Thank you for your article on Crossway. I receive their emails, and when I saw the Jen Oshman article I thought, “hmm . . . that has not been my observation the last ten years.” As a 36-year-old homeschooling mother of 5 who has attended many baby showers, my experience has been the opposite. Most women in my church circles are wrestling with how to continue with life/job as normal despite having children. Motherhood and marriage do not seem to be the current “idol” so much as “fulfilling (impressive to others) occupation” or other pedigrees. I think a more helpful article to women in 2022 would actually be something in line with what I heard on a recent podcast of your daughters’. They mentioned that we so often seek glory and dignity in our work or something outside of ourselves, rather than taking the Puritan view that we have dignity as image-bearers and bring glory and worth to whatever we do (even something so humiliating as choosing to have children and prioritize parenting them!) Thank you again for this.
Kara, thanks and amen.
So, black skinny pants are of course, idolized far more than loud pants. So then, loud pants CAN, still be humble pants. (And a good book title!)
A Dad, of course you can keep yourself free of idolatry of skinny pants, but only if you limit yourself to one leg. If you go with both legs, you are plainly over the line, and need to stop it now.
I was particularly challenged by some of your thoughts in “Crossway at a Crossroads.” It seems to me that the most effective thinkers, and preachers for that matter, spend a considerable amount of time thinking about man. Their anthropology is solid. It also seems to me that this is a missing piece of the puzzle in much of mainstream evangelicalism. How would you advise a young man trying to learn how to read the field to go about hammering out a biblical anthology? How ought one go about learning to understand people and human behavior?
Thank you for your ministry,
Levi, the place to start is obviously by marinating in Scripture, reading and rereading God’s Word. But once you have the base coat down, one of the things you can do to learn some startling things about human behavior in Scripture is by reading some of Girard’s work on the subject—his commentary on Job, for example, or I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. Take Girard with a grain of salt, but he is great at pointing out invisible things on the surface of the text which, once you see them, cannot be unseen.
In relation to your article about Crossway: First, I appreciated the qualifiers and appreciations you expressed. Friends should be able to offer trustworthy wounds to one another. My first question: 1) I wonder whether before the crosshairs get turned on them, they would need to have demonstrated a pattern of continually warning about the idols of family, rarely promoting marriage and children, and never addressing the more fashionable idols. If you acknowledge that these things can be idols for some Christians, then an article addressing it can be helpful, right? 2) A second question would be how you, as a pastor, would have handled the situation she described at the beginning of the article. Would you have reached out to the woman struggling with infertility? If yes, what would you have said to her? Do you think the statement, “Motherhood is a woman’s highest calling” is a good, stand alone statement, or one that requires more nuance?
Nick, yes to your first point, in principle. But the example I gave was not the only one. With regard to the second point, I would have spent my time encouraging the slighted woman to not take offense. That comment seemed to me to be quite innocent. If a man were to say, at a bachelor party, that the reason they all went in on the gift of a table saw was that “one of the best things a man can do is work with his hands,” and someone took him aside afterwards to remind him that some men don’t have hands, that would be an example of hypersensitivity.
Re. Crossway at a Crossroads Summarizing that Lewis quote: It’s easier to recognize and fight the spirit of some other age. The spirit of the age encourages it.
Rob, yes, and amen. The spirit of the age most certainly encourages it.
I have noticed a recent trend of younger reformed guys becoming Lutherans. Do you have any thoughts on why this is happening?
Michael, I hadn’t noticed it happening, but if it is a thing, it is probably because Lutherans wake up in the morning knowing what they believe, and a lot of people have dogma hunger.
Mar a Lago Raid
Re: Hanlon’s Razor and the Mar-a-Lago Raid and your thoughts on “…prosecut[ing] the losers of elections… .” Persons who commit crimes should be prosecuted based upon the evidence, whether it relates to elections or not. It is increasingly evident that we have a two-tiered justice system in the U.S. Looking the other way for certain, powerful people and then bringing the full extent of the law against the proles is what could lead to the banana republic stuff.
Zenas, it appears to me that there is more than one path to banana republic stuff, and we are on one of them.
The complete rule: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but do not rule out malice.”
Gray, thanks. Yes, the complete rule is also pertinent.
