February 17: Leviticus 4:12; John 19:16–18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 13:11–13; 1 Peter 4:13; Genesis 1:27; Psalm 17:15; Acts 17:29; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:4–5; Ephesians 2:10; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 21:7
“All the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood.”
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him.—For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.—Share his sufferings.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.—For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.Leviticus 4:12 (Listen)
(ESV)John 19:16–18 (Listen) The Crucifixion
So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
(ESV)2 Corinthians 4:17 (Listen)
(ESV)Philippians 3:10 (Listen)
(ESV)Hebrews 13:11–13 (Listen)
11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(ESV)1 Peter 4:13 (Listen)
(ESV)Evening: Genesis 1:27; Psalm 17:15; Acts 17:29; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:4–5; Ephesians 2:10; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 21:7
So God created man in his own image.
“Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.”
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.—For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.—When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”—And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with ChristGenesis 1:27 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 17:15 (Listen)
(ESV)Acts 17:29 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 8:17 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 8:29 (Listen)
(ESV)Ephesians 2:4–5 (Listen)
4 But1 God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—Footnotes
 2:4 Or And
(ESV)Ephesians 2:10 (Listen)
(ESV)1 John 3:2 (Listen)
2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears1 we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.Footnotes
 3:2 Or when it appears
(ESV)Revelation 21:7 (Listen)
February 16: Psalm 8:1; Proverbs 18:10; Song of Solomon 1:3; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23; John 12:3; John 14:15; Acts 4:13; Romans 5:5; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:9–10; Colossians 2:9; 1 Peter 2:7; Psalm 38:4; Psalm 38:9; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:22–23; 1...
Your name is oil poured out.
Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.—So the honor is for you who believe.—Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.—For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”—God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.—The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.—And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.—“Immanuel” (which means, God with us).—His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.—The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.Psalm 8:1 (Listen) How Majestic Is Your Name To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith.1 A Psalm of David.
 8:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
(ESV)Proverbs 18:10 (Listen)
(ESV)Song of Solomon 1:3 (Listen)
(ESV)Isaiah 9:6 (Listen)
(ESV)Matthew 1:23 (Listen)
(ESV)John 12:3 (Listen)
3 Mary therefore took a pound1 of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.Footnotes
 12:3 Greek litra; a litra (or Roman pound) was equal to about 11 1/2 ounces or 327 grams
(ESV)John 14:15 (Listen) Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
(ESV)Acts 4:13 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 5:5 (Listen)
(ESV)Ephesians 5:2 (Listen)
(ESV)Philippians 2:9–10 (Listen)
(ESV)Colossians 2:9 (Listen)
(ESV)1 Peter 2:7 (Listen)
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”1
 2:7 Greek the head of the corner
(ESV)Evening: Psalm 38:4; Psalm 38:9; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:22–23; 1 Corinthians 15:53–54; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Peter 1:6; 2 Peter 1:14
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened.
O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you…. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.—Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
The whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.—Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.
The putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.—For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”Psalm 38:4 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 38:9 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 7:24 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 8:22–23 (Listen)
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
(ESV)1 Corinthians 15:53–54 (Listen)
53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
(ESV)2 Corinthians 5:4 (Listen)
(ESV)1 Peter 1:6 (Listen)
(ESV)2 Peter 1:14 (Listen)
The Story: A significant portion of practicing Christians reject evangelism. Could it be because they also reject the doctrine of hell?
The Background: A new Barna report, based on research commissioned by Alpha USA, looks at the views on evangelism by practicing Christians (defined in the report as those who identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church within the past month).
Almost all practicing Christians believe that part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus (ranging from 95 percent to 97 percent among all generational groups), and that the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus (94 percent to 97 percent). Almost all practicing Christians (ranging from 86 percent to 92 percent) also say they know how to respond when someone raises questions about faith, and a majority of each generational group (ranging from 56 percent to 73 percent) believes they are gifted at sharing their faith with other people
Yet despite recognizing the importance of telling people about Christ and claiming to know how to share their faith, a significant portion of practicing Christians say it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.
Almost half of all Millenials (those ages 20 to 34) say it is wrong to share one’s beliefs, as do more than one in four (27 percent) Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 53), and one in five Boomers (ages 54 to 72) and Elders (age 73 and older).
What It Means: As Penn Jillette, half of the magician duo Penn & Teller, once asked, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize,” the famous atheist said. “I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”
Perhaps it’s the case that many evangelicals truly do hate their neighbors. But the more likely explanation is they do not believe in the existence of hell.
We know hell exists because Jesus—the one through whom all things were created (John 1:3; Col. 1:16)—tells us that hell exists. For example, in Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
In fact, Jesus has more to say about hell than he does about heaven. Jesus uses the term gehenna (which is translated as “hell”) a dozen times in the Gospels, and uses synonyms involving fire about 20 times. He also describes it in vivid detail, saying it is a place of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30), and eternal torment (Luke 16:23). He says it is where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matt. 13:42), and a place from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31).
More than anyone else in the Bible, Jesus talked about the doctrine of hell because he wants us to take it seriously. As Leslie Schmucker explains,
Jesus has to talk about hell because it is the fate that awaits all people apart from him. Because of Adam’s sin, we’re all guilty and deserve God’s eternal punishment. Contrary to popular belief, hell is not a place where God sends those who have been especially bad; it’s our default destination. We need a rescuer or we stand condemned.
You cannot believe in the Jesus of the Gospels and not believe in hell. Jesus doesn’t give us that option. You can also not love your neighbor and be apathetic about their spending eternity in hell. Jesus doesn’t give us that option either. If we believe Jesus and love our neighbor we will bring the doctrine of hell back into our churches.
“[W]e should shudder at churches that don’t know what it means to shudder about hell, Trevin Wax says. “I don’t know how you can take Jesus’s message seriously and miss that glaring and frequent aspect of his teaching. Mock ‘fire and brimstone preachers’ all you want, but take care that in the process, you’re not mocking Jesus himself.”
If Christianity is true, why do so many Christians act in horrific, un-Christlike ways? Why has Christian history been so consistently tarnished with war, violence, and oppression? Why should one believe Jesus is God if so much evil has been done in his name?
These questions represent one of the most popular objections to Christianity today. They are good questions: questions Christians should take seriously and know how to answer; questions that should chasten us and cause us to commit to living in ways that don’t besmirch the name of Jesus.
Thankfully, an excellent new documentary, For the Love of God: How the Church Is Better and Worse than You Ever Imagined, features Christians honestly and soberly considering these questions.Christian History: The Horror
A production of the Center for Public Christianity (CPX), an Australian Christian nonprofit devoted to using media to enhance the public understanding of Christian faith, the documentary is hosted by John Dickson (CPX founding director), Simon Smart (CPX executive director), and Justine Toh (CPX senior research fellow). It opens in Jerusalem with a description of one of the many atrocities of the Crusades, and for the next 90 minutes it does not shy away from the ugly episodes of Christian history.
The film crisscrosses the globe, recounting various dark episodes in Christian history. In Belfast, for example, Smart ponders the religious violence that occurred in Northern Ireland over three decades. “How do people who claim a religious faith reconcile what happened here with what they believe?” he asks.
John Lennox, who grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and whose family’s store was bombed for employing both Protestants and Catholics, is interviewed in the film.
