But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11
As soon as I have time to settle that point of theology.
As soon as my kids are a little older and more self-sufficient.
As soon as we get through this next church activity (that is consuming my study and prayer time!)
As soon as we get the building paid off.
As soon as I can stop working two jobs.
As soon as life calms down a little bit.
This is when my human wisdom tells me I can be really fruitful for the Lord. As soon as. Imagine if the apostle Paul had lived in the “as soon as” mentality. As soon as my persecutions are over. As soon as a majority of the Jews are converted. As soon as I get a few more seminarians trained. As soon as all the apostles are on the same page. As soon as I have a really reliable team. As soon as the churches get their act together.
But this is not what we find. Instead, the apostle is in the midst of being troubled on every side, perplexed and persecuted, cast down and carrying about the suffering of Christ. And does this trouble him? No, he thinks that this is the plan. He thinks that God has ordained such a state of affairs specifically so that the heavenly treasure will not be mistaken for its earthly container. The chaotic fragility of our lives is allowing the power of God to be known in all of its excellency.
I find myself, even in mid-life, often confused about these things. Longing for a day when I can be truly fruitful for the Lord because all of life’s circumstances have suddenly fallen into place. Missing the daily joy of seeing God work in the midst of life’s relentless roadblocks despite my tiredness, despite my lack of eloquence, even my lack of ability. Maybe I need a new set of “as soon as” statements.
As soon as I stop believing that I am the one who brings fruit.
As soon as I start enjoying the journey as much as I long for the destination.
As soon as I see the blessings God has given instead of longing for the ones He hasn’t.
As soon as I realize that I will always be an earthen vessel, and the excellency of the power will always belong to God.
In my previous post about ordaining women to the pastorate, I tried to make the point that if you define the ideal pastor in feminine terms, you’re going to wind up with women wanting to be pastors, and they will actually be better at it than men (what with being women and all). If your job description is laden with descriptions that appeal to women, then you shouldn’t be surprised that women show up to fill out an application. So while it’s all well and good for Bible-believing Christians to simply say, “The Bible says a pastor should be a man, so that’s what we require”, there’s more to the story. If you try to hold the line on reserving the office of pastor for men while at the same time modeling a kind of feminine ministry, there will be consequences. You might wind up with frustrated masculine men because they are A) not every going to be considered for the pastorate, and/or B) never get to experience being led by a masculine pastor. You will wind up with fewer men in church generally because it turns out men will leave church when it starts to resemble a group therapy session. Or you might end up with masculine women because in the spirit of Genesis 3 they sense there is a real opportunity here to gain some authority over men.
But as several have cogently pointed out to me, I did not define or describe what a masculine pulpit looks like in my previous post. Certainly what has passed for masculine behavior in the past included ranting and raving from the pulpit about a variety of soap box issues, some of which involved people made in the image of God and for whom Christ died. I would agree that this not indicative of masculinity from the pulpit, but just because there’s such a thing as false/sinful masculinity, it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t pursue biblical masculinity. So the premise of this post is simple:
If God intends the pastorate to be occupied by men, it is likely that the pastorate requires masculine virtues.
That seems to me to be a pretty logical conclusion. But before my keystrokes cause the incense of burnt tire in your nostrils as the rubber meets the road, here is a necessary disclaimer. Men and women are more alike than they are different. This is a biblical truth and a truth borne out in the daily lives of 7 billion people. Men and women are made in the image of God and so they have overlapping virtues and vices. It would be difficult to say something of masculinity that doesn’t also apply in some lesser measure to feminity and vice versa (with the exception of a woman’s ability to have children). So as I speak of a masculine pulpit, of course some joker out there is going to say, “But women can be _________, too!” Yes, and indeed. Men and women both share a set of personality potentials because they are both made in the image of God. And yet, for all their similarities, the differences really do matter, as the Word of God testifies.
So what is a masculine pastor? Well we can reject out of hand any caricature or perversion of masculinity that Scripture rejects. To be masculine is not to be “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast. One route for getting a clue to masculinity is to look to the biological markers that distinguish men from women. For example, after puberty, men average roughly 20X the testosterone level of women. The male body is larger, denser, and has more muscle mass than a woman’s body. It seems men are built for action, for confrontation, for resiliency, and for strength.
My suggestion is that all of this indicates that men are to be ambitious and assertive, not to mention adventurous and audacious. And it’s not only because all those words start with the letter A, as if I was watching too much Sesame Street lately. There are a cluster of “hard” virtues that men are to exhibit, and which our culture has either demonized in the name of “male toxicity” or downplayed to a point that they become irrelevant. In a carnal man, these attributes are self-serving and destructive. But in the hand of the Redeemer, the wild world is tamed and families are protected and civilizations are built by these virtues.
The absence of these hard virtues results in a pastor makes the pulpit far too passive. I think “passive” is a word that fits the modern Western church. Where we should be leading, we have become followers. Where we should be confronting, we are compromising. Where we should be bold, we are obsequious. The New Testament remarks multiple times of the boldness of the apostles to preach the gospel in the face of fierce opposition and persecution. And the gospel they preached wasn’t confined to a worship hour on Sunday: it was the gospel for fathers, the gospel for wives, the gospel for children, the gospel for slaves, the gospel for masters, and the gospel for governors. It was a gospel that had Jesus at its center but proclaimed the Lordship of Christ over every aspect of life. So we can’t excuse ourselves by retreating into a “gospel center” theology where the gospel is the size of a pinball and the rest of life is the size of the galaxy. Perhaps we should listen to some words from our Presbyterian friends:
The Christian is to resist the spirit of the world. But when we say this, we must understand that the world-spirit does not always take the same form. So the Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation. If he does not do this, he is not resisting the spirit of the world at all.
