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.

Davenant on Rewards for Good Works

RewardsHere is John Davenant’s explanation of how Christians should view rewards. This can be found in his commentary on Colossians.

We conclude, therefore, that a reward to good works is proposed by God, and that it ought to be regarded by us,

  1. That hence we may learn the will and munificence [generosity] of God.
  2. That we may exercise hope and faith by fixing our view upon it.
  3. That hence we may be excited to cheerfulness in good works.

But we ought not to regard and look to the reward;

  1. So as to be unwilling to serve God if there is no reward.
  2. So as to set the blessedness itself as our end in loving God.
  3. So as to infer any merit in our good works from the reward being proposed.

A couple of notes on this.

It is wonderful that Davenant’s first point is rewards point us to God’s generosity and desire for us His people. Rewards are proof that God is a generous, giving God, the overflowing fountain of all good.  Rewards first cause us to praise God and not to praise our virtue.

And of course rewards should motivate us to cheerfully and hopefully work. Too often Christians question of the value of focusing on rewards as we labor for Christ. But Christ promises rewards for those who work and strive. The Scriptures teach this from start to finish. Rewards should drive us to persevere in good deeds.

But Davenant also warns against some dangers with the focus on rewards. Most obvious is the last one, where our works  become a foundation for our salvation. The more works we do the more saved we are. This is explicitly taught in the Roman Catholic system, but it is easy for Protestants to buy into it as well.

The next danger, working up the list, is that rewards become the end instead of God Himself. The goal is always and forever commune with the Lord. Rewards are a byproduct of that goal, but not the ultimate goal.

Finally, there is the danger of refusing to work unless we see the reward.

These last two dangers are often seen in an over-realized eschatology where rewards become the end and those rewards are to be found in this life.  Many health and wealth teacher make the basic error of trying to make the not yet into the already by saying that God rewards us here and now. God does reward us at times in this life. But the great, lasting, and perfect rewards will only be found in the next life. If we expect to do good deeds here and God to reward us quickly, immediately, and in this life, we will often be disappointed.

Opening the Floodgates

A quote from Robert Reilly’s book Making Gay Okay. Here is a paragraph from his concluding chapter. His central point is a good one.

We cannot blame the homosexuals for all of this. As mentioned before, first came contraception and the embrace of no-fault divorce. Once sex was detached from diapers, the rest become more or less inevitable. If serial polygamy is okay,  and contraceptive sex is okay, and abortion is okay, what could be wrong with a little sodomy? First, short-circuit the generative power of sex through contraception; then kill its accidental offspring; and finally celebrate its use in ways unfit for generation…I only wish there were survivors from the 1930 Lambeth Conference-which first endorsed limited use of contraceptives-who might be forced to attend the Gay Pride events and officiate at same sex “marriages”, so they could dwell upon what they hath wrought. Just as there is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant, there is no such thing as a little compromise on moral principle, as the Boy Scouts are about to find out. If the ideology behind the Casey decision [Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, a 1992 court case, which upheld the right to abortion] is correct, then the homosexual position is the right one. It substitutes the primacy of the will for the primacy of reason. If we can make it up as we go along, then there are no moral standards in Nature to distinguish between the use and abuse of sex, only personal taste. The broad embrace of this view has opened the floodgates to sexual dystopia. The problem with this inundation is that it threatens the very democracy that allows it.

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.

Better Than We Deserve

One of the fundamental points of the Christian faith is that what we have we do not deserve. We were enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We were ungodly (Romans 5:6). We were hateful and hating one another (Titus 3:3). We were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). And yet God in His great mercy because of His love for us, zeal for His own glory, and His covenant promises sent his only Begotten Son to deliver us wretches from sin, Satan, Hell, and death. That should lead us to one thought: We have it better than we deserve. We deserve condemnation, fire, brimstone, and the almighty, terrifying wrath of God poured out on us for all eternity. Yet in Christ God has given us every good thing (Romans 8:32). I am not a give fan of mantras to be repeated over and over, but most of us should begin and end each day with one thought: we have it better than we deserve.

Your wife is better than you deserve.

Your husband is better than you deserve.

Your children are better than you deserve.

Your in-laws are better than you deserve.

Your single life is better than you deserve.

Your house, apartment, trailer, room at mom and dad’s is better than you deserve.

Your pastor is better than you deserve.

Your congregation is better than you deserve.

Your fellow members at church are better than you deserve.

Your town is better than you deserve.

Your country is better than you deserve.

Your job is better than you deserve.

Your bank account is better than you deserve.

Your health is better than you deserve.

Your children’s health is better than you deserve.

Your trials are better than you deserve.

Your prosperity is better than you deserve.

In the end, even the air we breathe is a gift. So give thanks to our gracious God for all that He has given from the grass, clouds, sun, turkey, and football to His Son born of Mary, broken for our sins, and raised for our justification.

O give thanks to the Lord for He is good for His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

The Right Medicine: Ten Principles for Pastoral Care

shepherd 3

Here is one final quote from Scott Mantesch’s book Calvin’s Company of Pastors. As I have said before this book is a must read for pastors, elders, or men in seminary. It is pastoral theology disguised as history. While we do not live in 1550 the principles of ministry do not change.

Simon Goulart was among the first wave of pastors in Geneva following Calvin’s death. He ministered from 1566 to 1628. Calvin died in 1564. He was best known for his two-volume work Christian Discourses. In this work he uses a conversational style of writing to guide his congregation through trials and sufferings. He also gives pastors guidance on how to care for those who are suffering. Here are Goulart’s ten principles for pastoral care with some notes by me in brackets.  Continue reading