The woman and the pastor

I just read Revelation 12-18 this afternoon, and the identity of the woman in Revelation 17-18 suddenly makes so much more sense in light of the West’s complete moral collapse. Bostock v. Clayton County is the final domino in a chain that has made me now fully realize the scope of the task for faithful pastors in the 21st century.

I knew it before, but I didn’t know it before.

The Church no longer has any common point of cultural contact left with the world. When the Church speaks the mystery of the faith to outsiders, it now speaks a foreign and hateful language. This means the Church’s job is not simply to explain the Christian faith to the world. It is that, but it’s more than that.

The Church’s task, more than ever, is now to explain and interpret reality to the world. God’s reality. This will take educated, well-read ministers who understand history in a deep and meaningful way.

  • Not in a social media meme kinda way.
  • Not in a “I watch Tucker on Fox, and he’s right!” kinda way.
  • Not in a “Watch Ben Shapiro DESTROY the libs” kinda way.

I mean real history. Real engagement with big ideas and big thinkers. A real sense of human history, and mistakes of the past. We’ll need pastors who understand culture. Who pay attention to what’s happening in the world and can interpret it for the Church and for the world. I’m actually thinking a graduate degree in liberal studies/humanities may be more important than a PhD.

Carl Trueman wrote just this morning:

If Christians do not understand the wider context, then they will continue to underestimate the true depth of the cultural problem, be perplexed at the speed of apparent change, and be disturbed by new developments. And that will make it very hard to navigate this world as both good citizens and good stewards of the gospel.

Who is equal to this task? My goodness, who can be equal to this task? When I read the transcript of oral arguments from Bostock, I feel overwhelmed. What tortured combination of forces have combined to produce the kind of moral confusion and rebellion against God that we see in those pages? It’s too much. No one person is equipped to interpret this kind of madness for the Church.

I am more well-read than many pastors. That may be hubris, but I suspect not. I am overwhelmed by the task. I feel unequal to it. There’s so much!

The woman in Revelation 17-18 represents man in community apart from God. Like a chameleon, she’s taken many different forms over the years. But, she is organized society without God. In the West, she’s secular humanism. But, I know even as I write this that it’s not quite right. It’s a religion of sorts, but one I have trouble getting my arms around. It seems to combine a narcissism unique to this digital age, abysmal ignorance of just about everything, a “God as divine butler” theology among professing Christians, critical race theory, intersectionality, and hatred of God … all combined into one toxic casserole. I don’t know what to call it.

This is why I feel overwhelmed. I almost wish I were not so bookish, so I’d be content with memes on social media and wouldn’t appreciate the depth of the challenges that lay ahead. I do know, however, that the Lord destroys the woman in Revelation 18, and returns triumphantly in the next chapter. That’s nice!

May God help the Church in the 21st century in the West; especially its elders. Especially me.

Bad, bad news

Some quick thoughts about the Bostock v. Clayton County court decision that came out yesterday. The impetus for the case were three separate instances where employees were terminated for being either homosexual or transgender. The Court consolidated all three cases, and the question before it was whether the definition of “sex” under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act included the concepts of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” The Court held that it did. My focus here is not the employee terminations; it’s the question before the Court and its decision to re-define “sex” in anti-discrimination law.

