October 26, 2020

Thinking that Drives Me Crazy #1

facepalmEvery once in a while I will put up a short post about an opinion, statement, idea, or attitude that I think deserves a quick, down-n-dirty rant. Today’s burst of bluster is targeted at a bit of pious teaching that appears aimed at sucking the pleasure out of life.

I saw this tweet recently. Who said it doesn’t matter, because it reflects a longstanding pietistic strand of Christianity. Needless to say, I don’t find it at all attractive. Here it is:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is desired.


So I am moving into the realm of idolatry if I allow my heart to be made exceptionally glad by a good meal, a glass of wine or mug of beer? When my baseball team wins? When I double over laughing at a joke that might be a little risque? When I go flying down the highway happily singing a catchy pop song at the top of my lungs?

So I gather that I am supposed to go around every day doing three things: First, I must be constantly weighing the worth of the things in my life. Second, I must be continually measuring the intensity of the enjoyment I feel when I take pleasure in those things. Third, I must do the spiritual calculations that determine whether or not I might feeling just a wee too much of a tingle about this or that.

The sound you hear is that of eggshells cracking beneath my feet.

No thanks. I would rather take heed to the Preacher’s wisdom, skip the “brooding” and enjoy life and all of its good gifts, large and small —

“This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)

This tweet represents thinking that we used to call “puritanical” (though that is not exactly accurate historically). Those who spout such sanctimonious drivel are people who attempt to live within carefully defined and guarded boundaries, who are constantly taking their spiritual temperatures, constantly searching their hearts, constantly afraid lest they be anything less than “wholly devoted” to Christ — in certain constricted religious ways of course.

This has been well exemplified in film: these are the dour Danes whose eyes never would have been opened were it not for Babette’s Feast.

For heaven’s sake, what am I supposed to do? Wear a monitor that continually reads the intensity of my enjoyment and be ever vigilant lest the needle enter the red and I push into the realm of idolatry? O wretched man that I might be then!


Live your life.


It is all God’s gift.

In Christ, you are free.


  1. We Lutherans can thank Johann Arndt for that sort of pietistic drivel.

    I wonder just how many threw away so much enjoyment of life because of these well-meaning, but terribly mistaken and dangerous pietists.

    • I’m not well versed in Lutheran history, but I read it was Philipp Jakob Spener who started pietism or who was of greater influence among 17th century Lutherans in this respect.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The attitude pre-dated Johann Arndt and the Lutherans.

      In the Medieval West, think of the extreme Contemplative monks and nuns who sealed themselves off from the outside world as completely as possible. Think of Savonarola and his Bonfire of Vanities (at least before he got lynched). Think of Medieval Angelology and Demonology, all-time examples of elaborate speculative systems from minimal source documentation.

      And in the Eastern Rites, Orthocuban has posted that the most common way for Eastern Orthodox to flake out is the “Monk-a-bee” — becoming more ascetic monastic than an actual monk (without bothering to actually take vows or put yourself under an abbot’s authority), Duck Dynasty beard, long black habit, and fasting/mortifying 24/7..

      • I guess that sort of pietism is as old as man himself.

      • I’m in the process of converting to orthodoxy and i have some orthodox friends who are wonderful/horrible depending on the topic. My fiancee wants to go to beauty school and they lectured her about how it’s wrong/vain and that the girls in our parish who have jobs as stylists are corrupted and worldly.

  2. Chaplain Mike,

    It’s simple. You’re not spiritual enough.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Remember the ultimate end state of being Spiritual(TM):

      The Pneumatic Gnostic floating off the ground, so SPIRITUAL(TM) he has ceased to be human.

      St Rose of Lima, tearing her face to scar tissue and gargling lye to Mortify her Flesh(TM) until she died before 30.

      “This World is Not My Home, I’m Just Passing Thru” merged with “It’s All Gonna Burn”.

      • I am curious. What does TM mean?
        Transcendental Meditation? Tortured Mind? you are always using it.

        Hey, Chaplain Mike lets have a contest. Whoever guesses what the Unicorn says gets 2 free tickets to Ken Ham and a free dinner at Chik Fil a

    • …and you will never be, but nonetheless, you are doomed to a groveling lifestyle of constantly trying harder and being goaded onwards by leather whips to cary a heavy boulder up a steep hill that never ends. If your life now is better than hell, then it’s as good as you’ll ever have it in this one or the next. 😛

  3. Since a quick highlight, rightclick, google operation reveals the author of the quote, would it not be more forthright to name his name and attribute the quote?

    (Not defending it, or him, just think direct, honest engagement is for the better.)

    • People are free, of course, to look it up, but I didn’t want a post like this to be about personalities. Let’s just engage the thought, which after all is common enough.

      • Certainly we can engage the thought by itself, but it would appear he has tweeted a series regarding enjoyment. The 4th tweet reads as follows:

        “Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift.”

        Perhaps that is what he was ultimately attempting to build towards? Regardless it is unfortunate many seem to live in the land of don’t rather than enjoy the freedom we have through Christ.

        • Hmm…not sure how much I agree with that, if that’s what he’s building toward. It still drips of trying to guilt people into deepening their relationship with God.

          Besides, do I give a Christmas gift to my daughter so that she desires me more than the gift? No. I want her to enjoy the gift. I want her to know I love her. I give her a gift because I want to her to have something to enjoy.

          I do NOT sit over her as she plays with the gift and say, “Hey, you’re enjoying that a little too much. You do remember, I gave you that gift, right!?”

          Certainly we’re not much different than God in that regard, are we?

    • Lol. I certainly didn’t need Google to know the source. There is really only one twitter account out there that publishes stuff like this 🙂

  4. *sigh* This reminds me of a tounge-in-cheek catechism by Dorothy Sayers in her article “The Dogma is the Drama.” Here are the pertinent parts:

    Q.: What does the Church think of sex?

    A.: God made it necessary to the machinery of the world, and tolerates it, provided the parties (a) are married, and (b) get no pleasure out of it.

    Q.: What does the Church call Sin?

    A.: Sex (otherwise than as excepted above); getting drunk; saying “damn”; murder, and cruelty to dumb animals; not going to church; most kinds of amusement. “Original sin” means that anything we enjoy doing is wrong.

    Q.: What are the seven Christian virtues?

    A.: Respectability; childishness; mental timidity; dullness; sentimentality; censoriousness; and depression of spirits.

    Q.: Wilt thou be baptised in this faith?

    A.: No fear!

    I cannot help feeling that as a statement of Christian orthodoxy, these replies are inadequate, if not misleading. But I also cannot help feeling that they do fairly accurately represent what many people take Christian orthodoxy to be, and for this state of affairs I am inclined to blame the orthodox. Whenever an average Christian is represented in a novel or a play, he is pretty sure to be shown practising one or all of the Seven Deadly Virtues enumerated above, and I am afraid that this is the impression made by the average Christian upon the world at large.

    Perhaps we are not following Christ all the way or in quite the right spirit. We are apt, for example, to be a little sparing of the palms and the hosannas. We are chary of wielding the scourge of small cords, lest we should offend somebody or interfere with trade. We do not furbish up our wits to disentangle knotty questions about Sunday observance and tribute-money, nor hasten to sit at the feet of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. We pass hastily over disquieting jests about making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness and alarming observations about bringing not peace but a sword; nor do we distinguish ourselves by the graciousness with which we sit at meat with publicans and sinners. Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore—and this in the Name of One Who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which He passed through the world like a flame.

    from Sayers, “The Dogma is the Drama”

  5. Fortune cookie Christianity! High in MSG, and leaves you feeling hungry again in an hour.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I doesn’t leave you hungry – it leaves you sick to your stomach, so you don’t want to eat anymore; everything is ugly and smells like bile. Good times.

      Then you finally out of desperation eat something and discover it is delicious – a frequent outcome is that your “Christianity” becomes a “phase” from which you have “recovered”. The odds that soul will ever want to hear about that again?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Zero over Infinity.

        Because you’ve gone over the Berlin Wall into the West; no way are you going back to the People’s Republic of Workers’ Paradise.

    • Old joke: Why do (pick your denomination) prohibit members from having marital relations while standing? Because it might lead to dancing!

