Re: Make Definitions Great Again Dear Doug,
Grateful for defining terms ahead of a season of no quarter, which I hope and trust shall yield many righteous and witty fruits/posts.
I want to take a few terms as you defined and challenge your smashmouth incrementalist position. I write as an abolitionist: Defined as an advocate for the legal cessation of the blood sacrifice of the left by means of equal protection for the unborn through the application of existing murder laws and due process applied to the unborn as to the born.
If (since) we are still under the law of God today, as per general equity theonomy, and
If (since) secularism is “the belief that human society can be organized without any legal recognition of the reality of the transcendent and living God. An absurdity that has now been revealed as such.” And
If (since) all laws will inevitably reflect the god of the system governing a particular society; and
If (since) Christians should want a society with holy laws that reflect God’s character and NOT humanistic laws that are unholy and change all the time, then what gives with the smashmouth incrementalism still?
I know you are a good and proper general equity theonomist, as well you should be. Mind you, your public ministry is the reason I AM a general equity theonomist (hedging my way through seminary, presently, on route to ordination in the PCA—Lord help me). Your theology flows from your finger tips as a mighty river in almost every direction you write into and then seems to trickle as if jammed by a conservative beaver dam when it comes to the fight against abortion.
I am not denying you and other prominent Christ church elders do not hold the right theology or position in principle. Indeed, I know you have the right stance in principle. You hate abortion as you ought. You know it is murder of image bearers in the womb. I know you abhor the demons propping the industry up as you ought. I know you desire the foul practice to end for the evil that it is and for the blood guilt it brings upon the country. I know you probably love the women and defendants-of-women who sacrifice their children and likely pray for them more than I do. You outdo me in gray-haired glory in ways only God knows. Such has been the faithfulness of your life ministry to date.
But when it comes to the legal means of outlawing abortion, it seems as if you don’t approach it as consistently wholesale as you do say, sexual immorality (same sex mirage, in particular). Approximating the biblical ideal is thrown out as a waste of time when critiquing Jordan Peterson’s interview of Dave Rubin. Yea and amen. But a heartbeat bill—one that approximates justice ideals—passes in my state of Texas a few months back (and other incrementalist bills like it elsewhere) in opposition to a bill that criminalizes the blood sacrifice outright and that’s okay?
Are not the incrementalist bills approximating justice just as Dave Rubin and other monogamous same sex mirages are attempting to approximate God’s marriage standard? Are not incrementalist bills iniquitous and partial against the babies that aren’t specifically outlined in the law’s application and therefore abominations in God’s sight? (Isaiah 10:1-2; Romans 2:11). That’s why we would need to always vocalize the desire to come back for the rest, in your view, correct? Because they are not accounted for in the series of incremental bills that are supposedly satisfactory in a practical or pragmatic sense?
I write this challenge because I love your ministry. It’s a wise and steadfast ministry and many are richly blessed by it, as I have been. And I hope and pray that our Lord allows it to surely continue.
I believe your brand of smashmouth incrementalism is a small crack in a faithfully armored ministry, that leaves the door open for all of the (not-so-smashmouth) secular conservative (functionally secular, if they are Christian) incrementalists to use your rhetoric to hold on to their own cowardice and pseudo-compassion for women in withholding punishment for them killing their children, not to mention the exceptions for rape, incest, and life/health of mother.
Due process of the law allows for the adjudication of all those details. And you only need one righteous, holy, bill to do that—to recognize abortion as murder and then apply enforcement for protecting the unborn as to the already born humans. When “saving as many babies as we can” is the pragmatic goal, the conservative states passing the increments are content to continue not saving them all. I don’t like the idea of the church giving them a pat on the back to keep going. And it smells a lot like the secular definition you gave being functionally the case even in smashmouth incrementalism, accommodating satisfaction with passing bills that do not glorify God’s justice for the sake of supposedly the best we can do at this time.
There are many faithful abolitionists who support you, and you personally know at least my favorites already. If you were once baptist as Jeff Durbin is, but God brought you into steeper covenantal waters once upon a time (applying covenant theology you were growing in more fittingly to children of believers), my hope is you aren’t too far off of steeper theonomist waters (in applying it more fittingly to abortion).
