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 | 2 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 particular 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

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 | Leave a comment

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

“David Raped” is a Camel’s Nose

What was David’s great sin with Uriah and Bathsheba? The Bible and the Church say murder and adultery. Radical Lutherans say “not having a preacher.” But it’s once again becoming trendy for feminists to insist that David’s real sin was rape.

Scripturally, of course, there’s no case to be made that David raped Bathsheba. The Bible has no problem describing rape when rape is actually part of the story, as we can see literally one chapter after Nathan rebukes David. Instead, they have to base the allegation on feminist theories about uneven power dynamics. The basic idea is that a woman’s consent must be completely pure to count. It cannot be influenced by any outside pressures, but must essentially be the equivalent of her whim.

It gets pretty absurd applying that kind of reasoning to David. For one thing, it would mean that he was raping all of his wives. He was just as much their king as he was Bathsheba’s and held as much or more power over them. And that means that God explicitly condones rape, for when Nathan is rebuking David, God says “I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms.” How much power do you think David’s harem had in the matter? But then, you could go all the way back to Genesis when God literally makes Eve for Adam and find the same thing. And moving into the New Testament, we already know  how it ends up applying to the Mother of God.

So as usual, feminist theory is utterly incompatible with Christianity. But then, as usual, it’s also utterly incompatible with reality. To point out the obvious, there is always a power differential between men and women simply because men are so much stronger. What’s more, that power differential is basically a precondition for female attraction. Most women don’t even want a man who isn’t stronger, wealthier, more authoritative, or more accomplished than her. The whole theory is typical of feminism’s myopic inability to see any factor other than power in their analysis.

So why is there so much pressure to inflict this absurdity on the Church? And conversely, why is it even a big deal if someone teaches that David’s grave sin before God was a somewhat graver sin before God? Well, there is a definite method to this madness.

This action by feminists is a classic example of the Camel’s Nose. Counterfeiting a Biblical foundation for feminist theory creates a very useful “problem” for them to exploit. One might notice that for 2000 years, basically no one important has read the story this way.  The church fathers all have the understanding that this was typical adultery–naturally, since that’s what the Biblical text presents to them and to us.

But once you eisegete faulty feminist assumptions into the text, the only conclusion is that for 2000 years, the Church couldn’t be bothered to notice something as heinous as rape. All those “church fathers” were so divorced from the plight of women that even rape was beneath their concern. This (totally invented) problem requires an obvious solution: we need more women to pose as theologians and leaders to address the unique concerns of our sisters in Christ! And so, from a seemingly minor alteration of an Old Testament story, the cancer of feminism has an opportunity to spread to yet more members.

But we do not need more women leaders in the Church. Frankly, nothing in society needs more female leadership. If God’s clear prohibition on women teaching and having authority over men in the Church were somehow not enough, bare experience is now more than sufficient. Today’s church is plagued by false teachings introduced specifically by “women’s unique perspectives.” No good comes from willingly inflicting Eve’s curse on Christ’s Kingdom.

But we are a weak people. Even when we can see the clear logical progression from A to B, we’ve also been trained by the world not to act on such reasoning. Our indoctrination says that the slippery slope is a fallacy and that correlation provides no insight into causation. So it’s worth addressing one of conservatives’ big temptations to surrender ground on this narrative.

Part of the conservative mentality is a desire to find common ground. That’s not a bad thing in itself, of course. In the right context, it can be quite useful. But while we dress up that impulse as “being winsome” and “building bridges,” the bitter truth is simply that we have to be forced into making a fuss. We prefer the calm of peace and security so that we need not suffer the pains of change. So if there’s any possibility of avoiding a conflict, we’re inclined to take it. That’s not a virtue–it just masquerades as one.

Now, if common ground is something one seeks, then condemning rape should be low-hanging fruit. As far as popular consensus goes, it’s right up there with “Hitler is bad.” So to many conservatives, giving credence to the David-raped-Bathsheba nonsense seems tolerable for the sake of an easy “win.” They have a rare opportunity to virtue-signal how they really do care about women despite what those evil liberals say. Too many are therefore willing to be tolerant of something they know isn’t really true.

Here’s what conservatives need to drive into their skulls: There is no common ground between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Hell. If you think there is, you’re either imagining things or you’re on the wrong side. The Enemy is happy to use our words to mean something completely different and have us embrace them. That’s why a subject like rape that appears to be common ground is in reality a subject of so much controversy.

A Christian mustn’t desire common ground with Satan and his thralls. He must desire his utter defeat and their complete repentance. As you reach out to the lost–including those led astray by feminist false teachers–you do need to listen to them. You do need to try and understand where they’re coming from. But you don’t come from the same place. and shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Conservatives are great at being as innocent as doves; but that only means we have to try extra hard to also be wise as serpents. Satan has an agenda, and his servants pursue it whether they know it or not

So when you encounter the lie that David raped Bathsheba, remember that it is an attack on God’s Word and respond accordingly. You may be tempted to think it’s no big deal, but the very fact that the Enemy pushes it so hard should show you its importance. Don’t give in to the temptation to be lazy and conflict avoidant, and definitely don’t dress it up as something more noble. In this and all such attacks, embrace the pain of standing firm. If you can’t even do that on something “small,” what makes you think you’ll do it on anything bigger?

