Jesus Hearts Piper

Here's the thing with this "Piper goes to far" battalion: they are simply trying to force Dr. Piper to say things which it cannot be demonstrated that he is saying.

In the last few days, the other side of this hoopla have tried to say that Piper's view somehow thwarts God's sovereignty because Piper is here instructing pastors to "make people feel" like they need to be saved. Unlike, I guess, Peter at pentecost, where the folks listening were cut the the heart and were pleading with him, "what shall we do to be saved?"

I guess.

But here's the thing: that troublemaker Jesus was also on about how our affections relate to our standing before God. There are a couple of places I think this is demonstrated pretty clearly, but here's one that is simply to obvious to ignore.
    Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [ESV, Mat 6]
Right? And this version of this statement is even less invasive than the parallel passage in Luke 12, amen?

Where your -treasure- is, there your -heart- will be. Jesus' words here say explicitly that your treasure -shows- where your heart is.

See -- God's sovereignty is not hardly at stake here: your ability to measure yourself is at stake here. And while we would all affirm -- Dr. Piper included -- that the foundation of our salvation is the finished work of Christ, and the basis for being assured is that Christ saves, our hero Mark Dricosll made a keen point about Grace in his recent "Ask Anything" sermon on the topic.

There was a guy who was a member of Mars Hill Church, and he was a serial adulterer. Married one grrl (that's how they spell it in Seattle), cheated on her, and married that one with whom he cheated. Did it a second and a third time. When Driscoll sat down with the guy, his response was classic: "Jesus forgives all my sins."

Driscoll's response is also classic: "Dude, while I can't see your heart or your soul, in my professional opinion, you do not know Jesus."

That statement is not legalism. It is the assessment that this guy's affections are not Christian affections. He wants worldly sex, not Godly sex. His treasure is laid up in the lap of women who are not his wife, and not at the feet of a savior who paid the highest price for his sin.

This is what Piper is talking about. This is how he is talking about it. Encouraging other pastors to talk about it this way is not hardly a vice -- because it turns out that this would actually be the most serious sin of the American church.

And I'll line that out, and finish up this Pyro-free week on this topic, tomorrow.


Piper speaks for himself, and if you don't understand him after this, I'm not sure I can help you. The really-vigilant will listen to the audio as it has nature embellishments that the text here doesn't necessarily represent.

I'm a little dizzy ...

I got linked by Justin Taylor and today ...

... I ... um ... I ...

I need a talking monkey graphic or something. I'm going to bed ...

Seriously now ...

In the last 7 days, I have had civil conversations with iMonk and Kevin Johnson, and I'm brawling in the meta with Al Sends.

I feel a little creepy.

Things Change

The t-shirt for the blog has changed. It's time to change your t-shirt.


Hosea Hearts Piper

See: yesterday I gave the short form of Moses giving Piper some air support for the idea that our affections must be God-centered, and two objections have come back from that. The first is this, from brother Stefan:
No argument with the substance of your post. Strictly speaking, however, the passage you cited—verses 10 to 14— follows immediately after the Sh'ma (verses 4 to 5, as cited by Jesus in Mark, followed in Jewish religious practice by verses 6 to 9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41).
He brings that up because I said "Sh'ma" and technically the part I listed was not the Sh'ma.

Fair enough. Why make that mistake? I mean, was it a mistake, or was it my point?

See: the passage I cited was the reason for the Sh'ma. God is saying to Moses here, "Dude, I'm about to take you people into a land which, frankly, has all the comforts of home. But when you get there, you will forget that you didn’t dig the wells, or plant the orchards, or put the roofs over your heads. It's easy to forget God-who-delivers when your tummy is fat and happy."

The exhortation to "love God" comes as a warning in spite of circumstances. We should love God when it doesn’t take a miracle to get water from a rock: we should love Him when we have received the blessing and don’t see our needs quite so clearly.

Love. God.

But then there's the second objection, which is really the original complaint, that if God is telling this to Moses, isn’t this the Law? Isn’t it a standard that we can't live up to, so we only get conviction from it?

Yeah, no.

Listen: Hosea knew a little bit about love, and God told him to say this --
    For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
    the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Look at the comparison there: the burnt offerings are the requirements of the Law, and they are contrasted with what the KJV calls "mercy" and the ESV here calls "steadfast love".

