Family Threats // Why not Trump // Dumb or Evil? and Responding to Dumb

A short and excellent look at threats to the family today.

Why not to vote for Trump, from a former presidential advisor.

Tim Challies writes on the difference between dumb and evil, and how to respond differently.
"We ought to learn from Jesus the value of extending grace to people to say things that sound outrageous to our ears."


Did God die? // Causing Others to Stumble // Evolution

Did God die on the cross?  Mark Jones disagrees with RC Sproul on this one.  It's pretty technical theological stuff, but clarifying, too.

When should you avoid a questionable activity, because it might cause someone to stumble?
What does that mean?

A helpful look at the difference between macro-evolution (false theory) and proliferation of new species (probably true), especially in Ken Ham's teaching.


Maundy Thursday // Alcorn on Trump // Weaker Vessel? // Glaring at the Sheep

Kevin DeYoung looks briefly at the new commandment of love, on Maundy Thursday.

Randy Alcorn chimes in on Trump.

John Piper explains 1 Peter 3:7 nicely.

This deserves a slow read to your soul, not just a scan.
It's written to pastors on how to avoid cynicism and "glaring at the sheep," but it can apply to any parenting or work situation.


Welcoming New Church Attenders // Trump Delivers the Love

On welcoming newcomers at church.

Trump gives voters (and Christian ones, too) what they love, not so much what they believe.
"What happens when the conference culture of the church trains evangelicals to love the big celebrity leader? What happens when preaching that prioritizes relevant, shocking, and brash sermons trains evangelicals to love 'tell it like it is' ranting?.... Evangelicals in love with Donald Trump happens."


Get Baptized Again? // Downton Abbey Theology // The Sign of Jonah

1.  Rebaptism?  Does baptism do anything to the unbeliever or apostate?
Doug Wilson explains.

2.  Here's an interesting take on Downton Abbey, drawing out Christian themes and contrasting the secular "march of progress" the writer intended.

3.  Jim Jordan explains how Jonah in the fish was a sign of Jesus in the heart of the earth, and what it means for the Christian today.


Liberty for Trump? // Busts of Presidents Past // God's Image

I recently listened to a fascinating interview about Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president.  Falwell is president of Liberty University, like his father was.  His father never endorsed a candidate for president, even as leader of the moral majority.  Falwell, Jr.’s endorsement has the campus, alumni and donors up in arms.  Liberty University is its own voting precinct, so it’s easy to tell how Liberty’s campus (overwhelmingly students) voted in Virginia’s primary.  Out of more than 1100 votes: 44% Rubio, 33% Cruz, 14% Carson, 8% Trump.

Source - The World and Everything in it - daily podcast by World Magazine

This is a fun little article on large busts made of each president, which was up near me in Williamsburg, Va., for a while.  Now they corrode in a field nearby.

Doug Wilson skillfully connects the crucifixion of Jesus, the current sexual revolution, and the Trump campaign, communicating a true conservative's reason for the frustration with Trump in our cultural moment.

Media Choices // A Good Movie // Swearing

The TV you watch affects your spiritual life.  This is a helpful article about media you watch and your pursuit of holiness.

Lest you think that article means don't watch anything, last night I watched October Baby for the first time.  It was a decent movie production with a strong Christian and pro-life theme.  Lots of redemption from awfulness to loveliness and forgiveness portrayed.  One of the few gems in the junkpile that might be worth your time.

Do cool Calvinists cuss?  An OPC pastor and Carl Trueman take this on.


Fatherhood // Trump's brand of Christianity

Rob Slane gets specific on the calling of fatherhood.  This isn't just high rhetoric, but gets to the core of what fathers are to be and do.  Part two is here.

Marvin Olasky knocks it out of the park, connecting Trump with Osteen and the Christian denomination I was raised in, the RCA.  There is a kind of evangelical that won't talk about sin.  That like Trump will wave away the need for forgiveness.

"Voluntary action to lift others up is not only possible, is is superior to the kind of state paternalism that diminishes freedom."  Karl Zinsmeister, "Charitable Giving and the Fabric of America" in Imprimis, Jan 2016.


