A Platitude Pusher

I’ve been questioning for some time Tim Challies daily posting of pious aphorisms, which seem to undermine Bible memorization (for starters). Then I read Alan Jacobs on Platitude-Pushers and I think of the sentimental maxims that Tim posts (complete with — wait for it — graphics).

First Jacobs:

Platitude-pushers seem to do especially well on Twitter: if you want to get yourself tens of thousands of followers, just utter banal words of exhortation, challenge, or encouragement with an air of profundity (and, of course, in fewer than 140 characters).

Then Tim’s pious thought for the day:

Everybody thinks sanctification looks like strength. Really what it looks like is weakness. —Ed Welch

Finally, the aphorisms of a real craftsman, H. L. Mencken. Not so pious, but oh so provocative.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

Love: The delusion that one woman differs from another.

Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

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63 thoughts on “A Platitude Pusher

  1. You get the distressing sense that the New Calvinists (evangelicals with Macs and more than 200 books) believe that all media are created equal and that all can be employed with edifying effect so long as they are undergirded with plenteous piety and put together by a hipster with trendy glasses. Thus tweets, Instagram graphics, Charlie Rose-style video interviews, animated poems, movies, business-style meetings, tightly-produced conferences, and stylish websites are all…good. The children of Finney — both the do-gooders and the revivalists (which groups TGC is rolling up into one green package) — never met a new measure they didn’t like. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,,,and memes they become.

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  2. Does this mean the end of all claims that we ourselves have a theology of the cross, and the other guy has a theology of glory?

    one girl’s platitude is another girl’s provocation

    my daily soundbite for today—-Resurrection does not make death a good thing.

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  3. I don’t think so, Zrim. TKNY, Challies, Piper, Burk Parsons, et al are usually engaging in smarmfest. Maybe they work around the edges of issues du jour and pluck a bit of low-hanging fruit, but it’s mostly just pious tosh, light and fluffy like meringue. Stock phrases, buzzwords, Spurgeon quotes ad nauseam.

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  4. oook. we learn new things every day – (not that we didn’t already know)

    1) the go-to guy for OPC’s view of women -Mencken
    2) OPC’s innate default disposition “anger and righteous indignation” (Carl Trueman, today,MOS)
    3) DG’s view of scripture
    that above ‘platitude’=2 Cor 12:9
    platitude= the quality of being dull or insipid; a banal, trite, or stale remark
    therefore scripture= the quality of being dull or insipid; banal, trite, stale

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  5. Hilarious. Another gal who’s got Dr. Hart’s number.

    Ali
    Posted November 24, 2015 at 9:12 pm | Permalink
    oook. we learn new things every day – (not that we didn’t already know)

    1) the go-to guy for OPC’s view of women -Mencken

    2) OPC’s innate default disposition “anger and righteous indignation” (Carl Trueman, today,MOS)

    3) DG’s view of scripture
    that above ‘platitude’=2 Cor 12:9
    platitude= the quality of being dull or insipid; a banal, trite, or stale remark
    therefore scripture= the quality of being dull or insipid; banal, trite, stale

    Love 1). It’s not that Old Life hates women, but it’s such a dry and boring Pharisee club, splitting hairs on scripture lovelessly and mercilessly

    2) Machen’s Warrior Children, written by a fellow Presbyterian, Ali

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/machens-warrior-children/

    3) And you caught Dr. Hart with his pants down, in sneering ignorance of

    Everybody thinks sanctification looks like strength. Really what it looks like is weakness. —Ed Welch

    which is of Biblical origin [2 Cor 12:9].

    9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.</blockquote.

    And they dare mock you, Ali?

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  6. DG: Ali brings out the claws only to hide behind the Bible.
    TVD: Machen’s Warrior Children

    Thank you DG, a compliment, but it ain’t no cat fight, it’s a raging battle.

