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/

He Is Our God

Who can light the fires
Of a thousand burning suns
Blazing in the heavens?
There is only One
He is our God

Who commands the nations
Building up and tearing down
Silencing His rivals?
There is only One
He is our God, He is our God

Holy, You alone are holy
Matchless in Your glory, holy God

Who would come to save us
When we turned away His love
Conquer us with kindness?
There is only One
He is our God, He is our God

Holy, You alone are holy
Matchless in Your glory, no one is like You
Worthy, You alone are worthy
We adore You only, holy God

Now to the King on the throne
Who was and is to come
And to the Lamb Who was slain be glory

-Music and Words by Jon Althoff and Bob Kauflin © 2017 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP) Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Churches. All rights reserved. Administrated worldwide at http://www.CapitolCMGPublishing.com, excluding the UK which is adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family. http://www.SovereignGraceMusic.org

Knox: A Confession and Prayer

O dreadful and most mighty God,

You that from the beginning have declared Yourself a consuming fire against despisers of Your most holy precepts and yet to the penitent sinners has always shown Yourself a favorable Father and a God full of mercy:

We, Your creatures and workmanship of Your own hands, confess ourselves most unworthy to open our eyes unto the heavens, but far less to appear in Your presence, For our consciences accuse us, and our manifest iniquities have borne witness against us that we have declined from You, We have been polluted with idolatry; we have given Your glory to creatures; we have sought support where it was not to be found and have taken lightly Your most wholesome admonitions. The manifest corruption of our lives in all areas evidently proves that we have not rightly regarded Your statutes, laws, and holy ordinances; and this was done, O Lord, not only in the time of our blindness, but even now, when of Your mercy You hast opened unto us an entrance to Your heavenly kingdom by the preaching of Your holy gospel, the whole body of this miserable nation still continueth in their former impiety. For the most part—alas!—following the footsteps of the blind and obstinate leaders, utterly despise the light of Your gospel and delight in ignorance and idolatry; others live as a people without God and without all fear of Your terrible judgments. And some, O Lord, that in mouth profess Your blessed gospel, by their slanderous life blaspheme the same.

We are not ignorant, O Lord, that You are a righteous Judge that cannot suffer iniquity long to be unpunished in the obstinate transgressors, especially, O Lord, when that after such long blindness and horrible defection from You, so lovingly You call us again to Your favor and fellowship, and yet we do obstinately rebel. We have, O Lord, in our extreme misery, called unto You; yes, even when we appeared utterly to have been consumed in the fury of our enemies, then did You mercifully incline Your ears unto us. You fought for us even by Your own power, when in us there was neither wisdom nor force. You alone break the yoke from our necks and set us at liberty, when we by our foolishness had made ourselves slaves unto strangers; mercifully unto this day have You continued with us the light of Your gospel and so cease not to heap on us benefits both spiritual and temporal.

But yet—alas!—O Lord, we clearly see that our great ingratitude craves further punishment at Your hands, the signs of which are evident before our eyes. For the whispering of sedition, the contempt of Your graces offered, and the maintenance of idolatry are assured signs of Your further plagues to fall on us in particular for our grievous offenses. And this immeasurable intemperance of the air does also threaten Your accustomed plague of famine that commonly followeth riotous excess and contempt of the poor, where with, alas, the whole earth is replenished. We have nothing, O Lord, that we may lay between us and Your judgment but Your only mercy freely offered to us in Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, purchased to us by His death and passion. For if You will enter into judgment with Your creatures and keep in mind our grievous sins and offenses, then can there no flesh escape condemnation.

Therefore, we most humbly beseech You, O Father of mercies, for Christ Jesus Your Son’s sake, to take from us these stony hearts, which so long have heard as well Your mercies as severe judgments and yet have not been effectually moved with the same, and give unto us hearts mollified by Your Spirit that may both conceive and keep in mind the reverence that is due unto Your majesty.

Look, O Lord, unto Your chosen children laboring under the imperfections of the flesh and grant unto us that victory which You have promised unto us by Jesus Christ Your Son, our only Savior, Mediator, and Lawgiver, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and praise, now and ever. Amen.

-John Knox, Taken from Laing, Works of John Knox, 6:294-96. [language modernized]