Monthly Archives: February 2015

Poison of Pietism: What Would Jesus Do?

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Did Jesus voluntarily suspend or sacrifice His liberty in the eyes of the watching world in order to make His proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God more successful? If He did, we need to follow His example. If He did not, we are free to ignore the pietist’s commandment to do so. What follows is a summary of the most relevant passages about this topic found in the Gospel of Mark, chapters one through ten. The first ten chapters of Mark cover, in a very truncated fashion, the entire public ministry of Jesus up until the final week. I have selected the passages in which Jesus had the opportunity to suspend His liberty in order to please the watching world by conforming to it’s amoral standards for behavior. Let’s see how He responded to those situations.

Mark 2:15-17. Jesus had a habit of “eating with the sinners and the tax-gathers”. In fact, to use the modern expression, the religious leaders of His day considered Him to be a bit of a party animal. This disturbed them no end. According to the amoral standards of the cultural, a religious leader was expected to conduct himself in a fashion that they deemed to be sensible, dignified and above reproach. Spending time at parties with known sinners did not fill the bill. The cultural leaders could find nothing dignified in the people Jesus was associating with. When informed of the consternation of the Pharisees, Jesus had the opportunity to suspend His liberty and modify His behavior so as not to offend them. What did He say? “And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Jesus clearly repudiated the doctrine of pietism in this example.

Mark 2:18-20. Immediately after giving the Pharisees an opportunity to take offense (which they gladly did), Jesus gave the disciples of John the Baptist the same opportunity. Unlike the Pharisees, who were clearly His enemies, the disciples of John were at least sympathetic to Him. They came to Jesus’ disciples and inquired into the partying ways of their Master. Jesus immediately had another opportunity to suspend the exercise of His liberties in order to not give an opportunity for the disciples of John to take offense. What did He say? “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom do not fast, do they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.” Jesus clearly established the doctrine of liberty in this example.

Mark 2:23-28. Shortly after sending off the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus had another opportunity to deal with the Pharisees. He and His disciples were passing through a grain field on a Sabbath day and they were violating the cultural moral standards of that society by picking some of the grains and eating them. The Pharisees confronted Him and He was presented with another opportunity to suspend His liberty in order to not bring them cause for taking offense at his behavior. What did He say? “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In saying this He clearly repudiated their cultural moral standards as well as repudiating the doctrine of pietism.

Mark 3:1-6: We next find Jesus in a synagogue doing battle with the cultural moral standards of the Pharisees. A man with a crippled hand is presented before Him and the Pharisees watch Him carefully to see if He will suspend His liberty and conform to their standards of behavior for the Sabbath day. What did He do? “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart… his hand was restored.” Jesus healed the man, despite the cultural moral standard of the time. As you would expect, the Pharisees and the Herodians then teamed up to fight against Him. Doing the right thing and exercising liberty in the eyes of the watching world will almost always bring a negative response. Jesus did not care about the response of the watching world.

Mark 3:20-21 and 31-35. The family of Jesus became quite worried about Him as He conducted His public ministry in a way that was not consistent with their expectations. In particular, He kept telling people that they needed to repent of their sins and He insisted upon behaving in a way that alienated Him from the leaders of the time. They began to say of Him that “He has lost His senses.” At one point they became so desperate that they interrupted Him while He was teaching. His mother and brothers arrived outside the place where He was teaching and had word sent to Him that they were waiting. No doubt they expected to be given the royal treatment and ushered into the hall and given the most prestigious seats. What did Jesus do? In direct contradiction to the cultural moral standards of the day, Jesus ignored them. To add to their sense of injury, He went on to say, “And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers.'” Talk about offensive! Jesus clearly repudiated the doctrine of pietism by this behavior.

Mark 5:1-17. This section of Mark contains the story of the Gerasene demoniac. The story is well known. One part of the story, however, is frequently overlooked. Jesus agreed to allow the demons to go into the herd of swine that was feeding on the mountainside. Those hogs belonged to somebody. Those hogs were someone’s economic capital. By sending the demons into the pigs, Jesus caused the loss of a significant amount of money to somebody who lived in the area. Why did He not become all things to all people and send the demons somewhere else? Not surprisingly, the citizens of the area asked Him to leave before He could do any more harm to their property. Jesus certainly did not behave like a pietist in this situation.

Mark 6:1-6. After being on the road for some time Jesus returned to His hometown and His home synagogue. There He taught as He had taught elsewhere. No doubt the story of His offensive behavior towards His mother and brothers had circulated back to the home synagogue. No doubt many of the folks in town were watching Him with a jaundiced eye. He continued to live and teach as He had done everywhere else. What happened? “They took offense at Him.” Why did He not do a better job of modifying His behavior so as to not be a cause for their offense? Why did He not become “all things” to them in order to better prepare the spiritual soil for His teaching? Certainly He could have behaved with more moderation and prudence among His own people, couldn’t He? The answer is simple. He did not do those things because those things did not matter. The position of the pietist is thoroughly repudiated by His behavior.

Mark 7:5-13. The Pharisees and scribes were almost always angry with Jesus. In this particular case they were disturbed with His practice of ignoring the “tradition of the elders” with respect to hand washing. Jesus was given a clear opportunity to suspend His liberty and conform to the amoral standards of the culture by submitting to the ceremony of hand washing. What did He do? He ignored their complaint and rebuked them for sin by saying, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” Obviously Jesus did not hold the traditions of men in high regard. He also refused to submit Himself to those traditions. He clearly did not suspend His own liberty in order to pave the way for His teaching by conforming to their amoral behavioral standards. The heart of pietism is repudiated by this example of His behavior.

Mark 7:24-30. This is known as the story of the Syrophoenician woman. This woman was a Gentile, and Jews were to have no social interaction with Gentiles whatsoever. At first Jesus conforms His behavior to the cultural standard of the time and refuses to grant the woman’s request. Nevertheless, the woman persisted and Jesus made the decision to go contrary to the amoral cultural standard of the time and grant her request. In the eyes of the pietist, if word about His behavior ever got back to Israel, His ministry would be finished. Three years of public ministry would have been wasted due to this one foolish act. He had brought shame and disgrace upon Himself, His disciples, and His entire ministry by engaging this Gentile woman. Jesus did not care about the shame and disgrace He brought upon Himself by doing what was right. He totally repudiated the doctrines of pietism.

