Weasel Words and Wilson Wannabe’s

It is no secret in my circle of friends that I have a low opinion of Toby Sumpter. So imagine my surprise when, a few months back, CrossPolitic said Baptist theology causes transgenderism and I learned after an assumption that not only did Sumpter not say that but he wasn’t even on the show at the time. The problem is that it is not beyond the pale that he would say something so ridiculous, ignorant, and stupid. Well he did return to she show and has lead the charge in doubling down and in the most maddening way possible.

The Formula for Manipulative Dishonesty

While I find much to applaud about the Christ Kirk people in Moscow they do have their fair share of groan inducing ideas. I want to be charitable and as Driscoll would say, “shouldn’t we give a shiny gold star to the guy who is actually doing something instead of criticize him all the time.” But there is a subset (I assume they are a subset) that takes too much pleasure in thumbing their nose at everyone. I had almost said, takes sinful pleasure. And if that subset does exist it is the, Fight, Laugh, Feast” triumvirate.  They keep declaring themselves to be Chestertonian Calvinists and I keep finding myself paraphrasing Inigo Montoya, “You keep saying those words, I don’t think they mean what you think they mean. 

Some of my problems come down to their multiplying of words. I don’t know if the nightly Tucker Carlson model is wise for Christians to engage in, especially since it is typically used expressly within a bubble to affirm the bubble. I don’t see CrossPolitic (esp. since “personalized” algorithms determine much of what is suggested people watch) convincing anyone to “Come and welcome to Jesus Christ” no matter how much they say that is what they are doing. To me a podcast like theirs seems like discernment blogging 2.0 

“The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.” – Ecclesiastes 10:12

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Proverbs 13:3

“They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads.” – Psalm 64:8

After that the mocking of everything outside of their worldview is tiresome and juvenile. I have written perviously about the need for Christians to move beyond our current twelve-year old boy schoolyard sense of humor. And the kind we need to move on from is embodied by CrossPolitic. Again where they think they are contributing I fear they are just part of the noise. They embody the kind of pot calling a kettle black criticizing Colbert for not being funny but just mocking his enemies while they do the same thing. Neither is funny, but they do stir up anger, masked with a smug smirk.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” – Psalm 1:1 (emphasis added)

“If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” – Proverbs 30:32-33

Both of these problems, excessive foolish talk and mocking anger, come together with competent marketing to create storms in teacups; that then are handled, frankly, dishonestly.

Weasel Words

One of the skills that the digital media team at Cannon Press (producers of Crosspolitic) is weaponizing a soundbite and then using the blowback to great promotional advantage while claiming to be victims. It is the same play the left makes all the time, you know the stance, “How dare you make public this thing I put out on the internet!” You said it and you published it, the only difference is that the Cannon Press people know what will push buttons and they meant to in the first place. Beyond that the game becomes to explain they didn’t actually say what they actually said. Suddenly context matters, you misunderstood me, it was just a joke, people need to grow a thicker skin. This behavior is justified by the fact that the left does it. Fire has to be fought with fire and so forth. But the hand is shown when the level of outrage is maintained the next time the left makes the play and yet again Crosspolitic spends an hour winging on about the hypocrisy of it all. Earlier I said that this was the pot calling the kettle black but it is more of What Toby from In the Loop would say is, “A kettle calling a kettle a kettle.”

For a group of men who make a big deal out of being strong, straight forward, examples of how Christian men should behave the amount of shifty tactics is concerning at best. It is not exactly boldness to say one thing and then backtrack six ways from Sunday.

“Like a madman shooting firebrands and deadly arrows, so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” – Proverbs 37:18-19

The Recent Example

So the boys claimed that Baptist Theology causes transgenderism, or opens the door to it. The thinking is shoddy no matter what way you approach it. It was the kind of inane statement that was said just to stir the pot not actually inform anyone. The Three Amigos clambered up on their high horses and rode into town incompetent to fight the actually bad guys and instead ended up shooting the locals who were on their side. And if I may stretch the metaphor a bit further, some days later the sheriff rode into town and offered the boys a chance to explain themselves. What he got in return was the kind of defense, redefinitions, justifications, misdirections, and slippery words that would have brought a tear to Grima Wormtonge’s eye. By this I reference the interview Tom Ascol did with them and charitably did read their own words back to them. Only to be told that when they said Baptist they didn’t mean the good baptists, now redefined to include Ascol, but all those bad baptists that they just didn’t have time to name or define things about because those sorts of clarifications would have gotten in the way of their paedobaptist yucking it up. 

There is just something about the interview that brings to mind Badger looking down is nose at the weasels and stoats in Wind in the Willows as they slither and cower and connive their way out of their latest scheme. And the interview came a month after in which they did a followup episode, several written responses, many tweets, each one more mealy mouthed than the last, all in the vein of what Ascol called, not addressing what they said but what they wish they had said. As I said, Badger standing there wishing against hope that the weasels and stoats could become something better than they are.


I have quoted it before and I will do so again:

“Doug Wilson is a very smart guy, but he surrounded by idiots.” – John Piper

Part of why I think this particular episode bothered me so much is that I thought Wilson finally had found a guy, an heir apparent, in Jared Longshore. He has all of Wilson’s style, theology, and none of the baggage (Southern Slavery as it was anyone?). And there on the Baptists theology leads to transgenderism was Longshore chucking along in Toby Sumpters place. The Christ Kirk people in Moscow are a force to be reckoned with, NBC certainly thinks so and is running scared. Lessons are to be learned from them. But it would be good for one of their main voices, embodied in CrossPolitic, to learn that just because the other side does something juvenile and underhanded that doesn’t mean it is wise for you to follow suit, turnabout is not always Godly play. What a tragedy it would be if the entire enterprise of Christ Kirk in Moscow was failed because of arrogant childish humor or sniping. As Bryan Loritts was fond of saying.