    And thanks TVD, probably will read the article, but in any case I do like the title ‘Warriors Children’

    Take up the sword, fellows, and the whole armor Eph 6:10-18

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  7. “I am thankful, though I shall be changed.”

    therefore faith is works

    “God is Subject, but over against God and in relation to Him man is also subject. I imply that I am subject by saying: ‘I will.’ And as I do not merely say this, but really will, I posit myself as subject. By willing, I recognize the fact that my being is not simply a gift with which I am endowed but a task for which I am commissioned. Indeed, I affirm and grasp my being as my task, and treat it as such. My being as my history does not merely take place like a drop of water carried along in a river. My being as history takes place in such a way that I myself see myself as the one I shall be, as the one it is my task to be”

    therefore faith is works

    “accepting” Jesus to save you means accepting Him as Lord to tell you what to do

    if you accept Jesus, you will avoid sin
    if you don’t avoid sin, then you didn’t really accept Jesus

    you can’t just have your sins cancelled
    especially not your future sins

    does the purgatory in the subtext depend on platitudes?

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2015/11/being-in-gratitude

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  8. thanks again for the link TVD. I did decide I had to plow thru it – interesting, informative, thought provoking. Also did you see, our beloved DG is mentioned.

    “But at the end of the twentieth century, church historians, and theologians who do their work in dialogue with ancient and recent history, have become more prominent. Reformed theology has participated in this development, so that many of its most prominent figures, such as David Wells, Donald Bloesch, Mark Noll, George Marsden, Darryl Hart, Richard Muller, and Michael Horton, do theology in a historical mode. Many of these also advocate strict subscription and traditional worship, and they seek to renew an emphasis on Reformation distinctives: hence the discussions of covenant, justification, law, and gospel, noted earlier. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has supported this emphasis.”

    “Though this emphasis has done some good by revitalizing interest in the Reformed heritage, some have found deficiencies in the theology emerging from this movement. The main issue is sola Scriptura. The Reformed tradition consists, not in merely repeating previous Reformed traditions, but, as with Calvin, in using the Scriptures to criticize tradition. The history-oriented theologians tend to be uncritical of traditions and critical of the contemporary church. But their arguments are often based on their preferences rather than biblical principle and therefore fail to persuade.

    “The Reformed community, in my judgment, needs to return to an explicitly exegetical model of theology, following the example of John Murray. The exegetical approach is also (perhaps paradoxically) the most contemporary approach, for it applies Scripture directly to our lives today. This question is, of course, one of emphasis. We should never ignore our past. But my view is that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of a historical emphasis.”

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  9. We’ll jump off that bridge when come to it.

    The worst pizza I ever had was pretty good.

    There’s still time for this to go terribly wrong.

    A pessimist is always either right or happy.

    (For AliV) Please, tell me less.

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  10. Appreciate the post……so true, so true. The problem is that they become ‘the gospel’ in many ways if left unchallenged and affects the saints in the same way as the ‘pious boycotting Hardees Restaurants’ because of their commercials……..

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  11. “Being in a church without liberals to fight, they turned on one another.” This is always a problem for every church. There’s always a group who love to shoot their friends in the back over the tiniest of grievances because it’s easier than taking on real enemies of the faith and it makes them feel pious. No doubt some denominations encourage the behavior implicitly, perhaps even explicitly.

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  12. Without pious aphorisms, my Facebook feed would shrivel up and die. I’d be left with the stay-at-home-mom pyramid schemes and the Crossfit cultists.

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  13. Garrison Keillor–The best pumpkin pie you ever ate is not that much better than the worst pumpkin pie you ever ate–thus the mediocrity.

    mark mcculley—-I do not know what an evangelical is, but unlike Garrison Keillor, I still want it on the record that I was NEVER an evangelical.

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  14. DG: Stop it…. We are not sent into the pulpit to show our wit and eloquence, but to set the consciences of men on fire. —Solomon Stoddard

    Stop it ?– you mean speaking scripture DG?

    another great scriptural recap (* below) , isn’t it DG?
    As the Lord says, “The one who listens to (the one speaking scripture) listens to Jesus, and the one who rejects (the one speaking scripture) rejects Jesus; and he who rejects Jesus rejects the Father.” Luke 10:16.. for scripture is all about Jesus – “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures”….”they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24 27 ,32

    *
    -Paul: I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God..my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Christ sent me to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 1 Cor 2:1 -5;1 Cor 1: 17
    -Paul: We give thanks to God always… for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; 1 Thess 1: 2,5
    -Jesus: as it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 1 Cor 1:19

    Have a great Thanksgiving day and holiday

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  15. I knew I had to get away from his church and head towards a confessional Reformed church.

