Category Archives: Christianity

Special Treatment

I recently ran across a comment someone made about sodomy. The author claimed to be a Christian, and was upset that other Christians made a big deal about sodomy and same-sex attraction. “What’s the deal with Christians and homosexuality?” It sounded like the start of a bad joke. Ultimately, his solution was to “be kind and let God sort it out”, unlike all those evil, mean “fundamentalists”.

This was all very odd. For one thing, it seems strange to put the cultural focus on same-sex attraction at the feet of Christians. If anything, Christians are slow to respond to a total moral inversion in the West regarding sodomy. Within a generation, anti-sodomy laws were replaced by laws against any critique of sodomy. That means in less than 20 years, what was considered so evil as to be punishable by law became so good as to have any opposition to it punishable by law. Christians are making too big a deal out of this?

It gets worse though. God doesn’t allow Christians to “be kind and let God sort it out”. That sounds a bit like Christianity without the Gospel. What did Christ die for if there is no sin?

But things can get worse still. Paul spends a great deal of time condemning same-sex sexual sin. He calls it shameful, and he even says talking about it is shameful in Ephesians 5:

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God…

…For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

So while our friend wants to condemn Christians for taking issue with same-sex acts, it turns out Paul was disgusted by them and treated them as utterly contemptible and shameful. The acts are called abominations throughout Scripture for good reason. For some reason, modern Western Christians would rather eject you from your congregation for having a natural, God-given gag reflex than for engaging in same-sex sin. This is totally backwards.

The thing about sodomy and same-sex sexual sin in general is that it is so damaging to one’s body and soul that it serves as its own punishment. As Paul says in Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Where Paul and the rest of Scripture treats sexual sin in especially harsh terms, the modern, Western Christian treats it in especially soft and careful terms, if at all. That tells us more about the theology of such people than anything else.

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Presuppositional Apologetics as a Weak Point

This post will be brief, but I’ll still provide a disclaimer: Theologically conservative Reformed churches are Christian churches, and this topic is an internal one between fellow Christians. I myself am not a Calvinist (for what I believe are very good reasons), but I don’t deny that Calvinists have true Christian faith. With that out of the way…

Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til developed the concept of presuppositional apologetics (PA from here on out in this post) as a result of his theological work. When you combine the central tenets of Calvinism and push them to their most extreme form, you end up with the view that nothing in the entire world can be properly understood without the “light of the main doctrines of Christianity”, in Van Til’s words. In his mind, there is no such thing as a neutral ground of reason where both Christian and non can debate ideas. Even offering evidences outside of Christianity thus grants non-Christians their own presuppositions, meaning an apologist fails before he starts*.

If PA is the naturally outworking of a fully formed Reformed theological system, though, we have a problem. The Bible has many accounts where evidence is offered to non-Christians. The context of these passages makes it clear that such evidence is offered to convince people of the truth of Christianity (Jesus does this, for example, with His miracles and His fulfillment of prophecy. Paul does it as well, “reasoning” with the Greeks).

That means Jesus Himself and the Apostles don’t seem to understand the importance of PA, which is unattested in Scripture. More likely, Jesus and the Apostles do not see the value in PA (if they did, they presumably would have used that tactic).

This isn’t just a problem for PA, though. If PA really is the logical outworking of a strong Calvinist theology, then to reject PA is to reject the theological framework which necessitates it. That makes PA a huge liability for extreme Calvinists:

  • Logical conclusion of reformed theology -> Presuppositional apologetics
  • Presuppositional apologetics are not Biblical (it is both not attested, and its inverse offering evidence is well attested)
  • Therefore the logical conclusion of reformed theology is not Biblical
  • (Modus Tollens: P -> Q. Not Q. Therefore not P)

 


*I once got into an argument on social media with (Calvinist) James White, only to have my faith impugned because I didn’t agree with PA. This view really is the logical outworking of Calvinism, so much so that it seems to hold its own against doctrines like the Divinity of Christ and His death by the cross when some Calvinists determine if people are genuine in their faith.

Double Standards

Dalrock posted about one Lori Alexander who wrote an article that, whatever her intentions, served primarily to prove the existence of the Overton Window.

