Archive for August, 2008

Quote of the Day

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

“I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
William Penn (alternately credited to Etienne de Graulliet)

Making the Most, or WWASWPD?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Scripture exhorts the person of God to “make the most of every opportunity” to proclaim, defend, and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ — and to do so in what First Thessalonians 5:6-8 calls a “sober” manner. It is in this context that I ask the question above — in dealing with evidence of bad theology and unapologetic sin, What Would A Sober, Wise, Pastor Do? I’ll suggest here a few improvements over yesterday’s flap over the repeal of anti-miscenegenation laws, a sexually debauched culture, and pastoral snarkiness.

Most of the pastors I know have an appreciation of wit and wordplay, and I myself often use humor in my writing. I even did a stand-up gig once and some improv, and no one who knows me would suggest that I’m at all humorless. But the mature pastors I know join me in being entirely serious, entirely sober, when confronted with the kind of racist hermeneutic Wilson had appear on his blog yesterday from David Hodge. Wilson is assuredly not responsible for Hodges’ blather, nor for Chris Witmer’s confusion, but he is responsible for clearly denouncing the error and offering a better way. His “mallet, duct tape, etc.” answer, while probably suggesting that he found Hodge to be a bit off, was at best inadequate. There’s a time for straight talk, and that time, I would think, is when someone has infected your medium — blog, pulpit, book, radio show — with divisive, dangerous ideas represented as Biblical ideals.

If I were a pastor who so curiously attracts racists, kinists, separatists, paleo-Confederates, and slavery apologists, and particularly if I were an enthusiastic member of the last two groups, I’d do what I could to slam the door shut on any suggestion that I was a racist — that is, if it mattered to me. But I don’t think it matters to Wilson — not just because of his choice of affiliates, but because
of his less-than-sober response to the racism spouted by Hodge. A man who is deeply concerned about the sin of racism and the horror of a Biblical attempt to defend it is a man who speaks clearly in denouncing it.

Wilson is not that man.

What would a Biblically sober, pastorally-wise response look like? Well, first, it wouldn’t allow for the kinds of affiliations and alliances Wilson has willingly embraced, because they cast aspersions on the Gospel. It damages the witness of Christ to ally oneself with those who long for a return to the good ol’ days of segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, “social order,” and who think, and say, that slavery was a pretty good deal for the enslaved. A sober, wise, pastoral, man of God would shed anything that links him to sinful theology and conduct, and if once associated with any, would then renounce it forcefully, publicly, and immediately. We expect that, minimally, from a pastor found to have had a fling with a prostitute. Surely cavorting with or inviting alliance with racists is as damaging to the Gospel and as polluting of the Christian walk, although hesitation in assenting to that is why the Church is so impotent now. We don’t see squandered opportunities to speak truth, or the easy acceptance of the unacceptable, as sin; we prefer to define our sins in terms of the bedroom, the bank account, and whatever substance someone might be abusing. Those things are bad, and I don’t at all accuse Wilson of committing these sins, but they tend to not have the far-reaching effect that pastoral thundering about stupid things does. He has tremendous influence in Reformed circles. With that comes tremendous responsibility.

It’ll come as no surprise at all to my readers that I have a lot of faults. One of them, however, isn’t that I’m evasive about what I believe, cowardly in proclaiming it, or afraid to defend it. Further, I only care about what Doug Wilson says because I care about the Gospel — deeply — and I grieve at how he’s butchered it. There is a better way to be a pastor, writer, teacher, and man of God. I intend to call him and anyone else to it when I see public error promulgated by those who claim the name of Christ and dishonor him in their work. I invite any of you to call me on it if I get it wrong — if I get the facts wrong, or if I dishonor Christ. I may not agree with you; I may beat you to it. But I won’t back down from believing in and proclaiming a better way — a Gospel witness marked by the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

It’s a privilege to have a bully pulpit, but bullying and buffoonery are a poor, poor substitute for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, mercy, and self control. That, plus a love for the truth and a concern for souls, defines the response of a sober, wise, pastoral man or woman of God. So WWASWPD? Exactly what Doug Wilson hasn’t . . .

