Why are you doing Lent?

When Presbyterians and Baptists and free church evangelicals start attending Ash Wednesday services and observing Lent, one can only conclude that they have either been poorly instructed in the theology or the history of their own traditions, or that they have no theology and history. Or maybe they are simply exhibiting the attitude of the world around: They consume the bits and pieces which catch their attention in any tradition they find appealing, while eschewing the broader structure, demands and discipline which belonging to an historically rooted confessional community requires. Indeed, it is ironic that a season designed for self-denial is so often a symbol of this present age’s ingrained consumerism.
Carl Trueman

I find this to be a very useful and perceptive analysis of the rise of Lenten observance among evangelicals. The short version is that, even if there’s no biblical grounds for condemning the practice of fasting at this particular time of year broadly, it betrays a certain confusion about the traditions of the church and the theology upon which those traditions are based. Seriously drill down and consider what you’re doing if you sign on for Lent. I would go so far as to say that, if you think fasting in this manner is a really useful thing, do it – just do it at any other time than Lent.

This is another analysis of the same trend from Reformation21 which is also quite good.

Moral Anarchy – This is a really solid rant about how the moral anarchy in our current culture has come about and some of the logical inconsistencies that the system ultimately has to rest upon. This is James White, so he definitely on the bombastic end of things, but he makes some really solid points. I actually really like some of the rebuttals he makes to those who claim a basically postmil perspective and some of the attempts to legitimize persecution of Muslims (please note that I am not saying these perspectives always align).

On this topic, I do want to run with the idea that, in a sense, religious toleration of Islam is absolutely tied to religious toleration of Christianity in America. While theonomists argue that government should be based exhaustively upon OT law (I realize there are varying flavors of this, but let’s go with Bahnsen, since basically all the theonomists speak well with him), this is not the system of government we have, nor is theonomy even possible (I would argue) within the context of a democracy or republic. While, in a nation with a godly people, the laws which their government makes would reflect biblical truth, that same government, when dominated and put at the service of ungodly people, has no power to restrain them. A godly people will have a godly government, and an ungodly people, an ungodly government – stated broadly and entirely without nuance, this is how democratic systems necessarily function.

I mention this all primarily to clarify what theonomy argues by necessity – an overthrow of democracy as a valid governmental system. I say this not to inflame the readers, and I sincerely hope that this conversation asks you to consider the virtues and vices of such a commonly unquestioned good as democracy. When you speak to some theonomists, the ones who are genuinely intellectually consistent, they will admit that, by their worldview, the constitution is a wicked and sinful document. Many others will not go so far, but I would maintain that their grounds for avoiding such a course are not valid.

Please do not understand me to be saying that we shouldn’t have conversations about whether or not democracy is a valid system of biblical government. Those conversations are useful at clarifying where we stand, even if we are primarily dealing in hypotheticals. I, however, seeing the alternate options to democracy as being substantially worse, have come to the point where I am primarily interested in speaking about how we can live as Christians consistently within a democratic system rather than speaking about the other systems which we might want the government to move toward. The “all or nothing” attitude which both theonomists and libertarians tend to bring to this conversation is emblematic of a zealotry which is so common to millennials, where incrementalism and compromise are the most vile of curse words.

Please, friends, be willing to have small conversations, which live in the here-and-now, which address circumstances in real terms, and that don’t give you an excuse for ducking out of the practical concerns of voting and American life. I have taken this path in the past, where you erect your political orthodoxy so narrowly that you cannot even speak intelligibly to anyone else in the room. I’m not going to tell you where to draw your hard lines, but mere conversation between all the people in our American room is becoming increasingly impossible. I regard this as a great loss, and one which we are exacerbating.

Jason Waeber

Jason Waeber is an elder at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, where he worships with his wife and three children. He is also a seminary student, under care with the Great Lakes Presbytery. As GBPC is looking forward to planting a church with him in the next few years, he felt called to develop the online presence of the denomination, both for outreach and the doctrinal maturity of the denomination. The Manna and the Stone is his attempt to pursue this. Currently, Jason is serving as the general editor for the site.

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