God doesn’t want your penance, or your religious work, or your bulls and sheep and rams: God wants your love, dude. And love, it turns out, is not a fruity emotional cocktale – even in that little snippet from John Piper which is getting so many angry eyebrows this week. Setting our affections on God is not the same thing as sending Him a Valentines Card every day. It is also not, as some have intimated, somehow a dismissal of God's sovereignty.

We'll talk about that tomorrow.

Moses hearts Piper

Since the meta template ate the red pill or something yesterday, and the conversation there went nowhere as far as I'm concerned, I have a second volley on the question of whether or not John Piper is preaching some kind of emotive legalism.

This one comes from Moses:
    And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.[Deu 6, ESV]
And this is interesting because when Jesus gets questioned about the greatest commandment, this is the one he cites, right? "Love the Lord your God"? Go open your Bible and check it out, in case you don't repeat the Sh'ma to yourself every morning.

It's Moses who starts that crazy idea that men owe their affections to God, and Jesus signs off on it.

So when Dr. Piper says that people who love football more than God might not have faith in the savior of men, maybe what he means is that Moses knew something about faith in God which the rest of us would do well to reconsider.

More on this tomorrow.

double hockey sticks

I think I just broke Haloscan. Or the new Template did, anyway.

It works good enough to work right now, but the cool alternating thing is in the trash, and all font formatting in off.


Well, it is Monday after all ...

I apologize for starting the week out both with embedded video and with a response to something iMonk said over the last couple of days, but this is Phil's week off and people need something to chew on.

Here's what iMonk said:
Several months ago I stopped listening to or reading John Piper on any regular basis. Gave away all but six of the books. Unsubscribed to the sermons. Gave away two big boxes of tapes. (I kept quite a bit of audio and video in our ministry’s audio/video library. Don’t think I had a bonfire. I love the man, and I owe him much.)

Steve Brown and I talked- on and off the interview- quite a bit about Piper and what’s going on. We both agreed that the command to feel an emotion is not the foundation of Christian assurance. (That’s Spencer, not Brown, so don’t write him. He can speak for himself.)

Here’s what I’m talking about. Much good, but at the core, my assurance is what I do and what I feel.
To which he linked the above video, Yes? Here's the transcript of the Piper video:
Catch on to the affectional nature of Christianity, conversion. It is not merely a decision to believe a fact. It is a heart treasuring Christ and His glory more than football, sex, money, power, play, toys. You gotta make this an issue Sunday after Sunday so that they feel scared that they're not saved.

You know, I think some pastors are so afraid that somebody might walk up at the end of the service and say, "you really jostled my assurance this morning." If we don't -jostle- people's assurance when they're not saved, we send them to hell.

We must preach in such a way so that people can test -- Test Yourself! 2 Cor 13:5 says, "test yourself to see if you are in the faith". Well, one of the tests is do you love Football more than you love Jesus? Do you love Golf more than you love Christ? What does your heart say about Christ? Late at night, all alone, in front of an internet screen, mouse ready to click, what does your heart say about Christ over pornography?

You gotta get in their faces about this because there are a lot of people who've grown up in the church -- baptist churches, methodist churches, presbyterian churches, Catholic, Lutheran churches -- for whom their faith is all tradition, all all head. There's no power in their life to love Christ, to cherish Christ, to have similar kinds of affections for divine things that they have for earthly things.

Make that an issue.

So I'm prayin' that across this convention, there would be a one-mindedness that we must all Yes! Love Justification! Love Redemption! Love Propitiation! Love Deliverance! Love the healing power of God! Love escape from Hell! Love entrance into Heaven! Love restoration with the relatives!

But all of it is a means to an end! Namely, do you love Christ? Do you know Christ? Do you embrace Christ? Do you want Christ? If you've got cancer? And you don't know how long?

Can you say from your heart, "To die is gain! God will take care of Noel. To die is gain!" And feel it! That's a challenge. Then the rubber meets the road.

Do you feel, "this would be good. This would be a gift. This would be sweet."

Pastors, let's do this. Let's help our people be saved.
Now, does Piper here say that my assurance is in my emotional state? Or does he instead say that his assurance causes an emotional state?

It is possible that someone could make a case that Piper is saying, "you don't know if you're saved unless you feel happy that you're going to die." I'd be willing to hear that person out. It is my opinion that Piper is saying instead that the goal of the Gospel is to love Christ in spite of circumstances. That is, entertainment and tragedy are two states which misdirect us from keeping God in the right place in our affections.

