It is the truth which is assailed that tests our fidelity
Doing the will of our Father is not always difficult.
The Pharisees banked on this.
No one thinks less of us when we give generously to the poor. No one looks down on us when we treat people kindly. No one condemns us when we stand up for the poor and oppressed. No one is upset when Christian love coincides with what the world considers moral.
But our Father’s will is sometimes difficult; and it is most difficult when it is most unpopular.
Thus, our faith is proved not by whether we generally walk God’s ways and obey his word, but by whether we do so when people will hate us and exclude us and revile us and spurn our names as evil (Luke 6:22).
This is a standardly biblical point, but it is also made with great force in a quote often attributed to Martin Luther, though it is actually from Elizabeth Rundle Charles’s Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family:
It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.
This is an apt warning in light of 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
But to test ourselves on this point, we must know where the world and the devil are pressing their attack. What is the doctrine which is today the breach in the wall? Where is the point at which the battle rages in Current Year, that we may test our loyalty and courage to defend it?
Although there are many battles raging, as there always have been, there are very few that place believers in true “peril”—understanding peril to be generally social in our culture, rather than physical.
The perils of our day are being hated, excluded, reviled, spurned as evil—excommunicated by society.
Which doctrines, if we were to promote them, come with such a threat?
Some might say creation (i.e., versus evolution)—but while that is certainly a doctrine against which the devil has laid siege, to preach it is not to court hatred and exclusion. The danger on that battleground is derision: being scorned for unscientific and unsophisticated beliefs.
Some might say the gospel itself, but again derision is the chief “threat” there. To believe that Jesus is the son of God now in power, having been raised for our justification, is quaint and superstitious; it does not evoke ire in people, so much as entertain them.
So too the inerrancy of Scripture. This is laughable, but not hateful. It is not seen as evil to believe that the Bible is God’s word, so much as stupid. After all, everyone “knows” that it was written by bronze-age goat-herders and is full of contradictions.
Even to preach hell will garner more amused disgust than censorious outrage. It is better kept to oneself, but it isn’t the kind of thing likely to get you canceled.
If you boldly affirm these doctrines, you will be mocked as a laughingstock, you will be regarded as a kook, you will be derided as a village idiot…you may even be treated like a heretic. But you will not be treated like a blasphemer.
You will not be shunned and spurned as evil.
The world can afford to tolerate a clown.
What is it that the world will not tolerate? What part of the Bible—should you speak it in public—will evince not laughter or scorn, but screeching and outrage? Which of God’s ways are regarded, not merely as outdated nonsense, but as a dangerous blasphemies?
What biblical truth is hated as evil?
There are not many, and they almost exclusively revolve around hierarchy and differentiation. The one thing today that our world will not tolerate is maintaining the creation order. To deny the right and ability of man (sorry, human…maybe?) to mold him/her/itself into any form desired, and to deny the radical equality between every person, is considered an existential threat. To affirm the propriety of imposing authority and power from above is to affirm the propriety of oppression and hatred. To judge—indeed, to fail to celebrate—the perverse self-identity and absurd life choices of anyone is to unperson them.
Unless they are Christians of course. Some things really are intolerable and wicked.
The sexual revolution is the most obvious product and illustration of this mindset—which is to say that most of the more colorful fruit (blight has so many colors) that we are now being forced to choke down, like transgenderism and the impending push for child attraction as a sexual orientation like any other, grows off the vine that was planted by first-wave feminism. That is certainly not the only part of the root, but it is a very significant one. Sexuality is the most significant of the intersectional oppression markers, for at least two reasons:
It is considered so malleable. One cannot change one’s race, we are told, but apparently 35% of teenagers these days can change their gender.
It is so symbolically significant. Birth location has no great meaning compared to the symbolic import of sexuality as an image of the creator/creature distinction—which we flesh out in It’s Good To Be A Man.
For this reason, the highest blasphemy of the modern day is the biblical doctrine of gendered piety—along with everything it entails:
Man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. In consequence…
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness, being silent in church and asking her husband any questions afterward.
A woman may not teach or exercise authority over a man in the congregation.
Women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint…
Women’s adornment must be modest, and their beauty spiritual: the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.
Wives must be subject to their husbands, just as the church is subject to Christ in everything.