What would Jesus do? He would ignore the amoral cultural standards of the day and do what is right. He would obey the law of God and ignore the traditions of men, regardless of the consequences. He would never modify His liberty in order to pave the way for His teachings. In fact, it seems that He would often go out of His way to stir up both those who opposed Him and those who were sympathetic to Him. Ultimately, when confronted by His disciples with the fact that His behavior was offending those around Him, He said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” A pietist would never say this. Jesus did.
It seems more and more clear that the Bible contains no teaching that supports the doctrines of pietism. What do the pietists use to support their position? The teachings of the apostle Paul are routinely removed from their context and distorted to teach pietistic principles.

Poison of Pietism: Is the World Watching?

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

The word ‘world’ appears 239 times in the New Testament. 41 times it appears as the Greek word ‘aeon’. Another 198 times it appears as the Greek world ‘cosmos’. The words are frequently used in an interchangeable fashion and I do not believe it is possible to make any major theological distinction between them. As is the case from the English transliterations of those Greek words, it can be seen that there are different nuances in the words. Eon conveys more of the idea of time. Cosmos conveys more of the idea of mass and space. The Greeks had some conception of these philosophical concepts but they were quite different than those found in today’s world of quantum mechanics.

I went through each of the uses of the word ‘world’ and found only 17 that could possibly be construed to indicate that we are being watched by the world. If the pietist is correct and the world is constantly watching us in order to decide whether to be open to the gospel, there should be some evidence of that alleged truth in Scripture. On the other hand, if the world is not watching, or only watching to immorally judge us, we should find no evidence of this concept in Scripture. Let’s look at each one and see if a pattern emerges.

John 3:19. Jesus tells us that the “Light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the Light.” Of course, Jesus was speaking of Himself as the Light. What did the watching world do when Jesus entered into it? The watching world loved darkness rather than light. The world ran from the light. The world sought to extinguish the light by executing Jesus. The reaction of the watching world to Jesus is the exact same reaction we are told to expect. Why would we try to please it by submitting to it’s cultural moral standards? It is not possible to extract a doctrine of the “watching world” from this passage.

John 7:3-6. Jesus’ brothers were frustrated with his behavior. They expected that the Messiah would be a publicity hound. Jesus’ activities were the exact opposite of one who seeks publicity. In frustration His brothers exhorted Him to advertise Himself. They said, “For no one does anything in secret, when He himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” Jesus, of course, denied their request and remained private. If the opinion of the watching world is to determine our behavior, why did Jesus not allow the opinion of His own family about his need to “go public” influence His behavior? The watching world wanted to see more of Him. He denied that request. How could He possibly expand His influence and pave the way for the proclamation of the gospel by not going public? Jesus had other plans, not made by men, for the expansion of His kingdom.

John 14:16-17. In what is known as Jesus’ “farewell discourse”, He makes the assertion that “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him.” The promise of the coming Holy Spirit was a great comfort to the disciples. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the world. He was promised to believers. Indeed, because of original sin, the world is not even able to receive the Holy Spirit. If the world is incapable of receiving the “Spirit of truth”, how is it that pietists insist that we are to amend our behavior in their presence in order to conform to their “moral” standards? In light of the fact that the world does not know the truth, does it not make more sense to modify our behavior to conform to the standards of God’s law and leave the standards of the world alone?

John 15:15-19. Jesus continues his discourse to His followers with this immensely important statement, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” The pietist has to explain why believers should be subject to the cultural mores and opinions of the world when Jesus flat out states that the world hates us. Perhaps even more importantly, the pietist needs to explain why we should subject ourselves to the world’s standards in light of the fact that Jesus tells us that He chose us “out of the world”. Would not making the decision to be subject to the world’s standards be an example of putting ourselves back into the world? How can the pietist possibly justify that action?

John 16:33. At the conclusion of his farewell discourse Jesus says this to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Why should believers give up the peace that they have in Jesus in order to put themselves into bondage to the cultural standards of morality found in the world? Remember, this is in a world where, by definition, they will have tribulation. The practice of the pietist makes no sense whatsoever.

John 17:14. Jesus concludes his final instructions to the disciples by praying for them. This prayer has become known as the “priestly prayer”. In it Jesus says, “I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” The believer has the Word of God. The Word of God is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice. With the Bible, the believer is 100% complete and able to face all of life’s difficulties and answer all of life’s questions. Not so for the pietist. The pietist says we need to poll the populace and find out what the current standard for morality is in the area in which we live. Then, without engaging in any behavior that is outright sin, we must modify our behavior so as to never give the world offense. But, Jesus has told us already that everything we do that is consistent with the Word of God is going to give the world offense. We are not of the world and we should not be subject to the world’s standards. Only the pietist believes that we should be.

John 17:20-23. Of all of the possible situations where the world might be watching, this is the only one that offers biblical support for that position. Listen to what Jesus says in His prayer for us. “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their world; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.” The practice of Christian unity can have the impact upon the world such that “the world may believe that Thou didst send Me”. This is the only instance in all 239 uses of the word ‘world’ where it is alleged that the world is actually watching us in some fashion by which we might have an impact upon it. And what does the world see? The world sees a Christian church with hundreds of denominations and constant theological infighting. We are a disgrace to the watching world because we do not practice the doctrine of unity (see my essay on “Unity” for a full description of this abhorrent sin). Sadly, most pietists are firmly entrenched in their doctrines and practices of denominationalism and are utterly blind to this one area where they could have a positive impact. The propagation of the gospel is impeded daily by the refusal of the Church to unite. Disgrace is brought upon the Church in the eyes of the watching world because of our practice of constantly fighting within ourselves. Rather than focusing upon our Christian liberty and ordering believers to conform their behavior to worldly standards, does it not make more sense to focus our energies upon the doctrine of unity? Would our time not be better spent trying to mend theological fences with our fellow believers? Not to the pietist. He has his own philosophy of ministry to follow.

Romans 3:19. While describing the nature of original sin, Paul says this, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God…” The pietist says that believers are accountable to the world. God says that the world is accountable to Him. Who do you think is correct?

Romans 12:1-2 “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” What is God’s opinion about the conscious decision of the pietist to conform his amoral activities to the standards and mores of the world? It is recorded here. Do not do it. The role of the Christian in the world is to never conform to the standards of the world in any way. This pertains not just to the immoral standards of the world but also to any standard that the world might construct which is not specifically biblical. The duty of the believer is to be transformed in his mind and to conform to the will of God as revealed in the Bible alone. Obedience to the Bible is all that is required to be good, acceptable and perfect. There is no indication whatsoever that any believer is ever expected to conform to some sort of amoral worldly standard in order to pave the way for the proclamation of the gospel, as the pietists insist.