The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer
“In these times, let us remember the stages that our evangelical leaders have brought us through:
1. There will not be any need to fight.
2. There may come a time when it necessary to fight.
3. It is too early to fight.
4. It is too late to fight. This is a post-Christian era.
Doug Wilson, Twitter
The absence of these hard virtues in the pulpit is reflected in many cases by a lack of these hard virtues in the pew. The roux from which the sauce is made is the family, and there is a huge amount of statistical data depicting the sad decline of male participation in the family. Were we able to statistically capture the presence of male headship in the family, do any of really doubt that we would see a corresponding decline, even in families where men are active? We have spent the last several decades telling men that they are to be “servant leaders” without telling them that the way they serve is by leading.
If you promote a masculine pulpit you will have to weed out the power hungry, the perpetually angry, and the brawlers. But you’re always going to have to weed something out. There is a reason that a man is to attain the pastorate, not be given the pastorate. What the church cannot afford is passivity in the pulpit. As a matter of fact, my greatest ministry regrets are not the times I did something clumsily or counseled someone indistinctly, but rather the times I did nothing and said nothing. I regret my passivity far more than I regret anything I actually attempted out of a desire to serve God or love people. (Of course, there are times when my motives were self-serving and carnal, and any fruit sprouting from such seeds is bound to be corrupt).
A few years ago, a church member told me that she was praying that God would give me a “Timothy”. In other words, a young man who would be useful to me in the ministry and that I could train/mentor. My response was that I, also, would like that, but on the condition that he be the kind of young man that I had to rein in, not prod to action. I would rather say, “You shouldn’t have done that” or “a better way to do that would have been …” rather than have to motivate him to do something (I am speaking here not of essentially moral actions, but of ministry activities). I would rather temper a fire that exists than have to walk around with a gasoline can trying to start it.
In the next post – Lord willing – one final thought on the issue of the masculine pastor.
The SBC has officially excommunicated disassociated Saddleback Church from its fellowship as a result of Saddleback’s ordination of women to the office of pastor. I am not a member of the SBC and have little understanding of its internal workings, so there is no commentary from me on that subject. But as a pastor, and one who tries to do it biblically, the issue of women being ordained to the office of bishop/elder/pastor is of significance and importance.
While I also have no personal experience with Saddleback Church, they – along with their founding pastor Rick Warren – have a very public ministry. The Purpose Driven Church was, sadly, a textbook in my Ecclesiology class in Bible College (just writing that sentence hurts my heart). The follow up book, The Purpose Driven Life, became a best-seller. So the ministry philosophy of Saddleback Church has been intentionally packaged and sold as a template for others to follow. In a tweet responding to getting the boot from the SBC, Warren notes just how influential Saddleback is (as if to say “Who needs the SBC?”) by stating their newsletter reaches 600,000 church leaders, one million alumni pastors list, and 11 million social media followers.
I’m going to limit some observations to the issue of women being ordained to the office of pastor, but its worth questioning at the outset whether the foundational philosophy of ministry didn’t orient this church to this outcome a long time ago. In other words, I don’t think you can say, “Well, we can follow the ministry philosophy of Saddleback and just NOT ordain women to the pastorate and all will be well.” As surely as Bird and Magic were destined to meet in the post season, so the ministry of Saddleback was destined to cave on this issue.
I think it’s fair to say that many see Rick Warren as a pastor to pattern themselves afterSuccess – or what appears to be success – has that effect. Warren has been influential in shaping the idea of what a good pastor is like, how he should conduct himself, etc… In fact, he might represent the product that many Bible Colleges and Seminaries wish to produce in a pastor, and its clear by his response that he thinks others should follow in his footsteps. Just as Teddy Roosevelt in many ways reshaped and then defined the role of President, Rick Warren has reshaped and then defined the role of Pastor.
So what is that shape? What mark has Warren left on the role of Pastor? My argument is that we can best answer that question by looking at those who are going to fill it. What kind of person fits in that space the best? In other words, if Rick Warren has shaped the pastorate and is now retiring, what shaped puzzle piece is going to fit in that void he will leave? We don’t have to wonder because it is happening in the present. The person who fills that space the best (or at least equally best) is a woman.
This issue is larger than one church, but because of its public ministry it is easy to see at Saddleback. The point I’m trying to make (probably very poorly) is endemic to Evangelicalism. We are treating the issue of whether or not women should be ordained to the office of Pastor as a standalone issue, when in fact it is simply the concluding chapter to a long story we have been writing. And it’s the kind of story that would fit in real well with the Amish Romance novels and Joyce Meyer Bible studies down at your local Christian bookstore
You see, the die is already cast. We have destined this outcome by creating a pastoral paradigm that actually best fits a woman, not a man. And if we have shaped the office of Pastor with curves in all the right places, what right do we have to tell a woman who happens to have just such curves that she can’t occupy that office? How can we tell women they cannot be pastors when we have spent the better part of the last half century creating just such a role? In a way, it would be unjust to deny ordination to a woman at Saddleback after Warren spent so much time making sure that a women would succeed best in that role.
So if Evangelical-types really want to hold the line on the issue of ordaining women to the pastorate, we are going to have to dig deeper to uproot the effeminate pastoral paradigm that we have been cultivating in our churches. If we want our pulpits to be filled only by men, then we must demand that our pulpits be masculine. The longer we encourage or even tolerate effeminate pulpits, the more likely (and in reality fitting) it will be when that pulpit will belong to a woman.