      I once signed a membership card that stated “No dancing, no smoking and no bowling”. No bowling? Of COURSE! They serve liquor in bowling alleys!

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Those with this bull-#### attitude about happiness miss a VERY important factor:

    – It is *MUCH* easier for me to deal charitably with my neighbor, be effective at my job, engage in my community, and relate with my spouse when I am happy. Try being friendly and engaging when you are miserable [at least if you are me it does not work].

    Perhaps there would be less need for mechanical confrontational [1] “evangelism” if more of them were people someone *wanted* to talk to [people like to talk, if not to you, then….]. Nobody wants to talk to a grumpy sour-puss; except maybe other grumpy sour pusses [who in their work or church cannot name at least one clique-of-shared-misery].

    Nobody benefits anything by someone choosing misery. Choosing misery means there are less people available to comfort and aid those genuinely made miserable by circumstance.

    If you love something, go do that. Even if I don’t really care a whit about that thing I will probably find your enthusiasm for it enjoyable [maybe even contagious]. I don’t care about wood carving [or making art, really at all] but there is this guy who carved [no kidding!] a blanket. It really looks like a blanket – you touch it – it *FEELS* like a blanket. It is awesome! I’m glad he carved a blanket, he told me a lot about what carving a blanket entails. It was fascinating. And I am quite sure I will never carve a blanket – that isn’t the point. I got to experience the beauty he finds in carving by proxy. That is way better then spending time with someone telling me I shouldn’t care about things, or that my finding beauty in what I find beauty in is “worldy”; I do not want to spend my life with those people.

    [1] and yes, dear Evangelist, you ARE confrontational. I’m just sitting here on this beautiful day reading my book; I now regret that I by chance looked up and made the briefest momentary eye contact. Sigh.

  7. CM….first off, glad you explained the statement, as it did not make a lick of sense to me!

    Secondly…horsehockey!! While we will surely have to repent of choosing sin, I think that the Lord will ALSO chide us for failure to enjoy the beautiful, uplifting, and pleasurable things He has given us to celebrate on this earth!

  8. “Love God and do as you please.” (Augustine)

  9. Clay Crouch says

    What a gray, drab, dreary world that tweet idolizes.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      As James Michener put it in Hawaii introducing the New England Calvinist missionaries to “Owhyhee”:

      “The hard, drab, grey, joyless path of Salvation.”

      • I was a little girl when I saw the movie, and the scene where the preacher is telling his wife (who almost died of something) that he was a horrible Christian for temporarily loving HER more than God THAT was a serious buzz-kill to any romantic notions….even if was just a misguided non-Catholic~

  10. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous

    And can we please stop the “XYZ is idolatry” meme. It is stupid, and it sounds stupid; it informs nothing.

    The vast majority of Americans have zero zilch nada none experience with idol worship; this is silly, and so to vast majority of people when you talk like this you sound like, at best, an anachronism. Move on. Find a new metaphor. Or instead talk about what you like or love, what the world should be like, your vision – rather than XYZ is bad, so very bad.

    And, BTW, next to nobody worships enjoyment. “Oh mighty and everlasting Enjoyment I beseech the to bless me with your constant presence…” yeah.

    • The vast majority of Americans have zero zilch nada none experience with idol worship

      Other than the idol of materialism?

      • Dan Crawford says

        Which is pretty much all-encompassing.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        I think we would be naive to presume that materialism wasn’t a problem back in the 1st century AD, or event the 30th century BC. It has always been a problem, so to reclassify it now as an idol is not necessary, if it wasn’t done in the age of Idol worship.

      • Christiane says

        Political idolatry:
        thinking of a certain denomination that strove to foster total worship of their ‘Golden Elephant’,
        so that another choice of political party would be anathema to the faith . . .

    • I agree that “idolatry” is overused in some circles. Still, the Bible does extend the idea of idolatry literal paganism. See Romans 1, the comparision of greed to idolatry in some circles, “no man can serve two masters.”

      • Should be “the comparision of greed to idolatry in Colossians.”

      • And “the idea of idolatry beyond literal paganism.” Should have proofread more!

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Yes, and we understand what is meant by that metaphor. But does that mean we *have* to extend the metaphor into 21st century usage? We are insufficiently literate to say the same thing in a modern way?

  11. Chris Auten says

    Jon Acuff refers to this kind of statement as a “Jesus Juke.” He defines it as a “shame grenade” that is tossed with the intent of splattering everyone with guilt and condemnation.

  12. I’ve been getting a particularly heavy dose of pietistic exhortation over the past couple weeks, and not only have I not found it helpful, but I’ve also increasingly felt weighed down and crushed by it. Thanks, CM, for the reminder from Ecclesiastes that it’s OK to enjoy the simple pleasures of life…. It’s time to listen (again) to the Rod Rosenbladt audio so prominently posted on the righthand column of this website….

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      To me, “pietistic” means “So SPIRITUAL(TM) you cease to be Real.”

    • That Other Jean says

      I’m with Alice Walker on this one:

      “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
      ? Alice Walker, The Color Purple

      What is life for except to enjoy and do your best to help other people enjoy their own?

  13. i have a strong belief, which I almost hesitate to share on this board lest I be labeled a heretic, that our chief purpose in life is to re-present God on the earth. Made in His image, we bless, create in diverse ways, love and care for others, giving Him delight and honor in the process.. Being dour sour frozen clones gives no glory to God. We humans seem to have trouble walking between freedom and license which drives many to seek the safety of imposed laws again. Maybe we all need to re-read Galatians on a regular basis?

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Good comment, Carol. No one here will throw stones.

      I believe God is the most joyful being alive. Why should we not, as we are re-formed in His image, also take delight in His creation?

      The best quote I have heard (I forgot where) on this: “We are called to enjoy all things in God, and enjoy God in all things.”

    • Yes. And we should re-read Hebrews more often too! There’s JOY to be found in salvation! It’s GOOD news!! So do NOT go back to the first (old) covenant ways (which were doom and gloom and dour and promoted fear and trembling).

    • Why on earth would that be considered heresy? It seems like the clear teaching of Scripture to me…

    • It’s a thoughtful comment, CAROL.
      Thanks for sharing it here.

  14. Vega Magnus says

    Fun might lead to sex and dancing, and is thus to be shunned.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      A flawed kind of thinking. It seems clear to me – at mid-life – that self-control / self-denial / self-discipline are actually much easier when you are otherwise fulfilled and generally enjoying yourself.

    • I always thought the old saw was that sex might lead to dancing.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is desired.

    Not only is it “More Spiritual Than Thou” pietistic one-upmanship, it reads like Marxspeak. Same amount of long polysyllabic words, different rhythm.

  16. As soon as I read that I knew it had to be Piper. He really is a one-trick pony (and a very predictable one).

    • But since we’re engaging the thinking rather than the personality, it seems like everyone I know who worships Piper (now there’s irony for you!) lives a life of ‘cautious “joy”‘. By that I mean they talk about joy – Piper’s ‘Christian Hedonism’ – but they are always fearful of enjoying anything too much because, as the quote says, it becomes idolatry (and in some cases I suppose it can). But they are even fearful of enjoying ‘worship’ too much – for fear that the ‘worship’ experience will become their idol (which, again, I suppose it can). It almost seems (in the few churches I have attended where Piper and that thinking is prominent) that worship isn’t real God-pleasing worship unless it’s a burden. That also seems to translate into a rather dull existence (see Marc’s Dorothy Sayers catechism above). For a classic epitomization of this thinking, see Piper’s book ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Wasn’t that book covered some time ago here on IMonk?

      • It’s in my living room, face up, recently fallen out from behind a pile of books. I’ve tried to read that thing three times at least, if not four, and on the final attempt I decided not to Waste My Life trying to get through it. But, it’s the only Piper book in the house (my wife lugged it home) and I felt I should read at least one of his books to join the party.

        All right, I’ll go pick it up one more time to see how it relates to this blog post.

        • Ted, I have a tip for you. Start at the end of the book and read toward the beginning.

          • Is that like playing a record backward for the secret messages?

            I did pick it up again yesterday but I still don’t get it.

            OK, I’ll start from the end. It worked for the Hebrews.

