Category Archives: Blog Entry

Don’t Believe Lies, Dear Sister

Don’t believe lies.

1) “I can’t meet the standard of Andy’s behavior. That standard is too high.”

This is an absurd lie. It actually isn’t that hard, especially these days. I’m more or less bumbling my way through seminary, working a few jobs that are actually pretty dang easy, but everyone in our family thinks I’m great for some reason. I guess that’s because that’s how I portray myself sometimes. In point of fact, though, I’m an arrogant, self-centered asshole, and all you have to do to meet the standard of my behavior is stay out of trouble, do your work, and facebook a lot. While you’re at it, treat people around you like dirt, and you’ve pretty much nailed it. It’s pretty damned easy, to be honest. In fact, minus the “stay out of trouble” part– and possibly the “facebook a lot”– I daresay you’re doing a pretty good job at meeting my standard of behavior already.

2) “I must meet the standard of Andy’s behavior to be loved.”

This is a powerful lie. It is powerful because there is truth to it: There is a standard that you must meet to be loved. It is a lie because the standard that you must meet to be loved is not the standard of my behavior. It is the standard of God’s behavior. The problem with people holding you to the standard of my behavior is not that it is too high. The problem is that the standard of my behavior is far, far too low. Abysmally low.

3) “I am not loved.”

This is a lie from the pit of hell.

You are loved. More than you can ever possibly know.

Although you have not met the standard of God’s behavior, God became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ to meet the standard of God’s behavior on behalf of all who would put their trust in Him. For all who put their trust in Him, God loves them in exactly the same way that He loves Himself. No, more: God loves all who put their trust in Him with the very same love with which He loves Himself. This is what it means to be united with Christ. If you have put your trust in the God Who became a man, Who lived the life that we should have lived, and Who died the death that we should have died, then God loves you every bit as much as He loves Himself.

That love is infinite. As such, finite human beings can never fully comprehend it. It is eternal. As such, it precedes your very existence and extends beyond the limits of time itself. And it is unchangeable. As such, it can never be lost or diminished. If you have put your trust in the God Who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, you are loved with a love that is beyond your comprehension, beyond the limits of time, and can never be lost or diminished.

You are loved. More than you can ever possibly know.

And I love you, too.

Mom and Dad piss me off sometimes, too, but you need to be eternally grateful to God for them. You will never know the terrible pain of growing up fatherless, and you will not know the hardship that Mom has endured for your sake until you have children of your own. Mom and Dad both love you, even though you may not recognize it and even though they’re both bad at it. They are probably frustrated because they want another child who will reflect well on them and through whom they can live vicariously. You are frustrated because you don’t want to be their vicar. (Imagine how Jesus Christ must have felt being our vicar!)

But anyway, they love you. If they didn’t love you, I guarantee you that they wouldn’t be together. It takes a lot to hold a marriage together, and believe it or not, their love for you is one of those things.

As for our brothers, I don’t know what to say.

…except that they need to get their shit together even more than I do.

For my little sister and the young men who try to be with her…

I’m at least a decade older than you, which puts me in a totally different generation, I think. I don’t even understand my own generation, let alone yours. For one thing, I grew up with both a father and a mother who love each other, have stuck together, and have loved me dearly. That’s more than many in my generation can say, and it’s more than some in your generation can even imagine. When I think of this, I weep for joy at the great blessing I have received and with deep sorrow for the great pain that I see many others carrying who were not so blessed.

That’s not really what I’m writing about here, though. There’s a more fundamental difference between you and me in the way that we communicate. When I was in junior high and high school, cell phones were still pretty rare. This was before Twitter, before Facebook, before Myspace– almost even before Google, if you can wrap your mind around that! Thus, when I wanted to tell a girl that I liked her, I pretty much had to do so face-to-face, preferably in at least one complete sentence. From junior high throughout most of high school, there was one girl who was very special to me, and when I asked her out, she turned me down. We were friends and kept in touch, though, mostly through letters that we both wrote by hand and would take sometimes as long as a few days to reach the other person after they were sent in the mail. I read every word she wrote very carefully, and I considered very carefully every word that I wrote in response to her, too.

 …actually, that’s not exactly what I wanted to write about here, either.

