No Debate About It



I was an opponent of the Patriarchy Movement from almost the beginning, before it (rightly) became the pariah among Bible-believing conservatives it is today. I have justly been identified as one of its leading public antagonists. Here is an example; and another; and yet another. My views on this issue have been well-known for many years. Godly people have disagreed with me, and I respect their disagreement. Last week I posted a succinct Facebook update criticizing “patriarchy” in this precise vein. Pastor Douglas Wilson, after all these years, seemed to take umbrage at my snippet and drafted a long, defensive blog post to express himself. From what I can tell, he agreed with most of my criticisms of “patriarchy.” He agreed so vehemently that he challenged me to a debate.


Conventional wisdom suggests that the underdog in any contest challenges the frontrunner to a debate, but if so, in this case I’m not the upper dog the pastor needs to debate.


In addition, while I hate the distraction of offering another clarification, for friends and supporters I want to correct a couple of factual errors. Pastor Wilson wrote:


“… Andrew Sandlin has (apparently) taken down his earlier posts supporting Natalie’s story.”


This is false. I haven’t supported anyone’s “story,” and I have removed no link. It has been there all along, and it took me a grand total of 4 minutes to find it.


Pastor Wilson writes,


“Christians like —-, —-, and Andrew Sandlin were taken in by Natalie.”


This also is false. This young lady as a child was raped by one of Doug’s college students. The fact that I have made brief FB comments bemoaning the (generic) church’s treatment of child abusers — and the abused — and encouraged and mourned this courageous young woman is not tantamount to being “taken in.”


Pastor Wilson seems constantly to find himself in loud public quarrels with Bible-believing Christians and is under siege just now (again). Having been under siege once or twice before myself, I do understand how one can make factual errors, especially at those pressurized times.


This brief note corrects those factual errors.


Bad Church Ideas That Produce Bad Political Consequences


You may have heard the saying, “Ideas have consequences.” That’s actually a famous book title from a political conservative just after World War II.[1] And it’s true. Ideas do have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. This is just as true in culture and politics as anywhere else. If you look at the cultural and political evils that surround us today (abortion, same-sex “marriage,” Obamacare, gun confiscation laws, judicial tyranny), at their source are bad ideas. It’s hard to get rid of the bad politics without getting rid of the bad ideas that feed them and give them sustenance.

But the bad ideas I want to address right now aren’t so much bad ideas in the culture and in politics. I want to talk about bad ideas in the church that allow these bad ideas in the culture to flourish.

Many of us are conflicted today. We’re political conservatives. We believe in limited government, the dignity of human life, the traditional family. We believe in what’s called “civil society”: the church and family and other “private” institutions are buffers that protect the individual from, and are competitors to, the state. We believe in Christian virtues: love, faith, hope, honesty, sacrifice, hard work, personal responsibility, We believe that God’s moral law binds everyone, Christian and non-Christian.[2]

But we’re more: many of us are activists. Our country is dangerously adrift — a monster federal government, erosion of states’ rights, abortion, pornography, gay “marriage,” euthanasia, Obamacare, increased gun control laws — and we are committed to doing something about it. We embrace conservative ideas, but those ideas lead us to action: perhaps staging get-out-the-vote programs, trying to elect Christian and conservative candidates, influencing legislation for conservative principles. We’re aggressive.

This is just where a conflict rises. As Christians, we’re church people. We must believe in and belong to the church. But many of our churches are not comfortable with our conservative political action as Christians. Some alleged Bible-believing churches aren’t even politically conservative. Even churches that are politically conservative look down on political activism — what we’re committing part of our life to. They practice what I’d like to call “separation of church and politics.”

The pastor may mention conservative issues, but political action isn’t seen as part of a Christian calling. Maybe it isn’t even Christian at all. Maybe it’s just like picking up groceries or attending the football game. It’s OK, but it’s not especially Christian. It’s just something we choose to do. And we’re tempted to think: “I can’t be a good Christian and an active conservative” or, “I must leave my politics at the church door, or leave my Christianity inside the church.” This is the conflict that we feel.

I’d like persuade you today: there is no actual conflict. You can be a political activist and good Christian at the same time. I’ll be even bolder: you cannot be a good Christian unless you’re zealously conservative.

Today I’ll refute three popular but bad ideas in the church. You can be more confident, not just as conservatives … but as politically active Christian conservatives.


By pietism I don’t mean piety. What is piety? It’s “the quality of being reverent.” It’s worshiping the Triune God, loving, honoring him, trusting in his Son Jesus Christ. It’s a heart right with, and riveted to, God. We need more piety.

In addition, by pietism, I don’t mean the 17th – 18th century movement reacting against the cold, hard, sterile orthodoxy of scholastic Protestantism.[3] That was a good movement, and it restored an emphasis on warm piety and love for Jesus Christ.

