What If I Don’t Feel Forgiven?
There is an important difference between guilt and guilt feelings. The distinction is between that which is objective and that which is subjective.

Written by R. C. Sproul | Thursday, May 25, 2017

Just as there are objective and subjective aspects of guilt, so there are objective and subjective aspects of forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness itself is objective. The only cure for real guilt is real forgiveness based on real repentance and real faith. However, we may have real and true forgiveness before God and yet not feel forgiven. Likewise, we may feel forgiven when we are not forgiven. That makes the issue of forgiveness very sticky

There is an important difference between guilt and guilt feelings. The distinction is between that which is objective and that which is subjective. Guilt is objective; it is determined by a real analysis of what a person has done with respect to law. When a person transgresses a law, that person incurs guilt. This is true in the ultimate sense with regard to the law of God. Whenever we break the law of God, we incur objective guilt. We may deny that the guilt is there. We may seek to excuse it or deal with it in other ways. Still, the reality is that we have the guilt.

However, guilt feelings may or may not correspond proportionately to one’s objective guilt. In fact, in most cases, if not all cases, they do not correspond proportionately. As painful as guilt feelings can be—and we’ve all experienced the rigors of unsettling guilt feelings—I don’t think any of us have ever experienced feelings of guilt in direct proportion to the actual guilt that we bear before God. I believe it is one of the mercies of God that He protects us from having to feel the full weight of the guilt that we actually have incurred in His sight.

Just as there are objective and subjective aspects of guilt, so there are objective and subjective aspects of forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness itself is objective. The only cure for real guilt is real forgiveness based on real repentance and real faith. However, we may have real and true forgiveness before God and yet not feel forgiven. Likewise, we may feel forgiven when we are not forgiven. That makes the issue of forgiveness very sticky.

We tend to trust our feelings to tell us what state we are in before God. Someone recently told me about a friend of hers who lives her Christian life on the basis of experience. I think that’s a very dangerous thing, because it’s like saying, “I determine truth by my subjective responses and feelings to it.” I would much prefer that her friend tried to live the Christian life on the basis of Scripture, because Scripture is objective truth that transcends the immediacy of a person’s experience.

Ultimately, the only source of real forgiveness is God. Thankfully, God is quick to forgive. In fact, one of the few absolute promises that God makes to us is that, if we confess our sins to Him, He will most seriously and surely forgive those sins (1 John 1:9).

Many years ago, I went to see my pastor to tell him about a struggle I was having with guilt. After I told him my problem, he opened the Bible to 1 John 1:8 and asked me to read this verse out loud. It says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In this verse, the apostle John is addressing the scenario we discussed earlier, in which a person who has real guilt attempts to deny or excuse it. John is saying that if we deny our guilt, we are simply fooling ourselves. We all sin. Therefore, we all contract guilt. If we refuse to accept that, we are engaged in perhaps the worst kind of deception, namely, self-deception. But when I read that passage, my pastor said to me: “That’s not your problem, because you’ve just told me why you came here. You came to tell me that you had a problem with sin.” Then he had me read the next verse: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

When I finished reading that, he asked me, “Have you confessed your sin?” I said: “Yes. But I still feel guilty.” He said: “OK. How about reading 1 John 1:9 for me.” I looked at him in confusion and said, “That’s what just I read.” He said: “I know. I want you to read it again.” So I picked up the Bible and I read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then I looked up at the minister, and he said, “So, what else?” I said: “Well, I’ve read this passage, I understand what it is saying, and I’ve confessed my sin. But I still feel guilty.” He said, “OK, this time I’d like you to read 1 John 1:9.” He made me read it again, and I ended up reading it five or six times. Finally, he got my attention. He said, “R. C., here’s what the truth of God declares: If ‘A,’ ‘B’ necessarily follows. God has promised that if you confess your sins, He will forgive you of your sins and cleanse you of your unrighteousness. You don’t believe that you’re forgiven because you don’t feel forgiven. What, then, are you trusting—your feelings or the truth of God?” I finally got the message he was trying to help me see.

This excerpt is adapted from What Can I Do with My Guilt? by R.C. Sproul.


Sneaky Squids And Sola Scriptura by Scott Clark; THE HEIDELBLOG
When I saw Chris Rosebrough tweet something about a “sneaky squid spirit doctrine” I thought it must be something from The Onion or the Babylon Bee. It is not. It is the latest thing from the world of charismatic continuing prophecy. The author and podcaster behind this new revelation is Jennifer LeClaire and she has published an article in Charisma Magazine, “When The Sneaky Squid Spirit Starts Stalking You.” Once again, this is not a test of the emergency orthodoxy network. This is an actual emergency.

