Covenant Reformed Church is a Bible-believing Presbyterian Church congregation located in Evansville, Indiana.
5115 Oak Grove Road
Suite B left doors of main entrance
Evansville Indiana 47715 United States
Hours of operation:
Sunday School 9:30 a.m.
Worship Service 10:30
Fellowship Meal 12:00’ish
Email address: email@example.com
The congregation is affiliated with Hanover Presbytery. We seek to exalt and glorify Jesus Christ, to edify individuals and families and to equip disciples to reach our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Another Fine Mess we’ve Gotten Ourselves Into
When Peter Hammond, missionary to the persecuted church, last visited us, we took some time off one night to watch the movie “Gettysburg.” Peter was amazed at how the film portrayed men bunched together in groups, charging fortified positions in frontal assaults. “Seems a bit suicidal” Peter remarked, “why didn’t they use fire and maneuver?”[i] Always looking for opportunities to share my ignorance, I explained that their tactics were dictated by their technology. The average soldier during the War of Between the States[ii] was armed with a single shot, muzzle-loaded rifle with a very slow rate of fire (three rounds per minute). Tactics had been developed when smoothbore muskets were the norm that are inaccurate past 50 yards. Troops had to stand close together and fire in volleys in hopes of hitting anything. However, riflesFurthermore, the weapons were very awkward to reload, almost necessitating standing up to do so. And standing up is a sure way to get shot on the battlefield.[iii]
But what came through so powerfully in that movie, recreated by Civil War enthusiasts using authentic weapons and tactics, was the sheer courage, determination and integrity of the average soldier. They knew from personal experience the horror of war. They knew their chances of survival if wounded were negligible (no antibiotics, no anesthetics, with amputation being the treatment of choice), yet these men not only fought bravely, but charged cannon and enemy musket fire. While Pickett’s charge now seems futile, think of the courage it took for those massed formations to walk directly into certain death.[iv]
Peter’s comment was that “It’d be hard to find any Western men willing to face that today.” He’s right. Most men today would not and could not do what our great grandfathers did[v]. Now there is nothing particularly wonderful about standing up and getting shot. But soldiers on both risked everything because of principle. They did what they did because they believed it had to be done, regardless of the personal cost. Such courage is hard to find today. I am reminded of news footage from the war in Vietnam; during the 1968 Tet Offensive, an American soldier is seen hunkered down behind a large stone barrier, holding his M16 over his head by the pistol grip and shooting blindly, in the general direction of the enemy. Can you imagine this man charging a fortified position simply because his officers told him to? Possibly, but not likely. We give the Medal of Honor today for what were once, routine acts.
The Loss of Biblical Masculinity:
As we discussed the film, Peter compared the experience of those soldiers with the problems that he and other missionary organizations have today recruiting men who will stay the course. It appears that mission boards have a fantastically high failure rate; too many men sent to the field return before their tours are up. Peter’s assessment was that they lacked self-discipline, integrity and basic Christian character. As long as such men were cocooned in a nice comfortable mission station, everything was fine. But heaven forbid that such men should be inconvenienced for the Kingdom. In his own ministry, Peter said it was not the danger of being shot at while crossing a border, or fording a crocodile infested river, or even the danger of disease that ran most people off the field.[vi] It was the simple things like lack of hot showers and different food that most Westerners couldn’t handle.[vii] The point being of course, is that courage, integrity and perseverance are desperately lacking in far too many modern men.
Most Christians form their concept of what it means to be a man from our culture. Cultural influences are so powerful, often because they are so subtle. Scripture puts it this way, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:55). Psychologists call this “conformity behavior” or the tendency of the individual to change his believer to fit with perceived group norms. The society in which we live exerts tremendous pressures on the individual. If Christians do not offer a consistent Biblical worldview as an alternative, then our salt loses its savor and we end up accepting the same values as our culture. As long as the culture is Christian, fine, but when the culture is pre-Christian, post-Christian, or anti-Christian, then there is a serious problem.
After a hundred years of sociological changes resulting from the Industrial Revolution, and the growth of new religions, Western men no longer have a valid role model of what it means to be men. The cultural values have changed, and men have changed with it.
Christianized societies value self-control, discipline and hard, diligent work. Western men before the advent of 19th century Enlightenment Humanism often lived far closer to the Biblical ideal then those of us born in the post-enlightenment era. They too were susceptible to cultural forces, but at least those forces had been influenced by 1700 years of Christianity! The concepts of duty, honor, and courage were ingrained in young men at an early age. Puritan fathers taught their sons the value of hard work, perseverance despite adversity, and that they had a calling higher than themselves to which they had to be devoted. As a result, such Christian men built the foundations for modern prosperity.
But with hard work, also comes, increasing prosperity, a prosperity that allows a degree of comfort and ease and takes considerable Christian character to overcome. God’s people historically do well in adversity; it is prosperity we fail at. By the latter decades of the 18th century, New England pulpits rang with stern warnings of God’s judgment on the indolence of the youth. Rather than building on the spiritual foundation of their parents and grandparents, succeeding generations of Puritans squandered their heritage by flirting with the new religions of Arminianism, Deism. Unitarianism and Pietistic Evangelical Revivalism.
Furthermore, with the advent of new secular religions in the 19th century, came new religious values, values that placed the welfare of the individual as preeminent. Modern technology eliminated traditional role distinctions, allowing women to assume more and more power in the culture. Material prosperity created soft bodies, idolatry created soft spirits and technology finished the job. The 20th century has been a successful war against Christianity and therefore inevitably a war against Christian men. Emasculated by a feminized religion, sundered from a consistent, Biblical worldview, handicapped by an technological culture where his traditional skills were no longer needed, modern men lack the theological and sociological backbone necessary to make successful warriors for the kingdom.
