26 November 2014

Seven revelations of Ferguson

by Dan Phillips

I was just as happy to have my plans to write on this yesterday curtailed by Frank's post, as I usually am. It gave me a day more to ponder. That done — the ponderation having been ponderously pondered — I'll offer some thoughts, which in intent will be very like those I offered about "the Florida revival." That is, they will be Biblical principles whose application is I think fairly obvious.

Frank's focus was on the undeniable human tragedy. I won't reinvent that wheel, but will focus on other aspects. I hope the posts will be complementary. Don't blame his post for not being mine, nor mine for not being his. Fair enough?

To the seven revelations of Ferguson:

First: men outside of Christ are still hateful and still hate each other (Titus 3:3). Anger simmers not far below the surface. Evolution, real or imagined, biological or social, has changed none of that. No Federal program will fix it, no state or local legislation will fix it. It is a problem of the human heart, which lurks beneath every epidermal hue. Someone needs to propose a solution that transforms hearts. Anyone know of one?

Second: it still is better to gather the facts and hear an array of perspectives before coming to a conclusion (Proverbs 18:17). Some spoke awfully quickly when this situation first made the news. There seemed to be some feeling that immediate conclusions and statements should be made and issued.

One of the problems with this is that, once a public statement has been made, one is reluctant to walk it back publicly. Human nature and human pride make it very hard to retract a dogmatic stance, once publicly adopted. Better to wait longer and say less, than to jump the gun (pun unintended) and say too much.

Third: people ought to stick to what they know (cf. Proverbs 25:14). Being an expert in one area has nothing to do with expertise in others. For instance, one Christian brother who is a bookish conference speaker/author offered this:
To that, an equally-Christian brother with twenty years of actual experience in law enforcement responded:
Neither brother, probably, could do what the other does. It might have been well for the former to punt on this question, and stick with Scripture. "A man's got to know his limitations" may not be in Scripture verbatim, but it's sage advice.

As I'm trying to do. I'm a Christian, and I'm a minister of the word of God. If I have expertise, it's there. So I'll endeavor to speak as such.

Fourth: the very best thing parents of all ethnicities can do for their children is (1) repent and believe savingly in Christ (1 John 3:16), (2) advance in His Word as genuine disciples (John 8:31-32), (3) involve themselves in a faithful Gospel-proclaiming, Bible-teaching church (Hebrews 10:24-25), (4) marry before having children and honor the marital bond (Matthew 19:3-9) — and, in that overall context, (5) raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, among many others). In that context, they will teach their children many indispensable life-lessons. For instance, they will teach their children that
  • The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10)
  • Therefore they should seek and cultivate and embrace the fear of God from their earliest days (Proverbs 2:1ff.)
  • Gangs will appeal to their most vulnerable points, but they must consider their violent end and heed the inscripturated voice of God's wisdom instead (Proverbs 1:10-32)
  • Immoral people will sweet-talk them, but by Dad's instruction and God's word they should see right through it (Proverbs 2:16ff; 7:1ff.)
  • They should pick godly friends who walk in the fear of God, or else they will come to harm (Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25)
  • They should avoid drunkards (and, therefore, druggies; Proverbs 23:20-21)
  • They should study hard in school and learn a profitable skill while children (Proverbs 22:29)
  • They should know that what will matter and will reveal their character is not how they see or feel about themselves, but what they actually produce (Proverbs 20:11)
  • They should take full responsibility for their own choices and actions, and never blame others for what they choose and do (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:5, 7-8, etc.).
  • They should never steal, but instead should be productive and generous (cf. Ephesians 4:28)
  • They should respect officers of the law as God's servants, knowing that disrespect for the office is disrespect for God which invites His judgment (Romans 13, especially vv. 1-5)
  • If they defy the lawful authority, they should expect God's judgment to fall on them (Romans 13:4-5a).
  • If in any of these things they choose to defy God and rebel against Him and His word, they must expect both of their parents to stand with God, and not to make excuses for, coddle, enable, or otherwise try to deodorize their sin (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18ff.)
Fifth: faithful pastors must prescribe and teach these things without prejudice (2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1-2).  What I'm saying won't make the beautiful people love you. They won't. They won't praise you (as a Tweep did John Piper) for being "nuanced." You'll be told you're insensitive, you're ignoring the real problems, you're impractical. But as a minister of the Gospel, you know better. Sin is the problem. Sin is always the problem at some level; and there's only one solution for sin. The Son's blood buys your freedom (Ephesians 1:7), and the Son's word shows you how to live in it (John 8:31-32). 