She begins thus:

When my friend told me she saw a vision of herself with a big squid lodged atop her head, I knew enough about the unseen world to understand a spiritual attack was underway.

It proceeds thence. LeClaire testifies that she responded:

The attack was severe, but when I laid hands on her and commanded the squid to be bound, the most violent symptoms would cease.

It turns out that fear and unforgiveness can “open the door to a squid spirit.” Others have testified to doing battle with “squid spirits.”

Again, this is not a put on. This is no parody. This is the living theology, piety, and practice of many “Charismatic” Christians. I have had conversations with believers about similar sorts of things. I recall one dear man, who was in this movement, who spoke of similar sorts of encounters with demonic forces. The “Kansas City Prophets” and the “Brownsville Prophets” and the “Toronto Prophets” et al all laid claim to receiving direct revelations from the Lord about this or that.

Why bring this to your attention? Because either Scripture is the final, magisterial authority for the Christian faith and the Christian life (Sola Scriptura) or it is not. It is plain that, in this case—and implicitly for Charismatics and Pentecostals— Scripture is no longer the un-normed norm, the final, magisterial authority. If that is the case, then who is to say that there are no such spirit-squids or, more to the point, that LeClaire et al are not actually receiving revelations?

Of course, we might object on the basis of natural reason and experience but that sword may do more than we wish. We do believe, after all, that there are unseen realities in the world. The Holy Spirit does operate mysteriously through divinely ordained means. His work cannot be tested and replicated in a laboratory but it is still a truth of the Christian faith. We receive that truth on the basis of authority, the authority of Holy Scripture. If Scripture is not the sole authority (in the sense given above) then additional revelation, like those claimed by LeClaire, may be. Even if we discount those, what about the others? What about the prophecy that I heard repeated in the foyer of St Aldate’s Church in 1993? What about all those alleged prophecies in Kansas City or Toronto? LeClaire’s claim only highlights the problem of claims of continuing, extra-canonical (i.e., outside of canonical Scripture) revelation.

Implicitly, all those who claim such revelation agree with Rome, Mohammad, and Joseph Smith that there is continuing revelation. All that is in question for proponents of continuing revelation is which one is correct? For confessional Protestants, the answer is clear: sola Scriptura. The Bible is God’s Word written. It is the final, magisterial (ruling), sufficient authority for the Christian faith and the Christian life.

To anticipate some objections:

I am not saying that there are no demons at work in the world. I believe there are. I see no biblical case to believe that Christians, who have been bought with blood of Jesus Christ, can be possessed but I do not doubt that there is spiritual evil in the world and that demons are active.
I also think that late-modern Christians need to be self-critical about the degree to which we have been taken captive by Modern assumptions. E.g., when I ask how Jesus walked through a closed door, many late-modern Christians want to tell me that he de-materialized (ala Star Trek) and re-materialized on the other side. Part of the problem is a bad Christology (namely a failure to account for the biblical doctrine of Jesus’ true humanity) but an equal part of the problem is the modernist assumption that we know that doors do not change, ergo, Jesus must have changed. Funny how that works. Jesus can walk on water but doors cannot change.
A hyper-spiritualized world, however, is just as problematic as an implicitly closed, Modernist world. In a hyper-spiritualized world there is no ordinary providence and the world becomes essentially magical. This view of the world manifests itself when people want to make everything sacramental, in which case nothing is specifically sacramental. It is a form of superstition. Such a hyper-spiritual world has more in common with ancient paganism than with the world as Scripture understands it. Sometimes a cold is just a cold (and not a demon).
Sola scriptura is a bulwark against the Jennifer LeClaires of this world. We need not give any credence to her or to any of her ilk because she is, as Luther would have said (and did about the Zwickau Prophets and Thomas Müntzer, the Charismatics and Pentecostals of his day) Schwämerei, “fanatics.” These are those folk of whom he said, “They have swallowed the Spirit feathers and all.” Sola scriptura is not a charter for a closed universe, in which the supernatural is impossible a priori but it does norm all the claims by all the latter-day prophets.

When the next Joseph Smith or Jennifer LeClaire comes to you with an alleged new revelation you tell them “get thee behind me Satan.” They are not coming with God’s Word. Our conscience is captive to the Word of God. If it is not, even just a little, we have no unassailable basis against which to resist Jennifer LeClaire.

