Hold The Line

We live in challenging times. Turbulent times.

Ideas and situations have changed so quickly over the last year that it might feel like you are trying to farm the wind. Tame the ocean.

We will never go back to the world we lived in 2019. The effort to turn back the clock is futile.

The only way to move forward is to hold onto the authority of God’s Word whether it is matters of sexuality, life, or worship. The only way to forge our way into the future is in simple obedience to Jesus and His Word.

If we scatter in this effort. If we turn on each other in this effort. If we fall asleep in this effort. All is lost.

There is nothing better to hold the line and step forward into the unknowns of the future in faith. As the Preacher in Jerusalem said “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc. 12:13)

Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. Isn’t that what God has required of you and me? (Micah 6:8).

The Lord gives you a feast in the fog. He gives you the ability to enjoy His gifts even as the clouds gather.

Hold the line. God will bring every deed into judgement. Whether good or evil. (Ecc. 12:14).

There is nothing better than to do your duty knowing that God has already accepted your works in Christ Jesus (Ecc. 9:7).

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A Buffet of Virtue

Welcome in. Pick your virtue. What is your preference? What comes to you most naturally?

There is a lot of discussion at large about some of the challenges that churches are facing right now. Some are letting off the war-cry for courageous action. Others are calling for wisdom in both speech and action.

In the cacophony of voices some get called “cowards” and others get called “unwise”. It might be real cowardice or folly. It might be a disposition of character. Sometimes Christian principle gets lost in the malaise of virtue signalling and virtue scorning.

There does come a time to challenge Christians on a lack of various Christian virtues. That time may have already come. Maybe on a case by case basis as well. Even the godliest among Christian men and women need to be reminded frequently and daily to ask our Heavenly Father for the fruit of the Spirit and the ability to lead wise and courageous lives.

Before I jump to the matter of courage and wisdom, my central question is this: what are you doing and why are you doing it? Do you have a Biblical, historical, confessional, and pastoral rationale for what you are doing (Biblical is central)? If you are just trying to be courageous or wise, that doesn’t really answer the question. In a worldly sense, you can be wise and bought out by vain philosophy and empty deceit. You can be courageous and have the intellectual and Biblical maturity of a 12 year old.

That is the thing with Christian virtues. They are Christian virtues. They are not Greek or Dutch or Canadian virtues. We are not sophists or stoics or secularists. We are Christians. And when a Christian thinks about courage he or she is thinking of the Book of Joshua or the Book of Acts. When a Christian thinks about wisdom he or she is thinking about the book of James.

The Christian, when looking at Scripture is looking at principles that fill all of Scripture and not just a small portion of Scripture. When Protestants teach sola Scripture, that does not mean that we reject tota Scriptura. All the principles of Scripture come to bear on a specific matter at hand as we look to Christ for wisdom and courage to serve Him with a glad and joyful heart.

Is it possible to be a man (or a woman) who is not just wise but also courageous, not just courageous but also wise? What about boldness, or the ability to speak with clarity, in tense situations? What about gentleness? The fruit of the Spirit is one fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Whether you have a peaceful or fiery temperament, is it possible to have this fruit of the Spirit and various other Christian virtues in effect? What are your weaknesses that might relate to your temperament?

If you look at James 1, wisdom is developed in the face of trial, as the Christian seeks wisdom from God in the hour of need. But that is a wisdom that leads to a “groundedness.” This groundedness is at odds with compromise. If you look at Joshua 1, the basis for strength, and courage is that God is with you wherever you go. It is not a self-reliance that is to be boasted in. That pride is at odds with godly courage. Both wisdom and courage come from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). Courage and humility and wisdom are complementary. They are not at odds.

In Proverbs we find that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). But courage also begins with the fear of the Lord, or at least not fearing men (Deut. 31:6).

Also important to remember. Niceness is not a virtue. Kindness or gentleness are virtues. Brashness is not a virtue. Courage and boldness are virtues. Vain philosophy and empty deceit will not lead to Christian wisdom. But a love for the authority of God’s Word will lead to Christian wisdom. The temperature of American or Canadian culture is not the test for wisdom or courage. Rather, a longing for the Lord and a fear of Him, is the beginning of all Christian virtue.

Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean that a person in conflict is unwise. Otherwise the Apostles were unwise throughout the Book of Acts. Lack of conflict doesn’t necessarily mean that a person in times of peace is a coward. Sometimes it takes courage to maintain peace. Again. What are you doing and why are you doing it? Do you think I am wrong? Let’s open our Bibles together. Let the Spirit convict me that I am a coward or unwise.

In the current climate of Canadian culture in particular, those who speak about wisdom may need more courage, and those who speak about courage may need more wisdom. But at the end of the day we all need the Word of the God and the fear of the Lord and His strength to speak with both courage and wisdom in a culture where principles are so often based on the direction that the wind is blowing.

And so it comes back to Biblical principle. Principled men who love the Lord will ask Him for not just certain virtues but all the virtues. But they will never compromise their Biblical principles in that search for courage and wisdom.

Only then will we do what is right. Only then will we be the Church. Only then will we find true peace under the cross. Only then will we live in joyful obedience and submission as the bride of Christ to Jesus Christ and His Word. In that submission you get the whole buffet.

I will conclude with a word from Abraham Kuyper: “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.”

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A Shot of Joy to the Head

One of the great things about living in PEI is the freshness of the air. I’m sure that the ocean helps immensely with that. I had a similar experiences in the Greater Vancouver Area. Even though it is a city region, the air is fresh. And it just has a better smell than the air in the Toronto area. Maybe I am imagining things. Anyways. Joy is like taking a gasp of that fresh air, like standing on a PEI beach with the wind blasting in your face, or on a mountain near the Fraser Valley feeling like you are on top of the world.

James called on the Church to count it all joy when they fall into various trials. Ezra tells the people in Nehemiah 8:10, that the joy of the Lord is your strength. Joy permeates the seeming vanity and vapour of life for the Christian in Ecclesiastes. Joy, or I guess you could say even joyful trembling, marks our worship in the Spirit, before the Father and His Son who rules the world with a rod of iron (Psalm 2).

As Christians, it is easy to get our knickers in a knot, as we face the perils of 2020 and 2021. As the voices rise to a growing crescendo, nuance is lost, and voices get shrill. I was recently encouraged by a lecture on courage that was delivered in 2019. In here, it was pointed out that CS Lewis considered courage to be the testing point of all the virtues. Do you really love your neighbor? The test is whether you have the courage to love your neighbor. Do you really have self-control? The test is whether you have courage to maintain your cool or to avoid temptation. The Lord commanded Joshua to be “strong and courageous” multiple times in Joshua 1.

Joy is the shot of adrenaline that keeps courage going in the day of battle. Joy keeps you anchored in reality. Without joy, even the strongest of hearts may faint in the day of battle. Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4). Rejoice always (I Thess. 5:16). Habakkuk, when he saw the coming judgement of the Lord, vowed to rejoice in the Lord (Hab. 3:18).

In the realm of joy, there is definitely an important place for humor, the Lord Himself sits in the heavens and laughs (Ps. 2:4). Laughter itself is part of the praise of the Christian life (Psalm 126). I’m convinced that when the Psalmist remarked that the mouth of babies and infants will still the mouth of the enemy and the avenger, he was watching a small child busting a gut laughing at something totally meaningless in the world of adults. Do you want courage in the day of battle? Tickle your one-year-old daughter, chase her around the house.

Christians really need a shot of joy to vaccinate their collective soul against the soul-crushing divisions and rage that has ripped through the Church and the world. Yes, we need courage. But we also need joy. Yes, we need love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But we also need joy. This joy marked the life of many of the martyrs as they had spikes shoved through their bodies and were committed to the flames. This joy marks the persecuted Church in the Middle East as they literally have to look down the barrel of a gun. We are not there yet. Yet. While maybe an over-statement, Richard Wurmbrand (the founder of VOM) once wrote: “I have found truly jubilant Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church and in prison.” The martyrs are the heroes of history and the joy of the Lord was the shot of spiritual adrenaline that kept them running.

This joy is the responsibility of the individual, but begins in a unique way in the home. Prayer and scripture and song are central. But joy begins with a sense of smallness and insignificance. When you do something stupid, you go home and have a good laugh over how it must have looked.

There are dragons to slay. You may know this from the fairy tales. And yes, when you are old enough, you will believe in fairy tales again. But yeah, you don’t get the girl if you don’t slay the dragon. When you slay the dragon your armor probably will get scorched. Among the Biblical virtues that the Holy Spirit brings into the life of the Christian, a shot of joy to the head is necessary to have the courage to even face the dragon.

In the battle of ideas, in the holy rumble for truth, remember, it is not flesh and blood we contend against, but principalities and powers. In this battle, the Spirit brings courage and joy. We want to come into the presence of God with our brother, our enemy, with all nations, laughing and kneeling, rejoicing with trembling. Ironically, in the Bible history in Genesis, the name Isaac means ‘laughter’, because for some reason His aged Mom laughed in unbelief at the promises of God. When she found out that she was actually pregnant after so many years, I am sure she laughed in joy. I am sure that the Apostle Paul sang songs of joy and praise with the same men he once persecuted at the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15.

So yes. As always, there is a place for lament and grief. And yet, everything should be marked by a joyful courage. The joy of the Lord is your strength. And when you rejoice in Him, you will run at full speed and feel His pleasure. When you trip and fall, roll over a couple times, jump up, and keep running. Enjoy a Copper Bottom DIPA, go for a run, put the baby in the car and go for a drive. Laughter is the juice to keep the love battery running. We need to suck in that fresh air of joy that settles in the early morning air. We need a heavy dose of joy so that we can have courage for the battle.

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Iatrogenics and the morality of the COVID-19 Lock-down

I was recently introduced to a new medical term while listening to a recording of Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile. In this book he engages with the medical system and science at various points. I am engaging with what Taleb writes as someone with a BA and an MDiv.

