Of Wives and Cigars


On a lovely Sunday afternoon I sat on my porch puffing away on my third cigar of the day as my wife rooted around in the nearby flower bed for rogue monkey grass. And as we enjoyed our time we listened to a few weeks old episode of Doctrine and Devotion. In which the hosts, Joe and Jimmy, answered a listeners email asking for advice on cigars and his wife. 

The gist was, listener man was about to become a first time father, and as such wanted to partake in a celebratory cigar with four of his closest friends shortly after the birth. Trouble arose in the form of his wife objecting to the cigar smoking. It should be noted that, unhelpfully, listener man did not give her reasons. It can be speculated that they are health related, possibly something to do with that old chestnut that any smoking is sin, or she may just not like it. Joe and Jimmy operated out of the first assumption, and then laid out their advice which became stuck in the respected craws of my wife and I.

Bad Advice

The general conclusion drawn by the D&D guys was that since this was such a small one time thing the man should submit to his wife and not have cigars with his friends to celebrate his firstborn. Had he been a long time moderate smoker, then perhaps the issue could allow for some debate. But being a one off type situation it clearly was just a matter of going along with what she wanted. It was then heavily suggested that the husband should apologize to her for upsetting her so.  A caveat was given that maybe she was over reacting but still, as they understood 1 Peter 3:7 living with his wife in an understanding way meant letting her decide this one.

It should surprise no one that I disagree, adamantly. Two chief points should be made and explored. A third lesser point can be explored as well.

A. The low hanging fruit is the apology. The husband in question has done nothing wrong, he merely has disagreed with his wife. And even if he decided to go ahead and have the cigar, he still will have done nothing wrong. At worst, he has raised her ire by wanting to do something that she for, unknown to us, reasons does not like. No sin has been committed, it would be should he lie by confessing sin where there manifestly was none.

B. More importantly is the constant creep in the tyranny of thin complementarianism. According to Joe and Jimmy, the emotions of the wife supersede both the reason and facts of the issue, and that living with her in an understanding way meant doing what she wanted. Obviously this is a basic failure to parse the passage. The key is understanding, a husband should be such a caring student of his wife that he is eminently aware of her strengths and her weaknesses, her insights and her blindspots. A wife is to be a helpmeet, she brings many important things to the decision making table, a prudent wife is from the Lord, as Proverbs reminds us. Husband is tasked, by God, to receive input from his wife, but he is tasked, again by God, with the responsibility to make the final call. Should that decision not be the one the wife likes, he has not sinned on the merits of disagreeing with her, he is entirely within his God ordained role as head. 

The immediate push back is that tyrants can operate from this justification. But I would submit that tyrants do not ever actually listen to input from helpmeets. Marital tyrants are more than likely to not even bother going through the motions of pretending to listen to a wife. In a situation such as this to leap to the worst end of the spectrum is disingenuous at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. Why not look to the most positive end of the spectrum and point to the husband who is doing this well?

C. Finally there is an assumption that the size matters. Had the husband been smoking regularly for some time now, and out of the blue his wife decreed he should stop posthaste then perhaps it would not be out of bounds to take umbrage or negotiate. This is clever misdirection, the only common denominators in the two scenarios is the presence of the cigar and the draconian decrees of the wife. Both cases leave room for listening, considering, even working with a wife to reach a compromise, and ultimately making a decision. The quantities and amount of time involved have little baring on the actual situation. 

Part of a Larger Problem

The chief issue raised is the slow chipping away at the roles assigned to men and women, through Scripture, from God. Much of thin complementarianism is easily dismantled with a simple assessment of when God wrote the things he wrote, in Scripture, did he plainly mean them or were they put down for kicks and giggles. It takes a lot of theological gymnastics (granted said in a very calm and reassuring tone of voice) to take the Ephesians command for husbands to agape they wives actually means submit. As Kymberli Cook of Dallas Theological Seminary does. 

To stay in Ephesians, the command is to love wives as Christ loved the church, sacrificing himself for her. This is submission to the will of God the Father. But it is the furthest thing from submission to the church, the bride of Christ. In several instances the early church was quite opposed to Christ’s death. Most notably from Peter who eventually was called Satan for presuming to oppose the will of God. It should not be suggested that Husbands compare their wives to Lucifer, but it does bear some thought to consider that such a rebuke probably did not take the feelings of Peter too much into account. A decision had been made, regardless of the will of the bride.

It is entirely possible in the debate over the details of complementarianism to loose the forest for the trees. Scripture gives commands and principals, it also illustrates descriptively. Occasionally a description seems to run against the grain and frequently those get elevated as exceptions that disprove the rule. It is not difficult then to jump from that apparent exception to what is perceived as one of your own. And sometimes there are exceptions, the problem is every person thinks they have one. A good rule of thumb would be if most of your operating procedure is built out of exceptions then perhaps you are very far from the truth. Exceptions in the Bible frequently are there to prove the rule, they are there because God is working in spite of them not because of them, or in some instances as an act of judgement

“My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.” – Isaiah 3:12

Ultimately the debate matters, not because men are trying to preserve power, but because God has spoken. As Schaffer has memorably said, “He is there, and He is not silent.” Satan does not move for overt attack in the garden until the marriage is established. He made quick work then, causing the spouses to hide from one another for shame of judgement. He is on a different tack now, just as Dutschke has had great success in his proposed long march through the institutions, so too it would appear that Satan is having great success in his long march through the marriages. For those whom infidelity, or lust will not do, the cultivating of envy for authority does very nicely.


Cigars seem like such a small issue to pick a fight over. But I think in this instance it managed to show the rot* beneath. Thin complementarians want husbands that effectively hold to a theological Fabian Strategy, retreat, retreat, retreat, until a wife either has all she wants or simply tires of control. A husband would be, rightly, shamed if he forbade his wife a celebration with her friends over the birth of a child, and any prohibition of anything stronger than Kool-ade to enjoy. It is offensive in the highest order to our present society, “How dare he!” But flip it, and he is an unloving husband to want to celebrate in a historically masculine manner. What is obvious is that the thin complementarians do not want anything complementary at all, they want a matriarchy. Wether they know it or not Joe Thorn and Jimmy Fowler, said the quiet part out loud. 

*I am so tired of evangelicals using “the rot” to mean complementarianism as a whole, as if Piper and Gruedem are two little termites that have been chomping away at the foundations of the work of Christ with their council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I am therefore delighted to refer to thin complementarians are the rot that is eroding the authority of scripture.

Is Mark Driscoll Leading Your Praise Team?*

One of the charges leveled in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill was that in preaching the now famous/infamous “Who the Hell do You Think You Are!?” sermon out of 2 Peter everything was planned before hand and replicated at each service. A more honest commentator would have readily conceded that this kind of thing is standard practice at any church with more than one service. At the very least the first service is the template and anything after that is merely refining the delivery, something akin to how a good comedian will work out jokes down to the syllable.** Usually then the last service is what gets put online, the one that has been most polished. If Cosper has issues with Driscoll’s use of this common method then I join with him in condemnation. I personally think that this is the kind of rotten fruit from a tree that has not been adequately pruned. Multiple services or campuses are not what I think makes for a healthy church. It leads to multiple smaller churches sharing a staff, elders, facilities, and budget*** as well as this sermonic polishing. 