    • Yeah, he has another recent one about how clothing should always remind us of the Fall…

    • I understand that John Piper is not a “favorite son” on this site (along with Mohler, Driscoll, et al.). The mere fact that he is a Reformed Baptist is enough in the minds of some to place him high up on the on the poop list. And I won’t even bother to beg for fairness and charity towards a fellow brother for that also appears be useless with some on this site.

      But what the Hades, I’ll try anyway. Perhaps he was inadvertently taken out of context. In his recent twitters he also said this:

      “Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude to God.”

      “‘And Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept upon them.’ Genesis 45:15. So, so much better than bitterness.”

      “Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift.”

      “Be set free from the bondage of loving anything more than God.”

      If sentiments like these are signs of pietism, then sign me up!

      • +1 In and of itself this quote seem harmless enough, if not rooted in love. I think of 1 John 5:21……

        “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

        At the same time, articles like this and others from Chaplain Mike have helped me appreciate the freedom we have in Christ. One of my favorites…..


        • I just now read that and I agree with Chaplain Mike completely! I would add that I teach that in my church, not as eloquently as CM but well enough to get my point across.

          It would be nice to see much more of that stuff as it is more likely to promote/inflence unity in the body of Christ than some of the diatribe I find of late.

          • Agreed. As an “evangelical” I appreciate your comments. It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that we are all one under Christ….in His Grace…. so we can speak to each other in love as brothers and sisters. I have been convicted of this recently. As a daily reader of Imonk my eyes are opened to the “weaknesses” of our tribe and I’ve become “judgemental” toward my brothers and sisters who I think are “judgemental”, ironically. We need more unity in the body of Christ, just as you say.

      • You are correct and I was uncharitable. However, what I have seen quite often (having spent quite a bit of time in that camp) is that those sentiments, with which I tend to agree, too often lead to the ‘cautious joy’ I described above, and a life that seems stifled in a way I don’t think God intended.

      • I think his comments about women “enduring abuse for a season,” his insistence that “God killed” (direct quote, btw) people via the tornadoes in Joplin a few years back (etc. etc. etc.) are cogent reasons for the overall dislike of Piper’s ideas/statements/tweets here and elsewhere. There are posts on some of these topics – and others – in the archives.

        • Piper is not perfect (who is?). But I think we would do well to not single him out so much, to at least try to contextualize what he says (even if not expressed well at times), and to make a note of the many positive things he says (as I noted above).

          Seriously, what benefit is there to be gained to the body of Christ by such harsh criticisms of other believers?

          • That is exactly why I didn’t care to bring names into this discussion. This is a simple rant against a simple statement.

          • I very much appreciate that you did not bring his name up, but since someone else did (which was bound to happen) I felt compelled to provide some measure of defense on his behalf. Regardless, I recollect (please correct me if I’m wrong) that he has been brought up by name before (i.e., negatively) in previous posts and comments.

          • Final Anonymous says

            CalvinCuban, I probably can’t put it as eloquently as others here can. So please bear with the sentiment.

            But speaking as a female… when I hear a Christian leader repeatedly speak words without compassion that put me in a spiritually oppressive box and make me doubt God ever loved me or cares about me now, strictly because of the gender He gave me… well, at the very least, I’ll turn my attention toward a different leader who doesn’t dismiss me at the outset.

          • I’m with Final Anonymous on this. He tears down women all the time, and lashes out at others (male and female), too. He’s awfully quick to pronounce judgment via natural and man-made disasters, and that alone should give pause. His sarcastic dismissal of Rob Bell via Twitter (as in, he has left the faith) is yet another highly problematic thing. I wish he would stop tweeting, and stop issuing pronouncements in general.

            That said, I do understand why CM wanted to focus on the statement…

          • I have read a couple of Piper’s books (not many) and listened to a couple of his sermons and interviews (again, not many). I have not found him to be void of compassion–certainly not void of “passion”–but I can see why he comes across at times as lacking sensitivity when he speaks about things which he deems to be important. But that’s not a sin.

            And as is the case with much of Evangelicalism, he is theologically conservative and in that regards, very much a complementarian (as is Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many conservative mainline Protestant denomination, e.g., Presbyterian Church in America, Missouri Synod Lutheran). But being a complementarian is not necessarily the same thing as being dismissive of women, and definitely not the same as being a misogynist. As I understand it, it is a perspective which some deem important and others not, which some embrace and which others are repulsed by. Regardless, it is not heresy.

            Back to the issue of sensitivity… Pope Francis is making overtures to involve more women in ministry (i.e., other than nuns) but he is not inviting them to the priesthood. I believe he is being positive, sensitive and tactful about this, and perhaps Piper can learn some things from him in this respect. But the bottom line is the same as with other complementarians.

            So, if we disagree then let us agree to disagree and is necessary to worship in a community we’re comfortable with. We can be vocal about our disagreements but let’s not take it to the level of destructive criticism.

            I find some great advice in this respect in Romans,

            “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. … Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. … The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself [or another, I would add] for what he approves.” (Romans 14.10, 13,14, 22)

            And yes, I am well aware that the context is about eating/not eating meat. But I believe that there are applications here beyond the culinary for maintaining unity in spite of our many differences.

          • Clay Crouch says

            I think Piper singles himself out with his tweets. I haven’t read any ad hominem attacks in the comments above, but please, correct me if I’m wrong. I’m sure he can stand the “heat” or he’d have gotten out of the kitchen a long ago.

          • Numo, I’m aware of his faux pas with regard the tornadoes in Oklahoma last year, and I read his twitter with regards Bell’s “Love Wins.” But as for Piper tearing down women “all the time,” I don’t know where that is coming from and I would need to read the texts to decide for myself. But if it’s just a matter of expressing his complementarian or “wives should submit to their husbands” views, that is a matter of his opinion and not in and of itself derisive in nature. There is a difference between having such views, unpopular and distasteful though one may find them, and saying something blatantly ad hominem or derogatory about women.

          • Calvin – I quoted directly what he has aaid about women being abused by their husbands.

            If you go to The Wartburg Watch, you can find quite a few posts with a whole lot of documentation (audio, video, written).

            For the purpose of keeping the peace here, I’ll just refer you there and let it go, OK?

          • I’m sorry I missed your quotes. I will visit The Wartburg Watch site to learn these things for myself.


          • Calvin – de nada!

          • Numo, I visited thewartburgwatch.com site (first time for me) and did a search on Piper. I eventually found what you referred to. It appears that the author would agree with some things Piper said about abused women but then would disagree with some of his premises and recommended solutions. I agree that Piper will now & then say or tweet stuff he hasn’t thought through well and then come back, delete it, and explain what he meant. But what I did not find was any smoking gun statement that would give me major cause for concern. He may act like a blowhard at times, but I can look past that at the good stuff he says and does.

            It is clear that the general consensus of the authors of thewatchburg.com is quite similar to that which permeates this site. That would include general sentiments against Evangelicalism, Calvinism and conservatism. And on that last “ism” I find particular vitriol against complementarians, those who adhere to Biblical inerrancy, young earth creationists, even capitalists. For some reason Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are generally given a pass in spite of their conservative perspectives and theological rigidity in many areas.

            On the other hand I do appreciate their advocacy for victims of pastoral, espousal and sexual abuse; it is very good that they do that. But I fear that the good they do often gets lost in the criticism and nit-picky fault-finding over areas of disagreement which do not rise to the level of heresy or criminal activity.

            Then again, I have visited Calvinists sites where some claim that you can’t be justified unless you swallow the whole TULIP (petals, stems and bulb), Arminian sites where some claim Calvinists are all heretics, Dispensationalist sites that insist that it’s their way or the highway–to hell, that is. I even read a comment in a Catholic site claiming that the burning of Protestant heretics by Bloody Mary was justifiable (thankfully, others on that site immediately took him to task for it). Etc. I am so weary of folks latching on to what someone said (i.e., someone who is out of favor), often out of context and seldom for the edification of that person. Surely there must be a better way to learn from each other than by being fault-finding, rhetoric-hurling, angry critics who overreact at every tweet that gets tweeted.

            Jesus wept.

          • Calvin, the writers at TWW *are* evangelicals. I think if you check into some of the main topics dealt with there – like abusive churches – things might become clearer to you.