Posted by R. SCOTT CLARK | Friday, May 19, 2017 | Categorized American Religion, Cults, Evangelical Escapades, Sola Scriptura


Staying Home with Kids vs. Second Income
Submitted by Sandra Glahn on Tue, 05/09/2017 – 01:00

Not long ago, the Desiring God site ran an article titled, “Does My Family Need a Second Income?” The article began like this: “‘Will you stay home?’ This is the question I ask when I meet a postpartum mom wearing her weeks-old baby in a Moby Wrap or Ergobaby carrier. Whether the answer is yes or no, I’m glad for every opportunity to talk with new moms about what it will cost them to return to the workplace.” The article went on to talk about why women should stay at home with their kids.

Some of the author’s arguments are worth exploring, because Christian parents have this in common: we want the best for ourselves and our families. But it’s important to recognize that the binary, either-or for women to work outside the home vs. stay home with kids is a post-Industrial Revolution, western construct. And one we’ve started reading into our Bibles.

Not only that. When the abovementioned article hit Twitter, many members of underrepresented groups pointed out that among most persons of color, this debate has largely been considered a “white” one. Along with a retweet of the article, one person included an apology to her “black sisters” with this added: “I’m sorry articles like these hurt you. They know not what they do.”

Within a backdrop of these historical and social elements, I’ll consider the arguments in light of the Bible. But it’ll take me a higher-than-usual word count to do so, because ideas about earnings and gender so are engrained in our many subcultures that the topic deserves a thorough analysis.

The Husband’s Job to Provide?

Many like the author in question believe it’s the husband’s job to bring home the paycheck. In her piece the author wrote, “a husband’s disability, unemployment, or laziness might force you out of the home (1 Timothy 5:8).” But let’s look at her proof text there in parentheses. It’s so, so, so often cited as the Bible verse that puts the full economic responsibility on the husband. And it’s easy to see how we got there. . . .

Most translations of 1 Timothy 5:8, including the ESV’s (coming up in a sec), make it sound like providing is totally his job: “But if anyone [sometimes elsewhere translated “If a man…] does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (ESV, emphasis mine).

Did you notice the three male pronouns in that short little verse? There’s only one problem with them—they’re only part of the translation, not in the original. That is, the Greek does not assign this “providing” to one sex or the other. It’s neutral. But the “male weighted” translation is more elegant than the clunky translation required in order to show the actual intent regarding gender in the original: “If anyone does not provide for that one’s own relatives, and especially for members of that one’s own household, that person has denied the faith….” There’s actually nothing exclusively male about it. Nothing.

Later in the same passage, when Paul finally does give a gender-directed suggestion, he actually says that Christian women should provide for their family members in need (v. 16). Same context. Same subject. But totally different assignment of responsibility from what we usually hear. Providing is certainly not “the man’s job” eight verses after the genderless exhortation in 1 Timothy 5:8.

Consider the ideal woman—wisdom personified—whom we read about in Proverbs 31. Is her husband a financial provider? He doesn’t appear to be. Is he lazy? No. Disabled? No. Does she have wrong priorities? No.

Yet, rather than expecting her husband to be the sole provider, this idealized mom with children (v. 28) is buying and selling a field (v. 6). Ever stopped to wonder how she could “consider a field” without leaving her house to go look at it? It’s not like she can Google photos. Maybe she takes her kids with her (i.e., is a work-from-home mom). Or perhaps she leaves them with her workers (v. 15) when she does so (work outside-the-home mom). Perhaps her husband even comes home for lunch while she dashes off to make a deal (sharing-the-work-with-her-partner mom).

This woman also sells linen garments and sashes (v. 24) and does volunteer work for the poor and needy (v. 20). Meanwhile, where is her guy? He’s appears to be bringing in no income because he has a more honorable calling—sitting with the elders in the gate, where justice happens (v. 23). Together they make a better world possible through their division of labor based on gifting. And the kids and hubby end up thinking, “She’s awesome!” (v. 28).

The Culture Change That Got Us Here

The middle-and upper-class (it was never the poor) didn’t really start debating whether or not a woman could be gainfully employed outside the home until the Industrial Revolution. Before then, no one questioned a woman contributing to the family’s income.

But Paul knew nothing of the Industrial Revolution. When he exhorted Titus to have the older women in Crete to teach younger women how, among other things, “to be workers at home” (Titus 2:5), he was speaking into a situation in which almost 85 percent of industry happened in a domestic setting. People knew no such thing as a factory or office worker vs. a stay-at-home mom. Both husband and wife shared the jobs of stay-at-home parent and worker. In Paul’s world, if a man was home from war, both husband and wife raised kids, taught kids, and contributed to the family’s economics. And when he went off to war, she managed it all.

