A Biblical Case Against Polygamy

It shouldn’t be surprising that civilization hinges on getting sexuality right–or at least right “enough” in a fallen world. Investing our own flesh and blood in the next generation is perhaps the most literal understanding of “having skin in the game,” civilizationally speaking. Family is how we are first dragged kicking and screaming out of our selfishness, and as a casual perusal of child-free reddit suggests, that process seems to halt if one deliberately refuses to have children of his own. Broad and ordered participation in marriage and family is man’s greatest motivation for restraining wickedness.

As our own civilization unravels in response to the thread of sexual morality being yanked out, Christians must be equipped to speak to not only the new barbarisms of our day but the resurging barbarisms of the ancient world. One of those is polygamy. As I wrote a long time ago, fallen male and female nature have their own insidious complementarity. Sexually barbaric men like to accumulate harems, and sexually barbaric women like to trade up to the highest status man available to them. But as more men become incels and more women simultaneously become slatterns, the math alone makes it clear that this shift is already well underway–a larger number of women are opting to sleep with a far smaller number of men.

In light of this change, the Church must be careful. We are no less in a time of change than  the rest of the Western world is. There’s a reason we all have the growing sense that things cannot remain as they were. History has amply provided us with examples of men embracing polygamy as they take advantage of such weakened churches (e.g. the rise of Mohammed, the Munster Rebellion, Joseph Smith, etc.) And as the devil and the world continue to change the kind of pressures they apply against us, Christians would do well to look closely at what God’s Word has to say on the subject.

Now, some will claim that the Bible is silent on the issue. After all, polygamy seems fairly common among the Old Testament Patriarchs and kings. Likewise, there is no explicit or universal prohibition on polygamy in Scripture like there is for sins like murder and adultery. However, the absence of explicit command is a call for us to exercise our God-given wisdom rather than license to do whatever we feel like. And the Bible provides us with a great deal of wisdom on the subject. Let’s look closely at a few examples.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

When the Pharisees brought up the issue of divorce, Jesus went right back to the beginning. He quoted Genesis 2 and reasoned from it, saying “what God has joined together, let not man separate.” When the Pharisees used the example of Mosaic law to justify themselves, Jesus had none of it. He made it explicitly clear that God merely tolerated divorce–going so far as to regulate it by means of giving a civil law to somewhat restrain its evil. But outside of specific narrow exceptions (adultery and abandonment) he established quite clearly that divorce is adultery, a mortal sin. And I do find it interesting that Jesus quotes from Genesis 2 rather than Malachi 2 which makes his exact point. He expects those who hear and believe God’s Word to be able to use it to make sound judgments.

It would be difficult not to reason in the same way as Christ and apply it to polygamy as well. “Have you not read that the two become one flesh?” Therefore what God has made one, let not man divide amongst others so that the three become two fleshes. The self-giving nature of marriage such that two persons share one flesh is certainly undermined by dividing oneself among many instead. And indeed, “wife” is quite singular in this original institution of marriage. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” is a hokey saying, but it’s also a legitimate argument among those who wish to learn from Jesus rather than just making sure He doesn’t step on their toes. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve, Cheryl & Susie” is no less legitimate. And if God tolerated Polygamy among his people, let us not be like the Pharisees and take His longsuffering & forbearance as license.

The First Polygamist

Genesis is sparse on the details of the antediluvian world. That’s why it’s a good idea to sit up and take notice when a detail is important enough to provide. That includes highlighting history’s first polygamist, Lamech. It’s worth observing that he arises out of the ungodly line of Cain. It’s also worth observing that this is the same man who murdered a young man and boasted about it to his two wives, saying, “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” To be sure, this is by no means conclusive. After all, we don’t call metalworking or musical instruments sinful simply because they arose out of Cain’s line. Nevertheless, if you want Scripture to inform you about polygamy rather than just working to justify it, then the deliberate association of polygamy with Lamech should certainly give you pause.

“Rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

When Solomon advises his son to avoid the adulteress, he also commends to him an alternative: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Once again, we must make two observations. First, “satisfy yourself by marrying another woman” and “remember how many wives you already have” are not among the advice. Second, Solomon and the Holy Spirit make the word “wife” singular here. It is only in verses 16 & 17, where Solomon speaks of promiscuity, that he uses plurals in his imagery of streams flowing in the streets. When he goes back from metaphorical to literal language, he also goes back to a singular wife in his instruction. Both of these observations are in stark contrast to the enormity of Solomon’s own harem. It is clearly not his own norm that Solomon is delivering here, but rather God’s norm. If we seek to heed God’s Wisdom here, then we should necessarily seek monogamy.

Song of Solomon

Here we have a book about the love between a husband and wife as both a good gift of God and as an image of God’s love for his Church–a point reiterated in Ephesians 5. But in each case, there is but one bridegroom and but one bride. No other lover or beloved intrudes on the intimacy therein. Neither is there a “2nd Song of Solomon ” about one of his other wives. In these places we get a glimpse into marriage as God designed it, and in both cases, polygamy is completely alien to the imagery God gives us. There’s nothing we can do to shoehorn it in.

“Each man should have his own wife.”

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul instructs Christians on how to resist temptations to fornication: “Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.” As always, we find the same singular nouns used throughout–a consistency in God’s instructions regarding marriage we dare not overlook. But there is another practical point to be found in Paul’s instructions. If each man is to have his own wife, simple math would suggest that men should not seek to acquire more wives.

Polygamous societies always result in lower status men being denied the option of having their own wives. Accordingly, the man who hoards women for himself falls under the judgement of James’ words: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” We rightly condemn women who subject their husbands to temptation by withholding sex. In ordinary circumstances, polygamists likewise create such temptation for their brothers in Christ.

“An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife.”

When the New Testament establishes the qualifications for pastors and deacons, it consistently starts with the stipulation that he must be the husband of one wife. These lists include items that concern moral character (e.g self-controlled), skills (e.g. apt to teach), and items that are really both (e.g. hospitable). Now these positions obviously require a higher standard coram mundo than what is applied to laity. So it’s not an explicit requirement that all Christian men be monogamous. Nevertheless, there is no other entry on theses list that ordinary Christian men are morally exempt from.

We are all to be sober, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, etc. These are all things every Christian man ought to aspire to and strive for. There is no Scriptural reason to place “Husband of one wife” in a different category. They are higher standards for church workers because every Christian is a sinner, and sanctification is a lifelong process. If a man is not sufficiently there yet, then he shouldn’t be put in charge. Nevertheless, recent converts, men who have lapsed, and the like are still to be morally reformed through the teaching of God’s Word in all of these respects.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but these are the passages of Scripture that came to my mind first. None of them are a blatant “thou shalt not marry a second wife.” But together I think they make it clear that polygamy is an evil of a fallen world which Christians ought to resist. But before I address some possible objections to my case, I do want to make two caveats:

First, this case against polygamy is a matter of moral wisdom, not a moral absolute. In other words, it is possible for there to be real exceptions in exceptional circumstances. I would compare the matter to divorce or contraception. I have no problem saying that both of these things are great evils. Nevertheless, I also acknowledge that there are Biblical exceptions in which divorce is not counted as a moral infraction, namely abandonment and adultery. Likewise, though the vast majority of our uses for contraception are blatantly sinful (fornicating freely, hating children, breaking the golden rule, etc.) there are a handful of cases in which it could be considered legitimate medicine (for example, when a wife belatedly discovers that pregnancy would be fatal to both her and her unborn child.) But beware, because exceptions are exceptional–by their nature, it is quite unlikely that they apply to you.

Second, this case against polygamy is with respect to marrying additional wives. It is not my contention that having two wives puts one in some kind of state of perpetual adultery. It’s not as though the 2nd marriage were not a real marriage or that one has a duty to divorce once he realizes the immorality of polygamy. Divorcing a faithful spouse, after all, is an even greater evil. We repent of our sins, but we cannot always undo them–anymore than one could undo a past of fornication and debauchery.

With that clarified, let’s move on to some objections.

What about the Old Testament kings and Patriarchs?

Certainly, many of them had multiple wives, and we don’t consider them unrepentant sinners because of it. Nevertheless, we do consider them to be sinners in general; their actions aren’t universally endorsed by Scripture. True, God never calls any of them on the carpet over their polygamy. But then, God directly calling out anyone in an explicit and visible way is a relatively rare event–even for the patriarchs. We often think of the Old Testament as wall-to-wall miracles, but that’s only due to the nature of the writing. We only get a few pages in between times God talks to Abraham. Abraham got a few decades.

It’s also true that we never see them repenting over their polygamy either. But then, I doubt they realized all of their moral failings anymore than I realize all of mine–especially things so normalized by one’s culture. If our status as a Christian required us to be cognizant of our every failing, then no one would be saved. So the mere fact of Patriarchal polygamy isn’t compelling license by itself.

The Patriarchs were also a lot more likely to find themselves in exceptional circumstances. Abraham took Hagar essentially as a concubine at Sarah’s behest in order to make God’s promise of a child happen (I don’t think we can commend Abraham for that episode, though.) Jacob contracted to marry Rachel, but was swindled into marrying Leah instead. He then fulfilled his original engagement. As for his other wives, he took his first two wives’ maids as concubines in submission to their impulsiveness. (Again, I don’t think we can really commend Jacob for that choice. In Genesis, “He listened to his wife” never ends well.)