I don’t like tight spaces. The first time I remember panicking was when, during a sleepover at my buddy’s house, we were playing some sort of hide and seek game. I had found a cubbyhole to hide in and my pal, attempting to help me, blocked the entrance with a bunch of pillows so no one could see me. It was silly, but I panicked. That was a long time ago and my mild claustrophobia is largely under control. But I am a little embarrassed to admit that were I to be given a free ticket for an adventure to outer space, it’s likely that my distaste for being confined to a tiny ship with a limited air supply might over rule the desire for the adventure of a lifetime and an opportunity to see the heavens from a new perspective.
Being shut in is associated with pain and punishment. Children are “grounded” for disobedience. Criminals are locked up. The sick and infirm are quarantined. When liberty is curtailed, we feel it as a punishment. Confinement is associated with a debilitated condition and a lowering of happiness. So when I read the phrase “the Lord shut him in”, it struck me. For the one being shut in was the one man on the earth who had found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.
Because God was pleased with Noah, He shut him in. Because Noah was righteous in his generation, God confined him to an ark. For forty days the intensity of the deluge that soaked the world beyond the ark was manifested as an unceasing reverberation within it, until it pressed upon their minds like a wet blanket and they forgot the distinctness of each other’s voices or the cheerfulness of a bird’s song. The day the rains ceased must have been like awakening from a drugged stupor as sounds became crisp and the fog of white noise dissipated. They didn’t know that it would be another 9 months before the ark would give birth to the future of man and animal kind.
Escape. That must have been what it felt like. I can’t imagine feeling any other way. It would be an escape to get off the ark. To walk beneath blue skies stretched like an infinite canopy above. To trace the contours of the earth until they dipped into the horizon, knowing that the their feet could now carry them to such places. To breathe air that hadn’t been filtered through the zoo that lived at arm’s reach. To wander with no purpose but to wander.
How hard it must have been to remember that the Lord shutting them in was gracious, not punitive. How easily their compass would spin and they would desire to escape the ark, forgetting that the ark was their escape from the wrath that had overtaken the whole earth. How tempting to grumble at unusually difficult circumstances instead of being grateful for unusually powerful salvation.
The Lord had shut him in. Shut him in with the seeds of all future life on planet earth. Shut him in with the animal kinds that would once again teem upon the earth and fill the heavens and nurture the ground and declare the glory of God in an infinite number of absurdities and dangers. Shut him in with the ancestors of 8 billion human beings who would one day build cities and cure cancer and write blog posts, win glory and bear shame, kill and be killed, love and be loved. Shut him in with the understanding that the ark was a place of safety when everywhere else was a place of destruction.
I still don’t like tight places. Especially when the air is stale and there’s no telling when the doors will open and release will come. But I do know that there are times when being shut in is redemptive, not punitive. There are times when, like a madman, we long for release from the very vehicle of our hope and salvation. There are days we forget that the reason we cannot run as far as our hearts would carry us is because we have been entrusted with seeds of future hope and glory. We must learn to be content when God shuts us in.
On the eve of the mid-term elections, I’ve been reading, studying, and thinking more about the nature of politics and mine own personal political leanings, and have come to the conclusion that I am not a libertarian, although I might vote for one. Libertarianism is represented by individuals such as Ron Paul (whom I voted for), Larry Elder, and even Elon Musk.
The Libertarian party believes in the maximum amount of liberty for the individual. This, in turn, lends itself to a belief in small government, unrestricted capitalism, non-interventionism, and boundless civil liberties. I endorse aspects (at minimum) of each of these, so it makes sense that given the choice between a progressive, a gutless conservative, or a libertarian, I might vote for the libertarian. The libertarian is a co-belligerent against the woke nonsense that has captivated political discourse in recent years.
There are a couple of issues which I could highlight that put me on the same side as the Libertarians. One would be the issue of free speech. Progressive ideology has become demonstrably censorious over the last several years, as evidenced by the “set my hair on fire” responses to conservative speakers at public universities, as well as by the Big-tech censorship during the pandemic that essentially shut down dialogue between opposing viewpoints. The second issue would be the bloated bureaucracy through which un-elected government officials dictate how businesses are run. Through irksome regulations (disincentives) and tax credits (incentives) the government “has its thumb” on the scales of the economy, which almost always results in bubbles, crashes, waste, and tax payer dollars.
So while I am sympathetic to those things and, with the balance of the scales being so far in the other direction I would vote for a sincere libertarian over a phony conservative, I have to ask myself whether I would agree with a government that is truly libertarian. In other words, if Libertarians took over the government (through elected means), would I find myself in some way fighting against their goals and aims? And the answer is yes.
The purpose of this post is not to explain what all of those disagreements would be, but to attempt to articulate the difference between my conservatism and libertarianism at a fundamental level. When I voted for Ron Paul in 2008 to be the Republican candidate for the presidency, I was struck that a vote for John McCain and a vote for Barack Obama were not very distinct. In other words, Ron Paul was actually saying something different than the others. That swayed me towards the libertarian viewpoint.
However, the longer I live the more I believe that a proper political system must be built on a better foundation. Libertarians and liberals both have their source in the Enlightenment idea that the liberty of the individual is a universal right that can be known through human Reason. If I’ve got that historical reality and definition correct, then I have (at least) 3 big problems with Libertarianism.
Individuals Without Natural Affection
The first issue I have is the focus on the individual. Societies are not only composed of individuals, but also groups, which have traditionally grown out of the natural affection between family and then clans. While individuals should also have rights, a society that ignores the reality of social constructs that lie between the level of the individual and the State are bound to wind up where America has wound up, with a massive government burrowing itself into debt through a commitment to caring for individuals from the cradle to the grave.
