Letters on the Threshold of June

Robots as Sabbath Breakers?

When it comes to honoring the Sabbath, I have lately been thinking that as automation and artificial intelligence become more common place in our lives, Christians may actually wind up being better equipped to avoid engaging in activities that could potentially cause other human beings to work on the Lord’s day. For example, drones that deliver groceries could keep one from having to rush to the grocery store to pick up a few last minute ingredients for a Sunday feast, robot-driven flying aircraft could help us to travel without causing others to work in the travel industry on a Sunday, and self driven lawnmowers could allow for lawn upkeep on the weekend without the requirement for manual labor.

Obviously, those are just a few simple examples, but I’m curious, especially from a post millennial standpoint, if you have considered the idea that the merging of human activities and modern technology could actually be one way that honoring the Sabbath day in a more complete way could be restored.

In addition to wondering if you’ve ever thought about this, I’m also curious if you would consider us having robots “do the work” for us on a Sunday would still be considered to be honoring the Sabbath?

Ben

Ben, this is a fascinating question, and I hadn’t really considered it before. I would try to answer it on two levels. The first is that there appears to be a deep sabbath principle embedded in the world, such that the Israelites were commanded to give their servants rest, and even to give inanimate objects like their fields a rest. So there’s that. So I would take this as not trying to run everything 24/7. Give your machines rest, which should help maintain the rhythm of sabbath cycle for your people. That said, I don’t think it is a sin to keep your furnace on in the winter, or to run the dishwasher on Sunday that you loaded Saturday night.

Weimar Resource?

I’m looking for a book on the Weimar Republic, particularly the moral condition and how said condition contributed to what followed. Any suggestions would be appreciated. What’ve ya got?

Andrew

Andrew, sorry. I am not up on that period, except at a general level. But you might try a more general resource, like Paul Johnson’s Modern Times. Or From Darwin to Hitler by Weikart.

Same Page Summer

Please explain Same Page Summer. Is this a thing? How do we get involved in this important process? That asked, my wife and I got a deeply satisfying guffaw out of the iron and jello line. I will never understand people who claim Christ but reject His authority over nature.

Finally, how do you explain “reformed” churches that sing Jesus is my boyfriend songs? We recently started attending one that has deeply rooted reform theology in the pulpit but the same arid worship we left behind in our previous church where worship “sets” were crafted from the Now top 10 list instead of consulting the psalms or even a hymnal.

Justin

Justin, yes, Same Page Summer is a thing. Join thousands of other Christians reading reading through the New Testament together. As for your other question, it really is kind of baffling. I think the most likely explanation is that for some reason the singing of psalms and hymns got old, and they thought they could liven things up a bit. But the things that make music get old are not to be located there—the contemporary stuff gets old too, a lot quicker.

About Meds

Regarding Meds, I have a question that I’ve always asked, but had never had satisfactorily answered: Why is there so much mental illness today? I could site lots of evidence for this, but it seems obvious that there is way more mental illness today than there was a hundred years ago; and I don’t understand why. The best answers I’ve heard are A) dissolution of the family and B) overstimulation from technology, but I don’t think I find those answers fully satisfying. You seem to have a lot of insight on the cultural zeitgeist, so I was hoping you could shed some insight on this. The reason I’m asking is that I’ve struggled *really* intensely with this all my life and have gotten into Biblical Counseling and have made a lot of progress but still have a long way to go; and would like to really understand what’s going on and why this is such a thing in our culture. Thank you,

D

D,, I believe that the root of our contemporary affliction with mental illness is massive and widespread fatherlessness. Not just homes where the father is absent, but homes where the father is neutered, and civic authorities who refuse to act like fathers, and fathers in the church going awol. Human beings can live that way, can’t cope with that.

In Which a Writer Does Not Say “Let’s Go, Brandon“

Thank you for your video on Brandon Robertson. Having Wikipedia entry: “Brandan Robertson is a gay writer, activist, and minister. He has written on the subjects of millennials, social justice, and Progressive Christianity, and he is an LGBTQ activist. In February 2015, publisher Destiny Image canceled its book deal with Robertson, citing his support for LGBTQ inclusion.” He clearly not affirming the faith once delivered to the saints. I interpret this as suggesting he is a wolf!

This reminded me of an event several decades ago. My family went to vist my parents and we went to their new church. The pastor denied the bodily resurrection of Christ (on Easter Sunday!). None of their elders stood and refuted his heresy. The only good thing about this is that he resigned immediately. My hypothesis is (given his age) is that he wanted to avoid the draft and went to a lousy seminary..

