Monthly Archives: January 2013

 

Jan

20

2013

Jared C. Wilson|3:26 pm CT

Middletown’s Pro-Life Affirmations and Denials

In this morning’s National Sanctity of Human Life reflection, I read the following statement to the gathered at Middletown Springs Community Church:

We have, as part of our official church statement of faith, an affirmation of the biblical and biological truth that life begins at conception. Article 13 of our doctrinal statement reads as follows:

We believe that children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord and that parents are to demonstrate and teach them God’s pattern for life.

Because of this belief we will make the following affirmations and denials:

1. We affirm that all human beings are made in the image of God and therefore equal to each other and sacred in and of themselves and that therefore abortion is not a health care issue or a family planning issue but first and foremost a “God issue.”

2. We deny that one’s imaging of God and inherent sacredness is contingent upon their usefulness or convenience to their family or society, their religious heritage, their physical health or mental capabilities, their race, or their social or economic class. In other words, no unborn child is less human because he or she is mentally or physically disabled, poor, non-white, or unwanted by his or her family.

3. We affirm that the Roe v. Wade ruling officially codified the systematic killing of innocent human beings, and that therefore it legalized systemic injustice in our nation making abortion not just a “God issue” but a human rights and civil rights issue.

4. We deny that national laws determine what is just or moral and in fact it is possible for nations to pass unjust and immoral laws.

5. We affirm that it is the duty of Americans, be they Christians or not, to protect the innocent and defend the defenseless and protest injustice.

6. We deny that standing up for the defenseless and innocent in this regard is solely about being philosophically against abortion but rather:

7. We affirm that to be philosophically against abortion is to be actively for human flourishing in concerted efforts of caring for the poor and the orphan and for women in crisis, and in the alleviation of suffering of all kinds in our neighborhoods and other spheres of influence.

8. We deny that victims of abortion are limited to unborn children but also often include their mothers and fathers and families,

9. And we affirm that nobody who has opted for abortion is “damaged goods” or unloved by God or beyond hope and healing, for we affirm that the gospel which announces the good news of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is true and powerful.

10. So we deny opposition to abortion on the grounds of political expediency or political success or the advancing of any political party or sect.

11. And we affirm that we oppose abortion as a means of obeying God’s command to our love our neighbor and therefore as a means of making Jesus Christ look supreme and glorious.

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Jan

16

2013

Jared C. Wilson|9:31 am CT

Away With Utilitarian Arguments Against Abortion

You have likely heard this line of reasoning from earnest pro-lifers before. Snopes.com even has an example listed as “glurge”. (Definition of glurge here.) The logic goes something like this: You should be pro-life because you never know if you’ve aborted the next Einstein, the next Beethoven, the next Martin Luther King, Jr., the next Pasteur or Salk, etc. What if you aborted the curer of cancer or AIDS? The motivation is understandable and the underlying reasoning is sound: abortion, which does immediate harm to unborn children and many of their mothers, does unseen future harm to families, communities, and the world.

But I hate this argument against abortion, and here’s why: It assigns value based on (presumed) accomplishments. It is a utilitarian argument — assigning intrinsic value based on one’s “utility” — and it is utilitarian arguments that are best suited for pro-choice arguments, not pro-life. And those seeking abortions are already employing utilitarianism in their thinking. e.g. “This child will have a poor life, so it is best to prevent him from experiencing it.” “This child will interfere with my plans for the future, so it is best to terminate my pregnancy until I am really ready.”

The reasoning also fails to consider that we are actually right now perilously close to abortion based on predictive value. In America, it is dangerous to be an unborn African American. In China, it is dangerous to be an unborn girl. As fertility treatments become more advanced, parents have potential some day of “custom designing” their babies, right down to hair and eye color. What would be done, then, with “error” babies? They are thrown away like garbage. And of course abortions of unborn children with Downs syndrome and other seemingly disagreeable conditions to their prospective parents are commonplace already. What happens in the day when technology can show us that a child will be mentally advanced? What happens to the mentally just average fetuses then? Some are asking gay rights advocates if they would remain pro-choice if in the future that elusive “gay gene” they keep searching for could be found? What if moms wanted to abort their babies for fear they’d be gay?

No, the utilitarian view of human life has no place in the Christian worldview, and we should give it no place in our efforts against abortion, as powerful or convicting as we think those argument are.