Re: Hanlon’s Razor and the Mar-a-Lago Raid
I remember a while back a post you made where in your introduction you talked about a book you read where a Reagan staffer detailed his experience of dealing with Democrats, and in nearly every case, he concluded that they were not soldiers of a secret cabal bent on world domination, but genuinely believed the things they were proposing and voting for were for the good of the people, and you cleverly summarized that someone can simultaneously have graduated top of their class at Georgetown, be tech savvy, have a beautiful family, and advocate for universal basic income. I have referenced this countless times in conversation with friends and family, as I live in one of those states in which every single county was red both in 2016 and 2020, and as you can imagine there is no shortage of theories that would get warning labels on Facebook. Although I try my best to let Hanlon give me a shave, I cannot help but keep in the back of my mind the prospect that there is a far grander plot than just attempting to keep Trump from running (see: sweeping) in 2024. Is the Left that short-sighted? Do they have this much tunnel vision? I mean, surely some of these folks would have stumbled upon a chessboard between case law classes at Harvard, and are bound know some gambits and traps, but maybe I’m giving too much credit. It just seems more frequently as of late that they are, as the kids say, saying the quiet part out loud, most recently with Mar-a-Lago. What’s the play? Are we really watching nothing more than a desperate attempt to keep power so the “good ideas” can keep churning out? More than that, how do we stop looking for the Wizard behind the curtain?
Jared, I do believe that there are decision makers in all of this who know exactly what they are doing. For them this is a sheer power play. High risk, and high reward if they pull it off. High disaster for them if they do not. Of course this means high risk for us as well.
“He grabbed at a short-term political opportunity, not recognizing that the rules he was altering at that time were soon enough going to be under the control of the opposition.” I don’t know if I buy that they failed to recognize the consequences of their actions. I think they do recognize the impact their actions have, but they just don’t care. Much like Hezekiah didn’t care about God’s judgment since it would come after he was long gone. I think Reid knew the can of worms he was uncorking, and I don’t think he had any regrets about it. He got his.
Guymon, yes, there is that, and I agree. But I also believe that many on the Left are genuinely distraught about the overturning of Roe, and yet it was the result of their own doing.
Wonderful episode, crafted, quotable. But for the record, I liked Waterworld.
All the best,
Randy, also for the record, that might be true. I never saw it. The only point there was that it was a big budget fiasco at the box office.
Re: “Hanlon’s Razor and the Mar a Lago Raid,” after hearing about Hanlon’s Razor on a “blink” of a business book, I came up with “Krehbiel’s Razor,” which says “Don’t assume malice or incompetence when it might be a matter of a different perspective.” Or if you want the long version, see this.
I wonder if you could talk to the historic reformed position regarding male circumcision. Given the current distrust of doctors whose strings are pulled by the government/big pharma there has been a rise in interest homeopathy and home births. Proponents will argue that many things that the hospital provides during a birth are unnecessary and/or dangerous. They will argue that the vitamin k shot is only necessary because a child’s clotting factors are not high enough, and if you are going to make a child bleed on day 1, he needs some extra vitamin k. Turns out that the clotting is highest about a week or 8 days after birth for some reason. They will argue that modern medicine is only pushing this shot and procedure in order to make money. The stated reasons by doctors include: hygiene, STD protection, and pleasure during intercourse. And the homeopathic-leaning will say these are quantifiably false and unnecessary reasons for circumcision.
So, assuming there is no medical necessity or purpose for the procedure, what should Christians do? I believe generally, the fact that God commanded something to be done in the past, makes it permissible to be done in the present. However, if one is doing it in order to keep the law, then one should not do it. Same might apply with eating shellfish. If somebody chose to abstain today, it would not be inherently sinful to not eat crabs, but if they thought they could keep the whole law by doing so, we’d have bigger things to talk about.
I’ve heard some claim that the US is the only country that really continues this practice in any significant number. I would assume this would be due to our Christian heritage and in the last 70 years, medicine has picked up the torch in order to promote hygiene or for the sake of money. Would the Puritans or reformers or early church fathers have practiced infant circumcision? Did it fall out of practice with Titus and come back later for some reason?