            As a survivor of a couple of incredibly abusive churches, I really appreciate what the do, though I don’t always agree with their take on doctrine, as I am no longer evangelical. (Am a revert to the ELCA.)

            I do realize that they might well be hitting some nerves for those in the neo-Reformed crowd, but I think you’ll find a lot of interesting discussion there.

          • btw, the owners of/writers for TWW are not exactly what I’d call “liberal.” I think you might also want to look at their glossary, as they explain certain things there (like Calvinist vs. “Calvinista”) that might clarify some things for you.

            I think there are evangelicals and evangelicals. They happen to live in Southern Baptist territory, which informs many of their posts and also many comments. Also keep in mind that there are people who have been very badly burned in neo-Cal churches. Personally, I see little in the celebrity neo-cals that does anything other than make me want to hightail it away from them! I find Piper and Driscoll to be especially dictatorial and … misogynistic. There, I said it. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’s important that people speak out against things like exhortations to women on enduring abuse. There is something seriously wrong when that is advocated.

          • I’m weary of hyper-criticism amongst Christians, for I see much harm and little good coming out of it. There’s a big difference between constructive and destructive criticism, and there’s just way too much of the latter. But I will investigate TWW further as it is only fair that I do so.

            I, too, have been burned in the two traditions I’ve worshipped in, Catholicism and Evangelicalism. And yet, I have also been tremendously blessed in both. I choose to focus on the latter whilst attempting to remedy the former.

            Thank you for pointing thee things out to me.

          • CalvinCuban, Amen.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “Be set free from the bondage of loving anything more than God.”

        If sentiments like these are signs of pietism, then sign me up!

        What happens if in order for God to be of Supreme Importance, nothing else can be allowed to have ANY importance? When Loving God means indifference to hatred of everybody else to make sure you can’t love them more than God?

        Two examples from my time in-country:

        1) A sermon whose refrain was “LORD, Take Away All That Stands Between Me and Thee”. Each refrain was after an escalating series of Job-like disasters — losing job, losing hobby, culminating in the death of the subject’s wife — “LORD, Take Away All That Stands Between Me and Thee”. This was shortly before I met the only girlfriend I ever had (you can guess where this is going); I was scared that if I actually let myself go with what I felt towards Ann (and/or let her know), God was going to kill her. “LOORD, Take Away All that Stands Between Me and Thee.”

        2) A gushy CCM song of a couple years later, around the time Ann broke up with me. Don’t remember much except it was a female vocalist with a very gushy voice and some of the lyrics. Note that this was in the form of the girl singing (gushing, actually) to her boyfriend:

        “Because JEESUS is Number One in My Life
        So Second Place will have to do;
        I’m looking forward to spending all my life
        In Love With the Two of You…”

        Note: Do NOT tell a guy IRL that he’s never going to be more than Number Two. All he will see is another guy (a rival) muscling in and taking you away from him. Or an analogy to a her True Love being a Perfect Fantasy (whether Harlequin Stud, 50 Shades of Whatever, or Sparkling Vampire Hunk) and You’re Not and how can a RL guy compete with that?

        • You bring up a hypothetical situation akin to the question “Can God make a rock so big He Himself cannot lift it?” Any way you answer that question it invalidates the attribute of His omnipotence. And yet, God is omnipotent. Therefore the problem is with the question not with God’s omnipotence.

          So, since I can’t address your question I can’t address your two two illustrations, either. Also, I don’t know what “IRL” or “RL” stands for, so I don’t know whereto go with that, either.

          As for no guy ever settling for being less than number one, I believe Jesus said that “the last shall be first and first last,” so please place me at the bottom of the list.

        • Headless, I kinda understand your comments of God hurting this girl because you like her so much. I have OCD and the convergence with this and Christianity (called scrupulosity) makes you think of God in crazy ways.

        • Note: Do NOT tell a guy IRL [in real life?] that he’s never going to be more than Number Two. All he will see is another guy (a rival) muscling in and taking you away from him.

          HUG, we may have been though this before, but there’s a song about that, and it counteracts the one you mentioned.

          Hayes Carll, “She Left Me for Jesus”:

          He’s gonna burn for that one. Maybe me for laughing.

      • His other statements don’t excuse this one. This one crosses the line.
        And the problem with this pietism is that it’s sees God’s demand of our love and supreme enjoyment of Him as good news. It isn’t: it’s the demand of the law, and not the gospel, and Piper is confusing the two. This leads to much misery, imo. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength,” is the summary of the law, no matter how excited pietists get about it. The law condemns you to death, so getting excited about it is just plain morbid. Why not get excited about the Gospel instead of the law? How about the fact that Jesus loves us perfectly even when our hearts are fully operational “idol factories” around the clock? ‘Cause no matter how much Piper or anybody else tells me to, I cannot make myself love God more. But when I have GOOD news proclaimed to me, I strangely find that it stirs up love for God within me. Being told to “love God” (which always carries an implicit “or else”, intended or not) is no more helpful than telling a kleptomaniac to stop stealing. This is why the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is so important.

        • If I follow your reasoning of distinction between Law and Gospel correctly (which distinction I agree with in principle) and all inherent implications therein, then how is criticizing Piper going to be of any value to him? If the thief is not motivated to stop stealing by being told to stop stealing, how is Piper going to be motivated to stop being critical by telling him to stop being critical–and criticizing him for it?

          • Herein lay a logical flaw in the Lutheran theology distinguishing Law from Gospel. ” Why not get excited about the Gospel instead of the law?” would seem to be law no less than “Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is desired.”

            It’s similar to the kind of thing I encountered when I was practicing Zen Buddhism, and during a sermon (yes, sermons are given in Buddhist communal life) the Roshi would say something like, “It’s impossible, my friends, to say anything about satori (enlightenment), which is as life-giving and reviving as cold water to a thirsty man,” and I would think to myself, But there, you just did it, you said something about something you said it was impossible to say anything about!!…Don’t you see it, man???…

          • Cal, you are still missing the point of the distinction. The point is not that the Gospel is good and the Law is bad, one is useful and the other is not. We still believe that the Law is good, and worth proclaiming. The unrepentant heart need the Law to rebuke and condemn its sin. The troubled conscience slain by the Law needs the comfort of the Gospel to bring them the healing of Christ’s forgiveness. It isn’t either/or: We teach both to their fullest: The law to it’s harshest (because of simul justus et peccator, everybody will always have sin for it to expose), and the Gospel to its sweetest (because anybody who truly believes the words of the law preached to its harshest will have their guilt laid bare before them).

            So what good does it do to point out something is wrong? Because we call a thing what it is. Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, and to label it as such is a good thing. But to get excited about that is weird and morbid: the condemnation of sinners ought not elicit rejoicing in any, it certainly doesn’t in God. When Christians condemn sin with one hand, they ought always offer forgiveness with the other. Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up as judges of the world, when the true judge of all, whom we claim to serve and proclaim, is much more gracious than we.

          • Robert, that is a false equivocation. It would only be true if we had a law against preaching the law. We don’t: we proclaim both, and rightly identify which is which. When Piper proclaims our obedience as the hope that Christians have, he has called the Law “Gospel,” and thus diverted the believer’s attention from where his true hope lies. It’s ok to condemn idolatry. But since we are all terminal idolaters, you really ought to give some Christian hope after doing so.

          • Miguel, I don’t disagree with the most recent thing you stated here. But what you stated before, namely,

            “Being told to “love God” (which always carries an implicit “or else”, intended or not) is no more helpful than telling a kleptomaniac to stop stealing. ”

            was confusing in light of the discussion on Piper.

            I think I have a fairly good understanding of Lutheran theology with respect Law & Gospel. But I’m with Calvin on this one, and that means that I see three uses of the Law, namely,

            1) To be a mirror of God’s righteousness and to illuminate human sinfulness. This is what drives the elect to the cross for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

            2) To restrain evil. The law cannot change human hearts but it can protect the righteous from the unjust by allowing for a limited measure of justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized.

            3) To reveal what is pleasing to God. This, I believe, is the highest function of the law, because it equips the people of God to give Him honor and glory.

            Look, I know that you and the many other good Lutherans (I mean that with all sincerity, by the way) do not agree with this–at all. But I find it more consistent with the overall teachings of Scripture and consequently less prone to error, misunderstanding, easier to convey to others, and more applicable both in the church and society as a whole.

