Letters That Know How to Merge

Modern Art Responses

RE: Modern Art as Suicide Note “.. . everything except for that damned signature.” Uhm . . . you just said that was His signature. Jesus wept (Eph 4:30). You figure it out from there.

Henry

Henry, the use of “damned” there to refer to God’s signature was the in the voice of those who hate being created in the image of God and are doing everything they can to erase it. That damned was the voice of the damned.

On “Modern Art as Suicide Note”, while I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying here, there’s a few addendums I would add:

Boston’s unveiled MLK statue isn’t so much problematic because it’s a bit abstract. The main problem is it looks good from exactly one angle, and atrocious from all others. from the one angle it looks decent at, it’s not actually abstract anymore than two hands shaking would be considered abstract.

The “how did we get here” in the art industry is also worth mentioning. Originally artists were in pursuit of truth and beauty. And the entire art world had built up stifling rules about what it meant to do so. The impressionists came along, master artists, many of them, and set about systematically proving that good art could be made that broke any particular rule. Unfortunately, what the takeaway ended up being was that there are no rules and art is whatever anyone wants it to be, rather than that the rules should have just been guidelines all along.

Ian

Ian, thanks. A strong amen to your second point.

Emeth and Susan

The Salvation of Susan Pevensie: Back in Aug of 2018, if you can remember, you wrote the following: “The character of Emeth is a striking one, and the problem presented by him a significant one, worthy of a full treatment—so perhaps another time.”

Curious if this is still on the to do list.

Thank you for all the diligent work that has blessed many.

Thank you,

Ian

Ian, yes. I did get to that, and it is now a chapter in my book The Light From Behind the Sun. You can also find it here.

Competition

Sir, I have some questions for you. Here are the questions: Is there anyone in Scripture who attained their position through competition? Examples: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Peter, James, Paul, etc…? Did Jesus teach his disciples to compete amongst themselves, or others? Is competition a biblical ethic? I recall when Joab, and the Captain of the host of Israel, had their troops engage in “sport.” The outcome was not good. That is not the type of competition I am addressing in this letter. Thank you.

Donald

Donald, there is not a whole lot in Scripture about what we call competition. But there is an ethic that affects our approach to it, meaning the first will be last, outdo one another in showing honor, and so forth. I have preached one sermon on it, in a series about envy, ambition, desire, and competition. The outline for that is here.

Dawson and Darla

I very much appreciated the “Dear Dawson” letter series on Mablog, and the book from Canon that came out with all of them collected together. I trust the “Dear Darla” series will get the same treatment? If so, when can we expect that?

Bryan

Bryan, yes. It is in the works, and should be published shortly. I believe it is on the spring list, but what do I know?

The Fascinating Topic of Concupiscence

For what it’s worth, I agree with your distinctions between a sin, and sinful; temptation and actual sin. But, I would say that (using your hypothetical), if the invitation to a porn site, “looks good to him,” then it seems that, since this thought (it looks good) does not arise from righteousness, but from a corrupt nature, confession of some sort of in order—not unlike Paul’s confession, “O’ wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:15-25).

David

David, yes. I believe it is appropriate to confess what we are, and not just what we do. But I think it is crucial to understand the difference.

I’m writing in regard to your recent podcast episode on concupiscence. I have the intent of providing insight (insight that you may already have) by offering my perspective on the push back you’ve received concerning the perceived softness in which you hold homosexuality and Christianity.

For context, I’m familiar with your work, and aside from paedobaptism, I think we agree on much largely because you have taught me much.

I listened to that Q&A at the university awhile ago, and I recalled immediately your answer referring to homosexuals in your church. I remember my knee-jerk reaction being, “Well that’s just wrong!” Before quickly remembering I actually know your thoughts on the matter and that you were likely keeping your direct and very present audience in mind. When referring to homosexuals in your church, you were referring to people who find themselves attracted to same sex people, but give no ground to that attraction since their delight is in Lord and in his Law. However, confusion lies in the term “homosexual Christian” because the common interpretation refers to a Christian labeled person who is engaged in and fully embraces homosexual acts and sentiment. From my perspective, both liberal and conservative Christians interpret it this way, so it seems the meaning you have tried to convey is largely missed. This is what seems to have happened with Jared and with my knee-jerk reaction to your answer to the question.

