Every Thumb's Width

Fantastic but Subordinate

Doug Wilson responded to Derek Thomas’ recent article in Tabletalk regarding where evangelism rates on the ladder of importance.

One of the glories of the Reformation was that it restored the glory of God as the foundation of all things. It is infinitely more important that God be glorified than that I be saved. Fortunately for us, He is glorified in the salvation of sinners, but for us to put evangelism front and center is one of the best and surest ways to dilute the gospel itself. We have seen this precise trajectory in the evangelical world over the last half century. To make the salvation of sinners “the most basic question of all” is a good way to lose the right answer to that very important question. This is the way to pragmatic evangelism. This is how we got all the technique-meisters. Very important question? Amen. The most basic question of all? Not at all. (Wilson, Eck Rises to Defend the Reformation)

Wilson is right. That said, there’s no way Thomas believes that the salvation of a sinner is more important than God’s glory. But the gospel-first rather than God’s-glory-first way of speaking has seeped into the church’s collective communication and some other really good subordinate ends have been smothered because of it. Glory-first:

  1. explains suffering and the Christian pilgrimage better.
  2. encourages vocations other than vocational ministry alone.
  3. emboldens evangelism more.

Salvation is a subordinate end. It’s a fantastic end, but still subordinate to the ultimate end of God’s glory.

A Shot of Encouragement

Industrial Grade Sandpaper

[L]iving in believing community is one of the central instruments that a loving God has given to us to prepare us for that great day. Living among fellow sinners, learning how to deal with it properly, is the principal form of industrial grade sandpaper that the Holy Spirit uses on us. But many pietists, including many educational perfectionists, withdraw from that treatment, shrinking from it, and all in the name of maintaining their smooth surfaces. But hiding the rough cut lumber in an unlit shed is not the same thing as sanding.

—Doug Wilson, Holy Ghost Industrial Grade Sandpaper

A Shot of Encouragement

Equipped by the Word

The “man of God”…does not give fresh revelation himself, but rather is the man who has the compilation of that completed revelation in his hands. While he is not a prophet himself, he is the heir of the prophets. In other words, he is not limited by the cessation of the prophetic gift because, as it says here, he is “competent” or equipped for every good work. There is no task the minister will be called upon to perform that he is not equipped to perform through the Scriptures.

—Doug Wilson, A Ministerial Tool Chest, commenting on 2 Timothy 3:16

A Shot of Encouragement

Love the Standard

[O]ur task, as a generation teaching the next one, is not to get students to conform to the standard. The task before us is getting them to love the standard.

—Doug Wilson, NSA Convocation 2009

Enjoying the Process

The Laying on of Hands

Lord willing, I will be ordained this Sunday night. I am humbled and excited by the implications of this occasion.

Different churches (and denominations) obviously take different approaches to ordination. The typical approach in our tiny corner of evangelicalism includes a rigorous series of tests, in which a panel grills a man over his biblical, theological, and pastoral understanding. The process may also involve the candidate preaching an abbreviated sermon to the board of elders, and then answering any questions the board might have for him.

To me, that program seems to duplicate seminary. I agree that a pastor should know his Book and be apt to teach it. He should be able to rightly divide the Word and always ready to preach it. He should stand on solid biblical and theological convictions when evangelizing his neighbors and when equipping the saints. But the ministry is more than academic, and a man’s calling to ministry cannot be confirmed by looking at his transcripts. In my case, I already took tests and wrote papers and passed classes proving that I could regurgitate the information.

Regarding the biblical requirements for elders, Doug Wilson recently wrote:

One of the easiest things in the world for the Church to do is to drift into another set of requirements entirely, never quite noticing that we have replaced what the Bible requires with what we require. Nothing against Hebrew, Greek, or thorough knowledge of the patristics. Good to have, great to have, yay for having them.

I am all about Greek (and working on my Hebrew). John Piper emphasized the need for pastors to know the biblical languages in his biographical message on Martin Luther, in which he concluded that the mother of the Reformation was Greek. I take that to mean Greek is important for the gospel and the church.

I love learning and talking about theology. Doug Wilson also wrote a fantastic post on the requirement of doctrinal integrity for elders, in which he urged elders not only to study doctrines afresh (cf. Acts 17:11), but also to work through those issues with their fellow church leaders.

But wolves can enjoy those same things and use them to exploit the sheep, not care for them.