The issue of social structures larger than the individual is inescapable, as we can see from our current divided States of America. People will organize themselves into groups, even if those groups are not organized around the traditional formula of family and religion/church. The problem is that the groups we see organized in America today are largely grievance groups, bound together by their common victimization, even if that victimization is a perception rather than a reality. So the structures will always exist, but in a society that has intentionally destroyed social structures based on natural affection, such as the family and the church, the groups that materialize will be distorted, bound together by things like hate (ethnic supremacy groups) or by envy (victimization groups).
One way this works out is that the Libertarian doesn’t care what people do in their bedroom and who marries whom, as long as there is consent. If a married couple wants to divorce, then that is between them. But as a conservative I believe that marriage is a social institution that is recognized by the State for the good of society, and thus society has a vested interest in marriage for the procreation of children who will become good citizens and carry on the values of their family, clan, and nation. Downstream of all of this are the issues of abortion, school nurses treating children without the consent of parents, gay marriage, etc…
Freedom Without Responsibility
The second reason I reject the foundation of Libertarianism is because of the focus on freedom to the exemption of responsibility. The freedom of the individual is enshrined in the highest temple without a word to the concept of duty. America is a Republic requiring certain civic responsibilities. These include paying taxes, honoring the laws of the land, and aiding in times of national crisis. To bestow the rights of citizenship without requiring the responsibilities of citizenship is a prescription for disaster.
Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.
Abundant quotations from founding fathers of our nation like the one above exist because the idea of a Republic continuing without a willingness on the part of the people to uphold that Republic made no sense to these men. And if we have responsibility to our nation, it holds that there will be times when in national interest, we have to pursue policies at the level of nations where we must impose restrictions on certain economic activities or intervene in the affairs of others.
A specific example of this would be the war in Ukraine. While there have been many military interventions in my lifetime to which I was opposed, I believe there is a moral obligation to assist Ukraine because we were the ones who convinced them to give up their nuclear weapons. We did this because disarmament was in our national interest, which it really was.
Reason Without Tradition
Finally, if my premise that Libertarianism is founded on Enlightenment principles is true, the the whole things comes down to the idea that the rights of the individual can be found through Reason. That is, that if only mankind could cast off the shackles of tradition, we could see the universal rights of man descended from the heavens like a New Jerusalem, suspended upon nothing but the I-beams of human goodness fastened with the bolts of brotherhood to the…darn it I ran out of metaphors. But you get the idea. Why in the world do we think that human Reason will lead all men to the same conclusion, when it manifestly does not? Because we have been brainwashed into thinking that Enlightenment philosophy is a sound universal truth.
Several wars and attempts at nation building should persuade us that this is simply not the case. You can put three people in a room together and human reason will not bring them to the same conclusion about any number of issues. Societies that have long traditions outside of Western philosophy are going to approach everything from a different angle, and the idea that we can export liberal democracy around the world and it is going to be received with open arms is completely false. Right now, the most obvious example of this is China, where a powerful global economy is run by a increasingly totalitarian government.
A system of government should reflect reflect ontological realities of the human condition and the way that societies begin, develop, and maintain themselves over time. While Libertarians may side with Conservatives against the current crop of Progressives on many issues today, I don’t think they have a philosophical foundation that can sustain a society over the long haul. Conservatism believes in conserving, and one thing worth conserving is our nation.
So go vote kids, and if there isn’t a true conservative on the ticket, vote for a Libertarian.
In Part 1 of this series, I gave a basic definition of a household and what makes it distinctly Christian. With this foundation, we’re well on our way to figuring out the nuts and bolts of establishing a Christian household. But first, let me give you a basic example/test of whether or not you have a household at all.
Depending on your own circumstances you may have to use your imagination for this, but the basic question is, “Do your children need your permission to date/court/engage in a romantic relationship?” If you have a true household, the issue of who else gets brought into it is significant. If a father doesn’t actually give his daughter in marriage, then it indicates that his daughter in no way belongs to his household. If it’s purely ceremonial, then something is off.
2 Paths to Christian Households
The first, and easier, path to having a Christian household is to establish it that way from the start. Husband and wife are both on the same page regarding the rule of Christ in the home and children are brought up to know the Way. Once the foundation is laid, the house can be built up pretty quickly with the right structure to it. And while this path will not be devoid of any obstacles, at least the expectations are clear from the start.
The second, and harder, path to having a Christian household is to realize the necessity of doing so halfway down a different road, which means turning around, undoing a lot of stuff, and getting to where you should have been all along. But don’t let that stop you. If you are ten years into a marriage and starting to realize that what you really have is a few sinners living under the same roof and chasing their own agenda, then you should start where you are at.
If you are on this second path, you will have to exercise more patience. You will exasperate your children if, after you have been discipling them to be good little heathens for the past 10 years, you suddenly demand them to act like good little Christians. You may have to gauge the speed at which you move based on how much whiplash you are causing. But what will help the whole enterprise is if you, without saying a word, become more present for your family. If your kids notice that you are less interested in yourself and more interested in how they are doing, or if your wife begins to notice that her husband is getting easier to live with, then the whole enterprise has a pretty decent shot of success.