I Corinthians 1:20. “…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” The point of this entire section of I Corinthians is that the world has no real wisdom. What passes for wisdom in the world is, in fact, foolishness. True wisdom is grounded in the person of God. Biblical wisdom is found in relationship with the triune personal God. Since the world knows nothing of these things, it can have no real wisdom. Why should a believer subject himself to the cultural standards of worldly wisdom? Why should a believer, in the mistaken belief that he is paving the way for the proclamation of the gospel, subject himself to wisdom that is actually foolishness? It makes no sense and it should never be done. The Christian is unique from the world precisely because he rejects the wisdom of the world as foolishness and lives in the wisdom of God found in His revealed will in the Bible.

I Corinthians 4:9-13. In describing his apostolic ministry, Paul makes the statement that the apostles have become “a spectacle to the world”. He goes on to say that they appear as a spectacle to the world because they are “without honor”, “both hungry and thirsty”, “roughly treated”, “homeless”, “persecuted”, “slandered”, and treated as if they were the “scum of the world”. If it is important for the world to have a favorable opinion of those who preach the gospel, how did Paul get himself into this situation? Certainly if he had simply tried harder to be “all
things to all men” he could have avoided all of these problems. Certainly if he had just given up more of his liberty and sacrificed more on behalf of the world, this state of affairs could never have arisen. Wrong! This state of affairs arose precisely because Paul was an apostle charged with preaching the gospel without compromise to the world. Not surprisingly, as Jesus had warned him earlier, Paul discovered that preaching the gospel exacts a terrible price in the eyes of the world. His refusal to adopt and adapt to the world system is what brought him these troubles. We should do and expect the same.

II Corinthians 1:12. Paul describes his ministry to the Corinthians in this passage. It is an amazing passage in light of the position of the pietist. He says, “…that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.” In light of his definition of fleshly wisdom in his first letter to the Corinthians, it is hard to see how he could possibly be endorsing the position of the pietist with this statement. On the contrary, he clearly states that he repudiates the wisdom of the world as he conducts his affairs in the world. That principle should be the guiding light for all believers. The irresponsible notion that believers are required to sacrifice their liberty in front of a “watching world” and conform to the cultural beliefs and morals of the world is ludicrous. Paul would never have supported that position.
II Corinthians 4:4. In this passage Paul makes a clear and unequivocal statement about the relationship of the proclamation of the Gospel to the system of the world. He says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” Notice this very important point. The proclamation of the gospel is not impeded by individual believers exercising their liberty in front of some entity called the “watching world”. The proclamation of the gospel is impeded by unbelievers whose minds are darkened and who are perishing. Paul could have stated that the gospel was veiled due to the exercise of liberty on the part of the preachers of the gospel, but he did not say that. Unbelievers do not reject the truth because some Christian was acting in liberty. Unbelievers reject the truth because it is their nature to do so. The practice of Christian liberty has nothing to do with unbelievers remaining in their unbelief. That is crystal clear.

Ephesians 2:1-2. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now at work in in the sons of disobedience.” The “course of this world” is the pattern that the pietist wants believers to emulate. Of course, anything that is specifically sinful is not included in the pattern of behavior. Nevertheless, as far as all amoral behavior is concerned, the pietist believes that Christians should voluntarily suspend their God ordained liberties in order to live in a way that will please the world. But, the “course of this world” leads to disobedience and death. It cannot be done. It should not be done.

Philippians 2:14-15. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” The pietist reads this verse and flips it around in order to support his doctrine. He insists that Paul is telling the Philippians to modify their behavior in order to be seen by the world as “blameless and innocent” by their worldly standard. Hence, they become “lights in the world”. Obviously, that is not Paul’s emphasis whatsoever. To be blameless and innocent requires obedience to the law of God, not the amoral standards of the world system. In fact, believers are called to be above reproach in the midst of the crooked and perverse standards of the world. Obedience to the law of God brings about the reality of Christians appearing as “lights in the world.” Only by committing the logical fallacy of begging the question is it possible to interpret this verse in favor of the position of the pietist.

Colossians 2:8 introduces the topic of the “traditions of men” to which pietists would have us enslave ourselves. Paul writes, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” The philosophy, traditions and principles of the world constitute the standard by which the pietist would have us be judged. The pietist tells us that we must conform to this worldly standard. The pietist tells us that our attempts at evangelism are compromised if we do not live in accordance with these norms. This is all utter nonsense. Paul clearly states that we are to not be taken captive by the world’s standards. What the pietist would have us do is in direct contradiction to what Paul tells us to do.

Colossians 2:20. “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as …” Paul goes on to describe the worldly standards of morality as “self-made religion” that are of no value. The point, again, is obvious. We do not live in the world. We should not submit to nor adopt the standards of the world. This applies to both the moral and amoral standards of the world. Christians have been “raised up with Christ” and are to “keep seeking the things that are above.”
Worldly standards for behavior do not rise to that level and should be ignored. Conversely, the doctrine and behaviors of Christian liberty do rise to that standard and are to be enjoyed by the believer in the presence of the world. The world is our enemy. Psalm 23 states it best when the psalmist says, “Thou hast set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” God prepares a banquet of liberty for His children and we are to consume that banquet in front of the watching world.

James 4:4. “…Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” The desire for the approval of the world is terribly wrong. The belief that the approval of the world is necessary for the successful proclamation of the gospel is ridiculous. To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. There is no middle ground here.

Does God order us to be careful to look good before the “watching world” or does He order us to be careful to look good before Him and not be molded by the world? The pietist emphasizes the need to look good before the world. The biblical believer knows that he will stand or fall before God alone and takes no concern with the opinion of the world at all. To further understand the importance of not conforming to the amoral standards of the watching world, let’s take some time to examine the ministry of Jesus in light of this horrible doctrine of pietism.

Poison of Pietism: Can the World Watch the Church?

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Those of you reading these essays are aware that I am committed to the Reformed understanding of biblical truth. What is particularly galling about the doctrine of pietism is the fact that many Reformed believers have adopted it. It is understandable that Arminians would adopt the beliefs and practices of pietism since it fits so securely into their theological system. The fact that Reformed believers would adopt pietism is only indicative of how they have not thought through the logical implications of their Reformed theology.

Pietism asserts that the “world is watching” us to see if we are practicing what we preach. If we are, it is alleged by pietists that we are paving the way for the propagation of the gospel. If we are not, we have theoretically destroyed our opportunity to proclaim the gospel to the world. Pietists, despite the biblical fact that the elect are called to faith by means of the spoken words of the gospel, like to tell us that our actions are speaking more loudly than our words. The world, they tell us, is watching our behavior, not listening to our preaching. If we are to reach them, they say, we must do it by our actions. Before asking the question if the world is watching, we have to ask the question if the world is even able to watch. That is where the Arminian and Reformed positions depart from each other.

