The Virtues of Revenge

There’s a deep theology of vengeance taught in sacred scripture.

“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord” is famous enough but the prohibition against our little revenges are just awkward.

It’s hard to teach our kids to not take revenge because people will treat them badly and we want to protect them, to teach them to “defend” themselves. These are often little lessons in revenge. Self defense can only occur in the immediate moment of the event of possible harm, so any guidance as to later response is unmistakably a lesson in revenge. A child’s first response to being let out of “turning the other cheek” is a strange mixture of euphoria and glory; it’s not good for them.

But that’s exactly what we’re trying to teach them. To not take revenge when treated badly. If people were always treating them goodly there would be no reason for the lesson? It’s all part of our expectation that they have a better ethic than the world, which thrives on revenge with a healthy dose of treating each other badly.

I remember meeting a family that taught their kids that the not getting vengeance and turning the cheek things were only for the Jews under the law, and that Christians didn’t need to follow those rules. Consistent with the claim, they did little to restrain their children and so the other kids and parents had to carry the burden . As far as I know, neither the parents nor the children persevered in the faith. I’m not writing this as an example of cause and effect but as an observation of the wounded conscience. The laws of God, especially those concerned with compassion, forgiveness and magnanimity train the conscience. Even the recognition of sin necessary to repentance can be spoiled through faulty interpretations of the morality of God.

You can’t grow faith without the waters of Repentance; they require each other like cloud and rain. So if we miss the law we might miss faith itself.

Remember the lawyer came to Jesus and asked him how to enter eternal life. Jesus asked the counter question, “What is the law? What is your interpretation of it?” The man then said to love God and to love your neighbor and Jesus told him that he had given the right answer. Do that and you will live. But then, Luke writes that the man, “wanted to justify himself” and so he asked a follow up question… “But who is my neighbor?” Now the motive of the question is the key to understanding the passage. If his neighbor was identified one way then the man would be able to justify himself and say that he had obeyed the law and could claim eternal life, and if it were defined another way, he could not. So Jesus told him the parable of the good Samaritan which identified the neighbor as not only a Samaritan but as the one that loved him regardless of religious or ethnic identity. Then Jesus told the man to go and do likewise.

The implication being, that the man was not able to justify himself.

Another implication being that the duty to be a good neighbor was as important as knowing a good neighbor when you see one.

Jesus told him the truth, that if he perfectly kept the law in thought, word and deed he would be right before God and could justify himself on that basis. But when the scope of who his neighbor was opened up to the whole world his self justification collapsed and he was left with the need for a savior.

To love our neighbor is a complicated kettle of fish, but if we would like to be forgiven and not have people take vengeance on us we should at least have an absence of vengeful attitudes and behaviors towards others.

To teach people to not take revenge might be misunderstood as teaching them some kind of runny pacifism. But the sermon on the mount is theology for this world, not for the next. It’s not at all the ethics of Heaven; it’s only use is here in the dust and toil. Turning the other cheek is good teaching. A forgiving heart is a good sign of spiritual transformation.

The protection of ourselves and others bears no conflict with the teaching of Jesus. If an armed man breaks into my home in the middle of the night, intending mayhem and murder, God help me, I will have a divinely ordained duty to defend innocent blood, if necessary through bloody violence. The police are also ordained to that end, they being the agents of God after me and my neighbors. That’s good theology but also good common sense.

In this there would be no revenge at all, and no moral error. Pacifism is of course the sin of making the innocent pay the price of our bad theology.

Ah, but vengeance? Vengeance is His. Getting someone back; making them pay; getting that pound of flesh. It’s not in our job description. It’s one of the worst things that can ever happen, especially in a marriage. Once one has been offended and decided to punish the other for the offense, unless the attitude of self glory and high status can be quashed the intimacy and fellow-feeling fades fast.

And in friendship it is absolutely devastating. I have a lot of old friends (not calling you personally “old” but you know what I mean). To me it’s great evidence of their capacity for being forgiving. I try to be the kind that can throw aside my natural bias and squarely face my sins but were it not for the graceful and easy going nature of my friends how long could we last in those great bonds of mutual affection?