Since Christian households have a structure, an easy place to influence your household to become Christian is by intentionally, prayerfully, humbly, and cheerfully accepting the role that you are meant to play. This means going back to the basic designations of husband, wife, father, and children and following the household constitution.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A Christian wife is commanded to submit to her husband. A Christian husband is commanded to love his wife in the same way that Christ loves the Church. Christian children are commanded to obey their parents. And a Christian father is commanded to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
No personality test is needed. No compatibility surveys required. These are basic commands and fundamental roles meant to establish structure in the home. In a home where the obedience of children is not required, truth and virtue are not communicated from generation to generation. In a home where a wife does not submit to her husband, the Lordship of Christ is not evident. In a household where a husband/father treats his family as a means to achieving his own pleasures, the spirit of Christ is absent.
Depending on how many household members are believers, at minimum you – dear reader – can do your part. I doubt anyone has gotten past reading the Ephesians passage quoted at length above if they are not a believer, which means you can adopt your God ordained role in your household even if others do not. A husband is to love his wife whether or not his wife is lovely or loveable, and a wife is to submit to her husband (insofar as it does not conflict with her obedience to Christ) whether he is worthy of such obedience or not. If you happen to be a minor in your household and you have unbelieving parents, honoring them instead of defying them is in your job description.
In other words, start with yourself.
Practical Steps to Take
Start by memorizing and praying about the role you have to play in your household. Depending on the age of your children, it might be appropriate to read a key passage regarding the Christian household once a week and even having a family project to memorize those passages.
Communicate your desire to live as a Christian within your household to your household. While this might seem like setting yourself up for failure, it’s better to be clear about what you are doing. If you are one of those who are coming around to establishing a Christian household late, it is wise and loving to tell the other members of your household what you are doing. Such a conversation from a husband might look like the below:
I want to let all of you know that lately I have been thinking more about what it means to be a husband and father, and that I realize I haven't been doing a good job of it. So I want to apologize to you all for that and ask for your forgiveness. I am beginning to understand that I will have to give an answer to God one day regarding the kind of husband and father I have been. I hope you will see a difference in me over the coming months and that means that there may be some changes in how our family functions. I would appreciate your support and prayers and please feel free to talk to me about these changes.
The basic idea is to know, establish, and communicate what your household is all about. Or at minimum, what you perceive your role in your household to be. Establish the standard, and then learn to love the standard.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
I would like to make the case today (and perhaps in some coming posts) about the need for Christians to begin to think differently about their families. Christians, in particular husbands, need to make it their goal to establish Christian households. Instead of launching into all the reasons for this, let’s start with the basics of what a household is and what makes it Christian in nature.
What is a Household?
The Word “household” is important. It’s an old word but an even older concept, dating back to cultures that acknowledged and valued the existence of a social construct greater than the individual. It’s no wonder that this term seems outdated since the individual-unfettered and unencumbered- is the inspiration of modernity. The New Testament Greek word “οἰκεῖος” is more than a house; it is a household.
A household typically consists of family members working in cooperation towards the good of all those living within its borders. Most households began with a marriage and expanded to children, but extended family could become a part of it as well. Households could persists over generations and turn into nations, or through poor management or calamity pass away within one or two generations. Abraham’s household consisted of his wife, his nephew, and his servants/slaves. These all worked for the good of the household and derived their safety and prosperity from its well-being. Joseph became the head of his family household even before his father died (although Jacob was always honored as the patriarch) and invited his brothers and their families into it, eventually becoming a nation.
While it is true that there is no New Testament command to establish households, the reality of households is acknowledged frequently (1 Cor 1:16, 2 Tim 4:19). It would have been very difficult for the writers of the NT to conceive of the need to command households when their existence seemed self evident and assured. The commands to family members in Ephesians 5-6 is written in the format of a Roman household constitution. The keeping of many NT commands is either simplified or necessitated by the establishment of households, especially in the matter of caring for one’s own (1 Tim 5:4-9) and raising one’s children in the faith (Eph 6:4) This concept also helps us understand how the salvation of the head of a household would naturally result in the baptism of all household members into the faith (Acts 16:15).
A household is similar to a family, but implies a greater dimension of intentionality and responsibility. A family can be a family by accident (she happens to be my mom, etc…) but a household is established, built, and maintained. A household has a hierarchy and a necessity of cooperation and a culture that can be tasted. To be a household, a marriage must be more than a legally sanctioned “roommates with benefits” situation. Children must be more than boarders. Modern parenting is poison to the establishment of a household because the child is left exposed to the world to find his way instead of being disciplined in the values and traditions of the household. While the modern concept of the family is based upon association and feeling, the household is built upon genuine mutuality and cooperation in ways that are tangible.
If this all sounds a little stiff and hierarchical and heavy, then good. A household has weight because a household has substance. If your family looks like 4 people moving in different directions who happen to come together for a few meals a week, then you need to start thinking about establishing a household.
What is a Christian Household?
So what exactly is a “Christian” household? I would suggest 2 things. The first is that Christ is explicitly acknowledged as Lord. The persecution of the Church in the early centuries by the Romans boiled down to whether Caesar was Lord or Christ was Lord. Those who gave up their lives unto death did so because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. A Christian household has a clear understanding that Christ is Lord of the household.
The second feature is the practical reality of Christ’s Lordship. The Lordship of Christ must have more significance than some decorative wall art. The reality of Christ’s Lordship can be seen firstly in the structure of the household. Husbands, wives, and children accept their God-given mandates. The weekly schedule of the household reflects an un-compromised commitment to the Lord’s Day. The rules of the household reflect the rules of Christ.
But all of that would lead to a pretty suffocating environment if it was undertaken in the spirit of legalism instead of the spirit of Christ. So Christ’s Lordship must be acknowledged and honored but Christ’s spirit must also indwell and energize. There should be copious amounts of joy and service should be cheerful. For someone who had only experienced family dysfunction and suffering, sharing an evening with a Christian family should have the feel of a fairy tale.
