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Volume 14, Issue 4: Meander

Ends and Odds

Douglas Wilson

This ties in with the theme because we are governed by people with heads made out of blocks of wood. I recently had the experience of being interviewed by a man from the federal government. This was not for the reasons that many of our readers might assume—one of the men in our church was in the process of receiving a security clearance for his work in the reserves, and this was part of the background check. Many of the questions were quite predictable, and one of them concerned what my relationship to this person was. "I am his pastor," I said. "I can't put that down," the man said. "I have to put religious leader. Pastor sounds too Christian." As we talked, I discovered that he had unwisely written down pastor in a previous background check, and had consequently received a letter from his superior reprimanding him. I told this very nice gentleman that the man they were checking on was a patriotic American—which meant that he (and I) had little use for that kind of mindless garbage. "Me neither," the man said.

Of course the on-going scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is a tragedy. And of course I obviously think that the RC requirement of celibate clergy is a bad idea. As a historic Protestant in the high-church Puritan wing, I naturally believe that the more each pastor has lifelong sex with one woman in his congregation, the better it is for all concerned. But I have to point out the irony of the recent general calls for the removal of the requirement of celibacy in the wake of this scandal. These homo priests are overwhelmingly men preying on teen-aged boys. In light of this, why are the usual gang of suspects braying for the removal of celibacy vows? Are they now telling us that these homosexual priests could all straighten out and fly right if they just found a "nice little Catholic girl to marry"?

The Bible says that the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12-13). The language in this passage is sacrificial. Just as a priest cut the throat of the sacrificial animal, then cut it up into pieces to arrange on the altar, and offers it up to God, so the Scriptures prepare us for worship. Contrary to the expectations of many moderns, worship is not to be thought of as a warm bath. Worship means being cut apart by a sharp-edged Word from the Lord, arranged on the altar of God, and then ascending to Him in the smoke of the altar. This is all highly unpleasant for the sacrificial victim—at least initially. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, and this includes the discipline of true corporate worship. But afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of an upright life.

And this means that preparation for worship on the Lord's Day does not consist of trying to fill the mind with worshipful thoughts. To paraphrase Bonhoffer, when Christ calls a man, He bids Him come and die. We have the privilege of dying weekly.

Maybe it is just me, but have you ever wondered how much thought actually goes into questions surrounding hygiene and bathroom design? For example, why do so many public bathrooms have one-inch square tiles, the better to trap creeping crud in the now maximized grout lines?

We only have two choices. Either we will receive the Word of God as it is, and let it divide the human race into two ultimate categories—the saved and the lost, or we will seek to divide the Scriptures into two separate categories. Either the Bible divides us or we divide the Bible. We may give different names to the portions of the Bible when we have divided it—law and gospel, Old and New Testaments, Israel and the Church. These illegitimate divisions should not be confused with legitimate distinctions. Of course, we distinguish many things in the Scriptures—we could not read them otherwise. But when we divide, we do so in order to set the Word at odds with itself. And we do this because we do not want the Bible to set us at odds with ourselves. And these are the only choices. Better to leave the Word undivided because Scripture cannot be broken.

Michael Horton has written an outstanding book on worship entitled A Better Way. It is simply first-rate. The only qualification I would want to put on the book is that there are a few pages where he misunderstands the nature of postmillennial optimism. But even there his discussion is thoughtful despite the misunderstanding. Every pastor who has any contact whatever with the "worship wars" needs a copy of this book.

Why can't someone invent an ice cream carton that opens easily without tearing?

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