Hate the Sin, Flatter the Sinner?

Christ promised his Church that the world would hate us on his account. That hatred seldom becomes clearer than when obvious sin goes mainstream. And by obvious sin, I mean sin that is clearly condemned in the Bible–so clearly that you can’t sideline the condemnation without also sidelining Scripture. While that poses no difficulty for theological liberals and others who already live and breathe the obfuscation of God’s Word, it’s another matter for Bible-believing Christians. When sins like fornication, homosexuality, or contempt for family become fashionable, faithful Christians are quickly going to earn the world’s ire when they confess Christ’s teachings.

The way we react to that hatred makes all the difference in the world. Jesus’ instructions on the matter are clear: our response should be to rejoice! Not only is our reward in heaven great, but it puts us in the company of the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ himself. But that is, admittedly, easier said than done, because that hatred has real consequences for our lives here and provokes real suffering among the persecuted. Most of us in America have only experienced this hatred in very mild ways, but even then, if the suffering weren’t real, it wouldn’t be such a real temptation to try and avoid it.

And we do try to avoid it. We would much rather be liked than hated–or at least left alone. Unfortunately, we’ve developed any number of rationalizations to assist that avoidance. For example, “Hate the sin; Love the sinner” is an extremely common motto among Christians who want to hold to Scripture while we stand accused of hating one identity group or another. “No, no, no,” we explain, “we don’t hate you, we just hate something you happen to be doing. We love you.” Like any functional rationalization, it has a ring of truth to it. After all, Christ does teach us to love sinners, just as he did. When we give a reason for the hope that we have, we do so with gentleness and respect. We really should hate sins. We really should love sinners.

The problem is not so much in the rationalization’s content as in its context. When its a response to the world’s hatred, our motivation in saying “hate the sin; love the sinner” is not to love but to be seen as loving. In other words, we’re less interested in loving them than we are in them liking us. And, of course, the motto doesn’t accomplish much in this regard. When sins become lifestyles and identities, the participants don’t really see much of a distinction between the sin and themselves. And on the Christian end, there isn’t really as much of a distinction as we’d like to think. Sin is death. Sin is uncreation. In reality, hating the sin is loving the sinner. They aren’t two separate endeavors that need to be balanced with one another as the motto implies. Our true endeavor is to proclaim Law and Gospel–hatred and foolishness respectively in the world’s eyes.

The upshot is that when we embrace that motto out of fear, we end up twisting our own practice. Instead of loving the sinner, our goal becomes to flatter the sinner until he feels loved. And as we fail in that ill-conceived goal, we try to double-down by separating hating the sin from loving the sinner and attempting to balance them against one another. In this way, we work to soften our hatred of sin to facilitate our flattery of the sinner.

You can see this at work everywhere among conservative Christians in America. In the face of rampant fornication and illegitimacy, we flatter the single moms (while condemning the Christian men who are hesitant about marrying them.) In the face of divorce, we flatter the perpetrators (while going on and on about what the victims did to deserve it.) Both of these, of course, are tied to our overall reaction to feminist rebellion–we flatter women and denigrate men because we don’t want to be seen as misogynistic. And the result has been feminism becoming ubiquitous in American churches. But it’s not stopping there.

Having tired of being called homophobic, there are increasing efforts to rationalize homosexuality as holy and God-pleasing–with specific acts of sodomy just being an unfortunate side-effect of a fallen world. Consider the following contention from a gay man:

“Is it too dangerous, too unorthodox, to believe that I am uniquely designed to reflect the glory of God? That my orientation, before the fall, was meant to be a gift in appreciating the beauty of my own sex as I celebrated the friendship of the opposite sex?”

Normally, speculation like that would be recognized as a pretty transparent rationalization–akin to a pornography addict speaking of his superior God-given ability to appreciate sexuality and the female body. But when we possess a fear of the world and a desperate desire to be seen as loving, a rationalization like that can be perceived by Christians as a lifeline–a way to finally be seen as gay-affirming without overtly giving up on Scripture.

