Teaching Children About Perversion from the Pulpit

Will Smith and Family react to Miley Cyrus' pornographic performance at the VMAs.

The other day after watching the news, my nine year old daughter asked me what “pre-operative transgender children” were. I seriously doubt that the conversation that resulted would have been necessary twenty years ago, but how many of us, 20 years ago, would have believed that people who were against biological males being allowed in ladies bathrooms and locker rooms would be called bigots, that homosexual marriage would be legal nationwide, or that one of America’s premier constitutional lawyers would be fighting for the legalization of polygamy in the Federal courts, or that all of these things would be discussed as though they were perfectly normal in the news?

Today’s Christians are living in the midst of what I can only describe as sexual anarchy, or perhaps a time of ever deepening perversion might be a better description. But regardless of what we call it, our children are being routinely exposed to more and more sexual material at a younger and younger age. As a family, we had to massively accelerate the pace at which we informed our own children about things like abortion and homosexuality simply because with the increasing degeneration of our culture they were already encountering these issues in print, on the news, on the radio, on bumper stickers, bill-boards, and via discussions with peers and relatives and we wanted them to have a bible-based apologetic grid in place through which to filter what they were seeing and hearing. Many of our children’s friends have encountered or are struggling with the consequences of  sexual sins such as adultery, fornication, and pornography in their families and I’ve counseled more than one family in our own congregation whose sons were struggling with pornography at ages that would have been unheard of in the past. [In 2005 the average age at which a child would first be exposed to pornography was 11 but now, largely due to the proliferation of internet accessible devices, it may have dropped as low as 6.
Continue reading

Posted in Children, Christian Education, Compromise, Divorce, Ethics, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Liberalism, Marriage, Pastoral Theology, PCA | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Before You Get Divorced…

Unhappy couple not talking after an argument in bed at home

Over the past 15 years as a pastor, I have counseled a lot of people who have told me they wanted to divorce their spouse for reasons other than adultery or desertion. The most common reason given is that they have fallen out of love with them and now have irreconcilable differences. Often they will say that they want a divorce for the sake of the children, as they believe that their constant arguing is causing them mental and spiritual harm. It is at this point that I usually give a version of my, “Whatever you think you’re going to achieve by getting a divorce, you won’t achieve it” speech tailored to the person whom I talking to. Here is a generic version of this speech, given to someone who has told me they want a divorce because of irreconcilable differences*:

1) God will not be pleased with your decision nor bless this action: Unless you’re the innocent party and your spouse has committed adultery (Matt. 19:9) or deserted you (1 Cor. 7:15), you are not getting a biblical divorce, and God HATES divorce (Mal. 2:16). If you remarry after an unbiblical divorce, Jesus Christ says you are an adulterer. (Matt. 19:9) It is a tearing apart of “one flesh” which inevitably produces a wound that seldom, if ever, heals (Matt. 19:4-6).

2) Far from being “for the sake of the kids” your children will be better off if you don’t divorce: Other than the death of one or both parents, NOTHING is more traumatic or damaging to children than the divorce of their parents. Its usually the root of a host of spiritual problems of their own, makes it more likely that their own marriages will end in divorce, makes them choose between their parents, and introduces them to a life of shuttling between two families without really ever being wholly part of either. I’ve never encountered a child of divorce who didn’t bring trust issues into their own marriage.

3) It doesn’t even achieve the “separation” you think you desire: In a divorce in which children are involved, the two parties go from being joined “for better or for worse” in a matrimonial union that will fluctuate wildly into being legally joined in a relationship in which – having punched out a point when you disliked each other intensely – you will be constantly forced to deal with a person you didn’t like on legally hostile terms. Your new “life apart together” will involve lawyers, payment plans, hostile holidays, regret, guilt, resentment and anger.

4) You aren’t going to find the “perfect” alternative spouse out there: All humans are sinners (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23), so you might find someone who does some things better than your old spouse, but inevitably they will do some other things worse, and having abandoned one marriage, you will be even more ready to abandon a second.

