God’s Story and Your Story

The world God made is one that has a plot line.  That is to say, all history is going somewhere. We live within that great story – we are characters in God’s narrative.

When we turn to God’s Word we get a glimpse into just how incredible the story is. It starts with Creation, with God standing over and against all that he has made, and yet relating to it intimately, particularly in his relationship with people made in his image. Mankind was to be a co-ruler with God – spreading his presence and glory to the ends of the earth. But man fell from God in Adam’s sins and rebellion, which was our sin and rebellion. In time though, God would slowly put his grace to work and overcome all the rebellion of man with its cursed consequences, like a patient farmer tilling the soil, planting a crop, and tirelessly pruning and weeding the ground before a great harvest. The climax of the plot is the death and resurrection of Jesus, the God-man, who stepped in where we failed, and as the second Adam, became the new representative and leader for the new humanity. The great narrative concludes at a wedding feast in a new paradise on a new earth, where every song, every taste, and every face is a witness to the glorious consummation of God’s earlier promise: “they will be my people, and I will be their God.”

God’s story then is creation-fall-redemption-restoration. It is the story of all stories.

The tragedy for those who reject God, however, is that they need to substitute their own great story. In very generalized terms they might go something like this:

  • For the atheist, the story is something like nothingness-angst-hedonism-nothingness.
  • For the Marxist, the story is resources-inequality-fairness-peace.
  • For the Muslim, the story is power-rebellion-submission-glory.
  • For the environmentalist, the story is matter-pollution-stewardship-harmony.
  • For the Eastern religious thinker, the story is oneness-disintegration-actualization-integration.

Everybody is living out their days along some plotline, some narrative that speaks of some form of salvation from some ultimate crisis or evil.

When we come to terms with this, we have discovered a powerful insight into the human condition. We are all in some story; we are all trying to find deliverance from some original sin; we are all motivated by some form of ultimate hope. Take it a step further: we are all worshipping some deity – some Great Deliverer.

When sharing our faith in Jesus, one of the things we need to try to do then is to graciously but sternly confront the false narratives we find that others hold to. That is because the resurrection of Jesus is ultimate reality and the ultimate climax of history.

In other words, “Our God is alive – and yours is dead.”

But then we need to confront the false salvation narrative at the personal level.

We may have a certain philosophical narrative we are holding to, but it may or may not be what we are personally and experientially holding to. For example, many Christians believe in the resurrection but think that the real deliverer from trouble is money. Likewise, many atheists believe that there is no ultimate saviour, but their functional deliverer is a romantic relationship.

If you are a Christian, God’s grace has gone to work in your life in a different way than it has gone to work in mine. Of course, we all share a common salvation for God has saved us by faith (and is saving us) and has given us the same Spirit and the same baptism. Yet the particular sin and struggle that Jesus is overcoming in your life is different than the particular sin he is overcoming in mine. For this reason, we need to consider our “testimony” at a deeper level. What is God saving you from right now, present tense? Maybe you were a poser now finding your true identity and confidence in Jesus. Maybe you were a womanizer now finding true and lasting beauty and pleasure in Christ. Maybe you were an addict now finding true freedom in Jesus.

Maybe like me, you suffered from a success-motivated, status-driven perfectionism that God is changing into deep joy and contentment in any circumstance.

Consider God’s grand story.

Consider how God’s story is working out in your story.

Consider how that intersects with the stories of others.

That’s the first place to start.

Assisted Suicide and Boiling Goats

I recently read an article by CNN that said approximately 13 medically-assisted deaths are happening in Ontario every week. The same article said that Canada is one of the few countries, along with Switzerland and Germany, that have a legal provision for assisted suicide or physician-assisted dying.

This is a big topic and when it comes to ethics I follow an old approach, oft-mocked in academic circles: divine command theory. What does God have to say about such matters? If men and women are merely clumps of evolved goo devoid of any intrinsic value or significance then the ethics of assisted suicide are significantly altered. But I have come to believe that men and women are made with a value and significance that comes from the Living God – we are all stamped with the imago dei. 