The modern world has managed to associate religion with something heavy and dreary, like a rainy day that ruins the park. They have managed to gloss over the fact that the only color in the medieval village was the stained glass on the chapel and that the days of rest and feasting were all holy days. The truth is that the world is a dreary place and Christians are the ones who figured out how to play in its puddles. To be a Christian household is to face the pain and suffering of life beneath the banner of our Conquering Captain.
You should start thinking about your family as a household. Stop being the victim of a thousand demands placed upon you by other institutions and interests and start establishing your own schedule based upon Christian priorities. Stop spending your money on pleasures and entertainment and start investing it in the members of your household. Stop letting your kids be brainwashed by the vapid ideology of others and start instructing them in Christian truth and values. Under the banner of Christ, build something substantive in this world.
A couple of weeks ago my wife made an apple pie for her dad’s birthday (at his request). It ended up being just the best apple pie you can imagine. Perfectly seasoned apple slices (a blend of Honeycrisp and Yellow Golden Delicious) had been softened to a perfect crunch without becoming soggy. The blind baked crust cut through clean with a knife and provided the perfect foundation for transportation to the mouth. The top, instead of a second layer of pie crust, had been crowned with some kind of crumb concoction to coronate this culinary delight.
Now imagine that as I spread word of my wife’s amazing, superlative, and exceptional apple pie that a well meaning friend pulled me aside and began to rebuke me for my pie idolatry. Clearly, I am informed, my love for the pie has exceeded my love for my wife. All I talk about is her pie and not she herself. My love for her should be pure: free from any attachments to such incarnate delights as pie. I am exhorted to repent of my idolatry for pie and focus my affections on the immortal soul of my wife.
“My dear gnostic brother, ” I reply. “How strange it is that you think I can love my wife without loving what comes from her hands. Were she not my wife, I would still think this a delicious pie, but my love for her only increases my love for her pie. And while it is true that I have spoken on many occasions about her pie while I have not waxed very poetic about her immortal soul in times past, let me assure you that it is only because I am a man and find that my words fail when it comes to her immortal soul but flow when it comes to her cooking. There is no idolatry here, but thank you for your concern.”
Now let me hasten to add that human beings are strange creatures and I suppose that there might be some husband out there who truly loves his wife’s cooking more than he loves his wife. The accusation is not an impossible one, but it does seem to be an unlikely one. I meet very few husbands who love their wive’s cooking who do not also love their wives. It is a rare husband who heaps public praise on his wife’s cooking or parenting or talents whilst despising that same woman. But I grant that such a crooked creature could exist.
Obviously, I speak in parables. Idolatry is a real and common thing with fallen man. There are idols in our hearts and idols in our hands (for covetousness is idolatry). Nevertheless, we need not accuse everyone of idolatry when they speak of the work of Christ’s hands as something to be loved and cherished, even if they speak more words concerning the created than the Creator. We are embodied creatures and we should not be surprised to find that words concerning the created come more easily than words concerning their Creator.
I am particularly concerned when well meaning Christians talk about the idolatry of family and children and nation when they never seem to talk about the idolatry of singleness and barrenness and globalism. Love for family and nation is at least a natural love. It is a commanded love. It is a Christian love, even if at times it becomes a disordered love.
We should be careful not to accuse a man of idolatry for loving his family. We should certainly not use the expression that a man “loves his family too much.” Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, a goal to which we must all aspire as an artist aspires to perfection. Paul never had to admonish men to love less. As a pastor, I have yet to meet a husband who loves his wife too much or a father who loves his children too much. Most of the men that I meet are too weak in their love. Too weak to love enough to lead. Too weak to love enough to speak truth. Too weak to love enough to discipline. To make hard choices. To risk the peace of our homes for the souls of those in our care. But to love too much? I don’t think so.
We should also be careful about accusing a woman of idolizing marriage or children. Hannah cried in anguish over her barrenness and the Lord rewarded her with a son who would guide the nation in the ways of God and bring about a great revival. Children are a blessing and it is good to seek after the blessings of God. And while there are women who do make an idol out of marriage and/or children, we really ought to be preaching against the enemy at the gate and not the enemy on the other side of the world. We live in a culture that tells women that their highest calling is in a STEM field and we provide free pills and abortions to make sure nothing as troublesome as a baby thwarts her efforts to become a second rate man. So by all means, write and preach about the idolatry of marriage as long as you spend about 10 times the amount of time writing and preaching against barrenness as the path to personal fulfillment. When was the last time your preacher (or you, if you are a preacher) exhorted the ladies at your church to be keepers at home? Do that about 100X and then lecture the moms about idolizing their role as moms.
This same restraint should be used before we judge those who love their country as being idolatrous. What is a country besides an extended clan? And why should we not perceive our country as a work of God’s hands? Does He not direct the course of nations and empires as much as He directs the course of an individual? I fully expect my Japanese friends to love Japan and work towards her good and seek to improve her failures. Can we not ask this of Americans?
Perhaps the giant beam in the eye of the guy who dislikes Trump is causing him to focus too much on the splinter in the eye of the guy who loves Trump. I don’t think Evangelical leaders need to apologize to the world because the people who pay their salaries like to fly American flags, want to secure the border, and want public schools to start educating instead of indoctrinating. Some of them even wear MAGA hats. (Not me: red diminishes the natural poignancy of my brown eyes).