5) Dating after 30 with kids of your own usually SUCKS (I apologize, but there simply isn’t a good alternative word that conveys how bad it is): Face the facts, all of the undamaged, moral, upstanding, trustworthy, responsible, good looking, well adjusted people without baggage are all married by now. The people you will be dating are going to be either divorced themselves, or trailing a bunch of bad relationships of their own. And guys, you simply aren’t the catch you think you are, and other people either know it, or will realize it. Also remember that you’re married to someone who has been trained to put up with your garbage – other people aren’t and won’t. 

6) Trying to fix your marriage is always the better option, it costs less in every sense, and works most of the time. Think of it as two countries opting to negotiate instead of entering into a nuclear exchange.

————————————————————————-

* This is not the speech I would give to someone who was the victim of adultery, desertion, or spousal abuse. For information about what constitutes legitimate grounds for a biblical divorce, please check out this article. For more information, about what it means to be abused or an abuser, I’d recommend these articles: Those Suffering Domestic Violence and Those Who Choose to Abuse. 

Posted in Children, Divorce, Marriage | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

WHAT IS THE REFORMED DOCTRINE OF DIVORCE?

Divorce

Even the most cursory examination of the statistics concerning divorce in America reveals figures that are nothing short of staggering. In the 60 years between 1920 and 1980 the divorce rate more than tripled. The United States now has one of the highest divorce rates in the world and at least half of all U.S. marriages will end in divorce (53% as of 2011). About half of those divorces will involve children, for a total over one million children experiencing the divorce or separation of their parents yearly.1

What these figures should tell us is that America has become what one author has called a “Divorce Culture,” and as such we can expect divorce to continue to impact every part of our society, including the church. In light of this situation it is imperative that Reformed churches have a coherent policy regarding divorce that accurately reflects the teaching of Scripture. Today most states have passed legislation that allows for what is called a “no fault divorce.” As the name implies, this is a divorce in which neither party is judged to be at fault and the reasons are usually ones of emotional incompatibility, or “irreconcilable differences.” In this kind of divorce neither party must prove that the other has broken the marriage covenant by some act of sin, only that they no longer wish to be married to the other person. Is this a valid divorce by biblical standards? The purpose of this essay is to answer this kind of question by briefly examining the scriptural evidence and the historic Reformed consensus on this issue in an attempt to frame a “doctrine of divorce”. Continue reading

Posted in Old School Presbyterian Churches | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Should We Make Images of Jesus?


Should We Make Images of Jesus?

The Relationship between
the Second Commandment and Images of Christ

The Following is a Brief listing of just some of the Reformed Evangelical witnesses that directly address the creation and use of pictures of Jesus, either in worship, decoration, art, or mental imagery. They are arranged in chronological order from the Reformation to the present day.

 

Table of Contents
(1561) The Second Helvetic Confession – Chapter IV
(1648) The Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 109
(1674) Thomas Vincent, A Family Instructional Guide
(1679) John Owen, The Glory of Christ
(1692) Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments
(1700) Wilhelmus A’Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service
(1753) Ebenezer Erskine and James Fisher, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained, By Way of Question and Answer
(1949) J.G. Vos (son of Geerhardus Vos) Commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism
(1961) Prof. John Murray, Pictures of Christ
(1970) G.I. Williamson, The Shorter Catechism For Study Classes
(1973 & 1993) J.I. Packer, Knowing God, Chapter 4
(2004) Andrew Webb, Final Thoughts
Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Denominational Differences, Easter, Holy Days, The Puritans, Theological Declension, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wonder Bread Preaching

Wonderbread1I was listening to a show on Christian radio yesterday and the host mentioned that what American Christians need and want is deep, compelling, convicting, expository, and doctrinal preaching. She’s not the first person I’ve heard on the radio who has made a statement along those lines, and of course the callers all agree with those sentiments.

I, however, am not so sure. I certainly agree that American Christians NEED that kind of preaching, but I’m far less convinced that they WANT that kind of preaching.

