Saturday, July 22, 2017

Repost: Why worry about things that don't matter?

I think it is about time to repost this. In response to the very real tendency to overly associate evangelical Christianity with the Republican party, it is the easy overreaction to withdraw from politics entirely. This is fairly consistent with Anabaptist thinking so I am especially susceptible to it.

I am seeing a lot of people buying into the Leftist version of the Religious Right on some issues, especially "immigration" and doing so in pretty true-to-form ways, reducing a complex argument to two sides, either the Leftist side (on the right side of history, etc.) or being a racist / sexist / homophobic / transphobic / Islamophobic etc. ogre. Let's be clear. There is not a "Christian" position on immigration. I can, have and will made the case for reasonably tight immigration controls and do so with a Christian worldview and written with a regenerate heart. Others have argued the opposite and in the same spirit. The same is true on issue like taxation and education.

Most issues are not like opposing abortion or homosexual "marriage" where there really is no Scripturally defensible contrary position. However that does not make them unimportant. How people live their lives is absolutely something we should be concerned with and advocating for policies that improve the lives of people without causing undue harm to others is every bit as much a work of mercy as giving a thirsty man a glass of water.

----

Time for a little pushback.

I have been thinking more about the whole flap over Duck Dynasty and the implications for the church. I often find that once the initial furor dies down it is helpful to think through the issues when the "heat of battle" is not quite so hot. I used to be pretty fervent about the culture wars and while it may not seem like it, especially if we are friends on Facebook or you follow me on Twitter, but I don't care nearly as much as I used to about politics and economics. There is not a "Christian" system of worldly governance or economics and our mission transcends and supersedes those sorts of concerns. Winning the culture wars wouldn't make a single new disciple of Christ (see Eric Carpenter's post on this topic, What If Conservatives Actually Won The Culture War?). I also believe in a God who is sovereign over all things, from the smallest detail to the rebirth of a sinner dead in their trespasses. That raises a question in my mind and certainly others: why care at all about these apparently irrelevant issues like economics and politics?

I care, probably more than I should, because believe it or not I care about people, even people I don't know and who aren't even born yet. Ideas and policies have consequences. I believe as firmly as I believe anything outside of the Gospel that some ideas are harmful to people, ideas like institutionalizing children, policies like the creation of a state replacement for family and especially fathers, notions like unborn children being reduced to an dehumanizing term like "choice". Not every transgression amounts to persecution but just because it isn't persecution doesn't mean it is irrelevant.

All things being equal, a society with a free exchange of ideas is better than one without. A society with an opportunity based economic system is better than one with a false outcome based system. A nation where children are not murdered in the womb is better than one where they are. A nation that incentivizes and protects marriage with a mother and father is better than one that waters down marital relationships to an unlimited number of permutations that all demand equal recognition no matter how harmful they are. A peaceful nation state that restrains her own powers both domestically and abroad is a freer and better neighbor than one that treats all of her citizens as potential criminals and interferes over and over in conflicts that are none of her business. I believe that a people who individually, voluntarily and collectively work together to aid the poor, the widow and the orphan is preferable to one that confiscates from some to give to others and where individuals subcontract mercy work to the state or the religious institution. I believe it is profoundly immoral to bankrupt future generations with an enormous debt burden because of the greed, selfishness and incompetence of past and present generations. There are lots more but you get the idea. Just because something doesn't have eternal consequences doesn't mean it ought to be ignored. Feeding a poor person or visiting a widow doesn't make one a believer but that doesn't mean it is unimportant.

Free market economics is not the Gospel (nor are income redistribution schemes). Likewise our individualistic, "I earned it, it is my money and I will do with as I want with it" attitude is cause for concern and correction in the church. Nevertheless I honestly believe that a freer society with freer markets where people have the opportunity to take risks and be rewarded for enterprise and initiative is better for all people than a centrally controlled economy. The economic history of the world bears this out.

Here is the point I am trying to make. I can believe the above positions and even advocate for them at the same time I serve God and proclaim His Son. Granted there needs to be a prioritization because my calling as an ambassador of the King trumps every other concern. The Gospel proclamation is our highest and only eternally relevant task. Free markets are not the Gospel. Traditional marriage is not the Gospel. Even protecting unborn children is not the Gospel. That doesn't make them irrelevant or value neutral. All across the political spectrum, left and right equally, the church has tried to link the Gospel with their political cause but that error and abuse doesn't lead to a shoulder shrugging attitude of "who cares?". Because I care about people I care about issues that make their lives better or make their lives worse.

So please don't dismiss as petty any issue or position that is not directly Gospel related. Not everyone, or even very many people, will respond to the Gospel's offer of unmerited favor that forgives sins. That reality doesn't mean that we sit in our Kingdom bunkers and watch the world collapse in misery and despair. Nor does the opposite hold true, as some seem to suggest, that winning political victories and achieving cultural dominance is our most pressing concern. In this area, as in so many others, balance is of the utmost importance.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I got yer $15 per hour right here

Although the furor over the $15 minimum wage seems to have died down with "Trump is the embodiment of evil" narrative sucking all the leftist air out of the room, it still is killing jobs and floating around the political narrative so I wanted to share a personal little anecdote that I think does a nice job of wrecking the "everyone gets $15 per hour" nonsense.

Our second oldest son has been taking welding classes at the local community college. He will be done at the end of the year, shy of his 19th birthday. He stopped by a small local plant today that does some sort of welding or pipe-fitting or something to see about working there part-time while he finishes his classes. They were ecstatic to talk to him. Assuming he can pass the basic skills test for welding, a cinch, he would start at $16/hour. Even those that can't pass it can be trained and they get paid $15 during training. So they give you a very valuable skill and pay you $15 while you do it. Oh, and there is a $1000 sign-on bonus. Plus they are happy to work around his class schedule. So before he turns 19 he will make more than I made in my first couple of jobs out of college and just by showing up to work to work he gets an automatic $.25 raise every quarter.

In summary, with a little initiative on his part he starts out above the magical $15 per hour and even if he hadn't he could start out at $15 right to start. So yeah he will work hard and in a hot environment and it won't be easy but then again it shouldn't be to make $15 per hour. On the other hand, why should someone who has shown zero initiative suddenly make the same as someone with marketable skills who has taken some ownership of their career?

