30 November 2014

"A fountain sealed"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Teachings of Nature, pages 129-30, Pilgrim Publications.
“A garden inclosed is My sister, My spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” 

A garden is a plot of ground separated from the common waste for a special purpose: such is the church. The church is a separate and distinct thing from the world. I suppose there is such a thing as the Christian world; but I do not know what it is, or where it can be found. It must be a singular mixture.

I know what is meant by a worldly Christian; and I suppose the Christian world must be an aggregate of worldly Christians. But the church of Christ is not of the world. “Ye are not of the world,” says Christ, “even as I am not of the world.”

Great attempts have been made of late to make the church receive the world, and wherever it has succeeded it has come to this result—the world has swallowed up the church. It must be so. The greater is sure to swamp the less.

They say, “Do not let us draw any hard and fast lines. A great many good people attend our services who may not be quite decided, but still their opinions should be consulted, and their votes should be taken upon the choice of a minister, and there should be entertainments and amusements, in which they can assist.”

The theory seems to be, that it is well to have a broad gangway from the church to the world: if this be carried out, the result will be that the nominal church will use that gangway to go over to the world, but it will not be used in the other direction.

It is thought by some that it would perhaps be better to have no distinct church at all. If the world will not come up to the church, let the church go down to the world; that seems to be the theory. Let the Israelites dwell with the Canaanites, and become one happy family.

Such a blending does not appear to have been anticipated by our Lord in John xv. Read verses eighteen and nineteen: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

Did He ever say—“Try to make an alliance with the world, and in all things be conformed to its ways”? Nothing could have been further from our Lord's mind. Oh, that we could see more of holy separation; more dissent from ungodliness, more nonconformity to the world! This is “the dissidence of dissent” that I care for, far more than I do for party names; and the political strife which is engendered by them.

28 November 2014

Some here, some there — November 28, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Happy day after Thanksgiving, y'all. Hope your yesterday was fun and familial and grateful.

Here's the first edition, 8:44 TX time. I plan to add through the morning as I can; have a hospital call pretty soon, so...limited! Enjoy.
  • We're not all married here... so, was this anyone's yesterday? Yikes, I hope not!
  • That was Thursday. Now it's Friday.
H-T this tweet: http://bit.ly/1xQRWzu
  • What does Fred Astaire in a beanie have to do with it, though?
  • Anyway, my reply was:
  • No response.
  • One more in that general area: another person John Piper elevated despite a flood of pleas and warnings was Rick Warren. I wonder if this will bring a "Do you regret partnering with Rick Warren"/"I don't regret befriending Rick Warren":
  • I quote James White about as often as he quotes me; that said, I'm in total agreement with this sentiment:
  • Maybe someone needs to direct Warren to PA#27?
  • Hm; that post is almost ready to become Forty Days of Phillips' Axioms, isn't it?
  • Any post with lines like "The goal of the pansexualist movement is to remove all creational distinctives," and "They want to batter down every border, every barrier, so that when we are all done, every sentient being has been melted down into their great cauldron of lust.," and "I would rather be on the wrong side of history, as they see it, than on the wrong side of stupidity, as God sees it," probably demands to be read.
  • Now the Ferguson section.
  • I wonder what people see when they compare Russell Moore's Ferguson and the Path to Peace with this post.
  • If Moore were the sort who interacted with his readers, I would have asked this question in the comments: "You say 'we ought to recognize that it is empirically true that African-American men are more likely, by virtually every measure, to be arrested, sentenced, executed, or murdered than their white peers.' If true, that is incontestably a tragic, sad statement, period. But why do you think it is an inherently meaningful statement? What do you think it means? What is your solution? ("Church," he says, and that is part of the answer — which, again, I ask that you compare to this answer.)
  • Reformation21 has a writer who tells white people what they may and may not say to black people; but as a sort of balance, he also tells blacks what not to say to whites. Interestingly, his first dictum to whites is "Don't tell us we make everything about race" — and yet he writes for an organization self-named Reformed African-American Network. No further comment.
  • (Which of course reminds me of the time I NEVER, EVER wrote for an organization called Reformed Pudgy White Guy Network.)
  • By contrast, even though it's on TGC, this post by Voddie Baucham is really, really good. You'd swear he and I'd been in collusion, as if we'd agreed "You focus on this aspect, I'll focus on that, and we'll meet in the middle." But we didn't.
  • On the other hand, Thabiti Anyabwile — a brother I like, love, learn from, and count as a friend — thinks the Grand Jury outcome is an injustice. Concerning my post, Thabiti was kind enough to say:
  • (Aside: Challies also recommended the piece, which we appreciate; it apparently not visible to TGC writers.)
  • Then Thabiti wrote FourCommon But Misleading Themes In Ferguson-Like Times, which at least seems to offer push-back to both Voddie (primarily and by name), and to yr obdt svt.
  • I'll offer this: to the degree that every one of my prescriptions were followed, it would certainly reduce the rate of theft, imprisonment, death and all the related miseries. If every one of Thabiti's suggestions were followed... arguably could mean fewer dead innocents, more dead policemen, both, or something else.
  • Now to finish on non-Ferguson topics...
  • Somehow I missed the brilliance of Andrew Wilson's Case for Idolatry. I hereby correct that omission, and raise it an Accurate Parody.
  • "Sologamy"? Wouldn't a better term be "ipsogamy"?
Now I'll leave you tapping your toes with a video suggested by Kerry Allen:

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27 November 2014

The Grace That Brings Salvation

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in August 2009. Frank offered his thoughts on Titus 2:11-14.