Phylicia Masonheimer was not going to take such an article without comment. Apparently, she married a man who was “bearing fruit”. Who had a “servant heart”. Who was “faithful”. Who “desired to grow in grace and knowledge of our Savior”. He had tattoos and debt and had slept with other women, but he met whatever her criteria was.

The target audience of Lori Alexander is too young to have slept around, but they are presumably Christians. She recommends that they remain sexually pure for their husbands, because husbands find that attractive. This would make their sexual purity a sort of “fruit of the spirit”, it would seem. For whatever reason, this fruit is not like that of Phylicia Masonheimer’s husband. It’s not appropriate to expect it or search for it.

Phylicia Masonheimer thinks this is legalistic. It grieves God to offer this advice. It isn’t Christianity. Because Lori Alexander is offering marriage advice which is not equivalent to the Gospel, she is wrong. Because Lori Alexander says that things besides faith in Christ are attractive to a spouse, she is “adding to the simplicity of faith”, which is “a distraction from what really matters”. Apparently, her advice is for women to find a guy who acts like a Christian and claims to be one, ignore everything he has ever done in his past, and be willing to marry him. Asking for anything else is not Christianity.

But she has an entire article on how to “choose a godly man”. Apparently, she does have some criteria after all.

Among them, the man needs to:

  1. Revere God and delight in His word
  2. Be relationally [sic], financially, and spiritually wise
  3. Be gracious, compassionate, and righteous
  4. Be generous and steadfast
  5. Have faith in God’s will and timing
  6. Be bold
  7. Be conscious of the needs of others

She follows it up by saying:

“…let these principles, given in God’s word, be your guide as you look for God’s man. And to the measure you use for a potential spouse, remember – he’ll be using the same measure for you. [bold in original]”

She justifies her criticism of Lori Alexander by saying:

In the name of Christianity, however, it articulated rules which are found nowhere in Scripture.

That’s not exactly true. Avoiding debt is an example of being financially wise, which she listed as one of her criteria for godliness (and how a woman should measure a potential spouse).

Being sexually pure isn’t on Phylicia Masonheimer’s list explicitly, but revering God implies sexual purity. And virginity, for someone who has always revered God.

The portions speaking of women living in obedience to their husbands is found throughout the New Testament. I’m sure Phylicia Masonheimer has read these passages before and promptly rationalized them away, but they remain in Scripture, against her claim.

The claims about college and its effects seem directly related to being spiritually wise. Worthless degrees and liberal indoctrination are not things a spiritually wise person endures voluntarily.

In fact, working through each of Lori Alexander’s suggestions, all can be related to one of the things which Phylicia Masonheimer herself has provided. But even if they couldn’t be, the Bible is not an instruction manual for finding a spouse. For all her talk about the importance of the Gospel and the clarity of the central Christian message, she seems to be deeply confused about the purpose of Scripture itself. While it offers advice on finding a spouse, it is not the sum total of all the things a man or a woman is looking for in the opposite sex. Men and women can and ought to look for more in a spouse than the limited items in Scripture. A man who wants children should not marry a woman who doesn’t like children or want them around. You don’t need it explicitly written in Scripture.

Phylicia Masonheimer has confused marriage advice with the Gospel. If we were to do the same with her article on marriage advice, we could ask why she would add so many things to the Gospel, when God forgives our mistakes. Her article is a non sequitur. And, it reveals a disturbing double standard: the imperatives of feminism (women getting college degrees, careers, postponing children, and living a life of sexual “liberty”) cannot be contradicted when offering marriage advice. To do so, in her eyes, is to impugn the Gospel. But any other marriage advice that allows for these imperatives is appropriate and not even worth commenting on.

The Gospel Coalition Guide to Undermining Christian Marriage

(h/t to bdash 77 over at Dalrock’s blog)

The Gospel Coalition has published a step-by-step guide on how to reject the Biblical rules for marriage and then, to throw off anyone orthodox enough to try and stop you, they demonstrate how to hide your tracks with bombast and exaggeration. There’s an epidemic of men locking their wives in closets! (pay no attention to the conspicuous lack of lawsuits)

“A Hidden Epidemic God Hates”, written by one Steve Hoppe on May 11th of this year, begins with what appears to be a horror movie still and this quote, which is also meant to scare you:

Tom micromanages his wife Sarah’s physical appearance to fit his personal tastes. He picks out her clothes, tells her how she can do her hair, and restricts her diet so she remains thin. When Sarah confronts him on his controlling behavior, he cites Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.”

