Every Thumb's Width

Do Justice

I am not a social justice warrior. I may not even know exactly what it means. I believe that many injustices are being done in the name of justice. I understand being skeptical of those who brandish the phrase like a two-edged sword in front of others’ necks, let alone of those who beat others over the head with it like a sledgehammer of guilt.

And. (Here’s just one example of there being more than only two colors). And the Bible describes justice as something to be done not just something to keep in our dictionaries. “Ah, yes, I have a great definition right here, let me show it to you the page.” Justice cannot be true justice if it only stays at the sentence level, even if the sentence is true.

When Solomon became King and the Lord offered him whatever he asked, Solomon’s well-known request was wisdom for governing. The Lord granted the request, and the immediate case that came before Solomon was that of the two prostitutes. It’s really a fantastic story, and the result was that the people knew they had a king who would do something.

And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings 3:28)

The LORD Himself “is king forever and ever,” and we stand in awe of Him because we know that He “will incline [His] ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed” (Psalm 10:16-18). The prophet Micah asks and answers “what is good” and what does the LORD requires for every man: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Doing justice surely includes investigation, deliberation, vindication, retribution, and many other verbal nouns ending in -ion. Doing justice means caring about things in society, about social things, about how our neighbors are being treated, the neighbors that God commands us to love. So for those who argue that such interests and energies are moving away from the simplicity of the gospel, does this mean that doing justice is no longer to be done? Or it should be done, just not by Christians? Why not Christians? And how will those who aren’t Christians even know what justice is?

Every Thumb's Width

More Than Two Colors

Why do those who acknowledge subtlety compromise? And why are those who have little capacity for nuance wrong?

This is a false dichotomy. Not everyone who sees a spectrum of options always slides to the negative side. Likewise, those who live in only big categories can choose correctly, though it is more obvious when they’re wrong.

Or, which is better, a framing carpenter or a finish carpenter? Doesn’t it depend on what you’re trying to accomplish? Two-by-fours have built and supported some amazing structures, but they can’t do it all.

Or, if you could only see in two colors, let’s say cyan and magenta, and you had a shelf for each kind of can, and a friend asked you to put a yellow can on a shelf, where would you put it?

Or, are truth, knowledge, and wisdom all referring to the same thing? And if they are different words for the same thing, must they all be either black or white? If the three words are related but not strict synonyms, and if truth is black/white but wisdom was on a spectrum, would you discourage the pursuit of wisdom since it could lead to compromise for those who think they have it but actually don’t, or at least not enough of it?

These questions come up in an attempt to figure out why those in the Truth-Lovers Camp (TLC)–mostly my kind of people–seem not only to be highly suspicious of, critical toward, and increasingly isolated from others, but also why they seem to be satisfied being wrong and saying untrue things when they lump everyone outside of their camp into the same category.

There are more than two colors.

Bring Them Up

Aiming Senior Arrows

One trend that has bugged me for more than a decade is parents, and pastors, encouraging their kids to move away. This is not the same as encouraging them to move out. Yes, raise kids who grow up and take more and more responsibility for themselves, and then commit to a spouse, and start a family, probably in their own house. All that is great. It is the post high school move-away-if-you-can that concerns me.

The end of May/beginning of June is graduation season. Our school will conduct its second evar commencement this coming Sunday evening. It gives occasion for me to look out the window again, stroke my beard, and ruminate in general, where should parents and teachers aim senior arrows?

I don’t think it is sin to go away to college. Other articles have been written, especially for Christian students, about priorities young people need to consider when choosing a college. Those are great. And of course not every high school graduate even needs to go to college, but that is another post.

But is it the best to send our kids away? Why pour into them for seventeen/eighteen years of life, including thirteen years of schooling, and then offer them nothing close to home after that?

We live in a fairly small town. It might be more exciting to move to a larger place and attend an established school. It would be an experience. I went to three different colleges, all of which were at least seven hours from my hometown. But we are raising our kids to love the place God planted our family, teaching them to love their city neighbors, and encouraging them to be salt and light here.

If they want to go away, and have good reasons for doing so, that will be fine. This isn’t about parental grabbiness. Everyone does not need to stay near home. But telling our kids that it is better to get out is counterproductive to generational change and maybe a sign of our own unthankfulness.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Where He Starts

We know that God’s ways are not our ways and that His thoughts are above and beyond our thoughts. We know, mostly because He told us, that we don’t know everything about how He works.

