Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Grease All Over the Kitchen

I committed at the beginning of the year that I would not read any new-to-me books in 2022 about productivity or getting things done. I’ve already read a bunch in this genre, the grist is largely the same, and so it seemed reasonable to work on remembering and doing instead of searching for the next hack. So I choose twelve previously read books to review, one for each month.

In March I’m reviewing my highlights for The Supper of the Lamb. Capon’s book isn’t a self-help or to-do book, in fact, it’s actually a cook book. But it does an excellent job of helping one to see the world, to be thankful for it, and to be fruitful in it.

A common temptation for “truth lovers” (as David Wells labels in The Courage to Be Protestant) is to get stuck loving truth in two-dimensions. We get stuck at the sentence level rather than caring for propositions and also embodying their truth. Capon stirs the pot:

Every time he diagrams something instead of looking at it, every time he regards not what a thing is but what it can be made to mean to him—every time he substitutes a conceit for a fact—he gets grease all over the kitchen of the world.

(Loc. 299)

I still don’t know that I have any book with more highlights than this one, and would highly recommend that you read it, or review it.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Together 4 Dualism

This article, No Longer Together 4 the Gospel, is a few weeks old. The problem is even older than that.

I’ve traveled with a dozen or so men from our church to a couple T4G conferences. We always had a great time together. It is also true that the Reformed-ish, conservative theological perspective is often very narrow, and I’d agree that it applies to the T4G gist.

I don’t agree with Mr. Sandlin that worldview is more important than theology, but that could be just an apparent disagreement. I’m sure he believes that God’s revelation is the source, and the authority, for shaping weltanschauung. But I would say that the problem is a theology problem. The problem is a misunderstanding of God proper, and especially of God’s interests.

The problem is at least implicitly denying that the Creator-Theos cares about time and space, and behaving as if God changed His mind about all the goods in Genesis 1. It ignores the first great commission to man for relationships (be fruitful and multiply) and responsibilities (fill the earth, subdue it, have dominion) on the earth, here and now (Genesis 1:28). That’s at bottom a Bible-reading issue, a doctrinal issue, not a philosophical one, as if worldview came apart from God’s revelation.

While such a limited worldview could be connected to one’s eschatology, I believe that the theological error leading to the dilution in T4G circles is a form of dualism. All of the headlining T4G speakers act and teach as if what God cares about the most and, therefore, what all of us should care about the most, are “spiritual” things. But, ironically, spiritual fruit is earthy. Spiritual people are husbands and fathers (Ephesians 5:18 then look at the family responsibilities that flow out of the Spirit’s filling), not just pastors and missionaries. Spiritual men serve and lead. They redeem the time (5:15), they don’t only work on their sentences about eternity.

It is the Christian confession that Jesus is Lord. It is the Calvinist who (most consistently) acknowledges that God is sovereign. It is a Kuyperian who grasps that the lordship of Christ applies to the rest of the day after our “quiet time” in the Word, and that the sovereignty of God in science and history and families and businesses and education is more than just a token pointing to heaven’s throne.

T4G does exalt Jesus and does preach the Word. And also they do so with a limited expectation of where the incarnate Word and inspired Word apply. Seek the things that are above with the things of earth.

Anyway, read the original article and let’s work to believe bigger than just defending a “privat(ized) theology limited to soteriology.”

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Not in the Now

One thing we’ve really been seeking to do better as a church is consider the relationship between sacred and secular. Often the two are distinguished as church and not church, but if that’s the line, then we are headed for problems, as church history has shown. Others want to see the everything in the world as sacred, but that could make it harder to avoid the sin of worldliness, as if there was no such thing.

The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum which meant “age,” an amount of time roughly equal to the potential lifetime of a person or the equivalent of the complete renewal of a human population, a generation. It’s a measured way of referring to the now, the current. A secular man is identified as a man of this age. He’s a chronological sectarian. His context is narrow because his context only has room for what’s on the calendar on his desk.

A Christian man lives in the present, but his faith connects him to higher realities in heaven, invisible realities in the present, inescapable realities in history, and inevitable realities to come. It’s not only the immediate things that are relevant, it’s God who determines what is relevant, the God who was and is and is to come.

The things that are seen are secular, they are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We have been given amazing things, we live during the most blessed time in history, and yet our identity is not in the now, but in Christ. We have died with Him, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, we will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:3-4). For now, we see the world and do our work in His light (John 8:12).

Categories
The End of Many Books

Gospel Culture

This book was gifted to me by a friend, and I’m thankful for it (and him). It’s brief, but edifying, especially as it makes a biblical case against dualism, and especially a so-thought virtuous dualism under the more formal name of Two Kingdoms theology. Boot demonstrates that the material and temporal are not enemies to the Christian, nor must we try to escape (since God called His creation good). Sin is our enemy. Christ came to conquer sin, and as His people live in Him they live differently with their stuff and in time.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

This Is Your Vote

There must be a way for an ostrich not only to not bury her head in the sand but even to enjoy the ocean. Ostriches apparently don’t hang out at the ocean, but since they are always burying their head in the sand, work with me for sake of the illustration. Think of how much she’d miss if she buried her head every time a wave came to shore. That’s what waves do. Sometimes you need to move your stuff so it doesn’t get soaked. Most of the time, once you have a little experience under your beach towel, you realize that you don’t need to freak out. You can enjoy enjoy the swells.

Like an ostrich I suppose, part of me would prefer to talk about other things, because there are other things. Yet also I don’t want to ignore this day (as in, bury my head in the sand), because this is the day the Lord has given.

Life is more than politics, and it is wearisome to be told every four years that “this is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIMES! But for real this time! I mean it!”

Let me confess to you my default sin, as I can see it, when political seasons rush toward the shore, and then exhort you to confess your sins, whatever they may be.

My go-to sin is self-righteousness, followed closely by lazy hope.

Christians are the ones who have a standard by which to criticize, and you’d think criticism was a spiritual gift based on how clever we present our criticisms to be. Unbelievers criticize, but they have to borrow values from somewhere. Yet the same standards that Christians apply toward candidates (and legislative issues) in an election season also tell us how to behave, as in, don’t fear, and don’t judge your brothers. Don’t snuggle into your blanket throwing snark from the bleachers against how everyone on the field is doing it WRONG.

Perhaps you’ve seen the political post by John Piper last week, or any number of the responses to his post. I am very thankful to God for His use of Piper in my life, especially for sake of my affections as a disciple of Christ. And I’m not judging his convictions, but his argument is worth examining.

He is baffled at Christians who claim you can never vote for a Democrat with sin like Biden, and admonishes those Christians for supporting/promoting, or at the least ignoring, a Republican with sin like Trump. Piper points out that arrogance kills people, even if it looks different than how abortion kills people.

And yes, Nebuchadnezzar took credit for his kingdom and God judged him for it. I could vote for Trump, and if the day after his second inauguration, let’s say, God punished the President with a few years in the wilderness growing long fingernails and eating grass like a beast, I could also acknowledge that judgment as just.

But urging people not to vote for those who applaud abortion and applaud same sex marriage and applaud gender transitions for eight year-olds, all positions typically within the Democratic party, does not mean supporting all the Republican behaviors.

Piper concludes that he won’t vote for either Biden or Trump. That’s fine. But then, in a word to pastors, he asks the following:

“Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)?

“Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?

“Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?

I highlight these paragraphs not only because they stood out to me, but because others have also called them “the most important section.” And while they are, in many ways, good questions, they also promote a binary assumption. Piper doesn’t like being pushed to choose between either Biden or Trump. But I don’t like being pushed to choose between caring about spiritual things or voting for the good of my family, my neighbor, and nation. Piper doesn’t like two-party assumptions, I don’t like dualism. Isn’t it possible to cultivate “real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God,” Christians “who have the aroma of another world with another King,” who then are the very disciples who honor Christ in this world and through their stewardship of political opportunity, rather than burying their heads in (supposed heavenly) sand?

You not only get to vote for governor and president (and more), but you get to vote, so to speak, for who you want to be. Discernment is good, and yet it can be used as a cover for all sorts of smug attitudes and lazy-righteousness. Wisdom is a skill for living, not a skill just for lazily laughing at the lazy. This is your life. Don’t you want to be known for more than how quickly you can see the problem with everything?

I would like to default to doing hopefully rather than to deriding. This is my life. I want to try to be wise and do something and be joyful and trust God and love my brothers at the same time. This is my “vote.” It’s easier to appear clever with critical words rather than hopeful ones. I want to vote for being hopeful.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, all those who practice it have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). Let’s be those who practice it.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

A Kuyperian-Sized Blind Spot

The Effeminacy of Silence is a mettlesome post by Douglas Wilson. It’s sad, and it’s a needed kick in the man pants.

I don’t have any complaints about or disagreements with it at all, though I do want to add an observation.

When I think of “Big Eva,” a dozen plus names come easily to my mind. And when all those names come forward what does not come anywhere near my mind is cosmological Calvinism.

God has greatly blessed me through the ministries of many of the men who occupy prime bookshelf space in Reformed circles. I’ve attended many conferences of shepherds and been together with many Christians who really do love Jesus, the Gospel, and reading the Bible verse by verse. We’re already cut down to a sliver of the Evangelical pie when using the shibboleths of “Calvin,“ or Solas, and our kind of Evas eagerly embrace all of the above in fives.

However, if one of the characteristics of manliness is taking responsibility, many preaching men (and those who listen to and become like them) are limited, by principle, to responsibility in two dimensions. We are Men of the Page, not men of the public square. Our commitment to the truth doesn’t mean that we only talk about truth in private, but the way we hold that commitment means we only know how to swing the sword of truth when it relates to things that are Bible Proper.

The Bible, though, reveals that God is concerned about more things than just the things that are in the Bible. This was an obvious, biblical conclusion that brought me to repentance some years ago after too many years of blindness. Jesus made the world, and He is interested in, and has standards for, all that He made. That includes nations, governments, laws, and courts, as well as cultures, flags, relationships, genders, libraries, and dictionaries. But a certain type of Bible-defended dualism paints over much of the Evangelical scene I’ve seen, and that creates a Kuyperian-sized blind spot. Instead of seeing all the thumb’s-widths of Christ’s domain, we’ve got our thumb covering the lens on the camera.

This isn’t to say that the Big Eva preachers don’t know better. But I’m not sure they know what they don’t know. They should. It’s written in neat serif font in the Bibles they read, teach, and defend. Yet our manliness can only mature so much because we’re taught that we should only take responsibility for so much, which is basically a responsibility for reading the Bible (which, as I’m arguing, is something we’re ironically not even doing well).

So there is an existing effeminacy of silence about all the things the Bible is good for before there is a silence on drag queens in the libraries. I agree with all of Wilson’s “reasons for such silence,” I’m just adding this one. Much of the silence about, for example, the sexual revolution comes from a myopic doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I know that most of my Reformed, baptistic brother-preachers, along with the Big Eva squad, fully believe that they are engaged in the “fight,” but their chosen field of battle has the same size footprint of their calfskin leather Bibles.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

All Sanctimoniousness and Powerlessness

I’ve wanted to share this video and connect it with the quotes below it for some time. Since the interview came out at the beginning of December, it’s apparently been on my mind for half a year. Ha!

The interview is with John MacArthur on The Ben Shapiro Show. Some of you watched it already, and great. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, and I recommend it as a perfect example of the kind of Dispensationalist (like MacArthur) I want to be and the kind of Dispensationalist I also want to build on.

MacArthur’s answers about Jesus as the only hope are great at heart. His appeal to Shapiro to embrace Jesus as the longed for Messiah of the Jews is true, clear, and gracious. In this way MacArthur keeps the main thing the main thing.

It makes me think of the following comment by Abraham Kuyper, found in the chapter on “Common Grace” in A Centennial Reader (page 172), about the problem with some Christians who get a buzz out of discussing Christian impact without first establishing faith in Christ.

“The sects on the other hand have consistently attempted to change this healthy balance by diverting attention from the deeper questions of justification to drive us toward Chiliasm or the Millennial Kingdom by speaking much about the manner of our physical resurrection, about a prior second coming of our Lord, about whether, according to Paul, the Jews will return to Jerusalem, and the like. One can thus have a stimulating religious conversation without being troubled in conscience or convinced of one’s wretched state before God. Therefore we cannot warn often enough against the danger of shifting conversations in Christian circles away from the salvation of the soul to such eternal but sensational topics. In truly Reformed circles that danger is avoided when the substance of conversation is not Chiliasm or the Jewish question but the question of how God is honored and our soul justified.”

In other words, the “Chiliasts” (that is, the Dispensationalists, those believers who anticipate Israel’s national repentance and restoration as part of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom as promised in Romans 11 and Revelation 20), may focus too much on eschatology and applaud themselves for such spiritual interests and yet miss the gospel requirements of first importance. It is possible to distract others from dealing with Christ’s claims and every man’s need to believe in Him for justification. MacArthur does not get so caught up in the future that he lets Shapiro off the hook in the present. And amen.