 My oldest little sister was born in my first year of junior high. I was home-schooled for most of high school, so I was at home most of the time while she was growing up. In a lot of ways, I felt like a second father to her. When Dad was out of town on business trips during the week, I kinda was a second father. I fed her, changed her diapers, punished her when she was bad (and then told her how much I still loved her, and held her close until she quit throwing her fit), gave her piggy back rides, danced with her… Some of the most precious moments of my life to date were when it was time for her afternoon nap and she would fall asleep in my arms on the couch.

One day, when I was about fifteen and she was about two, a song came on the radio. (There weren’t iPods back then.) She ran in playful, giggling circles around me as that song played, and I remember thinking to myself while I sat there on the living room floor, “Cherish this moment. She will grow up too fast.” It took me years to figure out what the song was– it didn’t have any words, so it was hard to find– but every time I hear it, I think of that precious, giggling little girl. She was still too young to talk. Now, she is the same age that I was then, and she’s growing up fast. I hope that I can dance with her to this song on her wedding day.

I remember one summer day when we were playing in the front yard, she stepped on an ant hill in the front yard. They were stinging ants, and before I knew it, she was covered in them. This was still before she could speak, so all she could do was cry. I sprayed them off of her with the water hose, then poured out swift, watery vengeance upon the ant hill. I was furious that they had touched my precious little sister. In Japan, they have a saying: 悪い虫が付かないようにする。 “Keep the bad bugs away.”

To my sister: I know you’re not that little girl anymore, but I still love you more than words can say. You’re not that little girl anymore, so if you love someone, you can say it to me. I want to hear all about it. I’ll try not to judge him too harshly, even though he could obviously never be good enough for you. (I hope you never get it into your head that you are too good for a good guy, though.) I pray that God will give you wisdom to stay away from ant hills, but if you ever need help keeping the 悪い虫 away, I hope you will tell me about that, too.

To the young men: I know it may be hard for you to believe, but you are worth far more than my sister’s opinion of you. It may be hard for you to believe, but if you just want to matter to somebody, there is a God Who made the world, and you matter to Him. Whether you are playing with my sister’s heart to gain her affection because you just want to matter to somebody, or you want to be by her side for the rest of your life to love, protect, and provide for her, you are worth far more than my sister’s opinion of you. If you are special to my sister and she is special to you, I am happy for you and hope that we can talk sometimes. If you are looking for significance through a girl, however, I am sad for you and hope that God will show you that you are worth so much more than that– and so is my sister, so don’t treat her like crap.

Genesis and Gun Control

I just finished reading three articles. The first was Dr. Richard Belcher‘s “review” of Dr. C. John Collinsbook on the historicity of Adam and Eve, the second was Dr. Collins’ response to the review, and the third was Rev. Richard Phillipspiece about why public critique does not invoke Matthew 18. The third article seems a bit detached from the first two, but it was actually written partly in response to the interaction between Dr. Belcher and Dr. Collins. Dr. Collins’ book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care, essentially argues that, despite evidence that currently seems to point to the contrary, we should believe that Adam and Eve were supernaturally created by God as real people in history and that sin entered the world through them. At first glance, it sounds so orthodox that you would think no one would have a problem with it. Remember, though: we are Presbyterian.

In the first piece, Dr. Belcher gives what is essentially a negative review of Dr. Collins’ book. More accurately, it is not a review of Dr. Collins’ book at all. It is a brief lecture on the importance of holding to the traditional understanding of Genesis 2:7 (an understanding to which Dr. Collins does, in fact, hold, as Dr. Belcher acknowledges) with a few hints throughout that Dr. Collins is somehow opening Pandora’s box by not requiring everyone else to hold to all of the details of said traditional understanding.

In the second piece, Dr. Collins discusses where and how he believes that Dr. Belcher has misunderstood and misrepresented his book. Dr. Collins decries, among other things, the portrayal of his book as one that advocates a “pictorial” and “symbolic” understanding of the Bible in general or even of Genesis 1-11 in particular and the insinuation that his literary approach to Genesis rolls out a red carpet to the pulpit for unbelieving ministers. In his conclusion, Dr. Collins laments that Dr. Belcher did not contact him privately to discuss his issues with the book before having the review released to the public as this necessitated a public reply.

