And the Fog Descends

Fog 2

The Gospel Coalition recently published an article where a young man described how he came to grow as a Christian through a small group of men who discipled him. But you would never know that is what the article was actually about. The basic message about growth into Christian maturity is obscured by the attempt to be relevant to the SSA crowd or someone else out there.  Carl Trueman and I often disagree on women’s roles and masculinity in particular outside the church and home. But his short post nails the problems. Let me briefly explain why the article is not helpful.

First, it tries too hard to sound hip by using SSA as a paradigm instead of talking in terms of plain old discipleship. Read my opening sentence. There is nothing amazing about what happened to the author. It happens in thousands of churches in this land every week including ones where men shoot guns and play football. A man or woman struggles with sin other Christians come along and help him or her grow in Christ. But of course, an article like that would not get traffic or tweet as easily.

Second, it tries very hard to be profound when it isn’t. Of course, obedience is better than disobedience.  Refusing to act on sinful desire is always better than acting on sinful ones. Can you imagine someone saying, a man who is prone to greed, but doesn’t steal is far more of a man than a murderer who gives in to his lust to kill? Of course not. It is so patently true that it is not worth saying. Yet if you put celibate gay Christian in there it sounds profound.

Third, as Trueman points out the article represents a category confusion. Wanting to have sex with men is a desire that has no righteous outlet. It is a sinful desire. You cannot act on it. Wanting to have sex with a woman, is a legitimate desire that must be properly channeled. Same-sex attraction is sinful all the way down, as in it can never be acted on in any way. Heterosexual desire is not.

Fourth, the article takes what has traditionally been one of the ways men separated from women, dress, manners, certain enjoyments and made them not masculine. On the flip side it has taken what is not distinctly masculine, resisting your lusts, and made it masculine.  I am not saying to be truly manly you must watch football. But men and women have traditionally had different interests. That is because they are different. It is ironic that in an article which rejects dressing like a man as being manly, the picture in the post is of someone who is clearly a man. Dress does matter. So do manners and hobbies and all that other stuff that we toss on the pile as not meaning a whole lot.

Fifth, while I am not sure it was intended this way, but the opening paragraph appears to mock a certain culture that is filled with good Christians who love Jesus, like my dad. Are they perfect? No. But apparently you can struggle with SSA and be accepted, but killing innocent animals or loving Duck Dynasty means you are a patriarchal tyrant who doesn’t understand what it means to be a man in Christ. Here is the opening paragraph.

My adolescence was a social nightmare. I grew up in the rural South but didn’t fit the mold of Southern masculinity in the slightest. Sports piqued no interest in me; roughhousing made me nervous; slaying innocent animals seemed cruel and gross. Of course I never expressed such blasphemies—I wasn’t stupid! But I was everything opposite of what my Duck Dynasty-like culture insisted I should be. I was sensitive. I liked to read. I liked to draw. I liked to journal. I wasn’t your mud ridin’, hog huntin’ kind of boy.

Again, not sure if it was meant this way, but it comes across condescending.

Finally, because the article is so unclear, I am not sure who he is addressing with the following section:

As I observed their lives they led, the image I had in my mind of what it meant to be a man started to crumble. A man could be gentle and compassionate. A man could be thoughtful and sensitive. A man could be a better conversationalist than he is a sportsman. A man could talk about women with respect and integrity. A man could struggle with various weaknesses.

If he is saying “I had the wrong view of manhood” and these Christian men helped me correct it that is fine.  But often implicit in statements like this, especially when read beside his opening paragraph and the rest of the article, is that those who hold to traditional male-female roles have taught him the wrong view of manhood.  Even if he doesn’t mean this it will certainly be read that way by many. But no one I have ever read on traditional male-female roles would disagree with anything in this paragraph.  In fact replace all his “could be” with “must be” and that is what I read from men who hold a hard line on SSA and believe in traditional male-female roles. Men must be gentle and compassionate. Men must be thoughtful and sensitive. Men are weak. Men must talk about women with respect and integrity. And I think most would say if they had a choice between being a great conversationalist and killing a deer they would pick the former. Yes we like to hunt, but we also like to talk.

Trueman called this the most confusing statement of the day and maybe the week. He is right. It is not helpful and throws fog on a topic that is already filled with confusion.