The word “submit” appears only once in this article, and it’s in this opening paragraph. Steve never addresses Ephesians 5:22. In fact, he never cites a single passage in the Bible regarding marriage to make his case.

Sarah, if she is a real person, doesn’t want to submit to her husband when it comes to her physical appearance or her diet. Whatever it is that constitutes her diet, it apparently keeps her healthy, though she is described as “thin” so we don’t accidentally misread this attempt at a horror story. Sarah obeys her husband, as she is commanded in Scripture. This obedience is framed as victimhood.

A real Sarah – Abraham’s wife – was praised by the Apostle Paul himself for her obedience. She planned to commit adultery at the request of her husband (it’s the only example of her obedience we have). Paul apparently doesn’t have the insights of The Gospel Coalition. Had he known what they know, he would have condemned Abraham for his spiritual abuse, rather than praise Sarah for her obedience. As we’ll soon see, Steve condemns husbands who ask for sex even for themselves, so this isn’t a stretch.

Miranda is an overprotective mother. She homeschools her 17-year-old daughter, Kate, to prevent her from being exposed to rebellious teenagers. She won’t allow her to play sports, attend dances, or get her driver’s license. She cites 1 Corinthians 15:33 as her justification for parenting this way: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

The only thing noteworthy in this story is the use of the term “overprotective mother”. I presume Steve had to include the term “overprotective”, else readers would scratch their heads wondering what was wrong here.

Bill forces his wife Angie to have sex against her will. He’s rough in bed and occasionally strikes her when they’re being intimate. He cites 1 Corinthians 7:4 as his allowance for doing so: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.”

“Force” is an interesting term in a relationship in which sex is pledged at the start. Steve has decided, for whatever reason, not to use the clearest passage in Scripture regarding sexual duties, that being the next verse: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

I suppose if he included the full context, then a wife who had to be forced against her will to have sex would clearly be a wife rebelling against her husband and God.

All three of these stories are attempts by the author to illustrate “spiritual abuse”. What are his specific examples of spiritual abuse? If nothing else, they are revealing. Here are some of the more interesting selections:


Physically harming you.

There’s no limits on this one. Spanking a child or slapping a face are both “spiritual abuse” here. Forget about the rod of Proverbs.

Pressuring you to engage in sexual activity.

A wife can apparently deny her husband sexual activity for the duration of their marriage, and not be guilty of spiritual abuse. After all, as Steve explicitly states, spiritual abuse can only occur when someone is in spiritual authority over someone else. That would always be husbands. Wives are not even capable of spiritual abuse. They can disobey every command regarding sex and remain innocent here, while their husbands can ask just one time too many and be condemned.

Insulting you or calling you names.

Insulting or calling names seems fair enough, until you consider that both are easy accusations for anything you don’t like to hear. “You called me fat!” is an insult and a name, and an obvious accusation to make when your husband suggests you go on a diet. Speaking of…

Forcing you to diet or exercise.

Heaven forbid. Steve has a particular problem with evil husbands demanding that their wives stay healthy.

Threatening you.

This makes most of Scripture a form of spiritual abuse. God threatens people all the time. God’s prophets make threats. Christ’s Apostles make threats. If you are forbidden from making threats, you cannot exercise spiritual authority. You can only passively wait for people to listen to you if they choose to, which puts the authority in those who are commanded to submit. This role-reversal is a common feminist Christian tactic.

Restricting your ability to access financial information.

I’ve known several marriages that have ended when the husband or the wife (almost always the wife) has spent money behind her husband’s back and bankrupted the family. Apparently, a husband who seeks real safeguards to this is abusive.

 

Preventing you from working.

Are you noticing a theme here? Any time a husband wants his wife to do something, any time a husband expects his wife to submit to him about something, it is a form of spiritual abuse. Steve doesn’t provide a single meaningful example of a husband who has spiritual authority over his wife acting in a practical way.

Telling you what you can and cannot say in small groups, church, or other social settings.