That we face our sins between ourselves and God does not entail that others will forgive every foible. All of us, Christian and Pagan alike, are full of madness. We like to think it’s just someone else, the other, the neighbor, the stranger, but we have it too and we sin every day in thought, word and deed. Vengeance is in this, generally tied up in an inflated sense of self. “How dare you offend me? There will be a reckoning!” That kind of shakespearean tragedy type of trouble. It’s all very Hatfields and McCoys but never very Christian.

(As an arbitrary aside, Alexander Hamilton was killed in a gentlemanly duel by Aaron Burr. Apparently Burr had offended him. And then he was dead.)

But if we recognize that we’re just a little dust and the breath of God how highly would we estimate our import?

Perhaps we’d be less likely to let offenses bother us and rest appropriately in the inevitability of Divine justice, because we are poor at measuring and poorer still at dispensing a good revenge.

But with God vengeance is rooted in justice and love.

He has the perfections that make sins into virtues (at least, that which would be sins for the creature).

Even the jealousy of God is sublime.

There is no vanity in the perfect, true and good thinking himself perfect, true and good. For the All-Mighty to laugh at the rebel and the reprobate makes a strange kind of sense. Of course, for us to laugh would be inappropriate, even laughing with God might verge on self exultation (we are not to take pleasure in the fall of our enemies even when the means is the hand of God).

Accusations against the Divine character overlook that man is just a little wind and dust.

A little water or fire erases us entirely.

If the Father were to call back His breath to Himself, all flesh would cease.


A 4th of July Testimony of Presbyterian Resolve

WE might underestimate how deeply American Presbyterianism was indelibly impressed by the American Revolution. Just as much, Presbyterianism was a defining characteristic of the War for Independence.

At the time Walpole addressing the British Parliament, said “There is no crying about it. Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson and that is the end of it.”

This theology of religious agitation and historical advancement was rooted in the fertile ground of John Calvin and John Knox, neither of whom had respect for theologies of that abandon the duties of civic virtue.

“These revolutionary principles of republican liberty and self-government, taught and embodied in the system of Calvin, were brought to America, and in this new land where they have borne so mighty a harvest were planted, by whose hands? — the hands of the Calvinists. The vital relation of Calvin and Calvinism to the founding of the free institutions of America, however strange in some ears the statement of Ranke may have sounded, is recognized and affirmed by historians of all lands and creeds.” E. W. Smith

The revolutionary sentiment was often considered a particularly Presbyterian sentiment and the theologies and sermons of the era not only promote religious zeal behind the concept of ordered liberty but the sheer force of the theology of the Westminster Standards applied to civics. Their Presbyterianism was not our Presbyterianism; they likely would have had a hard time recognizing their off-spring in the faith.

Here is an example of the kind of fire that peppered Presbyterian sentiment of the era:

They were Postmillenial and unashamed of the immediate application of Christian theology to time, place and circumstance. The idea of a Christianity without a transformative effect upon “culture”, the political landscape and the social condition of the people would have seemed wholly alien to them. Such theologies were rare but for the Quakers, Shakers and Amish; it would likely have been considered by them outside the scope of Christianity.

Modern Presbyterian historian D.G. Hart makes an ongoing effort to track the deep differences between traditional American Presbyterian sentiment in regard to its inherently “political” nature as opposed the Dutch Continental strand of reformed thought, much more amenable to monarchy, subjection and indifference to the course of civic virtue. His historical works are perhaps the most biased I’ve read that can still be called history but are useful for dates, events and the names of the parties. He’s not wrong about the deep divides but doesn’t seem interested in grasping the traditional Presbyterian arguments against contemporary versions of Presbyterianism. 1 The American revolution was a Presbyterian religious war against what they perceived to be dominating Papists and Anglicans. Methodists were Anglicans, Baptists were rare and there weren’t enough of anyone else to make them numerically significant.

“When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all of the colonels of the Colonial Army but one were Presbyterian elders. More than one-half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterians.” Size

Did they think they were entering the “promised land” or that they were in the subject condition of “exile in Babylon”, intended by God to suffer the weighty hand of evil empires (Horton, Van Drunnen)? They considered slavery in the promised land their condition and the war against domination by the English analogous of putting off the chains of the Amalekites and the Philistines. They had a duty to resist and a duty to free themselves of paganization and tyranny. Religious freedom was better than life and death was preferable to religious compromise; they were willing to die even for their neighbor with whom they disagreed about matters of theology so that both might worship in accord with conscience and best understanding.

