Last week I posted something called Potiphar’s Wife, Survivor, which elicited something of an enthusiastic reaction. That reaction was registered in different places, like Facebook, Twitter, and in the comments section here, and a noticeable bit of it ran down the lines of the eff-you-Doug school of thought. Not only was it registered in different places, it was registered in different registers. What I was doing was vile, outside the pale, scarcely civilized, and so on.
What I actually had done was to take the case of Potiphar’s wife, who falsely played the victim, and give her the jargon that victims are expected to use today—survivor, therapy, rape culture, and so on.
What I want to do here is examine why such an innocuous point garnered such a fierce reaction, and then I want to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on the foundational compromises which necessarily breed that kind of reaction. It would be dereliction of ministerial responsibility to do anything other than bring the message of Jesus to bear on a mess like that.
So a very reasonable question asks, “What do you intend when you do things like this? What are you trying to accomplish?” The answer is simple, and comes near the conclusion of The Silver Chair. I want everyone to notice, in the first instance, that the thrumming has stopped, and I want them to realize, the second place, that everything smells pretty much like burnt marshwiggle. It is not a pleasant smell, I freely grant, but it is what the situation calls for.
WHAT MAKES SOMETHING VILE?
In the course of looking at the stream of responses to my post, I noticed the word vile recurring. It came from trolls and it came from otherwise responsible voices like Aimee Byrd’s. But what makes something vile?
In the old days, a man’s speech was vile if he spoke or communicated vile things in a vile way. He was vile if he was vile. But now we have gotten to the point where vile speech is anything which causes vile speech in others—a circumstance which can always be arranged by the easily aggrieved, or by the presto-triggered. And so suppose that someone points out that Potiphar’s wife was not really a survivor, as she would have claimed, and someone else comes into to argue something like “eff-you, Doug! Effin’-bleep-&!*# this is why I bleepin’ left the effin’ church because of effin hypocrites like you! Effin’ in the blim-blam!”
Is it not apparent that the first statement is what caused the second statement to come into existence? Thus it is that talking sense in a calm voice can be considered vile, and a volcanic eruption of sewage is taken as a matter of course. That person must be dealing with some deep wounds, and so we give them a pass. But talking sense is provocative, and therefore vile.
Christians have actually long specialized in responding this way. When they come across a confrontation between someone who is being fully irrational and someone being rational, they write off the irrational one as a lost cause, and make their appeal to the rational one. On one level this makes at least some initial sense, but we have been doing this for so long that we scarcely notice it anymore, and we do not realize that we routinely come across as though we were finding fault with the person who is behaving, and as though we are giving a free exculpatory pass to any whirling dervish with enough of vocabulary to cuss at anything within his spin radius.
Let me illustrate this with a very short play with three characters. Let us call them Me (M), Voice of Outrage (VOO), and Voice of Moderation (VOM).
M: I think that a wife and mother should learn how to make those extra flaky biscuits, and serve them with honey butter. That would make the men in her life very happy.
VOO: You troglodyte! You bleepin’ waste of skin! This is what is wrong with the effin’ church! Judgmental, harsh, unloving, intemperate shitheads! Seriously, biscuits?
VOM: Doug, don’t you think it would be best if you tried to moderate your views somewhat in the future? Saying the word biscuits is not essential to gospel witness, is it? I find this approach to be vile.
WHAT IS FEMINISM?
Never forget that at the end of the day, feminism is a goddess. Not only is she a goddess, but she is a fierce goddess, implacable, and impossible to reason with. She is an idol like many of our modern idols — made up of abstractions like egalitarianism, sentimentalism, and the arbitrary dictates of erratic feminist sensibilities. Like many idols, her power arises from the shared faith of her devotees, and in the modern world that power is palpable.