While there is certainly nothing salvific to it, should believers continue the practice today, perhaps a week or so after the birth of a male child? I’ve heard recently that some will argue that perpetuating the “seed sign” is a de facto and unintentional denial that Christ came in the flesh. Should we let our sons decide for themselves at some point? Or is it simply adiaphora?
Thanks for the help. We are greatly blessed by your ministry. Hope to see you in Knoxville in October. Also, my wife is due with baby #4, (son #3) around Thanksgiving, so that is the driving force behind my question.
P.S. Weird corollary to a weird question, but a Believing acquaintance of mine has supposedly practiced “foreskin reconstruction surgery” because his wife encouraged it. Have you ever heard of something like this before and what sect would recommend it or believe in it? Forgive me, but I’m afraid of the results I would find if I asked Google rather than Ask Pastor Doug. (it seems to me that 1 Cor. 7 would prohibit this sort of thing)
Ethan, as far as the basic question goes, I believe that it is adiaphora. Make your own choices. I have not seen any significant problem of Judaizing related to it. The fact that God commanded it for religious reasons for multiple centuries removes all the scary health arguments against it. And while I agree that the behavior of the medical establishment over the last generation has been reprehensible, and driven in many cases by the lure of big profits, let us never forget that the alternative medical side is also enticed by the lure of big profits.
I currently attend a beautiful Presbyterian Church. Good folk, family feel, everyone knows everyone. I would say one of the weaknesses of our congregation is a lack of desire, or better yet a lack of willingness to change in small ways when change is needed; i.e. the rugs in the sanctuary are still 70’s royal red, and not because we can’t afford new flooring, but because those are the rugs of our church, and they’ve always been that.
Sorry for the digression, but, although the church is strong in many ways, it is also stubborn about rugs and chairs, and banners.
All of that was a preface to this question. My pastor and I have talked often about certain important things that we would like to see change. He is a fairly new pastor and doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers too quickly. Some of the changes I am talking about are weekly communion, and doing away with children’s worship and having the kids learn to worship with the whole congregation. It just seems counter intuitive to segregate the children at the most important moment of the week and bust out the flannel graphs ( just kidding we don’t do flannel graphs, but you see my point). So how does a pastor go about doing this incrementally, and what would you say are the most important points to stress while being incremental?
My question is as follows:
As a 25yo unmarried CREC presbyterian who constantly seems to only have interest from reformed Baptist men, I struggle with this a lot. I grieve to think about if I couldn’t allow my children to be marked by baptism from the beginning of their life in submission to my husband, but also- I want to get married to a masculine, God-fearing man and have children. I never know how receptive to be towards Baptist guys cause I’m so conflicted about it, but I also know that it does make sense for me to have my primary issues straight and not be in the habit of turning down any good men who want to catechize their kids as Christians, no matter their view of the sacraments (or ordinances, in this case). I really want to agree with this idea, but it hurts to think about not agreeing with my husband about the sacraments. Do I try to stop being “picky” or is it okay to maintain these convictions?
Thanks in advance for your insight. May the Lord bless you.
Just in Time
In regards to the reader, Stephen, who asked about time. In physics, time is simply the measurement of the movement of three dimensional bodies in relationship to one another (earth revolving around the sun, earth spinning on its axis, etc.). Prior to the creation of three-dimensional bodies, time was a meaningless measurement.
David, thank you.
In the Lord’s Hands
Recently a member of our family passed away, and it’s been a very painful time. We hadn’t seen or heard from this member in months and received a shocking call from the coroner’s office out of the blue one day. The member wasn’t talking to any of the family and we had been worried for some time now. Sadly, it didn’t end well. My comfort is that this member is baptized and is now in Heaven with their Father. The uncomforting aspect is that this member refused to ‘get it right’ with others before death. Now deceased, I can’t help but begin to wonder. It may be a heart of unbelief, and that’s evil, and help me if this is the case. But I don’t know if that now affects anything? I thought once baptized, always baptized. I just never imagined someone going home before they got a chance to work things out with those they were offended with. Help please! It’s a terrible thought.
Chuck, yes, it is a terrible thought. But I wouldn’t put the weight on the fact of water baptism. Baptism is our profession, but we also need faith that is consistent with that profession. That faith relates to how we live, but it is not the case that if a truly regenerate person dies with unconfessed sin in his life then he is a goner. That is just another way to smuggle salvation by works back in. This unfortunately refusal to get things right should be factored by you into a reflection on his over all life. And judge by the video, not by the snapshot.
