The Jesus Revolution Movie: a Review


So I saw the movie “Jesus Revolution” last night.


4 stars out of 5.


As far as I understand, the movie is historically accurate to the times.  The “Jesus people” movement of the 70s was not just a copy-cat of the hippie movement, but was a real spiritual awakening.  The movie contrasts Timothy O’Leary’s message of “turn on, tune in, drop out,” with the Gospel message of forgiveness in Jesus Christ for your sins.  Both messages are clearly shown, and the fruit of them shown, too.  Drugs lead to car crashes and near- or actual-death.  The Gospel leads to new birth.


The doubts of all sides are shown well.  Greg Laurie wondered if this religion was just another new high that will pass.  Chuck Smith wondered if he would lose control in his church if he let the hippies in.  Lonnie thought God had abandoned him when everything didn’t go how he wanted.


The message is very relevant today, as drugs continue to be an escape for many – yet this path remains a dead end.  When the stoner comes to the end of his rope, the Gospel is still there for him.  The movie conveys the second chance everyone gets to receive grace, though they have made a wreck of their lives.


Jesus Revolution shows the polarity between the younger, immature, but vibrant, Spirit-filled faith, and the older, mature, but calcified faith that needs shaking up.  This is a real thing.  But as Hollywood will do, it leans heavily in the direction that the former is absolutely better and life-giving.  This is not entirely wrong, but the young need the old to mature as well.  The movie doesn’t portray that at all.  So no 5 stars.  The megachurch has been stuck ever since in immature mode.  The church needs to welcome in the immature, but insist that they grow in the faith, and not stay the spiritual infants they often are.


I’d recommend Jesus Revolution for a few reasons:

1. A history lesson of the church in the last 50 years.

2. Evaluating how churches should present the Gospel to various generations and ages.

3. Understanding the faults that all sides are prone to: traditionalists, new believers, and unbelievers pursuing the truth in bad ways.


Reparations // Public Theology // Defense of American Revolution

1. Kevin DeYoung has a good critique of reparations here.

2. Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, has an excellent piece on the importance of public theology here. The seminary is seeing the need to train future pastors to have a developed theology of politics, and to tackle the rise (and I'd say current triumph) of cultural Marxism as the threat to Christianity that it is.

3. Just read this clear article defending the American Revolution. The four take-aways at the end are very good.

But I still have questions.

1. If colonial charters with the king were revoked in 1689, as the article says, how can the whole argument here hinge on those very charters establishing the colonies' relationship with the king, and not with parliament?

2. Didn't the king have the right to use parliament to administer his relationship with the colonies? Seems reasonable to me.

Where the rubber hits the road for me is this:
- Was there a principled problem that we were not being represented in Parliament, or that the king wouldn't hear us reasonably, while our rights were trampled upon? Did George violate Magna Carta-like common law in his treatment of the American colonies?
- Or was it that the colonists had to pay their fair share for the benefits of the empire, and just didn't like it - e.g., taxes to fund a war (French-Indian) that had benefitted them?

I lean toward the first.

Yet I'm suspicious of the strength of the argument that the colonies didn't have to listen to Parliament, only the king.
The better argument seems to be:
- taxation without representation
- rights trampled (harboring troops in homes, etc.)
- Magna Carta obligations the king has to his subjects' rights



Defending the American Revolution

Just read this clear article defending the American Revolution. The four take-aways at the end are very good.

But I still have questions.

1. If colonial charters with the king were revoked in 1689, as the article says, how can the whole argument here hinge on those very charters establishing the colonies' relationship with the king, and not with parliament?

2. Didn't the king have the right to use parliament to administer his relationship with the colonies? Seems reasonable to me.

Where the rubber hits the road for me is this:
- Was there a principled problem that we were not being represented in Parliament, or that the king wouldn't hear us reasonably, while our rights were trampled upon? Did George violate Magna Carta-like common law in his treatment of the American colonies?
- Or was it that the colonists had to pay their fair share for the benefits of the empire, and just didn't like it - e.g., taxes to fund a war (French-Indian) that had benefitted them?

I lean toward the first.

Yet I'm suspicious of the strength of the argument that the colonies didn't have to listen to Parliament, only the king.
The better argument seems to be:
- taxation without representation
- rights trampled (harboring troops in homes, etc.)
- Magna Carta obligations the king has to his subjects' rights


Saved through child-bearing? // Andy Stanley // Woke Critique

This is a decent, short exposition of 1 Timothy 2:15: 

"Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."

Also good:  analysis of Andy Stanley's comments on homosexuality in the church.

Just read this excellent article in Westminster Magazine.
C.S. Lewis' critique of Bulverism, and the critical theory advocates' response to Kevin DeYoung's critique were both instructive.

But the big takeaway is that critical theory's main goal is destruction:
"Tear it all down, because I hate God and mankind."


