You Don’t Need to Believe in God to thank God for the ACLU

Do civil liberties in the United States really depend on non-Quakers having access to self-uniting marriages (amazing what you find when you go to Philadelphia’s municipal offices‘ webpages):

What is a self-uniting marriage, you ask? No, it doesn’t mean you fulfill your self-love:

For couples who want to skip a formal marriage ceremony, usually their first thought is to just get a marriage license, go to city hall and get married by a judge, magistrate or mayor. But in Pennsylvania, getting married doesn’t even have to be that formal.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that offers couples the option of a self-uniting marriage license.

The custom is rooted in the Quaker faith and is actually part of a formal wedding ceremony. According to the book Quakerism: A Religion Meaningful for Today’s World, the couple walks into the ceremony together and later rises and states their vows to each other. At the conclusion of the event, all of the witnesses sign the marriage certificate.

But the ACLU became alarmed when some residents of Pennsylvania did not have access to a self-uniting marriage (civil libertarians don’t seem to care that residents of Ohio don’t have access to this kind of union):

Because Pennsylvania has a large Quaker population, the license is available in most counties. But you don’t have to be a Quaker to take advantage of the service; the state American Civil Liberties Union took care of that in 2007.

An Allegheny County couple had been denied the self-uniting license because they told the Register of Wills that they weren’t part of the Quaker faith. With the help of the ACLU, the couple sued, and the court ruled that the license cannot be denied to anyone.

That’s a relief.

But it wasn’t enough to keep Donald Trump from becoming POTUS. Never forget, never Trump.

Called to Drink

Bryan and the Jasons don’t seem to update their blog much. Jason Stellman’s conversion narrative is still there. But no one at Called to Communion seems to notice where their call led Jason (thanks to our Michigan correspondent):

JASON STELLMAN, cohost of the podcast Drunk Ex-Pastors, is a Southern California native and transplant to Seattle who wishes he still lived in Europe. He served as a missionary with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa in Uganda (’91-’92) and in Hungary (’94-2000). Ordained In the Presbyterian Church in America, he was called to plant Exile Presbyterian Church in the Seattle area where he served from 2004-2012. In September 2012, he was received into the Catholic Church. He drinks and questions his faith regularly.

Don’t get me wrong. I like a drink as much as the next man. But I haven’t made drinking a fruit of the Spirit or a reason to be Presbyterian (hey, wait a minute).

When Tim Ignores Tim

Tim Challies needed support for his opposition to portrayals of God in film (think The Shack, I guess). So where did he go? He went to the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms, not to Tim Keller’s New City Catechism.

Notice the repudiation of images of God in Westminster and Heidelberg (from Tim):

Q. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he has for his own worship.

Q. What does God require in the second commandment?
A. We are not to make an image of God in any way, nor to worship him in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word.
Q. May we then not make any image at all?
A. God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. Creatures may be portrayed, but God forbids us to make or have any images of them in order to worship them or to serve God through them.
Q. But may images not be tolerated in the churches as “books for the laity?”
A. No, for we should not be wiser than God. He wants his people to be taught not by means of dumb images but by the living preaching of his Word.

Tim concludes:

On the basis of the information I’ve collected, I can make this determination: According to the Reformed tradition, the Bible forbids portraying God in any form, whether for worship or as a teaching aid.

But I shouldn’t stop there. The catechisms include Scripture references for each statement they make, so I should follow those references back to the Bible to ensure the writers of the catechisms properly interpreted the passages. Having done that, I can conclude I am on firm ground and consistent with Reformed theology when I say it is wrong for human actors to portray God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To reach a different conclusion would put me at odds with the established Reformed tradition.

That got me thinking. When Tim Keller wrote the New City Catechism, how did he parse the Second Commandment?

What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?
First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.

Aside from raising questions about pedagogical strategy or showing proper regard for the moral law by covering three commandments in one question (that’s not Trinitarian), where does the New City Catechism put Keller and his Gospel Allies in relation to the established Reformed tradition? Do any of Keller’s fans or allies care?