Granted, out of the two topics – loving family and loving nation – the loving nation one seems to go wrong quicker and in weirder directions. I grant that. But if you are going to preach against a disordered love of nation, can you not also preach against the lack of love for your nation? Would it help you to swallow this pill if you used the word “community” instead of “nation”? If you are going to write against people who like to fly the flag a little too high, can you not also write about people who refuse to fly the flag at all? Or give grace to those who are passionate when that flag – for which some of them fought – is burned or perhaps takes a back seat to the flag of sexual perversion?
Before we get overly spiritual towards those who love being married and love having children and love being American (or Japanese or Russian, whichever might apply), let’s remember that marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled, and that children are a blessing from the Lord, and blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. It is good to eat hamburgers and hot dogs and wave flags on the 4th of July, even if it is as American as my wife’s apple pie.
The Christian is to resist the spirit of the world. But when we say this, we must understand that the world-spirit does not always take the same form. So the Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation. If he does not do this, he is not resisting the spirit of the world at all.
My reading this year has included some healthy doses on economics from the likes of Adam Smith, George Gilder, Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, and David Bahnsen. Inflation simply means that consumers are paying more dollars for the same goods and services, leaving many families gasping for financial air. It is certainly reasonable for folks to be concerned about inflation, but believers are not to live in fear. Out of the following observations written to help the Average Joe have confidence as he faces an inflationary environment, only 1 out of 3 comes from the world of economics. The first two, which are more certain and immutable, come from the pages of Scripture. So here are 3 things that will help you face down inflation with confidence.
God is Still Your Heavenly Father
It’s not as though God could provide for you when gas was under $2 a gallon but can’t when it rises about that mark. God does not suddenly throw up His hands in despair when faced with providing for His children in an inflationary period. Some of the greatest miracles in the Bible were miracles of provision. The Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness and it was perfectly human to think, “Sure, God could bless our crops when we actually had them, but can God provide food when there isn’t any?” Yes He can. Paul tells us that the whole Jewish sojourn is filled with examples that were written for us.
The Son of God became a man during a time when many were poor and sick and hungry, and He taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Sometimes He was the direct agent of miraculous provision, feeding thousands with just a boy’s sack lunch. Are our circumstances worse than the circumstances faced by the Jews in that age? Probably not, but even if they were we can and should ask for God to provide our daily bread. Our Father is a good Father and will not give His children stones when they ask Him for bread. We do not want to be guilty of not having simply because we are not asking.
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread
Wisdom Works Even During Inflationary Periods
Of course, God commits Himself to providing for our needs, not our wants. The average poor person in the USA is better off than many rich people of other places or eras. We are accustomed to an easy life (I type as I hide from the heat in my air conditioned office). Having God as our heavenly Father is no more reason to live life as profligates than having a rich earthly father is a reason to live as profligates. Scripture is full of wonderfully helpful counsel regarding matters of material possession.
Two significant attitudes are highlighted in Scripture that we ought to keep in mind. The first is the concept of stewardship, whereby I recognize that everything I possess actually belongs to God. I am to steward my possessions for good in this world. This attitude keeps me responsible and accountable for my money. The second significant counsel the Scriptures recommend is one of generosity. There are those who give and yet have, and there are those who grasp and have not. There are those who steal from the labors of others while there are those who labor that they might have to give to others. The spirit of generosity forces me to always think of myself as a producer and a giver, which changes how I approach financial difficulties.
Beyond attitudes, there are certain types of financial habits that are recommended by Scripture. For example, debt is discouraged while savings are encouraged. (Proverbs 22:7 vs Proverbs 10:5). Slothfulness is discouraged while hard work is encouraged. (Proverbs 6:16 vs Proverbs 14:23). The virtuous woman is extolled for her wisdom, labor, thrift, and fruitfulness.
Inflation is a stress test of your financial attitudes and acumen. Do you demand a certain standard of living and use debt to achieve it? Do you refuse to make personal sacrifices and so rob the Church of your generosity? Is your life filled with anxiety because you don’t know how much money you have or where it is going?
If this is the case, maybe you need a financial organization like Crown to help you grow in this area. Or you can become a cage stage Dave Ramsey acolyte for a year or two. The point is that you should not blame inflation for financial woes that are caused by mismanaging your finances.
Not All Bad News
So this last point is a bit of wisdom garnered from my study of economics. I think we all need to be careful about making “Inflation” the terrifying boogeyman of our nightmares. It’s true that your grandpa used to get a cup of coffee for a dime, but he’ll turn right around and tell you that his first job only payed $1.50 an hour. Wages rise with prices. Inflation is a feature (although some argue an unnecessary feature) of modern economics. And while inflation is currently outpacing wage growth, there are still plenty of opportunities for the resourceful, the industrious, the skilled, and the lucky to increase their material wealth in times of inflation.
I would also caution against the trend of dog-piling on the President, despite my aversion to all Biden policies. The first reason is because if the expansion of the money supply is the sole reason for inflation, then it seems to me that we should have started this process years ago under President Trump, who loved to send out checks. In recent times, the difference between a conservative and a liberal has just been the speed at which each would like to take us over the fiscal cliff. There’s no doubt that the profligate habits of Washington have hurt our economy, but that extends to both political parties. So I find it a bit hypocritical.
The second reason is a little more pragmatic. If inflation gets hung on Biden alone, then Biden could claim an economic turnaround before the 2024 presidential election when production increases and reduces the high rate of inflation. You note that I’m allowing for the possibility that inflation is transitory. Yeah, yeah, I know that was Biden’s line, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. I think it’s possible that inflation will remain high on certain types of items where shortages are projected for several years while others products will normalize as production capacities increase. There, I have thrown my prognostication into the arena where I shall preen if proved right and forget I ever wrote this paragraph if I’m wrong.
