30 September 2014

The category-error dodge (NEXT! #43)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: "God"? What God? I've never seen any God. Real things weigh something. What does your Imaginary Friend in the Sky weigh? I'll just stick with reason and science.

Response: Really? What color is "reason"? How much does "science" weigh? Was that supposed to be an argument? How many millimeters was that argument? What atomic number is it on the periodic table? Does it taste like chicken?

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature

28 September 2014

Different by design

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 Morning and Evening, September 11.
"The Christian, while in the world, is not to be of the world."

He should be distinguished from it in the great object of his life. To him, “to live,” should be “Christ.” Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he should do all to God’s glory. You may lay up treasure; but lay it up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves break not through nor steal.

You may strive to be rich; but be it your ambition to be “rich in faith,” and good works. You may have pleasure; but when you are merry, sing psalms and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. In your spirit, as well as in your aim, you should differ from the world.

Waiting humbly before God, always conscious of His presence, delighting in communion with Him, and seeking to know His will, you will prove that you are of heavenly race. And you should be separate from the world in your actions.

If a thing be right, though you lose by it, it must be done; if it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your Master’s sake. You must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity.

Remember, O Christian, that thou art a son of the King of kings. Therefore, keep thyself unspotted from the world.

Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in His beauty—let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets—let not those hearts be filled with pride and bitterness which are ere long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

26 September 2014

Some here, some there — September 26, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Here's your spankin'-new collection, which should be expanded throughout the day:
  • There is a lot of discussion of corporal punishment at present. 
  • First, on my birthday (anniversary of my first spanking?) Jonathan Merritt arrogated to himself the position of lecturing Christians in general (and Bible scholars in particular!) on what the Bible means, and what Science says.
  • Denny Burk alludes to an earlier post of his on the Bible and spanking.
  • In that post Denny cites an article by Andy Naselli on child training.
  • In his article, Andy refers here and there to material from my book on Proverbs (also in Logos). So just to tell you: Chapter Eight in that book is titled "Skill in Godly Child-Training," and there is a lengthy appendix on the oft-misunderstood Proverbs 22:6. Here's a snippet from chapter eight:
We should see “the rod” is emblematic. That is: the rod is a literal object representing a metaphorical reality, larger than (but including) itself. It is similar to “the sword” in Romans 13:4, which denotes government’s legitimate punitive power, not limited to but leading up to and including the death penalty. The rod represents the parent’s God-given authority to enforce house law, not limited to corporal punishment, but including it and everything leading up to it. Standing in a corner is a legitimate use of the rod; writing sentences or doing chores is a legitimate use of the rod; a spanking is a legitimate use of the rod.
[Dan Phillips, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs: Hearing God’s Voice in Scripture (Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2011), 274.]
  • Yesterday, David E. Prince responded to Merritt from a Biblical perspective.
  • In other news...
  • This will resonate with pastors:
  • My birthday-brother Mike Riccardi found an interesting evangelistic video concerning the Islamic dilemma, asks whether those evangelizing Muslims would find it useful. (I think Cripplegate may have broken that part of the intrawebz; the video hangs at 4:20 for me.)
  • Lyndon Unger addresses an open letter to newly-converted celebrities. Every bit of it's good. I, however, would have chosen a different first item: 1. Become a baptized, involved member of a Biblically-faithful church with a membership of no more then 200, maximum, where you will be pastorally overseen and discipled, and in relationship with mature, growing Christians. Attend every meeting you can, faithfully. Then everything Lyndon said, except perhaps for one other book recommendation, one that relates the Gospel to a complete paradigm-shift in worldview.
  • Aside: apparently Stephen Baldwin shows up in the meta, and is displeased with Lyndon's thoughts. Lyndon, in response, is not bovvered.
  • Relatedly: I just concluded what was really a single sermon, preached over four Sundays. It was called The Good News Path. The fourth was titled What Does Jesus Say to Do Now? It was addressed to the new convert. I packed and aimed it best I could, but was agonizingly aware of a dozen could-have-said's.
  • Charismatics have been working so hard to show why Strange Fire was so necessary, and you've got to love them for it. Today's edition of What Charismatics Do Instead of Study the Bible is brought to us, natch, by Charisma Magazine, and it is titled: Prophecy: Posture Your Hearts to Receive Power at 5:55.
  • See, this is why we need Sufficient Fire. The best argument against fake steak is the real thing. Do come!
  • Until then, maybe you could use a little altar call self-defense:
  • Okay, one more:
  • Janna Darnelle writes a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece on the other side of the giddy new world of same-sex mirage. She focuses on the harm done to abandoned and disenfranchised spouses and/or parents, and to the children. It's a fine blend of substance and passion, born of the fact that she is one of the victims. Only one thing is missing: the Gospel. She believes her husband should have kept his vows and commitments and stuck it out; but she doesn't provide either a transcendent Why?, or a reason for hope. Both are found in the Gospel, with much more. (h-t The Aquila Report.)

Dan Phillips's signature

25 September 2014

"For the sake of the children"?