This is too all-encompassing. Are we really to presume that parents can’t tell their children what to say when they are around other adults?

Locking you in rooms, closets, or basements.

This one is meant to shock you. It’s meant to catch you off guard in case you’ve been questioning this list.

Taking away your access to transportation.

Grounding your child is a form of spiritual abuse.

Blocking your contact with counselors, mentors, or other spiritual figures.

Does this include Imams? How about psychologists who advise your wife to divorce you because she is unhappy?

Punishing you for your sins.

Remember the book of Proverbs? Every time it provides instructions for disciplining your children, it’s actually teaching you how to spiritually abuse them.


 

It became apparent to me, as I read through this article, that Steve wasn’t sure if he was writing against husbands who exercise their spiritual authority or for parents who exercise authority over their children. I suspect he came up with his definition and realized it applied to parents, so he tossed in a story about an overprotective mother and then forgot that near half of his examples of spiritual abuse are actually things that are commanded for parents when dealing with their children.

It goes further, though. Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in the same way children are. A wife is not a child and isn’t to be treated as a child, but she is in the same position of spiritual submission. Many of these supposed forms of spiritual abuse, then, are simply real acts that a spiritual authority can use over those he oversees.

Steve hates these things, but Steve hating these things isn’t very profound. He needs to find a way to say that God hates these things. So what does he do?

In Titus 1, Paul rebukes Jewish Christians who were teaching heresy for selfish gain (sounds a lot like spiritual abuse, doesn’t it?):

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. . . . They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:10–11,16)

God detests spiritual abuse.

He finds a passage that has nothing to do with marriage or parenting and claims it applies to the home. Condemning heresy is framed as an equivalent to condemning patriarchal family structures and the acts which enforce that structure. This doesn’t work, though.

He should have chosen a different passage for another reason. Part of Paul’s condemnation of these heretics is that they are “insubordinate”. They refuse to submit. This passage is the condemnation of insubordination to real spiritual authorities, not of spiritual authority wielded for selfish gain.

Pastors and church leaders, it’s long past time we stand up against all forms of abuse. This includes spiritual abuse in the church and the home. Domestic spiritual abuse is far more common than you think. It hurts innocent sheep daily. It destroys the fabric of families and churches.

Steve ends his post against the role of husbands in marriage by calling pastors to help him bring down the patriarchy. Having established that spiritual abuse just is that set of acts which give teeth to spiritual authority, his condemnation of spiritual abuse and his call to arms is an inquisition into any real forms of spiritual hierarchy in the churches of his readers. Since only men can be spiritual abusers in marriage, only wives can be the victims of spiritual abuse. In this way, Steve has found the ultimate Christianesque form of a get-out-of-marriage-free card. Wives need only identify a single example of their husbands attempting to exercise spiritual authority and BAM, spiritual abuse.

Without even feigning respect for the passages of Scripture that describe how Christian husbands and wives are to live together, he condemns them all. After all, who cares about Paul when we have these millions of women locked up in cages?

Is Marriage Possible?

For Christians, marriage involves a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church and a wife who submits to her husband as the church submits to Christ. The husband is to love his wife even unto death, and a wife is to submit to her husband in everything. There are no exceptions.

These are impossible standards for mere humans to live up to, but that’s the nature of perfect moral standards. It isn’t a defect in them.

Husbands are also to teach their wives about spiritual things. They are to “wash [their] wives with the word [of God]”. Paul says that only men are to preach because Eve was deceived; naturally then, this role falls to men.

I’m convinced Christian marriage doesn’t exist in the West. Christian marriage isn’t just difficult today. It is actually impossible. We have only clumsy attempts, and can get nothing more.

In the military and in other hierarchies where real submission to authority takes place, there are safeguards to enforce the structure. Punishments exist for those who disobey orders. The mere fact of these consequences is enough to deter the majority of those who might be tempted to disregard their superiors.