Most American men, freed from their domestic responsibilities, now live in semi-permanent adolescent, consumed with pleasure, self-indulgence and personal gratification. Birth control and abortion on demand allowed women the same freedom to sin with impunity that men had often enjoyed in the past. The sexual revolution of the ‘60’s turned into a bad bargain for women. After a heady decade of debauchery, these same women were left without significant relationships[viii] and the responsibility of raising a family on their own. The most common type of marriage in America today is serial monogamy: i.e., only married to one person at a time, but changing partners when opportunity or inclination allows. The last three decades have seen an increasing number of men dumping their middle aged wives for sexy young nymphets.[ix]
Most modern evangelical churches are firmly in the hands of the women since they are usually the most active, responsible members. And since women control the church, they tend to select pastors that fit with their ideal.[x] Even in churches where women may not hold formal office, they still pull the strings, and the pastor had better be what they expect and want him to be.
Pastors cooperate in their own emasculation.[xi] Since most have no greater vision of the kingdom apart from the local church, growing the church is therefore equated with extending the kingdom. Since the most visible measure of success is a large number of people showing up on Sunday morning, numerical growth becomes the greatest and highest good.
I actually heard a specialist on church growth from a major Reformed seminary state that the greatest challenge for the PCA was how to recruit more women for positions of leadership. It seems that since the office of elder is restricted to men, upper middle-class, white, professional women are hesitant about joining the church. In order for the PCA to continue growing, he argued, we have to appeal to these women. Therefore, he advocates relegating the elders to an “oversight” group that meets once a year, and turn the actual government of the church to committees. Since there is no formal provision preventing women from serving on committees, even as “chair-persons”, they could therefore take their rightful place as leaders in the PCA. “Reformed” pastors across the country are actually hiring this man to teach them how to grow bigger churches. I rest my case.
The Biblical Model
If we want to know what men are supposed to be, we first have to understand what God created them to be. Genesis 1:26ff is the classic text. Man was created in the image of God, as a vice-reagent, and given the responsibility to exercise dominion over His creation. Please note though that God chose to reveal Himself, not in theoretical or theological language, but in terms of His creative acts; i.e., He creates something out of nothing, and then fashions and shapes that creation so that it is all very good. God’s first revelation of Himself in Scripture is in terms of His work.
No analysis can adequately deal with contemporary role confusion unless it begins with this most fundamental fact; Man was created for work. God has a divine call on each man’s labor to subdue the earth. While Rushdoony notes, man’s original work was aesthetic and scientific, to tend the garden and classify the animals, it was still work. Man was not created to live an aimless, indolent life.
It was only after Man began his dominion work that God created a helper, suitable for him. Woman was created for Man (cf. 1 Cor 11:8-9), to assist him in the subduing the earth. Therefore, there are unique sex roles that God Himself has established for men and women. Those roles are not determined by relative cultural values (real men don’t eat quiche, work in the garden or do dishes) but rather by the Creation ordinances. Man was created to do a task; Woman was created from him to assist in that task. As in the nature of the Godhead itself, Man and Woman enjoy equality of honor, but have distinct functions (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).
It is crucial to note that the curse in Genesis 3 does not alleviate man’s responsibility to work, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. Instead, the curse simply makes this work more difficult. The man must now work for the very substance of his life; “by the sweat of your brow will you eat bread.” In the same way, the woman’s task in child-bearing now occurs with great pain, but immediately after being driving from the garden, the woman bears children, and is given her name of “Life bearer.” The responsibility of the dominion mandate continues, the process just becomes more difficult.
The Genesis account also reveals that the fundamental sin of men is an abdication of responsibility, a refusal to exercise dominion on God’s terms. In the garden, Adam followed Eve’s lead, he did not protect her from temptation, and where she led, he followed. When confronted with his sin, Adam immediately tries to shift the blame to his wife, and ultimately to God. Hence, as a culture becomes more consistent with its rebellion to God, men will increasingly pervert, flee or distort their dominion duties. The more irresponsible a nation’s men are, the closer they are to judgment.[xii]
Building Godly Men:
The foundational sphere of government is self-government. Unless a man is self-governed, he cannot exercise dominion in his home, calling, church or state. We need men, godly men, men of character, integrity and perseverance who will stand up amidst adversity, speak the truth in love, boldly proclaim God’s statutes, judgments and laws, and make them work consistently in the real world.
Therefore, the first step in building godly men has to be a commitment to personal holiness. Holiness is often seen as separation from the world, but true Biblical holiness is consecration to God, a dedication and submission to God and His Law. Rushdoony has noted that the word “sacrament” comes from a Latin military term that referred to a soldier’s oath to his legion. Though the term itself was not used in the New Testament, the early church saw both baptism and the Lord’s Supper as more than simple rituals, but rather as essential components of the Covenant. Through baptism, we are brought into the visible community of the elect; through the Lord’s Supper, we demonstrate our allegiance to Christ as King. Yes, the sacraments are “means of grace” but they are also visible testimonies that ought to remind men of their duties before their Lord.[xiii]
As important as the sacraments are, they cannot be separated from the Word. The Word of God is the spiritual meat of personal holiness. God’s men need God’s Word. And let me be clear here, I am not talking about a bunch of theologians sitting in an ivory tower discussing esoteric aspects of arcane and esoteric doctrine. Granted, I love doing that, but it’s my calling. Real men of the Word are those who understand the Law and its implications to life. Deuteronomy 6:4ff is very clear here. We read the Law, we meditate on the Law, we discuss the Law, we teach the Law to our children so that we might become doers of the Law (cf. Josh 1:8, Jas 1:25, Jn 14:21, etc.). It ought to be every man’s goal to be able to sit in the city gates, dispensing wisdom and justice because their lives are being conformed in every aspect to God’s word. Therefore, men’s Bible studies are crucial studies that focus on teaching practical obedience to the principles, statutes and commandments of our King. Reformed Churches have a communion table in front of the pulpit; to tie the Word and Sacraments together. The Word is His command to His people; the Sacraments are our oath to God to obey Him (and His grace to us that empowers us to do so).