Think about this: he gives two kinds of examples here -- that we should love Christ more than football, and that we should love Christ when we are diagnosed with cancer. In the former case, I think Dr.Piper is implying that there are no football games around which we should schedule our devotion to Christ -- that if we have to choose between serving and savoring Christ and the Superbowl, we should miss the kickoff for the sake of our savior. Amen?

But what's he mean when he's talking about Christ and cancer? Is he saying something like, "I won't have any moments of doubt when I find out I'm dying"? Or is he saying, "it is my affection for Christ, my faith in Christ as savior, which will overcome my doubts and overcome my fear for my family so that I can trust Him with them as well as with my soul"?

But these have something in common: it is the love of Christ which motivates us. It's not some glum mysticism: it's the fact that He lives and it means something to me.

Let's hear from the other side. I think they are simply mistaken about Piper, but I'd like to see their exposition of his excerpt here. I have done the transcription work for them, so let's see what they can do with it.

banned from church?


Dear Ms. Alter,

This week via e-mail, I received a link to your WSJ feature from Jan 18, 2008 entitled "Banned from Church". I am sure by now you have received a veritable onslaught of reactionary mail/e-mail calling you a variety of names, and for that I am sorry. Those people undeniably represent the church of Jesus Christ -- albeit in a frankly-sad way. I am sure you can recognize that those sort of screeds aren't worth reading. They don't represent themselves very well, and they don't represent the Gospel very well.

I have read your article twice now, and it was a disappointment to me for two reasons. The first is that it simply assumes that a church has no right or responsibility to audit in some way what it stands for. I think of the problem this way: the WSJ has a right and a responsibility to maintain some kind of journalistic raison d'être, and in that it has the right to seek out those who will contribute to that purpose as well as release from employment those who do not -- either because they are unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to maintain the organization. I use WSJ as an example because, I hope you will agree, it is not merely a "business" but an institution which seeks to do more than just make a buck.

In the same way, as a second set of examples, I think it is entirely reasonable that the NAACP, the NY Yankees, the GOP, and any university affirm their right each to select those who will be members of their organizations and choose to separate themselves from those who frankly do not share their respective institutional visions.

It is a simple fact: any institution exists for express purposes, and for any institution to advance those purposes it must be open and honest that those who do not share those goals ought not to belong to that group. Some are not qualified to pursue those goals, and other are simply not willing. Any institution which fails to recognize this is simply going to cease to exist.

In that way -- which is a wholly practical matter -- it seems right to me that churches ought to exercise some kind of process which recognizes that they do not exist as a body which stands for nothing, and which gives them a clear process for working that out in real life.

It turns out that the Bible recognizes this in its charges to local churches. The topic is addressed in the Gospel of Matthew, the book of Acts, Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and the letters to Timothy and Titus, among other places. And this fact leads me to my second disappointment with your article: you failed to distinguish between the practice described by the Bible (and by most reputable pastors) and the practices (as you lined them out) of "spending time in the stocks" and "shunning".

I have no idea what your relationship to the Christian faith is -- and in that, I invite you to establish a clear relationship to it, and to its author and finisher, Jesus: know for certain that he is both Lord and Christ. But that said, it seems a little bit like those who would hurl e-mails at you with threats or insults to imply that all church discipline is of the same calibre as "shunning" or "blacklisting", or that the practice somehow has a disreputable history.

For example, one matter of church discipline is that members attend church services regularly -- that they maintain a clear connection with the local body. But the -purpose- of such a thing is not to drive someone off: the purpose it to remind them that their profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not merely lip-service. The passage in Matthew 18 which speaks to this -specifically- says that the goal of bringing up wrong-doing is -not- to cast out one's brother or sister, but to "gain your brother" -- to win him back.

Think of it: if we were talking about a local softball team which was removing its Shortstop from its roster for failing to come to games, it seems like a no-brainer. No one would question such a thing.

But to be as serious as possible, this process doesn't always win people back. The example you focussed on -- Mrs. Caskey at Allen Baptist in Michigan -- is sort of notorious in the blogosphere, and I think it is a very clear example of how this process can go bad on all sides. But even the statistics you cited on how church discipline usually works out indicate that this sort of thing is not common, and churches which actually implement -discipline- rather than lynching or shunning or some other disreputable practice actually benefit from it.

Is it possible that some churches will abuse this process? Yes, certainly -- while we confess to be people of God, we are still people and not God. That can't paralyze an institution into inaction, and it cannot cause a church in particular to forgo its charter to make disciples anymore than one mistake in hiring or firing at WSJ would stop them from going to press the next day.