“Don’t give the devil a stick to hit you upside the head with.” – Bryan Loritts obviously taken from something he read.

You’re Telling Me it is Singing?

My mother used to quip every time we homeschoolers were listening to NPR’s All Things Considered that “They don’t consider God!” And she is right, even if the reminder got old fast. However my memory was drawn back to that when I heard a report on Morning Edition about the Insight Probe deployed to Mars that is about to go dark; and what it has accomplished in expanding our knowledge of the planet. Toward the end of the interview with the principal investigator, Bruce Banerdt, NPR’s reporter Joe Palca has the following exchange:

PALCA: …Mars had one other surprise for the InSight team. When they listened closely, they could hear a faint hum coming from Mars – yes, I said hum.

BANERDT: And it seems to be there all the time, you know, day and night. And we really have been, you know, scratching our heads and trying to figure this out.

They go on to joke it could be a giant snoring in the core of the planet or a swarm of Martian bees. But my mind immediately went to Lewis and medieval cosmology. If this hum could be bees or a giant, why not part of the cosmic song?

Michael Ward has demonstrated excellently how Lewis gave a deep sense or Donegality or reality to the Narnian heptalogy by incorporating a cosmology lifted from the midlevel understanding of the universe theologically. In summary all of creation is made to sing the praises of God to his glory and in the fall Earth went silent. Hence the title of Lewis’ first in the Ransom trilogy Out of the Silent Planet. Narnia takes these ideas further and applies the holy sentience to animals, arboreal beings, and celestial bodies.

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.” – Eustace and Ramandu, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Chapter XIV (C.S. Lewis)

And earlier at the creation of Narnia we read:

“Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it , as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves who were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.” – The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis

Which all falls perfectly in line with this text of Scripture from when God questions and humbles Job:

“When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” – Job 38:7

Now it would be easy to write all of this off as an overly literal interpretation of a single verse of Scripture and some Lewisian tom foolery all being read too far into. And yet we find that the Planet Mars hits a steady base note while our planet is silent. At the very least it is something to wonder it, in both senses of the word. 

One more thing to consider, while I am indulging myself. The people of earth seem to be making very good headway in making, not a song of glory, but noise in the vein of which Screwtape writes so rapturously:

“How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it.” – Screwtape Letters, Letter XXII, C.S. Lewis

Our own noise makes for a pretty good defense from considering the possibility of the melodies of Heaven. 

Granted, none of this is a vital point, and perhaps one that is stretched, it is, to me a point of interest. 

Perhaps like Spurgeon

There are worse ways to pass a warm Memphis afternoon than with a cigar and mint julep in the shade of a porch. And it provides an excellent opportunity to be edified. It is simple to fall into the pattern of throwing a show on and making some decent headway on a series. And I am not immune to the temptation, Deep Space Nine often calls for my attention and affections. But I have found that the after results are to lethargy and irritability. In the moment it is fun. But after some time and several episodes it feels as though my time has been wasted. I’ve seen Star Trek, most of it many times. And the returns are diminishing. I have known that I should spend more time buried in my books. Laziness argued that balancing a book and cigar was too much risk to the book, what with the ash and all. And nagging in the back of my mind was the knowledge of Lewis and his time on Railway Platforms, especially during the war. He would pace up and down with a little notebook, in which he had written prayer requests personal ones, friends, and even from the people who read his books and wrote him letters. He used his time to pray working his way through the book a few times a week. 

I don’t spend nearly as much time taking trains, anywhere, as much as I would like, if ever. But I do have my cigars. And I have begun working to redeem my downtime in larger and larger swaths through meditation on God. I keep the MacArthur daily Bible Handy as a quick start. For nothing drives the mind to the Throne like Scripture. But often I like to look out and watch the going on of my street and thus podcasts are helpful to get the mental engine running. The best hands down is The White Horse Inn, followed closely by Pastors Talk and Life Books and Everything. Doctrine and Devotion gets an honorable mention as they seem to have pulled themselves out of their slump. Pair that with a solid whisky and the indispensable cigar and you are well on your way. 

The point of all of this is because I have a sneaking suspicion that the idea of extended time to meditate on God is on the outs in this cultural moment. Perhaps because other things seem to need our thought or at least attention, or that because meditation takes time, stillness, and peace, it can look like laziness that offends others “puritan work ethic,” or maybe even the suspicion about the word meditation that makes one think of eastern idolatrous religion. Either way I think there is more of a drive to appear active than to do the mental work of thinking through the doctrines of God and their logical application. Spurgeon naturally put it more eloquently and is quoted at length below. Before you read him, perhaps grab a cigar, pour a dram, and then contemplate his words, and perhaps see where they lead your thoughts.

“It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God” C.H. Spurgeon – The Immutability of God, Jan 7 1855

Tied Together


At the time of their writing I did not consider how connected the subject of women in ministry and killing Children’s Church was. But once you see it, everything becomes kind of obvious. Both are a cancer on the western church and they work together to weaken the entire body.