Jerry Bridges, RIP

Eleven good books by Jerry Bridges, who died recently.  He had an excellent way of spurring us on to holiness without being legalistic about it.  The gospel of grace is the engine of authentic holiness.

Video of Bridges at Justin Taylor's blog

Laying on of Hands in Ordination

What does laying on of hands mean in the Bible?

In the New Testament there are 3 main categories:
Receiving the Spirit – Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6
Ordination – Acts 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6
Healing and blessing, especially in the ministry of Jesus.

The context of Hebrews 6:1-2 implies it is something for all Christians, not clergy.  Basic doctrine for all believers is repentance, baptism, resurrection, judgment.  Laying on of hands would probably be part of this as a confirmation of baptism as new believers enter the church.  The Old Testament background is putting hands on a sacrifice you are about to offer in your place (Numbers 8:12 for one example).

When it comes to ordination to office, the point of the laying on of hands is to show the people the one ordained is being given authority by the church, and to show the one ordained that he is bound with specific authority for a certain purpose.  It’s to recognize the giving of official authority.

I do not believe there is more authority involved if there is an unbroken historical line of succession back to the first apostles in a specific church.  Churches like Rome that claim they are the only true (historical?) church will often emphasize the laying on of hands, believing that only they possess such authority.  They forget Revelation 2:5 – an organized church can lose its lampstand before Christ.  Many have.  So to seek historical continuity of an organization is a wild goose chase.  We’re right to try to recover our historical heritage, but wrong to make it the driving factor of orthodoxy.  Adhering to the content of Scripture is a better test of an authentic church than historical continuation.

I grew up in a denomination that claims to be the oldest continuing denomination in America – the Dutch Reformed.  Today they are very liberal, and straying from Scripture.  The history is just that – it’s just an historical fact.  There is no doctrinal orthodoxy from our past that we can rely on to be accepted by God today.  That would be like relying on your going forward at the altar call 15 years ago, even though you’re sinning up a storm now, not caring about God anymore.

The apostolic succession we follow today is adhering to the Word they wrote in Scripture.  It is not tied to any specific organizational history.  No denomination can claim a monopoly on the Holy Spirit.  The church is characterized (and judged) more by her professions of faith, as witnessed in a succession of baptisms, than she is by her historical line of ordinations of bishops back to the apostles.


Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France

Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in FranceBurke's Reflections on the Revolution in France by F.P. Lock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“In these gentlemen there is nothing of the tender, parental solicitude, which fears to cut up the infant for the sake of an experiment” (314).

So wrote Edmund Burke in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France.”

I’m giving this book a very rare five stars. Burke’s rejection of the French revolution is an exhaustive and principled articulation of political conservatism, a perspective very badly needed in today’s political conversation. As I write, frustration with politics is pushing many good people over the edge into radical revolution, when a return to ordered liberty is needed.

Burke offers up some refreshing insights.

“Far am I from denying… the real rights of men… to do justice,… to the fruits of their industry,… to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death….. All men have equal rights; but not to equal things” (207).
Bernie Sanders, beware.

“Till power and right are the same, … [people have] no right inconsistent with virtue” (210).
Which leaves out abortion.

"What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils.... To give freedom is still more easy... it only requires to let go the rein. But to form a free government; that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint..." (394).

"When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents... will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people" (394).

“Men have been sometimes led by degrees, sometimes hurried, into things of which, if they could have seen the whole together, they never would have permitted the most remote approach” (275).
Burke saw haste, immaturity, even childishness at work in France’s revolution.

"They cannot raise supplies, but they can raise mobs" (388).

Burke’s writing style is notably 1790’s. Long sentences, some archaic vocabulary, but exquisite use of the English language that any aspiring writer should read. One quick example:

“Difficulty is a severe instructor, set over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental Guardian and Legislator, who knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves us better too” (315).