Two thousand years later, we’ve adapted to—capitulated, if you will—to the post Industrial Revolution division of labor. Initially when the factories got built, the men went off to do economics, and the women stayed with the kids (again, assuming upper classes; the lower-class kids worked in the same factories as their parents). And sometimes we’ve made this typical division the ideal. We need to rethink that.

In families in which moms could stay home with kids, many women grew restless. Nearly eighty years ago, decades before second-wave feminism, Dorothy L. Sayers addressed this phenomenon in Are Women Human? In a speech she delivered to a women’s society, she noted that much of women’s restlessness happened after the mind-engaging work (international trade, equipment purchase, negotiation, people contact) was taken from the domestic setting and sent to factories, where the men got to do it.

Mind-engaging work wasn’t the only thing transferred to men. When the home businesses shifted to factories, far more fathers than mothers earned paychecks. So men obtained even more social power, and people valued parenting less.

Plus, because of this division of labor, couples began to see raising kids as women’s work rather than as a partnership (i.e., moms parent; dads babysit). On those few occasions when dads kept the kids, these inexperienced fathers found the job overwhelming. And people noticed. People attributed the women’s superior parenting skills to something innate in woman and lacking in man. And one sad consequence was that it became more socially acceptable to be an incompetent father.

Freudian thinking added to the burden in that women who wanted to do “men’s work” (i.e., international trade, equipment purchase, negotiation, people contact) were told they were not fully sexualized and had penis envy. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Manhood Threatened?

Some say a wife having a vocation besides homemaking undermines a man’s sense of true manhood—and it’s especially bad if she earns more than he does. But maybe that’s because he’s been told it undermines his manhood by members of his subculture. Such thinking is hogwash. Our very model of Christian Manhood—Jesus and The Twelve—were supported by women.

Consider Mary Magdalene. She’s often referred to as a reformed prostitute. (That’s how she was portrayed in “The Passion of the Christ” and “Risen.”) But the only reference to Mary Magdalene’s occupation in the Bible is actually a reference to her supporting Jesus financially out of her income (Luke 8:1–3)—along with some other prominent women who did the same. Mary had more money than Jesus and The Twelve, and she was glad to share. No shame on anyone.

But binary constructs don’t allow for modern day Mary Magdalenes. Those who argue that a family’s ideal division of labor is “dads at the office and moms at home” are looking at family economics through western eyes and arguing for adherence to a post-Industrial Revolution construct. In an agrarian society, everyone works, and they all do so from home. It was after canning moved from home to the cannery that we started saying women had to stay home with their kids.

But the world is changing back to men and women working from home. And allow me to remind us that the ideal is not “moms with the kids” but “parents with the kids.”

When I go to rural Kenya and Ethiopia, no one I meet is having a conversation about whether women can contribute to the economics of their households. Sometimes the kids work in the field picking produce with Dad. And then they get sent to help Mom in the house or hauling water. All day the kids go back and forth from parent to parent, and everybody’s working. Many of these children also have grandparents around to watch them. The grandparents who are younger and stronger do manual labor. The older folks watch the littlest ones. “It takes a village. . . . ” In such a world, it’s much easier to see why Proverbs talks of both dads and moms teaching the kids (Prov. 1:8), and they can do so all day—sitting at home, walking along the way, when they lie down, and get up (Deut 6:7).

When the Industrial Revolution came along, the divorce rate shot up. Lots of kids stopped knowing their fathers in any meaningful way. Why would we want to hang on to that model—much less hold it up as biblical?

Work vs. Laziness

Again, the author of the article writes, “The apostle Paul encouraged young moms to focus their loving attention on their homes, presumably because such a priority was not a given in first-century Ephesus (Titus 2:5).”

Titus 2:5 is the main proof-text cited in the argument for women choosing not to work outside the home when they have children around. And this author got the “apostle Paul” part correct—he did indeed write the epistle in which this text is found. But the location was actually Crete (1:5), and the emphasis in the “home” part of the verse was not loving attention—though that’s always good—but on hard work.

The context of Crete is important. Because Paul’s concern seems less about the women’s location and more about laziness. And that comes out in his statement that one of Crete’s own prophets described his people as being “liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons” (v. 12, emphasis mine).

Perhaps you’ve read Titus 1:5 in the KJ V, whose translators rendered the word in question (it’s a single word) as “keepers at home.” But they were relying on later manuscripts that had a letter “g” missing in this word—which slightly altered its meaning. The older manuscripts are more reliable, and in them this letter isn’t missing. And the difference in meaning with or without the “g in the Greek” is between home-keepers (KJV) and home-workers (most modern translations).

