Image: PiousEye Storm Warming. Created by David M. Hodges for the Pious Eye site by combining and modifying a public domain image and an image by Wikimedia Commons user Dudva, the latter of which was used and reworked in accord with its Creative Commons 4.0 CC BY-SA license. In accord with that license’s share-alike requirements, this new image may be reused under the same license.

Stern Friar Warning You to Repent[0] A new prompted letter and some delayed-release items related to the use and meaning of certain terms follow. Also, like the last post and the post before that, this one includes materials dating back a while. As a result, some items may feel dated. Since I’m not greatly concerned about keeping up with the latest news cycle, just about applying eternal principles to and finding eternal principles illustrated by transitory events, lack of currency in my “current events” discussions doesn’t especially worry me. There may come a time, in fact, when I post some commentary on quite old news items that I annotated and set aside one or more years ago. In the meantime, items in this post include the following:

These are followed by some closing remarks and end notes.

Trusting “Experts” to Handle Things Is What Got Us into This Mess…Part 2: Hoping for a Better Future ^

Sent to The San Diego Union-Tribune (U-T): Tuesday 07 April 2020 circa 1 PM

Subject line: Your Say submission: the future post-COVID-19

Informed upon submission that acceptance of my submission two weeks before disqualifies this one

I’ve violated my usual chronological format to put this sequel to a prior item first. Though I recall skipping a week and having a second “You Say” accepted in the past, current U-T policy, I’ve been informed, rules out their printing this item (a sequel to my prior “Your Say”) in response to their question about what readers think the future post-COVID-19 will look like. It seems submitting responses to this feature has become more popular, at least while more people are home from work, so I can no longer depend on a dearth of submission to get my ravings soundly reasoned opinions printed. There is thus no reason to delay release of this sequel to the Pious Eye site.

My precognitive abilities not being what they should, I’ll abstain from making predictions and just list a few things I hope to see in post-COVID-19 America.

First, I hope to see more objective reporting when new illnesses arrive. For example, when reporting the numbers of infections and deaths for a new illness, future news should also note the numbers of infections and deaths typically seen over the same time period from other causes. Over the same period that future illness COVID-21 infects or kills a certain number of people, how many are typically infected and killed by influenza and pneumonia? How many are killed by car accidents and slip-and-falls? By heart attacks and strokes? [My thinking in calling this reporting “objective” rather than just “complete” is that leaving out this relevant comparative data is a form of bias.]

I hope, in other words, that news in post-COVID-19 America, instead of reporting a new illness’s statistics by themselves, will give people a context for interpreting those statistics. Lack of this sort of contextual information doesn’t just make people scared (which authorities desiring compliance with orders might not mind); it also makes them prone to believe rumors, misinformation, and conspiracy theories (which experts trying to give sound advice should mind). Clear thinking requires complete information. Will future reporting, particularly the televised or streamed variety from which most Americans get most of their news, provide it? [The effort of online censors and the mainstream media to suppress alternative viewpoints and ensure that a single narrative gets communicated to the American people does not accomplish the purpose intended. When people find they’re being fed a uniform narrative across news sources, this makes them suspicious. “People never all agree like this. What aren’t they telling me?” they think. Then they start to speculate. Just watch and listen to people. You’ll see that this is true.]

Second, I hope that in post-COVID-19 America both government and private institutions will remember to “Hope for the best, expect the worst!” (Mel Brooks, “Hope for the Best (Expect the Worst),” The Twelve Chairs soundtrack, 1970) and always “Be prepared!” (Boy Scouts). Since post-Dale Carnegie America likes to put natural optimists and extroverts into most of its leadership positions, and since such people are temperamentally averse to thinking about and preparing for worst-case scenarios, this will be a challenge.

To meet this challenge, we need to maintain ongoing excess capacity in facilities, supplies, and equipment. Closing down much of the economy for an extended period every time a new illness comes along isn’t going to cut it. In all likelihood, new diseases from around the world will be a regular occurrence until humanity has become sufficiently spacefaring to start catching illnesses from off world. Will we be ready?

Third, I hope that in future America we all realize that government experts can’t safely be trusted to ensure the nation is ready for even the predictable, much less the unpredictable. Nongovernmental institutions and private individuals need to put together their own contingency plans. Though the widespread use of antidepressants keeps much of our species’s natural worry and carefulness subdued, we need to recapture that worry and carefulness if we’re to survive and thrive.

We need fewer “no negative energy” optimists and more “this could all go sideways” preppers. Less create-your-own-reality New Thought, more deal-with-reality common sense. Fewer people taking happy pills, more people taking the bitter pill that is reality. (These remarks are for informational purposes only and do not constitute or substitute for medical advice.)

When things next go sideways, will we again have to count on panicked government officials taking care of us? I sure hope not.

Concerning News of False Professors ^

When Peter denied Christ, was he a mature Christian?

I received an email from the America Family Association (AFA) on 04 December 2019. This email, which is reproduced on the association’s Web site,[1] describes how a number of “Christian” celebrities and companies have responded cravenly to pressure from LGBTQ+ protesters:

