Maybe You Should be Sick of Christmas

An Advent Voice Crying in the Rush to Christmas Wilderness

Last week I came across a Blog asserting that the real War on
on Christmas is waged by churches and individual Christians who rush to Chistmas. It reminded me of a Blog I published on November 28, 2012 at the old Christian Curmudgeon site. With a few changes what follows is that Blog. If Christian calendar offens you don't read what is below except for amusement. I if you keep Christmas, consider.

It’s early Christmas morning. Sitting on the sideboard are two eight layer cakes that didn't come out of a box nor the icing out of a can. One is chocolate and one coconut. A turkey was smoked overnight. A spiral sliced ham will go in the oven before long. The cornbread for the dressing, still hot, is on the counter. All sorts of favorite dishes are in various stages of preparation.

Old Dad just can’t stand it. He can’t wait for Christmas dinner to be served. He looks at the chocolate cake, his mother’s recipe, and he’s got to have a slice now. Just a slice. Then there is the turkey he smoked. He’s got to see how it turned out so he cuts himself an ample slice from the breast. Man that is good! He knows those spiral hams are always good, but the turkey has got his mouth watering, so he needs to taste the ham, then again, and one more time. And how great that hot cornbread would be slathered with butter. Just a piece broken off the edge, then a piece from another edge. He’s got to sample those other dishes as they progress. And that coconut cake, the kind his grandmother made with freshly grated coconut. He can’t let that go without confirming to himself how good it is. He’s a little full. But there are the nuts in the dish and the Mississippi State cheese they got as a gift and the candy from the kids’ stockings. He’ll nibble a little on those.

With the kids outside playing or in their rooms with their newest electronics and carols playing softly in the background he’s soon fast asleep on the couch. He’s startled awake at 1:00 by his wife calling, “Christmas dinner’s served! Come to the table.” He awakes and still groggy goes to the table, thinking without saying aloud, “I’m so full, I don’t think I can eat another bite. I am almost to the point of being sick of this stuff.” He says grace, nibbles at his food, and is glad when the meal is over. He doesn’t know if he’ll even be interested in leftovers tomorrow or the next day. Maybe it’s time to move on until next year.

It’s seems to me that this is the way many people will feel about Christmas itself by the time it gets here. The stores could hardly let Labor Day pass before they began displaying their Christmas trees and decorations for sale. Of course, you’ve got to be in the mood to shop, so store decorations went up and carols began to bombard ears in the stores that had got all the money they could from Halloween sales.

Even the day of Thanksgiving is affected by commercial interests. From the Presidency of Lincoln to that of the second Roosevelt the Thanksgiving proclamation was issued for the last Thursday of November. Most years the fourth Thursday would be the last Thursday of the month, but, as with this year of 2012, there could be five Thursdays some years and rarely Thanksgiving could fall as late as the 30th. But statistics showed that people did not begin to do their Christmas shopping till after Thanksgiving. During the Depression that became an issue for retailers. The first time during the Depression Thanksgiving fell on a fifth Thursday was 1933. Some businessmen asked the President to move Thanksgiving a week earlier, the fourth not fifth Thursday, but he declined. The second time (1939) he made the change. This action encountered a lot of resistance so that Thanksgiving was celebrated on different Thursdays among the states. As usually happens the government had to step in with Congress in 1941 making Thanksgiving a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.

Commercial concerns have also led to an ever increasingly early entrance of the “Christmas season.” But, there is another cause, too. 

It is our unwillingness to delay and thus to enhance the enjoyment of Christmas until Christmas itself arrives. We just can’t wait. We pull out the Christmas music and tune to the Sirius-XM stations devoted to nothing but Christmas music the first of November. We put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, if we wait that long. We eat the Christmas cookies and candy, and, if we can stand it, the fruitcake from the first day of December. By Christmas Day we are like the husband who gorged himself on food all Christmas morning. We are tired, if not sick, of the whole thing. We are ready to see it over. Get that tree down and out of the house! Get those decorations boxed and back in the attic! We have had enough for this year!

Now, I know it’s a free country, and businesses, families, and individuals can do what they want. And, I know the followers of the English Puritan tradition think the whole thing is an unwelcome distraction at best, a pagan/Roman Catholic corruption at worst. Churches range from principled observance, to principled non-observance, to grudging observance, to doing whatever they like whenever they like.

