Center for Cultural Leadership

Liberal Christianity Isn’t

Posted on March 22, 2018

One of the leading American theologians of the 20th century was J. Gresham Machen. One of his most famous books was Christianity and Liberalism. He argues that theological liberalism, sometimes called modernism at the time, isn’t a new version of Christianity. Rather, it’s not Christianity at all. It’s another religion altogether.


41OFZDQBB4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Liberalism consisted of a fusion of 18th-century rationalism (man’s reason is the final arbiter of truth) and 19th century romanticism (man’s experience is the final arbiter of truth). The foundational spirit of liberalism is simple: Christianity must conform to the temper of the times. The Bible and Christian dogma are not finally authoritative. Man’s reason and experience in the modern world, particularly as exhibited in science, are finally authoritative.


Perhaps the single greatest source of all liberalism was the greatest Enlightenment philosopher of all, Immanuel  Kant. Kant believed that man can gain knowledge only from his senses interacting with pre-established categories of human thought. Man can know nothing of certainty about God or the spiritual world. Man’s mind isn’t constructed to know God. Kant did not deny God existed. He denied, however, that we could have reliable knowledge about God. Kant’s influence on theological liberals meant that they were free to invent the kind of God and the kind of Christian Faith they wanted to have.


This last point is liberalism in a nutshell.


The early liberals questioned the authenticity of the Bible’s text, the orthodox Trinity, the biblical account of miracles, the deity of Jesus Christ, and other central truths of Christianity.


Contemporary liberals have changed. They haven’t changed liberalism’s guiding principle (they still often deny the doctrines early liberals denied about the Faith); but they have changed what they emphasize in denying. Because the temper of the times has changed, they have been obliged to change. Marx-Jesus2The real issues for them today are sexual autonomy, moral relativism, and Cultural Marxism. In other words, the very things popular in the surrounding apostate culture.  If the credo of liberalism is conforming the Faith to the contemporary world, liberals must always be inherently worldly.


Just as the tenets of early liberalism with which Machen interacted were diametrically opposed to Christianity, so the guiding beliefs of today’s liberalism are. The Bible supports sexual fidelity (sexual intercourse between a married man and woman), not sexual autonomy. The Bible presupposes God’s revelation as final truth, and it obviously cannot permit moral relativism. The Bible dictates hierarchies in all areas of life, starting with God’s hierarchy over man. There’s no place for the leveling of all hierarchies, which is what Cultural Marxism is all about.


Machen understood that liberalism was not disputing important but secondary issues of the Faith, like the sacraments or ordinances, church polity, the specifics of biblical prophecy, the sign gifts, and so on. Rather, liberalism cut the heart out of the Faith — the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, the virgin birth and deity and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his substitutionary atonement on the Cross. When you don’t have these, it’s not orthodox Christianity you lose. It’s Christianity you lose.


“Churches that establish a policy accepting unrepentant homosexuals or same-sex ‘marriage’ or encouraging abortion or radical sexual egalitarianism are not Christian churches.”


The reason many Christians are confused as to how to classify today’s liberals is that they’ve not until recently encountered professed Christians who aren’t boldly denying the Apostles Creed but who are denying tenets of biblical teaching that the church everywhere until recently has affirmed. Those teachings include marriage as between one man and one woman, homosexuality as sin, abortion as murder, radical sexual egalitarianism as contra-creational. Today’s liberals deny them for the same reason: the Bible’s teaching doesn’t fit the temper of the age. Until recent decades (or years), no one — not even the early liberals — would have thought of questioning these biblical truths. Even if they agree with Machen about the early liberals, what should they say about modern liberals? They should say the same thing Machen said ­— liberalism isn’t Christianity. Churches that establish a policy accepting unrepentant homosexuals or same-sex “marriage” or encouraging abortion or radical sexual egalitarianism are not Christian churches. wolf_in_sheeps_clothing2.jpgWhy? Because Jesus and Paul and Peter and John would not have considered same-sex “marriage” less evil or dangerous (Rom. 1:18–32) than (for example) the Gnostic heresy that Jesus did not come in the flesh (2 Jn. 7). Not all false teaching striking at the core of Christianity is found in the Apostles Creed. Why? Because no one at the time the Creed was developed would have dreamed of assuming that the Bible would permit, for instance, homosexuality or radical sexual egalitarianism. If anything, this shows that the violations of today’s liberals might be even more destructive than heresies of the early centuries of the church since at the time nobody, including the heretics, would have even considered them. Arianism (the Son of God is a created being) is a pernicious heresy, but no Arian would have supported same-sex “marriage.”


Machen 2.0 would say what Machen 1.0 said: teachings that strike at the very heart of Christianity so distort it that if unchecked they produce another religion.


That religion is not Christianity.

What About Same-Sex Attraction?

Posted on March 14, 2018

This is a response to a dear Christian friend asking about her church’s policy concerning same-sex attraction:


Dear —–:


The article was absorbing, and the writer is truly gifted. Even though he writes through the lens of his own homosexuality, the picture he presents of [your church] is largely commendable. Make no mistake about it: your church stands significantly on the authority of the Bible and is deeply Christian. It is far superior to many churches today that are collapsing before the bulldozer of politically correct worldliness.




You asked specifically about [your church’s] view of homosexuality as depicted in the article. Remember that this article was written by a homosexual, so we cannot be 100% certain that he has accurately conveyed [your pastor’s] viewpoint.


Nonetheless, like you, I did find some aspects troubling. Many evangelical churches today ministering to Christians who confess homosexual desires demand celibacy. This certainly is the right start. Homosexual intercourse is abominable. This is what the Bible says, and there is no other way to describe it. But then there’s the more complex and vexing issue of “sexual orientation.” This is a comparatively modern notion. The Bible knows nothing about sexual orientation. God’s creation order is male and female, with no remainder. Sexual intercourse is a beautiful gift from God reserved for marriage between a man and woman. Everything else is sinful. It breaks God’s beautiful creation order.


To teach and act as though “gayness” that is not consummated in intercourse is permissible, an ongoing lifelong condition, cannot be sustained from the Bible. I presume that [your pastor] would never say that a man whose heart is filled with hatred for other people but never actually unleashes that hatred in the act of murder should fit just fine in [your church] without addressing the heart (desire) problem. We read in James 1:15, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” The root of all sin is desire that is not governed by the Word and Spirit of God. The metaphor James uses is childbirth. Sin is conceived in wrong desires, and those desires, if unchecked, birth sin that grows up and leads to death.


Part of the job of the church is lovingly and patiently to confront those desires — not just homosexual desires, to be sure, but all desires that lead to sin. It just so happens that homosexual desires are the big cultural topic of the moment in evangelical churches. A church that does not address those desires does not understand the radical, transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and does not stand for the radical, grace-drenched holiness of God, which he demands.


“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”


None of this should detract from my favorable assessment of many other aspects of your church. I repeat that it is far superior to many other evangelical churches today.


I’ve tried to be as biblical and as honest as I know how to be in such a short space. Please write back if this answer doesn’t suffice.


I am profoundly impressed by your desire to please God and follow Jesus Christ no matter what the cost. Never forget: God blesses obedience.

Dispensationalism’s Dualized Gospel

Posted on March 13, 2018

The evangelical church in 19th century England and the United States saw the rise of dispensationalism.[1] It constituted a comprehensive hermeneutics (way of interpreting the Bible), but for our purposes it’s important to understand that it divided the Bible into two separate messages:[2] one message to the nation of Israel, and another message to the Gentile church. The Jews were considered to be God’s earthly people, and the church his heavenly people. God’s promises to the Jews were for this world, and his promises to the church were for the eternal world. The Bible itself was deemed a dual book. The OT and parts of the NT were given to Israel. Much of the NT, and particularly Paul’s epistles, were given to the church. Among other things, this meant that the NT promises to the church, which assumed the OT promises to the Jews, had to be cut off from the OT, which was a Jewish book. The gospel promises are for personal victory and our future home in heaven. They have nothing to do with God’s redeeming the entire creation by his Son’s death and resurrection. This earthly victory could only happen by the enforced kingdom during the centralized government of the future millennium during which Jesus literally rules in Jerusalem over the Jews.[3] The Gentile church by that time would be far away in heaven, having been raptured away from the earth.


The dispensational gospel is the Gentile gospel, and the Gentile gospel saves individuals from sin and prepares them to meet the Lord. The Jewish gospel includes restoring ethnic Israel to her God-given land of Canaan and overspreading the earth and its nations with Jewish blessings. This will all be delayed until the future millennium.


This dualistic hermeneutic divides what God unites. The Bible teaches the unity of God’s purposes.[4] God’s gospel and the law and covenant and promises come to their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All of those who trust in Jesus Christ are the heirs of the biblical promises, both the OT and NT (Eph. 2:11–13; Gal. 3:25–29). But if you believe the dispensational, dualized gospel, while you might understand the basics of our Lord’s death and resurrection and our future home with the Lord, you won’t understand the unified, comprehensive gospel of the Bible.


And this misunderstanding is precisely what has dominated much of evangelicalism for the last few generations. It explains why for many decades large swaths of evangelicalism did not engage politics, did not care much for creation, did not develop (or preserve) a distinctly Christian view of education, did not enjoy many of the blessings of the created order (labeling them “worldly”), and did not plan for a long-term Gospel victory in time and history.


The blame for the present cultural disenfranchisement of Christianity can be laid partly at the feet of dispensationalism.

[1] For a sympathetic treatment, see Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965).
[2] For a refutation, see John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991).
[3] For a comprehensive dispensational eschatology, see J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958).
[4] Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954).

The Prohibition of Questioning

Posted on March 8, 2018

Eric Voegelin once identified “the prohibition of questioning” as a chief mark of old-time Marxism: “Shut up and follow us enlightened Communists.” The new Cultural Marxists are worse than the old-line Communists ever were. The latest Marxists (leading our major universities and influencing mainstream media and Hollywood and the legal profession) don’t want to reengineer just economics; their goal is nothing short of inventing the New Utopian Man (forgive me: “Person”) free to live in utterly pagan/secular, sexual, and legal autonomy — except for autonomy from the all-powerful state, which guarantees no interference to their depravity. And anyone who dare speak out against the New Progressive Order is to be silenced and steamrolled.


CCL is speaking out, and by God’s grace, and your prayer and money, we’ll never be silent. If you’re a donor, the next few months, plan to see the following titles show up at your doorstep: first, by Holy Week, my Prayer Changes Things: Abolishing Timid Praying. Then comes David L. Banhsen’s Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It. Next comes Brian Mattson’s The Bible as Bedtime Story. By late spring I should mail my Reformationally Correct: How to Be Protestant Today. Judge Graves’ book Prudent Jurisprudence: Essays on Constitutional Liberties and Law is available but will likely be released and promoted nationally this summer. Joseph Boot’s The Self-Destructive Doctrine of Islam should be ready by fall.


Thus far this year I’m scheduled to address the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, Washington, D.C. (Dr. Jeffery J. Ventrella); the Worldview Leadership League, Toronto, Canada (Dr. Joseph Boot); the Wilberforce Academy, Cambridge, England (Andrea Williams, Esq.); and Truth Xchange, Escondido, California (Dr. Peter Jones).


And then there are the consistently active CCL blog (, I-Tunes podcasts, and You Tube videocasts.


We refuse to be silenced by the thugs of Cultural Marxism.


Can you keep us keep speaking out for biblical truth and against the Cultural Marxists eroding our society ? If you can, please send a check today:


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I am deeply grateful for anything you can do to help us.

The Ironic Luxury of Forgetting

Posted on March 7, 2018

Richard Niebuhr’s minor classic Christ and Culture posits five paradigms for how Christians have related the Christian Faith to culture, but today’s environment largely reduces to two: transformationism and privatism. Transformationism sees the task of Christians as gradually influencing society with Christian truth in the hope (and certainty) that all of life will eventually be redeemed. Privatism (sometimes called “pietism”) believes Christians should be faithful citizens in the wider society but limit their Christianity as Christians to the family, church, friendships, personal evangelism, and other “non-public” spheres. The realm of culture is common to all, believers and unbelievers. The realm of the church is sacred, special, for believers. The ethics of Faith are ethics for the church; ethics for culture are common (common sense?), not distinctively Christian ethics. Among Reformation people, the distilled, sophisticated version of this paradigm is designated the “Two Kingdom Theology” (2KT), championed today by such Calvinists as Michael Horton and David VanDrunen.




Brian Mattson (Ph.D., Aberdeen), Senior Scholar of Public Theology at the Center for Cultural Leadership (CCL, which I lead), contests 2KT in Cultural Amnesia, and it is a testimony to Mattson’s remarkable giftedness that in 50 pages he manages graciously to demolish that viewpoint. If you want the most succinct, incisive refutation of 2KT, in fact, this is it.


The book consists of three essays, the first two talks delivered at a CCL symposium a few years ago, and the third a short piece originally published on the web. Chapter 1 refutes the basic 2KT argument that ethics are common to all people and that, therefore, there’s nothing especially Christian about them. In short, according to 2KT, we don’t need Christian cultural ethics, just Christian churchly ethics. Mattson furnishes examples of the fact that common cultural ethics aren’t actually that common — and where they are, it’s because of Christian influence. 2KT advocates can argue against distinctly Christian cultural ethics only because of the success of those very ethics: they enjoy the ironic luxury of forgetting. They suffer from cultural amnesia.


In chapter 2, Mattson lays out the unity between creation (Genesis 1–2) and re-creation (redemption by Jesus Christ), a unity which doesn’t permit the dualism of 2KT, which actually severs creation and redemption. Mattson relies on the paradigm of Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (Mattson wrote his doctoral dissertation on Bavinck): “Grace restores and perfects nature.” If we decouple redemption from creation, as 2KT in effect does, we march toward Gnosticism, which sees redemption as salvation from the created order, and not from sin itself.


Mattson’s concluding chapter is ingenious. He puts 2KT to the test by applying the thesis to the obviously pre-Christian, originally non-redemptive institution: the family. Surely, if any cultural institution is exempt from Christian redemption and distinctively Christian ethics, it’s the family. Right? Wrong. 2KT epic fail.


A theologian friend once remarked to me that it doesn’t take long tomes to expound a number of the doctrines of the Bible. Similarly, it doesn’t require a multi-volume series to refute 2KT.


You could do it in 50 pages.


The Great Responsibility Recession

Posted on March 7, 2018

David L. Bahnsen’s counternarrative (p. xx) of both the 2008 financial housing crisis and the 2016 populist political upheaval links both to a single source: a crisis of responsibility, a lack of which infects not just economics and politics but the entire culture. His nearly unprecedented thesis identifies culprits almost everywhere, and not just, as is widely believed, in the perches of elitism increasingly criticized by their alleged victims at the social margins. Bahnsen is an equal opportunity offender (“this book has offered no immunity to anyone,” 156), and his brisk 170-pages cover surprisingly wide ground in indicting nearly every classification in our society for the irresponsibility that contributes to our present ills.


Although an unapologetic sociopolitical conservative, Bahnsen’s critique targets fellow conservatives just as much as Leftists — and perhaps more energetically, since of the two viewpoints, personal responsibility has been a guiding tenet of conservatism … until lately. The conservatives who blame Wall Street, Washington, NAFTA, China, Mexico and the media are more blameworthy than the Leftists who blame individual liberty, the traditional family and church, small government, military interventionism, private education, and free markets (pp. 15–29). Leftists are suckled on blame-shifting. Conservatives should know better.

Playing the Victim Card

Though a Barron’s- and Forbes-recognized investment executive knowledgeable in both economics and politics, his is a cultural (i.e., spiritual and moral) critique. Economics, like politics, is downstream from culture (p. 32, 42). While his nuanced account avoids oversimplified villainization, valorization, and victimization (p. 11), he contends that a particular personal and cultural vice (irresponsibility) got us into the economic and political mess, and only a particular personal and cultural virtue (responsibility) will get us out. Playing the victim card is oh-so-easy since it contains a built-in disincentive for the cardholder to change his bad behavior. What bad behavior? How about easy, no-fault divorce; protracted cohabitation; out-of-wedlock births; long-delayed marriages; overused disability claims; and downright laziness? And that’s just the men. Bahnsen rehearses Charles Murray’s thesis that wealthier Americans are far more pro-family and in general culturally conservative than the impoverished. Murray wishes that the former would “preach what they practice,” and what they practice is precisely the responsibility virtue Bahnsen champions.

Pleasantly False Narratives

Bahnsen’s thesis includes refuting almost universally assumed narratives (“narratives do not like specifics,” p. 20) surrounding the financial crisis. For example, we all know that the 2008 near-collapse is due primarily to the “subprime housing crisis.” The problem is that, in the old adage, what we know ain’t so. Although fraudulent lending and investment overleveraging were causes, they weren’t the leading causes, the chief of which is millions of borrowers “who could afford their home payment, but realized that the sticker price that they paid was far more than the present resale value of the home, and thus made the morally questionable decision to walk away” (p. 52). We were regaled with the accusatory mantra of “predatory lending,” but the far greater culprit was “predatory borrowing” (p. 56). An entire spurious vocabulary was adopted, including “strategic defaulting” (p. 59) = walking away from your mortgage you can afford to pay in order to put yourself in a better financial position. Perhaps we should call 2008 a “strategic collapse.”

Victims of Free Markets?

Bahnsen then takes on the reputed victimization unleashed by the free market and automization. It’s a pity that such a chapter had to be written, because there’s an overabundance of evidence that everywhere they go, free markets create wealth, not victims. It’s true that free trade doesn’t save every possible job, but it creates new jobs. And Bahnsen supports incentives for retraining workers whose jobs have been lost due to global trade and new technologies. He notes the fact, almost never mentioned, that “when multinational companies hire more foreign employees, they also increase domestic hiring” (p. 72, emphasis in original). And he reminds readers that there aren’t enough applicants for all the jobs presently available (p. 74). Talk about inconvenient truths!