I also believe that God revealed himself in the Scriptures – his words. Really the foundational, written aspect of that self-revelation is the Torah, or what Christians refer to as the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. In that Torah we find a very fascinating, but hard-to-understand verse which, I believe, has great relevance for this discussion today – there is a divine command here to recon with.

The verse comes up in Exodus 23:19 and then again in Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21 and in each case the wording is the same: “you shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

The obscure reference has been variously understood, as J.I. Durham writes: “The prohibition of cooking a kid in the milk of its own mother has been variously explained on magical grounds…or as a reaction against Dionysian…or Canaanite…religious practices” (Exodus – Vol 3, p.334, Word Biblical Commentary, 1998). In some Jewish writing they have used this passage to argue that you should not eat meat at the same time as you drink milk.

That might be true. But I don’t see any explicit warrant to understand the verse this way emerging from the text in question. I think there is a more straightforward interpretation:

Don’t use what is meant for life as an instrument of death. 

Milk is meant for the nourishment of the young goat. That is the goat’s primary source of life and growth. To boil that goat in the very nutrients meant to give it life is sick and twisted. So the Old Testament people of God were not to violate the natural order in this way – it’s cruel and unusual.

A parallel in modern times would be something like this:

  • In Somalia, for instance, don’t confiscate the humanitarian food drop intended for the starving people to gain leverage for your tribal war.
  • Or similarly, don’t use your foster-parent income to pay for your cocaine addiction.

Don’t use what is intended for life, as an instrument of death.

We need to consider this principle afresh today, especially in the ongoing cultural discussion regarding assisted suicide. Some of my readers might object and say “but that is the Old Testament and we are not obligated to follow that anymore!” No – the Old Testament is God’s wisdom and God’s revelation and even though, as I believe, the Christian is no longer bound underneath this covenant, or this package of laws, there is still much good to be gained here – for all Scripture is exhaled from God, including this obscure little verse (2 Tim 3:16).

In Canada, assisted suicide, also known as physician-assisted dying, or medically-assisted suicide, is becoming increasingly popular socially and also, by extension, legally.

What we need to recognize, based on this verse, is that medicine is intended for life. Medicine ought never to be used as a means of death. That is twisting its natural use.

Likewise, physicians are meant to encourage life. Don’t use physicians as instruments of death – that is not why they exist.

Moreover, a publicly-funded medical system is for the welfare of its citizens – don’t use this public welfare as an instrument to remove Canadian citizens.

In all of this the standard God wants us to acknowledge is that He has created the world in an ordered and structured fashion. Milk is for life. Medicine is for health. We do a great injustice, not only to one another, but even to God’s natural order established in creation, when we subvert that structure and use what is intended for life as a means of death.

And, by the way, the glory of the cross of Jesus, the Son of God, is that He used a means of death as an instrument of life. He defeated death on a bloody Roman gibbet and rose to life after three days. That is what we celebrate on Easter, or Resurrection, Sunday and it is the heartbeat of Christianity (and reality). That is the better path – and repentance means following his path to life, and everlasting life, personally, socially, and legally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Pacifism is Dead Wrong: A Response to Jeff McConnell

*Posted with the editorial assistance of Brittany Evans*

As an introduction, I would like to start this post with a Hallmark quotation from 2 Samuel 8:2:

“[David] defeated the Moabites. He made them lie on the ground and then used a rope to measure them off. He put two-thirds of them to death and spared the other third. The Moabites became David’s subjects and brought tribute” (NET).

I just had to get that out of my system to start a post on pacifism. David…the man after God. I just can’t believe he did that…

Anyway.

My dear brother, Jeff McConnell, has written a post here entitled “Why I Am A Conservative, Calvinist, Baptist, Evangelical Fundamentalist, and a Pacifist” and he has given me permission to write a response to his post. For whatever value labels have (and all of those can be grossly misunderstood) I want to sign up wholeheartedly to those first four; and that is enough to put Jeff and I on the same tiny corner of the vast, evangelical iceberg. That is also why I want to respond to the fifth label – “pacifist” – a label that I completely disagree with. Since I have been meaning to chat with Jeff on this point for some time now, we might as well just have some blog interaction so others can eavesdrop. It should clarify some things. (I may, in fact, need to change some of my views…wouldn’t be the first time.)