Secondly, each man must see his labor as worship. Everything he is and has belongs to God. Whatever he does for work, providing it is lawful, is acceptable to God and worthy, as long as it is done “unto the Lord” (cf. Col 3:23-24). Rather than seeing work as a regrettable necessity, as a way to finance one’s pleasures or pump up one’s ego, work itself is good. Men must become diligent, conscientious in their labor. God in His sovereignty has gifted men differently and providentially placed them in various situations. Sometimes, men find themselves working at callings that are less than satisfying. Sometimes, men must sacrifice a rewarding career or more enjoyable work for the benefit of their families. Remember, we are a nation under judgment, and as a result, many men find their work “laborious.” Only asinine, self-absorbed humanist propaganda leads men to believe their labor is worthless unless it is “fulfilling.”
Thirdly, as time and opportunity allow, families ought to work towards establishing family businesses. Self-employment not only frees us from the tyranny of working for others, it also fosters the kind of hard, diligent labor that God blesses. We are not there yet; most men today could not assume the responsibilities necessary when working for themselves. There is a lot of the slave mentality rampant in Christian circles today. A slave seeks security and so sells himself and his family into bondage (1 Cor 7:23). Some times, there is no other option. But a godly man will seek freedom and the responsibility that goes with it.[xiv]
Fourthly, in order for men to lead effectively at home, they must have godly women to help them. Thus before a man gets married, he ought to know his dominion calling and be working diligently at it. Furthermore, he must select a woman who will support and assist in that calling. In ancient Israel, a man had to pay a bride price that equaled three years of his labor. This bride price not only became the woman’s social security, but also demonstrated to her father that this man was responsible, future oriented and could provide for his daughter. It also ensured that a man valued highly the wife that God gave him. If he worked for her, he would treasure her as the gracious gift of God she is. Godly women would do well to carefully evaluate potential suitors as to their callings. The issue should not be, “do I love him,” but rather, “do I respect him.”
Finally, godly men must find churches where they are admonished and instructed in their roles and where the pastor teaches sound doctrine applied to life. Sadly, as the stack of letters, faxes and email messages on my desk testify, there do not seem to be a lot of such churches available today. Some have opted out of the institutional church altogether, and who can blame them? Why attend a church with a mushy headed preacher or elders who won’t take a stand, adjudicate a problem, confront sin or teach the truth?
But allow me to be radical for a moment. A healthy church is vital to one’s spiritual growth and development, and the care of godly elders who keep watch over our souls (Hebs 13:17) is crucial to building warriors for the Kingdom (something no tape ministry can do, no matter how brilliant the teacher[xv]). Then why do so many Christians continue to live in areas where there is no solid church?
It is one thing to have a vision to reach a certain locale for the gospel and so start a church in a spiritual wasteland. But I am always a little skeptical when a home church never seems to grow beyond the immediate family. Could it be that so many Christians lack good churches because they are not sharing the gospel and starting a new church (it only takes ten tithing families to hire a pastor)? Or could it be that they value their economic situation above their spiritual one?[xvi] Our ancestors made the arduous journey to this country, giving up land, jobs and families just so they could have sound churches for their children. Maybe more of us ought to think carefully about why we are living wherever we are living. For the sake of our wives, and our children and their future, perhaps we too ought to consider moving to areas where we know there are sound churches, even if it means some career or financial sacrifices along the way.[xvii]
These very basic principles are only the beginning but offer the potential of reforming our culture. Men must find their calling, work diligently to fulfill it, find wives who will support and encourage them, in churches that assist and not undercut them. The Kingdom needs men, and it is out of these kind of families that such men will grow to change a world.
[i] “Fire and maneuver” is the modern military practice of using most of your troops to pin the enemy down with suppressive fire, while the others assault the objective: some squads fires, the others maneuver. This wastes ammunition, but saves lives.
[ii] Er, excuse me, my prejudices are showing, I really meant the War of Anti-Christian, Northern, Humanistic, Abolitionist, Unitarianism!
[iii] Though Spencer and Henry lever action repeating rifles were available during the war, they were never issued in great quantities. Again, the generals prepared for the last war and the grunts on the front line paid the price. Repeating rifles were thought to waste ammunition.
[iv] Generals in WW1 continued to send massed formations in frontal assaults against machine guns. The Germans summarized the British Army as “Lions led by Asses.”
[v] Research studies done during this century repeatedly show that in a platoon of 20 men, only 2 to 4 will actually fire their weapons in combat; most men will hug the ground and take cover.
[vi] Actually, this only applies to Peter’s ministry. As one former African missionary told me, “My time was a waste. I spent two years playing ping pong in a rec-center!”
[vii] Actually, I have to side with Peter’s staff on this one: I’ve seen some of the food his missionaries have to eat: roasted rat and sun dried fish. And married men get to eat the eyes!