IF, and it’s a big IF I know, you are going to observe Christmas, it makes sense at least to know how we in the Christian world got the observance. It comes from the “liturgical calendar” or the “Christian (church) year.” This calendar is observed by the Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches. Of the churches of the Reformation it is followed by the Lutheran and Anglican churches. To a lesser extent it is observed by the Continental Reformed churches. It is supposedly observed not at all by the English and Scottish Presbyterians. But, in America we pretty much do what we darn well please. Still, perhaps, it’s of some value to know from where the observance comes.

The church year commences with Advent, which includes the four Sundays before Christmas, the first in 2015 being November 29. Strictly observed, Advent is a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation. “Prepare the way of the Lord” is its message. Then comes Christmas Day which begins the Twelve Days of Christmas, which conclude on Epiphany (January 6), the celebration of the coming of the Wise Men and revelation of Christ to the Gentiles.

As I say, people can do what they want. But, as one who keeps Christmas, I like the idea of letting Christmas gradually come to me through the time of Advent rather than I forcing it to rush to me. I like the wait, the anticipation, the reenactment of the waiting experience of the Old Testament church and prophets. It is good to hear the call of John the Baptist, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I like contemplating with Mary the angelic greeting. I want to sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” before I sing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Our approach to Christmas in our home is  l to take a slower approach. We don’t put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and we don’t take it down the day after Christmas. We don’t eat Christmas cookies till we put up the tree. We don’t listen to the music before Thanksgiving afternoon. I don’t like being bored with the whole thing by December 15. But, believing in liberty in matters indifferent I grant you the right to do it wrong.

I will not now wish you a Merry Christmas. But I will wish you a Blessed Advent. 

I am a lonely prophet crying in the wilderness - of American commercialism, individual impatience, lacking liturgical sense wilderness: Keep Advent. Prepare for the coming of our Lord. Let Christmas come on its own time. Celebrate when it comes. Perhaps you can join the transformed Scrooge in keeping Christmas very well. 

When Empathy Runs Roughshod over Scripture

I Get It

There are many things I have not experienced. I have not been mistreated dog, been the victim of a terrorist attack, or grown up in a single parent home. However, I can sympathize when I observe them. I respond with feelings such as sadness and anger.

There are things I have experienced with those close to me. Cancer, divorce, death of a spouse. Because these things have occurred in the lives of those I love, I have a heightened level of sympathy (patheos-feel, sym-with) or ability to "feel with" people is similar situations. 

There are things I have experienced. Depression, major surgery, loss of friends. When others go through these things, I can put myself in the situation as though I were that person. I empathize (patheos-feel, em-into), or "feel into" the person's life experience.

I get it that there is abuse in the church and among Christians - child abuse, wife abuse, sexual abuse of both. There are many who write and take action because they have experienced experienced abuse themselves (empathy) or been close to those who have (sympathy). In their cases, sympathy and/or empathy produce compassion, a deep moving within that leads to action to stop abusers and help the abused.

So far, so good. But not so good things can happen. The concern may become life dominating. I once knew a person whose brother was a victim of a commercial plane crash. The person's status as the sibling of person who died in that plane crash became an essential element of the person's identity to the exclusion of other important things. Similarly it seems to me that sometimes having been abused or been intimately involved in the life of an abused person can dominate lives in a way that crowds out other just as important or more important concerns.

Sometimes, when such concerns become dominant, people can see problems where there may not be problems. They understand the traits of abusers, patterns of abuse, and characteristics of the abused. These are legitimate observations, but not if one becomes an "expert" at seeing these things that others cannot see. In the 1980s and 90s there were a flurry of accusations of child abuse in daycare centers. Indictments were issued, trials conducted, and people went to jail. It turned out that a great many of the accused were not guilty and that a great many of these children were not abused. Therapists and prosecutors were so convinced that child abuse in daycare centers was widespread and that they could discern it that they became aggressive in questioning children and going after daycare staff member. They wanted daycare workers to be guilty. 

Such concerns can become "interpretative" grids through which one sees life. The Bayly brothers have so elevated sex (male and female distinctions), sex roles, and patriarchy ("father rule" as they say) that they are driven to see attacks on "God's order" everywhere. They condemn fellow Christians who do agree with them as either benighted or co-conspirators with the enemies of God. They are obsessed with Tim Keller and much of he PCA for being soft on homosexuality and compromising of the roles of women and men. 

