Josiah Audette

"Aware of the past, curious about the future, ready to argue the present." Tocqueville

Tag: Theology

Idolatrous Iconoclasts

Devil's DictionaryThis message is borrowed heavily from Rev. Douglas Wilson’s message at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, “The Politics of Sodomy IV: Remember Lot’s Wife.” Worth the listen.

ICONOCLAST

“I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first work of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubles less clear to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs  is difficult, but fine.” You will read this excerpt in a favoured book of mine from the Scottish satyrical writer Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary.” I have often perused this book since its first introduction to me through the frequent references of it in the debates of the reputable polemic Christopher Hitchens and theologian, Douglas Wilson. As you may deduce, this brief excerpt in the volume of satyrical word definitions is from the introduction in the alphabetical category of the letter “I”. The other week I interested myself in the second word listed in the category, namely, Iconoclast. In its serious definition and modern connotation Iconoclast means a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. It was love at first sight for me. After all, the dictionary is a book of love and one giant romance novel to the effervescent bibliophile. “A person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. Iconoclast.”  Its historical meaning refers to A breaker or destroyer of images; a name which Catholics gave to those who reject the use of images in religious worship. Indeed I should like to conceive of myself as an Iconoclast after the Puritans and reformers before me. More specifically, as a Christian Iconoclast modelled after that peerless Iconoclast in Biblical history, King Josiah. “Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.” As I perceived it, Christians ought and are the congregation of Iconoclasts bringing about the decimation of societies’ idolatrous abominations. Removing every revered institution, dismantling every venerated ideology which abrogates the law of God. So the Christian is either an Iconoclast or an Idolator. As Mr. Amberson observed in his last message, their are several and sundry idolatries without the Church that if we as Iconoclasts do not crush, they shall doubtless crush us.

IDOLATER

By idol or idolatry I mean something beyond some conception of a pagan figure or object, I mean rather a created thing which endeavours to place itself where only the uncreated God is. In “The Anatomy of Melancholy” Robert Burton writes, “We are thus bad by nature, bad by kind, but far worse by art, every man the greatest enemy unto himself. We study many times to undo ourselves, abusing those good gifts which God hath bestowed upon us, health, wealth, strength, wit, learning, art, memory to our own destruction.” So we can be idolatrous with our without images. Idolatry as such is strictly forbidden, “Turn ye not unto idols, more make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God.” For we are doomed if we do so. “I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.” I wonder if we realize just how doomed our society is by its idolatrous abominations. If we are blind or just ever belligerent optimists to the present and future state of our culture. Now I am no fan of optimism or its denomination. In the words of Ambrose Bierce, optimism, “Is a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof – an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.” As Douglas Wilson illustrates, two days before the destruction of Sodom was it possible for Lot’s wife to say, “Well, its all right so far.” We may even confess to ourselves, Yes, we have some issues in our city, a looming crises in politics, and other problems in the economy, but its not so bad.” Thus we join the company of the idols which are reserved by God for complete annihilation. However I don’t see that being the common response to the state of the nation in our church. I don’t think any of us are saying, All right so far.” I believe rather that each of us are concerned with responding to the current situation. We all want to do something about it. The question merely, is, “What is something constructive which we can do?” How can we be Christian Iconoclasts? How can we effectively and actively quell the present judgment?

WORSHIP

The one thing which we can do, and indeed the only thing which we can do is worship God as we have the privilege of doing every Lord’s Day.  “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Not just the iconoclasts maxim, but also our prayer and model. Since idolatry is placing ourselves where God belongs we know to combat idolatry in our hearts we must place ourselves at the feet of where God is. When we worship we rise to the courts of the Lord in heaven. When we worship we ascend that holy hill, we boldly enter into the holy of holies, we have entrance into the heaveanlies. In response to our worship, God in heaven comes to us. We do not pray, “Thy Kingdom go” because it is coming. Heaven only comes through worship. His Kingdom only comes only as we hallow our heavenly Father’s name. How do you hallow God’s name on earth? Hallow it in heaven. How does God’s Kingdom come to us? We go to it. How do we go to it? Worship our Father in the name of is Son in the power of his Holy Spirit in the heavenly places with the congregation of God. Our church’s mission statement rightly begins with the simple declaration that we exists “For the right worshipping of God.” This is the central function of Christ’s Church and its local, visible expression here in Grace Haven.

