Only a Pharisee Would Object to Women Teaching?

My recent blog post, “On Lutheran Women and the Writing of Books” found a considerably larger audience than usual. One of the things I appreciate most when that happens is that such posts also generate more pushback. I usually get a number of counter-arguments that were either overlooked or inadequately addressed in the original piece and then have a chance to strengthen my arguments by responding to them.

Sadly, that didn’t really happen this time.

There was one guy who spoke about the existence of powerful counter-arguments but didn’t actually offer them. The only direct pushback I received was being called a Pharisee a few times.

But while that was ad hominem rather than a genuine counter-argument, it is a common one. The accusation is raised pretty much anytime a Christian takes God’s Word more seriously that the world likes. It’s therefore a favorite insult among those who avoid taking Scripture seriously. It not only gives them license to continue whatever Scripture speaks against, it even lets them pretend to be morally superior in their sin. But if you actually look up the many and various places in the Gospels where Jesus argues with the Pharisees over Scripture, Jesus never once condemns the Pharisees for taking the Bible too seriously. Rather, Jesus consistently points out that the Pharisees aren’t taking Scripture seriously enough.

This pattern extends to the Pharisees’ treatment of God’s Law. Many falsely conclude that Jesus opposed them because they held to a strict moral code rooted in Scripture whereas our Lord rejected the Law in favor of the Gospel. (The fact that Jesus explicitly said he didn’t come to abolish the Law doesn’t seem to phase these antinomians.) But if you look at Jesus’ actual words to the Pharisees, you’ll see that their problem with respect to God’s Law was always undermining it with their own ethical code.

So let’s take a look at a few of Jesus’ condemnations of the Pharisees and consider exactly which side of the “women teaching in the church” debate they condemn.

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

This is, perhaps, the most obvious one. The traditions of the Pharisees might have been intended to guide people in following God’s Word, but at the time of Christ they had supplanted Scripture instead. Whether it was using “corban” as an excuse to disregard the 4th Commandment, their misreading of Deuteronomy 24 as an excuse to divorce for any reason, or another of the “many such things you do” that Jesus asserts,  the Pharisees were rigorous with respect to their own traditions but lax on the things God had actually commanded.

This pattern is certainly present in the current controversy, but not on the side my critics think. After all, what they view as a mere tradition is actually a command of God: “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

At the same time, the pushback against that command proceeds entirely from a tradition of men: feminism. In the long history of the Christian Church, this controversy only sprang up after egalitarianism started to become normalized in the modern West. Our culture insists that women be made as equal with men as possible, and worldly Christians have rushed to accommodate that impulse. God, however, has never given us any imperative to include women in leadership, to make sure “highly qualified” women are teaching men in the church, to train them to be teachers of men, or to make sure the Church’s theology includes women’s voices. No such ambition proceeds from God’s instructions. Nevertheless, many Christians seek to leave the commandments of God because they get in the way of the feminist traditions of Western men upon which such ambitions rest.

So it is in this controversy.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'”

When Jesus pronounced this judgment on the scribes and Pharisees, he was condemning their penchant for escaping the moral law through ethical technicalities. In essence, they thought they could escape their oaths if they worded them carefully–swearing by the temple instead of the gold or by the altar instead of the gift upon it–and it therefore wouldn’t “count.” As Jesus said in Mark 7, they had many such legalisms by which they could relieve themselves of having to actually obey God’s plain instructions.

Once again, we find the same pattern in this discussion about women teaching in the Church. Once again, it is the proponents of women teaching who engage in the kinds of meaningless legal technicalities condemned by Christ. It’s hard to even keep track of all of them: Teaching by means of the publishing arm of our church body isn’t technically teaching the church. If a woman teaches men in Bible study after the Benediction, it’s not technically teaching men in the church because the divine service is over. If a women delivers a “message” to the congregation rather than a “sermon,” it’s not technically preaching. If a woman preaches and administers the sacraments as a deaconess rather than a pastor, she’s not technically usurping the pastoral office.

As I wrote in the original piece, the entire endeavor is an attempt to circumscribe the pastoral office with dubious technicalities so that it will not get in the way of what women feel like doing. That is quite in keeping with the legalisms of the Pharisees.

“You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

Here, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their lack of proportion. They would take tithing to ridiculous precision–including even their spices–but deliberately ignored “the weightier matters of the law.” In essence, they prioritized the minutia of the ceremonial law (given only to Israel to set her apart) over the universal moral law (rooted in God’s eternal character and expressed in creation itself.) And it is specifically the priority he condemned here rather than extreme diligence in observing the ceremonies, for Jesus said “this you should have done without neglecting the other.” But they should have been able to keep the two in perspective because God had said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

The proponents of women teachers are certain they have us on this one. After all, what difference does it even make if a women rather than man teaches? Why should someone’s genitals be a qualification for the pastoral office? I even had one critic go so far as to suggest this prohibition is merely a ceremonial law akin to the Sabbath.