That said, if Driscoll, and others should be condemned for preforming and passing it off as spirit lead preaching, then there should be equal condemnation for the plague of music ministers that treat the singing of praise as their weekly concert.

I have worked in the media teams of several churches in my years and can say with near certainty that if you are looking for a narcissist in a churches leadership, looking to the worship “pastor” is a good place to start. The gaff is blown by simple observation of rehearsals. Praise teams will run through their hand raising, the emotional “improvised” bits are worked out, and there is more cattiness than a brides maid hen night on who is singing what solos. It is all about the stage, and the focus of attention. There is very little to wonder about why a congregation is not really singing and at best mumbling along, everything about what is presented to them is in the model of a concert which means, shut up and listen to us. This is something akin to what  Papist would say, “don’t you worry about the supper, the professionals will handle it.” Forgive my ignorance but I was pretty sure part of being protestant means rejecting the sacred/secular divide in all its forms.

Obviously it is more difficult to showboat under the guise of ministry with many of the musical apparatuses stripped away leaving a hymnal, a piano, a player, and someone who can guide the congregation to make a joyful noise. It is not impossible that one of those people can still be a pompous ass.**** But it does make it easier to fire the guy without worrying about loosing the band or what to do with them wandering around on stage leaderless.***** 

The point of congregationally singing praises to God is, running the risk of sounding repetitive here, singing congregationally praises to God. The root of the problem is pride. The body is filled with it, which is why they want worship music that is more about them and their vaguely worded worries than about the excellence of Christ. The music guy is all about himself with his cultivated look, center stage presence, and justifications for all of it. And pastors can be all about themselves creating a culture among the staff as servant leaders.******

Mike Cosper is fond of reminding us that the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll should cause us to look in the mirror and evaluate. I agree, a reflection of the worst performance elements of Driscoll are found not only in pastors, but in excess in modern approaches to worship music. War should be declared on pride in all its forms. If a music man is terrified by the hymns of old perhaps he should be forced into them for they will remove his center stage and place Christ at the center of the worship. Or as one of their endless choruses would say, “Jesus at the Center of it all.”

*With excessive footnotes!

**Jerry Seinfeld talks about this in his joke writing. 

***I do concede that at that point in the history of the reformed movement churches were blowing up numerically on guys and the, usually, calmer ecclesiology guys were not listened to. So some grace can be given to a young guy with several hundred people showing up beyond fire codes and just not having the theology to know what to do with them. At this point… I don’t think there is much of an excuse.

****Couldn’t tell you the name of the pastor in the church but Tommy the music minister looms large in my memory. 

*****Honestly they probably won’t show up, half the music guys job is guilting them into at least being on time for church much less rehearsals. You want to know how a church winds up on the little treadmill of the worship guys fifteen favorite songs? Those are the only ones the band knows and they aren’t showing up to learn any new ones. Again this problem can be solved by a decent piano player who can work out more than four chords. 

******And hilariously these guys will fly into hand wringing the moment Doug Wilson suggests a more Biblical term would be servant lordship. He is not wrong to say one sounds nicer but is un-Biblical and often a cover up for spinelessness or soft totalitarianism. If the church staff is prideful, it is at minimum the responsibility of the pastor if not down stream from him. 

Of Masks and School Children’s Faces

Editors Note: The following is a guest post written by my good friend D. W. Syme. 

Authors Note: I decided to change up the wording of the ending passage from “What’s Wrong With the World” by G.K.Chesterton. in order to better fit our current crisis. If the apostle of common sense were with us today, I feel he would write something like what follows...

A little while ago certain doctors and other persons permitted by modern law to dictate to their shabbier fellow-citizens, sent out an order that all little children should wear masks in daycares and schools. I mean, of course, all little children whose parents were poor. Many very unhealthy habits are common among rich little children, but it will be a long time before any doctors interfere forcibly with them. Now, the case for this particular interference was this, that the poor are pressed down from above into reliance on dual incomes and public schools, and that poor people must not be allowed to breathe freely, because in their case it must mean breathing germs into the air. Therefore, the doctors proposed to abolish their breathing and playing and showing of faces. It never seems to have occurred to them to abolish the masks. Yet it could be done. As is common in most modern discussions the unmentionable thing is the pivot of the whole discussion. It is obvious to any Christian man (that is, to any man with a free soul) that any coercion applied to a kid in daycare ought, if possible, to be applied to the galas and parties attended by presidents and mayors and senators. I will not ask why the doctors do not, as a matter of fact apply their rule to the fancy folks. I will not ask, because I know. They do not because they dare not. But what is the excuse they would urge, what is the plausible argument they would use, for thus shrouding and humiliating poor children and not rich adults? Their argument would be that the disease is more likely to be in the air of poor people than of rich. And why? Because the poor children are forced (against all the instincts of the highly domestic working classes) to crowd together in close rooms under a wildly inefficient system of public instruction; and because two out of every one hundred children may have the germs. And why? Because the poor man is so ground down by the great cronyism and inflation of the great economic institutions, that his wife often has to work as well as he. Therefore, she has no time to look after the children, therefore they must give their children over to the inefficient system of public instruction. Because the working man has these burdens on top of him, the doctor’s intrusions sitting (literally) on his face, and the schoolmaster’s indoctrination sitting (literally) on his head, the workingman must allow his child, first to be neglected from poverty, next to be poisoned by dubious social theories, and, lastly, to have his child’s face abolished by hygiene. He, perhaps, was proud of his child’s face. But he does not count.

Upon this simple principle (or rather precedent) the sociological doctor drives gayly ahead. When a drunk tyranny crushes men down into the dirt, so that their very air is restricted, the scientific course is clear. It would be long and laborious to cut off the heads of the tyrants; it is easier to shroud the heads of the slaves. In the same way, if it should ever happen that poor children, screaming with toothache, disturbed any schoolmaster or social worker, it would be easy to pull out all the teeth of the poor; if their nails were disgustingly dirty, their nails could be plucked out; if their noses were indecently blown, their noses could be cut off. The appearance of our humbler fellow-citizen could be quite strikingly simplified before we had done with him. But all this is not a bit wilder than the brute fact that a doctor can intrude into the life of a free man, whose child may be as clean as spring flowers, and order him to tell his child to wear his mask properly in the future. It never seems to strike these people that the lesson of these ineffective measures is the wrongness of the measures, not the wrongness of the children. Faces are, to say the least of it, a rooted thing. Their enemies, like insects and armies, sweep upon us but seldom. In truth, it is only by eternal institutions like faces that we can test passing institutions like empires. If a house is so built as to knock a man’s head off when he enters it, it is built wrong.

