31 August 2012

Math and Elections

by Frank Turk

OK – the first Party Convention is over; the second is coming, and a lot of people are going off the deep end as usual.  Since I live in the deep end, and am comfortable here, I have the first of several posts about thinking about the election which I hope you find at least thought-provoking.  This one doesn’t include any Bible verses, so for those of you who are hoping Jesus will tell you who to vote for, and therefore tell others they are going to hell for voting against, you will have to look elsewhere (at least for today). Also: this is not really what we usually do at TeamPyro, but because it is part of a series on thinking about politics and this election I am writing, we will start with the merely-pragmatic.

Last before starting: this is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney.  This is an examination of one claim by one group of people regarding what they say they believe about voting in this election.

So there’s a lot of hysteria about voting for Mitt Romney right now, especially from two different kinds of conservatives.  One kind can’t vote for a Mormon.  The other kind can’t vote for a politician in the real world who, frankly, doesn’t agree with them on every jot and tittle – and supposedly on at least one major political issue.  If you are one of these people, this post is probably not for you.  I will deal with you later.

There is one class of voter this post is for, and that’s the voter who isn’t a huge fan of Romney, and is not a fan of Obama, and wants to vote for anyone else more attuned to their stated political beliefs – for example, Ron Paul, or perhaps Pat Robertson, or perhaps Sara Palin – someone farther to the right with better Bona Fides than Romney.  But they know, in their heart, that this vote is a vote of conscience and not a vote which will actually cause that man to be put into office.  So when they are confronted by the objection, “A vote for [other] is a vote for Obama,” they ask the astute question, “Pray tell: why isn’t it a vote for Romney?”  DJP has dealt with this 4 years ago, but I have something it seems most people have not considered.

Math, my dear friend: Math.

First: objectively, let’s say we have more than 2 candidates (let’s say 3, but it could be 7), and in the choices A, B, or C one votes for “C”, it should be said that a vote for “C” is in fact a vote against both “A” and “B”.  There’s no question about that – plainly, the vote is objectively “Not A” and “Not B” but “C”.  The problem is that this only assumes that the natural bias of the system would render all choices of equal weight, and a protest vote for “C” against “A” and “B” would have the same effect against “A” as it will against “B”.

Now: what do I mean by a “natural bias”?  I mean this:
Political party         Registered members
Democrat (BLUE)         43.1 million
Republican (RED)        30.7 million
Constitution             0.367 million
Libertarian              0.278 million
Green                    0.246 million
Independent  24.0 Million

(source: procon.org) 
The natural bias in the electorate, not accounting for partisan enthusiasm or lack thereof, is that the “BLUE” side will get 43.7% of the votes (assuming party loyalty), “RED” side will get 31.1 % of the votes, about 2% will vote for a radical candidate, and there will be 24.3% up for grabs.  In a world where, as some are supposing, the major candidates are just about the same sort of elected official, there’s no reason to believe that the “I” votes won’t be split in half – so the final result of this election would be roughly 55-43 BLUE victory.

The natural tendency, given the base inclination of the registered voters, is to skew BLUE.

Now: think about this.  What has to happen for the election to skew RED is some combination of the following:

  • Suppressed BLUE voter turnout (“suppressed” meaning the voters don’t show up – not that they are imprisoned or threatened to stay away from the polls.  Don't be like that.)
  • BLUE turnout swinging to RED (meaning: moderates make a pragmatic choice to select away from base party affiliation)
  • Independent voters overwhelmingly turning to RED candidate vs. BLUE candidate (like: Reagan)

Only these outcomes influence the RED benefit positively, mathematically.  Or put another way: only these outcomes negatively influence the BLUE benefit.

There are no scenarios where RED-side voters (such as Constitution and Libertarian) voting either for a non-major party candidate or sitting out benefits RED and not BLUE.  RED-side voters must vote RED because they are in the registered minority. If they expect ever to get an outcome on the RED side in the general election, they have to vote for the likely winner on the RED side.

Therefore: So what?

1. Do whatever you think is best in the primaries.  I think you should vote as far to the side of the spectrum you favor as you can stomach in the primaries.  You should pull your party as far to your way of thinking in the *internal* decision-making process as you think you and your like-minded friends can do it.

2. You have to accept that if our republican form of government is a legitimate form of government, you are never going to get everything you want – even in your own party.  And you have to accept that, frankly, that’s a good thing – because you are a sinner just like that tax collector over there.  Literally.

3. Once the primaries are settled, you have to do the math.  That is: you have to vote for someone with a mathematical likelihood of winning if you really want to affect change.  By that, I mean this: historically, there is no way in the clear blue sky that you will ever get a BLUE-side candidate who will get less than 43% of the vote.  It simply will not happen.  That means your candidate, to actually affect change, has to get a minimum of 44% of the vote to win.  Given the numbers above, that means all the Indie voters, and more than half the registered “BLUE” voters.  If your alternative candidate cannot get that many votes – and I propose to you that it doesn’t matter who he is: he can’t get them – then you have to ask yourself: do I affect any change by voting for the mathematically-guaranteed loser?

4. Relating to the question asked, above, this is exactly how a vote against Obama but not for Romney ensures Obama’s victory: mathematically, Obama has a winning plurality of core voters, and no one else does.  Seriously: if the electorate splits by registration saturation, BLUE wins the plurality.  When you cast your vote, you need to vote remembering that if you cast a vote which creates a plurality, you are spinning the result toward the party with the inherent plurality-winning base.

1, 3 and 4 are simple mathematical realities; 2 is a political reality – that is, accepting the rules by which the game is played.

Hope that helps.  More next Wednesday.

30 August 2012

How can Christians hear a word from God? I mean, really?

by Dan Phillips

Some guy named "Phillip R. Johnson" (whatever; I think he writes about creation, or something) posted this video from James MacDonald, in which MacDonald explains ways to receive a word from God. Turns out there are five. To wit:

Wellnow, let's us chat about this.

First, to do that thing that drives drivebys crazy, let's anticipate the first response defenders will have: this is a very small excerpt from must have been a much longer talk, and it is out of context.

Fair enough. Absolutely true. It is possible that, just before this video, MacDonald said,
"For the next two minutes and fifty-six seconds, I am going to present some traditionalistic notions that are very popular among many Christians. I'm going to do it with warmth and enthusiasm, and even add a personal anecdote, just to be sure I'm doing a fair job of representing their position. Then, starting with the fifty-seventh second of the third minute, I'll show you why this is such dangerous nonsense."
If so, that would absolutely change everything, and taking this video as representing MacDonald's thoughts would be very unfair.

So let's just focus on what is actually in the clip, rather than on MacDonald himself.

This is a test. Let's see what you've learned from our dozens of posts on this general area. How would you respond to what he said?

But even beyond that, let me broach something I'm not sure I've said before in this way.

Before giving it, I note that the vid above proceeds on the premise that of course we should accept all five ways as ways "God speaks," as ways to "hear from God," to have "the Holy Spirit speak a word," or to get, as he says explicitly and more than once, "a word from God." It's the results that we are to test by Scripture — not the ways themselves.

Note too that we need these ways, according to MacDonald. We need them. We, Christians, all Christians. He makes that very clear.

