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Volume 15, Issue 4: Meander

Loose in the Bones

Douglas Wilson

Many preachers would do well to undertake a lot more study on how Johnny Cash wrote about trains, and a lot less on the arcane details of Greek syntax.

Too many parents teach their kids to countdown to obedience. A child is told to do something, and he declines to obey. The parent repeats the command. The child just stands there. Then the parent says something like, "I'm going to count to three . . ." This is not teaching obedience, it is teaching math. And then if the parent is really a pushover, he moves into teaching fractions. "Two and a half . . ." But what has changed between the command and the three? Nothing. The child knows exactly when the point of enforcement will come. Sometimes it is when the parent actually gets to three. Sometimes it is when a certain tone or decibel level gets into Mom's voice. Sometimes it is when the parent uses the child's full name, middle name and all. But the thing that teaches is the discipline in association with the word. The word by itself is hollow.

Look for one of Canon's newer titles by Peter Leithart called Against Christianity. I got a copy in prepublication form; it is one of the best books I have ever read, and certainly one of the most important.

The unity of the faith is dependent upon unity of faith. While we have an objective unity with all who share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, Paul goes on to say that there is a unity that we must grow up into.

There is a unity we must preserve, and there is a unity we must accomplish. Wisdom must direct all those who strive for this future unity because we are trying to do this in a world where we have enemies and adversaries. The New Testament is filled with the gatherings of God, and the divisions of God.
A shepherd wants the flock unified, but he does not include the wolves. To do so in the name of unity would only introduce, and that very quickly, a bloody and unhappy disunity. A doctor does not tell the body to accomplish unity with cancer cells. To strive for unity with cancer cells is simply another way of striving for a disunity of soul and body.
Unity is driven by a desire to love and please God, and to follow Him in whatever He does. If God is fellowshipping with someone, then so must we. "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness." By the same token, if we walk in the light, we find ourselves in conflict with those who do not like what light reveals. In a dark world, those who want to walk in the light are those who want conflict.
So do not assume that conflict means unscriptural disunity. Do not assume that conflict means that you are being persecuted for righteousness' sake. In short, do not assume anything, and turn back to the Scriptures with complete humility of soul. Trust the Lord. God is growing us up into a perfect man, and the process does not always look like we think it should look.

The fact that discipline is occurring in a home does not mean that the children are being disciplined in godliness. Often the standard of discipline is merely selfishness on the part of the parents. And if you discipline children for selfish reasons, then that is what they learn. Everything rides on how it is done. Discipline applied from love teaches the child to avoid the prohibited behavior. Discipline applied from selfishness teaches the child to manipulate others in the same way as soon as he is able (which is usually sooner than later). Parents who are selfish as they discipline can frequently be identified by comments to their children such as, "How could you do that to us?" "Why are you being so rude?" (by implication, "to me"). The child learns that to be a grown up is to have the right to be self-absorbed.

I mentioned in a previous issue of Credenda that I have been re-reading many of C.S. Lewis' books. One of them I had only read once before, and that a very long time ago. That book was Til We Have Faces. A good part of the reason for this long break is that I was avoiding this one. It was one of my least favorites of his when I read it for the first time. But I have read that Lewis considered it his best. And now, after the second time through, I agree.

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