He detested the “throw the bums out” sentiment. Good governance and lasting reform takes time, maturity, moderation, and compromise with the powers at play. Meanwhile, don’t destroy things just you’re frustrated. We call that a temper tantrum. Respect the institutions and wisdom of your forefathers.

Toward the end, Burke gets more detailed than my novice history could comprehend, but I picked up enough to realize he was devastating the revolution’s record of basic competence in governance, regarding currency, the army, representation in the legislature, the power of the puppet-king, etc.

A final quote:
"Our forefathers... acted under a strong impression of the ignorance and fallibility of mankind.... Let us imitate their caution" (396).

(I read an old Harvard Classics edition, 1909, so the pages quoted might not match more recent editions.)

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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's CabinUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he said, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” Whatever else should be said about this book, let us say that Harriet Beecher Stowe can write. She had an impact. Uncle Tom should be read, as an important book addressing the war. But find some more historical or southern perspective to balance this northern view, after you read.

“Liberty! – electric word! What is it? Is there anything more in it than a name – a rhetorical flourish? Why, men and women of America, does your heart’s blood thrill at that word, for which your fathers bld, and your braver mothers were willing that their noblest and best should die?” (404).

“Is not the sense of liberty a higher and a finer one than any of the five? To move, speak and breathe, - go out and come in unwatched, and free from danger! Who can speak the blessings of that rest which comes down on the free man’s pillow, under laws which insure to him the rights that God has given to man?” (408)

She moves and persuades with her appeals directly to the heart and mind, using stories of how slaves in the south were oppressed and treated inhumanely.

Are her stories historically accurate? Apparently this came up soon after Uncle Tom was published, for she addresses it in her last chapter. Yes, she says, she has first- or second-hand accounts of such happenings. While she may not have fabricated her accounts, I found her depiction of southern culture generally quite jaded. No wonder southerners hate this book! The south is shown as having no moral sense. They (slaveholders, that is) are either actively cruel (Simon Legree), or passively apathetic, self-absorbed and narcissistic (St. Clare), or they free their slaves (George Shelby). For Stowe, there could be no other alternative.

Stowe argues compellingly in the last chapter: even if the instances of brutality are rare, our laws allow them, and thus should be changed.

This book is definitely on the sentimental side. By that I mean more than that it’s melodramatic and emotion-driven. Rather, feeling determines what is right and wrong for Stowe, more than an external standard does. She gets to the right conclusion by the wrong method, or at least a method not based on a sure foundation. Uncle Tom’s piety and Christianity is clear, but instead of the Word of God being the foundation for liberty in this book, our feelings are at the forefront. This is a major weakness of the book.

Some critics of Stowe make a big deal of how Transcendentalism had made far more inroads in the north in her time, than in the south. This is why abolitionism of her stripe flourished, is the assertion: the denial of the Trinity led to enforcing same-ness on the nation. I’m not convinced. As a fully Trinitarian Christian, I would love to enforce the same-ness of illegal abortion on the whole nation today, as I would have the illegality of slavery back then. Besides, in the story Tom appeals to the blood of Jesus when resisting the urge to kill his master. Stowe appeals to the cross of Christ at a few points, as an opposing value to owning slaves. Stowe’s ideal piety does not appear to be a deistic transcendentalism, but straight-up Christianity.

I’ve heard southern critics of Stowe argue that the north was also at fault for tolerating and even holding some slaves. As if this were an argument on the south’s side. It is known as the “Tu quoque” fallacy (you, too). At the end, Stowe too condemns the north along with the south, for trading in slaves some, for not really accepting blacks as equals, and for tolerating the laws that allowed for depriving blacks of their rights. One can focus on the north’s hypocrisy in being culturally racist while condemning legal racism in the south. Or you can focus on the south’s hypocrisy in knowing the black is a person, but continuing to hold them in captivity as property regardless of the man-stealing source of the market. Both were at fault in that regard. The south was willing to leave the union to keep their slaves. (Yes, I know other economic factors were involved, but it’s hard to prove slavery wasn’t a big one.) The north was willing to compel them to stay in at the point of a cannon.