About the Lord's Day

Thoughts on Mother Kirk, by Douglas Wilson - chapter 6 - The Lord’s Day


Summary of Wilson’s argument

Observing the Lord’s Day has gotten a bad rap from the Puritan Sabbatarians, who frowned on napping, bike riding, or other recreational activity on the Sabbath.  The original command was to rest from our normal work (Deut 5:12-15), and to worship (Leviticus 23:3).  Works of necessity and mercy are also allowed, such as cooking meals and doing someone a good turn (Mark 2:23-28; 3:2-5).  The Sabbatarian view that insists the whole day be involved with worship, necessity and mercy neglects the foundational command of rest.  But rest should be accompanied by worship, or it comes to violate God’s purpose for the day (Isaiah 58).


It is hard to observe the Lord’s Day without doing so as a people.  We need to give each other rest, and observe it together, for it to really “work.”  This Old Testament command is like the tithe or the call to apply sacramental signs to our children: it may be modified in the New Testament, but we don’t need to find it restated in the New Testament to believe the modern day Christian is called to it.


The Sabbath day was changed from Saturday to Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, and then appeared to the disciples the Sunday following (John 20:26).  The early continued to meet for worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).  Hebrews 4 makes the point that the Sabbath has a creational aspect (the Father rested from His work) and a redemptive aspect as well (the Son rested from His work after the cross).


Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17 are addressing annual and monthly Old Testament feasts, not the Sabbath day.  If they meant to say the weekly Sabbath day is like every other day, it would contradict the verses above.


Don’t approach the Sabbath with a list of things you cannot do.  Focus on the basics of rest, worship, necessity and mercy.  Observe the day such that your children desire the day, instead of dreading it.  It should be more celebrative than funereal.


There remains a rest (Sabbath) for God’s people (Hebrews 4:9-10).  “This is the day the LORD has made” (Psalm 118:24) spoke of Sunday, the day Christ was risen from the dead.  Sabbath portrays the Gospel, which gathers, relieves, saves, restores, and feasts God’s people.  The day should do the same each week in our observing it.


We are set free as New Testament Christians from ritual observance of the Old Testament law.  But the Sabbath was founded long before Moses, and continues as a principle for us to endure.



Further thoughts of my own

Wilson is right that HOW we observe the day matters.  Just as in all our obedience to God, Sunday observance should be a “get to” not a “got to.”  A delight more than a duty, though it is both.


Wilson doesn’t mention this, but his argument contravenes both the Westminster Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism at points regarding the Sabbath.  This is jarring to state baldly, but it is a position to which most orthodox Presbyterians hold today.  Contra Westminster, the Sabbath should involve basic rest and can involve recreation as well.  Contra Heidelberg, there IS a day still set aside for us to observe, regarding the Fourth Commandment and Leviticus 23.



Wilson skirts this issue, but part of Sabbath observance is giving rest to others, particularly your servants.  This is in BOTH versions of the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14).  It is explicit: “that your male and female servant may rest as well as you.”  So don’t make the illegal immigrant who is cleaning hotel rooms and bussing tables, work on Sundays.  Most modern Christians feel free to eat out or shop on Sundays, but doing so takes away rest from those who are working.  A society that observed the Lord’s Day properly would have employers requiring Sunday work far less than we do.  Just as I would not encourage anyone to blaspheme (3rd Commandment) or to dishonor their parents (5th commandment), so I ought not do anything that encourages them to go to their normal waitering job at the restaurant (4th commandment).  Such work is not a work of necessity or mercy, and often creates a schedule conflict with worship.  The principle is to not do anything that directly causes someone else to work a job on Sundays.  The Sabbath should be oriented around the church and the home, not the marketplace of gas stations, grocery stores or restaurants.


The question is often raised of how to give rest to the wife, who usually has extra work if eating out is not an option.  First, the husband can find plenty of other ways to give her rest: helping with the preparation, the cooking, and the dishes, for example.  The husband whose only means of giving her rest is taking her out to eat needs to expand the ways in which he serves and blesses his wife.  Also, the meal schedule can be adjusted, planning a simpler meal, or leftovers, for Sundays.  For wives who find meal preparation a burden, this is quite important.  Others who enjoy cooking may “do it up” on Sundays.


I believe this to be a relative command, based on Christ’s teaching on the Sabbath, when His disciples picked and ate grain, and He taught in response to objections about David breaking ritual law under necessity (Mark 2:23-28).  There are times the gas station is a necessity on the Lord’s Day.  Most of the time, this is because you didn’t adequately prepare the day before, but there are exceptions like vacations, where it cannot be helped.  God means the day as rest, not keeping a list of don’ts.  You don’t have to sleep in your car or go hungry if you are far from home on a Sunday.  Sometimes the ox is in a ditch, and work or shopping is needed.  But you should prepare as much as possible on Saturdays to observe Sunday properly.  Again, not so much as a list of do’s and don’ts, but as time set aside to spend with the Lord.  In days past, when we had more of a Christian culture, much of Saturday was taken up with getting ready for Sunday.  You did the work around the house so you didn’t have to mess with it on Sundays.


On a date night with your wife, you may often think of an errand to run in the store.  But you intentionally don’t do it, to keep the evening special with her.  It can wait.  How much more should we set aside routine market activity on the Lord’s Day, to spend it with Him and His people?


There is a plausible argument for the opposing position, allowing market activity as on any other day of the week.  So I do not treat this as a sin issue, prosecuting people that practice differently, especially not as a pastor.  But I do believe this to be the Biblical means of observing the Lord’s Day.