“I’m utterly ashamed of it,” he says. “I’m ashamed that the name of Christ has even been associated with a bomb or an AK-47. For the simple reason that people who do that are not following Christ. They are disobeying him.”
Shame indeed. So many horrors have been committed by people who claim the name—and even more troublingly, the cause—of Christ: wars, slavery, colonial oppression, the subjugation of women, segregationist policies, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and on and on. How do we reckon with all this? For the Love of God leans into this question.Christian History: The Heroic
But just as the documentary doesn’t shy away from the evils done by so-called Christians in history, neither does it shy away from celebrating the many ways Christian influence has shaped the world positively.
The film notes how ideas taken for granted in today’s world—universal human rights, the innate dignity of persons regardless of their utility, or even that humility is a desirable quality—came from Christianity. The arrival of Christianity and its theology of imago Dei revolutionized the way vulnerable populations fared in the Greco-Roman world, where barbaric practices like infant exposure were normal and equality between the sexes was a foreign concept.
The film shows how Christ’s teachings to love your enemy (Matt. 5:44) and turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:38–40) inspired the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King Jr., while the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37 (among other teachings) inspired a humanitarian emphasis that has characterized Christianity throughout its history. From early Christians in Rome caring for the sick and dying (not just their own, but everyone) to Mother Teresa and modern-day Good Samaritans like Kent Brantley, Nancy Writebol, and Rick Sacra, followers of Jesus have constantly been inspired to enter harm’s way to care for the vulnerable.
Throughout Christian history, followers of Jesus have constantly been inspired to enter harm’s way to care for the vulnerable.
Though at times the “good Christian” examples are a bit too predictable (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr.), the documentary does shine the light on lesser-known heroes. I enjoyed learning about Father Damien of Molokai, who gave his life to serving a leper colony in Hawaii, and the Serampore Trio of English missionaries (including William Carey) whose impact in India included launching a college and succeeding in efforts to outlaw infanticide and the killing of widows through the practice called sati.
There are countless other examples, of course. A film of this topic really could (should!) be a multi-season, long Netflix documentary (For the Love of God does have a longer version of four one-hour episodes). But with limited time, this film does a good job selecting illustrative examples and moving the narrative along at a concise clip.Tuning Our Song to Jesus
As documentaries go, For the Love of God is well-produced and compelling. It features a who’s who of historians, philosophers, and theologians weighing in on the good and bad of church history—scholars like David Bentley Hart, Lynn Cohick, William Cavanaugh, Miroslav Volf, Rodney Stark, and Christopher Tyerman, among many others. Some are more generous than others as to how Christianity comes off in the final analysis, but none is utterly damning in their critique. This is one area where the film could have been even stronger, perhaps: a willingness to give voice to truly stinging, well-articulated critiques of Christianity and its oft-ugly legacy. If Christians are to winsomely answer these arguments, we need films like this to engage them, presenting the strongest version (not the easily refutable version) of the anti-Christian critique.
What is the best answer to these critiques? This documentary uses a helpful musical metaphor to suggest a possible response.
“It’s easy to dismiss the religion of Jesus Christ on account of the many sins of his followers,” Smart says in the film. “But perhaps it’s too easy, like judging a piece of music on the basis of a bad performance.”
As we watch a cellist performing Bach, Smart continues: “A bad delivery doesn’t diminish the genius of the original composition.”
A bad delivery doesn’t diminish the genius of the original composition.
How consistently have Christians played the melody of Jesus, the new tune he gave the world? It’s an open question—a convicting question the film carefully engages.
“When Christians have played out of tune with Jesus,” Toh observes, “the results have been disastrous.”
Indeed. The dissonance of Christians living “out of tune” with Jesus has often sounded like nails on a chalkboard to the world—repulsive noise that attracts no one to the gospel. But when Christians have played the tune well, in harmony with Jesus, the song has been beautiful—an attractive symphony that can soften hearts to the gospel.
Are we playing in tune with Jesus, or are we hijacking his melodies to riff in our own way? For the Love of God challenges us to consider this question. For the love of God, and for the love of his world, may our lives sing a Jesus song.
February 15: Psalm 14:2–3; Proverbs 20:9; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 7:18–19; Romans 8:8; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 3:22; 1 John 1:8–9; Psalm 56:3; Psalm 89:8–9; Psalm 93:3–4; Isaiah 43:2; Jeremiah 5:22; Matthew 14:29–31
Who can say, “I have made my heart pure”?
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.—Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.—We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.—In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.—If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Psalm 14:2–3 (Listen)
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,1
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
 14:2 Or that act wisely
(ESV)Proverbs 20:9 (Listen)
(ESV)Isaiah 64:6 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 7:18–19 (Listen)
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
(ESV)Romans 8:8 (Listen)
(ESV)2 Corinthians 5:19 (Listen)
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling1 the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.Footnotes
 5:19 Or God was in Christ, reconciling
(ESV)Galatians 3:22 (Listen)
(ESV)1 John 1:8–9 (Listen)
(ESV)Evening: Psalm 56:3; Psalm 89:8–9; Psalm 93:3–4; Isaiah 43:2; Jeremiah 5:22; Matthew 14:29–31
The floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!—O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
“Do you not fear me? declares the Lord; Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass.”—“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”—When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.Psalm 56:3 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 89:8–9 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 93:3–4 (Listen)
3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the LORD on high is mighty!
(ESV)Isaiah 43:2 (Listen)
(ESV)Jeremiah 5:22 (Listen)
22 Do you not fear me? declares the LORD.
Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea,
a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail;
though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
(ESV)Matthew 14:29–31 (Listen)
29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,1 he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”Footnotes
 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind
Grandstanding from left in New York scares off Amazon. What does this tell us about capitalism?
To be cool or to be a church? A secular culture forces churches to choose when it comes to biblical sexuality
This is the second video in the Christian Man Academy Curriculum. For a transcript, click through to the Christian Man Academy website.
This video is all about finding our ultimate purpose in life. Why are we here and what will make us happy while we are here?
If we aim at God above all, and glorify God above all, we will enjoyGod above all else. We can only enjoy God if he is number one in our lives.
“If you and your ministry consist only of doctrinal correctness and brilliant communication and organizational savvy—all of which matter—but if that’s all you cultivate and develop and lay hold of, it will hollow you out.” — Ray Ortlund
Date: October 17, 2018
Event: 2018 TGC West Coast Conference
Recommended in this podcast:
- “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way” by Francis Schaeffer in No Little People
- True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer
- Schaeffer on the Christian Life by William Edgar
- “The Most High a Prayer-Hearing God” by Jonathan Edwards
- George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival by Arnold Dallimore
- Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain Murray
- Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden
- Here I Stand by Roland Bainton
- Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown
Find more audio and video from the 2018 West Coast Conference on the conference media page.
In Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, Katherine Gerbner, assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota, debunks a common myth: that early 18th-century Protestant missionaries to the New World laid the foundations for later abolitionism.