It’s a rather cunning strategy to neutralize conservative Christians on the subject. Once we try to balance flattery for an identity group against the proclamation of the law, the former is always going to win out. Despite what we’d like to believe, there is no amount of care and sensitivity that will prevent the world’s hatred. Once we commit ourselves to that desire, the only way out is to slowly discard Christ as we hope that just a little more flattery will finally work.  But it won’t.  Sinners’ pain will remain, and they shall continue to blame us for it.

And while I stand by calling it a “strategy,” make no mistake: there is also very real pain in knowing oneself to be broken from the inside by something that you can never change no matter how hard you try. It’s natural to want to avoid that pain oneself and for Christians to try and help those who are experiencing it. But the Church has something better to offer than lipstick for our pigs–pandering, self-justifying attempts to say that our brokenness is really some heretofore unknown aspect of God’s perfect design before the Fall. Instead, we have this:

Oh, almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto you all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

I said this almost every week in church growing up. There is something about publicly & repeatedly identifying as “a poor, miserable sinner” that undercuts the impulse to justify yourself by saying that your actions, impulses, proclivities, and nature are actually Very Good. It reveals the falsity of the entire self-righteous endeavor and upon taking away the illusion, it grants a tremendous liberty. Yes, I am broken–irrevocably. Beyond my own power to fix. Beyond the power of human society to fix. But Christ has died for me regardless and welcomes me to newness of life in the new creation where I shall not be broken anymore. And when Christ absolves me through my Pastor’s declaration of His grace, I know that I am absolved at my worst instead of as I would like to imagine myself.

It’s the Truth that will set us free. When the world rages, the Church should concern herself more with delivering that Truth than with our reputation.

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Part 3 of Between Babel & Pentecost: A Christian Analysis of Multiculturalism

Here’s the latest entry in the current series at Lutheran in a Strange Land, in which we look at the multicultural aspect of Christianity that we find inaugurated on the Day of Pentecost.

 

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Do Single Christian Men Owe Marriage to Single Christian Moms?

It always amazes me just how much of modern churches’ contempt for men could be resolved simply by having good theology.

One of Dalrock’s latest blog posts is a critique of an old entry by Sam Parkison that essentially shames Christian men for not eagerly marrying single mothers. As usual, Dalrock provides very biting practical criticism. But as a theologian, I thought it was interesting how the author’s unwarranted disrespect for men proceeds from basic theological errors.  In other words, even if you don’t like being involved in contemporary politics and social conflicts–and many Christians do not–simply being a faithful Christian who understands his Savior’s teachings is going to prevent you from adopting worldly philosophies like this.

And just to be clear, I don’t disagree with the message stated in Parkison’s title–that Christian men should consider the single mothers in their church. Some such women may be a good choice for some men, and men should genuinely consider whether that’s the case in their own circumstances. That said, I do take issue with the author’s preening contempt for any criticism of single mothers–a contempt that effectively eliminates true consideration in favor of indiscriminate pursuit.

So without further ado, here are the theological errors in his three reasons he thinks “Christian men should pursue Christian single moms for marriage.”

“1. Single Christian moms are as pure as the sinless Son of God, which is more than you deserve in a wife.”

Here, Parkison confuses righteousness coram deo (before God) with righteousness coram mundo (before the world.)  Before God, single Christian moms are indeed pure due to the imputed righteousness of Christ, which he mentions several times in the piece. But in this very same sentence, he judges Christian men coram mundo when he indicates that they don’t deserve such a wife.  After all, coram deo, Christian men are likewise pure & perfect. Accordingly, they truly deserve a spotless bride just as much as Jesus Christ does. In other words, Parkison is making an apples-to-oranges comparison here.

What if we make an apples-to-apples comparison? Well, coram deo, there is no judgment to be made, for all the faithful are pure & perfect while all the unfaithful are totally depraved. That is precisely why Christians, when considering whether someone would make a good wife (or husband), always do so coram mundo. Coram deo, Even the penitent but struggling prostitute is just as pure as the sinless Son of God. That doesn’t mean she would make a good wife.