But once again, the shoe is on the other foot. The reason they see God’s prohibition on women teaching and exercising authority as a gnat rather than a camel is because egalitarianism has rendered them incapable of understanding it. The world teaches them that except for reproductive organs, men and women are essentially the same, and they are eager to adhere to its prince’s standard.

Consider how God, in contrast to the world, explains Himself. In 1 Timothy, He says “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” God ties His prohibition directly to both Creation and Fall–two fundamental aspects of human nature which we are unable to alter. This is explicitly a universal command, not a ceremonial one. 1 Corinthians also highlights the importance of this, for when Paul says it’s shameful for a woman to speak in church, he goes on to add, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.”

This is in keeping with how Paul talks about the sexes elsewhere. In Ephesians, men and women are described as living images of Christ and his Church respectively. Earlier In 1 Corinthians, he talks about how nature itself proclaims that long hair is shameful for a man but a glory to a woman and about how man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. These are grand and sweeping distinctions. The simple fact is that God made men and women to be ontologically different–and part of that difference is women being fundamentally unqualified to teach and exercise authority over men. Anyone trying to minimize that difference to “just this” or “merely that” is opening wide to stuff that camel in.

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

Here, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for burdening their people with rules and traditions that went far beyond God’s commands. Those who would forbid women from writing teachings for men in the church are clearly the ones doing the same, right? That’s what one LCMS pastor contended when weighing in on this controversy. He termed it the “4th use of the Law” and wrote:

Don’t fornicate – so don’t dance.
Don’t gamble – so don’t use face cards.
Don’t violate the Sabbath – so don’t go over X steps.
Don’t misuse the name of the LORD – so don’t even speak Jehovah.

So on and so forth the pattern goes. And the arguments are always wonderfully appealing – there is a danger, and clear and present danger – and we can’t give in an inch to them, so to make sure they stay far, far away, we are going to… add things. Expand the meaning. Give our holiness a little lebensraum so that it is not defiled.

And these always go poorly. Wickedly. The gateway to tyrannical legalism because is it as much and as wicked a sin to add to God’s Law as it is to take away from it.

Surely, if men were to forbid women from anything other than the pastoral office–which this man has repeatedly circumscribed to a mere hour on Sunday mornings–they are sowing the seeds of this creeping legalism. How dare you go beyond the explicit text of Scripture like a Pharisee!

But who exactly is adding numerous rules and regulations to the text of Scripture here? This precise and narrow definition of the pastoral office as only existing during the divine service is not to be found in Scripture. The texts in question speak more broadly–teach or exercise authority over a man–and include alternatives like bearing children that extend beyond Sunday morning. Likewise, his rule that Christians must not rebuke a woman for teaching or exercising authority over a man unless she does it during that one hour on Sunday is not a Scriptural one; he added it. But the worst man-made rule from him that I’ve seen is his contention that it’s actually dangerous to be concerned with fidelity to Scripture. Where does God say that?

The Bible is not a flowchart by which every choice in our lives is automatically made. God expects and instructs us to use godly wisdom to apply Scripture’s teachings to life. “Don’t fornicate, so don’t dance” was chosen as an example because it’s quaint, but one could just as easily use “Don’t fornicate, so don’t hire a beautiful & libertine secretary and then share a hotel room when you take her on business trips” or “Don’t fornicate, so don’t seclude yourself with your girlfriend and explore your mutual romantic feelings.” The Bible doesn’t say that, so how dare you add to God’s word! But what does the Bible say? It says “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you” and “Flee from sexual immorality.” In other words, what he calls “4th use” and condemns as wickedness is explicitly commanded multiple times in Scripture.

Whether on fornication or some other issue, we all must use godly wisdom to practice what God’s Word’s preaches. When one denies this, he inevitably uses ungodly wisdom to undermine God’s Word with his many and various rules. That is what the Pharisees’ rules did. That is what I observe from the proponents of women teachers, not their detractors.

So who are the Pharisees in this matter? I leave that for you to judge, dear reader. But do not judge by the wisdom of the world and claim that the Pharisees are those who take God’s Word too seriously and try too hard to abide by it. Instead, judge by Christ’s words and consider which side is undermining Holy Scripture with a multitude of man-made traditions, legalisms, and a disregard for the importance of God’s commands.

Posted in Ethics, Feminism, Law, Lutheranism, The Modern Church, Theology | 5 Comments

14 Points of Christian Nationalism – A Draft

As Christian Nationalism gains more steam amidst the ongoing collapse of Western liberalism, I’m seeing a lot of detractors attempting to dismiss it as meaningless. They take theological and political disagreements among Christian Nationalists as a sign that even we don’t know what it is. They also make bizarre and illogical conclusions about what Christian Nationalism entails and portray them as core principles. The result is confusion all around.