As usual, the comments are closed.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-14)
Briefly today, back to Titus in order that we might finish with the Pastorals in 2009. I am tempted to give you 500 words on the use of the word “For” here, but I’m going to refrain from that to tell you this instead: this paragraph ought to make you weep, or want to weep.

If you live in this world at all – if you are actually in the world, even if you are not of the world (and you should not be of the world, but you must be in it)—you can see that people need saving. Often we go to the headlines to work this out to talk in some kind of meta-narrative way, but I can tell you that in my own life, the people around me need saving. The guy who quits his marriage to save his job needs saving from his self-contained and sinful values. The little guy who gets caught in a brush fire needs saving from a world in which the punishment for our sinfulness if death and suffering. The beer-gourmand needs saving from his beer, and the teetotaler needs saving from his tea.

And most of all, for the readers on this blog, the religious people need saving from the high-fallutin’ idea that their systematics make them the court of final appeal for other Christians and the church. The Grace of God has appeared, people! And it’s bringing salvation to all people -- it’s good news for all the people.

You know: good news. It's a refuge from this world. It's the joy that set before us. And it's good news to people who are hurting and dying. This is why it should make you weep: because it is so lavish, and we are often so stingy with it when it comes down to really being faithful to our alleged ideals.

Let's review what Paul has said up to this point:

  • The church must be set in order
  • To do so, we need Elders
  • Elders are mature men who have manifested the fruit of the spirit
  • They do so in order to credibly preach the word of God
  • They are credible because they live like they believe this stuff
  • They must teach others to do so as well
  • Because the Grace of God has come, to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works
Try that out. Live like that.

26 November 2014

Seven revelations of Ferguson

by Dan Phillips

I was just as happy to have my plans to write on this yesterday curtailed by Frank's post, as I usually am. It gave me a day more to ponder. That done — the ponderation having been ponderously pondered — I'll offer some thoughts, which in intent will be very like those I offered about "the Florida revival." That is, they will be Biblical principles whose application is I think fairly obvious.

Frank's focus was on the undeniable human tragedy. I won't reinvent that wheel, but will focus on other aspects. I hope the posts will be complementary. Don't blame his post for not being mine, nor mine for not being his. Fair enough?

To the seven revelations of Ferguson:

First: men outside of Christ are still hateful and still hate each other (Titus 3:3). Anger simmers not far below the surface. Evolution, real or imagined, biological or social, has changed none of that. No Federal program will fix it, no state or local legislation will fix it. It is a problem of the human heart, which lurks beneath every epidermal hue. Someone needs to propose a solution that transforms hearts. Anyone know of one?

Second: it still is better to gather the facts and hear an array of perspectives before coming to a conclusion (Proverbs 18:17). Some spoke awfully quickly when this situation first made the news. There seemed to be some feeling that immediate conclusions and statements should be made and issued.

One of the problems with this is that, once a public statement has been made, one is reluctant to walk it back publicly. Human nature and human pride make it very hard to retract a dogmatic stance, once publicly adopted. Better to wait longer and say less, than to jump the gun (pun unintended) and say too much.

Third: people ought to stick to what they know (cf. Proverbs 25:14). Being an expert in one area has nothing to do with expertise in others. For instance, one Christian brother who is a bookish conference speaker/author offered this:
To that, an equally-Christian brother with twenty years of actual experience in law enforcement responded:
Neither brother, probably, could do what the other does. It might have been well for the former to punt on this question, and stick with Scripture. "A man's got to know his limitations" may not be in Scripture verbatim, but it's sage advice.

As I'm trying to do. I'm a Christian, and I'm a minister of the word of God. If I have expertise, it's there. So I'll endeavor to speak as such.

Fourth: the very best thing parents of all ethnicities can do for their children is (1) repent and believe savingly in Christ (1 John 3:16), (2) advance in His Word as genuine disciples (John 8:31-32), (3) involve themselves in a faithful Gospel-proclaiming, Bible-teaching church (Hebrews 10:24-25), (4) marry before having children and honor the marital bond (Matthew 19:3-9) — and, in that overall context, (5) raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, among many others). In that context, they will teach their children many indispensable life-lessons. For instance, they will teach their children that
  • The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10)
  • Therefore they should seek and cultivate and embrace the fear of God from their earliest days (Proverbs 2:1ff.)
  • Gangs will appeal to their most vulnerable points, but they must consider their violent end and heed the inscripturated voice of God's wisdom instead (Proverbs 1:10-32)
  • Immoral people will sweet-talk them, but by Dad's instruction and God's word they should see right through it (Proverbs 2:16ff; 7:1ff.)
  • They should pick godly friends who walk in the fear of God, or else they will come to harm (Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25)
  • They should avoid drunkards (and, therefore, druggies; Proverbs 23:20-21)
  • They should study hard in school and learn a profitable skill while children (Proverbs 22:29)
  • They should know that what will matter and will reveal their character is not how they see or feel about themselves, but what they actually produce (Proverbs 20:11)
  • They should take full responsibility for their own choices and actions, and never blame others for what they choose and do (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:5, 7-8, etc.).
  • They should never steal, but instead should be productive and generous (cf. Ephesians 4:28)
  • They should respect officers of the law as God's servants, knowing that disrespect for the office is disrespect for God which invites His judgment (Romans 13, especially vv. 1-5)
  • If they defy the lawful authority, they should expect God's judgment to fall on them (Romans 13:4-5a).
  • If in any of these things they choose to defy God and rebel against Him and His word, they must expect both of their parents to stand with God, and not to make excuses for, coddle, enable, or otherwise try to deodorize their sin (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18ff.)
Fifth: faithful pastors must prescribe and teach these things without prejudice (2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1-2).  What I'm saying won't make the beautiful people love you. They won't. They won't praise you (as a Tweep did John Piper) for being "nuanced." You'll be told you're insensitive, you're ignoring the real problems, you're impractical. But as a minister of the Gospel, you know better. Sin is the problem. Sin is always the problem at some level; and there's only one solution for sin. The Son's blood buys your freedom (Ephesians 1:7), and the Son's word shows you how to live in it (John 8:31-32). 