The mob can never rebel unless it is conservative, at least enough to have conserved some reasons for rebelling. It is the most awful thought in all our anarchy, that most of the ancient blows struck for freedom would not be struck at all to-day, because of the obscuration of the clean, popular customs from which they came. The insult that brought down the hammer of Wat Tyler might now be called a medical examination. That which Virginius loathed and avenged as foul slavery might now be praised as free love. The cruel taunt of Foulon, “Let them eat grass,” might now be represented as the dying cry of an idealistic vegetarian. Those great scissors of science that would snip off the faces of the poor little school children are ceaselessly snapping closer and closer to cut off all the corners and fringes of the arts and honors of the poor. Soon they will be twisting necks to suit clean collars, and hacking feet to fit new boots. It never seems to strike them that the body is more than raiment; that the Sabbath was made for man; that all institutions shall be judged and damned by whether they have fitted the normal flesh and spirit. It is the test of political sanity to keep your head. It is the test of artistic sanity to keep your face uncovered.

Now the whole parable and purpose of these words is this: to assert that we must instantly begin all over again, and begin at the other end. I begin with a little child breathing free and playing with her friends, not sitting miserably at six feet intervals and being yelled at intermittently to pull up her mask. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter’s face is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and culture. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If bureaucrats and laws and sciences are against it, bureaucrats and laws and sciences must go down. With the hot tears of one little masked school girl, I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a child should breathe free and play, she should not be subject to the whims of medical bureaucrats; because she should not be subject to the whims of medical bureaucrats, she must have men willing to oppose the medical bureaucrats; because there is a lack of those with power willing to oppose the medical bureaucrats, there shall be a revolution. That little school girl with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched crying on my Twitter feed, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her face shall not be covered like a convict’s; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.

Not a New Problem


Doug Wilson has aptly pointed out that one of the failures of Reformed Protestantism is not reading our histories and biographies. Outside of a few of us nerds old books are not read. More disturbingly it appears that many of our pastors can not be bothered to even read any books, instead relying on services like Docent to read, research, and recommend theological positions and sermon outlines to them. These things contribute to the anemic church we see in the west today. One of the interesting ways that this plays out is in the feeling many young adults have of being untethered. Recently Trevin Wax has written on how Young Restless and Reformed grew out of this and how a father void is partly filled with the rough manly feel of staunch reformed writers. Or how men like Mark Driscoll capitalized on this, but things ultimately collapsed, due to the lack of underlying holiness of character*. A feeling of disconnection from the larger, deeper church can drive many to explore the Doctrines of Grace, and recent years have been an embarrassment of riches in good, free theology at our fingertips. I would suggest though that many of these young listeners never develop the personal piety necessary to truly be reformed. They only ever get to the equivalent of smelling the cigar as opposed to smoking the whole Cohiba. In a sense they are non-smokers standing at a distance refusing to join us in the lounge. Not that this is a new problem. in 1542 Juan de Yepes y Alvarez (known popularly as John of the Cross) commented in refreshingly modern terms about this issue in his day:

“Many of these beginners have also at times great spiritual avarice. They will be found to be discontented with the spirituality which God gives them; and they are very disconsolate and querulous because they find not in spiritual things the consolation that they would desire. Many can never have enough of listening to counsels and learning spiritual precepts, and of possessing and reading many books which treat of this matter, and they spend their time on all these things rather than on works of mortification and the perfecting of the inward poverty of spirit which should be theirs.” – John, Dark Night of the Soul

But Wait there’s More!

If John had stopped there it would have been damning enough. Yet he was not done. He also shows the path many take in their search for depth in the church while actively avoiding the actual work of being themselves deep. After tasting Reformed theology they sample from Catholicism or some form of Eastern Orthodoxy, usually ending in atheism. 

“Furthermore they burden themselves with images and rosaries which are very curious; now they put down one, now take up another; now they change about, now they change back again; now they want this kind of thing, now that preferring one kind of cross to another, because it is more curious. And others you will see adorned with agnusdeis and relics and tokens. Like children with trinkets. Here I condemn the attachment of the heart, and the affection which they have for the nature, multitude and curiosity of these things, inasmuch as it is quite contrary to poverty of spirit, which considers only the substance alone of what is represented by spiritual things; all the rest is affection and attachment proceeding from imperfection; and in order that one may pass to any kind of perfection it is necessary for such desires to be killed.” – John, Dark Night of the Soul

There is no depth to the Catholic church that can not be found in historic Reformed Protestantism. We are just as connected to the early church as they. But we begrudgingly admit that connection has not been taught clearly or compellingly. The root of the issue is that the person in question is themselves rootless. A young man or woman who moves from a large multiplex of a church, to a reformed congregation, then to an Episcopal, followed by a Catholic, and rounding third heading for home with some faction within, pops out the other end a sound atheist; was never really looking for truth in the first place. Their idol is themselves, and it is evidenced by the smugness displayed along the way, and connection to those they have left behind. 

“Can you not persuade him that “his religious phase” is just going to die away like all his previous phases? Of course there is no conceivable way of getting by reason from the proposition “I am losing interest in this” to the proposition “This is false”. But, as I said before, it is jargon, not reason, you must rely on. The mere word phase will very likely do the trick. I assume that the creature has been through several of them before—they all have—and that he always feels superior and patronizing to the ones he has emerged from, not because he has really criticized them but simply because they are in the past. (You keep him well fed on hazy ideas of Progress and Development and the Historical Point of View, I trust, and give him lots of modern Biographies to read? The people in them are always emerging from Phases, aren’t they?)

You see the idea? Keep his mind off the plain antithesis between True and False. Nice shadowy expressions—“It was a phase”—“I’ve been through all that”—and don’t forget the blessed word “Adolescent.” – Screwtape, Letter IX

Known By their Fruit

It would be far too on the nose to say of the religious seeker that the fault is not in their stars but in themselves. It is not fate that dooms men, but instead their own failings. It has been contended numerous times on this blog that many who profess Christ will say on the last day “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?” and will hear back, “Depart form me you worker of inequity, I never knew you.” The sins of the recent fathers is to keep their children from the righteousness of the early and the Reformation Fathers. Instead they plied their therapeutic doctrines in order to draw crowds of peers, drawing in the mothers through the children who where just entertained, then were shocked and appalled that those only ever fed on milk, from the nursery up through the youth ministry were still drinking milk and hungering for more. But moving from milk to solid food is no overnight undertaking. The command to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is a long term undertaking. It should not be expected that one who has been on a skim liquid diet can jump to prime rib and not vomit it back up. Before this blog has pointed out that there is only a centuries worth of time between incense and candles to fog machines and lasers. Both the seeker sensitive and the Papist/EO are performance heavy. One just has had more time to spiritualize why they pageant in the way that they do. 

Reformed theology isn’t easy. It humbles man to glorify God. It places the potter and the clay in their correct places. The shift from milk, to steak, to chocolate milk is not too much of a surprise. Men love their laziness, they love their pride, they love their spectacle. And apart from the sovereign intervention of God they will pursue these idols to their destruction. Reformed theology is the path to working out salvation with fear and trembling, there are no self affirming therapists to let you down gently, and no mediators to shield you from the awesome glory and power of the eternal and almighty God. 