            I respect your opinions. I hope you can respect mine.

          • Miguel,

            I see what you’re saying Miguel, and concede your point. Increasingly as of late I’ve been hearing the siren call of Lutheranism, and growing in my respect for what I know and understand of Luther as a theologian. I also find that Lutheran theology is comfortable speaking the language of paradox, where it makes sense, while at the same time embracing clear thinking and logic. All this makes the idea of going over to the Lutheran camp very attractive to me, and I may be grasping at straw to avoid that, for whatever confluence of reasons. Your logical way of thinking is very helpful for me in coming to fuller understanding of the implications of Lutheran theology. Thanks.

          • Miguel, it’s a bit of a stretch to conclude that Piper calls the Law “Gospel” based on a single tweet; I hardly find that charitable towards a brother. You and I would not want to be judged on a single statement (note that I also mentioned other things he said). I reiterate, why focus so much on the negative and little on the positive? I mention this because earlier you stated that “His other statements don’t excuse this one. This one crosses the line.” You would think the man had said that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead!

            Rather, can we not take what was quoted in the post in context with the other things he said, throw in a good measure of Christian tolerance and charity and then arrive at a different perspective? I have heard him preach and I have read a couple of of his books. He does lead people to the cross.

            Robert, FYI, Calvinism is also a tension-filled tradition with numerous paradoxical truths. Not trying to put a plug in for anything, just saying that Lutheranism and Calvinism have more in common than not. We have different approaches in some regards but the end is the same.

          • I do understand there is overlap between Calvinism and Lutheranism. But I am finding great consolation these days in the Lutheran theology of baptism, which is very different from Calvinism, and in the Lutheran understanding of Jesus Christ’s presence in Holy Communion. Lutheran theology seems to say that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, and the right hand of the Father is in the midst of his people, in the sacraments and in their lives together. It all seems so solid and incarnational, so like ordinary life, only God’s life in the midst of ordinary life.

          • Cal, actually, Lutherans have always held to the three uses of the law. The difference is that we hold the third use in a different way. The Reform filter the third use through a guilt-grace-gratitude paradigm, whereas ours is simply two-fold: law-gospel, with grace always getting the final say. We don’t argue with the law, but neither do we proclaim it as helpful: it informs, but does not enable. I think this Reformed guy does a pretty good job explaining the Lutheran approach to the third use:


            Steve Martin may disagree, for him all third uses are wrong, but this is the historic approach of the Lutheran confessions.

            Also, I strongly encourage you to take a closer look at C. F. W. Walther’s book “Law and Gospel,” where he expounds on 25 theses related to how to read and interpret the Bible. Particularly XXIII,

            You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you use the demands, threats, or promises of the Law to try and force the unregenerate to put away their sins and engage in good works and thus become godly; and then, on the other hand, if you use the commands of the Law – rather than the admonitions of the Gospel – to urge the regenerate to do good.

            Just keep in mind that it’s kind of a book you have to live with for a while. Some of the theses may have to sit with you for a few years before you find them useful. This was something I found very offensive to my intellect when I first began exploring it, but after a few years of reflecting on these truths, they have become so clear, it is now impossible for me to un-see it. You could read through just the 25 theses themselves (without the explanatory essay) in less than 5 minutes, they give an excellent overview of what Lutherans mean when they refer to “Law and Gospel.”

          • Also, Cal, I believe the Reformed can adopt Walther’s approach without conflict to their doctrinal commitments. Many are beginning to do so these days.

            About Piper: I’m not saying that he literally says that “thou shalt not steal” is the Gospel or anything like that, nor am I judging him based on a single tweet. I listened to his preaching podcast religiously for years, and am very familiar with his teaching style, doctrine, and particular emphasis. His statement in this tweet is simply objectively incorrect. I can see where he was coming from with the others, they weren’t necessarily untrue, but this one is. I disagree with it, and very strongly at that.

            He does lead people to the cross. I still have his book on my shelf “50 reasons why Jesus Came to Die.” I learned a lot from him, and his systematic teaching style and use of logic in doctrinal formulations was very influential in drawing me into a deeper study of Scripture and towards the churches of Reformation heritage. I understand very well the common ground between Lutheranism and Calvinism, because I went through a Reformed phase prior to joining the Lutheran church. I listened to and read countless books and hours of teaching by Piper, Sproul, Horton, and numerous others. I can quote you the Westminster Standards verbatim, and show you specifically where I disagree and why. This is how I chose my new church home. Most Calvinists, however, do not understand how wide the divide on the Sacraments truly is.

            The reason I insist that Piper confuses the law and the gospel is that even with his primary slogan, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” he is directing the focus of the Christian to (and thus implicitly encouraging us to place our hope in) our good work of loving God with all our heart. His passion for the supremacy of God in all things is directly antagonistic towards the Lutheran approach that holds we see God primarily through his suffering. The former approach, imo, is a despair inducing, faith destroying, and hope stealing doctrine, but the latter brings hope to broken sinners. Piper’s overt emphasis on emotion and experience does lead, despite his best of intentions and rigorous studies, towards the self and thus away from the living Word found in the Scriptures, not deeper into it. Pietism is, at its core, a movement away from Word and Sacrament as the beginning and end of the Christian’s life to an insistence that our good works, methods, emotions, or experiences are somehow necessary parts of the equation.

            But seriously, is it really uncharitable to say that somebody is dead wrong? Piper has a lot of good things to say and I’ve benefited much from him. He also says his share of bovine defecation, and we need to call a spade a spade. It is not disrespectful to call “bull” on this tweet.

          • Robert, Baptismal regeneration is indeed FAR more comforting than the Perseverance of the Saints. It applies, very specifically, “for you.” I always enjoy our interaction, but you may find that I am a tormented soul with a troubled conscience. This is what drove me to the Lutheran church. After 25 years of “you never try hard enough” religion beating the snot out of me, I seriously flinch when I see Christians teaching what should be a comforting faith in such a twisted manner. I’m not saying that all non-Lutherans get it completely wrong, and believe me, Pietism is alive and strong in LCMS (unfortunately), but we have the comforting presence of Christ himself (in, with, and under word and water, bread and wine), and that isn’t just enough. It’s everything.

          • I appreciate your expansion on these things. Thank you for sharing them. It puts things in a more comprehensible light.

            I did experience the “you never try hard enough” stuff in Catholicism and later in Evangelicalism, but I have not experienced such in the limited Calvinist circles I associate with.

            You stated that “Most Calvinists, however, do not understand how wide the divide on the Sacraments truly is.” Actually, Calvinists do not always agree with Calvinists on the sacraments. Credobaptist Calvinists, (e.g., Spurgeonwas, now Piper, Mohler) tend to view baptism and communion much like Zwinglians, which is to say, more like symbolic ordinances. Paedobaptist Calvinists such as Sproul and Horton adhere to Covenant Theology and so they view the sacraments as means of grace.

            I take it that Lutherans are more uniform in this respect? I would also say that Calvinists paedobaptists are closer to Lutheran thinking on baptism than Calvinist credobaptists.

            One last thing… You stated above that “Baptismal regeneration is indeed FAR more comforting than the Perseverance of the Saints.” I think I see what you’re saying but the doctrine of perseverance needs to be taught all the same. You may get it, I may get it, but most will not unless they are assured of their salvation.

            In effect, baptism saves us, “not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3.21). This is why I believe in credobaptism. But my point is that baptism is the outward sign of the inner regeneration by the power of the gospel. Consequently, perseverance follows for the rest of life as the continuing power of the gospel. And our saints need to be assured that Christ will see them safely through this life and onto the next.

          • Cal, the “try harder” stuff is somewhat common in Calvinism, even if many teachers are more gracious and pastoral, because it doesn’t conflict with Calvinist doctrine, especially Pietism influenced Calvinism. I will concede that people like Sproul and Horton are exemplary Reformed teachers who really shame much of the preaching masquerading as Lutheranism I’ve heard.