That's what you have to give. You're not a social engineering genius. You're a servant of God who has His word. Don't set it aside. It applies here.

Sixth: if the issue of racism is ever to be resolved, people will have to stop thinking of bitterness and suspicion and resentment and prejudice as ills that other people really have to get over (cf. Romans 2:21-23; 1 Corinthians 10:12). Now, hear me: If you can read that sentence and think, "Well, he mainly means whites" or "blacks," you know something I don't. I mean people. I mean you, I mean me. I mean every color on the palette.

I've seen this in marriage. Every pastor has. The sure prescription for deadlock, for stalemate, is two people who are willing to change just as soon as the other person changes. You think that doesn't apply here? Mercy.

Seventh: the only real solution for racism is the one God instituted: the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 2:14-22; Colossians 3:11). Astute readers will say, "Some of those verses are about Jews and Gentiles, so they don't apply." To that, first: maybe some of those verses are, but not all; and second, they don't? You think the Cross addresses Jew-Gentile hatred and suspicion and contempt, but not black-white hatred and suspicion and contempt?

There isn't a Federal program that will fix this, or a local one. If one person says, "Let's make it harder for cops to kill people," another will say "Let's make it harder for people to menace cops." And each person will sound like he's enabling some form of sin — either a hypothetical thug's sin against a decent cop, or a hypothetical trigger-happy cop's sin against an innocent teen. You see where this goes? It's all beside the point.

The point is that only God has the answer, and it's the one we find only in His word.

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25 November 2014

In No Particular Order, Redux

by The Late Frank Turk

Recently, someone said we have to keep on talking about race in this country.  While I think I agree with the essay where he says that as a whole, it's not the most helpful turn of phrase as I see it.  But I have a couple of thoughts that are, it seems to me, useful.

In no particular order:

What does anyone deserve?

A long time ago in blog years, I posted an essay at my old blog about the primary pitfall in engaging with homosexuals and the people who love them.  I know most of you have not mastered clicking thru (maybe: you're just committed to not driving my page counter, you stingy louts), so I'll copy the key bit right here:
See: if I say, "well, homosexuality is a sin, Dustin," what Mr. Rowles hears -- and I think he's listening just fine -- is the subtle hint of this outrageous lie: "he actually deserved what he got." I know none of you regular readers of this blog would actually mean that, but the ones who harnessed that conclusion up to the horse of my assertion are the ones who pounded his Dad's face in for being gay -- you know, God hates fags, boy, so I'm going to smash a coke bottle in your face. ...
So the problem in talking to Mr. Rowles now is not trying to convince him what the Bible says about (for example) homosexuality. The problem is convincing him that you don't want to bash his father's head in over it. That kind of ferocious evil is what Dustin Rowles associates with the moral affirmation "homosexuality is a sin". My suggestion is that helping him believe what you believe about homosexuality is frankly a stupid gambit.
The application from the question of evangelizing homosexuals and the people who love them to evangelizing people who are committed to measuring anything by means of race is this: the problem is that somehow the facts are all interpreted right now toward the interpretation that anyone who is the victim of a cross-racial crime "got what he deserved."  Referring to the facts simply sounds, to the people you are talking to, like this statement: "When you think about it, he got what he deserved."

Your righteous indignation at the crime rate of blacks against whites? It sounds like you're saying that the victims of non-black-on-black crimes got what they deserved.

Your erudite notification of statistics which indicate that far more black people are killed by black people than by white people?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

Your socio-economic analysis of what is the problem behind the problem?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin  Michael Brown was doing in that neighborhood.  He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die.  Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin Michael Brown did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion.  Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken.  You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.

Having it both ways

The problem with our legal system is that, ultimately, it has to make a decision.  That is: when something comes before it, it's meant to take action and not merely take it to committee for deep pondering.

A while ago, our legal system decided that the Federal Government had no business saying anything about what constitutes marriage in this country.  That, apparently, was a victory.  This weekend, the same system at a different level reviewed the charges against George Zimmerman Darren Wilson, the evidence presented, and concluded there was no grounds for charges.  Listen: it didn't say he was innocent.  It didn't say that Trayvon Brown was not dead, nor that George  Wilson did not pull the trigger.  It said that this man was, at the end of the day, not to be punished for the events on 9 Aug 2014.

You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working.  You can't say that the system works only when you like the outcome.  That every outcome does not benefit you politically or socially or even in terms of your self-esteem is probably about right.