John

John, yes, quite.

The Meaning of a Vote

This is not in connection with any recent articles you’ve written (that I know of).

Here’s the short version: Should a professing Christian who knowingly votes for pro-abortion candidates (especially for president) be permitted to the Table of the Lord? If the short version is sufficient for you to respond, then please feel free to ignore the rest of this letter.

Here’s the long version:

I’m a member of an RPCNA church. It’s the same denomination that, during the years when slavery was legal in the USA, slave owners were barred from the Table of the Lord. This is something that, to my knowledge, would’ve been applied not merely to those who contributed to the furtherance of the man-stealing and selling of Africans, but also to those who happened to be born into families who already owned slaves, even if they treated them well, even like family, as well as having given them education and presented Christ in the Gospel to them.

Those who “held” slaves could be, in many of the congregations, barred from taking Communion. This is a point I brought up to my pastor concerning abortion.

While I’m reasonably sure that, if the session knew that a member of the church had become pregnant, and had hired an abortionist to destroy her child, then that woman, at least for some period of time, would be barred from the Table.

My question to my pastor was: Well, how about people who vote for political candidates are who pro-abortion (in support of baby dismemberment and murder)? If a person who hires a hit man to kill his enemy (of whatever sort he thinks another to be his enemy) and the hit man does the job, is not the man who hired the hit man equally guilty of the murder? And if the answer to that question is Yes, then is it not also true that a person who votes into office someone they KNOW is in support of the murder of infants in their mother’s womb (or out of it for that matter) is that person equally guilty of the unjust killing of another person as is the person who actually performed the act? And is that person then permitted to come to the Table of the Lord, being unrepentant of having voted into office yet another purveyor of infanticide?

I’m of the persuasion that a person so voting is a person in rebellion against God, and must not be permitted to the Table. However, I’m willing to receive counsel, and if given a truly reasonable answer contrary to my current thoughts, I will at least take it into prayerful, and Bible-studying consideration.

The Lord bless and keep you,

Shawn

Shawn, I really think it depends. I would certainly exclude from church office someone who supported a candidate like Obama, or Clinton, or Biden. And someone who is explicitly pro-choice, with a pro-choice bumper sticker on their car, should be barred from the Table, yes. But the reasons for votes can be diffused and tactical—e.g. crossing over to vote in a Democratic primary to help dislodge a rabidly pro-infanticide incumbent, say. And, by the way, your denomination’s previous stand would have barred Philemon from the Table, and the apostle Paul for being friends with him.

Dawson and Darla

Great to see Dawson and Lauren worked out! And it looks like Darla won’t be too far behind either.

I had a question for you regarding maturity and age differences when looking for a wife. I’m still unmarried in my early 30’s and recently moved to a new city. I’ve joined a healthy local church, and I’m finally around other single Christians who are also interested in marriage.

Most women I meet are in their early-20’s and at least seven years younger than me.

How do you tell the difference between an eligible single woman who happens to be a bit younger . . . versus a single woman who is “too young” to be married just yet but has potential? Should the latter be avoided?

Sincerely,

Dawson’s older brother

Dear DOB, I don’t see a problem with a 35-year-old man with a 28-year-old woman. There could be challenges at the end of life when he is 90 and she is 83, but they have time to prepare. My concerns with that age difference come up when he is 25 and she is 18. It is too easy for him to get her respect “on the cheap,” because she would not have respected an 18-year-old version of him, and might find her respect fading as she matures. That’s the thing to guard against. There is no sin in courting a younger woman, but just take care that you are not “playing down a league” in order to compete with guys with a lot less experience than you have.

Thanks for your Darla/Dawson series of letters. This pastoral content is some of the best stuff you write and I’ve been greatly edified by it. One thing I would love to hear more is your pastoral advice for more “exceptional” cases. The ones that tend to make evangelicals / Reformed people squeamish.

Erik

Erik, I would certainly be willing to consider it. But I am not sure exactly what you mean.

My Dad

Back in December, I remember my dad mentioning a picture of your father asleep at your family’s Christmas get-together, chuckling at his well-earned rest after decades of such Christmases. Now, a few months later, both your father and mine are enjoying the presence of Jesus. Life is strange that way. You and your family have my sincere condolences and prayers.

Grace and peace,

Adam

Adam, thank you. And condolences on your loss as well.

What a blessing to have such a father. He sounds quite like my own who has been in glory for many, many years. There is no greater gift in life than godly parents.