Why Call It "Prevailing Winds"?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Well, because I once had a blog, with one whole entry, called “What Keely Thinks.” Not even I cared enough to read it . . .

And so this summer, when I felt called to do this, the name came to me as both a nod to the pneuma — the breath or wind — of the Holy Spirit and its triumph over falsehood and malice, as well as another reference to people in the last times having “their ears tickled by every wind of doctrine.” It seemed relevant to some of the erroneous teaching spinning through this town.

The former reference is supported by the verse under the header; the latter is less easily discerned. However, linking “wind” to intestinal distress was not a consideration, although yes, sadly, I was warned that it would lead to jokes along that line.

Sigh.

Quote of the Day

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

“The truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

Yes, No, and Maybe So

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Doug Wilson demonstrates another masterful flourish of wordplay on “Blog and Mablog” today, raising the bar of rhetorical silliness ever higher with “pomosexuality,” which neatly describes the “post-modern” sexual decadence alluded to earlier by his “homo pomo in slowmo.”

You wondered if it could get any more clever; after all, the guy named his blog as a nod to the Biblical Gog and Magog, described in Scripture as the archetypical kingdom arrayed against God in the end times, and while the humorless among us would wonder how that could be an appropriate title for a prominent Christian pastor’s blog, the true cognoscenti, both of them, recognize it as a paragon of perspicacious punnery, and applaud.

But at the risk of sounding, well, too serious and all, I note something in the 30-plus comments following the “pomosexuality” post that concerns me. It seems that David Hodge, a conservative Orthodox Presbyterian in the South, suggests that the precipitating cause of our nation’s slide toward all-out sexual debauchery was the repeal decades ago of anti-miscegenation laws. Those laws, he says, made interracial marriage illegal and represented a Biblical framework of true, God-honoring sexual expression. Their repeal, which, horrifyingly enough to Mr. Hodge, came about partially through the efforts of Christians, opened the floodgates for sexual sin to engulf our nation . . .even seeping in under the solidly closed doors of the church. Later, the erudite Mr. Hodge opines that since God made separate races, he intended to keep the races separate, and judgment will come to those who mix what the Lord intended to keep apart.

I think by now it’s fairly clear that I think “Biblically illiterate,” “racist,” and “unloving” are the kindest things that can be said of Mr. Hodge and his theology. What’s not clear, however, is Wilson’s response to Hodge’s posts. Wilson asserts, clearly, that he can make a Biblical case against homosexuality, for example, in a few seconds, but making a Scriptural case for anti-miscegenation statues (or, more directly, in favor of “race mixing”) would take a few hours, plus some duct tape, pliers, mallets, etc.

Which means . . . ? Well, who cares. It’s just so damned funny.

Wilson, here as elsewhere, is too clever by half. This is a serious subject; Hodge’s implied challenge to Wilson is direct and could have been answered one of two ways:

“Yes, David, I think you’re absolutely right. The repeal of anti-miscegenation laws DID set our nation on a course of inevitable sexual debauchery that will only get worse.” Clear implication: Those laws were good. Race mixing is bad because it’s prohibited in Scripture.

Or,

“Why, David, that’s a terrible notion! Your disapproval of interracial marriage is un-Biblical and offensive. There is no sin in interracial marriage; I’m talking of the sins I mentioned earlier — homosexuality, bestiality, pedastery, pornography, etc.” Clear implication: Those laws were bad. Race mixing is not a sin, and is not prohibited in Scripture.

Scattered through the comments were some gems from the inimitable Chris Witmer, assuring his audience that if Scripture were truly followed, most marriages wouldn’t even have taken place and there’d be way fewer interracial ones, not because they’re sinful, but because most people don’t marry Biblically anyway, and besides if there were fewer interracial marriages, it’d be because everyone was following Scripture, which doesn’t, you know, necessarily preclude their legitimacy in the Church,
but . . . well, it went on for a bit, and begged for even further clarity — clarity that a wise pastor would immediately provide, no matter his views, seeing a provocative subject taking on a life of its own on his blog, from his own words.

