Book Review: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part I- Houston, Is There a Problem?

WCWBFWhen one writes a book addressing a specific problem instead of a general overview of a subject they must first prove that the problem exists. For example, if I am writing a general book on how a Christian should approach his vocation,  I might address the Biblical view of work, key passages such as Ephesians 6, some common workplace problems, etc. But if I think there has been a decline in manual labor among Christians and I plan to write a book addressing that decline, I must first prove that such a decline exists, then I must prove that it is a bad thing, and only then can I offer solutions.

Aimee Byrd’s latest book is not general, but specific. She believes there is a problem between men and women in the church. She believes that Christians are being taught by the culture that friendship between men and women is bad. She believes we have adopted the mindset of Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally where we let the threat of sex get in the way of friendship. Continue reading

One Great Purpose

Baptism 1

Here is quote from Samuel Miller in his excellent little book, “Infant Baptism.”

The truth is, one great purpose for which the church was instituted, is to watch over and train up children in the knowledge and fear of God, and thus to , “prepare a seed to serve him, who should be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” And I will venture to say, that that system of religion which does not embrace children in its ecclesiastical provisions and in its covenant engagements, is most materially defective. Infants may not receive any apparent benefit from baptism, at the moment in which the ordinance is administered…still the benefits of this ordinance, when faithfully applied by ministers, and faithfully received by parents, are abundant-nay, great and important in every way. When children are baptized, they are thereby recognized as belonging to the visible church of God. They are, as it were, solemnly entered as scholars or disciples in the school of Christ. They are brought into a situation, in which they not only may be trained up for God, but in which their parents are  bound so to train them up; and the church is bound to see that they be so trained, as that the Lord’s claim to them shall ever be recognized and maintained.

In a word, by baptism, when the administrators and recipients are both faithful to their respective trusts, children are brought into a situation in which all the means of grace, all the privileges pertaining to Christ’s covenant family, in a word, all that is comprehended under the broad and precious import of the term Christian education,  is secured to them in the most ample manner. Let parents think of this, when they come to present their children in this holy ordinance. And let children lay this to heart, when they come to years in which they are capable of remembering and realizing their solemn responsibility.

This is why churches should be in the business of training up children through various means most notably through Christian schools, including children in worship, and catechism classes.  All churches cannot do all these things. But the church, as well as the parents, have the solemn duty to train the children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Principles of Modern Thought: Authenticity

This is the fourth post in series on Stephen Clark’s five principles of modern thought. The list is below along with links to the previous posts.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

Here is what Clark says about the principle of authenticity:

The Principle of Authenticity-“It states that each individual should express his or her true feelings and preferences at all times so that one’s ‘authentic’ personality might develop and be seen. Closely related to the principle of authenticity is the notion that each person should express his or her unique personality and gifts as fully as possible. The ideals of authenticity and uniqueness lead to a dislike for the type of social structure taught in scripture. To accept a role which does not fit one’s feelings or preferences would be inauthentic.

While scriptural teaching allows for individual differences it does not idealize them, since sin finds authentic and unique expression in the lives of most people.”

Authenticity has been mocked more and more lately, which is a good thing. Yet the central idea holds on with vehemence in our culture. Dress, sexual identity, job choice, education, spouses, are all often chosen based on what makes a person feel authentic, whatever that means. The key, as with the other three principles is that of individualism. We have a right to express ourselves in “authentic” ways. No one can fence us in or put us in a box. There is a real “me” that must come out and you cannot stop it. I have a right to be me.

Biblical structure, order, submission, and obedience reject the absoluteness of this idea. You may have dreams, desires, personality traits, giftings, that cannot be developed without breaking God’s commands or that are outside of God’s providence for you. The idea of women preaching and having authority is, in part, rooted in this idea of authenticity. A woman has the gift of teaching. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to express that gifting? Often authenticity is just an excuse for selfishness and a refusal to submit to God’s Word. Authenticity does not equal righteousness. For a Christian the question is not, “Am I expressing the true me?”  Rather it is, “Am I conforming to Christ and His revealed Word?”

Principles of Modern Thought: Full Potential

Here is the third post in a series on Stephen Clark’s five guiding principles of modern thought. The list with links to the previous posts can be found below.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

Here is Clark’s description of the third principle that drives modern thinking:

The Principle of Developing Full Potential or Achieving Self-Fulfillment-“This an individualistic principle closely related to the principle of freedom. Self-fulfillment and full potential become ideals under conditions of little social cohesion where each individual feels the need to watch out for himself…It emphasizes gifts and abilities rather than personal relationships.