The question of women preaching has arisen at my own church and both sides are beefing up for the debate. Part of this was my small group leader sent out a podcast covering the topic that I am dutifully slogging my way though. And it starts off going through all kinds of questions about where do you draw the line on women in ministry. I found the solution to each one to be some variation on, if you don’t create that non Biblically described position in the first place you don’t have to worry about asking if women can serve in it…

Children’s Minister

You won’t find the title of Children’s Minister or Children’s Pastor anywhere in the Bible. No Levite in the Old Testament was assigned to this, there were no Children’s Priests. In the New Testament the closest you can get is a Deacon who is assigned to care for widows and orphans. Perhaps you could argue that the local Rabbi teaching Hebrew to children counts, but that is a stretch. The job position of children’s minister is a very recent creation, driven entirely by pragmatism, and a cottage industry. It has more to do with seeker sensitive mega churches, publishing houses, bums in seminary class seats, and lazy theology, than faithfulness. And let’s be honest this position is filled nine out of ten times by women. It was the churches answer to feminism. Sure kid go to seminary, you can’t preach but we’ll put that degree to use in all the areas the pastor doesn’t want to deal with directly. And after years of this weaksause work around the Bible the strain has really started to show. If women are capable of doing everything a man can do why don’t we let them do that one final thing? Clinging to 1 Tim 2:2 starts to look pretty pathetic. I mean she is already called a minister or a pastor, so much ground has already been ceded, why not just give in on your backwards way? 

Creating these staff positions in a church is akin to spending years practicing a quick draw and aim at your foot, eventually the trigger will get pulled.

Missing the Point

The church is not a place that is supposed to be pragmatic or a cheap knock off of the lost and dying world. We do things differently because we are different. We see the world differently, we used to call it a Christian Worldview, until we were informed that such things were out of vogue.* Both the created world and the church, when rightly ordered, is masculine. They were made by God the Father, Man was given dominion, and woman was made for the man as a helpmeet (1 Cor 11:9, Gen 2:18),.God set up Patriarchs, Priests, and Kings, female interlopers were his appointed judgement on a sinful people ( Isa 3:12) Christ came as a man and chose male apostles. While the pagan world was running around with priestesses and concubines to idols God set men in place to lead his church. Things were to be different among us. It is baked into holiness.

“If any message from the core of reality ever were to reach us, we should expect to find in it just that unexpectedness, that willful, dramatic anfractuosity which we find in the Christian faith. It has the master touch-the rough, male taste of reality, not made by us, or, indeed, for us, but hitting us in the face.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

When we go down the path of playing theological gymnastics or putting on doctrinal blinders under the guise of being welcoming, we are really just whitewashing worldliness. 

Lying Squishes

Doug Wilson has pointed out numerous times that, “sometimes liberal scholars are more to be trusted with the handling of a text of Scripture than our theologians” this is because a liberal can look at the teachings of Paul they don’t like and swallow the reductio of plain rejection. A “christian” theologian is stuck with a text he doesn’t like and has to play merry hell with it on order to explain it away. Effectively they end up lying. After much distraction with history, context, Greek roots, the Latin Vulgate, The Septuagint, Songs of Kahless, and other hermeneutic smash and sparkle, or as Professor Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr would say “dazzle with conversation” the conclusion is reliably drawn that Paul could not hardly mean at all what he said. Which does put one in mind of Lewis talking about the assured results of modern scholarship only being assured because all the men involved were dead and could not blow the gaff. 

The other option is to simply claim ignorance, throw around the word nuance, and insist the issue is debatable and is still being looked into. On other words, cowardice. People won’t like the right answer so we will just sit on the fence and hope the eventual Humpty Dumpty prophesy never comes to pass.

Either way lying is involved, the kind that oozes like water from a sponge.


Holiness isn’t easy. One way to defend a church is to simply not create all excess nooks and crannies for wolves to hole up in. This may mean that seekers feel you are not sensitive enough, that their felt needs are not being met. But we are not called to meet felt needs much less than with wolf bites. Kids in the service can be a struggle, but if children are a blessing from the Lord, is it not a struggle that is a gift, and on the Lords day we all partake in it? Is it also not worth it to say that this church has male elders elders, like the Bible says, and one first among equals who is the pastor. Beyond that we have a financial secretary, his name is Steve. 

Bryan Loritts once told me, “Don’t give the devil a stick to hit you upside the head with.” Looking at a lot of our churches it would appear that we have been in the market for a medieval flail to hand him.

*”The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.” – Screwtape, Letter XXV

Obedience is the Very Best Way…


It does not take long, letting your fingers do the walking for you, to find many think pieces on how the church needs a vision for men. I also find it ironic, but telling, that the ones who do offer just such a vision are greeted with shrieks of dismay. The problem brought into specific relief by this is that in order for men to actually lead, the women who have been doing so either overly or covertly will have to give up their acquired power and, horror of horrors, submit. Terms like servant leader are bandied about with the emphasis being on servant but not so much leader. Add to that any time plain texts are presented to prove out that women preaching, being called pastor, or an elder are sin things like nuance, hermeneutics, word studies, and meta narrative suddenly bubble up to cloud all that clarity. And to make sure that you stay down, you are kindly reminded that you don’t want to be dogmatic, legalistic, or puritanical.