In Western marriages, there have also been safeguards against disobedience. Husbands had tremendous control over their wives. While the modern mind might be tempted to think of physical violence, there were more effective ways to accomplish the goal. Women needed husbands to have any political voice, as only men would qualify to vote, serve in officer corps of the military, or in the court of a king. Christian civilization had mercy for widows, but none for adulteresses. It had roles for women who abstained from marriage, but disdain for women who abandoned their vows. Husbands could rely on all of these things to get the job done so they could focus on Christ’s command for them: to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

None of these things exist today. There are no negative social consequences for women who divorce their husbands, who sleep around while married or not. In fact, women who unilaterally divorce their husbands are often rewarded by courts stacked in their favor. Women don’t have to break their family apart on the outside to rebel, though. With universal suffrage, a house can be divided on the inside; husbands and wives can vote against each other, bringing the government into their home like some totalitarian’s dream.

There are no social restraints to keep a wife submissive toward her husband. And there are no legal actions available to men to do so on their own. In fact, a man who tries to enforce his authority in any way will bring only scorn.

Submission is impossible to enforce, so we are required to trust that women will simply submit out of their own good nature. But women are sinners, just like men. And women, as Paul says, were the first to be deceived, being more likely than men to be manipulated. Our fundamentally feminist culture has honed its skill in manipulation.

Since submission is impossible to enforce, and impossible to produce without enforcement, and since submission is fully half of what makes a Christian marriage, I posit that Christian marriage is not simply difficult in 2018. It is impossible.

Drinking to the Glory of God

From a relatively obscure ministry website comes this article on alcohol. Or, more appropriately, on the evils of drinking it:

I write because I am terribly concerned with the approach to alcohol by my generation of pastors, and more, the approach to alcohol by the next generation of pastors. There appears to be a growing trend of young pastors embracing the use of alcohol.

It’s worth pointing out that we already have a case of fallacious equivocation. The author of the article uses the terms “alcohol abuse” and “use of alcohol” synonymous, which is then used as evidence for total abstinence of alcohol.

During a meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention there was a question asked of Al Mohler concerning the use of alcohol. He masterfully answered the question, informing everyone in the room that in order to be a part of the faculty or a student at Southern one must agree to abstain from alcohol. But during that same meeting a pastor many younger pastors admire quipped that he enjoyed a beer occasionally. Smiles all around.

What is left out is what else Mohler said, amounting to an admission that drinking alcohol is not inherently sinful and can be done in an appropriate way. We eventually get a bit of honesty, but what we discover is concerning:

I know all the arguments: having one drink is not a sin, having a drink will not send you to Hell, Jesus drank wine, the disciples drank wine, on and on it goes. I have heard them all. But I am convinced if one does a study of the Bible from beginning to end, he will find an overwhelmingly negative view of the use of alcohol.

The fact that Jesus turned water to wine, that Jesus drank wine, that Jesus passed a cup of wine at the Last Supper, that Paul recommended wine to Timothy, and that the Old Testament is filled with drinking and merriment are arguments the author already knows. Presumably, he’s also dismissed them, although he gives no reason to motivate this.

Consider Proverb 23:29 -31: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. So do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper.”

We return to the fallacious equivocation, but not for the last time. Here, verses are cited from Scripture that condemn drinking in excess, and then these verse are applied to drinking in any quantity. But that’s poor exegesis. The purpose of these verses is to warn against excess, lingering “too long over wine”. If it applied to any alcohol in any quantity, you’d think Jesus Himself would have avoided it instead of creating and consuming it.

I know those verses to be true. Until I was 14 years old I had an alcoholic father. Though a very intelligent and talented person my father chose to drink alcohol. I have few memories of him when he was not intoxicated. I have lots of memories of him intoxicated.

This is a tragic situation, and it may be closer to the author’s conviction than any Scriptural, logical, or historical reason. Again, however, he commits his fallacy. A man who drinks alcohol is not an alcoholic. An alcoholic, like a drug addict, is someone who abuses the substance; just as a glutton is not a person who eats food, but a person who abuses his appetites.

The author goes on to cite a lot of statistics that result alcoholism or drunk driving, but they do not contribute to the overall case for abstinence of alcohol any more than statistics on obesity contribute to an overall case for abstinence of food.

When does drunkenness start? Drunkenness is sinful. Someone says “,I wasn’t drunk, I was a little buzzed.” Well, wouldn’t we have to say when someone’s state is altered it is drunkenness? If one never drinks alcohol, he never has to worry about becoming drunk or when being drunken starts.

