The 4th Commandment & Temporal Authority

Over the past few months, I’ve been leading a study of Luther’s Large Catechism at my congregation. Most Lutherans have memorized Luther’s Small Catechism at some point in their lives–for those of us raised Lutheran, that’s a standard part of Confirmation as it covers the most basic essentials of the Christian Faith. But we do ourselves a disservice when we forget the Large Catechism as it offers us a great opportunity to revisit those very same basics but dive into them far more deeply. In doing so, we not only grow in knowledge that we may be better equipped for every good work, but we also grow in humility as we begin to understand just how little we know and how poorly we keep God’s commandments.

This study has been edifying for me (and hopefully for my students as well!) in many respects, but I was particularly struck this past week by a passage from Luther’s explanation of the 4th Commandment:

In this commandment belongs a further statement about all kinds of obedience to persons in authority who have to command and to govern. For all authority flows and is born from the authority of parents. Where a father is unable alone to educate his rebellious and irritable child, he uses a schoolmaster to teach the child. If he is too weak, he gets the help of his friends and neighbors. If he departs this life, he delegates and confers his authority and government upon others who are appointed for the purpose… So all whom we call “masters” are in the place of parents and must get their power and authority to govern from them… From antiquity the Romans and other nations called the masters and mistresses of the household “housefathers” and “housemothers.” They called their national rulers and overlords “fathers of the entire country.” This is a great shame to us who would be Christians because we do not give them the same title or, at least, do not value and honor them as fathers.

To be sure, all authority is ultimately established by God (this is His commandment after all.) Nevertheless, the way Luther describes it here, all temporal authority penultimately proceeds from parents by way of God’s explicit command to honor our fathers and mothers. And, of course, though we loathe to think of it in our feminist culture, that parental authority is most properly paternal authority—for God has explicitly established the husband as head of the wife and instructs the wife to be submissive to her husband. So in sum, whatever governing institutions we may be under, they exist because somewhere along the line, our forefathers delegated their own authority over their households to others in order to assist them with specific tasks.

To be sure, this assessment indicates that we owe honor and obedience to various authorities in this world—just as the New Testament repeatedly instructs Christians. Nevertheless, it also has a rather profound implication for how we ought to view civilization which we would do well to consider: All temporal authorities exist for the sake of families.

Like all authorities, parental authority is ordained in connection with certain responsibilities—namely, responsibilities to raise, nourish, and protect their children. Parents are the ordinary means by which God protects and provides for human beings during the rather lengthy period it takes for us to mature enough to even survive on our own. As Luther colorfully put it earlier, “Each child will discover that he has from [his parents] a body and life. He has been fed and reared when otherwise he would have perished a hundred times in his own filth.”

As societies grow more complex, it is certainly meet, right, and salutary that fathers should collaborate and delegate to a certain extent. It’s only natural for us to specialize in our economics and cooperate in our civics. Even in terms of civil government, when it comes to the duties that Paul lists in Romans 13—namely punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers—there are substantial limitations to what we can each do on our own. After all, vigilantism has some rather obvious drawbacks, and providing for the common defense has always been a struggle in a fallen world.

But as generation after generation becomes absorbed in the day-to-day tedium of life and civilization, knowing this nature and purpose of temporal authorities affords us an opportunity to step back and see the forest for the trees. After all, authority can be and often is abused—both deliberately and absentmindedly. Most obviously, of course, temporal authority is abused when divorced from its inherent responsibility–when the one in authority directs those in his charge for his own benefit rather than theirs. Abuse of delegated authority, however, can also come in the form of overreach-and this is a far more insidious variety.

Overreach cam occur with the best of intentions because it need not forget the responsibilities for which the authority exists; it need only forget the one who delegated the authority in the first place. You can think of it in terms of a steward who comes to believe himself the true king. Rather than executing the king’s will to the best of his ability, the abusive steward begins to execute his own will with the king’s authority. The reason it’s so insidious is because it’s hard to discern when the king and the steward are on the same page and only becomes obvious when differences of opinion proliferate and it’s somehow always the steward’s will that’s accomplished rather than the king’s. Instead of assisting the king in his responsibilities, the abusive steward absorbs his regent’s functions into himself.

It is now painfully obvious that many of those to whom parents have delegated their authority have become abusive stewards. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Luther’s example of the schoolmaster. Most parents in the West have enlisted others to educate their children. And as much as I adore homeschooling, I have to point out that this was not an entirely foolish decision on our part. Any father who wants his child to know significantly more than he himself does will need to enlist help at some point. And in the modern world in which science and technology have rapidly advanced, this hope became a relatively sensible expectation.

Nevertheless, the task of the schoolmaster is to teach the children what the parents deem important and oversee them in a way that parents deem appropriate. That is why the expression in loco parentis was once so frequently used at our academic institutions. It’s why so many of the rules we now consider quaint—like curfews, sex-segregated dormitories, and robust dress codes—were once commonplace in various levels of schooling. Teachers and administrators sought to govern their charges according to the ordinary sensibilities of the parents who entrusted them to the schools in the first place.

It would be hard to overstate how far our academic institutions have fallen from this.

This is most obviously evident, of course, is the fact that our public education system has taken it upon itself to teach all manner of nonsense that most parents abhor. We never asked them to teach our kids that boys are actually girls, that the right equipment makes fornication safe, that God is irrelevant, that nationalism is sinful, or that we’re all going to burn along with this planet unless we eat bugs and live in grass huts. No, this all comes from an education-industrial-complex that believes itself far more enlightened than the parents whom they often consider to be rubes and amateurs.

But you can also see it in the way relationships between parents and teachers have become so contentious over the years. Much of the time, we seem competitive rather than cooperative. I remember hearing one educator dismiss parental complaints about common core’s infamous new math as a matter of mere ego. Those parents, he thought, were just feeling left behind because they’ve found themselves to be too impotent to help with homework and are simply failing to cope with their own obsolescence. It was a pretty absurd point of view given the dismal failure of common core. But even apart from extreme attitudes like that, so many teachers see parents as overweening busybodies who are constantly micromanaging them, expecting their brood to be treated like special snowflakes, and interfering with their job of educating children.