Posted in Feminism, The Modern Church, Theology | 10 Comments

What Seminary Taught Me About Greatness

Should a woman study at seminary? I’ve seen the question raised quite a bit over the past few months for various reasons. Some of that reason, of course, is the fault of “Christian” feminists who will always try to scrabble their way into a pulpit to cross-dress as a pastor. But what about women who have no designs on the pastoral office and still wish to learn theology? Is seminary a legitimate option?

Unfortunately, most of the commentary I’ve seen on that question has been hot garbage because it was oblivious to a very basic point: “Should a woman study at seminary” is not the same question as “Should a woman learn more about God’s Word.” Learning more about God’s Word is good. Learning more about God’s Word specifically through a formal degree program at a school dedicated to training pastors is not always good. There are a multitude of ways to learn more about God’s Word: the Divine Service, sermons, Sunday school, Bible study, reading great works of theology, engaging in conversations with learned Christians, listening to podcasts, asking your husband at home, and many more. Some are more appropriate than others in different contexts, and only some bear a specific command from God. (Please note that the most offensive entry on the list is one of the specific commands from God.)

Nevertheless, the question piqued my interest because I myself studied at seminary without any intention of becoming a pastor, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity. Now, I could write about what a seminary education offers and analyze how useful that is to women given their different callings. (That is how I first began writing this, so maybe I’ll post that another time.) But instead, I decided to address it with a story about why seminary was such a positive experience for me and the most important thing I learned there.

When I enrolled at seminary, I had second career plans. I wanted to leave IT behind and teach philosophy in college from a Christian perspective. Christian philosophy had played a big role in God bringing me back to His Church after I had wandered off during high school and college. I wanted to share that gift with others, and I wanted to do so where it was most needed–those spiritual charnel-houses we call universities.

However, I knew delving deep into philosophy is a very effective way of getting “weird” theologically. So I wanted to do some formal study of sound theology first so that I would have a foundation and anchor when delving into philosophy. One of my church body’s seminaries seemed like the ideal place to begin. Then it would be on to a philosophy program. By the time I finally achieved a tenured position, I would have credentials, position, status, and the tools I needed to perform a great and mighty work on behalf of Jesus Christ.

Step one in my plan went swimmingly. I loved my time at seminary. I studied under some excellent professors, read a lot of great works of theology, and delved deeper into Scriptures than I ever had before. Apologetics and ethics were my big interests, and I encountered inexhaustible wisdom in God’s Word and the Church’s traditions to fuel my engagement with those interests. What I gained at seminary is priceless beyond words.

But I also lost something at seminary; and that loss proved to be even more valuable. Like everyone else born in the past 50 years, I had been raised to despise the idea of having children.  I was taught that pregnancy was an STD to be avoided at all costs. I was taught that education and career came first, and children were an optional add-on for when you’re too old to do anything interesting. I was taught to love mammon–money, big vacations, nice restaurants, leisure, etc.–and knew that children would eat away at my precious mammon. For all these reasons and more, I “knew” that children were a hinderance. And especially as one now intending to be a high-minded intellectual–to be “great”–it was a hinderance I didn’t want and couldn’t afford.

But the more I studied God’s Word and broadened my view beyond the modern world, the more I realized how alien my hatred of family truly was. Alien to God’s word. Even alien to humanity. At seminary, God taught me that my ideas of greatness were horribly wrong.

At the same time, the Lutheran doctrine of vocation helped me to understand where greatness truly lies. I, of course, had already heard Jesus’ teaching that the one who would be greatest of all must be the servant of all. That’s why my big plan was a plan to serve others! But I was operating under the faulty American notion that service is self-chosen. I had been told my whole life that I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up, and I believed it. So of course I aimed for the mode of service I found most appealing.

But that’s not what servants do. Servants are given tasks by their master. They have agency, but that agency is within their master’s priorities, not their own. I had made my plans, but what did my Master actually command of me? Radical Lutherans might disdain that question, but every Christian has asked it.  And nobody reading the Lutheran Confessions could avoid finding answers. A faithful student could hardly read Luther’s critiques of monasticism and all of its mighty self-chosen works like vows of celibacy & outwardly pious rituals and not draw the connection to his own choices. I had not been called to celibacy–I was already married–but I had chosen barrenness. The very first thing God ever told humanity to do was to be fruitful and multiply, but I had “bigger” plans than that.

That’s not service. There wasn’t anything wrong with my aspirations per se. But my plan was not a plan for greatness in God’s eyes. My idea of service had more to do with myself than anything else.

The year following graduation–when I was applying to philosophy programs and taking some undergrad classes at a local college–was when God finally hit me with the choice. Biology provides us with hard limitations, and the fertility window is one of those. This was my plan for a second career, and my wife and I were nearing the end of that window. If we wanted children, that was the only time left. But how would I financially support a family? I had a reliable means, but it wasn’t five years of a PhD program followed by however many years it would take me to find a tenure-track position in a glutted field. It was my paused career in IT.