Samuel the Jewish Prophet and Crony Capitalism

Anyone assuming Bahnsen’s unalloyed defense of free markets mutes criticism of the misuse of the market should read chapter 6, a searing attack on crony capitalism. He offers a fascinating application of 1 Samuel 8, Israel’s demand for a king. He notes that the rationale the Jews gave to Samuel is that his sons took bribes and perverted justice, lining their own pockets. In other words, an incipient form of crony capitalism inspired them to nag for bigger government in order to suppress the non-virtuous market (pp. 79–80). In the same way, citizens today shed responsibility and ask for bigger government on the grounds that it alone can “drain the swamp” in which grows the vast Business-Government Complex. And the fact is, the swamp needs draining. Free-market Republicans who clamor for special economic favors for pet businesses aren’t really free-marketers at all. The free market must be free for everybody (pp. 83–86). Bahnsen suggests that lower tax rates and decreased regulation for everybody will abolish crony capitalism and quell the populist demands for bloated government power to “level the economic playing field.” A genuinely free market is a level playing field.

Immigration, the Right Kind

In disclosing how the current immigration controversy contributes to cultural irresponsibility, Bahnsen offers a remarkably balanced assessment. He agrees with criticism of an immigration policy that incentivizes illegality and opens welfare coffers for illegals. Moreover, he points out the error of confusing multiculturalism with immigration (pp. 102–105). Multiculturalism argues that all cultures are equally valid and that the United States should not insist on the superiority of its ideals. Multiculturalism trashes American exceptionalism, dilutes a healthy patriotism, and undermines the cultural virtues that for centuries made for the ubiquitous success of the West. An immigration policy catalyzing multiculturalism must be opposed. But Bahnsen notes that this is not what immigration should be about — or has been about for most of America’s history. Assimilating immigrants committed to basic American ideals and to improving our nation has almost always be U.S. immigration policy. It worked wonders. Bahnsen exposes the unfairness and hypocrisy of protectionism (“No one would ever try to protect a Stanford computer science PhD from an invasion of lower-cost programmers from India,” p. 106). He notes, contrary to received opinion, that low-skilled immigrant labor adds jobs for native-born workers (p. 107). Far from victimizing the native-born, immigrants (the right kind) generate wealth. Blaming immigrants for fewer U.S. jobs isn’t just morally wrong; it’s just plain wrong.

The Civil Wrongs of Public Schools

One of the biggest impediments to recovering cultural responsibility is the monopolistic, coercive — and too often substandard — public school system of the United States. Bahnsen declares that educational choice is “the great civil rights issue of our day” (p. 89). He blasts the teachers’ unions, whose monopoly harms the very people (the poor) they claim to be assisting. Insulating themselves from competition (charter and private schools), government schools happily persist in their own lazy incompetence (with some exceptions, of course). Bahnsen wryly observes that if the current populist rage were directed at this educational monopoly, “we would see a truly righteous transformation” (p. 98).

Hothouses of Irresponsibility

He is even more emphatic in exposing the downright evils of our secular post-secondary education. In this mostly dispassionate book, Bahnsen reserves tart rhetoric for “higher education’s safe spaces” (p. 111):

The American university system now offers families the worst of both worlds — inherit insane debt and receive little preparation for adult responsibilities, while being indoctrinated with propositions that undermine the foundational values of Western civilization. That’s right. One can now go broke being taught to think incorrectly.

Bahnsen offers the jarring statistic that “[c]umulative student loan debt now exceeds $1.4 trillion, greater than total national credit card debt and the total national mortgage debt — by a wide margin” (p. 114). If you think that no economic downturn could be as scary as the 2008 home mortgage crisis, re-read that last sentence.

Bahnsen questions the educational orthodoxy that every young person benefits from college, but his chief argument is that today’s university education insulates students from life and cultivates the mentality and attitude of irresponsibility. Our universities are hothouses for the Great Responsibility Recession.

Who Made Big Government?

One of the foundational tenets of conservatism is limited government, which Bahnsen champions, but he cautions blaming big government for all social ills. Big government is the symptom, not the disease (p. 120). The disease is irresponsibility. Citizens, including many conservatives, are quite happy with big government as long as it’s “good” big government. An example is entitlements. He reminds us of the harrowing statistic:

[I]f we spent no money on anything but transfer payments, we would still run a deficit in this country. If we had no governmental departments, no salaries, no military, no debt interest, no programs — just Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, Unemployment, and so on — we would still be in a financial hole (p. 125).

Big government didn’t appear overnight. Irresponsible citizens gradually ceded their rightful responsibilities to the federal government — and now have the temerity to complain about the behemoth that is federal government. Like all true conservatives, Bahnsen is an advocate of mediating institutions, what we nowadays call “civil society,” like the family and church and businesses (p. 127). These non-political institutions, not just individuals (he is no fan of “rugged individualism” that bypasses civil society, p. 159) must commandeer the responsibilities that individuals and institutions gradually ceded to the state.

The Responsibility Remedy

In the final two chapters, Bahnsen turns almost entirely from description to prescription. First, how can individuals recover the responsibility mindset? He counsels a ten-item “responsibility remedy” (p. 133), several items of which sound radical, but only because we’ve drifted so far in our Responsibility Recession that responsibility sounds radical: “Thoroughly repudiate defeatism and victimhood in your own life — even when you’ve actually been victimized” (emphasis in original); “Prepare your children for economic self-reliance” (don’t “allow for the years between twenty-one and thirty-five to be merely a time of nonproductive discovery,” p. 139): and “Flee the cult of home ownership and home price appreciation” (p. 141): if you’re using your home equity as an ATM card or as a trading card, you’re acting irresponsibly and will eventually pay the price of a compulsive gambler.

Bahnsen concludes by suggesting the cultural remedy as a counterpart to the individual remedy. He includes the following policy prescriptions: add tax deductibility for job retaining in a dynamic economy, quit using housing policy to engineer social aims, and abolish crony capitalism (pp. 155–156).

He chides conservatives who (legitimately) assail elitism if they do not simultaneously re-appropriate from elites the tasks for which they themselves should have been responsible all along. We must all abandon scapegoatism. We are responsible.

Bahnsen concludes with an autobiographical note, rehearsing his own journey from radical individualism to a responsible pro-liberty view respectful of civil society. His burning passion is human flourishing: that all citizens, whatever their cultural and economic station, can benefit from a free, virtuous society. That society is impossible as long as its members constantly shift responsibility and blame.

The mostly dispassionate language and logic of this book render its bluntly radical thesis less detectible. But make no mistake: if this book were taken seriously by even a sizable minority of ordinary citizens and cultural leaders, the United States of the next few decades would be dramatically different from the one today.

Responsible. And therefore flourishing.

My Favorite 2017 Movies

Posted on March 4, 2018

My theory is that great years for movies come along once every 35 years: 1972 and 2007 come immediately to mind. I’m eager for 2042. Still, 2017 wasn’t an unmitigated disaster. I was greatly disappointed in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which, like Mark Hamill, looked old and tired; in Blade Runner 2049, a visual spectacle that would have been much better without the plot and dialogue; and in Dunkirk, though I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan. My favorite movie, which made no other top list, did, however, highlight another Christopher, one to whom my late mother first introduced me as a little boy and with whom I instantly identified.


  1. Goodbye Christopher Robin

  1. Darkest Hour

  2. Get Out
  1. Logan
  1. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
  1. Wonder Woman
  1. American Made
  1. Baby Driver
  1. John Wick 2
  1. Kong: Skull Island

“Whoever Paints a Pretty Death Can Paint No Resurrection”

Posted on January 25, 2018



The death of Socrates is a beautiful death. Nothing is seen here of death’s terror. Socrates cannot fear death, since indeed it sets us free from the body. Whoever fears death proves that he loves the world of the body, that he is thoroughly entangled in the world of the senses. Death is the soul’s great friend. So he teaches; and so, in wonderful harmony with his teaching, he dies—this man who embodied the Greek world in its noblest form.

And now let us hear how Jesus dies. In Gethsemane he knows that death stands before him, just as Socrates expected death on his last day. The synoptic evangelists furnish us, by and large, with a unanimous report. Jesus begins “to tremble and be distressed,” writes Mark. “My soul is troubled, even to death,” he says to his disciples. Jesus is so thoroughly human that he shares the natural fear of death. Jesus is afraid… He is afraid in the face of death itself. Death for him is not something divine; it is something dreadful.

Only he who apprehends with the first Christians the horror of death, who takes death seriously as death, can comprehend the Easter exultation of the primitive Christian community and understand that the whole thinking of the New Testament is governed by belief in the resurrection. Belief in the immortality of the soul is not belief in a revolutionary event. Immortality, in fact, is only a negative assertion: the soul does not die, but simply lives on. Resurrection is a positive assertion: the whole man, who has really died, is recalled to life by a new act of creation by God. Something has happened—a miracle of creation! For something has also happened previously, something fearful: life formed by God has been destroyed.


Death in itself is not beautiful, not even the death of Jesus. Death before Easter is really the death’s head surrounded by the odor of decay. And the death of Jesus is as loathsome as the great painter Grünewald depicted it in the Middle Ages. But precisely for this reason the same painter understood how to paint, along with it, in an incomparable way, the great victory, the resurrection of Christ… Whoever paints a pretty death can paint no resurrection. Whoever has not grasped the horror of death cannot join Paul in the hymn of victory: “Death is swallowed up—in victory! O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

Oscar Cullmann, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead”, 1955

J. I. Packer on De-Mystifying God

Posted on January 22, 2018



By “mystification” I mean the idea [often held in traditional views of God] that some biblical statements about God mislead as they stand, and ought to be explained away….

[S]ometimes [in the Bible] God is said to change his mind and to make new decisions as he reacts to human doings. Orthodox theists have insisted that God does not really change his mind since God is impassible and never a “victim” of his creation. As writes Louis Berkhof, representative of this view, “the change is not in God, but in man and man’s relations to God.”