It is particularly dangerous when an interpretative grid distorts the Bible. Lately I have responded to Blogs which have suggested that women do not have a duty to submit husbands who do not fulfill their duty to love and may divorce if they find themselves married to an SOB (When Passion Trumps Logic), that sex is not a need ("Sex Is Not a Need." Really? Really?), and that male headship is conditioned by the obligation of Christians to submit to another (No More Football, Guys). I won't repeat my wrestling with the relevant Biblical text (you can read the cited Blogs if you want that), but it is clear that these Bloggers, starting with a a real problem and with legitimate concerns, have trouble letting the Bible say that the Bible says. 

In response to my Blog in which I considered Paul's treatment of sexual need in 1 Corinthians 7, I got the following comment:
I think you may be nit-picking here, Bill. I follow Phil's blog as well, and as you'll note his work is in the field of trauma recovery. I think the intent of his words is clear, in that such teaching of "need" can be twisted (as can all Scripture, for that matter) to excuse abusive behavior. And the church does not have a great track record in ministering to abused, traumatized people. We have to be aware of not just what we say, but the way our words are perceived by the hurting.
The commenter observes that the psychologist specializes in trauma recovery, that the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7 can be used to justify abusers, that the church has not done well at ministering to abused persons, and that we have to be careful about how some who are hurting may receive our words.

It amounts to this: 1.The psychologist may deny the reality of sexual need because he specializes in trauma. 2. Because 1 Corinthians can be abused, we ought to be careful about saying what is says. 3. Because the church has not done well in dealing with abuse, it might not be a trustworthy interpreter of Scripture. 4. Saying what I Corinthians 7 says may be, because of their experience, heard by some as a sort of "hate speech." 

Have we come to a place among reformed evangelicals that we should not say what Scripture says? May we not say that the obligation of a husband to love and a wive to submit is not cancelled by the failure of the other to fulfill their obligation. That for some the "thorn" with which they are called to live is their spouse/marriage? That Paul is a realist about sex who counsels marriage for most and sexual generosity in marriage? That St. Paul and St. Peter instruct wives to submit to their husbands in all things as the church is to submit to Christ. 

Yes, there needs to be careful exegesis of Scripture. Yes, Scripture can be abused. But Scripture must be given freedom speak the truth, and we must open our ears to hear. Scripture and "right reason" cannot be overturned by experience, sympathy, and empathy.  

No More Football, Guys

Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?
                                          Professor Higgins

(Disclaimer: This writer is married to a strong woman of Germanic descent who is not known to take any “guff” off him. I have been banned from commenting on the Bayly Blog. I am not a follower of Doug Wilson. I don't believe that electing a woman President would subject us to "the monstrous rule of women" though that might be the case with one most likely be President. As the term “patriarchy” is presently used, I am an opponent. However, sometimes enough is enough.)

Frustrated with Eliza, Professor Henry Higgins asked, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Today that question is turned on its head. “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” That question reflects the outlook not just of college departments of gender studies and nanny-state bureaucrats, but of some conservative evangelicals.

Last weekend I came across a link to a Blog by someone named Cicero Kirk titled Masculinity So Fragile. Kirk’s piece is ostensibly a exposure of the view of manhood taught by Doug Wilson and Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho.

Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho promotes the most faux form of masculinity I’ve ever witnessed. It’s a fragile form of masculinity that thrives on bluff and blunder while lacking any real substance. What they offer is a television form of masculinity.

There follows in the same paragraph this non sequitur:

Football first took a hold of America when the young men felt like they needed something to prove their worth in a world at peace. No matter how much you enjoy the sport, excelling at football is no judge of character and worth. This is why such an emphasis has been placed on showboating exercises in the Kirk like boxing and rugby.

Figure out this progression:

1. Doug Wilson and Christ Church promote faux masculinity, fragile masculinity, television masculinity.

2. American football emerged because, there being no wars to fight, men needed to prove their worth.

Comment: For quite a bit of human history
Knute Rockne
men have run with objects and tried to knock one another down on fields. From at least the time of the Greeks there have been games that involved advancing a ball. Europe of the Middle Ages had “mob football.” The English invented rugby. American football emerged from rugby. The first football game was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. Walter Camp is considered the father of modern football rules. And somehow the game became popular (when Cicero does not say) so that men could prove their worth.
No matter how much you like football football is no judge of character and worth.

The sentence, "No matter how much you enjoy the sport, excelling at football is no judge of character and worth," deserves to be entered in a contest for “the most convoluted sentence of 2015." I will venture a guess at the meaning: No matter how much you like
    football you need to understand that football 
prowess is no indication of the character or
worth of an individual.