So I put what I had learned at seminary to good use: I abandoned my plan in favor of God’s instructions. I let go of my dream of greatness in favor of God’s and truly serve. And in raising the children God has given me since, my only regret is my stubborn and ignorant delay in getting started. I absolutely love my sons and would not trade them for anything under the sun. The vocation of father has taken a lot of getting used to, but it was never beneath me the way I had been taught. The world gave me the unappealing idea of raising generic, faceless children, but that never matched the reality of raising my children that God gave me. God’s plan was even a greater blessing to me than mine was.

So my time at seminary was not wasted because it irrevocably changed my life for the better. And I do still use my degree–as a teacher & elder at my local church and as a father doing his best to catechize his children. While I may not read or write as much as I once hoped to, I still do both. And fatherhood has shaped my writing in ways that academic study never could have. So God didn’t just leave my preferred kind of work by the wayside.

So to any women considering studying at seminary because you have big dreams of serving God in ways the world esteems, consider first what He has actually asked of you. Family is the clear vocational priority for the vast majority of men, but that is doubly emphasized and doubly obvious in Scripture for women.

God wants you to learn–quietly in all submissiveness. But instead of using that learning to teach men in the church, he wants you to be saved through childbearing. But he does have a teaching role for you: “training younger women to love their husbands, be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.” He has asked you to help manage your husband’s household with skill and grace. He wants you to teach your children about His Word and raise them in the faith. This is the greatness to which the vast majority of women (and almost certainly you) are called.

Do you truly believe a seminary education is the best way to achieve these far greater works than the ones you have planned for yourself? Or perhaps the myriad of other ways God has given you to sit at His feet and learn His Word are far better suited to your calling. It was only due to stubborn ignorance and worldly influence that I needed seminary to learn that. Why would you need seminary to learn that?

Posted in Family, Feminism, Sanctification, Theology | 3 Comments

Your Earthly Kingdom Matters

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.”

“My kingdom is not of this world” is a relatively famous quote even by Biblical standards. And like similarly famous quotes such as “judge not lest ye be judged,” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” it’s frequently used by non-Christians and false teachers as bludgeons to pacify believers. But whereas the other two examples are wielded against Christian morality in general, “My kingdom is not of this world” is increasingly being wielded against Christian Nationalism.

More and more Christians in America are waking up to the fact that religious neutrality was always a fraud used by modernists to cripple Christian influence in culture and politics. Now that one of their mightiest icons–Roe v. Wade–has finally fallen, they are all the more desperate to prevent American Christians from loving those neighbors progressives would rather murder, vivisect, and molest.

Many Christians I know are both encouraged by and excited about this victory–and by the fact that the ruling left the door open to challenge some of the other worst rulings in American history. So naturally, the anti-Christians had to try and throw water on it. “Woah there, don’t celebrate this victory lest you hurt the feelings of the defeated!” “Stop all the chest-beating! Those tiny lives Christians have saved are worthless unless you implement my entire political program!”

But there is also a renewed effort to back Christians away from fruitful political action in general, and a lot of it centers around the sentiment aroused by misusing “My kingdom is not of this world.” They say that because Christ said this, kingdoms of this world don’t matter. Neither do any actions taken on behalf of their peoples. Who cares if America is conquered by China or ruled by a demented and corrupt traitor? The Kingdom of Heaven will go on regardless, so go ahead an lay down your arms in the face of earthly enemies. Resistance to tyranny would be impious of you. If your level of interest ever rises beyond passing or your determination ever exceeds half-assed, it just shows that you’ve made an idol of politics and must repent!

But Jesus’ words to Pilate were never meant to require a pious nihilism of his faithful. He is not saying that these earthly struggles against evil in our lands are of no significance. And he is certainly not telling us to abandon political vocations which he himself has given us. So what does Jesus mean, then?

When Jesus began his ministry, the devil tempted him by offering him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory–all the authority that Adam had ceded to Satan in the Fall. Christ refused. But it would not have been a temptation at all if the kingdoms of this world were of no concern to Jesus. Rather, he would not reclaim Satan’s kingdom by becoming his vassal; he would instead reclaim it as a conqueror even at the cost of his own life:  casting out the prince of this world and redeeming his subjects for himself.

Christ’s kingdom is the kingdom of heaven. Not being of this world means it was never under the devil’s worldly purview. It’s not a temporal government like Rome or Persia vying against similar powers to control some part of the Earth for a short time. It’s a heavenly government about to reclaim the entire thing from above for all eternity. It does so not by force of arms, but by Christ redeeming the fallen human race with his blood and making us subjects of heaven through the proclamation of this good news. And where the kingdom of heaven conquers, Satan retreats. That’s why sicknesses are healed and demons cast out wherever Christ went. And that’s why we, as his subjects, are more than conquerors through him.

This is a great comfort in the face of earthly defeats–of which we all suffer many. No nation is perfect, and every civilization falls eventually. But none of these failures can truly defeat us because our ultimate victory has already been won. On the contrary, even Satan’s furor cannot help but serve you in the end, for all things work together for good for those who love God.