Melody

Melody, yes. One of the central blessings of my life.

RE: Such a Father

A few years ago, a couple of your dad’s books (particularly Taking Men Alive) were used by God to move our little country church into a fresh season of door-to-door evangelism in our small town in west-central PA. As a result we saw three families (eight people in all) come to saving faith in Christ within an eight-week period. Many of them have already received baptism and are in the process of formally entering into church membership; the last “holdout” will be baptized and received into membership in a couple of weeks.

I had always intended to contact Mr. Wilson and thank him personally for his ministry to us (though he’s never met us), but never quite made it happen. So let me join what I am sure is a host of others in passing along to you and your family our deep gratitude for the way his faithful ministry stirred us up to love and good deeds, and his legacy of godly faithfulness that continues to bless us through his faithful children and grandchildren. And I pray that I will be able to look down the generations and see the same kind of faithfulness in my descendants that he did.

Praying for you all!

Tharren

Tharren, thank you very much.

David Chilton

Have you ever done a book review of Paradise Restored (Chilton)? I searched and only found a brief reference to it in a 2013 blog post, “Even Postmillennialists Get the Blues”. The only comment is that you remembered it as “entertaining, but fluffy”. I’m curious if you have anything to say about that book now, good or bad.

Caleb

Caleb, I primarily objected to his hermeneutic, which is a bit too gaudy and expansive for my taste. But he was a brilliant man, and I absolutely loved his Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators. But as it happened, Paradise Restored was the book I was reading when I became postmill. His approach was leaving me cold, but while I was reading, he quoted 1 Cor. 15. “For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet.” And when I read that verse something snapped in my head, and I was postmill. Everything fluttered together.

A Leadership Issue

I’ve been listening to “Foundations for Fathers” and “Federal Husband” on Canon Plus and trying to cautiously implement the things I am learning in them, specifically discipline and asking my wife to follow me in it.

As a result I’ve approached my wife and calmly asked her to reconsider her stance on no smacking (we have 4 sons aged 3-8 and I continue to discipline best I can with neutrality and smacking one of the means of discipline). I have laid out the biblical case for it a few times now, and recently took her through it again and asked her to consider it over several weeks then today asked her despite her reservations to follow me in it, and to let me take “the fall” for it, if I in the future was to be convicted that I had it all wrong. She flatly refuses and also to flatly refuses to visit with our elders to discuss the matter. I don’t have faith that even if I could get her to our local church that it would go well as the place we attend and churches surrounding us are fairly egalitarian in nature and learn strongly away from the reformed side of the coin.

I wrote to you previously, and I think my letter was a part of all those letters that got lost, but my wife has no interest in reading books especially the Bible either, so I do wonder if trying to address discipline is really going to be profitable without solving the lack of desire for God’s word.

I personally grew up being surrounded by women so I struggle to face conflict so when “uprooting” our family and seeking another church because of this issue would be considered by most around us to be controlling and damaging and I’m quite afraid of losing my wife and kids. Even if I was to do that short of moving us to somewhere in America (we’re Australian) where I know for certain of churches from YouTube that have proper leadership structures and who value things like older men training younger men, and older women training younger women I’m not sure how successful a venture it would be.

What should a “Federal Husband” do in this case? I understand that this is my responsibility and it is something that I must take action on.

Sincerely,

D

D, you have a far bigger challenge than just the issue of child discipline. What I would suggest you do is this. Set aside the next six months to bring one request before the Lord, every day. Pray something like this: “Father, my household is not in order, and I want to take responsibility for it. As the head of this home, I confess this disorder to You as sin, and I confess it to You, and appeal to the blood of Christ for forgiveness. I ask that Your Spirit bring things to a head, and grant me the wisdom to identify what I should do when that moment arrives.”

Sins and Crimes

We appear constitutionally incapable of distinguishing sins and crimes”. . . I think our society really started going downhill when we stopped tar-and-feathering. There is much in society that isn’t and shouldn’t be illegal, but that people no longer have any sense of shame over . . .

Ian

Ian, another inescapable concept actually. We still tar and feather, so it is not whether, but which. We are tar and feathering the wrong people.

Those Red Heads

As I read, I was imagining she had quoted Donald Trump . . . ha, ha. But then you went on to quote some Confederate who actually believed “the innate inferiority of redheads.” Really??? As a lifelong redhead I must say that the fact you would even mention this is so beyond the pale that…well, I NEVER!!! Time to see my therapist.