Trousers and Skirts
Do pants (trousers)”pertaineth unto a man”? What are your thoughts on the conviction/reasoning behind skirts + dresses only for women in some Christian denominations? Can’t pant wearing be feminine or is it just another abominable attempt from Satan and feminists to destroy God’s design for women and blur gender distinctions? Is appealing to a history where women primarily never wore pants (not even to work in the vege patch) prior to modern times good enough to condemn wearing them today? If so then on what basis do we choose a cultural standard at any given time over another? This brings up other questions too, e.g modesty in general… if showing your ankles was immodest somewhere at sometime—by what standard do we dismiss or regard that as wrong or right? Etc. Where else does this lead? This controversial issue is burdensome for a fragile conscience…feeling oppressive, restrictive, impractical…but those feelings are irrelevant if we could simply answer is it biblical?
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who struggles to distinguish between the genuine prodding and convicting of the Holy Spirit vs the burden of mans laws and traditions?
Thank you in advance!
SG, Scripture honors and assumes the distinctions that human cultures make between men’s and women’s clothing, but does not absolutize how those distinctions are communicated. The strictest fundamentalist sect does not have their women dress in the same way that the Virgin Mary would have dressed. With regard to modesty, there are two tiers: there is the foundational creational modesty that we see described in Scripture, which would apply at all times everywhere (e.g. nakedness), and we have the culturally assigned levels of modesty, which we are required to preserve and honor—while recognizing that a rule requiring skirts two inches below the knee is not God’s absolute.
I was hoping I could make a request for a rah-rah post about having babies right now. My husband and I are hoping to add a third little one to our family soon, and while we both are convinced this is the right thing to do, it’s a bit intimidating considering everyone seems to be talking about food shortages and general mayhem. There’s no lack of finger waving about sinful anxiety out there, but a battle cry of sorts would be a blessing. Because, ya know—pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Heather, thanks for the suggestion. But in the meantime, yay babies!
Loving the Truth, Loving the Standard
I read Abolition of Man shortly after reading your post on St. Augustine, and then watched both episodes on this book on The Commons. With regards to education, I understand our goal to be more than merely transferring knowledge to the student, but training children to love and embrace the truth–or as you say elsewhere, to teach them to “love the standard.” As a new board member at a Christian school, I’m wondering how to facilitate this. How do you cultivate a love for the truth? Any resources you would point me to? Thank you for your time.
Casey, this is a hard one to answer briefly. I will just say that the best way to teach others to love the truth and to love the standard is to go out of your way to personally model a love for the truth and a love for the standard. And I would start with your own family.
Working in the Gaming Industry
I have nearly two decades of time in the game industry. The Lord has granted me a skill set of digital art, video editing and storytelling to provide for my family over this time. However, my walk with Him at the beginning of this career and where it is today is vastly different. And though I no longer develop games for my main source of income (I am a marketing artist/video editor for game software/tools), I have considered working on my own games on the side, or perhaps returning to writing novels as I once did regularly in the past.
My question for you is: Is it okay for a Christian to create content that is not glorifying sin, but also not necessarily Gospel-centered? For example, a good ol, classic alien sci-fi story. Can a Christian create entertainment for the sake of entertainment? Or would he be wrong to waste time on things such as this if they don’t clearly point to the Gospel? In the past I’ve written books that were not overly concerned with the Gospel, but still try to make sure there is redeeming elements of the story/characters, as well as underlying biblical tones/messages. I am curious your thoughts on this.
AJ, it is not necessary for all Christian art to be Christian propaganda. It is necessary for the Christian faith to be implicit in everything that is done. So, I would say, go to it.
Women in the Military
I am going to the UK on Monday the 15th of August to complete the selection process to become an officer in the British Army. I have recently seen your strong views on women in combat and how the Scripture says it is an abomination. I see you addressed that conscription of women is a wildly unbiblical concept and I will wholeheartedly agree on that. However, what are your thoughts on women willingly joining infantry units if they are able to complete the same selection standard as the men? The reason I ask is, much like the US army, the British army is also increasingly pandering to the woke minority. Should I complete the selection and decide to enroll in the Army, I know that I am going to be faced with questions such as, ‘you are a Christian so what do you think about women in the army?’ Your thoughts on the matter, particularly pertaining to women willingly signing up for infantry units, would be greatly appreciated.