I mean pietism in a more recent, limited sense. The distinctive of this pietism is that it limits the Christian life to private devotion or the church (Bible reading, personal evangelism, end times conferences, “quiet time,” personal taboos). It’s mostly vertical religion.

Pietistic thinking goes like this: “God doesn’t care about politics (or education, art, medicine, technology, economics, music, movies). He cares about my private relation to him.”

Pietistic churches think this way: “You’ve done your Christian duty when you pray, attend church, read your Bible, and volunteer for VBS.”

Pietistic pastors preach: “Political action distracts and detracts from true Christianity. Real Christianity in the church is about a bigger gymnasium, a larger AWANA program, and more beautiful robes.”

Pietism reduces Christianity to a “personal worship hobby.”[4]

The big problem with pietism is that it undercuts Jesus Christ’s Lordship. We all know the simple saying: Jesus Is Lord. Actually, did you know that this was the earliest creed of the Christian church? Long before the Apostles Creed, there was this simple creed: Jesus is Lord, and Lord = Master.[5]

Question: What is Jesus Lord of? I think we’d answer, he’s Lord of everything. Next question: Is politics part of everything? Yes. Then by simple logic, Jesus is Lord of politics, and this is just what the Bible teaches.

The Lord instructed us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). On earth, not just in the family and church — but everywhere.

Another question: how is Jesus’ will done in heaven? It’s done perfectly. The angels and saints obey him without sin. That’s just what we need to pray for this earth. And this must mean everything, not just our private time and Sunday worship, not just the house and the church house but also the state house and the schoolhouse and the White House.

And then we read Jesus’ parting words to his disciples in Matthew 28:18, the so-called Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And then he commands his followers to disciple the nations, not just individuals, but nations. He means to bring all nations, political units, under his authority.[6]

God the Father gave Jesus the authority to bring all nations under his rule, and he charged us to preach the Gospel and baptize and instruct the nations to do just that.

Therefore, pietism dilutes Jesus’ Lordship. It wants to say to Jesus: “You can be Lord here, but not there. You can be Lord of the church house, but not the state house.” This is a denial of the full Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Pietism leads to strange bedfellows. Secularists say, “Christianity should stay private.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Christians should stay out of politics.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “God’s Word has nothing to say to our society.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Unbelievers should be calling all of the shots in society and culture.” Pietists respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Christianity is a ‘private worship hobby.’” Pietists respond, “We agree.”

I think it’s about time we Christians quit agreeing with the secularists.

Pietism surrenders culture to Satan: it’s a sub-Christian idea, and it’s dangerous.


Apocalypticism is end-is-near thinking that inspires cultural sit-on-your-duff Christianity, except for pietistic soul-saving: “The world is getting worse and worse; so it’s a waste of time to change things.” As D. L. Moody once said, “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel…. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.”[7] It’s the idea that since the Bible teaches that the world must get worse and worse (the Bible doesn’t actually teach this[8]), it’s futile to try to change things. God has predestined evil to triumph, so why stand in his way?

Now, there are many different views of eschatology (views of the future). Sincere, Bible-believing people hold different eschatologies.[9] We can agree to disagree. However, I don’t care what your eschatology is, apocalypticism is wrong. We read in Acts 1:6–8 … “So when [the disciples] had come together, they asked [Jesus], ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”

Jesus is saying, “You don’t need to know the ‘end times.’ You need to take the message of salvation of my Gospel Lordship (that includes politics) everywhere.” [10]

Similarly, we read in Luke 19:13 that Jesus in a parable said to his followers: “‘Engage in business until I come.’” In short, be busy in my kingdom work. Don’t sit around and wait for the Second Coming or “rapture.”

Twenty years ago in Ohio I was preaching to pastors on this topic. I was lamenting abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and socialism. I was exhorting these pastors in their calling to stand up and oppose these evils.

Afterward a pastor accosted me and said: “Yes, all the abortion, porn, homosexuality, and socialism are bad, but really in the end they’re good, since they mean Jesus coming soon.”

If that idea sounds perverted, it’s because it is.

The churches obsessed with “end times” (conferences, books) while Planned Parenthood crushes and sells baby parts, and the U.S. Supreme Court allows sodomites to marry, are dangerously misguided. They’re selling us into cultural slavery.

Apocalypticism, like pietism, is an evil idea.


Recently a leader in the very conservative Southern Baptist Convention declared, “We’ve lost culture wars.”[11] His view is: Let’s just witness; we must be careful about pushing for a Christian America, turning people off. We need to change our strategy.[12]

And churches line up to retreat — they stay out of politics, quit praying outside abortion clinics, pull back from pressing for godly candidates and legislation.

