Posted on Monday, May 02, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The Spin was told last week that the Big Eva Establishment will likely not engage us on the complementarianism issue because of our decision to adopt a tone of mockery relative to certain expressions of the movement.  Being ridiculed is, of course, an occupational hazard for those who say ridiculous things; and I had always thought there were other reasons why we are generally ignored by Big Eva or only engaged in a passive-aggressive kind of way.
 

Nevertheless, I do seriously hope that the complementarian establishment engage Scot McKnight who has today published a set of theses for what he believes to be a more biblically balanced complementarianism.  It is actually what I thought the Bible always taught, rather than the reactions to third wave feminism which now seem to have gripped the complementarian imagination.

 

Here’s a taster:

 

[T]he truly complementarian talks about serving his wife the way Christ served the church and tells us stories about what he did recently for his wife.

 

Read the whole thing here.
 

Posted on Friday, April 29, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

As a taster of what is to come on the Spin podcast -- we spent today recording and pulled in some high-powered guests.  Tony Esolen -- Renaissance man, professor of English, translator of Dante, scourge of Fox News ('It was like trying to explain quantum physics to a golden retriever') -- talked to us about how to destroy the imagination and humanity of our children, before waxing eloquent on transgenderism and then on the moral structure of pedophilia.   We also interviewed American Conservative writer, Rod Dreher, on the Benedict Option and whether he, as Eastern Orthodox, is really more pessimistic and cynical than us Calvinists.  Finally, we spoke to, well, not the Fifth Beatle but the Fourth Spinner, 'Mad' Max Benfer about men's ministries.  Plus we recognized the achievement of another Desperate Theologizer and ambushed TP on the issue of women teaching.  All to come in the coming weeks and months.  Oh, and I made my case off-camera for Hall and Oates being to blame for the destruction of civilization as we know it -- trust me, Hall is merely the front man; Oates is the real evil genius behind their diabolical scheme for world domination.

Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The prize for the most confusing statement of the day (and maybe the week) goes to the Gospel Coalition, who apparently found this statement worth tweeting:

 

"It’s more masculine to be attracted to men yet obedient to God than attracted to women and disobedient to God."

 

You can read the full article here.   Which you will have to do if you are to stand any chance of answering the Diva's favourite question when confronted with pseudo-profound, pretentious gibberish: What does that even mean?

 

The use of the idea of masculinity in such a way no doubt plays well to the testosterone-obsessed gallery, while the strange parallel the author draws between the illegitimate expression of a legitimate desire and the refusal to act on an illegitimate desire represents a category confusion which thus cannot substantiate the claim -- even if, merely for the sake of argument, we allow that the claim about being 'more masculine' actually means anything. Which it doesn't.   And, given TGC's imprimatur, this is a most unhelpful and irresponsible tweet (even by the exacting standards of the medium) for the church as a whole. 

Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

My trip to Belfast last week to speak for the Reformed Presbyterians and the Evangelical Presbyterians was a great reminder of the truth of Chrissie Hynde’s lyric, some things change, some stay the same.

 

As to staying the same, I find that every time I visit Ulster I am invited to some clandestine meeting or other.  Last time I spoke to a gathering of ministers and ministerial students in a deserted and disused manse on the north coast.  Seriously, I did.  From the looks on their faces, passers-by clearly thought something sinister was going on. This time I met at Colin the Book’s request with the Provisional EPCI – OK, they are the same guys as the EPC and the PCI but they wear balaclavas and partake of the water of life and (some of them anyway) the Halfling’s Weed.  Like the OPC, then – prepared for peace but ready for war. I also stayed once again with the Watsons, wonderful and kind people who have the misfortune of being the Pope of Ealing’s parents-in-law.  We must pray for them in their affliction.

 

As to change, if I had been told on my last visit two years ago that my next visit would involve addressing the Reformed Presbyterians on the matter of transgenderism, I would have said you were mad.  Completely mad.  But such are the times in which we live.  A morally conservative place like Northern Ireland is changing rapidly, in line with the general chaos now reigning supreme in the western world.   The need for the church to teach her young people well and thoughtfully on such issues is now an absolute imperative.  And if places like Northern Ireland are crumbling on issues of sexuality, there is no hope for anywhere else that they will be immune to this deadly nonsense.  Yet Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.   Some things indeed do change, but the problem -- the inventive creativity of human sin --and the solution -- the  all-sufficient Christ  -- do not.