  • “The Boy Scouts of America,” who “upheld Christian values to millions of young boys for decades,” have lately “completely sold out to the homosexual cause.”
  • “Tim Tebow,” though he has been “a great example for boys across America,” caving to pressure from “LGBTQ groups,” canceled a speech he was to give at a church in Dallas that stands by the biblical teaching that “homosexuality is a sin.”
  • “Louie Giglio…founder of the Passion youth gatherings” canceled plans “to pray at President Obama’s second inauguration” under pressure from LGBTQ+ activists upset about “a 20-year-old sermon…in which Giglio warned against the rise of homosexual activism in America.” He also refused to “reaffirm his own sermon.”
  • Beth Moore,” whose teachings are valued by “Millions of Christian women,” “went back to a book she wrote years ago and removed references critical of homosexuality.” And, “When asked if she still believed it to be a sin, she would not respond.”
  • “Steph Curry and Russell Wilson…sports stars, with ties to North Carolina,” who “have been very public about their [professed] Christian faith,” sided with transgender activists against North Carolina “when the state passed a law to keep men out of girl’s restrooms and showers (on state property).” (That the North Carolina law was restricted to state property, assuming the AFA’s claim is accurate—one wouldn’t have guessed this from media coverage or PayPal’s response—resolves a tension I perceived in my own political convictions back in 2016. This shows the danger of assuming that what one hears from the mainstream media, or from that portion of alternative media Google algorithms allow one to find, is the complete story. Lesson learned, hopefully.)
  • “Lauren Daigle,” a “popular gospel singer,” when “asked her view on homosexuality being a sin,” answered, “I can’t honestly answer on that…I can’t say one way or the other.” I know not the man! (Matthew 26:74)
  • “Drew Brees,” an “NFL quarterback…well known for his [supposedly] strong Christian faith….went into panic mode and basically disavowed Focus on the Family” when he came under LGBTQ+ fire for advertising that organization’s “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
  • “The most recent example is Chick-fil-A,” a fast-food restaurant said to have been “founded on Christian principles.” In 2012, CEO Dan Cathy’s affirmation of the biblical definition of marriage prompted LGBTQ+ protests. As a result, “Cathy was spooked…and then tried to separate his private beliefs from his company.” Since my own view is that companies should remain neutral on matters of social and political debate—so that the freedom of conscience of owners, executives, employees, customers, and the general public are respected—I’m generally in support of owners and CEOs taking care to ensure their companies do not become tools for promoting their personal beliefs. Still, Cathy seems to have been motivated by cowardice rather than a desire to avoid coercing others through corporate power. As well, his action proved ineffective as a sop to the LGBTQ+ lobby: “Chick-fil-A has been targeted by the left ever since and especially since the corporation made donations to groups like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes [FCA] which,” like other groups that refuse to lie about what Scripture teaches about marriage and sexuality, “are ‘hate’ groups according to the left.” In a further effort to earn LGBTQ+ approval, “Chick-fil-A ditched the Salvation Army and FCA only to name an LGBTQ affirming organization (Covenant House) one of their new benefactors,” thus proving conclusively that Cathy’s earlier separation of his professed religious beliefs from Chick-fil-A corporate had no coherent philosophy of company neutrality behind it, since now the company will actively help promote the LGBTQ+ cause.[2]

The AFA says that these instances of craven behavior were all committed by “mature Christians who should know better,” but I think this use of the terms “mature” and “Christian” might be too loose. Should people who fail to stand firmly on the side of the Bible’s teachings be considered “mature” in their faith? Professing to believe something for an extended period does not automatically make one mature in that belief. When Peter denied Christ, he showed his immaturity; the mature Peter preferred martyrdom. Faithless actions, including failure to affirm biblical doctrines when they become controversial, are prima facie evidence that one’s profession is false, that what one claims to believe one doesn’t really believe.

[15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. [19] Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [20] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15–20)

The main faithless action of false prophets, one should note, is their false teachings.[3] False prophets first refuse to teach the truth of God. They then proclaim to be true what is false. But they are false prophets from the moment they refuse to affirm God’s truth; their false assertions after that only make their status more clear. When modern professors of the Faith, particularly those claiming to be Bible teachers, refuse to affirm the truths of Scripture, they take on the role of false prophets. They needn’t add further immoral behaviors to their lives to put their professions in doubt; unwillingness to affirm what God has said is enough.

That people professing to be Christians “should know better” than to give in to LGBTQ+ pressure, however, is certainly true. The first thing a professing Christian should do when pressured by the perversions-must-be-normalized lobby is reflect on just how vicious and hateful it is for a Christian—who, by God’s grace, knows better—to let people in the grip of perversions that God condemns (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9–10, and so on) think that indulging their perverted impulses is fine with the Christian and fine with God. Do you value your own peaceful lifestyle and personal income more than you value these afflicted souls whom only God’s grace might rescue? If so, you need to consider the possibility that your Christian profession is false and you are in fact no more truly saved than the LGBTQ+ protesters making you cower.

I’m not suggesting that Christians must be angrily confrontational and disagreeable all the time.[4] Scripture counsels against unbridled anger (Proverbs 15:1,18; Proverbs 16:32; Ecclesiastes 7:9) and instructs us to live peaceably with others (Matthew 5:9, Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14). But we are not free to compromise the truth, or to condemn others to remain ignorant of it, in our pursuit of peace (Ezekiel 33:6, Acts 5:27–32). The efforts of LGBTQ+ activists and their supporters to use government power and the power of corporations to silence Christians’ witness to the truth just makes the need for that witness more apparent and more urgent. Professors of the faith who give in to LGBTQ+ coercion are not making peace in a scripturally sound way; instead, they are giving other Christians and themselves good reason to doubt their professions, and they are showing that they do not care about the eternal destiny of people who’ve fallen victim to LBGTQ+ perversions. Though Christians are right to focus on individual religious liberty when working to influence our laws, since individual liberty is what the American experiment is all about, the laws of the land should never become their primary focus. Their first loyalty must be to the Lord of that eternal kingdom whose citizens they have become, if they have indeed been born again, and they must never compromise even the smallest part of that kingdom’s law (Matthew 5:18–20), no matter how great the earthly gains achieved, or the earthly losses avoided, by such compromise (Matthew 16:24–26).