And to be fair, that attitude is not entirely unwarranted because we do live in an age of helicopter parents who don’t particularly trust their child’s educators. Nevertheless, our education system has provided ample evidence that it’s infested with many untrustworthy and incompetent individuals. In a way, both sides are right and both sides are wrong—and it’s all because both sides have forgotten where educators’ authority comes from. A parent who understands that she’s delegating is only going to do so to someone she trusts—someone she won’t be trying to micromanage. Likewise, a teacher who knows she’s assisting parents isn’t going to go her own way on what’s best for their children.

While schools are the obvious example, this dynamic of absorbing rather than assisting the family is by no means restricted to them. Under the guise of assistance to poor families, our social welfare systems have effectively come to replace fathers. As evidence of this reality, one need only look at the rise of illegitimacy in those communities which made the most use of those systems. Our entertainment industry has likewise eschewed any respect for parents. In its schizophrenic need to simultaneously cater to the lowest common denominator and preach its pretentious social gospel like raving televangelists, Hollywood has wallowed in the destruction of the family—churning out product after product in which parents must be escaped and cliques are our only true family. Worst of all, rather than recognizing its charge to protect and serve American families on behalf of parents, our federal and state governments instead see their primary mission as micromanaging a collection of fungible individuals. As more Americans reject the challenge of family for themselves, more and more will ignorantly accept the backward notion that government is the ultimate authority which graciously delegates a trifle of its jurisdiction to the parents of its children.

But with this complaint about the state of society—those people—laid out there, we must also remember the far more uncomfortable implication of temporal authority proceeding from parents: The temporal buck stops with us. If the steward absorbs the king’s office, then the king has let it happen for one reason or another. The sad truth is that we have the society we deserve. We delegated our authority for our own convenience and, in our sloth, failed to supervise how it was used. We’ve broken up our own families—undermining fathers and even throwing them out of their homes. We’ve seen our children as inconveniences and sent them off to be educated by people who openly loathe our values. We’ve voted away our own authorities so that we could evade our responsibilities.

We are therefore left with two tasks. The first is simple: Repent. As is always the case when we look deeply and honestly at God’s law, we cannot help but notice our failure to abide by it. May God forgive us for our foolishness and ineptitude! And we know that He will because he has promised to forgive all who repent for the sake of Christ.

The second is just as simple but a great deal more difficult: Take our authority back. All of the authorities being wielded against us come from us. We need to withdraw our support from failing institutions. If we can do things on our own, we shouldn’t rely on them. If we can’t do it on our own, we need to either fix those institutions or build new ones that avoid our old mistakes. And yes, I know that’s all very abstract. Crystallizing these ideas into practical action is a lot harder, and I’m currently struggling with that just like everyone else. Some more entrepreneurial-minded folks on the right are already building their own platforms and institutions, which is fantastic. But that’s not most people, and it’s admittedly not me either.

So if we’re not yet up to thinking big, then we need to at least think small and begin with our own homes. Honor your parents. Learn skills and earn a living using them. Find a spouse and be faithful to them. Follow God’s design for the family. Actually have kids and invest yourself in raising them. Homeschool if it’s at all possible. Be involved in your church and defend it against error. Catechize your children yourself (Confirmation is great, but you can’t outsource teaching the faith.) Help and encourage them to marry well and have families. And as you carry out all these vocations, always resist the Lie—never use your authority to countenance the Spirit of the Age.

We can’t take our civilization back in a generation—things are too far gone for that. But though we can’t do it for ourselves, we can do it for our children—for our posterity. That is the only motivation that will do the trick, for civilization isn’t built in a day or a lifetime. It is, as they say, about planting trees in whose shade you will never live to sit. But rest assured: your kids are worth it. And God—having attached a wonderful promise to this commandment and having called us to such small and mundane tasks—will be well pleased when we take them up in faith.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Culture, Ethics, Family, Law | Leave a comment

A Brief Spoiler-Free Review of Rise of Skywalker

Against my better judgment, I went to see Rise of Skywalker this weekend. Oddly, it was actually the negative critical reception that gave me a new hope (ba-dum-tish.) After all, these were the same idiots who loved The Last Jedi because it was subversive, and here they are complaining that it’s just more of the same old Star Wars. More of the same actually sounded pretty good. So how did it turn out?

Well, it’s definitely not offensively bad the way The Last Jedi was. Unlike Rian Johnson, J.J. Abrams actually wants fans to be happy with this movie instead of seeing it as an opportunity to give them the finger. He does his best to pick up the pieces he’s been left with and craft an epic end to a long-running saga. He has the three main characters go on a long-overdue adventure together (something that should have happened in Force Awakens.) He blatantly repudiates The Last Jedi on some key points and even throws in a bunch of enjoyable little touches and moments that would have made a good movie great.

The problem, unfortunately, is that it’s just not a good movie. It’s not impossible to enjoy it, but your enjoyment hinges on your willingness to accept “just because” as the rationale for pretty much every major development. The movie introduces all manner of big over-the-top ideas, but none of them flow organically from the saga thus far or even the movie itself. Most of the characters go through some manner of character arc this time around (a first for Rey). Unfortunately, they’re less “arcs” and more “seismographs” because the movie seldom pauses long enough for any reflection that would help us understand why anyone does what they do. Their experiences of triumph and tragedy fall flat because we were never given enough reason to care about them. The film rushes and rushes to make up for lost time–extending itself with an endless sequence of fetch-quests straight out of a video game–but the third installment of a trilogy can’t do both its own work and all the work of its predecessors.

And that’s really the unsolvable problem with Rise of Skywalker. If J.J. had full-on retconned Last Jedi (e.g. “it didn’t happen the way Rey remembered it because Palpatine were altering her perceptions” or some other excuse) it might have worked, but it still would have been nothing short of a miracle to pull it off well. As it stands, it doesn’t dig the hole any deeper, but neither does it escape from it it. Rise of Skywalker really needed a solid predecessor to set up all the big things that should be paying off in the final installment. It needed character development, foreshadowing, and a slower introduction of new elements–all of which should have happened in the first two movies. But it didn’t, and Rise of Skywalker never really adapts to that handicap.