Endorsement Overkill

Rans

(Y)“During my college years the chapters reprinted in this volume along with other non–academic writings of Machen were a significant influence in my life, and I have returned to them from time to time, always with great profit. Written for his own day, they have lost none of their relevance and will continue to serve the cause of the gospel and the church’s wellbeing not only today but for generations to come.”
— Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

(Y)“In J. Gresham Machen, God gave the church an inimitable champion of biblical orthodoxy and gospel clarity. This book will show you why Machen is one of American evangelicalism’s most important 20th–century thinkers. More to the point, this book will ground you firmly in what it means to see in the face of Jesus Christ the grace and truth and glory of God.”
— Russell D. Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

(Y)“In these seven brief lectures, Machen follows the main spine of Christian truth….The Person of Jesus is Machen’s reminder to the church of who we are–a reminder we needed then, and that we need still. In these lectures, the mists of mysticism melt away, and the simple, elegant, profound truths of the Bible appear.”
— Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.

(Y)“J. Gresham Machen was a man of his times, enmeshed in protracted and penetrating conflict over the triumphant liberalism of his day. He was also a man who transcended his times, because he undertook, with rare learning and clear–sighted understanding, the defense of the faith ‘once for all entrusted to God’s holy people’ (Jude 3). His Christianity and Liberalism, for instance, written almost a century ago, still sounds amazingly prophetic. This present short volume brings together six of Machen’s radio talks of 1935, preserving Machen’s voice and emphases in an idiom that is more popular than his large books, but no less important. Machen is always worth reading.”
— D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

(Y)“J. Gresham Machen was one of the best thinkers and writers among Reformed theologians before his untimely death on New Year’s Day of 1937….Machen’s writing is always crisp and clear, without any compromise of cogent argument….When Machen finishes dealing with an unbelieving argument, I always feel that there is nothing more to be said on the unbelieving side.Even though this work is over eighty years old now, I would not hesitate to give it to someone who had doubts as to the deity of Christ, his miracles, and his resurrection.”
— John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

(Y)“Dr. Machen’s radio addresses on Christ, uttered over eighty years ago, are astonishingly contemporary when read today….To get maximum benefit from this book, read one address per day praying your way through it for worldwide reformation and revival today.”
— Joel R. Beeke, President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletic, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; Pastor, Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, MI

(Y)“The life and teaching of J. Gresham Machen are rightly revered by contemporary Christians who prize Reformed orthodoxy. Dr. Machen’s compelling voice lives again in the pages of this short book of radio talks on the divine Son of God. As a theologian for ordinary Christians, his clear and concise communication of biblical truth will draw new readers into a deeper and more personal knowledge of the risen Christ.”
— Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

(Y)“These pages constitute treasure that has been hidden far too long–J. Gresham Machen bringing his incisive scholarly mind to bear on the big issues surrounding the person of Christ. As well as clearly expounding Jesus’s identity, these pages excel in dismantling false assumptions, muddle–headed and illogical reasoning, and subtle mishandlings of the Scriptures. The Person of Jesus is simultaneously a superb primer on the teaching of the Gospels and a powerful illustration of how to ‘destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Cor 10:5).”
— Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary

(Y)“J. Gresham Machen was one of the most prescient and courageous Christian theologians of the early 20th century. During his life, Machen was a clear and consistent voice for Christian orthodoxy and evangelical truth in the face of liberalism. This collection of lectures is a valuable addition to the Machen library. These lectures reflect the heart of Machen’s ministry and provide yet another compelling presentation of Apostolic Christianity. Machen’s works are as relevant now as they were when they were first written. These lectures are no exception.”
— R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

(Y)“When I was in seminary I discovered these radio addresses by J. Gresham Machen in which he offered a highly accessible and popular presentation of Christian doctrine, and Reformed doctrine at that. I was fascinated by the media savvy of Machen. These lucid radio talks preceded C. S. Lewis’s famous broadcasts by several years. I have read and profited from them for decades. Their arguments and illustrations have strongly influenced my preaching. I can’t recommend them enough.”
— Timothy J. Keller, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY

Also Rans

“I first encountered J. Gresham Machen’s work as an undergraduate student grappling with modern challenges to the Christian faith. I found in him a mind passionate for the truth and a heart aflame with the gospel. Both of these traits shine through in these radio talks from the 1930s. We still need to hear what he had to say.”
— Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School; Executive Editor, Christianity Today

“Someone said recently that we need ‘a new Machen’ to speak insightfully to present–day theological confusions. That would be great. But, thank the Lord, the old Machen does continue to teach us. These wonderful addresses speak powerfully–and with refreshing clarity–to all of us today about the living Christ.”
— Richard J. Mouw, President Emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary

“This is a superb volume: clear, lucid, precise, and easy to follow. In each chapter, one must not miss that Machen clearly makes his case for the historical factuality of Christ’s identity on the basis of the authority of Scripture. Machen brought the listener–and now the reader–into the serious antithesis between the biblical teaching about Christ and modernism’s teaching about Christ.His sharp, contrasting arguments will always be relevant in the life of the church. Hence, it would be well for Christ’s body not to marginalize Machen as a nostalgic symbol. His battle for Christian truth uncovers the folly of those growing increasingly flexible toward broadening the doors of biblical orthodoxy.”
— William D. Dennison, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Covenant College

“While these addresses, delivered by J. Gresham Machen in 1935, were important in their own time, they are perhaps even more urgent and necessary today. What more important topic is there than the person and work of Christ? Machen, a first–rate scholar, knew how to take the case to the people–and here he does exactly that.”
— Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries

“This is vintage Machen. He is lucid, logical, and unrelenting in defending what Scripture claims regarding God and the deity of Christ versus modern critics who would explain away or diminish those claims.”
— George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

“These popular addresses show the heart of J. Gresham Machen: brilliant, clear, persuasive, calling everyone to faith and life in Jesus. They will bless and encourage all who read them.”
— W. Robert Godfrey, President, Westminster Seminary California

“Tight in argument yet pastoral in exhortation! What a treat! The revival of the uniqueness of Christ is to rediscover the gospel for today. The publication of Dr. Machen’s The Person of Jesus is an excellent contribution by Westminster Seminary Press, considering that the theological climate in Asia, let alone the whole world, is rapidly growing weak in its grips of who Jesus really is.”
— Kevin Woongsan Kang, Professor of Systematic Theology, Chongshin University and Theological Seminary

“Dr. J. Gresham Machen was one of the lions of reformed evangelical thought in the twentieth century. His clarity of thought and courage borne of a deep conviction and a personal walk with the God about whom he spoke and wrote suffuses every one of these fine radio addresses….With disarming simplicity they present the most important truths in the world and challenge us all to take them seriously. We need more of such clarity and directness today.”
— Mark D. Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College

“All of the qualities that enabled J. Gresham Machen to make such an important contribution to English–speaking Protestantism–theological tenacity, clarity of mind, readability, and courageous conviction–are easy to see in this instructive and edifying collection of radio addresses on the person of Christ. These talks show once again that doctrine has consequences, with Machen as a superbly gifted guide to the significance of what the church confesses about Christ.”
— D. G. Hart, Author of Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America

“Almost eighty years after his death, J. Gresham Machen’s voice still speaks with clarity and timeliness concerning the person of Christ. In our time, when people question whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, Dr. Machen’s cogent exposition of Scripture in these radio addresses from 1935 provides needed clarity concerning the triune God and the deity of Christ.”
— William S. Barker, Emeritus Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary

“J. G. Machen was the towering intellectual defender of historic Christianity during one of the most turbulent periods in American church history….These talks on the person of Jesus, delivered in the heat of the battle, are not merely an important theological voice from the past; they will encourage your faith today.”
— Frank A. James, President, Biblical Theological Seminary