WEAPON OF WORSHIP

The statement, “Thy Kingdom come” doesn’t just infer it does not “go” but rather “comes” through hallowing worship. It also infers that here on earth we are under an entirely different and opposing kingdoms and kings. The Christian Iconoclast comprehends this reality more so than others. The Christian Iconoclast knows what the Kingdom of God actually is. Morecraft writes, “Christ’s mediatorial kingdom is the manifestation of the sovereign rule of God in power and grace which establishes a new civilization of righteousness and blessedness in history by the power of the Holy Spirit in, under and through the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises.” It is establishing the crown rights of King Jesus for all of life, for all the world. Thus the Christian iconoclast as they read the news realizes it is far from being so. The troublesome problems, the idolatrous ideologies, the crisis and catastrophes, we have done on earth as it is not done in heaven. They comprehend the extent the Kingdom of God has to come just in order to be realized. The Christian iconoclast realizes how our nation is enclosed and fortified within the bulwarks of hell. But the Christian Iconoclasts also knows what weapon the parapets of hell cannot withstand. As states just a few Sundays ago, it is the church. “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So you want to do something? You read the news and ask what equips you to stop that stuff? You browse the internet and wonder what to do with all the stupidity out there? You want to storm the gates of hell? Well every seven days Grace Haven gathers at their castle gates and has the privilege of taking up the battering ram of worship and taking another swing. Our one weapon and our only weapon is the right worship of God. But it is no small weapon. Rather against its force, “The gates of hades will not prevail.” 

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shin upon us; Selah.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield ehr increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

SPOILS OF BATTLE

When we prevail against these gates there will be many consequences. We will experience change and reform in economics where we take credence to the seventh commandment and no longer steal through inflation or redistribution. We will experience political consequences as we begin to recognize God’s order of state, local, church, family, and individual government. We will experience social consequences in dealing with the poor, widows, and orphans and exercising restitution through justice in the courts. We will experience cultural consequences as we shed the ideals of humanism and statism. We will experience artistic consequences as we stop thinking outside the Bach and in the Cage. However, we must keep in mind that these areas are the spoils of battle and nor our weapons.

IDOLATROUS ICONOCLASTS

This is where the Iconoclast can made an idol out of his very iconoclasm. Politics, economics, arts, sciences, education, food, culture are what we are fighting over and for, but they are not what we are fighting with. It is a form of idolatry for the Iconoclast to think he is going to change anything by advancing particular economic policies, advocating certain educational conventions, applying a political agenda, or adjudicating on artistic or cultural methods.  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” “Confused be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols.” Christopher Hitchens quipped on stage with his Jack Daniels whiskey flask in hand, “I don’t believe we need better politicians. I believe we need a better electorate.” Close, but no cigar. Conservative politics, family economics, home education, multi-generational families, artistry or culture are not our saviours, but they do still need saving. How are they to be saved? Who is their saviour? The only saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. How do we appeal to our only Saviour? Through the triune worshipping God in Jesus’ name, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly places. Worship is our weapon in the battle. These things are the spoil of battle and not our weapons. As Douglas Wilson exhorts, “So, you want to do something constructive? Its right before you. You have a Bible? A Car? You got a hymnal? You can go to church and worship God.” If you are watching the news during the week and wonder what you are able to do about it all you should say, “Well today’s Friday… Sunday’s coming.” But instead what do we often do as misguided Iconoclasts? We watch the news first thing in the week, are horrified, encounter the urge to bring resolution, and imbue our week with all kinds of activities. On Monday we study the weapon of political agendas. Tuesday we really hone in on our home education pedagogy. Wednesday we start to overtake the artistic scene. Thursday we maneuver ourselves into becoming a cultural influence in the community. Friday we experiment with family economics. Saturday we busy ourselves with social engagements and ministry. Sunday we engage with raising our multi-generational homes, and oh wait a minute…. what about church worship. Right, this too is idolatry. This is backwards. Politics, family, economics, education, social welfare, the arts and sciences are the spoils of battle not the weapons. Worship is our one and only weapon effectual to prevailing against the bastion of hades.

