Posts Tagged ‘Reader’

A very good argument for the conjugal view of marriage, from the Wall Street Journal Opinion page.

There is a reason why conjugal unions have been distinguished from all others since antiquity.


The U.S. Supreme Court decides next week whether to hear challenges to laws defining marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman. It does so after two different electoral outcomes. In May, North Carolinians voted to amend their state constitution to protect the conjugal definition of marriage, a definition that 41 states retain. But on Nov. 6, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state endorsed a revisionist view of marriage as the union of any two adults.

How should the Supreme Court decide? How should voters?

We can’t move one inch toward an answer simply by appealing to equality. Every marriage policy draws lines, leaving out some types of relationships. Equality forbids arbitrary line-drawing. But we cannot know which lines are arbitrary without answering two questions: What is marriage, and why does it matter for policy?

The conjugal and revisionist views are two rival answers; neither is morally neutral. Each is supported by some religious and secular worldviews but rejected by others. Nothing in the Constitution bans or favors either. The Supreme Court therefore has no basis to impose either view of marriage. So voters must decide: Which view is right?

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As we argue in our book “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense,” marriage is a uniquely comprehensive union. It involves a union of hearts and minds; but also—and distinctively—a bodily union made possible by sexual-reproductive complementarity. Hence marriage is inherently extended and enriched by procreation and family life and objectively calls for similarly all-encompassing commitment, permanent and exclusive.

In short, marriage unites a man and woman holistically—emotionally and bodily, in acts of conjugal love and in the children such love brings forth—for the whole of life.

These insights require no particular theology. Ancient thinkers untouched by Judaism or Christianity—including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes and Plutarch—also distinguished conjugal unions from all others. Nor did animus against any group produce this conclusion, which arose everywhere quite apart from debates about same-sex unions. The conjugal view best fits our social practices and judgments about what marriage is.

After all, if two men can marry, or two women, then what sets marriage apart from other bonds must be emotional intensity or priority. But nothing about emotional union requires it to be permanent. Or limited to two. Or sexual, much less sexually exclusive. Or inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. Yet as most people see, bonds that lack these features aren’t marriages.

Far from being “slippery slope” predictions, these points show that the revisionist view gets marriage wrong: It conflates marriage and companionship, an obviously broader category. That conflation has consequences. Marriage law shapes behavior by promoting a vision of what marriage is and requires. Redefinition will deepen the social distortion of marriage—and consequent harms—begun by policies such as “no-fault” divorce. As marital norms make less sense, adherence to them erodes.

Conservative scaremongering? No. Same-sex marriage activist Victoria Brownworth, like other candid revisionists, says that redefinition “almost certainly will weaken the institution of marriage,” and she welcomes that result.

Yet weakening marital norms will hurt children and spouses, especially the poorest. Rewriting the parenting ideal will also undermine in our mores and practice the special value of biological mothers and fathers. By marking support for the conjugal view as bigotry, it will curb freedoms of religion and conscience. Redefinition will do all this in the name of a basic error about what marriage is.

Some bonds remain unrecognized, and some people unmarried, under any marriage policy. If simply sharing a home creates certain needs, we can and should meet them outside civil marriage.

Moreover, if we reject the revisionist’s bare equation of marriage with companionship—and the equation of marriage licenses with all-purpose personal approval—we’ll see that conjugal marriage laws deprive no one of companionship or its joys, and mark no one as less worthy of fulfillment. (Indeed, using marriage law to express social inclusion might further marginalize whoever remains single.)

True compassion means extending authentic community to everyone, especially the marginalized, while using marriage law for the social goal that it serves best: to ensure that children know the committed love of the mother and father whose union brought them into being. Indeed, only that goal justifies regulating such intimate bonds in the first place.

Just as compassion for those attracted to the same sex doesn’t require redefining marriage, neither does preserving the conjugal view mean blaming them for its erosion. What separated the various goods that conjugal marriage joins—sex, commitment, family life—was a sexual revolution among opposite-sex partners, with harmful rises in extramarital sex and nonmarital childbearing, pornography and easy divorce.

Only when sex and marriage were seen mainly as means to emotional satisfaction and expression did a more thorough and explicit redefinition of marriage become thinkable—for the first time in human history. The current debate just confronts us with the choice to entrench these trends—or to begin reversing them.

That debate certainly isn’t about legalizing (or criminalizing) anything. In all 50 states, two men or women may have a wedding and share a life. Their employers and religious communities may recognize their unions. At issue here is whether government will effectively coerce other actors in the public square to do the same.