    Not that’s there’s anything wrong with his church provided it’s meeting your needs…

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  16. D. G. Hart: Stop it already. To abandon prayer is to embrace atheism. —Alec Motyer

    scripture , DG, scripture; you’re wearing me down; do I have to look up every verse for you. :)

    -the wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him (pray). All his thoughts are “There is no God.” (Ps 10:4)
    -the fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”; the workers of wickedness do not call upon (pray to) God/ the Lord (Ps14;53 v1,4)

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  17. Really?God did not love the world because the world is lovely. God loved the world because God is love. —Shai Linne

    yep. really. scripture, DG, scripture, speaking to everything, even Christian-blog-‘platitudes’.
    how’ bout this…
    God made the world lovely. He created it and saw His creation was good. (Gen 1). God didn’t see a lovely world and decide to love it because it was lovely (that’s what we do). He loved it. It was lovely. God loves what He loves (God is love- 1 John 4:8) and His love is not based on the condition of loveliness (that’s what we do).; (thank goodness for me and you, am I right, DG?) and even now while creation is subject to futility, enslaved to corruption , He loves the world (John 3:16); His dwelling places are lovely (Psalm 84:1);and His creation is speaking His glory (Psalm 19:1-4)

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  18. Mboss, the good news is, the platitudes and Jamberries may drive me to delete my Facebook account. All I want is birth and engagement announcements (with pictures!)

    I really do scratch my head at the platitudes people share. My in laws are RB, so they show up a lot. I think it might be a blog marketing thing (why don’t YOU share Mencken platitudes, Dr. Hart. Does OL even have a Facebook page?)

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  19. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

    “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.”

    “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God”

    “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear.”

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  20. sdb:“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
    “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.”
    “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God”
    “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear.”

    speaking of ‘meaningless’ sdb, the @ OL-written-off-he’s-a-lost-cause-and-thank-God-I’m-not-‘Biebs’ is releasing a new album ‘Purpose’. “Bieber credited his connection with God for helping him to get back on his feet after a string of widely publicized tabloid troubles.” http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-ms-justin-bieber-notebook-20151116-story.html

    Interesting you pair those Ecclesiastes verses with Job (11:13-15). Are you making your own statement about something? Careful about selective-partial-whole-counsel or else the Lord might say: (Job 40,42) “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? You have not spoken of Me what is right”

    btw, did you see today ‘s ‘platitude’ : Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. —Rosaria Butterfield. I don’t think that one ever is qualified and is not true in scripture, do you?

    “Then Job answered the LORD and said : “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? ’Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)

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  21. Yes. Flinging around verses sans context as is your wont is unhelpful at best and sacrilegious at worst. Butterfield’s line comes across as trite. Perhaps it is better buried in the original paragraph it was picked from?

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  22. sdb Butterfield’s line comes across as trite. Perhaps it is better buried in the original paragraph it was picked from?
    [Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. —Rosaria Butterfield.]

    trite? bury it? I sortof suspected, probably explains a lot. 

    Jesus: repent! (Rev 3:19)

    repent? whatever- so trite, and probably just out of context, so never mind.

    trite = not interesting or effective because of being used too often : not fresh or original ;boring from much use

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  23. @Ali Taking Butterfield’s sentence out of context renders it trite. Perhaps what she had to say was really interesting. Perhaps it was heretical. I have no idea without reading the context.

    For example, she could be telling us that we have to first achieve some state of spiritual achievement before we can properly repent and be saved. Or perhaps she is telling us that we cooperate in our justification by loving God first. Or perhaps she is telling us that God changes our heart, replaces our heart of stone with a heart of flesh that then enables us to repent. The sentence you tossed out sans context doesn’t tell us what she meant. One could, based on one’s background, legitimately interpret those words any one of those ways. Thus the sentence on its own is meaningless.