You want to make $15 per hour? Great, I can tell you how. Do you want someone to just give you a 30,40, 50% raise just cuz you think they should? No thanks. Get off you butt and do something for yourself. There is limitless opportunity in this country, we used to understand that as a people and seek it out, savoring the chance to better our lot in life. Now we want benevolent Uncle Sam to give us more money because a new tattoo and the latest iPhone ain't gonna pay for themselves.

So It Starts, Southern Baptist Edition

Last month I wrote repeatedly about the fiasco at the Southern Baptist Convention where delegates committed the sin of initially choosing not to proceed on a clumsily worded, hysterical resolution condemning the alt-right. In one of my several posts I wrote:
Back to the resolution. I have to give credit to Dwight McKissic. Whether intentional or not he very neatly maneuvered the Southern Baptist Convention into a corner and now it looks like he will get a version of his resolution and in the future the SBC will be cowed into approving any racially based resolution that comes forward out of fear of being raked over the coals again by the media and appearing insufficiently "woke" on matters of racial reconciliation. Well played indeed.
In other words this resolution is less about any fringe meme-based ideology and more about the opening salvo in a movement to transform the Southern Baptist Convention into the image of progressives. Or even more likely to simply undermine the SBC until it collapses. Once you capitulate once, the SJW sharks smell blood in the water and won't stop. I was right and it didn't even take very long. The blood is in the water and here come the sharks.


From the hallowed pages of the New York Times (All the news that's fit to print!) we see the following:


It is written by a black Southern Baptist pastor named Lawrence Ware. I have never heard of him before. His bio at the bottom of his editorial says this about him: "Lawrence Ware (@Law_writes) is a co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University and the diversity coordinator for its philosophy department." That pretty much explains why I have never heard of him. He starts off with this:
The first time I was called a nigger to my face was by a fellow camper at a Southern Baptist Convention retreat near Oklahoma City. I was 13, and it was 1995. Devastated, I complained to a counselor who suggested I pray for the ability to turn the other cheek. Since then, I have done just that and more: I’ve been an ordained minister in the convention for almost a decade. 
But I’ve had enough. Today I am officially renouncing my ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant body, with about 15 million members, and the world’s largest Baptist denomination. 
My reasoning is simple: As a black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice, I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy.
Why does the New York Times, America's newspaper of record, devote an opinion page editorial, some of the most sacred and valuable property in progressive media, to the resignation of a relatively unknown minister from Oklahoma of all places? Simple. It is the same reason that they will give space to Russell Moore and others as long as they can see a way to advance an anti-Gospel "progressive" message or to hurt people who have committed thought-crimes. The editors of the New York Times hate most people who go to Southern Baptists churches and blame them for not doing as their betters told them and electing Hillary Clinton.  As I read the rest of his editorial, I wondered why he was in the SBC to begin with. Mr. Ware continues:
A contingent of predominantly white, old-guard members refused to take the resolution seriously, even while many black and progressive clergy members advocated its adoption. It was not until chaos ensued that a reworded resolution vowing to “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” was adopted. 
What’s more, while they hesitated to adopt a resolution that condemned white supremacy, they did not hesitate to throw out activists who tried to raise awareness about the ways in which the convention fails its L.G.B.T.Q. members.
If you are keeping score at home, it took Mr. Ware just over 300 words of his essay about why he left the SBC because it is so full of the alt-right to abruptly shift gears and bring up homosexual behavior. Notice the conflict he creates between the "white, old-guard members" and the new and improved "black and progressive clergy". Mr. Ware continues, getting up a head of steam (bold at the end is mine):
To be sure, many prominent convention leaders have opposed Mr. Trump and the alt-right. Indeed, one of them, Russell Moore, went so far as to voice his criticism before the election.
But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words.
Well that exhibits all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. In case you missed it here is the summary: Pliable people like Russell Moore are good. Anyone who voted for Trump is in the alt-right and burning crosses in the yards of black folk. If you don't support the militant Black Lives Matter groups and you don't support normalization of sexual perversion, you are obviously a racist.

Mr. Ware muses: "I don’t know why I stayed so long." I kind of wonder the same thing. If you are looking for a church that supports racialism in the form of Black Lives Matters, that affirms homosexual sin as normal, you can find plenty of them and there are lots of great seats as those "churches" are dying out. Onward....
Yet it saddens and scares me to think that the church, especially given its role in the black community as a place for moral correction and existential validation, may no longer be able to serve that purpose. Despite our need for such a place, acquiescence in the face of racism and homophobia won’t heal them; it will only allow the wounds to fester.
Here Mr. Ware makes a good point, although inadvertently. The church historically has been a place for moral correction in the black community and it apparently no longer serves that purpose but the fault is not with the alt-right or mean white Southern Baptists. When people like Mr. Ware try to use the church to force the normalization of homosexual behavior under the guise of justice, the church has lost all authority for moral correction. Saying that men sodomizing other men is normal and natural and God-pleasing behavior and trying to lump sodomy in with simply having black skin takes an enormous leap but it exposes something. The sin of the SBC is not "racism" or association with the "alt-right". It is being insufficiently progressive on a whole litany of issues. Mr. Ware ironically mentions declining membership numbers in the SBC multiple times but at the same time favors the sort of progressive nonsense that has already killed outright multiple denominations.

It is his conclusion however that really gets to the heart of the matter by showing Mr. Ware's heart, emphasis mine.
I want to be a member of a body of believers that is structured around my Christian beliefs of equity, not one that sees those issues as peripheral. The equality of all people should be a fundamental principle that is a starting point of the convention’s existence, not a side issue to be debated.
I love the church, but I love black people more. Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.
There it is. Thanks for getting to that at the end of an exhausting exhibition of partisan political rhetoric dressed up in progressive religious lingo. Mr. Ware is saying the exact same thing that he would accuse the alt-right of, raising racial identity above the Gospel and making race an idol. He claims that the SBC doesn't care about black lives but it is without dispute that a weekend in Chicago or Baltimore is far more dangerous to a black man than any number of alt-right types, who mostly post memes from their computers at home, or from a cop. The city of Baltimore is trying to have a "Nobody kill anybody" weekend and for good reason. According to the Baltimore Sun, 2017 is "...on pace to be the city’s deadliest year ever. ". With back to back years of over 300 murders and 2017 on pace to exceed 2015 and 2016, guess who is dying? Largely young black men. Guess who is killing them? Hint, not cops. Not Richard Spencer or David Duke. They are being murdered by other young black men. If black lives matter to Mr. Ware, and I have no reason to doubt him, why is he focused on homosexuality when young black men are being slaughtered by other young black men every single day in America? Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of aborted black babies. Here is the sad reality that you are not allowed to say.