Simon, the fact that women volunteer for such roles removes one of the evils involved, but it does not touch the central evil involved. I would stay far away.
Enforcing the First Table
“Leah, as I have argued elsewhere, I believe that the civil government must first obey the first table of the law. After they have done so for several successive centuries, we can talk about them enforcing it on others.” Pastor Doug, as a follow-up to Leah’s question: In order for the government to “obey” the first table of the law, would that not mean by necessary implication them enforcing it? How do you see them obey it without enforcing it?
Michael, one of the principal ways that governments disobey the first table of the law is by setting themselves up as enforcers of the first table, enforcing it on the citizenry—and then neglecting it themselves. I believe that if the government were to close all offices on the Lord’s Day, prohibit the invocation of any false god on official government time, etc. this would get the beam out of their own eye, which is why I advocate the government obeying the Sermon on the Mount (for a good length of time) before attempting enforcing it on others. This is not compromise, but rather patience.
Preaching On Hell
‘Hellbent in Creepy Clown World’ This was a great listen but it has made me wonder, why don’t you have any sermons on hell?
Sorry, misplaced your name . . . [DJW]
Dear Sorry, almost all my preaching is to faithful Christians. So I have taught on Hell to them, but have not preached hellfire. But when addressing audiences that are mixed, with a lot of unbelievers, I have written on it quite a bit.
Since That Time . . .
Mr. Wilson, in a round table discussion on eschatology with Piper et al. you mentioned that the material in Thessalonians was the hardest to sort through for you when thinking through eschatology. I happen to agree. I’m trying to survey the text cautiously and without the “totality transfer exegesis” that can be somewhat common in our preteristic camp. Have you/do you think you will write on this material? Had any breakthroughs? Thanks.
Austin, since the time of that recording I have preached through 1 and 2 Thessalonians. I bit the bullet. A good resource on the topic would be Keith Matheson’s From Age to Age.
Starting a School
To my question: Our church is starting Ancient Paths Classical Christian Academy in August 2023. This will be the only fully classical Christian academy in all of Columbus, OH. In Starting the academy our plan has been to hire three teachers and one headmaster for the school. We have already hired two teachers and are close to hiring our third teacher. Finding a suitable headmaster has been a much more difficult task. I have worked in Christian education and worked in a headmaster role for 7 years, so it has always been lingering in the background that I could potentially do this if needed. This has never been the stated goal, but we have known throughout that it could be a viable backup plan. As we get closer to the start of the school we are wrestling more seriously with this option. The primary concern is being faithful to the ministry of the church while potentially taking on this other role as well. I know that initially you fulfilled this role at Logos and I have heard you say that this isn’t ideal and shouldn’t be the plan long term. Yet, in the end, you do what you need to do.
My question is simply how did you balance both roles and what advice/counsel would you have for me if I were to assume both of these roles? Were you at the school each day for the entirety of the day? How did you deal with appointments with parishioners, sermon prep, etc…? Did you find pockets to complete these during the school day or did you only hold office hours at the school on certain days/times? I could continue to list specific scenarios but I’m sure you understand the essence of my foundational question.
Any thoughts or guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you again for your ministry and I do hope to hear back from you.
Grace & Peace,
Zack, you summed it up nicely when you said “you do what you have to do.” The only thing I would recommend, if you go this route, is that you keep the roles visually distinct (e.g. at the school in the mornings, at the church office in the afternoons. Something like that). And then work like crazy. This kind of thing is doable for a year or two, and then you can hire someone who is in line with the vision you have already established.
Years ago, even before the Internet (I think), there was a brilliant Credenda issue called “King Debt,” which dealt marvelously with the subject. In that issue, there was a quote from Charles Spurgeon:
“’Owe no man anything,’ which does not mean pay your debts, but never have any to pay.”
Q1: Since that quote was made in Credenda decades ago, do you still agree with Spurgeon’s interpretation? Suppose a church (let’s say it’s reformed) endeavored toward a multi-million-dollar expansion program in the current US economic climate and pursued a large 30-year loan from a bank.