The answer, hit on so well by John in Dark Night and later expounded by John Owen is Mortification of Sin. You must loose your life to save it, not satisfy it with the right religious feelings and therapeutic TED Talks sprinkled with the odd reference to a nebulous “gospel.” Calvin reminds us that our hearts are idol factories, they must be shut down. Keller continues this though with his comment that we do not so much remove idols as replace them. This is why, 

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Luther, 95 Theses

The ongoing mortification of sin can not be neglected, nor supplemented by finding other traditions (which often substitute the hard work of mortification for the different burden of works salvation penance). Mortification of sin is the natural response to the gospel. It is unavoidable, a person who neglects this, is simply not a Christian, there is no evidence for it. 

The clearness of this doctrine is what drives others to ad hominem attacks, easier to shoot the messenger than to listen to the hard message. Therefore the rise of the therapeutic seeker sensitive church, the natural on-ramp to catholicism. Both obscure the gospel, one in old tried and true ways the other in newer innovative ways. It is often that those who pitched a tent briefly in the Reformed camp have criticisms after their desertion. Our formations are too rigid, our battle lines too firm, and our sergeants too harsh. They left “traumatized.”**

“Nowadays, of course, our ears are made so sensitive by the mad multitude of flatterers that as soon as we find we are not praised in all things, we cry out that people are vicious; and when we cannot ward off the truth under any guise, we escape from it under the pretext of the snappishness, impatience, and immoderateness of its defenders.” Martin Luther, What Luther Says


As Dark Night of the Soul shows this is not a new problem. Man left in his sin is fickle and selfish. For some reason this seems to have made Reformed pastors skittish. They are quick to load the young men passing through up with good books and it seems that the hope is that by osmosis the gospel will be noticed. Again this is like serving up a properly rare ribeye to an infant, granted one who can shave. A priest can just as easily load the young man up with icons and rosaries, and he will at least give instruction for use. And that young man will trip along on his merry way to hell.

I began with Doug Wilson and I will close with him. While these young men are on their spiritual journey lets no longer waste their time trying to appease them with meeting their felt needs. Instead serve up as Wilson would describe a hot gospel, the kind that melts ice and hardens clay. And since we are Reformed, the chips will fall sovereignly where they will. 

*In the Driscoll case there were many examples of that lack on both sides to varying degrees. Wax misses the distinction between the excellence of character of, say John Piper, over and against a church boy who reads Piper books but lacks the kind of inescapable holiness Piper exudes. The ability to look spiritual while parroting theology does not equal piety. 

**”Beelzebub what a useful word” – Screwtape, Screwtape Proposes a Toast

The Stories He Tells Part 3


I really respected Kevin DeYoung’s position that it would be best to wait until the conclusion of Mike Cosper’s Rise and Fall of Mars Hill before he rendered judgement. I spent a lot of time pondering DeYoung’s thinking. He sees Cosper has having a broad story to tell and upon completion stepping back to see the whole picture will give better perspective than a lot of up close scrutiny with no knowledge of the larger whole. And perhaps DeYoung is right, Cosper could surprise us, but I doubt it. DeYoung is a very measured and charitable guy, he knows Cosper, and most of the major players in the Mars Hill implosion and in the podcast. I think his concluding comments will be insightful. All that said, I do disagree that judgement should be reserved until Cosper finishes. He has shown his hand on multiple occasions and it is clear what his point will be: Mark Driscoll is a terrible guy and every theology Cosper doesn’t like can be attached to him in a guilt by association intermittent.

Missing the Story

What is becoming increasingly apparent is that Cosper is either incapable or uninterested in treating the story with full honesty. The most glaring example in the recent episode Demon Hunting is how Cosper focuses on the more trivial offenses of Driscoll’s hodgepodge of Pentecostalism, over and above the truly damning issue. Particularly Driscoll’s claims of visions. It is enough of a problem that Driscoll has claimed multiple times to hear God speak audibly. Not because it may or may not have happened, but simply because there is never a credible witness to back him up.** It may be that Driscoll’s will is so aligned with the Spirit of God that the two of them always want to same thing and God is just giving a little kick in the pants. But I have my doubts. The bigger issue is the frankly pornographic nature of Driscoll’s visions. Cosper does make statements to the simple truth that is would be wildly outside of anything Scripture teaches about the operation of the Holy Spirit. What gums up the works is Driscoll’s claim to have not just had these visions, but that he then talked to the people that he saw about what was revealed to him. In other words if Driscoll was/is telling the truth there would be witnesses or a distinct lack thereof. 

Sam Storms did an excellent job of taking apart some of Driscoll’s other claims that were wrong or ridiculous. And that was easy to do. The real story is in this claim of visions. But rather than exploring it Cosper hoped that it would be taken as false simply by proximity to the other ridiculous things. An example is Cosper’s repeated hang up with Driscoll’s claim to read a book a day. This seems to be an exaggeration, but it could be true. I managed to read a book a day for a week. It wasn’t sustainable, and they were all of varying lengths. 365 books a year could be plowed through if a lot of them were the standard Crossway paperback. But this claim seems to rub Cosper the wrong way inordinately. And perhaps it’s because what he sees in Driscoll he sees in himself, and doesn’t like it.

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Ultimately the podcast is becoming an interesting study in the parallels between Cosper and Driscoll. Driscoll is pretty much proven to being entirely comfortable with exaggerating, embellishing, or restructuring the truth to get the narrative or result he wants. And It seems that Cosper is very much the same. On more than one occasion important facts have been ignored or omitted because they would crimp the style of the story being told. To illustrate from another book example in the episode, The Things we do to Women, Cosper wraps up claiming that he can find no one who was helped by Driscoll’s 2009, 2 Peter sermon Marriage and Men with the infamous, “Who in the hell do you think you are?” rant. Cosper makes a point of saying one person was helped by the sermon, “And they got a book deal.” The music is ominous and from the lead up you are supposed to immediately think of the scandal from Tommy Nelson where the NY Times best seller list was gamed to boost Real Marriage to the top. The problem is that at the time of the sermon Driscoll was under contract to Crossway, and had been under contract since 2008 and would continue until 2010. The Real Marriage scandal would come three years later. This kind of research I was able to do in five minutes. But it doesn’t support the tidy narrative that Cosper is weaving. While not a bald faced lie, Cosper decently does not seem to have a problem like, Rocky the Rooster in Chicken Run, “Omitting certain truths.”

The variation on this theme is how Cosper uses verbal slights of hand to misdirect the audience. A good example is from the opening of episode 9 The Bobby Knight Problem. Where Cosper starts with the story of Driscoll’s inflammatory use of the Ted Haggard scandal as a jump off point to blog about lazy wives. The effect of Driscoll’s words still lingers, evidenced by Cosper’s use in the episode to whip up offense and anger on the part of the audience. Cosper then jumps to a second story about a blog post where Driscoll commented on the (at the time) recent Episcopal election of a female bishop. suggesting that were the trend to continue Driscoll predicted the next bishop would be a pink fluffy bunny rabbit. That statement was enough to incur the organization of a protest by local Seattle lady pastors and their husbands. But in the telling Cosper cleverly arranges and edits the second statement’s position so that the rage induced by the first causes the audience to look for offense in the second and to justify the idea of a church picketing another church. However, if proper attention is paid, the first statement is not what upset the lady pastors, it was the second. The point being that, according to scripture women can not be pastors much less bishops***. This is a position in which Driscoll is firmly in line with Scripture, church history, and most christians. His joke about fluffy bunnies is in all actuality, quite funny. The game Cosper often plays is one of obfuscation under the guise of being thorough. Cosper, rightly, takes issue with Driscoll constructing narratives to get the desired results. Perhaps he should consider evaluating his own storytelling through the same lens.