I don’t blame Abrams on this one. He did his best, but he just wasn’t able to pull off the miracle necessary to make this film a success. If The Last Jedi was the freak accident that killed the new trilogy, Rise of Skywalker was the funeral. As director thereof, Abrams does his best to make the corpse presentable and cater to the family’s needs, but he cannot breathe life, and the result remains empty and unnatural.

Posted in Culture | Leave a comment

Is the Eternal Submission of the Son Heresy?

Christian theology is quite clear that Jesus Christ submits to his Father according to his human nature. But what about according to his divine nature? In other words, does the Son submit to the Father from eternity apart from the incarnation? This question of Eternal Submission of the Son (ESS) has come up in recent years in connection to the ongoing debate about Ephesians 5. There are hordes of feminists who believe that God’s command for wives to submit to their husbands is inherently denigrating–that it makes women inferior beings compared to men. In response, some of those who accept a plain reading of Ephesians 5 argued that submission implies nothing of the kind because even Jesus Christ submits to his Father. In other words, If it’s good enough for God Himself, why do you think it makes you less?

They will also point to the image of God as evidence for their claims. After all, in Genesis 1:27, it says “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This explicitly connects our being male and female to our being made in God’s image. And, of course, biology explicitly connects children to our being made male and female. So you have men and women being of one flesh (both in marriage and in woman being made from man) and children who are the very flesh and blood of their parents proceeding from that unity. It would be pretty hard not to the see the analogy between a God who is three persons and one substance (with the third proceeding from the Father and the Son) and the way God designed humanity in his image.

But analogies have limitations, and we must be especially careful when it comes to analogies and the Trinity. After all, while humanity is, in a sense, God’s self-portrait in creation, that doesn’t mean God is the only thing we represent. Going right back to Ephesians 5, Paul points out that husbands and wives represent Christ and the Church to one-another. There’s no necessity that the submission in that relationship also comes from being made in the image of God when we know for sure that it comes from our being representative of Christ and his Church. So it is, perhaps, unsurprising that many Christians are now standing up to declare that ESS is actually an anti-Trinitarian heresy akin to some form of subordinationism.

But is that really the case? Heresy is, after all, a serious charge. It is not merely a false teaching, but a matter of having the wrong God or believing wrong Gospel under the guise of proclaiming Christ. Is ESS really an anti-Trinitarian heresy?

First, a few caveats:

1) Trying to determine Trinitarian doctrine as part of a debate about Ephesians 5 is a terrible idea. Don’t get me wrong, God’s design of the family is an incredibly important topic, and the Church needs to recognize the fact that we’ve largely abandoned God’s word on the subject. That’s why I’ve written about feminist rebellion at length.

Nevertheless, I believe it’s unwise to start nuancing Trinitarian theology specifically for use in that debate. The Trinity is an even more important doctrine, and amidst such contention, it’s just so easy to make poor judgments concerning it. Of course, one side begins with a hatred of God’s word, which is always a poisonous place to begin theology. But at the same, the other side’s temptation to alter/broaden Trinitarian theology for the sake of dialectical convenience more than Biblical truth is dangerous. We must always approach the Trinity with reverence–not with pragmatism in mind.

2) I am undecided on whether or not ESS is true. I really don’t know; I haven’t done the kind of rigorous study that would lead me to affirm or deny it. Because of my first caveat, I believe it’s something that needs to be approached with caution and without an ax to grind. That’s why, when I first heard it a few years ago in the context of people furiously working their whet stones, I didn’t really engage with it one way or the other.

So what changed? Why am I talking about it now? Well, it’s been an odd couple of weeks, and all of the sudden, I keep encountering the topic in different places seemingly independently of one another. Among those, many of the accusations of outright heresy are made in incredibly presumptuous ways that ultimately include error themselves. With those particular sparks flying, I think it’s worth grounding the topic a little bit. So while I’m not going to discuss whether ESS is true, I am going to consider whether it’s heresy.

So Is it Heresy?

The charge always seems to proceed from the idea that ESS is anti-Trinitarian. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of one substance, co-eternal, co-equal in glory & majesty, and so forth. The anti-ESS side contends that if the Son were in submission to his Father in his divine nature rather than simply his human nature, it would violate that teaching–relegating the Son to 2nd-class status within the Godhead.

But that’s not actually the case. The various forms of subordinationism (like Arianism) portray the Son or the Spirit as inferior with respect to substance–clearly anti-Trinitarian since we proclaim one substance and three persons. Submission, however, is a matter of relationship and therefore person–not substance. And according to orthodox doctrine, the Persons and their relationships are plainly distinct. After all, the Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Spirit, etc. Likewise, the Son is begotten, but the Father and Spirit are not; the Spirit proceeds, but the Father and Son do not. Accordingly, I cannot see how the core idea of ESS–that the Son submits but the Father does not–must be construed as anti-Trinitarian. While it would certainly be possible to formulate ESS in a heretical way, I cannot say that it must be heretical.

As long as we’re on the subject of heresy, it’s ironic that the reasoning of the anti-ESS crowd resembles the reasoning of Arius. He firmly believed that the Son being begotten of the Father clearly implies that He must have come into existence at a certain point in time (i.e. there was a time when the Son was not.) And if the Son is not co-eternal with the Father, then he cannot be God in the same sense, but is merely a subordinate deity created by the Father. Arius was wrong, of course, but he was wrong precisely because he projected a temporal and worldly understanding of “begotten” onto eternity without considering the ramifications. Begotten describes a relationship, but if that relationship is between two eternal Persons, then it no longer implies a beginning. The eternal Son is eternally begotten.

It’s a similar case when we take a divine perspective on submission or obedience. From the selfish perspective of sinful humans, submission implies inferiority because the person who submits get less of what he wants. Being bent inward by sin, we often think that one person getting more can only mean that this person is more important (leading us either to idolize the one who has more or to take what he has away lest he outshine us.) But if you remove sin and selfishness by filling the void with perfect sacrificial love, it’s an entirely different story. Athanasius’ image of the Trinity is three Persons who lovingly give themselves to one another so completely that there is only a single substance between them–one God. In such a relationship, there could be no loss through submission for everything always belongs wholly to each person. The substance remains the same despite any submission–each Person remaining coeternal, coequal, and so forth.