But what if we asked a more fundamental question? What if we tested the ways, and not just their results?

Suppose, in response, we just asked this multifaceted question?
What would be the premise for, and ramifications of, promoting only the way(s) in which Scripture directly and in so many words urges and directs all Christians without exception to seek and find what it itself directly calls, in so many words, a "word from God"?


Should be both fun and profitable.

POSTSCRIPT: I untangle and answer that question HERE.

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29 August 2012

Goodness We could not Otherwise Imagine

by Frank Turk

God’s comfort is setting us apart from evil demonstrates his Goodness; God’s counsel which doesn’t just leave us in a neutral state once we have been set apart demonstrates His Goodness.  But David goes on from there:
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
     and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.
In David’s view, from a cave and on the run, God is still the keeper of Justice.  When David says that Jehovah is against those who do evil, he doesn’t simply mean that it makes God sad or upset that people do bad things.  David says God will “Cut off the memory of them from the earth.”  That is: they will be utterly destroyed.  If God is in charge of Justice, it’s not like he’s going to work out some temporary arrangement for these people.  David is talking about a permanent solution actually worse than prison or death.  Calvin says that David speaks “particularly of this kind of punishment, because the ungodly not only expect that they shall be happy during their whole life, but also imagine that they shall enjoy immortality in this world.”  Think about how true that is: how those who oppose what is right think that they have instead made their own way, a better way, which will be to their credit forever.

But paired with that, David’s eye is not on the short-term for the righteous, either.  He says that the Lord is near to those who are the victims of injustice.  This is an important bridge to the final part of this psalm because what David doesn’t say is that those who love God will have no trouble, or that the trouble will be short-lived.  In the final account, David says:
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
     but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
     not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
In contrast to the wicked, the disobedient, the unwise, the righteous seem to be the brunt of many afflictions.  I mean: this is why they are crying out to God, Amen?  It is not David’s view that the righteous do not suffer.  On the contrary, he is afflicted by Achish and Saul as he writes this.  Instead, he says that God delivers out of the hands of affliction.  And to underscore that, he says:
20 He keeps all his bones;
     not one of them is broken.
Which is an unusual statement.  In some sense, David is saying that the righteous man escapes his trials in one piece.  But this is supposed to be in contrast to the punishment of God against the wicked.  This is supposed to be as contrasted with being utterly stricken from the memory of all things.  Those who do evil: God will wipe them out forever; the righteous?  Not even a broken bone.

Now look: that’s pretty good!  That’s pretty good for the righteous person to say that, maybe in the final account, I’ll make out far better than the person who is doing this to me.  In some metaphysical or proverbial sense, sticks and stone may break my bones, but in God’s justice my bones aren’t really broken.  And while I admit that my view of this problem is not always the most sanctified, I’m not sure how much of a refuge that is when we are actually suffering, actually witnesses to and victims of the wickedness in this world.

We can wind up feeling a little hollow with David’s victory proclamation here if he was just speaking in metaphors.  But we have something else here which we can take refuge in.  The Apostle John, looking at the cross of Christ at the very end, says this:
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that [the prisoners’] legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first [prisoner], and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35  He who saw it has borne witness— his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth— that you also may believe.36  For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.
In John’s view of what happened, prophecy is fulfilled here – prophecy David makes in accounting for the justice of God.  That is: David is not merely talking about a simple, temporary victory against evil here in which those persecuted can take refuge.  John tells us David was prophesying about the righteousness which is made for us in the death of Christ – and God’s intention to make it that way.   David then concludes
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
The Psalmist is not rejoicing just because God is strong enough to do these things.  He is not overjoyed that God is merely full of justice, or is informed enough to know they must be done.  The psalmist is rejoicing – singing a song -- Calling God by name and, in his words, continually and at all times, praising and blessing God and exalting His name – because God is good.  David is not saying, “I hope the tables are turned on my enemies.”  And he is also not saying, “I know that I will end up on top eventually because God wants my to have my best life right now.”  David is not inflating his sense of optimism with the hot air.

David is saying that God has providing a cover for those who trust him, because a deliverer is coming.  From David’s viewpoint, Jesus is coming.  Jesus is coming to give something to those who are destroyed by the injustice and evil of this world but have confidence in God’s goodness.  Because look: It turns out that the question is not “Does God owe me anything?” David does not think God owes him anything – and he’s the one anointed by Samuel to be King.

David points prophetically to Christ to show that God is Good.  That is where we must also go for the goodness of God – because it points to a kind of goodness we could not otherwise imagine.

Please hear me: this is our refuge as we think about the Attributes of God.  It is not merely that He can know us, or that He can consider us, or that He can do anything for us: It is that He planned to do this since before the creation of anything.  It is that he has done it already, intentionally giving his own son over to the hand of unjust, lawless men to suffer and die – and then raising him to new life because death couldn’t possibly hold him. And most importantly – God has done all of this, and is doing it right now, for us – for our sake, and our salvation.  It is not only that God is powerful enough to do what we ask, or that God is wise enough to know what is right or even wise enough to know all things.  Our hope lies in the fact of God’s character that He is Himself Good to us, and for us.

This is what must overcome our lousy taste for what is right – that God is Good, not just in theory or on paper like a good stock pick or a good athlete.  God is Good in fact, and is working in this broken world for our sakes.

This is not a childish thing.  This is not baby talk.  This is not just something we can give to children when they are too young to pronounce “inscrutability” or “immutability” or “total depravity”.  David is telling us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that God is Good.  This is the hope of the world – not just that there is news from God, but that it is Good News.

And this, frankly, is the message we must deliver in a week like this, full of disturbing, and disheartening, and chilling news.  “God is Great.  God is Good.  Let us Thank him for his Comfort of us; let us thank him for his Counsel to us; let us thank him for his Cover over us in Jesus.” Amen.

28 August 2012

Pyro and me: philosophy of strategery

by Dan Phillips

Candidly, I'm not writing this because I think it can possibly be of any great interest to anyone. It's more of a bookmark, for my own future use and reference — as in "See my explanation here." I may even give it one star myself. (On re-read, I may give it 2 or 3 for the neologisms alone.)

However Phil or Frank saw or sees their role (respectively), I have always viewed my role here as semi-pastoral, in this sense:
  1. I have some Biblical essentials to communicate which I think are vitally important.
  2. Many of these essentials are communicated too seldom, too unclearly, too timidly, too ineffectively, too zombily, and/or too vaguely.
  3. I mean to communicate them as directly, clearly, forcefully, effectively, memorably, mark-leavingly and fruitfully as I can.
Though this will be a "duh" to long-timers, it actually does place me in a different category from many other high-traffic bloggers. You've noticed it: the writers impart some cybergold nuggets — fine men that they are. Then they wander off to do important, big-name-guy things... and allow unmoderated metas to go straight to Hades.

Which I just won't.

My aim has never been to host an open-ended PoMo discussion group, with sofas and tie-dye T's and foo-foo drinks. I view this as more akin to a Bible study, where I am responsible for leading the discussion in a specific direction — and making sure it gets there and stays there. Participation is welcomed, appreciated, and encouraged; but it is also moderated and directed. This isn't a democracy.