Melody

Melody, tell your therapist you got offended here, and you might get a discount.

A Yes to Secular Music

A question on music: Is it ok to listen to secular music? Can it be good? What about non-explicit songs with unbiblical lyrics? Can we listen without absorbing that worldview? Or is it better to avoid altogether, no matter how fire the electric guitar solos are?

R

R, I listen to secular music all the time. But I don’t think it is all right to listen to music thoughtless, or to music that corrupts.

Thanks Much

My name is Jacob Morton. I am a young by-vocational pastor in rural Georgia. I want to express how thankful I am to you and your ministry. You have been a Guiding Light as I think through many different topics. The other night I re-listened to your Man Rampent episode with Aaron Renn on Servant Leadership, and it is precisely what I needed to help clarify the issues I have been seeing.

I have multiple men in my life. Some of them are my church members, and it seems like their mission is to make their wife’s life easy. They do so under the guise of saying the family is their first priority. Being by-vocational means, I often sacrifice time with my family to shepherd. If the family is the first priority, then by-vocational ministry would be off the table as they often make sacrifices. I was greatly helped when you said men are to have a mission and call the family into that mission. Do you know of any other resources that I can read on this topic? Thank you for your time.

Grace and Peace

Jacob

Jacob, thank you. I would suggest Mother Kirk.

The Value of a Woman

My wife and I watched the Eve in Exile documentary on Canon+ and really enjoyed it. In the documentary, a GK Chesterton quote was mentioned that said something to the effect of:

“If I set the sun beside the moon,

And if I set the land beside the sea,

And if I set the flower beside the fruit

And if I set the town beside the country

And if I set the man beside the woman

I suppose some fool would talk

About one being better.” – GK Chesterton

This was used to illustrate the point that neither man nor woman is “better” than the other—each is different and has their own roles and responsibilities within God’s created order. I wholeheartedly agree.

With this in mind, how should we interpret Leviticus 27. This passage “appraises” adult males (age 20-60) at 50 shekels of silver and adult females at 30 shekels. “Appraisals” are also given for males and females at various ages. These seems to indicate men are “more valuable” than women. This is hard to swallow . . . how do we interpret this passage?

Caleb

Caleb, someone’s economic value is not in the same realm as their value as a human being created in the image of God. If a man gets hired at an entry level position, this does not mean that a rich man will get preferential treatment at the Last Judgment. The Bible teaches the opposite of that. But one man, on the economic level, is “worth more.”

Changing How We Think of Missions

Thank you for your ongoing service to the Church. This is less of a comment on a post and more of an ask for your further perspective!

In your latest post, Fukuyama Inside Out, you refer to the need for a change in the way the US supports foreign missions (which is “local” missions from my point of view in South Africa). You also mention Dr Pratt’s Third Mill model.

I work part time with a theological college in Johannesburg (though we have students scattered across the country). We are partnered with Greenville Pres Seminary (SC) and are beginning to work with Third Mill Institute. Our main objective is to train men for ministry, but we also work to strengthen the Church by training members in good theology. We aim to do all of this without cost to the student. We are convinced that the Church should be supporting the work of training ministers and so we do not seek to burden the men financially.

My personal challenge is this: the work that we are called to is vital to the health of the Church yet I am not in a position to give myself to it full time. I work in a corporate job 4 days a week and squeeze in ministry as a teaching elder and college lecturer in the remaining time. My desire is to at least swing that balance the other way around, but I do not have the financial support. I have not (yet) found a foreign organisation that is willing to support indigenous workers in this way. At the same time, we don’t seek to be dependent on foreign funding, but the reality is that we do need to network across the globe in the way that you describe.

The vision that you lay out in this post seems to describe exactly the kind of global network and support that we need, not only in South Africa, but in many countries. I would love to begin somewhere with connecting our organisation to others. Do you have any such networks already in mind?

Thanks again for your content, which I can honestly say has been used by the Lord in many lives on this side of the enormous “pond”.

The Lord be our help,

Brian

Brian, sorry. I don’t know of any such networks. I just know that we need them. So let’s crowd source this, shall we? Comments are open.

Spending and GDP

Hey, Doug, just read and enjoyed Misinflation. On a whim, I searched gov spending % of GDP. What do you think?

Trey

Trey, thanks. I was pleasantly surprised. We are not on our last legs yet.