We are not (yet) at the point where you must worship her, as though she were your only deity. But we are at the point where she must be propitiated by all. You may not come anywhere near her without leaving a tribute offering—a token, a bowl of fruit, a pinch of incense. Something. Not only so, but many Christian women believe that they have a positive Christian duty to leave some sort of thoughtful little votive candle in the comments section as a way of “reaching out” to someone in bondage to this goddess, seeking to evangelize with niceness instead of with the gospel. They couldn’t be more mistaken. But this is why you can find sweet Christian women “liking” the most appalling falsehoods.
We are told the tribute is not “much,” but if it is not rendered, then hell hath no fury like what will happen next. This is why so many Christians speak to one another in hushed tones. This is why so many of us, even good men, tiptoe past her temples. This is why women in our churches so often get slipshod pastoral care—because elders and pastors are simply afraid of providing the kind of care that might involve confrontation of any sin that has a peculiarly feminine foundation. And if a woman makes a pronouncement or allegation in the name of this goddess, there are those in conservative circles who seriously maintain that it is our duty to respond with sorrow and contrition, regardless of the circumstances. And that is the heart and soul of our compromise, as we will soon see.
Like the pagan gods of old, this goddess functions by receiving flattery and by destroying a person’s life if she doesn’t receive it. But the power to destroy is not the same as the power to save. In order to be saved, we have to be regenerated. This means that we must be begotten to salvation (1 Pet. 1:3). But a goddess can beget nothing.
She can do nothing, except through what she can accomplish through fear engendered by lies. When it comes down to it, she has no real power at all. And if you can’t run with the big gods, then you should stay on the porch.
Throughout the Bible, we see that chasing after other gods is described as whoredom. Israel was married to Jehovah, and her trysts with other gods are described in graphic ways (Eze. 16:25). But what do we call it when a good portion of the bride of Christ today wants to chase after the goddess? This is nothing other than covenantal lesbianism. It is a gross insult to leave a man for another man, and the prophets routinely describe idolatry in that way. But it is an even more profound insult when a woman leaves a man for another woman. Every form of feminism in the church is just such an insult aimed straight at the Lord Jesus. Let us leave the bridegroom of glory, the temptation goes, and let us do it for some celestial chick.
But the next step is important to understand as well. Not only must the goddess be propitiated, but she must be propitiated through her designated representatives, her priestesses. While feminism as goddess resonates with us, taken alone it is too abstract. Every religion must have embodied representatives, including this one.
So as this new religion is taking shape in our midst, we see that the priestesses are taken from the ranks of victims. Now some of the victims are true victims, some of them are partial victims, and some of them are liars in the same category of Potiphar’s wife. It is truly a mixed bag. In the meantime, evil men do their part in keeping the ranks of true victims full. But once someone has become a priestess, the rites of their temples must be observed and harshly defended. They must start to blame men as such, and not just abusive men.
Men as such. A friend who serves as a missionary in the Ivory Coast tells me of a deep custom in the village where he has served. If a woman dies in childbirth, all the men in the village have to go into hiding for a couple of days. This is because the women all strip down to loin cloths, and take any available weapons, and go on a rampage, severely beating any man they find. Think of the Bacchae, and think of the future.
So priestesses of the new religion must hashtag things like #F***thePatriarchy. They must also pour out abuse on real victims of men, women who have found healing in Jesus Christ, and who refuse to be inducted into this new faith. All the priestesses must be designated as victims, but not all victims get to be priestesses.
So this whole thing is not a choice between victims and non-victims. It is fundamentally a choice between Jesus and the goddess. It is a choice between our elder brother, our high priest, on the one hand, and a pagan priestess on the other.
WRATH OF THE GODDESS
What propitiates? If the wrath is genuine, meaning the wrath of a holy God, the only thing that will propitiate that wrath is the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross for the sins of His people. But the wrath of the goddess is appeased with cajolery, flattery, book deals, offerings, conference gigs, and so on. And if the priestess is a millennial, then Facebook likes will frequently do the trick. Tell her that she is “so brave,” or that her story is inspiring.