The dark reality is that many of them helped form a pro-slavery ideology that for decades would be used to defend the compatibility of Christianity and slaveholding.From ‘Protestant Supremacy’ to ‘Christian Slavery’
Gerbner’s argument traces three historical steps in the transition from the belief in “Protestant supremacy” to a full-fledged defense of “Christian slavery.” Along the way, she shows how the formation of racialized slavery in the Atlantic world was closely tied with shifting definitions of what it meant to be a Christian. Though she focuses on Anglican, Quaker, and Moravian missionaries, she demonstrates how their formulation of Christian slavery shaped and anticipated the thinking of key Great Awakening leaders like George Whitefield.
In the first step, many settlers and planters in the New World created an identity around the idea of “Protestant supremacy.” They tied their belief in the superiority of Protestantism to their belief in the superiority of white ethnicity and culture. They exploited this connection to assert their superiority not only against other religions like Roman Catholicism and Judaism but also against other ethnicities like the Native Americans and black Africans (they typically associated “inferior” race with “inferior” pagan religion, deeming them “hereditary heathens”).
This move had troubling consequences that anticipated later forms of white supremacy. For example, Gerbner identifies a change in the laws of 17th-century Barbados that moved from defining Christianity doctrinally to making it an indicator of ethnicity and class. The later laws juxtaposed “Christian” with the word “negro,” indicating that Christians were free whites and that blacks were non-Christian.
This shift was in response to a growing tension that questioned the legitimacy of Christians enslaving other Christians. So by contrasting “Christian” with “negro,” these laws “invoked Christianity as an indicator of ethnic identity” rather than doctrine in order to justify the enslavement of (non-Christian) blacks (45). The early planter classes also tied Christian identity with freedom, and this made many resistant to evangelizing their slaves, because they feared conversion would give them grounds to demand emancipation.
The second step complicated the first. Over time, an increasing number of enslaved and free blacks in the New World did convert, get baptized, and join a church. Their conversions undermined the foundations of Protestant supremacy by confounding the assumed bond between Christianity and white ethnicity. In response, the white plantocracy altered the definition of Christianity to include a wider ethnic diversity. However, they also altered the relationship between Christian identity and freedom, basing free status and social hierarchy no longer in religion but in race—i.e., no longer in their exclusive Protestant identity but in exclusive whiteness. In the 1690s and early 1700s, for example, they passed new laws in Barbados that excluded nonwhites from owning land, using racial categories rather than religion to establish the social hierarchy.
The third step is where the missionaries come in. Facing resistance from the plantocracy to evangelize slaves, missionaries of various Protestant backgrounds cast a vision for what Gerbner calls “Christian slavery.” They tried to assuage the fears of the plantocracy by arguing that Christianity and slavery were compatible, and that conversion wouldn’t grant slaves freedom or social equality. Many even promoted legislation that ensured baptism wouldn’t lead to manumission. They argued that while Christian conversion made slave and master spiritual equals, it had no bearing on social equality this side of heaven, which was determined by racial difference.
Moreover, rather than hurt the institution of slavery, they insisted that Christian conversion would produce harder-working, virtuous, and more obedient slaves. They advocated for Christian masters to assume a paternalistic role to care for the spiritual needs of their slaves like they would for their children, and to treat them more humanely with Christian virtue. Conversion would profit both slaves and masters. When properly done, they argued, Protestantism and slavery weren’t just compatible; they were conducive for the flourishing of a Christian society.Well-Argued Case
Gerbner’s book makes an important contribution to the history of religion and slavery in the Atlantic world. She draws on an impressive breadth of source material—from treatises on slavery and evangelism by leading religious leaders to legal codes, letters, church records, and missionary accounts from the Caribbean and North American colonies—and deftly sets her findings in conversation with the existing scholarship on the period. She doesn’t pick low-hanging fruit but instead builds her case researching the two groups that scholars have long assumed laid the groundwork for progressive Christian antislavery thought: the Quakers and Moravians.
At points her historical analysis could benefit from a deeper grasp of theology. For instance, she largely bases a major claim of her eighth chapter on what I think is a misreading of August Gottlieb Spangenberg’s 1788 account of Moravian missions. She interprets his story of a black woman’s conversion (73–76 of his Account) to mean that he outright opposed literacy for blacks and concludes that “Moravians redefine[d] ‘true’ conversion to exclude reading the Bible” (166).
She’s right that Moravians reduced the importance of teaching literacy to nonwhite converts over the years in order to placate elite whites who feared literacy would lead to slave rebellion. But she doesn’t address how the important and nuanced differences of Moravian understandings of Scripture informed Spangenberg’s account, and she missed his actual point—not that converts shouldn’t learn to read the Bible, but that literacy shouldn’t be a prerequisite for baptism. Spangenberg was merely reiterating a common evangelical impulse that faith is chiefly of the heart, not just the head.
Gerbner’s conclusion indicates that Moravians departed from the standard Protestant position that true conversion requires reading the Bible, but this wasn’t standard at all (they knew, of course, that the illiterate could hear the Word and be converted). Again, this doesn’t negate her main point, but closer attention to the theology might’ve sharpened it.Taking Stock
Her conclusion is haunting, and evangelicals should ponder it carefully:
The irony is dark and yet unambiguous: the most self-sacrificing, faithful, and zealous missionaries in the Atlantic world formulated and theorized a powerful and lasting ideology for a brutal system of plantation labor. (198)
Evangelicals engage culture with the gospel. But as this history shows, an evangelical penchant to compromise with the culture in order to achieve greater ends—like conversions or cultural influence—can often undermine the mission and reap lasting and destructive consequences. The gospel that should reconcile all peoples was compromised and weaponized to enforce racial hierarchy.
And if we’re tempted to think cultural compromise was a problem of the past and not consider its warnings for the way we go about church, missions, race relations, and cultural engagement today, woe to us.
It sounds so heartening when you first hear it: “No creed but the Bible.” You’re a young Christian, you love the Bible, and you’re eager to be around people who share your passion for the Word. But as time goes on, you realize there are some problems with this seemingly innocent sentence. “No creed but the Bible” actually functions as a governing theological statement that norms all others. In a dazzling burst of irony, “No creed but the Bible” fails its own test, because it is a creed.
Then you study a little evangelical history. You realize as you read up on the 20th-century controversies between evangelicals and Protestant liberals that “No creed but the Bible” was used over and over to steer churches away from sound doctrine. When seminaries and colleges hired professors who taught liberal ideas, evangelicals in the Northern Baptist movement—for one example—tried valiantly to lash their movement to a confession of faith in the 1920s. The motion failed. Why? “No creed but the Bible” won the day.
Today the Northern Baptists are a shell of what they were; they’ve been gutted by theological liberalism. Their schools are in many cases out of business; members have departed in huge numbers over the decades. This isn’t a strange outcome for the “No creed” movement. This is the same song, thousandth stanza. Unsound doctrine kills.Misleading Mantra
There is no text like Scripture. The Word of God is theopneustos, “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). Its holy origin speaks to its holy character. As the reformers understood, Scripture alone—sola scriptura—has authority to norm the doctrine of God’s people. Old and New Testament together bear nothing less than divine weight, teaching us the ways and will of God. No other source, authority, or voice comes close to the authoritative power of the Bible, which alone reveals Christ the alpha and omega (Rev. 22:13).