[viii] There’s an old adage about a cow and milk that seems appropriate here, but of course I am far too urbane to repeat it in print!
[ix] As I write this, there is a new movie being hyped about the revenge of three such wives on their erring husbands.
[x] For example, when I was in seminary, all first year students were given a vocational analysis test that measured their affinity with people in various jobs. I was told that I was probably unsuited for the pastorate because I scored too high on the masculine scales and not high enough on the feminine ones.
[xi] Of the four “Christian” feminist authors I was required to read in various evangelical seminaries, two have since became lesbians, two divorced their husbands and all abandoned any kind of evangelicalism
[xii] This can be clearly seen in pagan cultures where men abandon the dreary, dismal long-term term work necessary for dominion (such as raising crops and food) for the more glamorous short cut of hunting and warfare. It is significant that the more primitive a culture, the less horticulture men do. There is a cause and effect relationship between the activities of men and the health of a culture.
[xiii] I refuse to bite on the controversy surrounding frequency of communion, my point here is the meaning of the sacraments, not how often they are celebrated.
[xiv] This is also pragmatic: due to the State’s constant interfering with business through regulation, American corporations can no longer guarantee a job for life. Wise men will discern the times and prepare appropriately. Short-term economic losses can result in long term, generational gain to the family. At the same time, self-employment allows children to work with their fathers, developing real world skills as well as giving the business cheaper labor.
[xv] Speaking of tape ministries, if anyone is interested, we just happens to have…
[xvi] Or could it be that some men are in rebellion to lawful authority?
[xvii] Let me give three examples from one church I pastored; Randy is a successful businessman who refuses to accept promotions to other locations because his extended family is here and he believes deeply in his responsibility to them. Chris and Brian both moved their families across the country and found jobs in our area just to be a part of this church (both taking pay hits to do so).
Rev. Brian M. Abshire
Change, is something in the province of God’s sovereign decree. Genuine reformation, or a real change in the church and culture, can occur, only when God brings it about. However, are there not different means that God uses, to bring about change in different people? Think for a moment; are there not four different gospels, written in four different styles because they were intended for four different audiences? The gospel of Mark was written to a Roman audience, and emphasizes the actions of Christ. The gospel of Luke (a Greek physician) was written to Greeks, and is stylistically different. John’s gospel is more, “theological” and Matthew is clearly written to Jewish readers. When Paul spoke to Greeks, he spoke differently than when he spoke to Jews (“I become all things to all men that I might win some…” 1 Cor 9:20-23). Therefore, we have a Biblical warrant for learning a person’s, “hot buttons” and then appealing to them in terms they understand and empathize with. This is not manipulative, but simply being as “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.”
“The times, they are a changing” and a wise man will understand those times, and without sacrificing truth, will learn how to present that truth in effective ways. And that is perhaps the real underlying challenge for the church, to learn how to say things to people in ways that will help them accept the message, without compromising the truth. Sadly, Christians have not done well in this area. Too often, in order to be “relevant” we end up either abandoning the truth, or so reducing it that we offer little more than a panacea for personal stress.
The Reformed Faith has excellent historical, theological and exegetical support for its position, written in massive, hardbound tomes that provided the intellectual foundation for the ongoing reformation of the church and the transformation of the world. The only problem is, nobody ever reads it but the ones already convinced! Academics and intellectuals have their own presuppositions that determine whether they accept, or reject a particular message. A comprehensive Biblical faith is largely dismissed by academics for the same reason Creation Science is rejected by the scientific community: they are rival religions. Even Christian academics are tempted to sell out a comprehensive Christian worldview for the dubious benefits of academic credibility. Take a young Christian, train him in secular institutions for over twenty years, make him write his Ph.D. dissertation under the supervision of someone who hates God, and what can we expect except compromise?
Perhaps it is time to take a page from the Creation Science folks; while they continue to do the hard, rigorous work of scientific investigation from a Biblical perspective, they also produce easy to read, colorfully illustrated books for children. For years, I’ve been undermining theistic evolutionary presuppositions held by various Christians by giving their kids Creation Science books as Christmas and birthday presents. As the parents read the books to their children, their own presuppositions are challenged. More than a few people have called me to ask for more “grown up” books on the same subject. If I had just given them, “The Genesis Flood” the book would have remained unread and they would have remained unconvinced. But by looking for another approach, a “hot button” (in this case, their kids), very gently and very subtly people were nudged into looking at things from a whole, new perspective.
OK, granted, selling dinosaur books to kids is a little bit easier then “selling” Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics. But the task is really the same; to influence an entire culture will take more than writing esoteric essays read only by a dedicated elite. Christians have to understand where the “average” person lives and communicate to him in terms he understands. And most people today, are simply not changed by intellectual arguments. To assume so, is the fallacy of rationalism. To quote from that now deceased reprobate, R. A. Heinlein, “man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.” And though of course we might rightly object to him classifying man as an animal, there is still truth in his observation; men reason, not so much as to arrive at a legitimate conclusion, but rather to justify the prejudices they already have.
Hence, well reasoned, clearly written, academic works as important and crucial though they may be, are insufficient, for there are “reasons,” other than intellectual, which influence whether men accept or reject a particular thesis. Francis Schaeffer said almost twenty-five years ago that the dominant values in Western culture were personal peace and prosperity. The Rapture craze of the seventies was so successful largely due to its appeal to personal peace. “Afraid of society crashing down around your ears? Are you worried or hesitant about the future? Are you distressed by the decline of Christian morality and influence around you? Well don’t worry, the Rapture’s coming and all your problems will soon be over.”