3. Back to Wilson.

Apparently they like the “manly” sports in Moscow. And Cicero knows what it’s all about - blustering men learning to exercise male headship:

The purpose of this is to raise future men. Rough and tumble men who will be the spiritual heads of their families. Men who will stand for what is right and just, men who won’t shirk from a fight. The problem is is that this isn’t what the Kirk wants. They are happy to support the bread and circuses, the blustering and chest beating to make men feel like they have power and control, but when it comes to the actual exercise of it, that’s a different story.

I have read this paragraph repeatedly, but I cannot follow its logic. My attempt at interpreting it: The purpose of the pursuit of manly sports in Moscow is to prepare men to be heads of their families, who stand for the right and won’t run from a fight. But, what Moscow really offers is circuses (sports?) which will produce blustering men who feel like they have power and control . But they don’t really exercise power or control. (In what areas do they not exercise power and control? My guess: exercising power and control over themselves to restrain themselves from exercising power and control over their families. See next paragraph.)

Cicero continues:

Playing rugby, or getting your nose broken in a boxing match doesn’t make you more manly than someone who sits in their room and plays video games or watch Netflix. It’s a distraction from true manliness, from love and sacrifice. It’s the promise of setting up a little lord to oversee the tiny kingdom of their wife and children, but only so long as they pay proper tribute to the king (note: that’s Wilson).

Question: Allowing for differences of genetics, interests, abilities, and life experiences, is the kid sitting in his room watching a screen as manly as a kid on the rugby field?  

Back to Cicero:

It’s a distraction from true manliness, from love and sacrifice. It’s the promise of setting up a little lord to oversee the tiny kingdom of their wife and children, but only so long as they pay proper tribute to the king (note: that’s Wilson).

Apparently Cicero believes that rough sports, at least as they are used at Moscow, are a distraction from the true manliness of love and sacrifice. These sports offer the distracted male rather the promise of becoming lord of a kingdom consisting of wife and children. It is worth perhaps noting that a man’s being a “lord” is not without Biblical warrant: “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (1 Peter 3:5,6a).

Now Cicero is ready to deprive patriarchs of their favorite weapon, Ephesians 5:

In the passage of the Bible that patriarchs love the most, wives are called to submit to their husbands, but they conveniently forget the passages that precede it, where we are asked to submit to each other.  This is anathema to the Kirk…

What Cicero and many others try is to tell us that Ephesians 5:21, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” gives us the controlling principle that governs the understanding of Ephesians 5:22-24:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Somehow the participial phrase “submitting to one another” weakens the imperative, “Wives, submit to your own husband as to the Lord.” But, it is hard to see how that can be the Apostle’s intent when he goes on to say, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to Christ in everything.” Does “submitting to one another” somehow weaken, "so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands”?

The relationship between Christ and the church is the pattern. Does Christ submit to the church so that somehow the church does not submit to Christ in everything? No, Christ does not submit to the church, but he does love the church, sacrificially so to the point of death.

Ephesians 5:22-6:9 addresses three reciprocal relationships. Ephesians 5:22-33 deals with wives and husbands. Wives submit; husbands love. Ephesians 6:1-3 deals with children and parents. Children obey their parents; fathers bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4-9 deals with slaves and masters. Slaves obey. Masters do not abuse their authority by harshness. The note in the ESV Study Bible well expresses the meaning of Ephesians 5:21: “submitting to one another means ‘submitting to others according to the authority and order established by God’ as reflected in the examples that Paul gives in the following verses.”

Christina Hoff Sommers who wrote The War Against Boys (2000) said:

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “ tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun." Play is a critical basis for learning...And boys’ heroic play is no exception.

Unfortunately Sommers’ plea did little good. Boys will be boys becomes boys need to become girls. Attempts to feminize boys (which swims against the tide of what boys are) are made by all sorts, from secular feminists to evangelical mothers who think the natural aggressiveness of boys needs to be suppressed. But boys compete, spit, play rough, make pistols of their thumbs and forefingers, make truck sounds, knock one another down - because they’re boys.
Now it seems, if somehow they survive the efforts to feminize them as boys, they must be feminized as men, which means, among other things, for people like Cicero, leading their households by not exercising headship.

And no more football.

"Sex Isn't a Need." Really? Really?

Did Paul Get Sex Wrong?

I don’t understand all men. I understand few women. (OK, maybe none.) My understanding of psychologists? “And I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.”

Recently I came across a Christian psychologist’s Blog addressing the question: “Do men need sex?” My response to the question was, “Du-u-h!” But the psychologist disagrees. The full title of his Blog post is: “Do men need sex? Wants vs. needs and the making of weak men”.