The same can be said when people object that ESS must imply a division of wills within the Godhead. After all, from a human perspective, submission must always entail one person setting their own desires aside for the conflicting desires of someone else–altering their will so that it conforms with the will of another. But notice that this reasoning entails a temporal if/then: If my will differs from yours, then I will change my own will to match. Such temporal mutability has no place in eternity. Perfect submission between two perfect persons eternally united in sacrificial love need not imply any division of will. On the contrary, perfect submission implies a perfect unity of will, for no Person seeks to take from the others but instead gives themselves completely. As such, the division of wills argument turns out to be a red herring. Submission suggests no such thing from an eternal perspective.

And this projection of either sinful or temporal reasoning onto the Trinity seems ubiquitous. I have yet to encounter a substantive objection to ESS that avoids projecting a worldly distaste for submission among humans onto any potential submission among the three Persons of the Trinity. Those who cannot fathom a perfect submission without the corruption of sin naturally seek to defend Christ’s honor by refusing to countenance the idea of Him submitting. But exactly what business do we have trying to dictate to the Son what is or is not appropriate in his relationship with his Father?

It is precisely that prejudice against submission that lies at the heart of the entire matter–which is why ESS does little to resolve objections against God’s command that wives submit to their husbands. On one side, many want to use ESS as a demonstration that submission doesn’t make a woman less because it doesn’t make the Son less. But on the other side, many are already convinced that submission makes women less, and therefore they cannot allow it to make the Son less as well. It’s effectively an example of one man’s modus ponens being another man’s modus tollens. It doesn’t really resolve anything.

Consider the two syllogisms at work. On the ESS side, we have the modus ponens:

1) If the Son is in eternal submission to the Father, then submission does not make one less.
2) The Son is in eternal submission to the Father
3) Therefore submission does not make one less.

On the other side, we have the modus tollens:

1) If the Son is in eternal submission to the Father, then submission does not make one less.
2) Submission *does* make one less.
3) Therefore the Son is not in eternal submission to the Father.

Neither argument undoes the other. Because both are logically valid, which one is sound depends entirely on the truth of the premises (specifically the 2nd premise since both arguments share the first.) And that leads us right back to the prejudice against submission. The problem is the fact that so many of us falsely believe that submission makes a person less. That’s not a Biblical teaching, of course. Submission to governing authorities does not mean that peasants are inferior beings compared to princes. Submission to parents doesn’t mean that children are inferior beings. Submission to pastors doesn’t mean that laity are inferior beings. Neither does submission to husbands mean that wives are inferior beings. Accordingly, if the Son submits to the Father, it need not make the Son an inferior being. But false or not, as long as worldly Christians firmly believe it, then arguments based on the eternal submission of the Son will never carry much weight.

Does ESS paint a beautiful picture of submission? Of course! What could be more glorious for humanity than embracing such a place in God’s self-portrait? The thing is, Paul already paints a beautiful picture of submission much more explicitly in Ephesians 5–being an image of the Church’s submission to Christ. The primary problem in the debate over Ephesians 5 isn’t that submission is insufficiently appealing. Faithful Christians will know that it is good simply because God commands it of us. The problem is rebellion against God’s word and ordinance–full stop. You can talk about abuse, inequality, unfairness all you want, but you’re only talking about why you’re tempted to rebellion. You can talk about how submission doesn’t really mean submission all you want, but that’s just a hypocrisy you place over the fact that you wouldn’t obey a divine call to submit even if you had never thought of that particular excuse. After all, if you’re honest with yourself about the timing, you’ll realize that you came up with the excuse after deciding that submission was bad. I’ve yet to encounter a woman who wholeheartedly strove to be a submissive wife because she thought submission was a wonderful & godly thing, but then changed her mind only after rigorous exegetical study revealed that she was submitting the wrong way the whole time.

So even if ESS is true, I don’t think it’s particularly useful when it comes to the controversy that brought it to mind. If we have faith in God’s word, then we will embrace His command to submit no matter how we feel about it, and thereby come to understand the goodness of submission eventually as our faith seeks understanding. Without such faith, we will dutifully believe the word of the Spirit of the Age, and at present, that means embracing feminism. Feminism won’t end because the Son submits to the Father; it will end because its suicidal for the cultures that embrace it.

What then of ESS? Given that it recently sprung up from a debate over Ephesians 5, I’m not sure yet that it will ultimately have any relevance outside of that context. When all is said and done, the ESS debate is probably going to end up in the same mass grave that feminism is bound for. Accordingly, it’s worth keeping the controversy in perspective. I have no problem with Christians exploring the idea of ESS. Neither do I have a problem with skepticism of it–on the contrary, skepticism is our duty on any new theology we encounter. But either way, let’s be careful. Let’s be careful about our enthusiasm for convenient theology. Let’s be careful about how we throw the H-word around against inconvenient theology. But more than all, let’s be careful about honoring God’s word and the key doctrines which proceed from it. After all, we have been given a great treasury, and it’s our responsibility to care for it all.

Posted in Feminism, Musings, The Modern Church, Theology | 6 Comments

How Christians Value Politics

The world is a den of murderers, subject to the Devil. If we desire to live on earth, we must be content to be guests in it, and to lie in an inn where the host is a rascal, whose house has over the door this sign or shield, ‘For Murder and Lies.’
-Martin Luther

It’s good for Christians to keep politics in an eternal perspective. By that, I mean we need to recognize that we live in a fallen world that will be destroyed in fire and created anew entirely apart from our politics. Our parties, our nations, our ideologies, and our causes will neither spare it from the fire nor immanentize the new creation. Satan is the prince of this world and our politics do no prevent us from living as guests in his treacherous inn. Nevertheless, he has already been defeated by Christ alone in a victory without politics that will be unveiled to everyone on a Last Day known only to the Father.