Do you usually refer to those in your flock with same-sex attraction as homosexual Christians, or did you only use it specifically because of the very secular context? I ask because it seems it’s that phrase that is a source of misunderstanding and confusion. If I may, and if it is a term you use regularly, it might behoove you to keep from using that term when regarding to true God-fearing Christians for the sake of clarity. In my case, I think I knew what you meant, but that may not be the case for others.

I am from Minnesota—a place where offering a suggestion is often a passive aggressive way to offer disrespect. I don’t think you’re this way at all, but I nonetheless feel the need to clarify that I mean no disrespect. Rather, have much respect for you since your work has in summation given me a deeper reverence for God’s Word. I also mean no disrespect when I say Canon Press should hurry up and publish your book on Mere Christendom. I have money, and I’m prepared to draw my wallet like a cowboy at high-noon.

I know you’re a busy man—no response is required or expected. God bless you.

Best regards,

Michael

Michael, what you surmised is exactly right. I don’t refer to members of our church that way, and don’t sort them out by the nature of their temptations. They are simply Christians like the rest of us, and are responsible to resist all invitations to wrongdoing,

Concerning homosexual desires, do you think it is helpful to distinguish the nature of this evil desire from standard heterosexual lust? A person who wants to eat too much cake is dealing with an evil desire that is inordinate and a person who wants to eat dirt is dealing with an evil desire which is contrary to nature. The man tempted to homosexual desires has the unique challenge that the desire is bent and not simply inordinate. This desire is something he must mortify it is not exactly comparable to an inordinate heterosexual desire. You would not want a married man to mortify his desire to have sex with a woman. I recognize that a heterosexual evil desire could also be contrary to nature in a way that is contrary to rather than inordinate.

Joshua

Joshua, yes. I agree with that distinction, and with your illustration.

RE: Concupiscence Is As Concupiscence Does

This dustup reminds me of the Sitler situation in that two things seem to be conflated. One relates to the nature of a particular sin. And the other relates to what we do with sinners who have been saved by grace, are repentant, but are still prone to temptation (i.e. everyone). It is the second point which frustrates me when these controversies crop up and which has prompted my letter.

What does Dr. Moore think we should do with repentant homosexuals? Based on the interview I watched with Jon Harris he seemed aghast at the idea that you would have church members in good standing who are tempted to the sin of homosexuality. Does he think there should be some other category for believers who are tempted to that sin? Or should their status vary based on whether or not they have recently been tempted in that way?

I realize I am asking the wrong person but I wondered if in these various interactions anyone has ever answered that question for you. What would they like you to do with someone who believes in Jesus, is repentant of their sin, but is still tempted to sin? It seems like they have a category for specific sins, like homosexuality and pedophilia, where the person needs to go off an be ‘cured’ before joining with a body of believers as a member in good standing. I do not mean to say that how the church deals with believers in this position is simple or trivial. To the contrary it seems like the kind of thing that would keep pastors up at night. But it does seem obvious to me that the place for repentant sinners is church and that every church is full of members in good standing who are regularly tempted to sin.

P.S. The whole “Wilson is elite and doesn’t engage” schtick is so transparently absurd that I can only conclude it is used as a form of reverse psychology to draw you out.

Regards.

John

John, agreed. I have not heard a serious proposal regarding what pastors are supposed to do with such people. And if it was a reverse psychology trick to draw me out, I can only say it worked. I am recording something this morning with John Harris and Jared Moore. It will air after Harris gets out of cyber-jail.

“He was in the same position that Adam was in when he first sinned.” Doug,

What is your view on the Impeccability of Christ?

grh

grh, I believe that it was impossible for Christ to sin in the same way that it was impossible for His bones to be broken. The Word of God cannot be broken, but that didn’t mean that His bones were made out of titanium.

Re:Concupiscence Is As Concupiscence Does: Perhaps you could sort out your inbox problem by taking the unread emails to the water and deleting the ones that kneel down to drink?

I watched Jon’s interview with Jared Moore when it came out, and noticed that quite a bit of attention focused on the Bloomington event. One potential “hold up” moment for me came when Dr. Moore conflated the upload date of the recording currently on YouTube (2019) with the original date of the talk + Q&A I believe the original Q&A actually took place sometime in 2012? This may seem like a quibble, but I think there’s a big difference, at our culture’s velocity, between 3-4 years and 10-11. Your answer in 2012 predates Revoice and much of the ensuing loaded language entirely, while in 2019 could be interpreted to look like a capitulation to it. Taken in context with the rest of the material you note in your conclusion, it seems to me your choice of words was meant to meet the lady “where she was at” in terms she would even begin to understand. I do not mean “compromise on the principle”—given her response, if you were trying to compromise, you failed spectacularly.