(1 Timothy 2:11–14; 1 Corinthians 14:34–35; 1 Corinthians 11:7–9; 1 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 3:3–5; Ephesians 5:22–24)
This is the blasphemy of the modern day. There are, of course, many other related doctrines, including teaching on marriage, homosexuality, the household, etc, which are considered equally blasphemous. But the ones we list above are right at the heart of human nature itself, right at the heart of the symbolic reality of mankind, which expresses the very purpose of the cosmos: the relationship between Christ and his redeemed bride.
It is therefore the duties which are unique to each sex that require silencing. Apologists for inerrancy and young earth creationism are not pariahs in the secular workforce. Men who preach the lordship of Jesus and the coming judgment are not protested on university campuses. It is those who dare preach masculine and feminine piety, grounded in the creation order, rooted in the fatherhood of God—they are the ones canceled and ghosted; defunded and deplatformed; slandered as misogynists and vilified as evil. The world does not very much mind Christian piety—faithfully living out our God-given duties—provided we perform it as androgynous persons. The duties that are common to all Christians—e.g., John 13:34—these do not offend them. But gendered piety is an existential threat.
This is where the battle is—or ought to be—waged. It is not the only battle…but it is the most significant one.
However, it is not just the world that hates these doctrines. Culture is downstream from religion. On the whole, the loss of christendom in society followed the loss of Christianity in the church.
If we would recover and reform our culture, therefore, we must first be ready to mount the defense of these doctrines within the church itself. We must be prepared to stand upon them as utterly critical and necessary for obedience to God, for training in righteousness, for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
This is the point at which the battle rages—or would rage, had it not been largely surrendered.
We have spent much time in this newsletter detailing how the world is set on obliterating masculine and feminine piety. We have further argued that this is religious; when you obliterate sexed piety you are left with unsexed impiety, and unsexed impiety is the devil’s end game. Androgyny is literally paganism. For this reason, we argue, gendered piety is a “gospel issue.”
But…even if you don’t agree with our take on this…even if you don’t see this as a gospel issue…it doesn’t practically matter today. Why?
Because to ignore it, to fail to preach it, to refuse to fight for it, is to fail the test of fidelity. Gendered piety is so clear in scripture, that to flinch on this point is to be put to flight and disgrace—to prove one’s disloyalty.
Whether or not you think androgyny versus gendered piety is a gospel issue, it is undeniably a faithfulness issue.
There are many captains and generals on the battlefield today who are hiding in their tents. And there are many more who are one field over, busily reenacting the medieval Battle of Worms, complete with period costumes and real blood, sweat and tears—BYO in little bottles—rather than fighting in the modern Battle of Obergefell, where they might, for heaven’s sake, really get wounded, have to exert themselves in earnest, and maybe even be caught crying.
The murmuring of these men, as they larp the Reformation, about how frivolous and phony the fighting on the other field is, about how inconsequential the outcome, does not go unnoticed by the soldiers there. Those who can tell a real battle from a reenactment are not impressed by the renfair brigade’s loud voices, clear bugles, and bold battle cries.
In our observation, there are only three kinds of people in the pulpits of the Western world:
The sexually immoral, who, though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, not only do them but give approval to those who practice them;
The cowardly, who, though knowing God’s decree and seeing in their pews hard women bearing the sword, soft men with flowing hair, and all other manner of impiety and perversion—and knowing that Scripture warns that such will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9, LSB)—say nothing for fear of their jobs;
The faithful, who, knowing God’s decree, and the futile ways that they themselves inherited from their fathers, strive to not be conformed to these former passions, but to struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, calling all people to similarly submit themselves to the Lordship and law of Jesus according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.
Only one of these men (if they even are men) is safe from the wrath to come—and thus only one can be qualified for the pastorate and counted as a legitimate shepherd of God’s people. It is not on the basis of his works; no man’s piety is sufficient, regardless of how well he lives in repentance. It is on the basis of his faith—a faith that he has shown to be living, by living it: obediently striving daily to submit to the duties of manhood that God has given him, and to call others to the same. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the sexually immoral, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
We are not suggesting that every pastor must focus on this issue at all times. Neither of our own churches looks like that. What we are suggesting is that a legitimate pastor preaches the whole counsel of God, including—and especially—the parts that speak to the sins most desperate for correction among the people he ministers to, and most pertinent to their shrewd engagement with the world in which they live.