The biblical grounds for the pro-life argument have nothing to do with a person’s “usefulness” to a family or society. The Bible calls us to the pro-life position based on the reality that all persons are made in the image of God, that God has created us equal, and that therefore all life is precious, whether a person cures cancer or gets cancer, wins an Olympic medal or a Special Olympics medal, can compose like Mozart or sings like Roseanne Barr. Suppose we could save the future Einsteins and Beethovens from the abortionist. It would still be as tragic and sinful to have otherwise commenced with the offing of future stay-at-home moms, truck mechanics, and janitors. You know, all the “ordinary people” of which there are many more than the so-called extraordinary people. More boldly put: abortion is wrong, whether you happen to be aborting the next Mother Theresa or the next Adolf Hitler.

Pro-lifers, let’s not play that game. Leave utilitarian arguments to the self-appointed engineers of utopia. Let’s be Christians living in the kingdom of God instead.

“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?”

– Job 31:13-15

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Jan

15

2013

Jared C. Wilson|5:52 pm CT

Nominally Christian Community Like Adding Up Zeros

What is the sum when you add up zeros?

“There will be little meaning concerning Christian community until we understand what Christian means, and who can make up a Christian community.

“The liberal theologians in their stress on community speak and act as though we become Christians when we enter the horizontal relationship of community, but this is a totally wrong starting point. If this were so, Christianity would have no more final value than the humanistic community, and that is just the trouble with modern man. He can find no sufficient value for humanistic community for he can find no sufficient value for the men who make it up. If the individual man is a zero, then community is only adding zeros.”

– Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity, 1970), 45.

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Jan

10

2013

Jared C. Wilson|2:02 pm CT

As It Gets Worse, It Cannot Get Desperate

For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
– Mark 6:18-20

We have been tracking the shift for some time. To simply say what the Bible says — as one who believes what it says, of course, not as some gawker agog at its impoliteness — is defamatory, thought crime, hate speech, what have you.

Let’s first be cautious. No one’s being burnt at the stake for their faith. No one’s even being thrown in prison. No one in these parts, anyway.

Now let’s be honest. The trend is downward. These things are actual crimes in quote-unquote “civilized” nations, and we would be arrogant to act like laws like that could never be enacted here. Every unfree nation got unfree while making great assurances to its people.

But let’s be realistic. The kingdom of God is so much bigger than empires of the world. Let’s be cautious and let’s be honest — let’s not get into histrionics but let’s not put our head in the sand — but let’s remember exactly who’s in charge here. The Western world may be moving from Herod (a disbelieving openness to our voice) to Herodias (a hostile calling for our head), but the situation is never so grim as all that. We may get what we don’t deserve but we will be getting exactly what we’ve been promised. “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).

Our Sovereign Lord isn’t making this all up as he goes along. The Trinity holds no emergency sessions.

“Take heart; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33 continues.

Christ the Lord sustains the universe by his powerful word, he declares the end from the beginning, he laughs kings to scorn, he walks on the storms, he stirs the mighty seas, he makes the mountains his footstool, he brims with sovereign glory from everlasting to everlasting. He is God.

And so:
Will we bear the derision and disgrace? Yes, and count it wealth (Hebrews 11:26).
Will we suffer the plundering of our property? Yes, and count it joy (Hebrews 10:34).
Will we suffer division in our families and communities? Yes, and count it worthiness of Christ (Matthew 10:37).

To take up one’s cross meant one thing in Jesus’ day. They did not have the luxury of metaphorizing it as we have for so long.

But cheer up.The worst thing they can do is kill us (Matthew 10:28). And we all know what Jesus does with dead stuff.

Let us be resolute together to agree that whatever makes us more like Jesus, be it comfort or cross, is authorized by God, and believe he will not take anything needful away from us that he won’t return to us a million-fold. In fact, even if they kill us, it isn’t the end of the world. Paul writes:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthiains 4:7-9)

What this all means is that, while it might get worse for us, it cannot get desperate. “Oh, you want to kill me? I must object for both of our sakes, but in any event, I gave myself up for dead long ago anyway” (Galatians 6:14). The Christian is united with Christ (Romans 8:1), seated with him (Ephesians 2:6), hidden with him in God (Colossians 3:3), indivisible from him by life or death (John 10:29), Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, the Christian is as secure as Christ himself.