 

The highlight of the trip, though, was preaching at the EPC family day/general assembly on Saturday and then at Stranmillis EPC in Belfast on Sunday. Any general assembly that does its work in one hour -- yes, one hour! -- has to be a model for the rest of the Presbyterian world.   And the EPC is like the OPC – a small, no-frills Presbyterian denomination.  It is a reminder that Christianity is at its best on the ground, where ordinary people simply believe and seek to live as Christians.  The congregation at Stranmillis is a similar size, and has a similar ethos – serious about the gospel, relaxed about life, friendly to all – that marks the congregation of Cornerstone OPC here.  Strange to tell, at no other church do I feel so much at home preaching than at this small gathering in Belfast.  A real home from home.

 

And that brings me to my main point: those interested in the history of Presbyterianism in general and Irish Presbyterianism in particular should purchase a copy of Ernest C. Brown’s history of the EPC, By Honour and Dishonour, available via Colin the Book.   It is a labour of love and a wonderful history of a tiny but tough denomination that, like the OPC, has punched above its weight.  Central to the narrative is the Davey heresy trial and the role of the student of Machen, W.J. Grier who, after the split from the PCI, was to minister in Stranmillis for many years.  A number of theologians, including my friend and fellow Father Ted aficionado, David McKay offer reflections on the trial and its aftermath -- a section worth the price of the volume in itself.  And here, to add a human touch, is a picture of David explaining Irish cows to me during a break in Friday's lectures. 

 

My only criticism of the volume is the picture of the Pope of Ealing on page 213.  I cannot help but feel it would have been better if the publication had been delayed a year so that the much better looking 2016 speaker could have been featured instead.

 

Seriously, a great book.  Congratulations – and much gratitude – are due to Ernest for his labours on this project.  May it enjoy a wide readership. A reminder that fidelity to the truth is neither glamorous nor often easy but is that to which all Christians are called.

 

 

Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Last week’s post brought some of the usual reactions – Why do I write about celebrity all the time?  Why do I appear to be hitting friends?  Given that my arguments seem in danger of being dismissed because of perceived flaws in my character and motivation, some response to personal criticism finally seems appropriate.

 

Very little of my time is actually spent on this matter of evangelical celebrity marketing and its baneful effects.  None of my books, none of my print articles, none of my lectures, and none of my sermons have ever taken it as a major theme.  And over the last few years it has been at best a secondary interest even online compared, for example, to issues of religious liberty and sexual politics.

 

Two repeated claims have been that I too am a celebrity and that I am parasitical on the culture I criticize because I only ever write my comments via parachurch sites.  As to the first, well, the ladies at head office did put my face on a coffee mug for a joke which then took on a life of its own, and numerous wits have dubbed me the anti-celebrity celebrity – a title I do wear with some sinful pride. But even if I were proved a hypocrite, that would not invalidate my arguments, only my character.   And it might actually strengthen my case, being an example of the Rochefoucauldian homage that vice pays to virtue.

 

As to the second criticism, that I am a parasite because I only have a parachurch platform, well, the Jewish writers at First Things would probably dispute the terminology.  But even so this blog is linked to the Alliance, a parachurch ministry.  Yet my (oft repeated) point has never been that parachurches in themselves are wrong.  It is that parachurches are wrong when they capture that part of the Christian’s imagination which should only be occupied by the church.  It is that parachurches are wrong when they come to supplant roles that really belong only to the church.  And, above all, it is that those parachurch leaders are wrong who consciously leverage their status in parachurches to exert far-reaching power over others, even outside their own organizations.  Two attempts of which I am aware have been made by such men to have me fired simply because of articles I have written critiquing them and their organizations.  That is evil, not simply distasteful.  Thankfully, the Puppet Master is nobody's puppet.

 

What the leaders of the celebrity parachurch world need to ask is not whether I am a wicked hypocrite but whether the crises they have faced repeatedly over the last decade are merely incidental to the culture of Big Eva or actually represent a problem which is an unavoidable part of the project.  Todd Pruitt’s post on platform building would seem to indicate that at the very least Big Eva offers unfortunate opportunities and illicit temptations which no normal human being can resist.   Some people are making big money out of this.  Others are enjoying massive influence within our subculture simply by virtue of their status within the feudal hierarchy, not because of any ecclesiastical mandate or exceptional competence or talent they possess.   Those facts are most potent – and most problematic.

 

So why do I criticize the world occupied by so many of my (now former?) friends?  Because it is fatally flawed, has refused to acknowledge the validity of any criticism, and has proved consistently incapable of policing itself, to the increasing detriment of the church and of the theology I love.  The insulated culture which it has carefully cultivated for over a decade and the behind-the-scenes bully-boy tactics it is willing to deploy against critics mean that it will almost certainly be giving birth to more scandals and crises in the next few years.  If it was just about a good conference or two, there would be no problem.  Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional conference?  But it has become a matter of brands and of platform building, with all of the nonsense that brings with it -- the fatuous Facebook updates, the Twitter trivia, the constant, daily self-promotion on social media with only occasional flashes of any substance.  It thus looks increasingly as if it is really about power and influence for their own sake and not, pace the rhetoric, for the sake of the gospel and the church  And that’s a real problem.