This comfort is not, however, an excuse to neglect our vocations. For in the same conversation with Pilate, Jesus also tells him that he would have no authority at all if it weren’t given to him from above. In other words, heaven itself is interested enough in earthly politics to grant governing authority. Paul likewise reminds us that the machinations of earthly government are God’s means of avenging those who are wronged commending those who are right. And the Fourth Commandment, which establishes all earthly government by means of the family is the first to come with a promise–that it may be well with us and we may live long in the land. As scandalous as that may sound to some–that living long in this fallen world is a blessing–that is what God has told us. Who are we to believe otherwise?

Scripture never instructs us to be disinterested in or aloof from those responsibilities. On the contrary, God explicitly instructs us to carry them out as though we were serving Christ himself. Because when it comes to our vocations, serving Christ is exactly what we’re doing.

Those who seek to undermine Christian action in the world (or excuse their own negligence) call this devotion to Christ idolatry. They often do the same thing with marriage, the first command God ever gave to mankind. So why not do it with civil governance as well? Do not let them deceive you. Devotion to Christ through your vocations is not idolatry. Neither is loving your vocations, being excited about your vocations, or treating your vocations as important in word and deed. How can subjects of the kingdom of heaven avoid such mindsets when it comes to serving our king?

So don’t neglect your responsibilities. The kingdom of heaven has appointed you to serve in some capacity within a kingdom on earth. Both kingdoms have therefore been given to you. Christian fathers, you have been given a measure of authority in this world for a blessed purpose. Wield it well. Wield it for your family. Wield it as a Christian above all else. Christian Americans, you have been given a measure of authority and influence in your nation. Wield it well. Wield it for your people. Wield it as a Christian above all else. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that being aloof or disinterested in your work is pious–even when the devil misuses Scripture to that end.

Don’t be above the fray God calls you to. Be in it.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Culture, Ethics, Politics | 2 Comments

Is There Marriage in Heaven?

Is there marriage in heaven?

It seems that most Christians will tell you “no” based on Jesus words in Matthew 22:23-33 and it’s parallel account in Luke 20:27-40. I’ll copy both here for the sake of convenience.

According to Matthew:

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

According to Luke:

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward, the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

And Jesus said to them, “the sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage abou the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him. Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

Now, it’s easy to see why so many conclude that there will not be marriage in heaven based on Jesus’ words here. For one, it would provide a clear rebuttal of the Sadducees–their riddle being pointless in an afterlife without marriage. For another, if you lift Jesus words and set them apart from the story, “no marriage in the resurrection” is precisely what it sounds like.

But as I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m skeptical of that take.  The more I looked at these texts, the less convinced I became that the common interpretation is the correct one.

First, I have to be honest. I’m looking at these verses so closely because I don’t like the idea that marriage won’t exist in heaven. God’s Word taught me the value of marriage and its centrality to human nature. Accordingly, I find it odd that it also says this very good thing will pass away in the next life–especially when you consider how many people have been deprived of it altogether in this fallen world. God said that in the new heavens and new earth, he would make all things new–not phase out literally the first thing he ever told us to do that lies at the heart of our being made in the image of God.

But I must also remember that sometimes God does things that don’t make sense to fallen mortals like myself. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and his ways are higher than my ways. I’ve written before that saying “God would never do X” without Scriptural warrant really just means “I would never do X if I were God.” And since we’re not God, that’s not a terribly meaningful judgment. I see other people make that mistake all the time, so I can hardly consider myself immune to it. When God tells us things we don’t want to hear, our response should be faith seeking understanding. We know what He said and we know He is Good. We need to pray for wisdom to understand the ‘why’.

All that said, attempting to understand why involves meditating on His Word. In doing so, I found a number of textual problems with the usual interpretation that marriage will no longer exist in Paradise:

  1. If you read Jesus’ words in Luke that way, the implication is that we won’t marry in heaven because we won’t die anymore in heaven. In other words, it argues that marriage is not needed where there is no death. (Usually, people add in the speculation that because no one’s dying, we no longer need children to keep the population going.) But marriage very clearly did exist before death in the Garden. It was even commanded, and thus necessary in that sense. So that explanation would put Jesus’ argument at odds with the rest of Scripture.
  2. It doesn’t explain why Jesus changed verb tenses. The Sadducees asked whose wife will the widow be. But Jesus answers in the present tense: they “marry and are given in marriage” and they “neither marry nor are given in marriage”. He also doesn’t talk about the people after the resurrection, but Luke specifies people considered (present tense) worthy to attain to the resurrection. The implication is that they haven’t been resurrected yet. In short, grammatically, Jesus is not talking about a future reality like the Sadducees were, but a present one.
  3. It really makes the angel comparison senseless. It’s worth noting that the Sadducees didn’t believe in angels anymore than they did in the resurrection, so Jesus is apparently trolling them to some extent here. But many have speculated that the comparison works because angels are sexless. Jesus, however, specifies in Luke that the similarity to angels is a matter of immortality and status (“equal to angels,” “sons of God”) rather than a hypothetical sexless nature. What’s more, angels are another subject we don’t know much about Scripturally, and this would be the only statement we have suggesting that they are sexless. With that in mind, Jesus’ comparison would mean practically nothing. That doesn’t sit right, especially when Jesus tells them in Matthew’s account that they’re wrong because they don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power.
  4. This explanation has Jesus answering the Sadducees by giving them a glimpse into a heretofore unknown detail about life in the hereafter. As the Son of God, Jesus certainly has access to insider knowledge and has shown himself willing to share it as he sees fit. But again, that isn’t exactly congruent with his condemnation of the Sadducees in Matthew–that they’re wrong because they don’t know the Scriptures. Wouldn’t his answer to them therefore be in reference to something either stated by Scripture or reasonably deduced from it?