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in October 2007. Frank addressed the idea of leaving a fellowship "for the sake of" one's children.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Because almost anyone will do almost anything if they think their kids' health, welfare, freedom, prosperity, PlayStation, comic books, or whatever is in jeopardy – we tend to lose our perspective on things when we think our kids are involved. And let me say that we are actually responsible for our kids in a way that most of us are not at all responsible for anything else, so I give everyone a gold star for at least understanding that there's something serious at stake when our kids are involved.

But let's be serious about something else, too: doing something "for the sake of the kids" is not hardly a trump-card moral precept. You shouldn’t break up your marriage "for the sake of the kids." You shouldn’t rob a bank "for the sake of the kids." You shouldn't run up your credit card debt "for the sake of the kids."

But should you leave your church "for the sake of the kids"?

Listen: I want us to start answering this question by understanding something first. At some point, we have to grapple with the statement "I joined a church." To "join" a church doesn't mean I started coming on Sunday morning, and occasionally I drop by for the second-shift service on Sunday night, and I have my name on a roll in a Sunday school class. "Joining" a church doesn't mean "you can find me there from time to time". It means that you are part of the life of that church.

Here's what it says in Acts 2:
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
And before anyone takes this post off-topic, I haven't highlighted all the things this passage says, but I have highlighted the ones relevant for this topic.

And let's also make sure we note that this isn’t the be-all and end-all of passages on ecclesiology – but how about if we did at least this much before we went to the spiritual nuclear option of "leaving" churches because we think the pastor is a pawn of Satan? You know: what if we joined our churches for the sake of the kids before we started expounding about how we must leave our churches "for the sake of the kids"?

So if you're going to come across with the packaged objection, "I'm leaving for the sake of my kids," make sure that one of the things inside that package was that you actually joined for the sake of your kids, and that somehow your joining was demonstrating your spiritual responsibility to your kids.

Is it really an either/or situation? I mean, do we make church life reductive down to our doorstep where our doctrine and practice never has a chance to rub up against someone who might have some kind of spiritual maturity advantage (let alone spiritual authority) over us – so we only pastor our kids and we call that "church"? Isn't it both/and where we (the Moms and Dads) have one kind of spiritual authority, and then we participate in another kind of relationship outside of the home where we ourselves are held responsible for being inside the boundaries of orthodoxy?

24 September 2014

The Enemies List

by The Late Frank Turk

So last week I put it to you that before you start talking about race and the Gospel, you better first start talking in ways that humanize this issue or else (to be blunt), shut up.  The reasons seems pretty self-evident to me, but I'm sure there are some who are still wondering why I would come back from hiatus in order to say such an inflammatory and unkind thing.

Hey: that's not the hard part yet.  That's the obvious and easy part.

This next part should also be part of the "easy part" of this topic and discussion, but it's not at all.  In fact, I think that after the problem of being insensitive to the people involved is at least admitted into the discussion, the next impossible error to overcome is the problem of creating enemies.  That is: the ability to take a tragedy and to leverage it to make innocent people into contemptible villains is big business in our nation, and we love it.

Here's how I know that's true: both John Stewart and Bill O'Reilly make a lot of money doing it every day.  Glenn Beck and Al Sharpton would be utterly unknown and penniless if this were not true.  Ann Coulter and Rachael Maddow need each other in a way which borders on criminal conspiracy.  But the only reason it's not actually criminal is simple: we pay them to do it for us.

Look: this one doesn't require a lot of unpacking here.  It doesn't require you to review the tapes or read the weekly columns -- because you are already doing that.  These people are famous because they are polarizing figures who visibly flourish when they are taking their best shots at the other side, and they make tons of money by identifying classes of enemies and calling them out by name.  And we love it - we can't get enough of this opportunistic and execrable form of entertainment.

Last week I reminded you that MLK thought that there were 3 barriers to the political freedom of black in America in 1963, and that we ought to consider that today he would likely add a fourth (desensitizing to violence).  Today I am saying that if MLK is the gold standard of political thinking here, this sort of villianization of people we disagree with actually violates the final objective of MLK's great dream for America, and it's time we started thinking in terms of the strategic end of this conflict rather than in terms of the tactical and economically-profitable short game which allegedly moves the ball along for our side.  Moving the ball out of bounds rather than to the actual goal line isn't strategic: it's sloppy and weak.

But there's a deeper problem with this for those of us who say we are Christians, and that's why I called your attention to W.E.B. DuBois in this space a few weeks ago.  The problem is not that we oppose what we perceive to be evil or unjust and say that something is evil or unjust: it is failing to remember that the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  It is failing to remember that our goal is not to destroy our enemies with the weapons of this world, but to destroy their sin and the power of death over them with the Gospel.  DuBois, of course, did not really express this the way a white Reformed guy would, but his point is clear: somehow, Black people have a self-perception problem due to the fact that they have a double consciousness -- one which they aspire to, and one which they see as the way the world sees them and treats them.  If DuBois were alive today, I wonder which consciousness he would say is winning out?