Today most scholars like the translation that’s based on older, better manuscripts that have a compound word (oikos + ergou; from οἰκος, ἐργου).We get the word “ergonomics,” or the study of work/productivity, from the latter part of the compound word here. (Also, ironically, “Ergobaby.”) And that seems to be the point—work.

Some translate oikos + ergou as “domestic,” but that makes it sound like Paul’s focused on the Pinterest-perfect mastery of cleaning and cooking in opposition to enterprise—which is unfortunate, because that again misses the force of his emphasis on work. Paul was not living in a world in which he expected Priscilla to train the kids (if there were any) while Aquila did all the making and selling of tents. In fact, many of the homes in first-century Greece were like storefront businesses, with a counter and shop in the front and domestic space in the back. So a woman’s involvement in income-producing enterprise was not necessarily a “leaving home vs. staying home” situation. Seeing it that way is reading our culture back into hers.

The younger women in Paul’s day were home. And he wanted them to work hard in this domestic setting rather than doing the equivalent of lying around bingeing all day on old episodes of Downton Abbey while the kids made mud pies on the kitchen floor.

Listen, I’m no longer in my childrearing years. I don’t have an iron in this fire other than this—I care about the biblical text and how we handle it. And I care about my hard-working Millennial women friends being guilted into thinking that parenting is all on them and they suck as moms if they earn a salary. But I also care about their husbands guilted into thinking the income-earning to support their families is all on them—and missing out on a lot of their kids’ lives. It’s supposed to be a partnership. And flexibility is allowed.

When I was a mom with a young daughter, I would teach grad school in the evenings after my husband—who has always handled all the grocery shopping—got home. And I’d work as a magazine editor while our girl took naps or went one morning a week to mothers’ day out. When she hit the teen years, my husband started working from home, which gave us more flexibility. He started handling all of our daughter’s school and medical appointments, and I started doing more freelance writing and teaching on the weekdays.

Think Outside the Constructs of a Binary System

The author of the article wrote, “I also might offend moms who would rather not be challenged to think outside the comforts of a double income. . . . Can we be honest enough, and secure enough in Christ, to face both questions? The first question—What is the cost if you don’t return to work?—is a fairly easy one to tabulate in terms of financial sacrifice. But this second question—What is the cost to your family if you do return to work?—is less easy to calculate, but more important, and demands even greater thought, consideration, and prayer.”

I applaud the exhortation to eschew materialism and fight for our families. But why does the decision fall completely on the mom’s work, and why does it have to be either/or? Why not look at how she might work from home? Or how her husband might work from home? Or better, both? Or maybe work some evenings while he’s parenting—not babysitting.

If we value the family, we need to expand the considerations beyond what it will cost only moms if they return to the workforce. We need to include what it will cost dads to cut back on in-office work to be good fathers. Or change to working jobs that will flex according to their growing family’s needs. And we can stop judging brothers and sisters in Christ about their work/life choices.

Certainly, it’s biblical for fathers and mothers to make childrearing a top priority. It’s biblical for families to pool their gifts, to partner in caring for one another. It’s biblical to abhor materialism, refusing to let it dictate our standard of living. But it’s also biblical to stop using 1 Timothy 5:8 as the men-bring-home-the-bacon proof text and Titus 2:5 as the moms-can’t-work-outside-the-home proof text. We can do a lot of damage to families when we read the biblical text only through western, middle-class eyes and hold up Ward and June Cleaver as the ideal.

If a couple with a small child decide together (1 Cor. 7:5) that it’s in everyone’s best interest to add more work and income to their lives, they have some options that can fall squarely within the good and perfect will of God. So let’s stop asking if new moms will or won’t return to work and instead help them explore a much wider range of options.


8 Items for Christian Parents to Ponder
May 14, 2015; Tim Challies; INFORMING THE REFORMING

The other day, the old Puritan John Flavel took me out back and slapped me around for a while (metaphorically, of course). I have been reading his classic work The Mystery of Providence and he dedicates the second chapter to an explanation of why we need to worship God for his kind providence in our childhood. He wants his readers to acknowledge the privileges that were theirs simply because of the time and place in which they were born.

Along the way he includes a brief but powerful section in which he exhorts parents in the duties they have in raising their children. He wants you, the parent, to seriously consider the responsibility that God has entrusted to you for each one of your children. And, at least for me, each of them felt like a gut-punch. He offers these 8 considerations, asking that you would ponder each one and allow them to motivate you to call your children to respond to the gospel.