Ordination is not an academic issue primarily, nor is it merely a program. A great danger of the interview approach, it seems to me, is that a man may pass the “test” without demonstrating any spiritual giftedness. But the call to ministry cannot be determined by a panel or paperwork; it is personal.

In the Pastoral Epistles, the qualifications for pastors/elders/overseers are primarily concerned with persons, their desire for the work, their character, their families, their conduct, and their reputation. To know these things, men must be observed and known, and then affirmed. The objective requirements are affirmed subjectively by other godly and gifted men. The “gift,” affirmed during an ordination (1 Timothy 4:14), is observable in action, not just in an interview, however many hours it may last.

That’s why I’m excited to be ordained by this Body of believers and by this group of elders. They know me. They have been a part of my life, my family, and my ministry for seven and a half years. They have treated me with grace as I’ve made progress, and have encouraged me not to neglect my gift.

Being ordained won’t change my role or responsibilities. I’ve been functioning as an elder for some time and the title on my business card includes Pastor. But beyond annual tax benefits and authorization to marry and bury, this event is a spiritual celebration of God’s grace in and through me. I anticipate I will appreciate this benchmark of affirmation the rest of my ministry course, however long God let’s me run it.

Every Thumb's Width

Wilson Thinks Out Loud about Palin

I have told numerous people in the past couple weeks that they should read Doug Wilson’s posts on Sarah Palin. Whether you agree with his answers or not, the questions he’s raised are good ones. I tried to summarize the links with the idea that it might help you prioritize your click-tab reading.

Prior to Palin’s Speech at the RNC:

  • Kinda Spooky When You Think About It. “[R]emember that in the Bible Deborah was the dame who upstaged a fellow named Barak. Kinda spooky when you think about it.” Bottom line: Palin brings appeal back to the Republican party and to the Presidential campaign.
  • Cons and Pros on Palin. Framing the big issues, with acknowledgement that at the very least, Palin does threaten the leftist agenda.
  • And Another Thing…. A teenage pregnancy in the family certainly says something, but we might not know exactly what.
  • John Knox and Sarah Palin. Knox’s The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women can not be used against Palin.
  • Making Karl Rove Look Like a Piker. Why we should assume McCain’s advisors did proper vetting.
  • Palin Comparison. Palin’s potentially harmful, or beneficial, role-model to Christian young women.

Post Palin’s Speech at the RNC:

  • Secret Love Child of a Hot Dog Vendor. Perhaps Palin’s biggest negative is that she thinks highly of McCain. But like her or not, she is a game-changer.
  • An Epistemological Pileup. “The idea that women should be excluded from civil office, period, is an exegetical question, and one that I believe that can be settled because of the perspicuity of Scripture.” He also points out it has yet to be proven whether she can take care of her kids and do the VP job.
  • John Has Slain His Thousands. The potential that God has raised up Sarah Palin at such a time as this for knocking down feminism and abortion.
  • Babe-raham Lincoln. Tensions and questions about whether Palin’s politics are a reversal toward the right direction, or only slowing us down on the wrong way.
  • Two Marks of Deliverance. God’s deliverance is always different and surprising. Palin may fit into those shoes.
  • Sarah Palin, Candidate of Peace?. How Palin’s energy policy leads to peace, even though her foreign policy may need work.
  • The Single-File Column to Nowhere. The fact that God uses a woman doesn’t always and necessarily mean that all the men are wimps.
  • The Creation Order and Sarah. Biblical principles do not equal biblical legislation, so we can still endorse general patterns while leaving room for exceptions.
  • The Lipstick Affair. Palin isn’t the pig, but she has gotten into Obama’s head.
  • Barak was a Great Warrior. The difference between absolutism and non-sinful exceptions. Here’s the answer to why one woman in office doesn’t necessarily make us all feminists.
  • The Politics of Blood. Why the McCain/Palin pro-life policy is worth supporting, even though their foreign policy may be less than desirable.
  • Democrats of the Shining Dawn. More on what the creation order means concerning women in office. Short answer: it’s alright as an anomaly, not a normalcy.
  • * UPDATE [11:32AM September 27]: A Slow-Moving Pharaoh. Clarifying why slower destruction is not deliverance, as well as noting the problems with both urban feminism and a certain kind of homeschooling feminism.

It’s difficult to keep pace with Wilson’s prolificity, so I realize he may have posted three more articles while I compiled this list. I’ll try to append applicable new posts as they appear.