“Most boys would not have liked it, but to me it was red beef and strong beer.”

Red beef.  Strong beer.  Things of substance and weight.  Intoxicating.  Energizing.  Things consumed by men who know they are men, as an intrinsic part of living their vigorous lives.

This line–one of my favorites–comes from C. S. Lewis’ description of his early life, when he encountered a singular man to whom the two Lewis brothers privately awarded a distinctive moniker:
The Great Knock.

The Great Knock was a tutor paid by their father to “cram” the two boys for the Oxford University entrance exams.  Lewis describes him as “the most purely logical entity I ever met”.   As part of their training, he knocked the two boys’ thinking about until they learned to use proper logic.

Logic is falling out of fashion these days.  Most boys don’t like it.

Here’s why.

In the last century of secular thought, while logic brought about many scientific and technological breakthroughs, it did not bring about the much anticipated personal peace and well-being.  Worse, it seemed to hasten the apocalypse of nuclear war; at best it predicted the eventual heat death of the universe and the ultimate insignificance of man.  Logic only led to depression.  Hope began to die.  People began to turn to other less rational ways to think in their desperation to find some hope and personal peace.

In the first “The X-files”  movie and TV series, Agent Mulder is the post-modernist, the anti-logic, feeling-and-intuition character.  He is in constant debate with Agent Scully, the modernist, the logical character.  “Forget logic, Scully!  Use your feelings!” says Mulder.

But the modernist’s problem was not with logic; it’s just a thought engine, and if maintained properly, it runs well.  The problem is what the modernists fed the engine–the assumptions and presuppositions that serve as starting premises.  If you start the engine with invalid presuppositions, as Renaissance Man does, you get invalid, grim results like a depressing future of nuclear war and heat death.

It kills the significance of our daily thoughts, choices and feelings.

Not so for Reformation Man.

For him, logic is a core part of lifelong training, a daily exercise, for several reasons.  First, the God presented to us in the Bible, if He appears a bit eccentric, is clearly rational.  He says things like “Come and let us reason together.”  He points out ludicrously illogical human thinking, and mocks it.  He offers sound logical arguments for people to consider, demonstrating how a properly maintained logic engine works.

Second, we have a bitter enemy whose weaponry consists entirely of lies.  They work like bear traps and anti-personnel mines.  They are carefully camouflaged, and some are crafted to have a delayed effect: years later, they mangle our lives.  If your enemy is the Father of Lies, it behooves you to know a lie when you hear one–or think one.

Third, we all have a parasitic sin nature that loves to cuddle up with lies.  Mine has never found a lie it didn’t like.  It rejects truth as if it were yesterday’s bran muffin.  What it can’t reject outright it attempts to distort or suppress.  We experience this in two forms: bizarre assumptions we adopt without ever pausing to question them, and as a host of logical fallacies we use as readily as we do paper towels.

Fourth, we all have broken hearts.  In Western culture, that terminology usually means we have painful regrets.  In the Jewish jargon of the Bible, it means something far more profound: the core of our being, from which arise our thoughts, our choices and our feelings, simply does not work right.  We have difficulty thinking correctly.  We choose foolishly, selecting choices that are clearly not in our best interest, in what Barbara Tuchman called “the march of folly”.  We feel emotions that are misfires: loneliness may not feel like loneliness–it feels like anger or depression.  Worse yet, sometimes we feel nothing at all.

Logic is a kind of brace, like a cast put on a broken limb, providing stiffness where our thinking process is weak, broken and prone to fail.  God provides His word as the means by which the Son of God binds up the broken hearted.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

For example, in the Bible God prohibits His people from lying or even “dealing falsely” with each other. He directs them to work at making the logic engine run well, and demonstrates how to do it. That means Reformation Man avoids using logical fallacies, even in his private thoughts; relentlessly, he hunts them down as dangerous enemies that threaten his well-being, and that of his fellow men.

But the God of the Bible also provides the right fuel for the engine, the valid starting premises we can’t figure out by ourselves.  Some of these premises, when we first encounter them, seem completely outrageous.  After years of thinking about them, some seem more outrageous than ever.   But they are the essential fuel.