When an explanation doesn’t fit the facts very well, it’s generally not a good explanation. Seeking to understand Christ’s words means finding a better one. So let’s look closely at those words and get a better idea of what he’s saying to us.

So who exactly is Jesus talking about here? “Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead” according to Luke’s more detailed account. Notice that he’s not talking about people after the resurrection, but people who are (present tense) considered worthy of it. These are not current citizens of the new heaven and the new earth which will come after the old heaven and earth pass away, but those who will be there. He contrasts them with “sons of this age” who marry and are given in marriage (present tense), so we know he’s not referring to those of us on earth. They are people who are now alive, but they are not living on this earth among those who marry, and they are not yet living in the new heaven and the new earth after the resurrection.

Accordingly, we can conclude that Jesus is talking about those who have already died in Christ and now live with Him in heaven awaiting the Second Coming, the Resurrection of the dead, the final judgement, and the new heavens and the new earth. What exactly is this interim state like? We don’t know too much, but they are at rest, they are in paradise, and their state is temporary.

This interpretation is bolstered by Jesus’ follow-up comment to the Sadducees. They only accepted the five books of Moses, so Jesus proved the Resurrection from those alone by pointing out that God told Moses that He is (present tense) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not only is Jesus also being very sensitive to Scripture’s verb tenses, he speaks of three men who are in that same intermediate state. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live with the rest of the saints awaiting the resurrection. So that is a category he’s already using in this same conversation.

What does Jesus say about them? “They neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Again, notice the present tense on these verbs, and notice that Jesus is deliberately using a different tense than the one used in the Sadducees’ riddle. He does not say that they will not marry. He says that right now, they do not.

I believe we can also conclude that the saints in glory are not currently married either. First, because the natural understanding of Christ’s words as a rebuttal of the Sadducees’ dilemma is that the woman isn’t wife to any of the seven brothers at the moment. Second, it fits with Paul’s testimony in Romans 7 that death severs the bond between husband and wife. Third, it fits with Scripture’s description of the nature of marriage as a one-flesh union: There can be no one-flesh union when that flesh has been destroyed, and Scripture says nothing of the saints in heaven possessing any kind of intermediate bodies before the resurrection.

Therefore, if we read Jesus’ words carefully, he does not say that the resurrected men and women in the new heavens and new earth will never again marry–that marriage will be phased out of human nature. Rather, he says the saints in glory awaiting the final judgment are not married or marrying right now.

With that understanding, the angel comparison makes a lot more sense. In Acts, Luke says that the Sadducees don’t believe in angels or spiritual beings. But Jesus is telling them that the saints in heaven they don’t believe in are just like these other spiritual creatures they don’t believe in. They are immortal just like angels. They are equal in status to angels as well–sons of God. It’s quite irreverent to the Sadducees, of course, but it answers their objection by referring precisely to the qualities they don’t like about spiritual beings. Plus,  it doesn’t require adding extra-biblical concepts like angels being sexless.

So what then does Jesus say here about marriage in the new heaven and the new earth? Nothing! I believe he is deliberately speaking only of the intermediate state after death and before the resurrection. And it is quite natural that marriage is irrelevant to that spiritual state. But none of that suggests that there will be no marriage after the resurrection when we will once again be embodied. Our bodies will be glorified and imperishable, but will still be human, still be male or female, and still possess the perfect nature God designed in Eden–a nature that included a man and a woman uniting as one flesh. Man being alone in that respect was the only thing in Eden that God said was not good.

Is this the only possible understanding of Jesus’ words? No. It is, however, better than the common one. It fits with the immediate context. It fits with the rest of Scripture. It makes sense of Jesus’ change in verb tense. It makes the angel comparison sensible. It could be deduced from Old Testament teachings about one-flesh unions and bodily death. And as far as I know, it doesn’t introduce any new problems.

There is a lot about the next world we don’t know, and we are very limited in our attempts to metaphysically categorize the afterlife. But whatever the details are–and whatever form marriage does (or even doesn’t) take, we know that world will be perfect. We don’t know that because we’ve figured out enough about it to approve. We know it because of who God is. So if my understanding is in error, I’m not particularly worried. God’s got me either way. Nevertheless, I will continue to make sense of his words as best I can according to the wisdom given to me thus far.