That's what you have to give. You're not a social engineering genius. You're a servant of God who has His word. Don't set it aside. It applies here.

Sixth: if the issue of racism is ever to be resolved, people will have to stop thinking of bitterness and suspicion and resentment and prejudice as ills that other people really have to get over (cf. Romans 2:21-23; 1 Corinthians 10:12). Now, hear me: If you can read that sentence and think, "Well, he mainly means whites" or "blacks," you know something I don't. I mean people. I mean you, I mean me. I mean every color on the palette.

I've seen this in marriage. Every pastor has. The sure prescription for deadlock, for stalemate, is two people who are willing to change just as soon as the other person changes. You think that doesn't apply here? Mercy.

Seventh: the only real solution for racism is the one God instituted: the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 2:14-22; Colossians 3:11). Astute readers will say, "Some of those verses are about Jews and Gentiles, so they don't apply." To that, first: maybe some of those verses are, but not all; and second, they don't? You think the Cross addresses Jew-Gentile hatred and suspicion and contempt, but not black-white hatred and suspicion and contempt?

There isn't a Federal program that will fix this, or a local one. If one person says, "Let's make it harder for cops to kill people," another will say "Let's make it harder for people to menace cops." And each person will sound like he's enabling some form of sin — either a hypothetical thug's sin against a decent cop, or a hypothetical trigger-happy cop's sin against an innocent teen. You see where this goes? It's all beside the point.

The point is that only God has the answer, and it's the one we find only in His word.

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25 November 2014

In No Particular Order, Redux

by The Late Frank Turk

Recently, someone said we have to keep on talking about race in this country.  While I think I agree with the essay where he says that as a whole, it's not the most helpful turn of phrase as I see it.  But I have a couple of thoughts that are, it seems to me, useful.

In no particular order:

What does anyone deserve?

A long time ago in blog years, I posted an essay at my old blog about the primary pitfall in engaging with homosexuals and the people who love them.  I know most of you have not mastered clicking thru (maybe: you're just committed to not driving my page counter, you stingy louts), so I'll copy the key bit right here:
See: if I say, "well, homosexuality is a sin, Dustin," what Mr. Rowles hears -- and I think he's listening just fine -- is the subtle hint of this outrageous lie: "he actually deserved what he got." I know none of you regular readers of this blog would actually mean that, but the ones who harnessed that conclusion up to the horse of my assertion are the ones who pounded his Dad's face in for being gay -- you know, God hates fags, boy, so I'm going to smash a coke bottle in your face. ...
So the problem in talking to Mr. Rowles now is not trying to convince him what the Bible says about (for example) homosexuality. The problem is convincing him that you don't want to bash his father's head in over it. That kind of ferocious evil is what Dustin Rowles associates with the moral affirmation "homosexuality is a sin". My suggestion is that helping him believe what you believe about homosexuality is frankly a stupid gambit.
The application from the question of evangelizing homosexuals and the people who love them to evangelizing people who are committed to measuring anything by means of race is this: the problem is that somehow the facts are all interpreted right now toward the interpretation that anyone who is the victim of a cross-racial crime "got what he deserved."  Referring to the facts simply sounds, to the people you are talking to, like this statement: "When you think about it, he got what he deserved."

Your righteous indignation at the crime rate of blacks against whites? It sounds like you're saying that the victims of non-black-on-black crimes got what they deserved.

Your erudite notification of statistics which indicate that far more black people are killed by black people than by white people?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

Your socio-economic analysis of what is the problem behind the problem?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin  Michael Brown was doing in that neighborhood.  He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die.  Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin Michael Brown did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion.  Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken.  You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.

Having it both ways

The problem with our legal system is that, ultimately, it has to make a decision.  That is: when something comes before it, it's meant to take action and not merely take it to committee for deep pondering.

A while ago, our legal system decided that the Federal Government had no business saying anything about what constitutes marriage in this country.  That, apparently, was a victory.  This weekend, the same system at a different level reviewed the charges against George Zimmerman Darren Wilson, the evidence presented, and concluded there was no grounds for charges.  Listen: it didn't say he was innocent.  It didn't say that Trayvon Brown was not dead, nor that George  Wilson did not pull the trigger.  It said that this man was, at the end of the day, not to be punished for the events on 9 Aug 2014.