The Arminian pietist’s view is that the world is watching the Church with a morally neutral objectivity and it’s members are going to decide whether to “accept Christ” or not based upon how we behave. It is granted by the Arminian pietist that the world’s standard of morality is essentially biblical and moral and that the judgments of the world about us are also essentially biblical and moral. The Arminian, as you will recall, denies the doctrines of original sin and the total depravity of man. In their system man is essentially good, or at least neutral, and able to make positive decisions about God and His Church. This, as I argued in my essay entitled “Evangelical Heresies”, is really nothing more than the heresy of Pelagianism. It is a false position and nothing more needs to be said about it.
The Reformed pietist professes to believe in the doctrines of original sin and total depravity and yet still grants the individual members of the “watching world” the ability to render biblically and morally accurate judicial decisions about the behavior of believers. This logical contradiction is so massive it is difficult to see how any person who considers himself to be Reformed could make it, but he does.

The world is not watching us because the world is not able to watch us. The world is utterly blinded by sin and incapable of rendering anything even remotely close to an accurate judicial decision, much less a proper moral opinion about our actions. There is none who seeks after God, not even one. There is none who understands, not even one. The world is filled with animosity and hatred towards God and His people and that hatred will always be expressed in false analyses of the behavior and doctrines of His people. The world hates us and watches us only to further inflame that hatred. The notion that the world is watching us in an objective fashion is odious and inconsistent with all of orthodox biblical doctrine.

That does not mean that the members of the world do not observe what we do and say and render their opinions about us. Indeed, that happens all the time. However, the world is utterly and totally incapable of watching us with the ability to render a judicial decision about our behavior that is in any way consistent with the revealed will of God, or God’s opinion of us. The world will always be wrong. That being the case, the pietist has to answer the question, why should we be concerned about the world’s opinion of our behavior when the world’s opinion is always wrong? Equally important, why should we modify our behavior to satisfy a world that is wrong? Even more important, why should we modify our behavior when, no matter what we do, the world will still hate us?

Indeed, the times the world has a positive opinion of us are generally the times we are not engaged in biblical ministry. (Read “Assimilation” for more details here) When we establish soup kitchens and give bums a place to sleep the world is full of praise for the Church. When we preach the unflinching truths of the sovereign election of God the world is full of hatred for the Church. In fact, the reaction of the world to the proclamations of the Church is practically a perfect contrary indicator. When the world is pleased we are off track. When the world is offended, we are on track. The pietist would change all of this. The pietist would have us strive to please the world in matters not related to specific sin. This is a massive error.

Poison of Pietism: The Extra Category of the Pietist

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

The extra category added by the pietist is best described as that class of actions that are amoral public behaviors that are not sinful, and may be good in another context, but that may do harm to unbelievers who are watching. In essence, this extra category takes the principle of the weaker/stronger brother (which is exclusively for believers) and applies it to the “watching world” of unbelievers. The moral standards, if they exist, of the unbelieving world become the litmus test for actions in this category. The societal norms in which a believer finds himself become the standard by which his behavior is now measured. Under the tenets of pietism, any unbeliever has the right to come up to a believer and tell him that his behavior is offensive to him and the believer is morally required to cease that action immediately. Even more damaging, the believer is expected to anticipate the reaction of the watching world prior to doing anything and modify his behavior prior to doing anything in order to not offend the “watching world”. This is a crucial and devastating mistake. Simply put, this category is not biblical. This category does not exist. This category is the foundation of the erroneous practices and beliefs of pietism. This category destroys the doctrine of Christian liberty and casts the believer into bondage to the “watching world”, whoever that may be. There are hundreds of examples that can be described to illustrate the absolute and total folly of this position. Allow me to describe some of them.

I drive the speed limit most of the time. I don’t do that to irritate my fellow motorists. I just don’t like the idea of getting a ticket and spending my hard earned money on something as silly as a citation for speeding. Since I spend a great deal of time on the road I have discovered that there are basically two reactions to the way I drive. Some folks have no problem with the way I drive. Other people become highly agitated by my speed and pass me at high rates of speed, usually while making obscene gestures with their hands as they go by. They will often cut in as closely as possible in front of me. I suspect they are trying to make the statement that they believe I should be executed for my offense of driving the speed limit.

Now, as a pietist, what am I to do? If I am bound by the moral category of applying the weaker/stronger brother principle to unbelievers, how do I adjust my driving so as to not offend the sensibilities of unbelievers I encounter on the road? Should I poll them in advance? Should I flag them down and ask them? I offend several people every day when I am on the road. How can I stop sinning against them? How can I stop impeding the proclamation of the gospel by the way I drive?

To make matters worse, what if I decide to solve the problem by speeding? Now I am offending those who drive the speed limit. They look at me flying by at a high rate of speed and are offended at my profligate disregard for the law. They may even see my “Jesus” bumper sticker. Now I have committed a terrible offense in the eyes of the “watching world”.

I do a lot of hiking in the mountains. Should I carry a sidearm when I hike? I used to carry a pistol and I discovered that it offended a lot of people that I would meet on the trail. So I stopped carrying it. Now, I have discovered that I am offending people who believe I should have the right to bear arms, especially on a trail in the wilderness. How do I resolve this problem?

I do a lot of off-trail hiking in the mountains. Often, when I go off trail, I will receive harsh and nasty comments from folks who are walking on the trail. Clearly I have offended them. Should I cease all off-trail hiking for the rest of my life? On the other hand, there are some in the hiking and climbing community who recognize that it is sometimes necessary to hike off trail in order to attain a particular destination. They would be offended to be told they cannot go there because there is no trail. Whom do I offend? How do I resolve this dilemma?

I work out in a gym about every day during the winter months. I tend to work out fairly hard. It is not unusual to have somebody tell me that they are inspired to work out hard because they have seen me (an old man, and very grey) working out so hard. On the other hand, some have said that it is depressing to see such a person working out so hard, especially when they compare themselves to me. What am I to do? Must I ask the people who are watching me work out how hard I should be allowed to work out?

The list is endless. When we open the door to allowing the “watching world” to determine our behavior we have opened a door to Phariseeism of the greatest degree. It is not possible to conform our behavior to the various contradictory and transitory standards of the “watching world”. Nevertheless, the pietist insists that we must. To make matters worse, the pietist asserts that those of us who do not conform our amoral behavior to the standards of the “watching world” are committing sin and impeding the progress of the gospel. That is a difficult pill to swallow.
Attempting to amend our behavior in order to never offend any unbeliever is impossible, as well as being unbiblical. Those pietists who argue for this standard of behavior create an image of intense humility. It is a false humility. Those pietists who argue for this standard of behavior create an image of super-spirituality. It is a false spirituality. Those pietists who argue for this standard of behavior create an image of maturity. Their maturity is the maturity of the Pharisee and is to be avoided at all costs. Imposing this standard of behavior upon believers is the worst form of legalism. Imposing this standard of behavior upon believers is destructive of Christian liberty. Imposing this standard of behavior upon believers brings them into bondage to the world. It is thoroughly and entirely contrary to the revealed will of God.

