Piper: Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election

John Piper wrote yesterday what I believe will long be remembered as some of the most faithful and Christic words from a pastor about this—and every—election cycle.

“This article is probably as close as you will get to an answer on how I will vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Probably? 

Right. Only God knows what may happen in the next days. 

Nothing I say here is intended to dictate how anyone else should vote, but rather to point to a perspective that seems to be neglected. Yes, this perspective sways my vote. But you need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently.

Actually, this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly

The reason I put those Greek words in parentheses is to give a graphic reminder that these are sins mentioned in the New Testament. To be more specific, they are sins that destroy people. They are not just deadly. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9). 

They destroy persons (Acts 12:20–23). And through persons, they destroy nations (Jeremiah 48:29–3142).

Persons

Forgiveness through Christ is always possible where there is repentance and childlike trust in Jesus. But where humble repentance is absent, the sins condemn. 

The New Testament teaches that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21) and that “those who practice such things deserve to die” (Romans 1:32). 

To which you may say, “So what? Rejecting Jesus as Lord also leads to death, but you are willing to vote for a non-Christian, aren’t you?” I am, assuming there is enough overlap between biblical uprightness and the visible outworking of his character and convictions.

My point so far is simply to raise the stakes of what is outwardly modeled in leadership, so that Christians are given pause. It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death. 

Nations

In fact, I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person

“Flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, and factiousness are not only self-incriminating; they are nation-corrupting.”TweetShare on Facebook

This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.

This truth is not uniquely Christian: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Whether you embrace that company in your house or on social media, it corrupts. There are sins that “lead people into more and more ungodliness” as “their talk [spreads] like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:16–17). 

There is a character connection between rulers and subjects. When the Bible describes a king by saying, “He sinned and made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16), it does not mean he twisted their arm. It means his influence shaped the people. That’s the calling of a leader. Take the lead in giving shape to the character of your people. So it happens. For good or for ill.

Policies and Persons

Is it not baffling, then, that so many Christians seem to be sure that they are saving human lives and freedoms by treating as minimal the destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin? 

This point has a special relevance for Christians.

Freedom and life are precious. We all want to live and be free to pursue happiness. But if our freedoms, and even our lives, are threatened or taken, the essence of our identity in Christ, the certainty of our everlasting joy with Christ, and the holiness and love for which we have been saved by Christ — none of these is lost with the loss of life and freedom.

Therefore, Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year. 

The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.

I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring (eristikos). 

How do they know this? Seriously! Where do they get the sure knowledge that judges, laws, and policies are less destructive than boastful factiousness in high places?

What About Abortion?

Where does the wickedness of defending child-killing come from? It comes from hearts of self-absorbed arrogance and boasting (James 4:1–2). It comes from hearts that are insubordinate to God. In other words, it comes from the very character that so many Christian leaders are treating as comparatively innocuous, because they think Roe and SCOTUS and Planned Parenthood are more pivotal, more decisive, battlegrounds.

“It is baffling to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride.”TweetShare on Facebook

I think Roe is an evil decision. I think Planned Parenthood is a code name for baby-killing and (historically at least) ethnic cleansing. And I think it is baffling and presumptuous to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride. 

When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine.

It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal. 

Word to Pastors

May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold, 

Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

Christians who will act like the believers in Hebrews 10:34: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Christians who will face hate and reviling and exclusion for Christ’s sake and yet “rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, [their] reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22–23). 

Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)? 

Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?

Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?

Election Day

Where does that leave me as I face a civic duty on November 3? Here’s my answer. I do not require anyone to follow me (as if I could) — not my wife, not my friends, not my colleagues.

“With a cheerful smile, I will explain to my unbelieving neighbor why my allegiance to Jesus set me at odds with death — death by abortion and death by arrogance.”TweetShare on Facebook

I will not develop some calculus to determine which path of destruction I will support. That is not my duty. My calling is to lead people to see Jesus Christ, trust his forgiveness for sins, treasure him above everything in this world, live in a way that shows his all-satisfying value, and help them make it to heaven with love and holiness. That calling is contradicted by supporting either pathway to cultural corruption and eternal ruin. 