Wrath is a very real category, but there is a night and day difference between the wrath of pagan deities and the wrath of God. The wrath of pagan deities is disconnected from right and wrong, from truth and falsehood. It does not matter if you are personally innocent. If you got on Juno’s wrong side, that was it, pal. The merits of your case did not matter. The merits of your case are a matter of indifference. The Fates were looking the other way. You simply got caught in the machinery.
Now if an ordinary victim of a crime is seeking for some reason to have her status upgraded to priestess-victim, one of the tell-tale signs is that she will demand to have her story automatically believed. This is a pagan version of justification by faith alone.
Now mark me carefully here, ye who would ignore this part. Whenever a woman reports a crime against her, she should be heard with sensitivity and care, she should be treated respectfully, and her claims should be thoroughly investigated, in all seriousness. She must not be blamed for reporting the assault, or treated as though bringing an accusation itself were a crime. She must be treated with high courtesy. Mark that, and mark those liars who say that I don’t believe this.
But the demand that she be instantly believed is in a different category. What this amounts to is a demand that whoever she names as the alleged culprit must by no means have the presumption of innocence, and under no circumstances should he have a fair trial. If the system formally believes her the night she files the report, then the system formally disbelieves him the night of the arrest. And notice that in this new system the duty of believing her is applied regardless of testimony and evidence. It is a demand for faith that is disconnected from the world of facts. Worship of this goddess is fideistic. It should be obvious that giving the accused a fair trial is a form of disbelieving the accuser.
This is also why a short parable where Potiphar’s wife is using the jargon of someone who must be believed at face value—when the story is common enough that we all know she must not be believed—is a short parable that causes a fair number of Internet commentators to explode into little pieces. The problem was caused because I gave Potiphar’s wife the language of an aspiring priestess. That is why there was a ruckus. This is why there was such wrath. I took the liturgical jargon that must be believed in order to “keep the faith,” and I superimposed it on an unbelievable story.
WE LIVE IN CRAZY TOWN
If you think that strong words and plain dealing are not really necessary because things are still relatively normal out there, let me remind you that a girl transitioning to “boy” and taking testosterone for it just won the state girls’ wrestling title in Texas, when a girl just taking testosterone to cheat would just be cheating. We crack down on cheating at wrestling, and throw accolades at those trying to cheat biology. Let me remind you that safe spaces at universities have sobbing men in them because Trump rescinded Obama’s great bathroom order, such that it now appears that men might have to pee in the men’s room. Could things get any darker? Some European men recently protested sexual assaults on women by Muslims by donning miniskirts themselves and marching in a defiant procession, showing their knobby knees to the quaking rapists. More than a few people in authority have lost their cotton-picking minds, in other words, and waiting until later to point it out will not make things any easier for anybody.
We need many more Christians with courage, who are willing to say that Christians must refuse any sort of homage to the goddess. Make no mistake, this takes courage. Many of your fellow Christians will charge you with being a hothead, with being unnecessarily reckless. Don’t you see, Gideon, that when you pull down the Baal, this involves all of us? Don’t you see that drawing cartoons of Muhammad is counterproductive? In order to keep our liberty, we must make sure never to exercise it.
MISCELLANEOUS MISOGYNISTIC MISSES
Allow me to take a few moments to clear away some standard objections
It is the work of two minutes for the advocates of this alien religion to start yelling that I am a misogynist, along with others like me, and that we have a deep loathing for women. Not a bit of it. How does it reveal a loathing for women to plead with them never to give up their essential glory? I loathe feminism because I believe that Scripture reveals femininity as glorious. Why on earth would a first rate woman want to become a third rate anything else?
And here is a parenthetical logic lesson. If I say that all dogs have four legs, I am not arguing that if it has four legs it must be a dog. It could be a cat, or a cow, or a moose. And if I say that all victim-liars have victim stories, I am not saying that if a woman has a victim story, she must be a victim liar. This is a cute little fallacy called affirming the consequent.
Neither is it an attack on all women to say that some women are dishonest. To charge dishonest women with being dishonest is not to say that honest women are being charged with being dishonest. Or so it seems to me.