However, the Christ that MacArthur proclaims to Shapiro is, ironically, not the complete Christ as revealed in the Bible. Jesus saves souls, yes, and He also has more to say after that. This is where we Dispensationalists often stop building too soon. Here is the very next paragraph from Kuyper:

“…[W]e have no right to conceptualize the image of the Mediator in ways other than Scripture presents it. People fall into one-sidedness in the opposite direction if, reflecting on the Christ, they think exclusively of the blood shed in atonement and refuse to take account of the significance of Christ for the body, for the visible world, and for the outcome of world history. Consider carefully: by taking this tack you run the danger of isolating Christ for your soul and you view life in and for the world as something that exists alongside your Christian religion, not controlled by it.”

We must point people to salvation in no other name but Jesus, but we’re only partially done if we point them to a Jesus who offers no wisdom for, or commandments regarding, cultural decisions other than separate and survive until He returns. The public square is not, as Kuyper described “territory which must somehow take care of itself.” Shapiro asked MacArthur repeatedly how believing in Christ affects society, and MacArthur said in effect, “That’s not what Christ cares about.” It is true that discipleship is personal, but not just for how to behave in private.

“From that opposition and false proportionality springs all narrow-mindedness, all inner unreality, if not all sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.”

This is a unique sort of Christian dualism that honors itself as the heights of spirituality and biblical fidelity, and no wonder many Christians don’t know that the Romans Road isn’t finished after evangelism.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Liberating Glory

The command in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is well known. It is short, catchy, and always applicable. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

This is the end for which God created the world: God’s glory. This is the peak of the Reformation alones: soli Deo gloria, to God alone be glory.

This is the kind of talk you expect to hear at church; “glory to God” is churchy talk. But while it’s something you might expect to hear at church it isn’t something to be done at church, or things done in the name of church. Paul doesn’t mention corporate singing or sermon listening, he doesn’t identify reading your Bible or having quiet time, he doesn’t talk about leading or even attending Bible study or small group, he doesn’t refer to evangelism proper, though in the next verse he does connect glorifying God to impacting our neighbors. My point is that what Paul doesn’t mention is churchy stuff.

So the command to do all to the glory of God means all the things you do, at your dinner table, at your work desk, on your phone and/or on Facebook, behind the wheel, at the checkout counter.

You might respond to those opportunities in one of two ways. You might think of glorifying God in everything as a crushing requirement. “I have to think about every single thing I do in worship terms? How can I possibly pay that much attention?” So you might think it would be better, actually, to go back to only churchy things as mattering to God and the rest of the “neutral things” belong to you.

But the command could, and I’m arguing should, be received as a liberating truth. God has not limited you to only certain times and places and activities that bring glory to Him. Do you love how many ways God is pleased to receive glory from you?

Categories
The End of Many Books

Joy for the World

by Greg Forster

2018 – Reread this and talked through it with the men’s group at our church. Forster is not Kuyper, and I think he’s more happy about that than I am, but it still provoked a lot of good discussion about how Christians can influence our neighbors with more joyful living and labor.

2017 – I don’t share Forster’s view on the Christian-or-not founding of the United States, nor do I share his view on a variety of other specifics in the book, but I definitely share his enthusiasm for “awakening from the dogmatic slumbers of fundamentalism” and very much enjoyed sharing the “victory feast of [his] liberation” from dualism (page 16). I would recommend this for anyone trying to add a little more Kuyperian into his worldview who doesn’t necessarily want to read about, or by, Kuyper himself.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Body and Soul

Where is it most important for you to know that God is at peace with you? Maybe that seems like an odd question, but is it more important for you to know that God is at peace with you in soul or in body?

A while ago I was in a discussion with some men about the idea of “soul reports.” A soul report is an account of what’s happening in your soul. What are you learning? What are you excited about? What is difficult? It is curious to me that many Christians don’t seem to like the idea. For all of the criticism these days of superficialness and hypocrisy and focusing on things that don’t matter, isn’t it a good thing to account for our souls? Jesus asked what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? So how is your soul? Is your soul “found”? How do you know? What is its state?

Our time of communion is for the soul. We’re reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save our souls. Because of Christ we can say when sorrows overwhelm us, “It is well with my soul.”

Of course communion can’t take place just in our souls. There is a material table and it holds tangible bread and wine; it’s not merely a mental picture. We’re supposed to gather together and eat and drink. These are things for the body, our bodies as Christians and together as the Body of Christ.

It is not dualism to care more about two things, such as soul and body, worship and work. Dualism distinguishes in order to care more about only one of the things, and usually that means more about the invisible things. To fight dualism we don’t break down distinctions between things, we exalt the distinctions and what is valuable to both. Celebrate that in Christ your soul will be forever receiving God’s favor. Celebrate that in Christ your body will be resurrected and will forever be together with the saints in the presence of our Savior.