Well I will take two of those gladly, and I can handily disprove legalism, by appealing to Scripture. If I may paraphrase a great reformer and a great comic:

“How often must I cry out to you stupid egalitarians to obey Scripture some time! Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, you blind goat and deaf ass!” – Martin Luther

But we began by talking about the need for a vision, specifically a vision for women to embrace with obedience. And as I consider this the first obstacle is simply to admit that it is difficult to cast anything inspiring about what appears to be doing nothing. If I had more time, and I still may, I would look into the speeches of Fabian perhaps there was a way he got his troops to keep morale high during all that retreating. Or to use a secular example one politician (I can’t remember who) said something along the lines of “Black lives matter is a more inspiring message than don’t tread on me.” One pushes a cause the other is just communicating leave me alone. It’s a little hard to rally around people who want to have slow to no progress when people with a passionate cause are waving a flag. Or as one t-shit put it, “Introverts Unite! Individually.” 

With the task set before me, I now will attempt it.

You are not Told the Middle of your Story

When Christ willingly went to the cross his disciples had a total meltdown. They fled, hid in upper rooms, chopped off ears, denied knowing Jesus, John may have even lost his pants at one point. They were, to put it kindly, a hot mess. And this was all in spite of the fact that Jesus had repeatedly told them the end of the story. He would die and rise again. He even told them the very end though numerous parables that this all ends in glory. He didn’t fill in the intervening details, and they were clearly not up to putting all the pieces together. Now you may say, “But we have the Holy Spirit and they didn’t.” True, which makes our shenanigans today even more embarrassing. We are told the end of our story, we will pass into glory. But we are not told the middle. We are, like the disciples, given instructions and principals. And we, like the disciples, are pretty poor at putting pieces together. One evidence of that is in how we try to weasel out of angular texts that upend our comfortable cultural moment. 

Simply put the Church is an embassy of another greater kingdom. We are citizens and representatives of the Kingdom of God. And we are also an enemy embassy. Like the British consulate in Berlin in 1942. It may not look like we are winning but stiff upper lip chaps Our Man in London is about to do something bloody spectacular. We are to stand out, we are to appear different from the rest of the culture. We behave differently, we have a different law we are to obey. And it may feel awkward to do so, but that doesn’t matter, we serve a different king. It is our job to stand out, even when we don’t fully understand why. What is before us is the word of the King and we are pretty poor representatives if we twist his words to appease the enemy. Or worse if the appointed representatives abdicate to their opinionated staff who think they have a better view of how to handle this present situation.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

Restrictions Guide to Greatness

There is an obvious difference in the quality of the Original Star Wars films when compared against the prequel trilogy. The obviously better films were the originals and much of that greatness is bound up the the fact that George Lucas was forced to be more creative and original. He constantly had a studio breathing down his neck keeping the budget in check. He did not have free reign and he didn’t like it. On the prequels he had no such restrictions, and well we got brilliant romance dialogue like, “I hate the sand, it’s corse and rough, and it gets everywhere…” We don’t always know what restrictions are for, they seem like a trial, but they do build us up. Consider had Lucas not been told his script for a New Hope was awful (by Francis Ford Coppola) and to hire a screen writer who knew what they were doing; would we have the cultural touchstone we do today? 

Is it possible that God, in His infinite knowledge and wisdom, knew what he was doing when He had Paul write the prohibitions on women speaking in the worship service? Is it possible that when He makes the point that a people ruled by women are under judgement, and then illustrates that several times in the Old Testament that He had a good point to make about how He designed this world and people? Is it possible that God knew what He was doing, and we do not, neither what He is up to, or even what we are about? Or as I am always putting it to my students, “At some point you have to decide for yourself, when God wrote down His Word, did He mean it, or was it for kicks and giggles?”

I rarely see articulated in the debate over women preaching or being elders the idea that maybe just maybe God has an eternity in mind. And lets just be honest any pastor worth their salt will tell you the half life of their sermon is, the parking lot. Sure they are up front, they get seen by everyone, they can manipulate things to become a micro celebrity if they want. But the sermon is a part of their ministry. They are a shepherd, the sermon is the staff that gets the sheep’s attention, but the wound binding, the going after the strays, the guarding the flock is the unappreciated hard work. The glory of a great sermon happens on this side of eternity, the crown of faithfulness is on the other. 

Again God did not say women should be homeward, and forbid them from preaching or being an elder out of cruelty. He had a glorious other plan. Lewis may have been on to something with the woman with all the spiritual children that he witnesses in The Great Divorce. 

“Only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face. 

“Is it?…is it?” I [Lewis] whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he [George MacDonald]. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

“And who are these gigantic people…look! They’re like emeralds…who are dancing and throwing flowers before here?”

“Haven’t ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her.”

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”

“No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

What eternal impact that was intended by God for many women has been aborted on the alter of pride? God has made women for something, it is arrogance to assume that He was wrong. Our present culture does not honor God’s design, and it would appear that neither does God’s church.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” – James 3:1 (emphasis added)

Ye of Little Faith

It is not time for me to bring together these desperate threads and bring to bear some razor sharp clarity. The debate over women in ministry is ultimately summed up is being a lack of faith. The texts are plain, it takes a goodly amount of theological gymnastics to explain them away. I can also allow for there being a few who are genuinely convinced, be we should be honest and admit they are deceived. They have bought a lie. But in general what we are looking at is an idol that must be destroyed and it can only be done by strong men who will not only knock over the statue, but also cut down the grove. It is time to admit that we have cherry picked our obedience, both to God and to culture. And serving two masters never ends well. One master leads to destruction, the other to life. The vision for obedience is simply what the Scriptures and the Church have called for from the beginning. Just like in the garden we live in a world of yes with the no’s very closely guarded. Women preaching or being elders is one of those no’s. And like Eve there is a laser like focus on that any why it is unfair. Women in ministry is the same lie from Genesis 3, “God is keeping something from you, grasp it grab it, seize it by your own power you deserve it and you will be like God deciding what is good and evil.” 