The majority of those with whom D.G. Hart has to do in interpreting the record of contemporary Presbyterianism had no experience or history in Presbyterianism, by his own description arriving from nationally, ethnically and religiously Dutch Reformed backgrounds and uncomfortable with American Presbyterianism. In this he does help us to see vast differences between the path and trajectory of the Dutch Netherlands civilly and religiously from the United States civilly and religiously. That Continental theologies tend toward the abandonment of the civic realm to ‘secular’ powers, personalizing religion and religious ethics while American theologies are prone to the formally predictable effects of God’s providential care in history.

The Christian concern for the political life of the community is a trait of traditional American Presbyterianism (by way of the English and Scottish reformations and revolutions) while ideas of two realms, one sacred and one secular, one of Christian obedience and one of natural law and civil domination by the elite is not. We might also argue that one is true civil Calvinism and one is not, but for another occasion.

The American Presbyterians saw the American experience as that of a new Jerusalem, a “city on a hill”, while the Amsterdam theologies were powerfully influenced by German Pietism. The Kantian religious explosion was beginning at that time but dominated the thought of Continental religion for the next 200 years through the rise of “Critical” approaches to knowledge and Holy Scripture.

We see these in Hegel, Barth and Brunner but no less in the PCUSA today.  “The quest for the historical Jesus” and “the New Perspective on Paul” were both sown in this field.  The Enlightenment glorification of autonomous reason raised an anti-enlightenment tension in the seminaries with the abandonment of reason as applied to religion and the interpretation of Holy Scripture, and brought about a crisis in American theology from which we are yet to ’emerge’.




1. Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by D.G. Hart and John Muether.

So what does “Christian counseling” entail?


Well it’s not the same as secular counseling but since secular counseling is usually framed in the traditional shell of Christian counseling there will be similarity.
Christian counseling is the response to an emotional crisis serious enough to cause a disruption in life, behavior or relationships.

Counseling isn’t reducible to just getting together to talk about things but it’s not just giving out sage advice either. There is an important interactive element and the intent to move toward some kind of resolution.

So it isn’t psychology? Well certainly there’s a healthy bit of psychology in it because psychology is the applied understanding of the human soul and why we do the things we do. We can’t get by without a bit of Christian psychology and certainly Jesus spent a lot of time teaching us the inner contours of man’s battle with himself.

Here’s one of the most important things about counseling, it’s supposed to go somewhere. It’s self involved but not self resolving. It should never be an ultimately selfish endeavor. From a Christian perspective every bit of the counseling process is to restore the relation of the person to God, their neighbor and their own well being but in that order. Of course these are inter-related aren’t they? Could we think that a person could be O.K. in the absence of a good relationship with God? He’s our Father but along with that our closest and most enduring relationship. We quite literally exist because He holds us in existence; the Apostle Paul spoke to this by saying that, “in Him we live, and move and have our being”.

As such most conflicts of the soul are by nature of the case something to work out with God, but it’s not really that simple, is it?

It’s not usually the God-conflict that brings one into counseling care but more immediate personal or inter-personal relationships.

When a person can’t get along with themselves or another that’s where the rub comes in. Anxiety, despair, depression, anger, loneliness and sadness are the most common personal symptoms bringing someone into a counseling situation. Most substance abuse and sexual problems also flow from these which are not directly addressable as “sins” when we talk about what we mean by them in a counseling situation but conditions of the soul, the causes and resolutions to be addressed.

When a person isn’t relating well to others that’s what we’re talking about when we get into “marriage counseling”, “family counseling”, “group counseling” and intersession.

Let me say something very controversial and generally disliked but incontrovertibly true: every conflict in a marriage is ultimately a problem in the relationship with God between one or both of the parties. So in a marriage when some kind of crisis has risen to the place where one or both of the spouses are reaching out for counseling the elephant in the room is always going to be “Where are we missing the will of God for our lives?”

Happiness is very important; the Bible doesn’t anywhere imply that being unhappy is a good in itself, but happiness isn’t to made an idol either. It’s where and when and how we want to be happy that is usually the fatal flaw in our spiritual resilience. If we want to be happy in a way that harms our selves, our neighbor or our relationship with God that’s going to be something that will inevitably need to be addressed.

