May2012Archive for

A Fool for a Client

The Kingdom Notes

Recently I taught on the parable of the Good Samaritan. For a brief moment we paused together at a few portentous words out of the mouth of the lawyer who prompted the story. He, you will remember, asked Jesus how he might be saved. Jesus, in turn, asked the lawyer what is written in the law. The lawyer gives the two great commandments and Jesus replies, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” Now here comes the telling part, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” Isn’t that something? He wanted to justify himself. Now why would that be? The law, of course, condemns us sinners. Sinners that we are, we seek then to blame the law rather than ourselves. We suggest to ourselves either that the law is unclear, or unreasonable. We, ironically, seek to law ourselves away from the law- Well, the…

Ask RC: How do I avoid embracing hyper-patriarchy?

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Though it’s a cliché, it’s true- who defines the terms wins the debate.  Before we determine how to avoid this kind of error, let’s be sure we know what we are talking about.  One could argue that in the church there is a spectrum of views on the relationships between husbands and wives. On the far right is hyper-patriarchy. One step to the left is patriarchy. One more step is complementarianism, and one more step egalitarianism. And I suppose on the far left would be hyper-egalitarianism.  Trouble is, there are not clear, easily discernible lines separating these views from each other. I honestly wouldn’t know how to define the difference between a patriarch and a complementarian, save that the patriarch is less likely to be afraid of an egalitarian. Both the patriarch and the complementarian affirm that husbands are called to lead their families. Both agree that wives and children…

Ask RC: Is there ever a circumstance where it is righteous to not tell the truth?

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Yes. Jesus reminded us in His Sermon on the Mount that the Ten Commandments are rather wider in scope than we might be tempted to believe. If we avoid first degree murder, we haven’t escaped the charge of failing to keep the seventh commandment. One could argue that the ninth commandment merely forbids perjury, the giving of false testimony in the context of a trial. Honesty would require us, however, to note that its intent is likewise fare more broad. James, after all, encourages us to let our yea by yea and our nay be nay. We are a people of the Word, redeemed by the one who is truth. Truth ought to be our hallmark. That said, the majority report of the church over the ages has been more nuanced. While truthfulness ought to be the order of the day among Christians, there are contexts wherein a failure to…

Walk With Me

The Kingdom Notes

Fifty two years my parents have been married.  I can’t, save for remembering photographs, recall them from that time. My memories only go back so far. I have mental snapshots from the early seventies, my father cleaning the pheasant he had shot, my mother serving my pumpkin pie on my birthday. I have images from the eighties, when my father first learned to dress preppy, and my mother did too. I have pictures in my head of the nineties, the two of them together going car shopping. From the aughts I picture them doling out hugs to their little grandbabies. And for this decade I see him preaching at Saint Andrews, her patrolling the aisles greeting people. These snapshots, however, do not tell the story of their life together. It isn’t that they aren’t real, that they are some sort of cover for a dark underbelly. What you see is…

Ask RC: What do we say when unbelievers mock the law of God?

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It’s not peculiarly new, this objection. People have used it for some time when confronted with the plain teaching of the Bible. Those outside the church seek to wiggle out from under the commands of God by, oddly, pointing to the commands of God. When we say “The Bible forbids x” they don’t reply, “It does not.” Instead they reply, “The Bible also says you can’t wear a shirt with both cotton and wool. The Bible also says you can sell your daughter. The Bible also says you can stone your son if he gets out of line.” And most Christians slink away. The argument assumes the existence of a universal moral law that all humans recognize, but then suggests that the Bible itself not only falls short of that moral law but clearly and immediately opposes that universal moral law.  The argument suggests, “Given that the Bible’s sense of…

It’s Not as Bad as You Think, It’s Worse

The Kingdom Notes

The President comes out in favor of gay marriage, and all the church is a dither. We are posting, tweeting, protesting, and petitioning, as though some great line in the sand has been crossed. Well, it hasn’t, and it has. First, the notion that the President has only recently evolved to come to this conclusion is pure political blarney.  His position has not actually changed. He has always believed this. And, as bad as that is, it is far less evil than his convictions on unborn children. Where was the handwringing in the church last week, and the week before that, and the week before that and the week before that? And what does it say about the church that we are more upset about the President endorsing gay marriage than we are about the President supporting abortion? The same thing that is said by the sad truth that the…

Come as You Aren’t

The Kingdom Notes

Too many conversations are far too predictable. Praise the sovereignty of God in salvation and someone will inevitably remind you that God didn’t make robots. You will then remind said friend that dead people are passive people, only to be reminded that God is not willing that any should perish. Warn against the dangers of too much wine, and someone will in turn present the biblical praises for wine, and before long in the back and forth you can count on someone pointing out that sometimes oinos means grape juice. As soon as the conversation begins we know how it will end. It is the habit of my family to dress for church. I have, on more than one occasion, argued in print that we casually worship a casual god because we enter into his presence casually. I have suggested that on the Lord’s Day we should dress as if we were…

Ask RC: What should our relationship be with our oldest son and his live in girlfriend?

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It would seem to be a reasonable corollary to the Apostle John’s affirmation that he knew no greater joy than to know that his children walk in the truth (III John 4) that there is likely no greater sorrow than to see one’s own children walk away from the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is no mere intellectual question but cuts us to our hearts. The question above suggests that there are two different but related questions in play. First, how ought we to look at such a son, and second, how should such a son relate to the rest of the family? It is both a blessing and a curse that we are not able to see into the hearts of others. It is a curse when such might offer us assurance, a blessing when such might lead us to doubt. Our first bedrock principle we…

Ask RC: What does Peter mean when he says “Love covers a multitude of sins” in I Peter 4:8?

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While it is certainly gloriously true that out of God’s love for us He sent His Son to cover our sins, to remove them as far from us as the east is from the west, this is not likely what Peter has in mind here. He is instead, in context, talking about interpersonal relationships among Christians in the church. He is calling us to a dual kind of grace toward others. First, we should be slow to convict. I Corinthians 13 tells us that love “thinks no evil.” When we love each other we practice with each other a judgment of charity. We assume the best about others, assigning the best of motives to their actions. Sadly, however, this wisdom is often confused with something altogether different. Too often we are unwilling to call sin sin. Not long ago I wrote a brief piece arguing that x was a sin….

By This Will All Men Know

The Kingdom Notes

It is sure evidence that we are so caught up in the modernist mindset that we think evidence is found only in careful argumentation, in neatly stacked syllogisms, in test-tubes and beakers. Jesus, however, tells us that it is our love for one another that demonstrates that we are His disciples (John 13:35). This love is manifest in both great ways and small. It may well be that the smaller ways are in the end a more potent message. I’m not the first to observe this, but have you ever noticed that there are no orphanages run by atheists? That no one ever checks into a hospital founded by secularists? The world has yet to see the rise of missionaries of unbelief, men and women so committed to their “under the sun” perspective that they give up everything to go and tell the world that above us is only sky….