Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
We live in an age marked by infantile ingratitude…that means we live in an age when we do not really know how to live at all. Ingratitude has dehumanized us.
In the times of turmoil in which we live, various candidates suggest themselves as ways of capturing the essence of our epoch: the age of anxiety, the age of identity politics, the age of polarization. All touch on some obvious aspect of our current struggles. But perhaps a better title might be the age of ingratitude. This captures a deep but often unnoticed pathology of our troubled era.
Take, for example, the books, blogs, and tweets devoted to being unthankful for anything and everything. We might dub this the Ingratitude Industry, not only because of the sheer quantity of ungratefulness, but also because of the lucrative careers that are made by selling ingratitude as a commodity. Strange to tell, Christianity—a religion predicated on divine grace and corresponding human gratitude—offers numerous examples. Many a career has been made in recent years by attacking the churches and institutions of “white evangelicalism.” And many such careers belong to those of whom we would never have heard if they had not obtained their degrees or platforms from the very “white evangelicalism” that forms the raw material of the commodified ingratitude they now sell to the public as prophetic utterances.
But the Ingratitude Industry is not confined to erstwhile religious types. As an immigrant, I love my homeland, but I also love the land that has given me a home. It seems to me odd, therefore, that so many Americans are obviously and vocally ungrateful for their country. Odd, too, that so many of these anti-American Americans want to throw the borders open—not, as one might expect from their rhetoric, to allow those of us trapped in such an apparently irredeemable and systemically racist country to escape from it, but to let others enter the same. Others who, it seems, would be rather grateful for the opportunities for which many Americans have such contempt. Ingratitude in such circumstances is not merely ugly. It is incoherent. But so is it always with those who insist on biting the hand that feeds them.
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By Trevin Wax — 10 months ago
There are only those who ignore the truth and those who seek to bring themselves in line with it. And so, more than ever, we must pray for the grace to bear witness to the truth of Christ with the love of Christ, with faithful hope in an outcome secured by the Savior whose heel crushed the father of lies.
In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year was “post-truth,” because that’s when the word began showing up in multiple articles about political movements in the United States and Europe. The official definition reads: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
In a post-truth world, feelings trump facts, and personal subjectivity matters more than objective reality. Six years later, we’re swimming in post-truth cultural waters and trying, with increasing difficulty, to hold society together when even basic agreements over the nature of truth and reality become contested.
The paradox of fallen humanity is that we both love and hate the truth. We long for the truth, as beggars hungry for something of substance, even while we despise the truth, as mini-tyrants who chafe at any notion there might be someone or something that exerts authority over us. Our longing for truth leads to the easy embrace of lies.
Why do we resist the truth? Because deep in our souls is the desire to be the masters of our own destiny, and truth too often gets in the way. Truth stands outside and above us. Truth doesn’t bow the knee to our preferences, no matter what Orwellian language we adopt, euphemisms we deploy, or pronouns we insist upon.
As John Webster wrote:
“The truth about the world is something over against us, something that we cannot subdue. Truth cannot be commanded; instead, it commands us. It forces us to acknowledge that the world and we within the world are what they are, independent of us. Truth blocks invention; when we reach the truth, we reach the limits of our wills. And it’s because truth is that kind of barrier against us that we have to find ways of circumventing it. We have to flee from the truth.”
In today’s world, we see two common strategies for fleeing from the truth.
Strategy #1: Relativize the Truth
One way we circumvent the truth is by relativizing it based on our experiences. That’s why we hear a lot these days about “speaking your truth” or “living your truth,” as if the word “truth” is now just a synonym for “perspective” or “experience.”
Yes, we should make room for sharing our perspectives and recounting our experiences. But if our tendency is to adorn “truth” with adjectives like my and your, and never the, we’re violating the very definition of “truth” to begin with. “Truth” is what’s right regardless of time, situation, or circumstance. It’s as valid for the young as it is for the old, for today as it is for yesterday.
Furthermore, when we think about truth in exclusively personal terms, we miss the adventure of seeking and finding something beyond the depths of our heart.
By Larry Ball — 2 weeks ago
The term theonomy implies nothing more than the application of God’s Law to all of life. It is true that the sundry laws of the Old Testament expired with the state of that people, but the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the general equity of the Old Testament law did not expire with the state of Old Testament Israel. This general equity is normative and regulative not only for the church today, but also for the civil magistrate since he is a minister of the same God as the God who rules the church.