To sum, I question whether consistent application of God’s law to the state leaves room for advocating smashmouth incrementalism over against abolition as at least defined above. The idea that no other bills apart from criminalizing outright, though, comes from an impulse to not approve of laws that would be abominations in God’s sight because He hates partiality and is Himself impartial. A righteous, holy, increment may be criminalizing outright in one state while pursuing the same in other states yet to do so. That means full, impartial justice, one state at a time. In THAT case the goal is met at equal protection for the unborn in one locale and that same standard is what is being sought in the next state and the next unto the whole country is discipled in the law of the Lord—federally as well as at the state level. That is categorically different than what would be an unrighteous increment of showing less and less partiality until one day it’s all clear to get the rest of the babies saved.
I want to stress some more how grateful I am for the Moscow efforts in faithfully applying all of Christ to all of life. I write, hopefully, in the spirit of Elihu here. If any vestiges of Balaam’s ass, or Balaam himself, remain in sections of this piece, please forgive me. I would appreciate your feedback, and I think your repentance also, but let God be praised if He sees fit to grant either.
Grace and peace to you elder brother,
Nathan, your spirit of grace is great and really evident, and quite distinct from that of other abolitionists I have encountered. May your breed become more and more representative of your movement. But with that said, let’s move on to our differences. Why are you seeking ordination in the PCA? For the sake of incremental reform? And wasn’t your strategy of moving state to state made much more feasible by the incrementalist victory that was Dobbs? And why is geographical incrementalism not compromise also? Shouldn’t your goal be to outlaw abortion completely in your state, and then to move on to secession? So that you are not yoked to the outrage that is going on in the other states? I will sum it up this way. I don’t think that any of this is compromise because if I were governor of a state and an abolitionist bill came to my desk, I would absolutely sign it. But I would also sign a heartbeat bill—provided it were the only bill on my desk.
I’m so sorry to bother you but I have a question I can’t get anyone to answer or respond to. John 3:16 says for God so loved the WORLD. The Greek word for world is ‘Kosmos.’ Does it mean a collection of worlds (the universe) or the collection of inhabitants (people on this world)? I know the answer doesn’t change my reliance on my need for my savior for salvation but I’m just looking for a professional and theologian’s perspective.
Chris, hope this answer doesn’t disappoint, but kosmos has about nine different definitions, with the differences being determined by context. The world meaning unbelievers—do not be surprised if the world hates you. The world meaning earth—Jesus departing from the world. The world meaning a system of ungodliness—do not love the world or the things in the world, the lust of the eyes, etc. The world meaning Gentiles as opposed to Jews—if their unbelief was life for the world . . . In John 3:16, it means all of humanity, redemptively considered.
Where a Wife Should Go
I am soon to be engaged to a wonderful man from Canada. I am from the U.S. though. As he is a pastor there, while we are both young and capable of moving into either country, I am thinking we will live in Canada because he is the man and the woman usually follows where her husband would want to be (I believe). This being the case, I also find it very hard to leave a very close-knit congregation I’ve grown up in my entire life to be in a new small congregation I have never met. While I love him dearly, I cannot help but already become homesick at the prospect of moving so far away. Please send your thoughts and prayers on this. Maybe it’s just jitters from the idea of marriage in general, but I have a hunch that life will be really different around a bunch of people I do not know. I’ll dearly miss my “aunts” and “uncles” so to speak and friends who have helped raise me. Thanks, and blessings to you.
E, if you love him dearly, and if you respect him as a man of God, and he wants to marry you, then where God has called him to live He has also called you. And if you are called there, He will bless you there.
Was Cromwell a Baddie?