As long as one thinks a man should actually evaluate a woman as a prospective wife rather than marrying completely indiscriminately, then it must be done coram mundo. And as long as any such evaluation is going to take place, then men are going to prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos, all other things being equal. The author desperately tries to tie that male preference for virginity to pimply 17-year-olds at youth camp, but as I’ve written before, that preference is rooted in natural law, biological reality, and God’s Word–not in vanity as the author asserts. This God-given preference cannot and should not be overwritten by worldly philosophies, and none of the author’s deceptive rhetoric changes anything on that count.

“2. Single Christian moms shouldn’t be punished for rightly responding to their sin.”

This is a peculiar point, as the author doesn’t describe any behavior that actually fits this description. Nobody is punishing single moms for repenting of their lives of fornication. Nobody is punishing single moms for refusing to murder their babies. The closest he comes is his contention that, “Quite often, single moms have an easier time finding men who are willing to be with them out in the world than they do in the Church.”

First, I do want to point out that what started as “men should consider marrying single moms” in the title and shifted to “men should pursue single moms” in his thesis statement has now become “men are punishing single moms by not marrying them.” That boom you just heard was from the goalposts flying by at Mach 2.

But theologically speaking, where in Scripture does God promise us that our faith will never lead to hardship in life? I can recall abundant promises to the contrary, but never that one. Perhaps the author specifically objects to those hardships coming on account of Christians, but once again, this is a confusion of the two kinds of righteousness. Natural consequences of sin do not suddenly cease even among Christians. For example, if your pastor confesses before the congregation that he has molested children at the church and publicly repents of his sin, it’s not “punishing him for rightly responding to his sin” to remove him from his office. On the contrary, its the responsibility of the congregation to do so because he has proven himself unfit for that office despite having the imputed righteousness of Christ.  As before, one must judge coram mundo rather than coram deo. If we are required to make such judgments even for ecclesial offices, how much more must we do so when it comes to civil offices?

Christian men are required to judge wisely when it comes to choosing a mother for their children because their choice is going to bear profound consequences for their offspring. Setting aside the small minority of widows, single moms have demonstrated poor judgement by either choosing a terrible man or discarding a good man from their home. Just as when men choose their wives, women choosing to fornicate has grave consequences for their own children–depriving them of having a father in their lives. Men must consider such poor judgment when deciding whether any given single mom would make a good mother for the children they would have together.  It’s not a question of whether the single mother has repented, but of whether she has developed good character in the meantime–because she clearly didn’t have it in the past. And the truly repentant single mother isn’t going to balk at that assessment.  Her repentance means she has already recognized her own character flaws as such and confessed them before God.

“3. Marrying single Christian moms demonstrates the gospel, which is what marriage is supposed to do.”

This is probably the most atrocious theological error of the bunch because it demonstrates such a misunderstanding of the Gospel itself.

Now, strictly speaking, as written, this point is actually more-or-less correct. The Bride of Christ is not pure and virginal on her own account, but because of the gracious gift of Christ.  The Christian man who is similarly gracious to a single mother in this way is indeed demonstrating the gospel (provided he is also being gracious to his future children, as explained in the previous point.)

But the problem is that Parkison has already removed grace from the picture. After all, he has already described Christian men’s collective failure to marry single moms as “punishment.”  In other words, he sees marriage as something that Christian men owe single moms rather than a gracious gift. You can see the same attitude in his faulty contention that single Christian moms are more than Christian men deserve.  You can see it every time he sneers at men for caring about virginity–as though the sins of single mom aren’t anything truly damaging in the first place.

The Gospel that Parkison portrays in his proposed unions is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By expelling the gravity of sin, it has altogether expelled grace by heavily implying that single moms have no need of it in the first place. Dalrock is quite right in explaining “Parkison dismisses their graciousness by pretending it wasn’t gracious at all! Parkison is stealing other men’s graciousness for himself.”