Let me close by recommending a few books to you:

Handbook of Church Discipline
By Jay Adams

Corrective Love: The Power of Communion Discipline
By Thomas C. Oden

Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches
By Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing & Malcolm B. Yarnell III

I realize that often in journalism, one doesn't get all the time one needs to become an expert on a subject before one has to go to press. However, especially in the context of the WSJ, its high level of integrity, and its inherently-conservative perspective on our culture, getting the basics of "church" right ought to be a higher priority that zinging a misunderstood practice.

My thanks for your time. I hope this note finds you in good health and spirits.

Grace and Peace to you.


note: thanks to Alex in Canada for correcting my french illiteracy. :-)


The Meta is undergoing some detail work, and for the next hour or so it'll be unreadable.

After that, I can't tell yet. If my scripts work, I think it'll be fun ...

UPDATED: Pheh. It's legible right now. That's the best I can hope for today. Will work more on this tomorrow and the weekend.

UPDATE #2: It's saturday morning as I type this, and I'm a little, um, vexed by the template right now. You will see all manner of weirdness in it over the next 48 hours. If at some time during that process you develop strabismus or cephalalgia, consult your doctor or join the club.

UPDATE #3: OK -- now you can see your comments, and your don't have to try to figure out who said what, and mostly the gravatars are pointed at by the dialog ballooons. And the comments logo header is in place. But I think you can't actually post comments right now as I have somehow dropped the input form. And I have to take my son to basketball this morning.

Stay tuned. Note to twitchell -- if I stopped sleeping, I'd stop waking up with stupid ideas like this which fuel my time-deficit lifestyle.

UPDATE #4: Yeah, I think I'm done now. I may add one last update to the layout this afternoon, but you-all can actually add comments again. I know you were not sleeping well knowing that you couldn't actually comment ...

Yeah, well, somebody asked

What do I think of Mark Driscoll's "Ask Anything" series?

I haven't had time to listen to it except for the first one. I listened to half of his Q&A on humor last night, and I'll prolly have something to say about that eventually.

That's all I got. Right now.

Piper, Prayer, POW!

Or why don’t I just say, then, that prayer is communicating with God? Well, because that sounds like I’m talking to him and he is talking to me. But that is not what prayer is. God talking to me is never called prayer in the Bible. When God communicates something to us, we call it revelation or illumination. It is not prayer. And we get into a big, unbiblical muddle if we use the word prayer for what God speaks to us.
Read the whole thing.

Wow. UPGRADE. has, after like three decades of purple and gold heresy, UPDATED ITS WEB TEMPLATE.



Kudos -- that's the best upgraded template of 2008 so far. It may win an award -- especially if it's the percent of improvement that's measured.

Pheh. Haloscan.

It is generally experiencing technical difficulties, so stop posting comments about said difficulties.

You didn't pay anything for it.

Cloverfield vs. Godzilla

Now, as a disclaimer to this post, I haven't seen Cloverfield even though I want to, so this isn't a review of the movie in any way. I've been reading up on it, though, and I think J. J. Abrams has sort of missed the mark here, given the spoilers I have been able to sort of grasp on-line.

Here's my thing: Godzilla is an icon and a monster in the classic sense because he's not very complicated, either physically or from a raison d'art. I mean, nuclear arms are bad, the U.S. is bad for testing them, and Japan paid the price not once but twice for the human experiment into nuclear hubris. We get it. And a giant lizard ... I get it. I don't like to see medium-sized lizards without a piece of glass between them and me, so the idea of a 40-story fire-breathing lizard-monkey is exactly right: I'll run away and be scared.

But it seems to me "Cloverfield" is too complicated. I mean, what is it? Should I be scared of it? Maybe I should feel sorry for it, or maybe I should be glad it is killing me because the other choice is that it rules over me. There's nothing really visceral about it. It kicks my brain into "science" mode rather than "mess my pants" mode.

I could be wrong. Open thread on "Clovefield". You tell me what you think. You don't need a Bible to play.

Our new baby

After three weeks of looking, I got a great deal on a 2007 Nissan Altima with only 2500 miles on it at LanderMcLarty Nissan in Bentonville, AR. That's the canned photo of the Altima from the Nissan web site, but that's the one I got. My sales guy was "Arty".

Special thanks to the guys at Ken Dobbs Hyundai, particularly Ken Dobbs and his salesman Ron Austin. They worked hard to get a deal we could walk away with -- and if you're looking for a new or used car, they have some really good deals and are men of integrity. Give them a shot.

Federal Vision

Anyone interested in talking about this?