And to speak autobiographically for a moment, as a pastor I have labored to help wives escape abusive situations, I have helped wives reconcile with repentant husbands, I have helped men deal with false accusations, and I have watched as self-absorbed people destroyed their only possibilities for happiness. I have helped people come to grips with the fact that what they have done was inexcusable. But inexcusable is, thank God, not the same as unforgivable. More on that shortly. If you want to read more about one portion of this ministry, check here.
If you wonder why advocates of the new religion pour abuse on ordinary victims like this, on regular people, it is because—to repeat—this is not a contrast between all victims on one side and all non-victims on the other. It is a contrast between Jesus as our High Priest and true Victim and the goddess as aspiring priestess-victim.
It is a contrast between two different approaches to propitiation—Christ’s blood as propitiation on our behalf, or our throat-clearing apologies, offered to a sullen and offended priestess. And you cannot split the difference. If you serve the one, you cannot serve the other.
LOVE OF THE FATHER
So why do I do things like this? Why do I write things that challenge the reign of the goddess? The answer is that I am a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who was sent for us men and for our salvation. He is the only way to the Father. At the heart of all that is, we find fatherhood. This is why the gospel is so good.
When Jesus teaches us to pray, He teaches us to pray to our Father (Matt. 6:9). When He said that He was the way, the truth, and the life, He followed it up by saying that no one could come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The apostle Paul bowed before the Father of the Lord Jesus, from whom all fatherhood on earth derives its name (Eph. 3:14-15).
C.S. Lewis once said this about George MacDonald:
“Far the most important thing we can know about George MacDonald is that . . . an almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations the most central” (George MacDonald: An Anthology, emphasis mine).
So when you come to the apex of all that is, you do not find a goddess there. She is an idol, and thus cannot occupy the highest place. Among the gods (and goddesses) there is no one like our God (Ps. 86:8). What you find in the highest place is a Father. Jesus brings us to that Father. That is why He came to earth. We needed to be reconciled with His Father. We still do.
In the New Testament, when the gospel is preached, the message is repent and believe. Repent of what? Believe what? The answer is repent of your sins, and believe the gospel.
When God grants repentance to a people, He grants repentance for particular sins, for particular evils. He does not grant a nebulous unhappy feeling about that ill-defined sensation of angst. He brings the guilt, and He brings the repentance. The guilt is over fornication, and drunkenness, and lying, and blame-shifting, and slander, and back-biting, and carousing, and rape, and incest, and malice, and self-righteousness. To use Whitefield’s great phrase, God in His mercy, “puts thorns in your bed.”
Some people like to pretend that because there is a “dispute,” we can’t really tell who belongs in what category. Really? Take a passage like the following, and scroll down a vitriolic comment thread. Can you not find anybody talking like this?
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:1–5).
This is a toxic cauldron, with a mix of venom, lies, narcissistic flattery, slander, backbiting, great swelling boasts, battery acid under the tongue, contempt for parents, and of course the endless pursuit of lust. And Jesus comes down to this our degenerate Cana, and offers to turn all of it into the finest of wines.
He can only do this because He died on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for all who believe in Him. This is true propitiation, not the thin veneer propitiation offered by the goddess. The religion of the goddess reminds me of Niebuhr’s comment: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” But still, there is turmoil in their lives, and so they think something must be done. And what must be done is that the goddess must be feted and flattered.
The true propitiation provided by God through Christ on the cross was a real death for real sin, accomplished through the outpouring of real wrath. Jesus died and rose, and for those who are in Him, this means that nothing else is necessary. It means that you need not despair that the goddess can do nothing for you because you don’t need anything done for you. All is yours. Christ is God’s and you are Christ’s, and who can take that away from you?
Christ died once for all, to put sin away. His salvation is offered freely to all, and at the end of the day those who will have it are those who receive it on God’s terms. Those who will not have it are those who reject God’s terms outright, or who try to modify this gospel so that they can have it on their own terms. This means, cutting through the fog of all our rationalizations, that there will be the worst of the worst in Heaven. Get yourself ready. There will be people there who were far worse than you, and people who were far better than you in Hell. We are talking about free grace.
