Keller: Speaking About our Opponents

“I’ve been asked why it is especially wrong for Christians to speak of their opponents in a demonizing and dehumanizing way. Historic Christians believe that our sin has made us worthy of condemnation and hell.

From those living respectable lives to those leading criminal lives, all of us fall infinitely (and therefore equally) short of loving and serving God in the way that is due him. Therefore, we can only be saved through Christ by sheer grace.

The Westminster Confession of Faith 15:4 say “As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” (Rom 6:23; Gal 3:10; Is 55:7; Rom 8:1)

So Christians can never feel morally superior to any one else at all. That means (MAIN POINT) when we call out evildoing in others, as vital as that is, we can never imply by our attitude or language that they deserve God’s condemnation, but we do not.

Therefore: “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Right now our very social fabric is tearing apart because of, among other things, increasing, mutual demonizations ON BOTH SIDES. Christians must not contribute to this in any way.”

-Tim Keller,

Martin: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87

I’ve attached a very informative article from the New York Times about the life and judgeship of Justice Ginsburg.

In addition, Sheologians, posted this short reminder yesterday morning: “RBG has met the Judge of all the Earth and it is truly a terrifying thing to consider since she did so without the shed blood of Christ.” -Sheologians

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. What shall it profit us us if we gain the whole world and forfeit our soul. We shall all stand before the Judge of all the earth, and he will always do what is right. The death of any image bearer should bring us sorrow and the only hope we can have for Judge Ginsburg now—and for every person at their death—is that she privately trusted Christ in her last hour, for falling into the hands of a just God while covered in Christ, is better than we can imagine.

Lord have mercy on our nation. We thought this year was traumatic. We thought this election cycle was heated. Things just got even more complicated. Lord, give us leaders and judges that act in accordance with your Kingdom. May they do righteously and justly. May they uphold truth, defend the vulnerable, and govern in a way that increases human flourishing for all men, women, and children. Jesus is Lord. Caesar’s kingdom will never last, no matter what his political party. Come Lord Jesus. We long for your promised return to fix all things. Even now, come in your providential workings to bend the hearts of kings and all in authority to do your will. Your Kingdom come; Your will be done.


Consider the Stars

Consider the stars in the sky;
Look up and wonder, can you count their number?
Consider the stars in the sky;
Umbrella to hide in, a dance floor of heaven.

Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid

Consider the stars in the sky;
When it is darkest they shine out the brightest
Consider the stars in the sky
In every anguish, Oh, child take courage 

Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
He who made all of this, and who holds all of this,
Holds you in his hands

Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid

Consider the stars in the sky;
Diamond in a ring. Over the Child King.
Consider the stars in the sky;
Grace He had promised, coming to find us

Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
He who made all of this, says “You’re worth more than this,”
And holds you in his hands

-Words and music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Fionan De Barra

Knox: A Prayer Said at the Lord’s Supper

O Father of mercy and God of all consolation, seeing that all creatures do acknowledge and confess Thee as Governor and Lord (Rev. 5), it becometh us, the workmanship of Thy own hands, at all times to reverence and magnify Thy godly majesty—first, for that Thou hast created us to Thy own image and similitude (Gen. 1), but chiefly that Thou hast delivered us from that everlasting death and damnation (Gen. 3; Gal. 1; Eph. 2) into the which Satan drew mankind by the means of sin, from the bondage whereof neither man nor angel was able to make us free (Acts 4; Heb. 1; Rev 5).

But Thou, O Lord, rich in mercy and infinite in goodness, hast provided our redemption to stand in Thy only and well-beloved Son, whom of very love Thou didst give to be made man (John 3) like unto us in all things (Heb. 8) (sin excepted), (Heb. 4, 7) that in His body He might receive the punishments of our transgression (Isaiah 43, 53; 1 Pet. 2), by His death to make satisfaction to Thy justice, (Matt. 3, 17; Rom. 5; Heb. 8; Jer. 31) and by His resurrection to destroy him that was author of death, (Heb. 2) and thus to subdue and bring life again to the world (John 6) from which the whole offspring of Adam most justly was exiled (Gen. 3; Rom. 5).

O Lord, we acknowledge that no creature is able to comprehend the length and breadth—the depth and height—of that Thy most excellent love (Eph. 3), which moved Thee to show mercy where none was deserved (Eph. 2), to promise and give life where death had gotten victory (John 6, 17; Eph. 2), and to receive us into Thy grace when we could do nothing but rebel against Thy justice (Gen. 6; Ps. 5, 14; Isa. 64; Rom. 3, 7).