Black Lives Matter is not about saving black lives. It is a politically expedient cover phrase for a radical leftist ideology.

As such, Black Lives Matter has no more of a claim to be accepted and affirmed by the church than the alt-right does.

Rod Dreher and Todd Pruitt, among others, have written in response and they pretty much conclude precisely what I said would happen back in June in the same essay linked above:

Not to mention the reality of introducing a lot of people to the alt-right and their ideology.

Gee, I am like a prophet or something. I don't think many Southern Baptists had a clue of what the alt-right stood for in May of this year but I bet a lot more of them do today. This whole thing is vintage progressive lunacy. You write up a goofy resolution that condemns a problem that wasn't really a problem in the SBC. You pitch a fit because it doesn't pass and you call in the attack dogs of the "media" to try to shame the SBC into doing your will. The SBC leadership, terrified of looking like racists, decides to keep voting until they get the result they want and pass a strongly worded resolution but it wasn't the resolution that Dwight McKissic proposed and it wasn't passed immediately so the SBC is racist. Now you have some random Oklahoma Baptist leaving the SBC and he gets published in the New York Times. How many people in the SBC that had never heard of the alt-right have read some of the material now?

Do you want to see more people in the alt-right? Because this is how you get more people into the alt-right. You abandon in terror the rhetorical battlefield over this sensitive and divisive issue and leave it in the hands of people on the extremes of both sides. If you are a Southern Baptist that wants nothing to do with the cop-hating rhetoric of much of the Black Lives Matter movement and is not interested in homosexual normalization, where do you go? Thanks to the cowardice of the SBC leadership on this issue, the road to Richard Spencer is not very long. Dreher, who uncharacteristically didn't mention his book in this essay, a sign he is fired up, writes:
Good grief. See, this is the kind of thing that vindicates some on the alt-right, who say that it doesn’t matter what you believe or why you believe it, they’re still going to hate you and accuse you of being one of us. So why not be one of us? (they say).
Yep. He continues:
More than anything though: Can you imagine someone writing, “I love the church, but I love white people more”? Or, “I love the church, but I love straight people more”? We would know exactly what was wrong with that person: they had made idols of race and/or sexuality. Had Ware written, “I love the church, but I love the truth more,” that would have been understandable. It sounds like he has apostatized to the Church of Identity Politics. It’s a false religion, but an increasingly popular one, alas.
Please note for the record that this latest racial division, in the SBC and elsewhere, is entirely a result of progressive activists who want to pervert the meaning of justice and make it clear that unless you stand equally for recognizing all people as made imago dei regardless of race along with affirming the normalcy of sodomy and cross-dressing and stand shoulder to shoulder with the radicals in Black Lives Matter who, as quoted by Dreher, seek to destroy the family...
We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable
...then clearly you are a racist.

The church is losing the conversation on race but not because of the alt-right. I don't know who Mr. Ware is and I wish him all the best in the future but if the cost for having him stay in the SBC is affirming homosexuality and cross-dressing and bowing to the far left, anti-family, anti-law enforcement demands of Black Lives Matter, then I bid him farewell.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Taste Of Freedom

A little home cooked, home raised freedom in Jesus this morning and so very thankful for it.


If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

What Would We Do Without Government

A little real life case study.

This is the exit map in case of emergency in our doctor's office, a map that is situated conveniently in the restroom.


This is the actual view from the restroom when you open the door with the exit map on it.



Were it not for that map, I am not sure I could find the exit in the case of an actual emergency that happened while I was in the bathroom. I would likely walk right past the exit and into the fire, burning to death while trying to find the door.

I don't say that to make light of actual safety precautions. Well, maybe a little. I understand why businesses were originally required to put those maps up but they have become so ubiquitous that they fade into the scenery. Do you review the exit map when you get to your hotel room or when visiting a new facility? For that matter have you ever read the giant laminated posters in your break room that talks about the minimum wage and a bunch of other workplace regulations? I doubt many people have but every business is supposed to have that poster in their workplace because reasons. No doubt people really wanted to check the current minimum wage on a daily basis in the break room when I worked for Fidelity Investments and literally no one in the building including the janitors made anywhere close to minimum wage. When my wife set up her small business and registered it with the state it wasn't long afterward that we got quasi-threatening offers to sell us, for a ridiculous price, those posters for our workplace. Since my wife is her only employee we declined to buy one. In general, for every common sense and useful regulation, there seem to be 1000 dumb ones.

As an example, I worked for many years in the qualified retirement plan business, which is a wordy way of saying 401(k) plans. When you get over the initial fun of the often huge numbers you are dealing with, with plan sponsors I worked with having plans with tens or hundreds of millions or sometimes even billions of dollars in assets, it is in general a dreary industry. Working day to day with plan sponsors, the organizations that sponsored the 401(k) or 403(b) plans and offered them as a benefit to their employees, was made up of a whole bunch of coffee breaks interspersed with two things, a) phone calls and/or emails complaining about something and b) tedious, meaningless paperwork, but on the bright side it paid really well and we had great benefits. Every year every plan is required to do a couple of things, non-discrimination testing which is a giant headache to tell you that people who make more tend to put more in their 401(k) than people who make less and then the annual form 5500 filing. The form 5500 is filled in by the places I used to work and takes a ton of time and effort and it is completely meaningless. Nobody really looks at them. No one really cares what they say except some bitter functionary at the Department of Labor or the IRS. What they really care about is not so much what it says, just that you did it. Plus every plan has to have a plan document which governs the plan and is usually a thick stack of paper full of eye-bleeding-inducing gobbledygook that in turn generates a "Summary Plan Description" that again no one reads. People who are saving for their retirement don't care about the SPD or the Summary Annual Report or the mutual fund prospectus. They mostly just want help picking out their investments.

The thing is all of those rules are supposed to protect employees but what they mostly have done is spawn an entire industry of thousands of people who sit in cubicles and push paper across their desks that no one cares about. People like me who worked with plan sponsors, benefit staff at companies, lots and lots of accountants and lawyers and various experts and of course whole cabinet level departments full of people performing menial tasks that don't accomplish anything. In the grand scheme of things if everyone at places like Fidelity and Vanguard just didn't do their jobs for a year and no one filed a 5500 or printed up a Summary Annual Report, almost no one would care. Which begs the question, why do it then? And the follow-up question, why have all of these rules in the first place? The simple answer is that we have all of these rules because it creates "work" that someone has to do even though it doesn't really accomplish anything.