From the earliest days of the early church, Christians have been a Scripture people. Yet as unsound teaching arose millennia ago, church leaders recognized the need to standardize gospel doctrine to separate false teachers from true teachers. Tertullian promoted the “rule of faith,” a summary of core Christian truth. The apostles’ creed and four ecumenical creeds continued this standardizing work, helping the church distinguish false Christology and counterfeit Trinitarianism from the biblical Christ and the biblical Trinity.
In the era of the Protestant Reformation, the recovery of scriptural soteriology and ecclesiology fueled the rise of confessional groups. The English and American Baptists, for example, produced no less than three hefty confessions to guide and protect their churches (London 1644 and 1689, Philadelphia 1742). The Reformed movement looked to the rock-ribbed Westminster Confession of Faith. Believers from past generations didn’t think these foundational documents normed the Word of God; they did believe these statements “confessed” the core teaching of the Scripture, and did so with particular reference to areas where the faith might suffer attack.
The strangest thing happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, however. With the rise of liberal theology, different groups moved away from doctrinal standards. “No creed but the Bible” gained popularity in this age, as noted. It sounded so good: The person using this phrase valued the Word so highly that the Bible alone functioned as their confession. Their theology was so pure, so untouched by human opinions, so unsullied by human interpretation, that it couldn’t be reduced to a few hundred words on a sheet of paper. But in truth their theology was far from pure. The same theologians and pastors who deployed this statement to shut down debate were in fact revising the traditional doctrine of the Word. The Bible that supposedly was their “creed” was errant. Biblical authors weren’t fully trustworthy. Once the doctrine of inerrancy is denied, other doctrines necessarily follow. So it was among the Protestant liberals, as Jeff Straub and Greg Wills have shown.Biblical Creeds Give Life
Liberal theology steers clear of “systematic” theology, seeing it as manmade. But in doing so, liberal theology steers clear of apostolic teaching. When Paul speaks of the “deposit” of gospel teaching, for example, he’s referencing a standard, a proper conception of the message of Christ (2 Tim. 1:13–14). When he speaks of “another Jesus” that unsound teachers preach, he’s referencing the need for a right understanding of Jesus—a normative understanding (2 Cor. 11:4). When Peter tells us that false prophets “promise freedom,” he is communicating the need to distinguish between the truth and a lie (2 Pet. 2:19). Confessions and creeds help the church heed these apostolic mandates (and many others we could mention).
“No creed but the Bible” doesn’t even meet the Bible’s own doctrinal expectation. The apostles not only allow believers to systematize their doctrine—they demand the church do so. This isn’t because they wish to squelch joy. It’s because they want believers to know the truth, believe the truth, love the truth, and be set free by the truth (in fulfillment of John 8:32). They don’t want precious souls drawn off by wolves. They want men and women to flourish in Christ, and to be presented spotless on the last day (Phil. 2:15). Doctrine doesn’t get in the way of this lofty end; doctrine is the gateway to it. Unsound doctrine kills; sound doctrine gives life.
‘No creed but the Bible’ doesn’t even meet the Bible’s own doctrinal expectation.
“No creed but the Bible” may be used by some good-hearted, God-loving people. But all too often, schools and churches that embrace this creed end up teaching unbiblical ideas: annihilationism, inclusivism, biblical errancy, the denial of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the acceptability of homosexuality and cross-gender identity, the denial of a wrath-bearing substitutionary atonement, and more. These same schools and churches seem to speak softly, but their classrooms and pulpits conceal thunder. They foment unbelief. They reverence doubt. However well-meaning, they turn the hearts of the people away from God and his righteousness.
But not only this: They carry a big stick. They fiercely police their boundaries. They expel sound voices. They say they love tolerance and debate, but often act intolerantly to shut it down. They do all this, in many cases, quietly. They network and speak with exceeding shrewdness in public before evangelical parents, assuring them of their fidelity to God’s Word. But behind the scenes, many are enacting revolution, starting fights over truths once cherished and plotting the victory of a new creed and an altered Christianity. But not only altered—for, as J. Gresham Machen prophetically said, this Christianity rapidly ends up no Christianity at all.Rise Up
Let’s do better than “no creed but the Bible.” Let’s not fall prey to the old traps. Let’s raise up churches full of believers who search the Spirit-inspired Scriptures with affections entranced by the majesty of God and the mercy of Christ. Let’s stop serving up soft targets to unsound teachers. If our churches and institutions have strayed into falsehood, let’s take them back.
Let’s not send our beloved sons and daughters to colleges, universities, and seminaries as lambs to the theological slaughter. Let’s send them, with love and prayers, to be instructed in the most holy faith so that they trust the Bible and esteem the creeds and confessions that witness to the Bible.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. (Ps. 127:3)
Between deep breaths and tears, I mentally quoted this verse as I stared at the pink plus sign that had ominously appeared on the pregnancy test in my hand.
While Abraham and Sarah laughed in disbelief over the idea of having a child in their old age, I stood frozen in sheer panic, weeping. Our house was still covered in unpacked boxes from our cross-country move to plant a church in Maryland. With no family or friends around to support us, welcoming child number five wasn’t part of our church plant’s strategic-growth initiative. And yet, here we were, pregnant with a baby we hadn’t expected.
I’d prayed for plenty of potential Abrahams and Sarahs who would’ve loved the surprise of a late-in-life pregnancy, but I wasn’t one of them.
I knew what to expect from my past pregnancies: the extended months of “morning” sickness, bedrest stints, home health-care workers in and out while I homeschooled, premature labors, NICU stays, followed by postpartum depression. As thankful as we are for each of our children, pregnancy has never been a Hallmark moment in our family.
Pregnancy has never been a Hallmark moment in our family.
In theory, I knew my baby was a blessing and a life created by God. But honestly, facing this unplanned pregnancy terrified me.Pregnant with Emotions
I dreaded making the announcement. I thought of all the times in the past five years I’d answered the “Are you done having children?” question, confidently (foolishly) assuring people we were. Everyone knew how difficult my pregnancies had been and how crazy it would be to add a baby. It was no secret; this baby was a surprise.
From the moment that little line turned pink, I knew I’d spend the next nine months answering a slew of awkward personal questions about how we’d arrived in this predicament and laughing uncomfortably at inappropriate birth-control jokes. Yes, I know how babies are made.
Then there was the unhelpful consolation I frequently received when I did choose to open up:
- Maybe this will be your easiest pregnancy ever!
- Wouldn’t it be wonderful, after three boys, if God were surprising you with a girl?
- You’ve done this so many times before, this should be a cinch!
- I’m sure God knows you could handle more. You’re so patient.
Nice thoughts, but they likely wouldn’t be reality.
It was also tricky to work through my feelings of grief within the church. Many of my friends had dealt with infertility and miscarriage, and I feared my news and hesitant rejoicing would cause them further grief and pain. Admitting that my blessing felt more like a burden would seem ungrateful to God and insensitive to others.
In those first months of processing God’s plan, I was desperate for someone to both understand the burden on my shoulders and speak God’s truth directly to the fear in my heart.