            The thing is, Baptismal regeneration and perseverance of the saints are and must be, by logical necessity, mutually exclusive. If Baptism makes you a Christian and this cannot be undone, then everyone who is ever Baptized is saved. I don’t believe any church body teaches this. The ones who teach Baptism saves also teach that you can walk away, and the ones who teach Salvation cannot be lost do not teach that Baptism saves. So while Calvinist churches can be sacrament-practicing, they still have a drastically different understand of their nature. Some people have found comfort in the P of TULIP. But at the end of the day, there’s always room to question if the P includes me. Calvinism ultimately points you to your works as proof of election. Lutheranism points you to your Baptism, which is not the work of man, but God’s work upon us, done to us, coming to us from outside of us. Sola gratia.

            And you do realize that 1 Peter 3:21 is the all time favorite proof text of Lutheranism. Can you not see what you did with it there? You’ve taken a verse that says “Baptism saves,” literally, it just says exactly that, and you’ve turned it on it’s head to mean that “Baptism does not save.” Where do the scriptures say Baptism is the outward sign of the inner regeneration by the power of the Gospel? It does not. (I do not think that idea even existed prior to the 16th century.) What do the Scriptures say Baptism is? Start with a blank slate, and read the verses that talk about Baptism with the mindset that whatever they say about Baptism is what Baptism is. Romans 6:4. 1 Peter 3:21. Acts 2:38. Acts 22:16. Galatians 3:27. Ephesians 5:26. Mark 16:16. I’d rather believe what these verses actually say then filter them through a pre-determined theology which insists that Baptism can not justify me before God, no matter what the Scriptures say. I was raised as a credobaptist, this is a doctrine I’ve had to change my position on when confronted with the text.

            Let’s play that game in reverse. If the verses I’ve given do NOT teach that Baptism actually does save us, then IF Christianity were to be a religion where Baptism DID save, how would the Scriptures have to be different? What would they need to contain textually that they do not already have?

            Baptism is exactly what Peter says: it is an appeal to God for a good conscience. “Not as a removal of dirt from the body” does not negate what the rest of the verse says. It unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection. How can water do this?

            Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-8).

            -Luther, in the Small Catechism. The Word of God in Baptism is His triune name placed upon us, into which we are Baptized.

          • “And you do realize that 1 Peter 3:21 is the all time favorite proof text of Lutheranism. Can you not see what you did with it there? You’ve taken a verse that says “Baptism saves,” literally, it just says exactly that, and you’ve turned it on it’s head to mean that “Baptism does not save.” Where do the scriptures say Baptism is the outward sign of the inner regeneration by the power of the Gospel? It does not. (I do not think that idea even existed prior to the 16th century.)”

            Miguel, I am very happy happy that you you are very much affirmed in your Lutheran beliefs on baptism. But if baptism literally saves you then it becomes a work. It’s the appeal to God for a good conscience, which is grace-induced faith in the regeneration of the believer from the dead, not the act itself, which saves you.

            I do think the idea of baptism being an “outward sign of the inner regeneration by the power of the Gospel” existed in the earliest church although it was gradually changed over the next three centuries. For this reason the Catholic church invented the “sacraments” of confession, as a means of “post-baptism sin forgiveness maintenance.” The also came up with the idea of limbo to make sense of what should happen to infants who die before they’re baptized.

            Look, I’m OK with the idea of paedobaptism as Calvin taught it and as Presbyterians and Reformed churches practice it. I’m even OK with the way you’ve explained the Lutheran concept of baptism (BTW/FWIW, a deacon in our church grew up Lutheran and, unlike in a Baptist church, at his request we did not require him to be baptized as an adult). But I am not convinced that paedobaptism–Reformed or Lutheran–is the best explanation of what baptism was intended to be, nor it it, imo, the more conducive to discipleship and maturity in Christ than credobaptism.

            I reiterate, I’m very happy for you. You are eloquent and cogent and you have found a tradition and theology which appears to satisfy your longings for a genuine life in Christ. And no doubt you will bless many in your lifetime.

            As for me, I’m also content and blessed with what I believe in this respect. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

          • Calvin – nope, not a work. A sacrament, which is, I think, something that’s tough for most other Protestants to wrap their brains aroud,.

            However, I will leave further explication to Miguel, who knows far more about Reformed theology than I ever will. I think, though, that acceptance of both mystery (should really be a capital M) and paradox are crucial to belief in the sacramental nature of both the Eucharist and baptism.

            Like I said a few days ago, the Reformed folks who claim Luther as one of their own really don’t get Luther. If they did, they would (mostly) disavow him, I think.

          • Cal, you have to remember, salvation IS by works. R. C. Sproul delivers a lecture to that point on Renewing Your Mind. The question is not whether grace is earned. The question is by whom. I think we can both agree that our forgiveness is the fruit of Christ’s perfect righteousness offered on the cross and imputed to believers. The question then becomes how is this grace given to us individually (assuming you’re not a universalist)? You have two options: Either grace is received through a work of man, or grace is applied through a work of God. We would say that Baptism is not a work of man, for by our own strength it is merely getting wet. We would say that the power and efficacy in Baptism lies in the work of God through the water and the Word, where Christ himself washes us with water and Word, placing his name on us and adopting us as his children. You cannot crucify yourself, it must be done to you by somebody else. Similarly, you cannot Baptize yourself (although that IS how credobaptism first exploded onto the scene in Puritan England), it is done to you by somebody else, sent out by Christ with his command, word, and authority. When you are baptized, the baptizer is merely an instrument being used by God to put you to death in the water and raise you to newness of life. God can, and has promised to, give what the ritual symbolizes through it.

            The only other option, really, is to say that it is applied to me specifically when I make a choice. Decision making IS a work of man. At the end of the day, either Baptism saves you or it is ultimately superfluous and unnecessary. Either Christ is present in the bread and wine, or we can substitute them with digital imagery as merely symbolic memory devices.

            Numo is right on: Calvinists who think Luther was batting for their team need to keep reading: dig far enough, and you will find him writing things deeply offensive to Reformed thought. He didn’t teach that the bread transforms into Christ’s body: He taught it becomes simultaneously both at the same time. You can no more comprehend this mystery than you can the incarnation and hypostatic union. Sacraments are the work of God by which he accomplishes his saving purposes in us through ordinary means.

            I was also raised with the narrative that the early church was Baptist and gradually became corrupted into Roman Catholicism. This apparently happened right under the nose of all the early church father the Puritans quote to defend their doctrines of grace. It just sounds too much like a conspiracy theory to me, lacking documentation and rejecting significant evidence to the contrary. I think the specific Catholic teachings you reference actually date a bit later than the third century. Good for you for not rebaptizing members, too manny Baptists insist that new members must be “double dipped,” which is quite ridiculous if you believe it’s merely symbolic anyways.

            If you’re happy in your tradition, that’s great. You are able to hold your beliefs while respecting others. But all the arguments for Baptist theology I grew up hearing (and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them all, though I keep listening for a new one) all began to ring hollow when I began to read the Scriptures in a new light. In going down the Wittenberg trail I have found a deeper, richer life of discipleship immeshed in a living encounter with the Word to fill my soul that mere rationalistic intellectualizing on religious matters could not satisfy. All I can say is be careful reading Lutheran theology, you may be unwittingly and unwillingly dragged through a faith-reorienting paradigm shift.

          • Thank you, Miguel, thank you Numo, good stuff to think about. You have helped me better understand the Lutheran perspective on these things.

            BTW, when I said that “Luther is one of us” I did not mean with regards the sacraments, for his differences with Zwingly and Calvin–and Zwingly with Calvin–are well known. Rather I was referring to Luther’s Augustinian beliefs with regards predestination and election vs. Erasmus semi-Pelagian views.

            God bless.

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Those who spout such sanctimonious drivel are people who attempt to live within carefully defined and guarded boundaries, who are constantly taking their spiritual temperatures, constantly searching their hearts, constantly afraid lest they be anything less than “wholly devoted” to Christ — in certain constricted religious ways of course.

    Which according to TWW also describes a LOT of surviving journals of New England Puritans, constantly navel-gazing and sin-sniffing their navels.

    Or the definition of “Excessive Scrupulosity”, a form of “spiritual” OCD.