These things are useful to keep in mind because they temper our political zeal by reminding us where the cosmic buck really stops. As I’ve written before, placing the world on our own shoulders tempts us to desperation. When, for example, people take it upon themselves to end all suffering in the world because they think there’s no benevolent sovereign power, they will pay any price to make it happen. After all, we have to do somethinganything–if we are to have any chance of peace. The past century and it’s 9-digit body counts are a monument to the progressive political ideologies which would make any sacrifice for utopia.

They are also useful reminders that Christians need to keep the Two Kingdoms straight–not relying on the State to redeem souls or the Church to execute temporal justice. Though Christians have political responsibilities, the Church itself does not. What’s more, while there is a seemingly ever-growing necessity to condemn various political actions and advocacy under God’s Law, we must never confuse our politics with the Gospel. Whatever good political works the Gospel may lead us into, they are consequences of salvation rather than prerequisites.

But there is an important distinction to be made between keeping politics in perspective and trivializing them–an alternative that can be seen in tweets like this: [HT: Nathan Rinne]

It’s an example of a very common sentiment among contemporary Christians.  Statements like these are likely intended to provide perspective to political ideals, but in actuality, they provide nothing more than confusion.  The idea is flawed in several key ways:

First, it reduces service to neighbor to mere interest and entertainment, as though there were no greater relevance.

The implication here seems to be that people get caught up in politics as a kind of pastime or amusement; and because it’s here in Babylon, they aren’t engaging with anything more significant. The problem is that this isn’t God’s perspective on earthly politics. On the contrary, the left-hand kingdom is established by God for the sake of our well-being in this world. As Paul makes clear in Roman’s 13, the governing authorities are God’s servants for our benefit whose responsibilities include commending right-doers and punishing evil-doers.

This means that the people who fill these offices are tasked by God with important work in service to their neighbors. In the United States, a substantial measure of that authority is given to ordinary citizens, for our governing bodies were founded with ideals of self-government in mind. So when we engage in politics–even as voters and citizens engaging in political discourse–we are acting as servants of God for the good of our neighbors. If even God doesn’t dismiss Babylonian government as merely interesting and entertaining, why should we think it pious for us to do so?

To be sure, politics aren’t the only way of helping our neighbors. More than that, they’re not even the best way of helping our neighbors. A mother caring for her child or a man raking his elderly neighbor’s leaves is more fundamental to human happiness than any amount of blathering by talking heads. Nevertheless, all of our political officials, institutions, and conversations are ordained to be means by which we help live among one another peaceably. Since God has given us this work, we ought to embrace it rather than hold ourselves aloof from it in our false piety.

Second, it ignores vocation by setting all earthly allegiances against our ultimate allegiance to Christ.

As we’ve already considered, governing authorities–including citizens and voters in the United States–are servants of God. We have been appointed to care for a specific set of neighbors: American citizens. As such, we ought to have earthly allegiances to our nation and, for her sake, also to those organizations that truly hold her best interests at heart. And just like we ought to concern ourselves more with our own children and families than with others’, we should also concern ourselves more with our own nation and her politics than others. After all, God has called us to those tasks specifically by putting us where we are. We choose neither our parents nor the nation into which we are born–both are gifts of God.

Of course our highest allegiance must always be to Christ who brings us to our true homes. Nevertheless, we have lesser allegiances to our nations and consequent concerns for her well-being precisely because we have allegiance to Christ first.

Finally, it creates a dichotomy between “redemptive” and “not-redemptive” which is not terribly useful.

It’s true that politics are not redemptive–certainly not in the sense that Christ’s atoning death is. But that’s an argument that proves far too much. As one who believes in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, I necessarily confess that absolutely nothing else is redemptive in that sense. God becoming man, dying on a cross for the sins of mankind, and drawing us into faith towards God is utterly unique. When something is matchless and incomparable to such a sublime extent, it’s not particularly meaningful to ding anything other than idols for not matching it or comparing favorably with it.

But in the end, it becomes worse than merely useless, because when taken to its logical conclusion, it effectively leads to nihilism with respect to this life. Caring for your children isn’t redemptive in that sense.  Feeding the hungry isn’t redemptive in that sense.  Writing a novel or painting a mural isn’t redemptive in that sense.  And no, politics isn’t redemptive in that sense.  Nothing you or anyone else does in their life is. If everything that isn’t redemptive in that sense is no more relevant than an entertaining curiosity while you’re stuck here in Babylon, then the sum total of all of our lives on Earth is irrelevant.

And yes, there is a reason that I keep saying “redemptive in that sense.” Ironically, this kind of nihilism blinds people to a different sense in which such simple and everyday work is redemptive. In 1 Timothy 2, when Paul explains why women aren’t called to the pastoral office, he instead points women to their unique early calling of motherhood. In doing so, he describes it in a remarkable way: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” While Paul certainly isn’t saying women are saved by childbearing, neither is he afraid to speak of an earthly vocation as being related to one’s salvation in a turn of phrase that would make many Christians today aghast.

But then, Christ does something similar when he talks about the final judgement in Matthew 25. When he welcomes believers into his kingdom, he will say “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” The righteous will be surprised at this, for even they didn’t realize that their simple acts of kindness to God’s people had such significance. Neither will the cursed realize the significance of their inaction.

Neither Jesus nor Paul are teaching that we are going to be saved by our good deeds on the Last Day. We are, however, going to be saved through them–they are inevitable stops along the way. These are the paths through which God leads us into eternal life–or, at times, through which He drags us kicking and screaming. God produces meaningful works in those whose faith saves them. Among those meaningful works are things like politics in which he calls us to serve the nation into which we were born. These works don’t redeem us, but they are fruit of that redemption which cannot help but to grow on the vine. If God’s work inevitable produces in this way, then who are we to cast shade on it all as merely interesting and entertaining?

It’s true enough that we shouldn’t place too much significance on politics or any other work. But what that means is that we are not to remove them from the place that God has given them. In their attempts to be piously above it all, many Christians do precisely this, using Christ as their excuse. But the Christian life isn’t a life in which we’re above it all–it’s a life in which God Himself brings us through it all.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Politics, The Modern Church | Leave a comment

Zombie Heresies – Arianism Part 2

Given the extent of the division, how did the Church ultimately overcome Arius and his false Christ?