To be fair to our psychologist he wrote out of concern about some of the Duggar craziness that urges wives to be sexually available to their husbands pretty much any time the husband expresses interest. Men need sex really bad. Women have a duty to meet meet the need.

He believes that the “Duggar view” has a wrong assumption:

That advice, in my opinion, makes men out to need sex to such a degree that the lack of it will lead to bad things like porn and adultery. Sex is treated as the glue that holds fragile men in the marriage and the lack of it kills the marriage because men can’t function without it.

With the Duggars and others of their ilk as a foil the psychologist labors to establish the thesis that sex is not a need but a want. He seems to confine the category of need to things you will die without - like water. So…

It seems that some have  bought into this little formula: SEXUAL DESIRE = NEED. UNMET NEED = DANGER that will lead to  temptation, straying, or some such pathology.

What is the root of this wrong understanding of sex?

I think our troubles begin this way: We often baptize desires as needs, expect needs to be fulfilled, are angry when they are not, make demands of others to fulfill our wants and excuse ourselves when we use illicit means to get what we want (either by outright force, manipulation, or secrecy).

What alternative does he propose?

Consider for a minute how we might respond to these two different equations:
    • Sex as basic need + unmet need = ???
    • Sex as powerful want + unmet want = ???
How would you conclude these two equations? The first is more likely to focus on ensuring the spouse is not selfishly withholding such a basic need. The second is more likely to be concluded by addressing the one who has the want and how they plan to address that want.

Eventually he appeals to spiritual reasons:

Maybe this is a more accurate equation: Sex as a powerful want + partially unmet wants + brokenness (bodies, relationships, desires) = grief over losses + opportunity to rely on Holy Spirit + pursuit of loving our spouses more than ourselves. This equation better acknowledges wants, sadness the happens when wants are not met, the reality of broken wants and broken bodies but also points to a better goal of reliance on God and the focus of love more than getting something.

The conclusion of the matter:

It is painful to have unmet wants/desires. Those desires do not have to be wrong (though we are never fully right either). But our wants are always given to God and made secondary to our command to love the other well. Yes, part of loving the other may be talking about desires and hurts. But surely let us get rid of the idea that failing to have sex leaves men or women in some greater danger than those who have sex as much as they want.

The psychologist’s concern about the Duggars is well-founded. He is right that marriage and sex within marriage does not inoculate people against sexual sins. Those, especially men, who think lust will be destroyed by having a marriage partner are in for disillusionment. He is right to point out the priority of love and concern for the other which will require self-discipline. But his attempt to distinguish desire from need seems forced and, as we will see, his view is in conflict with St. Paul.

It is surprising that his treatment of the subject appeals to some general “spiritual” considerations and fails to address the Scriptures, in particular 1 Corinthians 7. The Apostle Paul had received a letter from the Corinthian church in which they asked Paul about several matters, one of which was sex and marriage. He introduces his response with a quotation from their letter.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with (literally, “to touch”) a woman.”
There were teachers of asceticism who taught something along these lines: “This is the age of the Spirit, and Christians are called to live in the Spirit and minimize life in the body. Those who are not married should remain single and lead spiritual lives. Those who already married should have spiritual marriages which exclude sex.”

Paul, who was not married and who had the “gift” to remain unmarried and to devote the whole of his life to the ministry of the Gospel in ways married persons cannot, rejected their view and practice on practical grounds squarely facing the reality of “weakness” :

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

Whether “have” means to have a marriage partner or to have sexually (more likely), Paul sees marriage and sex within marriage as of value in dealing with temptation. The psychologist appears not to take this teaching of the Apostle into account and rather denies it.

Paul goes on to urge generosity between a married couple based on mutual “rights” of conjugal relations and mutual “authority” over the other’s body. What is remarkable is the reciprocity of the relationship. The rights and authority of women in relation to sex in marriage are fully equal to those of men.  Whatever the relative levels of sexual need of the persons in a particular marriage (and no doubt there are significant differences among persons and among marriages), they are called to be generous in giving their bodies to one another. They are not to withhold sex from the other:

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another…

While this is the ordinary life for a married couple, Paul does grant  “a concession” which will allow for a “sexual fast”:

Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.

Couples who engage in sexual fasting must: (1) mutually agree (no unilateral imposition of a fast); (2) observe the fast for a limited time (no extensive abstinence); and (3) engage in the fast for a spiritual purpose (to devote themselves to prayer). Again Paul, the realist who understands the way it is with most even though not with himself, acknowledges weakness and appeals to the practical reason for such restrictions on sexual fasting. “Come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” Once again the psychologist seems to be swimming upstream against Paul.