1. Consider the intimacy of the relationship between you and your children, and, therefore, how much their happiness or misery is your concern. Our children mean so much us. You gain joy by them, you place high value on them, you express hopes and longings for them, you sympathize with them in their troubles, and you grieve from the depths of your soul if they precede you into death. Why would you long to have children, and assign such value to them, and find so much joy in them, if, in the meantime, you give little thought to their eternal souls?

2. Consider that God has charged you to tend not only to their bodies, but also to their souls. You can know this by the clear commands God has given parents (see Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4), and also by the commands he has given children since these commands imply the duty of the parents (e.g. Ephesians 6:1).

3. Consider what could possibly comfort you at the time of your children’s death if, through your neglect, they die in a Christless condition. The most heartbreaking cry is that of the parent who has to honestly admit, “My child is in hell and I did nothing to prevent it! My child is in hell and I helped him go there!”

4. Consider this question: If you neglect to instruct your children in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No, of course not. If you will not teach them to pray, he will teach them to curse, swear, and lie. Where the ground is uncultivated, weeds will inevitably spring up.

5. Consider that if the years of your children’s youth are neglected, there is little probability of any good fruit afterwards. You have to make the best use of their most formative years. Flavel uses this brilliant little illustration: “How few are converted in old age! A twig is brought to any form, but grown trees will not bow.”

6.Consider that you are the instrumental cause of all your children’s spiritual misery, both by generation and imitation, by birth and by example. They are in a state of spiritual death because of the plague of sin which they contracted from you. As David says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). This further increases your responsibility to see them healed from that plague.

7. Consider that there is no one in the world more likely than you to be instruments of their eternal good. You have advantages that no others have, such as the insights you gain into their hearts. Because you are with them every day, and because you have so much knowledge of their weaknesses, you have unique opportunities to instill the knowledge of Christ into them. If you are neglectful, who shall help them? No one else can or will take your place in their lives.

8. Consider the great day of judgment and be moved with pity for your children. Remember that text, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God” (Revelation 20:12). What a sad thing it would be to see your dear children at Christ’s left hand. Friends, do your utmost to prevent this misery! “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Now, the purpose of these 8 considerations is not to make parents despair, but to help them see their responsibility. Flavel acknowledges, of course, that God is the only one who can bring a child to salvation and that God’s purposes are his own. And yet the Scriptures make it plain that the parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Every parent would do well to ponder these 8 items.


May 10, 2017
What our stay-at-home mom taught us about human dignity
By Jill Waggoner & Allison Hucks

Almost every day of our childhood, we would pull down my grandmother’s long driveway and go in for a quick visit. We, two sisters, would sit together on the narrow piano bench and peck at the black and white keys in my grandmother’s living room while Mother moved through the house—setting out pills, fixing her mother’s hair, asking questions and washing clothes. It was our weekday routine, completed with a glass of chocolate milk in her wood-paneled kitchen.

Our grandmother, Zelma, had her first open heart surgery when our mother was 16. She would suffer through three more open-heart surgeries, breast cancer, a brain hemorrhage and a subsequent one-month coma in her rather long lifetime, considering the circumstances. Her story merits a full-length book. But for every chapter in the story of my grandmother, Mother was the caretaker, the advocate, the executor.

Our mother cared faithfully for our grandmother for decades, in every way imaginable. And upon our grandmother’s death in 1999, she began caring for other family members in need. She began to look after aunts, uncles and cousins. She cleaned toilets and picked up medicines. She made notes at doctor’s appointments and called insurances companies. She brought in food and took out the trash. The houses and the people changed, but not her way of life.

You can’t google our mother and see her accolades. She doesn’t speak or write for others. She has no public platform. She doesn’t even have a Facebook account. Yet, for our lives and ministries, she has been more influential than any other person.

In the flesh, we constantly evaluate those we encounter to determine if they are worthy of our time, our investment, our money or our heart. Our mother taught us to see with different eyes and to say “yes” when the world would say “no.” In most every circumstance, the recipients of our mother’s care could not repay her in any way. As her daughters, we didn’t need a sermon, a book or a conference to teach us how to see and affirm the dignity in every person, no matter their age, ability or worldly status. It’s the message we’ve seen our entire lives, and we hope to share those lessons with you here.

Be motivated by love

Our generation broadcasts their lives, or at least a filtered version of them. Acts of service are publicized, even glamorized, for the world to see. Our mother’s care for others was not noticed by many outside of our family, and sometimes family members didn’t realize all she had done. There were no posts of the waiting rooms she visited. She clearly didn’t serve her family for the praise of man. She served because her heart, like Christ’s, was moved to compassion. (Matt. 9:36)

It’s a lie of the devil to think a sacrificial life of serving your family isn’t “a great thing.”