Would be-derailers and snipers tend to find that out quickly. Guys who sit at the back of the classroom and make sniggering, snide little derailing snipes for their own smug amusement, not only refusing to learn but doing their best to prevent others from learning, encounter reality in due time.

Remember, too, that I am not postmodern. I don't think that truth is in the eye of the beholder. If I'm making the case that the Bible is sufficient and the Canon is closed, that is what I am earnest that readers take away. I am not timidly raising a flag to see who will salute it; I am not nambipambily floating a trial-balloon with the intent of tremulously taking a poll afterwards. My goal in life is not to be lauded by as "careful" by RBP types. I am teaching, I am aiming to inform and persuade.

Of course, there are exceptions, such as all the brain trust posts, which are of a totally different nature. But seriously, think about it: I've been at this in earnest for well over thirty-nine years. That's longer than many of you have even been alive, let alone saved. Does it mean I'm right? Mercy, don't I wish! But, friend, in earnest: if I haven't come up with something to say with conviction and force in that time... I've been doing it really, really wrong.

So it's with that conviction that I write. And for most of you, that's actually why you come here. If you had wanted to see timid, dainty, precious, raised-pinkie reeds shaken by the wind, there were lots of high-traffic sites you could go to. This is not that.

(If any of this surprises anyone, donde esta frijole? — which is Spanish for "Where you been?")

Pyromaniacs (to my mind) never has been and never will be simply a clearing-house for that great howling wasteland of insanity that gibbers and prances under the loose canopy of "evangelicalism." Pyromaniac wasn't, and Pyromaniacs isn't. I see Pyromaniacs at its best as a beacon and a lighthouse, a haven and a place of instruction and direction. Not a bloggy Bedlam.

Clear enough?

Keeping it that way, with open comment threads, is actually a lot of work. And it places quite an obligation on me, given my self-assigned role. I can't just throw something out and then allow the subsequent conversation to be captivated by what I think are harmful false teachers, who throw out irresponsible and devastating distractions and delusions, beguiling and ultimately damaging the souls of my readers. I feel that responsibility very keenly.

All this has its parallel in the thought of Titus 3:8-11. As he has done many times in the epistle, Paul urges Titus to insist that sound faith must issue in God-honoring actions (v. 8). Those opposed to sound faith will want to come in with endless arguments and debates, hoping to start a discussion that will whirl about in repetitious circles for their own amusement and aggrandizement — but the net outcome of all such exercises is both unprofitable and foolish (v. 9). Therefore, Titus is to take decisive action: confront the divisive ones decisively, and then show them the door, leaving them to the miseries they've chosen for themselves (vv. 10-11).

I feel a responsibility like that for what I'm doing here, for the reasons detailed above. Of course, many who've been shown the door would argue that their perspective was vital and wonderful and needed and all. To that, my politest and (I think) inarguable response would be, "Then that's what your blog is for."

Now, add another pressure to maintaining all this. As you (should) know, this is not my paid job. It isn't what feeds, houses and clothes my family. I love this ministry dearly. I thank God for it. But my priority is God, my family, and my local church pastorate. Any of those things "trump" this ministry.

Frankly, I've found that my pastorate has had more of an impact on blogging than I anticipated. Perhaps that was naive of me, but there we are. I still aim to keep on blogging, and am in fact keeping it up, but it's being more of a challenge than I expected.

So one of the impacts of that reality is in metas. To take two extreme poles, I simply cannot spend hours and hours babysitting a meta that has turned into a ridiculous free-for-all for passing barking-loon drive-bys, OR accepting the role of chief and sole debater in a long ongoing series of barrages that would require one-man research assignments and (again) hours of ongoing participation. Just can't do it.

So that leaves me with several choices, none of them perfectly happy:
  1. Stop blogging. (Won't.)
  2. Close comments altogether. (Would rather not.)
  3. Moderate comments and just don't allow the more de-raily, reading-comp challenged, wheel-reinventing endless-do-loop ones. (Do.)
  4. Do my best to allow comments and participate, but close the meta if I am unable to meet what I believe is my responsibility as "discussion-leader," given the accountability I feel for my readers. (Also do.)
So there you go. And if you feel really cheesed off about all this, I'm sorry, but I'd just take this occasion gently to remind you, not for the first time, what your monthly fees are for this service.

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26 August 2012

Upon Me

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 59, sermon number 3,345, "Sunlight for Cloudy Days."
“I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me.” It is a great thing that God should think upon us. Is it certainly true that the great heart of God is thinking upon me, an inconsiderable atom of existence? What then? It is enough to make the bells of our hearts ring for joy. Let us listen again to the silver note of the text, “The Lord thinketh upon me.” The Lord thinks as much of one of his people as if there were nobody else for him to think upon. Poor needy one, the Lord thinks upon you as intensely as if you were the only being now existing. The Lord is able to concentrate his whole mind upon any one point without dividing that mind; he has such an infinite capacity that each one of us may be the centre of God’s thoughts, and yet he will not be forgetting any other beloved one. God is a being whose centre is everywhere, but his circumference is nowhere. “The Lord thinketh upon me.” Is it not beautiful to notice how God thought of the first man whom he placed on this earth? He did not make man till he had prepared everything for his happiness. The Lord would not rest until he had finished his work, until he had lighted up the heavens, and created all manner of comforts and conveniences for his child. Not till he had even prepared the birds to sing to him, and the flowers to breathe their perfume upon him, did God create man. Why did God rest on the seventh day? Because he had thought of all that man wanted, and had made all things good for him. Our Lord Jesus never rested till he had finished the work that his Father gave him to do, which work was all for us: and the great providence of God will never rest till all the chosen of God are brought safely home to heaven. Thus you see how God thinks upon us.

Remember also that God’s thoughts are not dumb thoughts, they break out into words, and this precious Bible contains the expression of those thoughts of love. This priceless Book is a love-letter from our Father who is in heaven. Read each line as if it were freshly written, and it will make you say, “I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me, and here are his thoughts.”

Nor does the Lord rest in words. I have heard of a waiter who said to a guest, “I hope you will remember me, sir.” “Yes,” replied the other, “I shall never forget your bad behaviour.” It would be well for us if our fellow-men would not think of us when we have done them wrong; but God’s thoughts of us are ever kind and forgiving. His thoughts are practical, and produce deeds of kindness; he thinks to give and forgive; to save and succour; to cheer and cherish. The Lord is thinking what he will give you, what he will make of you, and what mansion in heaven he will appoint for you. If he has thought upon you, he always will think upon you, for the Lord never changes. Our God, in whom we trust, is not fickle; he is not thoughtful of us today, and forgetful of us tomorrow. If you should live to be as old as Methuselah, the promises of God will never wear out; and if all the troubles that ever fell upon humanity should pounce upon you, God’s strength will be put forth to sustain you, and to bear you to a triumphant close.

Oh, the joy of knowing that God thinketh upon us! It is better to have God thinking upon us than to have all the kings of earth and all the angels of heaven thinking upon us.

24 August 2012


Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro is posting a "best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

As usual, the comments are closed.

23 August 2012

Christian marriage

by Dan Phillips

Christian marriage is like the Christian life... only more so.