Thankfully, whenever Satan raises an Arius against us, God provides His Church with an Athanasius–along with the Holy Scriptures on which he stood.

Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8
Arianism Part 1: https://youtu.be/HcLMoTxLi1M
Arianism Part 2: https://youtu.be/D-0Z_J-s7os

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Chick-fil-A, Conservatives, and the Nature of Satan’s Power

As you no doubt have heard by now, numerous media outlets are reporting that Chick-fil-A has cucked and reversed course on the charitable giving that has so enraged the rainbow mafia. In a recent statement, they announced that they were restructuring their philanthropy in various ways–focusing on education, homelessness, & hunger as well as moving towards annual grants rather than multi-year partnerships. In the midst of those changes, they’ve ended their relationships with the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes–the two remaining connections which drew so much ire for not toeing the Spirit of the Age’s line on issues of sexual deviancy.

So is this really a capitulation? I’ve heard a lot of conservatives dispute that. After all, Chick-fil-A says it isn’t surrendering–that dropping both of their most controversial associations was just an entirely coincidental side effect of their restructuring. Of course, trusting that would be the first time I’ve ever whole-heartedly embraced a corporate statement intended to save face with an incredibly loyal customer base that suddenly feels very betrayed. Their president’s interview with Bisnow certainly doesn’t help their case either. There’s a whole lot of talk about how much “clarity” this restructuring provides and how that clarity improves their ability to expand into new markets. It’s really hard to interpret that in any way that doesn’t imply laying down arms in the culture wars. On the contrary, the most natural reading is to see it as an attempt to rewrite history and imply that it was actually their historical associations with “anti-LGBT” organizations that were the real coincidences. So while it’s possible that Chick-fil-A pulled the corporate equivalent of accidentally throwing out grandma’s ashes while they were cleaning, I think it’s more likely that they just didn’t want them taking up space in their home anymore, and the “accident” was more of an excuse.

But alongside the conservatives who simply do not believe they were betrayed, exist a more insidious variety. These too-cool-for-school conservatives instead take the line that the capitulation simply doesn’t matter. It doesn’t bother them one little bit because such mundane concerns are beneath them. “Don’t put your trust in chicken sandwiches!” “Waffle fries aren’t sacraments!” “Chick-fil-A isn’t the Church and fast food isn’t the Gospel!” The rhetorical point of these pious ejaculations is to suggest that Christians who feel angry, betrayed, or disappointed were foolishly projecting spiritual relevance onto matters that were entirely mundane.

Back in 2012, some big-city mayors loudly declared “Not in my town!” to Chick-fil-A because they had supported charities run by Christians who believe what 99% of people who ever lived on planet Earth believed about homosexuality until about 5 minutes ago. Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was organized in response. It was a huge outpouring of support from Christians who let the company know that (contrary to what the bullies wanted the company to believe) they didn’t stand alone–that they could succeed without caving. Progressive critics who are used to having a monopoly on activism quickly poo-pooed the situation. “All you did was eat a sandwich!” they fitfully shrieked. “It doesn’t matter!”

It’s strange that 7 years later, I’m hearing exactly the same argument being made by conservatives. It’s a fundamentally Gnostic way of looking at the situation. After all, the implication is that there is no relevance to day-to-day life. It doesn’t matter if you stand up to bullies. It doesn’t matter if you remain loyal to friends. It doesn’t matter if you refuse to back down for telling the truth. At the end of the day, it’s all just chicken and fries.

But it mattered in 2012, and it matters now. It matters because our life on this Earth and the vocations we’ve been given to do here matter. It is precisely in this physical world in which we are enfleshed that we participate in higher struggles. Paul makes this abundantly clear in Ephesians 6 where he writes “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” He tells us this with a “finally” at the end of a long stretch in which he discusses… (drumroll)  how Christian wives & husbands, children & parents, and slaves & masters properly relate to one another. In other words, it’s in the context of everyday mundane relationships. Before that, Paul provided instruction not to walk as unbelievers do. He told us to avoid simple everyday sins like callousness, sensuality, greed, or corrupting talk, and encouraged simple everyday virtues like telling the truth, working with your hands, and sharing with those in need. Its precisely in the midst of this daily grind that we most often meet Satan in battle.

The condition for defeat in that battle is also very simple.  For all his worldly powers and authorities, there is only one way the Devil can actually hurt us when all is said and done: He can convince us to believe his word instead of God’s.  Even when that deception comes in the form of temptations to sin, it’s not simply a matter of getting us to sin.  After all, we fall into sin daily, but Christ also forgives us those sins daily. No, our falls only permanently injure us when we refuse to get back up–when we decide that we like it just fine laying in the dirt. The Devil gets his hooks into us the moment we decide to believe something he says about our sins instead of what God says about them. It’s ultimately our choice to let him defeat us.

This deceit can take any number of forms. He can convince you that your sin is who you are–that it’s your identity rather than a corruption thereof. He can convince you that your sin isn’t really sin. He can convince you that what God says about sin is either unimportant or sinful itself. He can convince you that sin is permanent and inevitable–that you might as well make peace with it now because it will always be this way. His worldly power is used solely to make options like these seem appealing to us.

At present, one of the most popular tactics towards to which that power is applied is convincing Christians that they are being forever left behind by an inevitable march towards progress. He wants us to believe that sin is the inevitable future rather than a past which has been defeated by Christ. This is ultimately why we have all the codes of conduct, the hate-crime laws, the various -ist/-phobe labels, and the “no place in society of people like you” attitudes of the devil’s SJW’s. It is all about pressuring Christians into abandoning something they know to be true so that they can embrace something they know to be a lie.

The irony is that the pressure utilized by SJW’s is nothing more than what society cedes to them. It operates only when we ourselves decide to isolate or punish those who bear the labels they fling about like so much feces. What does it matter when the rainbow mafia labels you “anti-LGBT”–the very same label they give to Holy Scripture!–except when some chucklehead CEO or judge actually treats it like a legitimate indictment? That is the only power they wield, and Chick-fil-A just granted more of it to them.