Never Coming

Is racism a problem?  I live in a cul de sac where the families are mixed about 70-30 white-to-black.  There is no open animosity on the street (except for the one guy who posts anonymously to the neighborhood watch about his problems with every other person's yard, pets and children)(who is not me)(as far as you know)(no seriously: not me), but let me admit something: there is also not always the most neighborly atmosphere.  Maybe: it's a southern thing.  Maybe: its a local culture thing.  Maybe: the middle class changed from when I grew up and people just don't make friends the way they used to. But there are some families who do not even come out of their houses, and never come to neighborhood parties.

Without a doubt, what is happening is better than open hostility -- but only just barely.  It worries me that there are fences in place I don't understand and don't really know how to cross.  I am open to suggestions because I have tried the normal stuff, and it is received, at best, with kind indifference.

After the comments were closed here, Luke Wolford found me via Twitter and came across with this:
For which I am grateful that he offered a kind rebuke to a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding being mine actually, he deserves an apology from me. I was wrong, Luke. I apologize. Please forgive me.

23 November 2014

The pinnacle of popularity

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Cheer, pages 55-56, Pilgrim Publications.
"A smiling world is worse than a frowning one."

She saith, “I cannot smite the man low with my repeated blows, I will take off my mailed glove, and showing him a fair, white hand, I’ll bid him kiss it. I will tell him I love him: I will flatter him, I will speak good words to him.”

John Bunyan well describes this Madam Bubble: she has a winning way with her; she drops a smile at the end of each of her sentences; she talks much of fair things, and tries to win and woo. Oh, believe me, Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired.

When we stand upon the pinnacle of popularity, we may well tremble and fear. It is not when we are hissed at, and hooted, that we have any cause to be alarmed; it is when we are dandled on the lap of fortune, and nursed upon the knees of the people; it is when all men speak well of us, that woe is unto us.

It is not in the cold, wintry wind that I take off my coat of righteousness, and throw it away; it is when the sun comes, when the weather is warm, and the air balmy, that I unguardedly strip off my robes, and become naked. Good God! how many a man has been made naked by the love of this world!

The world has flattered and applauded him; he has drunk the flattery; it was an intoxicating draught; he has staggered, he has reeled, he has sinned, he hast lost his reputation; and as a comet that erst flashed across the sky, doth wander far into space, and is lost in darkness, so doth he; great as he was, he falls; mighty as he was, he wanders, and is lost.

But the true child of God is never so; he is as safe when the world smiles, as when it frowns; he cares as little for her praise as for her dispraise. If he is praised, and it is true, he says, “My deeds deserve
praise, but I refer all honour to my God.” Great souls know what they merit from their critic; to them it is nothing more than the giving of their daily income.

Some men cannot live without a large amount of praise; and if they have no more than they deserve, let them have it. If they are children of God, they will be kept steady; they will not be ruined or spoiled; but they will stand with feet like hinds’ feet upon high places,—“This is the victory that overcometh the world.”

21 November 2014

Some here, some there — November 21, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Here's the first burst. I'll start some major adds after my Bible etc. reading, so check back. Priorities!

  • I go to Doug Wilson's site daily. But it may be a week, two or three, before something grabs me. Then when Doug's in the ten-ring, he is just In. The. Ten. Ring. Like this brilliant takedown of Greg Boyd.
  • Friends don't let friends indulge their revulsion against God's sovereignty. See Pinnock. See Boyd. See a host of others.
  • It often seems to be the case that when Doug is brilliant, he's brilliant by clusters. So the above was followed soon thereafter by Remanded to Sensitivity Camps, which is, well, brilliant. It's a thought from the same seedbed as this post, which even Challies admitted seeing.
  • Which makes it hard not also to recall:
  • Pause to reflect on the commentary that subsequent history added to both Tweets.
  • Now, to be fair: if anyone knows of any retractions and apologies — which is to say, any welcome deviations from PA#2 — let me know so that I can share.
  • Not related, and not theological, but still fairly awesome.
  • To us:
  • To the Pope:
  • In between? Don't know.
  • Used to be that Multnomah Press was a sure sign of Biblically-faithful Christian books. No longer. But in a rarity, the publisher is splitting into two labels, to deal with conservative titles and those that aren't so much. They're being up-front with buyers, that some of their titles are going away from Biblical fidelity. You know, just like Eerdmans, Baker, and Zondervan didn't.
  • Remember how Houston's lesbian mayor Annise Parker was seeking sermons and correspondence from some local pastors touching on homosexuality, her conduct in office, related matters? Remember how her legal team launched it, she doubled down, then she retracted? Turns out it seems to be ongoing.

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20 November 2014

"Remember Lot's Wife"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in November 2011. Phil used the account of Lot's wife to remind us of the dangers and consequences of "loving the world."

As usual, the comments are closed.
Lot began his career as a tent-dweller like Abraham. But after he parted from his uncle, Genesis 13:12 says "he pitched his tent toward Sodom." Soon he moved into the city and became comfortable there.

In fact, Lot apparently became a man of some importance in the community, because Genesis 19:1 says "Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom"—which tells us that he ultimately became a kind of civic official there. To have a claim on that place, you had to be someone of importance, recognized by everyone in the city.

As much as he may have enjoyed the comforts of city life, he never felt at home in Sodom. Peter tells us Lot's righteous soul was vexed every day by the wickedness of that city's rampant perversions (2 Peter 2:7-8). No matter how settled Lot became in Sodom, his heart was never at home in that city. He never came to love the debauchery and evil indulgences that characterized that place.

Mrs. Lot was different. She was attached to Sodom. If that city was not her home when Lot married her, it became her home in every sense. She grew to love to the place. No matter how evil it was, she did not want to leave. She probably loved being the wife of a prominent person in such a sophisticated, morally liberated city. There is no suggestion that her soul was vexed by the wickedness there.

First John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." That was precisely the thing that caused Mrs. Lot's downfall. She loved Sodom.

Why did she love that evil place so much? Because the love of the Father was not in her. Her values were worldly values. The things she loved were worldly things. She was a friend of the world, and therefore she was an enemy of God. And when faced with the necessity of fleeing a world that was perishing, with the way of divine deliverance open before her, she could not tear herself away from what she really loved.

Here is the danger of such a wayward love: First John 2 goes on to say, "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

You can think about it like this: you will spend eternity with whatever you truly love the most. If your heart is fixed on the things of the Lord; if you love righteousness; if you find your sweetest joy in fellowship with Him, that's where you will be throughout eternity. But if your affections are set on the things of this world, if what really delights you the most is the things that are passing away—if your life is characterized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life—then like Lot's wife you will perish in the destruction of all that you truly love.

19 November 2014

Pitting Holiness against Holiness

by The Late Frank Turk

As most of you know, I spent most of my childhood reading comic books in the peace and quiet of my room.  On one of those days, my youngest brother came in looking for some affection from his older brother who had his head in a comic book, and the lad innocently asked, "Frank: Who would win in a fight - the Hulk, or Captain America?"

Now: of course Cap would win in a fight, but that is not the point of this brief blog post.  The point is to look with some bewilderment at the question "Which is better: Justification or Sanctification?"

Some of you right now are recognizing that this post is reworked from another one which can't be found anymore on the internet, but I thought the matter was good enough to bring it back from oblivion.  Why? Because the point of theology is not to pit holinesss against holiness to see which one will win -- or whether one or the other is made less for its lack of victory.

Paul, to avoid that sort of untoward dismay, put it this way to good Timothy: "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."  In Paul's view, it was not a question of whether justification was better than sanctification: rather, it was that justification created sanctification, and those who were teaching and doing otherwise were jangling in vain.

Of course Jesus comes first; of course we are nothing but sinful wretches without him; of course good works do not save us and we have no confidence in them for that.  But for us to say that the good works are therefore not "better" than that which makes them possible seems to forget that we are justified for the sake of doing good works, or as Paul also said, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

When my brother asked me if a Gamma-Ray mutant could smash the Sentinel of Liberty, he was asking me a question to show how much he knew about something I definitely loved.  He was trying to connect with me over something which should be some common ground -- and at 5 years old, he didn't realize it wasn't the smashing which we both enjoyed most of all.  There's something like that going on here.  I think those of us who are in various stages of reformed intoxication ought to be careful of it. We should be much more worried that we have idolized one kind of holiness in such a way that it has dismantled and buried another kind of holiness which God says is part of the total package.  It leads us to say things like, "my sanctification is more imaged than real," which is an explicit denial of WCF XVI.2 and XVI.3 -- not to mention the letter of James and the last half of the letter to the Galatians.

While we may affectionately ask the question which is "better" in order to establish our bona fides amongst ourselves, the truth is that somehow the thing which ought to be caused is the way we do the things God expects us to do -- and it causes the ordinary grace God has ordained in this world which shows the lost who God really is.

We certainly have an invisible and invincible holiness, but if it doesn't cause a holiness which the world sees and is conflicted over -- that is, one with a beauty it cannot deny, but also it cannot resist hating -- what kind of holiness is that?

This brings to mind another personal anecdote.  When my son was a baby, he was of course the most precious and fantastic child ever born (until his sister was born, at which time I was overcome by the number of perfect children God had given me and my wife) -- but he was also quite perplexed by vocabulary.  For example, every kind of non-vegetable was called "chicken".  And in this state of minimalistic linguistic development, he was frequently out of words for what he meant to say or what he wanted to say -- so much so that he quickly mastered one phrase with gusto: "I! CAN'T! DO! IT!"

This occurred to me recently as he went on a ministry trip with his youth pastor and some of his guys to the local juvenile detention center to share the Gospel with some of the fellows there.  As we debriefed on the way home, my dear lad was telling me of this young fellow he spoke with who said he accepted Jesus, but wasn't sure that he was ready to turn away from sin.  This young fellow confided to my son, "I guess I just have to do better."

My boy had been waiting for more than 15 years to say this to a person for a theological reason, and he was quite proud to tell me that his response to this incarcerated fellow was, "But you! can't! do it!"

Which, of course, sounds a lot like reformed theology -- or at least one kind of reformed theology.  Of course nobody over here affirms that we do anything for justification, or denies that even the regeneration necessary to receive justification is God's work.  But sometimes (as we visited above) we get it in our heads that because we cannot earn justification, justification is better than sanctification, and that somehow being holy ought to cause us to be unburdened by actually being holy.  Because that fellow in prison thought that his participation in the holiness God gives to those who are in Christ is optional, or some kind of hobby, he sounds suspiciously like someone who says something like, "I am so thankful for my right standing with God because, after all, my sanctification is more imagined than real. But my justification is more real than imagined."

Compare that to Spurgeon's recent tweet in the same vein:

Spurgeon doesn't say his sanctification is mostly imaginary: he says that sin becomes more obvious and our grief over it increases as we draw nearer to God.  Paul, the greatest of sinners (he says), doesn't for a moment doubt he is not yet perfect -- but he also doesn't see that as a ground for saying that his justification is somehow better than his sanctification (or vice versa).  It seems to me that the same fellow who wrote 1Tim 1:15 also wrote 1Cor 11:1a.  For Paul, it's not a question of which is better -- one adorns the other, and one causes or draws out the other.  They are both necessary, and one is not a Christian without both.

So as my boy and I discussed this fellow in prison who is not ready to "try harder," we didn't discuss the fantastic irony and religious metaphor he found.  We discussed the idea that while we don't do a thing to be saved by God -- the saving is all of God -- saved people have something right now to show for this salvation.  We aren't pitting an eternal decree of holiness against an immediate inclination toward holy deeds, or shouldn't be anyway.  We are glorifying God, and enjoying him for ever, starting right now.

18 November 2014

Here, let me help you help yourself

by Dan Phillips

FirstWe get inquiries all the time like "What is an RPB?" and "Have you written on ____?" I'm here to help you with that.

We know readers (surely!) don't expect us to drop everything and do their searching for them, or re-write what we've already put out in public. But perhaps they lack some skills for finding the information they're after fairly easily, themselves.

Here's the easiest way to do it, as simply as I can put it. Let's say you're asking "What's an RPB?"
  1. Go to Google.
  2. In the Search field, type RPB site:teampyro.blogspot.com.
  3. Click on the Google Search button, and voila! there's your answer.
You can use that formula for any other word or topic. Just substitute prophecy or schmerodactyl whatever for RPB in the example, above.

If you're using Chrome, it's even easier. If the address field above doesn't already say teampyro.blogspot.com, then just click on our banner at the top and it will. Then stick in RPB site: to the left of the address, and do your search from there.

In either case, Google will search for the word or words you type to the left of "site." If you want to search for an exact phrase, put it in quotation-marks, like so:

"leaky canon" site:teampyro.blogspot.com

SecondWe also get, "Do you have an email address?"

Well, of course we do. And they're public-knowledge.

Click on our names in the side-column. Frank's takes you to a page that lists an email address. Mine takes you to my personal blog where, in the side column, you'll actually see a link that says "My profile, email, the whole nine." Which is kind of a giveaway

This is partly to help you, and partly to save Frank and myself time, so...

You're welcome!

Dan Phillips's signature

16 November 2014

Your creed must bend to the Bible

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Counsel, pages 35-36. Pilgrim Publications.
The path of obedience is generally a middle path. “Turn not from it, to the right hand or to the left.”

There is sure to be a right hand, there is sure to be a left hand, and both are probably wrong. There will be extremes on either side. I believe that this is true in ten thousand things in ordinary life, and also true, in spiritual things in very many respects.

The path of truth in doctrine is generally a middle one. There are certain tremendous truths, such as divine sovereignty, the doctrine of election, covenant transactions, and so forth; and some men cast such a loving eye upon these truths that they desire to be, and are, quite blind to all other truths besides.

These great and precious doctrines take up the whole field of their vision, and another and equally valuable part of God’s Word is either left unread, or else twisted round into some supposed reconciliation with the first-named truths.

Then, again, there are others who think much of man. They have deep sympathy with the human race. They see man’s sin and ruin, and they are much charmed with the mercy of God and the invitations of the gospel which are given to sinners, and they become so entranced with these truths in connection with the responsibility of man, and man’s free agency, that they will see nothing else, and declare all other doctrines, except these, to be delusions.

If they admit the doctrines of grace to be true, they think them valueless, but they generally consider them to be untrue altogether.

It seems to me that the path of truth is to believe them both; to hold firmly that salvation is by grace, and to hold with equal firmness that the ruin of any man is wholly and entirely his own fault; to maintain the sovereignty of God, and to hold the responsibility of man also; to believe in the free agency of both God and man; neither to dishonour God by making Him a lacquey to His creatures’ will, nor, on the other hand, to rid man of all responsibility, by making him to be a mere log or a machine.

Take all that is in the Bible to be true. Never be afraid of any text that is written by the sacred pen. When you turn the pages over, I do hope you never feel as if you wish that any verse could be altered. I trust you never desire that any text might be amended so as to read a little more Calvinistic, or a little more like the teaching of Arminius.

Always stand to it that your creed must bend to the Bible, and not the Bible to your creed, and dare to be a little inconsistent with yourselves, if need be, sooner than be inconsistent with God’s revealed truth.

15 November 2014

Annual Turkey Recipe

By Frank Turk

Just a picture from the Internet
I'm trying to escape the tradition of posting this too late for you to use it, so I'm tossing it up as a weekend extra.  For those who are opposed to Turkey, it also works great on Chicken.  It makes utterly-lousy Pizza.

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. Here's a basic recipe to get you started. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.


12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews
Pepper and Garlic Salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.
  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.
  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the carrots, celery and parlsey. 2 cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.
  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART even though it might possibly ring up at the wrong price.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.
  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.
  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.
  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you every ate.

14 November 2014

John Piper and Mark Driscoll: lessons not learned?

by Dan Phillips

NOTE: this week's SHST is pushed aside by a recent turn of events. To wit:

A recent "Ask Pastor John" segment is titled "Do You Regret Partnering with Mark Driscoll?" An answer to that question could have been very helpful. However, once the question is asked, the word "partnering" never recurs. Piper instead poses and answers a question of his own: "Do you regret befriending Mark Driscoll?"

I don't doubt that question was more appealing. Low-hanging fruit always is. However, it is is a question I've heard no one ask. I asked my Tweeps if anyone had heard that question asked, and no one had. (I also offered some other thoughtlets on Twitter: here, here.)

"John Piper has no regret for befriending Mark Driscoll," Piper said Bob-Dole-ically, answering the question he alone asked himself. Piper did go on to admit that he regrets not being a more effective friend. But then Piper somewhat undoes that admission, by saying that Mark knew he had flaws of leadership attitude, unsavory language, exegetical errors, and that Mark knew Piper knew. Piper says he always hoped the relationship would be redemptive and helpful. So it's really Driscoll's fault. Which, of course, ultimately is true...and, once again, was not the question.

Then, somewhat oddly, Piper stressed that Driscoll gave Piper a lot of time and counsel and "guidance." Driscoll gave guidance to Piper and his elders. "He certainly gave me more time and counsel than I deserved." Oh? What is this? Taken seriously, this rather subverts the perception that Piper was an elder brother taking Driscoll under his wing to sober, mature, guide and mentor the famously loose-cannon leaky-Canoneer. Instead, Piper depicts them as equals, giving and receiving counsel to each other.

Would that make Piper still less responsible for the direction Driscoll took? Is that the intent?

But this is all wide of the mark (no pun intended). The issue is that Piper had, as far as I know, a well-earned stellar reputation. He was regarded as a sagacious elder statesman. He lit the fires of devotion to God, delight in God, open celebration of God's sovereignty. He did and represented much that is really great and good. I myself have often admitted with enthusiasm (and do so again, here) that Piper's writings have done me great good, particularly Future Grace.

So when Piper extended his embrace to Mark Driscoll, all that gravitas and bona fides was added to Driscoll's resume. Driscoll had been "the cussing pastor" and all; now he was "John Piper's protegee," "John Piper's partner." When anyone started to express misgivings about Driscoll, he might hear the response, "But John Piper embraces him. Piper's working with him. Driscoll must be OK." Driscoll himself had that card to play, as needed.

Good men cautioned Piper privately and publicly, warned him, begged him to reconsider what he was doing. But Piper resolutely brushed them all aside and stayed the course. And so has Driscoll.

So now where are we? We are exactly where Piper's friends warned him he'd be. Driscoll has come to a sad place, yet remains defiant and undaunted, and it's Piper who has to explain their connection.

But Piper still doesn't seem to take it all that seriously.

In a way, Piper seems to ackonwlege that things are sort of bad now, though for unspecified reasons. Piper says he sees why Driscoll's books might be off of shelves temporarily. Yet he also immediately goes on to say he sees a day when they could be replaced and stand on their own merit. Which underscores something I'm going to say, below, about "echo-chamber":

Before we leave that paragraph, Piper says, "If he is disqualified from being an elder should he still exercise the teaching office of an elder through his books?" "If"? Is he, or isn't he? Driscoll himself insists that he is not disqualified. His hand-picked committee that was supposed to be counseling him insists that "we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry." Is Piper saying differently? If so, he is not saying it very clearly.

Despite all that publicly known information, what Piper does say clearly is that he has "no regret." Hear Piper:
John Piper has no regret for befriending Mark Driscoll, going to Mark Driscoll’s church and speaking at his events, or having him come to the Desiring God conference. I do not regret that.
Instead, Piper sees himself as in a position to issue lessons that he says he has learned, and which he says we should all take from the whole affair. Having admitted no errors in judgment, and detailing nothing specific that he would do differently, he's ready to bid adieu to the whole thing, it appears, with this list. Here it is, and I shall add my own brief thoughts in brackets:
  1. People are very complex. Some of our sins are hidden to ourselves. [Amen. But I didn't need this, to know that; and all the harm that has been done was not necessary for this point to be made.]
  2. We need to take very seriously what wise counselors tell us about ourselves. [Ironic. The advice of wise counselors to Piper himself that he should distance himself from Driscoll, or be more public in his rebukes, apparently is excepted.]
  3. Sometimes you can see what others are saying about yourself, sometimes you can't. If you see it, you repent and fight the sin. But if you can't? What then? You have to go with what you see, or you'd be hopping to everybody's varying opinion, something neither Paul nor Jesus did. Says Mark stood down instead of a fight (implying he did the right thing). [This paints Driscoll's stepping down as a noble act, given Driscoll's inability to get what his critics are saying. Putting it mildly, I do not see it that way.]
  4. Biblical leadership structures are not luxuries. [Amen. Yet Driscoll was unwilling to follow the counsel even of his hand-restructured structure.]
  5. Salaries shouldn't be huge. Corporate mindset, beware. [Like a pastor seeing himself as "the brand"?]
  6. Same theology on paper can coexist with very different personalities and leadership styles and sins. No theology on paper or merely in preaching that keeps a man from sin. See Peter — what he did in Galatia had nothing to do with his theology. Peter and those who erred with him believed the truth, but did not walk in step with it. [Amen.]
  7. God's kingdom and his saving purposes never depend on one man, church, denomination. His word is not bound. [Amen, and thank God. But is it not also true that "one sinner destroys much good" (Ecclesiastes 9:18)?]
  8. Let him who is thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall; restore such a one. For Mark's detractors to sniff "Good riddance" is sin and un-Biblical.  Renew and restore all, including Mark. [Already? It's time to talk about restoring Driscoll, already? To what? After what process? After assuring ourselves of what, and how? Should repentance play a part in restoration? Shouldn't we be talking about what repentance looks like (— like this, and this, and this, and this) before moving on to restoration?]
I'm not reassured to see that Piper thinks these are the main lessons he should learn from this. He did not already know these things? If not, what would he have done differently, knowing them?

Here are the lessons I'd like to suggest might be more helpful to learn from this. Were I someone whose judgment meant anything to John Piper, I'd be putting this before him:
  1. To whom much given, from him much is required (Lk. 12:48; Jas. 3:1). Piper should have been much, much slower to extend his good reputation to someone with such a genuine and palpable cloud around him (1 Ti. 5:22, 24). Piper made a mistake. I have no trouble believing that it was good-hearted and well-intentioned, but it was a mistake. I think it he should own it, not double-down about it. That would serve him and the church better.
  2. To turn a deaf ear to wise and godly counsel, as Piper did, is not wise (Pro. 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 26:12).
  3. Widen your circle and get out of your bubble. The echo-chamber clearly did not get the word through to Piper. They did not serve him well. So I'll just say it, and take the hate that will come: what if Piper had read Pyro? What if he'd really thought about what (for instance) Phil Johnson was writing, years ago? What if Piper were to say, "Someone pointed me to this blog nobody'd ever told me of, it's called Pyromaniacs. Years ago, Phil Johnson and others warned that exactly this would happen. I wish I'd been reading and listening; I've learned I need to widen my circle among those sharing my core convictions but seeing things differently. I regret that I didn't do that then, and urge others not to repeat my mistake." Would that be constructive, specific, and perhaps admonitory to others who keep making the same sorts of errors?
  4. Re-think your enabling of Charismaticism. And then withdraw it. If you had read this (and additional comments like this and this), and had thought it through, you would have seen. Please, please consider what I am about to say very slowly and very seriously: there is a very short and straight line between (A) thinking God tells you stuff He tells no one else, yet (B) taking no responsibility and accepting no consequences for your claims to such revelation, and (C) abusive, egotistic, narcissistic, damaging leadership. History's told many such tales, and you just witnessed another firsthand. With such rotten fruit, shouldn't the tree be reassessed?
  5. Force yourself to admit the extent of the damage caused.
I don't begrudge Piper's befriending Driscoll, for my part. I have been befriended by men much, much, much better than I. Thank God for them. I feel like they're all slumming, having me for a friend. So what I do is (A) I try to learn all I can from them, and (B) I try not to make them regret their friendship.

So what I am sad about is Driscoll abusing the friendship Piper extended. And what I particularly regret is that Piper simply is not admitting the extent of the bad public decisions he made, the damage that resulted, and the utter preventability of the whole thing.

Which simply assures more iterations. And does nothing to correct the specific situation we're discussing.

Thus endeth the post that, of all my many posts, I probably most hated having to write. I hope it does someone some good, for the sake of Christ's name and church.

Dan Phillips's signature

13 November 2014

How God defines humility and arrogance

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by DJP back in February 2010. Dan reminded us of Scripture's definitions for both terms.

As usual, the comments are closed.
The stance of the Word on this matter is plain and univocal, more than one post can do justice. But we'll give it a whack.

Let's start by way of Hebrews 11. We all know that the men and women in that chapter were flawed, yet they are held up as examples. In what way are they examples? In their weakness and vacillation? Not at all, but "by [faith] the people of old received their commendation" (v. 2).

Again and again, the writer focuses on the faith that motivated the believers of old, and describes them as those "who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight" (vv. 33-34). It was as they were nerved, strengthened, and moved to action by resolute faith that they served as models.

So cast your mind back to Psalm 1. You know the characteristic of the blessed man: rather than join in the walk and worldview of the wicked, he delights in and dwells on God's Word. To what does God liken him? To a tree, transplanted by streams of water (v. 3).

Think of trees. They're boring! They just stand there. And stand there, and stand there, and stand there. Imperceptibly, yet steadily, they grow and bear fruit — but their characteristics are (1) life, (2) fruitfulness, and (3) a certain immobility.

Much more exciting is the chaff. Watch the chaff driven by the wind: now here, now there, ever in motion, ever moving, ever dynamic — ever dead. See, that's why it's so mobile. It has no roots, no life, and no future (vv. 4-5).

Three times in Psalm 119 (Psalm 119:21; Psalm 119:51; Psalm 119:85) we see the insolent, who are arrogant and presumptuous. What characterizes them? God's word is not enough for them. They wander from God's commandments, they turn away from His law, they do not live according to His revelation.

And there is the soul of pride: God has spoken, but it is not convicting, not compelling, not enough.

Thus it ever was. Satan started right there: the conversation-starting open inquiry "Did God really say?" soon led to "God was wrong."

Very little has changed. When you hear A, start looking for B.

The believing perspective is the opposite. The believer is the one who finds God's word utterly sufficient, and utterly compelling. "The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8).

It is interesting that this stance will infuriate compromised ditherers not content to take the minority position. The psalmist notes, "The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts" (Psalm 119:69). Desperate to shush their throbbing conscience or quiet the fears of God's judgment, they must slander those whose example stings them.

God's stance is very plain. He in no way calls dithery, compromising instability "humility." In fact, listen to what He does so categorize: "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66 2b).

So, in sum:

The soul of humility is to seek a clear word from God, and respond with "Amen" — that is, to find it, and stand on it without compromise or apology. It is about God and His glory.

The soul of arrogance is to take a clear word of God, and respond with "Has God really said?" — that is, to put energies into defending compromise, dithering, uncertainty, unbelief. It is about man and his straying.

God grant us true humility as He defines humility.