Paul is single and lives a sexually continent life. He might wish that all shared in this gift. But he knows all don’t, and those who don’t have the gift should marry:

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

It is “better to marry than to burn.” Some may think that the Apostle means that it is better to marry than to live a sexually immoral life and burn in hell. But the ESV is certainly right about the sense of the passage. Marriage is the alternative to burning with passion. Perhaps the psychologist will still contend that struggling with exercising self-control and experiencing burning with passion refer to a desire or want. But how could the Apostle more strongly describe sex as a need than to refer to it as burning with passion?

The Westminster Confession of Faith following the Apostle includes the prevention of sin as a reason for marrying:

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed, and for preventing of uncleanness.

The marriage service of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer urges couples to consider three purposes for which God ordained marriage, one of which is that it is a “remedy against sin.”

...It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.

Paul teaches that those who are not married and who have sexual needs must exercise self-control and refrain from fornication. But he knows this is hard, very hard, and so urges those who burn to marry. There may come times in marriage when a couple by mutual consent will observe a short sexual fast to devote themselves to prayer. This will require self-discipline, but it should not be pushed to its limit. There may be times when physical or mental issues make sex either impossible or inadvisable, and in such times there is no choice but self-control. But what is normal in marriage? Sex.

Is sex a need? The psychologist says, “No.” Paul says, “Yes.”

With God on Our Side

One of Us Still Loses

Melanie Sojourner
Bob Dearing


And you never ask questions 
            When God's on your side.                                           Bob Dylan 

A classic matchup. First Baptist vs. First Presbyterian. Woman vs. Man. Youth (47) vs. Age (80). Present Incumbent vs. Former Incumbent. Republican vs. Democrat. The Race for Mississippi Senate District 37.

Four years ago Republican Melanie Sojourner ousted Democrat Bob Dearing who had served since 1980. Now it appears that, in a year when the Republicans attained a super majority in the House while continuing their grip on the Senate, the old Democrat has returned the favor to the first term Republican. While the results have not yet been certified, both candidates believe Mr. Dearing won by about 50 votes. 

In the Senate Ms. Sojourner portrayed herself as one of the few real conservatives among the Republicans. She allied herself with Senator Chris McDaniel and took on an adversarial role in relation to the Mississippi Republican Party and the Senate leadership, especially the Lt. Governor, Tate Reeves, whom she frequently attacked. When Sen. McDaniel took on longtime Republican Senator Thad Cochran in 2014, Ms. Sojourner served as his campaign manager. Since Mr. McDaniel, after leading in the first primary lost in the second, when Mr. Cochran appealed to Democrats to support him, she and Mr. McDaniel have remained bitter, continuously attacked "the establishment," and declared their unmitigated hostility toward former Governor, Haley Barbour. 

As might be expected, "the establishment" primaried Sen. Sojourner. However, against two Republican opponents she won on outright majority in the Primary. After his defeat Mr. Dearing was not ready to go home to his rocking chair and await the upward call. He ran in the Democrat primary and won handily. Thus Mr. Dearing and Ms. Sojourner met again in the general election with Mr. Dearing eaking out the win. 

For Ms. Sojourner this was a contest between pure conservatism and extreme liberalism, between those who would save the Republic and those who would contribute to its destruction, between good and bad. Mr. Dearing, a politician of the older sort, seemed to have conceived the election as a more prosaic affair -reclaiming of his office, focusing on constituent services, and pledging after the election to work with the Senate leadership as much as possible. (There are rumors he has made a "deal" with the Lt. Governor and will switch parties.) 

But in one thing both candidates agree. Both believed God was on their side. When Ms. Sojourner suspected that she might lose she appealed to the almost always misused Jeremiah 29:11. When her own unofficial vote count showed her losing, the statement she issued included: 

But, let me be clear. Regardless of the final outcome, this is not the end for me. And it is not the end 
for you, my friends and supporters. Whatever plans God may have for me, I promise to continue my fight against liberalism and to restore American exceptionalism and liberty-based conservatism to the Republican Party and Mississippi.
In its article reporting the unofficial count, the Natchez Democrat, quoted Mr. Dearing saying:
When I qualified on February 22 my prayers that night were to God was for his guidance during this election campaign and with his guidance he has brought me through it. 
Their Facebook pages included many spiritual encouragements from their supporters. Mr. Dearing's supporters assured him of their prayers and quoted uplifting Bible verses. He himself several times in his his first morning post quoted, "And when I rise, give me Jesus." Ms. Sojourner's supporters also assured her of their prayers, but took on her more apocalyptic vision of her role of saving her party, state, and nation or of interpreting the contest in the context of signs of the end of the age.