If you are a Christian, and you do not come to the table with this in mind when discussing this question, maybe you don't really understand what it means to be an ambassador of reconciliation. An ambassador is one who comes with the primary concern of making friends and allies out of people, not enemies.  In fact: an ambassador will come to Enemies with the express goal of making peace with them -- even if it turns out that the terms of peace are non-negotiable.

Whatever advice it is you think you have to give here, if you really want it to somehow have the Gospel in it, it has to reproach the power of sin and death in the lives of the people you are speaking to -- but not out of a sense of partisan righteousness, or a belief that somehow we are defending civilization.  Reproaching the power of sin and death will certainly make some people see us as enemies.  But we need to not see them as our enemies - because they are not our enemies.  And we must be certain we are treating others in a way which seeks to defeat the power and effects of sin which they have experienced.

You know: when Stephen the deacon declared the Gospel in Jerusalem, and those men there were offended by the Gospel, his final words to them were not, "I knew you filthy haters would do this eventually.  I can't wait to see God take his wrath out on you because you definitely deserve it."  He last words were this: "Lord, do not hold their sins against them!"

A few weeks ago, when I posted MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, you didn't hear him say that anyone who was his enemy deserved death or even infamy: he said specifically that even the worst of his enemies ought to repent for their own good, and that they could be part of a future which was greater than the oppression they carried out in that day.

You need to consider this, if you're wondering how the Gospel and Race are related: if you can make a list of the people who are your enemies in this conflict, you are doing it wrong.  You had better realize that your name needs to go at the top of that list as your own worst enemy, because that's a truth deeply rooted in the meaning of the Gospel -- and it's a truth which ought to make you a little more humble when attempting to build a bunker to protect the things you think you love. After that, you need to rethink the whole conflict from God's perspective.  In Christ, God is reconciling the world -- the world full of those who are His enemies -- to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

You had better humanize this issue before you think you want to talk about it, and you had better decide whether or not you're thinking about this the way God does -- because God is not trying to make anyone his enemy.

With that said, next week we will start getting to the items which are not as rudimentary and crude as these have been.  It will not be for the faint of heart.

23 September 2014

The Reason, Not Religion Dodge (NEXT! #42)

by Dan Phillips
Challenge: Prove that Christ is ultimate truth  without quoting Bible verses.

Response: First, prove that reason is ultimate truth — without giving reasons.

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature

21 September 2014

“Almost persuaded"

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 15, sermon number 871, "To those who are almost persuaded."
Look at Agrippa again. Fix your attention fully upon him, for with some of you he is a photograph of yourselves. The arguments which Paul drew from Scripture and his own personal experience, were very cogent; his way of putting these arguments was exceedingly forcible, and, therefore, if Agrippa were not altogether persuaded, it was not the fault of the preacher’s matter or manner. Nothing could have been more powerful in either case.

Where, then, did the fault lie? I stand now in the court and I look around, and I ask myself, “What is the reason why Agrippa is not persuaded? The argument tells on me, why not on him?" As I look around I notice on the right hand of Agrippa a very excellent reason why he is not convinced, for there sat Bernice, of whom there were very unsavoury stories afloat in Josephus’s day. She was Agrippa’s sister, and is accused of having lived in incestuous intercourse with him.

If so, with such a woman at his right hand, I marvel not that Paul’s arguments did not fully persuade. The reason why sinners are not persuaded is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, their sin - their love of sin! They see, but they will not see; for if they did see, they would have to tear out that right-eye sin or cut off that right-arm lust, and they cannot consent to that. Most of the arguments against the gospel are bred in the filth of a corrupt life.

He makes the best reasoner as an infidel who is most unholy, because the devil and his soul together will never keep him short of the fiery arrows of hell. If it were true that Agrippa lived in such degrading sin, it is no wonder that when Paul reasoned so soberly and so truthfully, Agrippa was almost, but not altogether, persuaded.

If the charge brought against Bernice as to her brother was not altogether true, yet she was beyond all question a shameless woman. She had been originally married to her own uncle, Herod, and was therefore both his niece and his wife; and her second marriage was soon broken by her unfaithfulness. Now Agrippa’s public and ostentatious associating with her, proved at least that he was in evil company. This is quite sufficient to account for his never being altogether persuaded to be a Christian.

Evil company is one of Satan’s great nets in which he holds his birds until the time shall come for their destruction. How many would fain escape, but they are afraid of those around them whom they count to be good fellows, and whose society has become necessary to their mirth!

Oh! you know it, some of you, you know it; you have often trembled while I have told you of your sins and of the wrath to come, but you have met your bad companion at the door, or you have gone home and attended parties of gaiety, and every godly thought has been quenched, and you have gone back like a dog to his vomit, and like a sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Ah, ye Agrippas, your Bernices will lead you down to hell. But if Agrippa has his Bernice, Bernice has her Agrippa; and so men and women become mutual destroyers. The daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam assist each other in choosing their own delusions.

19 September 2014

Some here, some there — September 19, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Howdy gang. Short post to start the day; as usual, check back at end.