Sometimes when I think about what is really going on around us it is a miracle that the whole thing hasn't totally imploded yet.

Yet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Someone Take Away Keller's Internet Access

So I went back to the original post from Tim Keller I referenced the my prior post. A woman accused me of being unable to "think beyond the concrete into the abstract" so I went back to gently correct her and then I scrolled through the comments and saw that Tim himself had jumped into the fray.




So, "preaching", i.e. delivering a prepared monologue sermon, is an art form. That is kind of what I have been saying for years. Actually it is exactly what I have been saying for years. It is a performance, a religious kabuki theater. See my post from way back when in 2008 when I made the kabuki theater comparison, A call for a new Reformation in the church. That post was one of my very first when I started to see the performance driven model of the institutional church that I have been speaking out against for almost a decade. Keller's comment is the epitome of what I have been saying.

So does Keller style himself as an artist? Is his preaching an art form? Because like the comment he replied to stated, I thought that preaching was the foolish means God uses to bring sinners to salvation, not an art form to be put on display by professional performance artists on Sunday morning for a paying audience.

Keller unintentionally exposed exactly what people charge the institutional church with. It is about professional performances all too often, especially for the big name guys with the huge "ministries". As such it is barely distinguishable from other forms of secular art, apart from the God talk and Scripture references. That is just as true, sad to say, in many Reformed circles as it is in liberal churches.

So thanks I guess to Tim for making my point. I think maybe he needs to put away the laptop or phone and ponder what he is saying because it isn't helping his case at all.

Gospel? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gospel! We Have Ballet!

I saw a post today from Tim Keller. Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City and has been in the church news lately thanks to the video of three fellas prancing about on stage. So he posted something about 3 hours ago that I have to assume is an indirect response to the controversy but in his response, which I screenshot just in case, he says something that should stun anyone who cares about the Gospel.



Two statements stuck out to me like a pair of sore thumbs, and they are the bookends for his post:

"The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world."

"We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk."

Without artists we cannot reach the world and we are never going to reach the world.

Really.

This is an unfortunately great example of trying to make a point and in doing so completely going overboard and undermining the very point you were trying to make. Worse, it is in my opinion not only unbiblical, it is anti-biblical and denigrates the power of the Gospel.

When Jesus sent out the apostles with the Great Commission, He told them to:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
If you are wondering where "Christian art" fits into that narrative, don't worry. You are not missing it, it is not there. In Acts 2:37 when the Jews implored Peter to tell them "Brothers, what shall we do?", Peter didn't stop and get out an easel and some parchment to paint them a picture. Nor did he compose a quick symphony, or choreograph a ballet. He didn't even spontaneously start miming the plan of salvation or bust out some interpretive dance complete with ribbons. Nope, his message was pretty clear and simply spoken:
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
Luke recounts that some 3000 souls were saved that day without even a quick ditty on a recorder. I guess back in those primitive days you could reach the world and see men saved without the benefit of art. Paul exhorted Timothy to preach the Gospel, in season and out. He didn't tell Timothy to go to art school. You get my point I trust.

If there had never been a lick of "Christian art" ever made, the Gospel would still be plenty powerful and sufficient for the salvation of men's souls. Much of what we know in the West as the great pieces of "Christian art" were made by men who didn't even understand the Gospel and quite likely were not saved. The Gospel is not dependent on "art" and it is not incomplete when it is just "great Christian talk".

There is a lot to be said about the value of art, although I will qualify that statement by pointing out that very little of what passes for art today has any artistic value. Like other aspects of Western civilization it is hugely valuable and beneficial for society, just as our laws and morals are. But art is not the Gospel. The Gospel is by design spoken. It is Good News, not Good Art. Like the apocryphal and endlessly repeated saying "Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary", Tim Keller seems to be suggesting that the preaching of the Gospel is not enough. Think about that from a guy who is considered to be "conservative" and "Reformed".

The message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the call to repent is not good enough.

I am not putting words in his mouth or taking him out of context. What he wrote is what he wrote and is reproduced completely and without editing above. Keller denigrates the untold missionaries past and present who go to the ends of the earth armed only with the Gospel and their Bible. How can they think they can reach the world for Jesus without being artists? What about all of those simple country preachers who don't have access to world class musicians or ballet dancers?

Tim is clearly trying to make a point here about the value of Christian art as he defines it. That is fine and there is a case to be made, just as there is a case to be made that not everything that falls under the umbrella of art is valuable or praiseworthy or appropriate for the church. Instead of making that case he fell into the trap of making a far wider and more sweeping generalization than he needed to and rather than making his case he instead made himself sound foolish and bordering on heterodox. Again, I don't think that Keller believes the Gospel is inadequate but I do think that what he said in that post would imply he does. Hopefully he clarifies his statement because instead of putting out the firestorm he just threw gas on it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

From The "Unintentional Irony" Files

The ballet or whatever it was at Redeemer Church that I mentioned yesterday is getting a ton of notice and response, some good and some....well not so good. One rather bizarre if predictable response was linked to by Tim Challies, titled Stage Fright, from a Wes Bredenhof. Wes is apparently a minister of a Reformed church in Tasmania, which is kind of fun. Wes has a beef with the video, not the obvious stuff but rather a more specific complaint. I will let him explain:
There’s a lot that can be said about it, a lot that should be said, and a lot that has been said. However, I want to briefly mention something I haven’t read anyone else say. 
This performance would only be possible in a church building with a stage. Your traditional Reformed church building with a large pulpit occupying the center of attention would never accommodate a ballet trio. However, these days it has become virtually a given that any new church building must have a stage.
So Reformed churches have a big old pulpit as the center of attention and of course that is correct because it is what Reformed folk do. One of the most irritating aspects of the Reformed subculture is the tendency to say "The Reformed do this...." or "The Reformed don't do that..." for any issue as if that is self-explanatory. Newsflash, there are a lot of things that the Reformed do and have done that is not correct or at least not self-evident as the bestest and onliest way to do something.