In the third piece, Rev. Phillips ostensibly gives four reasons why public critique does not invoke Matthew 18, but he really only gives one: Matthew 18 deals with personal sins, not public debate. The other three paragraphs in Rev. Phillips’ article really don’t deal with Matthew 18. They mostly just emphasize that public stuff should be dealt with publicly. His third point, though, is very revealing. He gives the following syllogism:

  • “…since 1) Dr. Collins is previously bound to a certain confessional doctrine (WLC 17);
  • and now 2) publicly states that contrary views are acceptable to Scripture;
  • it is unavoidable to conclude that 3) he – the chairman of Old Testament at the PCA’s denominational seminary – publicly holds that the confessional standard is wrong.”

As an aside, this is actually an extremely avoidable conclusion. A person could hold that the confession is true and, at the same time, hold that a view contrary to the confession is not necessarily contrary to Scripture. In fact, doesn’t this happen… like… all the time? If it doesn’t, it sure should. Rev. Phillips goes on to note that “Dr. Collins did not write the words, ‘the Larger Catechism is wrong,’ but the obvious effect of his writing is to make a case to that very effect.” Again, this is far from obvious. Allowing for other views in your writing is not that same thing as writing “to make a case” against your own view. Perhaps what Rev. Phillips is trying to say is that, when Dr. Collins says in writing that certain views that are not in keeping with Westminster may yet be reconciled with Scripture, it somehow weakens the perceived authority of the confession. Someone could conceivably say, “But Dr. Collins said…!”

Incidentally, I’m not sure that Rev. Phillips citation of the Larger Catechism Question 17 really settles the matter. Although it states that God “formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground” and formed “the woman of the rib of the man”, surely these phrases in the standards should be understood in whatever sense God intended them to be understood in Scripture, just as we should understand “He descended into hell” in the Apostles’ Creed as referring to “not the place of final judgment, but the place of all the dead awaiting judgment” (even though the English word “hell” almost always draws up images of the lake of fire, the place of final and eternal punishment), even as Larger Catechism Question 50 indicates.

Dr. Belcher and Rev. Phillips seem to have a very different motivation than Dr. Collins does. Dr. Collins seems, at least to me, to be interested in making belief in a real Adam and Eve intellectually palatable for the widest array of people possible. This is a worthy goal. On the other hand, Dr. Belcher and Rev. Phillips seem to be interested in preserving and propagating a straightforward, face-value reading of Genesis that requires little or no familiarity with Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonic literature to be understood. Actually, I’m kind of on board with that, too, to be honest. I’d much rather not have to do (what many perceive as) exegetical acrobatics in order to reconcile my beliefs with contemporary science. In fact, I still lean toward a young Earth. The arguments and evidence I’ve seen and heard so far have not persuaded me… yet. It is entirely possible that I will change my mind eventually.

It looks like Dr. Belcher and Rev. Phillips want Dr. Collins to close the door of the Church to people who think Adam and Eve were, for example, “king and queen of a larger population” of original humans rather than the only two humans God created. That can’t be the case, though, because they’re arguing from the Westminster Standards. As I recall, regular members of the PCA aren’t required to adhere to the standards. There’s a membership vow, of course, and there are certain doctrinal expectations and requirements, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone asked about Adam and Eve during a new members’ installation. I think only elders have to worry about that sort of thing. So they’re concerned about who we ordain as elders. Their prime concern here is with the ordination of elders who will eventually reveal their true colors and start demythologizing the gospel. That’s definitely a good concern, but do we really need to get this worked up about a particular understanding of Adam and Eve beyond requiring them to believe that they were real people, that they were created by God supernaturally, and that their rebellion brought sin and human death into the world?

So what’s at stake?

If I do change my mind about the age of the Earth at some point, will I still be able to be ordained in the PCA? On one level, I don’t really care. I’m going to Japan anyway, so I’m kind of up in the air about working with the PCA to begin with. Then again, I’ve been in the PCA for nearly twenty years now, and I have some connections with MTW. Besides, I’m bound to run into the issue sooner or later in Japan, too.

I will say this, though: Making young-Earth, seven-day creationism a requirement for ordination in order to safeguard the Gospel of Jesus Christ reminds me of the people who were calling for more gun control laws after the Columbine incident, but before those two had “committed a single violent act, they had already violated enough state and federal weapons control laws to be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.”  There was a just concern, to be sure, but it was not the legislation of new laws that was required. It was the proper enforcement of the ones already in place that was the issue. Likewise, the wolves in sheep’s clothing who have taken the cloth and the pulpit under false pretenses only to undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ have caused Christians to be very concerned about false teachers. I think we have enough laws on the books already, though, to convict those who would lead people away from Christ.