Is Mr. Dearing's win an answer to his and his supporters' prayers - as it were a divine endorsement? Is Ms. Sojourner's defeat God's repudiation of her cause or a sign that the final conflict is just ahead? Whose side was God on? For whom did he cast his vote? Did God win or lose?

Even with God on your side, somebody wins and somebody loses. Where does that put God?

But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.
                               Bob Dylan

Christian Calvinistic Reformed Singles Online Dating Site

When Calvinism Comes to Dating

I heard Eugene Osterhaven wonder if some take the Kuyperian world-and-life-view too far. The instance he cited was the formation of a Christian Goat Breeders Society in the Netherlands. The question is, What distinguishes a Christian goat breeder from another? 

I supposed one function of a Christian Goat Breeders Society is to breed Christian goats only with other Christian goats. And inasmuch as it is the Calvinists who form such societies, I suppose we can go a step further and say that the Society provided a service by which Calvinist Christian goats would be bred only with other Christian Calvinistic goats. 

I came across a video which reminded me of that story. It is one of those dramatizations based on real life events. If you have not been around the small group Calvinists who at the same time think (1) that presuppositional apologetics is essential to the true faith and (2) that they are called to work for a theonomic government, and (3) that Christian courtship means a father must vet men who want to pursue their daughters, you will feel you have entered an alien world. You have. For those who know this world or are part of it, this video will portray a world you have either (1) observed or (2) been part of.  

Meanwhile I was interested to find that the gurus of Christian patriarchy don't like the courtship ("I kissed dating goodbye") movement. It's too tame for them. No, they believe that dating and courtship are violent. They view Courtship as Warfare: "...marriage is not safe, and the wooing which leads to marriage is not safe. It is war, and the quicker our children understand this the better. It is war against sin. It is the breaking of families and established orders. It is secession and union all in one, penetration and insemination, not merely lacy ruffles and Pachelbel canons but velvet-gloved violence. All this courtship conceals."

Below is the video. Watch it, laugh, and weep.

From Calvinistic vetting services and courtship as violence, Good Lord, deliver us.

When Passion Trumps Logic

When Passion Trumps Logic

Credits: Hand Modeling by Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Persis Lorenti, who blogs at Tried by Fire, has published Meaningless Verses and Meaningless Vows

Mrs. Lorenti is very concerned about the matter of spousal abuse within the church. Rightly so. Concern about a very real problem leads her to the topic of divorce. She describes "three possible camps regarding divorce among Christians": 
  • No divorce for any reason whatsoever. 
  • Divorce only for adultery and possibly abandonment.
  • Divorce for adultery, abandonment, and abuse.
Her position: "I stand firmly in the third camp." In support of her argument, she offers this scenario:
Scenario 1. A man in your congregation is emotionally, verbally, and financially abusive to his employees. They are demeaned, called names, and cursed. They are not paid on time and sometimes not paid at all. Thankfully, slavery does not exist in this country, so people have the right to quit one job and look for another. However, would you recommend that these employees continue in this man's employ even if he continues to mistreat them this way? Now let's change this scenario to a marriage. Does that change your advice?
This a classic example of comparing apples and oranges. Jobs are not marriages. An employer-employee relationship and a husband-wife relationship both, in this country, begin voluntarily. You don't have to work for The All American Widget Company. Mary does not have to marry John nor John Mary. There the comparison ends. You can walk off the job any day you want to for any reason at all or no reason. It is an entirely voluntary relationship. 

The only qualification that might apply is if the St. Peter's exhortations to servants have any application to employees:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:18-20).
Now if that applies in any way to employees, it seems to cut against the argument by comparison Mrs. Lorenti wants to make. But let's not hang ourselves up there. Just consider the difference between employment and marriage. A marriage in a purely secular setting is a civil contract. Ending the marriage requires civil action. 

But Christians understand marriage to be a solemn covenant (Malachi 2:13-17). And our Lord does say of this covenanted relationship, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6). For Christians especially, who are bound by both civil law and God's commandments, there can be no easy path to divorce. Husbands and wives are not employees who may walk off the marriage job for reasons they deem sufficient. 