You may believe that there are kinds of support for such pathways that do not involve such a contradiction — such an undermining of authentic Christian witness. You must act on what you see. I can’t see it. That is why I said my way need not be yours. 

When I consider the remote possibility that I might do any good by endorsing the devastation already evident in the two choices before me, I am loath to undermine my calling (and the church’s mission) to stand for Christ-exalting faith and hope and love. 

I will be asked to give an account of my devotion to this life-giving calling. The world will ask. And the Lord of heaven will ask. And my conscience will ask. What will I say?

With a cheerful smile, I will explain to my unbelieving neighbor why my allegiance to Jesus set me at odds with death — death by abortion and death by arrogance. I will take him to Psalm 139 and Romans 1. And if he is willing, I will show him how abortion and arrogance can be forgiven because of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). And I will invite him to become an exile — to have a kingdom that will never be shaken, not even when America is a footnote in the archives of the new creation.”

-John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin

Harriet: Unqualified Impunity: Amy Coney Barrett Once Rules that a Cop Wasn’t Responsible for a Black Teenager’s Death Because Breathing Isn’t a Constitutional Right:

A word of caution from Erik: This post is somewhat inflammatory and not friendly to some conservative positions. It is written from a seemingly strong liberal perspective, nevertheless it exposes some troubling facts about Judge Barrett and police brutality. Despite the flaws in this post, I’ve included it to shine a light on Judge Barrett’s judicial record. As Christians we should not be afraid of the truth nor should we shy away from reading those with whom we disagree. We need not hide the truth. Righteousness and justice requires honesty and not deception. God will eventually expose all that is hidden.

Photo: Tom WIlliams/CQ-Roll Call (Getty Images)

Amy Coney Barrett is a right-wing extremist.

She does not believe George Floyd had a right to breathe. She doesn’t believe that screaming the n-word is necessarily “hostile.”

She does believe in Jesus, though.

While Judge Barrett has displayed a Mitch McConnell-like ability to evade direct questions about her legal opinions on a woman’s right to control her own body, whether or not poor people deserve to die if they can’t afford healthcare, or if Social Security is constitutional, we already know Barrett’s judicial positions in one important area of the law. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeal’s Seventh Circuit, the right-wing star of the literal handmaid’s tale has repeatedly joined her fellow conservative benchmates in asserting the right of police to do whatever they want—the Constitution be damned.

When it comes to police brutality, one does not have to speculate or engage in conjecture to know the opinion of the woman set to take Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on America’s highest court. Barrett may be able to duck and dodge questions about her well-documented anti-choice stance or her pro-death healthcare views, but her judicial record makes one thing obvious:

Amy Coney Barrett clearly does not believe Black lives matter.

He Couldn’t Breathe

On Sept. 26, 2015, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers responded to a call after a loss prevention officer alleged that eighteen-year-old Terrell Day had stolen a watch from the Burlington Coat Factory at Indianapolis’ Washington Square Mall. Day ran out of the mall, followed by a police officer and a security guard who said that Day was carrying a gun, according to the Indianapolis Star.

When the discount outlet watch recovery team caught up with Day, he had collapsed on a grassy slope across the street. IMPD officer Randall Denny arrived on the scene and noticed that the 312-pound teenager had defecated on himself and was “sweating and breathing heavily.” Officer Denny handcuffed Day, told him to take a few deep breaths and sat the teen in an “upright seated position.” But Day, still out of breath, kept laying down and eventually rolled down the slope with his hands cuffed behind his back. “At this point, the gun was no longer on Day’s person, but was lying in the grass a few feet away and out of his reach,” according to the Seventh Circuit ruling

Then Sgt. Franklin Wooten arrived.

“Day complained to Sergeant Wooten that he could not breathe,” reads the circuit court opinion. “Sergeant Wooten was skeptical of these complaints because Day also claimed to have done nothing wrong and was asking to be released. All the same, Sergeant Wooten called for an ambulance to evaluate Day approximately five minutes after Day was initially detained. After paramedics said Day didn’t go to the hospital, Wooten signed a form that said Day refused treatment,” placed another set of handcuffs on Day and called for a police wagon to transport Day to jail. When the wagon arrived, the officers tried to lift Day, but he was unresponsive. The driver called a second ambulance.

But Wooten waited. 

Wooten waited while Day lay on the ground in his own feces. Wooten waited while Day complained that he couldn’t breathe. Wooten waited until Day was a listless Black thing. Sgt. Franklin Wooten, who received CPR training by the IMPD that specifically informed him about the dangers of positional asphyxiation, which it said can occur “when a suspect, especially a larger one, is placed on their chest or stomach, with the suspect’s arms and legs restrained behind the back,” waited while Day lay on the ground in his own feces, handcuffed twice, complaining that he couldn’t breathe…

For forty-two minutes.

When a coroner arrived on the scene, he saw no visible signs of trauma but when he saw the handcuffs still on Day, he immediately knew what had happened. The autopsy report verified it. Eighteen-year-old Terrell Day’s official cause of death was listed as “Sudden Cardiac Death.” But it wasn’t just a heart attack.

“Listed as a contributing cause,” writes the Indianapolis Star’s Crystal Hill, “was Day’s hands being cuffed behind his back.”

In May 2019, a federal District Court agreed that Terrell Day’s mother, Shanika Day, had the right to sue Franklin Wooten, ruling that “reasonable officers would know they were violating an established right by leaving Day’s hands cuffed behind his back after he complained of difficulty breathing.”

But then Wooten appealed and Amy stepped up.

The most conservative judge on the most conservative court.

Amy Coney Barrett is a right-wing radical.

Looking at Barrett’s judicial record, Five Thirty-Eight didn’t just categorize her as a right-leaning justice on one of America’s most conservative courts. They concluded that “Barrett is one of the more conservative judges on the circuit — and maybe even the most conservative.” 

And considering the other judges, that’s quite a statement. 

When Franklin Wooten appealed to Barrett’s court, the Supreme Court nominee was flanked by two Reagan appointees who are still the greatest examples for packing the court with unqualified, conservative judges:

  • Daniel Anthony Manion: Like Barrett, Manion is a Notre Dame alumnus who isnotorious for his inability to write, spell or quote the Constitution. Manion was a supporter of the radical, right-wing John Birch Society which, among other things, alleged Martin Luther King Jr. was a communist who wanted to institute a “Soviet Negro Republic.” At the time of Manion’s nomination, he received one of the lowest American Bar Association judgeship rankings in history.
  • Frank H. Easterbrook: His ABA ranking was even worse than Manion’s because some members said was outright “unqualified.” The Chicago Council of Lawyers called him an “arrogant and intolerant” judge who “disregards the facts or the law.”

But according to the data, Barrett is more of a right-wing radical than either of these mediocre white men. And it’s not just abortion rights. Barrett has displayed the most far-right ideology in the areas of civil rights, criminal rights and discrimination suits. So when Wooten appealed to the Seventh Circuit, Coney and her unqualified justices reached an astonishing conclusion:

Terrell Day didn’t have the right to breathe.

The court accepted every fact of the case but determined that Wooten shouldn’t even stand trial. They essentially ruled that Wooten was immune from the consequences of his actions because “the only right [Day] can assert would be the right of an out-of-breath arrestee to not have his hands cuffed behind his back after he complains of difficulty breathing.” However, the judges woefully admitted that they could “find no Seventh Circuit precedent clearly establishing such a right.”

They wrote that down on paper.

One of Shanika Day’s attorneys called it a “radical departure” from prior cases while co-counsel Faith Alvarez said the ruling put the burden of proof “on the person who’s dying. It’s no longer on the police to be trained.”

The Unknown Amy Barrett

This is not even the tip of the Amy Coney Barrett iceberg.

She has also written that being called a “stupid-ass nigger” by one’s work supervisor doesn’t necessarily constitute a hostile work environment. She also voted to deny employees of Autozone a rehearing after her colleagues ruled that the auto parts giant didn’t violate the civil rights of its Black employees by forcing them to work exclusively in Black neighborhoods. She wrote that gun rights are as important as voting rights.

In a campus sexual assault appeals case, she literally argued against believing women. In a separate decision, a woman won a lawsuit after she sued for being “repeatedly raped by a prison guard.” A circuit court ruled that the prison shared responsibility for the sexual assaults.

Amy Comey Barrett voted to overturn it.