People like to make a lot of hay over this is a debatable issue. It is not a first tier gospel issue they say. We don’t have to divide over it. And in a sense that is correct, we don’t divide, we discipline. And if the sin is not repented of, we don’t divide, the sinner was not one of us to begin with, they are sent out and evangelized like an unbeliever. The reason we have this debate is not because Scripture is unclear. We have it because we did not adhere to Scripture to begin with. We have it because we didn’t preach a Biblical vision for women and stick to it, no matter what.

I teach a song to preschoolers that we all should memorize:

Obedience is

The very best way

To show that you believe


Tying up some Loose Ends

As an addendum to what I have previously written here are two more things to consider when rendering judgement on the scenario around Matt Chandler and his leave of absence. 

First for those who are holding their breath for fresh revelations and new recriminations a word in season from my teacher to consider. Presented without further comment:

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” – C.S. L. Mere Christianity

Secondly a little more exposition for those who are declaring this to be an, “I told you so” moment on the subject of men and women being friends. I would suggest that you have failed to understand what friendship is. Again going back to my teacher:

“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship that a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” C. S. L. The Four Loves

Lewis goes on to show how friendship revolves around a shared truth the moment of, “You too? I thought I was the only one!” and this is the heart of friendship. The detractors of cross gender friendships point to all of the relationships that were a cover for unrequited eroticism. And indeed there are many, but the only reason we know about them is their frequent spectacular ends. Friendships are undervalued in general and the successful male/female friendships never attract any attention because they are simply functioning as a friendship. Abusus Non Tollit Usum. I will point out again that the only reason for the implosion of Matt Chandlers Friendship was because of an outside influence that imposed a legalistic standard in a public fashion. Chandler has been benched because of his course language (that we used to applaud him for) not because he had a friend who happened to be a woman. And the person who torpedoed all of this is clearly of the sort who never actually had a friend.

Flawless Church Discipline?


Hot takes are not our thing here so with a few weeks having gone by with no new revelations I think it is acceptable to sit down and watch some game film and admit to ourselves that Matt Chandler was just railroaded and the perp got away with it.

A Three Ring Circus

At this point you can go to just about any other outlet and find the statements from Chandler and the Elders of The Village Church, so I won’t reproduce them here. It is also easy to let your fingers do the walking for you to go and find the standard evangelical take on this and just as little effort to find the secular side licking their chops in the hope of more. Both sides get it wrong. One would expect the lost to stumble around blindly in the outer darkness railing about pastors demeaning women by following the Billy Graham Rule in one breath and denouncing Chandler for being friends with a woman the next because he is held to a higher standard. This side show is made only more entertaining with the Boz Tchividjian clown car rolling in for him to trip around with his “informed opinion.” But the main circus is in the big tent over there with the lights on, and we really should go see the spectacle on display in the center ring.

The man in the top hat has declared that though this is upsetting the elders of the Village Church have executed a flawless display of church discipline and stuck the landing with hardly a wobble. Quite an acrobatic feat. The problem is that someone miss aimed the cannon causing Chandler the Cannonball to take the tight rope walker, two Flying Wallendas, and a sick tiger out on his way to that perfect landing which is far outside the tent. Speaking of too far I think I have stretched this metaphor to that point.

Just because something looks like every thing has been handled well and all the loose ends are tied up does not mean it actually is that way. Now to be fair, Matt Chandler and the elders of TVC had a PR nightmare foisted upon them. And from a PR position they did a great job. But this isn’t ACME Enterprises LLC. it is a church. Good PR has been passed off a good church discipline. When really no actual church discipline has taken place. So to the game film.

Once Upon a Time

From what can be put together the story goes as follows: Some years ago Matt Chandler became online friends with a woman through instagram. Lauren Chandler knew about the friendship and had access to the messages and had no problem with it. The same went for Matt’s new friend’s husband. Everything was on the up and up. They spoke as friends do, Chandler admitting to coarse joking and some dirty words. But then Matt’s friend had a lady friend who decided that this friendship was inappropriate. And since it will be revealed that she seems the confrontational type we can safely assume she brought it up and was rejected. Things get a little fuzzy as to her other actions, if she was that concerned and attended the same church as Matt’s friend then she could have gone to the elders there. No one seems to know, did they agree and start discipline on their end, did they tell her it wasn’t a sin so she should pipe down? Or was she a member of even another church and had no recourse, or called the elders at her friends church to try and start the process. There are many options, none of which we know she took or not. What we do no is that she felt the need to rock up to TVC on a Sunday morning, and confront Chandler, in the lobby, between services about what she perceived as an inappropriate relationship. Chandler, was caught with one foot off the merry-go-round and actually did the reasonable thing and defended his friendship, basically saying he saw nothing wrong with it. He then goes and tells one of his elders a lady in the lobby confronted him about it, he also says he went home and told his wife about it. It was decided that the church should hire a law firm to preform a third party witch hunt, to troll though his messages, and it was shortly determined that Chandler’s friendship was inappropriate because he made some rude jokes and said some bad words. He was then placed in time out after a brief struggle session before the church, and flawless church discipline was declared.