The Satanic Temple and the Church

And now, a guest post, by my daughter, Grace Hemmeke...

The church faces many fronts of battle. This is in some ways reflective of the church’s state on earth – fractured, schismatic, constantly on guard against “those who hate her and false sons in her pale”. These distractions also show the cacophonous, chaotic nature of the church’s opposition. It can be helpful then, to reorient ourselves from time to time, remembering that we serve Jesus Christ in His commission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

It can also be helpful to remember our common enemy. Some sects of Christianity tend to avoid much mention of Satan or of evil in general, reducing a Christian’s life to merely a relationship growing in faith with God, while other’s explicitly renounce Satan at the time of their baptism, along with all his works and all his pomp.

And sometimes, Satan himself reminds us all that although he fell from heaven, he is now on our earth, going to and fro and walking up and down it.

A few days ago, he did just that. The Satanic Temple made the news with an announcement that they would be providing chemical abortions within the state of New Mexico for those who are interested in performing “The Satanic Temple’s abortion ritual”.

Now there are some Christian congregations and clergy who hold a “modern” or progressive stance on abortion, endorsing it in some cases and circumstances. Ignoring for a moment the commands from the Bible such as, “You shall not murder”, these congregations and clergy now find themselves agreeing with The Satanic Temple, at least on this issue. That might be one of the most obvious and explicit theological red flags a church is ever blessed with receiving, short of God speaking out of a cloud – of course, if they were given the words of the prophets and didn’t believe them, why would they listen to God…

Nevertheless, the willingness of The Satanic Temple to provide abortion should serve as a wakeup call to American churches. There is real and active opposition to Christ, and that Opposer is willing to target the weakest and most vulnerable members of society in his vindictive mission to destroy the image of God wherever he can.

It was interesting to me to note that the abortion ritual which The Satanic Temple practices includes speaking aloud The Satanic Temple’s third tenet: “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.” That reminded me of two quotes from Milton’s Paradise Lost, which are both spoken by Satan shortly after his being cast down from heaven.


All is not lost—the unconquerable will,

And study of revenge, immortal hate,

And courage never to submit or yield:

And what is else not to be overcome?


Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.


Among those to whom Satan speaks are the demons Moloch and Baal, who require infant sacrifice as part of their worship. Today, secular culture might laugh at the idea of Moloch or Baal while worshipping the very selfish ambitions which they embody. The Satanic Temple’s third tenet is an obvious indicator of this. There is nothing more important than one’s will and body and if people have to die in order for one to maintain their autonomy, so be it.

Two brief counter examples: First, the virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, who when told that she had been chosen by God to become pregnant with His Son, said, “Behold the maidservant of Yahweh. Let it be to me according to your word.”

Second: that Son, Jesus, who went to his death so that we could stand face to face in God’s presence, justified and redeemed from every sin. He died knowing every pain that he would suffer, with every power to call down a legion of angels and save himself, but he asked God only: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

The selfishness of Satan bred his eternal damnation and his unrelenting war on God’s people and God’s image. He now unabashedly sends his followers to help others in their destructive selfishness under the guise of bodily autonomy without regard for those around them. Satan is not trying to hide in our society.

Neither should the church. We have a better advocate in heaven than any worldly satanic cultist or selfish secular agnostic does (and ours is still in heaven, by the way). We should continue to oppose Satan, and all his works, which now explicitly include abortion. One benefit of living in an increasingly depraved world is that the church’s work becomes increasingly clearer. The church should, in light of the Satanic Temple’s actions, have renewed unity and total opposition to any pro-abortion measures or concessions.

Outside of the Bible, this is the clearest indication the world will give to the church that abortion is immoral. Both the repeated biblical exhortations to uphold innocent life and this latest rejection of God’s creative prerogative should spur the church to a universal rejection of abortion and the satanic selfishness it stems from.



Fearing God Changes Culture // Romans 13 // Churches Treat Pastors Like...

This is a decent article on what it means to fear God, and how it impacts cultures and markets generally.

A solid take on Romans 13 at Tabletalk.

Here's a funny take by Alistair Begg on how churches treat their pastors.

It's tongue in cheek.  Some churches are this mean, but few.

Pastor, the church will, in year...

1 – idolize you

2 – criticize you

3 – ostracize you

4 – liquidize you – squeeze all the juice out of you!

5 – tyrannize you

6 – analyze you

7 – paralyze you

8 – fossilize you

9 – stigmatize you

10 – re-galvanize you

11 – memorialize you

Abuse does not reject proper use

I want to talk about Kuyperian sphere sovereignty, briefly.

All of life is overseen by the family, the church, or the state.  These “spheres of sovereignty” overlap a fair bit, too.  An abuse in one sphere can be corrected by another.

This is probably a bad idea, but I’m going to categorize this politically and simplistically, for this article:
The Left emphasizes the state’s role in correcting abuses in the other spheres.
The Right emphasizes the family’s role in correcting abuses in the other spheres.
The Left tends to de-legitimize the church and family’s authority.
The Right tends to de-legitimize the church and state’s authority.

Here are some examples, where abuse does not reject proper use.