I had said in an above heading pot calling the kettle black. But perhaps the better quote would be from In the Loop, “It’s more like a kettle calling a kettle a kettle!” Cosper may not make things up out of whole cloth, but he is absolutely prone to using innuendo, obfuscation, and exaggeration to enhance his forgone conclusion. The Mars Hill story needs to be told, and told honestly, and more than likely Driscoll will not come out looking well. What then is the point of trying to convince audiences that Driscoll is worse than he is? Is he still such a threat to Mike Cosper that a fair hearing is simply out of the question? 

Kevin DeYoung is a smart guy, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that a play is being run. And it is being run on many of the things DeYoung places very heavy emphasis on. Maybe this isn’t one of those times when waiting until the end is the best thing to do.

Post Script

I figure if Cosper can give short episodes or one off interviews that distantly relate to the topic at hand I can similarly tack on something here. It should be noted again that the sources used in the podcast are frequently presented as experts and therefore reliable but manifestly are not. There are some that are orthodox Christians, have said damning things about Driscoll and should be heeded. Such as Ed Stetzer, Paul David Tripp, Rachel Denhollander****, Collin Hansen, and Sam Storms. But the list of “experts” trotted out that are at best unorthodox or heretics at worst is disturbing. Kristin Du Mez, Rose Madrid Swetman, and Sarah Bessie, Kyle Howard, Joshua Harris, and Doug Pagitt is just the tip of the iceberg. While not straight up dishonest (and probably more of a clear sign of where CT stands today in relation the to church) the commingling of reliable voices with wolves among us is somewhere between four pinocchio’s and pants on fire.

*The previous installments of this ongoing critique can be found here, here, and here.

**It can be argued that in his being “released” from Mars Hill Grace Driscoll claims to have heard the same thing. And again that may be entirely true. But the pattern seems to be that God exclusively speaks to Driscoll when he is alone and it is always in line with what Driscoll wants to do.

***I do not accept the office of bishop formally. So if a lady pastor is a contradiction in terms then lady bishop doubly so.

****While I have nearly all good things to say about Denhollender her continued association with Boz Tchividjian is a deep concern. Boz is at best an ambulance chaser, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that he is an out and out devil. Hopefully Denhollender will recognize this sooner rather than later.

We are a Danger

So Carl Trueman got banned from youtube recently. It would be super easy to get on a moral high horse about the totalitarian tech giants, or progressive left, or the oversensitivity of the progressive snowflakes. It would be easily because there are few who are as well reasoned, educated, and gentle as Trueman. However, I would be able to add little to what has already been said in excess. And even in what I will write I am 99.9% certain that someone recently has said the same thing better than I. However, it occurred to me the real reason that there is such a slew of silenced, cancelled or blocked conservatives or dissenters from the orthodoxy is simply because, in many cases they are well reasoned or just plain correct.

Let us assume first the position of correctness, I’ll take well reasoned next. What Trueman was saying was simply true. 

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – John Adams

Truth is a threat to peddlers of, and believers in, lies. As Christians we believe the Truth. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He simply can not be effectively argued against, therefore he must be shouted down or refused an audience. In a way we should not be surprised that the cancellation comes. Even in the case of popular conservatives who would be seen as a nominal or un-christian. There is a bedrock of truth in what they would say, and that is a danger to the lie so even in such small doses they too must be shut down.

Secondly, we’ll take reason. The truth is stated and the evidence for its veracity is presented. This has the effect of edifying those present that they are not alone and there are good reasons for why they believe the truth they believe. But clear reasoning is also a threat to lies, for the adherent to a falsehood their world is taken apart brick by brick and the truth is erected in its place. There is a reason college students spend so much time pulling fire alarms and screaming over speakers they have never even heard. They intuitively know to give a hearing to reason will cause their house of cards to wobble if not collapse. They are being as honest as the children I teach who refuse to believe in Christ because they know they will have to give up their sins. Lost men love lies, they love sin, they are idolaters.

I wonder if the astonishment of conservatives that watch silencing and cancelations has some basis in that they didn’t really believe their message had any power and were shocked and surprised when it did.

Ultimately the kind of treatment that is seen commonly should not come as a surprise. Except for perhaps how long it took the left to catch on. but thus has it ever been. Stephen found it out the hard way. He could not be argued with and so the Sanhedrin had him killed. I hold to the view that he was debating Saul the golden student of Gamaliel and when Saul realized he lost he cheated by having Stephen killed. But that loss ate away at him which is why you see such escalation in his assaults on the early church, “breathing threats and violence.” This is why mobs are never satisfied with just one silencing, they know they have lost, so they continue to breath threats and violence. Ironically, little did Saul know that he too would be silenced and canceled in Emmaus in short order, become Paul and suffer much more of the same across his missionary journeys. Paul was a danger to the prevailing beliefs because he knew and preached the truth. In the same way, as holders of the truth there should be no surprise when we are assaulted, we are a clear and present danger to the lie and the spirit of this age. The only difference between our days and the past is the disdain for the truth is no longer cloaked behind smiles and talk of tolerance. The quiet part has been said out loud and that was deemed a good thing.

Proverbs 31 2.0

This is an annual update of a post I wrote last year around this time, which can be found here, if you have any interest. A good bit has been rewritten to include new material as my wife continues to do such an excellent job of exemplifying this passage. And as I said last year the point is not to brag, this is simply one of my ways to honor my wife.


An excellent wife who can find? Done! Not the brag, but I found one. Seriously, I am not trying to brag. I would like to take this particular post and honor my excellent wife, N. My goal is not so much instruction as to simply praise the really lovely woman I married. 

First a few ground rules. We are only four years in so there are a few parts of Proverbs 31 that we have not gotten to yet. I take it that the description is of an older women, e.g. not a lot of preschoolers are rising up to call her blessed. Therefore in the areas that we have not reached in our marriage I will skip over. I also plan to revisit this yearly if we have covered something new and I will update. 

10 An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

I mean really, N is just fantastic. If she were prideful enough to write this her exact quote should be, “nailed it.”

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

A few years ago a friend summed up N this way, “she can be incredibly irritating, but has character all over the place.” I realize this is a backhanded complement but live with anyone long enough and the truth of it sinks in.** Character outweighs any irritant, sometimes it is the irritant simply because it dictates what is right when wrong is calling out. The character N possesses is strong and it not only does me good but does for other people. I find it ironic how sometimes N is seen as an old school harsh because of her flat out honesty, but when the crisis comes she is the one people go to because she won’t lie to them.