There are two things that seem odd and should be considered because they are fuzzy. What exactly happened in the time between the lady confronting Chandler and him telling the elder about it and him going home to tell his wife what happened. Was it the kind of thing where he realized right away that this lady could cause problems and was a ticking PR time bomb? It could be that in passing it was a “Hey Steve this crazy lady stopped me in the lobby because she doesn’t like my friendship with someone.” And there is the possibility that he genuinely was convinced that he had done something wrong. Likewise the statements are not clear as to did he go straight home afterward because of impending disaster or was it like normal and over lunch a kind of, “So this crazy lady stopped me in the lobby…” Things could go a few ways but this is why we always wait a few weeks around here to see if anything else falls out before we hit publish. 

Next it should be considered what we mean by pastors being held to a higher standard. The question is, by what standard.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

The standard is holiness, as revealed in the inerrant Word of God. And by Chandler’s own admission his speech to his friend fell short of that standard. In the area of his speech he could not say with Paul “copy me as I copy Christ.” The problem comes with us in that we only want to apply this standard to Chandler when it is convenient. I have sat down with pastors who have admitted to course joking and the occasional swear word, and among men no one bats an eye. It’s considered impish, or masculine, or humanizing. These kinds of words only come up as a problem when the person who said them “is a problem.” Let let us as evangelicals not clamber up on our high horse quite so quickly on this one.

The Confronting Lady

Here we come to the very heart of the problem, and where the true sin that should be disciplined lies. The woman, who kicked this whole thing off, is a legalistic pharisee or is guilty of the sin of jealousy. Either way she has been a busybody, has killed two friendships very publicly, and has been applauded for acting according to Matthew 18 when it manifestly was not.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17

First notice the requirement is that if you have been sinned against. Being friends with Matt Chandler is not a sin against anyone. So again there was either a legalism or a jealousy. Secondly we have no report, though we might assume, that she went to her friend about her uneasiness. But no matter what the response was this passage does not give any warrant for her to go to Chandler who as far as we can tell, is not her pastor, and did not know her from Adam. But also notice this it only goes before the church, it only moves from private conversations as a final step. She marched into the most public area, and got on Chandlers case, when it was normally filled with people. This is not private, it is threatening to cause a scene. 

The church “discipline” we are looking at is not real church discipline. It’s very beginning was unbiblical and it should be seen that way. The person who should be disciplined, caused a fiasco and got off scot free leaving a trail of relational destruction in her wake.

Am I Compromised

When talking about this in my men’s group it was pointed out that I may be biased because I have friends who are women, and staunchly defend having those friends. I accept those charges, it absolutely colors my thinking on this. The worst that can be said of Chandler on this front is that he took a risk in having this friend, and it did come to bite him. But again notice how. He didn’t fall into sexual sin, I am even shocked that the words “emotional affair” have not even floated around. He got in trouble because someone else, outside of the friendship, decided they would ruin it and didn’t care who got hurt in the process, again, either legalism, or jealousy were at play. And frankly more of a stink should be being made about that.


There is always a possibility that even after waiting this long to see if anything else shakes out that this kind of post will age like milk. We’ll see, but for the time being it should be repeated that real sin has been committed. Chandler is in the process of learning to control his tongue, which is good. God turned something evil and used it for good. Chandler will improve in spite of this not because of it. But there is still an undisciplined person running around and that should make us realize that this was a disaster of Church Discipline.

Asking not for More but for Less

And in the sovereignty of God something of a to-do arose over the weekend at the church I attend. And it is a god example of why it matters to do that hard thing on the front end so they don’t become explosions later. Kicking a can down the road is easy, for a while, but eventually decisions have to be made, usually under the gun, and with emotions running high. Exceptions have a way of becoming habits, which become, normal, which becomes traditions. And after a while of all this can kicking you find yourself in a part of town you aren’t familiar with, and the street lights are flickering in a way that warms Stephen King’s deranged heart. 

But more so what we end up doing is depriving ourselves of what God has that is best for us. The pains of a few people early on are better than the tears and rage later when they are denied a sin they had grown accustomed to. Training a congregation on the front end is work but the benefits of Godliness in your people are worth more than all the battles that follow the childish and ungodly like a swarm.

Congregations should be loved enough to be given the gift of pain. It hurts having a pet sin wrenched from your grasp but as the man with the little red lizard in The Great Divorce can attest the freedom from the sin is superior in every way. Currently it would seem that church leaders are settling on a minimum that comes back to bite them, when they are called to do the maximum. Or to paraphrase Lewis in The Problem of Pain: “We are wishing not for more holiness but for less.”

So to look back on the two previous articles, children are not being raised into more holiness but to less. Congregations are not being trained in more holiness, but less. Felt needs have trumped the need for holiness. As a rule of thumb if a verse is read and the knee jerk reaction is to explain it away, then wisdom says you should probably just go ahead and obey what it is saying. Do the right thing before the drift sets in and after a while your church finds itself at sea but insisting it has always been this way.

If We Would Build from the Ashes

Editors Note: This is Part Two of a duo set of articles on the problem with Children’s Church, why we should burn it down, and what we should do instead. Part One where I argue to burn it to ashes can be read here.


It continues to mystify me when the forth commandment became the forth suggestion. Therefore it should come as no surprise that for Christians who have so low an opinion of gathering on the Lords Day that they would be either intellectually lazy about the ecclesiology regarding children, or actually lazy about raising them up the the way they should go. The tragedy of this quagmire we have gotten ourselves in is that to end it is near impossible. There is the cottage industry of children’s ministry churning out curriculum, the ever present problem of habit or tradition. Someone can always point to the “success stories” ignoring that those are a minority, an in spite of not a because of. There is the ease of it: no children to be distracting in the service, parents get a break from their kids, pastors don’t have to worry about them being disruptive, it is a great draw to bring families into the church… The list goes on. But we have to question, is this actually what a faithful church is supposed to be doing or have we at best bought a seeker sensitive lie or at worst made comfort our idol?