Your assessment of Halloween is fine, and I think I can agree with it, Cromwell, in my eyes, is not. As a historian, it seems hard for me to think of him as one of the good guys, given what he did in Ireland, as is attested to by Winston Churchill in his history of the English-speaking peoples. Both Cromwell and Charles II persecuted those who did not agree with them, while Cromwell was the better man in terms of character, it is hard to say that Cromwell’s times were better. The immorality in the time of the “Merry King” was partly an overreaction to Cromwell’s rule, and if my Dad was beheaded by a Puritan court, I would probably think rather unkindly about them too. Cromwell may well be in Heaven, and he can be respected as far as his family life goes, but I would rather not portray him as a good Christian statesman with a few flaws.
Forgiveness and Consequences
“He is forgiven, but consequences still apply.” “I would want to distinguish forgiving a debt and forgiving a man.”
Some months ago, you replied to a letter that asked about forgiveness and consequences and those who make it their mission to ensure the full measure of consequences are experienced by the offender. I believe you called them “The Holy Spirit’s personal assistants” or something like that.
I’m having a hard time reconciling that thought with the subject matter of the quotes above. Particularly when I apply the principle that the worst possible thing a person can do to/against me pales in comparison to the least possible thing I’ve done to/against Christ, and then I remember the eternal and temporal consequences that Christ has spared me from, and finally I think about The Golden Rule.
Also, I think it’s reasonable to have a reasonable expectation of forgiveness, but of course it is nonsense to think I’m entitled to it. The divide between expectation and entitlement seems to be a hard thing to navigate.
grh, this post has generated a lot of questions. I really need to do a detailed post on this topic, working through possible details and scenarios.
I have been blessed by your ministry and deeply thank you for your sermon series on 1 & 2 Samuel which lead to mine and my wife’s return to my faith after a 4-year absence.
I’ve recently embraced postmillennialism and like any new theology, there are some puzzle pieces that still need to be placed. Postmills often use OT texts to prove that the nations will eventually come to the Lord. These nations are ruled by the Lord and the families of these nations will worship before Him, remember Him, and turn to Him (Psalm 22:27-29; 86:9). This rule will be from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth (Psalm 72:7; Zechariah 9:9-10). All the kings of the earth will also bow down before Him and all the nations will serve Him (Psalm 72:11). In the last days, the Mountain of the Lord will be established as the chief of mountains, which will result in all the nations will stream to it, they will come to have God judge between the nations and there will no longer learn war nor lift up their swords against each other (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-9; Micah 4:1-4). One of the challenges that I’m having is proving that the fulfillment of these texts will happen in history. What are your arguments that these texts will be realized in history and not post-return of Christ?
RKM, after the return of Christ certain things will be utterly absent, like death. But in the coming golden age, the man who dies when he is 100 will be considered to be cursed.
Encouraging a Husband
Not responding to a particular post, but wanted to get your thoughts on how best to encourage my husband after he’s suffered a significant setback in his career. He has had a rough several years in the career department and has been very discouraged. A few months ago he had a tremendous opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream of owning his own farmland. However, he just learned that his application was denied and denied in such a way that it is doubtful he will be able to reapply in the future without significant changes in our financial situation. His attempts to “get ahead” have all been met with closed doors and he’s seriously discouraged and depressed. I want to encourage and support him through this, but don’t know how. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.
Jessica, make a list of all the things you respect about him, about his abilities, and his achievements. If he will sit down with you, read through the list with him, filling in details as you go. If you think he wouldn’t go for that, put it all in a letter and put it on his pillow. He will go for that.
Actually on My Bucket List
Your definitions post is a healthy start on a project that I thought needs to be updated: The Devil’s Dictionary. Unfortunately, I am not clever enough nor have the printing capabilities at my home to bring this idea to life. I would like to submit your name into the ring to update this classic. Free of charge, no royalties needed over here for the suggestion. God bless,
Andrew, I know. I have looked at just such a prospect yearningly before.
So I just finished listening to “Christian Nationalism” on Canon+ and I’m excited and overwhelmed and praising God. This morning I’m reading Acts 17:16 and it jumped out at me:
(NKJV) Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
If our job as Christians is just to “get people saved”, why would Paul care about that? He is concerned that a pagan city is filled with idols!!! He wants to see the CITY saved, no?
Maybe I’m reading more into it than is there…. ?