The other reason I want to respond to this is because Jeff is a great guy and we do ministry together frequently. A few weeks ago we were both sharing about our faith in Christ with a receptive listener on Whyte Ave in Edmonton when a guy pulled a knife out just down the block from us – a big knife too. Jeff (and others) handled the situation magnificently (with far more confidence than I could muster), and, largely because of Jeff’s manly intervention, the situation was contained and the knife-wielder was arrested. That’s the second reason I want to respond to this – it’s a rare thing to have any passionate disagreement on secondary issues, while maintaining the centrality of the gospel. That gospel proclamation is something which I intend to keep doing with Jeff, Lord-willing for years to come. Hopefully the knife thing won’t be a reoccurring problem.

Finally, the other wonderful thing about Jeff is that, unlike so many today, he can separate one issue from another. In our day when every religious and political issue seems to be coupled, and “the party line” must be toed, Jeff can see distinctions. He would be the last person to make the kind of typical ad hominem internet attack and call me some backwoods, redneck fascist for disagreeing with his pacifism. And I would be the last to call him a pot-smoking, deadlocked, granola-eating hippie for it. Strange how many people go to those extremes though, isn’t it?

Ok. Enough bromance and on to the topic at hand.

pacifism meme

Christian pacifism has a long history, especially within the Anabaptist movement (Mennonites, Hutterites and the baptists that emerged during the Magisterial Reformation on the European continent). In light of this long, established history, we need to reject the notion that holding to pacifism makes you, by definition, a coward. I have a lot of respect for an older man I once knew (who passed away not too long ago) who was a Mennonite of the old school variety and who was sent to a work camp here in Canada because he was a pacifistic, conscientious objector in World War Two. He was a great guy. I have no reason to believe this man was a coward. He was a man of principle and conviction, and he must have taken a lot of hits for that conviction. Thus, it is possible to have a pacifism made of titanium. And it’s possible for me to respect that kind of thing…as much as I can.

In his post, Jeff argues that under the Old Covenant, violence, war, and the like “coincided with the will of God in that particular covenant.” But now,  in the New Covenant era, violence is incompatible with Christian faith. In this way, Jeff roots his pacifism in his New Covenant Theology – a particular school of thought (with proponents like John Piper, Don Carson, Doug Moo, and Tom Schreiner) that really emphasizes the newness of the New Covenant (sort of a via media between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism). I hold to the same New Covenant Theology but I work it out somewhat differently. Here are my seven reasons for rejecting “covenantal pacifism,” mirroring the points Jeff made in his article, interacting with the texts he put forward:
First, our principle text is the Sermon on the Mount/Plain in Matthew 5:38-48 and Luke 6:27-46 where Jesus says loving your enemies is the fulfilled and better way to understand lex talionis – “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The first thing to say is “amen” to the sermon. These are words that we really need to come to grips with. Then we need to recognize the context in which Jesus’ message was given. Jesus delivered this sermon to his followers as the ethical manifesto of the newly inaugurated, counter-cultural kingdom of God. This message pertains to kingdom life – it has to do with personal interactions and with love conquering the evil escalations that can quickly emerge between people. We ought not confuse personal vengeance, which Jesus is addressing, with civic polity, or national and international justice. There is a time for a “just war” (more below). But we must ask, “is Jesus rejecting lex talionis on the civil level?” No he isn’t. The principle of lex talionis must always remain the basis of good governance and retributive justice.