Q2: Am I correct in thinking that a bank loan would be a covenantal obligation?
Q3: Do elders have the authority to impose a debt obligation on a congregation? Is this a “binding the conscience” thing, or no?
Lastly, I sure wish I could get my hands on that old “King Debt” issue.
Q4: Any updates on the prospect of Credenda being republished on Canon Plus?
GJ, we are working on getting old material from the Credenda archives on Canon +. It is in the works. I still agree with Spurgeon’s take, although I would apply it to loans simpliciter. A fully collateralized loan, it seems to me, is in a different category, and should be avoided, when possible, for different reasons. That said, I wouldn’t call it a “binding the conscience” issue, even if the decision were a foolish one. An individual member does not have the same obligation the body has. Say that the church contracts the loan, and then you get a job offer in another state, right next to a debt free church. You would be free to go.
Blue Like Jazz
Pastor Doug, One of my sons just had to read the book “Blue Like Jazz” for a school assignment, so I gave it a read myself.
I no like it.
I’m looking for a critical review of the book a thought you might have one, or could recommend one. Any resource you can point me to will be appreciated.
Thanks for your consideration and your ongoing ministry.
Andrew, I think your instincts are right. I have a vague recollection that we reviewed it in Credenda ages ago, but I don’t know which issue. And I don’t remember which of our writers wrote the review. In short, I am no help at all.
An Increasingly Common Problem
I have recently started a job at a small clothing store, and I really enjoy it. But they sell two items there that have obscenities on them and a few other clothing items that are not appropriate in my opinion. Is this a lawful job for me to have or do you believe I should not be working there?
Kristen, I would not adopt a rule that would prevent you from working pretty much anywhere. Suppose you are a cashier at Safeway. Do you sell some of those magazines right next to your stand? What I would do is have a relevant joke handy in case you are the one who has to bag one of those things up.
Not in response to any specific post, just a question and a suggestion. Why is the Cantus Christi 2020 constantly sold out (and seems to have been for the last 2 years)? Is this a supply chain problem, a demand problem, or something else? (Although I guess this is more something the Canon Press team would have to answer.)
As for the suggestion, I would love to see a quality pocket or travel sized hymnal developed. I have looked for years for something of this kind, but there just aren’t any options available.
MD, my understanding is that it has largely been a demand problem. And as for your other idea, that seems like there would be pretty limited demand for that.
Troublers of Israel
Thank God for all you “troublers of Israel” in Moscow. I’d like to know what you think on this. I haven’t heard much from this angle.
You have said several times that we need to not take government money or rely on their programs. I do agree that dependence upon such things is a path to compromise, but it seems to me that taking the money and running wouldn’t be all bad in every situation. If they’re going to be giving out money hand over fist, the least we can do is try to direct it to something better than the “transgender coalition for world peace and intolerance” or whatever. We should try to get Caesar to tighten the purse strings and do what we can to tighten them for him (all within the bounds of constitutional order), but if he’s willing to spend our money on anything and everything why not at least get him to fork over one all expenses paid trip to preach the gospel in Rome? Wasn’t Paul being wise as a serpent to appeal his case to the top even as he was innocent as a dove?
There are plenty of slippery slopes to slide down into hell upon. My alma mater is going there at the beck and call of federal student loan approval status. Yet I still think that there is a way to do some good by trying to empty the coffers by feeding orphans so less money is available to subsidize abortions that would rather kill them.
Hold to the funds loosely. They might not be there for you tomorrow. Don’t take anything that comes with strings attached at the outset. Of course any government money has strings attached, but even our Churches’ tax exempt status gets threatened every election cycle. I don’t think that means we should give it up before they take it away. It just means that we should be ready for them to take it away without being gobsmacked on our part.
Our primary goal ought to be to get the government back within its God appointed sphere, but underneath that I think we have the opportunity to try to get some of our tax dollars back to work.
John, I am still dubious. “Hold to the funds loosely” is far easier to say beforehand than to do when the moment comes. When the moment comes, your CFO wasn’t there when you first made these decisions, and it turns out he has strong opinions on it. And we should keep in mind that there are always strings attached. And we should also remember that they have a far better record subverting our works with their money than we have subverting their works with their money.