If you are facing an unexpected pregnancy, stuck in grief or struggling to rejoice, here is some good news.He’s with You
In Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel appeared with an unexpected pregnancy announcement for the virgin Mary, he led with words of comfort: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
You don’t walk this road alone. Just as the Lord was with Mary, he will be with you. Take comfort in knowing God will not leave you or forsake you (Josh. 1:5).He’s Sovereign over Your Life Story
Proverbs 16:9 instructs, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” When God interrupts your plans and establishes the course of your family’s life in a way you didn’t anticipate, remember that while your plans were rearranged, his were not. Avoid the temptation to consider the “if only” thoughts, blame circumstances, or fantasize about what could have been. Trust that nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign plan: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isa. 14:24).He’s Strong When You’re Weak
As a Christian you haven’t been promised an easy road. So recognize—and embrace—the moment when you’re at the end of yourself. The Lord promised Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and Paul responded, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Let your weakness lead you to Jesus.Children Are a Gift and a Heritage
God gives life and breath (Acts 17:25), and in his wisdom he has given you this baby’s life. What joy to know he fills the womb with treasure and reward (Ps. 17:14; Ps. 127:3).
Don’t think only of poopy diapers, buckling car seats, and sleepless nights. The hard work ahead of you shouldn’t eclipse your eternal perspective or prevent you from rejoicing over the coming joy of teaching one more child about Jesus, seeing her first smile, hearing his first words, or delighting in all the laughter, hugs, and kisses to come.Christ Is Bigger Than Your Fickle Feelings
In this fallen world, where there’s pain in childbearing and the ground fights back against the work of our hands, child-rearing is painful. No wonder we grieve the laborious trials ahead. But we needn’t be ashamed of our feelings of trepidation. Christ is sympathetic to our struggles (Heb. 4:15) and uses our fickle feelings to lead us to his throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).
Christ is sympathetic to our struggles and uses our fickle feelings to lead us to his throne of grace.
It’s been three years since the news of my coming baby rocked me. Without a doubt, baby number five is indeed God’s good plan for the Carlson family. (A blessing who is deep into the “terrible twos” and recently projectile-vomited on me.) Without hesitation, I’m grateful for his life. I never could’ve expected this curly haired, blue-eyed blessing would bring us such immense joy—and sanctification.
Behold, unexpected babies are a heritage from the Lord, too. Acknowledge your surprise, yes, but then press on toward faith-filled rejoicing.
February 14: Psalm 40:8; Isaiah 42:21; Matthew 3:15; Matthew 5:17–18; Matthew 5:20; Romans 8:3–4; Romans 10:4; Numbers 18:20; Psalm 16:5–6; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 73:25–26; Psalm 119:111; Song of Solomon 2:16; Lamentations 3:24
“Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”—The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.—“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.—For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.Psalm 40:8 (Listen)
(ESV)Isaiah 42:21 (Listen)
(ESV)Matthew 3:15 (Listen)
(ESV)Matthew 5:17–18 (Listen) Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
(ESV)Matthew 5:20 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 8:3–4 (Listen)
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,1 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Footnotes
 8:3 Or and as a sin offering
(ESV)Romans 10:4 (Listen)
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.1Footnotes
 10:4 Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified
(ESV)Evening: Numbers 18:20; Psalm 16:5–6; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 73:25–26; Psalm 119:111; Song of Solomon 2:16; Lamentations 3:24
“I am your portion and your inheritance.”
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.—The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”—Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water… for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.—My beloved is mine, and I am his.Numbers 18:20 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 16:5–6 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 63:1 (Listen) My Soul Thirsts for You A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
(ESV)Psalm 63:7 (Listen)
(ESV)Psalm 73:25–26 (Listen)
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength1 of my heart and my portion forever.
 73:26 Hebrew rock
(ESV)Psalm 119:111 (Listen)
(ESV)Song of Solomon 2:16 (Listen)
16 My beloved is mine, and I am his;
he grazes1 among the lilies.
 2:16 Or he pastures his flock
(ESV)Lamentations 3:24 (Listen)
Unbridled liberal ambition: How the ‘Green New Deal’ packages every dream of the American left in one single proposal
- New York Times (Lisa Friedman and Glenn Thrush) — Liberal Democrats Formally Call for a ‘Green New Deal,’ Giving Substance to a Rallying Cry
The reality of the ecological crisis and and the rational contours of the Christian worldview
Truth, morality, and politics: No matter what our cause, Christians must be people who always affirm the truth
In light of this report and the nature of sexual abuse, an independent, third-party investigation is the only credible avenue for any organizations that face the kind of sinful patterns unearthed in this article by the Houston Chronicle. No Christian body, church, or denomination can investigate itself on these terms because such an investigation requires a high level of thoroughness and trustworthiness. Only a third-party investigator can provide that kind of objective analysis.
Trillia Newbell offers 6 Ways Pastors Can Help Victims of Sexual Assault.
And here is some beauty among the ashes: How I found hope after my ex-husband was convicted of sexual abuse.
Our Digital Lives Don’t Need to Make Us Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unwise
“Now is the moment to pursue a three-pronged approach to all digital encounters: literacy, hygiene, and labeling. We have the opportunity of a lifetime to re-shape our still primitive and often unruly digital culture into a safer, healthier, more rewarding domain.”
Finally, a Biblical Marriage Counseling Primer!
“If you are a pastor, biblical counselor, or anyone who walks with couples, get Counsel for Couples. I am confident it will not stay on your bookshelf, but be a well-worn resource as you care for and counsel couples.”
Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker?
“I would say, “Yeah, that is a deal-breaker.” …And I would say, “Don’t lower the bar.” I think we have lowered the bar too much. We have treated men like dogs in heat rather than men who are created in the image of God and who have the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, and self-control. That last one, self-control, is usually used in relation to sexuality. Men are not victims, and these women have a right to expect more from us.”
Don’t Put Your Hope in Date Night
“When we falsely believe a date night out is the only way to grow in marriage, enjoy one another, foster intimacy, and maintain a healthy commitment, we’re bound to continually feel defeated and disappointed. God is gracious to provide many ways for couples to connect and grow deeper in their love for one another beyond a night out. In fact, date-night dry seasons might be the times we best reveal the beauty of our covenant, as we steadfastly love and serve each other in difficult times.”
“Gospel of the Happy God”
“Real happiness is the blessedness of God. Real happiness, the gospel of freedom and salvation and liberation and transformation, is when humans in all their need come under the care of the happy God who has no needs whatsoever, and who undertakes to pay the price of bringing us into fellowship with his own blessedness.”
Why you should make your pastor take a sabbatical
Some great resources here for pastors, elders, and congregations.
Manhood Restored by Eric Mason $1.99.
God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs by Timothy Keller $1.99.
In 2016, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy [read TGC’s review] was hailed for explaining the “Trump voter” to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times readers on the other side of America’s class chasm. Vance explained his family’s slide into dysfunction, aided in part by dried-up factory jobs. White-collar professionals far from Appalachia devoured the book and testified to their newfound empathy for the working class.
Now meet Hillbilly’s wonkish cousin who works for a think tank, The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America by Oren Cass. Like Vance, Cass writes to one side of America on behalf of the other. He explains why a good job is hard to find for more and more of our countrymen, especially those who don’t aspire (or aren’t able) to work in knowledge industries. He pleads for new policies that will create a new kind of labor market.Problem with Our ‘Prosperity’
The Once and Future Worker follows a problem-solution script. To explain the problem, Cass tells the story of how two economic ideas converged to create a problematic “prosperity.” First, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) became the favorite indicator of economic health. GDP tells us how much the economy as a whole is producing, the size of our “economic pie.” As GDP grew in the 20th century’s postwar booms, the second trend took hold: the rise of the American consumer. Of course, every individual is both producer and consumer, but public policy focused more and more on encouraging consumption.