In the last article I laid out many of the major problems with children’s church. In this one I intend to lay out the obvious solution, and give some clarity on effective children’s ministry. 

It should also be noted that I have skin in this game. I have been a missionary to children for 23 years with a global children’s missions organization. One of my degrees is in the field of children’s ministry. I have taught children, trained children’s teachers, and advised churches on children’s ministry. All of this and I still say; Children’s Church, burn it with fire, and then from the ashes build and by that work, strengthen the full church.

The Elephant in the Room

In full honestly my argument works better if you are a paedobaptist than credo. I am arguing for children being a part of the body and, as a credo-baptist myself, it can make a certain sense to send out the kids because they aren’t yet part of the body. So let me throw out a couple of points to my credo brethren. First, if you are moving them out because fencing the table would be hard, then let me say deal with it. Church is not about efficiency. The table should be fenced against non believers anyway, kids are no different. Second, they are not members and you don’t want them thinking they are until they are. Well good news members meetings can have childcare! Hire some sitters from the OPC church down the road if you are afraid of keeping votes in the nursery, and have the meeting. Or have the kids sit in and don’t count their votes if they try. Third, CHILDREN’S CHURCH DOES NOT WORK.

Keep Children in the Service: Train Them

I sometimes wonder if acceleration of the anti discipline movement comes from the self perpetuating failure to actually do the hard work of discipling children and the resulting chaos that ensues. We didn’t like the little bit of discipline we got so we back it off a notch for our kids, and chip chip chip the monolith falls down. We stopped taking God at his word and doing the hard work of discipline and training and then said that God had lied based on the exceptions that we were now churning out as the rule.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Children can be trained, it takes a lot of work on the front end but in so far as it goes with the worship service I can also give assurances that they do grow up as well. It would be better for them to grow up into being members of the body than suddenly graduating into a slower, duller, less entertaining… And here I should pause to clarify I am writing of real churches: the ones who take worship seriously, actually know what they are doing and why, have theological depth. The opposite of charismatic cults or the cults of personality that rhyme with Ftephen Surtic. 

So, a real service is an adjustment for kids who are used to something more happy clappy and sermonette-y. But they keep getting sent over there because when they are squirmers and screamers they are distracting to mom and dad especially, and the surrounding people in general. But that is ok, there is not a sacred secular divide that we as protestants recognize. The body has gathered, the word is read and preached, the table is opened, and if mom and dad miss a sermon point or a line of a hymn, or a cry pierces the church, that is fine. It can be dealt with. And with discipline and training, kids can learn to participate and even sit still.

To Show Self-Control

Early on this means roaming the building, which on occasion is cute. If you have never been in a service where a two year old sneaks free and gleefully bolts across the front of the sanctuary squealing with glee, you frankly have not lived. So anomalies can happen that that is fine, The adults will live. The service provides an opportunity to learn self-control and it even can provide an opportunity for children to be examples to adults.

This is the part where I argue against screens. Church is an analog place in a digital age, and that is a good thing. As a people our attention spans are so short. I am almost willing to place a bet that if you turned out the lights on any given Sunday in your average church you could still illuminate the room with all the screens that are on. Sure some of them are Bible apps, but I have observed just how tempting those two clicks to a social media feeds are for everyone. I see it all the time, a quick glance, scroll, scroll, scroll, double click back to the Bible app, and try and figure out what verse the pastor has moved on to. 

How helpful would it not just be to children to have the ability to focus and learn from a sermon, but for adults to feel some shame over their inability to have the same self-control as a child. Also why is every teen glued to their phone during a sermon, they are trained that when they are bored look at their phone till something interesting happens. Start early, here is a physical Bible, phones stay home, you will live.

To Listen

Listening is not just taking words in your ears understanding them and moving on. It is comprehension and application. In addition to a physical Bible as a child gets older help them take physical notes. Churches could turn all of that energy from preparing children’s church to preparing age acceptable sermon note sheets. Pastors might need to sort their schedules out to be done with their sermon by a certain time so that the children’s minister can take the outline or manuscripts and create the notes. But this is a part of feeding the flock. 

Preach to Them

Do you know when adults perk up and pay close attention to a sermon? When children are directly addressed. It is also an opportunity to make clear, simple application. In fact, in all my years of ministry do you want to know what is different between teaching children, youth, and adults? Age specific application of the text, that is it. Adults need to hear the same thing over and over again just like children. They might know bigger words, but that is rare. Pastors sometimes fail to be effective because they think they are Tim Keller and they over estimate their congregations. If you can’t make something clear to a child, you don’t understand it yourself. Preach to the kids, the adults will benefit as well.

The Value of Sunday School

The obvious place and time to have children instructed and catechized is ignored because it is out of vogue. Sunday School is a brilliant invention of the modern church. It provides for specific teaching to specific groups, fellowship, the creation of friendships, the training and raising up of teachers, a way to identify future deacons or elders, it also has the advantage of not taking up as much of people’s schedule because they were already going to be in the building, so what is one more hour?* The downsides do exist and I will not deny them. There can be a potential for cliques to form, it may seem wasteful to have all this space unused during the week, and that can create a drive to fill that space with other things during the week. I would suggest that urge be strenuously ignored. It is possible to turn off the thermostat for that part of the building and then turn the system on Saturday night. I mean these days a Sunday School Superintendent could probably scream at his Alexa at home to do it remotely the night before. 

