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Every Thumb's Width

Theonomic Terms

C. S. Lewis argued that God doesn’t find man’s desire for pleasure too strong, but too weak. I think it’s also true that God doesn’t find the Christian man’s interest in politics too powerful, but too pathetic.

I know that the “Idol of Politics” is a favorite model of rented car for preachers to abuse who say that Christians act like politics and politicians can save them. Recently the beat-sticks have come out against so-called Christian Nationalists. But I have never met a Christian who actually thinks that the government is the Savior.

Most of the preachers who fear some Inevitable Compromise from Christians who spend too much time talking about politics are not more spiritual, they are ignorant. They may know how to speak accurately about the gospel, but they do not know how to disciple their people to obey all the Jesus commanded, which is the Great Commission, which includes how to obey Jesus when we live together with our neighbors in a city, state, and nation. I’ve had to repent from this sort of naivety and ignorance myself.

Jesus is Lord. We should believe it, and we should live by faith like it. And, what is surprisingly controversial question, shouldn’t we want the laws in our land to honor Him as Lord?

Here is a 17 minute video by Douglas Wilson on General Equity Theonomy. He’ll define theonomy, but it basically combines theos-God and nomos-law, and there is always a God/god of every law. He asks and answers some plain questions, and it’s really valuable whether or not you’ve asked the Westminster Confession of Faith into your heart.

A couple years ago I took a stab at explaining why Christians are allowed to, and should be expected to, think in theonomic terms. My notes for that talk are here, but there’s video, too.

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The End of Many Books

Angels in the Architecture

Published in 1998, I wish I had read it that long ago. Not that I would have appreciated, or even accepted, its message back then, but if I had been teachable I might have avoided a lot of dualistic confusion and battled for a lot better things. My point here is, don’t let my mistake be yours. Get a copy, read it soon. See how the medieval weltanschauung (not that they called it that) has much for our Kuyperian (not that they called it that) living and joy. Without agreeing with every jot and tittle, this book points toward a love of truth and feasting and poetry, of submission and sphere sovereignty and the silliness of so much so-called science, of earth and work and relationships teeming with beauty and breath and blessing.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Pro Rege

Pro Rege means “for the king.” This is volume 1 of 3 by that title, and it includes various articles by Abraham Kuyper on the subject of “The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship.” These books are part of the larger series called his “Collected Works in Public Theology,” and though I should have read the Common Grace volumes first, I was no less edified skipping ahead to Pro Rege. Here’s just one quote out of the 576 pages, but a relevant reminder:

“Only when the anti-Christian power has exerted its greatest force and unfolded all of its unholy potential will the final battle be worthy of Christ; then He will celebrate a suitable victory after destroying that power in its full deployment.” (421)

4 of 5 stars

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Every Thumb's Width

The Dead End of (God-honoring) Gradual Development

Last Sunday I taught about economics. That interrupted a series I’ve been teaching through Revelation. As a futurist, that is, one who thinks the majority of the apocalyptic judgment is yet to occur, why would I bother admonishing the saints about building wealth of all kinds in the present age?

This is the problem that Kuyperian Dispensationalism raises, and also resolves.

If you’re already convinced about this, you’re one of maybe about twenty people on the planet (ha!). If you’re not convinced, let the following long quote and bullet points bounce around in your mental hopper.

The quote is from Kuyper himself in his book, Pro Rege: Living under Christ’s Kingship, Volume 1: The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship. Kuyper was not a Dispensationalist, but I’ve been thinking about granting him that honorary status anyway. Here he explains how many things on earth will continue to get better and better and how that still won’t bring in Christ’s kingdom.

We must be certain and express clearly that the period of gradual development in which we now live will one day come to an end and pass over into the last period, which is that of a supernatural manifestation of power encompassing not only the whole world but the entire universe as well. The final victory cannot be brought about gradually, because [the path of gradual development] will end in failure. When it is clear and evident in the course of history that natural, gradual development does not and cannot lead to the final goal, then—and only then—will our King intervene in a completely supernatural manner so as to neutralize all resistance and to cause the full glory of his kingship to break through.