ENGAGEMENT & INTEGRATION

Douglas Wilson illustrates worship in the local Church on Sunday as the centre or the engine of reformation and revival. There are some dualist, gnostic Christians who are all about majestically liturgical worship but disavow any engagement in the nitty-gritty of politics, economics, education of the world. This is like starting a big engine, but without ever putting it into gear. There are other Christians who are all about cultural integration, political agendas, artistic influence, social engagements but this whole worship thing just weighs the car down. Their Christianity is never any good at going up hill. Worship is the engine with which we engage all of life with and furthermore integrate with all God’s people for. The right worship of God is our only pure, entire, whole, and peaceful common ground. If you make anything other than worship your engine for reform you commit idolatry and your car falls apart. When you make anything other than worship your integration point your fellowship divides and everyone exits the vehicle. If you make politics your engine then your will integrate based on your political agendas. If you make generations of children your engine you will collect passengers based on their family discipline and educational customs. The problem is not that these pursuits are intrinsically bad, but rather such prioritization is idolatry (Placing the created where the uncreated God is) and are insufficient grounds for full fellowship and effective reform. You will never fully integrate on political agendas, artistic influence, social engagements, culture, educational conventions, or child raising principles. These things do not produce worship. These things are not the ladder by which we ascend into heaven. These things are not the red carpet upon which the Kingdom of God proceeds. Rather, when you worship God on the Lord’s Day in the local church His kingdom comes as promised in Christ. He makes you right with Him. He makes you a charitable Christian, a hospitable disciple, a submissive wife, an honouring child, an industrious daughter, a godly patriarch, an epistemologically self-conscious educator, an inspired artistic influence, and so on. These are the fruits of worship, not the works of worship. These are the spoils of battle, not the weapons of battle. So ask yourselves why do we hang out together? What bring us together? Is it our common practice of home education? Is it our calvinistic theology? Is it our multigenerational family model? Or is it ultimately and unfailingly the triune worship of God in the name of His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly places? If it were not for Jesus Christ would you be hanging out with these people? No. Then why do you qualify your fellowship with others on any other basis than worshiping the One who was whole that was made broken that we who are broken may be made whole?

REFORMATION & REVIVAL

Judgment begins in the house of the Lord. Francis Schaeffer writes, “The church in our generation needs reformation, revival, and constructive revolution. At times men think of the two words reformation and revival as standing in contrast one to the other, but this is a mistake. Both words are related to the word restore. Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine; revival refers to a restoration in the Christian life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture; revival speaks of a life brought into its proper relationship tot the Holy Spirit. The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival.” This brings us to the second portion of the Lord’s Prayer we have before us. “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Reformation and revival as Schaeffer writes, doing the will of God as Mr. Johnson last spoke about, rightly worshiping God as was covered today is not possible without the Holy Spirit. We live in the Spirit and the Spirit in us by regeneration and continually receive him through prayer and the Scriptures. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth… the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.” “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” How do we walk in the Spirit? Romans 8:5, “They that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit.” What are the things of the Spirit we are to be mindful of? “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodnesss, faith, meekness, temperance.” What does the Spirit do in our worship? “He shall testify of me.” “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” “Now we have received… the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

CONCLUSION

Want to be a Christian Iconoclast? First repent of being an idolatrous one. Restore through reformation and revival worship as the engine of all of life and the integration of all God’s people. Avail yourself of the weapon of worship and gather with the congregation of Iconoclasts each Lord Day to prevail against the gates of Hades. In the fullness of the Spirit realize God’s transformation in your life. Worship God the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit with the assembly of God in the heavenly realms.

The Covenant of Life

Dominion ManQ. 20 (Q. 12 in the Shorter Catechism): What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created? 

A.: The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. 

INTRODUCTION

It is my impossible task today to give complete justice to and glorification of God’s providence. Despite my utter inability to fulfill such demands, I hope give at least some inspiration today with the Words of God on his most holy, wise, and powerful special acts of providence towards us. Providence, as I concluded with my last message, should imbue us with an awareness of our independent worth in the eyes of God. True understanding of Providence, an understanding which bridges the gap of the acknowledgments of our mind with the affections of our heart, will demystify and clarify the purposes God has summoned us toward. Providence will both encourage and edify the disposition of our mind and the deportment of our actions in the Christian life. The Christian therefore ought to always recall God’s providential acts, that they might preserve themselves from the grumbling and murmuring spirit we read of in Exodus of the forgetful nation of Israel. Providence gives us mastery over that melancholic angst which, if not fought, would otherwise keep us laid up in the slough of despond. So today we review the first and a foremost special act of God’s providence, The Covenant of Life. God gloriously revealed this gracious act with our first father and representative, Adam in Genesis 2. Within this first covenant, God establishes five institutions which are central to the development of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

INSTITUTION OF PROPERTY

The first institution established by God was that of private-property. “Placing him in paradise… putting the creatures under his domain.” Christians today, influenced by neoplatonic dualism, have often mistakenly disowned the material as a “fleshly” form of bondage to the spiritual man. This is far from the original intent of God who by his exclusive and active role in creating all things physical imbued within them His signature of worth, beauty, and significance. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that therein is; the world and they that dwell therein.” God’s first special act of providence was to establish physical property, together with its commodities, provisions and fruits, flora and fauna, as the instrument man would utilize to fulfill the Covenant of Life. Property was given as the infrastructure of Christendom, the implement of dominion, and the milieu for the accomplishment of the Covenant. “Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the beasts, and over all the earth, and over everything that crept and moveth on the earth.” We read also “The heavens, even the heavens are the Lord’s: but he hath given the earth to the sons of men.” Ps. 115:16.

INSTITUTION OF WORK

The second institution of God by his decree and example in the Covenant of Life was work.   “Appointing him to dress it.” Work in a much neglected sense, is God-like. Because God directed this precedent by His own working in the acts of creation and providence. Furthermore distinguished by his subsequent rest from work. In addition to being instituted by way of precedent, it is also established by way of command to, “dress it, and keep it.” In this sense we must be earthly minded to be of any heavenly good. We were created as stewards of creation, trustee’s of God’s property, representative servants of our master. Contrary to popular opinion, work, specifically physical labour, is a blessing instituted in the pre-fall garden and not a curse of the post-fall. We deceive ourselves when we consider the mundane, physical labor of a “blue-collar” job to be far beneath the grand and glorious enterprise of the dominion mandate. Contrarily, the dominion mandate, the garden of Eden, and the Covenant of Life, ascribe nobility and dignity to the accomplishments of the manual labourer, the blue-collar worker, and the average layman. There is no greater substantiation to the principle of the dignity of manual work than in God’s own selection for Adam’s vocation, namely, agriculture. Of all the vocations, callings, tasks, and accomplishments which God could easily ask of Adam, the prevailing, pertinent, and positive venture He required was that which is the most elementary, laborious, and average to our human experience. Consider just for a moment the unbelievable precedent the Creator of the Universe established in appointing the representative of humanity to the position of field labourer. Consider for a moment the incalculable worth and preeminence that manual labor has been endowed with by such a decree. Then rejoice and look at your own callous hands, and reconsider just how much pride and joy you have every right to claim in your glorious vocation. The whole tenor of Scripture, with its examples, its hero’s, and its exhortations are not given to the aristocratic, the fortuned, the noble, the mighty, but given to the lunchpail worker. God has and does build economies, nations, Christ’s own family line, Christ’s own vocation, and societies from that same manly labor, that intelligent labor, and that independent labor of our forefather Adam. Manual work is dominion work. E.C. Wines notes the effect of the centrality of manual, agricultural labour in Hebrew society, “It is the nurse of the human rase… It is the nurse of health, industry, temperance, cheerfulness and frugality; of simple manners and pure morals; of patriotism and domestic virtues; and, above all, of that sturdy independence, without which a man is not a man, but a mere slave… In a word, this great business, the cultivation of the earth, lies, so far as any branch of human industry can be said to lie, at the foundation of all that is important and valuable in civil society.” Thus it is by work, productivity, procreativity, and dominion that the totality of a man’s life reflects the likeness of God’s ultimate work, creation, and sovereignty.