But to say that is to say that some things that Scripture affirms about God do not mean what they seem to mean, and do mean what they do not seem to mean. This provokes the question: How can these statements be part of the revelation of God when they actually misrepresent and so conceal God? In other words, how may we explain these statements about God’s grief and repentance without seeming to explain them away?

[A]t every point in his self-disclosure God reveals what he essentially is, with no gestures that mystify. And surely we must reject as intolerable any suggestion that God in reality is different at any point from what Scripture makes him appear to be. Scripture was not written to mystify and therefore we need to ask how we can dispel the contrary impression that the time-honored, orthodox line of explanation leaves.


J. I. Packer, “What Do You Mean When You Say God?” Christianity Today, September 19, 1986, 30, emphases in original.

The Biblical Gospel Is Imperialistic

Posted on January 17, 2018



It’s fascinating to consider how the ancient Greeks used the word euaggelion (gospel). It was closely associated with the imperial cult. The emperor issued good news, his gospel. He himself embodied the good news. He was deemed in some sense divine. He healed. He performed other miracles. He was the world’s savior. He as a god protected the state. Great signs accompanied his birth and life. His words became sacred writings. He granted great power to humans under his care. No wonder his life and actions and words are celebrated as gospel. The emperor himself was good news.[1]


Now if all this sounds familiar, you’ll begin to understand why the NT writers used euaggelion to relate the message surrounding Jesus Christ. He’s the earth’s true emperor, challenging the claims of the Roman emperor.[2] The biblical writers are specifically contrasting Jesus Christ’s empire with the Roman Empire.[3] He’s overturning Caesar’s authority. He’s the real Caesar of the universe. Jesus is the good news. He’s the way of salvation. He’s the world’s rightful ruler. He will overturn all evil and bring redemption.


The kingly gospel


This is why the NT couches the gospel as a kingdom message (Mt. 4:23; 24:14; Ac. 28:23–31). “The gospel,” writes John Frame, “is the good news of redemption specifically through Christ the King. It is the message ‘your God reigns’ (Is. 52:7) . . . .”[4] This is why Jesus tells his disciples in Mark 16:15 to preach the gospel to the entire creation.[5] The gospel is redeeming the entire creation, not just individuals.


The gospel, then, isn’t just a factual enumeration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. More importantly, it’s a declaration of what God has done, is doing, and will do in Jesus Christ to take his world back from Satan and sin.[6] It isn’t merely a message of how to go to heaven when you die and live a private life well pleasing to God. Personal salvation is one vital aspect of that divine work, but not the whole thing. It’s a message of the Kingship of Jesus in the earth that takes back a sin-scared world for its healing by its rightful owner.



The Gospel in Part and Full


It’s imperative to understand that battling for religious liberty, and protecting the family, and championing biblical sexuality (for example) are not the results of faithful gospel ministry. They aren’t tasks in addition to the gospel. They are a part, an indispensable part, of the gospel ministry.


Every time we litigate to protect street preachers, we’re preaching the gospel. Every time we influence legislators to vote for marriage, we’re preaching the gospel. Every time we lead churches to speak biblical truth outside the walls of the church, we’re preaching the gospel. Every time we expose human trafficking, we’re preaching the gospel. Every time we work to limit abortion, both by persuading a woman not to get one and influencing the government to limit and eventually abolish it, we’re preaching the gospel.


The good news isn’t just that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. It’s also that he’s the only way to get rid of sin in the world. Every act that works to restore God’s pristine creation is a gospel act.


We can therefore pray with Isaiah (64:1–4)


Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,

that the mountains might quake at your presence—

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil—

to make your name known to your adversaries,

and that the nations might tremble at your presence!


From of old no one has heard

or perceived by the ear,

no eye has seen a God besides you,

who acts for those who wait for him.





The Center for Cultural Leadership and similar ministries have their share of Christian critics — not secularists and statists and Muslims, but sincere Christians and churches. Perhaps their attitude is, “Your work isn’t really what Christians are called to do. We’re called to preach the gospel, plant churches, send missionaries, and launch Christian schools. That’s the gospel ministry. At best, CCL and similar works are distracted from the important work. They’re wasting valuable time and money. At worst, they’re turning people away from the true gospel — which is how to trust Jesus and live a holy life and go to heaven when you die. We Christians should be gospel-centered, but CCL is just playing in a sandbox.”


These criticisms are mistaken. It’s true that we should all be gospel-centered, but we need to know what the gospel in its fullness actually is. We need more, not fewer, gospel-centered ministries speaking the truth in public life. We need more gospel-centered ministries that are the Lord’s representatives declaring the message that Jesus’ death is reconciling all things to himself. We need more gospel-centered ministries showing how Jesus is redeeming the arts and education and technology and law and vocation. We need more gospel-centered ministries redeeming politics by conforming it to God’s moral law. We need more gospel-centered ministries litigating to protect employees and preachers and families and Christian schools and colleges from the depredations of our apostate state. We need more gospel-centered ministries that will oppose those artificial reproductive technologies that deface humans created in God’s image. We need more gospel-centered ministries that will labor to limit and eventually eliminate abortion. We need more gospel-centered ministries that will restore biblical marriage between one man and one woman in our age of sexual chaos.


These emphases aren’t implications of the gospel. They are a critical part of it.


The false, bifurcated narrative


Christians feel intimidated today by a false narrative: the gospel is a private matter. And so we start using a different language, thinking a different way, operating under different presuppositions in public life.[7] We have a private way of thinking and acting, and a public way of thinking and acting. In private — in our devotions and at home and church — we’re very free and open about our faith: “Jesus is my Savior and Lord. He died for us all on the Cross and rose again for our salvation. We Christians love and serve him. We relish his Word. The Bible governs our lives. We want to glorify God in all we do.” But when we come to public life — politics or the government schools or national economics or the movies or TV or the law — we change our tune. Then we say, “We dare not impose our views on anybody else. We need to be cautious. This isn’t our territory. This is hostile territory. Jesus isn’t Lord here, at least not yet. I’d better just keep my Christianity to myself.”


The gospel of the Bible won’t allow this bifurcation. It demands our allegiance and our devotion and passion in public no less than in private. Every culture is religious. It might not be Christian, but it’s certainly religious (secularism is a religion, for example). The only question is whether our public life will be Christian or another, false religion.[8] Our task is, by the Spirit’s power, to replace the current false religion of the public square with the true public religion of Christianity.


I invite you to rip down the wall between private and public in your Christian practice. Jesus is Lord of your private life, and he should be Lord of all public life as well. This is the biblical gospel.

[1] Gerhard Friedrich, “εὐαγγέλιον,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976), 2:724. My paragraph is indebted to, rewords and summarizes Friedrich’s research.
[2] This is a vital observation of N. T. Wright in What St. Paul Really Said (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 39–62. For objections to other aspects of his soteriology, see Stephen Westerholm, Justification Reconsidered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013).
[3] With respect to euaggelion, it’s important to remember that isolated words and their etymology do not of themselves provide meaning, as James Barr famously argued in The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford, England: SCM Press, 1961). However, when the context and usage reinforce that traditional etymology, it gains significance. This is precisely the case with euaggelion.
[4] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2013), 95.
[5] R. H. Mounce, “Gospel,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 473.
[6] A. O. Piper, “Gospel (Message),” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, George Arthur Buttrick, ed. (Nashville, Tennessee: Abington, 1962), 2:445.
[7] Lesslie Newbigin, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 49.
[8] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco, Texas: Word, 1976), 1:380.

CCL’s 2018 Agenda: Can You Help?

Posted on December 15, 2017



Since year’s end is the time when a bulk of the annual donations arrive for many ministries, I try to remind you that we at the Center for Cultural Leadership need money and what we need it for. This year is no different, but there’s much else besides.


It was a profound blessing to see a number of you this fall from Middletown, Ohio to Summerville, Pennsylvania to Toronto, Canada to Pratt, Kansas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Dallas and Corpus Christi and McAllen, Texas.


But there’s so much going on, that I must look forward now.


In October Drs. Joseph Boot of the Ezra Institute and Peter Jones of truthXchange and I spent a day and a half in southern Ontario near Buffalo, New York at the magnificent, opulent new manor house of the Ezra Institute situated on 23 acres: the International Centre for Reformational Culture. The Centre will host a number of new culture-transforming events, the chief of which will be the Evan Runner International Academy for Cultural Leadership, an intense but exciting two-week school-in-community designed chiefly for college and grad and seminary students and other young Christian adults to educate and equip them in the foundational truths of cultural redemption: everything from biblical interpretation to the meaning of the comprehensive gospel to presuppositional apologetics to creational norms to Oneism versus Twoism to sexual order to biblical law to the heritage of Christendom to Christian culture to Islam and much else.


There will be a separate, subsequent week devoted exclusively to young Christian adults preparing to enter the arts (the Centre has a full performance venue with theatrical and musical and sound stage). Please be thinking of students you can recommend to apply. Attendance will be capped at about 50 per academy, the first of which is planned for summer 2019. Drs. Boot, Jones, and I will serve as core faculty, and few faculty will be announced soon. The Centre will also house a 40,000+ volume two-story library and research center for academics and sabbatical for select church leaders. The goal in everything will be to bring the Triune God glory by raising up and educating and equipping a generation of Christians committed to the culture-redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ designed to shape all of life and thought.