O Lord, the blind dullness of our corrupt nature will not suffer us sufficiently to weigh these most ample benefits (Matt. 10, 16; Luke 11; 1 Cor. 2); nevertheless, at the commandment of Jesus Christ our Lord (Matt. 26; Luke 22), we present ourselves to this His table (which He hath left to be used in remembrance of His death until His coming again) (1 Cor. 11) to declare and witness before the world that by Him alone we have received liberty and life (John 8; Gal. 5), that by Him alone Thou dost acknowledge us Thy children and heirs (Rom. 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1), that by Him alone we have entrance to the throne of Thy grace (Rom. 3; Eph. 2; Heb, 4), that by Him alone we are possessed in our spiritual kingdom (Matt. 25; Luke 12; John 14) to eat and drink at His table (Luke 22; Rev. 2) with whom we have our conversation presently in heaven (Eph. 2; Phil. 3) and by whom our bodies shall be raised up again from the dust and shall be placed with Him in that endless joy, which Thou, O Father of mercy, hast prepared for Thy elect before the foundation of the world was laid (Eph. 1; Rev. 13).

And these most inestimable benefits we acknowledge and confess to have received of Thy free mercy and grace by Thy only beloved Son Jesus Christ (Rom. 3; Eph. 2; Titus 3), for the which therefore, we Thy congregation, moved by Thy Holy Spirit (Rom. 8), render Thee all thanks, praise, and glory, forever and ever.

-John Knox, Taken from Laing, Works of John Knox, 4:194-196

McCracken: Condemning ‘Cuties’ Should Be Noncontroversial

“One of the most disturbing things about Netflix’s Cuties is that many ostensibly sophisticated, “cultured” people seem bent on defending and redeeming what is, in the end, an irredeemably problematic film. I’ve watched Cuties (reluctantly), and it’s true the film is attempting to critique rather than to celebrate the exploitative sexualizing of young girls. But by doing the very thing it critiques—repeatedly, gratuitously, horrifyingly—it undermines its point and dangerously justifies, in the name of thoughtful art, something that cannot be justified.

The film’s defenders will respond with various “what abouts.” What about the fact that the real villain is Netflix’s marketing department? That might be a valid defense, except that the image on the promotional poster comes from an actual scene in the film—an extended scene of lewd, sexualized, pre-teen dancing far more disturbing than the poster itself.

What about the fact that it’s a well-made, personal story by a talented filmmaker—“a sensitive portrait of female adolescence by a gifted woman of color,” as Rolling Stone put it? Nope, sorry. Even if the film was a magnum opus directed by Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola, or Terrence Malick (some of my favorite directors), we’d still need to draw a line and reject it. An auteur’s freedom of vision and claims to “artistic expression” should have moral limits. Sexualizing real, image-bearing, precious girls (age 11!) to make a point is a limit that should be uncontroversial.

An auteur’s freedom of vision and claims to ‘artistic expression’ should have moral limits. Sexualizing real, image-bearing, precious girls (age 11!) to make a point is a limit that should be uncontroversial. 

What about the suggestion that this is just an election-year pseudo-event fueled by right-wing QAnon fanatics? Also no. I think QAnon is a dangerous political cult, and I arrived at my assessment of Cuties without reading anything written by any conspiracy-theory carnival barker. It’s quite revealing that many in the mediahave assumed a bizarre QAnon sex-trafficking theory is behind the outrageabout Cuties—rather than just basic moral concern over sexualizing underage girls. Our bubbles can be so blinding.

Cuties Controversy and Negative Partisanship

The fault lines on Cuties were quick to develop—bafflingly—along partisan lines. I could predict what people in my social-media feeds would say about the film based on their politics. Those leaning right (and certainly not just the QAnon fringe) signed petitions to #CancelNetflix. Those leaning left defended the film or dismissed the boycott conversation as a silly outrage in the culture wars. How disturbing. Just as wearing masks during a pandemic should not be a matter of partisan debate, neither should condemning a film that recklessly sexualizes children.

This shouldn’t be so hard. People on every point on the political spectrum should be able to say it is wrong for a film—any film, however well-intentioned—to depict close-up, lingering shots of scantily clad 11-year-olds twerking. It’s refreshing that some leaders on the left have recognized this as the nonpartisan issue it should be, like Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, or Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Christine. But they are the exception, not the norm.

We’ve been so blinded by confirmation bias and negative partisanship—driven more by ‘owning’ the other side than by actual positive convictions—that we’re willing to justify something heinous because we don’t like the people calling it heinous. 