David, a man after God’s own heart, certainly had multiple wives. However, he also continually gained, lost, and regained them his entire life–generally due to his anointing as king in one way or another. Once again, we find that his circumstances were truly exceptional. How often does God just strike a woman’s husband dead because he insulted you and you may want to take responsibility for this new widow you’ve made who just went far our of her way to assist you as king? How often are you thrown into exile and your wife is forcibly married to someone else? How often do you receive wives as inheritance, spoils of war, or tokens of political alliance?

The wives of David and Israel’s other kings are inextricably wrapped up in a vocation that is largely alien to the modern mind. It is in that context which we must understand God’s comment to David through Nathan, “I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms… and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.” God is explicitly speaking about David’s inheritance of the kingship.  Certainly his multiple wives were declared to be good gifts of God, but that is in keeping with David’s office. We cannot therefore conclude that God approves of polygamy per se just because He counted David’s as a gift.

God has often blessed individuals, nations, and the world even through the sins of men. Jesus’ family tree, for example, includes both incest (Ruth was a Moabite) and prostitution (Judah and… Tamar?) but we can hardly consider that a mark of God’s approval. As Joseph wisely said of his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.” Between that and David’s unique vocation, his polygamy is adequately explained without resorting to some broad permissibility.

To be sure, it’s not our place to retroactively judge David or Jacob on matters of moral wisdom. We are too far removed from their lives to do so adequately. Nevertheless, it is out place to decide whether or not it’s right to follow their examples in our own lives based on the wisdom God has given to us. When it comes to polygamy, I see no Godly wisdom to commend it as good or right today.

Didn’t Luther endorse bigamy?

The question of polygamy is not a new one in the Lutheran tradition. The Reformation was also a time of great change, and occasionally, people had suggested polygamy as one of them. There are several cases in which figures like Luther and Melanchthon refused to forbid a man from taking another wife.

One of them was with respect to a man whose wife became incapable of intercourse due to illness and sought a second wife for the sake of children and his chastity. That is where we get Luther’s infamous quote, “I confess that I cannot forbid a man from marrying several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture.” But that quote is not the full story. Luther wrote this as advice to the husband’s ruler–on whether to allow his desire to legally stand or not. The husband in question had already received permission in his spiritual counsel from Andreas Carlstadt (who later broke from the Lutherans and became a notorious radical.) Luther’s advice to the husband’s ruler is simply to not interfere with what had already transpired. The larger quote is this:

The husband must be sure and convinced in his own conscience by means of the Word of God that it is lawful in his case. Therefore let him seek out such men as may convince him by the Word of God, whether Carlstadt, or some other, matters not at all to the Prince. For if the fellow is not sure of his case, then the permission of the Prince will not make him so; nor is it for the Prince to decide on this point, for it is the priests business to expound the Word of God, and, as Zacharias says, from their lips the Law of the Lord must be learned. I, for my part, admit I can raise no objection if a man wishes to take several wives since Holy Scripture does not forbid this; but I should not like to see this example introduced amongst Christians. … It does not beseem Christians to seize greedily and for their own advantage on every thing to which their freedom gives them a right. … No Christian surely is so God-forsaken as not to be able to practice continence when his partner, owing to the Divine dispensation, proves unfit for matrimony. Still, we may well let things take their course.

This is not a statement of license for polygamy. It is a statement of political tolerance in a particular case–entirely in keeping with the argument I’ve laid out thus far.

Another better-known example of Luther permitting bigamy is in regards to Phillip of Hesse, a German prince and supporter of the Reformation who sought another wife because he hated his first wife and continually fled from her into fornication. He nagged Luther for years on the issue, even leveraging political pressure against him. Eventually, Luther wished to quietly concede the point and permit it.

However, the fact that Luther wished to concede the point quietly is really all you need to know on the matter. Luther was not exactly known for shrinking away from making controversial public statements. The fact that he himself was so uncomfortable with that private judgment should be a huge red flag for us. At best, in the course of pastoral council, he allowed bigamy in what he believed was an extraordinary circumstance. At worst, it was a rare example of Luther caving to political pressure despite his reputation for resisting it. You may judge the matter for yourself, but neither of these constitutes a blessing of polygamy.

Instead, let’s consider an earlier (and better) statement from Luther to Phillip on the subject:

As regards the other matter, my faithful warning and advice is that no man, Christians in particular, should have more than one wife, not only for the reason that offense would be given, and Christians must not needlessly give, but most diligently avoid giving, offense, but also for the reason that we have no word of God regarding this matter on which we might base a belief that such action would be well-pleasing to God and to Christians. Let heathen and Turks do what they please. Some of the ancient fathers had many wives, but they were urged to this by necessity, as Abraham and Jacob, and later many kings, who according to the law of Moses obtained the wives of their friends, on the death of the latter, as an inheritance. The example of the fathers is not a sufficient argument to convince a Christian: he must have, in addition, a divine word that makes him sure, just as they had a word of that kind from God. For where there was no need or cause, the ancient fathers did not have more than one wife, as Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and many others. For this reason I cannot advise for, but must advise against, your intention, particularly since you are a Christian, unless there were an extreme necessity, as, for instance, if the wife were leprous or the husband were deprived of her for some other reason. On what grounds to forbid other people such marriages I know not.

That, I believe, is where the matter truly stands. We should never broadly say “polygamy is not a sin” anymore than we should broadly say “divorce is not a sin.” The rule is that it is a sin; it’s only in the exceptions that it may be permissible. At best, it can be tolerated in certain circumstances.

We have been blessed to have lived in a civilization where polygamy has long been unthinkable, and we are cursed to now be losing that civilization due to our own sin. But in the chaos of one age passing into another, let us not allow bizarre circumstances or worldly pressures to cause us to forget God’s Word and design. Neither let us take an absence of moral command as a license to flout moral wisdom.

Posted in Chastity, Culture, Ethics, Musings | 3 Comments

What We Have In Common

As diversity continues its work of assassinating American common ground, it’s no surprise that American churches are struggling with the issue of race & nation as it pertains to their faith. Christianity is, of course, a universal religion rather than a tribal one. Christ died for the sins of the whole world, and so it is the Church’s nature to transcend nations. At the same time, it is not the Church’s nature to dissolve or eliminate race, for nations persist into eternal life. In the Church, Babel was undone at Pentecost, yet in the world, God’s creation of the nations is a gift to be well-regarded by everyone, including Christians.

Amidst our struggles with this duality, it’s unsurprising that some of us will struggle poorly. Thus, I’ve seen this lukewarm take show up quite a bit lately:

So what are we to make of this contention? Is it helpful? Is it even accurate? Well, the latter question has two opposite answers depending on which of the Two Kingdoms we’re talking about.

To sum up Lutheran Two Kingdoms theology briefly, God has instituted the Church (the right-hand Kingdom) for the sake of delivering the Gospel to the world. We preach the Word, we administer the Sacraments, we forgive & retain sins, and thereby make disciples of all nations. In contrast, God has instituted civil government (the left-hand Kingdom) for the sake of establishing a just peace in a fallen world. Government punishes wrongdoers and commends rightdoers to restrain sin and promote outwardly good behavior. Both Kingdoms are instituted by God’s authority, but He has delegated different authorities and responsibilities to each.

Those differences very munch influence our relationship with foreigners in each Kingdom. In the right-hand Kingdom, I do indeed have more in common with the foreign Christian than the native unbeliever. There is simply nothing to compare to Christ, who we will have in common for all eternity. What else can I even say beyond affirming that blessed reality?

In the left-hand Kingdom, it is exactly the opposite. I am bound to my true countrymen (the posterity for whom the Constitution was written) by blood, heritage, tradition, custom, and our common stake in past & future alike. Christians’ faith shapes all these things, yes, but it does so over time by means of each generation of Christians caring for their nation. In the left-hand Kingdom, the influence which Christ has had on my people is enfleshed in what I have in common even with non-Christian Americans.

Now, the Christian foreigner may possess an analogous heritage depending on the history of his own people, but it is still a distinct heritage which has been shaped in very different ways. And if he hails from outside the West, he will not possess even an analogous heritage.

That should suffice to address the issue of accuracy–it’s truth depends entirely on the context. Now, we must consider whether the “more in common” contention is helpful. And by that, we ought to mean, “does it help us to love our neighbors according to the Two Kingdoms’ different responsibilities?” That consideration is precisely where the contention gets dicey.

When a course of action dwells clearly within one kingdom, there’s no real problem. For example, when a faithful Lutheran from a foreign land arrives at your church Sunday, you do what the Church ought to do: forgive his sins, preach to him, commune him, have fellowship with him, etc. Where matters are already clear, the saying is effectively useless because no one needs any reminder about common ground.

But the saying goes from useless to confusing when the delineation between the Two Kingdoms isn’t crystal clear. The unfortunate reality is that American Lutherans tend to view the Two Kingdoms in terms of the modern political doctrine of Separation of Church and State. They think that the Two Kingdoms have some kind of airtight separation, but this is not the case. The civil government isn’t any more religiously neutral than the Church is. How to distinguish wrongdoers from rightdoers and what a just peace entails are not questions on which the Church remains silent.

At the same time, Christian congregations are not neutral with respect to the left-hand kingdom either. They are not managed by men of no nation–imaginary people whose families never taught them love and whose tribes never taught them polity. As they go about the Church’s business, they will manage the day-to-day responsibilities according to the customs of their people insofar as those customs fall within Christian freedom. In other words, adiaphora will look different from place to place because congregations are not a random sample of humans. So long as faithful men and women live in both Kingdoms, the two will always remain distinct but never separated.

When Lutherans fail to recognize this interconnectedness, they get intellectually sloppy. Whenever a conflict arises in which the Two Kingdoms are in tension, their reaction is simply to pick their favorite Kingdom and ignore the other. After all, isn’t the Church the more important of the two? But importance is the wrong question to ask because it seeks license to disregard one of the Kingdoms established by God Himself. Christ has not given us permission to do anything of the sort.

Immigration–the issue on which the “more in common” contention is offered–is also an issue where this disregard is rampant. For example, when faced with an invasion by pagan foreigners, the right-hand Kingdom should have two primary concerns: 1) How to persevere in the faith when surrounded by hostiles and 2) How to love our enemies by proclaiming the Gospel to them. The left-hand Kingdom has different concerns: How to halt the invasion and remove the invaders to protect those God has given into our care. There is a tension between those two sets of responsibilities–between a responsibility to love and a responsibility to hate.

It is a challenge to navigate them both of these at the same time, and this is resolved only in the specific vocations each Christian has been given. In other words, the pastor and the soldier will take very different approaches to the invaders. Unfortunately, the sloppy Christian won’t bother thinking about vocation. They will simply “resolve” the tension by refusing to protect their nation from invasion. After all, if thousands of foreigners are looking to overwhelm your community, just think what a wonderful evangelism opportunity it is!

Well, it is an evangelism opportunity; they’re not wrong about that. What they’re wrong about is forgetting that it means their neighbors being robbed and daughters being raped–a much less wonderful opportunity. By disregarding the left-hand Kingdom, they choose to love their enemies by hating their friends and family. They make themselves traitors and enemies to God’s civil government–a much clearer violation of Romans 13 than what they  typically complain about.

This same logic still applies when facing an invasion by Christian foreigners. The Church’s responsibility is somewhat different in this case: 1) Consider how to deal with any heterodoxies they bring with them and 2) Consider how to best welcome and serve the brothers and sisters with whom we are truly united. Civil government’s responsibilities, however, remain the same: Repel the invasion for the sake of your people. Once again, there is a tension at work. Once again, the Christian must accept both sets of responsibilities and navigate them according to his vocations.

The contention that you have more in common with a foreign Christian than a native unbeliever does not help us navigate those responsibilities. On the contrary, it makes it even more difficult because of the way it conflates the Two Kingdoms when the distinction really matters. Where we most need clear and holistic thinking, it muddies the water further and encourages Christians to redouble the abandonment of their callings in the left-hand Kingdom. It relieves the tension between the Kingdoms, but only at the cost of utterly failing to love our neighbors.

If you cannot bear this tension, then perhaps you should consider that it’s better not to put the Two Kingdoms into conflict in the first place by disregarding national borders. If you believe that your brethren overseas need your ministrations or recognize that the pagans there need the Gospel, perhaps you should consider going to them rather than lazily insisting that the world come to you at your neighbors’ expense.

America is in the midst of the largest mass migration in human history, and it will produce the same chaos and bloodshed that migration has always produced throughout history–just on a larger scale. Every vocation God has given us in the left-hand Kingdom should be directed at loving our neighbors by reversing this invasion as much as possible and managing the inevitable fallout where it’s not possible.

Mass immigration is a poison in the left-hand kingdom. The right-hand Kingdom’s immunity should not induce her to deliberately spread it in the left.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Ethics, Lutheranism, Politics, Two Kingdoms | 3 Comments

The True Meaning of “Woke” in Media

I have no intention of watching Amazon’s Rings of Power. This refusal is not out of any principled stand, but simply because it looks tremendously boring. What interest is there in an insipidly woke Lord of the Rings prequel starring warrior Galadriel going on a tedious feminist journey that changes nothing about the outcome? And that’s on top of the fact that the project only got off the ground over Christopher Tolkien’s literal dead body. It’s too uninteresting to even hate watch assuming I actually had time for that sort of thing.

That said, the meta-conversation does hold some interest for me–and I don’t just mean listening to the Critical Drinker trash it at some point. What caught my interest was Amazon’s defenders using the curious tactic of claiming that “woke” doesn’t mean anything at all. Of course, they say this with the same level of good faith as those who claim “White” is a meaningless category but simultaneously know exactly who should pay reparations. In both cases, they know what the word means; they just hope that you will be too scared to admit it.

But clarity and boldness are both in short supply these days, so it’s good exercise to practice in minor battles like this. So let’s define “woke” and see how it applies to the Lord of the Rings franchise and media in general. At it’s most basic level, woke means making the false values of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (let’s just abbreviate it as “DIE”) paramount in both the production and end product. The more woke something is, the more this unholy trinity trumps any other concern.

Diverse casting is one of the most obvious indicators that a production is woke. Now obviously, a cast must have some diversity–otherwise you end up with one of those movies where Eddie Murphy plays every role. But there’s a difference between diversity which serves the film and a film which serves diversity. When DIE is paramount, the cast must be diverse above any other concern. Does an actor faithfully represent an established character? Does he faithfully represent the lore? Is he consistent with the worldbuilding? Does he reflect the historical setting you’ve chosen? When a production is woke, none of those questions are allowed to be more important than DIE.

That’s why you have black elves in Rings of Power in contradiction to Tolkien’s well-articulated world. That’s why Wheel of Time has a small village isolated for centuries that’s as racially diverse as New York City. That’s why every revived franchise needs a new strong woman to take over as protagonist. Woke showrunners must supplicate to DIE first, and any other value a property might have can only be filled into whatever gaps are left.

But wokeness, of course, doesn’t stay confined to casting and other pre-production choices. The more woke something is, the more the end product is politically didactic–whether implicitly or explicitly. After all, DIE is not a random set of values, but values tied to the various forms of Critical Theory. Oppressed/oppressor mythology must always be served, and DIE is valued specifically because it undermines “oppressors” and elevates the “oppressed.”

So it is in Hollywood’s latest storylines. And the more intersectional (that is, blending multiple forms of Critical Theory together) the “better”. That’s why almost every relationship in CW’s Arrowverse is gay, multi-racial, or both. That’s why, whenever they depict a Christian who is both faithful and pale, you immediately know they’re going to be the bad guy.  The only affect a film is allowed to have on a viewer is to instruct them to value DIE some more.

That’s why we have so many Mary Sues these days–because oppressed women must be shown casting off the shackles of male oppressors. So the woman must always be right in the end, and the man must always be wrong. She must be stronger, smarter, and more effective than the man. Luke Skywalker must be torn down so that Rei can be elevated even if it’s in complete contradiction to his character and accomplishments. She-Hulk must be better than regular Hulk at controlling her anger because women get systematically oppressed by cat-calling. This despite Bruce’s life being completely destroyed by his transformation and him going so far as eating a bullet to try and make it stop. It doesn’t have to make any sense because coherence is deemed a lesser value than DIE.

That, in a nutshell, is what we mean when we call a new movie or TV show woke:  It is made in service to DIE.

That is why, contrary to another popular claim, nobody thought it was woke when Eowyn killed the Witch King in Peter Jackson’s first trilogy. That scene was in the books as well; and Tolkien didn’t add it for the sake of DIE in the first place. It was also depicted faithfully within reason. Yes, people who didn’t read the books might wonder why the Witch King was considered so invincible if stabbing his leg and face was sufficient. After all, they didn’t know Merry’s weapon was enchanted. Yes, the audience missed the part where Eowyn’s mindset that led her into battle was called into question. Even in the extended edition, the Houses of Healing only got a quick montage. Those are fair exclusions because you can’t possibly fit every detail from books like Tolkien’s into a film.

But let’s compare that to another scene in Jackson’s Trilogy–one that was genuinely woke and which did draw complaints at the time. In Fellowship, Aragorn is desperately searching for athelas to treat Frodo’s wound after the fight on Weathertop. Who should show up but Arwen, who immediately puts a sword to his neck so she can tease him about being off his guard. You can tell it’s there for DIE because A) Arwen wasn’t there in the books; B) it’s out-of-character for her in book and films alike; and C) it’s a ridiculously irresponsible thing to do in any situation, especially a life-and-death one. It sticks out like a sore thumb and it’s only there to make sure the audience knows men aren’t allowed to be stronger than women. Aragorn had to be put in his place.

Jackson’s Trilogy wasn’t woke overall, but like pretty much every film made in the  late 90’s and 00’s, there were deliberately woke scenes peppered throughout. We hated it then and now. The only changes are the terminology and the degree to which DIE has intruded on pop culture.

Now that the easy job of defining woke is done, the aforementioned boldness must finally be addressed. SJW’s will always follow up that definition with “well, what’s wrong with DIE? Are you one of those -ist/-phobes who think those things are bad?” Responding to that argument is where we must diverge from the growing crop of anti-woke critics like Critical Drinker, Doomcock, or Nerdrotic who merely want the return of good entertainment. That kind of critic will always tell you that DIE is a good thing as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Now, it’s certainly true that DIE makes for bad entertainment because its narrow and boring set of values are, by themselves, incapable of generating real engagement in mentally healthy human beings. But that kind of critic doesn’t really understand what’s at stake.