Sociologically speaking, the appeal of the Rapture was not in the academic credibility of it’s theology, but in it’s ability to bolster core values. And let us be honest, are there not more than a few people who are attracted to a comprehensive Christian worldview simply because it’s applications lead to small Federal government and free market capitalism that are a theological alternative to tax and spend Democrats and Republicans? In the same way, many, many pro-lifers were already committed to activism before they encountered the theological reasons for doing so. They were already motivated to do something, even before someone came along and told them why they ought to do it.
A consistent and comprehensive Christian worldview today is a counter cultural movement. Though there are lingering effects of our Christian heritage, most Americans and Europeans, even those within the church, now have more in common with Imperial pagan Rome than 18th century Christian America. And to reach those people, influence them, and by God’s grace change them, will require understanding their values, and demonstrating how the gospel meets their fundamental human needs, desires, and expectations.
Some will object that this was not the strategy of the Apostle Paul. “Paul just preached the truth and those appointed to eternal life, believed, and that’s all there is to it. So why should we engage in this kind of ‘socio-babble’ about ‘core values’.’ Can’t we just speak the truth and leave the results up to God?”
However, does the above really fit the Biblical evidence? Did Paul just speak the truth and move on? Or was there a little more to it? In 1 Thessalonians 2:1ff, Paul recounts his initial ministry among them. Verses 8-9 are especially enlightening. He says, “Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” (NASB) Paul, Silvanus and Timothy did not just drop their spiritual bombshells, engage in esoteric discussions and leave. To the contrary, they got right down their in the mud and the blood, working with their own hands, getting involved in the nitty-gritty of people’s lives. They were as “gentle as a nursing mother” (verse 8) even as they exhorted, encouraged and implored them as a loving father (verse 11). And just because they met the Thessalonians where they were, and ministered to them as people, they demonstrated the power of the gospel that changed their lives, and the ancient pagan world.
Usually, my friends and colleagues who are the most adamant about the purity of their doctrine, and the necessity of preaching it in rationalistic, theoretical terms, are also the same ones pastoring the smallest churches. It is not their doctrine that is at fault, but rather, the ability of the pastor, and that congregation, to relate that doctrine to real life, human situations.
Understanding “core values” does not require a degree in what is known as the Social Sciences. It simply requires spending time with real people and learning how to demonstrate that we actually have meaningful, real-life solutions to their problems, trials, expectations and aspirations. Even the God-haters, by nature, know the Living God exists and there can be no joy, no hope, no future apart from Him (cf. Rms 1:18ff). The more consistent they become in suppressing the knowledge of God, the more miserable and depraved they and their cultures become (Rms 1:21ff). Hence, what is needed is more than just intellectual answers to questions nobody is asking. Instead, we must be willing to actually get involved in someone’s life. The truth of the Bible is unalterable and unassailable, because it is the word of God. But that truth can be hidden, or distorted, if those entrusted with its message do not take the time to invest their lives in other people and find what makes them tick.
Life in post-Christian America is characterized by increasing autonomy, dependence upon a complex technological infrastructure and a dearth of meaningful relationships. Our culture has fractured the family and destroyed the ability of people to be committed to anything except their own personal peace and prosperity. The historic Reformed faith, rightly understood and applied offers, not just another item on the intellectual and theological smorgasbord, but a life and worldview that meets the deepest human needs. But nobody is ever going to believe it, or accept it, unless we actually live it by getting involved with real human beings, caring for them, admonishing them, exhorting them, loving them. Autonomy inevitably leads to isolation. Man was not created to live alone, but needs meaningful relationships. With the destruction of the family in the past 50 years, most people, including Christians, do not have in place the social infrastructure God provided to live meaningful, productive and rewarding lives. People are lonely, people are hurting, and we are the only ones with something more than a sugar pill.
There are two practical solutions, both interlocking and supporting each other. The first is the creation of a distinctly Reformed literature that is aimed, not at the intellectual elite, but the average man, in the average Church. This needs to be “popular” in that such works are written in simple, easy to read formats, dealing with the life issues that people face. They need to be grounded firmly in Scripture, but do not have to be fully blown theological treatises.
But secondly, we also need those who call themselves “Reformed” to open their homes and lives, getting involved with real people, and helping them solve real problems, with the theological tools we have been so gifted with. Sound too simplistic? Well, many reformed people do not seem to understand the most basic Christian principles of life. For example, you would be amazed at how many people complain to me about how cold and unfriendly their churches are, how nobody wants to know them, nobody ever invites them over, etc. Yet, my question to them (almost now a cliché) is “Well how many people have you invited over?” And almost to a person, the answer is “none.” You see, everyone wants to be served, but no one wants to serve. Yet Jesus said serving others is the key to power and dominion (Mark 10:45). If you want to have a life-changing ministry and fuel the next stage of the Reformation, don’t stop reading good books, but do start reaching out and inviting people into your life.
In conclusion, if a counter culture, does not want to become a corner culture, it will have to do more than just proclaim the truth, it must also demonstrate the truth, in acts of personal love and charity as self-governed men take personal responsibility for meeting real human needs. This is how the ancient church conquered the Roman Empire. We rescued exposed babies, we fed the poor, we educated the ignorant, made the slave a part of our covenant community. We won the war by personal, individual acts of love and charity. Do you remember that old advertisement for the Peace Corps in the early 1960’s that said, “How do you change the world? One life at a time…” It is time for Reformed Christians to reclaim their duty, and privilege and starting changing lives, and cultures by applying their faith.