To be fair to these professing Christians, cowardice and the misapplication of Scripture’s calls to live peaceably are not their only possible motives. The prudence advised by Matthew 7:6 might also come into play. Perhaps these individuals have decided that LGBTQ+ activists are irredeemable swine who will turn and rend them if they don’t tone down what they say. If this is why they refuse to stand up for the truth publicly, they are failing to take into account how their compromise affects Christians who look to them as leaders and are likely to imitate them. The common Christians led into error by these feckless leaders are like the “little ones” wicked or erring adults lead astray, and these leaders should pay heed to the punishment promised (Matthew 18:6).

That possibility aside, these celebrity defections from the Faith might not mean much, since profession and possession of faith seem very poorly correlated.[5] Polling still typically indicates that more than half of all Americans claim the “Christian” label. This, sadly, is a meaningless statistic when it comes to determining how many Americans are true, Bible-believing Christians.[6] Several years ago, when American culture was slightly less corrupt than it has since become, someone at a nondenominational parachurch Bible study my mother attended challenged her assertion that Scripture condemned homosexual activity. Now, people who claim to believe the Bible but who think homosexual activity unobjectionable are either (1) profoundly ignorant of Scripture or (2) sufficiently educated and creative to make themselves believe Scripture doesn’t say what it says. (As I noted in one of my book reviews, the second of these strategies works with evolution, too, as it works with turning the “days” of Genesis into long periods of time. In fact, it works with any doctrine, which is why people who support abortion on demand and countless other evils can call themselves “Christians” without intending irony or farce. This is also why forthright atheists and honestly uncertain agnostics deserve much more respect than many who claim the label “Christian.” Revelation 3:15–16 comes to mind, as does 1 Kings 18:21.) Scripture’s clear revelation that God sees homosexual activity as immoral and abominable doesn’t mean Christians are called upon to hate and avoid people who, thinking a particular sin that besets them is central to their identity, call themselves “gay,” but it does mean that they cannot treat “gay” practices as “okay” or “no big deal,” as safe and permissible activities one needn’t worry about or object to.

What does it mean when a Christian pastor becomes beloved by pro-homosexual secular media? ^

On a related note, about a month ago, a local church and its pastor received front-page above-the-fold coverage in my local paper, which, as I’ve previously noted, and as I reiterated in my last post, has a very strong bias in favor of treating homosexual activity as normal and healthy (Peter Rowe, “Rock Church celebrates 20 years: Pastor Miles McPherson has led two decades of worship, explosive growth, ‘do something’ activism,” The San Diego Union-Tribune [U-T], 08 March 2020, A1, A6). Why would a local newspaper that is otherwise consistently secular make a megachurch anniversary its top story? The paper is undoubtedly pleased that “no one proclaims [his or her] politics” at the church. While I would maintain it is not proper for the teachers and preachers at a church to avoid addressing “political” issues as this article suggests leaders at Rock Church do, since the obligation of teachers and preachers is to apply the Bible’s teachings to all issues without exception, I’ll grant that this can and should be done in a nonpartisan fashion. Biblical preachers and teachers should apply the Bible’s principles to issues of current debate, leaving those they lead to choose how specifically to apply this to voting and other political activities.

A few years ago, I gave a woman with mobility issues and too much to carry a ride from a 7-11 to a local bus stop, and the woman couldn’t praise Rock Church members highly enough for all the help they’d provided when she’d asked, so I certainly have no objection to the church’s “do something” attitude. I do admit, however, that many “do something” people do strike me as assuming that every good Christian can and should, in fact must, have a certain sort of extroverted personality type that is always cheerful and outward-directed. These sorts of people can be extremely tiresome for us brooding, analytical sorts, but this shouldn’t prevent me from crediting their laudable activities. No doubt these happy activists find us brooding and critical analysts equally tiresome, and no doubt they must make a special effort not to discount our efforts to serve the Lord in accordance with our differing gifts and callings. I’m not sure a happy activist needs to be apolitical to be effective, but I’ll grant that some activities to which some Christians are called do fare better in a nonpartisan atmosphere, though I think striving to be apolitical in addition to nonpartisan means neglecting too much that Scripture has to say.

Whether Rock Church’s effort to be apolitical is scripturally sound or nor, I don’t think it was the church’s apolitical atmosphere in general that made a secular, pro-homosexual paper think the article so important. The reason for that becomes clear in the article’s next paragraphs (paragraph breaks replaced with “[PB]”): “This apolitical stance is especially pronounced with the pastor, although it wasn’t always. [PB] Years ago, he campaigned on behalf of a hot-button issue. He still regrets this. [PB] ‘As I reflect on my growth since Prop. 8 [which, had courts permitted it to be implemented after its passage in 2008, would have formally defined “marriage” in California as the union of one man and one women, in accord with Scripture (Matthew 19:3–9)]…I cannot but regret any division and pain I’ve brought to the LGBT community.” Pastor McPherson, though still expressing belief in the Bible’s teaching on marriage, now believes that supporting something like this proposition doesn’t fit with his commitment “to engage everyone with grace and love.” Now, the idea that there is something ungracious or unloving in opposing the legalization of homosexual “marriage” is the political stance of the homosexual lobby, not an apolitical position, so the U-T is wrong to call McPherson’s position “apolitical,” and it is clear why a paper dedicated to the homosexual political agenda should find it praiseworthy. It is less clear why Christians should think this a good viewpoint for their pastor to adopt.