The real problem is that DIE is actually bad. Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (in the contemporary sense) are, at best, very minor values in the grand scheme of things. When they’re removed from their proper place and given the kind of prominence that belongs to  ideals like goodness, truth, and beauty, they are more than just tedious; they become fundamentally toxic. But that toxicity is deliberate because the entire point of Critical Theory is to tear down civilization, which they see as systematically aiding oppressors.

Who are the oppressors? It depends on the specific flavor of Critical Theory. In Marxism, it’s the economically successful. In feminism, it’s the men. In critical race theory, it’s the whites. In queer theory, it’s the chaste. And across every single version, it’s always the Christians as well. For everyone who checks multiple boxes here, this is not a matter of mere entertainment. They are deliberately trying to rob us of our history, our culture, our heritage, our heroes, and our sense of identity. In short, they want us weak enough to either be overcome by them or to simply fade away on our own.

But God has made me a Christian. He has made me white and male. He has commanded me to strive for chastity and productive work. How, then, could I disrespect these gifts? How could I not defend them for the sake of my children, my neighbors, and my nation? In light of this reality, calling us -ists and -phobes ought to be entirely insufficient for making us back down from telling the truth:  Yes, there is something very wrong with DIE.

DIE needs to die. Insofar as diversity, inclusion, and equity are legitimate at all, competently pursuing greater values will always make these lesser ones fall into their proper places. But elevating them to paramount importance will always be idolatrous–whether in media or elsewhere.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Culture, Musings | 3 Comments

Defeating Ourselves Through Cowardice

It seems the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod dropped a new doctrinal statement on male and female roles recently. While I’m LCMS rather than WELS, I was naturally curious about what a Lutheran denomination with a conservative reputation had to say about America’s most hated Bible verses–a doctrine that is now under unrelenting demonic assault. So how does it fare in this fierce battle against evil?

Unfortunately, if I were to describe it in one word, that word would be “sniveling.” It attempts to affirm Biblical teachings about the sexes but is so pusillanimous about it that it may as well have said nothing at all. The sound points are so buried in meaningless hedging that they are effectively lost. Let’s take a look at a few of the problems.

The most obvious and consistent flaw in the document is just how vague it is. Its stated reason for existing is because of “new questions and issues” and contemporary applications/misapplications of unchanging principles to changing times. But ironically, actual examples of application and answers to questions are precisely what it assiduously avoids, opting instead for mealy-mouthed abstractions that muddy the waters instead of clarifying them.

For example, it distinguishes over and over again between broad principles and culturally-bound applications, and warns us not to conflate the two. “Christians may arrive at different—but equally faithful—applications of the same principle,” it says. Now, that is a reasonable distinction as far as it goes. However, someone looking for guidance on which cultural roles are or are not in line with these principles won’t find any. Neither will they will find any help discerning whether a particular arrangement is faithful. That’s very peculiar in a document whose stated purpose is helping to apply broad principles to our specific circumstances.

Or consider all the talk about “equal status” as children of God and “equal importance” or “equal value” before Him. As it typical, nowhere does it explain the measurement according to which these things are deemed equal, leaving them entirely nebulous. Thankfully, it does affirm that these assertions don’t undo the different roles and significances that God has established for men and women. But if we take that seriously, it’s questionable just how meaningful the assertions of equality are except to affirm a few obvious points that no one ever denied–like that Christian men and women are both redeemed by Christ. Rather than providing any real instruction, it all comes off as the authors making quick supplications to the idol of equality so as not to offend her disciples who are sown among us like tares.

It’s no better when the document gets past its initial meanderings to its list of affirmations. For example, it says:

We affirm the blessing of scriptural narratives that show males and females using their gifts at various times and in various ways. We reject the attempt to set such narrative passages in opposition to passages that establish God’s unchanging will for male and female.

Great. I, of course, read this as not trying to use Phoebe against Paul, and I suspect it was intended as such. But someone else could just as easily read it as not trying to use Paul “against” Phoebe because this document is otherwise so vague.

Or consider this doozy:

We affirm headship as a good gift of God and make applications in situations where authority, as Scripture defines it, is clearly at work. We reject as an over-application of headship the teaching that authority is always present even when there is no clear evidence of it being exercised.

So… to what situations is this affirmation meant to apply? Where exactly is authority as Scripture defines it clearly at work? Where is there no clear evidence of it being exercised? How does one discern between the two? The wife who is being beaten bloody by her husband every day and the wife who thinks leaving dishes on the counter is grounds for divorce  could both read this and come away affirmed that she need not submit to her husband because “authority as Scripture defines it” isn’t being exercised–or either one could conclude the opposite just as easily. Their respective husbands could likewise read it and consider themselves either affirmed or condemned. What good is a statement so broad in a document meant to clarify?

You might think that this absence of specifics would result in a very lean document, but you would be wrong. That leads us to the second problem: repetitiveness. “Beautiful and balanced” is the theme of the document, and they repeat that lame phrase more than two dozen times. The effect is essentially the same as that of every bluecheck calling Bruce Jenner “a brave and beautiful woman” over and over. It falls squarely into “methinks the lady doth protest too much” territory.

But despite the repetition, they never truly explain how either beauty or balance apply. It’s not so bad with beauty. They prefer to tell rather than show, which is poor writing, but otherwise understandable. But balance is a different story. Balance gives the impression of a set of scales in which each side holds the other in place when they are given equal weight. To be sure, men and women are balanced in some aspects of design such as temperament. For example: masculinity embraces risk while femininity embraces security; men tend to be more direct while women are more passive; men tend to appreciate the abstract more and women the concrete. This is why marriage civilizes both men and women alike. And it’s also why the alphabet people tend to become so unhinged.

But the WELS document makes no journey into that territory. Instead, it devotes itself to the roles God has established for men and women. It is precisely these roles, however, which God has not arranged in balance but in hierarchy. Women are not to have authority over men in either the Church or the home. (And since every other societal institution is there to support either the Church or the home, female authority elsewhere is highly dubious.) It is not the wife’s job to “balance” her husband’s authority to keep it in check, but to fulfill it as his helper and his responsibility. What’s more, it is only within that God-ordained hierarchy that men and women truly balance each other. Households where women rule are where husband, wife, and children all become absurdly unbalanced.

Nevertheless, the document’s greatest failing is this: Despite aiming to address the challenges of our day, it mostly ignores the primary one: feminist rebellion against God’s ordinance.

Yes, to its credit it does assign to sin the fact that “Those called to serve as helper resent submission to authority or seek to assert authority God has not given.” The authors also “reject the teaching that the interdependent and complementary partnership of male and female was established only after the fall.” There are a number of places where the statement either simply repeats Scripture or provides basic positive commentary. This is all good (at least it would be if it didn’t recast headship and submission as a less offensive  and less precise “interdependent and complementary partnership.”)

But in keeping with it’s theme, it desperately strives to be “balanced.” That could be a virtue in a document meant to simply lay out unchanging Biblical principles. But if you frame your document as an update to address confusions in a specific time and place, then it’s a vice. If Paul had written Galatians to be “balanced” on the issues it addresses, it would have been an utter failure because it was addressing a radically unbalanced group of Christians.

Imagine a man watching his home go up in flames, but whenever he mentions water, he compulsively adds a reminder that drowning can be just as dangerous as burning to death, so don’t go crazy with those firehoses.  That’s how the WELS statement reads. The rhetorical consequence is that it effectively treats American women’s outright rebellion against God’s ordinance as sins of generic weakness that apply equally to both sexes.

And even with the over-balanced and milquetoast approach it took, the authors still felt the need to undercut themselves:

31. In our callings (vocations) in the world, Christians will seek the best way to show love for God and neighbor when multiple good principles of God appear to be in conflict (Esther 4-5). That apparent conflict does not flow from any defect in God’s creation. It flows from human sinfulness distorting everything in God’s world.

32. When Christians wrestle with situations in which multiple good principles appear to conflict, we know the principle of the interdependent and complementary partnership is a good gift of God (James 1:17). However, this principle is not the only biblical principle to consider, and its application in every situation does not supersede all other biblical principles directing love for God and neighbor.

33. God is delighted when faithful Christians seek to be fully engaged in the world, as we remember that Christ has declared us to be salt and light in an unbelieving world (Matthew 5:13,14). As believers seek to be that salt and light, we desire to reflect everything that is a part of God’s beautiful and balanced design for his world, including the interdependent and complementary partnership of male and female.

34. Living out our vocations in an unbelieving world, we often find ourselves in challenging situations that call for difficult decisions as we seek to honor the interdependent and complementary partnership of male and female. As salt and light, Christians may arrive at different—but equally faithful—applications of the same principle.

35. Because of responsibilities in many God-given callings in life, Christian females may find themselves carrying out vocations that place them in positions of authority over males, and Christian males may find themselves carrying out vocations that place them under the authority of females.

36. As Christians grapple with such issues in our vocations and communities, we remember that our confidence remains in the abounding grace of our perfect Savior, not in our ability to arrive at the perfect decision in every situation. We thank God for the privilege amid such challenging decisions to seek counsel from other mature Christians to avoid being deceived by our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).

That section is as unnecessarily wordy as the rest of the document, for it could be summed up in a single sentence: Following God’s design for men and women is really hard, so if you think you have something more important to do, don’t sweat it. But which rebellious feminist wife or would-be pastrix doesn’t think they have more important things to do than appreciate “the beauty and balance of God’s design for men and women?” It’s as though the authors were afraid they might have inadvertently guided someone, so they nipped that in the bud before it could get out-of-hand.

And that fear is really at the heart of all of these flaws. It’s vague lest anyone be offended by specifics. It’s repetitive in an attempt to bury God’s offensive Word in trite aphorisms. It refuses to speak bluntly against the world lest the world be upset. This is what happens when we don’t believe Jesus’ promise that the world would hate us on his account. We try to flatter sinners and sand off Jesus’ rough edges so that He would bring peace rather than a sword. But we cannot truly halt the conflict between Christ and the prince of this world; any attempt to do so is just our roundabout way of joining the other side.

Lutherans need to do better than this. This issue is no minor battleground, and victory will never be attained without valor.  But all WELS has done here is to squander another opportunity for faithful men to be bold. How many more opportunities do you think God will offer before he finally cuts us off from the land as we deserve?  Or worse yet, removes our lampstands?

Posted in Culture, Feminism, Lutheranism, The Modern Church, Theology | 3 Comments

Why Real Christians Shoot the “Robber”

If a robber breaks into your house and you kill him, does that mean you selfishly value your own filthy mammon more than a precious human life made in the image of God?

Preying on Christian naiveté is a way-of-life for many, so naturally, this accusation has crept up a lot lately. But then that’s only because preying on Christian naiveté is so effective. American Christians have doubled-down on the “innocent as doves” half of Jesus’ instructions, but completely forgone the “wise as serpents” part.

We know by natural law that defending our homes is the right choice, but we often have trouble articulating why. That vulnerability is only multiplied when our understanding of Scripture is so impoverished. We are easily deceived when the Devil quotes little snippets about “living sacrifices” and “turning the other cheek” out-of-context.

Christian congregations ought to be ashamed of this failure to catechize our brothers and sisters. So let’s take a moment to rectify it. Your impulse to violently defend your home is not a product of your sinful flesh in need of some mortification. The trendy accusation is just one more example of deceitful rhetoric designed to shame righteous men. Here are two subtle but enormous lies enmeshed in the idea that it’s greedy to violently defend your household from intruders.

It doesn’t take long to get to the first of these lies. Your accuser already needs to stop at “When a robber breaks into your house” because he’s already made a grievous misrepresentation:  You do not properly call someone a robber until after they leave your house with your goods. Likewise, you don’t call someone a murderer until after they’ve killed you, a rapist until after they’ve violated your wife, or a kidnapper until after they’ve taken your children. So which exactly is it who has only now just broken into your home?

And what do you know about this intruder? Is he armed and nervous enough to shoot someone by accident? Is he out on parole and willing to murder witnesses to avoid going back to prison? Is he impulsive and willing to take more than he planned if the opportunity arises? You have no idea. But when someone invades your home, you do know one thing as an absolute certainty: a criminal who fears neither God nor man has come to commit evil against your household. Preemptively labeling a home invader as a robber is pure presumption that puts your family at terrible risk. Do not believe the lie. Reject the label of “robber” that Satan slips in when he frames the question.

The second lie is the subtle contention that your home is merely a place where you keep your stuff. (And often, your accuser doesn’t even realize he’s telling the Devil’s lie here because that’s exactly what he already believes about his own home.) But the home God has given you is not mammon by default. Though the buildings and contents may qualify in many cases of excess, your home is, first and foremost, a responsibility. When God first created man, he charged us with two tasks: to be fruitful & multiply and to subdue the Earth. That means having a family and creating a place on Earth for them to live in peace and blessedness. The Fall into sin has not revoked that responsibility; it has only heightened the bodily necessity of fulfilling it with excellence.

I’ve written about it before, but it cannot be said enough: Fathers are the highest form of civil authority established by God through the 4th Commandment. Other forms of earthly government are downstream, wielding authority delegated by fathers. The direct purview of each father may be far smaller than even the tiniest nation, but it is a weighty responsibility nonetheless, with authority to match. Just as the king bears the sword on God’s behalf for the sake of his nation, the father bears a smaller sword on God’s behalf for the sake of his household. And like state governments, he has not been give the sword in vain. God has given him the responsibility to defend his family–including with lethal force when necessary.

But what about those who are not fathers? Well, by necessity in a fallen world, heads of household must carry on the father’s responsibility when sin or death has robbed them of a father. But even bachelors are not off the hook here because the vast majority of such men would be better characterized as “not fathers yet.” Most men have been called to marriage and family.

The work of preparing for a household begins well before marriage. Just as a man must first learn a trade that will eventually be sufficient to support a family, he must also learn to maintain and defend a home sufficiently for a family. What woman in her right mind would willingly marry a man with a record of steadfastly refusing to ever defend her and her future children? What man in his right mind thinks he can just flip a switch from doormat to defender upon saying his vows?

To be sure, those called to permanent celibacy have a greater measure of freedom in this matter. Theirs is not to have families, but to serve Christ’s Kingdom in different ways; courting martyrdom for the Gospel may end up being a part of that calling. But if you have family or are preparing to have one someday, you have a very different responsibility.

What then of the home invader? How are you to love your enemy as Christ commanded you? Many Christians are tempted to think that their death would somehow benefit the villain and thereby grant him the mercy we ourselves were shown. But how exactly? If you sacrifice yourself, your home, and your family to this evil man, what have you given him except a harsher sentence on the Last Day?

You claim you’ll tell him about Jesus? Even if the Gospel is on your lips as you abase yourself, your actions have spoken louder than your words and swallowed them up. Jesus said they would know us for love we have for one-another, but you demonstrated hatred of your own household instead. Paul said that a man who does not provide for his own household has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever, but you openly refused to provide your household with the protection they needed. And you committed these great evils in front of the man you want to save and under the banner of our Lord? One such as you associating himself with the Gospel openly slanders Jesus Christ. How exactly do you think it will go for you after the intruder sends you to meet your Maker?

There’s a difference between being living sacrifices and being consumable resources for the wicked. There’s a difference between being living sacrifices and being living sacrificers of those in your care. So by all means, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give up your cloak. But always do so in service to the responsibilities God has given to you. But if you would instead offer your children’s cheeks and strip your wife’s cloak for nothing more than a meaningless display of your own false piety, consider well the words of Jesus Christ:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.”

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Ethics, Family, Gospel, Law, Natural Law | 2 Comments

Capitalism and Consent

When I write about sexual morality, I frequently have to point out the problem with dehumanized consent. Those who hate chastity but also don’t want to be raped attempt to hang all of sexual morality on consent, but it is far too flimsy a concept to bear the load. This is true both morally and legally speaking. That’s why so-called “rape culture” exists and why grooming is tolerated despite everyone knowing the evils therein. Any “consent” that is dehumanized enough to allow fornication is utterly useless in making moral or legal judgments.

It finally occurred to me that this is just as true with respect to economic morality as it is to sexual morality. America has always prized economic freedom to the point where consent is often considered the only limit on financial transactions. But not coincidentally, the American economy is now typified by the same manner of moral insanity that we find in the sexual marketplace: Investment firms like Blackrock are buying up single family homes at an alarming rate. Our supply chains are so economically efficient that they have no redundancy and break down at the slightest hiccup, as we’ve seen ever since COVID. Widespread student loans and other normalized household debt prevent many in the younger generations from moving to more mature life stages like marriage and home-ownership. Personal property for consumers is subject to forced obsolescence as many companies switch from selling products to selling subscriptions to services. The economics of our healthcare system have been driven mad by the way we do insurance. Even our monetary system is based almost entirely on debt.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Economically speaking, we have been inundated with situations which no one in their right mind would ever choose for themselves. But they nevertheless have been chosen by most ordinary Americans–whether explicitly or implicitly–because our moral sense is so lacking and our incentives so perverse. And these situations are all working together to undermine the very purpose of an economy–to provide people with ways to earn the goods, services, and property that they need to get married, support children, own a home for their family, and build an inheritance for their children. Instead, everything is reoriented in service to greed, gluttony, and envy.

This cannot go on, and God will put a stop to it eventually if we fail to do so ourselves. Obviously, given our mythology of unbridled capitalism, Christian Americans have a lot of work to do to recover a sense of morality when it comes to economics. And as with other aspects of morality, Christians must become boldly determined to apply it to our laws. It’s a big job, but I believe there are two obvious places to start.

First, we must make usury shameful again. Most Americans today consider the word archaic (if they even know what it means,) but that is not in keeping with Christendom. The specific definition of usury has shifted from time to time (charging any interest, charging “excessive” interest, charging interest for profit, etc.) as have the penalties & exceptions determined by various jurisdictions. Nevertheless, the Church has always seen usury as an evil to be restrained. It is only in this era of being drunk on our own mammon that we’ve forgotten it altogether.

Biblically speaking, the Mosaic law put strict limitations on usury such as forbidding charging interest to the poor or to fellow Israelites as well as limiting the length of debt through regular jubilee years. Psalm 15 includes “does not put out his money at interest” among its criteria for “walking blamelessly and doing what is right.” Proverbs 28:8 suggests that any wealth gained by interest will be taken and given to someone more generous in the end. Even in the Parable of the Talents when the master tells the servant who buried his talent that he should have put it in the bank to earn interest, this command is based on the servant’s accusation that the master is a hard man who reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he scattered no seed. That’s hardly a recommendation. And all this is on top of the more general condemnations of greed found throughout Scripture.

Consent does not change this immoral nature of usury because those consenting to usury are only consenting to either taking advantage of someone or being taken advantage of themselves. Neither of those is good. Neither does it change the legal necessity of restricting usury. We have to remember that there are a lot of stupid people in any nation. And I don’t mean that as a genericism that most people are unwise; I mean that half the population has a below-average IQ. That severely limits future-orientation in decision making. Many can’t even recognize the inevitable consequences of payday loans and credit card balances. And the longer-term fruits of unbridled usury–financiers gambling with public money, all property slowly being accumulated by banks, etc–are beyond most average/midwitted individuals until they actually see it all happening. Consent is just as meaningless in the context of America’s banking nonsense as it is in the context of weekly drunken hookups.

How exactly to legally restrain usury is a matter for debate, but there are many tools available to us. Total or near total bans can be on the table (though one must be careful not to inadvertently create loan-oriented mafias when private arrangements proliferate.) But lesser means can also be effective. Rate and term term limits can be applied to make most usury unprofitable (and existing state laws can be reworked to apply to national banks operating in their borders.) Regular debt jubilees can be established to put hard limits on banks’ ability to ruin American citizens. And, of course, the many government entities created to facilitate usury for itself and for the American people (the Federal Reserve, Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae, student loan programs, etc.) can be dissolved, and much of the debt they govern can forgiven. The methods are legion; but the first thing is for America to  actually begin thinking in these terms and refusing to give bankers free reign simply for the sake of capitalism.

Second, we need to remember that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and apply God’s warning to the corporation. Americans tend to conflate “corporation” with “business,” but we shouldn’t. Corporations are legal entities invented to facilitate business in certain ways. Some of those, such as LLC’s which allow an entrepreneur to, say, start his own business without making his house collateral for it’s possible failure make a kind of sense.

The problem, however, is when we get to corporations like C-Corps which bear many of the rights of individuals, but are nevertheless entirely distinct from any individual responsibility. These are created to facilitate investment, loans (usury), stock trading, and so forth to create as much profit for as many people as possible while simultaneously diluting their personal responsibility as much as possible. They are, effectively, zombie legal persons whose sole purpose is to love money as much as possible.

We should therefore not be surprised that corporations have been at the root of so much evil in America. They can lie, cheat, and steal just as any individual can, but they do so with only the frailest accountability. For one thing, punishment of corporations mostly just amounts to fines paid out of profits. This effectively makes any decision to knowingly cause harm a matter of financial risk and reward. For another, their relative unaccountability is amplified by their ability to buy and sell government officials. Many of our legislators, government bureaucrats, and their families are the very individuals using corporations to maximize their wealth without accountability, creating an incestuous relationship between government and corporation. Thirdly, the fact that these entities are soulless zombies makes them relatively easy to be captured by social justice warriors and used as vehicles for wicked social changes alongside their profiteering. And once again, the American public has very little recourse except to maybe slowly starve them of revenue until they fail–assuming our government even lets them fail instead of stealing money from the public to prop them up.

In short, corporations sow corruption by their very nature. America has tried to reign them in through regulation and largely failed–mostly due to the aforementioned incestuous relationship with government. Americans must remember that corporations don’t need to exist. They were created by man and can be uncreated by man. If that cannot be accomplished with our current government due to the corruption, well… I suspect America will not retain its current form of government for much longer. We must be ready to avoid the same mistakes when forming the next one.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but Christians need to begin taking these issues seriously, for they are moral issues. Conservatives are often deterred from critiquing capitalism because socialism is presented as the alternative. Yes, socialism is utterly wicked as well because it also subverts the purpose of an economy. The elimination of private property–whether piecemeal or in whole–also prevents families from owning homes and building a heritage for their children. Even worse, Marxism’s very purpose is to destroy and supplant family in the first place. However, legally enforcing economic morality and holding bankers and corporations accountable for their wickedness is not the same as socialism, and it can be done without violating the 7th Commandment by eliminating private property.

And we better start figuring out how to accomplish this. Because if American Christians fail to cultivate a sense of economic morality and put it into practice, then Marxists, bankers, and corporations will be happy to continue filling that void–and finish destroying our nation in the process.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Culture, Ethics, Law, Politics | 8 Comments

Dancing Around Patriarchy

Sheila Greqoire tweeted an interesting “gotcha” against complementarians recently:

This is truly an odd way to talk about any roles–gender or otherwise. It’s as though she thinks of them as some kind of independent fiefdoms in perpetual competition with one another. Of course, that is how feminists see the sexes, so I suppose her well was already poisoned in that respect. But that’s not how all or even most roles work in practice.

For one thing, roles often overlap. For example, lighting the candles before the service on Sunday morning is often an acolyte’s role. He has been assigned to that task. But if the acolyte is absent on Sunday morning, the candles do not remain unlit because no one else is allowed use the candle lighter. Instead, the role passes to someone else–often to an usher or the elder who is on duty. This is simply the nature of delegation. When a task cannot be carried out by the one to whom it was delegated, it returns to the one who delegated it because he has the responsibility to see it done.

However, this overlap is not always bidirectional. For example, the board of elders at my congregation is charged with making sure our Sunday morning worship is carried out faithfully. That is one of the roles delegated to us by the congregation. But if an elder is absent during the monthly meeting, the acolyte doesn’t show up to cast votes instead. Does this mean that the established offices at my congregation have been designed to restrict acolytes? Of course not. This is simply the nature of responsibility. The ones who have been given a responsibility are the ones who must decide how best to fulfil it–including whether to delegate parts of it and determining who is fit to help. When the buck stops with someone else, you cannot presume to fulfil their responsibility your own way.

And, of course, none of the roles at a congregation are meant to be in competition with one-another. Neither the acolyte nor the elder earn more points for their respective service because points aren’t a thing. If more people come to the 8:00 service than to 10:30, that doesn’t mean the 8:00 usher team “wins.” This is because the roles were never independent, but rather about everyone working together in an orderly fashion to help the church run smoothly. Every role is intended to serve the congregation rather than the individuals fulfilling those roles. Anything else is vainglory.

Those of you paying attention might notice a pattern forming here. Different roles united in purpose, one-way delegation, ultimate responsibility resting closer and closer to the source of that delegation… There’s a word for this kind of arrangement: hierarchy.

It shouldn’t be surprising. Any roles humans create are a result of God giving us certain responsibilities. But true responsibility always bears the authority to carry it out, and that will inevitably involve others in some way. American hyper-individualism perpetually forgets the social nature of humanity, but when God first gave Adam responsibility over the Earth, he also gave him a helper–a woman to whom the king would delegate some of his authority. Hierarchy was part of Creation and human nature well before the Fall.

Unfortunately, feminists like Gregoire have rendered themselves color blind. Where the wise see things like authority, hierarchy, delegation, or cooperation, the feminist can only see different shades of power. Authority is a power disparity. Hierarchy is entrenched power. Delegation is power over slaves. Cooperation is manipulative power. So when she observes the roles that emerge in a man’s household and notices them proceeding from the father to whom God gave responsibility, she can only see restrictions of women–another shade of power.

But believe it or not, Gregoire does actually have a point here.

When it comes to the order of creation and the sexes, the Bible teaches patriarchy–that God has appointed fathers to govern households. Patriarchy existed before the Fall in a perfect world, and God reaffirmed it afterwards as well. But as much as feminists hate Biblical patriarchy, her comment was directed against complementarianism, which is something altogether different.

Complementarianism is a modern theology based on the observation that God created men and women to complement one-another. Not only does tab A fit into slot B, but differences in constitution, thought processes, inclinations, abilities, etc. all work together to make sure men and women have everything they need to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the Earth in harmony. Accordingly, traditional gender roles generally reflect these differences because men and women have tended to settle into the habits and tasks they’re each most adept at.

Now, that observation is indeed true–men and women are designed to complement one another. However, it’s also insufficient because it skirts the fact that God deliberately created a hierarchy in creation as part of that complementary design. Instead, it makes the roles a matter of circumstance rather than God delegating to man and then man delegating to woman. At best, complementarians hide this as a matter of marketing–to make Biblical patriarchy appear benign and inoffensive to a feminist culture. At worst, it’s an attempt to create a compromise between patriarchy and feminism–a synergistic false doctrine borne from their own distaste for father’s God-given authority.

No matter how inept Gregoire is at understanding it, I believe she is picking up on what complementarians try to hide: the very God-given authority she despises. And that is why even the best kinds of complementarianism aren’t particularly helpful. Feminists don’t hate because they fail to understand God’s design; they fail to understand God’s design because they hate. Trying to bypass that hatred by covering up the source will never work unless you intend to never tell the whole truth–and at that point, you’re just a false teacher.

Arguing with women isn’t going to accomplish much–especially feminist women. They’re not built for it. The solution to feminist rebellion isn’t to present Biblical patriarchy in a way they’re more likely to dialectically appreciate; that’s just waiting for women’s permission. Instead, present Biblical patriarchy as God’s Word does, and then live it as God’s Word commands. Fulfill your responsibilities with gusto. Be bold enough to tell women “no” when you need to. Be willing to rebuke, correct, and exhort; and support other men who do the same. The women who can accept that will follow. The rest are of no ultimate consequence.

Posted in Family, Feminism, Tradition | 3 Comments

Sins of Inequality? No! Inequality of Sins.

One of the most insidious things about idolatry is the syncretism. Those who know the Lord but still try and keep a side-piece will always integrate their idol into their religion. This is no less true when it comes to America’s premier idol: equality.

We are, of course, used to false teachers claiming that various forms of inequality are sin: racism, sexism, etc. But syncretism isn’t always so obvious. I have often heard otherwise faithful men promote false teachings like “All sins are equal” or “all sinners are equal.” A commenter asked about this falsehood on my last post, so I thought they would be worth addressing at length.

Like most persistent false teachings, these depend on misusing God’s Word to shoehorn our idol of equality into our doctrine. For example, Scripture repeatedly tells us that all of us are sinners. Paul particularly drives home the point while quoting Isaiah in Romans 3. Since we all share that same status, doesn’t that universality also imply that we’re all equal? Not at all. That’s like saying that because we all have mass, everyone’s weight is equal. Shared characteristics are not always the same thing as equality.

But the equality interpretation isn’t simply unasserted; it’s actually precluded by the clear testimony of Scripture elsewhere. Despite the assertion of some kind of broad equality of sins and of sinners, the Bible explicitly denies most senses in which they could legitimately be called equal. Let’s look at a few:

Sinners are not equal at the Final Judgment.

Let’s begin at the end. When all is said, all is done, and the books are opened, not all sinners will be treated the same way. And I don’t mean the believer/unbeliever distinction, but inequality between unbelievers (believers too, but that’s a different blog post). Consider how Jesus instructs his Apostles when he sends them out to preach the Gospel to Israel:

If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

He reiterates the same point only a chapter later:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. (Matthew 11:20-24)

Jesus words here are very clear. Not every unbelieving sinner is going to be treated equally on the day of judgment. They will all be barred from Paradise, but some will nevertheless be worse off than others. I’m not privy to the details of this arrangement, but the inequality is explicitly taught by Scripture.

It’s worth noting that if it weren’t for our sad devotion to equality, this point would be clear even from the simple doctrine that apart from Christ, we would each be judged according to his works and given what he deserves (Romans 2). This teaching would be nonsensical if all sinners were equal, for neither individual works nor requital for them would enter into the equation.

Sinners are not equal in the Church

It is not only in God’s omniscient judgment that sinners are unequal, but according to proper human judgement as well. Some contend that because all have sinned, none can legitimately comment on the sins of others. However, this is once again poor logic. To be sure, as a sinner, it would be comically meaningless to hold anyone accountable to the Matt Cochran Standard of Righteousness. But we have all been given another standard:  the eternal law of God, revealed by Scripture and by natural law.

This, we are not only allowed, but commanded to use; not against our brothers and sisters but for them. Christ himself tells us that when a brother sins against us, we are to go and tell him so that he would have a chance to repent and we a chance to forgive. This command is expanded for certain vocations within the Church. In his pastoral epistles, Paul instructs both Timothy and Titus to rebuke those in their care. (1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 2:15). But such rebuke is to be carried out using God’s Word as the standard. As he writes of elders, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

But although such rebuke is routine, it is by no means evenly distributed, for it is both error and sin that are to be rebuked. And as we can tell from Paul’s own rebukes, these things are not equal from person to person. Every last Christian at Corinth was a sinner, but there was only one man of whom Paul wrote, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” He likewise instructs Timothy to treat some sinners differently than others when he writes, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

These testimonies, of course, establish our final point as well:

Sins are not equal.

They are not equal coram deo, and they are not equal coram mundo. “What? How can you say this? Doesn’t the Bible say that he who keeps the law except for one point is guilty of all?” It does, but you must remember that James writes these words when he’s addressing one specific sin in distinction from others–partiality. The Church must serve all who belong to her apart from worldly distinctions like rich & poor because all are guilty and all need grace.

But James is not contradicting Paul who, as we’ve already seen, repeatedly instructed the Church to treat certain sins as worse than others. In fact, even as Paul instructs the Church of Corinth to judge sexual immorality among fellow Christians, he also provides a rationale for why that kind of sin is unequal: “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

But then, God has always treated some sins as worse than others. He did not rain fire and brimstone on every ancient city, but only Sodom, and only after verifying the extreme gravity of their sins. Christ condemned the Pharisees for obsessing over the minutia of tithing (tithing that God commanded them to do) while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law.” And although many parties were involved in unjustly condemning Christ to death, Jesus told Pilate that the ones who handed him over were guilty of a greater sin than Pilate himself.

What’s more, sins are not only unequal in their gravity, but also in the circumstances in which they were committed. On one hand, James writes that teachers will be held to a stricter standard than other Christians (and this, a mere chapter after he writes about partiality, proving the fact that partiality is not identical with inequality.) On the other hand, Paul says of his former persecution of the Church that, “I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” That does not stop Paul from counting himself the chief of sinners one sentence later, for Paul is not offering his ignorance as an excuse or as something that makes him worthy of grace. But like any just judge, the Lord does not ignore the circumstances in which we sin and their influence over us.

So whichever measurement one chooses to use, sins are not to be deemed equal–not in God’s judgment, and not in our own. Not every application of this fact is appropriate, of course. If you’re ranking sins in order to justify yourself, for example, you’re barking up the wrong tree, for apart from faith in Christ, God will damn both you and the neighbor you measure yourself against.

Neither are we to distinguish sins by worldly priorities–elevating fake sins like racism, sexism, or insensitivity as the most heinous, or perhaps pretending that Sodom’s inhospitality was worse than the sin named after the city.  But so long as you read Scripture without letting the idol of equality whisper false doctrine in your ear, God will provide you with ample wisdom for making just and practical distinctions.

And we will need every bit of that wisdom, for our vocations require us to know which sins are worse than others. The ruler must decide how severely to punish different evils and when to tolerate wrongdoing lest his enforcement create graver wrongs. The father must decide how to discipline his children. The local church must decide when to rebuke gently and when to rebuke severely. The one who thinks all sins are equal is incompetent to carry out such essential vocations.

So do not fall into the false pride of superiority because you think your sins are milder than your neighbors. But as you avoid false pride, do not plunge yourself into a false humility that scares you away from proclaiming what is right to those who are doing wrong.

Posted in Ethics, Law, Natural Law, Theology | 4 Comments

Loving the Liars

Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. –Proverbs 19:25

 

In a predictably duplicitous move, the Biden administration reacted to news of a recession by redefining “recession.” It’s hardly the most brazen lie among people who claim that men are women. Neither is it the most casual among people who deal with public, on-camera gaffes by simply denying they ever occurred. It is merely the most recent lie of a ruling class that daily enriches itself by consuming the last few dregs of American public trust.

Since we are surrounded by liars–those who who persistently, knowingly, and brazenly say of what is that it is not or of what is not that it is–it raises an important question: How is a Christian to treat incalcitrant liars? This can be especially tricky when liars occupy high positions which wield authority or at least deserve respect. Christians are to love our enemies, do good to those who persecute us, and respect authorities. Doing good is defined by God’s Law, of course, but what does it mean to love & respect a liar?

As I’ve written before, American Christians tend to take these high Biblical concepts like love and collapse them into a vague and pusillanimous “niceness.” But to be nice is merely to be pleasant and inoffensive. It avoids causing a scene and keeps everyone comfortable. Being “nice” to a liar would therefore require ignoring the fact that he’s a liar.

But niceness is by no means the same as love or respect. To love is to commit yourself to the true good of another person. And since that’s God’s idea of good, not theirs, love is not always pleasant or inoffensive. The highest good for a liar is his repentance. Likewise respect means to treat something as though it really is what it is (e.g. you respect a border by not crossing it, you respect a weapon by treating it as a deadly tool, etc.) Respect therefore means treating a liar as a liar rather than patronizing him by pretending he’s no such thing. So in this case, respect isn’t nice either.

With that in mind, here is how we ought to treat liars:

Don’t argue with liars. Rebuke them.

Here, I mean “argue” in the sense of addressing a disagreement through reasoned discussion. But how can you discuss something with one who changes his language to suit the needs of the moment? Without a shared language, you have no mechanism for reasoned conversation. Likewise, what can you possibly discuss with someone who will deny reality to your face? If the liar is unwilling to talk about a shared world, you have no topic for reasoned conversation. Any debate you may engage in is nothing but theater which gives both onlookers and the liar himself the impression that he isn’t really a liar. That is neither loving nor respectful.

Instead, when you confront a liar, you need to forthrightly rebuke him as such. When a prog talks about women’s rights one minute and the next minute claims that only an expert biologist can recognize a women, don’t point out that they’re being hypocritical or inconsistent as the conservatives do. That’s arguing. Instead, tell them the truth: “You know damn well what a woman is, you liar.” If it’s a public discussion, you can point out his inconsistency as an argument to onlookers so that they, too, can see that he’s a liar. But until the liar backs off from the lies, rebuking is your only loving option.

Now, this is no excuse for intellectual laziness on our part; we still need to be able to refute false claims. If we couldn’t, then we would have no idea who the liars are in the first place. We would also be unable to help the deceived or the weak to recognize the liars. But if you truly want to help the weak, rhetorical skills are more important than dialectical skill. And if you don’t have the confidence to call a spade a spade, then you will lose on rhetoric every single time.

Don’t show courtesy to liars.

As I’ve written before, courtesy is a social contract rather than a moral absolute. Any culture will have implicit agreements about how a person ought to be treated so long as they treat others the same way. But when that contact is broken, courtesy given to the one who reneged becomes meaningless. One-sided courtesy ceases to be a means by which you show others respect. It is only means by which you try to signal your own virtues. It can occasionally be a useful tool to establish one’s own reputation as a courteous person  or “the bigger man” (though usually it just paints you as a chump), but that has nothing to do with giving love or respect to others.