That said though, if you were presented with the same question today, in a post-Revoice, post-“soft-pedaling” (as Dr. Moore would say) context, do you think you would you phrase your answer differently? Not that most institutions now would afford the opportunity.

Wesley

Wesley, yes. I think you have reconstructed things very ably. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Bloomington, and I believe that I would be out of my mind to not take that into account if I were answering the same question today.

Recon Gospel?

In response to “The Great Gospel-Centered Crack-Up” you seemed to be confused as to what the Gospel actually is. The Gospel is “Good News.” In ancient times there would be a herald who would return from the battlefield and report the good news, (Gospel) of victory. This reminds me of an article I read many years ago in which the author described how “Time Magazine” depicted on its cover the rejoicing in the streets of New York City at the announcement of the victory over Germany in WWII. Now let us think about this for a moment. Many of these folks who were rejoicing in the streets of New York on that day, more than likely had many other things on their mind before this announcement. There may have been the mom who was thinking about what all she had to accomplish before the day’s end. A businessman who was concerned about the big meeting which was to take place at the office. There may have been those who had loved ones in the hospital who may have had a terminal illness. There may have been a parent concerned about a troubled teen. However, when this news (Gospel) is reported, all these other troubles, no matter how serious they may be, come into perspective, and pale in comparison. In other words, the mom who was so concerned about what would be for dinner that night, now could not care any less about what she would prepare. What would happen in the business meeting is not so big anymore. The ones concerned about a loved one with a terminal illness, along with the parent with a troubled teen still rejoice because they understand that we all may be better off dead if the war was lost and at least now the parents have the opportunity to continue to work with the teen. The point is this good news changed everything.

All of the problems listed above remind me of your list of, “politics, job, family hassles, state of the lawn, the office politics at work, and so on.” Jesus told His apostles, “all authority has been given to Me in heaven, and on earth” (past tense). This means, it is a done deal. Christ is not waiting on us to do something in order to make this happen. Therefore, no matter who is running our government, Christ is still in control. With this being the case, the main thing should be the Gospel, and allowing the Gospel to do its work. The Gospel changes lives and changed lives changes culture. It seems to me we have many Christians who are more concerned about the culture we live in, as opposed to having a genuine concern for our lost neighbors. We seem to want to change the culture in order to preserve what we would prefer, as opposed to being truly concerned for our neighbor’s eternity. It is like we really do not care about the eternal fate of our neighbor as long as the culture is operating in a Christian way. Therefore, instead of keeping the “Good News” the main thing, we resort to preaching things such as Christian nationalism, as if preaching law has more power over the lives of folks than “Good News.” When we come to the conclusion there are things in the far reaches of the circle of our lives which is beyond the Gospel, it is as if we believe we as Christians have somehow graduated from the Gospel, and we begin to preach things such as Federal Vision, which again is simply exchanging the Gospel for law.

As a matter of fact, let us look at what the Church has been busy doing over the last number of decades. It began with what was called “Christian reconstruction.” Christian reconstruction is certainly law based, and it was supposed to fix our cultural problems. This morphed into things such as the “moral majority” which again was law based, and it also promised to correct the problem. Because the Church was so fixed on correcting the culture through law we had to insert what was called “Federal Vision” which was an attempt to add works into salvation. When all of this failed it was my hope the Church would be through with the “culture wars” and come to its senses, but this does not seem to be the case in the least. Rather, we now have embraced, and are preaching what is called, Christian nationalism.

So then, it is not as though the Church has not been busy. Rather, the Church has been extremely busy attempting to win the culture wars. It should be abundantly clear to all involved that the Church has indeed lost the culture wars as the culture continues to become ever more immoral. What is even more sad, and evident is the fact the Church is losing the war inside the Church as our Churches are emptying out, and yet the Church continues to double down on the culture war.

Christian reconstruction, the moral majority, federal vision, nor Christian nationalism is the answer to our problem. In other words, law is not going to fix the situation we are in. There is nothing in the far reaches of the circle which is not covered by the Gospel. Christ, and Him raised from the dead is the answer, and if we do not believe this to be the case, we will continue to preach law, and we will continue to lose.

Jack

Jack, thanks for sharing your thoughts. But it strikes me as though you have just come into the last ten minutes of a three-hour conversation, and have decided to offer a summary that sets everybody straight.