Wes goes on to give a history of some random lady that he blames for the presence of stages in church buildings which may or may not be true. Then he makes a pretty random and inexplicable charge:
The Reformation recovered the preaching of the Word — and with it a church architecture which made the means of grace central, especially preaching. The heirs (and heiresses) of Anabaptism adopted a church architecture which sidelined the Word.
Huh? What does Anabaptism have to do with his post? Nothing. He doesn't mention it at all until he accuses the "heirs" of Anabaptism with "sidelining" the Word. What about the woman he accuses of starting the "stage in the church", Aimee Semple Macpherson? Was she an Anabaptist of some sort? Well no, she grew up a Methodist and became a Pentecostal later in life and as far as I can tell she had zero connection to any Anabaptists. It just seems to be a random drive-by slander that hearkens back to my days listening to the fellas at the White Horse Inn who seemed unhappy with a show unless they accused the Anabaptists of being responsible for every ill in evangelicalism (and of course saying "word and sacrament" at least three times). For the Anabaptists I know, the sermon is very central to the gathering. The pulpit is smack in the middle of the front in a place of prominence and the sanctuary is usually free of the frilly and kitschy adornments of a lot of evangelical churches.  The hymns are theologically rich and the worship is completely lacking any worldly entertainment. I wonder if Wes has ever been to an actual Anabaptist church gathering. I kind of doubt it. It was a clumsy and slanderous throwaway line that makes the one writing it seem fairly ignorant.

Back to the stage.

I agree that the tendency toward elevated platforms of any sort reinforces the general passivity of the church but that is true whatever you call the platform. I would rather listen to a decent sermon, or even a cruddy sermon, instead of watching prancing dudes any day of the week but let's not kid ourselves. Virtually all Reformed churches require a seminary degree to be a pastor and virtually all of those degrees include courses on homiletics, preparing and presenting a sermon. Many Reformed pastors humble-brag about how many hours a week they spend in sermon prep. They prepare and practice, they dress up in a culturally appropriate costume, they stand on a raised platform behind a pulpit designed to both give them a place to put their notes and to transmit a sense of authority. They stand up front and do their thing and they have an audience that sits quietly and listens. If you don't recognize that there is an huge aspect of performance in the delivery of a sermon, you really aren't being honest with yourself.

Stuff like this is sort of like sermons on "tithing". They are invariably self-serving. Just as someone who relies on the offering plate for his living can't help but have that in mind when talking about giving, so too someone who spends all week preparing a sermon can't help but give off a sense of "pay attention to me!" when it comes to pulpit versus stage. Talking about the importance of the prominence of preaching when you are the one doing the preaching is understandable. When I prepared sermons I spent a lot of time and effort doing so and I would have been (and sometimes was) irritated if it seemed like people didn't appreciate it or weren't paying attention. For all of the chatter about making the Word central, it often seems like what is really central is the pastor. I am not at all saying that is always a bad thing but it does demand a bit of self-awareness because the tendency to make yourself the focal point is ever-present, even when it is completely unintentional.

A pulpit is just a piece of furniture, it is who stands behind it that concerns Wes. The issue with what was going on at Redeemer was not about whether or not the pulpit was front and center. Let's keep our focus on what the real issue is, not on our own need to be the center of attention.

Happy Birthday John!

Wishing a happy birthday to one of the great, although not without flaws, Reformers John Calvin who is 508 years old today!


Sunday, July 09, 2017

From The "Why Don't Men Go To Church?" Files

I wasn't going to comment on this but Doug Wilson did and I think his piece is worth reading. Doug was following up on a piece from Tim Bayly that I read a few days ago and it had to do with an offertory "performance" at Redeemer Church, home of famous pastor, author and speaker Tim Keller. I am not sure I can describe it so I am just going to embed the video even though it makes me a little nauseous. Keep in mind that Tim Keller is considered to be conservative.

Life Together from Redeemer Video on Vimeo.

OK, I am just a knuckle-dragging chump from Indiana so what do I know about art and stuff. I mean this is Manhattan, man! That was like classy and artistic and cultured and all that! If I were a sophisticated city slicker I might give that performance two snaps up!

Back when it was OK to mock that which deserves to be mocked

I do know this. If I was sitting in a gathering of the church and three dudes started flitting around the stage, holding hands and pawing each other, I would not put any money in the offering plate. I would also not sit silently by. You would last see me walking out the back doors. I would assume any normal guy would do the same, unless their conditioning that tells them to sit down and shut up overrode their revulsion. I am not a fan of ballet or whatever form of dance this is. I am especially not a fan of three guys swishing around the stage together, doing lifts and such. I guess it would have been more tolerable if it was a guy and a girl dancing together but even still, what exactly is supposed to be the point here if not cultural virtue signaling? Yeah we believe in the Bible but look, we are still cultured! I don't know if these three fellas are homosexuals or not but if I looked at and/or touched another woman the way these guys are fondling and gazing at each other, my wife would feed me to our pigs, one piece at a time. You can guess which parts she would start with.

No surprise, Doug Wilson had something to say about this and it starts with the title of his post, in true vintage DW fashion, Gayer Than the Kiwi Queen of the Fire Island Fruit Festival. He goes on (in pink instead of my traditional green).....
What is the problem with this? Summed up, it is that this performance is gayer than the kiwi queen at the Fire Island Fruit Festival. This performance is gayer than an HR memo at Google headquarters. How gay was it? It was gayer than an NPR tote bag full of rainbows. It was gayer than a unicorn parade through the Castro District. It was gayer than a lavender sparkly pen.
He has a real flair for this. I can only hope to be that eloquent someday. It can be easy to get caught up in Doug's, um, vivid wordplay and miss the meat of what he is saying. Please don't because what he is saying is important. This is important because it gets to the heart of a couple of issues, like the feminizing of Christianity and the way that our modern "worship" tends to drive men away. This is going to sound incredibly chauvinistic, even by my standards but I don't care.
The church will only ever be as strong as the men who lead it.
Don't misread that. The Church is the Body of Christ. It was ordained by God, chosen by God, called by God, redeemed by His Son's blood, and will be sustained and triumphant by the will of God. If the very gates of Hell will not prevail against the church then you can be sure that three fellas prancing around a stage will not defeat the church. What I meant by my statement above is that the local, visible expression of the church where God has decreed that the church equips and encourages us for the work of ministry is only as vibrant and effective in that task as the men who lead it. You can have all of the money in the world, great programs, a kickin' "worship" band, every advantage but if you are led by weak men, the church will be weak. That is not to denigrate or diminish the role of women in the church, but simply to recognize what the Bible has made clear. God has placed the privilege and the burden of leadership in the home and the church in the hands of men.