Our objective is nothing less than a Christian world based in liberty under God’s truth. CCL is a think tank, and the Runner Academy will be CCL’s premier institutional training program. You’ll be hearing much more about the Centre in coming months. Please contact me with any questions.


Judge William Graves’ Prudent Jurisprudence: Essays on Constitutional Liberties and Law is finished and was just mailed to all donors. If you aren’t a donor but would like a copy of this important work that articulates and defends judicial originalism (the Constitution should be interpreted according to the meaning the Framers gave it), please send a gift for at least $50.00. This book includes over 30 original drawings by the author about law, U.S. history, the Supreme Court, and great Americans from George Washington to Clarence Thomas. It will be a boon to Christian lawyers and students and other Christians interested in a Christian judicial philosophy and the Christian history of the U.S.


Next year we plan to release Joseph Boot’s The Self-Destructive Doctrine of Islam and the following works by me: Prayer Changes Things, Creational Theology: An Introduction, and Reformationally Correct: Biblical Protestantism Today. David L. Banhsen’s Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure will be released by Simon & Schuster early next year.


After 15 years as a small but faithful think tank, CCL is poised to take the next step in expanding influence for Christ the King. But we need money to take that big step. This is the time of year that donors send big donations. We need a pile this year. Can you help us? If you can, please send a check today or donate here:


We must replace about $1000 monthly in decreased donations, so if you can commit to sending $50 to $100 a month or more, I would be most grateful. We are moving ahead, now more than ever, but we need money to do it.


This Advent season we celebrate our Lord’s incarnation. He was born to die and rise again and redeem his people, but not just his people: he is redeeming all areas of life presently under the domain of sin. CCL is preaching and teaching and lecturing and writing and praying in expanding that cultural vision. Can you help us do it?


I need each of you, and I am humbled by your help.


May God bless you as never before during this 2017 Advent season.




For Jesus Christ and Christian culture,


Andrew Sandlin, S.T.D.

Founder and President

Responsibility as a Personal and Cultural Imperative

Posted on December 9, 2017



Slightly revised from remarks delivered at the 2017 CCL symposium in San Francisco, California




Sometimes the topics that the Center for Cultural Leadership targets might seem far removed from your life: D.C. politics, tax-reform legislation, the political correctness of elite Leftist universities, or Hollywood screenwriting worldviews. But today’s topic bores itself into our day-to-day life, into our family, into our very backbone. Responsibility is big a part of what it means to be human in God’s world. We were created in God’s image. God immediately gave our first parents responsibility: to steward the rest of creation, to exert dominion for his glory (Gen. 1:28–28). Think about that fact for a moment. God didn’t first draw attention to a mystical union between himself and humanity. He didn’t ask Adam and Eve to quietly contemplate the beauties of creation. He didn’t even command that they think lofty thoughts about him. He gave them a task for which he made them responsible. Man had the freedom to obey or disobey God. Man is a free, responsible being. God created us to be responsible.


Accountability versus Autonomy


Responsibility implies accountability. Man is created in God’s image. He’s responsible to God. This means that he’s accountable to God. God calls man to account for his God-given responsibilities. This also means that there can be no autonomy (self-law). Man is not a law to himself. He is responsible to God.


God is accountable


God himself is accountable. We don’t often think that way, but it’s true. God’s a free and unconditioned being, but he willingly binds himself to his people, and to all humanity, in covenant.[1] In other words, God makes himself responsible. To whom is God responsible? He’s responsible to his own holy being and character. We read in Hebrews: “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (Heb. 6:13). A holy God makes himself responsible for his promises. God is accountable to his own stable, holy character.


Man’s relationship with God is one of mutual responsibility. Responsibility is woven into the fabric of the universe.


Sin and Irresponsibility


Man sinned, of course, and man’s sin includes an assault on responsibility. We all know that blame shifting — which actually is responsibility shifting — began in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent had already blamed God. Sinful man and woman immediately tried to shed responsibility. Blame shifting is tightly bound to original sin. Wherever there’s sin, there’s almost always blame shifting. Why? Man knows that if there is human freedom, there must human responsibility; and if he refuses to be responsible for his sin, he’ll blame somebody else.


This blame shifting, this irresponsibility, is at the root of our present apostasy from the Triune God, both personal apostasy and cultural apostasy.


Personal Imperative


God has laid out in his creational norms (nature) and in his written law (the Bible) man’s basic responsibilities. The fact that the chief responsibilities concern the family shows how important it is in God’s plan. The husband is responsible to love and cherish and provide for the wife. The wife is responsible to love and follow her husband. The parents are responsible to love and provide for and rear their children in the ways of the Lord. The children are responsible to honor and obey their parents. Adult children are responsible for their parents in old age. Individuals as individuals are responsible. We’re responsible for our economic decisions, our sexual activity, and our choice of words. We’re responsible for our property and our animals and the use of our technology.


We have specific responsibilities to others besides our family. We are responsible to protect the weakest and vulnerable — children (including, in particular, unborn children), widows, orphans, the sick and elderly. We men are responsible to protect women from assault and harassment and exploitation. We’re responsible to pay our honest debts. We’re responsible to promptly pay our employees. We’re responsible to honor another person’s property. We’re responsible to love and, if necessary, lay down our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. Life is full of God-imposed responsibility. Without responsibility, there can be no sustained human life.[2]


Blaming parents and upbringing


But recall that sinful man is almost always inclined to shift responsibility (Gen. 3). The greatest culprit of personal blame shifting of our time centers on one’s own history, particularly our parents and upbringing. It’s remarkable how often the first response to hearing about a gang member or rapist or fornicator or adulterer or drug addict or alcoholic or tax evader or sluggard is, “Well, he or she must’ve had a bad upbringing.” This tendency is one big example of the worldview known as behaviorism: we’re simply the product of our environment. This is a prominent aspect of an anti-Christian, blame-shifting worldview, even though it’s everywhere in our world today.


There’s no doubt that our environment affects us. The Bible recognizes this fact. That’s why, for example, it warns us about associating with evil people (1 Cor. 15:33). But environment is never an excuse for our own sins and faults and the consequences we suffer from them.


Moreover, if we step back, we might want to consider that all sorts of people had horrid, tragic childhoods and yet they didn’t end up as a criminals or degenerates or apostates. If we suffered from a bad childhood, we can, by God’s grace, overcome that influence. It doesn’t define us, and it’s never an excuse. Whatever our childhood, we are still responsible.


Blaming genetics


A second blame shifting strategy derives from genetics: “I was born this way.” The father of the young Norwegian who slaughtered over 70 people, including children, at an island retreat a few years ago, explained that his son “must be” mentally ill. There was no other possible explanation.[3] The idea that his son was depraved, and that his son was responsible for his actions, was an explanation apparently unavailable to him.


Have you ever noticed in the Bible how God never excuses or even explains man’s sin by recourse to ancestors? If anything, God does just the opposite: he holds children accountable for the sins of their fathers. Children often persist in their parents’ sin, and God judges them: “Just as your fathers were sinful, so you are” (see Is. 65:2–7). God calls us to break with the sins of our parents, not justify our sins by blaming our parents.


Learn to blame yourself


Amid this personal blame shifting, our calling is clear: take responsibility for our words and actions (and silence and inactions). I’ll be eternally grateful for an aphorism my father drilled into me as a child: Learn to blame yourself. If you spend your life blaming other people for your problems, you will always have a rationale never to change. People who learn to blame themselves, however, have a rationale for changing the way they are, for overcoming their hardships. They can grow in character. Blame shifters never grow in character.


If you consistently don’t get a promotion at work, you might want to ask what you are doing wrong instead of always blaming your employer.


If your academic record is mediocre, perhaps it’s because you’ve been doing mediocre work rather than that your teachers are conspiring against you.


If you persistently lack money, consider that the reason is not that your employer doesn’t appreciate you enough to pay you better. Maybe it’s that you don’t spend wisely or haven’t worked to improve yourself in order to get a better job.


Learn to blame yourself.


Don’t allow your young children to shift blame. Children don’t need to be taught to shift blame. It’s built into their sinful DNA. Weed out this tendency early. They’ll blame their mistreating of their siblings on their siblings prior actions. Don’t let them blame their failure to do their chores on their tiredness. Don’t let them blame their substandard schoolwork on their allegedly mean teacher. Remember: blame shifting always creates a rationale for the status quo. No one ever changed for the better by blaming somebody else. Teach your children: Learn to blame yourself.


“If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, [a]nd if you scoff, you alone will bear it” (Pr. 9:12).


This is the imperative for personal responsibility. Then there’s cultural responsibility. And personal irresponsibility leads to cultural irresponsibility.


Deep State or Deep Culture?


We hear a lot about the Deep State today. Deep State describes the vast government bureaucracy that tries to bypass elected officials in getting its way. Sometimes it’s backed up by conspiracy theories, sometimes not. If all Deep State means is that unelected bureaucracies like to wield power irrespective of elections or political parties, there’s nothing new or surprising about it. Lifelong bureaucrats like to keep their jobs. Conservatives have known about — and complained about — the Deep State long before they heard of that language. Unfortunately, by concentrating on politics, they miss the massive foundation on which politics sits: culture. Here’s another well-known metaphor: politics is downstream from culture. By culture I mean man’s interaction with God’s creation to bring it to higher levels in bringing glory to God. Human hair is creation, but a burr haircut is culture. Water is creation, but irrigation is culture. A sparrow is creation, but a Boeing 747 jet adapted from the sparrow’s flying abilities is culture. Advanced culture includes music and art and economics and literature and TV and movies and other technology. When this culture is dominated by apostasy (a departure from the Faith), the apostasy filters down to politics. This is what’s going on today. In the words of Mark Steyn:



If the culture’s liberal, if the schools are liberal, if the churches are liberal, if the hip, groovy business elite is liberal, if the guys who make the movies and the pop songs are liberal, then electing a guy with an “R” after his name isn’t going to make a lot of difference.


Nor should it. In free societies, politics is the art of the possible. In the 729 days between elections, the left is very good at making its causes so possible that in American politics almost anything of consequence is now impossible….


What will we be playing catch-up to in another 28 years?[4]


Big government


If (for example) you want to know why we have such a massive government today, it’s because individuals and families and churches and businesses were irresponsible decades ago. They outsourced education and childcare and healthcare and elderly care to politics, and now they complain about a huge, intrusive federal government. Families and churches were culturally irresponsible, and now they’re paying the political price.


Same-sex “marriage”


Same-sex “marriage” (SSM) didn’t win in June 2015 with the Obergefell decision. It was only legally formalized then. It won out in the living rooms of ordinary Americans, with gay characters on the TV screen depicted as wise and witty, and opponents of homosexuality portrayed as cruel, stupid, and unfair. SSM won in the lecture halls of major universities, where it was deemed just another form of equality that America must stand for. SSM won in the churches, where even evangelicals refused plainly to declare biblical sexual ethics. Because SSM won in the living rooms, the lecture halls and the pulpits, it was easy to win in the courts. The fact that it won at the ballot box in almost every state where it was voted on didn’t matter in the end. Culture trumps politics.


Sexual harassment


Today’s politics is rocked by scores of charges (many credible) of sexual harassment, groping, and assaulting women. People’s heads are spinning: “How could this have happened?” The answer is easy, and it’s not a political answer. It’s another fruit of the Sexual Revolution of the 60s, in which women are treated as sex objects and playthings, in which feminists, who claimed to defend women’s rights, defended to the hilt Bill Clinton, a political playboy if there ever was one.[5] The irony: feminists of the 90s made it safe for politicians (both parties) to treat women as sex objects. It was the Left who for the last few decades gave male celebrities like Jimmy Page, Roman Polanski and Chuck Berry a pass on sex with underage females. They unleashed the Sexual Revolution, and now their successors are horrified at Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken.[6] Pray tell, what did they expect?


These aren’t principally political problems at all. They’re cultural problems that have been commandeered by politics. Our problem isn’t so much Deep State as Deep Culture. Habits of irresponsibility have burrowed themselves deeply into our culture. They’ve been normalized. To say that the government should not provide health care seems callous. To hold that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry one another appears unfair. To suggest that people shouldn’t sleep with whomever they want seems just plain weird. Irresponsibility has now been normalized. This is Deep Culture.


This isn’t a conspiracy, for the simple reasons that the deep culturalists are quite happy to tell you what they’re up to. They could resonate with Marx and Engels’ words in their Communist Manifesto: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.” The Deep culturalists aren’t hidden. They’re right out for all of us to see. And their program is built largely on blame shifting.


Cultural Imperative


The most prominent example of cultural blame shifting today is identity politics (or identitarianism). What is identity politics?[7] It’s when people of the same “gender” or race or social or economic status bandwagon together by interpreting all political (and other) issues though the only lens available on their own bandwagon.


Identity politics is easy to spot: When gays vote only for candidates that advance the LGBTQ agenda. When feminists support only candidates that advance women’s interests. When whites or Blacks or Hispanics bandwagon with their own race to support policies that help only their own race.


The commonwealth


Identity politics erodes a culture because it throws overboard the commonwealth. A commonwealth is a political community united around a common good. Christian-influenced nations like England and the U. S. were once commonwealths. What’s most important isn’t what benefits a particular “class” or group, but what’s best for the nation as a whole. There’s a sense of the shared good: we’re all in this together. The individual works for what’s best for everybody else. Identity politics destroys the commonwealth, the common good.


Patriotic Christians of all people should oppose identity politics. Christianity is based on an ethic of love for the Triune God and our fellow man. We should support what’s best for everybody, not just a select group, including Christians.


Chapter 1 of the Communist Manifesto begins: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Whenever you hear the word “class” introduced into political discussions, you’re often hearing Marxist rhetoric. As in, “This tax policy will harm (or help) the working (or lower, or poor, or upper or wealthy) class.” Note that the goal isn’t what’s best for the commonwealth, but what’s best for one or another “class.”


Grievance politics and Libertarian Marxism


Almost all identity politics is guilty of blame shifting. We call it grievance politics. The white working “class” blames legal or illegal working “class” Hispanics for their squalid economic state and opioid addictions. The black lower “class” blames the white working “class” for their broken families and low-paying jobs. The white middle “class” blames the upper cognitive class for their own stagnant wages and for “not paying their fair share” of taxes. The upper cognitive “class” blames Donald Trump and the white working “class” for impeding their grand vision of social justice. This is grievance politics, the fruit of a grievance culture. It shifts attention from personal responsibility to class warfare. It is Marxist to the core (I call it Libertarian Marxism), and it eats away at a base of a society like termites eat away at a home’s foundation.




Let me end with an exhortation: don’t blame anybody else for your life’s present hardships or roadblocks. Don’t blame your parents. Don’t blame your childhood. Don’t blame your business partner. Don’t blame genetics. Don’t blame the bank. Don’t blame the insurance company. Don’t blame Barack Obama or Donald Trump. As long as you blame somebody else or some group or “class” for your bad situation (real or imaginary), you’ll never have the incentive to work to get out of it. Find out from God’s revelation what you’re responsible for, and do it.


Don’t identify yourself with a race, or a “gender,” or an economic or social “class.” Identify yourself as God identifies you: as created in his image and responsible to him. No less importantly, as a Christian, identify yourself as a member of Jesus Christ’s body. In his covenant love, the Triune God has made himself responsible to you, and you are responsible to him.


Work with me and with CCL to get rid of a grievance culture and revive a responsibility culture. God has called us to victory,[8] and victory begins with seeing ourselves as God sees us and fulfilling our responsibilities before him. There can be no godly change, personally or culturally, if we refuse to take our God-given responsibilities. Let’s work daily to be responsible people.


[1] O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980).
[2] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Baker Topical Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 549 – 684 marshals an avalanche of biblical texts in which God imposes responsibilities on man.
[3] “Attorney: Norway suspect surprised attacks succeeded,”, accessed February 24, 2015.
[4] Mark Steyn, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2014), xiv.
[5] Caitlin Flanagan, “Bill Clinton: A Reckoning,”, accessed November 27, 2017.
[6] See Kevin D. Williamson, “The Left’s Sexual Counter-Revolution,” National Review, November 27, 2017, 21–22.
[7] “Identity Politics,”, accessed November 26, 2017.
[8] John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976).

Sola Scriptura — What It Does, and Does Not, Mean

Posted on November 9, 2017



In the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation, it’s helpful to rehearse the five Reformation solae, of which sola Scriptura might be the most well–known. What does it mean, and what doesn’t it mean?


Not the exclusive authority


Sola Scriptura does not mean that the Bible is our only authority. The Bible makes clear that God establishes subordinate human authority: valid authority under his sovereign authority. God, as it were, deputizes certain institutions to carry out his will. This is why God says in Romans 13 that if we resist civil authority, we resist God’s authority.


We live in a time obsessed with individual autonomy. Autonomy means “self-law.” Ours is an era deeply resistant to external authority of any kind. We live in a culture of rebels. This includes aversion to civil authority (like police officers), family authority, church authority, employers’ authority, teachers’ authority, and much else. Social commentators often declare that our society is skeptical of all institutions. This is actually just another way of saying that people resent authority. This is obviously the case in our wider society: disrespect for police officers, disobedience to schoolteachers, disdain for employers. But it’s true even among Christians. I know of Christians in our Internet age that rarely skip a chance to digitally attack pastors and elders. They’re constantly at war on church leaders, despite what the Bible teaches (Heb. 13:7, 17). Oddly, some of these lawless people pit the Bible’s authority against church authority. Yes, some churches abuse their authority, but we mustn’t forget that it’s the Bible that validates church authority. If you believe the Bible, you must believe in church authority, and other specific human authorities.


Valid church tradition


Second, sola Scriptura does not mean that church tradition has no value.[1] Paul himself wrote that the Thessalonians (2 Thes. 2:15) should keep the traditions they’d learned from him and from others. The reformers weren’t the enemies of church tradition. They affirmed the early ecumenical orthodoxy and the creeds. They recognized the church fathers’ formulations of the Trinity and the two natures of the one person Jesus Christ. They accepted the orthodox definition of the canon of the Bible.[2] They weren’t trying to reinvent orthodoxy on the anvil of their own speculation. They knew they weren’t the first people to read the Bible and they didn’t think they understood the Bible better than everybody who went before them.


But, and here’s the key, they weren’t willing to allow tradition to be a coordinate authority with the Bible. Heiko Oberman[3] and Alister McGrath[4] have offered a shorthand way to understand the views of the relation between the Bible and tradition at the time. The Roman Catholic Church held that both the Bible and tradition were, in effect, equally authoritative in the church. This is Tradition 2. The radical reformers wanted to get rid of all tradition and appeal only to the Bible. This is Tradition 0. The Protestant reformers wanted to retain tradition, but only tradition that could be justified by appeal to the Bible. This is Tradition 1.


The final word


Sola Scriptura is Tradition 1. The best definition I ever read of Sola Scriptura is John M. Frame’s: “Scripture, and only Scripture, has the final word on everything . . . .”[5] And by everything, this means everything, not just in the church and theology but also in love and friendships and science and architecture and music and economics and farming and information technology and everything else. Of course, the Bible doesn’t touch every possible topic. It doesn’t give us the square root of pi or the location of ancient China. But it does give us the truths by which we are to approach and interpret these topics and all others.


The Bible has the final word on this and anything else it declares or implies. This is the meaning of sola Scriptura.

[1] See the balanced Reformation view explained in Philip Schaff, The Principle of Protestantism (Philadelphia and Boston: United Church Press, 1964), 97–124.
[2] Luther questioned the book of James, but this was an exception.
[3] Heiko Augustinus Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology (Durham, North Carolina: The Labyrinth Press, 1983), 365–412.
[4] Alister E. McGrath, Reformation Thought (Oxford, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1993, second edition), 144–147.
[5] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (P & R Publishing: Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 2010), 571.

To Rod Dreher: Ours Is a Pre-Christian World 

Posted on October 15, 2017

Rod Dreher has solicited responses from ordained ministers asking whether they are sufficiently courageous to acquaint their congregants or audiences with the present dire apostasy afflicting our society. Below is my response:


I am a long-ordained Reformational minister committed to credal, Bible-believing Christianity. I’m a member of the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.

I agree almost entirely with your diagnosis of the present apostasy, both ecclesial and cultural, but not with your dire prognosis. Everywhere I travel, I preach and lecture on the very evidences of cultural evil you raise; but I would suggest you abolish the moniker post-Christian, or at least replace it with the more accurate post-Christendom. The vestiges of the Constantinian Settlement are disintegrating, but the best days of Christianity are ahead of us.

The Bible is replete with promises about the victorious gospel, so it is more accurate to say that we live in pre-Christian days. Pessimism is simply not a Christian virtue, and the measure of our eschatological pessimism is the measure of our overweening unbelief.

In Jesus Christ, we are called to victory, in time and history, and victory we will have.

Real Differences, Real Commonalities 

Posted on October 13, 2017

On the verge of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is imperative for Protestants to neither exaggerate nor underestimate the differences with Roman Catholicism. The original reformers were quite happy with the basic inherited orthodoxy they shared with the Latin church (for example, Nicene Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology), as well as what Christopher Dawson termed the historic reality of Christian culture. However, they disagreed firmly (and relentlessly) with the Roman church on the relationship between the Bible and tradition (sola Scriptura), and on how the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work are applied to the believer (sola fide). Understanding both these truths today will tend to prevent among Protestants — and Roman Catholics — a mean-spirited bigotry on the one hand and a toothless latitudinarianism on the other, both of which derive from historical ignorance. 

To act as though there are no basic commonalities between the two communions is to devalue the great central truths of ancient catholic orthodoxy that most of us confess in the Apostles Creed every Sunday. To act as though there are no basic differences is to slap both Roman Catholics and Protestants in the face, implying that their deeply held beliefs are comparatively unimportant. 

Reconciliation under the present circumstances is neither possible nor desirable, but we do stand together within Christendom, and those of us in both communions committed to the basics of the historic Christian faith should unite in opposing the great heresies within Christianity and the great depravities in contemporary culture. 

The fact that we cannot join together does not mean that we cannot work together.

Creation and Sexuality Conference in Western Pennsylvania 

Posted on October 7, 2017

Hosted by Living Church International, Summerville, Pennsylvania

David Shay, Pastor 


5:30 – 6:45pm – Dinner Provided at Parsonage for out-of-town guests

7:00 – 7:15pm – Hymn & Invocation

7:15 – 8:00pm – “Creation Lost and Regained” with Dr. P. Andrew Sandlin

8:00 – 8:45pm – “Sexual Order IS Social Order” with Jeff Shafer, Esq.

8:45pm – Benediction & Dismissal

8:15 – 9:00am – Continental Breakfast

9:00 – 9:45am – “Creational Normativity” with Dr. Sandlin

9:45 – 10:40am – “Same-Sex ‘Marriage,’ Transgenderism, & Beyond: Law, Inhumanity, and the Path to Totalitarianism” with Mr. Shafer

10:40 – 10:50am – Break

10:50 – 12:00pm – Stategy Session

12:00 – 1:00pm – Lunch Provided

1:00 – 1:45pm – “Gnosticism: The Primal & Perennial Heresy” with Dr. Sandlin

1:45 – 2:30 – “Thinking About Things We Ought To Be Thinking About” with Mr. Shafer

2:30 – 3:30pm – Strategy Session

3:30 – 5:30pm – Break

5:30 – 6:45pm – Dinner Provided

6:45 – 7:00pm – Break and Transition

7:00 – 7:15pm – Worship

7:15 – 8:00pm – “Recovering Creational Christianity” with Dr. Sandlin

8:00 – 8:45pm – Final Strategy Session

8:45 – 9:00pm – Prayer, Declaration & Dismissal

Hello Friends,

As we are busily (perhaps frantically) finishing up preparations for our time together next week, I wanted to update you on a few items.

Housing: If you are staying with us here on the church campus, you need not bring linens; they are provided for you. If you have a pillow that you can’t sleep without, bring that along.

Travel: For those driving to Pennsylvania caution is recommended. The white tail deer are as thick as the flies on the white tail deer that you hit three days ago. If you are relying on your GPS, use 341 Carriage Road, Fairmount City, PA 16224 to get to the Living Church Welcome Home. There is a new driveway that enters from Pine Run Road (turn left where it crosses Carriage). There is parking in front of the manse for those of able body (use caution on the new stairs as the railing has yet to be installed). If the stairs are a hindrance, please pull up into the courtyard and park there.

Schedule: Meetings on Wednesday and Thursday have been moved to the Welcome Home, since most of us are staying here on campus.

We are praying that Holy Spirit anoint our time together and impassion and empower us to serve our Lord Christ and His everlasting Kingdom to the glory of our Good Father.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email or call us. The phone at the Welcome Home is 814.365.5683. 

See you soon,
Pastor David and Emily

Senior Pastor of Living Church International
Headmaster of Christ Dominion Academy
59 W Penn Street
Summerville, PA 15864  

Joy Bell: A Eulogy for My Mother

Posted on October 7, 2017

How within a handful of minutes does one take measure of a life, especially the life of a parent, and particularly the life of an extraordinarily godly, Christian parent? It cannot – and perhaps should not – be attempted. But to say something is preferable to saying nothing, even if the something is woefully insufficient. That is my difficult task today.

My mother exhibited many Christian virtues, and she exhibited them extraordinarily, but I’ve chosen only one to enumerate. It is the one that, in my view, characterized her life more than any other. For social media, my mother selected the name Joy Bell. There is a reason for this: she considered joy a vital part of the Christian life. She valued joy. She desired joy. And she had joy.

We often consider joy a secondary and optional Christian virtue. The Bible gives it a much more prominent place. In the Old Testament, God threatens terrible things to his people if they do not live lives of joy in him (Dt. 28:47–48). We read in Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Jesus told his disciples that he came in order that they might have maximum joy (Jn. 17:13). Again and again the Bible speaks of the gift of joy and of rejoicing in all that God is done, is doing, and will do. To be a joy-less Christian is to be less than a Christian.

My mother knew this fact, because she studied the Bible carefully. She consistently reflected this joy.

She knew that joy is not identical to fun. Joy is not evidenced by incessant laughter. Joy is not the product of exciting or peaceful circumstances. Joy is knowing and loving God and his Son and other believers, delighting in the Lord and walking in his paths.

Joy does not presuppose exemption from trying circumstances. Like all of us other Christians, she suffered the trials of life: loss of friends; misunderstanding of loved ones; material fluctuations; and, of course, severe illness. But she did not abandon her joy.

She had great joy in her husband, my father, whom she loved — and loves — so much, and who taught her so much about the Lord and the Bible, and who always provided faithfully for her.

She had great joy in her children grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, on whom she often looked with the greatest love and admiration.

She rejoiced in her parents and sisters and brother and delighted in family reunions, and enjoyed few things more in life than simply having her family surrounding her — watching them.

What joy she took in singing both at home and church! She sang deeply moving, Spirit-filled, painstakingly articulated solos – hymns and gospel songs, to thousands of saints and sinners across the United States for over 40 years

She rejoiced in her church, including this church. She enjoyed singing not just solos, but congregationally, and she rejoiced to hear the word of God faithfully preached.

She took overwhelming joy in the word of God. She loved it, she believed it, she read it, she studied it, and she obeyed it. Early in their marriage, my father encouraged her to get into the word, and she never got out of it. Although she got plenty out of it.