In the recent article, The Shadowy Nature of Theonomy (Nov. 22, 2022), Nicolas T. Batzig takes to task that grand old nemesis of post-modern and Reformed churchmen: Theonomy. He draws the conclusion that the judicial laws of the Old Testament are ecclesiocentric rather than theocentric, i.e., that the judicial laws of the Old Covenant are fulfilled in the New Testament Church alone. As a shadow of the future, their application was limited to the church only. The earthy Old Testament laws are spiritualized and solitarily find their home in the ecclesia. This thinking fits well with the radical two-kingdom theology prevalent at Westminster Seminary in California. The assertion is that these Old Testament laws have nothing to do with the realm of the modern civil magistrate today; the church is spiritual and she only becomes soiled when dealing with politics.
However, God’s Kingdom not only includes the church, but also extends beyond the church. The God of the Bible is sovereign and the center of the universe. All of life (including the civil magistrate) is under him and his law, thus the term theocentric.
I know Mr. Batzig’s arguments well since I was once in his camp. I studied at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (when there was only one) during the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. I came out of Seminary teaching Mr. Batzig’s views to the churches where I pastored.
Eventually, I concluded that Christ Kingship extends beyond the church into all areas of life. If Christ is not King over all, then he is not King at all. I became a student of Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, Gentry, and DeMar. I was delivered from my “dogmatic slumber.”
The term theonomy implies nothing more than the application of God’s Law to all of life. It is true that the sundry laws of the Old Testament expired with the state of that people, but the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the general equity of the Old Testament law did not expire with the state of Old Testament Israel. This general equity is normative and regulative not only for the church today, but also for the civil magistrate since he is a minister of the same God as the God who rules the church (Rom. 13:4).
Because of this silence of the church, many Christians today are struggling to find a way to push back against what they see as the deterioration of America. Hence, the rise of the conversation about Christian Nationalism. The modern church and her ecclesiocentricity has left a vacuum, and many Christians are looking for something to fill that vacuum. I have spoken against the use of the term Christian Nationalism (see my article on Christian Nationalism – Dump the Term While We Still Can), but I have also spoken for the concept of Christendom and the concept of a Christian Nation (e.g., here, here and here).
The Apostle Paul was an apostle to the church and not to the Empire of Rome. The early church was a persecuted church in embryonic form, and Paul did apply the Old Testament laws to the church (like not muzzling the ox, excommunication, and the necessity of two or three witnesses), and rightly so.
However, just because Paul limited their application to the church in her nascent form does not negate their regulatory purpose in the world outside of the church at other periods in history. The same general equity of these laws also applies to every other institution of life, especially the civil government. The experience of the New Testament church with the civil magistrate is not normative for all ages. Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 is the standard! The civil magistrate is to promote good and mitigate evil. The definition of good and evil is found only in the Bible, and the general equity of the Old Testament judicial laws have much to add to our knowledge of good and evil.
For example, in the Old Testament there was a law that demanded a parapet be put around the roof of a house. There was also a law that a kid shall not be boiled in its mother’s milk. In specificity, these laws are irrelevant to our society today, except where the general equity does apply. The law requiring parapets teaches us to love our neighbors by taking every precaution to preserve their life. My neighbor has a fence around her swimming pool. The boiling-milk law teaches us that mothers are to give life to their children and not death.
Christ told us that when we pray, we should ask that his Kingdom come. His Kingdom is clearly seen by God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We do not pray that his will be done only in the church today, but rather on the whole earth in every part of life. The Lord’s Prayer is not ecclesiocentric. It is theocentric.
The consequences of ecclesiocentricity have been devastating for our nation and will likely bring a curse upon our children and grandchildren. This is not mere academics, but real life in a real world. Ideas have consequences. When Christians stopped believing in a theocentric world where God’s law reigns supreme in all areas of life, we, de facto, delivered the realm of the civil magistrate (and all other institutions) over to the religion of Neo-Marxism. Our silence to speak to the issues of our society helped create the lawless world in which we live today. Unlike John the Baptist, we failed to confront the king with the law of God. We neglected our duty as prophets.
America has been de-Christianized over the last 50-70 years, and consequently abortion and homosexual marriage are now legal. Men dress like women and dance before our youth. Young children are being groomed into changing their gender by surgical mutilation. Laws (e.g., the Respect for Marriage Act) are presently being promoted to silence all opposition coming from Christians in the public square. This is because what our enemy desires in the end is not toleration but domination.
We are in a war, and ecclesiocentricity is no option for Christians.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
By Geoff Gleason — 1 year ago
Other have spoken of the dangers of “mission creep” in the church. In other words, the church loses sight of its main gospel objective and thereby becomes ineffective. Is the focus on race “mission creep”? In the case of the PCA it certainly is. This sin has been clarified and condemned, and it is not controversial in the PCA. However, the PCA’s continued discussion on alleged acts of racism in or outside the church, outside of the actions of the discipline of the church, fosters an “us” and “them” mentality in the church based on race.
“Therefore my appeal is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.”
Moving Past the Issue
This series began by addressing three diagnostic questions as to where the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is in relation to racial sin. It is necessary to ask these due to considerable attention given to the issue of race in the denomination over the last number of years. These questions are:
Has the PCA made a clear and thorough declaration on the sin of racism?
Are there any new or extraordinary manifestation of this sin rearing its head in society or the PCA that would warrant additional teaching from God’s word?
Is the PCA neglecting shepherding of private or public unrepentant sins in this regard that should be addressed by church courts?
The first question is answered here; the second here; the third here. The fourth article is here. By way of summary, the PCA’s condemnation of racial sin is abundantly clear. There are no circumstances that justify revisiting previous statements. And as there are no appeals or complaints regarding racial sin moving up through the courts of the church, it is fair to assume that such sins are being effectively handled at a local level. For these reasons, the appeal of this series is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.
Other have spoken of the dangers of “mission creep” in the church. In other words, the church loses sight of its main gospel objective and thereby becomes ineffective. Is the focus on race “mission creep”? In the case of the PCA it certainly is. This sin has been clarified and condemned, and it is not controversial in the PCA. However, the PCA’s continued discussion on alleged acts of racism in or outside the church, outside of the actions of the discipline of the church, fosters an “us” and “them” mentality in the church based on race. Yet the church is one body (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:4; Col. 3:15).
At the last General Assembly (GA) there was talk of majority and minority cultures, designations of “you” and “us” along ethnic lines, and justifications for public repentance in the PCA based on news reports from secular outlets. The language of majority/minority culture is foreign to God’s word. The Bible does not recognize the validity of “you” and “us” statements of difference in the body of Christ. These statements are derived from the philosophy of man.
In Fault Lines, Voddie Baucham critiques the social justice movement, especially as it appears in the church. In it he quotes a definition of Critical Race Theory (CRT) from the pen of one of its proponents: “CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture.” Those are exactly the sentiments communicated through the language of majority/minority culture, or the “you” and “us” statements made during floor debate. Intentional or not, these terms reflect CRT and imports them into the PCA.
The notions of majority and minority culture seem to be driving the distinctions drawn in the PCA. However, when the Bible deals with differences in the church, they are not based on ethnicity as much as covenantal standing: Jew and Gentile. Certainly, ethnicity cannot be separated from that discussion, but it is accidental. The biblical point is always the inclusion of gentiles into the family of Abraham. But, for example, discussing Asians as a minority culture in a mostly Caucasian denomination divides up the Gentiles. The PCA is populated, by and large, by Gentiles. There are Gentiles with a variety of skin colors, but the PCA is mostly Gentile. All of the Gentiles have been grafted into the family of Abraham, have become the spiritual Israel. In Scripture there is no talk of a majority vs. minority culture. There are only sons of Abraham by faith. To speak of majority and minority cultures in the church is to deny 1 Cor. 12:12-13: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” The PCA must stop speaking of and championing the different ethnic varieties of Gentiles in the body of Christ, and return to being ambassadors of the whole of the Bride of Christ. So how is that done?