Part of that confusion is deliberate and malicious, of course; it’s easier to dismiss an idea than truly engage with it, after all. Another part of it is a matter of unrealistic expectations. A nascent political movement isn’t going to have the kind of solid and precise definition that other movements only acquire after a generation or two.

Nevertheless, as Christian Nationalism matures, it must begin to define itself more clearly as well. Having written about Christian Nationalism several times myself, I’m keenly aware that none of my descriptions amount to a clear definition or statement of principles. And so, I thought it would be appropriate to put together a list of 14 points of Christian Nationalism to help the concept coalesce.

I put it forward not as definitive, but as a personal draft. The list expresses what Christian Nationalism means to me right now.  Nevertheless, they may not be shared by other Christian Nationalists at present for whom I certainly cannot speak. Likewise, my own views are still evolving. So I expect this list to evolve as well as points drop away or new ones are added in.

We live in a time of great change, and none of us truly know what course the future will take. We only know that the present order cannot continue as before for much longer. May iron sharpen iron as Christians rediscover how to govern their nations in accordance with our faith.

  1. Christian Nationalism is a political ideology informed by the Christian faith, not a religion informed by political ideology.
  2. The Church does not need Christian Nationalism for its wellbeing. Nations need Christian Nationalism for their wellbeing.
  3. Christian Nationalists understand nation as meaning a people who share common ancestry, religious heritage, language, culture, and history together.
  4. We put our own nation first–not because it is superior to all others, but because it is the nation Christ has made us a part of. Accordingly, we serve it above all other nations, love it above all other nations and, when necessary, defend it against all other nations.
  5. We respect that other nations are likewise responsible for themselves first and therefore seek to govern ourselves separately from them but live in peace with them whenever possible.
  6. Christian Nationalists reject the incoherent religious neutrality of classical liberalism, and strive to honor Jesus Christ as king in every area of life, including government.
  7. Government is incapable of forcing conversion to Christianity because conversion depends on a faith that cannot be coerced into existence.
  8. Government’s purpose is not to make men righteous, but to restrain human wickedness by commending rightdoers and punishing wrongdoers.
  9. Wrongdoing may be tolerated by government when legal suppression of evil would lead to even greater evils.
  10. Christian nationalists distinguish right from wrong and weigh greater vs lesser evils according to Christian moral principles, and we explicitly carry out the purpose of government in accordance with those principles.
  11. Forms of wickedness which must be legally restrained when intolerable include, but are not limited to: clear blasphemy against Jesus Christ, murder (regardless of age), sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and unbridled greed. A government which does not seek to restrain such evils is incompetent.
  12. God has appointed fathers to govern their own households. National government proceeds from this household government and exists to serve it. It does not replace it and may not usurp it.
  13. Immigration is tolerable only insofar as it neither unduly burdens nor harms our nation. Mass immigration is always harmful. Smaller scale immigration is more harmful the more an immigrant differs from our nation in terms of ancestry, language, history, culture and religious heritage.
  14. It is good and proper for governmental institutions to participate in religious expression so long as that expression is Christian. This includes prayers, ceremonies, holidays, and the like.
Posted in Christian Nationalism, Musings, Politics | 6 Comments

On Lutheran Women and the Writing of Books

A Lesson from History

In the mid-20th century, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had a problem that came to be called “Gospel Reductionism.” Modernism had long been waging a fearsome war against Christianity. The academic style from the Enlightenment onward had been to discard the Bible as, at best, a book of myths and legends. Science had been made the measure of all things; and because the miraculous is outside of its purview, anything which spoke of resurrections, incarnations, virgin births, and the like was assumed to be mere superstition.

Naturally, that meant Christianity was under attack from all sides. There was, at the time, a large contingent of pastors and theologians in the LCMS who did not wish to fight those battles. After all, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ is the most important part of Christianity, right? So why bother fighting evolutionists over the six days of creation? Why bother fighting Higher Criticism over the divine inspiration of Scripture? Why bother fighting egalitarianism over America’s most hated bible verses? Why bother fighting the sexual revolution over fornication? By their reckoning, such battles were wasted effort. As long as one could still proclaim the forgiveness of sins, they thought these tertiary issues could be faithfully abandoned. That way, they could call themselves Christian theologians without being reduced to second-tier academics in the eyes of the world.

History, of course, has since revealed a folly which should have already been quite clear. When you carve away the parts of the Bible which embarrass you as obsolete, it’s a pretty short path to “Jesus died for your sins” becoming literal nonsense. After all, what does death have to with sin? Why should my actions be considered sinful? What difference does a great teacher’s death even make 2000 years later? It’s quite impossible to make sense of the Gospel without the rest of God’s inerrant Word. That’s why the “gospel” of theologically liberal “churches” like the ELCA (which eventually absorbed most of our leftover heretics) is nothing more than a baptism of fashionable politics.

We should have learned our lesson, but history amply demonstrates how quickly such lessons are forgotten. After all, we sinners will always hate parts of God’s Word, and the Devil will always tempt God’s people to start trimming at the fringes. A generation or two of laxity is all it really takes.

And that brings us to today’s controversy about women teaching in the church–the latest fringe of God’s word to be slowly trimmed away because we think it’s problematic.

Women and Teaching in the Church

At the center of this issue lie two key instructions from God on the subject:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.  (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of god came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. (1 Corinthians 14:33b-38.)

Typically, the LCMS has summarized these verses as teaching that God forbids women from being pastors. And that’s not an unfair summary. When it comes to the public teaching of the Word, the exercise of ecclesial authority, and speaking in church, pastor is the first and most obvious role we all think of. That’s certainly the core of this teaching.

However, we must not make the mistake of taking the summary and treating it as though it were the whole. The church is filled with a multitude of roles to assist the pastor in teaching God’s Word rightly and administering the sacraments properly. There are trustees who care for the building in which these things are done. There are treasurers who help manage the finances inherent in every kind of church work. There are ushers who ensure the divine service goes smoothly. There are teachers and boards who ensure that there is Christian teaching available for every age and aptitude in the congregation. There are elders who help keep track of the different congregational needs and directly minister to the pastor and assist him with his duties. There are bishops who help organize pastors and maintain order in the broader institutional church. There are people who decorate the church according to the season and secretaries who keep track of the multitude of administrative tasks. I could go on for paragraphs describing all the different tasks every moderately sized congregation needs to tend to.

Every one of those roles, however, has one thing in common: they work to make sure that each community of believers grows together through Word and Sacrament ministry. In other words, all of them are a support for that office of Pastor in one way or another. Some have more degrees of separation than others, of course–the person who organizes the summer picnic is further from the center than those who assist with Communion, for example. But all are members of the same body involved in the same work, and the heart cannot say to the big toe, “I have no need of you.”

This interconnectedness is precisely why “women cannot be pastors” can only be a summary. The Apostles learned very quickly that they needed to delegate, but it took some time for the various roles we’re familiar with to coalesce. You can see that in the multitude of different terms the New Testament uses for pastors and for their helpers.

But you’ll notice that in the verses cited above, the rule is not attached to any particular name for the pastoral office, but to specific responsibilities inherent in it: teaching, having authority, preaching to the congregation, and so forth. Accordingly, it is quite natural to understand the prohibition on women extends further than just forbidding a specific job title. The closer the role is to the pastoral center, the more it needs to be reserved for men alone. This is why congregational roles like elder and President are only given to men in most LCMS congregations–and why the role of voter should be.

This is, indeed, how most jobs are treated. If, for some reason, I am temporarily unable to fulfill any of my responsibilities at work, they need to be fulfilled by someone who is actually qualified to do those parts of my job. Like it or not, being a man is one of the qualifications for teaching or exercising authority over men in Christ’s church. Inasmuch as any role involves assisting with those pastoral duties, it likewise must be carried out by a man–just as it must be carried out by someone of good character, husband of only one wife, not a drunkard, etc.

The Current Controversy

This straightforward wisdom rooted in Scripture is precisely where Satan’s scissors are busily snipping away, and a recent controversy in the LCMS over a book is a good illustration of this.

The reflexively deceitful will tell you that people are upset because “a woman wrote a book.” This is akin to saying that Noah went for a boat ride or that an unborn child is just a clump of cells. It deliberately leaves out the most pertinent details, and is done in order to obscure the issue rather than clarify it.

Here are some more relevant facts: Concordia Publishing House is the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. They primarily publish doctrinally-reviewed books and teaching materials for our church body–pastors, theologians, and laity alike. In this case, they published a theology book by a woman intended to teach the men and women of the LCMS. (And lest anybody equivocate about whether it’s “really” teaching, it comes complete with “study questions” at the end of each chapter. Don’t be an idiot.) This is a very plain example of our church assigning a woman to teach men in the church–one of the specific duties which God forbade women.

And that is the true root of the controversy: a course of action taken by members and institutions of our church body which violates a reasonable, straightforward, and natural reading of the Biblical text. What’s more, it’s a text that is already under assault from without by our feminist culture. Christians who are aware of this assault are naturally going to object when it comes from within. They do so faithfully and in good conscience.

An Ungodly Defense

I wish the same could be said of most of those defending this, but here are the kinds of objections I’m seeing the most:

First up is the classic “You’re misogynists!” Whether through malice or simple Biblical ignorance, the most common complaint is that the objectors are terrible misogynists, sexists, and incels who, in the manner of mustache-twirling villains, are just out to get women. One could complain about their ad hominem and psychologizing, but neither is really the biggest issue with this complaint. The biggest issue is that misogyny is a fake sin. That term is meaningless outside of the modern egalitarian context. And in the Biblical context, God straightforwardly undermines that entire enterprise and dethrones its false god of equality.

What these proponents are doing is uniting their voices with that of the world to condemn whatever dares set itself against their common idol. The fact that they and Holy Scripture have frequently drawn that same label for acknowledging that anything is forbidden to women does not concern them. They are quite content not only to wield the Enemy’s weapons against Christians, but also to sharpen those weapons for future use against themselves. There comes a time when one must objectively consider which side of the Great Conflict they are truly fighting for, and recognize, like Luther did with Zwingli, that we are not of the same Spirit.

Next is the contention that CPH is a publishing house, not the church. Like the aforementioned “just writing a book” sophistry, this is another fine example of legalistic excuse-making. Its closest kin is a little brother holding his finger a millimeter away from his sibling and declaring, “I’m not touching you!” But sadly, it is even more inadequate than that. After all, the LCMS is a major church body. CPH describes itself and is described by us as the publishing arm of that church body. We cannot simply pretend that the arm is amputated from the body when it suits us but attached when it’s trying to peddle doctrinally trustworthy wares. One might as well declare “It was not I that was touching you, but merely this arm which I’m only subtly attached to.” In terms of this kind of action, there is no meaningful distinction.

And, of course, you have folks arguing that God’s command doesn’t matter because the author is a very very good teacher. But notice how we don’t do this with any of the other Biblical requirements. We do not permit our pastor to have four wives just because he’s not even a little bit quarrelsome. Neither do we say that it’s no big deal if a man is a drunkard because he’s extremely hospitable (you should see his keggers!) These are not human requirements established by HR that we can adjust on-the-fly, as when a candidate has no experience in SQL, but his expertise in Angular makes up for it. These are handed down by God. We may not understand why being a man is a requirement. We may not like that it is. But our own failures to grasp God’s revealed will do not excuse us from treating it as important.

But all of these are only cheap attempts to get the issue quickly dismissed on a technicality. The real problem is when weak pastors actually begin to circumscribe the pastoral office–deliberately making it tiny so as not to restrict any feminine ambition. While they, unlike the excuse-makers, are at least looking to Scripture, their stubborn misuse of it ends up far more damaging. Just like the Gospel reductionists of the last century, they do not have the stomach for individual battles over women lectors, teachers, writers, children’s sermon preachers, and so forth. They therefore abandon the battleground by repeatedly retreating to whichever part of the pastoral office isn’t currently under attack in the LCMS.

Some will try to restrict the scope of these commands to the divine service itself. They restrict “in all the churches” from 1 Corinthians to an hour on Sunday morning, and surreptitiously add it to 1 Timothy as well. Of course, if the scope were truly as hermetically sealed to Sunday morning as they contend, the latter passage would become truly strange. After all, God gives women an alternative to teaching and having authority: childbearing. Is God therefore saying that births should take place during the divine service?

Others, of course, realize that even that stand isn’t narrow enough to avoid a battle, for women lectors who teach God’s authoritative Word to the congregation during the divine service are a relatively common sight in the LCMS. (That is how women’s ordination began among Anglicans a century ago, by the way.) So the pastoral office needs to be made even more cartoonishly small. I saw one LCMS pastor casually arguing that unless a woman is specifically delivering a sermon during the divine service on Sunday morning, she is not usurping the office of pastor. Although, with women delivering children’s sermons is many places, even that may not be sufficiently narrow to avoid controversy. So we’d better just call it a children’s “message” instead.

It becomes a truly silly position in the end. Most obviously, we reduce our God-given shepherds to mere figureheads sporting an empty title disconnected from anything tangible. But the overt foolishness built up by this kind of retreat will, itself, inevitably lead to discarding God’s requirement altogether, as the ELCA has done long ago. After all, if a woman can do whatever she wants so long as she doesn’t claim the title of pastor or call her sermon a sermon, it’s only a decade or so until that obvious legal fiction is discarded as well and women’s ordination becomes an explicit practice.

Using the Women of the Bible Against the Bible

Nevertheless, one does not teleport directly to that extreme, but takes a path well travelled. It proceeds in increments achieved by wielding Scripture against itself under the guise of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. After all, don’t we read stories about Deborah, Miriam, or Mary addressing the Church in song? Wasn’t Priscilla a strong independent woman in control of her own life who set that teacher Apollos straight about his theology? Doesn’t Junia being well-known among the apostles testify to her teaching ministry? Surely these examples must demonstrate that 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy can’t mean what they sound like!

Using Scripture to interpret Scripture properly is indeed an essential element to reading comprehension. However, there are appropriate priorities when doing this. For example, one must interpret less clear passages in light of the more clear passages. When, say, foolish Christians try to decide the date for Christ’s return they do the opposite: They interpret Jesus’ clear statement that no one knows the day or the hour in light of difficult passages in Revelation which they think they’ve “decoded.”

Likewise, one must understand descriptive passages in light of clear prescriptive passages. That’s why Christians don’t use Acts 4:32-5:11 to impose Christian socialism, but rather interpret that event in light of prescriptive passages about generosity. That’s why we don’t use Jacob or David to argue that polygamy is A-OK in all times and places. But that is also why one shouldn’t use descriptive passages about women to determine what prescriptive passages like 1 Timothy 2 are “allowed” to tell us. So let’s look at a few of these examples and see whether it’s at all difficult to interpret any of them in light of the prescriptive passages.

Junia is pretty easy. All the Bible says is this: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” This says nothing about teaching or having authority–only that she is imprisoned like Paul and known to the apostles.  The same could be said of Phoebe, whom Paul called “a servant [deaconess] of the church at Cenchreae” and “a patron of many and myself as well.”

This is only an issue when one is so mentally broken by the Spirit of the Age that he cannot conceive of anyone being well-known unless they’re teaching and exercising authority over men. Do you really think there’s nothing else that a woman could do to serve? Is there nothing else a Christian could be imprisoned for or that would garner apostolic attention? This is a failure of the impoverished egalitarian imagination, not a barrier to a straightforward understanding of the prescriptive verses.

Then what about Mary? Do we need to excise the Magnificat from liturgy and Scripture alike because she’s a woman teaching theology? One need only read the Gospel of Luke to refute this. Mary spoke the Magnificat to Elizabeth concerning the ultimate work of motherhood that God had called her to. It is Luke who then gave this treasure to the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We, then, faithfully repeat these blessed words from God as we worship Him. It shouldn’t need to be said that a man teaching about a woman–the mother of God–is not a woman teaching. Nevertheless, even the obvious points must be spoon-fed to those determined to distrust God’s commands.

How about the women who first proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection? Weren’t they preaching every time they gave their testimony of what they witnessed that first Easter? Of course they bore witness to the miracle they had seen. How could they not? I’m sure they eagerly spoke to many early Christians about what it was like to see their risen Lord. But once again, it is the apostles who delivered their testimony as teachings of the Church through their preaching and through Holy Scripture. Once again, God called men to proclaim what these women had seen and heard to the churches.

One must truly close his eyes to be unable to see the difference. This deliberate confusion is as silly as going to a courtroom and confusing a witness with the judge. One is presiding. One is giving testimony under that judge’s purview–with all manner of process and ceremony to separate the two in the eyes of the jury. Courts do not blur those lines. Neither should the Church.

What then of prophetesses like Anna and Deborah? Didn’t they proclaim the very word of God for the edification of his people? In a sense, yes, but people really need to think this one through before giving those examples. Does anyone seriously contend that the woman in question is a prophetess? Because that is a whole different can of worms.

Even setting aside God’s penalties for falsely claiming to be a prophet, prophet and pastor are not the same office. Pastor is a mediated call–meaning he is called to his office by men acting in the stead of Christ. That’s why there are lists of qualifications for pastors. There is no such list for prophets. To be sure, prophets don’t have to be men. But then, they don’t have to be believers either, seeing as how Saul became a prophet while trying to murder David. For that matter, prophets don’t even need to be human. After all, God opened the mouth of Balaam’s donkey to speak and Christ warned the Jews that if his followers were silent the very stones would cry out. God had the prophets do some crazy things, and the way He worked through them is often mind-boggling. But as each case is God’s direct action, it has absolutely no bearing on the matter of women being appointed by men to teach in the church.

Then what about Priscilla? Let’s consider the text. Acts 18 describes the eloquent and competent Apollos teaching in the Synagogues, but Priscilla explained things to him even more accurately. Clearly this is a woman teaching a learned man in the church, right?

Well, for one thing, the text is about Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, but he always seems to get left out even though Scripture attributes the teaching to “them” rather than “her.” Second, it explicitly says that they took Apollos aside to explain these things. So you have a Christian couple conversing privately and informally about Christ as they bring a man up to speed on Christian Baptism. You can tell a lot about this argument by the details that are usually left out:  private, informal, working in conjunction with and under the authority of her husband. These details mark a profound difference from the situation at hand: publishing and marketing an instructional text for a church body.

This narrative about Priscilla and Aquila does not undo the prescriptive texts that forbid women from teaching and having authority over men in the church. Neither does it bind the prescriptive texts to the divine service itself or possession of a particular title. All it does is suggest a difference between the overt work of the church and casual correspondence among believers–something that is already an organic part of literally any human community and should therefore appear exceptional to precisely no one.

Disciplining our Sinful Nature

There is, however, a relevant point we can learn from this text, and it has to do with legalism. One might ask: “Where exactly is the line between having an informal but informative discussion about theology and this act of teaching which God forbids?” But if it’s a clear and well-defined line you’re looking for, you’re out of luck because that’s not how this works.

The situation is analogous to asking “what’s the line between healthy, God-given sexual desire and lust?” We know from Scripture that both of these things exist and that there is absolutely a difference between the two. We can also easily think of clear examples on either side (e.g. letting your wife’s breasts satisfy you as Proverbs instructs vs leering at pornography.) God even freely gives us a fair amount of Biblical wisdom to discern between the two in the many non-extreme parts of our lives. But discernment is not a flowchart that defines a clear line and therefore justifies us.

The reality is that we can’t always tell. What we can do, however, is recognize what our sexual desire is for and work to discipline it so that it leads us into godly marriage rather than fornication. And that discipline does take work because our nature is fallen–our desire will always be sinful to some extent. That’s why we must also depend on grace from beginning to end.

The same is true with women talking about theology. We know there are innocent and evil ends of the spectrum. We can easily think of clear examples. We have Biblical wisdom to help us discern in genuine middle cases. But there is no flowchart by which we can justify ourselves because our desires themselves are disordered. Eve’s curse–to want to control her husband–is part of fallen nature. Like errant sexual desire, a women’s desire to take authority over men must be mortified through discipline.

One form of that discipline is that women need to devote themselves to what God has explicitly called them to do. As they serve their families and the Church in many and various ways, they will naturally end up having many innocent theological conversations. But insofar as they stick to their vocations, those conversations will not evolve into forbidden teaching.

The other form of that discipline is listening to faithful Christians point out when you’ve gone too far. In a healthy community, this will happen naturally when a situation first starts looking sketchy. People will speak up about propriety well before things go too far. Those willing to listen will quickly get back on track, and those persist in refusing to listen will ultimately leave that community one way or another.

One of the most obvious indications that CPH’s decision to publish is squarely in the sinful end of this spectrum is that the arguments defending it vehemently reject both those forms of discipline as quaint or foolish. Instead of recognizing the ambiguity in the middle and working to keep their distance from sin, they strive to get as close as possible to a line they cannot clearly see and inevitably careen over it.

When proponents mockingly straw-man the opposition with lines like “they say women aren’t allowed to do anything but have babies!” they are undermining women’s primary God-given vocation with their derision. Many of them genuinely betray an inability to think of women’s Biblical roles as godly or valuable. Like the medieval monastics, they possess the attitude that official church work is the only truly God-pleasing work and that denying women such an opportunity is wicked and sinful.

They reject the other form of discipline even more firmly. They relentlessly attack those of us who dare suggest that a woman has gone too far. They attempt to shame and cancel anyone who suggests a situation is sketchy or speaks of propriety. They even try to reduce the pastoral office to practically nothing in order to take away examples that would have been quite clear to every Christian who lived outside of our modern egalitarian culture.

In Conclusion

You may have noticed that my entire argument concerns the controversy rather than the author or her book. This is deliberate; I know neither the author nor her book apart from the controversy, so I have nothing to say there. I do not object to what she wrote or to the fact that a woman wrote a book, but rather that she and CPH are working together to set her up as a teacher in the church. That is the problem. And no amount of legalistic hedging or minimization of the pastoral office resolves that problem.

This controversy has exposed the sad fact that the LCMS is not a particularly healthy community at present. We pat ourselves on the back for our devotion to worldly values like representation, inclusion, and the shattering of glass ceilings. In contrast, we can only muster a shrug at the Word of God when it speaks against those values. What’s more, there are many wolves among us who attack those who faithfully resist the world on the sure ground of Holy Scripture. They undermine sound doctrine and faithful men alike.

Just like last century’s gospel reductionism, the root of this controversy lies in a refusal by Christians to fight the good fight of the faith. Back then, they were afraid of standing up to academics. Now we’re even afraid of standing up to women. But we do not get to choose how Satan attacks the Bride of Christ; ours is only to respond as God has instructed us.

May God once again have mercy on this Synod and raise up Godly men of courage and character who will testify to God’s Word over and against this world and its prince.

Posted in Feminism, Lutheranism, The Modern Church, Theological Liberalism, Theology, Tradition, Vocation | 6 Comments

Christian Women and the Abandonment of Vocation

Women studying at seminaryWomen writing books of theological instructionWomen leading the liturgy and administering the Sacraments…  Feminism’s self-insertion into the pastoral office has not yet slackened if these ongoing debates in ‘conservative’ churches are any indication.

Clearly, we are surrounded by a multitude of women who wish to teach and guide Christ’s Church. We are also surrounded by a multitude of weak men who want to score worldly brownie-points by encouraging women to get as close to being a pastor as possible without crossing “the line.”

The line, of course, refers to God’s explicit commands like “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” In light of that, anyone pushing women teachers (who still pretends to be faithful) must ask themselves how far women are really allowed to go in fulfilling their desire to be teachers and leaders. Congregational offices like voter and president aren’t explicitly forbidden in Scripture, right? Is writing theology books for my church body really “teaching” per se? Is standing at the front of the congregation and reading God’s Word actually “preaching”? How about preaching the weekly children’s sermon that’s also heard by the whole congregation? Their answers to these questions vary, but they universally produce some kind of “pastor lite” role for women.