This was a devastating work. There’s much pain in watching illness and age affect someone you love. We don’t know how many times she has witnessed a loved one take her last breath. It would have been easier to walk away. It would have been easier to find professionals. But again and again, she was eager to do good works, walking in when others were walking out. (Titus 2:14) Only love—for Christ and for others—compels this type of sacrifice.

Do the work in front of you

Our generation has been challenged to do “great things for God,” and that call still beats within our hearts. But it’s a lie of the devil to think a sacrificial life of serving your family isn’t “a great thing.” So often, the enemy’s tactic is to complicate the simple commands of Jesus. Well-intentioned questions like, “What is my calling?” or “Where are my talents most utilized?” can distract and delay us. Yet, Scripture is clear that we need only love others like we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

What are the needs within arm’s reach? Don’t devalue or abandon the title of son or daughter, wife or husband, mother or father, niece or nephew. The “others” and the “neighbors” for Mother were those God placed in her life through family. And as those who were the recipients and witnesses of that care, that work changed our lives for eternity.

Portray the gospel

To believe the message of a Savior who laid down his life for us was not a wide chasm, because we saw it every day—in a mother who laid down her own life for us and for others in need (1 John 3:16). We believe Mother was placed within her family to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Her life pointed my family to Christ. She brought heaven to earth because she cared for people, no matter their status, the way Jesus cared for them. We were taught to not fear sacrifice, and that conviction has anchored us through many seasons of our walks with Christ.

Don’t give up

Like all children, we have seen our Mother at her best and worst. We have seen the toil of emotional difficulties and laborious work. Yet, our Mother didn’t give up. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

After my grandmother’s coma, doctors told our mother that our grandmother would never walk again. She was even encouraged to put her mother into a long-term care facility. Instead, our recently married mother and father moved into our grandmother’s house. Every day, the two women would take walks down that long driveway. Many times, my grandmother’s body would fail her, and she would fall flat on the concrete. My mother would lift her up, wipe her skinned hands and knees, and they would start again. Painfully and slowly, Mother taught her to walk again.

It’s our prayer that like our mother, our lives would be marked by the often slow and laborious walk of faithfulness, service, humility and love—a life that Jesus first walked, and passed down to us. Though she never sought affirmation or applause for her service, this Mother’s Day, we rise up and call her “blessed” (Prov. 31).


The Internet Is Not a Library
May 10, 2017 | Kevin DeYoung; DeYOUNG, RESTLESS & REFORMED

libraryI’ll have more to say about Tom Nichols’s excellent new book The Death of Expertise in the days ahead, but for now I want to underline one important observation he makes.

Namely: “The Internet . . . is nothing like a library” (110).

In the recent conversation about who’s in charge of the Christian blogosphere, I saw in at least one place that the blogosphere was likened to a great big library—a place where diverse viewpoints are housed, a place where people come to seek truth, a place where ideas are not censored and readers need discernment. Without wanting to deny these general points as they relate to Christians in the blogosphere, I believe it is a necessary part of discernment that we realize the internet (of which the Christian blogosphere is a part) is nothing like a library.

Yes, a library has many different volumes. And yes, we can go there to search for answers and acquire knowledge. But a library is a highly curated collection of knowledge. We have a Michigan State University librarian in our church. She has a master’s degree in library science. She oversees a section of materials related to European history. She is constantly reading through journals and periodicals to find the most important new books to purchase. She also gets rid of old stuff that has proven to be relatively worthless. She is also a wealth of information when people have questions about where to find the best, most important stuff. She doesn’t have an ideological grid when it comes to what goes in the library, but she does have an expertise grid. Almost all the books that get into a library like MSU’s are by people with credentials, with academic positions, or with institutional legitimacy.

I’m not suggesting the internet should be like a well-staffed research library (it never could be like that). But the analogy with a library makes it sound like this wild proliferation of online opinions and ideas is just what we’ve always had. It’s not. The internet is only like a library if anyone can come to your library and put their term papers wherever they want, scatter their files on the floor, and line the walls with pornography.

This doesn’t mean the blogosphere should be limited to those with degrees and tenure-track appointments. Anyone with access to the internet can put their ideas out for the world to see (or ignore). The genie is not going back in the bottle. The point of this post is not to try to tame the internet (who could be trusted with that power?). The point is that we must expect the internet to be wilder than a library. I’d say the internet is like the buffet at Golden Corral—something for everyone, much of it unhealthy, but plenty of good stuff if you know where to look—except that a restaurant must meet all sorts of health and safety standards. I can’t bring my gluten free cookies and plop them down on the dessert tray.