1. Our state governor has used the attorney general’s office to pursue the prosecution of clergy who have been accused of sexual abuse.  The state may be overreaching in the details, here, and doing so out of malice toward the church.  But the state has a legitimate role to prosecute and penalize church officers who commit such crimes.  State abuse of the church does not reject their proper intervention in the church when needed.

2. A man wants to marry but has seen the divorce court do injustice to his friends and family in the past.  So he wants to marry without getting a license from the state, giving it no role.  The state screws up, yes.  But the state has a legitimate and important role in registering marriage and regulating its dissolution, even if they don’t do it well.  The church and family do not have the tools to regulate it when a marriage falls apart.  State abuse of marriage (including wrongfully defining it!) does not reject its proper intervention in a marriage when needed.

3. A church misuses its authority and excommunicates a member for a petty, vindictive, or minor reason.  The member takes his family to another church, vowing never to join another church again.  But the church has a legitimate role to oversee members.  Church abuse of the family/individual does not reject its proper intervention in the family when needed.

(Extra on that one: Christians need church membership like fathers need jobs.  It provides something you need in life.  Even if you get fired wrongly, you need to pursue another job.)

4. A pastor has seen too many cases of authoritarian fathers and presses the men of his church to be “servant leaders” in their homes.  The concept is decent, but he winds up implying husbands should not ever use their authority to lead their wives and children.  The family can go awry in its role.  But the family still has a legitimate role to cultivate marriage and raise children, without undue intervention from the church or state.

5. School administrators press a trans agenda, and insist that if parents do not encourage a child's gender transition, they do not have a role in that part of their children's lives.  The parents should listen when the school talks about their child's behavior in class, etc., but the school is abusing its role with the trans agenda.

6. An older daughter gets pregnant before marriage.  The father asks their pastor not to get into it because it would be too hard on everyone.  They’ve seen how hard ex-communications are on families.  The church can carry out discipline poorly, but the church has a required role in this.    The church’s counsel and discipline within the family aren’t always perfect – it should step carefully and slowly.  But the family should remain open to receiving it with humble grace.  The church has a legitimate role to disciple and discipline families.

(This is the conservative’s Achilles’ Heel.  They talk big about the importance of church and country.  But the second either church or state impinges on their family, even rightly, many will loudly protest or leave.)

7. An elder despises the state’s past covid restrictions on the church.  He agitates to keep the state out of any say in the church.  It is the enemy.  But the state does have a civic role in ordering businesses and institutions.  The state wasn’t wrong to ask churches to consider closing for a little while, when covid started.  (Of course, it turned into something we needed to reject.)  The state screwed up during covid, yes.  But the state has a legitimate role in overseeing the church’s operations, on a civic level.  A cordial relationship between the church and state is much preferred to a hostile one, wherever possible.

Hopefully in each of these seven cases, you can see that any sphere can abuse its authority.  In that instance, it should be corrected, rejected, resisted, over-ridden, vetoed, etc. as possible.

But each sphere's general role and authority remains in place.

Abuse does not reject proper use.


Hinge of Fate: Book Review of Winston Churchill


The Hinge of Fate (The Second World War, #4)The Hinge of Fate by Winston S. Churchill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up after a 10 year hiatus (!). It makes for great change-of-pace reading.

Dear Winston includes every detail he has, every main policy paper and telegram, leading Britain through the war.
This volume starts with America entering the war, and ends with the Allies routing Rommel from North Africa. “We turn from almost uninterrupted disaster to almost unbroken success” (vi).

“We were no longer alone. At our side stood two mighty Allies. Russia and the United States were, though for different reasons, irrevocably engaged to fight to the death in the closest concert with the British Empire” (3).

I found Stalin’s telegrams to Churchill, and Churchill’s visits to FDR, to be the most entrancing. Stalin was generally grumping and compmlaining about how the West wasn’t doing anything to draw Hitler off from him. It’s Russia taking all the casualties, not you! He had a point. We took our sweet time getting D-Day going, but it takes time to produce weapons, train men, and move it all into position. Here is Churchill to FDR, March 5, 1942:

“When I reflect how I have longed and prayed for the entry of the United States into the war, I find it difficult to realise how gravely our British affairs have deteriorated by what has happened since December 7. We have suffered the greatest disaster in our history at Singapore, and other misfortunes will come thick and fast upon us. Your great power will only become effective gradually because of the vast distances and the shortage of ships.”

Churchill, in typical egocentric fashion, shows that he was the main force urging everyone to get off their duffs and get moving. He saw too much holding back, waiting to attack until everything was perfect. He wanted every Ally force employed in attacking the enemy as much as possible, to wear them down.

But with Germany’s massive defeats in Russia and Africa, the tide turned:
“Henceforward the danger was not Destruction but Stalemate…. Soon the German nation was to be alone in Europe, surrounded by an infuriated world in arms.”

For some video and visuals, try these.
We shall fight…

Churchill funeral: When will we ever again see a nation so sincerely grateful for a great statesman like Churchill? The lowering of the cranes over the Thames gets me every time…

Speech: Their Finest Hour
This gets good at about 3:30...

Speech to US Congress, one month after Pearl Harbor
Lots of zingers in here!


Is Tithing for Today?