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22 August 2012


by Frank Turk

I'm travelling this week, so I'm reprinting a post from 2008.  It fits OK in the series on the Goodness of God, which I will return to next week.

I'm not much of a complainer in my personal life – mostly because I have kids who are way better than I could have possibly raised them, I have a wife who is infinitely a better person and a better spouse than I am, I make a decent living, somehow blogging has panned out for me as a way to write thing which people will then actually read, and most importantly, I have a savior in Jesus Christ.

Now, many segments of the blogosphere will read a post which begins like that and simply write it off as hash – because, frankly, they are actually complainers. Life is very hard for them, Jesus doesn’t turn out to give them what they think they want, and so on. And people see that as transparency, somehow – that if one can vent one's disappointment or talk about how hard they have it today, that's real emotional honesty, and we should raise a glass to the thick hide it takes to tell people that COMPONENT X of my life makes me sad.

And I bring this up because the last 10 days for me has been frankly emotionally and spiritually draining. I'm down. I'm really down. How can you laugh when you know I'm down? How can you laugh? When you know I'm down?


So should I blog about the valley of the shadow of death? I mean – as I have tried to find a way to summarize it, the last week has looked a lot like the first chapter of Job, sans the marauding Sabeans and the donkeys. And, thankfully, the boils.

Do you really want to read about that? Would it be edifying to know that my week was as bad or worse than yours was?

Let me suggest something here, and then try to work it out: these are important things, and they are the things we think about every day. But is thinking about them – and listening to the litany of my immediate state of woe – edifying or uplifting? Or is there something else we should be comparing all that stuff to so that when that stuff happens, we don’t find ourselves shipwrecked?

Job says this about that:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ... Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
That's Job – who probably went through worse that I did this week, and who, all things told, probably went through worse than you did. In his view, when he turned to God, and God answered him, it is himself he despises for thinking that God owes him an answer.

Now, why is that? Is it because it's none of Job's business and God will simply do whatever it is He does and none of your loose lip can change that? I think that's a completely hollow view of what Job realizes here, and that for two reasons.

The first reason is that God demands that Job's friends repent through Job for their sins. That is, while Job says that he did something wrong by asking God, "why?", his friend are actually in need of a sacrifice and are condemned by God for telling Job, "this is all your own fault, dude." That is, the explanation that Job is a sinner in the hands of an angry God doesn’t cut it because that's the explanation Job's friends give, and God labels that chatter "folly" which kindles up his "anger".

But the second reason is in Job's response here: the things at stake are too wonderful for Job to understand – even the Message admits that Job was sort of overwhelmed by the wonder which is in beholding God first-hand and seeing one's plight in the face of the living God.

Now, to tie this back to my original thought – which was my lousy week – of all the things in the list in my first paragraph, only one really qualifies as a "wonder". And while some of you may be influenced to think it is my Wife, and you'd be right from a certain perspective, the only real wonder on that list is that I have a savior in Jesus Christ.

"Yah yah yah," interrupts the internet detractor who struggles with depression, or the evangelican who stopped by because he was between Max Lucado books. "You Calvinists. The only thing that matters is Jesus Christ. Everything is so Jesus-centered that it's not any actual Earthly good, and you white-wash suffering and pain to the place where the problem of evil is itself invalidated because you say, in effect, there is no evil. It's all good because God makes it all good. And if that's what you're getting at, you make me sick because my wife is dying from cancer, she cannot be cured, and you can't convince me that her pain and my suffering are not evil."

Yeah, no. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that Job, who is still scraping his boils with a piece of pottery, and who has nothing left in this world, has asked God for an answer as to the question, "why me, Lord? Why me when I have never done anything to you?" And his answer is that suffering is real and it also shows us something about God we couldn’t otherwise know.

Job says, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you." It seems to me that Job says that the answer to his question is not a fancy theology of the problem of evil, but that it is finding God there in the midst of the problem.

See: my problems this week are my problems. I own them, I wear them, I bear them. This is my life. It is real. I know it because I feel it. But there is a wonder which I could not see if I did not see this pain: it is the wonder that Christ is my savior. And he's not just a savior who hands out lollypops and lemonade and cake: He's a savior who has willingly suffered so that He would save.

You know: Christ had to pay taxes (Mat 17 – the temple tax). Christ had arguments with people – in fact, very important people came looking for Christ to have arguments with him specifically for the purpose of making him look bad (Mark 12 – about divorce and the resurrection). Christ's friends betrayed Him (John 18 – Peter denies him). Christ's mother thought he was crazy, and wanted him to stop preaching (Mark 3 – not just his mother but his whole family). Christ had people using him for a free meal under the cover of seeking a religious sign (John 6 – feeds 5000). Christ's friend died from being sick (John 11 – death of Lazarus). Christ Himself was unjustly accused and convicted of violating the law, and was given the death penalty (Mat 26:57- the trial of Christ).

Let me say it plainly that Jesus had it rough – and this is a wonder.

Christ suffered in this world in every way that we suffer today, and He knows what we are going through – not as an observer, but as the book of Hebrews says, as a High Priest [who] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same dark stuff we do.

Now, if you see that with your eye, and not merely hear it with your ear, how do you feel about your complaints? Are they magnified, or does Christ – who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be horded or clung to, but made himself nothing (an insignificant speck), taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross -- trade you beauty for your ashes, and pour out an oil of gladness for your mourning?

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture. So when an airplane crashes into your new car, or you have to go and mourn at a funeral without your spouse because of a birthday party, or your money suddenly seems really tight, or you have to fire someone because of someone else's incompetence, or you yourself are fired because of someone else's incompetence, you may be suffering. I would say that if these things happen to you, you will suffer. But Christ has suffered more and you get that benefit. That is the answer God gives you, which I think you couldn't see from the chaise lounge whilst sipping the drink served in a coconut with the happy paper umbrella. You can only see it from this place, where we suffer.

And that makes looking at the rest of this stuff a little easier, I think. I hope you think so, too.

21 August 2012

Hey — I'm talking to you! (Or He is, anyway)

by Dan Phillips

Have you noticed how frontal and un-dainty and un-RPB the Bible tends to be? God doesn't tend to talk to X about Y. He just talks to X; then He turns and talks to Y.

For instance, we don't read, "Wives, see to it that your husbands love you as Christ loves the church. If they don't — make them suf-fer!" Nor, "Husbands, you deserve to have your wives subordinate themselves to you as the church does to Christ. If they don't — freeze them out!" No, it's "Husbands, you love," and "Wives, you subordinate yourselves."

The classic illustration is when Jesus tells Peter something that the  mouthy apostle (quite understandably!) doesn't want to hear about his coming path. It comes at the end of an already-uncomfortable conversation (Jn. 21:15-18). Unable to bear it any more, Peter looks about desperately, sees young John lolling about, and says "But-but-but, what about him?"

And "Jesus said to him, 'If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!'" (John 21:22).


NOTE: for those keeping score at home, this relates to PA19.

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19 August 2012

Physicians Of No Value

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 36, sermon number 2,130, "The Deceitfulness of Sin."

“Few are tired of talking, but many are wearied with hearing.”