But what a wise pastor would do, Wilson doesn’t. Instead of saying what he thinks about miscegenation laws, he bedazzles us with bull—t and leaves either side of the argument either wondering what the hell he’s saying, or assured that he’s saying it to echo their own views. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no,’” the Word says. “Keep ‘em guessing, make ‘em laugh, and avoid the issue” comes from Wilson’s own playbook.

And so I’m going to risk impertinence again and ask Wilson publicly, in light of his puckish evasiveness today, if he thinks anti-miscegenation laws were (a) Biblical, (b) if their repeal set us on a course of moral disaster, and, if he answers “yes” to either, then (c) how that squares with his earlier assurance to me that he had no problem at all with interracial marriages. (I suppose (d) would be, “On an important issue like this, why not just tell us what you believe and let us find our comedic needs met,say, by watching reruns of ‘Momma’s Family’?”)

So, there I go again, asking Wilson a tough question in public. I have his assurance that he has no problem with racially-mixed marriages; I just don’t have an assurance that when asked a question, he’ll respond with anything other than wit and wavering that, never charming, is really becoming a noxious mix of boorishness and wimpiness, with a salt-rimmed chaser of contemptible sarcasm. I do applaud some of Wilson’s commenters, though, for showing some backbone and denouncing Hodge’s conclusions. It seems not too much to ask their pastor to be as clear as they are.

(Any bets on how fast someone will appropriate “noxious mix” when speaking of me? Hey, it’s a freebie, NSA guys — you’re welcome).

A Prayer

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Lord God, thank you for the opportunity to vote for a man like Barack Obama for president. Thank you for his willingness to serve, his intellect and integrity, and his commitment to his fellow citizens. Lord, please keep him safe. Change the hearts, oh Father, of those who hate him, who mock him, who lie about him, and who wish him harm, and bless him and his family. May we keep ever diligent in our concern for the poor, in our thirst for justice, and in our hope for prosperity, and may the United States of America fulfill the promise of the faith in Christ Jesus that so many millions profess.

Amen. May it be.

Fart Jokes Rule, Dude!

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Ahh, yes. The joy of a late summer fart joke from the “favorite correspondent” mentioned in an earlier post today. I think perhaps my comments regarding the maturity of D.A.D. and his pastor need not be discussed further. It it is kinda sad that, as a friend warned me, the Kirk/NSA crowd would take “Prevailing Winds” to be fodder for a whole lot of poopy jokes.

“Passing wind”! Oh, my sides! Please let me know if you come up with any Credenda/Agenda, Ben Merkle-style titty humor. Nothing glorifies Christ like a good play on words, right?

You guys just slay me.

Quote of the Day

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

“Treat the other man’s faith gently; it is all he has to believe with.”
Henry S. Haskins

Course Correction

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

You know, this blog really IS more about Jesus than about Doug Wilson, but you’d be forgiven for wondering after the last few posts. I feel the need for a gentle, Spirit-lead course correction — a reminder of the need to stay on the road I embarked on originally — and I’d like to take a moment and examine what that means to me.

I don’t regret or take back anything that I’ve written — not today’s defense of Biblical egalitarianism, not yesterday’s frustration and disappointment with the Dalai Bama, homo pomo slowmo, and strudel dough, and not my concerns over the last few days with this pastor’s discourses on rich food, theology, and father hunger. I stand by them; I’m sure I’ll need to reiterate them. But my intention in this blog is always to offer with my rebuke what I call The Third Way of the Cross. An outpouring of passion and writing from me this last week has overshadowed the “Third Way” goal, I think.

Now, if I were to begin a post with a rumination on butter, for example, or if I wanted to express my dismay at the childishness of a powerful local pastor, I’ll have to use some examples — some touchstones, as it were, that anchor “where I’m going” with “how’d I get here anyway?” If I want to rebuke the idea of a “theology of food and feasting” that I think unfairly represents Christian liberty, or voice concern about exaggerated pastoral authority, I need to bring up the “source irritant.” A diatribe of mine, lacking a “first cause” of objectionable views, would look odd, coming out of nowhere and unable to make a point — really, who in the world thinks about butter and fudge and father hunger, if not for a previous reference to them elsewhere?