INSTITUTION OF PATRIARCHY

“Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” The institution of dominion work was inherited by the institution of the godly patriarch to which all the men here today are a part of, and at some point us sons as well. We have received, or will receive, a noble and high calling. By nature we all have this dominion passion, this dominion orientation. But if you are as myself, you wonder how being just an average layman in the church and a lunchpail worker in society can amount to anything in the scope of the dominion mandate. This doubt is only reinforced when we hear of great, historic men in the church and in nations who changed the course of history for the glory of God and are are only left with a profound sense of smallness, maybe emptiness or even futility in our own lives. Unfortunately, men have been confused about the inherent worth of their calling in life by the Roman Catholic influence of dualism. Where the sacred and the secular are placed in opposition one to another and you are left either with selecting a sacred vocation in life or a secular vocation in life. Furthermore we are wrongly informed that in order to be a part of the dominion work our professions have to be validated by the appropriate authorities. We have to be validated by the church bishopric if we are to pursue a sacred vocation. Or we have to be validated by the government bureaucracy of schooling institutions to rightly pursue a secular calling. This marginalizes a vast majority of Christian men with neither church or state validation and who know not whether to pursue a secular or sacred calling. Who are now discouraged from labouring in the church and in the nation due to this artificial distinction. The great doctrine from the Reformation of the priesthood of all believers shattered these myths. We can now boldly declare because of the priesthood of all believers that all men, noble or peasantry, are peers in Christ. All men can join the dominion work and serve God and serve him honourably in their professions. The success of the institution of patriarchal manhood pivots upon the right understanding of the institution of dominion work. Dominion men conduct dominion work in primarily four areas as Geoffrey Botkin acutely observes. Firstly, dominion men are family men. They are managers either their inherited or personally pioneered family estates of physical and spiritual capital for their future multi-generational succession to enlarge upon. Dominion men are also churchmen of militant, Kingdom oriented local churches. None are devoid of responsibility within the church as they are either to be officers in it or bold supporters of her officers through prayer and active service. Dominion men are thirdly statesmen who start in their community. They are nation builders who reconstruct godly order in their communities starting in the home, to the church, to the community, to the community of nations. Dominion men, lastly, are businessmen. Stewarding and enlarging every physical and spiritual asset which makes the dominion work possible. They are business resource developers and service providers to a free economy. The average man who seeks first the Kingdom simultaneously in these four areas will advance the dominion of Christ. These spheres are small and limited but they are monumental in transforming nations. Greatness does not constitute a dominion man, rather a dominion man is what constitutes true greatness.