Christians aren’t upset because a food vendor doesn’t share their values. That’s just business as usual. We’re upset because we just watched an organization which had been an ally fail in our common struggle against the devil by lending aid and comfort to the other side. What makes it worse is that it was an unforced error. They didn’t change their tune because their business was failing and desperately needed to keep the lights on. On the contrary, they’ve been enormously successful. Sure, they drew their fair share of hatred from the world, but they also continued to endear themselves to a growing customer base. We just watched them surrender on the field of victory because of mere words. It is meet, right, and salutary that we should mourn when an ally falls and believes the Lie–what kind of callous and indifferent boor wouldn’t feel anything?

It’s fair enough that those who genuinely believe Chick-fil-A’s official statement don’t feel that way. After all, they simply don’t perceive the defeat. I think they’re incorrect–time will tell one way or another–but we can disagree on such things without embracing the Lie.

The too-cool-for-school conservatives, on the other hand, are a different story. They feel nothing because they actually have embraced the Lie–just in a different way. Satan has managed to convince them to leave the battlefield behind by telling them that it would be beneath them to fight on it. After all, it’s just chicken sandwiches and waffle fries–the deeper values that other people see are just hallucinations which they’re too clever to fall for. They’ve convinced themselves that they will fight when it truly matters–they just haven’t found a battle that truly matters yet. They want to slay dragons, but look down on the day-to-day tasks which comprise the vast majority of soldiering on. Consequently, they pose no actual threat to dragons.

As for Chick-fil-A, they will realize very quickly that their new master is rather unforgiving. The rainbow mafia has already made it clear that their act of capitulation is insufficient. Nothing short of throwing their most loyal customers under the bus will do–something no business is going to recover from. Jesus warned us that that it profits a man nothing to gain the world but lose his soul. And yet, even worldly success is absent from this new path on which Chick-fil-A has planted its feet. How much more embarrassing must it be to trade away your soul for nothing at all?

Posted in Culture, Musings, Politics | 6 Comments

Zombie Heresies – Arianism Part 2

One of the great advantages to learning about history is that we can learn from all kinds of mistakes without having to make them ourselves. And boy, did people in the Church make mistakes when it came to a man named Arius.

Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8
Arianism Part 1: https://youtu.be/HcLMoTxLi1M

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Theological Liberalism: The Scenic Route Back to Paganism

As the old saying goes, when men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing–they believe in anything.

God becoming man? Jesus rising from the dead? Sin and the forgiveness thereof? The theological liberalism of yesteryear decided that such things were too ridiculous–too absurd–for modern, enlightened people to accept. Sophisticated minds, we were told, require a more sophisticated religion–a religion that isn’t beholden to the superstitious nonsense of the benighted past.

And that’s why Union Seminary was unironically praying to potted plants back in September: because they are wise, sophisticated, and not-at-all superstitious.

That’s also why the Church of Sweden appointed as successor to their obsolete savior a little blonde girl who is dutifully terrified of global cooling  global warming climate change. After all, everyone recognizes that mature and learned adults hold up children as their ideal standard for intellects and virtues.

And we cannot forget the Church of Rome, which is growing ever more dedicated in its apparent quest to be “the world’s largest liberal protestant denomination” as LutheranPundit often puts it. What can you do when you’re too worldly and cosmopolitan for orthodoxy, but nevertheless retain a keen eye for tradition? Adopt old pagan traditions from the global south, of course. Planting trees to connect us to the divinity that dwells in Amazonian soil and raising idols of fertility goddesses in their churches are helpful ways to move away from stodgy old superstition rooted in blind faith.

It is truly remarkable just how much the post-Christian world resembles the pre-Christian world. Whether you’re reinventing the pagan wheel or simply bringing it out of storage, it’s the same old paganism either way. Even the kinder & gentler mask it wears at present is beginning to slip as the bloody aspects are already resurfacing. 3000 years ago, pagan priests would encourage their followers to ritually sacrifice their children to achieve favorable weather from the powers that be. Where we once would have considered that the platonic ideal of barbarism, today’s politicians are making what is essentially the same recommendation.  We’re closer to the bloodletting of the past than we may suspect.

Contrary to progressive beliefs, it would seem that humanity doesn’t really advance all that much. The fruits of Western Civilization that we’ve come to enjoy were never the result of our own growing wisdom and sophistication–they were the result of Christianity. After all, as we’re presently observing, it’s a remarkably quick trip back to the bottom once you try to remove Christ from the equation. Having already committed adultery with the Spirit of the Age, the post-Christian “churches” of theological liberalism are merely along for the ride.

But there’s no need for Christians to hop on board the crazy train. Those who wish to avoid being taken in by superstition and therefore look for evidence will find ample reason to believe Christianity is actually true. Those who wish to root their doctrines in something more than the passing fancies of religious communities will find deep soil in God’s inerrant word–faithfully recorded and preserved in the Bible. And most importantly, those who find children, carvings, and house plants wanting can look to Jesus Christ–the incarnate God whose claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life were validated not only by legitimate miracles, but by a real and well-documented bodily resurrection from the dead.

And never forget: God might not save our culture, but He will preserve His Church. The story of our sin begins and ends with paganism, but the story of our salvation begins and ends with Christ.

Posted in Culture, Paganism, Theological Liberalism | Leave a comment

Zombie Heresies – Arianism Part 1

“Who do people say that I am?”

When Jesus asked his apostles, they reported a variety of answers. If you ask the same question today, you’ll find that the variety has only grown.

And yet, there are really only two answers to the question that matter: Either Jesus Christ is God Himself–the eternal Son of the Father, or he is a creature–some manner of being created beneath the true God.

The original Arians thought he was the latter–so do many of our modern Arians today.

Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8

Related:
The Father is Not a Metaphor: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=420

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Don’t Let Entitlement Devour Your Marriage

My latest article at The Federalist went up yesterday.  It’s about division of housework in marriage and the way equality corrodes marital love by breeding entitlement.  However, as happens sometimes, I went way over my word limit and the second half of the piece was cut for space.  So read that first if you haven’t, and here’s the rest of the article, in which I discuss how to tell if one’s discontentment is being caused by entitlement and what to do about it.