  • Did you know that Logos software now offers a Pentecostal & Charismatic base package? To anticipate your question, as far as I know, it does not uninstall your Bibles.
  • Whether it unlocks them so that you can add chapters and books and all? Not sure.
  • Aimee Byrd offers some good thoughts about friendships, particularly betwixt men.
  • No, I'm not "gay." Thanks for asking.
  • Some guy named Rick Joyner claimed to have spent 8 hours in heaven, which he then generously promised to share about on TV and at a conference. He says it's important stuff Christians need to know (and, presumably, can't find sufficiently in our Bibles). At this noting, 3,226 souls "liked" this announcement.
  • I say this is exactly why Strange Fire was needed, and why Sufficient Fire is needed.
  • Too long for Twitter: In his NAC commentary on Matthew (p. 142f.), Craig Blomberg quotes F. D. Bruner: "Hell is not a doctrine used to frighten unbelievers; it is a doctrine used to warn those who think themselves believers.”
  • Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 142–143.
  • Over at Theologically Driven, Ben Edwards also notes the problem of squishiness in Gospel Issues and Weighing Doctrines.
  • Without setting out to do so, after last Sunday's sermon I realized I'd preached what was at the same time one of the most pedal-to-the-metal Calvinist and pedal-to-the-metal evangelistic sermons I ever recall preaching. One of the issues on which I spent some expository time was whether faith causes, or results from, regeneration.
  • I say that to say this: Mark Snoeberger broaches that same issue over at the DTBS blog, to make the point that there is no middle ground on it.
Dan Phillips's signature

18 September 2014

"A Manifesto against Manifestos"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in July 2011. Phil warned about modern ecumenical manifestos and their attacks on historic boundaries of faith.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Why are front-row evangelical leaders so enthralled with drafting formal statements and grandiose-sounding declarations? Virtually every year since the release of the first "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" statement in 1994, some group or another (usually consisting of self-appointed "evangelical" strategists and Christianity Today contributing editors) gets together to repudiate evangelical principles and discuss post-evangelical strategies—while pretentiously laying claim to leadership in the amorphous evangelical movement.

In the end, with great fanfare, they invariably issue "a historic manifesto." The profound historic significance of their work is typically declared by the drafters themselves in the lead sentence of all their press releases.

One can't help noticing the common thread in this growing quiltwork of documents: virtually all of them strongly promote an ecumenical agenda. And the urgency of the ecumenical appeal is inversely proportional to the level of enthusiasm for whatever few shreds of evangelical conviction (if any) are expressed therein. If I read the trend correctly, the ecumenical agenda being pushed in these documents is growing more brazen and more demanding with each new document.

For example, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together II" (1997) included this statement, carefully crafted to sound as if it were full of evangelical conviction: "In justification, God, on the basis of Christ's righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so." But, of course, the statement simultaneously solicited signatures from Catholic priests and others who formally disavow the principle of sola fide. So notice: that sentence (the best in the whole statement) purposely omitted any mention of imputed righteousness and gave just enough wiggle-room to permit, say, a Jesuit theologian to put his own spin on the words and sign. It was a subtle approach to undermining the central evangelical distinctive.

Twelve years later, ECT VII (titled "Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life") took a much less subtle approach. That document repeatedly scolds Protestants for their "neglect of Mary" and the supposed lack of evangelical reflection on Marian themes in their soteriology. The document goes on to make this promise: "We [evangelicals and Catholics] will seek together the mind of Christ about Mary." Then it states: "Evangelicals need to consider whether more reflection on Mary would strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ."

Now, does anyone truly believe these ecumenical diatribes are strengthening evangelical conviction? Isn't the real point rather to undermine the very truths that make evangelical doctrine distinctive, so that (quietly setting all such things aside) we can join hands with the Vatican in the name of brotherhood and unity?

No one who understands what historic evangelicalism is could possibly think that type of "unity" represents anything other than the wholesale rejection of everything that truly differentiates evangelicals from Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Christians, and the cults.

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what these statements are aiming for. Sadly, the evangelical movement is being commandeered by people who do indeed reject evangelical doctrinal distinctives and would like to see a brand of evangelicalism that can easily syncretize almost anything from Roman Catholic mysticism to postmodernized versions of Socinianism.

17 September 2014

Doing That to Some BODY

by The Late Frank Turk


So after I announced that I would be returning from Hiatus, things happened that no one was looking for or could foresee -- and it turns out that one of them was this:
I've had lunch with Darrin Patrick.  Frankly, there are only one or two things in 15 years I have ever seen him do which I would raise an eyebrow to, and I see him as a faithful brother, a leader who smells like the sheep he is serving, and a "friend" in the theological, Blogological and Internetilogocal senses of the word.  He's a loving father, a devoted husband and pastor, and he's the kind of guy Acts29 aspires to produce and nurture.

I like Darrin Patrick.

So for the next few weeks, I'm going to say a few things for the sake of encouraging others on this topic.  I think there's a larger question involved here which I have written about and linked to over and over again since I originally wrote it in 2008.  Clever readers of this blog will see that this post is really a version of that post.

For my money and time, this is only one place to start this discussion.