The text itself says, "Exhort one another daily"; from which I gather two lessons. First, hear exhortation from others; and, secondly, practise exhortation to others. I have known people of this kind, that if a word is spoken to them, however gently, as to a wrong which they are doing, their temper is up in a moment. Who are they that they should be spoken to? Dear friend, who are you that you should not be spoken to? Are you such an off-cast and such an outcast that your Christian brethren must give you up? Surely you do not want to bear that character. I have even known persons take offence because the word has been spoken from the pulpit too pointedly. This is to take offence where we ought to show gratitude.

“Oh,” says one, “I will never hear that man again! He is too personal.” What kind of a man would you like to hear? Will you give your ear to one who will please you to your ruin, and flatter you to your destruction? Surely, you are not so foolish? Do you choose that kind of doctor who never tells you the truth about your bodily health? Do you trust one who falsely assured you that there was nothing the matter with you when all the while a terrible disease was folding its cruel arms about you? Your doctor would not hurt your feelings. He washes his hands with invisible soap, and gives you a portion of the same. He will send you just a little pill, and you will be all right. He would not have you think of that painful operation which a certain surgeon has suggested to you. He smirks and smiles, until, after a little while of him and his pills, you say to yourself, “I am getting worse and worse, and yet he smiles, and smiles, and flatters and soothes me. I will have done with him and his little pills, and go to one who will examine me honestly, and treat me properly. He may take his soap and his smile elsewhere.” O sirs, believe me, I would think it a waste of time, nay, a crime like that of murder, to stand here and prophesy smooth things to you. We must all learn to hear what we do not like. The question is not, “Is it pleasant?” but, “Is it true?”

17 August 2012

Adopt That as Our Anthem

by Frank Turk

Yes: I have tricked you again.  You were expecting the Best of Phil and rather you got me spouting off about something which caught me late in the week and it needed to be set straight.  (A turn of phrase which, after you have read this post, will be very funny)

Also: warning.  Adult topics ahead.

The Huffington Post has been experimenting with me for LiveStream chats because they don't know any normal conservatives and they ran into me one week hoping they could find a stereotypical rube they could use to say they have diverse voices.  You can imagine how that turned out -- but they do keep calling me and somehow the video never makes it to the web.  In their defense, the first video had to be scrapped because one of the other bloggers interviewed did the LiveChat without headphones on, and the reverb through his/her computer ruined all the audio; the second video was a little stilted because they invited the guests for one topic and sprung another on us after we were all linked in -- it's hard to say anything useful when you're caught flat-footed and the host is a harridan.

Now, here's the thing: this week HuffPo ran what I would call an Op-Ed on the question of why there was a media kerfuffle over the fact that Anderson Cooper's boyfriend was caught out-out in NYC with someone other than Mr. Cooper. Here's the money quote from that essay:
If monogamy works for you, more power to you. If you and your girlfriend want to sleep with other people on occasion (or invite someone home with you at the end of the night), do it. If three men want to live as a throuple, let them live as a throuple. If a husband and wife want to take separate vacations and sleep around while they're apart, who is anyone else to say that that's unsavory?

I'm not saying that everyone is -- or should be -- throwing key parties or hunting for a plot of land to start a sex-based commune with 40 of their closest friends. I'm saying it's time to start breaking down our antiquated ideas about romance and relationships, many of which are largely based on ideas of control and fear, and start talking openly and honestly about what really works best for each of us.
Now, when I found this, I threw a line to soon-to-be-published atheist chaplain Chris Stedman to see if he would be helping us find out why we would be better together with that kind of thinking.  His feedback:

Which, as we say around here: Aha!

This is the valuable conversation which, it turns out, nobody wants to have.  Look: I sort of gave Maury Povich the side-eye last week in pointing out the kind of morality which, allegedly, nobody wants to have.  We can watch Maury parade legions of self-destructive relationshipwrecks out of the docks and we can say in every case, "Wow -- at least I'm not that screwed up."  We can, on the surface, agree that whatever it is we think we want out of our emotional and family lives, it ain't that.  That, as they said in the gauzy and Rockwellian past, is wrong.

And while we have been told that, fortunately, there is no slippery slope from abandoning a traditional definition of marriage down to all manner of relational ruin and absurdity, suddenly Anderson Cooper ought not to be abashed or abased that his lover is not just his lover.  In fact, in spite of the third-rate sports entertaiment you can find on Maury Povich, maybe none of that is actually anything to be ashamed of, according to Michelson.

Think about this: last week, I did in fact state that the LGBT lifestyle was personally dangerous to the people in it -- and spelled out the public health reasons why.  But under those health reasons, there are clear and present emotional reasons that this lifestyle is hazardous -- as made transparently-clear by Noah Michelson at HuffPo.  And those reasons, frankly, are not because people like me object to this behavior or because we hold to an antiquated moral code which isn't relevant to our advanced society.  They are because that lifestyle is, ultimately, in the psychological and intellectual thrall of the reasoning Michelson has spilled upon the readers of HuffPo.

Listen: years ago, when the sadly-deceived Lisa Miller sprung it upon us in the pages of Newsweek that, in fact, it was the Bible which was foisting upon us a definition  of "marriage" which looked a lot more like a loose polygamy for the sensually and spiritually weak, or a vehicle only for the satisfaction of urges one cannot control for the fulfillment of promises one doesn’t think God is willing or able to keep, of course, she said: nobody really wants that.

And yet it seems that such a thing is exactly what the editorial staff at HuffPo says should be utterly blasé -- and they are a significant infotainment company.  They are allegedly main-stream.

Now, to wrap this up: so what?

There are a lot of things wrong with this.  This is the internet, after all.  But the thing which, it seems to me, must be mulled over immediately is the fact that the darkly-funny claim that people like Chris Stedman make about the ways we can be "better together" is suddenly exposed as desolately vacant.  I have asked him (often) how exactly we can establish any kind of common ground when the most-essential issues of interpersonal relationships cannot be part of our common ground.  How do I know what is and isn't even courteous let alone morally virtuous and exemplary when we ought to make moral equivalence between sleeping around and 50 years of monogamous hetero marriage -- both are fine, apparently, for whomever's boat is floated?  And when we find an example like this, where the rubber meets the road on that claim, he has other things to do.

But while there might be a demand for this breadth of activity to be accepted as patently bourgeois, the problem that these are really not morally equivalent has to rear its ugly head.  If not, Maury will go out of business: the shocking and subtle self-aggrandizing salve for our conscience dries up if these people entertaining us with their moral tragicomedies are suddenly not morally-entertaining at all.  There's no comfort in it if we are not better than they are.  If being joined as one flesh until death do you-all part ought to be just as acceptable as treating others' emotions and well-being like yesterday's newspaper, we might as well substitute a wet whoopee cushion and an inverted trash can for the brass and timpani in "Fanfare for the Common Man," adopt that as our anthem, and see what other innovative, open, and honest best practices we can concoct for our society.

Let me say this plainly: this is the kind of so-called "good" people figure out without God, especially the naive ones who are on about how they can definitely be without God.  The Bible says this is what seems right in our own eyes.  And it's the grand obstacle to having a purely-secular discussion about what we ought to do to improve our society: we don't know what's best for us, and we trade the true God for a fake god of our own creation, and we worship the god we desire instead of the God who made us.