Feelings of discontentment about housework in a marriage can easily become tyrants when they’re put in the driver’s seat.  As I’ve discussed previously, our emotions are blind guides, and we can easily resent a person because of how we treat them rather than how they treat us.

At the same time, the feelings are what they are. When someone feels that kind of discontentment, she can’t just wish the feelings away. So in the face of persistent feelings like this, how can one discover whether she’s feeling unfairly treated due to a neglectful husband or due to her own entitlement? Well, you can’t tell from examining your feelings. You feel just as angry, overwhelmed, frantic, and desperate either way. And unless you are actually willing to go the spreadsheet route, you’re probably not going to figure it out by comparing workloads either. We all have confirmation bias, and when we’re upset, we’re all inclined to see the tasks they overlooked tasks while ignoring the ones fulfilled. As Honoré de Balzac wrote, “When women love, they forgive us everything, even our crimes; when they do not love us, they give us credit for nothing, not even for our virtues.”

Instead, you need to seriously consider whether entitlement is at the root of your feelings—whether it’s about housework or something else. So ask yourself:

Are you unable to experience gratitude?

Can you bring yourself thank your husband for what he contributes to the household? If not, do you immediately start finding excuses for why he doesn’t deserve your thanks for what he does? When you see something that you want him to do, do you ask him nicely? Do you ask him at all? Or do you instead begin conjuring reasons why you shouldn’t even have had to ask for something so simple because he already owes it to you? If gratitude is an alien concept for you, then your sense of entitlement is almost certainly an issue.

When you complain, are you being hypocritical?

Do you angrily point out something he didn’t put away that’s sitting right next to something you didn’t put away? When you pick up the empty cups from last night’s ice cream, are you upset that he didn’t throw his out even though you were only just getting around to throwing out yours yourself? Everyone finds themselves too tired to do housework some nights—yourself included. But do you get resentful when he feels that way or do you reserve that consideration only for yourself? All of us are hypocrites sometimes, but if this is happening frequently, then you can be sure that you’re not judging your husband fairly.

Do you dramatize the little things?

When he fails to put his dishes in the sink, is it like he’s telling you he hates you? Do you find yourself seething with resentment when dinner is 10 minutes late? When he does something minor wrong, do you consider it emblematic of all the times he’s done that thing or even of everything he’s done wrong? To be sure, we’re all sinners, and every husband fails from time to time. What’s more, everybody has a different list of things which bother them, and it can take time for spouses to get on the same page. But if you regularly have to inflate or aggregate his peccadilloes in order to justify the amount of offense you’re feeling, then you need to reconsider why that is.

Do you find yourself saying “I don’t care” when it comes to his feelings?

You want your husband to respect your feelings, and it’s not always natural for men to do so. Temporarily putting our feelings aside is sometimes a necessary part of our responsibilities, and so we tend to expect the same from others. But you don’t want to him to always railroad past your experience and get straight into the practical matters, and that’s all well and good.

So do you show him the same consideration? When you’re trying to communicate on an emotional level, do you find yourself dismissing his feelings while insisting that he respect yours? Do you always railroad past him on the way back to yourself? When he tells you how he feels, do you immediately tell him about the time you felt like that only it was so much worse? If so, you may be crossing the line into solipsism. And if you find yourself mocking his feelings even as you demand he respect yours, then you’ve already blithely careened over that line.

Do you reject your husband’s authority?

If you’re a Christian, when God tells you to submit to your husband as the Church submits to Christ, do you embrace that instruction or find excuses for why its different in your case? Do you accept his judgment calls or do you berate him because it’s wasn’t done exactly the way you would have done it? When you’ve said your piece and he makes a decision, do you get on board or do you passive-aggressively undermine that decision?

But even apart from Christian doctrine, if you believe you are entitled to something from your husband, then there must be a corresponding responsibility on his end. And if he has a genuine responsibility, then logically, he must also posess the authority to carry it out. If you can’t bring yourself to recognize any such authority and submit to it, then your entitlement has become unmoored from that which keeps it in check.

Have you failed to even try just being nice?

It’s an amazingly simple attitude that makes all the difference in the world. Suzanne Venker wrote an excellent article on this subject recently. She (correctly) observes that husbands feed off their wives kindness—it encourages us and energizes us to do the kind of things our wives want us to do. But even if you aren’t ready to embrace that reality, you need to at least understand that “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is a counterproductive strategy. If your approach to getting your husband to do what you believe to be his fair share consists mainly of nagging, browbeating, shaming, and general acidity, then you’re undermining your own interests. When every request for housework is either an angry demand or a passive-aggressive snipe, it’s a solid clue that your entitlement is at the root of the problem.

Do these questions describe your situation? To be sure, there are lazy people out there, which means that there are lazy husbands out there as well. If the honest answers to those questions tend towards “no”, then the husband really might need to simply pitch in more. But if you find yourself answering “yes” to these questions, the problem is likely an overgrown sense of entitlement.

That is a truly dangerous situation for husbands to be in. Our calling, our privilege, and our nature is to sacrifice ourselves for our families. But there is no slaking the thirst of unmoored entitlement, and unlike an uneven split in housework, that kind of entitlement becomes genuinely abusive. The husband who responds to it by simply giving more will not only use himself up, but do no good for his wife by doing so. Christ gave himself up for His Church, but He’s also willing to discipline her and warn her that she faces judgment when she abandons her husband. That itself is an act of sacrifice in an age when husbands & fathers are disregarded by society and constantly subject to the threat of divorce.

And if you’re a wife who sees herself in these questions, then you need to reject your own entitlement. You need to learn to be kind. You need to learn to be grateful. You need to learn to put things in perspective. And the hardest part will be that you need to do it even though you don’t feel like it. But you can fake being nice. You can make yourself say “thank you” even if you don’t feel grateful. The feelings will follow in time as you practice these skills. But for it to even be possible for you to make that kind of effort, you need to be clear in your own mind that you have sinned, and you quite simply need to repent. Stop worshiping equality and allowing it to devour your family.

Posted in Ethics, Family, Feminism | Leave a comment