Despite all this, let me bring this back to the kids. Right now the community group model is failing them. Most of the time they are shoved off into a bedroom with the other kids and a bored oldest one “keeping an eye on them.” Occasionally they escape and interrupt the adults and are sent out. My parents model was that we were present, but my father was a big believer in the children were to be seen and not heard model of things, so boredom reigned supreme under the threat of punishment later. Either way there is nothing that really instructs or builds up the kids, so it seems like children’s church would be a solution. But it also fails for all of the previously cited reasons. Sunday School solves this. And it manages to be personal, fun, and typically “school like.” Which brings me to the effective part. Sunday School is a class, a Bible class. There is a teacher who has prepared a lesson, screens in an effective Sunday School are verboten, so semi-Pelagian vegetables here thank you. Sunday School also can prepare children to be and participate in the service. They receive valuable interaction and activity, learning discipline then showing it in the time of worship.

The Place of Fun

My critique of children’s church has had a strong element of the silliness that gets passed off as teaching. Now I will admit there are those churches (usually smaller) where an actual human teacher sits down with the children to teach them a prepared lesson from Scripture. But this is far from the norm, typically it happens on a giant screen maybe there is an MC or some dancers to help the kids with the “motions” to the songs. And it is usually all in short segments and very silly, like Python without the intelligence. And this is my point there is a world of difference be tween patronizing silliness, and the oxymoronic sounding serious fun. 

“Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.” – C.S. Lewis (Aslan), The Magicians Nephew

When children are in a scenario for them the kind of teaching can and should be geared toward them. And that teaching should be fun. Jesus himself was fun. In the famous parallel passage of “Let the little children come to me” Mark’s Gospel uses the greek to point out that when Jesus blessed the children he did so repeatedly. What this signified was that the children kept coming back for more, and if there is one thing that kids do is return to where they had fun. Jesus’ blessing, or his time with them was something that was fun. Children do not return to people who are boring. So we should create an environment that is geared toward them, Sunday School is a perfect opportunity for both teaching and fun. It has been that for years until it got jettisoned. The trick is, fun requires work on the part of the adult. And as it has been covered, right now the people of the western church are lazy. 


Children have been despised and failed in our churches. It is time to see them for what they are, some are already brothers and sisters in Christ, some are not yet but will be. They should be evangelized and raised up into the body, not sidelined and then have a hail Mary pass run on them to try and keep them around. Which is what we have been doing. 

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

*Granted this is the least important of the reasons but for some churches, like in a rural area it is an enormous advantage.

The Stories He Keeps Telling, Listen to this Instead

Ok, I was planning to just let this series trail off and die the kind of slow and panful death that the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast should have died long ago. Three things happened to cause me to put up this very brief installment. 1. Cosper pinky promised that there is only one episode left. Which is hilarious since we had a finale and he keeps putting out bonus episodes. 2. “The Algorithm” threw up an episode of Cultish critiquing the podcast and I would like to commend it. 3. the latest episode perfectly makes the point that the Cultish guys were making and I wanted to point out the obvious.

Mercifully we are told there will be only one more bonus episode, so there may only be one more bonus The Stories He Told coming. And I think I can speak for all of us that we are glad about that. I too am getting tired of having to untie all of the little knots and worldly weave in’s Cosper keeps tying in the thread of this tale. I wish him a fond farewell until his next endeavor, which if Wilson is to be believed the CT Media feelers are already probing around Moscow… Then again Chandler may have just imploded so Mike has some options.

Previously all I knew of Cultish was their early interview with the girl who came out of Bethel. Which was good but not enough to keep me tuning in. Also not in their favor was that they are from Jeff Drubin’s group and I find him to be endlessly obnoxious. My math ran pretty much off of what I usually see with some evangelical leaders trail of stooges. The main guy might be great but his followers are usually overflowing with his worse qualities and have little of his good ones. Ex. Toby Sumpter… Sigh. So, boy do I have egg on my face with this episode of Cultish. Good stuff all around. I think there was one thing I kind of disliked but it was so minuscule I can’t even remember what my objection was. They made three good points that should be noted. 1. The lack of a clear articulation of the gospel and its application to the situation was embarrassing when they said they heard more of the gospel from all the clips of Mark Driscoll that were supposed to be so bad. 2. That essentially the podcast was critiquing Driscoll for pandering to pop culture to grow the church, and yet this is exactly what Cosper was doing. He nailed the true crime genre, he interviewed all the right lefties, he made all the points that would make the New York Times happy. The only difference is Cosper was preaching to his choir, Driscoll, for all his failures was trying to convert that choir. 3. Combine the two and you get the lack of a Christian standard on the part, ironically of Christianity Today. All of the standards applied were from psychologists or therapists who threw around the words gospel and Biblical, but still never actually showed how that was those things. And it was Driscoll who was actually Biblical in the story that was supposed to show him as this mean fighter when he rebuked a universalist who objected to the core of the gospel in Driscoll’s class on the gospel. Hurt feelings to not a sin reveal. Or at least not the sin Cosper wants to display.

Finally all of this was illustrated in the last two bonus episodes which were Cosper sitting down with clearly left leaning trauma therapists who emphasized in soothing NPR tones how bad Driscoll is. They were a chore to listen through and that is why I simply never bothered to write about them in this space. Maybe the last one will do what needs to be done and evaluate the good of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, because as I have previously written, we need to figure out for the coming reformed movement the good things so we can use those, or we will get another Driscoll, and we don’t need that.