Cass names the child of these two ideas “economic piety”: grow the pie (GDP) and make sure everyone gets to eat their fair share (consumption). And it worked! We have the world’s biggest economy. Our standard of living is higher than any before in history, providing affordable comforts like flat-screen televisions and smartphones for all. Our social safety net makes sure everyone gets a slice of the pie. We’re the most prosperous society in history, so what’s the problem?
The problem is what’s missing. Economic piety ends up sounding something like this: So long as the economy as a whole is producing (GDP), we don’t care if each individual is able to produce. We only care if she is able to consume. But “consumption without production creates dependence and debt,” whereas production (work) is good for individuals and communities in ways that can’t be neatly tallied. A prosperity that doesn’t include the ability to work is no prosperity at all.
Economic piety ends up sounding something like this: as long as the economy as a whole is producing (GDP), we don’t care if each individual is able to produce.
A better prosperity would ensure that everyone is productive. It would provide ways for laborers and their families to live self-sufficiently and contribute to the common good. The thick part of the book, then, is a raft of policy proposals to encourage work and self-sufficiency. Cass explains how environmental policy, education, immigration, labor law, and entitlements all affect the labor market. For each area, he proposes changes or new policies to get blue-collar Americans working again.Echoes from Eden
The Once and Future Worker is written for a broad, politically informed audience. I see several reasons to hope that Christians will be part of the readership.
First, its underlying premise is consistent with biblical wisdom. Cass is noticeably silent on philosophical or religious claims to support his assertion that work in inherently good. He states it as a matter of fact, then cites a convincing array of research. In taking this route, The Once and Future Worker sits in the “common sense” tradition that has long dominated American public dialogue, where self-evident truth plus more evidence is the way to persuade.
But this approach still leaves nagging questions: Why is a person’s work worth more than their tiny, fractional addition to GDP? Why is consumption without production bad for people? Thoughtful Christians will know the answer, for Cass’s findings ring with echoes from Eden. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Work is part of how we image God.
Work is part of how we image God.
Something is lost if this is left unsaid. I couldn’t help but wonder that if a culture loses sight of the dignity of work (grounded in the dignity of each individual, which is grounded in the image of God), is it any wonder that they create a “prosperity” that leaves some people without dignity? I’m not suggesting that Cass should have made this point. I’m suggesting that Christians should make it; we have unique wisdom to offer, sourced in Scripture, that isn’t common sense but is essential to the common good.Public Policy Education
Even when we see the God-given dignity of work, we might not know how that dignity translates into policies and politics. This leads to the second reason The Once and Future Worker deserves reading: It’s a crash course in “how things work!” In sections on the environment, education, immigration, labor law, and the tax code, I left with a better understanding of how our current policies came to be and their effect.
Cass’s question is always, “How does this affect laborers?” How does our education system prepare—or not prepare—people to find sustainable work? How does immigration policy affect immigrants and existing workers?
Looking through this lens leads Cass to conclusions that challenge orthodoxy on both the left and right. His most audacious chapter proposes a wage subsidy, that government should sometimes “pay for jobs.” He argues this would be more effective than the anti-poverty programs loved by Democrats, but he also allows that it would intervene in the free market often celebrated by Republicans. (Although he is essentially conservative, much of Cass’s quibble is with libertarian-leaning Republicans. The most robust critique of his ideas has also come from that stream.)
How is wrestling with all this helpful to Christians? Perhaps it could introduce more subtlety into our political logic. For example, in a chapter on the environment and the economy, Cass shows how stricter air-quality standards have curtailed manufacturing, which means there’s a trade-off between cleaner air and jobs. Based on Genesis 1–2, I’ve long believed in creation care, and I’ve tended to support environment-friendly policy. But what about the value of a stable, well-paying job to a blue-collar worker? Isn’t this also an implication of Genesis 1–2? This I had not seen as clearly, and Cass’s analysis left me chastened.Cross-Cultural Education
This leads to the last reason The Once and Future Worker deserves reading. Cass knows why I’m inclined to see the value of clean air but miss the value of a blue-collar job. It’s because I’m not blue-collar. As an educated knowledge worker, America’s job market serves me just fine. In a recent interview, he noted:
What we’ve done is to build a society oriented entirely toward the needs and preferences of highly educated people. We’ve created the conditions for a labor market in which those people do really well. If you go back to that list of policy areas I mention in this book for altering labor market conditions to create more of the jobs we need, they were mostly areas where the people who are thriving would have to make concessions for the sake of others.
I’m guessing that many of my fellow TGC readers are among the educated, “doing okay” crowd. The Once and Future Worker was a cross-cultural education for me. As Christians, we more than anyone else, should want that.
You might have noticed a recent trend in commercials: robots. It was a noticeable theme among Super Bowl ads this year. From Intuit’s RoboChild to SimpliSafe’s robopocalypse, these ads are playing on growing fears about technology and the rise of artificial intelligence: fears about losing jobs, feeling unsafe, being outsmarted, or being beaten in sports (as in Michelob’s Super Bowl ad).
Fears about the technological future are nothing new, and they reveal more about us than what the future might hold. I believe many of these fears stem from a faulty understanding of human nature and what it means to be God’s image bearers in this broken world.What’s Your Value?
Recent commercials have depicted advanced robots with human-like intelligence and emotional capacity. Intuit’s robo-child wakes up her “dad” to tell him she is hungry and can’t sleep, while SimpliSafe posits a future where robots take our jobs and even sit next to us at little-league games. These admittedly extreme, sci-fi visions nevertheless capture reasonable worries about how artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize society. But as AI changes so much about our world, we must remember that some things that will never change, no matter how blurred the lines become between humans and robots.
Scripture tells us God created humans in his image, giving us a responsibility to be his representatives on earth (Gen 1:26–28). Nothing else in creation was made like us, and nothing will ever be able to take the unique image of God from us. While God made certain parts of creation stronger, quicker, and more agile than humanity, he didn’t make anything as valuable and significant.
Human uniqueness isn’t based on the fact that we have the highest reasoning or intellect, because what would that say about our brothers and sisters with mental and physical disabilities? Is someone less human because they don’t have the mental capacity of another? And what if AI eventually gains higher reasoning and intellectual capacity than humans? Would that make robots more human than humans? No.
Our efficient, technological age tempts us to place ultimate value on one’s ability to contribute to society. We already see this faulty mindset in things like abortion and euthanasia. But while it may be true for how we view robots and other technological tools—that their worth is tied to their usefulness—it is certainly not true for us. Human utility does not determine our value; our identity as divine image bearers does.
Human utility does not determine our value; our identity as divine image bearers does.Misunderstanding Our Role
Technology can be a wonder—an impressive display of humanity’s creative brilliance. But it can also be a horror, as creepy robot commercials, sci-fi movies, and shows like Black Mirror can attest. Technology can be used in ways that dignify people; but because we live in a fallen world, it can also demean and deceive. For instance, Amazon just scrapped an AI system that demonstrated bias against women in hiring recommendations. AI also allows for the creation of deepfakes, where someone can appear to say and do things they never did. And these are just two of many examples.