It seems we’ve been so blinded by confirmation bias and negative partisanship—driven more by “owning” the other side than by actual positive convictions—that we’re willing to justify something heinous because we don’t like the people calling it heinous. Of course this problem goes beyond the Cuties controversy and plagues conservatives too, who are often quick to defend their favored politician’s morally dubious behavior against the “unfair” attacks of the other side. For Christians especially, it’s crucial we call foul on what is morally depraved wherever we find it—even if in our own camp.

Fans of Maïmouna Doucouré should be able to say, “She’s talented, and I get what she’s trying to do, but I can’t condone this,” just as fans of President Trump should be able to say, “I like his stance on this issue, but he’s absolutely wrong in the way he argues his case.” A right message can be delivered in a wrong way. People on both sides of the political divide should be willing to admit this point.

When ‘Depiction as Condemnation’ Doesn’t Work

There are certainly times when transgressive and shocking content in art serves a purpose. Movies especially, with their ability to mimic realism so viscerally, can pack an indelible punch in this way. A movie like Schindler’s List is memorable in part because it refuses to soften the visual, embodied atrocities of the Holocaust. Spielberg’s film makes a point cinematically that couldn’t be made in exactly the same way in a book or a poem.

But transgressive content in a film must be handled with utmost care—because the line between “shocking to make a point” and “shocking for its own sake” is often contested and arbitrary. Further, when a film’s transgressive material is sexual in nature, the ethical lines are especially blurry. In order to present such material, real, embodied people are necessarily objectified and sexualized before cameras, directors, film crews, and ultimately audiences. It’s one thing to defend this when the actors are adults (but after #MeToo, the ethics of even this are being questioned). But when the actors are underage—again, only 11 years old—it’s another thing entirely.

At one point in the film, a member of the “Cuties” dance troupe is frustrated that an internet video has “outed” the group as children: “Everybody’s talking about this video. . . . They’re saying we’re kids.” 

Indeed, you are kids. That’s why everyone is talking about Cuties. That’s why it’s wrong. As Justin Lee wrote in a helpful piece for Arc Digital:

If one only reflects on the amount of practice these 11-year-old girls had to do in order to master dance moves simulating rough sex, the wretchedness of the whole enterprise becomes apparent. An actor must become proficient in martial arts before starring in a martial arts film. In Cuties, these young actors had to become proficient in their own sexual commodification.

Again, the problem is not that Doucouré’s point—that the degrading and dehumanizing of women’s bodies is wrong, whether it happens in a restrictive Muslim context or a libertine Western one—is off-base or unimportant. The problem is the means to this end.

Rachael Denhollander summarized it succinctly when she said of the film, “One can’t protest sexualizing children by . . . sexualizing them.”

Rampant Sexual Confusion and Contradiction

Don’t watch Cuties. We don’t need to watch young girls gyrating on the floor and twerking on staircases to be aware of how mass media conditions young women to see themselves and their bodies. An article, essay, book (consider American Girls), or any number of daily headlines make us aware. If you live in proximity to kids in this world, you are aware. Filming real young girls doing the very things we want to prevent young girls from doing is not the answer. As my friend Kevin Yi observed on Facebook, if this was a movie about the evils of dog fighting, and the filmmakers staged a bunch of real dog fights to get their point across, everyone would see the wrongness of the strategy. The Babylon Bee made a similar point

That there is any hesitation to name the moral wrongness of Cuties shows how sexually confused and broken the West has become. Our poor children. As if they weren’t already vulnerable enough, growing up in a world awash in pornography and sexual exploitation, they’re being led by adults who can’t recognize the inconsistencies in their own sexual ethics.  

That there is any hesitation to name the moral wrongness of Cuties shows how sexually confused and broken the West has become. 

Speaking of Cuties, director Doucouré observed: “Our girls see that the more a woman is overly sexualized on social media, the more she’s successful. And the children just imitate what they see. . . . It’s dangerous.” Quite right. The problem is, many of the same “feminist” defenders of Cuties—who would nod along with Doucouré’s “children just imitate what they see” comment—also find J.Lo’s Super Bowl pole dancing praiseworthy, not problematic. You can’t hold up globally televised sexualized dancing as a celebration of empowered women and Latino culture and, at the same time, lament that 11-year-old girls in Paris want to imitate that behavior. Which is it? If we praise scantily clad, sexualized pop stars like Beyoncé, Shakira, or Cardi B as feminist icons and “empowered” role models for young girls, we should neither complain, nor be surprised, when pre-adolescent girls acts this way too (as in Cuties).

The #MeToo movement supposedly sparked a difficult “soul-searching” reckoning for Hollywood—which has always been one of the chief purveyors of sexualized bodies as cheap goods for widespread consumption. But the fact that Cuties was made, celebrated at the Sundance Film Festival, and distributed on Netflix shows there’s still a lot more soul-searching to do.