The reason the Gospel is good news is because our sins were already bad news. We don’t do anyone any favors by trying to minimize or ignore that bad news. Calls for Christian men to simply ignore the sins of Christian women because “the Gospel!” is effectively a denial of the Atonement. God did not simply ignore our sins because they weren’t really a big deal. They were a big enough deal that His Son had to die to pay for them, and He forgives us at unfathomable cost. That’s the wonderful grace we receive as Christians, for which it is our joyous duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. And it is indeed a grace we should share with one another by forgiving as we have been forgiven. But you can’t do that by pretending sin doesn’t matter.

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Part 2 of Between Babel & Pentecost: A Christian Analysis of Multiculturalism

The 2nd installment of the series is up.

There’s no shortage of conflict between Christianity and Enlightenment philosophy, but the Bible story that drives a stake through modernism’s heart is the Tower of Babel.

 

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Between Babel & Pentecost: A Christian Analysis of Multiculturalism

I’m kicking off a new series of videos at Lutheran in a Strange Land, exploring the political philosophies of multiculturalism and globalism through the lenses of the Tower of Babel, Pentecost, and Luther’s theology of the Two Kingdoms.

There’s no question that the Church is global.  After all, Christ instructed us to go and make disciples of all nations.  The Church is just as obviously multicultural, for we can see a great multitude from all tribes, peoples, and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb in Revelation.

But does this mean that a Christian nation should embrace globalism and multiculturalism?  Or does the nation instead have a different set of God-given responsibilities than the Church?

This is Part 1 of Between Babel & Pentecost: A Christian Analysis of Multiculturalism.  I’m going to be trying a slower release schedule with this series, so expect a new installment each week.

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If the West is to Be Saved, Christianity is the Only Option.

I came across a tweet from Mike Cernovich a few weeks ago, which declares the failure of Christianity to maintain a sane culture and suggests a modified version of Islam to fill the void:

I’m not sure how seriously Cernovich intends his thesis. There’s an element of showmanship to what he does, and he just released a new documentary.  So this may have been an instance of being deliberately provocative for the sake of publicity. But however seriously it was intended, it’s worth pondering, for it contains one great truth and one great error.

The truth is that Christians really have failed the West.

To be sure, Cernovich blamed Christianity rather than Christians, but in a Tweet, I’m willing to count that as imprecision rather than error. There is no problem with Christ’s teachings or His institutions, but there is a problem with many of us who follow those teachings and participate in those institutions. And it’s not that we have been too Christian, but rather that we have not been Christian enough.

The errors in which Christians have been involved are legion. , but none of these errors are taught by Christianity. Far too many Christians fell under the sway of Theological Liberalism, whose sole purpose was to baptize the Spirit of the Age, but this has always been a blatant heresy. Western Christians abandoned patriarchy in favor of feminism, but there’s nothing in the Bible that demanded we make such a change (and quite a bit to the contrary). We embraced multiculturalism over nationalism, but this is a misunderstanding regarding the different roles of the Church and Civil Government.

But errors are always legion–for Satan is always working against us. The singular trap into which Western Christians have fallen that facilitates all these individual problems is simple worldliness. We are terrified of speaking up because we don’t want the world to think less of us. We don’t want to be one of the those Christians. So we’re always quick to nod understandingly along with every old perversion reinvented by Satan to signal that we’re not really against people who call evil good and good evil. And we’re just as quick to throw our fellows under the world’s bus for peccadilloes as insignificant as not liking the way they smirk.  In short, Christians in the West have embraced a moderated form of Christianity to the detriment of both our churches and our civilization.

But that leads us into Cernovich’s great falsehood: That a moderated form of Islam can somehow save the West. There are two problems with this idea–both of them insurmountable.

The first: What exactly is supposed to moderate Islam? The same degenerate cultural forces that moderated Christianity? The problem with deliberately corroding principles and zeal is that the acid never really stops dissolving exactly when you want it to. If Islam is so strong as to be immune to such forces, then it cannot be moderated. If it is so weak as to be corroded by them, then it’ll end up in the same place as Christianity.