  1. Christians who have made an idol of supporting the Republican Party because of the alleged advantage of appointing “conservative justices” now have no leg to stand on. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, and Chief Justice Roberts concurred.
  2. Christians may have little meaningful reason to continue to support the Republican Party, except perhaps as the alleged lesser of two evils. We will likely see a wide-scale capitulation to this newest phase of the social revolution. President Trump has already figuratively shrugged his shoulders about the decision.
  3. Republican does not equal Christian. This much should have been obvious for a long time, but now it is clear as day. Christians who have looked to the Republican Party as a vehicle for achieving social change should now see the bankruptcy of this tactic. The Religious Right is dead. This is a good thing. This entire endeavor of the Church’s political activism in the service of social reform was a mistake. I have believed this for a long time. Read Stanley Hauerwas’ book Resident Aliens for a better strategy for the Church.
  4. The idea that “textualism” is a bulwark against bad legal interpretation is now dead forever. There is no way on earth legislators in 1964 would have understood “sex” to mean “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Yet, Justice Gorsuch wants us to read it in.
  5. Textualism is only as good as the document to which it pledges loyalty. Chief Justice Taney used “textualism” (an anachronism, I know – but it’s what he did) to defend his interpretation in Dred Scott v. Sanford. The only textualism that really matters is fidelity to scripture. Because our society no longer has any semblance of a Christian view of morality (see #7, below), textualism in service of the U.S. Constitution is not a strategy in which to place anything but deep skepticism.
  6. This decision will open a floodgate of unending litigation against every Christian institution in the country. The very concept of “sex” in the context of non-discrimination law has now been irrevocably altered. This has profound implications, because Christian universities, seminaries, organizations … and churches … will now be targeted by malicious actors. The very expression of reality in this country has now been changed.
  7. How you view the world determines how you think. The Judeo-Christian worldview used to be the philosophical foundation from which citizens understood moral values, even if wasn’t a self-conscious foundation. There used to be a residue of that worldview present in society. This Court decision signals that it is gone forever.
  8. Everybody has to identify some foundation for moral values. Once you cut yourself off from objective truth, you’re cast out onto the open sea of subjectivism. Sex means gender identity because … well, why not? Forget rationality. Forget history. Forget divine revelation. Forget biology. There are only our own subjective feelings, baptized in the laver of diagnoses from mental health professionals (the new secular priests, dispensing the sacrament on letterhead) by whose mystical incantations people are “declared” to suffer from gender dysphoria. People look to what they perceive to be an objective standard to make moral value judgments. Having rejected divine revelation, they’ll look elsewhere. Today, they often look to the sciences. The DSM-V is the Bible, and the mental health professional is the high priest dispensing pagan grace. With the diagnosis letter in hand, the doors are open to validating felt gender identity. Transgender is a valid paradigm. Why? The mental professional says! See, here’s the diagnosis letter …
  9. Employers will now have little recourse to curtail unprofessional and unacceptable workplace behavior. All the employee need do is to claim the behavior is an integral part of his “gender identity.” If you believe there will be “safeguards” in place for businesses to have reasonable leeway to enforce professional codes of conduct, you are very naive.
  10. Christians must figure out what they believe on the subjects of gender and sexual orientation. They must. There is nowhere to hide. Pastors who do not take a stand on this issue are cowards.
  11. Our nation is irrevocably broken. I am more and more inclined to advocate for the Church’s total withdrawal from public life, in the sense of political activism for the social good. The only role I now see for the Church in the public square is for evangelism. Again, see Resident Aliens and perhaps Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option, though I have not yet read the latter.

I’m reading the Court documents, including the transcript of oral arguments and the decision itself, and will write up an analysis in the next month or so. I did the same for the Obergefell v. Hodges decision a few years back. It’ll be an analysis of the arguments and its implications from a Christian perspective. I hope to have it ready by late July.

Whistling in the Dark

green
Former nominee for Secretary of the Army, Mark Green

President Trump’s latest candidate for Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, has withdrawn his nomination. The Washington Post reported an excerpt from a statement Green made on his withdrawal:

“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Green said. “While these false attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the President the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world.”

As you read this article (and others) about Green’s nomination and later withdrawal from consideration, it has become increasingly clear there is a now an implicit litmus test to serve in a high-profile public office. This litmus test is not based on anything concrete and objective, but on the shifting and subjective mores of an increasingly unhinged and hysterical culture that is drifting – no, running – from Biblical values at breakneck speed. If you wish to serve in a public capacity, any public capacity, you must be willing to bow your knee to the totalitarians.

This should be deeply disturbing to anyone with integrity and the capacity to reason – no matter what your theological or political perspective is. Unfortunately, virtues like “integrity” and “capacity to reason” are becoming increasingly scarce in the public square.

These events shouldn’t surprise any Christian. The Scriptures paint a clear picture of sin being, at root, a desire for autonomy from God, His laws, His authority and His jurisdiction (cf. Psalm 2:1-4). Every single person is born corrupted by sin, wanting to break away from God and His rule. We want to rule ourselves. We don’t want God.

When we grow up, this rebellion takes a more sinister turn into darker sin and wickedness. When we have an entire society seeking to collectively “unshackle” itself from the ties which bind us all to His jurisdiction, then you have a society which actively and consciously hates God. This is where we are. And, just like the Psalmist said, God sits in the heavens and laughs in derision (Psalm 2:4). Those who hate God are whistling in the dark like scared kids, deluding themselves, thinking they’re gonna get away. They’re not gonna get away (Psalm 2:4-6; cf. Psalm 110):

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“I have set my king
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

This debacle with Mark Green is but the latest example of this phenomenon. Watch as our society continues it’s mad rush to shed even the most superficial of Christian glosses. It will not get better.

Christians certainly shouldn’t look to “The Donald” to solve their problems. Christians look for that perfect King and perfect Ruler, who will return and establish peace, justice and righteousness on earth for all who are His (cf. Isaiah 11:1-16). If you haven’t yet repented and believed in Christ, you should. No, you must.