Posted in Musings, Theology, Tradition | 9 Comments

The Anti-Government

When Paul tells us be subject to the civil authorities in Romans 13, he also tells us what such government does. God has instituted it and given it the sword to punish evildoers and to be a violent terror to bad conduct. That’s not a pretty job. The nature of its work means that government is always going to involve some brutal people. It’s also going to involve a lot of mistakes as God has given this task to sinful humans. There will be no perfect government this side of heaven, and when it screws up, those screwups will be ugly.

Being a Roman citizen, Paul knew all of this very well even as he delivered God’s instructions to submit. We are to be subject to earthly government, not just perfect government. Accordingly, we don’t just obey the civil authorities insofar as we approve of what they do.

At the same time, however, civil authority is not absolute. The same Paul who wrote this was executed by his government for refusing to submit to it. The only authority government has is given by God, so like the other apostles, he obeyed God rather than man whenever the two were in conflict. And that’s not limited to the work of Apostles or clergy as our theologians often presume. There are many vocations, and even as civil authority goes, government is not the top dog. As I’ve written about before, civil authority is delegated from God to fathers and then fathers delegate to civil government. When it comes to his own household, a father’s authority established by the 4th Commandment supersedes the government’s. Accordingly, resisting government is sometimes part of God-given paternal vocation.

There is, however, another way in which civil government’s power is not absolute: Not everything is truly civil government. There are counterfeits. In functional societies, it’s easy to tell what is and isn’t government; and the West had enjoyed functional government for a very long time. But that doesn’t last forever. There is, for example, legitimate confusion during transitionary periods–when one God-ordained government is fading and God puts another begins taking its place. There are many reasons a governing institution can cease to govern.

But what happens when a governing institution becomes inverted–that is to say, when it retains the sword but makes itself a terror to good conduct rather than bad? By way of analogy, consider a mafia. It’s a sword-bearing institution with enforced rules, authority structures, territories, politics, taxes, and many other characteristics common to government. Nevertheless, we don’t recognize mafias as legitimate civil authorities instituted by God. Why not? Because it does not concern itself with the fundamental responsibility for which civil authority is ordained: punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers according to Natural Law. Rather, it’s purpose is the inverse–protecting its own wrongdoers from those who would do right against them.

Now that’s all a mafia ever is, but nothing says institutions which were once legitimate civil authorities can’t descend into the same position. Government can become anti-government; it can become an institution dedicated to punishing rightdoers and commending its own evildoers. I don’t mean when this happens by mistake or unwise policies (accidentally terrorizing good conduct and rewarding evil) but by a fundamental  and far-reaching corruption of purpose.

This is a possibility that every American needs to consider with respect to some of our own governing authorities. If they are not inverted already, they are quickly becoming so.

As our cities burned during the BLM riots, government lied and called them mostly peaceful while “law enforcement” protected the rioters rather than their victims–some even knelt to them. In contrast, when men went to protest an LGBTP pride event, they were arrested for conspiracy to start a riot. (Yes, many people believe Patriot Front were feds in disguise, but it doesn’t matter. Either law enforcement terrorized good conduct by arresting good protestors or they terrorized good conduct by staging an event to threaten would-be protestors in the future.) And as we recently saw in Texas, the police not only steadfastly refused to wield their sword against an active school shooter, they had no problem using it to threaten the parents who intended to fulfill their own vocations by recusing their children. More and more, American laws are only being applied in one direction for the sake of terrorizing rightdoers.

During the pandemic, our government actively promoted fear and terror among the population. It promoted falsehoods, hid truths, and anathematized good-faith investigators. It destroyed our economy and supply chains, traumatized children, sparked rampant inflation, and enforced empty rituals like mask-wearing which range from useless to harmful. Worse yet, it actively tried to coerce my family and many others into taking an unneeded experimental medical treatment by threatening us with destitution. That was an overt, unrepentant, and unprovoked attack against the higher civil authorities God has established. It even forced its way into God’s house and attempted to control or forbid the Divine Service.

As our food supplies are being rapidly and mysteriously destroyed, our government is (at best) abdicating its responsibility to investigate and take action against wrongdoing. Gasoline is becoming unbearable expensive and eventually scarce after the Biden administration deliberately stood in the way of oil production and transportation. As American parents can’t feed their babies amidst the ongoing formula shortage, government is deliberately diverting supplies away from them and giving it to foreign invaders at the border instead. Meanwhile, the government attempts to address inflation with more inflation, and is stopped only because of the supply chains it already destroyed.

And then, of course, there is the all-out attack on the family and God’s order of creation by governments unwavering support of the LGBTP lobby. Hubris month only shines a spotlight on what happens all the time. Government schools are grooming children–inducting them into a world of sexual depravity for the sake of a gaggle of perverts who want to take advantage of them. Every government agency is flying their flag to show their support. From top to bottom, government policy commends these wrongdoers and punishes the rightdoers who would call it out. Sometimes, law enforcement is even deployed against parents who do their jobs and protest this despicable action.