When Martin Luther King Jr. told us in 1962 that (in his words) "the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination ... on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity," he did not foresee something that is evident today which I am certain would have been on his list of crippling, enslaving, and isolating barriers to freedom.

I think that all of us, as a culture, are utterly desensitized to violence -- particularly, the brutality of gun violence.  It's funny for the comic book guy to have to explain this to you, but maybe I'm the only one who really gets this.  The only people that I know who are actually re-sensitized to it are my friends who have served in the military under fire in hot war zones.  For the rest of us, gun violence is something that we use for entertainment.  We watch the Expendibles, and we play Call of Duty, and maybe we hunt once in a while.  Watching the way men use bullets has somehow translated for us from an unthinkably-final act made necessary only by the worst-intended and least-explicable sorts of aggression into a kind of dramatic device.

You know: Captain America's shield (which is not a gun) is a dramatic device.  There is nothing in the whole (real) world which can do everything that it does -- and the one thing it does most of all is define who has the upper hand.  When Cap has his shield, he has the upper hand and is nearly invincible; when someone else has it, it is a visual cue that Cap is no longer in control.  When someone else carries a fake version of the shield, they are either trying to pay homage or to trade in Cap's rep.

My point being this: somehow we see gun violence exactly like Cap's shield when we try to think about gun violence in this country -- that is, somehow it is only a dramatic device to be used as a rhetorical flourish or a way to advance a plot development, but not the sort of thing which frankly leaves at least one person on the pavement bleeding out painfully in the last minutes of life, and the other changed forever - usually for the worse.

Here's how I know this.  This video exists on YouTube:

I picked that one rather than a rap video only because the dehumanization of the shooter and the target is here so obvious.  Seriously now: the point of it is to make the idea of a bullet which generates shrapnel a thing of beauty and art -- in order to create the idea that this is a kind of dramatic device and not a weapon which anyone can use to spill someone's guts out all over the street or all over a room.  But what we're actually considering in this video is doing that to some BODY for any reason whatsoever.

My point in saying that is not to go on to some pacifistic rant about taking guns away from everyone. I'm not interested in those sorts of comments from other people at all.  The problem really is not that there are so many guns and bullets.  I'm already on record plenty about that.  The problem I am underscoring here is that somehow when we talk about the times when guns are at the center of a controversy, we often speak -- on both sides, mind you -- as if we are talking about exploding watermelons instead of husbands and sons who are on both sides of the barrel.

Look: the first best thing to do if we open up a "theological" or "gospel" discussion about "racism" here is to begin with the obvious first step.  We have to humanize this discussion before we try to theologize the discussion.  Some people will tell you this has it backwards, but those are also people who have never successfully spoken to another human being about anything ever. If we don't humanize the discussion right away when we are discussing the topic of racism -- especially the charge of racism in a police shooting -- what we are actually doing is minimizing the real human toll of events (like the one everyone is so sincere and troubled about in the last few weeks) on real people for the sake of the drama rather than the sake of getting our minds and souls right.  If we are minimizing the human toll, high-brow sounding language about "gospel" and "theology" is forgetting one of its two foundational categories for presenting themselves to anyone about anything.

We don't have to convince God racism is wrong.  We also don't have to convince anyone that God thinks racism is wrong.  The point of trying to talk about theology and racism really turns out to be a discussion about whether or not we are talking about and talking to people who are not worse sinners than ourselves in order to show how God's solution for sinners applies to the situation in question.  You can't do that if they hear you say, in effect, that gun violence is justified because it's done to sinners.

When someone shoots someone else in the street, the person who goes down does not go down bloodlessly.  He doesn't get up again.  It's not a routine thing, as if this is what we do instead of our barbershop quartet.  It's not scored to an epic martial theme.  And in many cases, unlike most of the fight scene in a Marvel movie, it's not always white people taking out white people.  It's often more racially complex than that -- for the most part because there is crime in both white and non-white communities which the police must do something about.  The police go to all communities on crime calls because if they didn't, it would also be called (for good reason) a subtle form of racism.  And when someone goes down like that, someone else has done it, and has to live with it because let's face it: he probably didn't get out of bed intending to do something that terminal today.

So if you are asking TeamPyro -- or specifically, me -- to talk about this subject, my first reaction to the request is this: I'm not going to address this topic as if it was some sort of theological/sociological drama in which it's pretty obvious who the good guys and the bad guys are.  This is a topic about how sinners behave in a real world.  I'm also not going to treat it as if this is an abstract subject -- because in this case, abstraction dehumanizes those we are talking about and leads us to presuppositions which are both unwarranted and unhelpful.  That approach is dehumanizing -- and dehumanization is loveless, thoughtless, and godless.  It forces us to treat someone who is a person as if he was not a person, and is not related to other people.  Most importantly, however, I am definitely not going to tell you what you want to hear.  I am warning you before we get to the meat and potatoes here (or even the drinks before dinner) that I am definitely going to offend you because I am absolutely certain of one thing as I start to gather my thoughts on this subject: you (whoever you are, great or small) are part of the problem in this public discussion, and at least some of your perceptions and opinions are wrong.  You are, after all, a sinner.  Our objective in this discussion ought to be to fight against all the sinful inclinations we have toward other people and deal with them first before accusing them of being or doing something we shouldn't have expected in the first place.

