30 April 2015

Perfect? Not in this life.

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in November 2006. Phil mentioned his brief flirtation with perfectionism, and discussed how and why he came to reject it.

As usual, the comments are closed.
I've said before that I despise all kinds of perfectionist doctrine. During college and after, I was enthralled with a kind of perfectionism for a few years. Far from being any help or encouragement to my sanctification, perfectionism was a constant cause of frustration and failure.

I finally purged every conscious taint of perfectionism from my thinking after reading volume 2 of B.B. Warfield's excellent Studies in Perfectionism. To this day, that book ranks pretty high in the top five whenever I'm asked to list the books that have influenced me the most.

My contempt for perfectionism (and not merely a doctrinaire commitment to Calvinism) is actually the main reason I'm something less than a fan of Charles Finney and his disastrous long-term influence on American evangelicalism.

As a matter of fact, my disapproval of Finneyism and my abhorrence of perfectionism are more than matched by the animus certain perfectionists have directed at me in return.

For those who imagine that they have attained perfect holiness in this life, I think more in-depth self-examination might disabuse you of that idea. Here are some questions to consider:

The first and great commandment is "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). How's your obedience to that commandment? Perfect? If imperfect, how close to perfection do you actually come? In other words, how does your level of "perfection" compare to Christ's absolute perfection?

Seriously: Is your love for God really something that moment-by-moment consumes your entire heart, soul mind, and strength? Have you managed to banish lustful and covetous thoughts forever from your mind? And if not, how frequently and how passionately do you repent of your sin against the First and Great Commandment?

Do you believe you can summon the willpower to obey even the Second Great Commandment (Matthew 22:39) perfectly? Is your love for your neighbor really equal to your self-love?

Reading perfectionist writings, ranging from Charles Finney to his latter-day heirs, one gets the impression they think their salvation ultimately hinges somehow on how well they obey from now on. Search your heart; if that's the way you think—and yet you still have hope that you will be saved, then you have not truly come to grips with what Scripture teaches about human depravity. You have too much confidence in the flesh.

This is precisely what I despise most about Finneyism and all forms of perfectionism: while talking a lot about "repentance," holiness, and sanctification, these views actually amount to a denial of what Scripture teaches about the depth of human sinfulness.

In other words, that kind of "repentance" (the kind that leaves a person thinking his own future performance is necessary to secure his salvation) is no repentance at all, but a stubborn refusal to acknowledge how truly sinful we really are.

28 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part Two)

by Dan Phillips

Introduction: see Part One. In this interview, Janet has the opportunity to share her thoughts and perspectives on some matters on which until now her voice hasn't been heard, or to which she has not yet been able to respond. Here, too, is the explanation of her move from her Salem Radio Network show.
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DJP:  What was the distinctive aim of your show? 
JM: Everyone always asks me that, and I never feel like I have a great answer.

We always billed the show as taking “a Christ-centered look at the news of the day, both in the church and in the world.” But I really wanted the show, from the very beginning, to be very Christ-centered and not a nonstop “culture war” show. I certainly covered politics and cultural goings-on, but I didn’t want the show be just politics or cultural stuff.

 I wanted non-Christians to hear the gospel, so I would share the gospel. I tried to encourage Christians who were listening to really trust the Lord, to obey Him, to honor Him. I did a lot of theological and biblical topics, and those were probably my favorite shows.

Along the way, I also thought it was important to tell the truth about a lot of things going on in the church that are just wrong and dishonoring to Christ, so that also wound its way into what I did on the air. And in that last category, I think we ended up distinguishing ourselves a little bit from other shows. I hate heresy and corruption, and I am outraged by the rampant child sexual abuse in evangelical churches. So I tried to speak out about those things whenever I could. 
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DJP:  Were you surprised at anyone who agreed to be a guest?
JM: Three come to mind: former Vice President Dick Cheney, Brother Andrew and the man who knew in advance he was going to get some tough questions and agreed to come on, anyway. And you know who that was.
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DJP:  Who was the most intimidating to interview, and why?
JM: Hands down, R.C. Sproul. He’s so biblically and philosophically brilliant, but he also has that good-natured ribbing edge to him that can come out. I just didn’t want to ask him anything stupid. If I did end up doing that, and I probably did, he was too much of a gentleman to point it out!
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DJP:  What were some of the greatest surprises in interviews, unexpected turns?
JM: There were a lot of funny moments.

I had one guest who was supposed to be on the air for an hour. But every time I asked him a question, he took a while to answer, and you could hear him loudly opening and closing doors and slamming cabinets in the background. I think he even went to the bathroom once; no joke. Uh, are you aware you’re doing a national radio interview, sir? Think you could hold it until the break? You have to
wonder what these guys are thinking. I had to cut him loose. 

Now and then, I would also get the guests (usually fellow radio hosts) who would just completely hijack the interviews and not let me get a word in edgewise. I also had a guest burst into tears on the air once. That was a little awkward.

But the end of the Mark Driscoll interview -- when he just didn’t answer at all and then hung up – was probably the most unexpected moment. Though if you listen to the preceding half-hour of that interchange, I guess it wasn’t at all surprising!
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DJP:  What feedback or contact from your audience stands out over the years?
JM: Again, the Mark Driscoll interview and its huge fallout would have to be the most memorable. I received so much hate mail, especially in the early days after the interview. That was tough. I was called everything from an “arrogant female” to “Satan.”

But there was a lot of supportive feedback, too, especially as time went on and I was vindicated in my accusations that Driscoll was a serial plagiarizer and worse. The emails that definitely meant the most to me were from inside Mars Hill -- from people who’d been personally abused by Driscoll or finally saw the light about him because of that interview. 
 ****   ****   ****   ****

DJP:  Did you have any relationship with Justin Taylor before his infamous Tweet? Have you had any contact from him since?
JM: He’d been a guest on my show once early on, but I didn’t know him at all. After that infamous tweet, someone also sent me a diatribe he wrote about me in the comment section of his own blog. He basically ripped me and falsely accused me of being a liar about the Driscoll hang-up, despite the fact that we’d released the raw audio and put out a statement about exactly what happened.

From the beginning, I told the absolute truth. But think about it: What possible motivation would I even have for staging a fake hang-up at the end of an interview in which I’d already proven  that Driscoll was a plagiarizer? The truly damning portion of the interview was already over at that point. It makes no sense, and I wouldn’t and didn’t lie about it.

On the other hand, a megapastor with a long history of lying and deceit and ties to The Gospel Coalition got the full benefit of the doubt from his Gospel Buddies. And in addition to playing footsie with Driscoll for years, Taylor’s M.O. was so obvious. He is the publisher for books at Crossway. Crossway has published a lot of Driscoll books. There’s a lot of money tied up in Driscoll. And there’s probably more plagiarism in them thar hills. KILL THE MESSENGER! Or at least discredit her so no one will listen to her. That’s all he was trying to do.

But no, he’s never contacted me to apologize for anything. Let’s be honest; that’s not what the Gospel Boys do. Repentance is just something they tell the little cash cows to do.
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DJP:  Tell us about the process that led you to decide to end the show?
JM: There were a lot of reasons for my decision to end the show, but one of the main reasons was the toll that my job was taking on my life and on my family.

I was talking not long ago with Dick Bott, founder of the Bott Radio Network, and he described my life better than anyone: “Doing three hours of live radio every single day is just a monster to feed.” He nailed it. If you want to do it right, and I did, it’s the kind of job that absolutely engulfs your life, 24/7.

For over five years, I was working on the show all the time, every day, weekends, evenings, even on vacations. I was staying on top of the news, reading books and articles, choosing guests, finding topics, doing social media. I was traveling. I was speaking at events. I had been approached to write a book, so I was working on that. And all the while I had a lot to do at home, too. I have a husband and four children, who I love more than my own life, and who I just missed all the time. I had no time to even be involved in something as basic as a group Bible study, which I did for years -- I even led a women’s Bible study for years -- and desperately needed and wanted and missed.

I did the best I could, but I was constantly exhausted and stressed out, and there was never any let-up. I eventually just reached my breaking point. Very few jobs are worth your life. So in January, I asked Salem to let me out of my contract early, and they agreed to let me do that. And I haven’t had one moment of regret. Sometimes the Lord just calls you to do something for a season, and then He calls you out. He’s definitely called me out of this particular job.
****   ****   ****   ****

DJP:  What’s next?
JM: Spiritual and physical detox. Uninterrupted time with the Lord and with my family. I’ve also got some more irons in the fire. I’ll have more to announce in the next month or so. Stay tuned. 
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DJP:  What talk show(s) will you listen to or recommend, now that you’re off the air?
JM: I’ve been a huge listener to talk radio for years. But I’m on a prolonged, intentional break from all talk shows right now. If I tune into any talk show in the next few months, it probably will be Mark Levin’s; he’s great. The only Christian radio I’m tuning into at the moment is KFUO via app. I’m not technically a Lutheran, but I love the hymns and the sacred music on that station. Soothes the savage, tired soul like nothing else.
****   ****   ****   ****

DJP:  Finally: as an expert interviewer, what question should I have asked?
JM: I can’t believe you didn’t ask me my life verse. Then again, I could never just pick one Bible verse as my favorite. 
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Thanks, Janet, for all you've done for the truths we hold precious. Godspeed.

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26 April 2015

Make your calling and election sure

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, volume 3, sermon number 123, "Particular election."
"By the word 'calling' in Scripture, we understand two things—one, the general call, which in the preaching of the gospel is given to every creature under heaven; the second call (that which is here intended) is the special call—which we call the effectual call, whereby God secretly, in the use of means, by the irresistible power of his Holy Spirit, calls out of mankind a certain number, whom he himself hath before elected, calling them from their sins to become righteous, from their death in trespasses and sins to become living spiritual men, and from their worldly pursuits to become the lovers of Jesus Christ." 

Why is calling here put before election, seeing election is eternal, and calling takes place in time? I reply, because calling is first to us. The first thing which you and I can know is our calling: we cannot tell whether we are elect until we feel that we are called. We must, first of all, prove our calling, and then our election is sure most certainly. 

"Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Calling comes first in our apprehension. We are by God's Spirit called from our evil estate, regenerated and made new creatures, and then, looking backward, we behold ourselves as being most assuredly elect because we were called.

Here, then, I think I have explained the text. There are the two things which you and I are to prove to be sure to ourselves—whether we are called and whether we are elected. And oh, dear friends, this is a matter about which you and I should be very anxious. For consider what an honourable thing it is to be elected. 

In this world it is thought a mighty thing to be elected to the House of Parliament; but how much more honourable to be elected to eternal life; to be elected to "the Church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven;" to be elected to be a compeer of angels, to be a favourite of the living God, to dwell with the Most High, amongst the fairest of the sons of light, nearest the eternal throne! 

Election in this world is but a short-lived thing, but God's election is eternal. Let a man be elected to a seat in the House: seven years must be the longest period that he can hold his election; but if you and I be elected according to the Divine purpose, we shall hold our seats when the day-star shall have ceased to burn, when the sun shall have grown dim with age, and when the eternal hills shall have bowed themselves with weakness. 

If we be chosen of God and precious, then are we chosen for ever; for God changeth not in the objects of his election. Those whom he hath ordained he hath ordained to eternal life, "and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand." It is worth while to know ourselves elect, for nothing in this world can make a man more happy or more valiant than the knowledge of his election. 

"Nevertheless," said Christ to his apostles, "rejoice not in this, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven"—that being the sweetest comfort, the honeycomb that droppeth with the most precious drops of all, the knowledge of our being chosen by God.

24 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part One)

by Dan Phillips

I think that, before Kregel got me an interview opportunity with her, I'd never heard of Janet Mefferd. As it turns out, Janet's questions were so insightful and incisive that I started listening, and found that she was doing what, as far as I could tell, no one else was doing, and doing it with excellence. Hugh Hewitt calls Janet "extremely esteemed in the world of talk show hosts," and her listeners would heartily agree.

Obviously with a solid background herself, Janet had an array of scholars, preachers, authors and opinion-formers on her show, and always seemed to ask just the right central questions — like an expert jeweler, who knows just the right point at which to tap the raw diamond.

Of course, her interview with Mark Driscoll, and the disheartening aftermath, is the stuff of legend. To say the least, many we'd respected in the past did not cover themselves with glory. In what followed, Janet herself was more than vindicated. 

Then — I believe it was the day she had me on to talk about Sufficient Fire! — Janet unexpectedly announced her coming retirement from Salem Radio.

This is, I believe, Janet's first interview since her show left the air.

DJP: So, wait… you’re not Janet Parshall?
JM: Nope, I’m not Janet Parshall. I met her once, so I have to operate on the assumption that we’re not the same person!
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DJP:  Sketch the show: when did it start, what was the growth of its coverage? 
JM: It was really a rather accidental career. I’d worked part-time at SRN News as a weekend anchor for several years, and I was asked by one of the Salem Radio Network executives to fill in one time for a local Christian talk show on KWRD-FM in Dallas. Before I knew it, I was being asked to take the job permanently. I really didn’t want to do it. But my husband, who’s also in the Christian radio industry, strongly encouraged me to give it a shot. I prayed it about it a lot, and I eventually decided to try it out.

Within six months, the Salem Radio Network approached me to syndicate the show nationally. We launched the national show in February 2010, and we were on about 180 radio stations by the end of my run.
****   ****   ****   ****

DJP: You refer to a time “in J-school,” and clearly have doctrinal background. Sketch out the course of experience and education that prepared you to host this show. 
JM: I majored in journalism and history at Baylor University, and I worked at the school paper for several years. I also took a radio class my freshman year, and I worked shifts at the campus radio station and did on-air news, as well. After college, I worked in newspapers for several years as a reporter and editor, while staying active in Christian radio on the side.

But I’d say my biggest doctrinal preparation for my show started in college. My roommate and I decided that when we went home for Christmas break one year, we’d research a doctrinal topic and report back to each other what we’d learned. I remember heading into my public library, determined to research some great subject, but realizing I didn’t have a clue where to start. The only Christian author I knew at the time was C.S. Lewis. So I prayed, “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!”

I scoured the shelves for a long time, and  a little red book on a bottom shelf finally caught my eye. It was called “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery Boice. I’d never heard of him, but I went home and read the book, and it honestly changed my life. I kept saying out loud, “Dr. Boice knows the same Jesus I know, but he knows so much more about Him than I do!” And I became something of a Dr. Boice fanatic, wanting to read everything he wrote so I could learn more about Jesus and the Bible -- and he taught me so much. I went on a quest to own every book he ever wrote, at a time when there was no Internet to help me.

And soon after, I started reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones and had the same response. What I didn’t realize at the time was that these men were teaching me the Reformed faith, though they never named it as such. I just knew they were teaching me the Bible. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really learned what the Reformed faith was and started reading theology and doctrine all the time. I took a few seminary classes here and there for fun, but most of my doctrinal preparation was through a lot of reading and listening to Christian radio.

It’s so neat to look back on it all now and see God’s clear and providential answer to that one little prayer: “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!” Did He ever!
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DJP:  What books have been most formative to you? 
JM: That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! But as far as Christian books, I’d have to include “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery  Boice; “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones; “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall; “Sanctification: Christ in Action” by Harold Senkbeil and the four-book “No Place for Truth” series by David Wells. I also can’t fail to mention”The God Makers” by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. That book was formative in my life at a time when I was completely obsessed with studying and refuting all the cults, particularly Mormonism.

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THIS WAY TO PART TWO, where we turn to surprising guests and interviews. You know what that means.

Dan Phillips's signature

23 April 2015

"I'm just going to trust God"

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in October 2010. Dan discussed popular notions of trusting God, and why they are unBiblical.

As usual, the comments are closed.
It is a pretty good hermeneutical principle that the first occurrence of a major concept controls and informs subsequent Biblical occurrences. I think that holds in this case, where faith makes its first appearance in Genesis 15:1-6.

What are the essential elements? There are only two:
  1. An explicit word from God
  2. Believing embrace of that word
So that is what faith is: it is trusting an explicit word from God. We could say a lot more about it, but we must say at least that much, and shouldn't let ourselves stray far from it.

The related word trust is not fundamentally different, except that it emphasizes the element of dependence on the truth, leaning and relying on it. But it still is directed towards the Word (Psalm 119:42), and the truth it reveals.

Other similar statements are simply shorthand for the same idea. For instance, when David sings, "O my God, in you I trust" (Psalm 25:2), we must understand this in the background. David isn't saying, "God, I have great self-esteem, and I've plunged myself into the Cloud of Unknowing, listening in the mystic stillness for that still small voice." Such thought would have been foreign to him, repellant. Rather, he is saying in effect "I know what Scripture says about You to be true, and I rest my full weight on it."

So let's move to the bottom-line. This whole area of faith and trust provides yet more rich and verdant pastureland for Christianoid nonsense. Like other pious nonsense phrases ("The Lord told me...."), we're supposed to just grunt and nod piously. We certainly shouldn't ask questions.

But I think we should ask questions. I think we must.

In this case, it really isn't rocket-science. I just don't (and never have) seen Biblical Christianity as a "Get-out-of-thinking" ticket. Quite the reverse; I think Christians who practice their professed faith are hard, rigorous thinkers. Have to be.

So in this particular, two questions. Just two simple, straightforward, perfectly-Biblely questions. To wit:
  1. For what?
  2. On what specific Biblical basis?
Let's apply.

Suppose you seminarians "trust" me to write your theses for you. Or you husbands "trust" me to teach your sons for you. Or you pastors "trust" me to compose your sermons for you. I suppose that I could do those things, you know. I have the ability.

So what's missing?

Well, what's missing of course is that I have neither offered nor promised to do any of those things for you. You have no grounds, no basis for that "trust." So the concept of "trusting" me to do something I never said I'd do — well, it's just absurd and silly. You would end up looking ridiculous.

Or not? Suppose a nightmare Bizarro world, where everyone imagined that I was obliged to come through for everyone who concocted some scheme, and then committed me to it in absentia. Why, in that case, I would just look more and more pathetic as people across the globe announced things they were "trusting" me for, and I kept failing to deliver, over and over again.

It could ruin my good name, my reputation, if people were lazy and sloshy-minded enough not to think through what "trust" implies and assumes. 

For yourself, don't shame the name of God by broadcasting that you are "trusting" him for things He has not specifically promised (the in-this-life healing of an ill loved one, the numeric growth of a church, the salvation of a friend or child). Do glorify Him for trusting Him in those areas where he has left us precious promises — such as trusting the utter sufficiency of His word for all of Christian life (2 Timothy 3:15-17). 

For others, when you hear someone say that (s)he is "trusting God" for X, just nicely ask two questions.

You know which two.

