01 July 2015

Something Dreadful

by F. X. Turk

As I take a summer vacation from my permanent hiatus, I want you to think about something with me for a moment.

"Hypochondriasis" was first diagnosed as we understand it today in the 19th century.  This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition. An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs become unduly alarmed about any physical or psychological symptoms they detect, no matter how minor the symptom may be, and are convinced that they have, or are about to be diagnosed with, a serious illness. (thx, Wikipedia)

These people cannot be convinced that they are just fine no matter how many tests you run which demonstrate they are just like everyone else.  Science cannot dissuade them.  About 3% of all patients visiting their primary care physician have this problem.  The treatment, I am told, is the effort to help each patient find a better way to overcome the way his/her medically unexplained symptoms and illness concerns rule her/his life. Current research makes clear that this excessive worry can be helped by either appropriate medicine (targeting the anxiety) or targeted psychotherapy.

Diving deeper: the right treatment for this problem is not the one the patient would choose for himself or herself.  The problem is not the patient's body at all -- unless you count the state of anxiety in this person's brain over his or her perceived illness.  It would actually harm this person if we caved in to their false perception of a problem and treated them with the means they were demanding.  The right treatment is to approach their anxiety over the false self-diagnosis and resolve the problem that they are not sick no matter how sick they think they are.

This diagnosis and approach is one of those things that modern medicine simply accepts and works to treat as it presents itself -- in most cases.  But today there are some versions of this where the demands of the person with a perfectly healthy body but the feeling that something dreadful has happened have trumped the traditional medical diagnosis.  And in those cases, it doesn't matter how extreme the treatment the patient demands is: it must be rendered.  Drugs must be administered.  Every prosthesis must be added; every offending piece of flesh removed.  Organs with no functions must be implanted.  Organs in perfect health must be -ectomied. And if any of the treatments are refused, the person demanding treatment is somehow being violated, kept from a true form of self which would finally fulfill them.

That's pretty weird, right?

Now imagine a world where those people obtain the right to dictate to the rest of society what families look like and how children will be raised.

29 June 2015

SCOTUS: Spurgeon's Comments On The Ungodly Supremes

Spurgeon's comments applied to the Supreme Court's attempts to void the law of God; from Leviticus 5:17-18. 
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, "Sins of Ignorance," volume 23, sermon number 1,386.
"Conscience is differently enlightened in different men, and the ultimate appeal as to right and wrong cannot be to your half-blinded conscience or to mine." 

I might condemn what you allow and you would scarcely tolerate what I approve: we are, neither of us judges, but both culprits upon trial when we come under the law. The ultimate appeal will be to “Thus saith the Lord”—to the law itself, which is the only perfect standard by which the deeds and actions of men can be measured.

The law, from the supremacy into which this text lifts it, says to us, “You will not be excused because your conscience was unenlightened, nor because it was so perverse as to put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. My demands are the same in every jot and tittle, whatever your conscience may condemn or allow.”

Conscience has lost much of its sensitiveness through the Fall, and through our actual sins, but the law is not lowered to suit our perverted understanding. If we break the law, although our conscience may not blame us, or even inform us of the wrong, the deed is still recorded against us; we must bear our iniquity.

The law is also set above human opinion, for this man says, “You may do that,” and a second claims that he may do the other, but the law changes not according to man’s judgment and does not bend itself to the spirit of the age or the tastes of the period. It is the supreme judge, from whose infallible decision there is no appeal. Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve. 

The law is the balance of the sanctuary, accurate to a hair, sensitive, even to the small dust of the balance. Opinions continually differ, but the law of God is one and invariable. According to the moral sensitiveness of a man will be his estimate of the act which he performs, but would you have the law of God vary according to man’s fickle judgment? If you would desire such a thing, God’s infinite wisdom forbids it.

The law is a fixed quantity, a settled standard, and if we fall short of it, though we know it not, yet are we guilty and must bear our iniquity unless an atonement be made. This exalts the law above the custom of nations and periods: for men are very wont to say, “It is true I did so and so, which I could not have defended in itself; but then, it is the way of the trade, other houses do so, general opinion and public consent have endorsed the custom; I do not therefore see how I can act differently from others, for if I did so, I should be very singular and should probably be a loser through my scrupulosity.”

Yes, but the customs of men are not the standard of right. Where they have been at first correct through strong Christian influence, the tendency is for them to deteriorate and sink below the proper standard. Habit, perpetuity and universality of wrong, at last enable men to call the false by the same name as the true, but there is no real change worked thereby: the customary wrong is still a wrong, the universal lie is still a falsehood.