To show courtesy to a liar is even worse than meaningless. Yes, they have broken the social contract because no courtesy worth the term accommodates brazenly bearing false witness. But they have not merely broken the social contract. Their public disregard for the truth undermines any basis on which such any social contract could be formed, for contracts depend precisely on the good-faith and honesty that the liar actively destroys. Extending courtesy to liars actually erodes courtesy for everyone. It is like including a known cheater in a game of basketball. It doesn’t help the cheater; it just ruins the game for everyone else. For the sake of courtesy, the liar must be excluded from courtesy.

But as you might have noticed, that is done out of love of your other neighbors rather than the liar himself, for courtesy is of great value to society. So how then does one love the liars themselves? Well, by whatever means you believe will be useful within the moral law regardless of social convention. So when you believe they need things like rebuke , public shaming, or exclusion to provoke repentance (or even mere restraint of their sin through discipline), courtesy need not hold you back from gifting it to them.

Don’t obey liars.

Any real office that holds real authority has been given certain real responsibilities. The incalcitrant liar, however, has chosen to defy the real. Inasmuch as he is a liar, he cannot truly fulfill his office. Accordingly, the Christian must likewise begin to distinguish the office from the person in practice and not just in theory.

In some cases, respecting the office will mean taking over some of its abandoned responsibilities. In other cases, it will even mean active disobedience. We must remember that even government authority is delegated from God by means of fathers. Naturally, we mustn’t delegate to a liar for the sake of our own responsibilities. They cannot help us educate our children, so we will need to make our own arrangements. They will deceive us in matters such as public health, so we will have to do our own research. They will subvert justice and refuse to protect us, so we will need to be prepared to protect our own families, our neighbors, our businesses, and our congregations. So the office must be fulfilled regardless of the occupant.

But it is also for the liar’s own sake that you mustn’t delegate to him. When you give responsibility to a liar, you not only set him up for failure, but also multiply his sins and therefore God’s judgment against him. That can hardly be considered loving. So for the liar’s sake, wherever you can, take back any and all authority you have granted to him. In doing so, love will cover a multitude of his sins.

Pray both for and against liars

Jesus told us to pray for our enemies because God causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike–He provides for their needs and so we should also. In the case of the liar, his greatest need is repentance–to turn away from his sin and embrace the truth. With his soul on the line, there’s nothing in the entire world that would benefit him more. And so every prayer we offer on his behalf ought to petition for an end to his lies.

That is a prayer for him. But it is also a prayer against him–that God would confound his efforts and subject his will to futility. The loving prayer asks God to put Himself in the liar’s path and stand in opposition to him. There is therefore no inherent contradiction between praying for mercy and also praying that God would shatter their teeth in their mouths, for God often brings about repentance in such ways. And should their time for repentance have passed unbeknownst to us, it still serves to put an end to the liar’s sins which will incur further judgment.

God has given us many examples of prayer, including the imprecatory Psalms. We shouldn’t second-guess him by categorically refusing some of them. Instead, we must do our best to use all of them to pray for all of our neighbors, including the enemies who threaten.

Cancel Liars

Of all the entries on this list, conservatives will likely hate this one the most. And it’s hard to blame them, for the best society would be one without cancel culture. But that’s not the society we have. In fact, it is the liars who took that society away from us. And because they will not spontaneously deescalate their conflict, we have to fight the battle we’ve been given rather than the battle we want. Remember:  when someone is shooting at you and your family, returning fire in their defense is not “sinking to their level”

So resist associating with liars. Hold them in public contempt. Exclude them from polite society. Punish them whenever and however your vocations allow. Liars are still human, but they’re wicked humans. Because they lie to themselves as well, they won’t get better without relentless opposition to their lies. So do the loving thing: Provide them with that opposition. Don’t make it easy to delude themselves into thinking they’re ok.

But also hope for their repentance because God saves wicked humans all the time. And in expectation of that blessed possibility, work to create a world in which they could live in peace, good repute, and forgiveness upon finally repenting of their lies. Just remember that liars will corrode such a world. So to preserve their own future, you must keep them away from it until they’re willing to repent.

So what, then is my point in all this? Am I saying that liars are bad so you can treat them as badly as you feel like? Not at all. Right and wrong are rooted in God’s Law, and it obliges us regardless of how good or evil our neighbors might be. Nevertheless, despite being rooted in both natural law and special revelation, morality is taught by parents, cultures, and traditions. The devil has always exploited fallen humans and their work to plant false moralities alongside the real thing. America is no exception.

So my point is that in order to follow God’s Law well–including his commands to be loving, respectful, kind, gentle, and so forth–we need to shake off these false moralities. God has told us to love and then defined that love in the Law and demonstrated His own in the Gospel. But it is the world that tells us to be nice and inoffensive above all else. It is the world that tells us to be “winsome.” It is the world that tells us to be offended according to its made-up categories like racism, sexism, and so forth. It is the world that tells us that loving someone means being liked by them. To be faithful, we must learn to fulfill our vocations without being bound by such deceptions.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, Tradition | 6 Comments

The Lutheran Tone Police

One of the most common ways of dismissing substantive criticism is to complain about its “tone.” If only it were said less antagonistically, more lovingly, more sensitively, etc., then it might be possible for them to listen thoughtfully. But it was just so darn mean that they “can’t even.” If you’re looking to dodge responsibility, it’s an effective way to change the subject from your errant ideas to somebody else’s communication skills.

Lutherans have their own variation of this deceitful tactic, and it centers on one phrase from Luther’s Small Catechism about the 8th Commandment: “put the best construction on everything.” Notice that I didn’t say the tactic centers on the 8th Commandment or on Luther’s explanation thereof, but on that single phrase in isolation. So let’s look at the entire entry from the Small Catechism.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, nor defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

Luther’s is a straightforward and Biblical approach to the Commandments–Jesus reasoned from Scripture the same way. As usual, he lists both negative and positive responsibilities which God has given us with this Commandment. First is the most literal sense, of course–don’t lie about your neighbor in a court of law. But if your neighbor’s reputation is of sufficient value that you shouldn’t destroy it in court, then neither should you destroy it in lesser ways. And if you love your neighbor, you will do what you can to preserve the important things in his life, including his good name.

So Luther lists a few examples of how we put that into practice, including the bit about “best construction.” To put the best construction on everything basically means to give someone the benefit of the doubt. If something can justifiably be explained in your neighbor’s favor, it ought to be so explained. By doing this, we guard against inadvertent slander and therefore protect our neighbors’ reputations.

But those who try to make the law a tool for self-justification will always need to twist it to some extent. That brings us back to the Lutheran version of the tone police. You see, when some Lutherans are too pusillanimous to receive criticism, they shift the conversation from the criticism itself to the question of whether the critic truly put the “best construction on everything.”

This deceitful misunderstanding of the Commandment has been a boon to false teachers in our midst. When they publicly teach error, they proclaim that the 8th Commandment forbids people from addressing the plain meaning of their words publicly. They moralize that “best construction” means assuming they’re not teaching falsely despite all evidence to the contrary and allowing their words to stand unopposed. They tell you that if there is any possible way their words could be understood to not contradict the Faith, then God has commanded you to be silent. And if you still think there might be a problem, your only pious option is asking them privately about their public words.

In saying this, they only heap false teaching upon false teaching.

This tactic is not merely deceitful. It’s incoherent. After all, what would happen if the false teacher were to apply this false understanding of “best construction” to his own response? If you accuse your critic of breaking the 8th Commandment, have you truly put the best construction on his words? Shouldn’t you refrain from addressing the plain meaning of their rebuke? Shouldn’t you assume that their criticism of you is faithful and allow it to stand? Does not God command you to be silent, and if it still troubles you, shouldn’t you only respond privately instead of publicly?

Of course, they never do this. That’s because they don’t really think the 8th Commandment requires it; it’s just very useful to them if you think the 8th Commandment requires it. They are preying on your good nature–your willingness to reflect on your actions in light of God’s Word and adjust them accordingly.

But no one who is truly familiar with Luther, the Lutheran Confessions, or God’s word should fall for this. Luther, of course, is famous for vocally and sharply addressing the false teachers of his own day, as was fitting for his vocation. And in terms of our confessions, the Small Catechism is only a brief summary of the Large Catechism which adds:

All this has been said about secret sins. But where the sin is quite public, so that the judge and everybody know about it, you can without any sin shun the offender and let him go his own way, because he has brought himself into disgrace. You may also publicly testify about him. For when a matter is public in the daylight, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying. It is like when we now rebuke the pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. Where the sin is public, the rebuke also must be public that everyone may learn to guard against it.

And, of course, our Confessions are only summaries of Holy Scripture. Consider the example of the Apostle Paul when Peter was publicly despising Gentile believers:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all…

And to Paul’s example, we can add Christ’s very public rebukes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 or Elijah’s treatment of the prophets of Baal. False teaching requires public rebuke.

Faithful Christians who are equipped to discern right from wrong have a responsibility to our neighbors. When we fail to rebuke false teaching, we leave our fellow Christians to be preyed upon by these wolves. Don’t let fake Lutherans cow you into silence and replace your love for your neighbor with hatred. Despite what they would like you to believe, the 8th Commandment does not give them diplomatic immunity.

The best construction for false teaching is always demolition work:  “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Posted in Ethics, Lutheranism, Theology | 2 Comments