21 April 2015

Let's pretend: imagine an even-handed media

by Dan Phillips

Suppose political reporters wanted to pretend to be anything vaguely approximating even-handed.

Hey, I said suppose. Stop laughing. Use your imagination, and work with me here.

We know they're going to ask every Republican presidential candidate deep and probing vital-issue-of-the-day questions like:
  • Should "gays" be stoned?
  • Would you go to a "gay" "wedding" if you were invited?
  • Would you go to a "gay" "wedding" if it were your son or daughter?
  • Is being "gay" a choice?
...and so forth. I don't need to do their work for them.

So what if they were even to pretend to be even-handed on this issue? What questions could they ask of the Democratic candidates?

I'm absolutely serious about these, and I've come up with the lot of them on the run, without even breaking a sweat. Here goes:
  • Should people act on every sexual impulse they have? How can they tell which is which?
  • If someone has a homosexual impulse, does he have a choice as to whether or not to act on it?
  • Should adult children whose hearts move them to marry one or both of their parents be legally allowed to? Why or why not?
  • How about adult siblings whose hearts move them to marry one or more of their siblings?
  • Is being homosexual like being black or Asian? How is it different?
  • Christians believe that Jesus can free people from being enslaved to destructive sexual impulses. Are they wrong?
  • Jesus said that it was wrong to act out some sexual impulses. Was He wrong?
  • If your son or daughter married a Christian who believed that homosexuality is a sin, would you attend the wedding?
  • Followup: should bakers be required by law to cater such a wedding?
  • Do you think Christians who believe in the Bible should be allowed to hold public office?
That's just without really trying.

Feel free to offer your own.

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19 April 2015

A god of one's own making

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 47, sermon number 2,736, "The great miracle worker."
"Would you have a Bible made according to your mind,—a brand-new Bible, I suppose, once a week, for your mind changes so often that it would need constantly to be revised in order to be according to your mind? And shall God speak only such things as you would have him say? Are you to be master of his voice, and lord even of the Inspired Word?" 

There are some people who raise questions even concerning God himself. According to their notions, God should be this, or that, and almost anything but what he really is.

Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the only living and true God, is not at all according to their taste.

Some even venture so far as to call his justness, “severity.” They would have “a God all mercy” if they could. Or they pick out some one or other of God’s attributes, and they want to have a change made in it.

What! man, is God to be made to suit thee, instead of thyself being adapted to God’s will? And is the question to be, not, “How can I be right with my Maker?” but, “How can I make my Maker right with myself?”

Is that the blasphemous turn that your thoughts have taken? It is so with some people; and, accordingly, they practically become idolaters; for, while they pretend to worship the one living and true God, yet, inasmuch as they attribute to him a character which is not his own, they do, in effect, worship a god of their own making.

17 April 2015

Some Here, Some There — April 17, 2015

by Dan Phillips

.Here you go. Updates until noon, TX time.
  • Is the doctrine of substitutionary atonement a later invention, unknown to earlier Christians after the close of the Canon? Michael J. Kruger both says and shows "no."
  • Here's one Borg who not only is not in despair over the world's increasing attempts to assimilate Christians; indeed, he finds it cause of hope and optimism, observing that "Persecution has always proved fruitful to the church."
  • So, I guess R. Scott Clark is arguing that the fact that The World-Tilting Gospel emphatically lays out the distinctions between justification and sanctification in Biblical terms rather than explicitly leaning on a confession... I'll probably eventually end up Socinian? Hm. Well, yeah, I'll be sure to watch out for that.
  • I don't take it personally; assume Clark hasn't read the book. Other confessionals such as Lig Duncan found it useful. But, anyway.
  • Clarification: I add this Saturday, without changing the wording of the previous two bullet-points. It was already clear I wasn't suggesting that Clark was interacting with TWTG, per se. Insofar as Clark is warning (to quote his later tweets to me, which I appreciate) against "reading Scripture by itself, by one's self, or reading Scripture as if no one has ever read it before," I quite agree. That spirit generally indicates a foolish unteachable arrogance often condemned in Proverbs and elsewhere. Both over-dependence on confessions, and arrogant unconcern for them and previous great students of Scripture, are dangers.
  • Over at Practical Shepherding, brother Brian Croft asks (and answers) "How do I encourage my pastor?" They're good pointers. I'd add one more: join your pastor in loving and serving the local church of Christ that he loves and serves. Become a member, attend all the meetings you can, get to know your fellows, love and encourage and exhort them, serve. Join him in trying to practice the preached word. Nothing is more encouraging (3 John 4 — walking!).
  • Last week, we noted how The Gospel Coalition seems to have strayed from its stated raison d'être by reaching out to pagans to figure out what to do about racism. Over at the DBTS blog, brother Mark Snoeberger notes more within this mission-drift, suggesting that perhaps TGC should rename itself The Coalition for the Advancement of Realized Eschatology.
  • A hard trajectory to watch, to be sure; but not hard to understand. TGC stops its ears to Gospel-loving critics not on the clubhouse in-list, and only shows much passion in sneering off the same. Who does that leave?
  • Denny Burk offers some good thoughts (hey, I said "Denny Burk") on reparative therapy.
  • I like Denny, it's no secret. He's a solid Biblical scholar and thinker, and he's a real guy. For instance, that same blog today has Denny's top ten things he loved about the new Star Wars teaser trailer.
  • Over at Cripplegate, Jesse J. slaps leather and deftly exposes Westboro Baptist Church for what it really is.
  • The irony that, in the video Jesse's pastoral associate is out on the street, preaching the gospel, behind the Westboro folks who are protesting that Jesse's church doesn't preach the gospel on the street — thus not in any way doing what Jesse's church is at that moment doing.
  • That 99% Charismatic Fringe Update #1 — horrible story: a (A) female "pastor" (b) who hears God talking to her apart from Scripture (c) in a Pentecostal-affiliated church (d) starves a two-year-old to help drive a "demon" from him.
  • That 99% Charismatic Fringe Update #2 — horrible eisegesis.
  • But yeah, everyone was right to criticize Strange Fire and ignore Sufficient Fire. No real need for either. Move along. Bring on the dancing bears.
  • I may be over-subtle. One of the biggest LOTR fans I know didn't catch the Aragorn-speech allusion that opened this sermon on the person and work of the Spirit.

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16 April 2015

Faith Improves Our Sight

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in August 2006. Frank offered his thoughts on a proper understanding of "We walk by faith, not by sight."