Not drinking alcohol certainly implies not getting drunk, but not getting drunk does not imply not drinking alcohol. That is to say, there is a large margin where one can drink alcohol and not be drunk. Alcohol produces a relaxing and calming effect pretty quickly when consumed, but no one would argue that this is “drunkenness” any more than consuming a meal is gluttony. This parallel is important, because it demonstrates a key attribute about God and His Creation – many good things can become bad things when abused, but are not inherently bad as a result. Food, drink, exercise, and sleep are all excellent in the right amounts, but awful when abused to excess.

The Bible condemns gluttony and sloth in the same way it condemns drunkenness, but the author does not therefore conclude that one should abstain food and sleep in order to avoid worrying about where the line is.

Is it worth it? If drinking escalates and drinking alcohol costs your ministry, is it worth it? If your child sees you drinking and grows up with the view it is “OK to have a beer,” but he or she goes on to be an alcoholic, is it worth it? If your child drinks at the legal age but has just a hair too much, but just enough to cause an accident and it kills him or her, is your occasional beer worth it? If one of your congregants sees you or hears of you having a beer and is turned off from the Gospel or begins drinking assuming if you do it, it must be ok and it leads him or her to alcoholism, is it worth it?

What if taking pain killers causes a person to abuse drugs? Are occasional pain killers worth it? What if driving when just a hair too tired causes an accident?  Is occasional night driving worth it?

The fact is, alcoholism is an awful, terrible thing. But alcoholism is not defined as “drinking alcohol”.

The last example just seems silly. If a Christian sees another Christian drinking a beer and is thus turned off from the Gospel, they aren’t a Christian in the first place. I have a hard time even imagining a non-Christian being pushed away from the Gospel by seeing a Christian drink a beer, but I’ve actually witnessed some being attracted to the Gospel by seeing Christians drink reasonably.

Should we be ingesting anything God says bites like a serpent and stings like a viper?

God said drunkenness bites like a serpent and stings like a viper, not alcohol. The context was drunkenness, “lingering too long over wine”. The Bible condemns drunkenness. It does not condemn alcohol.

You would think if God had meant this to apply to alcohol itself, then God taking on human nature would have refrained from drinking it, let alone creating it for his friends.

Is Jesus not enough? So many say, “I have a drink to help me relax; I need a drink to help me relax.” What happened to presenting our requests to God and allowing the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus? Now that is relaxing!

I suspect the author does things to relax that are not limited to prayer. Does he sit down after doing a lot of hard, manual labor? Does he watch a little TV or read a book after a stressful week?

Why not present his request to God and allow God’s peace to guard his heart and mind instead?

If you are not drinking for an altered state, why drink alcohol? There is not a beer on earth (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter) that tastes better than sweet tea or your favorite soda.

The author, abstaining from all alcohol, is probably not the best suited to tell others about the taste of alcohol. Scotch, bourbon, rum, whiskey, myriad beers and wines all taste incredible, and while I have never been intoxicated (which the Bible condemns), I’ve enjoyed small amounts of each of these.

Again, I do not write this to judge or criticize any pastor or believer. I write from experience and I write from concern. I encourage you to avoid the use and promotion of alcohol and I am convinced you will never regret not drinking alcohol. In fact I have never met anyone who said I wish I had drunk more. But I have met plenty who said they wished they had never tasted the stuff. You will never regret not drinking alcohol, but if you do drink alcohol, it is almost a certainty; you will have regrets about it.

I’ve met people who have wished they could try some of the more exotic and expensive alcoholic beverages, and I’ve met very few who have regretted drinking alcohol. Most drink in reasonable amounts and do not get drunk.

I think a different, more reasonable policy is in order.

Instead of avoiding great food, avoid gluttony. Instead of avoiding sleep and rest, avoid sloth. Instead of avoiding sex with your spouse, avoid sex with anyone else. Instead of avoiding exercise, avoid obsession with fitness. Instead of avoiding entertainment, avoid being consumed with it. Instead of avoiding conflict, avoid unnecessary conflict. Instead of avoiding medicine, avoid drug addiction.

