Odds and ends:
I’m not any good at Twitter and find it a pain to use. In fact, I hate Twitter and try my best to avoid it. But if I did use Twitter, that’s probably where these short takes would end up. In the meantime, here is a hodge-podge of things I have thought about or read about recently.
Time after time, when Christians are struck with tragedy, God’s people respond with grace, wisdom, and patience. Everything I have seen out of Nashville since the horrific shooting at Covenant School suggests that once again Christians have risen to the occasion, manifesting faith in God’s goodness and refusing to retaliate against a persecutor. The saints at Covenant should be commended for their faithfulness in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies imaginable. God will reward their Christ-like response in the face of calamity.
That calamity could have been much worse had it not been for the bravery of the men in uniform who stormed the building, located the shooter, and took her out. Despite all the rhetoric about “toxic masculinity,” our culture (like every culture in history) needs strong, competent, courageous men.
The incident shows that women can be brave too. Headmaster Katherine Koonce apparently gave her life confronting the shooter. This mother in Israel will be rewarded in glory for her sacrifice on behalf of those children she so dearly loved.
That being said, the tragedy at Covenant shows the inadequacy of some evangelical strategies in our current cultural context. There are still some Christians that seem to think we can “winsome” our way out of the cultural mess. If we are just winsome enough we can avoid the culture war, remain faithful, and stay out of trouble. But this is simply not true. If ever a church tried the winsomeness strategy, it was Covenant. I seriously doubt the pastor or anyone else at Covenant has openly criticized the likes of drag queen story hour (if they had, the media would have been all over it by now). Sure, there are still some who will blame the victims. They got what they deserved because they are white Christians and so they are self-evidently bigots. But that narrative is too obviously false. Something else is going on and we need to know what it is. More specifically, we need to know what to do when the winsomeness strategy does not work. Men like David French and Russell Moore have been way too influential, but they really have no answer to the key questions we are facing. We have enemies who cannot be placated by niceness, nor will they leave you alone. There is no way to avoid a collision with the culture. We just have to hope and pray it is not a violent collision like the horror we just witnessed in Nashville. But even if it is not violent, it will still be very costly for faithful Christians.
While the media has moved on from the shooting pretty quickly (because it cannot be easily used to reinforce the progressive narrative), the media coverage I watched did make me wonder: Is the mainstream media using this event to desensitize the general public to violence against Christians? Had almost any other group been the target, we would have heard a lot more about their victimhood. Quite a few media figures actually reversed the narrative and focused on the long-suffering trans community, as if they were the real victims here.
Joe Rigney is parting ways with Bethlehem College and Seminary. The letter detailing the reasons for his departure is telling. I think it shows the problems Baptists are going to have, moving forward. The reality is that (as Aaron Renn has demonstrated), we have entered “negative world” in which the culture is far more hostile to the Christian faith than anything we have seen in the West, going back to the pre-Constantianian empire. Here’s the problem: Baptist theology is not well suited to deal with the challenges of “negative world”. It cannot promote the kind of covenant household needed to keep and disciple the next generation since it views the children of believers as outsiders to the church and it cannot promote the kind of social engagement/cultural transformation we need when confronted with a hostile neo-pagan state. Baptist theology arose within the context of an already Christianized culture where Christian parents could count on the culture to be generally friendly toward their goals for their children. That world no longer exists. The Baptist view of children needs positive world, or it quickly becomes untenable. So, for example, Baptists are one of the few Christian traditions that have not ever really developed a school system that could serve as an alternative to the public schools. The Baptists have not developed a self-consciously Baptist system of education the way Roman Catholics, Reformed/Presbyterians, and Lutherans have because, in the nature of the case, there really cannot be a Baptists approach to educating children since their children are regarded as outsiders (assuming the Baptists is consistent with his own professed theology). How can a Baptist parent impose a Christian education on his non-Christian child? Further, Baptists have generally taken a hands-off approach to civil power, which works relatively well when other Christian denominations and traditions are keeping the state from becoming a Leviathan. But now almost all those checks on the pagannization of the state have been lost. Rigney is no longer a fit at Bethlehem because he believes in “the hoped for eventual Christianization of all of society, including civil government” and “leans toward a view of cultural engagement that could be described as Christendom-building.” But if Baptists reject these goals for society, then what goals can they have in a negative world? When the state stops pretending to be neutral, then what? How does separation of church and state (the trademark of Baptists’ privatized political philosophy) work when the state is overtly hostile to the church? The truth is that Baptists were always parasites within Christendom, living within a faith-positive civilization they did not build. But when the host dies (as is happening right now), Baptists theology will largely dry up. Now that the shelter of Western Christian civilization is almost gone, Baptist theology is not really coherent. The Baptist view of children and politics is not going to work on a wide scale in a post-Christian era.