First, the PCA must become “color blind.” Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Morgan Freeman (by no means a conservative, reformed theologian as far as I know) when asked about racial division in an interview with Mike Wallace stated the solution to racial difference was to stop talking about it. Wallace asked him, “How are we going to get rid of racism until…” Mr. Freeman cuts him off and says, “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.” In other words, treat each other as people. This sentiment is even more compelling for Christians who have a theological reason for it. The church should treat anyone according to the biblical understanding of man as created in the image of God, no matter where he was born or what his status is (James 2:1-4). But I have been told that color blindness is not possible. I disagree. It is possible, and it should be pursued.
My father grew up in Charlotte, NC during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. He grew up with segregated water fountains. Fast forward to the 70’s when he moved his family to the Netherlands. Our family lived in a “diverse” neighborhood, and one of my friends was Jairaj. His skin was not pasty white like mine. In the course of our “friendship”, Jairaj stole every penny from my piggy bank. However, while walking me through this betrayal my father never once mentioned ethnicity. My father explained Jairaj was not to be trusted because he was a thief, and never mentioned that he was East Indian. His ethnicity had nothing to do with it. In one generation, and through the gospel, my father had learned to look at character and not color. That change transformed his family into a place where Christian friends from Australia, South Korea, Japan, Ghana, the Netherlands, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Mexico and other places would regularly be welcomed. There was no discussion about majority or minority culture. Sure, there were some things they did that we thought was weird, just as some of the things we did seemed weird to them. Certainly there were cultural differences, but the thing that united was a common love for God in Christ and a desire to worship Him. That is where the PCA must land.
Living as One Body
Second, the PCA must intentionally and uncompromisingly live as one body. There are different members with different functions, but they make up one body. Unity is lived out through word and deed. That is the reason why the language of majority or minority cultures is so damaging. The task of the body of Christ is with one voice to bear witness to His works of creation and redemption. That work is accomplished through people fulfilling different tasks as hands and feet of the body. However, the discussion is not around what color the hands and feet may be. It is rather to mobilize all the different parts of the body to be faithful in carrying out the Great Commission of evangelizing and discipling.
At the 48th General Assembly, I spoke to a brother about overture 45, which sought the flourishing of Asian Americans. There was a significant difference in opinion about the value of that request from Metro Atlanta Presbytery. In the conversation he stressed the pain of a minority culture (in this case Asian Americans) living in a majority culture. At the time I didn’t have time to process through what he said, but the more I thought about it, the more the terminology bothered me.
The point is not that there is no pain in the Asian-American community. I would expect there is. The problem is the shift in discussing pain in terms of ethnicity rather than the sin and misery that is in the world through the fall. There should be no surprise that there is pain among Asian Americans, just as there is in black, white community, and Indian communities. All communities, also those marked by racial diversity, suffer pain because all communities are affected by sin. Sin causes pain and all face the pain of sin in their day because they live after the fall. The body of Christ is unified as it realizes that all have been rescued from eternal pain through the work of Christ as a substitute on the cross. And this truth must be championed.
Commitment to Truth
Lastly, the PCA must be committed to biblical truth as its unifying principle. Instead of making statements about the pain of one ethnic group over against another, the task of the church is to speak primarily of the singular solution to that pain: the Lord Jesus X. The world’s comfort from pain is found in Him. Unity is not found in easy-to-make declarations. They cost very little, especially when there is as much agreement on the topic as there is in the PCA. But sharing the gospel in the world, practicing hospitality generously, and encouraging each other toward love and good works in the church is the hard work of building unity and love in the church. The unity of the human race is based in its original creation (Genesis 1:28), and the Gospel is the message that restores the unity that has been lost by sin.
So please, my brothers, let us be done with discussions on race at the General Assembly. If there are sins of that nature in our denomination, they should be addressed through formal process in the courts. The PCA cannot allow the hot topics of the world to become the cause for “mission creep.” Instead, the PCA must re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.
It is my prayer this appeal will be received in the brotherly spirit in which it was written. It is meant to be an appeal. I pray that the Lord will use it for building the unity of His body.
Geoff Gleason is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Cliffwood PCA in Augusta, Ga. This article is used with permission.
 Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines, (Salem Books, Washington, D.C.: 2021), p. xv.
 YouTube, Morgan Freeman on Black History Month, n.d. (accessed August 2, 2021), https://youtu.be/GeixtYS-P3s.
 Pastoral Letter on Racism, p. 6.