16 August 2012

What we confess as our sufficient, complete Bible: what's missing?

by Dan Phillips

Oncet upon a time, I wrote a constitution for a church I was attempting to plant, and along with it a Statement of Faith. The latter is available online for the curious and idle and, you know, whoever.

What I'm doing here is what I've long meant to do but never done. I am simply posting that portion of the statement that deals with the Bible, and then I shall ask one question in two ways. Mainly, I just want this post here for future reference.
The sixty-six books of the Protestant canon, in their original writings, comprise the verbally inspired, inerrant Word of God. The thirty-nine books known as the Hebrew Old Testament are God-breathed, products of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, and thus free from error in all that they affirm (cf. Deuteronomy 18:18, 19; Psalms 19:7, 8; 119:89, 142, 151, 160; Matthew 5:17-19; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). Similarly, the twenty-seven books known as the Greek New Testament are the eternally abiding words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:35), and are thus the words of God (John 7:16; 12:49). The Holy Spirit enabled the writers both to recall what the Lord said (John 14:26), and to continue to receive His revelation (John 16: 12-15). As a result, the writings of the New Testament are the commandment of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37), are Scripture (2 Peter 3:15, 16), and are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). For this reason, the sinner finds the way of salvation through Scripture (Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 2: 1-3). The believer is made fruitful (Psalm 1:2, 3) and successful in the will of God (Joshua 1:8), warned and kept from sin (Psalms 19:11; 119:9,11), made holy (John 17:17), given wisdom (Psalm 9:7) and freeing knowledge of the truth (John 8: 31, 32), taught the fear of God (Psalm 119:38), counseled (Psalm 119:24), taught, reproved, corrected, and disciplined in the way righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) by Scripture. Scripture is, in short, the fully adequate revelation of the person, ways, and will of God.
Now here's the question: all that being the case — being what God the Holy Spirit says about the nature, use, function and work of Scripture — what essential truth did God leave out? That is, what vitally-necessary truth-that-we-need-to-live-the-Christian-life-to-God's-glory did God leave to be supplemented by the additional misty, non-inerrant, vaporous, errant, semi-revelation that is so essential and vital to so many?

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15 August 2012

Not a Literary Theme

by Frank Turk

SHAMELESS PLUG: GUT CHECK PRESS has published a juvenile and sophomoric piece of fiction which takes a massive pot-shot at the genre of end-times dispensationalist thrillers, aptly named Beauty and the Mark of the Beast.  I mention it for two or three reasons.  First, I wrote the foreword, which is probably the last time you'll see a piece of fiction with a foreword.  Second, it's available on Kindle and will only put you out $ 2.99, so at the very least you will get $2.99 worth of laughs out of it.  Third, I promised the guys to review it three weeks ago and rather than putting the 3 hours in it takes to write a decent book review I have been serializing my Sunday School Lesson on the Goodness of God because, well, why waste a really decent prep?

So that said, go buy you a copy before you don't have any more lazy summer days to do fun reading in.  

I think it’s important here to see that David is not saying, “wow: at least it’s not as bad as it could have been.”  David is in fact saying that God has delivered him from an evil end.  On the one hand, he has been delivered from the hands of Achish who is his true enemy.  David was not put to shame to be either killed or put in debt to the enemy of God’s people.  But on the other hand, David is also delivered from Saul – who ought to be his ally and friend, but is instead jealous of him to the point of madness.

David sees God as delivering from his enemies.  But how does David justify this statement?
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
     I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
In David’s view, God is the provider of Moral refuge and Moral guidance.  Think about this: David is stuck between two kings – both rejected by God because, frankly, they are evil.  Achish is the king of the Philistines, a godless people who have been at war with Israel for generations.  Saul was chosen to lead Israel, but this is what God says of Saul: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” Both Saul and Achish are, simply put, foolish men.  They both are enemies of God, and they reject the idea that God has a right way for a man – even a King – to follow.

This is why, by the way, David’s view of this is different than mine.  In my view, if God promised me something, he should deliver it right now – or else he’s the one at fault.  In my view of it, God should stop making me wait for things he promised me.  In Achish’s view of it, we ought to be able to trust in a Giant, and a wooden Idol.  In Saul’s view of it, the king should be able to trust in himself, and maybe his son.  But these are the tasteless views of God, the views not prepared to receive what God is really doing in the world.

David doesn’t see it that way at all.   David sees that Achish is in fact surrounded by madmen – in his own words.  And Saul is himself a madman – a murderous man who can’t decide whether he wants his son to be king or to be cursed – as long as David is no longer in the way.   For both, when trouble comes, there is no place to turn to.  There is no hope for a long life, good days, or peace.  In David’s view, the first provision of God to people in trouble is wisdom.  This is a huge theme in the Old Testament – a theme which gives us, among other things, the book of Proverbs.  But David isn’t talking about a literary theme here: he is talking about what God’s provision is in a world where we are literally surrounded by crazy people: God give us moral, ethical counsel so that we may live in a way which is actually good for us.

When trouble comes, what God has given us is instruction in righteousness.  That is: we don’t do these things because we are especially good.  We don’t even do them because we think it makes us better people – because our instinct in hard times is to be afraid of the future, and afraid of the consequence of not looking out for ourselves.  David tells us that we behave in a wise way because we believe God.  We have received good counsel from Him about the right way to live – and how to know that men like Achish and Saul are, frankly, wrong.

Maybe you’re nothing like me, and this seems really obvious to you.  But here’s the thing: Unless I am mindful of this view of God as Good, I will neglect his counsel to me.  In hard times, I am prone to look inside myself for what I ought to do to fix my own problems – rather than simply keeping my tongue from deceit and turning away from evil and toward the good.  I am prone to look for what looks right in my own eyes to fix what ails me.

But more tellingly: when things are good, I am no less willing to simply do whatever it is that occurs to me rather than taking the full counsel of God which is worth more than mere comfort.

David here cuts under both of these tasteless views and says it plainly: the fear of the Lord is found in obeying Him, and trusting His good counsel.

14 August 2012

Charismatic lexicon - Part One

by Dan Phillips

In the interests of communication and instruction, and because I'm here to help, I offer this lexicon. I'm calling it Part One because (A) I'm sure there'll be more, because (B) I'm pretty sure readers will supply some great stuff that (C) I will steal, publish here, and claim as my own.

First, then: the term as used by a Biblically-oriented Christian (BibC); then the Leaky Canon Charismatic equivalent (LC2). I paint, as I must, with a broad brush... but not that broad.

BibC: Culmination of millennia of revelation in a completed, wholly sufficient and closed Canon
LC2: Whatever. (Alternate: And then that happened...)

BibC: Feeling.
LC2: The Holy Spirit.

BibC: Hunch.
LC2: The Holy Spirit.

BibC: Silly passing thought.
LC2: The Holy Spirit.

BibC: Impulse, best to be rejected after a bit of wise and critical reflection.
LC: The Holy Spirit.

BibC: Testing by Scripture and rational examination.
LC2: Unbelief.

BibC: Walking in gracious, faith-driven obedience, which definitionally and consciously rests on the written Word alone.
LC2: Deism.

BibC: Living impulsively and irresponsibly, eschewing Biblical analysis and responsible decision-making, and blaming the whole mess on God.
LC2: Moving in the Spirit.