From what I seen of Rigney, he will fit right into the CRECish wing of the Reformed world. Congrats to Rigney getting away from John Piper's shadow. Piper has done some good work at times but has also had some truly horrific social/political takes over the last several years. Piper’s Desiring God, which established the “Christian hedonism” program, was brilliant but flawed; Rigney’s work has been a helpful corrective. But Piper has been very foolish in the way he has approached the issues of self-defense and the 2020 election.
The social justice movement ignores the biggest injustices in our society. It ought to be renamed the trendy justice movement. Or the social injustice movement.
Case in point: After the Nashville shooting, many “social justice warriors” raced to their keyboards and mics to tell us that guns are the leading cause of death amongst our children. Nope. Abortion is by far the leading cause of death among children in our nation.
Our culture needs a much better understanding of emotions.
Only weak people get “triggered.” If you describe yourself as “triggered,” you are advertising your emotional immaturity and instability. Mature people can control their emotional impulses and reactions because they are emotionally resilient. They are not passive towards their emotions; they work to sculpt their emotions into a Christ-like shape. The do not let their emotions run wild; they tame and direct their emotions.
Do you submit to your emotions or to God? Or to put it another way: Do you submit your emotions to God, or let them function autonomously? Either God will rule your life or your emotions will rule your life.
Lack of emotional control kills relationships. If you have unregulated emotion, you need to realize you are emotionally vomiting on other people. It's disgusting. The world will tell you that your feelings should always be validated by others and no one can tell you how to feel; on the contrary, your emotions should be evaluated (rather than validated) and God in his Word has commanded you to feel certain ways in certain situations. Train your feelings to obey God, to bow before his Word. When it's time to rejoice, rejoice. When it's time grieve, grieve. That's what Jesus did.
One of the best gifts you can give your children is being a well-disciplined, emotionally regulated mom or dad. I’ve often paraphrased the gist of Edwin Friedman’s work as “In order to lead, you have to be the calmest person in the room.” This applies to mothering and fathering. Far too many parents lose teachable moments and undermine the effectiveness of parental discipline by not staying emotional controlled when their child is disobedient. If you lose your cool when your child sins, you are the one really in need of discipline. If you are undisciplined, you really cannot effectively discipline your own child. You are going to have to fix yourself first. Good parents are panic-resistant and anxiety-resistant; they parent out of faith, not fear. They can train their children because they have trained themselves.
Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life. Make sure you wreck his plan.
Behind every crazy woman is an abdicating, passive man.
Quite a few wives (yes, even Christian wives) withhold sex from their husbands as a kind of bargaining chip. They think they can use sex to get what they want. They offer sex as a reward to obedient, submissive husbands (!) who give them their way because they strongly desire sex and do not know what else to do. The reality is that wives who commodify sex as a reward for their husbands are basically prostituting themselves. This is not the biblical way (cf. 1 Cor. 7:1-9). Instead of using sex as leverage, wise couples will use sex to enjoy one another and reinforce their oneness. Sex is not a commodity to be exchanged for something else; it is to be a form of mutual, self-giving love between husband and wife. Sex is an obligation in marriage, to be sure, but it is a mutual obligation, so spouses should never use sex as a way of negotiating for something else.
Christians in America today (despite the brokenness of our system!) have opportunities to be salt and light that the early church did not have. We should use whatever tools we still have access to in our political system to promote biblically defined justice and righteousness. We should not be scared of political power. After all, someone will exercise political power. Why not the righteous? According to Proverbs, that’s what makes the city rejoice.