At best, the internet is like a wild forest. No one controls it. No one manicures it. It just grows and grows. And in the forest you’ll find plenty of beauty. But be careful, eat the wrong mushrooms and you could die.

At worst, the internet is like a wide open garbage dump. Every day people dump more and more onto the pile. Sure you may be able to find something valuable, but you’ll have to wade through a lot of trash first.

So, by all means, enjoy a meal from time to time at the internet buffet. Explore the overgrown trees and breathtaking vistas. Bend over and pick up that love poem surrounded by rotten banana peals. The Christian blogosphere has plenty that is good and true and beautiful, and plenty that is nasty, brutish, and rarely short. Expect to find truth. Expect to find error. Just don’t expect it to be a library.


Benjamin Franklin, Skepticism, and the Failure of the Enlightenment
May 09, 2017 | Thomas S. Kidd

I am skeptical about “The Enlightenment.” This ideologically freighted term implies the inexorable progress of scientific humanist thought. Beginning in the 18th century, the theory goes, such enlightened thinking triumphed over “dark” religious views. Among the Enlightenment’s many problems today is that classic secularization theory lies in shambles because of religion’s enduring significance.

Nevertheless, it is true that many young men and women in the 18th century did begin to question church authority, especially the reliability of biblical revelation. Ben Franklin, the son of Puritan parents, certainly did so, following his exposure to deist writings as a teenager. Typical of 18th-century skeptics, Franklin never questioned the existence of God, but posited that God could only be known through reason and nature, not (claims of) revelation.

In my new biography of Franklin, I investigate how Franklin’s spiritual journey played out. At one stage in the 1720s, Franklin proposed that we could not know or approach the one Supreme God. Thus, that Supreme God had created multiple smaller gods, who were still enormously powerful, good, and wise. One of these was the god who ruled over our solar system, and toward whom Franklin directed his worship.

Most traditional believers—and even many skeptics—would today find this position deficient, if not laughable. Franklin himself gave polytheism almost no attention for the rest of his career, perhaps a little embarrassed by his youthful musings. But is this polytheistic theory the best that “enlightened reason” can do to lead us to Truth? The problem of reason’s limitations was obvious in the 18th century as well.

As I was working on the Franklin biography, I also read Robert Zaretsky’s compelling book Boswell’s Enlightenment, about the celebrated Scottish writer James Boswell. Boswell and Franklin took a similar path to skepticism: both came out of Calvinist backgrounds, and both became convinced, through the influence of deist authors, that biblical revelation was not trustworthy.

Boswell was temperamentally more of a worrier than Franklin, and he struggled mightily with doubts and fear of death. At times he wondered, as did radical skeptics like David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whether we could really trust our reason as an adequate guide to Truth. Boswell found comfort in the “common sense” arguments of his fellow Scot, Thomas Reid, who insisted that our perception of the external world is reliable because God wired us with reliable senses which are common to mankind.

In our contemporary world, virtually everyone acts as if reason is reliable. But postmodern philosophy has undermined the notion that people everywhere possess the same rational faculties.

Internal, individual guides to Truth—such as reason or our perception of Nature—have not panned out as skeptics had hoped. They understandably wished to move beyond the violence that had marked religious conflicts since the Reformation. But turning within one’s self for the Truth turned out to be as problematic as depending upon revelation. The rationalists and philosophes—those who supposedly could operate with an uncorrupted reason—could not agree among themselves on answers to basic questions. Boswell and France’s Voltaire argued interminably, for instance, about whether the soul existed, and whether it was immortal.

One can certainly understand why skeptics today would pooh-pooh the idea that there is one authoritative revelation in the Bible. But where are the superior options? Rousseau and others advanced devastating critiques of reason, even as Franklin and others tried to lift it up as the new standard. Conceding, as the postmodernists do, that we simply have no access to Truth, is a grim alternative. Even when they deny the existence of Truth, people have an extremely difficult time living as if they really know nothing for certain.

Depending upon revelation hardly solves all disagreements (even between sincere believers). But the philosophical appeal of revelation in addition to reason remains strong. If looking inward for Truth only brings more doubt and confusion, it would be helpful if God stepped into the chaos and gave us authoritative revelation! It would be even better if God helped us to understand revelation by a divine Counselor, and by the faithful teaching of the church. Among the many happy aspects of the Christian faith is the confidence that God, in fact, has made the Truth known in these ways.

This post originally appeared at the Anxious Bench blog.