You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working.  You can't say that the system works only when you like the outcome.  That every outcome does not benefit you politically or socially or even in terms of your self-esteem is probably about right.

Never Coming

Is racism a problem?  I live in a cul de sac where the families are mixed about 70-30 white-to-black.  There is no open animosity on the street (except for the one guy who posts anonymously to the neighborhood watch about his problems with every other person's yard, pets and children)(who is not me)(as far as you know)(no seriously: not me), but let me admit something: there is also not always the most neighborly atmosphere.  Maybe: it's a southern thing.  Maybe: its a local culture thing.  Maybe: the middle class changed from when I grew up and people just don't make friends the way they used to. But there are some families who do not even come out of their houses, and never come to neighborhood parties.

Without a doubt, what is happening is better than open hostility -- but only just barely.  It worries me that there are fences in place I don't understand and don't really know how to cross.  I am open to suggestions because I have tried the normal stuff, and it is received, at best, with kind indifference.








23 November 2014

The pinnacle of popularity

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 Words of Cheer, pages 55-56, Pilgrim Publications.
"A smiling world is worse than a frowning one."

She saith, “I cannot smite the man low with my repeated blows, I will take off my mailed glove, and showing him a fair, white hand, I’ll bid him kiss it. I will tell him I love him: I will flatter him, I will speak good words to him.”

John Bunyan well describes this Madam Bubble: she has a winning way with her; she drops a smile at the end of each of her sentences; she talks much of fair things, and tries to win and woo. Oh, believe me, Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired.

When we stand upon the pinnacle of popularity, we may well tremble and fear. It is not when we are hissed at, and hooted, that we have any cause to be alarmed; it is when we are dandled on the lap of fortune, and nursed upon the knees of the people; it is when all men speak well of us, that woe is unto us.

It is not in the cold, wintry wind that I take off my coat of righteousness, and throw it away; it is when the sun comes, when the weather is warm, and the air balmy, that I unguardedly strip off my robes, and become naked. Good God! how many a man has been made naked by the love of this world!

The world has flattered and applauded him; he has drunk the flattery; it was an intoxicating draught; he has staggered, he has reeled, he has sinned, he hast lost his reputation; and as a comet that erst flashed across the sky, doth wander far into space, and is lost in darkness, so doth he; great as he was, he falls; mighty as he was, he wanders, and is lost.

But the true child of God is never so; he is as safe when the world smiles, as when it frowns; he cares as little for her praise as for her dispraise. If he is praised, and it is true, he says, “My deeds deserve
praise, but I refer all honour to my God.” Great souls know what they merit from their critic; to them it is nothing more than the giving of their daily income.

Some men cannot live without a large amount of praise; and if they have no more than they deserve, let them have it. If they are children of God, they will be kept steady; they will not be ruined or spoiled; but they will stand with feet like hinds’ feet upon high places,—“This is the victory that overcometh the world.”



21 November 2014

Some here, some there — November 21, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Here's the first burst. I'll start some major adds after my Bible etc. reading, so check back. Priorities!

  • I go to Doug Wilson's site daily. But it may be a week, two or three, before something grabs me. Then when Doug's in the ten-ring, he is just In. The. Ten. Ring. Like this brilliant takedown of Greg Boyd.
  • Friends don't let friends indulge their revulsion against God's sovereignty. See Pinnock. See Boyd. See a host of others.
  • It often seems to be the case that when Doug is brilliant, he's brilliant by clusters. So the above was followed soon thereafter by Remanded to Sensitivity Camps, which is, well, brilliant. It's a thought from the same seedbed as this post, which even Challies admitted seeing.
  • Which makes it hard not also to recall:
  • Pause to reflect on the commentary that subsequent history added to both Tweets.
  • Now, to be fair: if anyone knows of any retractions and apologies — which is to say, any welcome deviations from PA#2 — let me know so that I can share.
  • Not related, and not theological, but still fairly awesome.
  • To us:
  • To the Pope:
  • In between? Don't know.
  • Used to be that Multnomah Press was a sure sign of Biblically-faithful Christian books. No longer. But in a rarity, the publisher is splitting into two labels, to deal with conservative titles and those that aren't so much. They're being up-front with buyers, that some of their titles are going away from Biblical fidelity. You know, just like Eerdmans, Baker, and Zondervan didn't.
  • Remember how Houston's lesbian mayor Annise Parker was seeking sermons and correspondence from some local pastors touching on homosexuality, her conduct in office, related matters? Remember how her legal team launched it, she doubled down, then she retracted? Turns out it seems to be ongoing.

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20 November 2014

"Remember Lot's Wife"

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 2011. Phil used the account of Lot's wife to remind us of the dangers and consequences of "loving the world."


As usual, the comments are closed.
Lot began his career as a tent-dweller like Abraham. But after he parted from his uncle, Genesis 13:12 says "he pitched his tent toward Sodom." Soon he moved into the city and became comfortable there.

In fact, Lot apparently became a man of some importance in the community, because Genesis 19:1 says "Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom"—which tells us that he ultimately became a kind of civic official there. To have a claim on that place, you had to be someone of importance, recognized by everyone in the city.

As much as he may have enjoyed the comforts of city life, he never felt at home in Sodom. Peter tells us Lot's righteous soul was vexed every day by the wickedness of that city's rampant perversions (2 Peter 2:7-8). No matter how settled Lot became in Sodom, his heart was never at home in that city. He never came to love the debauchery and evil indulgences that characterized that place.

Mrs. Lot was different. She was attached to Sodom. If that city was not her home when Lot married her, it became her home in every sense. She grew to love to the place. No matter how evil it was, she did not want to leave. She probably loved being the wife of a prominent person in such a sophisticated, morally liberated city. There is no suggestion that her soul was vexed by the wickedness there.

First John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." That was precisely the thing that caused Mrs. Lot's downfall. She loved Sodom.

Why did she love that evil place so much? Because the love of the Father was not in her. Her values were worldly values. The things she loved were worldly things. She was a friend of the world, and therefore she was an enemy of God. And when faced with the necessity of fleeing a world that was perishing, with the way of divine deliverance open before her, she could not tear herself away from what she really loved.

Here is the danger of such a wayward love: First John 2 goes on to say, "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

You can think about it like this: you will spend eternity with whatever you truly love the most. If your heart is fixed on the things of the Lord; if you love righteousness; if you find your sweetest joy in fellowship with Him, that's where you will be throughout eternity. But if your affections are set on the things of this world, if what really delights you the most is the things that are passing away—if your life is characterized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life—then like Lot's wife you will perish in the destruction of all that you truly love.

19 November 2014

Pitting Holiness against Holiness

by The Late Frank Turk

As most of you know, I spent most of my childhood reading comic books in the peace and quiet of my room.  On one of those days, my youngest brother came in looking for some affection from his older brother who had his head in a comic book, and the lad innocently asked, "Frank: Who would win in a fight - the Hulk, or Captain America?"

Now: of course Cap would win in a fight, but that is not the point of this brief blog post.  The point is to look with some bewilderment at the question "Which is better: Justification or Sanctification?"

Some of you right now are recognizing that this post is reworked from another one which can't be found anymore on the internet, but I thought the matter was good enough to bring it back from oblivion.  Why? Because the point of theology is not to pit holinesss against holiness to see which one will win -- or whether one or the other is made less for its lack of victory.

Paul, to avoid that sort of untoward dismay, put it this way to good Timothy: "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."  In Paul's view, it was not a question of whether justification was better than sanctification: rather, it was that justification created sanctification, and those who were teaching and doing otherwise were jangling in vain.

Of course Jesus comes first; of course we are nothing but sinful wretches without him; of course good works do not save us and we have no confidence in them for that.  But for us to say that the good works are therefore not "better" than that which makes them possible seems to forget that we are justified for the sake of doing good works, or as Paul also said, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

When my brother asked me if a Gamma-Ray mutant could smash the Sentinel of Liberty, he was asking me a question to show how much he knew about something I definitely loved.  He was trying to connect with me over something which should be some common ground -- and at 5 years old, he didn't realize it wasn't the smashing which we both enjoyed most of all.  There's something like that going on here.  I think those of us who are in various stages of reformed intoxication ought to be careful of it. We should be much more worried that we have idolized one kind of holiness in such a way that it has dismantled and buried another kind of holiness which God says is part of the total package.  It leads us to say things like, "my sanctification is more imaged than real," which is an explicit denial of WCF XVI.2 and XVI.3 -- not to mention the letter of James and the last half of the letter to the Galatians.

While we may affectionately ask the question which is "better" in order to establish our bona fides amongst ourselves, the truth is that somehow the thing which ought to be caused is the way we do the things God expects us to do -- and it causes the ordinary grace God has ordained in this world which shows the lost who God really is.

We certainly have an invisible and invincible holiness, but if it doesn't cause a holiness which the world sees and is conflicted over -- that is, one with a beauty it cannot deny, but also it cannot resist hating -- what kind of holiness is that?

This brings to mind another personal anecdote.  When my son was a baby, he was of course the most precious and fantastic child ever born (until his sister was born, at which time I was overcome by the number of perfect children God had given me and my wife) -- but he was also quite perplexed by vocabulary.  For example, every kind of non-vegetable was called "chicken".  And in this state of minimalistic linguistic development, he was frequently out of words for what he meant to say or what he wanted to say -- so much so that he quickly mastered one phrase with gusto: "I! CAN'T! DO! IT!"

This occurred to me recently as he went on a ministry trip with his youth pastor and some of his guys to the local juvenile detention center to share the Gospel with some of the fellows there.  As we debriefed on the way home, my dear lad was telling me of this young fellow he spoke with who said he accepted Jesus, but wasn't sure that he was ready to turn away from sin.  This young fellow confided to my son, "I guess I just have to do better."

My boy had been waiting for more than 15 years to say this to a person for a theological reason, and he was quite proud to tell me that his response to this incarcerated fellow was, "But you! can't! do it!"

Which, of course, sounds a lot like reformed theology -- or at least one kind of reformed theology.  Of course nobody over here affirms that we do anything for justification, or denies that even the regeneration necessary to receive justification is God's work.  But sometimes (as we visited above) we get it in our heads that because we cannot earn justification, justification is better than sanctification, and that somehow being holy ought to cause us to be unburdened by actually being holy.  Because that fellow in prison thought that his participation in the holiness God gives to those who are in Christ is optional, or some kind of hobby, he sounds suspiciously like someone who says something like, "I am so thankful for my right standing with God because, after all, my sanctification is more imagined than real. But my justification is more real than imagined."

Compare that to Spurgeon's recent tweet in the same vein:


Spurgeon doesn't say his sanctification is mostly imaginary: he says that sin becomes more obvious and our grief over it increases as we draw nearer to God.  Paul, the greatest of sinners (he says), doesn't for a moment doubt he is not yet perfect -- but he also doesn't see that as a ground for saying that his justification is somehow better than his sanctification (or vice versa).  It seems to me that the same fellow who wrote 1Tim 1:15 also wrote 1Cor 11:1a.  For Paul, it's not a question of which is better -- one adorns the other, and one causes or draws out the other.  They are both necessary, and one is not a Christian without both.

So as my boy and I discussed this fellow in prison who is not ready to "try harder," we didn't discuss the fantastic irony and religious metaphor he found.  We discussed the idea that while we don't do a thing to be saved by God -- the saving is all of God -- saved people have something right now to show for this salvation.  We aren't pitting an eternal decree of holiness against an immediate inclination toward holy deeds, or shouldn't be anyway.  We are glorifying God, and enjoying him for ever, starting right now.







18 November 2014

Here, let me help you help yourself

by Dan Phillips

FirstWe get inquiries all the time like "What is an RPB?" and "Have you written on ____?" I'm here to help you with that.

We know readers (surely!) don't expect us to drop everything and do their searching for them, or re-write what we've already put out in public. But perhaps they lack some skills for finding the information they're after fairly easily, themselves.

Here's the easiest way to do it, as simply as I can put it. Let's say you're asking "What's an RPB?"
  1. Go to Google.
  2. In the Search field, type RPB site:teampyro.blogspot.com.
  3. Click on the Google Search button, and voila! there's your answer.
You can use that formula for any other word or topic. Just substitute prophecy or schmerodactyl whatever for RPB in the example, above.

If you're using Chrome, it's even easier. If the address field above doesn't already say teampyro.blogspot.com, then just click on our banner at the top and it will. Then stick in RPB site: to the left of the address, and do your search from there.

In either case, Google will search for the word or words you type to the left of "site." If you want to search for an exact phrase, put it in quotation-marks, like so:

"leaky canon" site:teampyro.blogspot.com

SecondWe also get, "Do you have an email address?"

Well, of course we do. And they're public-knowledge.

Click on our names in the side-column. Frank's takes you to a page that lists an email address. Mine takes you to my personal blog where, in the side column, you'll actually see a link that says "My profile, email, the whole nine." Which is kind of a giveaway

This is partly to help you, and partly to save Frank and myself time, so...

You're welcome!

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