A principle of self-fulfillment cannot be found in scripture. The scriptural teaching presumes a cohesive communal lifestyle and sets forth an ideal of servanthood. The scripture allows Christians to seek reward, but the criterion for action is love, that is, laying down one’s life for the Lord and the brothers and sisters.”

The thought here is that anything or anyone that prevents me from achieving what I think is my full potential is restricting  my freedom and ultimately harming me. People and things exist to give me fulfillment and make me happy.

Perhaps no principle on this list is as thoroughly rejected by Scripture as this one. The Christian life is one of love and service that is focused on giving of our life, time, money, and energy to others. A principle of achieving full potential runs hard against that truth. It is impossible to live like Christ and still be focused on achieving your full potential. Yet because this is the air that we breath we still function this way. Popular Christian preachers make millions promising people that if they come to Christ he will help them fulfill their potential. On a more day to day level, we assume that if I am not becoming who I think I ought to be then something has gone wrong.  How many “Christian” men have left their wives because they felt held back by them? How many college children reject their parent’s faith because it keeps them from “stretching their wings?” How many pastors have stopped preaching the hard truths of service and sacrifice so their people will be happy and feel fulfilled? How many young men enter the job force expecting it to help them fulfill their potential? How many young ladies bear children for the same, ungodly reason? The Christian life is one of service. The minute we make our personal satisfaction and fulfillment the goal then have abandoned the narrow path.

I would add that when we follow Christ we will ultimately find happiness and satisfaction. We were made for God and in him we will be filled. But that satisfaction comes from the well-done at the end. And that well-done comes from living for Christ, dying to self and serving others. It does not come from putting our own personal fulfillment at the center of our existence.

Principles of Modern Thought: Freedom

This is the second post in a series on Stephen Clark’s list of guiding principles of for modern thought. Here is the list with a link to the first post.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

Here is Clark’s second principle that guides modern thought.

The Principle of Freedom-“Each individual should guide his or her own life and make his or her own decisions independent of the thoughts or interference of others. This principle considers all forms of social control other than state-authorized bureaucratic or educational forms as morally wrong, and it regards them as forms of oppression or domination. Personal subordination is evil and degrading. Underlying this Liberal principle of freedom is an individualistic notion that the highest good resides in the greatest degree of personal autonomy and freedom of movement.

Scripture also teaches a principle of liberty, but is the liberty to be sons and daughters of God and freedom from that opposes this status-especially the world, the flesh, the devil, and sin. The type of freedom scripture describes is compatible with a strong commitment to a body of people and with the acceptance of personal subordination. In fact, scripture sees corporate commitment and personal subordination as aids to freedom.”

A couple notes on this principle:

First, state control seems at odd with this principle, but Clark understood that state control would not be seen as restricting freedom. Clark wrote this 35 years ago. The state would set itself up as the guarantor of freedom. Isn’t it strange that we all cry for freedom and person autonomy, yet we send our children to state run schools that have a state approved curriculum administered by state approved teachers? Even those of us who do not do that must usually be “state approved” in some way. How odd that a people who value personal autonomy allow their sons and daughters to be shaped for years by the state? Clark understood that we all serve someone.

Second, here is why many forms of libertarianism are modern through and through . Supreme value is placed on personal autonomy.

Third, here is one of the roots of post modern relativism. Who are you to restrict my freedom, especially in moral areas? Who are you to tell to me what I can and cannot do? This flows easily from the first principle of equality. If all men are to be treated equally then they should have freedom to do as they please. Restriction, for the modern, equals inferiority. So if you take away my personal freedoms you are not treating me as a equal.

Fourth, freedom for the Christian is always freedom from sin, never freedom to be whoever we want to be. A Christian teacher who says that Christ came to set you free must carefully explain what he means. The modern mind naturally drifts towards freedom meaning “no restrictions on my life.”

Fifth, in the Christian life subordination is part of our freedom in Christ. A Christian wife is not enslaved to her marriage or her husband. She is free. The modern mind has a hard time grasping this. But Ephesians 5 is particularly strong in this area. Freedom means freedom to obey. Slaves are free to obey. Wives are free to submit. Children are free to obey. Freedom does not mean I escape from obligations and responsibilities to God’s Word.