INSTITUTION OF THE MULTI-GENERATIONAL FAMILY

The centrality of the patriarchal, multi-generational family within the dominion work is a theological fact with an eschatological framework. “Be fruitful and multiply.” In God’s Kingdom the first shall be last and the last shall be first. First in God’s dream-job list, and last in human consideration, is manual labour. Similarly, first in God’s government authority, and last in human tendency, is the family unit. Church, state, and self-government are indeed additional establishments in Scripture, but none so central as the basic family unit. God bestowed the high calling of the dominion mandate and bequeathed property with its social power and material provision to Adam and his family. By way of precedent, God has thus established the family and its future succeeding generations, not the church or state, as the primary institution responsible for the work of dominion. This established the family in two areas. Firstly it established the family, not individuals or social classes, as the basic unit of social government. As dominion labouring families our first and foremost mandate is a family government of holiness. Without holiness we cannot accomplish our covenant job. Similarly, without pursuing our covenant job, holiness cannot be fulfilled in our families. Dominion thus means holiness, and holiness in return means dominion. The dominion family is a holy family, you cannot have one without the other. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be ministered unto you.”  Secondly, the family was also not only established as the centre of government, but as the centre of industry, the basic economic unit. Family estate provided the family with power to govern society in holiness and provided the family with material provisions to invest in dominion. Wealth and gain were to be cultivated from the land and retained in the family estate and improved upon by succeeding family generations. This God designed centralization of power and property in the family is the highest safeguard to tyranny and the greatest asset to the dominion work. The average family who is seeking first the Kingdom in the areas of family holiness and family estate and family enterprise can and will extend the crown rights of King Jesus. Godly families command the future as they command the children, estate, enterprises, inheritance, welfare, and education in their homes. Our families may be little things but they are colossal in transforming nations. It was not to aristocratic associations, nor to political societies, nor to corporate boards, nor even to church elders that was given the trusteeship of God’s earthly property or the responsibility of building a godly society on earth, it was the family. We will lead empty houses and abandoned estates and dwindling generations if we fail to recapture this responsibility. It will require us critically rethinking all areas of life and thought from this perspective. Geoffrey Botkin so beautifully stated, “The home is the incubator of Christendom, the engine of renewal and reformation, the centre of dominion and warfare, a powerhouse of discipleship, ministry, and evangelism.”  When parents are shortsighted in this, and forget the centrality of the family in God’s society, the duties of the family in godly work and generational fruitfulness, and the future of the family in rebuilding culture we rob our children of purpose, our communities from blessing, ourselves from joy, and God from glory.

INSTITUTION OF FEMININITY & MARRIAGE

“And ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself.” Another institution of God’s special providence is the marriage between the patriarch and his help-meet. “It is not good that the man should be himself alone: I will make him an help meet for him.” The very reason for the establishment of this institution and the foremost quality of it has been forgotten in the main. Marriage and femininity were founded upon the exact same objective as patriarchy and that is namely, work. Marriage was created for work. Femininity was designed for work. As much as Adam, our representative patriarch, received the noble calling of dominion labor, so too was Eve’s high calling to help assist him to this very end. Contrary to our Jane-Austen-like perception of femininity, Eve was not created just as a decorative ornament of beauty in the garden, nor as an idle accessory to Adam’s lifestyle, nor as an adornment of life accomplishment for Adam. In our day where the greatness of femininity is evaluated based upon how greatly removed a woman is from manual labour it is difficult to recognize that God’s design for femininity was the very manual labour which it so despises today. Inour culture, depictions of the great-age-of-femininity during the Victorian period in shows such as Road to Avonlea, Pride & Prejudice,  Mr. Selfridge, or Dowton Abbey present to us a state of womanhood that was characterized by being objects of delicacy, household ornaments of daintiness, practically useless, economically burdensome, and humorously unhelpful to a man’s work. Sure, we celebrate the notion that they were stay-at-home mothers and daughters but we are completely oblivious to their absolutely deplorable way of living, or better stated lack of living, in the home. Historian Frank Dawes writes of femininity in the Victorian era, “Women of the Victorian and Edwardian middle classes regarded a life of complete idleness as being essential to maintaining their position in life. If they put a piece of coal on the fire, lifted a duster or answered a doorbell, they were ‘letting their husbands down.’ Or worse, depriving a needy person of employment. So, during the Great Age of Servants, a whole class of women was reared that was incapable of performing even the simplest domestic services for itself. These gentle mistresses never had to make a pot of tea, wash a cup, darn a sock, post a letter, or even brush their own hair.” Obviously we do not live to such a extreme degree, but nonetheless we can have a misguided tendency to be attracted and even aspire to such an idealized feminine deportment. We may even begin to despise or devalue our own manual work in the family, home, and estate. We may begin to instead hold our past-times as more woman-like than our times of productivity. In the Biblical Hebrew society where femininity was defined by its industriousness and gain, fathers received monetary payment for their daughter’s hands in marriage from the suitor. This was a fair and understandable recognition of a daughter’s economic profitability in the family unit and just compensation for taking her away. This Biblical principle was foisted on its petard during the Victorian era where fathers now had to pay suitors to take their daughter’s hands in marriage. The moral of the story is this, when women are of no economic value because they do not participate in the dominion work of the family you can’t even give them away, literally. In Biblical femininity there is no distinction between stay-at-home and work or between the home and the workplace. Because in the family economy work and the workplace is within the home. By home I mean more than the walls of a residence, I mean within the family enterprise whenever that work may be conducted geographically. As you may begin to see, all of these institutions created as a special act of God’s providence are homogeneously tied together. The institution of marriage and femininity was created as an integral advantage to the institution of patriarchy, the fruit of which is the institution of the multi-generational family to whom was given the institution of property that the institution of dominion work could be fulfilled. If femininity is segregated or isolated from the institution of work or the institution of the family or any of the other institutions, or vice versa, the covenant falls apart and these institutions are destroyed.

PRESENT STATUS OF THE COVENANT OF LIFE

While a covenant by nature is eternal, there are elements obviously of this covenant which have changed as we are all well aware of. Firstly, the human race is no longer on probation. Our  first father and representative Adam broke the “Condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge” by   eating “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.” However there are elements an institutions of this covenant which remain and our binding upon us today. Obviously marriage, patriarchy, property, family, and dominion work were not abrogated by the fall. Furthermore that intimate communion with God which our forefather Adam experienced still remains for those who live in terms of the Covenant of Life. As a matter of fact the terms of the Covenant of Life are still in existence to this day of “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.” The pledge of this covenant, the tree of life, also still exists awaiting the covenant keepers. But as we are all painfully aware, we broke the covenant and destroyed the institutions in Adam. While the pledge, the blessings, and the benefits of the covenant remain we cannot attain to them for our transgressions and the transgressions of our First Adam. However, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by that obedience of that one, shall many also be made righteous.” God executed yet another special act of providence in the representative, mediator of Jesus Christ to restore us from the position of covenant-breakers to covenant-keepers. Once again we are re-established in the work of godly dominion. Once again we have the responsibility to resume the mandate given to Adam to subdue the earth to the glory of God. At the Lord’s Table today let us remember our restoration to covenant keeping, our receiving the benefits of the covenant, our duty to restore the institutions of the covenant, and how Christ has won this for us to His glory.

To be Roman

Romance

Romance is a misapplied notion, but one society holds dear. We evaluate our lives, relationships, and even dining-out based upon how romantic they are. Put in summary, a good book, a true relationship, a fulfilled life is one that is a truly romantic. I have heard it said that the term romance literally and historically means, “To be Roman.” Considering what it means to be Roman we visualize a gallant soldier crowned with glory riding back from a victorious battle and swooping up a fair lady to his side while at full gallop. Much similar to medieval tales of heroic nights in shining armour, which is the common substance of our Disney fairy tales after all. Thus, romance could be summarized as a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with the exceptional actions and identity of another.

Naturally, the actions and identity of which we speak are no ordinary actions or identity, they are Roman! They are awe-some, they are out-standing, they are extra-ordinary, they are wonder-full in relative comparison to our own menial, quotidian lives. To perform such actions, to own such an identity in life is romanish, it is literally, romantic. Now you see the truth of the matter. To be Roman, to be romanish, to be romantic is to execute great feats toward the accomplishment of a great end. It is to live almost surreal, almost a fictional life. But that is just the point, it is fictional. Fictional in the sense of what we believe true greatness to be.

Don’t mistake me, we are to celebrate and be attracted to great actions, great identities, and great ends. Our mistake is in construing what true greatness actually is. True greatness is not the romanish of a Roman, but the Christlikeness of Christ reflected in a man or woman, or portrayed in a book, or our exemplified in life. This is a radical difference. It requires a radical change in our expectations and desires. I admit it is easy to be attracted to the romanish, the romantic. It is exciting and exceptional. It makes for unforgettable tales and stories. But, it is a much more difficult thing to be attracted to the Christlikeness of Christ.

The acts of Christ and in some sense the end of Christ is no glamorous thing. To many it is boring, average, and ordinary. It is a daily,  quite, routine life of humility, meekness, mourning, and unenviable service moment by moment. Make no mistake, the Kingdom of Christ is far removed from what you will find in the Kingdom of Rome. Christ’s Kingdom is for the meek. Rome’s kingdom is for the proud. Christ’s Kingdom is to serve. Rome’s kingdom is to be served. Christ’s Kingdom is dominion. Rome’s kingdom is domination. Christ’s Kingdom is for the last. Rome’s kingdom is for the first. Christ’s Kingdom is God’s glory. Rome’s kingdom is man’s glory.

Christians have fostered a misplaced adoration for the romanish that is found in the kingdom of Rome, because they view their lives in the kingdom of Christ as somewhat boring and want to escape into that particularly heightened quality of feeling that arises within them over the exceptional actions and identity of the romanish, or the romantic. But the Christian life is not boring, it is challenging. It is far more challenging to execute the acts of Christ because Christ’s great end is a hundred times more difficult, a thousand times more strenuous than what we read and see in the romanish romance.

Why do we do this idolatrous escapism? We all know that Christ’s kingdom is truly great so why are we instead overly attracted to the kingdom of Rome? Because we are following our feelings. Remember once more the definition, a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with he exceptional actions and identity of another. We all want that emotional high, whether it be from a relationship, book, meal, or personal endeavour. Yet it is hard to get excited about seeing Christ presented in any of those things. It is easier to be attracted to some romanish qualities in another person or thing over and above their Christlike attributes.

So the answer to the romantic conditioning of Walt Disney, and pagan fairy tales, and medieval folklore is no. No, I will not follow my heart inconsequently. No, I will not follow my feelings unconditionally. No I will not be a romanish romantic but Christlike as Christ. Rather I will treasure, adore, and consider first and foremost that which is Christ. Then you will notice the particular Christlikeness in another and then your heart will follow and your feeling in turn. For instance, we as Christians establish the greatness of actions by how they reflect God’s glory, not man’s. “And have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that they which speak evil of you as evil doers, may by your good works which they shall see, glorify God in the day visitation.” We as Christians establish our affections not on the romanish but, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are worthy love, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, think on these things.” We as Christians establish even our greatest earthly attraction towards another in marriage on the same grounds that Christ has established his attraction towards his Church! “That he might make it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blame.” 

The Christian’s calling to “lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness, and honesty.” To live righteously, to love their wives, to honour their parents, to disciple their children, to shepherd their churches, to confront culture is no piddly-piffle. It is God’s chosen means to multi-generational faithfulness, cultural reconstruction, church edification, nation building, and Christ glorifying. These average men and women, boys and girls, are God’s greatest assets in bringing about his greatest work, which is, the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Do not escape to the romanish of the Kingdom of Rome, but seek first the Christlikeness of the Kingdom of God with pluck and aplomb. Go forth and serve your King.