Remember—death, burial and resurrection. This is true gospel. False gospel invites you to blow sunshine at the goddess in the hope that she accepts you for now.
COME YE DISCONSOLATE . . .
The goddess cannot save you, and further does not even want to. The goddess offers no forgiveness for the things you have done. The goddess has no forgiveness to offer because she herself is unforgiven.
But we are still a mess. We still need a word of pardon spoken over us. In need of that cleansing word, we fear to come into the presence of the Holy One, and rightly so. We look down at ourselves with contempt. We are grimy, and our clothes are in tatters. We are filthy, and every attempt at self-improvement just smears the dirt around.
There are people who read this blog who have had sex with animals. There are readers who molested their sisters or daughters. There are readers who have lied about certain men in their lives, falsely accusing them, sometimes with devastating effects. There are people out there who are porn junkies. There are people who worship what they see every morning in their bathroom mirror. There are self-righteous prigs who think they don’t need cleansing at all. There are thieves who have tried to put things right by giving part of the swag to the church. There are miscreants, liars, scoundrels, and frauds. And the message to all such is the same message—come and welcome to Jesus Christ.
Jesus bled, died and rose to fashion a new humanity out of the unclean residue of humanity that we had all become. This is the only hope, the only way out. If we turn to Christ, He will bring us to the Father. If we refuse to come to the Father, then we are destined for the outer darkness. If it is the Father you must hide from, then that will work after a fashion. There is no functioning fatherhood there. And those who continue to follow the goddess will be lost in exactly this way. And when you come to that freezing darkness, all the lies you have told in the course of this life will truly be a thin blanket against that cold darkness. I say thin blanket, but that it not really right. There is no blanket at all, and the lies you have told, beginning with all the lies you have told yourself, are the darkness itself.
A HOLY INDIFFERENCE
So this is why I write as I do.
I have a lawn, and on that lawn are countless blades of grass. If you were to ask me whether the number of those blades were odd or even, my response would be that I do not care. It is a matter of supreme indifference to me. And in the same way, if you were to tell me that taking this stand, outlined above, is offensive to many in the modern church, and others out in the world, my indifference is comparable to my indifference about the blades of grass.
When I encounter the devotees of this exotic and alien religion (for that is exactly what it is), I do not tug at my forelock, and I do not kiss the back of my hand. I am a baptized Christian, and owe no homage whatever to this goddess. I have, it is true, drawn her ire from time to time. There is a balancing act here. Seeking to imitate the apostle Paul, I have not blasphemed the goddess Diana. Paul had pagan friends at Ephesus who were willing to testify publicly that he had not blasphemed her (Acts 19:35-37). But, on the other hand, there was a stadium full of rioting Ephesians who thought that he had done precisely that (Acts 19:25, 28). So there’s that. Sometimes the comment thread doesn’t know why they showed up exactly.
I am zealous for the Word of God, and I am zealous to see it applied as our central weapon and tool in all cultural engagement. When I get grateful feedback from the saints, as I often do, I am frequently thanked for this emphasis on cultural engagement. But often, even from the grateful, it goes something like this: thanks thanks okay many thanks okay thanks wut?
One of my aspirations is to be numbered among the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32). I work hard at this task, believing it to be an important part of my ministerial calling. And I certainly don’t have it all figured out. But I do have some of it figured out. One such lesson I have learned is this. If I say something like “dudes shouldn’t really be in the junior high girls’ showers,” and leaders in the church gasp and draw their skirts away from me, whoever they are, it is safe to say that they are not the men of Issachar.
So if you come and plead with me to lay off the goddess, my answer will be simple. No. And if you come with tears in your eyes, and say that you will make my life miserable, that you will bury me under piles of slander, calumny and opprobrium unless and until I make my peace with her, and what do you say now? Now my answer is Hell, no.
And this is not frivolous swearing. Hell is in the vocative.