God’s law is not changed: our Lord Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than one tittle of the law to fail.” The divine law overrides custom, tradition and opinion: these have no more effect upon the eternal standard than the fall of a leaf upon the stars of heaven. “If a man do any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he knew it not, yet is he guilty.”

All the customs in the world cannot make wrong right, and if everybody that ever lived from Adam down to this hour had done a wrong thing and declared it to be righteous, yet would it make no moral difference in the evil deed. A thousand ages of whitewashing cannot make a vice a virtue. God’s commands stand fast for ever, and he who breaketh it must bear his punishment. Thus you see that by the declaration of my text the law of God is enshrined in the place of reverence.

28 June 2015

Be glad!

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 Morning and Evening, September 22, McDonald Publishers. 
"Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord." 

Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, "God, my exceeding joy." Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that He sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things!

Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That He is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That He is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness. That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. That He is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour.

That He is full of grace, that He is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant He has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory—all this should tend to make us glad in Him.

This gladness in God is as a deep river; we have only as yet touched its brink, we know a little of its clear sweet, heavenly streams, but onward the depth is greater, and the current more impetuous in its joy.

The Christian feels that he may delight himself not only in what God is, but also in all that God has done in the past. The Psalms show us that God's people in olden times were wont to think much of God's actions, and to have a song concerning each of them. So let God's people now rehearse the deeds of the Lord!

Let them tell of His mighty acts, and "sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously." Nor let them ever cease to sing, for as new mercies flow to them day by day, so should their gladness in the Lord's loving acts in providence and in grace show itself in continued thanksgiving. Be glad ye children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord your God.

26 June 2015

Tweeting the Supreme Court's latest face-plant: forcing "gay" "marriage" on America

by Dan Phillips

So now we  know, if we didn't already, that the American Congress actually has 509 seats, given that the unelected tyrants sitting on the Supreme Court regard it as their job to create legislation and impose it on their subjects.

Through the day, I'll expand this post to include my tweets on the subject, along with other noteworthy additions.

First: this one I actually scheduled simply from my reading of Revelation, without a thought to the Supreme Court. Yet it was published after, and applies perfectly:


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25 June 2015

Disagreeing with Jesus

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 June 2011. Keying off of Matthew 19:23-30, Dan explained how a true disciple should respond when disagreeing with Jesus.

As usual, the comments are closed.
In Matthew 19:23-30, Peter claimed to have left everything to follow Jesus, and is now in effect asking Jesus whether it will have been worth it. The Lord graciously answers by telling Peter that he will be richly rewarded, and that the apostles will share in the earthly rule over the restored nation of Israel.

But I think Jesus gave the wrong answer. I think Jesus should have said instead, "And do you regret it, Peter? Am I the Messiah, or am I not? Am I what I say I am, or am I not? If I am not, then by all means, go back to your fish-flinging 9-5 and make the best of it you can. But if I am, what better thing do you have to do than to follow me? What better thing would anyone have to do?"

That's what I think Jesus should have said.  He was too indulgent of Peter. Instead of pointing to His own worth, He spoke of rewards. I think Jesus gave the wrong answer.

So, what does that mean?

Simple! It means I'm wrong. It means I blew the math. It means I have to change the way I think. It means I have to work it through again, until I get the right answer, and see it the way Jesus sees it.

Now, what did I just do? I just took something that happened in my mind in a minute tick of time, and slowed it down, spread it out, gave it a narrative. I took something that happened between my ears at some point in the past, known (before now) only to God, and displayed the process for you.

Why? I did it in the hopes of demonstrating how a disciple thinks, something I've touched on before (perhaps most notably HERE). If we read the Bible with our brains on, we all run into teachings and thoughts that initially hit us wrong, that offend us, that scandalize something in our customary way of thinking. The issue is: what do we do then?

First time a newly-saved man reads about sexual morality and fidelity in marriage, he may balk. Then when he reads about loving his wife as Christ loves the church, he may twitch again. Likewise, when a Christian woman reads about wifely submission, and God's blanket prohibition regarding women teaching or leading men in church, she may bristle. Or individual verses, or books in the Bible. Or the Bible's teaching on manhood or womanhood per se. Or the universal exaltation of a massive and powerful God over a bound and small man may threaten his cherished notions of man's libertarian freedom and sovereignty. Or the Bible's message about the value of the unborn, about keeping vows (including wedding vows), about creation and geohistory, about its own inerrancy and absolute authority, about eternal conscious punishment of the lost in Hell, about the absolute exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ, in a Biblically-defined Gospel with actual edges — well, old Adam may rise up and demand to have a word as if he were primus inter pares with God.