13 She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

I am an avid indoorsman, I hate all things involving nature, up to and including lawn care. N, on the other hand, loves all things yard oriented. She mows the front yard twice, once in each direction, and then rakes it. Which is far more than I could be convinced to do. But more than that she wrangles her many flowerbeds and other outdoors projects. This past spring one of our trees fell across are yard. N, having half a day off of work, borrowed a neighbors chainsaw and cut a good bit of it up while I was at work. For weeks she drug debris to the curb… our curb, our neighbors curb, the other neighbors curb. If she thought she could have convinced the people across the street I am pretty sure she would have put limbs on their side too. So yeah, willing hands.

14 She is like the ships of the merchant;

she brings her food from afar.

Specifically Whiskey. Not only does this wonderful woman, when she is out traveling, look for things that we can’t find in Memphis; but sometimes she surprises me with a random rare whiskey. Recently it was a very good Kavalan. A very good Kavalan. From Taiwan. And then she found two more! The exact quote from my friends were “I would deduce that she loves you” and “that is true love.” 

15 She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.

This time around I am going to focus on her providing food and portions. Recently I hosted a lads night where I contributed the whiskey tasting. But the entire evening would have been a failure had my wife not spread out a delicious meal for the lot of us. The portions were so huge and even after that was struck when Hudson was walking around with the bowl of remaining taco meat merrily forking it in. The gents were not exactly maidens but still they are adjunct to our household and the joy they express at her faithfulness in preparing and serving up such feasts is astounding. I can not think of a time when she has not planned ahead for hospitality and excelled in everyones expectations.

16 She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

We have not bought a field but she was the driving force behind us buying a house and land. I hate change and had burrowed into my apartment like the little tick I am. And the place was perfect for one (The horror on my landlords face when she realized I had painted everything and built floor to ceiling, wall to wall bookshelves was incredible.) That said she also does a lot of planting, we don’t have a vineyard… yet, but she did plant hops which are more valuable in home brewing.

17 She dresses herself with strength

and makes her arms strong.

N does far better than me at making her “arms strong” She works hard at exercise, which I hate. With a passion. Beyond this, and I know this is a bit outside of the direct point, N has a strength of character and conviction that is intimidating to others. I hear pastors talking about wanting their daughters to, “grow up to be a beast.” Well I got one of those. Not only is she physically strong but she has the character to match.

18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

19 She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.

N doesn’t really sell stuff. We buy more from Etsy than we sell. She does a decent amount of sewing. She doesn’t like it, but she does it. And she does a good job several of my favorite shirts and sweaters have had their lives extended due to her. (If you read last years version there was a comment about our lamps all going out at night due to N’s thriftiness with the utility bill. In that time I have convinced her to leave three LED lamps on at night so I can see my way around if I need to.)

20 She opens her hand to the poor

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

I will submit to the record an evening when I has meeting with an old friend, and as he and I sat on the porch with cigars and and scotch a rain storm blew in. As we enjoyed the exciting weather from the relative comfort of our smoky porch I saw a neighbor woman walk by, soaked to to bone and barefoot. My first thought was it was a typical midtown hipster out for a euphoric walk in the rain. But then she walked by a second time, on the third she turned up our driveway and walked weeping onto our porch. As I seated her and offered her water to drink she tried to apologize for walking up so suddenly, she had fought with her new husband and walked out upset. This was something of a bind. While this poor woman needed care, I didn’t want to kick out my friend who I had not seen for several years. Saw this predicament and came out. She comforted the woman for a while then welcomed her into our house. She subtly seated the woman so that they were still in eye sight, just in case, and cared for her while I was able to continue catching up with my friend. At the end of the evening he told me how he had never seen anyone spring into hospitable action like that or a married couple being so in sync on how they did it. It would not have been so smooth or even so effortless if it were not for the excellence of my wife.

21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,

for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes bed coverings for herself;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Ok, I am a ginger so not a lot of scarlet is being worn by me. I’m gonna take this one to talk about how N is modest in her dress. She does not come off as the kind of homeschooler that sews their own gingham dresses. Nor does she follow every wind of fashion. N does a good job of presenting herself publicly. She is never ostentatious not shabby. With the occasional exception of a particular grey hoodie she won’t let die making an appearance, she is never an embarrassment to be seen with. Also she does a great job with bed linens, buying, cleaning, rotating seasonally… I feel like that goes with the, “Bed coverings” bit.

23 Her husband is known in the gates

when he sits among the elders of the land.

If I may stretch this one a tad. One of N’s qualities is how she recognizes and respects the need for me to spend time with other men, unobstructed. In one of the episodes of Kevin DeYoung’s Life Books and Everything podcast he talks about how churches with women in elder meetings changes the tone of the meeting. And the principal applies to gatherings of Christian men. N hates to be left out of things but she has learned that when she inserts herself the point of the gathering shifts and sometimes the conversations that needed to happen don’t. Because she graciously gives distance not only are those time with men productive and edifying for all involved but she also gains their trust. More often than not it is my friends who invite her to join us, they appreciate her perspective and company. Her authority in our group grows not because she has grasped and grabbed for it but because she has accepted responsibility for herself and protecting things that matter. Conversely, I have a friend who’s wife does insert and assert herself and frequently it leads to everyone being put of sorts. Part of my good reputation with other men lies not in my own wisdom or charm but in my wife’s self-control.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them;

she delivers sashes to the merchant.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.

I pointed out last year that this section is about financial responsibility. And this year N’s work in this area really came to the fore. if 2020 was rough for the nation and great for me. 2021 has made up for lost time. We hit some major financial hurdles and N was not only prepared but had ways to navigate them where we were lacking. Money is yet another area where I have the competence of a P.G. Wodehouse lead. N’s planning and ability to figure out things was stunning to watch.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

This one is kind of N’s job description since we teach kids together as our work. That being said she teaches wisely with the young women she disciples. And though she does not like or always follow southern social mores she is very kind. Even when someone has been insulted they heard the truth in what N meant as a kindness. 

27 She looks well to the ways of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

While we never went hungry as children, I can not say that my sisters and I ate “good food.” Which is what makes N’s culinary abilities such a pleasure. While not a great chef, she makes the kind of hearty, solid, generous fare that I love, and she makes it well. As I write she is working on some sort of steak and potato dish, similar to a shepherds pie but with an American twist. A great irony is that with my obsession with Hobbits or the British manor house, the idea of a packed larder has always deeply appealed to me. And now while not exactly a cool underground room with a wheel of parmesan to chip away at next to the wine rack (which is really a scotch shelf) she has us so well stocked that it’s almost embarrassing with the options available. N shops far and wide in our area finding deals and storing up. It is hard work, unloading her car after a grocery run is like a comestible Christmas morning. 