Sexual Decisions

Thank you for all your faithful words and work through sermons, books and talks. What do you think when a husband says that setting aside a regular weekly times of intimacy is a wife wanting to control his life. This wife understands the beauty of marriage, roles, and sacrificial giving. She sees liturgy as a blessing and beautiful, not a military endeavor.

RA

RA, what you are describing is certainly a lawful thing to do, but not a required thing to do. That being the case, like all such sexual matters with a married couple, it should be settled by mutual agreement. If the other person doesn’t like the idea, I think it should be (graciously) dropped.

Resurrection of the Lost

Since we know that those in Christ spend eternity in physical bodies in this New Heavens and New Earth, what do you believe to be the state of the damned for all eternity? Is Hell or the Lake of Fire or whatever the permanent place going to be a physical place? Will the reprobate still have the same bodies that we have now? Thanks,

LM

LM, I believe they will have bodies, but not these same bodies. There is both continuity and discontinuity. There are several places where Scripture teaches a resurrection of the lost. “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). I believe that eternal torment is real, but believe the lake of fire is likely symbolic. But we must remember the nature of symbols. If the lake of fire is literal, it is really bad. If it is symbolic, then the reality is worse—because symbols are always less than what they symbolize.

A Thomism Question

I have followed your blog for several years and read some of your books; really appreciate your cultural commentary. I read your blog post “11 Reasons Why We Should Not Consider Thomism to be the Theological Equivalent of the Butterfly’s Boots” back when it was first published, not knowing much about Thomism. Now I’m in a grad level class at a classical Protestant seminary that’s entirely about Thomism. Do you have reading recommendations (your work or the work of others) that would provide what you would consider a more balanced approach to the topic? A good presentation of classical theism? Thanks so much!

Steve

Steve, I would start with Jeffrey Johnson’s two books, Saving Natural Theology from Thomas Aquinas, and The Failure of Natural Theology.

An R2K Question

Hello Doug, I have appreciated your ministry for a few years now and want to know some advice on how to handle doctrinal disagreement, or doctrinal silence, within a church setting. My session leans more R2K and because of this does not teach in a church setting on some pressing cultural/social issues. Do I leave this situation be and pursue my studies privately from another church format (historical or geographical), or encourage my session to teach us on these vital topics? My heart is reform, my fear is division. May Christ continue to bless your ministry. God bless

Christopher

Christopher, it all depends on how deep and durable your relationship with the session is. If they lean R2K, something may be done. If they are settled R2K, then I would save your breath for walking uphill.

Looks Pretty Bad

I got this from ACSI because I still have a certification with them. Are they going woke? Even if they don’t take the wrong side, having secular culture set the agenda of what we dialogue about is odd . . . as is saying you want to hear various sides but declaring there is still a long way to go as undeniable.

Luke

Luke, that looks really bad. To set up any kind of diversity venture in this climate is either malevolent or clueless.

Jury Duty

This is less a comment on one of your posts, and more a request for direction/recommendations.

I maybe called for jury duty next month, and on the off chance that I am called and that I somehow slip past the selection process, I would like to be a well-prepared citizen. I know you covered the principle of jury nullification in your post, The Rights of Juries. What other principles are important to keep in the forefront of my mind? Are there any accessible resources that I may benefit from? Please keep in mind that I am a busy mom; simple is better than heavy, concise is better than exhaustive, and audio options are much appreciated. Thank you so much in advance!

P.S. On the subject of jury selection, would it be a righteous form of deception if I was to low-key play dumb or just give the expected answers (rather than my full opinions) without telling any un-truths?

Kayla

Kayla, no problem with truthful, low-key answers. Apart from the basic issue of jury nullification, I would recommend A Justice Primer.

A New One

I have a question concerning the Lord’s Supper and children. More specifically the use of wine and children. I’ve long held the position that profession must precede admittance to the Table. However, my position has changed somewhat. I’ve unknowingly believed that it must be a mature faith required. I’m now of the position that recognizes immature faith as still being faith. With this change, my two older daughters (4, 7) started participating in the Lord’s Supper a year ago. We are helping serve in church revitalization and planting efforts in Sofia, Bulgaria. We are currently worshiping and serving at one of the oldest Protestant churches in Bulgaria. They serve only wine for communion. My daughters tried the wine one time hated the taste and now refuse to drink it. They still take the bread. I’m not sure what to do about this. No amount of explanation has helped them to look past the taste. What advice would you give in this situation? Grace and Peace,

Jacob

Jacob, what I would do is explain to them that it is not optional. If they are going to participate at all (and they need to), then they must take both elements. What you can do is compromise, and allow them to take just a very little bit, and not the whole cup. But they need to partake.

