you (emphasis added).Having independently studied many of the same Scriptures and concepts, I agree with DeYoung's conclusions entirely, and in considering what "doing justice" means, it's important to note that his entire list consists of individual actions and not systemic or societal or collective actions. And most of those individual actions are quite mundane, such as following the law, neither breaking the law nor taking advantage of people, and as we also see in Romans 13:8, paying what you promised, what you actually owe.But wait wait wait, you say, DeYoung also mentions showing impartiality, aha, what about that? Well, I've written on this issue before, and the great majority of the secular attempts to address past partiality, such as affirmative action, are prime examples, in and of themselves, of unbiblical partiality.The reality is that all of us are born with certain privileges, or to use a more biblical word, blessings. Similarly, all of us are born with certain trials. God has assigned those blessings and trials, and as a Christian, I'm called (in James 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and elsewhere) to be joyful and thankful for both the blessings and the trials. Now, if God has especially blessed the circumstances of a person's birth, there's certainly a Scriptural argument to be made that that person is more accountable before the Lord for his or her blessings (see, e.g., The Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30, and Luke 12:48b, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more"). But being held accountable by the Lord for one's blessings is entirely different from being held accountable by a stranger who claims you owe him or her something.And this brings us to the second half of Romans 13:8, on love. As I strive to love my neighbors, my desire will always be to do so proactively and lavishly, and particularly toward the people for whom I'm most responsible. Scripturally, that's my immediate family per 1 Timothy 5:8. It's my fellow Christian brothers and sisters even more so than non-Christians per Galatians 6:10. It's the specific believers in my own local body per Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2. It's the people who cross my path per Luke 10:30-37. It's the people who actually ask me for help per Luke 6:30.That last example reinforces the point I'm trying to make, I believe. An earnest request for help, genuinely needed and without expectation or presumption, is a humble act. And my loving desire will certainly be to help that person, within the bounds of capacity and wisdom. Perhaps I can meet the need fully, perhaps I can meet it partially, perhaps I can't meet it at all. Regardless, I'm going to be much more inclined to help a person like that, because God gives grace to the humble as we see in 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6, and in His rich mercy, God often chooses to use His servants to provide that grace.In contrast, an angry demand, a sense of entitlement, or even a false claim that I owe someone something, when in fact I owe that person nothing except love, are all signs of pride, which God opposes with military fervor in those same verses of 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6. And while I might not (although perhaps I might) send even that person away with nothing at allâbecause after all, I am no better than that person, and God was gracious to me even when I was His enemyâanything I give would be an unmerited act of grace and mercy and charity. What it would not be, however, is an act of justice, or a discharging of a debt or obligation.Understanding this very key difference between justice and mercy is of great importance to the "social justice" debate, along with other distinctions such as the Gospel itself versus an outworking of the Gospel, and the line dividing an appropriate attempt to exhort others via Scripture from a pharisaical attempt to bind others' consciences on a matter of Christian liberty. Regardless, if I haven't borrowed from or made a promise to someone, if I haven't directly wronged someone giving rise to an obligation of restitution to that person, I don't owe that person anything, even if he or she was born in a far less advantageous position, or has fallen upon hard times of late. Even if I might have been assigned five or two talents by my Master, while the other was assigned only one. No, the only thing I owe that person is love. It's not a small thing, certainly, but neither is it a guilt-inducing debt under the law. And as we conclude Romans 13:8, we see how that very same love actually destroys the law's burden of shame, "for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."So when strangers try to tell you that you owe them something, a helpful question to ask in response might be, "How, specifically, have I personally wronged you?" And if the answer is a bunch of spluttering rhetoric about indirect systemic catchphrases, I can say with some degree of confidence that you probably haven't wronged them at all; they're merely trying to sell you something, specifically a sense of guilt and shame for circumstances of birth completely beyond your control, all of which has been fully paid for on the Cross in any event, for those truly purchased by the blood of Christ.As I've written before, the Word is crystal clear in places such as Acts 23:1, Acts 24:16, Romans 9:1, 1 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Timothy 1:19, 2 Timothy 1:3, and 1 Peter 3:16 that a Christian is capable of maintaining a clear conscience toward certain people and on various issues. By all means, ensure your conscience is properly formed by the Scriptures, take care to examine yourself, and don't just blithely give yourself a pass. But if your conscience is indeed clear on matters such as these, heed Galatians 5:1 by not letting any person subject you again to a yoke of slavery, especially when Christ has set you free.