The same thing goes for what I think is immature, un-pastoral mockery of presidential candidates and post-modern moral decadence: without a reference point, my going on about “The Dalai Bama” would look more than a little odd. “Homo pomo slowmo” without explanation would kick “a little odd” right through the goalposts of “freakin’ bizarre.” These are public commentaries from Moscow’s most public pastor, and I’m sure he owns them just as cheerfully now as he did when he first wrote them on his public blog. They represent errors that I think are not only serious enough to merit comment, but solid enough to open the door to an offer of a better way. If other pastors in town — other representatives of Christ to a largely unbelieving community — said, wrote, and did the things Wilson does, I’d voice my dismay in their direction, too. But they don’t. There are some pastors and elders of Christian churches in town that I’m not fond of, and a couple of churches I wouldn’t recommend to people, but I know of no other pastor in Moscow who offers the public mockery, intentional offense, bad theology, and loathsome approach to engagement with non-believers and critics as Wilson, and so, when I think that shedding some light on a dark piece of blogwork is important, I have to make clear the reference.

My concern here is that I also have to make clear the light, the better way, and that’s where, for whatever reason (volume, passion, etc.), I’ve gotten a bit off course. Please don’t worry about whether or not any display of soul-searching is “effective” in what I’m trying to do with “Prevailing Winds.” It’s not about effectiveness. It’s about my character, and I need to always focus not just on “leading away from,” but “leading the way to.” I’ve been a believer for 27 years, and I know a nudge from the Holy Spirit when I get one.

So, that said, I’ll continue to offer my thoughts on food, liberty, feasting, respect, theology, the price of tea in China and all of that, and if a published or publicly-spoken example that I find rebuke-worthy appears, I won’t hesitate to offer my comments. But with those comments, I hope to always offer a better perspective that ultimately focuses less on Doug Wilson and more on Jesus Christ.

One more thing: I think you can eat and drink anything you want to, as long as you don’t do it in a way that harms yourself or puts others at risk. Further, I always appreciate good counsel from church leaders. However, I object to the idea that anyone knows better than you the motivations of the food choices you make, and I would expect your pastor to honor your Spirit-informed autonomy and liberty and not judge the maturity of your walk by what you eat or don’t eat or the questions you have about your food. We are all responsible to each other; we are accountable only for ourselves, and the are a lot of areas where the wisest course for a pastor would be to butt out. The Gospel is free and freeing. Don’t ever let anyone shackle you with burdens and expectations you were not meant to carry. There’s room in the covenant for you to disagree with your pastor or discount his teachings. Apostasy has as its central point a moving away from Christ, not from any pastor.

To My Favorite Correspondent . . .

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The following is from an exchange I had via email with a Christ Church congregant who takes me to task on my suggestion that his pastor demonstrates an inappropriately judgmental and intrusive assessment of how covenant people eat, as well as a near-obsession with food-as-theology. I will not identify my correspondent, but my answer to him seems appropriate given my recent posts, and here it is below, in near-entirety:

Yes, I think that Doug Wilson is unwise in suggesting that legitimate concerns about diet, health, food safety, origin, etc., could well be an indication of “father hunger,” which, by the way, seems to be his diagnosis, along with “bitterness,” for anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep. It’s ridiculous to suggest that a true picture of, a true relationship with, our Heavenly Father necessarily results in disregard of common sense — in other words, that butter, red meat, fudge, etc., are not as healthy as, say, bok choy, tofu, peanuts, and hummus. He is reckless in his counsel and judgmental in his conclusions.