Or, I Love Bambi, Medium Rare
Rev. Brian M. Abshire
Some of my strongest, child hood memories of growing up in rural Maine come from the hunting stories the old timers used to tell during the winter. Fishermen spend the long cold winter nights in tiny work shops, building and repairing their traps and buoys. Heated by pot belly stoves, glowing cherry red from burning the soft wood scraps from the traps, the air suffocating with the acrid smoke of cheap pipe tobacco. To this day, a whiff of Cherry Blend or Half and Half takes me immediately back to those tiny workshops watching various uncles and their friends do their winter chores, and occasionally taking furtive sips of some nasty smelling amber liquid, while telling ‘whoppers.”.
The “whopper” is a much maligned and misunderstood, ancient and honorable Maine art form. It consists of telling the most unbelievable stories with a completely straight face. The real fun was telling whoppers to “Summer Complaints” from Boston or New York to see just how far you could pull their leg before it came off in your hands. The “whopper’s” (pronounced “whoppah’s”) only serious rival for home grown fun was giving directions to lost tourists. If you did it right you could get “summer complaints” so lost that when they thought they were headed for Bah Hahbah (I mean Bar Harbor) they’d end up in Southern Canada. Of course the real goal was to so misdirect the poor tourist that they found themselves right back in New York or Boston!
Now where was I? Oh, yes, that’s right, we were talking about “whoppers” weren’t we? While any topic was fair game for a whopper, hunting was by far the favorite. Now, hunting in Maine in the old days was serious business. Most of these men had grown up during the depression and the ability to bag a deer could be the difference between feeding your family or seeing them go hungry. And if sometimes, the deer hanging in the shed appeared slightly earlier or later than the opening and closing days of hunting season, nobody minded (except the game wardens, and since they had steady jobs with the State, nobody much cared what they thought!). And if there was slightly more venison in the freezer then could be justified by the number of hunting tags purchased, well, those things happen. And if occasionally, that fine buck with the magnificent antlers standing amidst the trees, turned out instead to be Bambi’s mother, well, venison is venison. If this doesn’t sound very “sportsmanlike” it’s because in the old days it wasn’t a sport, it was survival, pure and simple.
Though women were not unknown to hunt, it was mainly a man’s job to bring home the venison. And most young boys eagerly awaited the day when they could accompany their fathers with a single shot .410 and help fill the family’s larder. It was many a boy’s rite of passage from child hood to beginning to fulfill his responsibilities as a man by helping provide for his family.
My dad used to tell a “story” from the Great Depression when Grand Dad handed him a rickety single shot .22 held together with bailing wire and chewing gum and one bullet. He was told to go hunting and bring something home, otherwise the family had nothing to eat. Dad, being an obedient sun trudged dutifully into a hard wood stand across from a small brook. As he was crossing the brook, he saw a rabbit, eating by the side of a rock. But there on the other side was a Bobcat, stalking the rabbit. Bobcats had a bounty on them in those days and the skin could bring a whole five dollars, a small fortune. Which to shoot, the bobcat for the bounty, or the rabbit for supper? Well, Pop took a bead on the Bobcat, aimed carefully and fired. That poor old rusty piece of junk .22 exploded in seventeen different directions. Pop fell backwards into the water, thankfully unhurt, but heard the bullet ricochet off the rock. As Dad picked himself out of the water, disgusted with himself, and perhaps a little fearful of Grand Dad’s response at missing both bobcat and rabbit, a bird suddenly fell out of the sky right beside him! It seemed that a piece of the gun had gone straight up and hit a goose flying overhead! As he bent over to pick up the goose, he felt something squirming in his britches and there were two fine looking trough sticking out of his pockets! And when he looked over at the other side of the bank, both the rabbit, and the bobcat were stone dead. It seems the bullet in hitting the rock, had split in two, one piece killing the rabbit and the other killing the bobcat. When he got home, Grand Dad’s only comment was, “You busted my gun!”
Young boys in rural Maine were reared on such stories, imbibed them like modern teenagers hang on every lyric of a popular Rock song, and eagerly looked forward to the day when they could make up their own. Sadly, two events prevented me from ever realizing my own rite of passage as a ten year old. First we moved to the big city (a bustling metropolis of almost two thousand people!) and hunting was no longer convenient. Secondly, my family disintegrated just about this time, and Dad never had the chance to pass on those skills.
So, instead, I spent my teenage years growing long hair, wearing bell bottom jeans and generally making a nuisance of myself. Military service, mostly overseas, marriage and college followed soon after and I was in my late 20’s before hunting again entered my life. I was the assistant pastor, minister of youth, director of Christian Education (and don’t forget to take out rubbish Brian!) at a small church in Minnesota while in seminary. Trying to connect with some of the kids in my youth group, I found that all of them came from hunting families and loved spending time in the woods. So finally, after years of delay, I finally found myself back in line with old traditions.
I soon discovered two things; first, I loved hunting more than any other past time I had ever tried. There is something magnificent about a crisp October morning, with the trees all golden, the woods quiet except for the crunch of your feet on half frozen leaves, your dog suddenly going “birdy” just before that thunderous explosion as a ruffled grouse breaks from right beneath your feet. The second thing I discovered was that I wasn’t very good at it! On the trap and skeet range, I could bust clay pigeons with reasonable frequency (not much eating though on clay pigeons, kind of muddy tasting), but ruff especially, like to hide in the thickest, nastiest scrub, and inevitably the barrel of my .12 gauge would hang up on a branch and the bird would go one way, while some innocent tree would get blasted at close range. Deer hunting was even worse. I’ve hunted with a bow, shotgun, rifle, clay more mines, (well, not really), and except for getting cold, wet, and miserable, Bambi has always managed to get away safely (but just wait till next year, I’ve got this shoulder fired, heat seeking missile…). The best part of deer hunting in the Great White North is the enormous hunter’s breakfast you have to eat to keep warm. Well, at least I’m good at something!