  18. When I was very young girl we called those folk “pious prunes.”

  19. Hmmmmm, wasn’t there a movie made quite a few years ago about “hysteria” running rampant in a pietistic community and the “joyous” aftermath?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Quite being cagey and tell us the title.

      Otherwise your description could just as well match “The Devils of Loudon”.

  20. Twitter is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is tweeted..

  21. Klasie Kraalogies says

    “Sour, gloomy and severe….”

  22. Vega Magnus says

    I really enjoy going to classes at college. Obviously education is evil.

    • And I really enjoy the engaing of minds and ideas on Internet Monk. Hence, Good equals Evil?! Where are the phiosophers who can clarify this mystery?

  23. “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy” – H.L. Mencken

    Seems he got that right. I do get sick of these sorts of complexes Christian come up with. Reminds of once heard a guy say he was worried he might be lusting after his wife…

  24. I find that many of the comments made here and elsewhere with regards the Puritans are void of historical facts. I asked a friend once why he thought the 17th century Puritans were called “Puritans” and, not surprisingly, he responded that the name applied to their ‘puritanical” attitudes towards all things sinful and sex in particular. I told him that that had little to do with it as the term actually referred to their intentions to “purify” the Church of England from any lasting vestiges of Romanism. For this reason their detractors often referred to them as “precisionists.”

    But with regards their attitudes towards sex… Roman Catholic doctrine of the time taught that celibacy was superior to marriage. By contrast Puritans taught that marriage was more excellent than celibacy. Back then Roman Catholicism taught that sexual intercourse was the result of the Fall and did not take place in Paradise. The Puritan response to this was that marriage was ordained by God in Paradise, not after the Fall, and therefore intended to be “a most joyful garden of pleasure.”


    • And it was not at all unkown for Mr. Prudent Horsehair to be called out by his church elders for failing to fulfill his fundamental duty as husband with appropriate frequency.

      • I confess that I am not familiar with that particular incident.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I think it happened more than once. Puritan husband denies sex to his wife because of his Sinfulness. Wife goes to Elders. Elders take this as Wife Abuse and put husband under some kind of church discipline, up to excommunication.

        • I made up the man’s name just then. I hereby copyright it because I find it unaccountably cool.

          I’m afraid I don’t have a reference at my fingertips, CC, but you’re right in that my general claim (along the lines of HUG’s description) deserves full sourcing, which I’ll try to uncover. I don’t think it’s apocryphal.

          Orthodox Jews are also very strict about these sorts of things; they probably have more active sex lives than the pretty young things out clubbing any given night in Manhattan.

          • Actually, I would not be surprised if it were accurate. Puritans could get weird just like anyone else, especially those living in isolated places.

            If you do find the source, I would love to know what the “appropriate frequency” was considered to be. Did it decrease age? With children? With acres to be plowed? Did the temperament of the wife play a factor? What about her looks? His looks? And since Viagra had not yet been introduced, would the church elders take ED into consideration before rendering judgment on the poor fellow?

    • Then apparently I have a Puritan attitude towards sex. 😛

    • They, the Puritans, also enjoyed their hard cider in plentiful quantities.

  25. “Enjoy.” YES!!!

    Not sure how much this relates to your post, CM, but hopefully there’s a nugget of something in what I’m about to write…

    I live in the Seattle area. As some of you know, the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl this weekend. Interestingly, over the past 6-8 weeks, the Seahawks haven’t been firing on all cylinders, especially offensively. I have many friends who continue to harp on this.

    “We won’t get anywhere if the offense doesn’t improve.” “We need better receivers.” “We can’t handle another injury.” On and on the negativity goes. And then there’s all the IN-game negativity: “We’re down 3-0 and look awful!” “Another fumble!” “I can’t believe how many times we’ve had to punt.”

    What gets lost in the negativity is the enjoyment and joy! I look at my friends and think, “You’re missing on the joy here! By focusing on the negative, you’re failing to revel in the fact our team went 13-3 for the season. You’re unable to revel in the win over the Saints in our first playoff game, revel in the win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship, and take joy that we’re in the Super Bowl this weekend.” Instead, it’s a lot of “woe is us if we don’t…” C’mon…have fun!!!! Don’t focus on the negative! Look at the good things that are going on! And enjoy them!!!!

    So yes, I also object a little to a comment, “Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is desired.” It’s almost saying, “Focus on the negative; that’ll be healthier for you.” It also implies it’s almost best to live in a little box and just peek out every now and then.

    • As a longtime Seahawks fan, I must confess I complained much last game and watched the game full of anxiety and negativity. After all, it is the Seahawks. lol. I get your point and it is helpful. Thanks Rick.

    • As someone who was rooting for the 49ers, I’m pretty sure your joy is totally idolatrous….

  26. We tend to use the term “pietistic” in a negative sense, yet the original pietism developed as a heart-religion of personal devotion to God (yet orthodox in belief) in contrast to the surrounding Christian culture of dry formalistic orthodoxy.

    • Thank you for pointing that out. Pietism is not in and of itself off track. There is much in the life of Christ, as detailed in the gospels, and in the life of the apostles, as detailed in Acts and in the epistles, which would be deemed pietistic in nature.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > yet the original pietism developed as a heart-religion of personal devotion to God

      Perhaps, but now is not then. Language evolves. Citing historical usage does not necessarily englighten or facilitate effective communication.

      > in contrast to the surrounding Christian culture of dry formalistic orthodoxy.

      It seems like people have been accusing “the surrounding Christian culture” of that my entire [Christian] life, and based on what I’ve read – before that. (a) I am not sure I buy it anymore and (b) it is a tired meme. People seem to take tremendous comfort in that “dry formalistic orthodoxy”, it brings them peace in time of crisis. So their religious intentions are either void – or the observer is being uncharitable and judgy.

  27. Well, yesterday was the Sunday of Zacchaeus, which means that the Orthodox have begun their per-Lenten Triodion season. Morning and evening prayers are becoming longer and more penitential. In three weeks, I bid hamburgers good-bye until April 20th. The week after that, the grilled cheese goes as well. All the rest of Christendom has either frontal-lobed or law-graced Great Lent away, but the Orthodox keep it in all of its original rigor.

    I don’t know why I love Great Lent. It bites hard, and I’m usually showing my @$$ by the third week, in which my wife (bless her heart, you see, I keep the ancient restrictions on marital relations as well) invariably points out to me that if I’m going to be such a whiny, hyper-critical, pompous pr1ck I’m going to use up all the points I’ve “earned” with God anyway and even end up deeper in the hole than when I started. I see the point. I should be repenting, not complaining. Its just that I’m always a whiny, hyper-critical, pompous prick but I don’t have as much energy to dissimulate during Great Lent.

    It takes a while for the season to work its way into my insensible heart. At the beginning, the temptation for me is to run ahead of what Father has prescribed for me and be even more severe with myself than he counsels. That usually lasts two or three weeks. Then comes the rough part, where I start dreaming about cheeseburgers and fried chicken [I know, I know – First World problems]. It usually isn’t until the last Sunday, the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, that the whole point of Lent begins to sink in.

    The point of Lent is Pascha. Yeah, I know know know know know I’m not gaining any merit points with God and that Easter would not lose one iota of its splendor if had been washing down pork chops with strawberry shakes for the last 54 days. But I want a Belly Easter, not a Brain Easter, so I fast, and this year I promise to try a harder that my family not suffer the consequences of it so much.

    Now, I don’t know if that is anything like what Rev. Piper was talking about. RBs (as well as their Presbyterian TR brethren) are usually horrified at any mention of Lent (Works! Works!), and I know there are Orthodox who delight in keeping the minutia of the season and making everybody else feel guilty, but our clergy are usually pretty good at getting out the message – “mind your own plate, and not your neighbor’s” – so the damage is minimal.

    So, am I being pietisitic, or is this another area where East and West just don’t have the same categories?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > So, am I being pietisitic,

      This is the opposite of “pietisitic”, at least in the modern sense. You are actually doing something.

      Aside: if someone accuses me of “Works! Works!” these days I have a smug feeling that I must be doing something right. Sin always finds its way.

      But I can look forward to the fish fries at St. Alphonsus. They bring in the fish fresh from the Huron. Fantastic! Some of the best food I will have all year. I know it is supposed to be a sacrifice – but it is awesome [and worth the hours waiting in the line that snakes through the entire building and out into the street – and they aren’t even all Catholic, so wierd]. I wish all my Works could taste that good.