Between the self-objectification of gymnast OIivia Dunne and the anti-feminine taunting that took place in the women’’s NCAA basketball tournament, it might be time for Christians to rethink the place of sports in the lives of our young women. Do we really think girls’ sports culture as it currently exists can foster the kind of “quiet and gentle” femininity that God calls Christian women to display? Shouldn’t Christians be counter-cultural in this area? What kind of role models do we want for our girls? Do we want them to emulate immodest or trash talking women? We hear quite a bit about the crisis of masculinity today, but there is also a crisis of femininity. Women have lost touch with femininity just as much as men have lost touch with masculinity.
It's interesting that both Dunne, who is objectifying and hyper-sexualizing herself for marketable purposes, and Reese, who is obviously a she-boss on the basketball court, employing the kind of taunting that would typically be considered a form of "toxic masculinity," sum up the contradictory pathologies of modern day feminism perfectly. (It's also interesting that both Dunne and Reese are from LSU. For all its supposed conservatism/traditionalism, the deep south is not exempt from the cultural pathologies of gender confusion.) This is the dead end of modern feminism: Women can either choose the route of "empowering" themselves through sexualization or through masculinization. But neither of these has anything to do with biblical womanhood.
It’s been said that the marriage contract as it exists under modern, Western family law richly rewards women for breaking that contract. This is largely true; studies of the family court system have proved it. It’s not a surprise many men have decided that the marriage deck is stacked against them and have decided to opt out of the system altogether. They might still shack up with a woman; they will almost certainly pursue sexual partners; they might try to stay somewhat involved in the lives of whatever illegitimate children they sire. But the marriage game has become too risky for men -- or so the thinking goes.
I grant the risks. But one thing men do is take risks. "Black pilled" men and "MGTOW" men are effeminate. To opt of out marriage is not only immoral and irresponsible for most men, it is deeply unmasculine. Christian men should certainly have their eyes wide open to the risks and vet a potential wife as carefully as possible. But men simply cannot opt out. We have responsibilities and obligations. We have a vocation and a mission.
At the same time, we should recognize that just telling young men to “man up” and get married is not really going to work to solve this problem. At least in the church, we need to make sure the offices/roles of husband and father are respected and honored. We need to make sure that church sessions do all they can to back up a man’s authority in his home (while never giving a free pass to men who would use their authority to abuse and tyrannize). Perhaps in the church, we can work to recover the delicate balance of a man’s authority and responsibility that is at the heart of a biblically defined covenant household.
Yes, I suppose I do believe in Christian nationalism. But I also believe in Christian familism, Chriatian neighborhoodism, Christian localism, Christian countyism, Christian globalism, and Christian galaxyism.
Classical Protestant wanted to build a Christian civilization that foreshadows the coming consummated kingdom. Modern American evangelicals just want to get souls into heaven when they die. This is a big part of our problem.
Porn addiction is not just an individual problem, but a social problem. We need a war on the “new drug.” I say this not to in any way minimize personal responsibility for porn use. Those who use porn should confess and repent. But as a society we need to realize we have a corporate responsibility to suppress certain vices and porn is certainly one of them. I would suggest that porn has become the single biggest crisis in public morals we are facing right now.
Women's ministry in the church is good and necessary but must not be separated from women’s roles in church and family/ society. That’s the genius of Paul’s instructions in Titus 2: Paul wants older experienced women to minister to younger women, and he wants their teaching to train these younger women in their specifically feminine vocations. Women’s ministry should be seen as a form of spiritual mothering within the church.
Every time we have a mass shooting, the same tired narratives get trotted out. We get lectures on “assault weapons” (which are never really defined). We are told that we are sacrificing the precious lives of our children on the altar of the outdated second amendment. It’s hard to imagine dumber “hot takes” than what most of the talking heads on the news channels give us.
The reality is this: We do not have a gun problem. We have a culture problem. We have a spiritual problem. We have had guns in this country for a long, long time. But we have only had school shootings recently. In fact, the school shootings started not long after we drove God out of the schools altogether. God got driven out; gun violence came in. The problem is that our cultural elites, being spiritually blind, cannot connect the dots, so they use these tragedies as an opportunity to smugly virtue signal to their peers. They make it about guns rather than fatherlessness or the mental health crisis or (ultimately) the spiritual apostasy of our culture.