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 34, sermon number 2,031, "David dancing before the Ark because of his election.""Dear brethren, there is great power in the truth of electionwhen a man can grasp it."Personally, I have overflowing joy in the doctrinesÂ of eternal, unchanging love. It is bliss to know that the Lord has chosenÂ me. When I am down very low in spirit, I crave for those old books which,Â like the Lord Jesus, are full of grace and truth.Â You who are at ease in ZionÂ can do with the chaffy modern theology; but when your heart is heavy, andÂ especially when your conscience is under a sense of sin, you will wantÂ these two dishes on the tableâfree grace and dying love, and you cannot doÂ without them.Â We must have an atoning sacrifice, and free grace to makeÂ us partakers thereof. I cannot give up the doctrines of grace, for they areÂ my life. I do not so much hold them as they hold me. The five fingers of theÂ great doctrines of grace have enclosed my heart.Â I can die; but I cannotÂ deny the imperishable truth. The doctrine of the eternal choice gives forthÂ joy as myrrh and cassia give forth perfume. May you all know it!Â
Your weekly Dose of SpurgeonTheÂ PyroManiacsÂ devote some space each weekendÂ to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers,Â Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Â The following excerpt is from the metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 19, sermon number 1,114, "Onward!""Never mind though you have run so far, you must let the space which lies between you and the goal engross all your thoughts and command all your powers."Some people seem to have very good memories as to what they have performed. They used to serve God wonderfully when they were young! They began early and were full of zeal! They can tell you all about it with much pleasure.In middle life they wrought marvels, and achieved great wonders; but now they rest on their oars, they are giving other people an opportunity to distinguish themselvesâtheir own heroic age is over. Dear brother, as long as ever you are in this world forget what you have already done, and go forward to other service!Living on the past is one of the faults of old churches. We, for instance, as a church, may begin to congratulate ourselves upon the great things God has done by us, for we shall be sure to put it in that pretty shape, although we shall probably mean the great things we have done ourselves. After praising ourselves thus we shall gain no further blessing, but shall decline by little and little.The same is true of denominations. What acclamations are heard when allusion is made to what our fathers did! Oh, the name of Carey, and Knibb, and Fuller! We Baptists think we have nothing to do now but to go upstairs and go to bed, for we have achieved eternal glory through the names of these good men; and as for our Wesleyan friends, how apt they are to harp upon Wesley, Fletcher, Nelson, and other great men!Thank God for them: they were grand men; but the right thing is to forget the past, and pray for another set of men to carry on the work. We should never be content, but âOn, on, on,â should be our cry!When they asked Napoleon why he continually made wars, he said, âI am the child of war; conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.â The Christian church is the child of spiritual war; she only lives as she fights, and rides forth conquering and to conquer.God deliver us from the self-congratulatory spirit, however it may come, and make us long and pine after something better!
An addendum to last Friday's themeby Phil JohnsonDo 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 4:4cripture forbids believers to imbibe the world's values (cf. 1 John 2:6; Romans 8:5-6; Matthew 6:19-21) or set their affections on things of the earth rather than on heavenly things (cf. Colossians 3:2; 1 John 2:15; Matthew 16:23). Christians do not belong to this world. We are not beholden to the world. We cannot legitimately court the world's admiration or approval. And it is wrong to think otherwise. Jesus told His disciples, "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 15:9).That truth is ignored or rejected by multitudes of twenty-first-century evangelical Christians who wrongly believe that if the church does not first win the world's friendship and admiration, we have no hope of reaching anyone for Christ. Some of today's largest and most influential churches even take surveys to find out the desires and ambitions of unbelievers in their communities. They then plan their Sunday services accordingly, putting on a performance that caters to what people say they desire.Popular televangelists follow a cruder version of the same strategy, promising people health, prosperity, and riches in return for money. They are today's equivalent of the medieval indulgence-sellers. These religious charlatans make their appeal blatantly and directly to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life"-the same carnal cravings that 1 John 2:16 says are "not of the Father but . . . of the world." Churches are full of people who are sinfully obsessed with the whims and entertainments of this world. They are desperate to keep up with various worldly fads and secular celebrities. They wrongly believe that if they embrace the icons of pop culture, the world will also embrace them and therefore be more open to Christ. So they wear the badges of worldly fashions; they echo the key elements of worldly wisdom; and they immerse themselves in worldly amusements. They cultivate an unhealthy appetite for attention, popularity, and worldly approval, convincing themselves that this is a valid evangelistic strategy.Even in the highest echelons of evangelical academia certain scholars seem driven by an unhealthy yearning for academic renown. They become so desperate to win the admiration of their counterparts in the secular academy that they willingly compromise the truth and sometimes even apostatize completely.The wish to be noticed and admired by other people is itself a carnal, illegitimate lust. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because, "They [did] all their deeds to be seen by others" (Matthew 23:5). They made a show of public piety to give the impression they were holier than anyone else.Like the Pharisees, today's stylish evangelicals fancy the praise and recognition of other people. But unlike the Pharisees, most of them want to be noticed for being hip, not holy.It dishonors Christ when Christians try to fit into the fraternity of those who hate Him. Scripture is very clear about this: "Friendship with the world is enmity with God."According to Jesus, the only business the Holy Spirit has with the world outside the church is to "convict [unbelievers] concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8). Those are precisely the themes that are typically omitted when churches become too interested in winning the world's approval.The church must get back to preaching the gospel, remembering that the message of the cross, when faithfully preached, is by God's own design "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). The gospel alone is "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Christians should not be ashamed to proclaim it.It's true that if we are faithful, many in the world will view us with contempt as enemies-and we must be prepared for that. "Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you" (1 John 3:13). The world put Christ to death, and He said, "A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).Furthermore, our Lord Himself didn't shy away in shame or retaliate in anger. Indeed, "to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. . . . When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:21-23).From 95 Theses for a New Reformation: For the Church on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, edited by Aaron B. Hebbard (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017), 144-45.
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