Agent Mulder needs to embrace logic, but Agent Scully needs to fuel her logic engine with His truth.

Forgetting logic, and ignoring His truth means that Western popular culture is headed back to the Middle Ages, when superstition reigned supreme.  Combining the true presuppositions from the Bible with the biblical imperative to think logically, Reformation Men like Bacon, Kepler and Newton led Western culture to develop and implement the scientific method.  It actually resides intellectually on presuppositions found in the Bible.  These men used it as a reliable way to know how the material world works.  They led the way out of the dark.

But today, Western popular culture applies the term “science” to just about anything, including wild speculations about the past, as the certification of what is popularly acceptable to believe.  Something called Chance has been awarded god-like powers, and made a fundamental part of “science”, in spite of the fact that the term is shorthand for “man’s ignorance of governing causes”.  Superstition is growing unchecked.  The flow of events has grown into a dense fog in which Renaissance Man finds himself careering from one near catastrophe to the next.

In contrast, Reformation Man experiences what Christ was talking about:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

As in the late Middle Ages, today Reformation Man collaborates with Christ, who is binding up his broken heart; he works at thinking logically, and deliberately feeds his logic engine with the valid truths found in the Bible.  As he does so, his mind sees clearly, perhaps for the first time, and he is able to build up the devastated ruins left by a flailing, superstitious culture, the handiwork of Renaissance Man.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Most boys don’t like it.

To Reformation Man, it’s red beef and strong beer.

The Women’s Advocates Set Fire to the Rain

I let it fall, my heart,
And as it fell you rose to claim it
It was dark and I was over
Until you kissed my lips and you saved me

My hands, they’re strong
But my knees were far too weak,
To stand in your arms
Without falling to your feet

But there’s a side to you
That I never knew, never knew.
All the things you’d say
They were never true, never true,
And the games you play
You would always win, always win.

But I set fire to the rain…

“Set Fire to the Rain” Adele

There is a reason this song went to Number One in so many nations.

The Elders asked my wife and I to mediate a marriage conflict between two members of our church; this couple had a long history of angry argumentation and locked wills during their 14 years as members.  As we began the mediation, the wife was eager and cooperative, but the husband was generally not responsive.

As we pushed the mediation process along, I took an opportunity to introduce Christ’s death on the cross as payment for all their sins, the foundation concept they would need to begin forgiving each other.

To my great surprise, the wife suddenly looked up at me with the unmistakable expression of a starving puppy.  In response, I expanded on the work of Christ on her behalf; wide-eyed, she devoured my words as if she had never heard them before.  The husband sat as before, with a bored expression on his face.

I was puzzled: How could she be so starved for the gospel?  And how could he sit there ignoring her body language?  Then an appalling insight dawned on me: all week long, week after week, her husband was twisting the gospel into some vicious kind of shame weapon—and he was using it and our church to emotionally beat her down.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.  But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

Fortunately, this man was not the first of his kind that I had encountered.  In fact, he was the third in a string of malignant narcissists we had become involved with.  They were an alarming crew; we were caught completely unprepared to deal with their vicious bullying.  But by a clear working of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, a pastor who served briefly at our church previously worked as a counselor in a state penitentiary—counselling men who had physically beat their wives, and were now in jail for it.  He coached me what to do in what he called “your assignment from God”.

I can never forget the moment when he asked me “Were the bruises high up—where she could hide them?”  Chilled to the bone, I then understood: even in his violent rage, the husband was coldly calculating.  And he was using the church as a weapon, to keep her emotionally imprisoned in shame.

Stunned, I recalled the passage where Paul prepared the young pastor Timothy for this very same phenomenon—narcissists infesting the church, and beating women up by twisting the gospel into something it is not, something brutal.

But there’s a side to you
That I never knew, never knew.
All the things you’d say
They were never true, never true,
And the games you play
You would always win, always win.