Doug continues, emphasis mine....
It is no sin to watch this video clip and not know what the particular problem is. Human self-deception can occupy the heart like a rabbit warren under a large meadow. The particular problems can be hard to identify and trace. But the general problem is screamingly obvious. If you can look at this clip and not know that there is a grievous problem somewhere, then the self-deception involved is truly profound.
It is troubling that so many would watch this video and not know something is terribly wrong here. Whether because we are conditioned to never, ever judge or because we just are so Scripturally illiterate that we can't recognize when something is wrong, if you can watch that performance and realize that it is being done under the authority of elders in the church and not see that it is a gross imposition on the created order, then something is broken in your discernment. More and these are the critical passages:
I referred above to the problem of confusion. Scripture obviously refers to blatant sexual sin as abominable, and the term abomination is sometimes lost on us because we think of it as merely some strong form of Bible-ese. But the Bible also talks about this kind of sinning, and the antecedent rationalizations, as inchoate confusion. “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion” (Lev. 18:23). “And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:12).
In our case, the confusion depends on the fact that, in the Christian world, we have limited the sin to actual genital contact. Stay away from that, and you can be as much of a swish as you want. But this is not what Scripture teaches. Adultery does not begin in the bed; it begins in the heart (Matt. 5:28). Homosex begins, not in the bathhouse, but rather in the kind of cosmos a man imagines himself to live in—provided it is not the cosmos created by the living God. Underneath the passive homosexual act is the sin of wanting to be soft, and underneath that desire to be malakoi (1 Cor. 6:9) is the sin of pride and arrogance.
That is so very important. If adultery is at the core a heart issue, then it makes sense that homosexuality is as well. Homosexual behavior is not sinful just for the act, although the act itself is an abomination. It is also sinful because it tells God the Creator that you reject what He has ordained. Whether it is men lusting after other men or women after other women, or if it is a man that feels compelled to dress like a woman because he is mentally ill or even worse if he is driven to mutilate his own flesh, or an adult who is sexually aroused by a small child or an animal, all of it stems from the same rebellion against God. God has made you a man and called you to either marry one woman in a lifelong covenant relationship or to remain single, but instead that man shakes his fist at God and declares: No, I will not! I will have sex with women who are not my wife. I will suppress the natural desire of a man for a woman and debase myself in lust for another man. I will declare God made a mistake in giving me male genitalia and chromosomes and start to act like and dress like a woman. Instead of seeing that small child as someone to protect and nurture, I will instead see that child as someone to sate my foul lusts with.

That sort of talk probably constitutes "hate speech" in much of the Western world. Heck you can probably get arrested in some European countries if the cops catch you with this post on your screen. Equating "transgenderism" and homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia is simply not permitted but regardless it is all part of the same sexual rebellion against God's created order. The only permissible and blessed sexual unions are monogamous, permanent, heterosexual marriage or celibacy. That is it. "Living together", divorce and remarriage, adultery, homosexuality of any kind, bestiality, pedophilia. All are merely different points on a single spectrum of sexual sin.

The problem in that video is not just three guys swishing around together on stage. Instead it is a symptom of a much broader problem, even in "conservative" churches. It puts a sexually confused message on display for the entertainment of the church with the blessing of elders who should know better. This isn't some Episcopalian church, this is supposed to be a "conservative", Reformed, orthodox church. I am seeing a lot of troubling signs coming from "conservative" groups like The Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks and the Southern Baptist Convention, subtle slides toward political correctness and compromise to try to appease the world. The Gospel Coalition's Twitter page has for some time now featured a banner promoting an upcoming conference next April, the MLK50 conference recognizing the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.


A conference celebrating a known adulterer with clearly a clearly unorthodox theology who also espoused borderline communist beliefs? From a group that styles itself the "Gospel" Coalition in celebration of a man who didn't seem to know what the Gospel was? So much for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation this year, dead white theologians namesakes don't tickle the ears of the world. Let's focus on a conference celebrating a heterodox philanderer because he is a larger than life cultural figure and maybe, just maybe, the world will like us better if we put on a show. As a nation we should certainly remember with sadness the slaying of Martin Luther King, Kr. but as the church our focus should be on the Gospel. In 2014 TGC even ran a piece about Martin Luther King, Jr titled: 9 Things You Should Know About Martin Luther King, Jr. and point number 6 recognizes that he held heterodox (and heretical although they didn't use that word) beliefs:
6. King held unorthodox views on theology, which he expressed during his time at Crozer Theological Seminary. In a paper he wrote for a systematic theology class he cast skeptical aspersions on the doctrines of divine Sonship, the Virgin Birth (”. . . the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is too shallow to convince any objective thinker”), and the Resurrection (”. . . the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting”). In the conclusion of another paper he writes, 
"Others doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ are all quite prominent in fundamentalist thinking. Such are the views of the fundamentalist and they reveal that he is opposed to theological adaptation to social and cultural change. He sees a progressive scientific age as a retrogressive spiritual age. Amid change all around he is willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science."
So here is a man that apparently rejected or at least was highly skeptical about such minor issues as the Resurrection and the divinity of Christ and yet the "Gospel" Coalition is going to honor him with a conference next year? So I guess for TGC virtue signaling > orthodoxy. Hey, next year is also the 40th anniversary of the slaying of homosexual pedophile Harvey Milk, why not a conference for him? They could have twice divorced gay "bishop" Eugene Robinson as the keynote speaker!

One more from Doug, again emphasis mine.

Incidentally, I am aware that some will say that I obviously don’t understand art, or ballet, or culture, or something important to blue state urbanites. That’s as may be, but I understand men who still have their spiritual gonads. And if you can look at that clip and fail to understand why the church is so deeply unattractive to real men, then there is very little hope for you. And speaking of art, if you can look at that clip and fail to understand why real men are so repulsed by the artistic “community,” then there is even less hope.

I am not interested in running into the woods to build fires and beat drums or MMA party pseudo-machismo but I am even less interested in androgynous religious observations. Why would any self-respecting, Scripturally literate man be willing sit and watch three men cavorting with each other on stage? The answer is that they don't. They just stop coming. The same is true with wailing "Jesus is my girlfriend" contemporary "Christian" music or sappy sermons or even Christian teachers on the radio with their shows started with frilly acoustic guitar playing. Real men don't eat spiritual quiche, they want spiritual red meat. They don't want to sit around passively listening to warbling, crappy music. They certainly don't have any interest in the sort of "art" on display in that video. A man doesn't have to look like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson to be manly, Doug Wilson isn't someone who you will see in an Ironman competition anytime soon, but a man has to at least know he is a man and not be ashamed of that.