In a unanimous decision, Amy and the Conservative Court Jesters decided that the prison and the county could not be held liable because the numerous rapes “fell outside of the guard’s official duties” and “were in no way actuated by a purpose to serve county.”

There’s probably some other stuff too.

The problem is, we don’t know how much stuff.

“There is so much we still don’t know about Amy Coney Barrett because she has been less than one hundred percent forthcoming with the Senate about her past and refused to release her records from Notre Dame. That said, what we are learning about her public record as a judge is deeply disturbing,” said Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog Accountable US in a statement to The Root. “The family of Terrell Day deserved justice for his death, instead Coney Barrett decided Mr. Day had no legal right to have his continued complaints about not being able to breathe addressed by the officers holding him in custody. This sort of judgment is dangerous and it does not belong in the high court.”

Anyway… Your next Supreme Court justice will probably be a right-wing zealot who believes that Jesus has a panty preference, and would rather have women die than have certain medical procedures—if they can afford them.

But don’t worry, just take a deep breath…

It might be illegal soon if Amy Coney Barrett gets her say.

-Michael Harriot, https://www.theroot.com/unqualified-impunity-amy-coney-barrett-once-ruled-that-1845429637

Frey: Like Amy Coney Barrett, I’m a professional woman criticized for my big, Catholic family.

“Our culture tells women and girls, from a very young age, that patriarchal religion and fertility will only hold them back in life.”

Judge Amy Coney Barrett delivered her opening statement in her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. USA TODAY

Swirling around and within Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings this week, was discussion and criticism of her Catholic faith. But this isn’t the first time her faith was placed front and center during a confirmation process.null

In 2017, when the Notre Dame Law professor was nominated to her current position as judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein notoriously attempted to undermine Barrett’s legitimacy to serve precisely because she was Roman Catholic. Or, as Feinstein memorably put her objection, “The dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.” 

When it was later suggested to Feinstein that her remarks were anti-Catholic and unconstitutional (i.e., that she was imposing a religious test for fitness to serve and declaring faithful Catholics especially unfit) she balked and pointed to the fact that she went to Catholic schools and has Catholic friends. That this sort of hackneyed defense is common to many forms of bigotry did not dissuade her — she unapologetically insisted that Barrett’s writings informed by her faith were an obstacle to her service to her country, and that it was her duty to ask tough questions about it.

I, like so many Catholics, was dismayed and appalled by Feinstein’s remarks, in large part because they were all too familiar from my own experience.

Attacking faith and fertility

Of course, we Catholics have long been seen as harboring some hidden, nefarious agenda, which calls into question our fitness to hold positions of power or authority. But for faithful Catholic women in particular, especially those of us who cannot hide the fact that we strive to adhere to the Church’s unpopular teachings about sex and contraception — i.e., Catholic mothers of large families — this anti-Catholic bias takes an especially ugly, sexist form. Unfortunately, I know this all too well.

Six of 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett's seven children stand the Rose Garden Colonnade as they watch U.S. President Donald Trump's helicopter leave the White House from Sept. 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump announce Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court. With 38 days until the election, Trump tapped Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years and to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.
Six of 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s seven children stand the Rose Garden Colonnade as they watch U.S. President Donald Trump’s helicopter leave the White House from Sept. 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump announce Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court. With 38 days until the election, Trump tapped Barrett to be his third Supreme Court nominee in just four years and to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.

Like Barrett, I’m a successful professor and a Roman Catholic mother of many (I have six living children). Like Barrett, I see no deep or unresolvable conflict between my professional ambitions and my personal faith and family life. Like Barrett, I do not try to “do it all,” but rely on my supportive husband to do more than his fair share of domestic work and child-rearing. Finally, like Barrett, my faith and my fertility have unfortunately been placed front and center in discussions of whether I am the right person for the job.

For example, when I was first on the notoriously brutal academic job market in philosophy as a PhD student, visibly pregnant with my fourth child in my interviews, I was subjected to questions and comments such as, whether my work was really all about my religion, in the final analysis; and whether I think Catholic women can call themselves feminists. My personal favorite was when someone compared me (unfavorably) to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who was widely known for, among other things, opposing contraception mandates, even as I was in the midst of explicating and defending the views of an atheist philosopher. 