BibC: Undocumented anecdote allegedly done in a corner thousands of miles away and transmitted through the world's longest game of "telephone."
LC2: Proof that "the gifts" continue.

BibC: The undeniable absence of substantiated and globally-accepted claims to revelatory/attesting gifts among the Biblically orthodox from the first century until 1906.
LC2: "The man behind the curtain." (Alternate: "Look! A comet!")

BibC: The undeniable fact that modern instances of substantiated and globally-accepted claims to revelatory/attesting gifts among the Biblically orthodox depends on drastic reinterpretation of Scripture and playing fast and loose with the laws of evidence.
LC: (See above)

BibC: Prophecy is an explicitly Biblically-defined phenomenon in which God gives inerrant, binding, direct revelation to someone and assures that it is communicated as such. It is objectively verifiable.
LC2: Whatever you say it is. Except not verifiable or falsifiable.

BibC: Insisting on redefining the Biblical teaching about and descriptions of revelatory and attesting gifts so as to smuggle pale imitations into a time-frame some twenty centuries after their disappearance.
LC2: Non-negotiable essentials.

BibC: Affirming the all-over-the-Bible teaching of the sovereignty of God in salvation.
LC2: Totally negotiable, relatively minor.

...and one reverse:

LC2: A divine healing that undeniably proves all charismatic claims.
BibC: Answered prayer, God healing — which all Christians have always confirmed and distinguished from the gift of healing.

UPDATE: Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio had a lot of very creative, hysterical fun with this.

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12 August 2012

Falling Asleep

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 46, sermon number 2,659, "Fallen Asleep."
“For a Christian to die, is, according to Scripture, an act of the most natural kind, for it is but to fall asleep.”

The more you think this matter over, the more clearly will it appear to you that there cannot be any pain in death; all pain must be connected with life, it is the living who suffer. In death, we forget all pain. That gentle touch, that divine love-pat that, shall end all pain and sorrow, is, the thing which men usually call death, but which the apostle rightly calls sleep. There is nothing to be dreaded in it; it may be altogether unattended with pain; I believe that, full often, it is so. To fall asleep is a very natural act, and so it is for us to die. A little child has been playing in the field gathering buttercups and daisies all day long; but, at last, tired right out, he drops asleep upon his mother’s lap; what could he do better? So, though we may be unwilling to die, the time will come when we shall have finished our life,—work or play, whichever you may please to call it,—and we shall fall asleep upon the bosom of our God; what better thing could we do? There is a dear old friend of mine, now in heaven; and, when he came to this house, one Sabbath-day, I said to him, “Our old friend So-and-so has gone home.”

The one to whom I spoke was an old man himself, one of our most gracious elders, and he looked at me in a most significant way, and his eyes twinkled as he said, “He could not do better, dear Pastor; he could not do better; and you and I will do the same thing one of these days. We also shall go home!” Our aged friend, as I told you, has himself gone home since that time, and now I may say of him, “He could not have done better.” Why! that is where good children always go at night,—home. If they ran away, where would they go? When our night comes, beloved children of God, you and I also must go home; do we feel at all afraid of such a prospect? If so, surely our love to our Heavenly Father, and to our Elder Brother, and to our home above, must be growing somewhat cold.

10 August 2012

Moral Imperatives

by Frank Turk

As a lead, Friday is usually "Best of Phil" day, and I have changed it up on you this week because someone on the internet is wrong, and of course my office is holding all my calls until the matter is resolved.  "Best of Phil" will return next week.   BTW, if you are an able-bodied Blogger user and you wanted to join the unpaid and over-worked TeamPyro staff for a thankless job of reviewing the Phil Johnson Archives to provide us with a weekly "Best of" post using an anonymous account and receive no recognition for it, please contact me at frank@iturk.com.


[1] Adult theme.  Homeschool families are warned and should act appropriately
[2] Pack a lunch.  This goes way of the 1200-word guideline for posting here.  Again.

I was alerted to this story earlier this week by a concerned reader, and it's one of those stories where all manner of addled thinking comes to the surface from everyone on the spectrum of lifestyle blogging -- from the secular liberals and conservatives to the panoply of Christian bloggers in the weird polygon of ideas bounded by points produced by mixing the adjectives "conservative," "liberal," "radical," "progressive," "traditional," "biblical," and "missional," with the proper noun "Christian."

Let's start here: praising or condemning any private letter without considering context or source is, I think, probably of limited value.  Most people don't write private letters with any thought that they will be shared publicly -- let alone shared on a global platform -- and there ought to be some kind of  filter we have in place to read anything written in that mode.

The other thing we ought to put in place before discussing this is a very simple question: "What must a parent do when his child is trapping himself in a mistake (willful or otherwise)?"  The question is not really changed up a lot when the child is an adult child.  It may actually be a more-important question when the child is an adult because dealing with an adult trapped in a mistake is, in all cases, dealing with a person who is removing all the means at his own disposal frankly to recognize his own ways of destroying himself.  A child can be restrained from destroying himself; an adult will simply do it and be destroyed unless he does what any reasonable adult would do -- and take good advice at face value.  I think it's utterly unquestionable that a loving parent will give the best advice he knows how to give.

But this assumes something which, I think will not be assumed in this discussion: declaring and embracing homosexuality as a lifestyle is a self-destructive mistake.  You know: embracing the homosexual lifestyle is not dangerous because it is likely to make you a target of violent hate crime.  It's true enough that a homosexual is 10 times as likely to be a victim of a hate crime in the United States as the average citizen, but let's unpack that.  According to the FBI, the last year they have a uniform crime report for is 2009.  In that report, in the general population the likelihood of being a victim of a hate crime is 0.2 per 10,000 citizens; being a LGBT victim of a hate crime occurred at a rate of 2 per 10,000 citizens -- which, the be fair, is 10 times as likely, but still not a raging epidemic of violence.  You're five times more likely to be the victim of a fatal traffic accident than you are to be the victim of a LGBT hate-motivated hate crime if you are a homosexual.

But think about this: the CDC reports that when we observe all reported cases of STDs in the United States, 63% of primary and secondary cases of Syphillis occur in the LGBT community.  If that population is, as they say they are, 10% of the population, that means it is 15 times more likely to contract Syphillis in a LGBT lifestyle than it is in the general public.  If the LGBT population is more realistically 3% of the population, it means that the LGBT community is 55 times more likely to contract Syphillis than the average person in the general population.  That's not to mention the problem of AIDS at all.  This isn't happening because there is hate against the LGBT community: this is happening because of how that community conducts itself towards its own members.

So when a father wants to discuss this matter with his son, who is coming out with his confession of his situation, a father ought to be cut some slack if he is deeply and grievously concerned about his son's safety from a strictly secular and humanitarian standpoint.  He ought to be excused if he sees the confession more as a resignation from "inner turmoil" to "active danger" so terrible that in some sense, he wants to give up all hope and protect the rest of his family from the consequences.