As usual, the comments are closed.
I have a lot of pet peeves – you might say I am the Dr. Doolittle of Pet Peeves. It’s because I am an intransigent man, and you’ll get no apologies from me for it.

Anyway, the pet peeve I’m addressing today is from 2 Cor 4:7-5:10. Let me say clearly that there is something that this passage can not and does not say: it does not say “we fumble around in the dark, blinded by our faith and trusting the faith blindly.” There’s no way to make this passage – culminating in 2 Cor 5:7 – say that. Paul is not saying that faith usurps our sight, or that faith trumps our sight, in order to make us do irrational things: Paul is saying here that faith improves our sight in order that we may, in fact, walk the right way toward the right goal with the ability to do the right thing.

Think about where this passage begins (as I have cited it): Paul is underscoring that who we are as created beings – that is, as jars of clay – is intended to underscore that all the doing of the Gospel is God’s work and not our work. Isn’t that amazing? So, for example, when we are delivering the Gospel, we don’t have to invent a new tract or an interpretive dance that – if we just work hard enough – will turn men to Christ and His cross, at which time they can make a decision about what to do about that. That doesn’t mean we can be slack and do nothing, but it does mean that the pressure is off of our finite and fallible resources and the real “pressure” (if we can call it such a thing) is on God’s infinite and infallible resources. Amen?

In that, we can suffer through anything for the sake of the Gospel! You know: we can suffer through some mockery for the sake of the Gospel, because the Gospel doesn’t depend on whether or not I maintain my dignity and social standing. We can abide, as another example, being cast out of good company for the sake of the Gospel. We can also accept poverty, disability, and loss for the sake of the Gospel.

I know I have just told you why, but Paul says it clearly: because “we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

It is in that assurance that we have courage; it is in the fully-fledged knowledge that God’s power is manifested only in our abject weakness and inability that we have courage and strength to be ministers of the Gospel – not just pastors and teachers and preachers, but people who bear Christ’s name rightly down to the last person who can give a cup of water to a thirsty man.

And that courage, says Paul, is this: the Spirit of God is our guarantee that what we do is not in vain. When he says we “walk in faith, not by sight,” he means that we are not stuck with our sorry, fallible eyes to see if we can spot the trail out for ourselves: he is saying that God has prepared us for this work with the guarantee of the Spirit, and we have not traded our eyes for faith, but have been upgraded with eyes than now see all through faith.

15 April 2015

Trivializing a Real Problem

by F.X. Turk

There was once a guy who loved his wife and served faithfully in his local church.  His wife really loved this guy, and they had a lot of kids.  This guys was the kind of guy you read about in Titus 1 who really set things in order most of the time by loving people and being informed by God's word, and everyone who knew him and his family thought that this is what God's will looked like in a Christian home.

And this guy was killed by a natural disaster, while he was spending his last moments making sure his family was safe from harm.  He spent his whole life, from a tender age, loving his wife the way Christ loved the church, and God decided to take this guy out and leave his wife husbandless and his children fatherless.

I bring it up for one reason only: I don't really want you to talk to me about whether or not you struggle with faith and doubt unless you have spent your whole life following God, and then suddenly everything you think following God looks like is blown to bits by God.  If you are the wife of the guy I described up above (or someone like her, with her experience of loss and grief in the face of faithful devotion both to God and to your fellow human beings), your reflections on faith and doubt ought to turn some heads.  If you are not, I'm wondering what you think you have to say about the subject.

Look: the book of Job is not about some guy who, after growing up in a famous pastor's house, has some uneasiness about how Christians live and whether or not God is real if Christians are not yet perfect people.  Job is about a man who spent his life serving God and loving God, and raising a family to the place where his adult children all loved God -- and then God says, effectively, "I know you love Me and not merely My gifts, so I am taking away the gifts to show Satan and the world that Faith is in Me, not in My generosity only."  It's not some version of adolescent poetry which got published by Crossway - it's about actually losing everything to God and still remembering that God is God and you are Not.

If you are writing a book about your struggle with faith and doubt, and the best you can do is tell me that sometimes you wonder if God is safe enough to protect your middle-class notions of being warm and well fed, please find something else to write about.  Please put your pen away.  Most of us resolve your issues when we are unemployed for the first time and we don't know if we are going to feed our babies next week, or when we are afraid that God will not let us have babies in our family.  Your middle-class angst about this subject does a huge disservice to actual doubt and (if I can really put my foot in it) real faith.

You should be a grown up for more than the span of the run of your favorite TV show before you try your hand at explaining adult faith to the rest of us.

There was quite a dust-up on the internet a little while ago about what I think Phil called "Heaven Tourism books."  That is: there's a real problem in Christian Media which presents itself as books ginned up by agents and marketing people about alleged visits to heaven which somehow look nothing like the place where Jesus is sitting on a throne at the right hand of God.  That sort of hucksterism is easily discovered and decried.  It's easy to call it out and say that publishers ought to be ashamed to make a buck off that sort of thing.  But let me be clear about something: this is no better. Books about the niggling little sophist quips of people who have never really suffered which come to the conclusion that they love Jesus anyway trivializes the real dry gulf between doubt and faith.  People writing those books are trivializing a real problem which grow-ups face, and are in the same category as Rachel Held Evans - diarists of their own failure to launch, authors of memoirs where there is nothing yet to remember.

14 April 2015

Walking in the Spirit: a pre-response

by Dan Phillips

I've more or less promised to write specifically on what it (actually) means to walk in/be led by the Spirit. Aaaand I've not done it. Aaaand I'm not doing it today.

But in the meanwhile, I just crammed two or three sermons about the Holy Spirit into one, which includes exposition of the Bible's teaching on His person and work, through both Old and New Testament, including His work in the Christian life.

The sermon and outline are here:

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12 April 2015

Wanted: Lifeguards!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 47, sermon number 2,713, "Walking in the light of the Lord."
"What a fuss is generally made over the first child in a family! So is it with our first converts; we do rejoice exceedingly over them."

However many spiritual children God may have given to us, all whom we have been the means of introducing into the kingdom of Christ are very precious to us; and when we hear them say, “Yes, we will go with you, for we perceive that God is with you; we will walk in the light in which you are walking;” we feel very greatly encouraged and we resolve that we will persevere in such blessed service.