A Sex Offender Question

I have some personal questions after listening to “All my friends are heretics” podcast.

My Pastor has shown great grace to me and my wife concerning a former heinous sinful situation that I was involved in and did prison time and had also experienced true repentance, but now I struggle with how my past may cause others to stumble as I have been permitted to be involved in non-authority positions within the church; i.e. morning Scripture reading, member of the missions committee and worship committee, also involved with the after service prayer team.

I recently found out that one couple has left our church , and I know of several others that have left our small community group due to them finding out about my past. From your point of view should I step down from these positions, especially if some peoples responses are similar to what Stephen ( the young man) in your podcast story experienced.

I do not want to hinder in any way what God wants to do through our church and his people, which I count myself one of.

My pastor and our session have been overly gracious to me and my wife as we continue to seek full restoration in our family and reconciliation. Yet some have left after learning that a (leper) a healed leper (sex offender) participates in some public functions of the church .

I hope and pray I might hear back from you, the interview with Darren Doane was very insightful and confirmed some of my concerns.

Gratefully yours in Christ ,

Edward

Edward, I would not stop serving the church in things like committee service. But I think it would be wise if you stepped away from any up-front functions in the worship service (which people tend to confound with leadership positions).

Let Your Yes Be Yes

This question is not related to a particular post in the past, but rather, it’s a kind of pastoral question that is almost ten years in the making.

I realize that there will most likely be outstanding questions and concerns that a pastor would have, especially because you don’t have a working knowledge of our relationship but I would be profoundly grateful for any insight and wisdom you could give with the details I give here. I don’t want to seem dramatic, but this has been such a pressing and difficult question for me, that there are few if any men I would trust as much with the subject.

Here is the long and short of it. From the time my wife and I met—I have expressed to her in just about every way imaginable, the deep and abiding desire I have to join the military. I truly believe it is a PART of what the Lord has called me to. Especially as it pertains to leadership in the home, fatherhood, etc. That said, it has been the only point of “contention” within our relationship and marriage. The main issue was time away from the family—which I agreed was a completely legitimate and serious issue that needed to be addressed. We had the great pleasure to meet dozens and dozens of military contacts from nearly every branch—including those within the special operations community (which is what I wanted to pursue early on).

The advice I was given was to avoid active duty and pursue a career in law enforcement instead. I took that path—but the conversations about the reserves have remained. In particular, I found what seemed to me to be a perfect compromise. I could pursue a commission as an infantry officer through the Marine Corps Reserves while finishing my degree (which they would ultimately pay for). The main rub is this. I am thirty-one and with a family of three. 6,4, and 9 months. I would be slated for OCS in 2025 which is ten weeks without my family. After that, the following ten months would INCLUDE my family—but we would be across the country in Quantico away from her family and support. And that could include child number 4 if the Lord wills.

Here is where it gets messy due to my sin. I should have been strong enough to lead us into this when I was 25 there is no doubt. That said, I also was unaware that this was even an option at the time. I had researched virtually every other possible option, and I have worn out the conversation to the point of agony for both sides. On top of it, and this is a part of where the pastoral side comes in—in my frustration a few years ago I made promises to her and the Lord that I would leave this whole conversation behind us, not to be brought up again. Oddly enough, just previous to this happening I had also promised the Lord that I was done making promises to Him . . . yikes. I have of course repented of that type of foolishness, but now that I have this option in front of me, it makes me wonder what the most righteous path forward would be. It feels so foolish to say “well technically I made promises that I wouldn’t make any promises so now it’s time to join the military!” And on the other hand, it also feels embarrassing and shameful that both myself and my descendants will miss out on some of the best leadership and war-fighting training that the DOD can offer due to my lack of wisdom.

But perhaps that is exactly what the Lord is trying to teach here. Perhaps this is just to highlight the foolishness of making brash promises? If there is any Biblical wisdom or pastoral advice you could offer, again, I would be grateful.

Anonymous

Anonymous, sorry if this answer seems short and abrupt. I think you should keep your promise to your wife, and not bring it up again. If this is God’s will for you, then she can release you from that promise if God puts it on her heart to do so. She is the only one with the right to bring it up again. You must not put anything on her heart.

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