The main take-away from today's post, however, needs to be this: every single time a gun is fired at a person in our nation, a brutal act of violence has been done by one human being to another.  A melon is not exploded; a player is not sent to respawn.  More than one human life is ruined in a bloody and irrevocable way. Unless you can accept that premise and work out your own views by accepting that fact, you really have no business in this discussion at all.

More next week.

16 September 2014

A word of advice, young feller

by Dan Phillips

Since age is a matter of math, and not maturity, I qualify as an old guy. It comes with lots of aches, lots of pains, and lots of regrets. I figure there have to be some perks to it — one of which is the right to issue sagacious lectures to yoots.

Like the one that follows.

A while back, a young feller doing a sort of intern ministry in a church confided to me, a visitor, that he felt like some people were despising his youth (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12). Without even having to think, I replied that looking back I think the problem was that people didn't despise my youth nearly enough.

Here's the thing: when you're young, often matters look a lot sharper simply because you don't know as much. The picture is crowded by fewer details, and far less experience. It's like looking at the most rudimentary map, on paper: this dot is where you are, that dot is where you're going, and there's just this line with a few jogs and curves connecting the two dots. How hard can it be? Enough with the planning and providing and deliberating — let's go!

Take this satellite shot of a secret fishing place I've known for decades.

The trail is off in the trees to the right. The lake is on the left. As you look at this shot, you think, "Should be easy as pie. Just leave the trail, head straight west, and bang, you're there." Yeah, except no. For one thing, there is no trail to this lake. For another, no sign says where to leave the main trail. For yet another, the trail is in tall pine trees. No landmarks are visible from the trail, indicating where the lake is. What's more, the whole trek is through pine trees, over shifting boulders, through scratching bramble, and off into another little forest.

Also, the terrain is much more rugged and uneven than it looks in the picture. The rocks are a lot more challenging, the trees a lot thicker and more blinding. It's a rough slog, and what really is easy is to shoot too high or too low — and once you do that, you don't know which you've done. Is the lake further up, through brambles and bushes? Or is it back down, over rocks and between trees?

"Wow," you say, "it doesn't look like that at all. It looks flat, straightforward, simple. How do you know all that?"

Because I've been there. Again and again, since my father took me probably 45+ years ago. I've made all those mistakes, and I've finally worked out a system.

Everything looks easier on paper, and let's be honest: to a young guy, most things still are on paper.

The "plus" of the clear-eyed, goal-oriented, let's-go-get-'em perspective of yoots is that old guys can get bogged down in the process. They (we) can get overly concerned with nuts and bolts and details, and they can lose sight of the objective — lose sight of it, and, buried under the necessities, lose the joy and excitement and insistence of it. This makes young guys lose patience with old guys, and sometimes provokes them to over-correct. They may bellow "Blast the details! You sit and figure! I'm going!" The old guys shake their heads, roll their eyes, and get back to listing and calculating, or maybe just to shoring up and maintaining.

The Gospelly truth of the matter — as I have preached and written at length — is that we need each other. The young man who impatiently sets out to find a church exclusively made up of and led by young people is a fool, to be blunt about it. But the old folks who dismissively wave aside youthful enthusiasm and energy are equally foolish, and shortsighted to boot. (Cf. Proverbs 20:29 for both.)

The solution to this divide is the same as the solution to racism: a strident and resentful sense of victimhood and entitlement!

Hah, just seeing if you're still awake and thinking. No, of course the solution literally and simply is the Gospel, and the graces born of the Gospel — graces of love and patience and forbearance and compassion and humility and longsuffering-without-acting-like-you're-suffering-all-that-long-or-all-that-much.

Now I speak often to the older folks, urging them to welcome and hear the young, not to exclude them. This time I want to target the young. I will remind you (as I did the young man mentioned earlier) that there's a reason why God named the leading office in church "elder" and not "younger." There's a reason why respect for your elders isn't just a 1950s value, it's a Biblical value (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31; 1 Peter 5:5). For the sake of this discussion, I will assume (charitably) that you have things to say that the older folks in your church need to hear.