The same goes for Christians. New Pew research sadly shows that many Christians are only slightly less confused than non-Christians on sexual ethics. So even as we rightly denounce a film like Cuties, we should also double down on fighting pornography addiction, sexual abuse, and other immorality within our midst. The force of the sexual revolution has not left the church unscathed, after all. We must press in to the challenges of discipleship on matters of sexuality, defending the goodness of sex in its rightful, covenantal place, all while protecting the vulnerable—especially children—from the tragic consequences of sex outside of that sacred context.”

-Brett McCracken

Edwards: God’s End in Creating the World

God’s end in the creation of the world consists in these two things, viz. to communicate himself and to glorify bimself. God created the world to communicate himself, not to receive anything. But such was the infinite goodness of God that it was his will to communicate himself, to communicate of his own glory and happiness; and he made the world to glorify himself, [as it is] fit that God should glorify himself. These two things ought [not] to be separated when we speak of God’s end in the creation of the world, as the assembly of divines in speaking of the chief end for which man was created have judiciously united glorifying and enjoying {God}.

-Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758. As recorded in Owen Strachan, “Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards,” 254.

Strachan: Actual Atonement

“The atonement doe not make salvation possible. When Christ died on the cross, he did not merely give us his best shot. He didn’t make a good faith gesture and hope things would turn out. He didn’t leave an offering of love and pine for us to take it. We cannot view the Cross as Jesus’ doing all he could to save us but without the actual power and ability to buy us back from the dead.

The Atonement does not make salvation possible; it makes salvation actual.

…Jonathan Edwards notes, the ‘precious blood of Christ’ has covered the sin of his ‘spouse,’ the collection of redeemed sinners known as the church. We are ‘redeemed’ in full by his work on the cross. We were in the worst state, the most desperate of circumstances; we had no hope, and no agency to spring ourselves from our miserable state. We were on our way to execution when Jesus suddenly intervened. He bought us for himself. He made us his own. He didn’t offer only the possibility of redemption; with a strong hand and a sure voice, he called us to himself, and we came.

When we think and sing of the Cross, we should know that our sin was canceled there, and our debts were removed (Colossians 2:13-15). There, the bride was washed (Ephesians 5:25-27). God effects and seals our salvation when he gives us faith to trust in the atonement of Christ—this is when we ‘become actually his,’ as Edwards makes clear. Ours is a sure and certain salvation.”

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. (Ephesians 5:25-26)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 211.

Strachan: Once For All

“What a miracle the incarnation of Jesus Christ is. Jesus took on human form. We could think about this truth for the rest of our lives and never exhaust its depths. Jesus, the very image of God and true Son, came to bring the promises of God to fulfillment. As the great High Priest, he brought to an end the sacrificial system that formerly guided the people of God. In this role, he offered the ultimate sacrifice for sin, bringing to an end the practice of slaughtering bulls and goats to signal the remission of iniquity.

Jesus will never leave this role. He is our eternal High Priest. God will never ‘remove’ this priest, nor will he ‘introduce any other’ in the age to come. The finality of Christ’s work leads us to rest in him. We need to obey the Lord, but we have no responsibility for adding to the finished work of Christ. Nothing hangs in the balance; no accounts remain open. God sent the perfect sacrifice for sin, and in so doing completed the line of priests with Christ.

We are left to marvel at the ‘perfection’ of this offering. We have freedom from guilt, from the need to justify ourselves, from the desire to look good in front of others. What more could we want? What more could anyone give us Jesus’ work is so final, so perfect and complere, that it suffices for all eternity. Jesus is the Temple (John 2:19). Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Jesus is our great High Priest (Hebrews 7:25). All that remains for us to do in the wake of his coming is to savor Jesus and walk as he walked.”

When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 209.

Come You Sinners

Come, you sinners, poor and needy
Come behold your Savior’s face
Full of love and rich in mercy
Hands outstretched with endless grace

Nothing you have done has earned it
Full atonement, vast and free
Nothing you can do can change it
Rest on Jesus’ victory

Our hearts are restless till we find our rest in You
Our lives are hopeless till we find our hope in You
Jesus, You are my life
Jesus, I give my life to You

Come you weary, heavy laden
Burdened under shame and sin
There is never condemnation
When your life in Christ is hid

There is no one else to turn to
He will guide you all your days
His perfect love is perfect for you
Trust in Jesus’ saving grace

Jamie Brown © 2011 Worthily Magnify Music. All rights reserved. CCLI song # 6026956.