In 100 words or less ...

Well, Andrew Sullivan is going to ignore my last post (he's a big fish; I'm a little fly), but the question of the iMonk's affirmations about inerrancy, frankly, needs a little hair tonic and clippers. So to keep the uproar to a minimum, I'm going to talk about his position in 100 words or less, and I invite his fan club to come and try to do the same.

Is that fair?

iMonk was quoted thus:
I do not doubt God or his ability to express revelation exactly as he wants it to be. The thought that God cannot reveal truth unless it is in a book that is supernaturally prevented from having normal, imperfect, human expressions of its time really never occurs to me. I assume that within the expressions, thought world, worldviews and literary genres of the time, God got exactly what he wanted and I can preach it without having to be concerned about "errancy."
My thought on reading this is that the writer has never considered what errors in the text says about the authority of the text. A categorically-perfect comparison is the Scofield notes to the KJV. Scofield's original notes were, frankly, errant – and only the most ardent KJVO clown will demand Scofield's first edition of notes for his KJV. Oxford has been kind enough to repair Scofield's work – twice – so the Scofield III notes are at least serviceable.

Who exactly is prepared to "repair" the book of Luke or of John? And on what basis ought those repairs be made?

Dear Andrew Sullivan ...

We play a game at my house with people who make unsubstantiated claims. It's called "name three".

Since your comments are closed, I leave mine open for you to play along.

Since I'm up ...

In the meta for Challies' review of the Shack, a little boil-up is occurring over whether or not the forgiveness of God is unconditional.

I know Tim, and in this case I am going to speak for him because, well, this isn't a topic for a nice guy to cover by himself.

Here's the Biblical landscape:

[1] All men are under the wrath of God -- that is, the problem men have which matters most in this world is that God is going to punish sin, and all men are sinners. (the verse wonks can look up Rom 1-3 for a longer explanation of that)

[2] However, God intends to save many. (Heb 9:28)

[3] The means by which God will save many is the obedient life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Phil 2)

[4] The method by which God will save many is by grace through faith. (Eph 2)

[5] The mode by which this is accomplished is the preaching of the Gospel. (Rom 10)

[6] The Gospel is God's offer to forgive those who repent. (Acts 2) This is so critical -- because all men are not right now forgiven by God, but all men can rightly say that God is offering them forgiveness which has been bought by Christ's suffering in their place.

God's forgiveness is not unconditional: it is conditioned wholly on the price Christ paid to secure a right payment for sin. What Christ did made God both just -- that is, a just judge, able to forgive without being a violator of justice -- and the justifier of men.

And in that, your forgiveness is wholly balanced on whether or not you repent.

Turn away from sin -- because sin is what Christ paid for. Christ died for our sins, people -- respect that by recognizing it's the condition of forgiveness.

The Shack

Challies reviews the Shack.

Open thread here for people who think Challies is wrong. Just so you can count the cost, I think Challies' last sentence is exactly right, and good on him for telling the truth about this book. I would have made that final point more clear in the rest of the review, but I'm not a famous author with a contract with Crossway.

Yes, I am green with envy.

Wednesday Shill-fest

At TeamPyro I posted the Challies interview for his new book, but I wanted to cover the real news this week today and shill for what is plausibly the source of covetousness and idolatry in my life: the new MacBook Air.

Even at two grand, it's completely break-out. I might make my wife buy me one instead of buying a new car.

Mark your calendars

This weekend I was trying to catch up on podcasts, and I got Mark Driscoll's first answer to the 9 questions thing, and I got to the Q&A for the late-nite session at Ballard.

This is a historical day.

I just read this post by Steven J. Camp after listening to Pastor Mark Driscoll's birth control Q&A.

... wait for it ...

Wow. I agree with Steve. Not only is that not a talk you'd hear at the local homeschool co-op or in a rural church where guys churn their own butter, that's a talk which simply goes outside the bounds of public decency. Ephesians 5 anyone? It's one thing to give that kind of advice (such as it is) in a private context, but from the pulpit?

Ouch. Steve was brave enough to link to the offending content. Sorry kids -- I'm not that brave. I'm not hardly brave enough to listen to this for more than 30 seconds at a time. ME. And I think he gives bad advice on top of everything else, so there's not much I can do to even say "yeah but ..." on behalf of MHC for this presentation.

Apparently Mark doesn't want to be the 21st century Billy Graham ... or maybe he does and is and I'm the one who doesn't get it. Either way, that's a hall of shame moment for those of us who are on-record as fans of Mark and Acts29.