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  24. I see your point sdb and appreciate it; wish you were not so partial in where you want precision, clarity, confusion-avoidance, though.
    I saw it as a thought provoking stand-alone true statement speaking to:

    John 3 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

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  25. Mike Horton—“The New Testament lays before us a vast array of CONDITIONS for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but PERSEVERANCE in both repentance and faith , DEMONSTRATED in love toward God and neighbor ” God of Promise, p 182

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  26. D. G. Hart No wonder you don’t quote the Bible:If you love deeply, you’re going to get hurt badly. But it’s still worth it. —C.S. Lewis

    DG :It’s hard to find something that maudlin.

    awww DG , you’re kidding right?

    Isaiah 53
    3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
    A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
    And like one from whom men hide their face
    He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
    And our sorrows He carried;
    Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
    Smitten of God, and afflicted.
    5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
    The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
    And by His scourging we are healed.
    6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
    Each of us has turned to his own way;
    But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
    To fall on Him.
    7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
    Yet He did not open His mouth;
    Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
    And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
    So He did not open His mouth.
    8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
    And as for His generation, who considered
    That He was cut off out of the land of the living
    For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
    9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
    Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
    Because He had done no violence,
    Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
    10 But the LORD was pleased
    To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
    If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
    He will see His offspring,
    He will prolong His days,
    And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
    11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
    He will see it and be satisfied;
    By His knowledge the Righteous One,
    My Servant, will justify the many,
    As He will bear their iniquities.
    12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
    And He will divide the booty with the strong;
    Because He poured out Himself to death,
    And was numbered with the transgressors;
    Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
    And interceded for the transgressors.

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  27. D. G. Hart:Ali, sentimentality is loving something disproportionately.

    “What is sentimentality? James Baldwin called it the “ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion,” but Orhan Pamuk declared it “one of life’s greatest consolations.”…The word sentimentality (at least as it is used today) is intellectually hollow, a way of “sneering at emotion you don’t agree with,” says Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto. Sentiment, he points out, used to be the standard term for feelings, sympathies, or passions, beginning with Adam Smith’s 1759 tome The Theory of Moral Sentiments and continuing through Flaubert’s 1869 novel Sentimental Education. Only recently has it twisted into subjective meaninglessness: “indulging one’s emotions in an inappropriate” http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/07/science_of_sentimentality_why_we_love_weepy_ya_books_and_movies.html

    btw-todays:
    There is nothing in the law of God that will rob you of happiness; it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow. —C.H. Spurgeon

    +lawlessness = + grown cold love = +harmful beasts Matt 24:12
    God’s plans for His people: welfare, not calamity, a future, a hope Jer 29: 11
    law of God [calamity-less] =
    law of the Spirit of life in Jesus (Rom 8:2) [calamity-less] =
    perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) [calamity-less]=
    does no harm [calamity-less](Rom 13:10)
    I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. Ez 34:25

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  28. How could a.gun ever be interfering with God’s plan, when having a sword is always God’s plan?

    Do not give the enemy two coats, because you might need to sell those coats to buy a gun instead of “putting yourselves in harm’s way”

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  29. D. G. Hart: aw.

    ha! ‘sentiment’, from DG, and yet he lives! 🙂

    ..sure… right now… “it may not be red as the roses yet; it may not be strong as the old oak trees; it may not be clear as the morning; it may not be wide as a restless sea; but hearts given freely become what they ought and love planted deeply becomes what it ought to be”……..

    (sent, as always also, for the beloved cw l’sentiment, mais non?)

    hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:5)

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  30. D. G. Hart:Perhaps the most common reason people don’t believe in God is simply this: They don’t want anyone telling them what to do. —Kevin DeYoung

    mmmmm

    Yep. though you’d have to qualify ‘believe’. Offhand these come to mind:

    demons believe and shudder (because they do their own thing) James 2: 19

    This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness (doing their own thing) rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. John 3: 19

    Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, (doing your own thing) is not from the Father, but is from the world. John 2:15 -16

    James 4: What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.(doing your own thing)

    Eph 4:17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.(the progression of doing their own thing)

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