Laurel, no, I don’t think you are reading things into this at all.
I’ve been married for 10 years now, but I had to walk through this with my girlfriend/fiancee back then, and there was something you said that is burning in my head. I’ve struggled with porn for a long time and I’m finally seeing some victory after committing to a program for the last year or more and stepping up accountability relationships and a bunch of other helpful steps. I’m not out of the woods yet, but when you talked about the 95% vs the 5%, I trembled. Let’s just assume, based on my own history, that I am in the 5%: what do you recommend? I know Christ has hope and power for me, and I want all of it. Where should I be going, what should I be doing, to overcome the laziness, competitiveness, or contempt for women (or something else entirely) that is leaving me continually vulnerable to this sin?
Ben, first, it sounds like you are in the 95%. Second, if you were in the 5%, you should be doing exactly what you are doing now, but also being on the lookout for new areas of mortification—areas that you might have thought were unrelated.
Pastor Wilson, wanted to express gratitude to you for the way the Gospel has changed my life as you’ve preached it.
Fidelity, Federal Husband, Standing on the Promises, Ride Sally Ride, your rendering of and commentary on Beowulf, and a dozen other works of yours I’ve read the last few months have all had a profound effect on me and my marriage. Your podcasts, interviews and debates are cogent witnesses to how the Word applies to real life. I’m grateful for my Canon+ content every day.
I’ve got a beautiful 2-year-old daughter and a 2-month-old son. It struck me recently that English nursery rhymes, so often used by moderns centuries after being created, carried hidden political and cultural meaning in their day. They were a pedagogy to instill a satirical perspective on corruption in the world that surrounds us.
It seems natural in the process of training my children up in the paedeia of the Lord to teach them a healthy ridicule of the ridiculous, in part through rhymes and pointed children’s stories. With God’s grace and good home instruction, I hope to raise not just moral finger-waggers, but joyful nose-thumbers who belly-laugh while doing it.
The popularity of Matt Walsh’s book Johnny the Walrus seems in part due to this parental need. Can you think of any other resources I could employ?
Neil, you are exactly right. But I don’t really have any recommendations, beyond what we are trying to build out at Canonball for kids.
Christian Nationalism is Still All the Rage
In your response which you have entitled, “Christian Nationalism Is Clearly All the Rage” you continue to seem to avoid the questions which matter. It is not enough to simply tell us, “Christian nationalism everywhere” when we do not know what all Christian nationalism would entail as far as you are concerned. Therefore, you need to answer the questions as to whether, Christian nationalism for you would involve infusing, and or enforcing, the general equity of the Mosaic law along with its penal code, and go on to explain to us if this is your aim? The reason it is extremely important for you to answer these questions are, if you continue to say, “Christian nationalism is simply a desire to see all people from all nations to come to faith in Christ” then you will have many Christians who climb aboard who will be getting more than they bargain for in the end. A very good example is when you say,
“Well, if Christian critics of Christian nationalism would themselves prefer to live there, then it wouldn’t be a hellhole, right?”
Well now, that would depend on which Christian nationalism you are selling, correct? If Christian nationalism for you is simply the desire to see all people come to faith in Christ, then I am on board and would certainly rather live in such a society. However, if the Christian nationalism you are selling would involve Christians taking control of the civil realm, infusing, and or enforcing the Mosaic law into our civil law here in the U.S. then I am certainly not on board and am convinced such a society would indeed be a “hellhole.” The thing is though, there really is no need for you and me to continue to debate whether Christian nationalism is commanded because I cannot imagine we will come to an agreement. Rather, the important thing here is for you to clearly clarify exactly what you mean when you say Christian nationalism so that your readers know exactly what they are getting into.