Lastly, it’s good to remember that we are now paying for those checks that came in the mail just a few years ago. For a simple (which I needed) explanation of inflation, check out David Bahnsen’s Responses to Doug Wilson’s questions.
So yes, gas prices stink and your grocery bill is going up. This is a challenge to face, not a monster to blame. And while we are facing down inflation, we ought to take some time to face our own personal financial attitudes and the financial repercussions of our political leaders. I am wholly sympathetic to families who are struggling financially, but I am not in despair. We should face inflation with the same hope, the same endurance, and the same acumen with which we face all of life’s trials.
Christians everywhere should unequivocally rejoice over the end of Roe. Since Roe, over 60 million babies have been killed in the womb. In the most recent Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court has affirmed that there is no constitutional right to an abortion (which makes sense, because there isn’t.) This is cause for rejoicing and gratitude to the Lord, to the many who have been fighting this battle for decades, to the justices who rightly interpreted the constitution, to the president who elected three of said justices, and to the States that have already begun working to write laws that respect the life of the unborn.
Let me stress again that it is not only ok, but it is good, fitting, appropriate, and pleasing to the Lord for believers to rejoice at this time. God has been kinder to us than our sins deserve, and should the particular kindness bestowed upon us by this ruling be met with subdued golf claps (at best) whilsts conscientiously making sure we aren’t disturbing any secular sacrifices taking place in the public square, it would be unfitting. Let us not tempt the rocks and stones to cry out. Christians have spent the last couple of decades worrying about how we come across to the world when the cross has crucified the world to us and vice versa. If the choice is between offending those who reject God and giving God the glory that is His due, I will choose to give glory to God any day of the week and twice on Sundays. If there is wailing in Ashdod because Dagon has been dismembered, it is not my job to cluck consolingly. So, PRAISE BE TO GOD FOR THE END OF ROE, Amen and Amen.
The Asterisk on this is not to diminish the rejoicing that Roe has ended, but to make the point that we sometimes think we are looking at the fountainhead when we are, in fact, several miles downstream. Abortion and its legality is a downstream issue and we would do well to take this reprieve to repair the foundations, lest they be destroyed.
As others have much more eloquently described, Roe v. Wade was simply a terrible legal decision. The United States of America is a constitutional Republic with separation of powers. When the judicial branch (of which the Supreme Court is the highest authority in the land) takes upon itself the role of creating constitutional rights ex nihilo, they have exceeded their rightful authority. It is frustrating to watch the left lose their mind over the recent ruling without the tiniest acknowledgment that if you want to legalize abortion, the path forward is via legislation in which the will of the people is expressed through voting, NOT through an activist court that gives you what you want.
The conservative justices are trying to save the judicial branch from ruin, and praise the Lord for them. A return to the basics of a constitutional Republic would, in my estimation, require two important additional corrections. First, the expansion of the Executive branch via Executive Order would need to be curtailed. George W Bush is the first president in my lifetime to abuse this authority, and every subsequent president has multiplied his error by leaps and bounds. Second, the bureaucratic state by which unelected officials determine what kind of cars we can drive, what kind of food we can eat, how tall the ceilings in our buildings need to be, and whether or not your kids can set up a lemonade stand without a permit, must be relegated into oblivion. All this would require is that no government department could enforce any of its regulations until all of its regulations had been evaluated and updated to remove outdated criteria. That should keep them busy for a few decades.
This return to a constitutional Republic requires an informed and educated public, which means that education will be at the center of the battle for the foreseeable future. Personally, I have abandoned any faith in the government schools and my advice to all Christian parents (just advice, I’m not speaking ex cathedra) is to remove your children from these institutions immediately.
The second aspect of this has to do with culture and worship. Now that the issue of abortion has been returned to the states, abortions will become easier or harder to obtain based on the population make up of that state. And so here is a big asterisk: overturning Roe does the pro-life movement no good if all 50 states eventually pass legislation to legalize abortion, which is what will happen if the culture goes that way, because politics is downstream of culture.
What kind of culture demands the right to kill their unborn children? What kind of culture cannot discern the logical incoherence of weeping with those who have miscarriages while celebrating those who terminate their pregnancies? What kind of culture can categorize abortion as “women’s health” when roughly 30 million women have been killed before they had a chance to stand on their own two feet? A culture that long ago exchanged the Creator for the created.
If politics is downstream of culture, then culture is downstream of worship. We become like the gods we make (Psalm 115:7-8). All people are worshipers. You, dear reader, are a worshiper. When man fell in the garden he did not cease to love, fear, or worship. He simply began loving, fearing, and worshiping the wrong thing in the wrong way. Those who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, worship the Living God. The God who gives life and tells us to choose life. In the culture of life, marriage matters, sex is a gift not to be abused, men joyfully accept the responsibility of fatherhood, motherhood is a high calling, and children are a treasure from the Lord.
So what hope is there for a culture like ours? There is the hope of the gospel, where the blood guilt of 63 million lives can be washed away by the blood of God’s perfect Lamb. What revival can there be a for a national conscience seared by unbridled pornographic consumption and mindless sexual encounters? There is the washing of water by the Word and the transformation of a renewed mind. What future can there be for those who come late to labor in the Master’s Vineyard after idling away their day in vain and selfish pursuits? There is the merciful kindness of the Master Himself.
God has graciously given us a reprieve from our great national shame. We must use this reprieve to preach a crucified, risen Savior who came to give us life, and life more abundant. Ours is the better gospel, the better story, the better way, and it’s all because ours is the better God.
Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.