When Cassy wants to kill the brutal slave-owner, Tom stops her: “good never comes of wickedness” (417). The north knew on one level that violent means to end slavery was wrong, yet pursued enforced union anyway. The south knew on one level that chattel slavery was wrong, yet held them anyway.

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How Does Your Marriage Run? // Don't Be the Holy Spirit // Criticism

This is an incisive, quick look at 8 ways we order our marriage - 7 wrong, 1 right.  It cuts through many problems we get stuck in, in marriage.

On trying to "be the Holy Spirit" for other people.  What does this cliche mean?  This article might help.

On getting criticized - by Nick Batzig.  Criticism comes in a variety of forms.  It's easy to either disdain it all or by crushed quickly, depending on your temperament.  This will help.

Begg on politics! // Small churches selfish? // Sunday Singing is Special

I appreciated Alistair Begg's short take on the political season right now.
Apparently he was at the Cleveland Republican debate, and so was George Bush, Sr.  Interesting to think of Bush watching these debates!

Mega-church pastor Andy Stanley recently called small church-goers selfish.  See the quote and Todd Pruit's good response here.

Sunday Singing is Special, says Bob Kauflin.  This is excellent reminder of what worship with music at church is NOT.


The Trinity

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, articles II.3, which you can find here.

God is one being, or divine essence.  And the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each fully God.  The Father is not the Son, the Spirit is not the Father, and so on – they are different and distinguishable persons.  The Father is not begotten, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Spirit is sent forth of the Father and Son.  The rational mind is not able to comprehend and fully harmonize these truths, but they are affirmed in Scripture.

The deity of Jesus the Son is shown in John 17:5, where He says He had glory with the Father before the world was.  He was/is/will be involved in the divine work of creation (John 1:3), providence (Col 1:17), sending the Spirit to us (John 16.7), and the last judgment (Jn 5:22).  Worship is due the Son – Heb 1:6; Rev 1:5-6.

The deity of the Holy Spirit is also clear in the Bible.  Lying to the Spirit is the same as lying to God, in Acts 5:3-4.  He has divine attributes: omnipresent (Psalm 139:7); omniscient (1 Cor 2.10-11).  The New Testament quotes the Old by saying, “The Spirit says,” a few times, showing that the Word of God was written or inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25).

Who and What is God?

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, articles II.1-2, which you can find here.

There is only one God.  “Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one [or, Yahweh alone]” Deuteronomy 6:4.  While the Bible speaks of angels and rulers as gods figuratively (Ps 82:6; 97:7), and calls Satan the god of this world, there is no question the Bible affirms only one true God.  1 Corinthians 8:4 says, “we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.”

This God is a Spirit.  He is not to be identified with the world, or the laws of nature.  He has an “intelligence, feeling and will.”  He is personal, not a force.  We are made in his image and are spirit, too.  God has no body or passions.  Many mistakenly assume from this that God is devoid of emotion or feeling at all, which is not true.  Our emotions are changeable and mixed with sin.  Our feelings act upon us and get us in trouble.  But God has consistent feeling for us, no temper tantrum or weak moment of sentimental love.  God is angry with the wicked every day.  He is compassionate to His people.  The Bible speaks of the zeal of God (Isaiah 9:7).  These aren’t just pictures to help us understand.  God really does relate to us with personal intensity.  He isn’t a block of ice.  But His “passions” are not like ours - changeable or arbitrary. 

God has absolute and relative perfections.  Absolute perfections are His alone, not shared with His creatures.  In this class would be His eternity and self-existence.  Relative perfections are those He does relate to us, share with us in part, like His holiness, goodness and knowledge.  They are communicable attributes, we say.

God is self-existent.  He needs nothing, and He didn’t create us out of need.  “All things are open” – God never troubleshoots His creation, trying one thing, then another if that doesn’t work.  Everything God plans and does works.  He is sovereign.  And not just in the sense of having control to manipulate things how He wants them.  But also in the sense of rightly having sovereignty.  (“To Him is due…”).