      > I’m always a whiny, hyper-critical, pompous prick

      Yeah. I’m there.

      • They aren’t all Catholic simply because lots of people enjoy fish cooked that well. It’s as true in my part of the country as it is in yours.

    • Yes, this is another area where East and West don’t have the same categories, Mule. I love Lent, too, even the diluted RC version. Uh oh — am I idolizing Lent by enjoying it?

  28. I started to read this post and my thinking was going off. My gut instinct told me that it was John Piper who tweeted that. Call it a hunch….but after years of drinking cherry flavored kool-aide and showing no common sense, critical thinking skills or discernment what so ever he popped up in my mind before when I read the quote. That tweet would go along well with how he opens his book “Don’t Waste Your Life” (Which was a waste of a couple of weeks that will never be recovered)

    So I searched the quote and found the source…and my first reaction is damn….I wish I didn’t know this much about fundamentalism. I won’t make this a rant about Piper, at least I’ll try not to….I did that a couple of days back at Wartburg. What I find appalling is how he defines idol. I guess one should not enjoy life, friends, beer, anything… The irony is the one teaching this “doctrine” has become nothing but an idol for so many people. They drool, they gasp, become speechless and they have to pick up their tongue off the floor because John has spoken. Remember for many people John Piper is nothing but the 67th book of the Bible. But for all the talk about idolatry I find it so rich that he has become the idol to many.

    As for me I’m going to grill that steak tonight, cook the baked potato and crack open Greg Boyd and enjoy the “idol” called dinner.

    • Amen, Eagle. Amen.

      I’ll take mine medium rare with some horseradish on the side.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Remember for many people John Piper is nothing but the 67th book of the Bible.

      Only the most recent of many.

    • I have never, for the life of me, understood why people so venerate John Piper. The weird thing is that other Christians teachers who I like a lot (Tullian Tchivijian) are also fans of his, yet seem to preach the exact opposite of his dire pietism.

  29. Speaking of Pietism…

    “If evangelicals want to fight the legalization of marijuana—and recent polls show they are increasingly less willing to do so—then they are going to need to have a full-orbed conversation. Let’s “Just Say ‘No’” to letting American individualism or simplistic pietism drive our theology and thinking, as evangelicals are often wont to do, and instead step back and have a Biblical but complete conversation.”

    – See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/01/27/evangelicals-missing-marijuana-debate/#sthash.qf7T1UOy.dpuf

  30. geoff downs says

    Evangelical fundamentalist religion is designed to suck the enjoyment and fun out of life itself.Be it sex, having a few drinks , smoking a cigarette or cigar ….. whatever its all bad. One thing I told my wife is I,ll never go to a born again christian wedding ceremony ever again . No booze and that crappy stupid fountain of whatever the heck that lousy punch is.. ide have more fun digging a hundred foot ditch by hand with the guys from work on a hot summer day than at one of those crappy weddings

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > ide have more fun digging a hundred foot ditch by hand on a hot summer day

      Really? Are you sure? A hundred feed is an amazining long distance when you are digging a trench. I’ve *literally* done this [140ft, thank you]. I would choose the lousy punch every time. 🙂

      140ft x 3ft deep [that is the frost line here] is 420 sq. feet of dirt. Including roots, that is a lot of dirt.

      • Nonetheless, Adam, the point is true — hard work with friends is far more rewarding than eviscerated pseudo-rituals. I agree with geoff.

  31. I. Absolutely. Love. Babette’s. Feast.

  32. geoff downs says

    Ok maybe 50 feet

  33. One of the signs of the Presence of the Holy Spirit among a community of faith is ‘joy’.
    I don’t think it means the same thing as the ‘joy’ of this materialistic world, no;
    but it is a real ‘joy’ none-the-less
    and is seen as an enduring joy in those who are living under difficult circumstances,
    but who share in the kind of hope spoken of here:

    “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart;
    it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons . . .
    It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense,
    regardless of how it turns out.”
    (Vaclav Havel)

  34. It is enough to make one dizzy. Evangelicals say out of one side of their mouth that you can’t be happy, but then out of the other side say you can’t ever be sad or discouraged. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      What you described is STOIC.

    • Nailed it. You are supposed to be 100% satisfied with Jesus at all times. No sinners allowed.

    • “Evangelicals say out of one side of their mouth that you can’t be happy, but then out of the other side say you can’t ever be sad or discouraged.”

      First, you will find many folks in many other traditions who say the same thing. Second, as an Evangelical in an international association of Evangelical churches we do no teach that “You are supposed to be 100% satisfied with Jesus at all times.” Third, I meet with other city pastors on a monthly basis (mostly Evangelicals) and I don’t hear “No sinners allowed.” On the contrary…

      Please make an attempt to be fair!

  35. I like a statement that I believe was made by C.S. Lewis. Jesus was the only sane and normal person who ever lived on this earth. He expressed every emotion he had openly without guilt or inhibition. If you start suppressing part of your emotions just because you believe the emotion itself is bad, the result will be imbalance in your personality. No wonder so many Christians find it difficult to be loving whit this type of thinking. if you can’t enjoy life without feeling guilty, you can’t love life, yourself, or others either.

  36. I think there is a real gnostic element to this, as mentioned by others. Christians are to made to feel like they can be neither happy nor sad. Instead, super-spiritualism pushes a sense of euphoria as normal, which seems disconnected from truly earthy, human emotions.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You become so Spiritual(TM) you cease to be human. Not even Christ did that — wasn’t the Docetist Heresy that Christ only APPEARED to be human? (God Almighty having to take a dump — how Unspiritual…)

      You become so Spiritual(TM) you cease to be real. (Note the connotations of the word “Unreal”…)

      Wasn’t the original Christian afterlife Resurrection of the Body, not floating around as a Spiritual Soul in Fluffy Cloud Heaven? Resurrection — how Unspiritual…)

      It’s why a little influx of Judaism would be a blessing. These days, Judaism is very earthy. Instead of “escape the world and be Spiritual(TM)”, God says “Keep my Commandments, but LIVE YOUR LIFE!”

  37. I was thinking about this statement from Piper today and I thought it might help to bring it down to everyday, street level and why it makes sense to me:

    Piper: “Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is desired.”

    Translated with an example…

    “I love fishing and consider it to be a gift from God. However, I’ve spent so much time and money on fishing that its become an obsession and all I can think about is spending more money on gear and planning my next outing. Nothing else satisfies.”

    In this example (or plug in any activity or thing or person) isn’t Piper’s tweet reasonable?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I’d tell that example that he’s gotten out-of-balance.

      • Ok yes out of balance. In terms of our faith wouldn’t this fall under the definition of idolatry? And isn’t it this that Piper is speaking to in his tweet?

        I guess I’m insane because I take his tweet as loving advice for believers. It is to our benefit that we spur “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Not that good deeds, or works, are meritorious towards our salvation, but that they are loving and to our benefit now in this world.

        “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome”

  38. For me this brings to mind an illustration that Francis Chan used in a message a few years back where he talked about how he and his wife took her grandmother to see a play and she (the grandmother) wanted to leave midway through because she would not have wanted to be at that theater if Christ were to return then. Chan used this as an example of passionate devotion to Christ. I thought of my own grandmother, who was likewise strongly devoted to Christ but who would never in a million years have asked to leave a play because she didn’t want to be found there when Jesus returns.

    • Francis Chan is a jerk.

      And Christian faith is not some sort of pissing contest where we aspire to be as “Passionately Devoted” as (insert Super-Christian here). The longer I’m a Christian, the less convinced I am of my ability to be Spiritual(tm) and Better Than You (r).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Because that leads to ever-escalating “Can You Top This?” until we’re all gargling lye alongside St Rose of Lima.

      • Where should one be found when Jesus returns?

        I once heard someone answer the question, “What would you do if you knew Jesus was returning (or you will die, etc.) tomorrow” with, “exactly what I am doing right now” – which was nothing extraordinary, apart from the person’s daily life and vocation.

        And the following t-shirt caption seems to sum up Chan’s spirituality: “Jesus is coming back. Look busy!”.