And that should be our first clue that the problem is actually in the question. “To what extent does God forbid what I want to do” is not what Christians should be asking themselves. The better question is, “what has God instructed me to do?”

This question of vocation, or calling, is one of the highlights of the Lutheran Reformation. While many at the time saw the height of spirituality in the works of monasticism and its rigorous traditions, Luther the former monk knew how much of it was human invention that God never actually commanded. And unfortunately, the Church had lost the habit of searching Scripture, which is so replete with true instructions from God. Had they maintained that habit, no ordinary Christian would ever have thought there was a shortage of truly good works to perform outside of church work.

While Americans typically look at God’s rules as a string of thou-shalt-nots which fence us in, the reality is that taking them seriously will always provide us with an infinity of thou-shalts as well. For example, if our neighbor’s bodily well-being is so important that murder is a grievous sin, then we should also seek to care for his bodily needs. If his property is so important that we mustn’t steal it, then we should do what we can to help him keep and enlarge it as well.

Luther’s Large Catechism is an excellent work of theology that (among other things) explores each of the 10 Commandments in this way. And it includes many lines such as “Whoever now seeks and desires good works will find here more than enough to do that are heartily acceptable and pleasing to God. In addition, they are favored and crowned with excellent blessings.” Christians should be overjoyed to receive such treasures from our Lord.

God’s instructions for us don’t end with the 10 Commandments, of course. But my point is that Christians should not be looking to Scripture merely for limits on what we want. When we do this, we are still pursuing our own ends while “allowing” Christ to trim the fringes. Rather, we should be looking to the Bible for direction in what we ought to want and what God has given us to do. It is precisely in that respect that most conversations about women’s roles in the Church utterly fail.

Women who aspire to be teachers (and the men who encourage them) scour Scripture to try and find some license for what they’ve already decided to do. They take brief mentions of Phoebe or Junia and use them to spin great and expansive yarns about deaconesses and “women apostles.” They try to project “attitudes” onto Christ apart from His instructions, which always seem to match their own attitudes and always seem to allow exactly what they want to allow. They wax as legalistic as any Pharisee to explain why the specific teaching and authority they seek isn’t technically the same teaching and authority which God forbids them.

Very tellingly, however, most would-be female teachers ignore the places where God explicitly instructs women to teach. According to Titus 2, “[Older women] are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” You say you are called to teach in the Church? Very well, God has just explicitly assigned you both your students and your curriculum! What greater and more God-pleasing work could you ask for than for what He’s specifically set aside for you to do?

And this is not the only teaching to which women are called. Solomon begins Proverbs by saying “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Paul likewise says of Timothy’s faith, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well,” explicitly honoring the great and mighty works that the most important women in Timothy’s life had performed. After all, when God forbids women from teaching and having authority over men in the church, He immediately provides women with a different responsibility, saying “Yet she will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Once again, what greater work of teaching could you aspire to than teaching the children God has called you to bear and to raise?

It is precisely these God-given vocations which are shunned by feminists. Most of these aspiring teachers would happily give up the most fertile years of their lives, spend a hefty sum of their parents’ money, and subject their future households to crippling debt all to prepare for what they want to teach. But what effort have they put into preparing themselves for the great tasks that God has actually given to them? Instead, how many have waited for a husband to show up rather than seek one? How many have deliberately put off marriage & children or minimized their time in the home for the sake of a career? How many have despised God’s instructions to submit to their husbands? And, of course, how many of the older women of the previous generations who should have been teaching them these things abandoned their own God-given posts and encouraged college above all else?

The sad reality is that American Christians–men and women alike–have long been taking their marching orders from the world rather than from the Lord. We make idols of education & career and then literally cannot conceive of any truly God-pleasing work outside of those narrow spheres. In the terminal stages of this worldliness, we actually become resentful of Jesus because He gets in the way of worshiping our idols. Far be it from Christians to live this way!

God’s instructions should not just be holding us back; they should be propelling us forward. That means we have to sit at Jesus’ feet and truly learn from him. And that includes letting him teach us about His creation of humans as either men or women. When God appoints men rather than women to teach & have authority in the Church and when He places fathers in charge of the home, it is not the result of a coin flip. It is not an arbitrary difference in roles for fundamentally interchangeable parts; it is what He specifically shaped each sex for. Scripture explicitly ties God’s command to both Creation and the Fall–two fundamental aspects of our nature which we cannot change. He has crafted men and women differently for the different good works prepared in advance for us to do.

So let us truly be His servants. Let us accept the works our Master has given us–even at the expense of the very different works which the world and its Prince acclaim. As our Lord said, one cannot serve two masters. So choose this day which one you would serve.

Posted in Family, Feminism, Law, The Modern Church, Vocation | 3 Comments

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, Vocation | 4 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, Vocation | 4 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 | 6 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