Most of all, she rejoiced in her Savior Jesus Christ. As a young girl in Sunday school, she trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. Our Lord himself said that if we were to come to him, we must come as little children, with a very simple, guileless, unadorned faith. She trusted Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross and his bodily resurrection to save her, and she never looked back, never doubted. It was this great, overwhelming life commitment that guided her, in which all her joy was rooted.

This brings me to my final and most significant point. My mother did not simply find joy in people or things. Joy was a part of her very being. To be Salle Jo was to be joyful.

We live in dark times. Of course, the world has been afflicted with moral darkness since man’s Fall in the garden. Our times are especially dark due to the loss of Christian influence in the Western world and our nation. This sin produces sadness. The world is full of sadness because it is full of sin. In the middle of this sadness, an island of joy in a sea of sadness, was Joy Bell. With David she could say, “I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5-6). When our heart fixed on God, joy is the fruit.  

I’m quite sure that I never witnessed my mother reflect a sustained spirit of pessimism. Realism, yes. Recognizing the evils of sin and hardships, yes. But she always had an optimistic outlook. Her attitude: Things will change for the better. Why? Because God answers prayer, and she prayed. Romans 12:12 calls us to rejoice in hope. She was joyful because she was full of hope, and she was full of hope because she trusted Jesus Christ, and she trusted Jesus Christ because she believed the Bible. And the Bible is the most hope- and joy-filled book in the world. 

The day after my mother died (my birthday), I started to wonder what emotions I would experience at her passing. I didn’t have to wait long. I soon experienced a wave of gratification and satisfaction — of joy. She had lived a joy-filled, Christian life to the fullest. As she told one of her granddaughters, she had no regrets. She grew up in a faithful Christian family. She attended and served in stellar Christian churches. She married a godly Christian man. She was a devoted mother to four children. She sang God-glorifying music around the country and in the British Isles. And she died a Christian death. What was there to regret? A life without regret is a life of joy. 

If Mom were here today, I need not speculate on what she would tell you. You were meant for a life full of joy. And joy is found in casting yourself entirely on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for your and my sins, and he is alive today interceding for us with his Father, and he will one day return to the earth to consummate eternal joy. 

My Mom did not always have the strongest physical constitution, and I sometimes wondered how she endured the vicissitudes of life. After serious and sustained reflection, I believe I now have the answer. It was the same answer that Nehemiah gave ancient Israel:

Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

My mother’s great, underlying, overarching, strength was the joy of the Lord. This is what kept her going. This is what made her hopeful. This is what carried her into her Lord’s bosom.

Recovering Personal Responsibility in Our Culture of Victimhood, Blame-Shifting, and Identity Politics

Posted on September 25, 2017



Every year, the Center for Cultural Leadership hosts for its friends and supporters at least one major symposium on a critical cultural issue. CCL is a think tank, so we value thoughtful discussions that can lead to godly change in our families, churches and wider society. In addition, and no less importantly, we value friendships, and we are confident that godly change occurs as much by cultivated friendships as it does in other ways. 


Our 2017 symposium will be Saturday, December 2 at a gorgeous hotel on San Francisco Bay. The theme is “Recovering Personal Responsibility in Our Culture of Victimhood, Blame-Shifting, and Identity Politics.” At this time in our culture’s history, I’m not sure there are many topics as relevant. Presenters include David L. Bahnsen, Brian G. Mattson, Jeffery J. Ventrella, and me. Just as important, all attendees are invited to be part of the discussion, and we treasure that contribution. Our goal: not one attendee goes away without a greater knowledge of how to influence our culture in distinctly Christian ways — and the courage to do it.


This event is not a conference in the conventional sense. Rather, it will be a discussion — more accurately, five, fifty-minute discussions (with breaks). All guests will be invited to enter the discussions. There will be no recordings, and you will be permitted to discuss pertinent issues freely, as long as you are gracious and respectful. 


This event will not be open to the general public, and attendance is capped at 45.  There is no cost, but you must be invited.


Plus, you get to spend at least one day rubbing shoulders with like-minded, culturally attuned Christians, renewing old friendships and making new ones. 


Our objective is three-fold: (1) to furnish a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere in which Christians committed to godly cultural change can discuss relevant issues and suggest strategies leading to effective cultural action; (2) to foster a thoughtful, respectful, prayer-drenched camaraderie among these diverse but like-minded Christians; and (3) to create a network of these Christians that can work both individually and collaboratively to bring God glory by reclaiming our culture according to distinctly Christian truth.


It’s also a great time to take in the gorgeous scenery of the Bay Area. The culture and politics may be bad in San Francisco, but the scenery and weather are great!


I am committed increasingly to the younger Christians (late teens and 20s and 30s) who must perpetuate the culture-reclaiming message of a robust Christian Faith. I’m convinced few messages are more vital today for this age group than our symposium theme: personal responsibility. I want to get specially selected young adults there. Can you help me do that? 


First, if you have children or other young adult relatives open to influencing the world for Jesus Christ, can you let me know so that I might invite them? Second, can you sponsor one or more attendees? The cost (tax deductible) is $250 per person. I would be happy if as many as half our attendees this year are young Christian adults whom we can influence for the kingdom. In addition, please save the date and let me know if you’re planning to attend.  


Contact me: sandlin[at]saber[dot]net or 831-420-7230. You can also send a private Facebook message. I look forward to hearing from you.



Romanticism in Prayer

Posted on September 13, 2017

We live in a time drenched in the Romanticist notion that spontaneity is king. In the church, this means that godly habits and customs are sub-spiritual, while spontaneous, carefree, “Spirit-led” actions truly please God. The less we ponder and plan and premeditate, the godlier we are. Nothing could be further from the truth. The same Spirit who leads prophets to speak spontaneously leads them to spend time in prayer every day at the same time, and in the same way. Godly habits and customs aren’t somehow less spiritual than godly spontaneity — and are almost inevitably a great deal weightier.

I urge you to set aside time, like Daniel, every day, to pray, to call out to God:

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. (Dan. 6:10)

Make a prayer list. There’s nothing whatsoever sub-spiritual about a written prayer list. Unless your memory is superhuman, there’s no way you can remember everyone and everything you need to pray for. It might not be necessary to pray through the entire list every day, but you probably need a list. In fact, if you can remember every person and everything you want to pray for, I suspect your prayer life is quite paltry. Your memory is not good enough to recall everyone and everything you need to pray for.

From a youth, Daniel had learned to pray. It was his custom. We’ll never be people of prayer until prayer becomes a custom and habit. If we wait to pray until the exigencies of the moment, we’ll never be people of prayer. Prayer is a religious observance in the best sense. Jesus prayed at customary times. It’s a principle of the Christian life. Every day we must acknowledge God as our Almighty and our Father. Every day we must glorify him in prayerful worship. Every day we must bring our requests to him. Every day we must show that we rely entirely on him for our life and provision. To go day after day without that kind of prayer — I’m not referring simply to hurried prayer over meals — is to go day after day without any communion with the One in we live our very lives.

Customary and habitual prayer is normal prayer. 

The Nashville Statement and the False Teachers

Posted on September 6, 2017

Pete Enns, self-appointed champion of the burgeoning anti-inerrancy wing of evangelicalism, joins a chorus of “progressives” opposed to the Nashville Statement. That statement is a simple, direct, bold affirmation of the Bible’s teaching concerning human sexuality, particularly with reference to homosexuality, signed by leading biblical evangelicals. Enns assaults the statement with satire and irony, but in particular a heavy dose of epistemic skepticism. We can know that there’s a God, but for some reason we cannot be rock-certain about what he’s like. We know that he’s given us a revelation, but we really can’t be quite sure what it is teaching us. 

There’s nothing new or interesting about this form of skepticism. Postmodernism dictates the unreliability or uncertainty of textual meaning. It blankets the humanities departments of most major American universities. It is always self-defeating. In Enns’ case, he can’t be sure what God teaches in the Bible about human sexuality, but he can be sure there’s a God, apparently. Modern discoveries and understanding about the universe call into question ancient interpretations of the Bible, but apparently this fact did not lead Enns to question Christianity itself, which is an ancient faith. 

Being consistently postmodern is oh-so-hard. 

Enns’ objections to the Nashville Statement will carry little weight with culturally latitudinarian run-of-the-mill evangelicals who are tolerant of same-sex “marriage” mainly because it has become popular. He will, however, influence some younger putative evangelical scholars who wish to be academically popular. Seemingly his goal in his mocking skepticism is to unsettle the faith of intelligent Bible-believing Christians weary of the arrogance they perceive in sectors of today’s Christianity.

But skepticism about what God has said is not the proper antidote to epistemic arrogance. It is no arrogance to submit to what God plainly teaches, and it plainly teaches that homosexuality is a grievous sin. It is, in fact, arrogance, not humility, that leads one to dispute what the Bible plainly teaches. 

This skepticism needs to be called what it is: false teaching. And Enns needs to be called what he is: a false teacher. If you spend your time undermining students’ confidence in the authority and clarity of the Bible, you are simply not a Christian teacher. Christianity demands, and has always assumed, a stable, knowable, generally understandable propositional revelation. Jesus taught this. The early apostles taught this. You can’t have Christianity without it.

For too long well-meaning evangelicals have treated Enns and similar false teachers with kid gloves.

It’s high time the gloves came off. It’s the Christian thing to do.