Hard Questions: The Man of Lawlessness

Destruction of Jerusalem 1

It has been a while, but I want to continue to work through some of the hard questions that members of my congregation sent to me earlier this year. One question was, “Who is the man of lawlessness in II Thessalonians 2:1-12?”  To answer this question we must begin by asking what is going on in I Thessalonians 4-5 and in II Thessalonians 2. Throughout this article I am going to lean on Keith Mathison’s interpretation in his book Postmillennialism.  Most readers assume  that whenever “the day of the Lord” is mentioned, such as in II Thessalonians 2:2, that it means Christ’s second coming. However, there are numerous indicators that II Thessalonians 2 is not talking about Christ’s second coming, but rather he is talking about Christ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

In I Thessalonians 4-5 the modern reader believes he is reading about the same event described in two different ways. Chapter 4:13-18 clearly refers to the final day and the resurrection from the dead. Paul talks about Jesus bringing with him those who sleep, the Lord descending from heaven, and all of us being caught up with Him in the clouds.

But is 5:1-11 referring to the same event, the second coming? There are several indicators that chapter 5 is not referring to the second coming of Christ.

First, in chapters 4-5 Paul is answering a series of questions or responding to news he had gotten from Timothy about the church in Thessalonica (3:6). He discusses sexual immorality (4:1-8), brotherly love (4:9-12), and the second coming (4:13-18). There does appear to change the subject in 5:1. Paul uses the same phrase he uses in 4:9 to change the subject from sexual immorality to brotherly love. Context indicates that he could be changing the subject.

Second, much of the language used in 5:1-4 is used by Jesus in Matthew 24. I do not have time to go into here, but Matthew 24 is not referring to the end of the world, but to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. At the end of this post I link to several other blog posts to prove this point.

Third, if the day of the Lord is the second coming then why would the Thessalonians believe it had already come in II Thessalonians 2:2? Why would Paul need to convince them that they Day of the Lord had not come, if that day was referring to Christ’s return and all believers being “caught up” with him in the air? Read II Thessalonians 2 and ask yourself how this makes any sense if Paul is talking about the end of the world?

In short I Thessalonians 4 refers to the 2nd coming and Paul assures his readers of their resurrection and their joining with Christ. I Thessalonians 5 and II Thessalonians 2 do not refer to the 2nd coming, but instead refers to Christ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Who is the Man of Lawlessness? 

In II Thessalonians 2:1 and following Paul is telling these Christians that the destruction of Jerusalem has not yet occurred. They had gotten some letter or messaging stating the Christ had come in judgment upon their enemies (2:2). He then says two things must occur before the Day of the Lord. There must be an apostasy/rebellion and the man of lawlessness must be revealed. What can we determine about this man of lawlessness?

  1. He is a political leader. The language used in 2:4 is used in the Old Testament of wicked political rulers (See Isaiah 14:4-21, Ezekiel 28:2-19, and Daniel 11:36).
  2. He is being restrained right now and the Thessalonians know what is restraining him (2:6). This means he is alive when Paul is writing around 51-52 A.D.
  3. Despite being restrained he is already at work ( vs. 7).
  4. His reign will be marked by great wickedness (vs. 9-10).
  5. He will be killed by God after he is let loose (2:8).

Mathison believes this refers to Nero, who when II Thessalonians was written, was not yet Emperor, but soon became Emperor after his mother killed the current emperor. Nero was known for his extraordinary wickedness. During his reign the Jews rebelled against Rome. This could be the rebellion referred to in vs. 3. Rome then began to wage war on the Jews. This is called the Jewish War. During this war, in A.D. 68, Nero died. This is one of the most plausible explanations. Though I am not convinced it fits with verse 4, where the man of lawlessness is said to sit in the temple of God. It is possible this man of lawlessness was a Jewish leader who lead Israel in rebellion against Rome.

Whoever the exact man was, this much is clear, II Thessalonians 2 is not referring to a future man of lawlessness. This man was around when Paul wrote, but restrained. He has already passed off the scene. There is no man of lawlessness coming in the future.

Blog Posts on Matthew 24
15 Reasons Why Matthew 24 is About the Destruction of Jerusalem
Pastor MacArthur and Matthew 24
Generation in Matthew 24