Notre Dame colleague: I’ve known Amy Coney Barrett for over 20 years. Her intellect and heart are unrivaled.null

All of this was in addition to the questions about how I would finish with all these kids; how I managed to get any work done at all; whether I planned to have more children once hired; and whether I had hired help at home.

None of this was appropriate for a job interview in philosophy, especially since my dissertation work did not address any questions about sex, God, religion, Catholicism, or feminist theory. The fact that I was a Catholic should not have been a factor in determining the quality or character of my research or my fitness to teach. And yet it came up, again and again.

Threatened by Catholic mothers

Anti-Catholicism, like many prejudices, is gendered in very specific ways. 

My husband is also Catholic and a philosopher, yet his faith never once come up in any of his job interviews, and his fatherhood was never perceived as a professional strike against him. He was never asked pointed questions about his faith and feminism; his views on abortion were of no interest to anyone. When I look at how Amy Coney Barrett is treated, both in the Senate and in the press, I see that exact same dynamic from my own life in play. Politics aside, I feel a strong solidarity with her. 

Barrett’s nomination raises a question: Why is a highly educated, professionally successful, Catholic mother of a large family so threatening? I think part of the reason is that, according to the prevailing cultural narrative, we are not supposed to exist. Our culture tells women and girls, from a very young age, that patriarchal religion and fertility will only hold them back in life — that the only viable path to happiness is through an embrace of personal autonomy, which the demands of family life threaten. Women who complicate this narrative — not by “having it all” or being perfect, but by embracing their roles as mothers while still having demanding careers — are typically not celebrated, but placed under suspicion.

Women who find meaning and fulfillment in family life and their church communities are also often condescended to, as if they are too stupid or victimized to know how to make better choices for themselves. One thinks of Emmanuel Macron’s flippant remarks about women with large families in Africa, which inspired the #postcardsformacron hashtag on Twitter. “Present me the woman,” he said, “who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.” Barrett problematizes this narrative we are so invested in, and this at least partly explains the visceral nature of some of the negative reaction to her rise to power.

Of course, it is only a partial explanation, but still an important one. Amy Coney Barrett is a conservative justice and more than competent and strong enough to defend her own judicial and academic record; I expect her to sail through her confirmation. But she should not have to defend herself as a mother of seven or as a Roman Catholic to serve on our highest court. If Amy Coney Barrett is unqualified to serve on the Supreme Court this will have nothing to do with her Catholicism or large family.

That much of the press has busied itself writing fear mongering pieces about her personal faith is disgusting and blatantly anti-Catholic, but also a touch absurd. After all, if a faithful Catholic woman, who was educated in Catholic schools and has spent most of her life in Catholic institutions, can be this accomplished and successful, maybe — just maybe — the Catholic Church is not as oppressive to women as so many seem to assume.   null

-Jennifer A. Frey is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, and the host of thevirtueblog.com and the philosophy and literature podcast, Sacred and Profane Love. Follow her on Twitter: @jennfrey

Originally posted here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/10/15/amy-coney-barrett-catholic-big-family-religion-bias-column/3642952001/

Strachan: Shame

There is no shame quite like the shame of Adam and Eve. We read of their sin in Genesis 3 and cover our mouths in horror. They heard the very voice of God call them to obedience, to abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they did not obey him. They listened, but not to God. They listened to the serpent and his antiwisdom. We should not think of ourselves as better than they were; we are Adam and Eve in our life’s story, not the hero.

But if their shame was great, the righteousness of God in response was greater. The Lord himself slaughtered animals and made garments for the man and the woman. He provided them with warmth and comfort, even after their titanic act of disobedience. They abandoned God, but he did not abandon them. This act speaks to the ultimate clothing, the “righteousness of Christ,” which God gives to all who will call upon him in repentance and faith.

The Lord himself provided the goats for Adam and Eve; the Lord himself has provided us with “the righteousness of him who is the Lamb of God, as Jonathan Edwards says. We lost our “primitive glory” in the Fall, the glory God gave to humankind before we trespassed. But though our loss was great, the weight of the second glorious gift far surpasses the first. We gain the very holiness of the Son of God himself. Even after our desecration of the will of God, he does not leave us alone, naked and without warmth. He gives the righteous robes of Christ to us, and never allows us to lose them.