For instance, in our city (and I strongly suspect this holds true for the majority of American cities) the churches that are most popular with Christians are the ones where the sermons are light, entertaining, topical, amusing, anecdotal, doctrine-free, and generally about 15 to 25 minutes long. There are a few exceptions, but the rule still applies. Light and fluffy is what draws crowds.

So why is there a big difference between what Christians SAY they want to hear, and what they actually choose to listen to on Sunday?

I think part of the answer might lie in what one ad man I heard called the “Wonder Bread Rule.” He described how when mothers were surveyed in the 1980s about the kind of bread they wanted their family to eat, most said they wanted them to eat natural, whole grain, nourishing wheat breads, with thick chewy crusts. However, when those same moms were surveyed as to their actual buying habits it was found that the majority of them actually bought “Wonder Bread” style breads – soft, bleached white breads, with little or no actual nutritional value. When asked about the difference, most explained that Wonder Bread was what their family preferred to eat and that they didn’t want to have to deal with the hassle and complaints associated with getting them to eat the things that would actually be good for them.

Most Christians probably know what kind of “whole wheat” preaching they need, but they are deathly afraid of the family being bored or irritated or overtaxed by it, and instead choose the Wonder Bread path of least resistance. It may have little or no nutritional value, but its attractive, easy to consume and produces the least complaints.

“You are what you eat” as the old saying goes, and if what the American church is consuming is usually the sermonic version of junk food, should we be surprised it’s so unhealthy?

Posted in Preaching, Spiritual Declension, The Means of Grace | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Charles Hodge Supported Christian Education, And Why You Should Too!

TCharlesHodge01he nineteenth century Old School Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge wrote in his Systematic Theology, “…it is a fact that unless children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they, and the society which they constitute or control, will go to destruction. Consequently, when a state resolves that religious instruction shall be banished from the schools and other literary institutions, it virtually resolves on self-destruction.”

Unfortunately, the twentieth century saw the creation in the United States of precisely the system of public education that Hodge warned against, a system that was self-consciously devoid of Christian religious instruction, and eventually the architects of this new system even succeeded in actually banning the most basic of Christian devotions, namely morning prayers, from the school grounds. This represented a profound change in the way that American children were educated. Prior to the twentieth century, the Bible and the orthodox Christian theology that it contained, had not merely been subjects to be studied as part of a larger curriculum, but the central unifying factor that shaped the curriculum and made it coherent. As they studied all of their subjects children were constantly exposed to the teaching of the bible from the earliest age – for instance the children who learned their alphabet from the New England Primer of the eighteenth century learned their letters by reciting sentences such as,

A

In ADAM’S Fall
We sinned all.

B

Heaven to find;
The Bible Mind.

C

Christ crucify’d
For sinners dy’d.

Children thus educated, whether or not they consciously realized it, were growing up with a Reformed Christian worldview. And the worldview that those children imbibed in school shaped the America that those children eventually helped to build, making it one of the most free and productive nations in the history of the world. It is not an overstatement to say that it was precisely because parents with a self-consciously Christian faith and world and life view wished to pass on the values that had shaped and molded them that American education was such a success, producing a population that was far more literate and omnicompetent than their European counterparts.

However, by the end of the twentieth century, other worldviews, and in particular that of Marxist Socialism, were vying for a place in the American educational system, and men like John Dewey (who is widely held to be “the father of modern education”) who had embraced the European Progressive Socialist worldview, were determined to make sure that even as public education was becoming universal and state supported that the Christian worldview was eradicated from it and that public education was restructured along self-consciously Socialist lines. These modern materialistic educational methods would no longer produce thinkers who had been shaped in the crucible of the biblical worldview, but an endless stream of worker drones for the modern Socialist utopian state that Dewey and his cohorts dreamed of building. The political leaders and bureaucrats who would direct this state did not want polymaths who were able to think deeply and who were not afraid to dissent, they wanted workers trained to produce products and taxable income who would uncritically accept the “facts” they were taught in school and who would therefore also follow the herd, live an unexamined life, and be content with the bread and circuses style of fare dispensed by the state. Dewey himself wrote regarding this objective, “You can’t make socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”