As far as your interpretation of 1 Corinthians chapter 6, in both chapters 5, and 6 Paul is dealing with judgement being administered inside the Church, and neither have anything whatsoever to do with judging those outside the Church here and now. In fact, Paul tells the Corinthians “If the world will be judged by you”. Notice, Paul is pointing to sometime in the future and he is including the Corinthians. So then, it is clear that Paul is in no way commanding the Corinthians to begin to judge those outside the Church here, and now. Moreover, it is sort of strange how you do not move on to the very next verse which actually says, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” Again, this would include the Corinthians and you, and I both know for a fact Paul is not talking about judging angels in the here and now. The funny thing here is, Paul does not suggest the Corinthians go out an attempt to take over the civil realm in order to rule over both realms. Rather, the whole point is, the Corinthians should be judging the matters inside their own Church not taking the matters outside to unbelievers. The thing is, we have Paul in chapter 5 clearly telling us we have no business judging those outside, and in chapter 6 you have Paul telling us that is exactly what we need to be doing, and it is abundantly clear that Paul is in no way commanding the Corinthians to begin to judge those outside in the here, and now. But again, I do not believe it is going to be profitable for you and me to debate the issues because I highly doubt, we will come to any sort of agreement. The main thing here is for you to clearly define exactly what you mean by Christian nationalism in order for there to be no confusion.
Jack, let’s deal with Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians first. Of course he wasn’t telling them to take over the Roman Empire in the “here and now” two thousand years ago. That was going to take 300 years from their time, and 1700 years ago from ours. Judging the nations and judging the angels is all part of world evangelization—wrestling against principalities and powers is included. What I mean by Christian nationalism (as we come to definitions) is something like what we had in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century, only with central heating and antibiotics.
Christ or Chaos
“So, as I never tire of saying, it is Christ or chaos. How are you liking your chaos so far?” Unfortunately many, even among professing Christians, prefer their chaos to Christ. Their loss.
Guymon, that is sadly the case.
“So, as I never tire of saying, it is Christ or chaos. How are you liking your chaos so far?” I feel like I was peacefully enjoying the view from this nice hill, and suddenly there’s a whole bunch of prophets of Baal who decided to gather uncomfortably close to me, and that Elijah guy is standing right over there…
Ian, it is a real problem when that happens.
As Halloween has become increasingly merged with Thanksgiving and Christmas into the “holiday season,” many Christians lament the crass commercialization and cheapening of Christmas. It’s bad enough that the world has stripped Christmas of its meaning, turning it into little more than a celebration of family, friends, and fun. Even worse, our sacred holy day is now being linked up with a “holiday” marked by gruesome celebrations of death and evil.
While not wanting to discount the seriousness of the Christmas downgrade, I can’t help but wonder something as I walk around seeing Halloween decorations and celebrations of the same sort that have traditionally been associated with Christmas. Although there is nothing inherently “Christmassy” about inflatable yard decorations or stringing lights on a tree, it seems to me that people are increasingly celebrating Halloween the same way they celebrate Christmas. Certainly, there are many negative reasons why they might do this (i.e., the downgrade of Christmas), but I wonder if it stems at least in part from a subconscious realization that Christmas is the “better” holiday? Although they do not celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, there is no escaping the fact that Christmas is anchored to something of deep spiritual significance in a way that Halloween is not. So, in an attempt to “improve” Halloween, they find themselves making it more like [their celebration of] Christmas.
Steve, worth thinking about.
Engagement, Betrothal, and Marriage
Serious question regarding, “Wedding As Adornment.” If Joseph and Mary’s marriage was not consummated prior to Mary being with child by the Holy Spirit, why does the Bible say that Joseph sought to “divorce” her quietly, rather than getting an annulment?
Steve, because that is how Jewish marriage customs functioned at that time. In other words, a betrothal was legally binding, and had to be unwound legally in order to be ended. In our system, you just give the ring back. But a betrothal divorce and a marriage divorce would not be in the same category.
What is your opinion on a Virtue Ethics ethical system? Do you think virtue ethics is easily compatible with theonomy or does it pose possible problems and challenges?
Christian, there are a lot of good things that can be said in such a system, but I am concerned that the foundation is fundamentally pagan. I much prefer to emphasize the grace of God and the fruit of the Spirit—even though a Venn diagram would result in some overlap.