In this short article, I will:

explain what the Old Testament tithe was,
explain what it was used for,
argue that it remains in effect for the New Testament Christian,
apply this to church budgeting and pastor’s salaries today,
and consider how to shepherd the church regarding giving.
What is a tithe?
Tithe is simply an old English word for tenth.  The concept was simple.  Give 10 percent of all your increase to God.  God also specified that it needs to be the first tenth.  In our modern day, this simply means, putting it at the top of your budget.  It’s the first thing to come out, not the last if there is anything left over (there never is!)
Use of the tithe
The Old Testament tithe was given for three main things:
1. The priest and Levite’s living and temple administration.  Numbers 18:21-32.
2. Charity to the poor.  Deuteronomy 14:28-29
3. Feasting before the Lord.  Deut 12:6
This Old Testament pattern holds for the church today.
The majority of evangelicals believe the tithe requirement has been abrogated in the New Testament, because of 2 Corinthians 9:7.  Give not out of obligation, but what you feel led to give, it says.  They mistakenly think that all obligations are abolished, but that is a misreading of the text.  The point is the heart attitude in your giving.  Just as God says rhetorically He hasn’t required sacrifices and offerings of us, if we are going to bring them hypocritically (Isaiah 1), so He doesn’t want 10% given grudgingly.  But that doesn’t mean God is okay with 3% given cheerfully, either!  The New Testament posture is not, “Do whatever, as long as your heart is in the right place!”  No, it should be, “Do what God says, and make sure your heart is also in the right place doing it.”
More importantly, this view does not take account of 1 Cor. 9:13-14, which appeals to the Old Testament tithing principle to say that those preaching the gospel should have their livelihood from it.  Just as the priests lived off the tithe, so should pastors today.
The tithe does NOT go to para-church ministries, but to a body of believers supporting the worship of God (Deut 12:17-19).  This is a tough one for many, who believe they are getting more or better teaching or help for their families from a para-church group, than they are from their church.  But do you see the catch-22, there?  If believers were to give a full 10% to the church, it would have the resources to at least oversee, if not do better, what other groups are currently doing.  Many judge that the church cannot do the job as well.  And that is true, in part, because they are not giving what they should be giving to the church.  They also argue that there were NO such ministries in the OT, but now there are many to use and support.  This often prompts me to concede that such ministries might receive a small part of one’s tithe, but the local church should still receive the lion’s share of it.
Church budgets!
Not only does the 10% requirement hold, but the church should also follow the Old Testament pattern of how it is used.  Translating the three uses above, church budgets today should prioritize:

1. A pastor’s salary and facility usage.  
It’s ideal to pay the pastor the average of what people in the church and community around are making.

2. Benevolence and missions.  
If you really want to get into the weeds, this was commanded the 3rd year of every seven.  So one-seventh of a church’s budget, roughly, should go to missions and benevolence.

3. Supplies for sacraments and for the fellowship of the church
Feasting before the Lord was a once (or a few times) a year event, so it would be a small percentage of a church’s yearly budget.  Church balls, parties, meals, campouts, etc. should be sponsored from this fund.

The New Testament does not require pastors to take a full-time salary.  Paul forewent this, to not burden the new churches.  And he could make another living at the same time (1 Cor. 9:12b).  But a church should seek to provide itself with a full-time pastor, as far as possible (1 Cor. 9:9-14) .  Too many churches underpay their pastors, appealing to this passage, when it is really about the pastor’s discretion, not the church’s obligation.  The pastor has a right to a decent living from his pastoral labors, and he also has the freedom to NOT receive it, or to give some or all of it back, for the church’s sake.  A church of 16-20 tithing families should be able to support a pastor and cover the other budget items above, as well.
Shepherding people regarding the tithe
While I believe the church should teach this full throttle, I do not believe leadership should “police” individual members’ giving very much.  Many churches will have overzealous deacons who pressure the pastor to preach on giving, or to visit family x and talk to them, because they aren’t giving.  Restraint and teaching is the need of the hour.  When people first come to the church, a membership interview should include a brief mention of tithing as part of what is expected of members.  If there is a long pattern of a member giving little to nothing, when it is apparent that they could give, a deacon should inquire as to why.  Concern and criticism are warranted.
Beyond that, I treat this issue much like the Sabbath.  When a church member goes out to eat on a Sunday when they don’t have to, it grieves me because of my conviction and Lord’s Day practice.  But I am not going to treat it like a sin issue, because of varying, plausible convictions on the matter. 


Review: The Case for Christian Nationalism

Conservative Christians today are sorely tempted to overreact to the leftist craziness out there.  Stephen Wolfe’s first book, The Case for Christian Nationalism, seems to me to be the most recent example.  Aware of a globalist push by “no borders” George Soros, or Klaus at the World Economic Forum, those on the right are lately making an over-wrought case for nationalism as a good thing.


Others have reviewed the whole book more ably than me, especially Kevin DeYoung and Brian Matteson.  Upon reading the introduction of this book, in which Wolfe summarizes his conclusions with some supporting arguments, I decided not to inflict over 400 more pages of it upon myself.  


Here are some reasons why.


1. Wolfe’s definition of nationalism is an odd tautology: it’s just what a nation does in its laws and customs (pgs. 9, 11).  This is a far cry from the common understanding of the term, which he says he won’t waste time addressing (26).


2. Wolfe argues that a nation’s totality of action for itself is what makes nationalism a good thing (12-13).  ALL actions in the nation are directed to the good of the nation.  The mother nurses her child for the nation.  This is both ominous and closer to the popular understanding of nationalism.  Not to be incendiary, but it frankly sounds like some of Hitler’s rhetoric.  For Christians, national loyalty takes a back seat – we are raising our children for Christ before we do so for the nation.


3. Wolfe asserts that his theological assumptions are “widely shared among Christians” (18), and cites “Who Is My Neighbor?” by Dow/Achord.  I have reviewed this book and believe its inferred assertion of isolationism and quasi-kinism is widely REJECTED by Christians.  Separately, Wolfe also asserts natural law from a Thomistic understanding, linking it with Reformed thought, which is highly controversial and not assumed truth at all today (17).


4. Speaking of Thomas Aquinas, Wolfe follows him in asserting that grace perfects or restores nature.  While this is partly true, it is also true in important ways that grace goes against fallen nature.  Galatians 3:28-29 tell us there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, we are one in Christ.  Grace transcends nature.  We don’t just go back to what feels natural (natural affections is the term, now), and assume that is God’s moral law.  Nature needs sanctifying and fixing; it is not a reliable guide for our moral compass.


5.  Wolfe takes this quite far, asserting that grace does not “critique” the natural desire to dwell among a similar people.  “The natural inclination to dwell among a similar people is good and necessary” (24).  This is again an overreaction to leftist insistence on diversity.  The development of the NT church in Acts radically contravenes Wolfe's thesis, showing a godly, new diversity which God’s people needed to welcome.  Think of the church in Philippi, with the Roman jailor and devout Jewish Lydia, in the same congregation.  Lest you think I’m just “mixing categories” of church and state, realize that the Gospel should have an effect on nations, such that people don’t insist on mixing only with their kind politically, because of the Gospel and verses like Galatians 3:28-29, Ephesians 2:14, and Colossians 3:11.


6.  Another overreaction regards Gnosticism.  The Gnostic impulse would urge that physical particularities, like language, custom and place make NO difference – the identifying marker is the spiritual principles to which one holds, only.  Wolfe and many on the right today are overreacting against that, giving physical characteristics TOO MUCH weight.  Being a man, as we experience that naturally, instead of a woman, comes to define your Christianity.  No, Scripture and the Spirit need to supernaturally shape a man’s unique make-up and desires.  With Wolfe’s nationalism, forming the nation according to its particularities defines Christian culture.  Take this too far, and it results in Roman Catholic syncretism with various cultures: "This is how Americans, or South Americans, ARE, so the church needs to adapt to that.  Respect their culture."  Sometimes, but the Gospel disciples (shapes) the nations to its mold.  We don't insist on keeping the physical particularities of our national identity, if they are hindering the Gospel.


7.  Finally, Wolfe advocates for a “Christian prince,” a magistrate with the power to correct the church’s errors.  His argument is poor: “The Christian prince can, in principle, remove error and reform the visible church, because no error is actually in the visible church in itself, for no error can exist in the Kingdom of God” (32).  And the conclusion is patently false or Quixotic.  Who wants Joe Biden or Ron DeSantis telling the church what their errors are?  At what point will we have a governor or president we would trust to set the councils, cardinals, priests and pastors all straight?  This is building castles in the sky.



Wolfe does say some good things.  Here is a highlight: “Governmental and societal ‘neutrality’ are impossible and… secularism is pervasive and relentless.  It has evolved into a sort of pagan nationalism, in which bizarre moralities and rites are imposed upon all areas of life” (36).  This is an accurate diagnosis, but the book’s prognosis is riddled with problems.  He is on to something with his call back to the political order of early America, I think. 


What the church needs right now is not a greater focus on local place, nation, or physical characteristics.  We need a richer understanding of the Gospel that permeates all of life.  That will lead to some focus on place, nation and the physical.  But it will be transformative of nature, not hidebound to it.  It will lead us to love the stranger among us, and to transform our civic and physical lives, rather than reverting to our natural desires.



 I just whittled down my podcasts to these, in rough order of importance.

Let me know what you think I should be listening to!

The Theology Pugcast - CR Wiley, Glenn Sunshine, Tom Price

Knox Unplugged - Jason Farley on cosmology/worldview

The Briefing - Al Mohler

Things Unseen - Sinclair Ferguson (NEW)


Morning Wire

The World and Everything in It

Life, Books, and Everything - Kevin DeYoung

Christ Church sermons

The Plodcast - Doug Wilson

Mortification of Spin

The Aaron Renn Show

Pastors' Talk - Mark Dever

Thinking in Public - Al Mohler

Capital Record - David Bahnsen

Acton Vault

Acton Line

Jordan Peterson


Confidentiality and the Pastor

Pastors navigate various levels of confidentiality and discretion in their work.  He needs to withhold or share appropriate detail with the church, with the elders, and with his wife.

Much of this also applies to elders and deacons, in their ministries.

Confidentiality and the pastor's wife:
Many are surprised that my wife does not know something that they told me 2-3 weeks ago.  It's a common virtue signal of a healthy marriage among evangelicals: "I tell my wife everything."  So church members often assume the pastor's wife knows everything the pastor knows.  But the pastorate is a valid exception to this.  My default position is to NOT tell my wife about specific pastoral situations, or even news people don't want broadcast to the whole church.  If you don't want to broadcast it, I usually don't tell my wife or the elders, either.

Some pastors might not tell their wives, because they know she has looser lips than she should.  That is not our problem at all, and every pastor's wife should get wisdom about discretion in this area.  But even if she is perfectly discrete, it is just harder on her than it needs to be, for her to know every problem in the church, to the same detail that her husband knows.  As with every vocation, pastors shoulder burdens that their wives don't need to know all about.  This also helps her to be as much a "regular" church member as anyone else.

Now, there are certainly times when the pastor benefits from explaining a situation and getting his wife's wisdom to do his job.  But that is not the case every time, nor should it be.  She is not ordained to the office of Pastor's Wife, nor is she a quasi-Elder.  But she is his helper in his pastoral mission.

Here is an attempted list of levels, from highest to lowest clearance:

1. Top secret.  Objectively sensitive.
Someone shares quietly, one on one, that they suffered some abuse or trauma 3 years ago.  It's been dealt with legally, but it's very sensitive.  Marriage counseling and personal sexual issues probably fall into this category, too.  Unless they say I can, I don't tell anyone, and I don't usually ask if I may.  I may tell the elders or my wife in very vague terms that there are some deep wounds or struggles there, if they are members, but that I can't go into detail.

2. Secret.  Subjectively sensitive.
A church member shares a fairly routine parenting or other pastoral difficulty, but they obviously have a lot of shame and sensitivity over it.  This is something I'd usually feel free to share with the elders, but I'll ask them if it's okay first.  Sometimes people are horrified to share a personal problem with their pastor, even though that's God's design in the church.  They can need time to realize the church is a place for help, and not harmful exposure.  I may not even ask, if they are really upset, and just keep it to myself.  Maybe get someone involved who can help them, if I can't.  I might share this with my wife, but tell her it's confidential.

3. Discrete.
A regular pastoral difficulty (whatever that is).  I'll share it with the elders and maybe my wife, if it is urgent and needs more counsel than I've been able to help with.  Or as part of our monthly shepherding list review as elders.  Sometimes getting another family involved who can help, with their consent, widens the circle of confidentiality a bit.

4. Unrepentant sin.
If a member is flouting their sin or unbelief to me, or won't talk to me about it when the offense is clear, and I don't resolve it in a short time, I NEED to get the elders involved.  In the case of #3 above, I normally share it but may not for a while, depending on how acute the issue is.  With major unrepentant sin, I HAVE to share it with the elders.  And if it doesn't get resolved with them, the Session has to proceed to discipline, which would involve telling the church, too.

  a. Sidenote on discipline: Two factors may prevent required discipline, as I just asserted: membership and attendance status, and the nature of the sin.  If they are technically members but have been absent a long time, there might be a wiser course than official church discipline.  If the severity of the sin does not clearly call for excommunication, some sort of admonition and erasure of membership might be better.

5. Happy news!
Sometimes people share good news with their pastor, but they don't want to announce it just yet.  Pregnancy is the usual one here, but there are others.  I just wait for their cue, or ask a bit later if it's time to share it.  Occasionally I'll share this with the elders and wife ahead of time, making sure they know it isn't out in the open, yet.  But NOT if there's a sensitive issue, like a previous miscarriage, unless they say I may.

6.  The "open secret."
Sometimes I hear news that others already know, and when I talk to them directly, they just don't want it on the official prayer list.  So I won't volunteer the news to others, but if I realize someone knows, I'll talk about it with them.  Many people seem to like this level, but it's quite confusing to me.  Who knows?  Who doesn't?  How do I manage this well in the whole body?  As the "official" guy, I also get a sense that I'm in the dark on a lot of items in this category fairly often.  Sometimes the pastor's wife needs to let him in on the news that all the ladies have known for three weeks.  Not good, but it's how life goes, sometimes.

7.  "Tell everybody"
Time to say it at announcement time and/or put in on the prayer list, as appropriate.

8.  The legal requirement
If physical harm has been done, or is a serious impending possibility, the pastor needs to call the police.  This one is extremely sensitive and provocative, as you often wind up with state intervention in a family over spousal or sexual issues.  When someone discloses it to the pastor, he needs to investigate immediately and make a judgment call, usually within hours, whether to call the authorities.

 - there are times he does NOT call the police.  It's a severe pastoral problem, but not a criminal one.  Example: The husband has an ongoing anger problem toward his wife, and she comes to the pastor because she is getting scared of him.  It may be better for her to go stay with a friend or relative for a night or two, instead of calling the police too soon.  The husband's response will show what to do next.

 - sometimes the pastor knows he needs to call the police, but the person doesn't want that.  This one is HARD.  The pastor should prevent this from happening, if at all possible.  If he senses they may tell him something criminal, he might offer that he will need to involve the authorities if needed.  Sometimes they ask, "Can you keep a secret?  Is this confidential?"  That is an obvious clue, and the pastor should ALWAYS say something like, "I cannot promise absolute confidentiality.  If there is something criminal, I'm calling the cops.  Aside from that, I will be as discrete as possible."  This often sets the person more at ease as they think, "Well my situation is bad, but it isn't near CRIMINAL, at least."  

The church should never cover up crimes in the name of pastoral confidentiality.  A quick study of your state's laws regarding domestic violence, and sexual abuse especially within families, can be very enlightening.  Pastors are not typically well-versed in the law, so are prone to get details wrong, here.  An elder or deacon, or fellow pastor, who is well-versed, can be an invaluable asset.

9.  The major decision, criticism, or public attack.
There are times for the pastor's family to circle the wagons, and discuss the church in a way that isn't appropriate for the church or the Session to hear.  These should be quite rare.  Maybe criticism of him is spilling into officer's families and causing friction among older children.  Or the pastor is contemplating a move to another church calling, and needs to tell the kids, or get their input.  He should be talking in depth with just his wife for a while leading up to this.  He is going to talk to his children about criticism of him that they are hearing at church, very differently than he will talk to the church at large about it.  When trust has been lost with the Session in such situations, pastors will get input from other pastors and mentors and their wives, more than from the Session.  He will lean more toward informing them of his decisions, instead of seeking their counsel.  This is dysfunctional, but understandable, when church officers show themselves to be working against the pastor, instead of for him (even in constructive criticism.)

When you come to your pastor with a concern or personal problem that affects others, realize he is called to shepherd the whole church, not just you.  Our lives affect each other, and sometimes someone else has a solution to your problem.

Ask yourself why you really want to tell the pastor about this.  Are you genuinely seeking guidance?  Asking for prayer?  Just need a listening ear, and to unload a burden?  Telling him which of these it is can help a great deal.  Are you actually motivated to indirectly criticize someone else?

Hopefully this gives you a sense of how varied and complicated people problems are that face your pastor.  Pray for him!  Let him know you do.


Piano Life Lesson

Piano lessons carry many life lessons.  Here's one.

Many times, when a student gets frustrated with how hard the music is to play, they will change it, or blame the composer as defective.  My son just said Vince Guaraldi must've had a stroke writing those 2 measures he couldn't quite get down!

A variation of this: if the music doesn't sound quite right to us, we'll change it to how we like it, instead of trusting the composer's work.

We are like this in our lives.  When something is hard to do, we blame God for designing us like this.  We justify re-writing the moral standard, the music for our lives.

Realize instead that the Coach makes you do hard things so that you are
 - more ready for the game
 - more equipped for life, later
 - more Christ-like in your character.


Thoughts following the Election

Here are some thoughts following the election.
I sat on this for a while, to make sure it aged okay, instead doing the hot take, right-after reaction...

a. Our culture is less Christian than 10 years ago.
It will no longer do to say that pro-life or conservative messaging is the problem.  We need to face the fact that the majority of people no longer share our Christian worldview.  We see this in the rabid defense of abortion in several states, including ours, in the Ligonier "State of Theology" survey, and the leftward drift of our society to tolerate and embrace sexual perversion, even to be displayed and indoctrinated in children.  
  • "Positive World (Pre-1994): Society at large retains a mostly positive view of Christianity. To be known as a good, churchgoing man remains part of being an upstanding citizen. Publicly being a Christian is a status-enhancer. Christian moral norms are the basic moral norms of society and violating them can bring negative consequences.
  • Neutral World (1994–2014): Society takes a neutral stance toward Christianity. Christianity no longer has privileged status but is not disfavored. Being publicly known as a Christian has neither a positive nor a negative impact on one’s social status. Christianity is a valid option within a pluralistic public square. Christian moral norms retain some residual effect.
  • Negative World (2014–Present): Society has come to have a negative view of Christianity. Being known as a Christian is a social negative, particularly in the elite domains of ­society. Christian morality is expressly repudiated and seen as a threat to the public good and the new public moral order. Subscribing to Christian moral views or violating the secular moral order brings negative consequences."

b. We are not coping well with this decline
It is harder for us to cope with this decline, than Christians of previous centuries.  They could take for granted that they were strangers in a strange land (1 Peter 2:11).  But WE are losing a precious Christian heritage and culture that Christians in ancient Rome never had.  Our temptation is to despair and surrender, doing nothing.  Or to anger and over-reactionary ideologies that mimic the left's identity politics.  (I believe the rise of asserting white identity, and Christian Nationalism fits this trend.)

c. We must not tie our spiritual or emotional life so closely to the state of our culture.
I remain convinced that the Gospel should permeate every aspect of society - "every square inch" of the cosmos belongs to King Jesus, as Kuyper said.  It is also true that we do not yet see everything subjected to Him (Hebrews 2:8).  This is not necessarily directly our fault.  But it should prod us to more intense efforts at evangelism and apologetics.  We should build and fight for Christian community and culture, without looking to how plausible it looks to succeed from an earthly or political calculation.  We should also be wise to pursue achievable goals, and not pursue Quixotic quests to have a Christian nation next Tuesday.  This is going to take TIME.  And/or a great revival by God's Spirit in our midst.