Let’s go to the second key text – Romans 13:1-7. This chapter teaches us that governing authorities are appointed by God and that this authority “does not bear the sword in vain” for it is “God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer” (NET). There is an inescapable connection in this passage between justice and death. Read that last sentence again. The sword is an instrument of death (which is also why I don’t oppose the death penalty). And that sword is “appointed.” If the Apostle Paul were a pacifist he simply could not write such a thing. I don’t believe he could. Not with that language. The point is clear – the governing authorities derive their authority from God, and part of that God-given authority is justice, even to death. If the Scripture affirms that in such positive language, why would that office be denied to a Christian? So this is the thought experiment: imagine there is a country where the gospel has taken hold so effectively that you had a strong Christian majority in the nation – say 95%. Would that country be allowed to have a police force or a military? The answer to me is a definite yes – and they would need Christians to work those jobs. There will always be wars and rumors of wars, so defense will always be needed and civil order will always need to be upheld. Christians are not barred from these roles.

Third, we need to consider afresh what Martin Luther called the “Two Kingdoms.” By this Luther meant that we always have one foot firmly planted in Christ as citizens of heaven and the other firmly planted in our current circumstances as citizens of our country. We have an obligation to both kingdoms. This can be a problematic notion that sometimes makes people think they can follow Jesus “spiritually” and do whatever they please “socially.” But that is not what Luther meant – Jesus is Lord over every sphere and every kingdom. What Luther meant is that there is a real difference between our engagement and our terms of reference in the kingdom of God and our terms of reference in earthly government. We cannot afford to blur the distinction between the two spheres, for, as Jesus said to Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). So a Christian should never pick up arms for the sake of Christ or the gospel. That is a different kingdom. There is no theological category for a Christian holy war or a Christian jihad. It doesn’t exist. But I can think of many circumstances (like WWII) where Christians (Christian men…) should go to war for king and country. Jeff also went to 1 Peter as an example of how we ought to suffer instead of fight as Christians, but I actually think the texts from 1 Peter totally support this theology of the two kingdoms. 1 Peter 2:13-17 articulates our obligation to be subject to the state, one kingdom, which exists to punish “the wrongdoer” (NET). Then the passage Jeff cited, 1 Peter 3:8-17, beautifully lays out our obligation as members of the new covenant community to embrace suffering for the cause of Christ in the other kingdom. In sum, Christians have multiple hats to wear. Always. And Jesus is Lord over all of them.

Fourth, I agree that Christ and his followers modeled a posture of non-violence in their ministry. A big part of that is because they were not revolutionaries and zealots – that was another contemporaneous movement. However, before his crucifixion, Jesus told his followers to sell their cloaks and buy a sword (Luke 22:36). Admittedly, this is a difficult passage to interpret. But I’m pretty sure the sword wasn’t for cutting vegetables. On the other hand, Jesus said that two swords were more than enough, not eleven, which suggests he has a restrained view of self-defense in mind.

Fifth, this leads me to a key differences between Jeff and me on this matter. I agree with Jeff that we are under the New Covenant and not the Old. I am a card-carrying believer in “New Covenant Theology.” In other words, we are under the law of Christ now and we have no binding obligation to the Law of Moses, for it not longer has jurisdiction over us since Christ is the end, the telos, of the Torah (nomos) (Romans 10:4; cf. 7:1-6). That said, we still need to appropriate the wisdom of the law, for our good and profit, through Christ. For Matthew in particular, “fulfillment” is the name of the game – the entire Law of Moses is fulfilled in Christ. So it is obsolete in its jurisdiction – it’s done. But it is far from irrelevant in its profitability and usefulness, for God “exhaled” it (2 Tim 3:16). So then Exodus 22:2-3 says, “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guilt for him. If the sun has risen on him, then there is blood guilt for him.” I see no reason why Jesus did not love and believe, and even cherish, this passage – he loved the law. I also don’t see why a New Covenant believer cannot glean principles from this case-law; namely, that the principle of self-defense is a civic virtue. Take this virtue and apply it on a national level. If you can defend your home, why can’t you defend your country?

Sixth, Jeff had some soul-stirring, evocative points about living out the gospel. He said love for enemies is central to the good news. Yes it is. I was an enemy of God and Jesus died for me. I totally agree and I think we need to embody his love in everything we do. The trouble is, again, the two kingdoms. I think it’s possible to embody the grace and love of Christ in every sphere. Even policing and military. I know that seems provocative. What I mean is that the gospel must speak to our ethics in war. There is a way to bring the gospel to bear on even your civic duty. That is why we need Christians in policing and corrections and security and military. An example might be a soldier who respects the dignity of the enemy instead of a soldier who openly mocks the enemy. Additionally, there are many ways in which fighting and laying down your life for another if need be is actually a reflection of the gospel. On the cross, Jesus laid his life down for his bride (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus is coming back for her, and will ultimately fight a war for her on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff.). That is a just war. If marriage is a picture of Christ and the church then certainly fighting for the defense of your wife and family, whether that means in your house or on a battlefield, must also be a picture of the gospel. The gospel is a jewel with many sides. Jeff’s point was that suffering for your enemies is a picture of the gospel. But it’s not the only picture.

And that leads me to my last and final point (and I suspect this might be the first point where Jeff might really agree with me). My pastor recently pointed out to me that Jesus rides on that white horse accompanied: “…the armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, [will be] following him on white horses” (Rev 19:14 NET). I always assumed that he was accompanied by angels. But the white garments motif in the Apocalypse suggests that humans are there too. That means the day will come when Christian pacifists won’t be pacifists any longer. I look forward to the day when I ride side by side with my buddy Jeff.

Marijuana Mania

Apparently Justin Trudeau is already setting up marijuana dispensaries across the nation. Apparently.
Wherever you land on the issue of marijuana decriminalization/legalization the fact is that for the Christian it should be a total non-issue. Getting high – getting “stupid” – is sin. It is an offense to God. It is an abuse of the faculties He entrusted to you with. It is poor stewardship in the extreme. It is the same thing as drunkenness but perhaps worse…
Back in the day people would quote me this verse from 1 Timothy 4:4: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” So, they said, “receive the dope with thanksgiving, man!” To which I say, how can you give thanks for anything when you’re that doped up? Furthermore, God also created lightning bolts. Think about that. Should we receive them too? Make like Ben Franklin and go fly a kite…

Legal weed

So now that I’ve established it’s sinfullness – let’s discuss the whole legalization thing:

I want to begin by reminding people that there is in fact a difference between a sin and crime. Of course, that is a problematic distinction to make, but it’s also an important and necessary one. For example, murder is both a sin and a crime. And rightly so. Yet, there are a whole host of sins that we ought not criminalize – lust, bitterness, covetousness, etc. That’s because we we don’t want a massive, totalitarian, “statist” country. It would be ugly. Nobody wants the coveting police to be snooping through our Facebook posts, looking for any whiff of envy. Laws have their limits. Governments too, contrary to popular opinion, have their limits. And I say all this because when it comes to marijuana the courts of the church, so to speak, will do a much better job of dealing with the sin of it than the courts of the country can do with the crime of it. So yes – I think getting high, like getting drunk, should be placed in the “sin” category but probably not in the “crime” category (unless of course, you get into a car doped up – or a cockpit). Although I’m no policy-maker…and I could be grievously wrong as everything shakes out in the next twenty years.
However, based on the above reasoning, it follows then, that just because something is decriminalized, or legalized, doesn’t mean that it is now moral. No. Again, there is a difference between a sin and a crime. The prohibition of alcohol was lifted years ago – getting slammed on a Friday night is still a sin. Period.
The reason this is all so important to stress is that for years now, as Christians have been able to say to people, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s illegal.” All the while what we should have been saying was, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s immoral. It grieves God.”
It’s high time that Christians (and churches) affirmed, wholeheartedly, and preferably before the dispensaries are installed in every neighborhood, that getting high is wrong in the eyes of God whether or not society recognizes and enforces that conclusion. We need to hold each other to a higher ethic than the shifting standards of “Babylon.”
And that’s because Babylon (the world systems represented in the Apocalypse as that blaspheming harlot) will soon be no more (Revelation 17). And the New Jerusalem will be descending shortly (Revelation 21). So I’d like to close with a personal invitation for anyone reading this to get ready for that new reality – believe in Jesus and then await his coming with a sober mind.
“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” (1 Peter 1:13 ESV).