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. — 2 Corinthians 5:19

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands, 285.

Christ Be Exalted

Christ be exalted over all things
In heaven and earth none is more worthy
Christ be exalted, every knee bowed down
Surrounding Your throne
To praise You alone
Christ be exalted

We run to drink from empty wells
That long ago ran dry
When Jesus is the fountain
Who always satisfies

No one compares to You, O Lord
All earthly treasures fail
From dust to dust they will return
Our God alone prevails

No sacrifice, no greater love
Than Jesus on the tree
To bear our curse and show His grace
To set the sinner free

Packer: Naught Changeth Thee

“God does not change. Let us draw out this thought.

1. God’s life does not change. He is “from everlasting” (Ps.93:2), “an everlasting King” (Jer. 10:10), “incorruptible” (Rom. 1:23), “who only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Ps. 90:2). Earth and heaven, says the psalmist, “shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end” (Ps. 102:26 f.). “‘I am the first,’ says God. ‘I am also the last’” (Isa. 48:12).

Created things have a beginning and an ending, but not so their Creator. The answer to the child’s question, “who made God?,” is simply that God did not need to be made, for He was always there. He exists for ever; and He is always the same. He does not grow older. His life does not wax or wane. He does not gain new powers, nor lose those that He once had. He does not mature or develop. He does not get stronger, or weaker, or wiser, as time goes by. “He cannot change for the better,” wrote A. W. Pink, “for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.” The first and fundamental difference between the Creator and His creatures is that they are mutable and their nature admits of change, whereas God is immutable and can never cease to be what He is.

As the hymn puts it,

“We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish-but nought changeth Thee.”

-J. I. Packer, Knowing God.

Bird: The Fundamentalist War on Wokeness is a War on Christian Love

“My daughter recently came to me late one night, rather upset, and she showed me a video that her Bible study had been watching, and it was rather staggering. In the video, a certain Jeff Durbin – who I’ve never heard of, but looks like he’s trying to do a 2005 Mark Driscoll impersonation – said:

The woke evangelical whore is a slut who lies down in the middle a burning city, spreading her legs to the rioters and looters, spreading her legs to Marx, Engels, Alinsky, and Sorros …

In addition, Owen Strachan, who I have cordially met, has delivered a series of talks decrying wokeness and its influence on the evangelical churches. This has met with much commentary.

Okay, let me try to be that rare voice of reason in this asylum of politics and religion.

I know wokeness, believe me, I live in Melbourne, comically known as Melbingrad, one of the wokest cities in the world, where the Government is so progressive it makes California look like Alabama. The State govt. even created a second COVID wave by hiring security guards to operate quarantine facilities, who were trained in diversity awareness but not in infection control (which is why I’ve spent the last three months living under quasi martial-law).

I have written for political mags critiquing the progressive authoritarianism that demonizes the working class for voting for BREXIT and Trump. I’m an eager consumer of news outlets like Quillette, Heterodox Academy, SpikedOnline, and follow authors like Douglas Murray, who are dedicated to standing up to the bohemian bourgeois on subjects like freedom of speech and women’s rights. I also know very well that the progressive identity hierarchy divides everyone into either the oppressor or the oppressed, it imputes to ethnicities certain immutable moral characteristics, and (worst of all) it viciously attacks minorities if they do not obediently perform their roles in the identity hierarchy. For case in point, Vicky Osterweil’s book In Defense of Looting, makes the morally monstrous claim that looting Korean businesses is okay, because Koreans, like Jews, are the faces of capital. So you might expect me to be sympathetic to the anti-woke rhetoric of Durbin and Strachan, but I’m not, so let me explain why.

The whole anti-woke and anti-critical race theory trope strike me as not so much interested in opposing progressive authoritarianism and its divisive racial politics, as much as it serves to deny ethnic minorities have any grievances and white churches have any responsibility to do anything about it.

In my mind, acknowledging the reality of racism, discrimination, and injustice – whether historical, cultural, institutional – and determining to change it, does not require adherence to a Marxist narrative, or becoming Woke. Rather, it is the outworking of the liberal political tradition rooted in a Christian worldview where everyone should have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities. Where, to quote George Washington quoting Scripture, “Everyone will sit under their own fig tree and no-one will make them afraid.”

Churches and Christian leaders who are concerned with racism, police brutality, affordable healthcare, protecting refugees, acting on poverty, ending sex trafficking, urging sustainable environmental policy, ensuring LGBTI people have the right to work, as well as defending the unborn, promoting end-of-life care as an alternative to euthanasia, safeguarding religious freedom, opposing the gambling and pornographic industries, they are not whoring or compromised. They are simply doing what Christians have been doing for 2000 years which is loving their neighbour, remembering the poor, being the Good Samaritan, imitating Jesus, hating evil, loving good, and establishing justice in the gate of the city.

If you want to talk about evangelical whoring, it applies just as easily to churches who have tethered themselves to white supremacy, who have fattened their hearts in the days of slaughter, who messianize politicians and Caearize Jesus, who crave war like a baby craves its mother’s milk, who engage in a form of civil religion that combines the worst of racial prejudices with myths of national infallibility. That evangelical is the false prophet who leads others to bow down and worship the beast with feet made of Darwinian economics, legs comprised of corporations and colonies, a stomach of moral indifference to the suffering of others, arms made of confederacy and misogyny, and a head made of the military-industrial complex.

So don’t buy into the lie that acknowledging a history of racial injustice and prioritizing the pursuit of racial justice is wokeness. Don’t buy into the lie that all social justice is driven by Marxist ideology. It is not! It is what the prophets commanded, what Jesus expects of his followers, what the church has accepted as normal, and what constitutional democracies with a Christian heritage should aspire to, not in spite of, but precisely because of their Christian heritage.

Let me be clear, love of neighbour requires you to be concerned for the just treatment of your neighbour, whether they are Black, Hispanic, First Peoples, LGBT, migrant, Muslim, working-class, or even Baptist. Any derogation of a Christian’s duty to be concerned about the welfare and just-treatment of their neighbour is an attack on the biblical love command itself.”

-Michael F. Bird, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2020/10/the-fundamentalist-war-on-wokeness-is-a-war-on-christian-love/

Coley: What if America is just another empire?

“What if America is just like all the other empires? What if America’s power and wealth aren’t a mark of divine favor, but merely a byproduct of empire-building?

And what if, by mistaking the fruits of empire for God’s blessing, Christian nationalists have gotten confused about what sorts of things God favors—confused about the features of our civilization that believers should make an effort to cultivate and amplify into the future?

For example, what if it’s just a very, very bad thing that our government systematically slaughtered and dispossessed indigenous peoples and desecrated their sacred places? What if that’s just all there is to it: no manifest destiny, nothing redeeming about it—just really bad?

And what if it’s just very, very bad that a lot of America’s early wealth issued from labor that was straightforwardly stolen from people who were kidnapped and sold into slavery. What if that’s just evil, full stop?

Read the Exodus account and ask yourself where you fit into the narrative. If you’re a white American evangelical, you’re not among the Israelites—plainly, you’re with the Egyptians. And why think the American empire is any different from that of Egypt, or Babylon, or Rome?

I don’t understand what Christian nationalists are up to, theologically speaking. I just can’t imagine the early Church concerning itself with Rome’s GDP or reputation on the world stage. The greatness of the Roman Empire was perfectly irrelevant to Christ and his followers.

Of course, as an American, I might concern myself with the American economy, national security, etc. But my concern for such things will be tempered by my Christian faith; it certainly won’t be a consequence of my faith. 

The notion that Christianity stands in a special relationship to America makes about as much sense as the idea that Jesus took on flesh to make Rome great again—which is to say, it makes no sense at all: it misunderstands what Christianity is about.

So when, as Christians, we see our nation pursue policies that threaten the well-being of orphans and immigrants in our midst, we really don’t have any business asking whether these policies are good for America. That’s not our concern.

Our concern should be for the ones oppressed, regardless of whether that concern is consistent with ephemeral notions of what makes America great.

Christ has no use for the cultural nostalgia of white American churchgoers: he doesn’t much care for the films of John Wayne. Christ simply doesn’t care whether America is great, or ever was or will be again.”

-Scott Coley, https://faithphilosophyandpolitics.org/2020/10/06/what-if-america-is-just-another-empire/