“Iatrogenic” is something relating to illness caused by medical examination or treatment. Iatrogenics is when a treatment causes more harm than benefit. After hearing more about “Iatrogenics,” the old hyppocratic oath to do no harm is not as black and white as it immediately appears to be.

Many might argue for the current lock-down on the basis of the public safety. But it does not appear to me that things are that black and white. Especially in light of iatrogenics.

For example, many patients are not warned of the side-affects of various drugs and prescriptions. If you listen to this interview of Jordan Peterson by his daughter Mikhaila, you will hear his experience with an “iatrogenic result from his treatment.” His account has brought many other cases to public attention. I have talked to various people who have taken certain antidepressants and they are not really sure whether these meds have caused more harm than good. I am not arguing against them. I am just recognizing that there are harmful side-effects.

Here I speak of side-effects whether intended or unintended. I prefer to think that they are unintended, but we must never undermine the nature of sin. I haven’t even addressed the clear and direct harm that doctors are willing to do to people through abortion, doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia. I think some medical professionals are confused about the nature of the hyppocratic oath they took… We live in a culture of death. But I digress…

All of this lead me to reflect more on COVID-19. Recently, some Christians have popped up out of the wood-work to claim the “pro-life position” in the COVID-19 debates. They may have been barely involved in the pro-life movement. But apparently the science proves that many Christians are unloving and even murderous if they push back against COVID restrictions. But these arguments enter into a murky territory of subjectivity and trade-offs which could potentially prove to be very immoral.

Questions abound. I have written publicly on the issue of the “side-effects” of our response to COVID-19. These include mental illness, social division, and economic devastation for small businesses.

My debate with “the science” is not whether every individual scientist and/or medical professional sees a man or a woman simply as a physical being. But our response has not taken into consideration the fact that sin is in the medical system. Our response has not taken into consideration the spiritual side to this situation. For years we have been fighting for the lives of the unborn and the elderly. All of a sudden with COVID our medical system has become saintly?

Many Christian counselors these days are taking a holistic approach to counselling. They are encouraging people to take health measures and go to doctors within a framework of Biblical counseling. I believe and argue that this is an excellent thing to do. Reformed Christians believe that men and women are created with both a body and a soul, both of which have been affected by the consequences of Adam’s sin. They are inter-connected. It should not exclude what I call nouthetic counseling, which deals with the root issues of sin, whether the individual has committed it or it has been done to the individual.

Our medical system does not appear to take this holistic approach. And even denies the spiritual aspect of these matters. At least in the over-arching system. There are definitely those who push against the pressure towards scientific consensus. Encouraging parents to cover their faces in front of their kids, and encouraging “physical distancing” in the schools, does not take into account many different human needs. Even Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto argued against that. Kudos to them. If you look at psychiatry and similar lines of study, many are not allowed to recognize a spiritual element. Doctors have been kicked out for helping patients in the name of Christ. Read “Psychobabble” by Dr. Richard Ganz.

Vaccines themselves (which I neither promote nor discourage) may have iatrogenic effects. A healthy skepticism is… healthy. Vaccine injury is not an uncommon circumstance. While Quebec is the only province in Canada with a system for compensation for vaccine injury the States deals out millions a year in compensation. The connection between vaccines and big pharma as well as the fact that some vaccine-makers have no liability should be a matter of concern or at least serious questioning. Yes, certain diseases have been eliminated and there appears to be a strong connection to vaccines. But how many kids have been killed or damaged by the cure? Again. This is where we get into thorny moral territory. Especially in the area of mandatory vaccinations.

If anyone wonders where I got this from. I recently read this in an article promoting vaccines: “At a population level, these rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits of the high uptake in the vaccination. However, this implies that, in rare instances, an individual will suffer from significant consequences for the benefit of others, and that such an event can be anticipated (expected, even), though not necessarily predicted at the individual level.”

The matter of iatrogenics should not be lightly dismissed in any situation. The history of medical theory has been a history of iatrogenics. I am the recipient of unknown substances and the subject of hypotheses that are still being tested. I should challenge these things holistically and think them through rationally. Above all, as a Christian, I am called to subject them to Biblical principle and reasoning.

How should Christians live and think in an era of medical and scientific power? I’m not telling you which side of a medical issue to take a stand on. But think about this. Modern intellectuals have dealt out a strong dose of skepticism with regards to the authority of Scripture. But where does their authority come from? Apart from the revelation of God which brings us not only to see the appearances, but also what lies behind the appearances, will they promote less than moral solutions to the thorny ethical issues of the day? Christians need to seek ethical answers from the Word of God.

Conversations and discussions are good and helpful in society and it is fine for people to lie on the opposite sides of an issue. But don’t buy into the philosophy that science is neutral. It also must be tested with Biblical ethics. Taleb made this point well.

Listen to Taleb’s book Antifragile. Test every spirit. Read the Scriptures. Be humble. Seek the truth.

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