My biggest concern, though, is this: what kind of pastor/flock relationship results in a pastor’s lecturing his congregants about what, how, and why they eat — especially when that counsel goes against generally accepted information regarding a low-fat, high-fiber, high-vegetable/fruit diet? I know that Christ Church elders often meet to discuss who is, who isn’t, and who should be pregnant, and I am aware that your pastor considers himself informed on virtually every possible subject, such that he can “shepherd” his flock with admonitions, for example, to ramp up the gift-giving for Christmas; for women to collect tableware and linens while waiting for marriage; to hurry up and “not delay” marriage; to use uncertified midwives when delivering babies; to do, or not do, all sorts of things. Is there nothing about which he’s ignorant? And is there no area in a person’s, or a couple’s, life that precludes his intrusion?

Tell me how Wilson would respond to a Kirk family whose kids go to public schools? Would they be made to feel welcome? Or what about a family in which the wife goes out to work and Dad stays home with the kids — and not through the last year of NSA, but permanently? Would Doug Wilson presume that, say, the vegan congregant — who eats no animal products, not even butter — knows him/herself and his/her own needs, or would they be subject to a presumption of weak theology and father hunger? And the single man who doesn’t feel the need or desire to be married — how would he fare at Christ Church? A woman of the same mind?

And why, with only one mediator between God and man, the human, Christ Jesus, would Doug Wilson presume to pore over the consciences and scour through the pantries of his congregants (and yes, this is metaphorical)? Isn’t it enough that he teaches a dubious theology unfamiliar to most evangelicals — an emphasis on covenant membership that appears in places to excuse the need for a personal conversion, personal walk, and personal decision-making about life’s debatables? Or could it be that his emphasis on covenant, and his subsequent teaching on apostasy and “despising one’s baptism,” is a means of exerting undue control and influence over his flock?

Your earlier question — do I believe all complementarians to be bad people, or could they just be wrong? — I’ll answer now. No. Some, even most, complementarians are decent people who understand Scripture a certain way and attempt to live by it. Some, however, embrace an interpretation of Ephesians 5 that virtually displaces the priesthood of the believer in favor of a second mediator, a second priest, in the wife’s spiritual life other than Christ — her “head,” or husband. Further, I believe that almost all examples of violence in the home spring not just from men, but from men who have bought in to or been made to believe that “headship” and “the Bible” give them an authority over wives and children that God never intended. The teaching is bad, the effect worse, and no matter the individual kindness and maturity of the men who embrace it, there’s enough reason from Scripture and from real life to at least call our understanding of Paul into serious question.

It’s amazing to me how one can read First Corinthians and not see the astonishing symmetry and mutuality in Paul’s advice on marriage. I don’t understand how his call for women to prophesy in the church with dress/adornment suitable for the culture falls away when he later calls for women to be silent in the church. Doesn’t that suggest that we don’t quite get the full picture? In First Timothy, he admonishes Timothy to not let the women teach or have authority over the men, and concludes with some odd conclusions — order of creation, safety in childbirth, etc., that are point-by-point refutations of the Gnostic heresy found in the first-century church at Ephesus and other locales. Could it be, then, that his advice was context-specific, especially when, in Romans 16, he commends the women who “contended for” the Gospel — who ran the house churches, who were deacons, who taught? One of them, Junia, was an apostle, or so thought that radical 14th-century feminist John Chrysostom, who remarks on “the honor” bestowed upon this woman by the other apostles. Can you think of any other subject or controversy in the church that is defended by only three verses that themselves seem especially culture-dependent? The letter from James appears to teach quite clearly that works are as salvific as faith, but we view that in the light of the plain teaching of the rest of the canon, and we know not to start new “works first” churches on the basis of that one verse. We don’t know why Paul said what he did about “why are they then baptized for the dead?,” but we don’t, because of that single verse, institute post-mortem baptisms.

I could go on and no doubt will. But please consider, openly and honestly, what I say about Wilson’s pontificating about food and the level of control he seems to need to exert over his flock. I’d like you to tell me any time when he’s been wrong, or any time you’ve gone against a specific recommendation or teaching of his. You’ll probably tell me it’s never happened. I won’t believe you, but I respect you all the same.