For starters, using the “LGBT community” terminology, as Pastor McPherson does, or the more timely “LGBTQ+ community” terminology, commits one to the viewpoint promoted by that community. Each of the letters identifying the community is taken by that community’s members to describe essential personal identities on par with racial or national identities: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. (The more recent addition of “questioning” and “plus” does confuse things a bit, however.) If one rejects the anti-biblical ideologies of sexual orientation and transgender ideology, according to which feeling one has a certain orientation or is a certain gender makes it really the case that one has that orientation or is that gender, one should refuse to use the terminology. This “community” takes for granted that having a certain orientation or being a certain gender, something one knows indubitably by feeling or introspection, justifies acting out the impulses of that orientation or gender: engaging in homosexual activities if such is one’s orientation, identifying and living as a sex other than that of one’s physical body if such is one’s felt gender. The very name of this community, then, affirms the permissibility of engaging in activities contrary to Scripture, proudly and without apology. Hence this community’s identification of its yearly self-celebration as “Pride” (Proverbs 11:2). If the activities are morally permissible, and in fact worthy of prideful celebration, then legal protection of the activities and those engaged in them must obviously follow. It would be better if Christians found a way to avoid using the “LGBTQ+ community” terminology altogether.

Then again, such could be difficult. Saying “the willful unrepentant perverts’ community” might be accurate, but it of course presupposes the Christian viewpoint that the members of the “community” reject. Saying “the unrepentant sodomites’ community” might be sound phraseology in light of Scripture and Christian tradition, but, like the preceding option, it is quite incendiary. Really, I’m not sure communicating clearly with the general public will be possible without using the wrongly biased terminology that the “unrepentant…community” has provided. Thus, I guess I’ll have to withdraw my objection to Pastor McPherson’s use of that terminology, though I’ll leave my discussion of it in place to make sure readers understand that I reject the presuppositions underlying the terminology that I find I must use.

Though, as already noted, clever and creative people can always convince themselves that texts they want to pretend to endorse don’t say what they say—so that, for instance, a practicing homosexual “married” to someone of his own sex could claim to be a Bible-believing Christian during a brief campaign for the presidency (during which he won this same local paper’s endorsement: “Buttigieg for President,” U-T, 23 February 2020, B10), Scripture’s condemnation of homosexual activity (not of “orientation,” which is post-biblical secularism’s substitute for Christianity’s concept of “sinful inclination” or “disordered desire”) is far too clear and blatant for an honest person to deny (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:18–32, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10). And since Scripture does not even allow a person of one sex to wear clothing meant for the other (Deuteronomy 22:5), surely arranging to wear the bodily structures of the other sex through surgery, or to wear the social practices of the other sex by using that sex’s private facilities, doesn’t pass scriptural muster. Proclaiming these teachings honestly and accurately cannot help but upset people in the LGBTQ+ community: by definition, that community is committed to rejecting these biblical teachings. Though some ways of setting forth the Bible’s teachings may be more loving and gracious than others, and though some applications of Scripture’s teaching may seem particularly lacking in Christian benevolence, the Bible’s teachings on sexuality must always be pain-causing anathema to those actively engaged in behaviors that Scripture condemns.[7]

The sort of law that Pastor McPherson once supported and now opposes, and which America’s highest court has now ruled out entirely, would have had the positive effect of telling members of the LGBTQ+ community that they were wrong about the moral and rational status of homosexual “marriage.” It might also have protected their health and lives. As readers might recall, my own past mentions of homosexual “marriage” have focused on the irrationality of the concept. Both polygamous and polyandrous unions, since they can produce children and natural families, have better claim to involve real marriages than homosexual unions do. By making homosexual “marriages” legal, our highest court has done something logically equivalent to legally mandating that squares be recognized to be triangles (not to be confused with classic cinema’s The Four Sided Triangle , a film sometimes available on YouTube). Since the shame and sense of guilt that result when one thinks one’s behaviors immoral causes one emotional pain, and since one is less likely to think one’s behavior immoral when that behavior is endorsed by the law, this change in U.S. law has doubtless reduced the “pain” felt by members of the LGBTQ+ community. No doubt it has also made this community feel less of a sense of “division” from the broader American populace. But is making practicing homosexuals more comfortable doing what they do really the most gracious and loving course of action? Assuming his views have been portrayed fairly by the U-T, Pastor McPherson apparently thinks so. Perhaps thinking so is now the norm for pastors at the antinomian nondenominational megachurches America’s consumer-driven religion favors; I don’t know. My own convictions are quite otherwise.[8]

The U-T article’s focus on sexual perversion doesn’t end with homosexual “marriage.” As he wraps up, Rowe writes that visitors to McPherson’s church should “come prepared for surprises,” since church services centered on the exposition and application of Scripture, it seems, are not to be expected. “Some weeks,” Rowe states,

McPherson engages in a live conversation with a celebrity. [Apparently, McPherson thinks Christians aren’t subjected to the blather of celebrities enough through every form of secular media all the rest of the week. They must be further subjected to it on the Lord’s Day.] Guests have included…even the porn star Ron Jeremy. Raised Jewish, Jeremy discussed his evolving views on the divine.

“You want to be really smart,” he told McPherson, “you want to make sure you hedge your bets, you pray to Jesus, Moses, Confucianism, Buddhism, Allah. That way when [note: when, not if] you go to heaven, somebody you talked to has got to be up there.”

Too often, this pastor insists, we focus on our differences, whether profession, age, gender, or something else….[But McPherson, who apparently thinks this focus on differences is one of three options, the second of which the U-T does not describe, prefers instead what his 2018 book on the subject calls] “God’s Third Option [which he says] invites us to honor that which we have in common, the presence of His Image in every person we meet [as quoted by Rowe].”

Even in a porn star.