“These gems by J. Gresham Machen are essential reading now for thoughtful Christians. Historians of conservative Protestantism will also greatly benefit from these addresses….In these talks, Machen distills the core doctrines about the person and work of Christ that he fought so hard to defend against the acids of modernity. Listen for Machen’s voice as you read these transcriptions. Lend your ear to this man whose apologetic labors hastened his tragic, early death.”
— Douglas A. Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Sanity regained in a world gone mad. J. Gresham Machen flows with a heart of love for the Lord Jesus. Cool, clear, and fresh as a mountain stream, he bubbles with living water. Doctrinal indifference, a big issue in his day, is the black plague of ours. The antidote to truth decay is his clarity about who Jesus was, what he said and did, and, above all, how he lives and reigns today.”
— Paul Wells, Emeritus Professor, Faculté Jean Calvin

“Many know of Machen’s scholarly achievement and powerful support for historic Christianity over modern substitutes. Less well–known is his ability to convey what is lofty and profound in the simplest of terms. This little book restates the Bible’s depiction of God the Son in language easy to grasp….Machen’s remarks are as timely now as when first uttered. This is a superb survey of New Testament Christology and a powerful invitation to (re)discover the true Jesus, still Lord despite generations of naysayers and the complacency of his church.”
— Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

“Throughout his life, J. Gresham Machen wrestled with questions over the relationship between history and faith, between Jesus and Paul. Here in these radio addresses, we have his warm and winsome answers to those questions….It is a great gift to the church that these radio addresses are now being published; take up and read–be refreshed and strengthened in our common faith.”
— Sean Michael Lucas, Professor of Church History, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson

“These addresses on the person of Christ were forged long ago in the furnace of debate. They are, however, as fresh today, and as compelling, as they were when they were first delivered. Machen speaks with clarity, conviction, a matchless command of the subject, and with the wind of historic Christianity behind him.”
— David F. Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Dr. Machen’s talks are timeless, though set in the swirling currents of his day, because the Christ he described, the Christ revealed in the Scriptures by the Spirit, rises above time. His learned rhetoric, his passionate defense of Christian orthodoxy, his love of the Savior and his church make what you will find in these pages a delight to read, a source of spiritual strengthening, and a bulwark against the destructive effects of a contemporary scholarship that continues to denigrate the Creator, Redeemer, and only Judge of mankind.”
— John D. Hannah, Distinguished Professor of Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary

“This powerful little book on the deity of Christ fully displays what made Machen great. We see his relentless logic in the clarity of his thinking and the lucidity of his prose. The Gospels leave us no doubt that Jesus Christ is fully God, and Machen demonstrates that any other interpretation falls to the ground.”
— Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This work certainly is a classic jewel. A ‘classic’ because, even though it dates back to 1935, this book is still fresh and relevant. A ‘jewel’ because it presents the person and work of Jesus Christ so clearly, convincingly, and appealingly to the reader. Dr. Machen’s voice can be heard again and we do well to listen to it.”
— Herman J. Selderhuis

“J. Gresham Machen is one of a select band of Christian writers of whom it can truly be said that ‘he being dead, yet speaketh.’ This reprint of some of his most important talks will be widely welcomed by those who appreciate his strong and learned defense of orthodoxy, and it will make his thought more accessible to a younger generation.”
— Gerald L. Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

“With disarming brevity, Machen bracingly pleads with his reader for true belief in the true King of heaven and earth. I understand why even his theological sparring partner, Pearl Buck, respected her orthodox opponent so profoundly. Machen is clearly a spiritual gentleman, a worthy scholar, and a tender shepherd….Machen may well have no peer when it comes to clear, direct, and stirring expositional and applicational writing. Reader, prepare your mind and heart for a bracing read.”
— Joseph V. Novenson, Pastor, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

“Here is theology that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. In these addresses Machen defends a high and biblical view of Christ with punch and quite stunning verve. Fresh, enlightening, and logically compelling, this is not only good theology but a model of good apologetics.”
— Michael Reeves, Director of Union and Senior Lecturer, Wales Evangelical School of Theology

Every Square Inch is a Demanding Taskmaster

Devin Wax is not so happy with the significance attached in the current cultural climate to ordinary choices like where to eat. He wishes a chicken filet sandwich were merely a chicken filet sandwich:

We’re witnessing a convergence of two developments.