Stuff like this isn’t a matter of accident or poorly constructed policy. Everything on the list is either negligent (absent government) or malicious (inverted government). If it were only one or two of these, you might dismiss it as merely poor government rather than inverted government. But dismissing all of it as such strains credulity to its breaking point.

All that unnecessary strain is merely for the sake of a comforting lie. People are quick to say “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” But one should likewise never attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by malice. Neither malice nor stupidity have ever been in short supply, and we shouldn’t let the existence of one blind us to the other. Conservative Christians pretend to ignore malice out of courtesy or magnanimity, but far more often, acknowledging malice would require action on our part that we’re just too scared and lazy to provide. It’s something Christians tell themselves so that we can use Romans 13 to pass our own pusillanimity off as piety.

But where’s the line between incompetence and malfeasance? At what point is it safe to say that a government has become inverted and thus ceases to be a legitimate civil authority which we must obey? The truth is that there is no such line because self-justification isn’t the point. It’s never “safe.” God often uses evil governments to punish evildoers, and Americans certainly fall into that category.

The question is never “when am I justified in rebelling against an inverted civil authority?” Rather, the question is always, “when and how do my God-given vocations require me to oppose an inverted civil authority?” That is a judgment call that depends on your vocations; I cannot answer it for anyone but myself. But as a father, I am a civil authority appointed by God. When there are actions I could take to defend my family against imminent harm, it’s my responsibility to do so.

Of course, one must also keep in mind that an inverted government won’t simply sit back and allow us to defend ourselves. Some rash actions could bring vicious reprisals that make it a net loss for those under our care and therefore unwise. But my point is that when inverted government threatens those in our care, their violent opposition only presents a practical impediment–not a moral one. We always have a responsibility to be wise. We do not have a responsibility to be subject to a mafia passing itself off as a government.

God never leaves us without civil authorities for long. But He also works through earthly means to establish them. When an anti-government arises, those who oppose it will necessarily become terrors to evil conduct. Insofar as they are successful and begin establishing a reliable pattern of restraining wickedness and establishing a just peace, they also become a legitimate government. That’s why governments have continuously changed throughout history, and sometimes Christians are called to be a part of that change.

As Americans now live in a time of change when the old orders are falling apart, we need to understand what God demands of us and be able to distinguish it from the mere traditions of men.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Culture, Ethics, Law | 3 Comments

Trouble in Paradise

There are always people who hate this world. And I don’t mean because of the Fall–the fact that we suffer because the world has been broken by sin. I mean they hate that God created the world according to His Wisdom rather than their sinful preferences. Sinners being sinners, that shouldn’t be too surprising. The world hates Christ, after all, so why not his creation too?

But hating creation gets trickier when you claim to be Christian. We’re all sinners, of course, so we still have parts of God’s Word that we don’t like. But we also have the Holy Spirit. We’re empowered to respond to our own sinful reticence with faith seeking understanding. We can trust that God’s design is good, have sufficient humility to admit our errancy, and seek His wisdom to eventually understand why. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

But what if you don’t really trust God and refuse to humble yourself? What if you’re only interested in “understanding” why your opinion is good and try to get God on board with it? In that case, self-deception is your only option.

One particular rationalization is becoming popular lately: If there’s something about creation you hate, claim that it won’t be part of the New Creation–that it will cease to exist after Christ’s return. That will give you all the license you need to get a head start on God and either try to remove it now or pretend it’s unimportant now.

It’s an appealing deception because Scripture doesn’t give that much detail about Paradise. And we do know for sure that there are certain staples of our current lives that will not continue in the New Creation (e.g. pain, suffering, death, etc.) The unknowns provide the prideful with fertile ground in which to plant their own inventions.

But limited detail is not that same as no detail. Oftentimes, even the given details are sufficient to disprove hubristic speculations from those who hate God. Let’s look at a few popular false claims about the New Creation:

Hierarchy/authority won’t exist in the New Creation; equality will reign.”

Americans have a bigger problem with authority than most peoples. In fact, we’ve made an idol of equality and enslaved ourselves to it. Naturally, many of us would expect hierarchy to be destroyed along with this sinful world and never show its face again.

But American’s problems aren’t God’s problems. He created hierarchy in the first place. He put man in charge of creation (authority), and gifted Eve to Adam as his helper (hierarchy). Adam and Eve no doubt would have held authority over their children even if the Fall had never occurred. Such authority was entwined with responsibility, but that makes it no less real. All this, God called “very good.”

The new creation will not be bereft of this very good gift. Consider what Jesus taught: In the Upper Room, he told his apostles that in his kingdom, they will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. In his parable of the 10 minas, the faithful servants are given authority over cities according to their labors. Revelation describes kings bringing their glory into New Jerusalem. Based on the Biblical descriptions, authority and hierarchy seem like a normal part of the next life, just as in this one–only without any abuse, negligence, or any other sin that can gives authority a bad name.

Yes, there are times when Jesus corrects his disciples because they were treating authority as a prize to be won for their own prestige. He also taught that hierarchy in the kingdom of heaven is distributed differently than on earth. But if the first shall be last and the last shall be first, there will still be first and last. If the greatest among us would be the servant of all, there is still a greatest. If the humble are exalted and the exalted humbled, there will still be humbled and exalted. Hierarchy and authority endure because Christ remains a king who delegates.