So the U-T spins McPherson’s interview of someone who thinks he’s destined for heaven after making his living having sex for money while being filmed. Now, I certainly don’t object to Christians having discussions with people like Mr. Jeremy, though it sounds from this summary like McPherson doesn’t bring God’s truth to bear during his interviews in quite the way Ray Comfort’s Living Waters interviews do, and though I do find preempting regular services for this sort of thing objectionable. Lord’s Day services should be for the building up and preparation of believers seeking to grow in piety and to better conduct their daily lives in accord with Scripture’s teachings, not for attracting and entertaining “seekers” or for showing how tolerant and open one can be in dialog with unbelievers saying ridiculous things. I’m not personally acquainted with Pastor McPherson, nor have I read his book, but, whatever one thinks about the proper use of Lord’s Day services, it seems to me that the best way to truly “honor…the presence of [God’s] Image in every person we meet” is to set forth God’s truth to them without compromise or misrepresentation. Part of this would include pointing out to Mr. Jeremy that you can’t get saved by hedging your bets: either you repent and believe the gospel, trusting in Christ alone to save you from both damnation and sin, or you remain the object of God’s wrath.[9] Assuming you’re bound for heaven no matter how you’ve behaved or what you believe won’t get you anything but damnation. I hope Pastor McPherson at least made this much clear to Jeremy before sending him on his way. The U-T definitely did not make this clear to its readers.

On the Tiresome Topic of Trump: Three Items ^

The most important way in which these items are dated is that they do not take into account Trump’s wholehearted embrace of the big-government response to COVID-19. Peter Schiff rightly points out in his recent podcast video that the man who got elected promising to “drain the swamp” is instead “draining the nation.” Yet his supporters seem to be standing by him, and they still keep claiming to be “conservatives.”

In a couple of these items, I note what I suspect to be Trump’s spiritual state, that of an unsaved man whose genuflections toward America civil religion (the vague and watered-down Christian theism that inclines almost entirely secular Americans to say their “thoughts and prayers are with” people in difficulty) and the religious right (whatever that is anymore) are either just politically expedient or, if Trump believes what Christian leaders who like his politics seem to have been telling him, delusional. (Since he is a man more able than most to believe the best about himself, the latter seems likely.) Though Jesus Christ (John 2:25) and the prophet John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7–10) were able to speak with authority on the spiritual state of other men, when ordinary Christians like myself hazard to do so there is very little chance we will avoid being “pious” in the wrong way. It remains true that “The proper attitude for all of us who believe the Bible is to treat our own sinful inclinations, and the resulting sinful actions, as the ones most worthy of our condemnation and most demanding of our attention.

Bottom line: At least when it comes to their tone and manner of expression, some of my remarks in the following items may no longer receive my unqualified endorsement. This might include even some of the bracketed clarifications written more recently, since even some of these date back a while.

Trump supporters use the phrase “Trump derangement syndrome” to describe an inability of Trump opponents to view Trump’s actions with any objectivity or rationality, letting their dislike of the man color their perceptions even when he takes actions they would praise if anyone else took them. Fair enough. But I think the phrase also describes well some supporters of Trump, though in their case what it produces is a knee-jerk impulse to always side with and defend Trump no matter what he does, even when what he does is something such supporters would condemn if anyone but Trump did the same. Not being afflicted with this syndrome, I find myself unable to join either side of this wearisome conflict.

I would also note that seeing someone like Trump adulated by supposed leaders of the Christian community can be a disheartening thing for a Bible believer who thinks he must pursue piety, pursue holiness, if he is to have grounds for believing himself a Christian.[10] While he has unquestionably kept the promises he made when making his deal to get evangelical leaders’ support, the rhetoric of many Christian Trump supporters goes beyond appreciation of an impious individual’s fulfillment of his end of a political arrangement. If an unrepentant individual with Trump’s past (and, outside his mostly proper actions on the right to life, religious liberty, and judicial appointments, present) behavioral patterns merits Christian leaders’ highest praise and friendship, why should we politically powerless Christians continue striving after a piety none of our “leaders” will either praise or reward (or, dare I say, pursue)? The answer, of course, is that it is not these leaders’ approval that we seek to earn. Rather, it is God’s approval that we seek, not to earn, but to live in a manner consistent with, God having already earned that approval on our behalf through the life and death of Jesus Christ. We seek to obey the admonition to “Study [endeavor, strive, work] to shew [not to make] thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [and so understanding then applying] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).[11] But my point is that people who profess to lead Christians should lead in a way that encourages Christians to pursue piety and true faith as they should, not in a way that suggests that piety and true faith don’t matter so long as one does the right things politically.

Item 1: Letter written the last week of December 2019, but never sent. ^ ^^

Concerning columnists’ and letter writers’ ongoing debate over evangelical Christians’ support for Trump:

Though I left the GOP and voted for a third party in 2016, and though I expect to continue third-party presidential voting in 2020, I do understand why many Bible believers conclude that Trump is the lesser evil for whom they must settle when voting.

How so many can act as though this mean-spirited bully (so I assess his public behavior)[12] deserves their adulation, and how prominent Christian leaders can claim to have been his friend for years and to think him “a good person” whose “heart is in the right place” (as one endorser put it), on the other hand, leaves me as nonplussed as it does social liberals who think nothing in Scripture should be believed but some of Jesus’s sayings. [I do grant the possibility that some of these individuals might know things about Trump those of us who only see his public behavior and know some of his background do not see. I grant the possibility, but I doubt the probability. I think it more likely that Christian leaders who like being close to power just have a talent for seeing only what they want to see in political leaders who favor them.]

Christian leaders who love being close to power notwithstanding, I doubt true Bible believers approve of Trump as strongly as polls suggest. This could have been proved if someone better had challenged Trump in the primary. Sadly, though, Trump’s challengers, like as-pro-abortion-as-any-Democrat Bill Weld, were no improvement on “the Devil we know.” Nor, of course, are any of the Democrats. [There were many such when I wrote this. Now there is only one. Sadly for Democrats, this one candidate is the one likely to suffer the most running against the skilled and merciless name-caller and insulter who is currently president. I feel sorry for Joe Biden. I still won’t vote for him, but I do feel sorry for him. If COVID-19 ever allows a campaign to happen, this one will be painful to watch.]