So how will you make it easier for them to hear what you have to say, with unpursed lips and unraised eyebrows? Simple. Three steps.
  1. Introduce yourself to them all, learn their names, get to know them as people. Don't stand off in your youth-ghetto, until you want to come and ask for something. If you retort "But they stand off in their oldth-ghetto," I'd reply (A) yeah, real mature response, bro ("They did it first!"); and (B) they probably figure you'd be uninterested in them. They hear that message a lot in the culture. But we are supposed to be counter-cultural, where the culture sneers at God. So show them wrong. It really, really is to your benefit, as well as theirs and the church's.
  2. Attend all the church meetings you can. Yep, you heard me. Think about it. That's where the life of the church happens. Learn what questions they're asking, what their concerns and needs are as expressed in prayer. Learn more about what your church is teaching and doing. Perhaps you can help. But more to the point, in this way show that you are part of the whole life of the church. You're not just some fly-by, strafing the church with opinions and demands and big ideas and projects, set to move off any second for marriage/college/job, leaving them to resume the heavy lifting — in addition to clean-up and repair work from your ideas. Otherwise, if you're not usually there when the family gets together, what's the natural conclusion? 
  3. Volunteer profligately for service opportunities. You're young, you have time and energy. So use it to serve the Lord in your church. See, think about this: these older folks you may sneer at are the ones who built that church, under God. They paid for it all. They painted it, weeded it, maintained it, serviced it. They prayed for it, wept for and with it, bore with it, built it. They've hung in there through fads and movements and insurrections and dramatic comings and departures. They've borne the heat and pressure of the day. On unglamorous church work days, where there's yard-work or furniture moving or painting or suchlike, who do you think makes up the majority of volunteers? The under-thirty crowd? Or the over-fifty? And you just want to ride in, attend one service a week, never participate in fellowship, and tell them how they're doing this or that all wrong? Earn their respect before you insist on it. When they've seen you volunteer kid-watch detail, or painting, or weeding, it's a lot easier to hear your thoughts about the direction or messaging of the church.
I want to see youngers and olders listening to each other, loving each other, pooling their resources, and working together for the spread of the Gospel and the health of the local church.

This would help.

You're welcome. Er, y'know... dude.

Dan Phillips's signature

15 September 2014

Let It Go

by the Late Frank Turk

Well: did you miss me?  Did anything happen while I was gone?

Yes, sure: you have a list.  Me personally?  I have a list of items which I would like to use to return from Hiatus in a clear and cautious way.

ITEM: It was Trogdor who branded me "the Late Frank Turk" via twitter in Summer 2014, and I'm happy with it.  Here, anyway, that will be my handle from now on.

ITEM:  You have no idea who they are, but this blog would not exist today without the tireless and thankless work of two men who shall continue to remain nameless who are the minions who, every week, in spite of personal burdens and preoccupations, continue to fill and re-fill the Dose of Spurgeon and the Best of Pyro editions.  We'll get to Dan in a minute, but let's face it: those two features constitute 33% of the days there are available for posting, and in the last year it also constituted more than 50% of the blogging which happened here.  While they may continue to remain nameless and faceless, let's today not allow them to go thankless for doing more to improve the blogosphere than most people will ever recognize or appreciate.

ITEM: So that his place in the world of things is not overlooked, my friend Dan Phillips is, frankly, a pillar of a man in his family and in his church, but he has done what few people would have agreed to for the last year or so: he has manned the helm of a blog known globally for setting the world on fire essentially as the one guy.

He had one job, as the meme goes, but rather than producing an epic fail, he has frankly preserved our readership and our reputation with steady hands and (it seems right now anyway) a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a good faith.  And no medication was needed in the aftermath.

ITEM:  I suspect it will also go live today, but in case you missed it (the kids say ICYMI; to which I say, speak English), starting today I am also a contributor to the Reformation21 blog.  I think someone is likely to be brought up on charges before the session for allowing a Baptistic Dog's Breakfast like me into the fold, but because it will make all the right people angry, I'll be pleased to do it.  There are two sub-items associated with that:
SUB ITEM #1: There's no way for me to blog more than once a week about things other than building CosPlay props, so my participation here will be balanced with my participation there.  Sometimes you'll find my paw prints here, other times there.  There will be no particular method, but only the usual madness. 
SUB ITEM #2: One reason in particular for blogging at both venues will be that the internet is wrong -- but in this case, I want there to be no cause for the internet to be wrong about whether or not I'm still the same guy who wrote all the open letters and who also wrote this specific post to my fellow Pyro.

ITEM: Because I love this graphic ( →→→ over there, to the right ), some version of it will appear in all posts from me going forward for the sake of engaging those who are bound to  ask.

ITEM: For those of you who are interested, this last summer at church I expanded and revised a class I did at my previous church in 4 Sundays to 9 or 10 Sundays, and I'm pleased with the results.  I wanted to do "How We get the Bible in English," and I did.  It goes from the origins of the written word all the way through the Greek and Hebrew, the Vulgate, and then ends up with 2-3 weeks on how and why the Bible gets translated, and whether one method is better than the other(s).  You can find all of them right here.

ITEM: Along those same lines, I have made a commitment to my friends at my home church that, going forward, if I would not teach about it during Sunday school, I'm not going to blog about it here.  That limits the subjects I'll cover here pretty narrowly.  It's probably best that way.

ITEM: Also along those same lines, unless someone commits a felony (and even then, it would have to be feloniously innovative), I am personally through opining about and writing open letters to or about that fellow in Seattle.  My expectation is that the readers of this blog will not bring it up.  What has finally happened there is a terrible loss for so many reasons that to trot them out could be seen as less than virtuous.  But one can't be blamed if one wonders how this could have shaken out if the people who were so concerned about privacy and process had engaged as seriously as they are right now 5 years ago.