One of the primary presuppositions held by the pietist is that the world is watching the Church and individual believers to see if we are behaving in a way that is attractive to them and will draw them to the truth claims of the gospel. Pietists believe that by conforming our amoral behavior to the standards of the world we will get a steady stream of people who come up to us and ask us, “what makes you so different”? That, it is alleged, paves the way for evangelism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Poison of Pietism: Types of Behavior

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

As I have pondered the best way to identify pietism, it occurred to me that a clear description of the types of human behavior, with respect to morality and law, is the best way to ferret out the pietist. Like all of the heretics of old, the pietist likes to hide behind theological terminology and pretend to be orthodox. It is only through carefully defining categories that we are able to pin him down and identify his specific error. For those who might be looking to take offense at this paragraph, let me be clear that pietism is not a heresy.

What follows is my attempt to categorize human behaviors from a moral perspective. I do not present it as biblically authoritative in any way. I do believe it is philosophically and theologically rigorous and I also believe it to be logically consistent. Hence, I believe this section does provide true information about our behavior. It is not my intention to quibble about the various categories that I describe. Nor is it my goal to get bogged down in the different definitions for each category. I ask the reader to seek to understand these categories prior to dismissing them as wrong or irrelevant. The point here is not to be philosophically exhaustive in my description of the various categories. The goal is to discover the point at which the Christian turns into the pietist and I believe these categories allow us to see that precise point.

All human behavior can be divided into seven categories. Two of those categories are moral, two of them are immoral, and three of them are amoral. The pietist adds a fourth amoral category and has a total of eight categories for human behavior. Here are the categories of human behavior.

1. Morally Best: This would be any behavior that is in accordance with both the moral law of God and the law of love (agape). In this case, the actor would have accurately appraised all possible contingencies and acted with perfect consistency in the best interests of all parties involved. I would posit that very little of our behavior falls into this category. The reason for this is simple. Nobody is omniscient. Let me give you an example. Assume a foot of snow falls overnight. My neighbor has just returned home from knee surgery and I know that he is unable to get out and shovel the snow off his sidewalk. While out shoveling my sidewalk I make the decision to continue and shovel the snow from his. Clearly my behavior is consistent with the law of God and the law of love. Nevertheless, I was not aware that my neighbor was using this snowstorm as an opportunity to teach his teenage son the importance of thinking about others. He was waiting for his son to get out and shovel the snow and my doing it on his behalf destroyed that opportunity. My behavior was not 100% consistent with the law of love (doing what my neighbor would have wanted me to do) because of my lack of knowledge.

2. Morally Good: This would be any behavior that is in accordance with the moral law of God but not in full consistency with the law of love (agape). In this case, for whatever reason, the person performing the behavior did not accurately assess all possible contingencies and, therefore, does not act with perfect consistency in the best interests of all parties involved. I would posit that most of our moral behavior falls into this category for the simple reason that we are not omniscient. The example given above is a perfect example of this type of moral behavior.

3. Sinful due to a transgression of the law of God: Anything that is not consistent with the moral law of God is an example of this type of behavior. This type of behavior is easily defined and is based upon an exposition of biblical truth and how it applies to any particular behavior. I would posit that the reprobate do this all the time and believers fall into this type of behavior intermittently. Transgressions of God’s law can be either via commission or omission but both fall into this particular category.

4. Sinful due to our fallen nature but accommodated by God: This is a category that is not frequently considered by Christians and if you have a problem with it, ignore it and go on. It is not my intention to make this the focus of this section. I simply add it because I believe it to be a biblically accurate description of this particular type of action. The argument here is a simple one. Our flesh is fallen and unredeemed. The redemption of our flesh, as believers, is assured, but future. Meanwhile, we labor in fallen flesh. Since nothing good comes from the flesh it necessarily follows that any thoughts, feelings, or motivations that come from the flesh must be sinful. Therefore, hunger, thirst, and the sex drive are all examples of sinful motivations. When we act on these motivations we sin. God, however, accommodates our sinful flesh and does not hold us morally accountable for these sins.

5. Truly amoral: This category consists of all of those things that are matters of taste, preference, or opinion. Whether you prefer Crest or Colgate, apple or cherry pie, or baseball to football, are all examples of this type of behavior.

6. Amoral behavior that may be foolish: The issue of foolish behavior is crucial to this discussion. In an attempt to define what is foolish, my church has taught (quite correctly, I believe) that foolish behavior can be recognized by the fact that it will inevitably result in a particular sinful behavior. In other words, foolish behavior is always known after the fact, when the sinful behavior is manifested. Prior to seeing the eventual result of any particular behavior, that we would deem to be foolish in advance, we must grant that the behavior is technically “amoral”. Whether the behavior stays in the amoral category, or moves into either the sinful or morally good category, depends upon the eventual outcome. Any behavior that does not lead to sinful behavior may not be called foolish behavior and no behavior can remain in the foolish category indefinitely. The possible sinful behavior that might result from the allegedly foolish behavior must be immediately known and a priori in nature. A posteriori evidence is not required. Some examples will help here:

a. The drunk who goes to hang out at the bar with his friends. If he ends up getting drunk, his decision to go there was clearly foolish. If he does not drink, his behavior was not foolish. In fact, if he does not drink his behavior can be considered morally good in that he has shown himself that he is able to exercise self control in this part of his life. At worst, his behavior would be amoral.

b. The lust filled man who makes the decision to take a walk through the red light district. If he ends up visiting a prostitute, his decision was clearly foolish. If he does not, his behavior was not foolish. In fact, if he does not visit a prostitute his behavior can be considered morally good (assuming he was not looking with lust upon the prostitutes, of course) since he has shown himself that he is able to exercise self control in this part of his life. At worst, his behavior would be amoral.

c. The unmarried couple that decide to ignore Paul’s injunction to not touch each other and decide to make out would be behaving foolishly if their behavior ended up in fornication. Clearly their behavior would at least rise to the level of foolishness. (I recognize it is possible to argue that the decision to touch is sinful.)

d. The gossip prone woman who decides to go to the beauty parlor. If she ends up gossiping, her behavior was clearly foolish. If she does not, her behavior was not foolish. In fact, her behavior can be considered morally good because she presented a “witness to the world” that it is possible to get a hair-cut and not engage in gossip. At worst, her behavior would be amoral.

e. The theft prone person who makes the decision to go to the open-air flea market. If he ends up stealing something, his decision was foolish. If he does not steal anything, it was not. In fact, his behavior can be considered morally good because he protected his neighbor’s property. At worst, his behavior would be amoral.

I believe we can all see the obvious pattern here. Foolish behavior will always end in a particular sin. However, since we are incapable of seeing the future and since we are incapable of fully knowing another person’s motives, it is impossible to know what is foolish for any particular person until after the sin has been committed. Obviously a pattern of foolish behavior in a particular individual, with the resulting sin, can give us a pretty good idea about a possible outcome; but, in areas where there is no pattern, it is impossible to predict whether the outcome will indicate foolishness or moral behavior. What is foolish for one is not necessarily foolish for another. I believe this gets to the heart of Jesus exhortation to be very careful about removing a speck in my brother’s eye prior to inspecting my own eye for a log.

Is it proper to exhort another person to avoid what I believe to be a foolish behavior? Certainly. However, if the person I am exhorting commits that allegedly foolish act and it does not result in an actual sinful act, I must admit that I was wrong and that his behavior was not foolish. On the other hand, if the person I am exhorting ends up committing that sin, he must understand that his behavior was foolish and that it inevitably resulted in his sinful behavior. The proof will be in the pudding.

7. Amoral behavior that is not sinful in itself but that potentially does harm to other believers: This type of behavior has been described in detail in my essay entitled “Unity”. This is the principle of the weaker/stronger brother. The Bible clearly teaches that the behavior of the stronger brother is not sinful. Nevertheless, due to the weakness of the weaker brother, the practice of that particular behavior in his presence becomes an occasion for sin. The stronger brother is prohibited from exercising his liberty in the presence of the weaker brother. Furthermore, he is to not hold the weaker brother in contempt. On the other hand, the weaker brother is prohibited from seeking out occasions in which he might be offended and he is to not render judgment against the stronger brother for not adhering to his own rules of personal piety.

I believe these seven categories include all types of human action. In other words, with respect to morality, there are no other types of behavior that we can describe. The pietist, on the other hand, creates an eighth category and holds all others to obedience to this new, man-made, standard.

Poison of Pietism: Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Evangelical Christianity in the United States has largely adopted a series of unofficial doctrines and practices that have a corrosive effect upon the work and ministry of the Church in this country. Pietism has caused the Church to lose it’s saltiness. Pietism has caused the Church to extinguish it’s light. Pietism has resulted in the Church becoming culturally irrelevant in the western world. Pietism is a poison that is eviscerating the proclamation of the gospel to the world.

The doctrines and practices of pietism are not spelled out in any theological textbook or enumerated in any mission statement. Rather, they have evolved over the years to become a very cohesive and powerful detriment to true biblical ministry. The mere fact that pietism has been able to operate “under the radar” is a huge part of the reason for it’s success. It is likely that the Church would have rejected a full out frontal assault containing the doctrines and practices of pietism. However, the slow progression of a subtle transformation of doctrine and practice, all couched in highly spiritual terminology and spoken of by people in grave tones and with serious expressions, has been sufficient to bring about this coup of orthodox theology and practice.

Before discussing pietism it is important to momentarily discuss true biblical piety. Piety is a good thing. Piety is a term used to describe the position of the individual and the Church before God. True piety has both individual and corporate elements in it. Individual piety is seen in the “closet” experiences of individual believers and is intensely personal. In fact, it is wrong to even attempt to take the things that take place in the believer’s closet and bring them out into public scrutiny. It consists, among many things, of biblical study, prayer, praise, meditation, and private worship. Individual piety forms the heart of the Christian experience. Much has been written about it and I have no intention of describing it in any more detail here.

Corporate piety contains the same elements of biblical study, prayer, praise, and worship that are found in the private form of piety and brings them into the public arena in the local church. Of necessity these elements take on a different character when they are practiced in public. A certain degree of relational intimacy with God is lost. On the other hand, a dynamism that only exists in a group context is discovered. The expression of corporate piety also has a different content. Private piety deals with private and personal matters. These are matters that would typically never be known by any other individuals. Corporate piety deals with public matters. These are matters that are, quite naturally, publicly known. The weekly Lord’s Day services in our local churches should be designed to inculcate this expression of corporate piety. Others have written extensively on this topic and it is not my intention to pursue it any further in this essay.

Just like true piety, pietism comes in two forms. Individual pietism is that doctrine which asserts that the entirety of the Christian experience can be summed up as “me and God”. There is no room for the Church in individual pietism. There is very little room for biblical truth and propositional revelation in individual pietism as the subjective spiritual experiences of the individual become the defining reality for truth. I have discussed this form of pietism in detail in previous essays and it is not the focus of this essay. See “Authority”, “Selective Biblicism” and “Evangelical Heresies” for additional information on the negative impacts and consequences of individual pietism.
The second form of pietism is corporate in nature. Corporate pietism, known hereafter simply as pietism, takes the worst elements of individual pietism and institutionalizes them. The shifts of doctrine and practice that take place under the umbrella of corporate pietism are sometimes difficult to discern. Like all corruptions of the truth, there is a kernel of truth at the heart of the corruption. Perhaps the best way to summarize the primary focus of corporate pietism is to say that corporate pietists have committed the sin of assimilation (see my essay entitled “Assimilation” for more information) in order to attempt to be respected by an imaginary entity they call the “watching world”.

In this essay I am going to look at many aspects of pietism. I will begin by clearly delineating the types of behavior that define the pietist. The reader will discover that the core definition of pietism is to be found in an aberrant behavior that is designed to gain the favor of the “watching world”. I will examine the theological presuppositions behind pietism and ask and answer the question, “Is the world watching?”. I will also examine the teachings of Paul on the weaker brother/stronger brother doctrine and see how it relates to modern pietism. The doctrine of evangelism will be examined. The doctrine of pietism and sacrifice will be examined. The doctrine of pietism and prayer will be examined. I will describe why Christians are prone to fall into the sin of pietism. Lastly, I will offer up a defense of the biblical doctrine of Christian liberty. Christian liberty stands in stark contrast to the stultifying doctrines and practices of pietism and offers the only truly biblical platform for ministry and true piety.

Love: Friendship and Conclusion

This is the last in a series of posts on the doctrine of Love. Click here to see the entire series.