I need 2 Excedrin and a Coke ...

All your Base v. 2.0

This is Ezra Levant. He's speaking in a deposition/hearing because he published cartoons which allegedly "defame" Islam.

Listen to what he says here. Think about how it applies to you personally -- because it does. It applies not because you are fire-bombing Synagogues: it applies because this is how the world works. It applies because, on the one hand, Mt 10:22 still applies, and on the other, 2 Thes 1:11-12 still applies.

Point of Order

I'd just like to point out that when the enemies of euthanasia, 10 years ago, pointed out that this would happen, they were laughed at.

I wonder what medical ethicist Peter Singer has to say about this ... ?

The other solemn-faced puritans

Global warming has not stopped. Apparently it has only taken a vacation.

We interrupt the bruhaha

One of the people who, over the years, has greatly influenced me spiritually has been Dr. James White. That's not a badge of honor in a lot of circles, but those circles tend to be places where they play a lot of theological twister, so they don't worry me much.

I bring it up because I usually don't bring it up at all -- mostly because I recognize that often my approach to internet engagement isn't the came calibre as what James brings to the table, and frankly I don't want to bring any of my baggage to James' doorstep. He's an honorable man who is an elder in his church, and I'm just a guy with comic book art on his blog.

But that said, James has published a video to YouTube you need to watch:

And I bring it up because this is an interesting turn of events for James. For years, he's been engaged in what I think it is safe to label "house" apologetics -- apologetics for Christians and against aberrations of the faith which pose as orthodox expressions all across the spectrum. It's sort of the primary work of the elder that he's been doing, and it was good in general and overall instructive to me personally.

But this new thing -- an apologetic focus on Islam -- is a little more interesting, if you ask me. There is no greater question in the world today than whether Islam and the Christian faith can coexist, or whether they should coexist, or in what way one might be superior to the other. It is the basis of a much more immediately-dangerous culture war than the one we have been fighting in the West for the last 3 centuries because quite literally Western political culture is at stake.

For James White to be digging out trenches on that front does not bode well for Islam and its apologists. This is work which is both defensive and evangelical, and I applaud him for answering that call.

One good catholic

There may be more. You should read about this one.

Lead Pyro starts fires

Phil dropped by in the meta to speak as the voice of reason to me, as he is wont to do. He said some things worth commenting on, and we chatted on the phone a bit, and some of that is worth rehashing here.
... it seems like we've moved a little too abruptly from the question of whether a dance contest with a champagne bar is an appropriate way for a church to ring in the new year, to the (totally separate) question of whether teetotalism is mandated by Scripture.
I agree. It's simply the path that the advocates of what Ingrid was saying where trotting down (as I saw it anyway, here in my meta), and I thought we'd see where that goes.

It went where it usually goes here at my blog, which is "not well for the tea-totallers".
Moreover, people keep insinuating that casual consumption of alcoholic beverages in purely social settings is somehow essential to a good testimony. That ridiculous idea raises a completely different third question.
As we discussed on the phone, I think there's a big gap between "must drink in order to testify" and "offers a good testimony even though drinking". The latter is a viable alternative -- and, I would argue, a more vibrant and useful alternative -- to the fundamentalist fall-back of "can't drink and offer a good testimony due to the deemin likker".

As I have been trying to carefully explain, I think that in some cases (like a dry county) people have a native legalism which, if we violate it, we wreck our ability to preach law and Gospel to them -- because we come across as lawless by violating social standards. In those cases, I can see why someone (like me and the men at my church) would promise to abstain.

In other cases -- for example, in St. Louis where the King of Beers lives -- it seems to me that to take a teatotal view of drinking is simply a way to slap the culture in the face with no benefit, especially when there is no necessary prohibition of alcohol in the Bible. In fact, I suggest that it might be useful to learn to like a drink once in a while in order to keep from weirding people out -- because a drink is not inherently sinful.

Necessary to drink? no. Useful? yes.
Frank, allow me to employ the parallelism you chose: we would agree, I'm certain, that sex between married persons is a holy act, by no means sinful. That doesn't mean it would be an appropriate feature at the watchnight service, right?
This is absolutely right -- but here's the thing: public sex is not the same as public drinking. In fact, I think the right parallel here would be comparing public sex to secret drinking. People who drink in secret have a pretty serious problem, as do people who are compulsive PDA-types who, frankly, embarrass everyone.