The church has been playing defense for too long and the relentless infiltration will never stop as long as there is a single orthodox believer alive. It is time to be on the offensive, not to be offensive necessarily, but to take the fight to the Enemy. For decades the church in the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to drive men out. For every gathering like Together for the Gospel with thousands of men gathered under the authority of the Word of God, there are hundreds or thousands of slow drips of compromise like was on display at Redeemer. We need to reclaim the priority of masculinity in the church and that starts with redeeming the false image of Jesus as a sissy. We have confused the meekness of Christ with weakness. As I have written before, Jesus was meek because He chose to be at that time. His was infinite strength held in check by sheer willpower, not a lack of strength. The fact is that He could have but chose not to crush those scourging Him and nailing Him to a cross likely fleshy pop cans with a thought and He did that to redeem us, not because He was helpless, but because He loved us. That is not weakness, that is the epitome of strength. Jesus came as a man and not a simpering weakling. He rebuked and chastised without apology, He tolerated no nonsense, He drove those blaspheming the temple out with a whip made of cords, He commanded the seas and the winds, He faced down without fear the most powerful men around in the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate. He spoke the truth without nuance and made no apology for it. When He comes again He will come in His full power and righteous fury:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:11-15)

I don't know if Christ will return on a literal white horse but I do know with 100% confidence that He won't come back sashaying on a stage to flute music. It is a testament to the power of deception that the Enemy has managed to replace the Jesus of the Bible with the peace sign flashing, fair trade soy milk drinking, ballet dancing "Jesus" of modern religious culture.

We need to get back to worshipping THAT guy, the one who comes in fury and righteousness and wrath, not the peacenik hippie Jesus of modern church culture. How is a man supposed to worship as King a guy that he could beat up? We need to get back to Jesus who commands every man to repent and that all mankind will bow the knee to and confess as Lord instead of a false Jesus that gets sand kicked in His face at the beach.

If you want to see the church healthy, vibrant and powerful, you don't need better "worship" music or more relevant sermons or a better program for kids or more "inclusive" attitudes. You need to get the men back, the real men. If you do that the church will thrive. If you don't it will wither. There are no other options.

Friday, July 07, 2017

CNN, Doxxing And The Suppression Of Speech

Apart from those who dwell beneath rocks, everyone knows about the latest fiasco from the purveyor of fake news known as CNN. An anonymous fella made a pretty funny little gif of Trump attacking Vince McMahon of pro-wrestling fame but superimposed the CNN logo so it looked like Trump body slamming hostile propaganda outlet CNN. Trump himself retweeted it and chuckles abounded from most with a smattering of self-important huffing from journalists condemning it as an "incitement to violence" against journalists, who everyone knows are above reproach and nigh on holy figures in our democracy. We all moved on to other stuff. Except CNN. Their honor was besmirched! Besmirched I say! So they did what any reputable news outlet would do, they went after this anonymous gif maker, discovered his real life identity, threatened to expose him (i.e doxxing) unless he retracted his material and made him apologize and grovel publicly with a lovely little threat reserving the right to expose him if he should dare to offend CNN in the future. Leaving a severed horse head in someone's bed is child's play compared to CNN. "Hey, dats a nice anonymity ya got dere, be a shame is sumtim happened to it".

The world was set right, justice was served, CNN stood triumphant for their noble defense of journalistic standards.

Or not. The attack by a giant globalist corporation on a random gif poster is right in the wheelhouse of the legions of internet trolls and they would not let this attack go unanswered.

The meme retribution was swift and merciless. This is my favorite....



It was funny because it epitomized the sheer ineptness of the "mainstream" globalist media. To paraphrase Sean Connery in The Untouchables, Isn't that just like a globalist, bringing a quill pen to a meme fight. If CNN looked like a bunch of partisan sellouts before, now they look like a bunch of partisan sellouts who got wrecked by a legion of neckbeards on Twitter and Reddit.

Funny though the whole thing was, apart from the actual threat to the original gif poster, what is not funny is what CNN tried to do. They didn't like something and they threatened and bullied someone into compliance. In other words, a private "news" organization singled out someone for speech they disliked and took it upon themselves to threaten his identity and probably his safety and that of his family. The message they were trying to send was clear, speech we dislike will be met with punishment. This guy wasn't a Richard Spencer, a spokesman for the alt-right, or David Duke or Louis Farrakhan. He wasn't Kathy Griffin or some other similarly vulgar and irrelevant "entertainer". He was just a guy who posted stuff anonymously on the web for kicks. CNN tried to destroy him, spent time and effort to figure out who he was and made an example of out him. Fortunately it backfired but the attempt by CNN ought to frighten anyone.

What do you suppose will happen if people are not given the opportunity to publically express their thoughts, even when those thoughts are juvenile or even disgusting? They will go underground even more, in the shadows where there is no public exchange of ideas. They will grow even more resentful. I believe this will lead to the more extremist and yes even the more violent impulses. While obviously extreme free speech can lead to violence like we see so often from leftist "antifa" types and the Bernie Sanders fanboy loon who shot at Republican congressmen, I believe that a free and open exchange of ideas gives people an outlet to express their opinions, their frustration and even their anger. Take that outlet away and the anger and frustration don't disappear, it  just gets bottled up and like anything else under pressure that is bottled up, eventually it explodes.

We need to take heed of what CNN tried to do here and what governments around the world and college campuses here in America are attempting with speech codes. Quashing unpopular and even angry speech won't make the feelings go away, it will simply funnel those feelings into another channel and I fear that channel will end up being violence. Our freedom of speech sets the U.S. apart but it also grates on those who think they should have a monopoly on deciding what speech should or should not be free. Don't ever let anyone, be it a random dude on the internet or a globalist media organization, tell you what you can or can't think. Without the freedom of speech, other expressions will take over and I for one prefer meme wars to real ones.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Violation Of Romans 13 Day!

My annual repost of A nation born of rebellion against God ....

It bears repeating that this post and the concepts behind it are not intended nor should they be used as cover for clumsy America bashing. My point is to refute the Biblically unsupportable notion that America is a uniquely Christian nation, not to scold the Founders or suggest that we should be ashamed of America. For all of their faults, including armed rebellion against authority appointed by God, the men who founded this country created the greatest nation on earth, now or ever. All else being equal the world has been far better off for having the United States in it and it will be far poorer, less free and prosperous and far more hostile to the Christian faith if and when it finally dissolves.