Imagine my surprise when I talk with people about hunting, and to my horror discover that thanks to Disney, most people, including Christians, now think it a barbaric, blood sport and that killing a deer makes you the moral equivalent of Charles Manson! Since there has been massive urbanization in the past fifty years, most Americans now come from cities, do not have hunting traditions, think all wild animals are cute and cuddly and cannot bear the thought of killing an “innocent” animal. It always amazed me that these same people think meat comes neatly packaged in plastic from the food store, and don’t consider that their Big Mac originally came from an “innocent” cow, minding its own business until it was given a lifetime membership at the local abattoir! I also never understood what these people think deer do, when they are not hunted. Unchecked, deer herds multiply, destroy the environment and then die horribly of starvation. Hunting thins the population, maintains the balance and provides a cheap, healthy source of protein to needy families (our deacons routinely buy extra deer tags just to give the meat away).
Thanks to schmaltzie movies and TV shows, even Christians have a skewed perspective on wild animals. Most don’t come into contact with anything except fuzzy little squirrels (my Dad called them “tree rats”) capering through their front lawns. “But they look so cute.” These are the same dunderheads who go to national parks, smear their children’s faces with jam so they can get a picture of their child being licked by a bear (isn’t it a miracle what a good plastic surgeon can do these days?). They then offer themselves as “take out” food to Grizzly bears by sleeping outdoors in areas over-run with animals bored with the local food supply. Over a twenty year period, more than 36 people were mauled or killed by bears at our national parks. If that doesn’t sound too unreasonable in light of the two hundred million people who visited the parts during that same time, just remember, not all parks have bears. Some people do not seem to realize just how dangerous wild animals are, and do not take the precautions necessary to prevent themselves becoming part of the food chain..
Sound harsh and unfeeling? Yes, I admit it. But most people do not think through the implications of living in a world cursed by sin. Wild animals, by their nature, are dangerous to Man, and are a curse in Scripture. In fact, one of the reasons why God did not supernaturally destroy the Caananites was so that the land would not be over run with wild animals (cf. Ex 23:28). In a time when God’s covenant blessings flow, then the effects of that curse are rolled back. Animals are “cute” and “cuddly” when the grace of God flows on an obedient people. We look forward to the time when the “lion will lay down with the lamb” (Isa 11:5ff). But folks, that time is not here yet, and that cursed world outside your door is in fact a dangerous place.
In Wisconsin, where I presently make my home, Bambi and his friends do millions of dollars of damage each year as they destroy crops, shrubbery and expensive ornamental plants. They also kill people. Yup, little old Bambi kills people every year on Wisconsin roads by crashing into cars. In Calaveras country, where Chalcedon is located, there are more accidents between deer and people, then between people and people. Recently while visiting Chalcedon, Rush and I were coming home from dinner, when he warned me to keep my speed below 45 because deer have a habit of running across the road (“but Rush, I’m under grace, not law…”). Literally, within a minute, we passed a dead deer laying sprawled in the other lane, just hit by a car!
Furthermore, a terrible pestilence, unknown since colonial times, has reappeared even in modern suburbs. Lymes’s disease comes from a tick carried by deer. When deer were aggressively hunted, and their population kept in check, the ticks disappeared. Now that fewer people hunt, deer populations are rising, the ticks are also multiplying, and they may be in the shrubbery of your suburban home. If you live in the West, you don’t have to worry though, the growing mountain lion population ought to keep the deer in check. And if more mountain lions means the occasional dog, cat, and child goes missing, heck, that’s the price of being environmentally correct. (Rush tells a great story about one of his daughters narrowly avoiding a deer running across the road, only to be hit by the mountain lion chasing it!).
People in the outskirts of Los Angeles are starting to see strange dogs rooting through their garbage. It seems that coyotes have also found suburbia a nice place to live. And again, pets, children, and the occasional woman jogger have fallen victim to the coyote’s taste for city cuisine. The last decade has seen our federal government spending your tax money to actually bring back mountain lions, wolves, deadly snakes, etc., into areas once containing small, subsistence family farms. Rushdoony offers the insight that the federal government has a vested interest in making rural communities unsafe for people, forcing them to live in cities where they can be controlled.
Wolves are a particularly touchy subject to address, since the emotion around them tends to run high. While there is not a documented case of wolves attacking men in North America, (but not many native Americans were known for keeping statistics), just ask any rancher about the enormous economic damage they do to their herds. For example, the legendary “Custer” wolf managed in ten years of devastation in South Dakota and Wyoming, to eat more than $25,000 worth of stock before finally being killed in 1920. And that’s when money was backed with gold, and was worth something.