Head Coverings

I love your content and respect your perspective on pretty much every issue I have heard/saw/read from you. After seeing the thumbnail of your Modesty: A Fraught Topic post, (even though the content did not specifically address this) I thought you might have council on a passage of scripture that I am recently interpreting in a very controversial way (at least for the modern, western Christian culture).

1 Corinthians 11:2-16—Head Coverings

When I initially engaged with this passage in high school, I contented myself with the cultural relegation of head covering due to the council of spiritual leaders and commentaries. And if the cultural argument was undercut, then my fall back response was that a woman’s hair is her covering. However, after hearing a counter-argument recently from a couple of pastors on YouTube, I dived into an intense study of the passage and radically changed my opinion on it. I was happy to find myself in the company of R. C. Sproul and nearly all of Church history up to the 19th Century, since I was otherwise alone.

As those pastors pointed out, I do not see Paul appealing to culture at any point in his list of reasons that argue for the activity and sex specific practice of head coverings. And hair being the covering does not make logical since when you insert that meaning into verse 5-6. To argue that the cultural aspect was so obvious that Paul did not need to say it, would seem to make this passage of the Bible not self-sufficient since we would only be able to interpret it correctly through the ‘greater’ authority of historical science.

Beyond the lack of cultural reasons, Paul directly links principle to practice in verse 3-5 by using the word for head for the subject of both the practice and the principle. He argues on the basis of the eternal (God/Christ), logical (Christ/man), and created (man/woman) hierarchy. Then he ties it to the creational order of Man and Woman, the creational purpose of man and woman, angels, and nature. It cannot be just Corinth’s cultural practice since the letter is addressed to all “who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2) and head coverings is practiced by every Church at the time Paul wrote this letter (1 Corinthians 11:16).

Questions remain as to when this practice should be observed and to whom it applies (husbands and wives or all men and women), but it seems to be clear that we should have never let this practice leave the Church.

I do not want to lead my wife and daughter into legalistic adherence to an unnecessary custom, but I have not yet heard a reason that can sufficiently abate my conscience. So, even if I am wrong, I am under the oppression of my own status as ‘weaker brother’ and it would be sinning to go against conscience by not leading my family in this.

Thank you for your thoughtful feedback and may God continue to bless your ministry!

Sincerely,

Stephen

Stephen, thanks. I give my take in my commentary on 1 Corinthians, Partakers of Grace. And you can find early versions of that commentary if you search the Scripture Index under About in the menu bar above. But you are right that a cultural explanation doesn’t cut it. “Does not nature itself teach you . . .”

Christian Ed for Non-Christians?

I first want to say that my family and I are extremely grateful for your ministry. God has used you to mold myself, my wife, and my children. I could write a whole letter about the different areas of our life where Christ has broken in and showed our sin through your writing and media. Thank you.

I’m writing to you to get your take on the position of Classical Conversations (CC) when it comes to admitting families—or not. Our oldest (Hazel) is five now and has been in CC for about a year or so in two different communities (we moved). When we moved, my wife would come home and give reports, ladies she met etc . . . Mostly good stuff. However, there was a time she came home and said there was a Muslim family there. Another day she same home and relayed to me a conversation she had with another mother who replied to my wife’s “where do you guys go to church?” with a “Oh, we don’t go to church; we find it boring.”

I have confirmed with our CC director that the official policy of CC is that as long as the family promises not to teach against our doctrinal statement (with their lips?), come on in!

Would you see this as compromise? Does CC want community without covenant? Is this cutting with the grain? Does the abstraction of education away from the Covenant Community always tend towards mudslides? Is this why institutions are always eventually undone?

And if I could pose a second question / observation: because CC communities are made up of at least somewhat competent people who are seeking to honor Christ, the men are typically working and therefore cannot be Directors. So, you have the entire community lead and run by women. That is to say, our Director of the entire community is a woman and is showing symp to the Muslims, “Oh, I wouldn’t just want to kick them out…” Is this cutting with the grain?

Thank you for your time,

Our greatest respect and gratitude,

Mitch

Mitch, thanks. I don’t think this is necessarily a spiritual compromise, although it could readily become one. For years, Logos School admitted a limited number of students from non-believing families. They had to agree with us teaching the Christian faith as the truth of God, and etc. We didn’t have any real trouble—but we could have if we had admitted more than a handful of them. But, as you mention, if trouble began and the leadership was too tenderhearted to deal with it, that would be a problem. That said, Logos recently changed our policy, limiting enrollment to families that would sign off on our statement of faith. We did this in preparation for potential legal battles in the future, battles that revolved around whether or not we were a distinctively Christian school.

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