A Regulative Principle Question
In your recent blog post on Halloween, you mention that Puritans had “‘regulative principle’” concerns about celebrating Christmas. The way you put those words in quotes makes me wonder: Do you hold to the regulative principle of worship? If not, I would be curious to know why. If you do, I would be curious to know why you don’t think the regulative principle applies to the liturgical calendar.
Kevin, yes, I do hold to the regulative principle. I believe that all Protestants should hold to it somehow or some way. The version I hold to is that articulated by Hughes Oliphant Old when he said, “worship must be according to Scripture.” What I call the tight regulative principle says that whatever is not expressly commanded is forbidden. I believe that the usual hermeneutic that is applied to that word expressly will result at the end of the day in an odd sect of seventh day baptists. I don’t think the regulative principle of worship would apply to the calendar year, except insofar as it dictating the convening of worship services. At Christ Church, the only intrusion of the church year outside our normal Sunday services would be our Christmas Eve service and our Good Friday service.
Plodding thru Ploductivity, and just. . . thank you!
The Lord has used the work of your ministry to sanctify much of the perfectionism of my younger years. I can now read a paragraph and half in a spare moment with joy, instead of feeling bad that I can’t sit and read a whole chapter in one sitting for one reason or another (at least one of them clings to my leg). To some that may sound silly, but I used to be very silly.
Lindsay, thanks. Liberation from perfectionism really is true liberation.
A Practical Political Question
Random question: what are your thoughts on Ammon Bundy running for governor? I know you’ve mentioned him in passing a couple times as an example of someone who’s more a co-belligerent than an ally. On the other hand, his position on masks, lockdowns, etc is far more reasonable than the current governor’s actions were. And there are also considerations such as the danger of splitting the conservative vote and thus handing the win to a Democrat.
John, the perennial danger of third party efforts is just what you describe—that of taking the election away from a Republican squish and handing it to a hard leftist. That said, if Bundy were to be elected, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
Sports and Such
I have recently been challenged to think about sports. Specifically I am questioning what they are for, and who they are for. I have listened to videos and read posts you have produced and agree wholeheartedly about combat sports (e.g. boxing, MMA) and sports where combat is incidental and necessary to the goal (e.g. football).
My question is more related to sports with less incidental physicality like basketball, soccer, or volleyball. Should Christians view these sports as war games as well and seriously consider whether young ladies should engage? Or, is the goal of these sports (putting balls in a hoop, goal, or over a net) such that we should see them as games that can be played in distinctly masculine or feminine ways? Physical contact is inevitable in these games as well, but they seem like sports with distinctly different goals than combat sports and even football, which essentially requires heavy combat.
Thank you for reading.
Nick, I think that sports like that can be played in distinctively feminine ways, and should be. The problem is when your girls have to play another girls team that doesn’t believe that at all.
RUF Going Woke
Thanks for your responses throughout the whole RUF debacle. I am a sophomore and RUF is, in fact, “yellow cake” woke, as you so cleverly put it. After an incident involving me preaching the gospel straight, no chaser, at a friend’s house to one of her unbelieving roommates (which resulted in a great many tears, “how-dare-you’s,” and my swiftly being run out of the house by screaming college girls) I figured it was time to cut my losses and move on. After speaking with my pastor, parents, and a few other mentors (one of whom was unceremoniously kicked out of a campus ministry after a similar event), I decided to slip out of the group chats and simply stop going to RUF. Well, here I am now. My little Reformed Baptist church doesn’t have any college ministries or anything, seeing as we have about a grand total of 15 members including myself, and I don’t have any other social outlets really now that RUF is in the rearview mirror. You mentioned starting a Bible study or something tot. What are some practical ways I could get something like that up and running? How would I get people to show up? This likely takes time and prayer, and I’ve got a good bit of college left so I’m happy to be patient about these things, but I’m not sure where to get started. Any simple and practical advice about getting some kind of group up and running would be much appreciated.
Thanks again for your grandfatherly wisdom,
Caedmon, starting praying for one like-minded friend. You can have a Bible study with two people. Schedule a fixed time for it, and hold that study, rain or shine. Invite people to it. Take turns leading it. Pray for more folks to come.