In Europe though, wolves were documented man killers, one eating more than 40 Parisians in 1472, and another almost 50 people in 1766. Ancient history? In 1946, a pack ate two soldiers on the Rumanian and Polish borders before being driven off with hand grenades and automatic weapons fire. Finland had serious problems in 1949 and wolves ate 11 children in Portugal in 1945. Russia has had constant problems with wolves right up to this day (see Peter Capstick’s Man-Eaters for all the gruesome details). Now consider this, there are no biological differences between European and American wolves. Why eat people in one country and not another? Maybe as a Christian nation we once had grace that God may soon remove…
I know, I know, some wag is going to say, “Men are a lot more dangerous to animals, than the poor animals will ever be to men.” And of course, he’s right, if you put people on the same level as animals and if it is not your child savaged by a wolf, coyote or cougar. Personally, I happen to think that animals were put here for US to exercise dominion over, not for THEM to enjoy a change of diet. But if one wants a look at the future, just think about what a nation is like under the curse of God. Look at self consciously pagan nations such as Africa or India. The leopard has been on the endangered species list for some time now, and it is illegal to bring a leopard skin into the USA. Yet, conservative estimates say that there is about one leopard per square mile in Africa. Evolutionists will be happy to know that to leopards we look like just another ape, their normal prey. No one knows how many women and children are eaten EVERY DAY by leopards because rural villages often don’t figure very high on national government priorities. Jack Denton Scott in his book, Speaking Wildly, mentions, ONE leopard eating 100 people in India in 1958. Think about this, 10 people a day, die in Africa from crocodiles alone as women go to the rivers for water. (think of this next time you want to visit Florida with all those lovely alligators!).
And lions, don’t get me started. A recent film in 1996 featured the wily adventures of the Man-eaters of Tsavo, a couple of fun loving kitties who managed to eat 300 coolies and natives working on the trans-Ugandan railroad at the end of the last century. The film was so “animally correct” that the producers made the lions into some sort of demonic spirit. Because of course, the Lion King is really a compassionate, funny, role model with a great singing voice and the ability to subsist on bugs when it might otherwise offend his other animal friends. Yeah, right.
Most people of my generation saw the film, or read the book “Born Free.” What neither the movie nor the book bothered to tell us was that at least two of “Elsa’s” siblings became man-eaters. Most people think lions, tigers and leopards become man-eaters only when they are too old, or sick, or wounded to feed off their “natural game.” Professional game wardens will tell you different. Of all the man-eaters shot by game wardens, less than 10% fall into this category. Any predator, in close proximity to man, can develop a taste for human protein. But hey, we’ve seen all those TV specials showing affectionate Lions and Tigers, actually living with people. But do you really want to develop your theology of wild animals from Sigfried and Roy?
I have only seen lions, at biting distance, once. I was in Africa at the time, and besides trying to eat the car I was sitting in, caused me no great problems (after all, it wasn’t my car!). It was only afterwards that the game warden told me that the exact, same pride had eaten a university student the week before. The educated idiot had gotten out of his car to better look for lions dozing during the mid day sun. He spotted them, and they spotted him. The rest, is, as they say, is culinary history.
In the interest of fair play, my good friend, Peter Hammond has a different perspective. He and his people often move through dangerous territory and apart from carefully brushing and flossing their teeth (as hyenas are attracted by the smell of rotting food in the mouth and have a habit of eating people’s faces off) take no special precautions. In fact, Peter loves animals. Though in his military days he helped more than a few communists make that last trip to the Great Socialist Republic in the Sky, is aghast at the idea of hunting animals.
A true story, that Peter often tells on himself concerns his honeymoon. He took his beautiful bride Lenora to a game park. Lenora, being a sensible American girl was afraid of lions and asked Peter what he would do if one attacked. He replied he would probably raise his hands and shout and that would most likely drive the lion away. But Lenora, knowing his love for animals, insisted, what would he do if the lion continued coming? Would Peter shoot it? Peter replied, that he would probably shoot between the lion’s legs and the sound would almost certainly scare away the lion. “But Peter,” Lenora insisted, “if the lion continued coming, you WOULD shoot it, wouldn’t YOU?”
Since Peter and Lenora are still happily married, I can only guess that he managed to calm her fears, but at the time, Lenora was not sure which would win out, his love for animals, or his love for her. But Peter really is in a special situation and I do not doubt that angels camp around him and his missionaries. Others are not so blessed.
Now lest some cynic think the only reason I am writing about wild animals is so I can write off this year’s hunting costs on my income tax (but don’t be surprised if November’s column is entitled, “A Reconstructed View of Hunting Rifles”), there is a serious and theological side. As a nation sinks further into depravity and apostasy, as it becomes ever more consistent with its rebellion to God, one can only expect that more than men will get wilder, and the covenant curses of Deuteronomy will become increasingly evident. God put the fear of man into wild animals (Gen 9:2) but now, right across the earth, animals have lost that fear. Expect attacks against people and property to increase. Watch in hypnotic horror the occasional TV special about wild animal attacks and reassure yourself that statistically, you’re really very safe, unless you happen to live in a rural area, or visit a national park, or go jogging in the early morning in the suburbs.
Dominion requires an accurate assessment of the world around us, the world as it really is, not the way that Hollywood imagines it to be. Part of that dominion requires caring for the environment, of course. We are stewards under God, it all belongs to Him and must be used according to His law. But He has given us the flesh of animals for food (Gen 9:3), and we have a responsibility to tend the earth, subdue it and cultivate it. And if that means some wild animals have to be restricted to zoos, game parks and wilderness preserves, then so be it. And if it require some of us to faithfully buy our hunting licenses each year, so we can provide the needed funds for habitat maintenance, please don’t get upset if we enjoy harvesting deer, pheasants, grouse, ducks and geese. Would you rather have a hunter keeping the “natural” populations in balance, or deal with a wolf, bear or mountain lion in your back yard?
When God grants us grace, and the Greater Reformation begins, and the blessings of the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ flows to all of creation, then all animals will be tamed, and Disney’s fantasies will become reality. But until then, wild animals, will remain wild, and dangerous.