Friday’s Supreme Court decision, though not much of a surprise, is distressing, disheartening and disgusting. Even the most adamant defender of so called “gay rights” ought to at least affirm that the decision is fundamentally flawed, driven by judicial overreach, and by any sane reading of the Constitution, unconstitutional. It has, nevertheless, been decided. How state and local governments ought to respond is an important question. How local churches and the church as the church ought to respond is an important question. But today I would like to make some suggestions for believers as believers. What should we do? The same thing we do every day.
I’m writing from this year’s Christian Home Educators of Colorado conference. It’s always encouraging to be here, to visit with friends and to be encouraged. I always find homeschool conferences encouraging. That said, where there are people, there are sins to be concerned about, and that includes we who homeschool. Here are five things I believe are a current danger.
Yes. The doctrine of total depravity asserts two key points. First, all that we are has been affected by the fall. It impacts our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our desires, everything about us. There is no untouched area. Second, the doctrine affirms that there is no island of righteousness out of which we can, on our own and embrace the work of Christ for us. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and before we can embrace His work for us we must be made alive by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration, or the rebirth, like our first birth, isn’t something we do, but something done to us. Thus regeneration precedes, logically speaking, faith. Regeneration is the cause of faith, not faith the cause of regeneration.
What advice would you give Christians facing such rapid cultural marginalization? In the great battle that is the culture war Christians are in rapid and chaotic retreat. On issues of sexuality we are deemed backward, hateful and hypocritical. To speak in defense of marriage is, in the minds of the world, on par at best with denying the holocaust, at worst to perpetrating it. We have not just lost our place at the table, but in the building. We are on the outside looking in. First, accept it. I’m not suggesting surrender mind you. I am, however, suggesting that denying the obvious helps no one. Sure Fox wallops MSNBC. Of course abortion mills are shutting down. But the cultural ethos is still hostile to us, and it’s only going to get worse. I fear that too often our fear is losing privilege, that we fight our rearguard action to protect…
What are your thoughts regarding large evangelism crusades held by preachers at large stadiums? One of the awkward parts of seeking to follow the regulative principle of worship, that Puritan notion that we are free in worship only to do what the Bible expressly commands, is determining what falls under the category of the “elements” of worship and what falls under the “circumstances.” Typically elements describe what- prayer, preaching while circumstances describe how- indoors, on pews. But the lines are not so easily drawn. Is a kneeling bench for prayer an element or a circumstance? Applied to this question we ought, of course, affirm that preaching to large numbers, calling for repentance, is perfectly wonderful. Peter, at Pentecost, could be described as a crusade. The gospel was preached and 3000 saints were added to the fold. Why then would anyone have a concern about crusades in stadiums? The issue isn’t…
Some of our deepest challenges as believers involve dealing with the sins of others, particularly those whom we love. Whether it is a relative struggling with addiction, a best friend unfaithful to his spouse, or a loved one embracing sexual perversion we often feel caught between our genuine love for the sinner and our genuine revulsion at the sin. The bromide “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” while at least infused with a touch of wisdom, doesn’t typically answer all the hard questions.
Sometimes our shorthands come back to bite us on the bahookey. It is true enough that the concept of covenant contains within it the concept of contract. It does not, however, reduce down to contract. Covenant is the marriage of the legal and the familial. Contract covers the legal – covenants have responsibilities, obligations and sanctions. But covenant is also relational, transcending the merely mercenary. God has every right to command whatsoever He will. But He is also our God, the one who brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Right from the get go we have something of an epistemological/ontological problem. That is, there are differences that are easier to see, and then there are differences that are more central, but harder to discern. On the ontological side the whole of the order of salvation, or ordo salutis, describes the difference. The believer has been regenerated, given the gift of faith, is indwelt by the Spirit, gifted by the Spirit and grows in grace and wisdom. The unbeliever has none of these. Neither the believer nor the unbeliever, however, has magic soul-exposing glasses by which we can judge the invisible changes.
Before she went to her reward my beloved wrote letters to each of our children. It was her last days and stamina was hard to come by. Knowing she wanted to write one to me I tried to put her at ease – “You don’t have to write me a letter, dear. I have and always have had every confidence in your love for me.” She managed to write one anyway, noting therein how delighted she was to know that I never doubted her love. I’m not sure, however, that the last words of the departing are quite as important as the last words to the departing. When my time comes I would want my children to hear from me one last time what they hear from me each night before they go to bed – “Daddy loves you. Mommy loves you. Daddy and Mommy love each other. And Jesus…
My ideological awakenings were not in the order most suspect. I was well taught the Reformed faith in my catechism class in junior high school, working through GI Williamson’s Shorter Catechism for Study Groups. Though I had, of course, come from a Reformed family, and been raised in the Reformed church, that was when it all clicked for me. But before Reformed theology became a passion I was introduced to free market economics. Just as Reformed theology asked us to embrace a few basic principles, and then to work out the implications of those principles with relentless passion, so with free market economics there was a certain elegance and internal coherence that just made me fall in love.