Because we are called to love our neighbors, Christians must engage the conversation about how technology is being used for good and for ill, specifically in the emerging area of AI. Christians have rightly focused on dangerous aspects of technology like online pornography and excessive screen time. But we often miss the more subtle ways technology is redefining what it means to be human—and how AI specifically is raising urgent theological, ethical, and anthropological questions.
Christians must engage the conversation about how technology is being used for good and for ill, specifically in the emerging area of AI.
Every Christian does not need to become an AI expert, but we do have an obligation to our neighbor and those in our churches to learn how technology is affecting (and will affect) the ones that we love. We should read books and articles (e.g., Byron Reese’s The Fourth Age; Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers; Henry Kissinger’s Atlantic piece, “How the Enlightenment Ends”) on these emerging technologies, and spend time reflecting on what is changing and what will never change.Humanity Redefined
To many in the AI field, we are nothing more than fancy “organic algorithms” or hyper-advanced computer systems, with our bodies as the hardware and our minds the software. Elon Musk worries about how we’ll be able to upgrade humans to keep up with machines. Ray Kurzweil dreams about uploading our minds to computers so we can live forever. As believers, we must engage these dangerous and nihilistic ideas of the future with the unchanging truth of the gospel.
Jobs are going to be lost, but likely not at the rate some have predicted. You will daily interact with AI at some point in your future job, if you don’t already (and it will probably make your day easier). You may even be woken up by a robot one day soon (though hopefully not by a creepy robo-child). But regardless of how advanced AI may become, God created humans uniquely to exercise dominion over the world, stewarding it as his irreplaceable representatives.
Christians need not fear technology; we just need to approach it wisely. We need to be engaged in the conversations and working in the industries where these technologies are being crafted. God designed us to create and harness technology in ways that honor him and dignify our neighbors. Now more than ever before, Christians must commit to that task.
Devastating recent news of abuse has shown that wickedness can seep into any movement, whether the most developed hierarchy or movements characterized by autonomy. There is no silver bullet. Polity alone is no protection against evil and sin. Too often those who have committed abuse move to new churches and ministries with little personal consequence.
While some church plants belong to denominations with clear accountability structures for churches, pastors, and other leaders, plants from free church or baptistic traditions that value local church autonomy must be thoughtful and intentional to have clear accountability structures in place from the earliest days.
Establishing systems of accountability will prepare churches to protect people, and to pursue justice should abuse occur.Clear Policies and Procedures
From the earliest days of planting a church, policies and procedures for accountability and church discipline ought to be expressed—with clarity and precision—in a church’s bylaws and policies. In my experience, existing churches are often open to sharing their policies with new church plants. There is no need to reinvent the wheel on these matters, especially for church plants with a direct relationship to a sending church.
These policies and procedures ought to include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Conduct criminal background checks on all staff and ministry leaders. This is essential for all volunteers who serve in children’s ministry—for anyone who participates in church nursery/child care on any level.
- Develop and enforce a child safety policy for adults serving in children’s ministry and nursery/child care. This is the type of policy that states two adults must be present with minors at all times, etc.
- Train children’s ministry volunteers to recognize signs of abuse, and give them clear channels for reporting abuse.
- Know your state’s mandatory reporting requirements. These are a baseline minimum for reporting. If you have any doubt at all, report to authorities, and tell the victim that you intend to do so.
- Require mandatory reporting on any child abuse. Have a clear policy on how to handle adult victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse as well. Be prepared to contact authorities and to help victims through the difficult process of reporting to police and considering whether to press charges.
- Have a clear policy on how the church will handle registered sex offenders.
- Never guarantee confidentiality. In our discipline policy it is explicit that appeals will be made to authorities when necessary (Rom. 13:1–7).
- Develop relationships with local counselors and therapists for the sake of referrals and a resource to get advice.
Even with the best policies and procedures in place, it is essential that accusations of abuse be addressed with seriousness and sobriety.Plurality of Elders
In autonomous churches, the importance of a plurality of elders and meaningful membership is heightened. A true plurality of elders is a necessary and biblical form of accountability at the highest level of church leadership.
From the beginning, a focus on cultivating a broader leadership culture of elders and deacons—and other ministry leaders, including both men and women—will help to foster greater openness and accountability throughout a church.
For church plants at early stages that do not yet have a plurality of elders or covenanted members, it’s helpful to have a direct relationship with a sending church that provides accountability and support for the planter. Even with an emphasis on autonomy, we see the importance of interconnectivity in the early church and in the work of church planting (Acts 13; 15).
With or without that connectivity, it’s crucial that a church plant know to whom appeals can be made if clear sin or abuse is exposed.Meaningful Membership
Every member of the church is a member of Christ’s body, so their sin and pain affects the rest of the body (1 Cor. 12:22–26). Even pastors are first and foremost members of the church, and therefore subject to the discipline and policies of the church.
A church plant must thoughtfully implement clear and documented standards for membership, what decisions members will have a voice in, how leaders will be held accountable, and what mechanisms (i.e., regular members’ meetings) will be used to report on church matters. Moreover, all child safety policies should be shared with the entire congregation, to communicate to parents and non-parents alike that this is something the church takes seriously.
There will be times when matters of unrepentant individual sin and church discipline must be brought to the whole membership of the church. But these times of sorrow and mourning together offer opportunities for corporate repentance and a reminder of the gospel. Clear pathways for discipline and reporting will also help protect the church from ongoing sin.Protect the Flock
The call to pastors and elders is clear: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
The church was bought at a great price. Therefore, when any sin—especially the grievous sin of sexual abuse—is committed, we must take it seriously. God will hold leaders accountable for the souls entrusted to their care (Heb. 13:17).
The newness of a church plant is no excuse to leave God’s sheep unprotected from those who would do them harm. Church planter, pastoral ministry requires the courage to confront sin and protect God’s people. We must take this responsibility seriously, especially in the most severe cases. The glory of God’s name and the good of Christ’s bride are too important to do anything else.
I returned to the church at age 25, with a buried abortion story and a 2-year-old in tow. In my mind, God was like many of the men I’d encountered in my short years—power-hungry and eager to take what didn’t belong to him, while giving no thought to the mess left behind.
I confessed these thoughts to the small group I’d begun to attend, and the men and women around me responded with compassion and understanding. The Lord awakened my heart to faith through the preaching of the gospel at that church, and in this tear-filled moment and the many that followed, the healing process began.Unrelenting Headlines
Sexual assault and abuse have filled news headlines over the past few years. While the #MeToo movement gains traction with more and more women sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault, many of the 1 in 6 women who have been victims of an attempted or completed rape remain in hiding, in large part due to the grievous ways their accusations are received.
In recent weeks, abortion has taken center stage with the Reproductive Health Act passing in New York, the same month as the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. One in 4 women will have an abortion by age 45, and memories can haunt us as people debate the issue on their news feeds.
Women affected by these issues are sitting in your church. We limp into the pew having been assaulted by headlines and social-media commentary—words and pictures that trigger memories, shame, fear, and disgust. Despite the healing power of the gospel, the effects of our traumatic experiences linger. Our consciences accuse us day and night, and we are spiritually weary. We doubt our belovedness; we wonder if we really belong to Jesus; we wonder if the gospel is sufficient to heal our bleeding wounds.