Before this happens, however, it must be determined and demonstrated that [this process of] gradual development was unable to lead to its triumph. One should not be able to say afterward: “If only it had pleased God to leave humanity to its own natural development, everything still would have worked out on its own.” No, the facts of history must show that humanity was incapable of this on its own. Humanity must therefore be given time. Time to absorb the blessing that Christianity brings. Time to test every method and manner of saving itself with the gospel’s help. Once it is clear after this generous passage of time that humanity failed—because its very life root has been poisoned and because the demonic power finds novel ways and means in every new development to enter humanity’s veins and spoil it from within—then and only then will Christ suddenly arrest this period of gradual development, fermentation, and influence, and intervene with his full kingly power. And [he will do] this no longer to save but to judge, and to bring about the consummation of his kingdom with supernatural power.

Pro Rege, 405-406

Many things will get better because:

  • God’s Spirit regenerates men to life, illuminates the Word for obedience, and energizes for fruitfulness, not just in eternity but on earth. This fruitfulness includes faithful dominion-taking as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:28) and includes loving one’s neighbor and seeking their interests (Matthew 22:39 and Philippians 2:4). We love them by not only sharing the good news but also new goods.
  • God intends that our lives “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10), which is an aroma of life to those who are being saved (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Not everyone is attracted to the gospel by God’s blessing on those who believe it, but some (including a future generation of Israelites) will be made jealous into salvation (Romans 11:11, 13-14, 25-26).

But better things themselves won’t bring about Christ’s reign on earth because:

  • God is exposing that the sinfulness of men is so sinful that many men will still resist giving glory to God for all the good He gave them (Psalm 112:10; Romans 1:18-23), and so He ordains for them to store up more wrath for themselves (Romans 2:4-5).
  • And as the Kuyper quote above, time is not the savior, only the Savior is, and soli Deo gloria.
Categories
The End of Many Books

Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader

edited by James D. Bratt

Even though it took me more than five years to finish this book, I loved it. James Bratt collected and introduced sixteen of Kuyper’s essays on a variety of subjects such as modernism, common grace, Calvinism and constitutional liberties, evolution, sphere sovereignty, and education. I found this unique photo in the book, and found some current application for his thoughts on sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.

Should you read this? Probably not first, though it does give a bunch of Kuyper’s foundational thoughts in one volume.

I’d recommend starting with Lectures on Calvinism, then Wisdom and Wonder, and then Our Worship. I’ve started making my way through his Collected Works in Public Theology, but it’s quite a number of thumb’s-widths wide.

5 of 5 stars

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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.

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Enjoying the Process

Kuyperian Plumbing with Thanks

It’s becoming more and more popular to criticize and give warnings about technology. I’ve read 1984, Brave New World, and have owned an iPhone since the summer of 2008 when they first came out. There are certainly problems that exist. Our smartphones can distract us, they can become idols, as can almost every other good thing that God has given. This post isn’t an argument that such tools are only good, but rather an opportunity to express thankfulness.

We had another hot water leak under our house this past week. A similar leak happened last summer and we needed to call a plumber to fix it. This time around I was able to find the leak and, with the researching and know-how abilities of my wife, was able to make the repair.

But it wouldn’t have been possible, or at least not nearly as convenient, without my iPhone.

Could I have done it without it? Of course. Or at least, maybe. As my family and friends know, I stink at repairs. I do demolition. In this situation, though, I was better able to crawl under and over pipes in the crawl space and lay in the puddles with rat poo than other members of my family, and cheaper than hiring a plumber again. To get help and do the work I used my phone’s flashlight, camera, video camera, FaceTime app, and Safari browser to actually watch a YouTube video on how to make the repair. (Okay, I could have watched the video on a regular computer, but I did watch it on my iPhone anyway, which is sort of amazing if you think about it).

All that to say, as a Kuyperian Calvinist I am thankful to God for His common grace in the metallurgy and electronics and WiFi and engineers and Steve Jobs and code jockeys and delivery drivers and a whole bunch more.

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Enjoying the Process

Forty-one in Forty-one

Here are lessons I’ve learned or reasons that I’ve got for giving thanks. Also, although I did recently turn 41, I don’t have a 41 point list. Instead, in the spirit of having recently read 1984 which was written in 1948, here are 14 things, numbered but not ordered by importance.

  1. Learned: Line diagramming is great for meditating on God’s Word. It’s my favorite observation tool to beat the meaning out of a passage.
  2. Learned: Christians need to read good fiction. “Good” is key. I’ve really profited from Peace Like a River, the 100 Cupboards series, and Lewis’ Space Trilogy.
  3. Learned: Family is not an obstacle to what a man wants to accomplish, they are what a man is accomplishing. Maggie, Calvin, Hallie, and Keelah are how I’m changing the world. More importantly, they are God’s grace changing me.
  4. Learned: Any doctor’s diagnosis that includes the word “cancer” will probably lead to a lot more conversations.
  5. Thankful: Reading on the treadmill has saved my reading life.
  6. Learned: You can read on the treadmill if you make the font big enough in the Kindle app on your iPad.
  7. Learned: The fact that Christ created everything does more than reveal His wisdom and power, it also reveals His interests. So don’t be a dualist. Also, see anything written by Kuyper. The quote at the end of this post is from a fantastic book that syllogizes worship by way of the world.
  8. Thankful: Dropbox. (As long as you don’t have to explain it to people older than you). You have hundreds of files, dozens of apps, and multiple devices. Have your stuff with you and backed up as an added benefit.
  9. Learned: Scissor skills and penmanship are related. I don’t have either, but I do have hope for the next generation.
  10. Thankful: Fountain pens. There’s one in particular that has written over 4000 pages for me, including the rough draft of this article. The scratch of the nib across the lines on a yellow pad makes me glad.
  11. Thankful: IPAs. I like (intentionally) bitter beer. The New Belgium Ranger is my current favorite.
  12. Thankful: Starbucks French Roast. I like my beer bitter and my coffee burnt. That’s what friends tell me, at least. I’m more than okay with it. There is hardly a more enjoyable aroma than opening a new bag of beans.
  13. Learned: I have a wife who prefers beards. My dad had a beard the entire time I knew him. When I was a kid I never thought about growing-to-keep one for myself. After 15 years of marriage and a lazy week of not-shaving my cheeks, the beginnings of the bush-face became the beginning of being a beard guy.
  14. Thankful: There is no human who I have sinned against more or who helps me so much as Mo. She is the crown I don’t deserve, the reason our kids are cute, and the one who makes me most want to live like the Trinity.

God’s love for God led him to create the world from nothing. Therefore, our love for God, if it is to be an accurate reflection of God’s love, must also lead us to a deep and profound and fitting love for creation. God’s love for God pushes him into creation. So should ours. (Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, 62)

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The End of Many Books

The Things of Earth

If you already saw my book review on Goodreads, I’d still say go ahead and reread my plug for the book below anyway. For emphasis. But first, the following paragraph introduces the book on its back cover.

The world is full of good things…Ice-cold lemonade. The laughter of children. College football. Scrambled eggs and crispy bacon. But what happens to these earthly pleasures when Jesus shows up? Do the things of earth grow strangely dim? Or does he shine in all that’s fair?

I wish I had read this book twenty years ago. That would have been impossible, though, because the copyright is 2015. So I wish I had read another book like it anytime in the last twenty years. But if there is one, I don’t know about it. I wish the truths of this book were in the bones of my Christian discipleship, but since they haven’t been, I’m even more thankful for this book now.

Rigney tackles helmet-on-helmet how Christians must not love the world in one way and how those same Christians—Christian hedonists even—must love the world in another way. He does great work showing the Trinity’s story on earth and how we should think theologically and poetically and eat cake all the while. The categories of comparative love and integrated love alone are worth triple the price of the book.

I restarted reading as soon as I finished. I am telling everyone I know about it. I’ve already bought a copy and given it away.

I do wish the endnotes were footnotes, not only because endnotes are gross, but also because many of the endnotes deserve more prominent page space. I also think the book could have used some Kuyper alongside of Edwards, Lewis, Chesterton, but whatever. If you want to honor God with your heart and your hands then get The Things of Earth and READ it right away.

5 of 5 stars!

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Every Thumb's Width

Lectures on Calvinism Audio Book

Here is a fantastic audio book for Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism.

Abraham Kuyper has become a good friend the last couple years. His book on worship made me wonder why I’d never considered the potency of liturgy. George Grant’s lecture still fires me up to run toward the roar every time I relisten. I enjoyed James McGoldrick’s biography and the new study by James Bratt should be delivered to my house tomorrow.

Kuyper’s own Lectures on Calvinism continues to open my eyes as well. Our elders read through it together and I’m already rereading. A PDF is free, a Kindle copy is cheap, a print edition always carries heft. One of the men in our church, Glenn Wainright, recently recorded his reading of the book as a labor of love. If you prefer to listen, then now you can (and should) enjoy the audio book for free.