ITEM: Wednesday is coming.  Prepare to be boarded.

14 September 2014

Giving the keepers their due

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 Speeches at Home and Abroad, page 97, Pilgrim Publications.

My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred. Song of Solomon 8:12 

I sat on Monday last by the bedside of one of my old members. I went to comfort her, for I heard she was ill; but, instead of comforting her, she set about comforting me, so that I went away rejoicing.

She began in this way, “My dear pastor, I shall never be able to tell to any soul what I owe to you, both personally and relatively.” I said, “Now, do not talk about that.”

She replied, “I will, for my former pastor, Joseph Irons, once preached a sermon upon the words, ‘King Solomon shall have a thousand, but they that keep the vineyard shall have two hundred,’ and that dear man of God said, ‘Give God the glory, give Solomon his thousand, but let his ministers who are keepers of the vineyard have their two hundred. Give them all the encouragement you can.’

Now (said she), that sermon did me good. I used to be afraid to cheer ministers and tell them what God had done by them, for fear that they should be proud; but from that sermon I learned that it was God’s business to keep them humble, and my business to encourage them.”

12 September 2014

Some here, some there — September 12, 2014 (special #TGCBlockedParty edition)

by Dan Phillips

Once again we'll start small. Do check back through the day, it will grow!
  • You've enjoyed some tweets I've lifted from the parody account The Gospel™ Corp. I have no idea who writes it, but it is just about the deftest parody-account I've seen. I mean, come on:
  • And how could you not love...
  • So I was genuinely surprised to find this:
  • I asked if it was a joke, learned to my astonishment that it was not. I honestly couldn't believe it. The TGC blocked this parody-account? How tone-deaf can you get? Were they trying to validate all criticism of their echo-chamber culture?
  • (By contrast, the Joel Osteen parody account is not blocked.)
  • So, moved by curiosity, I tried to follow TGC — to find that I too had been blocked at the user's request. Then others started checking and finding that they also had been blocked. So someone started the #TGCBlockedParty hash tag. Hilarity ensued. For instance:
  • ...and...
  • ...and...
  • Why did they do it? Was it a glitch? I've not been contacted, and I'm pretty high-profile and easy to find. I just checked the TGC account to see if there were any tweets about glitches creating false blocks, and found none. What did the blocked have in common? Some had objected to Mahaney and TGC's handling of all that, but I don't think I've written a word on that subject. What was the common factor?
  • Cripplegate's Jesse Johnson had a suggestion:
  • Jesse's other suggestion was this post about Driscoll.
  • The first result is that TGC is cementing its image of insular isolation and uber-prickly inability to entertain even the mildest criticism from outside clubhouse walls. Like this:
  • The second result is that being blocked by TGC is becoming a badge of honor. Like this:
  • I can envision the day when folks will say, "X is kind of a squish. I mean, he couldn't even get himself blocked by TGC."
  • Also, it's giving some good brothers a sad. Tony Miano felt left out for not being blocked.
  • And:
  • So: we've known for some time that its the stance of TGC and many of its writers that they are "unable to see" Pyromaniacs or anything we produce, no matter how effectively it forwards the convictions and truths they say they love and want to promote.
  • At least one TGC writer removed us from his blogroll (though he is still on ours). Why? Did we stop being Gospel-centered? Did our analyses of the scene drift from accuracy? History has since answered both. 
  • And so now apparently TGC is blocking critics of any sort on Twitter, though even then not with consistency.
  • What makes all this so sad — and what has taught me the bitterest, most unwelcome lesson in recent years — is how it relates to their own stated mission:
  • Yes, perhaps — but only if you're in The Club. Phil's question has now been answered.
  • Maybe if TGC isn't using their mission-statement anymore, another organization could take it over?
  • Chris Dean has a thought:
  • All these revelations have been hard on Carl Trueman. He's in our prayers.
  • Trueman is in interesting company, but he already knows that. Prof. Kevin T. Bauder may be on to something in some cases (obviously not in Trueman's), when he suggests that a better name might be The Gospel Coalition and Anti-Dispensational League. (h-t tweet from Scott Aniol)
  • What are your predictions as to how this will resolve? Will they find a way to strike a hurt, offended pose and make it look like everyone else's fault, make everyone else look foolish and small? Will they just start unblocking, without a word? Will it follow the flow-chart?
  • In other news...
  • Clint Archer writes a post for single men that reads something like a companion-piece for this post, though he doesn't mention it.
  • Are you going to get the new Apple watch? I haven't heard yet whether or not Phil will...
  • Should Christianity be Cool? Gene Veith says what Phil Johnson was saying right here on this blog years ago. (See this from 2010, this from 2012, this from 2008.)
  • Well, that's all right. Evidently lots of people like writers and sites that do a lot of playing catch-up. But we already talked about TGC and its bloggers.
  • No no no, the Parliament of World Religions is going to be held in Salt Lake City. Not at Saddleback. So quit that.
Again, check back through the end of the day.

And you can only comment on this post if you've been blocked by TGC! (Kidding, kidding...)

Dan Phillips's signature