I’ve been blessed over the years to sit under the loving care of wise and compassionate pastors and elders. I’ve witnessed great humility in these men as they’ve listened to my story and grown in wisdom and understanding in their pastoral care for women. It hasn’t always been perfect, and we have hurt and misunderstood each other.
But they did a few things that ministered to me and other women in our church.1. They Discerned the Power of Their Words
Trauma leaves marks on the brain and body, and words and phrases can trigger a physical response the listener is unprepared for. They activate the brain’s stress circuits, throwing a person into a state of panic, unable to hear the words that follow.
Consider the effect of the word whore on a woman who has received that word as abuse, or how the Bible’s stark description of sexual violence affects women who are victims of sexual assault. Consider the shame that post-abortive women can feel as abortion is lamented from the pulpit.
The Bible is filled with words that elicit responses from a congregation. My pastors didn’t water down the offense of the gospel, nor did they ignore the unsavory parts of passages. But as they learned more about the women in our congregation, they gave more thoughtful care to the ways their words would affect them.
One Sunday several years ago, an elder at my church spoke out against abortion. He told the truth about its evil and lamented the ways we are complicit. He called the church to pray. But then he spoke a tender word of compassion and hope to post-abortive women. He proclaimed the gospel, carefully applying it to the hearts of those who desperately needed to hear it in that moment. And, after the service, he reached out to ask how I was doing, inviting feedback about how he could grow in being a compassionate preacher.
In his book Preaching the Whole Counsel of God, Julius Kim calls men to be sympathetic preachers:
Reveal your care and kindness throughout the sermon. It may be obvious, but being a sympathetic preacher is important . . . . You are a shepherd first, preacher second. . . . Good preaching involves revealing compassion, warmth, tenderness, and understanding in both your words and your deeds. (159)
Pastors who have taken this counsel to heart won’t always be able to guard against trauma-induced responses. But as they discern the power of their words, they will build deepened trust with their congregation. In my case, the words of these men became one of the instruments the Lord used to continue my healing (Ps. 107:20).2. They Distinguished between Victims and Perpetrators
Everyone in the congregation needs to hear a call to repentance and receive the assurance of forgiveness in Christ. But abuse and assault victims often believe the lie that they were the ones at fault.
It’s powerful and necessary for these victims to hear a word from outside of themselves. Their victimhood doesn’t render them sinless, but, in addition to an assurance of pardon for their own sins, they need an assurance of justice for the sin committed against them (1 Thess. 4:6; Rom. 13:4).
A wise pastor understands the complexity of trauma and its victims. I’ve been privileged to be part of churches who have a pastor designated to focus on the counseling needs of the church. These men seek to grow in their understanding of the issues facing both men and women (through resources like this book and this one, for example).3. They Demonstrated Genuine Concern
As my church and I fumbled through these difficult issues, it went a long way that my pastors demonstrated genuine concern. They didn’t always understand my struggles, or see the ways their words affected me. Sometimes I was overly sensitive, and often I communicated poorly. But my pastors stood humbly with me before the cross.
Their care came from the pulpit, and it also extended from there. They saw the women in our church as sisters, and we were welcomed into their families. They communicated a desire to understand and care, even when they weren’t sure of the right words to use. They sought the counsel of wise women in our congregation to help them see blind spots and receive assistance in caring for women in need. They prayed for the women in our congregation and considered their needs as they crafted sermons.
The Great Shepherd has compassion for his people (Matt. 9:36), and he has appointed undershepherds to carry out that compassion. The Lord has used the careful words of his undershepherds to warm my heart to the gospel and bring about continued healing. In this day of unrelenting headlines and social-media commentary, the need is acute. But when these things are done well, women with trauma can feel loved by their pastors and, ultimately, by Christ himself.
I’ve had a growing burden for young men growing up in a world that is not only confused about masculinity but even hostile to it. In recent weeks, the Gillette ad has sparked renewed debate about “toxic masculinity.” Young (and not-so-young) men are looking for clarity, direction, and practical help about what it means to be a man and, especially, how to be a Christian man in today’s culture.
Jordan Peterson has tapped into this with his videos, books, and speeches, inspiring men to step up, take responsibility, and be the best men they can be. But, while Jordan Peterson incorporates many Christian themes and truths, for which we are grateful, he is not operating from a distinctively Christian worldview.
That’s why I’m launching the Christian Man Academy. It’s a video-based website for Christian men that will provide clear, practical, biblical teaching about what it means to be a man of God in our culture. I’ll be posting two short videos each week (on Tuesday and Thursday), together with further reading suggestions. I’ve already got fifty scripts ready to film and I’m working on the next fifty.
We’ll be starting off with the basics of being a Christian man, but we’ll eventually cover relationships, marriage, parenting, study, work, finances, organization, health, sex, and lots more. This will be a comprehensive, holistic, practical course on Christian manhood.
If you sign up for our free weekly newsletter, each Saturday you’ll get an email containing not only what’s been posted on the website each week, but additional articles and resources for further study. So why not enroll in the Academy and send this invitation to all the men in your life. Did I mention it’s all free?
Big thanks to Cameron Morgan and Jordan Replogle for all their work on getting the website ready.
February 13: Ezekiel 1:26; John 6:62; Romans 6:9–10; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 1:20; Philippians 2:7–8; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18; Psalm 119:50; John 1:4; John 1:12–13; John 5:26; John 6:63; John 11:25–26; 1...
Seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.
The man Christ Jesus.—Being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form.—Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death.
“[I am] the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.”—We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.—“Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”—He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.—For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.Ezekiel 1:26 (Listen)
26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire;1 and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.Footnotes
 1:26 Or lapis lazuli
(ESV)John 6:62 (Listen)
(ESV)Romans 6:9–10 (Listen)
9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
(ESV)2 Corinthians 13:4 (Listen)
(ESV)Ephesians 1:20 (Listen)
(ESV)Philippians 2:7–8 (Listen)
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,1 being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Footnotes
(ESV)Colossians 2:9 (Listen)
(ESV)1 Timothy 2:5 (Listen)
5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man1 Christ Jesus,Footnotes
 2:5 men and man render the same Greek word that is translated people in verses 1 and 4
(ESV)Hebrews 2:14 (Listen)
(ESV)Revelation 1:18 (Listen)
(ESV)Evening: Psalm 119:50; John 1:4; John 1:12–13; John 5:26; John 6:63; John 11:25–26; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Hebrews 4:12
Your promise gives me life.
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”—“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”—For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Psalm 119:50 (Listen)
(ESV)John 1:4 (Listen)
4 In him was life,1 and the life was the light of men.Footnotes
 1:4 Or was not any thing made. That which has been made was life in him
(ESV)John 1:12–13 (Listen)
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(ESV)John 5:26 (Listen)
(ESV)John 6:63 (Listen)
(ESV)John 11:25–26 (Listen)
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.1 Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”Footnotes
 11:25 Some manuscripts omit and the life
(ESV)1 Corinthians 15:45 (Listen)
45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;1 the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.Footnotes
 15:45 Greek a living soul
(ESV)Hebrews 4:12 (Listen)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.