“World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won’t succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won’t harm me. I have a God who will give me a new one.”

– Martin Luther

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
– Romans 8:36-37

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Jan

09

2013

Jared C. Wilson|11:26 am CT

To Assume the Gospel is to Lose Grip of It

The conclusion to an excellent and important piece by Fred Zaspel on “How to Preach the Gospel from Every Part of the Bible”:

let us remember at all times to keep the gospel prominent and explicit. Far too many “expository” sermons go week after week without any real gospel proclamation. It’s “out there” somewhere in the atmosphere — from the hymns we sing, perhaps. But it is seldom prominent in the preaching. It is assumed, perhaps, but not explicit. But if we only assume it in our preaching, we have no ground to think that our hearers will assume it also. And, as Warfield so insightfully cautions us, to leave the gospel in the shadows is to let Christianity itself slip from our grasp. To preach the Scriptures rightly we must be careful to maintain its own redemptive focus, a focus that rivets our attention, from first to last, on our glorious Redeemer.

He is, after all, the one about whom the book was written.

Go read the whole thing.

Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
– Philippians 3:16

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Jan

07

2013

Jared C. Wilson|9:45 am CT

The Trinitarian Gospel Deeps

First, from Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts:

The doctrine of the Trinity is to the Christian the key of the Bible. The Spirit imparting skill to use it, and the power, when used, it unlocks this divine arcade of mysteries, and throws open every door in the blest sanctuary of truth. But it is in the light of salvation that its fitness and beauty most distinctly appear — salvation in which Jehovah appears so inimitably glorious — so like Himself. The Father’s love appears in “sending” His Son; the Son’s love in “undertaking” the work; the Holy Spirit’s love in “applying” the work. Oh, it is delightful to see how, in working out the mighty problem of man’s redemption, the Divine Three were thus deeply engaged. With which of these could we have dispensed? All were needed; and had one been lacking, our salvation would have been incomplete, and we would have been eternally lost. In bringing to glory the church they thus have saved, the sacred Three are solemnly pledged.

And now from my Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus:

Do you see how the Trinity hems us in? We have no defense against this brilliant triangle offense. Praise Jesus! “The salvation that was planned by the Father has been procured by the Son and is now presented and protected by the Spirit” (Ryken and LeFebvre, Our Triune God).

The glory of God is exponentially and eternally magnified by God’s triune self. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8). His holiness is threefold-perfection deep and wide and high and long. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). One day the knowledge of God’s glory will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). He will have the universe covered from every angle — it’s divine geometry — as he has us covered now.

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

The Trinitarian gospel is immediately practical because it entails that Christ is our advocate (1 John 2:1) and intercessor (Heb. 7:25) at this very moment and that the Spirit also is buttressing our prayers (Rom. 8:26).
With salvation’s rapture into the life of the Trinity, God isn’t just commanding us to grace and peace, he is praying for it himself to himself, he is bestowing it himself through himself, he is declaring it himself through himself authoritatively. The result of salvation is that “those who are elect exiles according to God’s foreknowledge, the Spirit’s sanctification, and the Son’s atoning work” receive grace and peace in multiplying (by threes?) abundance. This is incredibly good news.

We are saved from God to God by God through God for God. The godhead works in concert so that salvation will engulf you in God. (pp. 74-75)

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Jan

03

2013

Jared C. Wilson|1:46 pm CT

An Explosion of Joy

“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (p. 116)

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Jan

03

2013

Jared C. Wilson|8:08 am CT

How to Almost Guarantee Your Children Will Run in the Opposite Direction from the Faith

Do we want to guarantee that our children will run in the opposite direction of our most cherished biblical convictions? All we have to do is sterilize our churches. Make them rigid, unresponsive, grim. Require of our ministers that they play the role of scolding, scowling Reverend Eat-Your-Peas. Treat the gospel as a theological system only, rather than also as a personal remedy. Use the Bible as ammunition for “culture wars” rather than as food for life. Withdraw from the historical situation in which God has placed us. Build up the walls, reinforce the barriers, and make certain that no experience gets in here. Ignore the fact that “doctrine only” is not itself a biblical doctrine.

– Ray Ortlund, When God Comes to Church (p.17)

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