Also at issue is government expansion. Marital norms serve children, spouses, and hence our whole economy, especially the poor. Family breakdown thrusts the state into roles for which it is ill-suited: provider and discipliner to the orphaned and neglected, and arbiter of custody and paternity disputes…

Continue reading at Opinion

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA


Found on Matthew E. Cochran’s blog, The 96th thesis:


When a congregation begins toying with the idea of contemporary worship, one of the usual driving factors is an attempt to be more “inclusive.” “The Church needs to appeal to more people than the gray-hairs that attend every Sunday. Get rid of that tired plodding organ and get some more lively instruments in there! Why force modern Americans to sing nothing but 16th century German hymns?” The impression that advocates often give is that contemporary worship is something that opens the church up and broadens it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than providing a breath of fresh air, contemporary worship is a narrow and constrictive force that can strangle a congregation.

First, the contention that traditional Lutheran hymnals are simply a collection of music that only old people could like is rather dubious. Consider: The commonly used Lutheran hymnal (LSB) includes songs dating back from almost two thousand years ago all the way to today. Most of its hymns were written centuries before any of our elderly were even born. If they enjoy it, it cannot possibly be because it was the music of their generation–something that only they would like. Generationally exclusive music is, however, precisely what contemporary worship seeks to impose. Rather than selecting the best from a broad ocean of church music that spans cultures, continents, & thousands of years of history, contemporary worship restricts music: first to the last few decades, then to America, then to a subset of the youth. Towards the end of his book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, James K. A. Smith describes a “radically orthodox” church service that he considers to more “catholic” than the services we may be used to. Nevertheless, the mishmash of eclectic chairs, jazz bands, and Anne Sexton poetry he advocates would only appeal to the neo-hipster, Whole Foods, communitarian demographic. That’s about as far from universal as you can get. In the name of being inclusive, contemporary worship excludes everyone but the young and hip by trading the rich heritage found in the liturgy for a handful of passing fads.

Second, Contemporary worship restricts music’s capacity to communicate. Every age has it’s own insights & blind-spots, and it’s preferred styles reflect these. One advantage to a broad hymnody is that the excesses of one age cover often the deficiencies of another. Contemporary worship lacks this safeguard. If you compare hymns written in the past 75 years or so to the hymns that preceded it, you’ll quickly notice some general differences in the lyrical structure. Older hymns tend to be built around sentences and make statements. Modern hymns, on the other hand tend to be built around phrases and are designed to give an impression. While the former style serves a variety of purposes (confession, catechesis, prayer, praise, etc), the latter style is suited almost exclusively toward praise and self-expression (it’s no accident they’re usually called ‘praise bands’). Now, while self-expression has very little place in the divine service, there’s certainly nothing wrong with singing praise songs in church. Beautiful Savior, for example, is a classic hymn that makes use of this kind of phrase-based songwriting for precisely this purpose. The problem arises when almost every hymn is like that. Practically speaking, restricting a congregation to contemporary songs restricts them to praise music. By neglecting the ability to make meaningful statements in music, the hymnody begins to forget why we’re responding to God with praise in the first place. When this goes on long enough, all that remains is a desperate attempt to use music to manipulate the emotions into producing what once flowed naturally from what God has done for us.

Finally, contemporary worship generally doesn’t make people feel more comfortable or welcome–at least not in Lutheran churches. In the movie Better of Dead, there’s a scene in which John Cusack’s family invites a French exchange student over for dinner. In order to make her feel more welcome, the hostess serves a meal consisting of French fries, French toast, and French bread. Needless to say, regardless of the hostess’ efforts, the student did not exactly feel comfortable. Frankly, this is pretty much how Lutherans come off when we pander to those young, hip Americans of whom we have only the most shallow understanding by attempting to adopt their musical styles in church. Those we pander to might (or might not) be too polite to say that such imitation looks more like a bad parody, but they’re often thinking it.

Perhaps there’s another thing we might learn from this analogy when we seek to invite unbelievers into the church. The Church is in the world, but not of it. No matter how we arrange our music, unbelievers who visit us are in a foreign land. The last thing an exchange student is looking for is a grossly inferior version of their own culture. The entire point of being an exchange student is to be immersed in something other. If the Church tries to make herself look like the world, not only will she do a poor job of it, but she will deny those who come to her the opportunity to find something more than what they already have. Our heritage is something any generation can be brought into. If we seek to be more inclusive and welcoming, we would do well to embrace it.

Continue reading at Steadfast Lutherans

Sin in the Life of a Believer

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Misc.

Thanks to a friend who gave me some wonderful quotes about sin in the life of a believer.

Matthew Henry

The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do.

This passage does not represent the apostle as one that walked after the flesh, but as one that had it greatly at heart, not to walk so. And if there are those who abuse this passage, as they also do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction, yet serious Christians find cause to bless God for having thus provided for their support and comfort.  And no man who is not engaged in this conflict, can clearly understand the meaning of these words, or rightly judge concerning this painful conflict, which led the apostle to bemoan himself as a wretched man, constrained to what he abhorred.

He could not deliver himself; and this made him the more fervently thank God for the way of salvation revealed through Jesus Christ, which promised him, in the end, deliverance from this enemy.

So then, says he, I myself, with my mind, my prevailing judgement, affections, and purposes, as a regenerate man, by Divine grace, serve and obey the law of God; but with the flesh, the carnal nature, the remains of depravity, I serve the law of sin, which wars against the law of my mind. Not serving it so as to live in it, or to allow it, but as unable to free himself from it, even in his very best state, and needing to look for help and deliverance out of himself.

He was willing to act in all points agreeable to the law, in his mind and conscience, but was hindered by indwelling sin, and never attained the perfection the law requires. What can be deliverance for a man always sinful, but the free grace of God, as offered in Christ Jesus?

The power of Divine grace, and of the Holy Spirit, could root out sin from our hearts even in this life, if Divine wisdom had not otherwise thought fit. But it is suffered, that Christians might constantly feel, and understand thoroughly, the wretched state from which Divine grace saves them; might be kept from trusting in themselves; and might ever hold all their consolation and hope, from the rich and free grace of God in Christ.

An excerpt from Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘My Name At First Was Graceless’ (edited)

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust, because it was never swept; and after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep.

Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian was almost choked with it. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, “Bring water, and sprinkle the room;” and when she did, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

CHRISTIAN: Then said Christian, What does this mean?

INTERPRETER: The Interpreter answered, This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel. The dust is his original sin, and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel.

Now as you saw, that as soon as the law began to sweep, the dust did so fly about the room that it could not be cleansed, and you were almost choked with it.  This is to show you that the law, instead of cleansing the heart from sin, revives and increases it, even as it discovers and forbids it; for the law does not give power to subdue sin.

Again, as you saw the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure, this is to show you that when the Gospel comes with its sweet and precious influences to the heart, then even as you saw the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit.

Harry Ironside – Eternal Security

When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ and put my trust in Him, not only were all my sins up to the day of my conversion forgiven, but all my sins were put away for eternity. When a young Christian, I was taught something like this: I thought when I was converted that all my sins, from the time of dawning accountability up to that night when I put my trust in the Lord Jesus, were put away, and now God had given me a new start, and if I could only keep the record clean to the end of my life, I would get to heaven; but if I did not keep it clean, I ceased to be a Christian and I had to get converted all over again.

Every time this happened the past was under the blood, but I had to keep the record clean for the future. What a God-dishonoring view of the atonement of Christ that is! If only those of my sins that were committed up to the moment of my conversion were put away by the atoning blood of Jesus, what possible way would there be by which sins I have confessed after that could be dealt with? The only ground on which God could forgive sin is that Jesus settled all upon the cross, and when I trust Him, all that He has done goes down to my account.

What Of Future Sins?

A lady came to me one day and said, “I do not understand you there. I can understand that Christ died for the sins I committed up to the night of my conversion, but do you mean to tell me that Christ died for my future sins?”

I said, “How many of your sins were in the past when Christ died on the cross?”  She looked puzzled for a moment, and then the light broke in, and she said, “How foolish I have been! Of course they were all future when Jesus died for me. I had not committed any of them.”

God saw all your sins, and He laid upon Jesus all your iniquity. Therefore, when you trusted Him, you were justified freely from all things. Do you say, “Does it make no difference then if a believer sins?” That is another question, and it would take a whole evening to go into that, but here is the point: the moment you trust the Lord Jesus as your Savior, your responsibility as a sinner having to do with the God of judgment is ended for eternity, but that same moment your responsibility as a child having to do with a Father in heaven begins.

Now if as a child you should sin against your Father, God will have to deal with you about that, but as a father and not as a judge. That is a line of truth that stands by itself and does not contradict what I am now teaching. It explains some things that bewilder people when this doctrine is brought before them.

In Marks Of Indelible Grace (A Debtor to Mercy Alone)

A debtor to mercy alone,
of covenant-mercy I sing;
nor fear, with your righteousness on,
my person and offering to bring.

The terrors of law and of God
with me can have nothing to do;
my Savior’s obedience and blood
hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which his goodness began,
the arm of his strength will complete;
his promise is Yes and Amen
and never was forfeited yet.

Things future, nor things that are now,
nor all things below and above,
can make him his purpose forego
or sever my soul from his love.

Yes, I to the end shall endure
as sure as the earnest is given;
more happy, but not more secure,
the glorified spirits in heaven.

My name from the palms of his hands
eternity will not erase;
impressed on his heart it remains
in marks of indelible grace.

– Augustus TopladySimilar Posts:

Continue reading at Parchment and Pen

Plymouth Colony Governor Edward Winslow

How do we know what really happened at the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth (in the fall of 1621)? Mostly our knowledge comes from a letter written a couple of months later (December 13, 1621) by pilgrim Edward Winslow (1595-1655).

Nathaniel Philbrick—the author of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War and the younger readers’ version The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New Worldsummarizes:

He describes a harvest festival that occurred not at the end of November but in late September or early October. Interestingly, Winslow does not call it a thanksgiving. He does not mention any turkeys.

What the pilgrims did have were ducks and geese. Winslow tells us that once they had harvested their crops, Governor William Bradford ordered four men to go fowling so that we might rejoice together after a more special manner.

In just a few days, the hunters secured enough ducks and geese to last the entire settlement a week. But what began as an English affair soon became an overwhelmingly native celebration.

Earlier that spring, the Wampanoag leader Massasoit had offered to form an alliance with the pilgrims. That fall, Massasoit arrived in Plymouth with 90 of his people and five freshly killed deer. Instead of the prim and proper sit-down affair of legend, the first Thanksgiving was an outdoor festival. Even if all the pilgrims’ furniture was brought out into the sunshine, most of the celebrants stood, squatted or sat as they clustered around fires where the deer and birds turned on wooden spits. Also simmering were pottages, stews into which meat and vegetables were thrown.

Winslow makes no mention of it, but the first Thanksgiving coincided with what was, for the pilgrims, a new and startling phenomena, the turning of the green leaves of summer to the incandescent yellows, reds and purples of a New England autumn.

In Britain, the cloudy fall days and warm nights cause the autumn colors to be muted and lackluster. In New England, on the other hand, the profusion of sunny, fall days and cool, but not freezing, nights unleashes the colors latent within the trees’ leaves. It was a display that must have contributed to the enthusiasm with which Winslow wrote of the festivities that fall.

For me, this is an instance when the historical reality is much more interesting than the myth. Instead of a pious warm-up for a glum Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws, the Plymouth Harvest Festival of 1621 was more like Woodstock, an outdoor celebration that just sort of happened.

Here is the relevant text from Winslow’s letter:

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown.  They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.  Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

The first page of William Bradford’s journal.

William Bradford (1590-1657) had become governor of the colony earlier that spring. He would later write a historical-narrative journal about the early days of Plymouth, recorded between 1630 and 1647. Here’s the relevant section where he looks back to 1621 (and mentions turkey!):

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

Continue reading at Justin Taylor

Here is an interesting answer to a critic’s assertion that no unbiased evidence of Jesus exists. 

The Lack of Unbiased Evidence for Jesus

Posted on November 14, 2012 | 1 Comment

When I speak to critics and skeptics, it is common to hear comments about the lack of unbiased evidence for Jesus from the first century.  They reject the New Testament evidence for Jesus as biased and point out that we lack the unbiased evidence for Jesus that as historians we would want.  I have all sorts of things I could say about the historical value of the New Testament despite the bias, but I am not going to go there.

I want to take a moment to think about this complaint about the lack of unbiased evidence.  What exactly would that look like?  Can someone give me an example of what an unbiased report about Jesus would be?  What sort of text would we be looking for?  Would we like a first century text by a Pharisee or a Sadducee that spoke about Jesus?  I would like to see that.  But I still do not see how that would be unbiased.  From everything we know, the Pharisees and Sadducees greatly disliked Jesus and wanted to see him dead.  That is hardly unbiased.  What about a Roman report?  Wouldn’t it be great if we found a report written by Pontius Pilate about Jesus’ trial?  I would love to see that.  But this is the person who signed Jesus’ death sentence.  Could he be considered unbiased by any stretch of the imagination?  To be honest, I cannot think of any possible example of a first century account of Jesus that would be unbiased.  Truth be told, I doubt there has been an unbiased account of Jesus in any century.

So when a skeptic says they won’t believe in Jesus unless they have an unbiased account of Jesus from the first century, they are doing the same thing as a child saying to their parent, “If you really love me, draw me a square circle, otherwise I will not believe you.”  It just is not possible.

This of course leads us back to the New Testament.  If the New Testament is rejected as being a biased account and if it is impossible to be unbiased, what really is the problem with the New Testament?  Do not get me wrong, as a historian I would love to see a great discovery of non-biblical first century reports of Jesus.  That would be extremely exciting.  But let us not fool ourselves about this whole biased versus unbiased business.

via The Lack of Unbiased Evidence for Jesus | Hope’s Reason.

Think on that for a while.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA