Tuesday Tea-ology: Settle in for a nice Yorkshire Red and a reflection on the marvelous uniqueness of the One True and Triune God.
I recently wrote a little essay on the meaning of matrimony, and want to follow that up with a few thoughts about its significance in terms of human culture. If, as Scripture teaches and history bears out, marriage is the fundamental human society, the health and solidity of the institution of marriage will have a profound influence on society more broadly. This gives us a lens to understand so many of our culture’s ills, and offers a prescription for addressing them.
The family is the basic social unit. Here the fundamental diversity of humanity as man and woman shows its complementarity in the unity of marriage; this unity is (normatively) fruitful. Thus husband, wife, and children, the basic society, form the cells of a healthy social body on the larger scale. In the mutual love and support of the family an environment is created that is naturally conducive to human flourishing—naturally, because this is the divine design.
In saying this, I do not mean to deny the great value of extended families, close friendships, neighborhood communities, and all the rest. I only point out that the core human society is the nuclear family, and therefore that marriage has a social significance frequently neglected in the contemporary west. This is the fundamental building block of a healthy society, and our long denigration of the institution of marriage has, it stands to reason, a sizeable share in the blame for the extent of our besetting social ills: poverty, drug abuse, abortion, suicide, and so on.
The project of rebuilding western civilization, which we might fruitfully consider, would need the restoration of marriage as a core tenet. Bear in mind that all of this assumes a true understanding of marriage, a Christian understanding of marriage. Marriage with the gospel at the center is the kind of marriage we need.
So, in the first place, churches should invest heavily in nourishing strong Christian families. Every marriage truly consecrated—Christward, God-centered marriage—is a fortress built in the kingdom of God’s invasion of this dark world. Here a tree has been planted to bear fruit in the midst of the desert. Here a sanctuary has been fenced to raise children who will be protected and loved and taught to stand straight in a culture enslaved, who will know the truth, and by God’s grace may believe the truth. Here a banner has been raised to declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the wonder of the Spirit’s transforming power.
Secondly, we should oppose any ideology, force, or movement that aims to displace or dismantle the family. This is a typical tendency of contemporary secular social philosophy; the family is to be denounced as an artificial construction, and its functions outsourced to the community or the government. We see this in educational agendas, political policy, and social advocacy, to name a few. But any denigration of the family is fundamentally misanthropic, and must be resisted.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we must see the implications of this for the family of the church. In our fallen world, human society will never be as it ought. God is at work to repair what sin has broken, and this is primarily exercised through the community of the faithful. The church, in fact, supersedes the biological family (without nullifying it); separated from the family of God, the family of man will be inevitably dysfunctional. The church must be family for all the families of the church, and for all those who have no other family.
For in His love, God has made a way for us to come into His family. In the church, we realize now a foretaste of the fellowship of the family of God. For all those who are lonely and lost, for those whose families are broken or abusive, God reaches out with His gospel of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing. This is the message that transforms lives, communities, even cultures; this is the message of Christian marriage and the proclamation of the church: God has made a way, in Jesus Christ, for us to be reconciled to Him and adopted into His family.
God has worked to draw us to Himself. That is the testimony of matrimony.
“As Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice, so lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, and make us glad with the tokens of Thy love. Be Thou with us, O Lord, and let Thy grace follow us this day, and all the days of our life. Be Thou our Guide unto death, in death our Comfort, and, after death, our Portion and Happiness everlasting–Amen.”
-Benjamin Jenks, quoted in Great Souls at Prayer, 357
Last month, I wrote in a post that I was concerned that the left’s push for gun control was less about guns and more about control. Noting Beto O’Rourke’s infamous, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” my comment was “I don’t have either of those, but I do wonder what might be taken from me a little bit down the line.”
I didn’t watch the “Equality Town Hall,” but apparently this was a part of it (per Christian Post):
At CNN’s Equality Townhall, news opinion host Don Lemon asked O’Rourke: “Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches and charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?”
“Yes,” O’Rourke replied. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
Apparently, as far as O’Rourke is concerned, the only part I was off about was the whole optimistic ‘a little bit down the line’ timescale.
Freedom is a fragile thing.
“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15, NIV).
Our greatest comfort is the character of God. We stray so easily from Him; if He were not gracious, we would have no hope. But we can always come back to Him, with every need, because He is full of compassion and mercy.
Who do we envision when we pray? Is it the God who abounds in love and faithfulness, who is slow to anger and ready to give mercy?
Our faith must be stronger than our fear.