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Notice that the author did not say that a wife or a husband loves at all times. We know all too well that husbands and wives frequently do not love at all times. A friend, who is a friend indeed, is defined by the fact that he does love at all times. This characteristic is not used to describe other love relationships. This characteristic gets to the heart of the matter. A true friend is one who loves at all times. A true friendship is characterized by the fact that it is not broken or disturbed as a result of unloving thoughts and acts.

Proverbs 18: 24 says, “A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Here we find the writer of the proverb making an excellent point about the relationship between pseudo-friends (or what Lewis calls “acquaintanceships”) and true friends. In the course of making his point about true friendship he also makes the point that friendship is superior to brotherly affection. This is a very important point. A man with many “friends” comes to ruin. Why? Because they were not true friends. However, there is one, a true friend, who is more emotionally and relationally close than even a physical brother.

We find an example of this type of friendship in the relationship of David and Jonathan. Morally perverted interpreters of the Bible have taken this relationship and distorted it into a homosexual one. They have been forced to do this because they have no conception of the powerful emotional intensity found within friendship, choosing instead to believe that erotic love is the king of the emotions. II Samuel 1: 26 contains David’s statement about Jonathan after David had found out about his death. David says, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” It is easy to see how sexual perverts can misinterpret this verse. David actually has the audacity to assert that his friendship for Jonathan was more emotionally powerful than any of his erotic relationships with his wives and concubines! A statement like that would get him thrown out of most evangelical churches today. David knew the nature of friendship and clearly stated that it was the most intense and passionate of the human love emotions.

Maybe I have convinced you about the nature of friendship, but what about our emotional relationship to God? How are we to understand it? I would suggest that we would be best served by extending our understanding of phileo to our relationship with God as well. Erotic love for God is impossible and nonsensical. Storge affection for God, if it could exist between a created being and it’s Creator (which I do not think is possible), would be trivial at best. Phileo, as the connection of the soul of man with the Spirit God, is precisely what we find to be the case. God has made us in His image. Our relationship to Him should be grounded in agape love. Our relationship to Him can be bathed in the emotional love of friendship, if we are serious about pursuing it.

Friendship With God

Abraham is our spiritual father, if we are believers. The covenant that God makes with us today is an extension of the covenant that He made with Abraham thousands of years ago. The faith of Abraham serves as the example of biblical faith that is imputed as righteousness to God’s people. In James 2:23 we see the following statement about Abraham, “…and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ and he was called the friend of God.” Arguably, Abraham had the most intimate relationship with God of all of the Old Testament saints. The New Testament describes him as God’s friend.

John 15: 13-15 contains one of the most powerful statements about our relationship with God in all of the Scriptures. Jesus is instructing His disciples just prior to His crucifixion. As a part of this instruction to them, at the end of His earthly ministry, He says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Most Christians today read over that passage with nary an emotional response. That should come as no surprise since the nature and quality of most believer’s friendships is poor at best. In light of what the Bible says about friends, should it not thrill our hearts to have Jesus tell us that we are now His friends?

There is no greater emotional connection that the connection of friendship. There is no more passionate relationship than that of friends. Friendship outstrips affection and eros in dignity, worth, and intensity. The fact that it is felt by so few does not change the nature of this reality. Jesus calls us His friends. Why do so few know this? Even more, why do so few feel this?

Earlier we looked at I Corinthians 16:22 which says, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.” The focus of that section was upon the fact that Paul did not believe cursing people was inconsistent with the doctrine of love. What I did not mention is the fact that the condition the curse is contingent upon is the lack of phileo. When Paul says, “If anyone does not love the Lord”, he is saying, “If anyone does not phileo the Lord.” Jesus has called us His friends. Is He ours? Do we phileo Him? Popular Christian music is filled with “I love you Lord”. What is being said? Does anybody have any idea what they mean when they say they love the Lord? Does anybody understand what it means to phileo the Lord? Does anybody understand the consequences of not phileo-ing the Lord? I fear not.

I believe most Christians do not recognize Jesus as their friend because they have little or no experience with human friendships, just as Lewis asserted. I also believe that the primary reason most Christians have no experience with friendship is because they have filled their lives with things and roles of little or no significance. The lives of most believers are so filled with things, behaviors, and practices that do not matter. It is literally the case that there is no time left to discover and cultivate a friendship. Most believers, I believe it is fair to say, don’t even know who they are as individuals, they do not know themselves when they stand as naked personalities. The average believer is defined by his roles. He is a husband, a chemist, a father, a golfer, and an aficionado of antique cars. But who is he when everything is stripped away? Who is he when he stands, as Lewis says, with a naked personality? Very few people are able to answer this question and, as a result, very few people have experienced the joy and thrill of friendship, with others or with God.

I believe most Christians do not feel friendship with Jesus primarily because they are at odds with His will and purposes. Friendship is based upon commonality. It is not possible to cultivate a friendship with one with whom you are at odds. It is not possible to cultivate a friendship with one whom you are at cross purposes. Given the almost total biblical illiteracy of today’s Evangelical, it is practically impossible that the Jesus of the Bible will ever be experientially encountered. Given the horrible theology and beliefs about God held in the minds of the average Evangelical, it is virtually impossible for a friendship with the true and living God to develop. There is just too much distance between what the believer believes and does and the real nature and character of God for a friendship to be discovered and cultivated. As a result, most Christians live their lives in relationship with a God of their own imaginations, or, at best, with a figment of the God of the Bible.


Evangelicals have no theologically precise doctrine of love. The doctrine of love, as evidenced by the behavior of most Evangelicals, is completely contrary to the doctrine of love taught in the Bible. The doctrine of love clearly explicated in the Bible is consistent throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The biblical doctrine of love has significant inter-testamental changes that are routinely ignored by the Evangelical. The practice of this corrupt doctrine of love is responsible for the physical, psychic, and spiritual harm of thousands of people, believers and unbelievers, around the world. This fraudulent doctrine of love has destroyed our ability to practice biblical forgiveness and discipline. This abhorrent doctrine of love has made biblical evangelism impossible. The elevation of emotional loves over agape has rendered our relationships with each other, in the church and in the family, unfruitful and contentious. We need to repent and return to the biblical doctrine of love.

Love: A Suggestion for our Doctrine of Marriage

This is part of a series of posts on the doctrine of Love. Click here to see the entire series.

Given that the majority of marriages between Christians end up in divorce and given that a majority of Christians who are married practiced sexually immoral behaviors prior to being married, does it not make sense to consider an alternative view with respect to the establishment of new family units? I fear that the Church does not seriously consider the damage that is being done to believers by virtue of our decision to overlook porneia and to use eros as the basis for the institution of marriage. Of that, we need to repent. Meanwhile I have a few suggestions that, if followed, I believe would make our marriages more consistent with biblical truth.