Instead of avoiding alcohol, avoid alcoholism. Drinking alcohol can be done to the glory of God. Jesus, God Himself in human flesh, not only drank the stuff, but He created it in the first place and created it miraculously again from water. God’s disciples drank it, and their disciples and churches drank it, passing a cup of wine during communion for millennia.

Finally, avoid the fallacy of equivocation. It leads to long and otherwise unnecessary rebuttals.

 

Church Music

At a rehearsal this week for the church band – of which I am a member – there was a discussion about a few churchgoers who, having seen the new acoustic devices mounted along the walls of the sanctuary, are concerned with the volume of the band. When this information reached the ears of the various musicians that make up the band, the reaction was nearly in unison: these complainers need to stop complaining; louder music is here, it’s good, and it’s here for good.

Nearly in unison, because I dissented, although I didn’t make my opinion known. Since I had not thought through what precisely had led me to disagree, I felt it best to refrain from saying what would have been an enjoyable thing to say: I’m the band’s lone and proud curmudgeon.

Aside from the obvious critique of “louder is better”, which is simply that such a statement is not an argument, there seems to be a deeper response available.

Beauty is objective, but our experience of it is subjective. Put into more common language, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if and only if the beholder is a neophyte”. Just as with good food, good art becomes easier to distinguish as one learns how to do the work of making the right distinctions. This is not a popular opinion today. In fact, the idea of purely subjective art is ubiquitous in art schools. Such art schools seem to be blinded to the contradiction of teaching a topic that is purely subjective. What can be learned if a person already possesses the fullest possible extent of understanding?

We seem to have no problem of objectivity when it comes to food. Children want McDonalds because McDonalds tastes good to their unrefined taste buds. This is not to say that McDonalds should never be consumed by adults. However, an adult should be able to tell the difference between a Big Mac with Coke and a $50 cut of steak with a $20 glass of wine.

This is not to say that good art is impossible to tell from bad art for a novice. In fact, just the opposite is true for those who study in modern art schools. As they grow in subjective nonsense, they become unable to make distinctions that are obvious to novices. If art schools taught beauty instead of ugliness, then students of such schools would be able to see beauty in ever more profound ways. Instead, it is the average person walking through an art museum on a day of free admission that is better equipped to tell the difference between beauty and ugliness. A trained artist will see an empty canvas and marvel, while a tourist will laugh. The artist will see the tourist as uncultured; the tourist will see the artist as an idiot. Neither is far off from the truth, but the culture the artist prides himself in is a dead and dying culture, and the tourist is all the better having never been inculcated with the same nonsense.

But all of this is a little off-topic. To summarize: Beauty is objective, primarily, and an understanding of beauty can be increased over time, just as an appreciation for good food can.

What does all of this have to do with a church band and loud music?

Loud music, especially with a driving beat, is the very definition of modern pop music. It’s also what most of the members of the band prefer. The volume and driving beat combine to produce a powerful reaction which seems irresistible. It leaves me bored.

In the past year, I’ve listened to more Bach than any other Christian music combined. Eine Feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) has been my favorite cantata. Yet, if any of the other members of the band were to listen to the Chorale, it would sound a bit like a cacophony. It isn’t a cacophony, but with so many independent musical forces moving together, it is a little difficult to put things into the right acoustic places. It would leave the rest of the band bored.

How could two completely different styles of music leave people bored if beauty is objective?

It takes work – lots of work – to appreciate older forms of music. It takes time to acquire the taste, and faith along the way to know that a deep appreciation is in store. Despite growing up encouraged to listen to classical music, it was a boring chore for me to listen to Bach consistently for the first time. The immediate gratification of loud, driving rhythms simply doesn’t exist in anything he wrote, but this gratification in modern popular music is like eating a McDonalds combo: it satisfies, but only barely.

I think that what is boring for the rest of the band, and for most people in the West today, is working towards seeing greater beauty in more fundamentally beautiful music. I think what is boring for me is repetitive loudness.

Perhaps thinking of things this way makes me come across as an elitist, but it isn’t intended to. Instead, my goal is to show how people – Christians who believe in a Beautiful God in particular – ought not to settle for cheap, instant gratification. It takes work to appreciate beauty if you are expecting something quickly, but that work pays off.