Item 2: My Rewritten Version of a Susan B. Anthony List Pro-Life Letter of Thanks to Trump & Staff. ^ ^^

Emailed Using an Online Form on 21 December 2019.

Dear President Trump, Secretary Azar, and Administrator Verma,

As a believer that the God-given right to life begins at conception, I am pleased that the Trump administration continues to work to defend the right to life. Though President Trump’s behavior overall continues to irritate and perplex me, being wholly out of accord with the statesmanly qualities and virtuous character I long to see in our leaders, I’m thankful that he, unlike virtually every other politician, continues striving to fulfill the promises he made to get right-to-lifers’ votes.

That someone whose life shows no evidence of the sort of personal transformation that results from true faith in Christ (growth in self-control and humility, seeking to live peaceably with others, admitting past errors and striving to become more like Christ in one’s behavior) nevertheless continues to remain true to the promises he made gives me hope for America’s future. [In his response to Mark Galli’s Christianity Today editorial, Trump had emphasized how the alternative to voting for him would be voting for a “nonbeliever,” by which statement Trump implied he was a believer. Though his support of religious liberty and the right to life has been sufficiently good to make voting for him a reasonable choice for Christians, nothing in his public conduct has yet given me good reason to think he’s a saved man himself. Christians in his circle of advisers should be urging him to repent and believe the gospel, and then to amend his conduct to comport with biblical standards, not letting him think he’s already saved and the chosen savior of Christian America.[13] If someone so far from the biblical ideal can do so much, how much more might a true and faithful Christian statesmen do in the future?

Today, I would specifically like to thank you for finalizing the separate-payments rule. Obamacare has brought about the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v Wade. While it remains in effect, its minimal requirements must be enforced rigorously to mitigate the damage it does.

Obamacare officially allowed funding for plans that provide abortion coverage only if there was a separate abortion surcharge, but the Obama administration never enforced this requirement. I am grateful that the Trump administration will now hold insurance companies accountable and protect the consciences of Americans who do not want to pay hidden abortion surcharges.

Thank you for your strong leadership in support of the right to life.

Item 3: My Alternative to an American Family Association Anti-Impeachment Letter to My Senators. ^ ^^

Emailed Using an Online Form on 06 March 2020.

Brackets indicate a typo corrected after submission. This was sent to the U.S. Senators for my state of California, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. There is no pragmatic justification for writing to either of these women, incorrigibly dedicated as they are to their depraved party and its evil agenda. I write as an exercise of my duty as a Christian citizen.

Subject: You Should Have Demanded Better Impeachment Articles or Voted to Acquit

I left the Republican Party when Trump’s nomination became inevitable in 2016, and I’m just about to cast my 2020 primary ballot for third-party protest candidate Charles Kraut. Though I’m pleased Trump has remained true to promises he made about judicial appointments, the right to life, and religious liberty, I’ve never been able to declare myself a “supporter” of this historically immoral man who, so far as I know, has never indicated regret or repentance for anything he’s ever done.

I therefore have some respect for those who sincerely believe he has committed actions meriting removal from office. I’ve not seen evidence of this that convinces me beyond a reasonable doubt, but I grant that different people assess evidence, and hearsay misconstrued as evidence, differently. Nevertheless, I must condemn your vote to remove President Trump from office based on the vague, even meaningless, articles the House sent you, namely, “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.”

“Abuse of power” is quite meaningless as a charge. A real criminal charge specifies how power was abused and why that abuse is criminal. For instance, when someone […] abuses his power relationship with an intern in order to acquire sexual services from her in violation of his marriage contract and vow, as your party’s President Bill Clinton did, that person should not be charged with the vague “abuse of power” but with, say, “sexual harassment” or “sexual assault” or the like. If the House thought Trump guilty of abusing his power through extortion or bribery, extortion or bribery is what Trump should have been impeached for. On “abuse of power,” you should have voted to dismiss or acquit.

“Obstruction of Congress,” on the other hand, is one central purpose of the presidency and not a misdeed at all. Each branch of our government is meant to obstruct the others. This prevents any of them from acquiring too much power, at least in theory. Though multiplication of unconstitutional administrative agencies that combine executive, legislative, and judicial powers has largely short-circuited this obstructive function of the three branches, that the executive branch still manages to do some obstructing is good news rather than an impeachable offense. Here, again, you should have voted to dismiss or acquit.

I’m disappointed you insisted on treating illegitimate impeachment articles as legitimate. You should have voted to dismiss them or voted to acquit President Trump, then demanded that the House send you legitimate articles alleging real crimes based on something more than hearsay and subjective interpretations of the same.

In the future, please try to do better.

Item 4: Fulfilling Promises about Judicial Appointments, Religious Liberty, and the Right to Life Doesn’t Make Trump a Qualified Spiritual Adviser. ^ ^^

Emailed 18 March 2020.

Christian conservative political activist and committed Republican Craig Huey sent out a broadcast email dated 17 March 2020. It bore the title “The Church Service President Trump Asked You to Watch.” The email’s message body dealt with Trump’s call for a “national day of prayer” in response to COVID-19 and asked readers to watch a “special church service” that was to be held on the appointed day. While it’s nice that President Trump continues to provide a public show of support to the evangelical voting block that helped get him elected, the fact that his public behavior otherwise still seems narcissistic, unrepentant, and sometimes mean-spirited makes it very hard for me to think him a true and sincere Christian. Even if he has been truly saved, in which case progressive amendment of his persona should be expected, he doesn’t seem to yet be the kind of man from whom I would want to receive spiritual instruction.