We have glamorized and celebrated mental illness for quite some time in our culture now. We have told LGBTQ+ folks they are victims of Christian bigotry and that this is the only impediment to their happiness. It’s no wonder we got a shooter like the one in Nashville. Perhaps the real mystery here is not “How did this happen?” but “Why isn’t it happening even more often?"
Liberals blame guns, not people, for these shootings. Conservatives and Christians do the reverse: we blame people, not guns. (Caveat: Liberals will blame the shooter if he is a white cop shooting a person of color. In that case, the narrative shifts towards race, and we told the only problem bigger than America’s gun problem is the racism problem. Liberals can be quite flexible with their narratives.)
Guns do not kill people. The person who pulls the trigger is the one responsible for what happens next. When a drunk driver causes a deadly collision, we do not say the car committed the murder. We do not say it was the fault of the alcohol. No one suggests the answer is banning cars or beer. Instead, we place the blame squarely where it belongs: on the driver who got behind the wheel in a state of intoxication. We must do the same with guns: Hold the shooter responsible. Now, I do think we can have sensible regulations on how firearms are purchased that honor the second amendment while keeping guns out of hands of those known to be criminals (or otherwise untrustworthy). But we all know that the liberal/progressive agenda is not satisfied with that. They want to disarm the populace to keep us weak, dependent, and vulnerable. We must never let that happen (and thankfully I don’t think it can, at least not any time soon). The second amendment remains a key check on government tyranny in America.
To further drive home the point about guns and responsibility, consider this: I have owned guns for many years. Thus far, my guns have managed to not murder anyone. But if my guns ever do start to misbehave, I’ll gladly hand them over.
Has any generation ever been as alienated from what it means to be human as the Zoomers? Gender dysphoria is just one aspect of a much bigger problem.
Here’s an example: Abigail Favale (who is probably older than Gen Z but illustrates the problem) has written a charming and generally helpful book called The Genesis of Gender. While the book has some significant failings, it is quite sensible in its refutation of gender ideology, birth control culture, and so forth. While Favale wants an embodied gender realism that acknowledges men and women are truly and irreducibly different, she balks at following through on this basic truth. She wants to maintain sexual differentiation but somehow avoid “stereotypical” sexual roles (it comes out in the course of the book that while Favale has come to reject the gender ideology she previously held to, she is obviously committed to a career and her husband stays at home with their children — so she is practicing sexual “role reversal” in her own life). In the end, Favale is still committed to the postmodern project and autonomy; she wants to sidestep the sexual duties that Scripture assigns to men and women, thus freeing us from “nature.” She wants to say that male and female embodiment carry inherent symbolic meaning, but still wants to join with the feminists in disrupting anything like “traditional” (biblical?) sex roles. For Favale, gender roles are not rooted in nature so they can never be anything more than artificial performances.
But there is an even deeper issue. When she tells her own story, she remarks about how after giving birth she felt alienated from her own body. She even compares the experience of postpartum dysphoria to gender dysphoria and says, “the more obviously female my body becomes, the more discomfort I feel” (p. 192). Can anyone imagine Sara, Ruth, or Mary feeling that way after giving birth? Favale fantasizes about a kind of womanhood somehow divorced from motherhood (p. 193). Favale acknowledges this is due to a dis-integrated sense of self, but I wonder where this dis-integrated sense of self came from? Why are women today so alienated from womanhood? Have women in every previous generation felt so uncomfortable in their own skin after giving birth? From my research it actually seems the opposite is true: Women aspired to motherhood and once giving birth, there was more euphoria than dysphoria. That’s not to say there was never any postpartum depression and the like — hormones will do what hormone do — but I am not convinced that Favale’s admission of postpartum dysphoria is the norm. I think it’s an indicator that there is something deeply wrong with the way we view our bodies, even for those who (like Favale) are moving in a more conservative direction. I cannot help but think that Favale still has quite a ways to go to get to where the Scriptures are on the issue of embodied femininity and motherhood. Mothers, of all people, should be at home in their own bodies and comfortable in their own skin. Feminism has robbed women of the full joy of motherhood.