Perhaps the saddest part of these educational changes has been the way that Christian parents have for decades uncritically accepted the idea that the education of their children should be conducted in a system entirely denuded of the Christian worldview. They have sent out their children to receive precisely the kind of training (I would argue that training or indoctrination more accurately describe what goes on in public schools than education) and then have wondered why they received back children who gobble up and then recite the propaganda they are supposed to and have an unimaginative and flatly materialistic worldview. It is no surprise therefore that in the twenty first century, fully 100 years after the initial implementation of Socialist educational objectives, that we have a system of education more likely to produce Kardashians than Tolkiens.

Unfortunately, American Christians either did not realize or have forgotten that it is impossible to eliminate the Christian religion from education without also inevitably eliminating the Christian religion from our children’s worldview and creating within them a worldview that is actually opposed to Christianity. As Charles Hodge pointed out in his systematic theology:

“The banishment of religious influence from our schools is impossible. If a man is not religious, he is irreligious; if he is not a believer, he is an unbeliever. This is as true of organizations and institutions, as it is of individuals. Byron uttered a profound truth when he put into the mouth of Satan the words “He that does not bow to God, has bowed to me.” If you banish light, you are in darkness. If you banish Christianity from the schools, you thereby render them infidel. If a child is brought up in ignorance of God, he becomes an atheist. If never taught the moral law, his moral nature is as undeveloped as that of a pagan. This controversy, therefore, is a controversy between Christianity and infidelity; between light and darkness; between Christ and Belial.”

Therefore if we are ever to have any hope of building a new generation of Christian children who have a Christian worldview and who can preserve the Christian worldview in the midst of a culture that is becoming increasingly opposed to it, then we must recover what Dorothy Sayers has rightly called, The Lost Tools of Learning.We must return to the older Bibliocentric methods of teaching, and a system that teaches children to think for themselves within the context of a robustly Christian worldview. My hope therefore is that America’s Christians will heed the educational advice of Charles Hodge and seek to educate their children utilizing explicitly Christian schools and homeschooling before it is too late and we find ourselves guilty of the very self-destruction that he warned us about.

Posted in Children, Christian Education, Liberalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Thought for the Fourth of July


SweetCakesFinalOrder-1250x650One of the great purposes of constitutions in Republics and Democracies is to protect the rights of minorities. The U.S. Constitution has done an admirable job of doing that. For over 200 years, in a world filled with ethnic cleansing, genocide, secret police, gulags, torture, book burning, and summary executions the U.S. has remained as a sanctuary for those who would otherwise be persecuted and suffer for their differences from ethnic, religious, and political majorities.
 
A great example of that freedom in action is seen in the history of the Amish and the Mennonites, who because of their religious beliefs and practices, were ruthlessly persecuted in Europe and hunted down and martyred wherever they were, and yet here in the USA they found an abiding refuge. Although they maintained a strict separation from the world, did not pay taxes, did not vote or hold office, did not fight in defense of the nation, did not participate in the school system and did not change with the times, they were not persecuted or expunged. Their way of life was protected by the first amendment which protected them by not, “impeding [their] free exercise of religion.”
 
While Christianity remains the majority religion in the USA at around 70%, Bible-believing and practicing Christians [or what many would call fundamentalist Christians] are now a political and demographic minority in the USA, and surveys and polls tell us they are shrinking minority. Their beliefs and practices are regarded with increasing abhorrence by those outside of their circles, and they are coming to be regarded as every bit as socially undesirable as the Amish were in Europe.
 
The question is, will the same constitutional protections that were afforded to the Amish (and other non-majority religions, such as the Hassidim, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) be afforded to them, or will those Constitutional protections be regarded as antiquated and perhaps “dangerous” by the majority? Will the US simply become another place where religious minorities are persecuted, expunged or expelled? Certainly recent cases, like that of the Kleins, do not bode well for the future, but I’d like to hope that the US, having looked into that abyss, will turn back from it before it is too late.
Posted in Current Events, Ethics, History, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Liberalism, Persecution, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment