Assaulting the First Story

Pastor Doug Wilson on Hebrews 11:3-“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

We begin with the story of creation, which (not surprisingly) is where unbelievers also begin their competing story. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (vs. 3). Faith for anything in the Christian life begins with our faith in the living and creator God. All this evolution foolishness (and various Christian compromises with it) is nothing less than an assault on the entire Christian faith. You cannot assault the first story without attacking the entire building. (Christ and His Rivals, p. 143-144)

Do We Need to Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes?

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Do we need to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand their situation? Most of us would say yes. It is common in secular and Christian circles for a group to be told they cannot speak to another group because they have not had the same experiences. As a male pastor, I am often told that I cannot speak to women because I am not a woman. This a common tactic of social justice warriors and feminists.  You have never had same sex orientation, so you can’t tell me how to live. You have never been a mother so don’t talk to me about motherhood. But is this really true? Must I experience certain things to be able to speak to a person who is experiencing those things?

The Truth

There is a measure of truth to this statement, but that is mainly in the area of emotions and feelings. In other words, unless I have been through giving birth to a child I cannot relate in certain ways to a woman who has. Unless I have been cheated on by my spouse I have not experienced the emotions that would come with that type of crisis. To broaden it out a bit, if I did not grow up in the the inner city, I cannot relate in certain ways to someone who did. Remembering this will help us maintain our compassion and humility when speaking to others. As a man, I don’t want to pretend like I have gone through childbirth. When I speak with a mom who has just given birth compassion and humility are necessary. When I speak to a young man whose father left him at six years old I need to realize I have never been in that situation.  Continue reading

A Faith That Condemns the World

noahs-ark

Here are the six main points from my sermon yesterday. The sermon was on Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Heb 11:7)

Our Faith Must Be Founded on God’s Word

Noah believed God’s Word. Faith is always rooted in God’s Word. It cannot be rooted in what we think God said or what God spoke to us in our hearts. It must be rooted in his word and only his Word. Only God’s Word can bind men’s consciences. We must be careful not to add to or take away from that Word. There is a constant temptation to add to God’s Word.  We begin to put our faith in the rules of man instead God’s Word. Continue reading

Riots, Police Shootings, and Change

riots

I know very little about the situations I see on television or read in the news. Therefore I try to avoid quick responses to situations like police shootings. We see one minute of someone’s life and we assume we know everything we need to know about it. But we actually know very little. Quick responses are rarely helpful and they usually come back to bite the writer.  However, I thought I would post some general thoughts on the situations in Tulsa and Charlotte.

  1. Authority is misunderstood and misused. We do not understand how to exercise or respond to authority. Therefore we should  not be surprised at the conflict between police and those they are pursuing. One key to change is teaching those in authority, including fathers, police officers, teachers, and politicians how to exercise authority for the sake of those under them and teaching those under them to respond correctly to that authority. Egalitarianism in all its forms is one of the main reasons authority and power are not understood. Hierarchy is a necessary good in our world. But we have rejected hierarchy. If authority is to be rightly used and responded to egalitarianism in all its forms must be eradicated.
  2. The justice system is broken and has been for some time. Therefore it is hard for those who are treated unjustly to believe that wrongs will be righted. This adds to a sense of despair among some. The whole system needs an overhaul, but this will only come when we admit a law above us, which is the very thing we deny. Is it any surprise that in a country where there is no God or natural law that there is no justice? Justice requires a fixed rule. We have none.  We might get it right sometimes by God’s grace, but justice as a way of life will continue to escape us.
  3. Our understanding of any given situation on the news is severely limited. In my opinion the shooting in Tulsa was not justified, while the one in Charlotte was. But that is just the opinion of one man who was not there, does not have most of the facts, and is completely ignorant of the surrounding context. That last sentence is true of 99% of the people who comment on any given situation. You can have an opinion. You can state principles, such as “It is wrong to shoot an unarmed man in most situations.” But don’t treat your opinion on a particular situation as an informed one. It isn’t. Know what you don’t know. Stay humble.
  4. Rioting loses you respect and credibility. Any group that believes burning down buildings, beating people, and theft is a proper response to injustice is a group that has lost its moral bearings. It is not just to respond to injustice with more injustice. It is hypocrisy.  What made Martin Luther King Jr. so effective and respected was his ability to protest without violence. African-Americans and others need to condemn the rioters as much as they condemn the police officers who shoot without cause.
  5. The breakdown of the family is a key component to the cultural landscape. Divorce, abortion, pregnancy out of wedlock, welfare, absentee dads, absentee moms, etc. have all led to a breakdown of our society at the foundations. We see the results of this breakdown in the police department and among those on the street. What we see in Charlotte is not the disease. It is the symptom. And the disease is not racism. A strong family unit would not cure all ills, but it would cure a lot them.
  6. Our current problems are deep and will not be solved in 5 years much less 5 days. Unfortunately, we are not a society that digs in for the long haul. We post pictures and memes and assume that answers all the questions. We slap a Bible verse up as if that ends the conversation. Our thinking is shallow.  Issues of justice, mercy, family, economics, and politics require thinking, lots of it.  I am not convinced America can do this. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps tops is the loss of objective truth, the culture of constant distraction, and the rejection of experts. Can we think deeply about mercy when mercy is not a transcendent idea, but something found in the recesses of our hearts, a feeling? Can we think carefully about justice when our time is shattered every few minutes by this or that and our sense of justice is primarily shaped by TV?
  7. Finally, the church needs to lead the way in preaching Christ and Him crucified, modeling a life of repentance, and seeking to obey all that Christ has commanded. The Word, prayer, sacraments, service, discipleship, and evangelism are what will ultimately change the course of our communities. That does not mean there is nothing to be done in the public square. There is. But the foundation for doing good in public is built in the church and the home.

There are other problems that need addressed, such as the emasculating effect of welfare, the overreach of the government, home economics in the broadest sense, and the rampant antinomianism, liberalism, and feminism that infects the American church. But a post on those will have to wait for another day.  None of us want to keep seeing riots and shootings on our social media feeds. The solutions are not dramatic. Perhaps that is why so little time is devoted to them. Worship rightly. Read, love, and obey the Word. Love your spouse. Raise godly kids. Work hard. Trust in God. Repent of your sins. Love the people in your community and church. Here is where and how change happens.

Just War Criteria #1: Just Cause

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There are two different types of just-war criteria. First, there is criteria for going to war. What conditions are necessary to enter a war righteously? Second, there is the criteria for conducting a just war. What is righteous when waging war?  It is possible to violate the first,  in other words go to war for an unjust reason, but conduct the war in a just manner. There are three criteria that just-war thinkers use to determine whether or not going to war is just. Here is the first. This entire quote is from Charles and Demy’s book War, Peace, and Christianity. 

Just Cause. To establish the justness of a cause is to make fundamental moral distinctions-for example between innocence and guilt, between the criminal and punitive act, between retribution and revenge, between egregious human-rights violations (“crimes against humanity”) and the need for humanitarian intervention to restore basic human rights. In principle, just cause is motivated by two chief concerns: to rectify injustice or to prevent injustice; hence Aquinas can argue that “those who are attacked are attacked because they deserve on account of some wrong they have done.”

As fundamental as this idea is to Christianity and to humanity, in our age it difficult to swallow. Why? Many people, even Christians, are not sure objective truth can even be discovered. Can we really tell who is right and who is wrong? Aren’t all sides wrong in a war?  Aren’t we just talking about degrees of guilt with no real innocence? Who can even determine if a cause is just or not? Relativity has infected us to such a degree that many Christians not only cannot tell the difference between innocence and guilt, they are not sure such a difference even exists, at least in the practical area of day to day life.

As I read Charles and Demy’s book one thought that struck me over and over again was that just-war thinking only works in a world of objective truth. If we cannot know what is true and good then justice is lost. For just-war thinking to prevail there must be a standard of guilt and innocence and the belief that with time and wisdom we can determine who the guilty party is in a conflict.

A Primer on the Lord’s Prayer by Dr. Martin

praying-hands

Here is Martin Luther’s short exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, which I found in his Small Catechism. I have not included every question, but just the central ones. The bold is mine.

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean? God would thereby [with this little introduction] tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.

The First Petition: Hallowed be Thy name.
What does this mean? God’s name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.

How is this done? When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven. But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God’s Word teaches profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.

The Second Petition: Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean? The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.

How is this done? When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.

The Third Petition: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

How is this done? When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.

The Fourth Petition: Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean? God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread? Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

The Fifth Petition: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.

The Sixth Petition: And lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean? God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.

The Seventh Petition: But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven.

Amen.
What does this mean? That I should be certain that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven and heard; for He Himself has commanded us so to pray, and has promised that He will hear us. Amen, Amen; that is, Yea, yea, it shall be so.

S&S Podcast 2016.29 The Blame Game

blame

In the podcast I reflect on how we use our good deeds, such as prayer, tithing, teaching our children modesty, going to church, catechizing, etc. to buy favors from God. What effect does this type of thinking have on our relationship with God? As always comments are welcome.