This is the reward of our labour for the Lord; this is the harvest that the husbandman, who sows the seed for Christ, desires to reap. If you have never had this joy, work on till you do have it. If you have had it, I need not tell you to work on; I think you can never leave off such blessed service.

I remember well the story of a man, who died some few years ago, who had saved a young man from drowning; and, after rescuing that one from a watery grave, he seemed as if he was insatiable to do the same thing again and again. I think it was eight persons he rescued, one after another, at Hull.

He would stand by the dock, in a dangerous place, watching that he might be at hand in case anyone fell into the water. He died, at last, in the very act of saving another person’s life; he seemed to be carried away with that passion.

In like manner, I would have all the saints of God encouraged, as they bring one and another to Christ, to consecrate their whole time and strength to this glorious—this divine pursuit of bringing men to the Lord Jesus Christ, a work which might fill an angel’s heart, and which did fill the Saviour’s hands.

10 April 2015

Some Here, Some There — April 10, 2015

by Dan Phillips

Here's today's assortment. Come back for updates through to noon, Texas time.
  • You may have heard about this:
  • Even a "Reformed Episcopalian" wonders, "Is an organization committed to unity around the Gospel in danger of losing the Gospel?"

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09 April 2015

"Stand Firm in the Faith"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in March 2010. This post was the second of a 4-part, which was taken from the transcript a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 that Phil delivered at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Let's face it: steadfast immovability is one of those virtues that has lost its luster in these postmodern times. "Epistemological humility" is the new supreme and cardinal virtue. We're supposed to refuse to be certain or dogmatic about anything.

Our culture thinks rank skepticism (or even spiritual nihilism) is humility, and hipster Christians have overcontextualized themselves to the point where they seem to think that's true. Strong convictions—the very thing Paul calls for here—are out. If you don't undergo some kind of major paradigm shift in your theology and your worldview every few years or so, you are not only hopelessly behind the times, you are incurably arrogant, too.

That's why, according to any postmodern way of thinking, dogmatism is to be avoided at all costs, diversity is to be cultivated no matter what, and tolerance means never having to say "You're wrong."

That's not "humility"; that's unbelief.

It's not arrogant to have firm, immovable biblical convictions. In fact, it is our duty to be precise and thorough in our doctrine, and to come to strong, mature, biblically-informed convictions. Paul even named this as one of the necessary evidences of authentic faith: "If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard" (Colossians 1:23). We are not to be "children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Stability is a good and precious virtue—a necessary virtue for church leaders especially. Peter wrote, "Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability" (2 Peter 3:17).

Watch out for those who undergo regular, major paradigm shifts in their thinking or revamp their whole theology every few years—avoid them. Double-minded men are unstable in all their ways.

Yeah, but isn't it wrong to be obstinate and inflexible?

Well, it certainly can be, but do you know what the Bible identifies as the very worst kind of stubbornness? It's the obstinacy of refusing to be steadfast in our conviction that the Word of the Lord is true. Scripture condemns such people as "a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast" (Psalm 78:8). How were they "stubborn" without being steadfast? "Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant" (v. 37). That's the very height of arrogance.

"Stand firm." That's a command. "Stand firm in the faith." The definite article is significant. There is only one true faith, and if your faith in Scripture isn't strong enough to affirm even that fact without equivocation, you really need to ponder very carefully what Paul is saying here. Because in all likelihood, that question will be put to you by an unbeliever ("Is conscious faith in Jesus really the only way to heaven?"), and you need to be ready to give an answer. I'm amazed and appalled at the parade of evangelical celebrities who have flubbed that question on Larry King Live or other national platforms.

"Stand firm in the faith," Paul says, and if you are tempted to tone that down, apologize for it, or explain it away because it conflicts so dramatically with the spirit of this age, then you need to repent of that attitude and ask God to give you more conviction and more courage.

08 April 2015

Going to Take the Cake

by F.X. Turk

While I am still on Permanent Hiatus, I'm not dead.  The events over the last few weeks in the US have pricked my conscience, and so that those who are often intent on asking why this blog has not said anything about the current crisis (which has evidently changed even though the last crisis was never actually resolved -- except by being proven to be more like an episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" than an actual crisis) will have something to slake their curiosity.  The TeamPyro Sock Puppet will be interviewing me this week on the subject of gay weddings, Jesus, and Pizza.

Word to the wise: Prolly not completely safe for Homeschoolers due to the subject.

TeamPyro Sock Puppet (TPSP): You don't think this format is a little ego-centric or vain, do you?  I mean: that's what people are going to say.

F. X. Turk (FXT): Look - this format was just aped by Ross Douthat at the NYT, and there is nobody in the Commercial Department of The Gifted Columnists' cabal who doesn't think Douthat is what we ought to aspire to.  I think we're safe.

TPSP : When you put it that way, it almost sounds reasonable -- but what is up with the name change?

FXT : Well, I'm tired of people asking me if I'm Frank Turek.  I have made the clarification once already, but the only way to really put the fences up it to change my pen name, so I am picking something fantastic.  F. X. Turk it is from this day forth.

TPSP : And the "X" stands for?

FXT : That will be the running joke. Next question.

TPSP : So what about gay weddings is it that makes you want to come off of hiatus to do an interview?

FXT : I really have no interest in gay weddings.  I'm really more interested in the totalitarian politics involved here.  Have you ever heard of a "kulak"?

TPSP : is that a kind of cookie?

FXT : No, it's a kind of property owner.  Back when Stalin was well known as a globally-dangerous villain, under Bolshevik rule in Eastern Europe the peasants were divided into three broad categories: bednyaks, or poor peasants; serednyaks, or mid-income peasants; and kulaks, the higher-income farmers who had larger farms than most Russian peasants. (they also had a category of batraks, or landless seasonal agriculture workers for hire) The Bolsheviks thought the bednyaks were their willing allies, the serednyaks were unreliable but on the side of the revolution, and the kulaks were the enemies of the people.  At first, the kulaks were by definition anyone who owned land -- that's what the definition of rich was back in the 1930's and 1940's: land ownership.  But by the time WWII was over, anyone who owned any livestock was also considered a kulak -- too rich to be anything but an enemy of the workers and too rich to be anything but an enemy of the state.

TPSP : This is a little boring, FX.  It's like Tolkien meets shabby mid-20th century Europe.  I feel like you're going to start a monologue in Elvish if we don't move things along.