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

We still don’t have any kids, but I can testify to how my friends praise N.  Over the past year my Thursdays have become a lads night beginning at my beloved Hammer and eventually moving to the house. Somewhere in that space food is needed to forfend the sin of drunkenness. N either prepares a meal or lays out a spread of snack-age. As the group has continued to grow, N’s renown has. Wether it is a mountain of cheese sticks with a volcanic center of marinara, or a cheese board stacked with creamy fromages that complement dark cigars, down to a pile of chicken nuggets with sauces; the fact that she feeds us and then leaves us alone gains her much praise. And the last bit is also an important part. As mentioned above I have sat with many men whose wives tend to treat them as one more of the children, someone to be supervised or must be attended to constantly. As Lewis describes through Screwtape: “A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy’s service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man.” My N understands that taking trouble constantly produces the opposite effect of actually giving trouble. She has demonstrated many times that once we are set, and it is a night for men, we can refill our own water pitchers. This earns her much praise, from the other men who find our house to be a place where they can freely fellowship in a rough and ready way without interruptions or looking over their shoulder so as not to cause offense by merely being men. Rather than being resented my wife is praised both to her face and behind her back.

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Matt Chandler is fond of reminding young couples that are, for lack of a better description, horny and driven by attraction that, “Gravity wins.” Beauty is like chasing after the wind, even outside of human beauty which ages and fades, or even vogues determine what kind of girl is beautiful. Beauty in general is fleeting. Think of the flower in bloom that withers and dies and then in striving to hold on to the beauty is replaced with a fake version that gathers dust, cobwebs, and if left in the sun fades to one monochrome shade of yellow.*** Charm likewise can cover many flaws early on. But character, which is rooted in the character of Christ only grows and becomes more attractive. In the summer N and I work at a camp for three weeks and each week we have a new batch of young high school age volunteers. Many of them are in the bloom of youth and are attractive people, they are drawn to each other. But it always fascinates me working with the boys how at the end of the week the most beautiful girl can become unattractive because of how camp brings out the worst in people. It’s hard labor, and frankly always being outdoors in the mid south, in July, quickly renders the ability to remain dolled up impossible. Tempers can flare, irritation grows more quickly, 80 kids put a real harsh on romantic vibes. But the girls with character… They become more interesting to the boys, because they consistently manifest the fruits of the Spirit, even under pressure. Camp provides these young men with a perspective I have known for some time now. A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. And pursued.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the gates.

I love how this proverb returns us to the gates, where a person is held in honor. It is an exposition on a Biblical principal. Authority flows to those who take responsibility; not to those who grasp and grab for it. The modern thought is that respect should be demanded by women, they have to force themselves into the boys club. And many current writers trying to exegete this extended proverb assert this thinking. But the flow of the passage shows that the authority and respect are earned. After all of the other works are accomplished the public acknowledgement and reward comes at the end. Like everything else in life what matters most is not the first day, but the last one. Whenever N and I travel up north to her home it always stuns me how respected she is everywhere she goes. Churches bend over backwards to come have her speak about missions. She spent her entire life (up until I drug her down here) building up the kind of reputation where she is praised everywhere she goes. And she has started doing it here. Her work and character make praise naturally flow to her.

*Following Lewis example in his personal letters I am using first initials. Update 2021: I am still floored by the fact I get to say, “my wife.”

**Granted I could say the same thing about his wife so, it’s sort of a mutual thing. 

***Stole that idea from Bekah Merkle.

Wilson’s Gay Sermon

I like Doug Wilson, a lot. I am profoundly grateful for his sermons on fathers in the home and in the church. His lecture on Calvinism and Lewis is what pushed me over the edge into Reformed theology. I can not listen to The Romance of Protestantism without weeping. When he is on he is on. However, there are those times when I am wrenching at my head because he seems to be gleefully blasting away at his feet with a Colt 45. A prime example of this was his presentation at the recent Cross-politic conference in my neck of the woods.

Now I am very sure this was meant in the spirit of Chestertonian Calvinism. And it reads in exactly the manner you would expect, a macho call to the men, some snide humor about the left, and what I am sure in his view is a “hot gospel.” And while there is not a specific point that I would disagree with in the sermon. While his basic premise may be correct, how he tackles it is clearly the kind of problem that is endemic to him. Unfortunately it is yet another example of his worst impulses being cheered on by like minded people. And these are pretty much the last people that need to hear the message. I go back to Piper’s assessment of Wilson from years ago, “Doug Wilson is a very smart guy, but he is surrounded by idiots.” The Cross-politic gang and followers suffer from the same problem as Wilson, They are right on the merits of their argument, but how they argue is not as tart and winsome as they think. There is a difference between being right and being an ass. I know I have crossed that line plenty of times myself. The gospel is enough of an offense on it’s own and doesn’t need us adding any flamboyant accessories to make it more noxious to a lost and dying world.*

But more so, this particular lecture is the kind of short sighted work that does nothing in the short term for the audience and more damage to Wilson himself in the long term. As I pointed out earlier there is not one point I would disagree with on the face of the thing. But in how those points are fleshed out. This just becomes yet another sermon that Wilson’s enemies can point back to in order to bolster their claim that he is a bigot and a looser. It is written in such a way that makes it easy to not only ignore the points but to discount them entirely because of how they were made, which is what his enemies really want. Which is what enemies of the gospel really want. Ignore the truth, by attacking ad hominem or guilt by association.

There is a rule of comedy that you always punch up, never down. This lecture is an example of punching down. The audience is tried and true and in agreement, so basically it becomes open season on the straw-man of a liberal painted in words from the lectern.** It makes for a fruitless time, more akin to the kind of motivational speaking in pulpits that gives Wilson the willies. Preaching to his choir may be fun, but ultimately useless, because what pleases that choir is a stumbling block to those who actually need to hear the base message. If you read the talk you will realize very quickly that Doug managed to do exactly what he was railing against, “being gay in the pulpit.”

*It is an interesting thought experiment to play around with the distinction between Wilsons flame throwing accessorizing as an attractional model and some other guy adding on to his style with lasers and video clips…

**I am not assuming in the least that Wilson would have any qualms giving this talk again in a hostile crowd. The man has a spine of steel. I would contend, again, that the style would be wildly unhelpful. But I am in no way suggesting that Wilson would not put his money where his mouth is. He has demonstrated this many times and with the kind of grace, charm, and intelligence that know and love him for. 

Edified by Wasted Time

I had an interesting dinner the other night. My guest was a ruling elder at one of the largest (if not the largest) Presbyterian churches in our fair city. Over our second scotch and after a lengthy discussion of the original series Star Trek movies, he suddenly shifted the topic. He brought up everything we had previously discussed including English and Celtic history, swords, scotch, Calvinism, and Trek. Then said how it was so rare for him to meet anyone who was Reformed and interested in all of these things. I was stunned, this is the world I live in. I, apparently, take for granted the fact that I am surrounded by men who find these kinds of topics to be as common as air. And yet here was an older man who had not found anything like that in his substantial church.

That evening has made me far more grateful for what I have. As I write I am holding down my table at Hammer and Ale for the men who join me weekly for our lads night. We started with four and, frankly, I have lost count of how many count themselves as part of our fellowship. We start here over a pint then progress to dinner and finally to my deck for cigars and a whisky tasting. All but our new, and now resident, papist are deeply reformed and all are nerdy. We tend to be out late into the night jovially debating, or discussing. It is all very hail fellows and well met, and at the end, though tired, I am always edified.