Also, watch this. It’s interesting:

Postmillennial-ish Premillennial

Revelation 20 teaches that Christ will reign for “1000” years. The smarty-pantses have historically called that the “millennial reign of Christ” or “the millennium.” (From the Latin word for one thousand – “mille.”) Although theologians often debate what this millennium looks like, we should remember that the millennium is really only one small point in the book of Revelation, which is written to Christians in the first century to teach them how to suffer well as they witness to Jesus. Being a “faithful witness” is what Revelation is all about – allegiance to Jesus. (All the silly “prophecy conferences” would do well to consider that – don’t miss the point of John’s Apocalypse by looking for plane crashes, and blood moons, and whatever other timeline stuff you are preoccupied with.)
But the thing is, it’s important for people to think through the different views on the millennium – not as some academic exercise, but because having an idea of where you are headed gives hope for the journey. These are functional, practical truths.

millenium kid
That said, there are three main views for how this “millennium” is understood. The views on Jesus’ “reign” are named with respect to the timing of the return of Jesus. Pre-millennialism says that Jesus will return and then Jesus will reign on the earth for 1000 years, hence “pre” – Jesus retursn before his millennium. Post-millennialism says that Jesus is reigning on earth right now and then one day Jesus will return to kinda wrap it all up as a final conclusion (“post”). A-millennialism is a lot like post-millennialism with respect to the timing of Jesus’ return. Jesus is reigning now – but he is reigning “in heaven.” So the negating particle “a” in “amillennialism” is really not quite appropriate here. It’s not that amillennialism says there is no reign of Christ, it’s just that it’s spiritual. So a-millennialism spiritualizes the reign of Jesus.

From Wikipedia:

My view is premillennialism (without all the goofy dispensational stiff about a tribulation and a hidden return of Jesus). I think it is abundantly clear that when you consider that Revelation was written to suffering saints in Asia Minor, then chapter 20 could only be understood as the physical reward, on earth, for their physical suffering, on earth. The martyrs are raised!
However, emotionally, I love postmillenialism the most. Postmillennialism says that Jesus is alive and reigning now. I think this view has so much to commend it. It aligns the millennial reign of Christ with the Kingdom of God that is advancing through the work (and even the suffering) of the church today. What is not to like about that? What is unbiblical about that? I LOVE postmillennialism! It’s triumphalist. It says Jesus is alive and his purposes are advancing right now on earth. It says that the reign of God is not some “spiritual” thing but that it actually affects matters pertaining to life, food, and public policy. The blessings of the future are reaching back onto the present because of Jesus rule! This is thoroughly biblical.

So there you have it. I’m postmillenial-ish premillenial. An “optimistic” premillenial. I woke up this morning thinking, “sweet – one day Jesus is coming back.” Then I remembered, “wait – the kingdom of God is both ‘already’ here and also ‘not yet’ here.” The kingdom is here and also coming. Present and future. Jesus is alive and well today. He is building his church. He is ushering in his reign. There is reason to enjoy and express his life-giving work right now, with a bounce in our step, even as we look forward to that future, visible millennium to come.
Sweet deal.

Oh – and here – for further study: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/an-evening-of-eschatology

Whoop it up this Christmas

1435376_99609289

The more I think about Christmas the more I realize just how important it is.

Christmas is no small event – it’s really significant. It’s a really big deal.

It’s a big deal because the gospel is a big deal – and the gospel required Christmas – the announcement that Jesus died and rose again to make atonement for your sin. The cross required an incarnation! How could God have done it without a body? How could the second Adam redeem his people unless he too became a human?

The heart of Christmas is the incarnation – God became flesh and dwelt among us. And the incarnation is the prerequisite of the gospel.

That’s why Christmas is a big deal! Christmas is ultimately about Christ, the gospel, and the spread of the kingdom of God. It’s the reign of Jesus. It’s God’s reclamation of creation (so to speak). It’s all political. “Merry Christmas” is a war cry. It’s an announcement of the kingdom of God among us.

And that, my friends, is why we can’t let this Christmas just slip by as we operate on auto-pilot like we did last year. That’s the real danger of this time of year. The lights, the carols, the food, the gifts – it can all become so routine that it becomes meaningless.

That is where we need a good dose of theological thoughtfulness, incarnation intentionality.

We need to combine the festivities with “the reason for the season.”

That, for example, is why the Israelites had so many festivals. Tons of them! They needed times of year and particular actions and activities to remember Yahweh and what he has did for them!

So Christmas is about remembering Christ and his birth – it ought to be about joy, giving, family, feasting, and even fudge.

I mean just think about fudge. What a good gift from God! It’s awesome. It melts. It’s wonderful.

Christmas is the time to eat fudge in light of what Jesus has done.

It’s the time to enjoy family and friends in light of what Jesus has done.

It’s the time to give to others as Jesus has given to you.

Now…the Christian life is all about self-denial. It’s about simplicity. It’s not about extensive consumption, self-indulgence, and the endless pursuit of wealth. (That’s the world we left.) But with that said, remember that Jesus himself, at special times, promoted celebration and lavish acts of extravagance. Jesus made wine at weddings (gallons of it) and defended the woman who, at great cost, broke the alabaster jar on his feet (John 2:1-11; Luke 7:36-50). And I am convinced that he is pleased when we celebrate him with joy and feasting and gladness.

So whoop it up.

Really whoop it up.

Well, don’t go into massive credit card debt…

But really – eat the fudge. Drink the egg nog. Cook a turkey (and a ham!) Gain a few extra pounds maybe. Sing loud. Bless the poor! Hug the grandkids lots. Enjoy…and worship.

Take your soul off autopilot this Christmas! Don’t go through the motions again this year! It’s all about Jesus! He’s God incarnate! Think about him! Worship him! Read some Scripture with family (or friends)! Maybe start in Luke’s Gospel.

Enjoy it all. Do it all in worship with thanksgiving – because there is a lot more feasting coming your way when Jesus returns. We’re just getting started…“of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.”

(Note that this article is all shaped and incluenced by Douglas Wilson’s book God Rest Ye Merry, which includes a defense of fudge…so credit where credit is due – and read the book maybe)

Mockingjay, Morality, and Might makes Right

Mocking-Jay

I saw the new Hunger Games movie last night – Mockingjay Part 1. As usual with the Hunger Games films I left the theatre quite perturbed. The movie deals with an oppressive government that destroys the freedoms of her people; and it features the nobility of a young lady, Katniss, who reluctantly, though inevitably, stands up for justice.

The movie raises an important question: who gets to decide right from wrong?

This is no abstract question – our society wrestles with questions of right and wrong all the time.

For example, the news is on right now even as I write this and CBC is  covering a story in which Michelle, the Duggars mom, has spoken against so-called same-sex marriage. How does a society what is right and wrong?

Isaiah spoke against those who “call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa 5:20 ESV). In short, he rebuked those who inverted the moral order.

And that is where Mockingjay asks us some penetrating questions about morality.

But the conclusion is actually incredibly simple. John Piper once said that when there is no moral standard, no moral arbitrator, then, necessarily, “might makes right.” Sadly, that is the legacy of Derrida, Foucault, and the other parading pundits of postmodernity with their silly conclusion that “what’s true for you is not always true for me.” Yeah sure. What they are actually saying is what they have been saying for years: “might makes right.”

Think about it. If you give up law that is built on human dignity, ten commandment-type stuff (lex talionis), then morality is determined by the loudest voices, the biggest biceps, and the largest arsenal.

And that is why Hunger Games is so deeply disturbing – it’s meant to be. Yet that is also why It makes such a striking point – because we all know, fundamentally, the difference between right and wrong. It’s in our souls. It’s the strongest argument for the existence of God. And that is why, when the state passes, by majority vote, that black is white and bitter is sweet, there will always be a few Katniss-types who know that you just can’t change what’s really there, no matter how much positive, affirming language you couch it in.

In other words, give me divine-command ethics or no ethics at all. Cuz that’s all you will get otherwise. No real ethics. No real morality – just the morality of muscles, where the biggest ones always win.