This is where real-live, actual, gritty, street-level discipleship either happens, or begins to collapse. To a man, we Christians claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Teacher. That being the case, we necessarily claim to believe that we have been entrusted with the Teacher's Guide. This will have an impact on our thinking, when we come to these forks in the road.

There are fundamentally two ways of handling such experiences, and only two:
  1. We change; or
  2. We try to change the Word.
Disciples take the former option. It involves taking up our cross and denying ourselves; it involves putting on the Lord Jesus, and making no provision for the willful passions of the flesh; it involves putting to death the deeds of the body, and being led by the Spirit in conformity to God's Word. It identifies these resentful, rebellious rumblings within as hostile, as the enemy. It targets them for destruction. It sees the world as enemy, not friend, and expects opposition, mocking, rejection, for the very fact that we live out the discipleship we profess, in every area of our lives.

And that way — alone — ends up right.

23 June 2015

How the Charleston tragedy cries out for God

by Dan Phillips

The facts, as reported and as related in sterile prose, are simple enough.

Last Wednesday, June 17, a young man walked into the church congregation of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sat through a prayer meeting. At about 9pm, he stood and opened fire on his unarmed, helpless victims. Nine people, ranging in age from 26 to 87, were shot and killed. Eight died on the scene, one died later in a hospital. Among the dead was the pastor, Clementa Pinckney. The murderer, now identified by the police as 21 year-old Dylann Roof, was able to reload five times during the massacre, which his reported words reveal as racially motivated. He has since been arrested.

What to make of it? How to make anything of it?

The incident can be approached from many important angles; I'll select the one I think least likely to receive much consideration. It is this: we cannot even begin to make sense of this, on any remotely satisfying level, apart from the God of the Bible, and the theology that His Word teaches us.

I'll do my best not to insult you with nuance and carefulness; I'll just be direct. As you'd expect.

How can we even describe this situation, how can we even begin to measure its shape and immensity, apart from God? What do we say of it? That it is a "tragedy"? Of course, to Christians, it is every bit of that. But to an evolutionist? To a materialist? To an environmental extremist? To a postmodern sofa-sitter? How can any of them, with any credibility, call it a "tragedy"?
  • How could an evolutionist? What is the very engine that drives forward the development of species, if not the crushing of weaker members by the stronger? Is it a tragedy when a coyote "culls" a slow rabbit? Other than by emotional special-pleading, how could such a worldview even categorize this event as anything other than another step forward in the grand march of progress?
  • How could a materialist? One bag of atoms interacted with nine bags of atoms. The atoms aren't even destroyed, just altered. Where's the tragedy? Where's the wrong that makes it a tragedy? What does wrong weigh? What's the atomic number of tragedy? What instrument measures moral outrage? Is it measured in feet, or in pounds?
  • How could an environmental extremistAren't we constantly told that human beings are destroying our planet? People are the enemy, right? What is nine fewer, if not a step in the right direction? Perhaps the murderer is an enviro-hero, for reducing the "carbon footprint" in Charleston by many thousands of tons per year, going forward?
  • And how could a postmodernistOh sure, to you and me, this is a tragedy. But that's only our perspective. The consistent PoMo — though such a creature is a cryptid — is in a conundrum. He may feel bad about the slaughter. But for him to describe the act as a crime or as a moral outrage – that means he has to judge the shooter by a standard the shooter plainly does not share. Should the PoMo have coffee with the shooter? Or propose a 5-year moratorium on discussing it, until he has had time to think it through?
  • How could a pro-abortionist? It is reported Margaret Sanger's belief that black people were weeds to be eliminated, and abortion was one great way to weed the garden, so to speak. Abortion kills more black people yearly than any other single sort of event. Well (I speak as a fool) nine "weeds" were just plucked, to this mindset. Where's the minus?
Do you see? The worldling has an insoluble problem when faced with such tragedy as this horrendous slaughter. Taken seriously, the reigning worldviews of our day leave us helpless to describe murderer, victims, or incident, in any terms other than either "...and then that happened," or even (God help us all) positive terms. Then after describing them, they have no way to categorize them, or have any relief to the emotional response they quite properly have. They are forced to steal categories from Christianity — categories they don't really mean, and just as surely do not think through — to do any better than "this event makes me feel bad!"

Of course all my observations would be as horrifying and insulting to adherents and proponents as they are inescapable. They would deny them, with outrage and conviction. You see, we don't want to think through our billowy proclamations. We want just enough "freedom" to avoid Jesus, Bible, and church; to sleep with whoever we want, do (or not do) whatever we want, and escape all guilt, reproach, or consequences.