I am grateful for this group first because, in the providence of god we have found one another. But more than that the genuine goodness of this group is, apparently, astoundingly rare. To the outside world it probably would look something like an average group of men hunkered around at table over pints, occasionally exploding with laughter, but that is all. In reality there are all manner of little moments of correction, encouragement, and “spurring one another on to love and good deeds.” And all of that held together by a web of our intertwining likes and ultimately our faith which is the strong tether that grounds all. 

I have stumbled into something good. I hope to share it soon with my new friend. And I greatly look forward to seeing what he gets and what he will give.

“Drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.” Carl Trueman, On the Virtues of Wasting Time*


Heresy for Dummies

The nice thing about living in these fascinating modern times is that now heresy is both fun and safe. Gone are the days where you would get the old hot foot for thinking the wrong thing out loud. Sure there is still that niggling little detail of eternal damnation dangling over your head; but being a heretic means you just shove that aside and proceed merrily down the gentle slope into the outer darkness. And never before have the options for different heresies been so readily available. No longer do you have to do the hard work of coming up with a new thought that offends the sensibilities of the established orthodoxy. Now after a few spastic minutes googling you can light upon an established line of thought that is sure to offend your friends and family. You are a fly and the world is full of cow pies, just pick one!

But why spend time on a search engine looking for the turd of a theological position that most appeals to you? Southern Reformed Smoker is proud to present our pasture of damnable options! All the cows have been herded into one meadow and they have laid their manure nicely in that field of dreams. For the heresy curious all they have to do is look around and pick which one they want. So in no specific order…


This is an ideal choice for the college or middle-aged-but-still-trying-to-look-cool Presbyterian. It enjoys a subtile denial of inerrancy but stated in such a way that you can start shrieking any criticism is unfair and not at all what you said. Also there is a robust support for the “Alphabet People” but not so much that you could be accused of being a Methodist. And naturally, all the baby splashing a man could ask for. Finally Cumberland’s Presbys are really gaining traction on a new hire, soon they can claim to have Cumberland Cumberbatch in a Cucumber Cummerbund.*

The Cons are that no matter how hard you try Kevin DeYoung will always trounce your arguments in the kindest but most demoralizing ways. Eventually you will have to give up all the bits of Westminster that you did like for old times sake; and suddenly the whole thing will seem kind of pointless.


I am sure that there is a distinction here to be made, but the baseline is the same. As Garrison Keillor described, “That one is all, and all is one, and God is a column of air vibrating.” You get to wear caftans, church attendance is optional, as well as lots of finger paint and experimental dance. You get to trot out your dibs on George MacDonald incase a doctrinaire Christian raises an eyebrow at you.

Cons are, you look ridiculous. Your lady lesbian “pastor” is probably as bald as a crenshaw mellon and that gaudy scarf is simply not doing enough to distract from the cranial sheen. Do you think she waxes that chrome dome? And she is just the start, those leggings and that poncho you started wearing are not as freeing as you thought they would be, are they sir? 


There is a lot of shouting in this one, Hell is very real and for all of those hippies, liberals, and Jews. Mel Gibson would fit in seamlessly; if he weren’t already too deep in to another group (see below). But you do have Carrie A. Nation who made sure you never have a drink, or any fun. You never have to see a woman’s ankle due to the homemade gingham gowns that are required, and you can keep the dust from settling on them with the doilies placed on their hair. Which is exactly what Paul was aiming at in 1 Corinthians, so much time is saved by not needing to dust the women. If anyone like Jesus points out that you are a son of the devil you can always just shout at them, preferably on a box, with a megaphone. Pro tip. If you decide to throw your KJV Bible at someone make sure you go overhand and use a hardcover, leather bound is too floppy to stay on target.

Cons, eventually you are an angry virgin burning in Hell.


Similar to the Universalist/Unitarian but your priest dresses up like Liberace’s stunt double every Sunday. Nothing says tradition like a man in a dress. There is so much equality here that the only time you will see a woman in a dress is Sunday and if she is your priest. This basically has all the high church shenanigans of Catholicism but without the guilt. Though you will occasionally have to give some lip service to doctrine, in reality, there is none here, no god, and no salvation. A proper triple threat!

Cons, African bishops keep harshing your leftward mellow, and you aren’t allowed to say racist things about them anymore to vent your frustration. At some point in the near future you will start to feel the need to trade in this heresy for a more Roman model.


Have you ever burnt down a building? Have you ever wanted to burn down a building? Then this is the one for you! The freshest of all so far. Also more screaming and feeling self righteous than any legalist could ever dream of. And basically if you just smash some capital letters together you can found an entirely new denomination in this brand spanking new religion. Behold: “I speak for the oppressed ALT people.” So easy, you can figure out who exactly those people are after you have torched a government office, printed t-shirts, bought a 1.4 million dollar home, retweeted AOC, canceled Ben Shapiro (but not because he is Jewish… though you hate them too), thrown an off brand can of soup at a cop, and screamed at the sky after remembering that Trump is still alive. Sure it’s a works righteousness, but somebody has got to do it.

Cons, there will come a day when your own privilege will exceed your oppression and then you will be sacrificed upon the alter of Twitter.


Here is a real niche one. But if you are looking for an opportunity to confuse and irritate friends and family this is it. If you were raised Presbyterian right away you will make enemies and set up some persecution for yourself. But if you began life as a regular Baptist it will be a little harder. I would recommend moving to prophesying about the end of the world in Swiss or German as soon as humanly possible. Resist the urge to make a rapture chart though that will only set you back, as as you will be seen as just dated, southern Baptist, and eccentric. Baptize as many people in your bathtub at home as you can or in the summer attend multiple pool parties and dunk everyone. 

Cons, the obnoxious behavior may actually be enough to for your friends to consider that since you love going under water so much it would be worth their while to purchase rope and a fishing boat…

Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox

The Coca-cola Classic of heresies. Funky hats, smells, bells, pedophelia, and blatant idol worship. This one has it all. You get to pretend that you are better than the average protestant by pointing to a bunch of old stuff that they ditched for very good reasons. Also how smart will you feel trying to explain the difference between worship and veneration, solecism fallacies be damned! You know the latin Latira and Dulia, and there is no way God could have headed that one off at the pass with the second commandment.  

Cons: really, it’s going to be the issue of Jesus having you booted into Hell by his brothers for saying stupid stuff about his moms virginity, and praying to her more than you did him. If you are Roman you also have to put up with the current Pope claiming to be one of you. If you are Eastern you have to put up with the current Putin claiming to be one of you.

Become French

Not so much a heresy but damnable none the less. Alternately you could become David French and still get to live in America but be no less obnoxious.

Cons, lack of bathing and BO.


So there you have it veritable smorgasbord of heresies for you to choose from. Sure I left out cults but those are so 1970, like Iris Optical glasses, they didn’t work for David Koresh and Mormonism won’t work for you (unless you are really into holy under-britches). Alternately you could simply remain in the true church where we stand firm on sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria.

*Yes John Oliver started that