We have problems right from the start. I mean that not from the start of our creaturely condition with finite limitations, though those comparisons do explain part of our problem. What I mean is that we don’t even get where He starts.

For example, when God starts to judge, He starts with His people. Peter wrote, “For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). We think we want judgment on sinners, but then we’re like, “Hey, don’t they need judgement more than us?” Maybe they do in terms of need, but not apparently in terms of time.

Because Christ died and rose again on the first day of the week, I think it would also be right to say that God starts our weeks with food, the milk and meat of His Word and also the bread and wine of fellowship. We don’t work and then eat, we eat and then we work. It’s gospel. God starts us with His blessing. He starts with provision and then we go out from there. Communion isn’t a reward, it’s a catalyst. The Lord’s Supper is to our week like breakfast is to our day: an important beginning.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Bottom Line

Money has become a god for many men. You can tell by how they praise it, love it, sacrifice for it. Money chokes out the seed of the gospel (Matthew 13:22). You can see the fruitlessness from those who claimed faith but no longer. Money is the root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10). You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

But God also says that those who have money are not supposed to burn it, or even bury it. They are supposed to bless with it.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

There is a way to trap your thinking to the mold of this present age, but God through Paul says that there is another way of taking hold of the good life to come by how you use money in the present age.

God gives money/makes rich, so don’t be proud. God provides, so don’t be ungrateful. God provides, and with rich generosity, so then you enjoy and employ your money for good as well.

We are all rich, not with the same bottom line at the bank, but knowing the bottom line of God’s blessing. Eat, drink, work, invest, buy, give because tomorrow you may die and go to heaven, and you want your good foundation to be well supplied.

Every Thumb's Width

What of a Man’s Profit

I’m re-reading Joy for the World with the guys who come to our church’s men’s meeting, and we recently finished chapter 7 about work and money and the economy.

Does God care about these things? There was a day when I might have answered “Meh.” I didn’t have a category to say that God is interested in them, and certainly not to such a degree that we are wrong if we’re not.

Now I realize that His Word makes plain that He loves the things in the world, while not loving the ways of the worldly. He created the week in such a way that we’re to work for six of the seven days, and that means the majority of our time should be aimed to bless our neighbors through work. When a bunch of people work together or depend on one another’s work there is an inevitable economy. These are, therefore, things God made us to care about, because He requires that we love our neighbors.

A question that I keep mulling: is it possible for Christians to effect God-honoring changes in their economy without making profit?

Bring Them Up

The Code of the Coders

Or, A Glitch in the System

There is no neutrality. It’s not if there is a code, but which code will be written, and then followed.

Tracy Chou is an “entrepreneur, software engineer, and diversity advocate.” (I can get excited about at least two out of three of those.) Almost a year ago she wrote about why every tech worker needs a humanities education. The foundational questions she asks are crucial for anyone involved in creating, consuming, and educating others about either of the previous two.

Chou warns:

“As much as code and computation and data can feel as if they are mechanistically neutral, they are not. Technology products and services are built by humans who build their biases and flawed thinking right into those products and services—which in turn shapes human behavior and society, sometimes to a frightening degree.”

She was asking herself questions such as:

“what it was that I was working on, and to what end, and why.” … “what behaviors we wanted to incentivize amongst our users” … “We pondered the philosophical question—also very relevant to our product—of whether people were by default good or bad.” … and “the default views we pushed to users.”

So just the things about the nature of human beings and how to steer them. With code. And the order of pictures. (Is it a coincidence that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all mess with the chronological timeline? For whom is it a better experience?)

Here’s Chou’s conclusion (and again, you should read the whole thing):

“I now wish that I had strived for a proper liberal arts education….I wish I’d even realized that these were worthwhile thoughts to fill my mind with—that all of my engineering work would be contextualized by such subjects.”

This is part of the reason we love our classical, Christian school. Because we don’t assume, let alone seek, neutrality, we’re in a much better position to see biases, including the ones in ourselves, and to seek answers from our Creator who wrote the ultimate Code. Doctors, nurses, code jockeys, rocket scientists, accountants, and bridge builders all need to know the details of their work, but the greater what and why of their work require knowing the what and why of mankind first.