But we don't want anyone continuing the lines of logical development one inch further than we draw them.

Only the Biblically-faithful Christian, studying his Bible and applying the resultant theology faithfully and not emotionalistically, can make full and fully-satisfying sense of this horrific event.
  • Only the Biblically-faithful Christian can say that the lives of every person in that meeting were infinitely valuable, infinitely precious, because they were the lives of eternal beings created in the image of the infinitely valuable God (Genesis 1:26; 9:6). 
  • Only the Biblically-faithful Christian can say that the murderer had no right to take those lives as he did, and only the Christian can give a grounded solution as to what the law must do to do justice to the murderer, and why (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1ff.). 
  • Only the Biblically-faithful Christian can say that what the murderer did was — not unfortunate, not sad, not objectionable, not regrettable, not ill-advised, but — evil, wicked, sinful.
  • Only a Biblically-faithful Christian can point the grieving to comfort, eternal comfort, by pointing them to Christ and His Gospel. 
  • Only a Biblically-faithful Christian can urge mourners to see and trust that God will completely avenge every drop of blood spilled in that church, either eschatologically on the person of the unrepentant murderer (Ps. 94:1; Rev. 21:8; 22:15), or retroactively on the person of His dear Son for repentant offenders (Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:25). 
  • Only a Biblically-faithful Christian can expose the evil, indeed the absurdity, of racism, and can point to the one and only solution for it: a Biblical anthropology (Gen. 1:26-28; Acts 17:26) married to the Biblical Gospel (Col. 3:11; cf. Eph. 2:13-22).
  • Only a Biblically-faithful Christian can speak truth to the murderer, facing him with the full evil of his crime, the full weight of eternal wrath and judgment he deserves from God, and the full offer of reconciliation and forgiveness that he can know through (and only through) repentant faith in Christ (cf. Acts 9:1, 13; 26:10; 1 Tim. 1:12-16). 
  • Only a Biblically-faithful Christian knows when and how to think and speak of forgiveness.
  • Only a Biblically-faithful Christian can look with assurance to a day when we will dwell in a "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13) — which will be brought in, not on a tide of social or biological evolution, or scientific advance, or abortive weeding, or endless legislation, but with the return, rule, and reign of Jesus Christ.
This tragic and immoral event, in short, is too massive and too immense not to speak and think of Biblically, which is to say, theologically. It mustn't be cheapened by mere emotionalism or bandwagoning.

For the Biblically-faithful Christian knows there is no other way to do this atrocity the justice for which it cries out, and that there is no purer and better display of theological truth than that found in God's Word, the Bible. The Bible is the best theology I've heard in my life, or ever will hear. All thoughts and words — yours, mine, commentators', politicians', mourners' — can only be assessed truly by that standard.

This is the full implications of Sola Scriptura applied to the very depths of life. As it was meant to be.

[This post ricocheted into my mind from Todd Pruitt's fine post, Charleston and the Age to Come, and his observation that "the actions of the murderer cannot be adequately described in anything less that theological language."]

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21 June 2015

Seen with Him

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 "Seen with Christ in the garden," from The Teachings of Nature, page 248, Pilgrim Publications.
"The question is, 'Did not I see thee in the garden with Him?' We did not want to be observed: we were far from courting observation. There are some of the Lord's people who would like to go to heaven without being seen with the Lord Jesus in the streets by daylight." 

You see the world expects a good deal of us, and when the world does not get it, the question may be very properly put to us, “Did not I see thee in the garden with Him?” It is a salutary thing for a man to know that his inconsistency is observed. Then he begins to see himself as others see him. It is very painful, very disagreeable; but, at the same time, very likely to bless the man.

A man is apt to get a little angry about it; but it is a good thing for him to know how his conduct strikes other people.

I have read of an old lady who gazed into a looking-glass, and remarked that they did not make good mirrors nowadays, for those which she used to look into, fifty years ago, showed her quite different from what she now was. The looking-glasses were very inferior in these times.

When the world observes that your character is inconsistent, it may be that it is a truthful looking-glass, although it does not exhibit your beauties, but shows up your wrinkles and blotches.

Do not quarrel with the looking-glass, but quarrel with your own self. Depend upon it, you are disfigured with spots which you need to get rid of. When convicted by your conscience of an inconsistency, even though the conviction comes to you through an unkind, ungenerous remark of a wicked man, yet still take the lesson home, and go to God for grace and forgiveness, and begin again.

A very plain-spoken enemy may do us ten times more service than an indulgent friend. Such a question as this should effectually recall us to holiness — to deep repentance of the past, and to strong resolves for the future.