This comes up quite a bit with drug and alcohol counseling. We might see the entire sweep of drug and alcohol related problems (different but related to any addictive behavior from tobacco to pornography) as seeking happiness through artificial and illegitimate means. There is a happiness that is true and a happiness that is false; there is a holy happiness and a worldly happiness that merely covers the place where happiness should be.

When we come to a marital interest and unhappiness in the relation there might be hidden somewhere or in plain sight, something somewhere that speaks of a dissatisfaction with God and His hand in our life. There are many ways to study the avoidance of our Heavenly Father’s good pleasure in what He made us, where He has us, what He wants us to do, where He wants us to go, what He would have us suffer for the sake of Christ but therein lies the “secret” of life, if there is one.

It is that humble submission to the details of divine providence is an unavoidable element in the emotional well-being of any Christian life.

While it is certainly not all there is to happiness in the Christian life, no happiness that is deep or lasting will be had without it.

It is the vantage point from which all of the other joys that we think of as easy or lesser find their frame and reference. So we move toward an understanding and apprehension of this one thing as the platform for building every other thing, and them toward joy and peace.


Basic Rules for Being Effective and Getting Things Done

It’s not that this kind of thing is reducible to “the rules” themselves. In a sense, getting things done is as much a function of temperament and personality as the steps to take but there are a lot of things we can do to maximize effectiveness and achieve goals.

Here are a few:

1. Make a list.

I know it seems simple enough but all of them are going to be simple. It’s not figuring out hidden strategies for success that’s on point but planning steps in such a way as to get them done. The simplicity of “the list” might mask its importance and power as a tool for self and time management. It is a powerful tool but one you can make with a pencil, software or in your own head. It’s my experience that people that make lists and apply them get a lot more done than people that have a jumble of ideas and a vague recollection of the things they wanted to get done that day, week or year.

Here’s a great business note or planning app that’s free and effective:

Remember, you only get out of a tool what you put into it.

2. Get Clarity: Clearly define what you want to get done and plan reasonable steps toward its accomplishment.

You must know what you want to do.

What do you want out of life. What does God want for you. What does God want for you to want.

Almost anything is easier to do if you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve before you start. If you’re already on a path and you find out you need to change course during the walk, it’s a lot more difficult.

In simpler or lesser things the principle still applies. I want to grow a nice garden or I want to learn to cook are probably too vague for a reasonable expectation of success. What kind of a garden and cook what are things you should explore early and deeply.

3. Count the cost: Everything has a cost and everyone pays the toll.

This is perhaps the hardest aspect of getting things done but also the most fruitful. If it’s a complicated task like “get a degree” or “learn a language” or “become the world’s greatest whatever” there will be clear, identifiable, achievable steps to complete that task. Your job is to find out what they are and measure your available time and resources against the completion.

Google it. Research. Ask around. Read a book. Do some searches and find out what the big, main issues or concerns are in achieving the goal at hand. If it’s unfathomable then pass it by but if it’s doable then maybe you take a run at it.

Anything can be done but not everything should be done.

This is the biblical maxim of “counting the cost”. Jesus uses it as an analogy of the Christian life when he says, “”Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” We’re not one to try to use a scripture out of its context but if the principal wasn’t true to life in general he wouldn’t have used it as a teaching tool for this issue in specific. We need to know what we’re getting ourselves into.

Search engines like and are places to start researching almost anything but remember you’re not just looking for what you want to achieve but the intermediate steps between wanting and achieving.

4. Time management:

The most valuable resource in life that you’ll never have enough of is time. It’s always running out. This goes back to making lists and gaining clarity but when planning, whether getting the groceries or climbing Mt. Everest we need to know how much time is should take, how much time it could take, and when to just stay home. Remember the old maxim time is money? It’s because the amount of time that something takes is directly related to how much it will cost you and thus how much you will gain or lose through achieving it.

Everything in your schedule has a reasonable amount of time that it should take and should be scheduled accordingly.

It’s incredible the transformation that happens in some peoples lives when they start to apply time management principles to daily or weekly activities. It’s not that they need to remove every “fun” thing or hobbies or social events, they find that they have more time for all of those things when they sharpen the amount of time they spend in necessary but time absorbing tasks.