Find us, Father eternal
on this jewel of shifting seas
wild with wonders, glorious,
mired with sin and sorrows
Find us, God and Savior
where we shiver, sick with grief,
in our momentary laughter,
in our foolishness,
in the long and languid days,
the hours of iron night
still and strange
oh how we need to be
found in you.
Our family has returned from a lovely vacation, refreshed but overwhelmed with the realization that the locals in our resident area have been pulling the wool over our eyes for the past few years. You see, we had a splendid time in the Fort Walton Beach, FL area, soaking up the sun on the beach, leaping in the emerald waters, and listening to the crash of the waves. We have now returned to Pontoon Beach, IL. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is missing.
However, the joy of relaxing in the beauty of God’s creation must meet against the sorrow of the human destruction of creation. This is a manifold tragedy, one aspect of which I am reminded of today.
Today or tomorrow, the Illinois senate will vote on whether or not to ratify SB 25, the Reproductive Health Act–a blue state response to the abortion-denouncing legislation that has been going forward in red states lately. This heinous piece of legislation, if passed, will greatly expand the slaughter of the most helpless, the killing of innocents in the womb.
Say a prayer for Illinois today.
And Maranatha–our Lord, come!
Following up on my last post, someone might ask, ‘but what are the dangers of having celebrity pastors?’
Well, here’s a ‘for-instance’: Harvest Bible Chapel Sues Former Members, Julie Roys for Defamation.
Should a megachurch and its celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, be suing a journalist and some other writers over criticism? It’s not actually a hard question.
The answer is no.
What could possibly have inspired them to think this was a wise and righteous course of action? 1 Corinthians 6:1-11?…no, that wouldn’t do it…Luke 6:28?…no, that doesn’t help either. One suspects the inspiration for this litigation comes from something besides the Scriptures.
This quote from MacDonald is, I think, telling:
“It isn’t that some of the criticism wasn’t fair. I believe in the marketplace of ideas and of regular, vibrant discussion inside a local church. It’s just that their words were often untrue, their information was incomplete, and over time their tone of reasonableness disintegrated, exposing their obvious goal of ending our ministry. Over a three–year period, their materially harmful untruths drove more than 2000 members out of our church — a church we founded with a handful of people more than 30 years ago and have given our lives to,” MacDonald explained in the statement in which he said he was “devastated.”
The church belongs to Christ. It’s His church; we give Him our lives. The bigger and more famous we get, the easier it is to forget.
Recently, the news picked up on a decadent trend of parents hiring tutors to improve their children’s skill at the popular video game Fortnite. No doubt any number of sensible people regard this as a mildly disturbing excess in our culture’s entertainment obsession. What is more interesting than the practice itself is the worldview it suggests–a worldview where meaningless entertainment is elevated above relaxation into something worth really investing in. Such a worldview undergirds our excessive investment in a wide swath of entertainment industries.
But one article on the Fortnite tutors phenomenon ended with remarkable honesty. Writing for Variety, John Irwin quoted his interaction with Tom Whipple: “‘Fundamentally our entire existence is pointless,’ Whipple reminds me, ‘So how we fill our time between being born and dying is nobody else’s business.'”
A truly depressing statement, which highlights the problem rather well. The nihilist, who sees existence as meaningless, declares all activities equally justified. It’s “our time”, and we are accountable regarding it to no one. You cannot waste time that is meaningless. Only in a theistic universe can time be wasted.
Thankfully, God exists. This is His universe, and we get to live in it. Time has a meaning, a purpose; time can be spent well or it can be wasted. Relaxation has its place in the rhythm of life, but so does productive and purposeful activity–and we are accountable for all of our time. How we spend it is God’s business. So let us honor Him.
“You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” -Psalm 18:28, NIV
We find such strength when we realize our utter dependence on God. This verse comes sandwiched between the affirmations that God lifts up the humble but brings down the proud (v.27) and that God gives great strength to those in fellowship with Him (v.29). He is a Helper to the weak and the Deliverer of the lowly.
Light is associated with God from the very beginning of the Scriptures, when He spoke light into darkness (to which my title alludes). Jesus came as light into the darkness of our fallen world. And when darkness, whether ignorance or danger or gloom, surrounds us, God is the luminous and merciful One who turns our darkness to light.
There is no danger when He is near, however the shadows loom. And when our minds are darkened and foolish, He is able to illuminate us so that we grasp the truth and walk on the path that leads to life everlasting. Turn your eyes to the light of God.