But drinking at a party -- in a way which "makes the heart glad", as it says -- is the right use of alcohol, especially when we're talking about drinking "a toast".
What, exactly, is the problem with Ingrid's comments here? Note: the language of "TRANSFORM[ing the church] INTO A POSH CLUB" is from the Mars Hill poster, not Ingrid. She did not advocate teetotalism. Seems like all the outrage over teetotalism is a diversion from the actual point she was making, which seems unassailable to me.
Well, the -poster- says that they are going to transform their "auditorium" into such-and-such. That auditorium may itself be where they meet on Sundays, but I don't think the implication is that they are trading the holy for the profane. You and I had a broader conversation about this on the phone, and without disclosing all of that, let me lay down a couple of good boundaries I think we agreed on:

-- I think we agreed that there's a difference between having a party and having a worship service, and they are probably not compatible with each other. That is, nobody should be trading worship time for party time.

-- I think we disagreed on whether or not it's better to have a church-wide party fellowship than it is to have a vigil service. I think your view was that the vigil service ought to be the default expression of the church in the context of New Year's Eve, and I think that it's not necessary for every assembly of the members of a church to be a worship service in the formal sense you mean. New Year's Eve would be a good occasion, I think, for the church to do something a little broader than something as necessarily closed as a prayer service. Can those two things be reconciled? I dunno -- it was late, and we weren't really unpacking the whole suitcase. Maybe it deserves more consideration from both sides.

-- We discussed at length the question of church identity, especially at Mars Hill in Seattle. Your objection there was that they simply identify themselves as party people who somehow connect that to Jesus. I will openly admit that I don't follow their calendar or marketing that closely, and I am only a podcast listener to their pastor, whom I mostly enjoy. For the record, I am about 4 weeks behind on all my podcasts, so I may never dig out of that hole. My concession here would be that if the primary way this assembly joins together is parties, they are probably not representing themselves in a way I'd have a lot of confidence in -- and may in fact be violating some warnings Paul makes in 1 Corinthians. No accusation there -- just a fact that the church is not primarily a party planner.

-- There is also the broader issue of the use of the church itself as a place to have parties. Not sure we worked that out sufficiently.

-- There is also the question of culturalization. You admitted -- pretty generously, I think -- that some of your view here may be from growing up in a more culturally-Christian environment than I did. I mean, it seems to me that the Mars Hill NYE party was pretty tame overall. You don't see it that way, but you are reading that event in a broader context of what the churches in America are doing to worship in general and to church fellowship in general. I can see that pretty clearly. My only point to consider further is if it's actually an either/or situation: is the church confined to a paradigm of either worship services or parties? Can't they have worship services as often as the ought to and also parties sometimes as long as reverence for worship and an eye to Gospel-centered virtue in leisure and celebration are observed? And doesn't this latter method speak more as a fully-orbed lifestyle than some more-rigid but, um, less-transparent way of presenting who we are as followers of Christ?

I think your best point overall is that at some point, there's a question of maturity in the church that has to be dealt with -- that mature believers are actually leading people into maturity and away from worldliness, and not merely baiting the worldly with pseudo-worldiness. It's a good point. But does maturity always look like stoic middle-class people sitting around after dinner chatting?

Don't they go to Sonic sometimes and have a Slush? What if somebody sees them?

So why not?

OK -- last night's post was an attempt by me to get people rattled and to frankly get almost everyone to agree with me that the idea of surrendering sex to the culture is a totally vacuous idea.

Because that's what I was advocating, right? In the face of the culture using sex like some kind of condiment, my great idea was that Christians should have no sex whatsoever. And let's be clear here: whether you agree with that statement or not, the Bible tells us that there should be no sex apart from marriage, but I was going far beyond that to say that even inside marriage people should forego all sex to show the culture ... well, something.

It's when we get to the "well, something" point that we have to raise an eyebrow, so to speak. What exactly would we be showing the culture by becoming a sex-free people -- besides the last generation of believers of that mind?

Here's what we'd be showing them: that we are not at all serious about our own claims about the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture. That somehow we don't really believe our Bibles when they say things like, Eph 5:31 and also 1 Cor 6:16 -- which are two sides of the same coin, one the affirmative plan of God for sex in marriage, and the other the negative discouragement about how one culture expressed its views on sex.

The novice apologists will simply brand this kind of "liberty" as "legalism", but it's worse than that: it's actually something for which Paul had some harsh words:
    Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:1-5, for the verse wonks, ESV)
Now, think about this: Paul says the demand to abstain from foods is in the same class as the demand which "forbids marriage". It's the same kind of "lie", the same kind of "departure from the faith", the same "insincerity" from people who have "seared consciences".