FXT : Fair enough.  I bring it up because my Grandfather -- my father's father -- was a kulak in mid-20th century Hungary after WWII.

TPSP : What does this have to do with pizza or gay marriage?

FXT : I am glad you asked.  The first thing I want you to do is consider something: the definition of "kulak" under the Bolsheviks had to remain a sliding definition.  That is, it had to move to owning less and less in order for it to be an effective weapon for the State to keep finding more of what it needed to perpetuate its ideology -- mostly enemies.  So it started with land owners, but then anyone who was a permanent employee of a land owner by means of a lease-to-work agreement was made into a kulak because let's face it: you can only confiscate land once, but you can confiscate what is produced on that land over and over if you can prove that those working the land have no right to the (literal) fruit of their labor.

TPSP : So you think gay weddings are going to confiscate someone's farm?

FXT : No.  Please stay focused.  The plight of my Grandfather and all kulaks like him was that the problem was not that they were actually immoral: the problem for them was that they were actually in possession of everything the Bolsheviks (and the Soviets after them) needed to be prosperous and to gain credibility and acceptance.  The ploy of the State in that case was to villainize those who had everything the State wanted in order to take it all from them by every means necessary.  They were painted as immoral people by redefining morality.

TPSP : So gay weddings are going to take all the pizza?  I honestly can't follow where you're going.

FXT:  Well, take a look at this meme:

It seems like a very clever insight into the sort of hypocrites these so-called Christians are, right?  The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of food banks are fully funded by Christians (for example, in that link which is to the 1100+ food banks in NY, more than half are actually in churches) -- and none where shut down to send money to the people at Memories Pizza after they were forced to shut their business down.

But: the argument here is clear.  Not only is one pizza joint the enemy of actually-good people: Christians are also the enemies of good people because they are taking money from the poor and giving it to these property owners.  Morality (and actual facts) have to be completely redefined to gin up the outrage.

TPSP : That is what happened though, right? This Pizza Place refused to let gay weddings have their pizza (in the name of Jesus), and that's just wrong.

FXT : Are you homosexual, TPSP?

TPSP : I'm not sure I like the tone of your question, FX.

FXT : I'm fine with that -- are you personally homosexual?

TPSP : I'm a sock puppet, FX.  Like an Angel, I am neither male nor female, and I am not ever going to be married.  So I have to say "no, I am not gay."  I'm a sock puppet.  But: I don't like your label.  I am sure they prefer "LGBT."

FXT : Good Call - why do you think that is?

TPSP :  What?  How should I know?  Why do you like to be called "white" or "male" or "Christian"?

FXT : For me, that's easy: because those actually describe me.  They don't obscure who I am or what I believe.  But let me suggest to you something: the point of taking on the label "LGBT" is to obscure something about the members of that group which, frankly, would lower their moral high ground if it were made clear.

TPSP : I don't get it.  What about "LGBT" obscures "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender"?

FXT : What does it mean to be "transgender," Sock Puppet?  Is that like getting an MFA in Art History, or becoming a Cubs fan?  Is it an ideological position, or does it describe something else?

TPSP :  This is a family blog, FX.  You better tread softly for the sake of the homeschoolers.

NOTE TO THE READER: really not kidding here.  Under 17 should be under parental supervision from this place forward.

FXT : Why?  What do you mean by that?  I thought that we should all say, "not that there's anything wrong with LGBT," and it's just a label like "Christian."  I can describe a Christian in 25 words or less, without offending anyone.  Why can't I do that with someone who is "transgender"?

TPSP : Well, I guess it's because, um, ... look, you know why, and you can't make me be the bad guy here by saying it.

FXT : That's actually a better answer than I expected from you, Sock Puppet.  Why would you be a "bad guy" by lining out what it means to be "transgender"?  Why would I be a bad guy for lining it out?

TPSP : Because what underlies this status is complicated, and to put it into simple terms will require me to be coarse and un-nuanced.  Describing the afflictions and the remedies here would be insensitive at best.

FXT : You're saying there's not a nice way to describe this, right?  Every approach you would take would, right away, make the "T" in "LGBT" seem utterly tragic and utterly unnatural.  It would evoke the kind of revulsion and sympathy anyone has for babies born without organs or for conjoined twins, yes?

TPSP : That's one way to say it, I guess.  I might add that you gamed the interview to try to make me say something there which would have also made me look a little heartless.

FXT :  We'll get back to the alleged "heartlessness" in a second.

We have approached the "T", what about the "L"?  Can you explain the "L"?

TPSP : I'm thinking you think I can't, but I can: it's when two women love each other.

FXT : So my wife and her sister are "L"?

TPSP : No, not like that.  Maybe like that but with something else.  It's when two women love each other the way ... um ... You're about to spring a trap here, I can see it.

FXT : which trap is that?

TPSP : I almost said, "the way a husband and wife do," which sets hetero marriage as the norm.  That's not at all how they would want to say it, I'll bet.

FXT : For a Sock Puppet, you're pretty clever.  But that was not my point. Let's say for the sake of argument that we can describe "L" as "two women who love each other sexually."

TPSP : Not that there's anything wrong with that.

FXT : You say that, but I'll bet if we surveyed the readers of the internet -- not just the readers of this blog -- and asked them, "if you became a parent to a girl, would your highest hope for her include that she will become a 'L'?" do you think even 25% would say yes?  Nobody has children with the idea that this child would be "L" or "G"as an aspirational part of their lives.

What I want to ask you at this point is, "why?" but: we still have one more initial to unveil: "B".  How would you, in the most family-friendly way possible, describe the "B" in "LGBT"?

TPSP : That's not fair.

FXT : What's not fair?

TPSP : It's not fair that you have covered three of the 4 initials, made them out to be somehow unsavory, and then turn to the last one as if it is the worst one.  It's all in the drama you have whipped up here to get here and make me feel like I can't win.