You can tell a lot about a leader by the people he surrounds himself with
We have noted that a lot of evangelical leaders today are studiously reenacting the historical battles of Christianity, rather than risking their manicures on the current battlefield of gendered piety.
This doesn’t apply to all evangelical leaders, of course. Some have entered the battle with various missions, which they pursue with varying degrees of vigor and tenacity. Certain among them, for instance, have taken to sneaking up on our soldiers in order to shank them from behind. Others are replacing their own blanks with live ammo, and mobilizing to fire on our foxholes and encampments. Still others are summonsing their women and men to urgent briefings about how the church incorrectly drew the battle-lines and seized the wrong territory, so even though we’ve lost most of it now, we ought to give the rest back anyway.
In other words, plenty of evangelical leaders, and would-be leaders, have much to say about what masculine and feminine sexual piety is, and how it doesn’t exist because what is wrong with you and shut up.
This, coincidentally, is also what Chastity said when questioned at the local library during Drag Queen Story Hour, shortly before having to retire to the reserved area to recuperate with cushions and puppies, but that is just a coincidence. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
And because the internet has turned this dispute into something resembling the clamor of Babel five minutes after Yahweh’s reconnaissance, you would be forgiven for not knowing what to make of it all.
In our own lives, we have a simple heuristic that helps us to figure out whether, and how much, to trust another man (note: helps).
This is not the only heuristic—we actually talked indirectly about another last week.
But it is nonetheless an important one.
We pay careful attention to the forum he cultivates.
Obviously heuristics are not infallible, but we have found this to be a reliable guide. There are basically four kinds of men you will discover once you begin scrutinizing those they surround themselves with:
The man who surrounds himself with female sycophants. These ladies love everything he says, and provide positive feedback about how helpful, edifying, and godly he is. It is not that he is actually helpful, edifying, and godly—only that he says things which tickle the ears of weak women who fancy their feelings to be reliable measuring instruments for what pleases God. This man lives for the praise of women, and also by extension of other white knights; he serves and worships them, not God. You can learn everything you need to know about his psychology in 1 minute and 24 seconds, here:
The man who surrounds himself with male sycophants. These men laud everything he says, echoing and expanding it—often in foul ways that step much further than the teacher himself. He allows this to continue because it lets him remain superior, even as he feeds on their adoration. When called out on the fact that he has become the king of a sewage swamp, he claims that it isn’t really his swamp, and besides, he has seen the gators really flourishing there.
The man who surrounds himself with no one. He seems uninterested in the praise of men, not because he is godly, but because he is more fearful of being tested and challenged by them than he is desirous of their glory. He is a proud and fragile man, sometimes called a gamma male: someone fundamentally dishonest with himself about his capacity for being wrong. He speaks out of ego, rather than genuine love of the truth.
The man who surrounds himself with other men who love him. They test what he says, usually finding it helpful and true—but, because they love him, they challenge and rebuke him when he is wrong. This man knows the truth of Proverbs 27:5–6: open rebuke is better than hidden love, and the wounds of a friend are faithful. He knows that iron doesn’t sharpen itself, and when he speaks, he does it not to earn praise from men, but from God. This kind of man can seem like the third kind; because he values the love of men he trusts and knows, rather than the the fawning of crowds, he can seem aloof until you know him better. You can’t always see the men he surrounds himself with because they are not publicly showing themselves. But you can usually detect their presence.
These different kinds of men can obviously overlap. Even the best and truest of men have mixed motives. No one is immune from seeking their own glory—and indeed, many good teachers start out as something less noble, and have to be brought to repentance to become useful to the kingdom. But we have found these general rules to hold surprisingly true.
The mature man has many voices:
He has a voice for men.
He has a voice for women.
He has a voice for children.
He has a voice for friends.
He has a voice for foes.
If you have the same voice for everyone, you lack maturity and are probably a fool.
Why Women’s Ordination Cannot be Tolerated. River Devereux shows how you cannot be both Anglican, and egalitarian. He could use prayers, as he is one of very few men fighting for the Anglican church in New Zealand.
Talk again next week,
Bnonn & Michael