Woman are called to be homemakers (Titus 2, Prov. 31, etc.). Why? Roles are rooted in natures, according to God’s wise design. The woman’s body symbolizes her role. Thus, women make a home for people because their *bodies* are designed as homes for (little) people. That is to say, the woman’s role as homemaker is just the extension and externalization of her womb - just as her womb makes a “home” for her children, so her work of homemaking makes a “womb” for her family. For the woman, form and function go together. What her body is symbolizes what she is to do with her body — her body is a home and she is to use her body to make a home.
As someone has pointed out: The + sign in the LGBTQ+ string is our culture’s altar to an unknown god. But it is becoming increasing clear that at least one idol that lurks under the + sign is pedophilia. The sexualization of children is increasing at a rapid rate in our culture.
A quote I came across a while back from a woman: “Male leadership hits differently when you actually experience it. You might feel like you don't need a man's leadership, but once you experience it, you will see why it's so important.”
Very true. Sadly, because so many men have failed as husbands and fathers, many women do not even know what they are missing.
It has been pointed out that normalizing long term (or permanent) singleness in the church is going to have disastrous consequences, and we will start seeing these consequences manifest themselves fairly soon. Evangelical leaders have lied about a lot of things, and many of their lies have centered around sex, marriage, attraction, and the like. Telling people that marriage is not a duty or vocation that most people are called to is a mistake. Encouraging a post-familial society, as if family is optional for most people and they can be just as happy without it, is a mistake. A lot of this traces back to Tim Keller, who was faithful in many areas but also pandered to his audience/context in many areas. We are going to have many, many folks both inside and outside the church who are going to grow old and lonely, and will become increasingly bitter. It won’t be pretty. Many of them will realize they were lied to and missed their best opportunities at earthly happiness by passing up (or delaying too long) the glories of family life.
Few passages of Scripture have been as misused and misapplied as Paul’s teaching on singleness in 1 Corinthians 7. It is true Paul sees singleness as a noble calling for those who are indeed granted it. But most pastors in the church today who play up the “gift” of singleness are not talking about the same thing as Paul. They fail to see or fail to explain that the gift of singleness is actually the gift of celibacy — the gift of having little to no sex drive (the “burning” Paul mentions at the beginning of the chapter). They certainly do not tell people to use their singleness the way Paul used his, as a way of furthering kingdom mission (which is really Paul’s point about the advantages of singleness). Indeed, most of those pastors who tout the benefits of singleness today are doing the opposite of Paul. For many today prolonged (or permanent) singleness is way of minimizing responsibilities, leaving oneself free to have fun, travel, etc., whereas for Paul it was about painful and dangerous kingdom service. Today, many of those who chose to delay marriage or who refuse marriage altogether do so for selfish reasons, not kingdom reasons. This is a decision that will haunt them more and more as they get older and realize what they have missed.
Sin is an addictive drug. Breaking free from any particular sin requires a commitment to going “cold turkey” and then dealing with any withdrawal symptoms until the habit/craving is finally broken.
A major theme lately, particularly in the work of Jonathan Haidt, is that conservatives are generally happy and liberals/progressives generally miserable. A lot of the work that has been done in this area is fascinating, as researchers seek to determine cause, effect, etc. I recommend reading this and this. Note that females are especially effected — they are more likely to adopt a progressive worldview, more likely to spend way too much time on social media, and far more likely to end up depressed.
The Dreher article has a lot of interesting cultural analysis. The Yglesias and Filiopovic (both liberals) pieces he quotes from are very telling - the points about taking responsibility for your emotions/emotional responses and not adopting a catastrophizing mentality as keys to happiness are really good. The best part of Dreher’s essay is the section “Hierarchy and Happiness” where he talks about conforming our lives to reality/nature. Progressives see reality as fluid, so they cannot do this, which leads to their misery. There is no way to be happy when your chosen form of life is at odds with the way God made the world. So long as you are trying to jam a round peg into a square hole (which is what everyone is doing if they are trying to be autonomous rather than submitting to God), pain is going to be the result. The only way to be happy is to conform your life to the divine design (aka reality).
This article is on a somewhat different topic but it’s very interesting and very much worth the time it takes to read. There are huge problems with replacing the language and concepts of “sin” and “repentance” with those of “trauma” and “safety.” Many churches and Christians now process things through therapeutic concepts like “trauma” but this is actually an alternative and rival to the gospel and the Christian faith. Trauma is real, obviously, and we should speak to it and seek to heal it with the tools God has given us. But the use of trauma has been so inflated, it’s become almost useless and trivializes REAL trauma.