But then, from a Christian standpoint, there is a problem greater than self-harm: there is the problem of sin.  A Christian father talks to his son about sin -- not just from an accusatory place as if, as a father, one has arrived at the dizzying heights of human sanctification, but from the place as (one hopes) a battle-scarred soldier in the war against sin in one's own life.  A father, it seems to me, confesses his own sins against his own son when they are apparent to him -- and seeks forgiveness.  So when a Christian father has to talk to his own son about this young fellow's sin, it is not as an impeccable jurist with nothing on the books against himself, but as a known felon who is, at least, confessed as guilty of his crimes -- and working to seek the solution to sin in his own life before seeking to apply it to the unsuspecting lives of others.

They say that you can't "live the Gospel," or "obey the Gospel" (in spite of, for example, 1 Pet 4:17), but you can, in fact, live as if the Gospel is completely true.  It has necessary consequences -- and if you are caught up in all the things you cannot do which Christ must do, you will overlook all the things which you must do if the Gospel is true, and is for you.  For example: living as if we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So to be uncontroversial for a moment, let's imagine that my son came to me and said, "Dad, I have something to tell you, and it's not going to be something you want to hear.  I know something about myself which has always been a part of me, and I just am tired of trying to deny it: I'm a heterosexual, and I'm going to live a heterosexual lifestyle and follow all those desires because that's who God created me to be.  I have to be honest with myself and I can't fight it any longer."

What should my reaction be?  Maybe I could say this: "Son: you are who you are.  Wear the right PPE, keep off the drugs, and make sure you do what makes you happy."

But listen: that's frankly moral malfeasance.   That's ignoring all the things frankly-wrong with embracing physical urges as moral imperatives.  If you said that to a 12-year-old, you would be brought up on charges for fostering delinquency; if you say that to a 25-year-old, you are giving a grown man license to ruin his life and the lives of others.

Before you go on, put my view of it to the test: watch any two episodes of the Maury Povich show (which, unbelievably, is still in new-episode syndication).  Tell me that the version of heterosexuality represented there is just fine -- just what two consenting adults ought to be proud to do.  If that is a totally-acceptable moral way of living, then don't bother to read the rest of this post.  If that way of living is morally-sound either my post here is utterly false, or else you have no way to understand what it is saying.  In either case it will be of no use to you.

My view of it, then, is that somehow the topic of sex is, in anyone's view of it, governed by some set of principles which are not utterly dictated by the reprehensible slogan, "The heart wants what it wants," and all its more-repugnant cognates.  What makes Will Ferrell's oafish lout characters tenable at all is that everyone knows it is utterly and patently obscene to behave that way -- and their failure to see themselves clearly is what makes them laughable (if not actually funny).

But if this is true, what should a father do for his son who has to confess that he must live that lifestyle because that's who God created him to be?  I would say that, in the first place, a letter is not at all adequate.  It would take 10,000 more words to say that in a way which would convict you, but I'll settle for this: you can't mail in your paternal responsibilities to the next generation any more than you can mail in your duties as a husband or even an employee for a decent company.

That said, if it were a letter to be sent, or you wanted to round up your thoughts before sitting down with this young fellow, maybe something like this would work for starters:
Dear Son,

You've made a confession to me that you do not expect me to receive well, and I admit that what you have said has wounded me, because it is not what I wanted for you. In fact, it is not what I still want for you, which is only the best personally, mentally, and spiritually. While it took some sort of single-mindedness on your part to admit this to me, I think it was difficult in part because you knew it would hurt me. I am not going to lie to you: I am, in fact, hurt.

What puzzles me is that you want me to accept this for you and from you when you know I don't think this is what's best for you. I can accept that this is what you want for yourself, and that it seems good to you right now, and that in some sense you cannot help yourself but feel this way. But let's face it: there are many things we know we want which are not even good for us, let alone right or worthwhile.

Since you have made your confession about your situation, let me confess mine: I have never really been a good man at all. I could make a list here of all the times I have failed you, and your mother, and your siblings, and my employer, and the elders at church, and so on -- but I'll bet you can make that list also. You may remember some things I have forgotten, and I'll simply stipulate to the entire exercise. I want you to know that I know I am not a good man, and I come to this problem we now face as a man who, at the end of the day, can't advise you from the moral high ground.

I can only advise you, my son, as a man who has spent his life utterly at the mercy of Jesus Christ.

You know: in some sense, I feel like I love you, so it's easy for me to have done things for you all our life together like buy you clothes and give you a house to live in and feed you and play games with you. But let's face it: every day has not been a day full of duckies and puppies of paternal love overflowing from me to you. Some days I was angry at you, or tired of your shenanigans, or just tired from work and marriage, and I didn't feel loving toward you -- I just felt sort of numb, or worse: burdened by you because you were a handful (as any human being is). In those moments, I was what I know I am, and I didn't want to do what I knew otherwise was right. The difference between those moments and this moment, with you, is that in those moments, I knew that my feelings and urges and dissatisfaction were wrong, and did not justify failing to do the right thing.

Having said that, let me make a confession: there were a lot of those days. That's not because you were especially bad, but because I am. And when I knew my own sin, my own weakness, my own unwillingness to do what I would do if I were full of emotions to point me in a direction that looks so good to other people, I knew that I needed a savior for more than just some kind of final victory: I needed him for a victory today, minute by minute, to become a person grateful for what he has done for me. In some way, I had to remember that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

So I didn't just accept that Jesus loved me, or even that he died for me -- as if that kind of story really means anything except as a spectacle anyone could watch in a movie. I accepted that his obedience made out of love, which caused him to want to die on a cross for a person like me, was so that I would know how to obey when I was personally out of love, and out of strength, and out of patience, and all that was left was the way I felt when I felt like I wasn't made to do any of this stuff.

Now: so what? What does that have to do with your confession that this is who you really are? It is my answer back to you, which I think somehow you do not expect: this is also who I really am. The difference between you and me is that I think I need to be saved from it, and you think you do not need to be saved, but rather accepted, so that other people's acceptance of your problem is substituted for real redemption and real resolution.

I love you. I want what is best for you. What you are committing to right now is not it. I am willing, after all these years, to die for you, or die with you, in pursuit of putting the sinful things we both face here and now to death. But I cannot tell you that your decision today is the right decision, and I can't tell you that your confession is anything but a resignation to do what is right in your own eyes in spite of what you know to be true about the moral and spiritual order of the world. We both have a problem -- and it is the same problem. Thank God, we both have a solution, and it is the same solution. Please do not toss out the solution, because it is the only one for you. I am praying for you, and will pray for you, and until you accept the solution, I am also weeping for you.

With love in spite of disappointment,

Now, consider it: if that makes any sense at all, what ought we to then say to our son who, frankly, changes only one word in that confession?  What if his confession is that he is lazy?  Or full of rage?  or what if he says he wants to be a liar?

Why would we think that we would respond in any way to those things except in this way?

Now in utter seriousness: if the sin is homosexuality, and that is just like all the other sins we would ache over if our son or daughter was convinced it was simply "who they were," why would we not address it just like this -- like the source of death which Christ died to overcome?

Do we not believe the Gospel?  If not: OK, but lets cut the malarkey with the conferences and books and websites and projects with the "G" word in the title.  But if so, let's get ourselves together on this subject.  Let's Gospel Up.  Let's get serious about the reasons we need the Gospel so that we can get serious about expressing it to our friends and children who need it as much as we do.