This is not to say it is never legitimate for one to separate him/herself from the other as an expedient. But, this is not what Mrs. Lorenti advocating. She is advocating divorce in the case of a person who finds him/herself in the marital equivalent of a miserable job situation.

After presenting a second scenario regarding a wife in a physically abusive marriage, Mrs. Lorenti goes on to argue that to deny divorce is to negate a portion of Scripture:
If the wife is not allowed to separate and/or pursue divorce in the case of domestic abuse, this implies that the verses that charge a man to love his wife as Christ loved the church are meaningless. (Eph. 5:25-33) He can treat his wife any way he wants, and it doesn't matter. She may be told that she must take on the Christ role and love her husband sacrificially to fill what he abdicated. But does that mean the husband's role is switched to submit? Are you kidding? Submission is still a nonnegotiable for the wife. So now it is up to her to hold up both sides of the marriage while submitting to the person who is murdering her in his heart. This puts a burden upon her that no person can bear because she is not God. No human being can be another person's savior. No human being can change a person's heart.
I grant that in the case of physical abuse a wife may separate for the sake of self-protection and may eventually be judged by the church to have grounds for divorce. But we think Mrs. Lorenti's argument from Ephesians 5 proves too much. The text clearly teaches that a husband must love his wife (1) as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her and (2) as he loves his own body. The text also clearly teaches that a wife must submit to her husband in all things as the church submits to Christ. (I am not familiar with the position that a wife must take on both roles if the husband fails, which is a preposterous thing to teach.)

It has to be noted that no husband has ever loved his wife by the standard Paul holds before us, nor has any wife by like standard ever submitted to her husband. At what point does the failure become grounds for divorce? If the argument is that it must be a very serious failure on the husband's part to love, as is evidenced by physical abuse, is there a similarly serious failure on a wife's part to submit that would justify divorce?

Each person is under an obligation. Each husband is obligated to love his wife, and each wife is obligated to love her husband. Each ought to do all possible to discover before marriage whether the other has the capacity to live up to his or her obligation. But "breach of love" or "breach of submission" are not grounds for divorce. A husband is obligated to love his wife regardless of whether she is submissive to him, and a wife is obligated to submit to her husband regardless of whether he loves her. Historically many Christian husbands have lived with shrews and many Christian wives have lived with real SOBs because they understood themselves bound by Christian marriage and Christian duty to remain. (See 1 Peter 3:1-7). 

Mrs. Lorenti goes on to argue that not to grant a wife the right to divorce is to make the marriage vows meaningless:
Likewise this response also implies that the vows to love and cherish are meaningless. An abuser can break these vows with no consequence to the marriage but with grave consequences for the victim. Why even bother exchanging vows, if keeping them is unnecessary? 
Again, Mrs. Lorenti's argument proves too much. Who has ever kept the marriage vows? Not the best husband or best wife. Marriage does not work very well if there is not forbearance, long-suffering, repentance, and forgiveness. Of course, keeping vows is necessary, but the truth is they are never more than more or less kept. Why exchange them? Because they testify to to couple and all that marriage involves not just or primarily romance, but solemn obligations undertaken in the face of God and the congregation. Marriage is not a job taken today and quit tomorrow but a covenant established, and marriage is a relationship from which God intends there to be very nearly no opportunity for escape.

One more question: What if a woman took the traditional wedding vow that was in use in many Protestant services till the 1928 Book of Common Prayer omitted it - "to love, honor, and obey"? What if she doesn't obey? Is that breach of vows? Is it ever a ground for divorce? 

Abuse of any kind is not excusable. Physical abuse is reprehensible. A person who is put in physical danger has a right to protect herself. She can leave and go anywhere it is safe. She can call the police before or after leaving in which case the abuser will be without exception arrested. She can make use any other civil protections available. If she is a Christian a church member she may and should report it to the church. The church can investigate and can censure the husband. It can require and provide counseling or therapy. The church can report the abuse to the police. After sufficient inquiry the church may approve obtaining a civil divorce. It may well be the case that a physically abusive husband whose wife leave may be judged himself in effect to have deserted her, leaving her no safe option except to live separate from him : 
Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case (Westminster Confession of Faith, XXIV:6). 
Mrs. Lorenti is passionate, and understandably so, about abusive marriages. Passions joined to facts and sound logic can make for effective oral or written argument. But passions alone skew facts and make for bad logic. The problem with bad logic is that it makes arguments, which it advances as compelling, that are not compelling. Compelling arguments do not run roughshod over sound interpretation of Scripture or right reason.