Paul’s instructions make it clear that we are to expect this obscene phenomenon as the norm, not the exception; worse, it would not only appear in the secular world—it would appear in the local church, and Timothy would need to get the church prepared for it.  As this truth sank in, I thought through our church governance.  Who could (and should) discipline these monstrous husbands?  Clearly, in the Book of Church Order, the Elders are charged with the necessary authority, and are held responsible to act.

When I tried to imagine in a mental movie how this discipline process would unfold, the enormity of the ministry gap hit me hard: it would never start.  I was appalled.  What shame-beaten woman would come to the Elders—a bunch of grumpy-looking old men whose names she hardly knows—on her own initiative, and explain her intimate and embarrassing plight?  And because it would never start, these narcissist bullies would continue to infest the church.

So I tried imagining a different process, where the abused woman was first enfolded by other women, with gentle hands and soft hearts, who could help her eventually to find a voice before the Elders.  They would start the discipline process on her behalf, because they would know how it worked.  They would know how it worked because Elders would train them.  And these women would have confidence in bringing the beaten woman before the Session, because once they were trained, the Session would formally commission them to this work.

The training of Women’s Advocates necessarily includes six elements.  First and foremost, they need to know the sections of the Book of Church Order that require the Elders to discipline unrepentant members; they need to know how the Elders are authorized and required to perform this distasteful but essential duty.  If the Elders will not do their duty, they are simply enabling the abuse; the Advocates need to know how to hold Elders accountable to Presbytery.  Second, because the women may be financially cut off by their abusive husbands, the Advocates need to know how to work with the Deacons to meet her needs.

Third, because the civil authorities have a God-ordained role in marital disputes, divorce and physical abuse, they need to know how protection orders are obtained, how separation and divorce are handled, and they will need to know their legal responsibilities to report physical abuse of minors.  Fourth, because the beaten woman is prone to co-dependency, the Advocates will need to know how to work with professional Christian counsellors.  Fifth, because her husband is creating conflict in order to beat her down with it, the Advocates will need to know the basics of peace making: the six scriptural tools and the diagnosis of identity weapons and idols of the heart.  They need to understand the redemptive role of biblical separation and the church’s role in civil divorce.

You can always tell when an idol is at work, because there are sacrifices.
     Ken Sande, Ruling Elder and author of The Peacemaker.

Last but not least, the Advocates need to know how to tenderly preach the gospel—the pure gospel in all its glorious facets and its comprehensive scope—in small, quiet spoonfuls.  They need to know how to climb down into this deep, dark emotional pit with these beaten women, and help each one find the rungs on the theological ladder—one rung at a time.  When her hands and feet slip off, the Advocates need to know how to guide them back.  They need to know how to help her wash the shame away with the gospel. They need to know how to loan her hope in the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in her.  In particular, they need to know how the gospel enables the biblical model of mutual submission in marriage.  They need to know the difference between male headship—personal responsibility to God for the spiritual quality of the marriage—and the horrible curse of patriarchy.  They need to know how Christ gently binds up the broken-hearted, and become His hands.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

The training must be done by a team of Elders assigned to this work by the Session, to ensure both initial and recurring training in all six elements.  The Advocates develop their own policy and procedure to guard against gossip while enabling effective help.  Legal counsel, especially a female attorney familiar with the statutes and the issues involved, should be a regular part of the training, as well as professional counsellors and certified conciliators.

As our first five Advocates completed their initial training and were commissioned before the congregation, they surprised all of us by expanding their ministry scope.  For example, they began serving the wife of a penitent pornography addict.  The Session had properly admonished him to continue his repentance; the Advocates gave her sustained support as she learned to deal with the way this addiction weaponized their marriage relationship and attacked her identity.  In the Advocates the Spirit had unleashed a new redemptive force, working in many ways we had not envisioned when we set out to create their role.

The shame- and fist-beaten woman is not without hope—she has a Redeemer.  The Advocates collaborate with the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ to do what seems to her impossible:

Set fire to the rain.

This post is dedicated to the first five Women’s Advocates–five women of courage, dedicated to serving Christ by serving in His body:
Joy, Anne, Anna, Christiane, and Tanya.