  1. We must stop using eros as the foundation for marriage. We must recognize that a person who is experiencing eros is the least qualified to determine if his/her prospective marriage partner is suitable. Therefore we must have someone, who is not under the influence of eros, be involved in the decision to get married. For children under the biblical age of emancipation (20 years of age) that someone would be their parents. For adults (over 20) it would be their closest friends (which could still include the parents, but at a different level of relationship). I am not saying that eros may not be a catalyst for considering marriage. Indeed, it is most often the case that it will. However, it should never been seen as the foundation for a biblical marriage.
  2. We must stop overlooking the serious sin of porneia and the biblical commandment for those who do not have self-control to get married, regardless of their age. In I Corinthians 6, just prior to his instructions on marriage, Paul is speaking directly about sexual immorality. In verses 9 and 10 he flatly states that those who engage in the practice of fornication (porneia) “will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Do we believe this? Do we take this seriously? Why do we look the other way with respect to porneia? Why do we seem to be more afraid of early marriages than we are the judgment of God?
  3. We must recognize that marriage is the remedy for porneia and require that all who are engaging in porneia be married, regardless of age. This foolish notion that a woman must wait until she has her college degree prior to marriage is as unbiblical as it can possibly be. The same is true for the man. If they are “burning” with lust, they are commanded to marry. Early marriage is not evil or wrong. The cultural opposition to the concept of early marriage is primarily derived from the “women’s liberation” movement and should have no impact upon the Christian. We would all greatly benefit from a better understanding of the biblical roles of husband and wife in a marriage. That is not the focus of this essay and has been addressed somewhat in my essay on “Authority”.
  4. For those over the age of 20, get good counsel from those who know you and your prospective spouse best before swearing the marriage vow. Recognize that eros is a deceiver. Roll play, in the presence of neutral parties, some of the situations that are going to come up in your future married life and see how you react to each other. Deal with problems such as children, money, employment, and sex. Do what you can to break through the dense fog of eros and seek to see each other as you really are before getting married.
  5. For those under the age of 20, parents need to be willing to exercise biblical oversight. This means being aware of the fact that children can and do experience eros as well. It is not to be dismissed as “puppy love” and ignored. Too many young girls have become pregnant as a result of “puppy love”. Biblical law recognized that a young man or woman could be married anytime between the ages of 13-20, under the guidance and supervision of their parents. Put quite frankly, I believe we could greatly benefit from returning to the practice of arranged marriages. Parents are usually in the best position to see who the best marriage partner could be for their child. But Evangelical parents do not take their children’s eros seriously. That is a huge mistake. (In all of this I am assuming, of course, that marriage would only be between believers.) I Corinthians 7 continues and addresses the father of a virgin girl (between age 13-20) and gives him instructions on how to handle himself with respect to the issue. In verse 36 and 37 he flatly states that if his virgin daughter is failing in the self-control arena, he should have her get married, no matter how young she is. We should do the same.

We need to admit that the evangelical doctrine of marriage, if it exists at all, is a miserable failure. We need to repent of what we are doing and return to biblical standards of behavior and belief with respect to love and marriage.

Where is the Passion?

I can’t conclude this essay without addressing a question that I am sure is in the mind of everyone who takes the time to read this. Where is the passion? All that I have written about is the necessity of duty and obedience to the law. Love, as everybody universally experiences it, is about passion and excitement. I have seemingly reduced the Christian experience to a series of stultifying duties that sap the individual believer of all the joy of living. Is this all that a relationship with the living God entails? Certainly not.

I have to quote extensively from C.S. Lewis in order to make my point for those who have or will not read his book “The Four Loves”. In the chapter on friendship he says the following things:

When either Affection or Eros is one’s theme, one finds a prepared audience. The importance and beauty of both have been stressed and almost exaggerated again and again. Even those who would debunk them are in conscious reaction against this laudatory tradition and, to that extent, influenced by it. But very few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all…. to the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few “friends”. But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceships which those who make it would describe as “friendships” show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that Philia which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitis on which Cicero wrote a book… How has this come about?

The first and most obvious answer is that few value it because few experience it. And the possibility of going through life without the experience is rooted in that fact which separates Friendship so sharply from both the other loves. Friendship is — in a sense not at all derogatory to it — the least natural of loves; the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary…. This so called non-natural quality in Friendship goes far to explain why it was exalted in ancient and medieval times and has come to be made light of in our own…. Affection and Eros were too obviously connected with our nerves, too obviously shared with the brutes. You could feel these tugging at your guts and fluttering in your diaphragm. But in Friendship — in that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen — you got away from all that. This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.

But then came Romanticism and “tearful comedy” and the “return to nature” and the exaltation of Sentiment; and in their train all that great wallow of emotion which, though often criticized, has lasted ever since…. (on the other hand) Friendship is a relation between men at their highest level of individuality. It withdraws men from collective “togetherness” as surely as solitude itself could do….In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself…Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.

If what I have written so far seems dull, drab, and lacking in emotional intensity, I would suggest that you, as Lewis suggests, are an example of one who may be described as being in the “great wallow of emotion”. I suspect that it is also true that you do not value friendship (phileo in Greek) because you do not experience much of it. Lewis has made some brilliant points here that directly relate to our doctrine of love.

Phileo is an emotion that will continue into the eternal state. Unlike the emotions of affection and eros, which originate in the body and will pass away with the body, phileo originates in the soul. The soulish nature of phileo can be seen in what Lewis describes as the essential solitude of phileo. Phileo is a love that is expressed by an individual who is not engaged in any behavioral role. Eros is expressed between a husband and a wife. Affection (storge) is expressed between a mother and a daughter. Phileo is expressed between two people, regardless of the other roles they play in life, because they share a common perspective about what they see and experience. In the eternal state, all of our roles that are related to life in this world will cease to exist. Not surprisingly, the loves that nurtured and sustained those roles will also cease to exist. The love that nurtures and sustains our connection to one another as individual souls, however, will continue forever. That love is phileo and it is, in my estimation, the greatest and noblest of the human emotions.

Phileo is based upon commonality. Friendships do not develop between people that are diametrically opposed to each other. Friendships grow and deepen as more and more common elements are discovered and explored. Friendships exist, in their most pure expression, between Christians who share a common Spirit, serve a common Lord, and follow the dictates of a common Bible. Friendships are most passionately discovered between individual members of the Body of Christ who are most similar to one another in gifts, skills, and calling. Lest you think I am making all this up, let’s consider a couple of biblical examples.