Christian leaders say: “We live in a time when the church is in the wilderness, in exile. Let’s hide out from the Devil. Admit it. We’ve lost. Let’s regroup and wait for a more culturally hospitable time.”[13]

This is pure poppycock. Canaan was devilishly depraved when God told the Jews to take it for his name (Gen. 15:16).[14]

The Roman Empire was a moral sewer when our Lord gave his world-conquering commission to his disciples. He didn’t say, “There’s no way we can win this thing, fellas, so let’s retreat until we can plan a counterattack.” The early Christians took the Gospel to the known world, and in less than 300 years the Roman Empire was forced to become Christian. Why? Because our forebears refused to retreat during culturally depraved times like ours.

Some Christians seem to believe that if they just avoid confronting the Devil in the culture, he’ll leave them alone in their churches and families. This is a dangerous illusion. You might hide out from the Devil, but the Devil won’t hide out from you. If you retreat from him in public and politics, he’ll hunt you down in the privacy of your own home.

Then behind retreatism is the additional idea that world belongs to Devil: “This world is not my home, I’m just a’passin’ through,” so goes an old gospel song. “Why should we stand for truth in our world since it doesn’t belong to us or Jesus, but to the Devil?”

Have you ever read that in Bible? No.

You did read in 1 Corinthians 10:26, “For ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.’”

This is God’s world; he created it; he sustains it. He designed it to operate by his truth.

God allows man freedom, so there’s a great battle between good and evil. But if we give up the battle for this world, we are traitors to the King; it’s not our world, it’s his world.

Retreatism is treason; it surrenders God’s world to his enemies.


Pietism, apocalypticism, retreatism — these are bad church ideas that produce bad political consequences. And if you want to know one reason the culture is so depraved today, it’s because the church has bought stock in these ideas, and this creates the conflict in the minds of hearts of politically active Christian conservatives.

But you should not feel a conflict, because there is no conflict between true Christianity and conservative political activism. In fact, if we do not stand for what we today call basic conservative principles, we are not standing for biblical Christianity, because those principles reflect biblical truth.[15]

The call for retreat from political battle for Christ the King is a sub-Christian message.

In the early 40’s amid euphoria of the rescue of thousands of British troops from the German army at Dunkirk, Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned: “Wars are not won by evacuations…. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Wars are not won by evacuations. Wars are won by soldiers who stand and fight.

That is our rallying cry for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And we can expect nothing short of complete victory — the unconditional surrender of Satan and his hosts by the power of Jesus Christ.

[1] Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 1948).
[2] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 6:442–446.
[3] Dale Brown, Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978).
[4] Stephen C. Perks, The Great Decommision (Taunton, England: Kuyper Foundation, 2011), 12.
[5] Oscar Cullmann, The Earliest Christian Confessions (London: Lutterworth Press, 1949), 23.
[6] Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954), chs. 15, 33.
[7] George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 38.
[8] John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).
[9] Millard J. Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977).
[10] John M. Frame, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ, 2014), 32–33.
[11] Leonardo Blair, “‘The Bible Belt Is Collapsing’; Christians Have Lost Culture War, Says ERLC President Russell Moore,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-bible-belt-is-collapsing-christians-have-lost-culture-war-says-erlc-president-russell-moore-102576/, accessed October 12, 2015.
[12] Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Moore at the Margins,” Christianity Today, September 2015, 32–33.
[13] See John Yemma, “To Separate, Strengthen and Return,” The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, October 12, 2015, 7.
[14] Of course, the Jews as God’s unique nation were called to fight with physical, military arms. Our arms are not physical, military arms but are no less powerful (Eph. 6:10–20).
[15] John M. Frame, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, 231–234.

Come as You Are?


All of us have seen a church marquee. We have seen the amusing maxims. Years ago I saw one which read, “Prevent truth decay; burn a Living Bible.” Some are not amusing. They are pithy and true: “A Family Altar Can Alter A Family.”

One that I have seen increasingly is “Come as You Are,” or some variation of it. This is an example of a statement that is true, but one which leaves so much unsaid that it could easily create a false impression. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. It needs more. The statement is a welcoming statement. “You don’t need to change in order to come to this church. Please, come just as you are.” There is even a famous old gospel song titled, “Just As I Am.” This is precisely what Billy Graham entitled his autobiography. The message isn’t only that we should come to church just as we are. It’s also that we should come to Jesus just as we are. Jesus accepts us just as we are.

I’ll briefly explore this idea and show how it is both necessary and insufficient.