Enjoying the Process


Phil Johnson announced today that he is stoking the coals in the Pyromaniacs fire pit.

I really appreciate Phil. He is one of my favorite people in California and certainly among those involved at Grace Community Church and Grace to You. I like his family, I like his writing style, and I like his wry, humorous sarcasm.

I also really liked the Pyromaniac back in the day (he started in 2005? That’s a long time ago!), especially before it became the group blog. To get “blogspotted” was a meaningful metric for some aspiring bloggers, like me.

I appreciate the Po-Motivators® posters and the principled arguments. I am usually glad for the targets he identifies and for the shots he fires.

However, while I love his precision with biblical interpretation and logical reasoning and wordsmithing, I wonder if part of the problem is that he’s better at pointing out what to avoid rather than pointing out where to go. The Emergent Church movement and subsequent spin-offs were/are unbiblical and man-centered. But the “truth-lovers” (as David Wells named in his book, Courage to Be Protestant) can be just as self-aggrandizing and self-congratulating while never calling an offensive play. The drift of some at TGC and ERLC may be in the wrong direction, but the answer is not better isolation, which the TMS/ShepCon group seems to prefer not only from cultural issues but from other Christians.

I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without God’s use of men like Phil, both in his original writing/preaching and also his editing and administrating for John MacArthur. And because of his/their work I’m in a better position to see some of their bent toward dualism, perhaps not in the full historical definition, but in a misapplied emphasis on sentences about the Bible without a corresponding love for cosmological Calvinism, the kind God told Adam about back in Genesis.

Maybe I should say more about this. But for now I’m resubscribed to the Fire with much gratitude, and some ambivalence.

Lord's Day Liturgy

No Lifehacks for Obedience

I have read a variety of books about productivity and getting things done and how to figure out what’s best next. I kind of like the genre. I have tried a lot of task apps, todo systems, and techniques for processing information. These have a place. We are created for good works, and being able to plan and organize and aim our good works is a good thing.

But. There is often a but. But, efficiency and effectiveness can become idols. Not only can they become false gods, they are not gentle gods, they are cutthroat. There is always someone serving those gods better than you who get greater rewards, and there are always items left on the list every day that didn’t get done to burden your guilt. Most of the books and articles and lifehacks offer an answer. You must change something in your circumstances in order to do better.

The assumption is that the problem with your productive service is your environment. What you need is a list organized like this. What you need is a clean desk like this. What you need is a place to store all your papers, digital or analog, like this. What you need is to carve out blocks of uninterrupted quiet time like this.

One danger of these sorts of “this-es” is that they tempt us to see our neighbor (family member, friend, co-worker) as an inconvenience, a hindrance to “our” work. But it is not blessed to blame. It is not blessed to lust for quiet, and get angry, when God clearly isn’t giving it to you. Pastors tell other pastors the story of Jonathan Edwards who regularly spent thirteen hours a day by himself in his study. While I’m thankful for some of his fruit, he left his wife Sarah to run the house. That is not more spiritual, it’s more selfish.

Let us be zealous for good works as Paul told Titus to tell his people. Go ahead and make a list, and get an app if you need to. Let us redeem the time because the days are evil. And let us never think that if we could just control our environments then we could obey God. Obey Him always and in everything.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Disconnect of Discontent

Because we are learning to be content in whatever condition we’re in, we are also making great progress out of the condition we’re in. The two conditions are not the same, otherwise the statement would contradict itself. One condition is our station, the other condition is our fellowship.

If we allow false standards to rule our thinking about “higher” callings (think 1 Corinthians 7:17-24) then we will not have true communion. False standards create guilt which inhibits connection between people because guilt is an isolating energy. False standards also create envy of those who we presume to be better than us, or they produce pride over those we presume to be better than. If we are discontent with our earthly calling, be it our family or gender or occupation or gifts, we will be disconnected from our people.

On the other hand, if we receive our earthly calling from the Lord with humility and gratitude, we will be able to give Him thanks for those around us who have also received their assignment from the Lord. Our contentment with what we have will help us be glad for what others have and we won’t compete with them but instead enjoy communion with them.

So as we stop longing for something else we get something else. As we stop seeking some other, better condition, we will know better communion. As we’re changed to be satisfied right where we are, we find ourselves to be in a better position after all.