Principles of Modern Thought: Equality

Stephen Clark lists five guiding principles of modern thought. The list was written over 35 years ago. Looking back one can see that Clark may not have been a prophet, but he was correct. How did we get to a place where sodomite marriage is fine, abortion is fine, women go into combat, and the rejection of one’s God given status as a man or a woman is a right? This list gives you the blocks that build the modern mind.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

Clark is not a fan of these five principles Here is how he closes the section:

These five ethical principles exert a powerful influence over Christian discussions of men’s and women’s roles. Yet none of them are intrinsically Christian principles and none of them derive from a Christian ethical system.

I am going to address these in five posts.  With each of these Clark gives the modern idea and then follows with the correct Scriptural principle. Here is what Clark says about the equality:

The Principle of Equality-This principle states that all individuals should be treated identically, except for differences in ability or interest…Sometimes the principle of equality is phrased as an attack on anything that would make one person be regarded as ‘inferior’ to another. This principle militates against social roles ascribed according to age and sex and also against personal subordination.

Scripture also teaches a principle of equality, but it is a principle of equal care for all members of the body. The scriptural principle is compatible with social roles and personal authority. It is not based on the individualizing of people for a functional society, but is instead based upon a communal life and personal relationships.”

The idea in the modern principle of equality is that no one should be made to feel inferior to anyone else in any area. People may choose different jobs, roles, etc. but that is simply choices they are making. No one is superior to anyone else.  We just make different choices.  Even Clark’s idea that people are treated differently based on “ability” has fallen by the wayside in many places. There are several things to note about this principle:

First, equality as defined by moderns naturally leads to sodomy, transgenderism, and the rejection of male/female roles, among other things. All “roles” become choices we make based on what we enjoy and like, not based on any inherent, built in standard. So a person might be fine with my wife bearing children, but they would not be fine with me saying, “Having children is the normal, God-ordained, path for women.” A person might be fine with men leading my church, but they would be upset with me saying, “Men must lead the church.” Each person is equal and what they end up doing is based in the individual’s choice, not in any divine law. It also means we can move in and out of “roles.”

Second, modern equality means you forcefully eradicate anything that makes one person “inferior” to another. The goal is to destroy all positions of authority or empty them of their power.  Egalitarianism is militant.  It is not content to let others believe in hierarchy while it rejects it. For a while, it pretended to get along, but the goal has always been to drive out by force anything that smacks of inequality. We cannot all just get along. Egalitarians know this better than many conservative Christians.

Third, a plain reading of Scripture beginning in Genesis 1 shows how unbiblical modern equality is. A plain reading of nature shows how unnatural it is. Hierarchy in every area of life is inescapable. The question is will the superiors be held to a standard of righteousness or not. But if you say all men are equal in all ways then you end with no one having any obligations or duties to anyone else. After all, we are equals. Therefore I owe you neither the honor due a superior nor the kindness due an inferior.

Fourth, there is an equality in Scripture, but that equality does not eradicate power, authority, hierarchy, male/female roles, etc.  Just because all men are saved the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ and all humans are made in the image of God does not make all men and women androgynous, equal in wealth, power, authority, background, knowledge, age, and experience.

Promiscuously Called Saints

John_Davenant-300x200Here is a quote from John Davenant’s commentary on Colossians, which is published by Banner of Truth. He commenting on Paul’s use of “saints” in Colossians 1:2.

Whereas the Apostle calls not this or that good man, but the Colossians promiscuously, saints, as many as put on Christ by baptism; hence we learn that we must think and speak well of all who profess religion, unless by clear and manifest deeds they shew themselves to be ungodly and hypocrites. For the Apostles always, when they descend to particular men and churches, presume every Christian to be elect, sanctified, justified, and in the way of being glorified, until he himself shall proved himself to be wicked or an apostate. So Paul writing to the Corinthians affirms indiscriminately concerning them Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified, I Cor. 6:11. For in those things which relate to faith, we must speak and think according to Scripture, which is a certain and infallible rule: so, in other things which relate to charity it is sufficient to think and speak according to the probability of appearances. This rule may deceive; yet not by any fault or hazard of him who thought better of another than he truly deserved, but rather of that hypocrite who was a different and much worse man than he appeared to be.

This rule is solid and the only way to make sense of the way the Apostles’ write while at the same time holding that not all who are in the church are actually saved. I think the 21st century context may need a bit more nuance than this, but it is still good rule to follow. His last point is a good one. If a person assumes that a professing Christian is saved, yet they prove apostate the fault does not lie with the one who showed charity in judgment, but rather with the hypocrite.