And so I told Mr. Huey:

———- Forwarded message ———

From: David M. Hodges
Date: Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 9:56 AM
Subject: Re: The Church Service President Trump Asked You to Watch.
To: Craig Huey

I’m not sure why I should want to know what church services Trump recommends. Whatever else Trump may have proved himself to be, a qualified adviser on spiritual matters isn’t one of them.

Though, from my perspective, you’re too dedicated to the idea that the GOP can be redeemed, I do continue to value your voter guide. I just can’t join other evangelicals in becoming a fan of Trump, though I do understand the pragmatic calculation one must make in states where conservative votes can affect elections. Since this state of California isn’t such a state, I voted for Charles Kraut (Constitution Party candidate included on the AIP [American Independent Party] ballot) this primary. Since I quit the GOP when Trump was selected in 2016, and since the CP isn’t yet ballot-qualified here, I’m considered nonpartisan, so could only vote in a primary accepting nonpartisans. Since no one running against Trump in the GOP primary was an improvement over him, I couldn’t see any reason to change my nonpartisan status.

Thanks for letting me share these personal opinions I’m sure you have no more desire to know than I have to know what church services Trump recommends.

I received no response to this email.

Closing Remarks ^

So ends this latest collections of Pious Eye site animadversions and other remarks. Seen by the True Light, the present world, and present-day American culture, seem dark indeed, but who knows what God’s good providence may have in store?

Notes, Elaborations, & Asides ^

[0] Image: PiousEye Storm Warming. Created by David M. Hodges for the Pious Eye site by combining and modifying a public domain image and an image by Wikimedia Commons user Dudva, the latter of which was used and reworked in accord with its Creative Commons 4.0 CC BY-SA license. In accord with that license’s share-alike requirements, this new image may be reused under the same license.

[1]Caving Under LGBTQ Pressure,” posted 25 November, accessed 04 January 2020.

[2] Ibid.

[3] I first became aware of this point of emphasis while listening to a lecture by the Trinity Foundation’s John Robbins. I don’t recall which lecture it was, but you should feel free to download and review as many Trinity Foundation lectures as you like.

[4] Of course not! Being angrily confrontational and disagreeable all the time is just for those of us God has gifted with naturally irascible temperaments.

[5] It has long been the case that anyone who wants to may claim to be a Christian.

[6] That “most Americans still identify as Christians” but have very little clue what it actually means to have true faith or to believe and obey the Bible seems confirmed by a 2016 LifeWay Research study sponsored by Ligonier Ministries: Bob Smietana, “Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details,” LifeWay Research, 27 September 2016, accessed 07 April 2020. That most Americans still claim the “Christian” label has been confirmed by Gallup, which in 2019 found 67% claiming the label, 35% percent identifying as “Protestant,” 22% as “Catholic,” and 10% as “Christian (nonspecific)”: Gallup, In Depth: Topics A to Z, “Religion,” undated, accessed 07 April 2020.

[7] Being sinners saved by grace who continue to carry with us sinful inclinations we are destined to struggle against throughout earthly life, progressing in but never perfecting our piety, pain of this sort is not unknown to us who are Christians. When we find Scripture refuting wrong beliefs we’ve adopted to feel more at ease when backslidden, as when God chastises us with earthly suffering of mind or body (Hebrews 12:6–8), we do not find this pleasant.

[8] The sermon I’ve linked to as matching my own viewpoint, which I believe to be the biblical viewpoint (“The Purpose of the Law,” Arann Reformed Baptist Church on YouTube, 07 November 2013, accessed 09 April 2020), interestingly alludes to one of the inadvertently correct products of popular unchristian culture seen from time to time. Like another such product I’ve mentioned, this one, the Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin” (Actually, 1987) inadvertently perceives something true as it tries to mock Christian morality, for even “the plowing of the wicked…is sin” (Proverbs 21:4; ellipses indicate an omitted comma).

Of course, very misguided rejections of truth and celebrations of error also abound, such as the “that’s all right” celebration (judging by the lyrics, not the video) of promiscuity and rejection of the Faith (of the Saints-centered Roman Catholic variety, anyway) in Florence + The Machine’s “Lover to Lover” (Lungs, 2012). (Concerning my parenthetical “judging by the lyrics, not the video”: the video suggests an intent to speak of intentionally self-destructive promiscuity as a response to relationship difficulties. In that case, no “celebration” would be intended, though the choice of coping strategies would still qualify as “misguided.” Of course, since our desacralized culture has replaced the biblical standard of lifelong marital faithfulness with unmarried “serial monogamy,” it is entirely possible that the “lover to lover” songwriter actually just means to express exasperation with the need to keep moving on from one bad relationship to another. This is still misguided and unbiblical thinking, but of a different sort.)

[9] It is a mark of maturing true believers, by the way, to value the latter deliverance (from sin) more than the former (from damnation). One strand of historical American theology, in fact, held the view that the most mature believers would, or ideally should, so value the glory of God that they would be willing to be damned if they could bring God greater glory that way than by being saved. I doubt anyone has ever achieved this degree of self-sacrificial God-centeredness, but thinking along these lines is an interesting exercise in speculative piety.

[10] I’m not saying that pursuit of piety contributes in any way to justification; it does not. But failure to pursue it, failure to want to pursue it, is, like denying Christ (Matthew 10:33), evidence that one has not yet been saved. Though the immature Peter denied Christ, it is clear that he wanted to acknowledge him, for he “wept bitterly” at his failure (Matthew 26:75). I wonder if any of the Christian celebrities discussed earlier have wept over their failure to acknowledge the teachings of God’s written Word? I wonder if Trump ever weeps bitterly over hurtfully insulting and maligning his 2016 presidential primary opponents, over committing adultery over and over again, over….Perhaps he does, though I confess I have trouble imagining that.