But could Islam be moderated by something more internal to itself? Perhaps, but then “moderation” is going to take on an entirely alien meaning to Westerners. When we think of Christianity becoming more moderate, we think of things like ending the Crusades and Inquisitions, refraining from burning heretics at the stake, and other expressions that ultimately amount to a decoupling of church institutions from government institutions.

These things were able to happen from within Christianity itself because we have always had a measure of distinction between ecclesial purpose & authority and civil purpose & authority. Whether it’s Jesus saying “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”, Augustine’s City of God & City of Man, Luther’s Two Kingdoms, or even Rome’s doctrine of the Two Swords, we have always had some variation on distinguishing the Church from civil government. We argue over the details–things like how distinct should they really be, where/how do they intersect, and whether it was really a good idea to give up on blasphemy laws–but the distinction is always there.

Islam has no such internal distinction. It is both a religion and a political ideology at the same time. From its very inception, it has never made much distinction between civil and religious authority–only between Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb (the House of Islam and the House of War.) The whole purpose of the religion is to, by any means necessary, bring the entire world under the universal Sharia given by Muhammad, which is just as much a civil law as a ceremonial and moral law. Heck, The day of judgment is supposed to come when they finally succeed in effectively conquering the entire world. There might be internal ways of moderating that, but it’s never going to be the kind of thing that Westerners would recognize as “moderate.”

And that’s really the second insurmountable problem with saving the West by means of a moderated form of Islam:  Islam is not in any way, shape, or form Western. The West could be replaced by a moderated form of Islam (and it will be if we’re not careful) but it could never be saved by it. There is no hope there–only the despair of resigning oneself to oblivion.

It’s not a moderated form of Islam that the West needs, but an unmoderated form of Christianity. The West needs Christians to stop submitting themselves to the Spirit of the Age and begin serving Christ again according to his Word.

Some would object to this, saying that Christianity is a religion, not a civil government–that the Church’s purpose was never to bolster the West or any other human civilization. Rather, She transcends the various kingdoms that rise and fall and outlasts every one of them. This is all true, but it is no real objection to my point.

Under the influence of secularism, Western Christians have voluntarily divested themselves of their religion while participating in civil institutions. We let ourselves be convinced to leave Christ at the door of the Church when we leave so that he doesn’t interfere with the way we govern ourselves and one-another. That was never part of Christ’s teachings. If one’s god doesn’t impact the way he raises his children, the way he votes, the politics he pursues, or the way he lives in public, then its either because his god commanded it so or because the believer subordinated his supposed god to the higher god of the state. Since Christ has never commanded the former, then Christians who recuse Christ from civilization have done the latter. The lie that we must be secularist to be truly faithful is just one more shameful error on our pile.

A nation in which Christianity forges the identity of its people can reasonably be called a Christian nation even though Christianity transcends that nation. To be sure, America cannot reasonably call herself that at the moment, but she could again–provided that her Christian citizens begin fulfilling their vocations faithfully. The West’s only hope is a form of Christianity unmoderated by Satan’s temptations of full bellies, false piety, and worldly glory. It’s past time for Christians to decide which master they truly serve.

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Conclusion of Understanding Rape Culture

So what then shall we do about rape culture?  Double-down on the obliteration of due process and draconian punishments based on dehumanized consent?  Redouble our presumptuous efforts to teach men not to rape?

Or could there be a better answer–something that we should have been doing all along anyway?

This is the final video in our series on Understanding Rape Culture

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Part 5 of Understanding Rape Culture

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Part 4 of Understanding Rape Culture

A lot of people seem flabbergasted at the emergence of hookup culture, but it’s really just the logical conclusion of serial monogamy.  It’s also the source of what we call rape culture.

 

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Part 3 of Understanding Rape Culture

There are a broad set of behaviors included in the category of sexual assault–many of which have become commonplace. But when consent is the only allowable metric, parsing out wrongdoing becomes extremely difficult. This is the 3rd Installment of Understanding Rape Culture:

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