----
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

With these words, the Declaration of Independence begins to list the grievances suffered under the despotic rule of King George over the English colonies in America. After a lengthy list of grievances, the Declaration declares that the colonies are no longer under the rule of England but are instead free and independent.

Powerful words. Solemn words. Words that, at least until recently, were taught to all schoolchildren and words that are part of our American lore. I am in awe of the power and eloquence of the Declaration and the subsequent Constitution that at one time was the law of the land in America. So that is great, we all agree that America is swell. So what is the point? Here is where I am going with this: Are these statements in the Declaration of Independence the founding words of a Christian nation, a country founded on "Judeo-Christian" values?

Simply put: No.

Why in the world would I say that?

Because America was birthed by an ungodly act of rebellion against authority.

Yikes! Stay with me here. This is a long one but I think it is important and thought provoking.

This post is not intended to bash America. I would not choose to live anywhere else in the world unless I was led to do so in God's providence. I love my country, in fact I love my country more than may be healthy as a Christian. I am also not saying that the founding fathers were wrong or that the end result is bad. Clearly America has been a force for more good than ill in the world. This statement is intended as a wake-up call to the church. Evangelicals must remember that being an evangelical Christian must of necessity take priority over being an American. I hear lots of lip-service to that effect but practically speaking our American upbringing impacts our doctrine and practice in some troubling ways. There are no special secular nations, even ones where the founding is full of religious overtones. I think this is important because there is such a blurring of the distinction between the church and America that it sometimes seems as if we are evangelists for American culture more than witnesses of the risen Christ. So if you will, please indulge me for a few minutes to explain why I would make that assertion.

The core issue here is one of submission. Submission gets a bad rap in the church in America because it is either tip-toed around or it is used as a club. Americans don't like to submit to anyone for any reason. The Founding Fathers decided that at some point they no longer wished to submit to King George, to pay his taxes without representation. I think most historians would agree that King George was a poor ruler. So it is little wonder that the colonies eventually revolted. The question we are pondering here is a dramatically different one: Is our submission to authority based on the worthiness of the one in authority? That is an important question because we are called on to submit all over the place in the Bible, a subject we looked at yesterday when the church gathered.

Let's take a look at what the Bible says about submission to authorities and it says a lot.

The first place I want to look is at the third chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1)

Paul is somewhat vague here. He exhorts Titus to remind Christians to be submissive to authorities. Who these rulers and authorities are doesn’t get much clarification but I certainly think that Paul is at least implying governing officials. The following sections of Scripture reinforce this idea quite forcefully.

Next we have a powerful statement from the lips of Christ Himself. Pay careful attention here.

He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11)

Here is Christ, mere hours away from His death on the cross, telling Pontius Pilate that he has no authority (including the authority to condemn Christ to die) except that which he has received “from above”, i.e. from God. Stop and think about what Christ is saying here. Pontius Pilate received his authority from Caesar. So by proxy Caesar has been granted the authority by God to put Jesus Christ to death. I can’t overemphasize this point that one of the most unjust and tyrannical governments ever faced by Christians was given its authority directly from God and it used that authority to crucify Christ and persecute the church for the next three centuries. Roman Emperors like Nero and Caligula make King George look like Mr. Rogers in comparison. Ponder that as we move forward.

Next, a look at what Peter wrote regarding this issue. I think this is important as well because this is not a “Paul-only” doctrine. It is something found in the words of Christ and Peter as well as Paul. Just once in Scripture should be sufficient but for purposes of staking a position I think it adds even more weight when there are multiple sources.

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Please note a few things here. Be subject to every human institution, emperor and governors. Not to be subject to only the just rulers or those you voted for. Remember again as a frame of reference that when Peter says “emperor” he must be referring to Caesar and when he refers to “governor” that likely refers to men like Pilate. Verse 17 is especially telling; we are to honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God and honor the emperor. Honor Caesar? Absolutely.

Next up is Romans 13, the seminal passage on human governing authorities.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13: 1-7)

There is no authority other than those God has instituted. That would obviously include the Roman empire and of course the good ole United States of America. Wouldn’t it similarly include Nazi Germany? The Stalinist Soviet Union? Castro’s Cuba? North Korea? England under the reign of King George? Lichtenstein! All of the above. So Paul is saying that by resisting the authorities placed over us, we resist God and bring judgment upon ourselves. We are to submit and pay taxes, whether we consider them just or not.

Look at what precedes Romans 13, keeping in mind that the chapter breaks are not in the original. What Paul wrote right before this passage is vital to understanding Romans 13: 1-7.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 14-21)

That is important to remember. Christians in Rome would be facing persecution just as Paul himself, a frequent guest in prison cells, was subjected to. In the face of such injustice, the natural response as an American is to overthrow the scoundrels, the whole refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and patriots thing. Paul is saying just the opposite and we must consider the end of chapter 12 and the beginning of chapter 13 as one continuous thought. Is the government unjust? God will judge that nation. Are the rulers despotic? God is the one who will avenge their injustice, either immediately (see the death of Herod in Acts 12: 20-23) or at the Judgment seat. “Don’t tread on me” is not a concept that would be understood by Paul.

What is the overarching message here? It strikes me that God is sovereign over all nations, not just Western democracies but all nations, and that God will judge those nations. We all understand this and accept this, at least in theory. Submission is an easy topic to talk about but when you apply it as a practical matter, it gets messy and sometimes flies in the face of certain ideals that we hold dear. This issue is one that is easily turned from “Scripture says” to “Well, I think”.

So that brings me back to my original point. Was the founding of America a “Christian” action? I have to say “No”. No matter that the lofty ideals espoused by the Founders sound pleasing to our ears or that we can argue that no secular nation on earth is a better one. The notion that America was once a “Christian nation” and needs to return to that state is demonstrably false because the very founding of America was done as an act of rebellion against the very authorities that God had ordained.

Am I missing something here? Is there anything in the New Testament that would lead a follower of Jesus Christ to think that we are called to overthrow unjust rulers? Should we pray for our leaders? Well certainly we should and that is perfectly Biblical. Should we take up arms to overthrow them? Absolutely not, not even if they force high taxes on us or unjust laws. Not even if they persecute the church and not even if they put Christians to death. God will avenge, not us and we are never called to return evil for evil, even when we are sure that our cause is right. We shouldn’t turn to George Washington and Patrick Henry to form our beliefs regarding human government. Our model for how we should relate to the government is found in Scripture, in Paul and Peter and most especially in Jesus Christ.