FXT : The problem, actually, is that you can't win -- not by anything but cheating.  See: for that "T" initial, we can maybe say that this is a medical tragedy which ought to be somehow be treated to make aid and comport to the person born this way.  For the "L" and the "G" initial, the settled science says that there's no reason to try to treat these people because they are born this way -- even if it is the opposite of what the outward appearance of what nature would say they ought to be and do; even if we would ourselves admit that we would not want them to be born this way.  But when we get the the "B" initial, all these other explanations sort of melt away -- because how do you explain someone who is rather omnivorous in this matter?  Euphemistically, some might try to call them "open minded," but that's just transparently a desperate attempt to call sexual depravity something you can bring home to mother.  There's nobody who has bothered to read this far who is not going to admit (at least to themselves) that they do not want to be partnered with someone like that -- someone who simply wants sex with whoever will provide it, with no regard for any of the constraints of civilized relationships except that from time to time they might feel like putting some clothes on.  There's certainly no one who has read this far who would say that there's a basis for marriage buried in there someplace.

But let's be clear here: it's just the last stop for the morality the "LGBT" has to be looking for.  If it's really true that one person is just the same as another, so that those with matching parts are just as appropriately joined as those with mismatched parts, the real innovators are the ones who are not committed to one sex or the other but any sex, any gender, any pairing for the sake of gratification.

TPSP :  THAT, my friend, is quite a mouthful.  What in the name of deep dish deluxe does that have to do with Christians being accused of taking money from the poor and giving it to bigots?

FXT : Indeed.  When you say that, it assumes that there's bigotry buried in the idea that anyone would refuse to celebrate a LGBT wedding.  And it's hard to argue against that when we leave LGBT packed up and disguised as some sort of optional feature.  But when we unpack it to mean, "someone would refuse to celebrate the sexual union of two men," or "someone would refuse to celebrate the sexual union of two women," or "someone would refuse to celebrate the sexual union of any number of people as a semi-permanent orgy," one starts to wonder what all the fuss is about.

If you are saying otherwise, I want to see how ready you are to affirm this statement: "I am personally ready to participate in any of the unions indicated by LGBT."  Failure to say less than that is, to be blunt, pretty bourgeois hypocrisy.  The idea that's it's OK in theory but it's something I would personally never do out of personal revulsion ought to strike the LGBT people looking for advocates in the straight world as the most insulting sort of condescension.

And when I say that, I want to make sure that I call the reader's attention back to the fact that Sock Puppet is the one who says he is afraid of looking "heartless."  I think it's pretty heartless to tell someone that somehow when they do something which fires up our moral gag reflex, we are perfectly fine with that - as long as they don't mean we also have to do it. If what they are doing would make us sick if we had to do it, telling them it's fine for them but not for us is duplicitous at best.

TPSP : You seriously think they can't just live and let live?  You're serious about that and you don't call yourself a bigot?  Who is asking you to be gay anyway?

FXT : Since you asked - the people phoning death threats into Memories Pizza.  Because look at this situation: no actual LGBT person was refused a pizza.  Nobody was turned away.  No order refused.  No actual commerce was declined.  All that was said was that celebrating a ceremony (which calls holy that which you and I would always refuse to do ourselves) is an immoral act that one ought to refuse, and all that was missing in the response was torches and pitchforks.

The response to this incident is clear: the demand is not merely that we look away and live and let live, but that we must participate, and enjoy it, and be part of the celebration, or else.  If there is anything worse than that here, it is this: not only must we do it, but we should be able to be bought out of our convictions with money.

The response is to be LGBT or else -- with "or else" clearly being made to mean your life is in danger, and you will be branded a bigot for hating that which is being demanded of you.

Let me tell you something: when my grandfather was branded a kulak for share-cropping a plot of land and owning an ox, a pig and a few chickens, at least he knew exactly why it was happening.  At least he knew these people were the enemies of his family, and his livelihood, and life, and his faith in God.  Here today we are supposed to pretend we don't know that there's something afoot here intent to destroy the way we live, the way we work, the way we procreate, and the way we worship.

TPSP : well, you have jumped a few sharks in this interview so far, FX, but this one if the most life-like.  You think that Memories Pizza is about the way you worship?

FXT : How can it not be?  How can it not be about whether or not we must celebrate what God wants celebrated and we must mourn or refuse those things God calls unholy?  That is actually what is on the table: being part of a celebration which calls sinful sexual unions holy.  If I refuse, I'm a kulak - part of the hated class who cannot be allowed to own property anymore, who cannot be allowed to buy or sell anymore, and who must be called out as immoral and as enemies of the new way of life.

I am really not that concerned that gay people (at least superficially) say they want to be "married".  I am concerned that anyone who objects to the new moral definitions is clearly being called politically unfit for use.

TPSP : Well, here is one way it might not be: Jesus said to turn the other cheek.  You make this out to be about worship as so on, but here's what Jesus says in Matthew's account:|
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
He says it this way in Luke, which is even worse for you:|
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
All your Calvin-like talk about worship seems to overlook that Jesus said you are held to a higher standard than those who are not believers, so you are expected to do more for them than one might expect.  Now what?

FXT : Before I answer this, I want to make sure you're in for a dollar here and not just trying to nickel-and-dime me.  You're saying that you're ready to admit that the way Christians are being treated in this case looks like what Jesus here describes as "if anyone forces you to go one mile," and "if anyone would sue you," and "anyone who takes away your goods," yes?  You're ready to admit that what is happening here is that the Christians are being treated as poorly as possible?

TPSP : I'm not, but that is your claim -- that's what you are saying.  You're saying that the Christians are getting the worst possible kind of treatment, and I'm saying that lucky for you Jesus has already covered what it is you ought to do in that case.

FXT : There ain't nothing like a clever sock puppet.

TPSP : You're too kind, but you're out of arguments now.

FXT : What you're assuming is that my objection that no one should be treated this way is somehow subverted because Jesus says we should expect martyrdom and in fact bear it as if we were doing it for His sake.  I'm ready to go on the record to say this: all who lead a Godly life will be persecuted.  Unlike some on the political right who are starting to ask if we need to start protecting ourselves from violence (which seems like a good question given the actual events we are discussing), I think Christians ought to expect that when we follow Jesus, we are going to get persecuted.

What that does not mean is that we stop following Jesus.  You can't construe the passages above to mean that Christian should surrender their moral principles when they are challenged by immoral people: it means that we apply all our moral principles with love -- and we, for example, come to the aid of those who have been put out of business by those who hate our moral principles.  We can love people without telling them lies and rejecting what God has told us in his word.

TPSP : Well, let me be honest:  You have said some radically-stupid things in the past which have made people hate this blog, but this one is going to take the cake -- so to speak.  If people start to read this post/interview, you are in for it, bub.

FXT : I'll bet.  God willing, it will be for their eternal good.