“Races/Nations won’t exist in the New Creation. All human distinctions will pass away.”

The racial divisions in the United States have lead us to a very weird belief. Americans tend to think that race doesn’t really exist as anything more than a prejudice imposed on raceless humans. We believed it because we hoped embracing it would end our racial strife, but… Well, let’s just say it’s not going too well.

How that belief plays out depends on politics. Conservatives try to be consistent about this foolishness. They’ll aspire to be color-blind and embrace the “there’s only one race, the human race” sophistry. They think race is a distraction from “real” issues.

Liberals also think race is superficial, but they don’t bear the burden of consistency. For them, race absolutely exists with respect to their hierarchy of grievance; it helps to determine whether you’re oppressed or oppressor in their narrative. At the same time, how dare you think race means anything at all! They basically think race is adamant when discussing reparations but fungible when discussing immigration.

So both sides associate “nation” with “conflict” and therefore exclude nations from Paradise. But that’s not what God’s Word tells us. As was mentioned, the twelve Apostles will be judging the twelve tribes of Israel, so clearly that nation will persist. And it’s not the only one. John says of New Jerusalem:

By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gate will never be shut by day–and there will be no nigh there. They will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Notice how the nations are even implicitly affirmed as holy, for their glory and honor are brought into a place that nothing unclean will enter.

There will be peace in paradise; there will also be nations because nations are good creations of God. That’s why, a few verses later, John talks about the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations. They will not be obliterated. They will be restored.

“The sexes will pass away in the New Creation; humans will be gender-neutral.”

Given the desperation of the degenerate, it should be no surprise that this one makes the list. Many people think Paradise means they’ll finally become the (imaginary) androgynous human they idolize. But the lie is directly contradicted by clear Biblical testimony.

Christ’s resurrected body is the one we’re most familiar with. It’s a good example because when we are resurrected, we shall have glorified bodies akin to Christ’s. As Paul writes in Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” We all know the verse, but don’t sleep on the pronouns: “His glorious body. ” As in male. That is likewise how Jesus is always referred to in the Gospels after his resurrection–as male. There are personal neuter pronouns in Greek that the Holy Spirit could have used but did not. This is God’s deliberate word, just as it was for the Father and the Holy Spirit.

So clearly, the male sex will continue in the New Creation. By analogous reasoning, it’s safe to conclude that the female sex will persist as well. The only real alternative is to teach (as some gnostic heretics did) that because women are inferior, God will have to transform them into men to save them. Needless to say, most people pushing this lie won’t go for that.

Now, like most false teachers, they try to overturn the clearer parts of Scripture by means of the more difficult parts. In this case, they’ll refer to Jesus’ words in Luke 20. The Sadducees attempted to disprove the Resurrection by presenting Jesus with a conundrum that would make it ridiculous–an elaborate circumstance in which a woman ended up marrying each of seven brothers during her life, all legally and morally on the up-and-up. Then, they asked Jesus whose wife she would be in the resurrection. Jesus responded, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

Now, this comment has often been interpreted to mean that there will be no marriage in paradise. I’m dubious of that interpretation, but let’s just go with it for the moment. The liars here go a step further and speculate that because there will be no marriage, there will be no sexes either. But speculation is all it is. We have many examples of people called to celibacy–who never marry–but are nevertheless men and women. On top of that, Jesus uses both the active “marry” (men) and the passive “be given in marriage” (women) for those in paradise, implying the presence of both men and women. C.S. Lewis has a good examination of this in Mere Christianity if you want to explore it more. But regardless, we do not get to ignore Scripture’s clear testimony in favor of our own speculation.

But as I said, I’m dubious that Christ’s comments are intended to state that there will be no marriage at all in the new Heavens and new Earth. There are a number of textual and theological problems with that explanation. It implies that marriage is only needed because of death, which contradicts Genesis. It fails to explain why Jesus changed verb tenses from future to present. It makes the angel comparison effectively meaningless.

Now, I don’t yet have an alternative explanation that’s better. Maybe I’ll explore this more in a future blog post, but for now I have to be humble and admit that I simply don’t know. It wouldn’t be the first time Jesus said something that’s over my head. Nevertheless, explanations that problematic usually aren’t correct. Therefore, I don’t even concede that marriage will be absent in Paradise. But either way, neither this understanding nor the common one imply an end to the sexes.

There is a lot about the hereafter that we don’t understand now. We know that the new heavens and new earth will be paradise–perfect in every way. As sinners, however, we don’t always recognize perfection when we see it. And the more we refuse to repent of our sins, the more we’ll see perfection as hostility. So be guided by the Spirit rather than your sinful flesh, and refuse to play this petty game of dissecting creation until it’s more to your liking. What God has in store for us will be good, and at the Resurrection we’ll be able to understand precisely why it’s good. In the meantime, we ought to fulfill all of our vocations with respect to our sex, our nation, and our place in God’s hierarchies, for we are without excuse.

Posted in Apologetics, Theology | 3 Comments