The article also makes an interesting point about how the preaching of God’s law can be traumatic - but in a good and necessary way. We must not let people’s emotions or experiences become the authority or the standard. Man is not the measure of all things; God is.
The article also shows that making people objectively safer does not always result in better mental health, especially for males - we need some level of risk/adventure/danger/challenge in our lives or it deadens our souls.
Going back to the recent Haidt article, I thought the section on “internal locus of control” vs “external locus of control” was especially helpful. The key to feeling “in control” of your life (in a proper sense) is self-control, especially emotional self control. The reason some young people do not feel like they are in control of their lives has nothing to do with having strict parents or teachers and coaches who put heavy demands on them. Rather, the feeling of not being in control is due to lacking internal control of oneself. It is not that you are being externally controlled (though that can be a problem in some cases) but that you have not learned how to control yourself. The key to feeling confident and “in control” in a good sense is mastering one’s thought process and emotions. You never have control of the world outside yourself (including other peoeple, circumstances, etc.). But you mist certainly can control the world inside yourself -- your feelings, impulses, desires, reactions, thought patterns, etc. Life does not "just happen" to you; your life is the product of the choices you made under the circumstances you were given. Not everything in your life is necessarily your fault, but it is most certainly your responsibility.
Because of this, this should be considered another example of this phenomenon. In my opinion, Bud Light would be better off putting Kid Rock in charge of their marketing.
Doing some study in Job, I came across an interesting translation of Job 7:1. According to the ESV, Job says, "Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand?” But the word for "hard service” actually describes military service or warfare. Job says a man’s life on earth is defined by warfare. No doubt this is true of women as well in some sense, but Job’s comment/observation is especially appropriate for men. A man’s life is defined by his battles — the battlefields on which God calls him to serve, the battles God calls him to fight, the weapons God gives him. The life of the soldier is a life full of hardship and so it is (or should be) with manhood. Every man is a soldier this sense. The life of man is warfare. Manhood is defined by warfare. First and foremost this warfare is the spiritual battle against our own sin. But beyond that, the war we are called to fight is whatever it takes to complete the mission/vocation God has assigned to each of us. The hardship of manhood Job describes is the opposite of effeminacy. The effeminate man shirks from battle because he is more concerned with his own comfort than anything else. It is not that comfort is wrong, but if a man grows too accustomed to a life of ease with no challenges, no battles, no trials to endure, he becomes morally and spiritually (and probably physically) soft. And soft men cannot lead or do the other things God has called men to do. Every Christian man should be battle hardened. Every Christian man should keep his weapons sharp and ready to go. Every Christian man should view himself as a soldier, his life as a battle, his mission as his marching orders. As Paul wrote to Timothy, a man must “war the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18). He must keep himself strong so he will not faint in the day of adversity (Prov. 24:10).
The book of Job as a whole shows us what it means for man to live a life of "military service on earth." It ultimately means he is locked into a battle with Satan. Remember how the book opens: Satan brings accusations against Job before the throne of God (the name "Satan" means "accuser"). Satan makes Job into a pawn in his warfare against God. Satan is allowed by God to wreck Job's life to see if he can provoke apostasy. But through tremendous suffering, Job remains faithful. Along the way, Job's friends (so-called) join Satan in making reckless accusations against Job. But through it all, through this whole long series of horrific trials, Job is resilient and perseveres. When we come to the end of the book, Job is fully vindicated. His accusers are silenced -- and a silenced accuser is a defeated accuser. Job has been the suffering servant of the Lord, continually trusting in God against all odds and overcoming all obstacles to remain faithful. The result of his hard fought warfare on this spiritual battlefield is his glorification and exaltation. Obviously, Job is a Christ-figure who suffers his way to victory over Satan. But he is also a type of every Christian in union with Christ. Yes, your life as a Christian man will be one of hard service on this earth. You are a soldier on the field of battle. You have a war to wage. But as you remain faithful and fight the good fight, you can know that in the end God will vindicate you, glorify you, and exalt you.