You Must Come as You Are

It is correct to say, “Come as you are.” The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. In fact, Jesus told the Pharisees that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Mk. 2:17). Actually, what he was really saying is that he was not calling the self-righteous. Everyone is a sinner. We all stand in need of salvation. The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Because we have sinned, we stand under God’s judgment. We have broken God’s law, and we must pay the penalty for breaking his law (Rom. 6:23). The message of judgment is not popular today, and it never has been. The message of judgment is especially unpopular today, because people are taught that they’re entitled to feel very good about themselves. But the fact is, the Bible says a great deal about judgment, more than you might expect. It probably says as much about the judgment of God as it does the love of God. We today do not take judgment seriously because we do not take sin seriously. Sin is a severe affront to God. It not only breaks his law. It breaks his heart (Gen. 6:5–6). When we sin, we rebel against our loving Creator who wants only the best for us. But we don’t want what is best for us. We want what we think is best for us. This is sin.

But God loved us so much that he sent his Son Jesus Christ, to bear the penalty for our sin on the cross. One of the most touching statements about this is in Romans 5:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (vv. 6-8)

We might sacrifice our lives for good and virtuous people. We would die for our spouse or children, especially since they’re committed to us and love us. We might even die for a good person, even if we did not know him well. But it is very difficult to believe that we would die for those who hated us or who lived depraved lives: alcoholics, prostitutes, rapists, murderers, and gang members. The Bible says that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for sinners, not for righteous people.

In fact, in Romans 4:5 we read that God justifies the ungodly. That is, God declares righteous those whose lives are filled with anti-God living. He declares them righteous by their faith. We are justified, declared righteous, by faith, not by works.

The reason that we must come to God as we are, is because God is the only one that can clean us up. We cannot come to God in any way except as we are.

This is also why we invite sinners to church. We invite them to come as they are. They cannot clean themselves up before they come. Only the gospel can clean them up. That’s why they need to hear the gospel.

There are some churches that are more like the Pharisees than Jesus Christ. They want a pretty church. They want a church where everyone looks beautiful and lives an upstanding, virtuous life. If a prostitute or alcoholic or dope addict or gang member attended church on Sunday, they would be scandalized. But why shouldn’t we want sinners to hear the gospel? Of course, sinners can — and should — hear the gospel outside the church, but often sinners feel a keen need, and the first place that comes to their mind to help them is the church. They assume that they can hear about God and get their lives changed. They’re quite correct about this. God is the only one that can change them. But if we want a church that is not friendly to sinners, we want a church that cares little for the gospel. The gospel is to call sinners to repentance. Therefore, it is entirely correct to say: Come as you are.

You May Not Stay as You Are

But I must quickly add, though you may come as you are, you may not stay as you are. This is the point that Peter makes with white-hot clarity:

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:13-19)

I want you to get Peter’s drift. God is holy. As his creatures, made in his image, we are to be holy also. But we have sinned. How can we be holy? Peter tells us: by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus died to make us holy. We don’t often hear it put that way today. We hear that Jesus died to take us to heaven, and that is true. We hear that Jesus died so that God could justify us, to count us righteous. That also is true. But for some reason very few people emphasize Peter’s fact. Jesus died to make us holy.

You may have heard the old song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” written about the American War Between the States. One of the refrains is, “As Christ died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” Whatever we might think of the second part, the first part is true. Jesus Christ did die to make men — all of us ­— holy.

Peter talks about the previous lives of the members of the church. Before they came to Jesus Christ, they were unholy people. They were filled with selfishness and lust and unbelief and divisiveness, and an undisciplined tongue, and rebellion. These are sins, and unrepentant sin is not compatible with holiness.

When Jesus prayed his great high priestly prayer in John 17, he asked the Father to bring his disciples into communion with the Trinity. This is the great goal of the Gospel: to restore the blessed communion with God that was broken in the Garden of Eden. But God is a holy God, and to commune with him, we need to be a holy people.

It is important to understand that Peter is not talking about what some people call imputed righteousness. Others call it positional righteousness. This is the righteousness in God’s courtroom. We are declared not guilty when we trust in Jesus. Christ’s righteousness substitutes for our unrighteousness.

But this is not the holiness that Peter’s talking about. He is talking about our holiness, our obedience in purity: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (v. 14). Jesus Christ poured out his precious life’s blood to bring us to the Father. He is our new Father, and he calls us to a new obedience by the power of Jesus’ blood.

Unfortunately, we have an entire class of churches today whose motto seems to be: “Come as you are, and stay you are.” But we do not come as we are in order to stay as we are. We come as we are in order to be changed. We are called to obey in the Father’s house. We are called to abandon our antinomian (lawless) ways.

An abundance of professed Christians today live in unrepentant pride and unforgiveness and unbelief and rebellion and fornication and adultery and homosexuality and pornography, and they seem to think they can still be Christians. The Bible refutes this idea. Paul writes:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor.6:9-11)

“[T]he unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If somebody asks you, “I don’t want to give up my sinning, but I still want to go to heaven,” you can tell them that that is impossible. God saves us to change us — to make us holy.

The good news, the gospel, is not just the Jesus forgives our sins. The good news is also that he cleans up our sins. You must come to Jesus as you are, but you may not stay as you are.