Development #1: Consumerism as a Religion

The first development is the lifting up of our consumer choices to the level of religion.

In American society, we are more and more inclined to define ourselves by what and how we consume. We no longer buy things to meet our needs, but to become something, or to express who we are.

“Brands are the new religion,” says Douglas Atkin, writing about customer loyalty. People express their own identities through what they buy.

With an endless sea of choices, Skye Jethani says, “individuality is the new conformity.” Choice is a powerful factor in a consumer society, because more choices provide more ways for consumers to demonstrate their uniqueness.

Development #2: Politics as Religion

The second development is the lifting up of our political views to the level of religion.

In American society, we are more likely to see political views as non-negotiable aspects of our true selves. This is why recent research shows families having a harder time with a son or daughter who wants to marry someone from an opposing political party than from a different religion!

Tell me how Neo-Calvinism did not add momentum to this. When all of our choices have religious significance, how different is that from the “personal is political” that feminists and other politics of identity advocates taught us? Now Mr. Trax wants a cigar (okay, a bubble gum cigar) to be only a cigar?

If more New Calvinists had read 2kers more than Tim Keller, had understood that religion is different from common life, had been content with Reformed worship instead of transformed cities, had valued church officers more than every membered ministry, they might be able to eat tacos without the least concern for larger significance — political or religious.

Why Read the Bible?

That’s the question Pete Enns doesn’t answer (unless you are like him and get paid to read it).

He thinks biblical scholarship gives a good answer to the question, “what is the Bible.”

In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in language and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. . . . All of us on a journey of faith encounter God from our point of view. . . we meet God as people defined by our moment in the human drama, products of who, where, and when we are. We ask our questions of God and encounter God in our time and place in language and ideas familiar to us, just like the ancient pilgrims of faith who gave us the Bible. . . . This Bible, which preserves ancient journeys of faith, models for us our own journeys. We recognize something of ourselves in the struggles, joys, triumphs, confusions, and despairs expressed by the biblical writers. ~ The Bible Tells Me So, pp. 23-24

But I read of encounters with reality, the sublime, the stuff God created, even religious inspiration in Shakespeare, Wendell Berry, and Orhan Pamuk. So why does one set of writings qualify as the Bible when we see so many “religious” “experiences” in so many other places?

This is why the higher critics, as hard headed as they appeared to be on the old theories of divine revelation, were still as sentimental as Sunday school students when it came to offering a reasonable account for the uniqueness of a certain set of religious writings by Jewish people over almost two millennia. Can you really put the Bible up again the Norton Anthology of British Literature unless you think it’s God’s infallible word?

The Captain Renault GIF

How can you be shocked, shocked to find injustice going on in America after Ferguson (film noir anyone?)? And yet, people like Patricia McGuire of Trinity Washington University act as if the country has not been having a conversation about having a conversation about race for the past two plus years:

“We Americans study the history of tyranny and exclaim, ‘That’s terrible, but it would not happen here!’ as we congratulate ourselves on the robust state of our democracy. The experience of the last few months now exposes this once-confident boast as terribly naive and perhaps even dangerous as a new administration indulges in a remarkable torrent of false and misleading statements as a basis for policy and action,” she wrote. “The gravest lie we are grappling with at the present moment is the Trump Administration’s cruel and unreasonable war on immigrants — mostly people who are black and brown, and Muslim — Mexicans and refugees from central America, Syrian refugees, people from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.”

Black lives mattered before Trump?

This is why we worry about those who use the present to turn history into morality plays. What history does best is teach students we’ve been here before, all is vanity. Only Whig historians believe in progress and then are surprised when their narratives let them down.