 

If further disasters are to be avoided, it will be necessary to spend more time meditating on the material of the criticisms and less time mulling over the motives of the critics.  But, as Ethan Edwards might say, ‘That’ll be the day!’  

Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

La Diva just sent me this comment from her blog which she was 'so humbled' to receive:

Aimee. More and more you demonstrate fine writing and clear thinking [CRT: She's hanging out with me.  Hey, some of my magic was bound to rub off]. It is also apparent to me that you are twice as smart as the English fellow you have to work with [CRT: I say! Steady on!  Do I detect the typical American prejudice against those who write with an English accent?] and twenty times smarter than the other one [CRT: So, if I do the sums, that makes me only ten times as smart as Pruitt??  Which ranks me where on the scale of intellectual prowess -- somewhere between a jellyfish and a pro-biotic yogurt?]. Thank you for the courage to speak into difficult and controversial subjects [CRT: Credit where credit is due: 'Tis true -- La Diva has courageously taken on the corrupt celebrification of the nail polish, handbag, and hairspray industries, for the benefit of womankind everywhere]. The unfortunate tendency in Christian circles is that voices like yours are marginalized [CRT: If only!  Life would be so much more peaceful in the Underground Bunker.  If anyone knows how we might marginalize this woman, please let us know.  And soon.  We are getting desperate here.] by people with vested interests and narrow agendas [CRT: Todd and I resent the idea that our agendas are narrow, sir.  They have all the breadth of a middle-aged bald guy's girth]. I look forward to hearing more from you [CRT: Not, I suspect, if those nice people in white coats from the institution catch you first].

Posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Analyses of the ‘Trump Moment’ in American politics vary in the details but what is clear is that disillusionment with the Washington Establishment -- oft touted in previous elections but rarely seen as having practical electoral significance – might finally be having an impact.   Years of the elites on both sides patting each other on the back, ignoring the concerns of many ordinary Americans, and corralling public discussion using the canons of political correctness have precipitated something of a backlash.  There seems be widespread cynicism about leadership which has now opened the way for Trump. 

 

One question to ask is whether this instantiation of a rejection of established leadership and political protocols might be indicative of a wider cultural phenomenon.   To bring it closer to home: Could we be on the brink of a ‘Trump Moment’ in the conservative evangelical world.
 

The signs are all there.   Big Eva organizations such as the Gospel Coalition have self-consciously sought to drive and thereby control the small-r reformed world by buying up the talent and overseeing who gets to speak, what gets said, who gets reviewed, who is in, who is out.   Other groups, as I have recently pointed out, have become businesses, making big sums on gospel products and the performance of orthodoxy before the adoring home crowd.  And the small pool of names that populate the leadership of all the Big Eva organizations indicates an establishment elite which ultimately shares a common interest in protecting each other’s brands.  The chances of internal reform seem remote.
 

Nowhere is this problematic culture more evident than in the (non) fall-out from scandals.  Numerous big names have been caught out: plagiarism, bullying, cover ups, adultery, Ashley Madison – you name it, they’ve done it – yet, just like politicians, they offer quick repentances and make come-backs in the time it takes the rest of us to make a cup of tea.  And small, hard-core activists are always available to form a hashtag-wielding mob and rubbish any nay-sayers as hypocrites, legalists and worse.   The potential for a leadership dangerously detached from the people and insulated from legitimate concerns of the constituency who ultimately bankroll the operation of Big Eva seems to be being realized before our eyes.
 

All of the conditions for a Trump Moment in Big Eva reformed evangelicalism therefore seem to be in place.  True, the leadership and the big organizations have thus far proved remarkably resilient.  I keep expecting the bubble to burst but, like Amazon reporting losses year after year, the disasters and the scandals are repeatedly tolerated by the Big Eva stock market, presumably in the hope of a long-term rally.   But I do not believe it can be sustained indefinitely.  Then we may not be facing a market correction but a backlash, not simply against the current leadership but against the theology it has promoted and against the church in general.  Who knows what will replace it?   If secular politics are any guide, the replacement could be much worse.  That would be tragic because the price will be paid not only by the myriad of humble pastors who simply seek to care for their people but also by the church in general.

Posted on Tuesday, April 05, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

This just in from an Australian reader who takes exception to my advice on London hostelries.  Always happy to offer constructive response to those who need some guidance on life's questions:

Dear Dr Carl,
I used to admire your wit and intelligence [CRT: Good man!  Though the past tense gives cause for concern....], but "All true beers are served flat and at room temperature, as you know.  The first mark of real civilization" is an affront to all thinking people and to civilisation [CRT: Check the OED; although they may not have that in Oztralia]. Either the 'z' is ironic, or you really have been living among the uncivilised for far too long [CRT: Or maybe, just maybe, I read the OED....] – and I'm writing that as an Australian, for goodness sakes! [CRT: Ah, you have a medical condition.  I'll go easy on the sarcasm then]
The only rule for beer – the colder the better… [CRT: For Australian beer, being tasteless, that is certainly the only way it should be drunk.  I understand where you are coming from on this].
Please send photo of sack cloth and ashes. [CRT: Will this do?]

 

Posted on Sunday, April 03, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

I am happy to give blog space to a guest post by Mark Jones, furthering the conversation on the theology of the recent creed from Ligonier:

Mark writes:

“We affirm that as truly man, Christ possesses all the natural limitations and common infirmities of human nature and that He is like us in all respects except for sin." - Ligonier Christology Statement, Article 7

In my original critique of the Ligonier Christology Statement (and “Creed”), I noted that they should not have spoken in the present tense in Article 7 of Christ's common infirmities, as if he still partakes of them. I believe this is an incorrect way to speak of Christ in his exalted state. But in a recent article defending the Affirmations and Denials, Steve Nichols seems to think Article 7 is sound.

The Son of God possessing "common infirmities" as a result of the incarnation is the language of WCF 8.2. According to Nichols' post, all Ligonier meant by it was to say that Christ is still truly human in his exalted status. Having done quite a bit of work on the Westminster documents and Christology in that era, I am pretty sure Nichols is making a mistake.
 
All one would have to do is point to WLC Q/A 52, which explicitly rules this out as applying after the resurrection.
 
Q. 52. How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?
 
A. Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God,...
 
Article 7 is a misstatement that Ligonier cannot wriggle out of, and it proves that they have made an erroneous statement. Instead of recognizing the error when I first pointed it out, Ligonier subsequently put up an article defending the use of "common infirmities" to describe Christ's present exalted status. This seems very strange to me.
 
Personally, I am yearning for the day when I will no longer have any more "common infirmities". I will not possess a nature liable to hunger, sadness, and decay. Rather, like Christ, I will be conformed to his glorious image, and thus raised in power! The promise of no more “common infirmities” belongs to my hope. To say that Christ still possesses them is to suggest, however unwittingly, that I will possess them in my glorified estate. And that, to me, is not good news at all.
 
Of course, if this was about theology it would be easy for Ligonier to recognize the error and change it (along with the other errors). But this is not about theology, and I doubt it was...

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

As is well known, the Spin Team are more than happy to answer listeners' questions and here is one that came in yesterday, reprinted here with permission and commentary:

 

Hello Dr. Trueman! My name is ***** and I'm a prospective student of Westminster. Firstly, I've been listening to your lectures on iTunesU and have thoroughly enjoyed them. [CRT -- C'mon, man, there's much more you could say -- about my rapier wit, classical learning, etc. etc.] Secondly, I also listen to Mortification of Spin and thank you for your contributions there as well as it has helped prepare me for ministry [CRT -- yes, I do my best to counteract the PCA nonsense of TP and the ditzy blonde ramblings of the Byrd.  Glad my efforts are appreciated by someone.] This may seem like an odd and random contact, [CRT: not compared to many we get, trust me....] but my wife, her family, and I will be traveling to England and Ireland this July [CRT: Avoiding Wales is always a good move, for reasons too obvious to need pointing out]. We'll be spending some time in Dublin, County Kerry, and London. I was wondering if you know of any good pubs in those areas. [CRT: Is the Pope Catholic?  Is Liechtenstein small?] I know you're from Gloucestershire, [CRT: Come on you cherry and whites!] and I hope this request doesn't seem patronizing in anyway [CRT: Look, I've had the Top Men email me.  I know patronizing when I read it and you're doing fine], but since I tragically don't know any Englishmen personally [CRT: I just cried a little.  You, my friend, have never lived, and probably never drunk tea while listening to The Who], I thought I'd contact you [CRT: So young and yet so wise....]. Please let me know! Cheers and amen.

 

Of course,  I would recommend the Ten Bells in Whitechapel -- historic for its connection with Jack the Ripper, with some good ales, and the Nag's Head at Covent Garden. The latter offers great pub grub and decent beer in one of my favourite parts of London.  All true beers are served flat and at room temperature, as you know.  The first mark of real civilization.

 

CRT: In an earlier version of this post, I referred to my beloved Gloucester Rugby Club as the cherry and reds.  This has now been corrected.  I am ashamed of my typo.  Truly.

 

So glad to have been of help.