For those who can't work it out, when some teacher is "forbidding marriage", he's not advocating an open sexual context: he's talking about the end of sexual relationships altogether.

So let's not pretend here that my example last night was somehow disconnected from the idea of tea-totalling: it is Paul's example, and it's Paul's concern to Timothy which underscores that it's the same class of falsehood to demand abstinence from sex as it is to demand abstinence from various foods.

But for the record, Psalm 104 makes it crystal clear that among the foods God has blessed man with is wine. That's "yayin" in the Hebrew, which is the same word for the stuff Noah drank after he grew his vine and was naked-drunk in his tent in Gen 9:21. Paul's not talking about the small potatoes here: Paul's going for the whole menu.

Here's what I'm not doing: I'm not condoning the drunkeness of Noah. The Bible condemns drunkeness over and over. But the Bible calls on us to be people who demonstrate something which receives the blessing of God without abusing it. The Bible teaches us to use what God has given us without abusing it. The Bible does not say to give up things which the culture is defiling -- even to the place, frankly, that we can eat meat which was probably offered to idols so long as we don't ask too many questions.

So when we think that the solution to drunkeness is sweet tea so that nobody ever sees how a redeemed person will handle a drink, maybe we are cutting off our God-given nose despite our God-given face because we think we don't like the smell. Maybe we should clean up what stinks instead.

I'm sure I have more to say about this, but I'll bet this is enough to make someone lose it. And I have the thread at TeamPyro to deal with.

Carry on.

think about this

OK -- tomorrow at TeamPyro I'll post my review of Challies' new book, but a discussion which, I think, will establish our bent for the balance of 2008, has broken out in the meta.

Before I post something on that, you should think about this:

In our culture, many people -- most, if we read the statistics -- have sex before marriage, and plenty of it. So culturally speaking, sex is being abused on a wholesale scale and our culture simply has too much sex.

What if, as an ambassador of Christ and a bearer of His name, suggested (or even demanded) that no Christian under any circumstances -- certainly no single person, but also not any married people for the sake of our testimony to the culture -- have sex? In fact, let me suggest it openly:

Because there's so much misuse of sex in our culture today, I recommend that in order to offer a Gospel-centered correction, no Christian should have sex at all under any circumstance -- whether they are married or single.

Who's with me?


I heard the Mars Hill in Seattle had a New Years Eve party this year complete with (gasp) champagne, so I'm conflicted. I'm looking for more than a report that there was likker and dansen.

Was anybody there? Who was there? What happened?

too many inside jokes

I was chatting this weekend with a friend who I catch up with about once a year, and he told me this blog has too many inside joke to follow -- new readers can't come up to speed, and it's a little tedious.

Wow. And he likes me. I guess I have my first new year's resolution: get the blog missional.

As if "missional" isn't its own inside joke ...

You call it

I don't know if anyone was following it, but a fellow named "Drew" who makes comments at TeamPyro conceded this exchange at D-Blog after 4 questions and only 3 answers from me.

You have post your commentary on this exchange in the meta of this post. I'm not sure what to say about it, either.

Cubby on the spot

Malcontent Cubby Martinez was stirring up trouble at Justin Taylor's blog -- or trying to, anyway -- and instead he got derailed by this banner ad from Crossway:

Wow. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Flacking for Challies

In spite of his mother's fears that I hate him, I have received Challies new book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, as a promo copy, and I'm on the bandwagon.

Look for a full-scale review here, and on Jan 16, Tim and I will have a little blog chat at TeamPyro about his book as part of his "blog tour".

the other moscow

When the Russians tell you it's going to be cold, you should listen up. They know from Cold.

Whilst in the winter solstice of blogging...

... I have updated the scripts that render the headlines in Flash 9 for you tech-savvy types, and have declared that I am not going to help out you non-savvy people in order to inflict guilt on myself and cause me to do something about the non-flash css which looks like a typographical dumpster dive.

Let me know if the headlines are rendering at a faster pace, especially on slower systems and older browsers (I'm looking at you, IE6)

in other tech-savvy news, Google analytics has updated its tracking widget, so if you are using it, you might want to replace your legacy code with the real deal so you can take advantage of the much vaunted "future improvements" to GA. I am sure one of those is bending your will to the corporate decrees of the Google-shtag, which will undoubtedly make the world a safer, more orderly place.