[11] Though “study” in our usual modern sense is obviously required to know “rightly” how one should strive and what one should strive after, the “study” in this verse carries a sense less often meant today than in the days of Elizabethan English. This isn’t primarily a verse about Bible study, though it has Bible study as a necessary background (hence, I think, the last part of the verse). The Greek term here, σπουδάζω (spoudazo), means “to hasten, make haste…to exert one’s self, endeavour, give diligence,” and has been translated as follows by the King James translators: “study” (1 time, here), “endeavour” (3 times), “do diligence” (2 times), “be diligent” (2 times), “give diligence” (1 time), “be forward” (1 time), “labour” (1 time) (“Strong’s data for ‘Study’ <4704> [5657]” at 2 Timothy 2:15, BibleWorks 7, Windows version [Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC, 2006]). Elliot rightly indicates the sense of “study” here: “To make a well-planned attempt (to do something); to try with diligence; to make an earnest, concentrated effort” (Melvin E. Elliot, The Language of the King James Bible: A Glossary Explaining Its Words and Expressions [New York: Doubleday & Company, 1967], under the word “study” [188]). Elliot also notes that the dominant modern sense of applying oneself to the acquisition of knowledge or learning of a skill, along with another sense of “To meditate, ponder,” also can be found in the KJV, at Ecclesiastes 12:12 for the former, and at Proverbs 24:2 and Proverbs 15:28 for the latter (Ibid.).

Though popular usage might make one think the sense in which “study” is used here is an archaism, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Merriam-Webster’s second of two entries for “study” shows all these senses still in effect (Merriam-Webster online, under the word “study” at entry 2 of 2 [entry 1 is the noun], accessed 08 April 2020). Intransitive senses listed include “to engage in study”; “to undertake formal study of a subject”; “to meditate, reflect” (all-caps formatting removed), labeled a “dialect” usage; and “endeavor, try” (all-caps formatting removed). The transitive senses add to this “to read in detail especially with the intention of learning,” “to engage in the study of,” to “plot, design” (all-caps formatting removed), and “to consider attentively or in detail.” So, the current meaning of “study” recognized by Merriam-Webster includes all the uses Elliot finds in the KJV, and then some. So, after you’ve increased your vocabulary by studying Elliot and Merriam-Webster, study to make use of “study” in some of these other senses in your daily conversation. Confusing friends is fun!

[12] Though Republican supporters praise Trump as a “fighter” and “counter-puncher” who’s “finally standing up to Democrats,” I still find myself perceiving him as mean-spirited and a bully. The man does not respond to criticisms in a rational and proportional way; instead, he mercilessly, and usually in way devoid of rational content (by name calling, for example), goes after anyone who offers even mild criticism or strikes him as in any slight way “disloyal.” Consider the case of his one-time supporter Anthony Scaramucci. It surely illustrates the poor state of America’s moral infrastructure that Trump has tied for first place in a poll asking Americans whom they most admire. (Surely Ron Paul deserves more votes than this poll’s top two.) How radically we’ve lowered our standards since our founding!

[13] In terms of God’s comprehensive sovereignty, it is no doubt true that Trump is the man God willed should become president in 2016. The same is true of every president who’s ever been elected, however. Everything that happens happens in accord with God’s eternal decree, so Trump’s presidency wholly accords with God decretive will. Whether it accord with God’s preceptive will, however, is another matter. In terms of God’s precepts, I think Christian Republicans definitely could have made a better choice in the 2016 primary. Once that primary was over, however, matters became less clear: I judged voting for a third party the best of the bad options available, in part because I live in a solidly Democratic state where there was no chance anyone but Clinton would win; other Christians judged voting for Trump the best option, which might have been true in states where anti-Clinton votes mattered.

Concerning my recourse to the Reformed distinction between God’s decretive and preceptive wills, I’ve discussed this some in at least two of my book reviews:

In the case of I Timothy 2:4, one could take God’s preceptive will to be in view. That is, one could understand the verse to be speaking about God’s will as he expresses it in precepts or commands, in this case his command to “all men,” in the sense of all people everywhere, to repent and believe the gospel. God’s decretive will, God’s will as it actually comes to pass through his eternal decree, in contrast, foreordains that only some be saved. Should the preceptive-decretive dichotomy strike one as a human contrivance rather than scriptural concept, however, recourse to mystery may be necessary. (“Worth Reading…with Healthy Skepticism: Carrin’s Spirit-Empowered Theology,” Pious Eye site, 06 August 2017, accessed 03 January 2020.)

If God sovereignly ordains that beings he has created should perpetrate moral evils (by their own free choice, not under compulsion, but still by eternal decree), all that is needed to free God from the charge of moral evil himself, or of approval of moral evil, is that he have a morally sufficient reason for ordaining what he has. The old Calvinist way of parsing matters, by speaking of God’s decretive will (what God actually foreordains, being all that comes to pass, including moral evil) and preceptive will (what God through his revelation shows to be right and good and desirable according to his holy character, the standard after which all creatures who would serve him should strive and by which all shall be judged), is perhaps as good as any. For those of us unwilling to make created beings more sovereign than God in any sphere, such as by making them rather than their Maker the ultimate origin of moral evil, the various “free will” evasions of God’s ultimate responsibility for absolutely everything ring hollow and invariably prove unsatisfying. (“Comprehensive, Informative…Inconsistent, Flawed: 40 Question about Creation and Evolution,” Pious Eye site, 24 April 2015, accessed 03 January 2020.)

End of Post ^