Things like blogging, Facebook, reading, etc are things that you can and should set an amount of time for, and discipline yourself toward those ends. If we don’t the mindlessness of the activity (and I mean that in the good way) can make minutes and hours disappear that we will never see again.

If you Facebook in the morning for example, set a five minute time limit; if you can’t do it or lose track of time, set an alarm. If you still find that you can’t drop it and not check it again till lunch time or after dinner, lose it. There is nothing in there that is that important to your own or another person’s well being. You are quite literally giving a chunk of your life away that should be being spent somewhere else doing something else.

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” Psalm 39

If you’re 16 and you play video games for hours on end, maybe you get a pass. If you’re 26 and have a wife, kids and duties in the community and you spend your time playing video games instead of dealing with your home life and catering to the needs of family, career and community (please insert any of a number of time-wasters like working on your car restoration project, fishing, bowling, watching T.V., reading fiction, whatever) you probably aren’t dealing with a potentially serious problem. If history serves us well you can expect that it will catch up with you and hurt. It’s as inevitable as the ticking of the clock.

Life is short. You won’t get another one. At the end of it you are not going to list trivia as a worthy object of the cost you paid with your seconds, minutes and hours.

5. Manage fatigue: Anything worth doing is generally hard to do.

With that there are usually a lot of un-glorious, boring, monotonous things to do in the process of achieving any good thing. To raise children we change diapers. To get through law school we brief cases. To win a race there are a thousand intermediate steps before a finish line.

If you just want to manage your house better that’s easy in theory but hard in practice. The sheer number of actions that are needful each day can wear you out. It’s not the big things, it’s the small ones multiplied over and over again.

When I’m working on a big project and under the gun I still take ten minutes out of every hour for a brain break, do something else, check my email, call my kids… anything that resets the intensity and keeps you working harder, faster and more effectively through the next 50 minutes. Fatigue is inevitable if you’re doing anything that carries the glory of painful labor (which is its own beauty), it’s all in how you manage it.

Adopt a conscious mental stance that you will not be defeated by the drudgery of doing toward the glory of succeeding. Consciously deciding is better than hoping for an automatic or unplanned resilience. If you’re trying do anything worthy of doing the thought of quitting might come to mind more than once along the way. Be ready for that, and when it comes hit it with something heavy.

Do you know what sets doctors and lawyers apart from most folks? People usually think it’s natural intelligence. It’s not. Lots of very intelligent and and skilled people drop out/flunk out of medical or law school and find something else to do. It’s bruising, tenacious, unyielding, unforgiving focus and tenacity coupled with the willingness to do the heavy lifting and back-breaking labor. Success at most things boils down to the willingness to do the hard work. If you already know you’re not willing then you’ve already found a reasonable limit to what you’re really willing to achieve.

Socrates was not wrong when he said, “Know thyself”. It’s a painful lesson so learn early to get it over with.

Is what you want to do something you want to do bad enough to actually do it? Are you willing to suffer and dig deep? Are you willing to risk failure for the hope of success?

At this point you might be thinking, geez I just wanted to learn how to tango and this conversation and suddenly gotten all heavy, and that would be true. You don’t need to lean this heavy on the inner workings of the soul to learn the macarena, but if you want to do something heavy you’d better get used to thinking heavy thoughts. Heavy thoughts are heavy for a reason.

6. Value good advice:

The Proverbs teach that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

How many people, when they were 17, thought their parents were complete idiots but by the time they’re 37 think their parents are geniuses? It’s pretty common. Wisdom hangs out where it wants too; you can’t choose where to find it. If you need to know how to fix your marriage you go to a marriage counselor; if you want salvation get thee to church; if you want money see the banker. It’s not rocket science.  It’s obvious. Get some counsel.

When you get contrary counsel choose between them as best you can.

People that aren’t willing to take the wisdom of those that have already walked a few miles rarely do anything very interesting. Yeah, every once in a while you get an Albert Einstein but he was Albert Einstein. The rest of us are just trying to get things done.


And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth – A Sermon

And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth – A Sermon

It Does Not Do To Leave A Live Dragon Out Of Your Calculations”

It Does Not Do To Leave A Live Dragon Out Of Your Calculations – A Sermon by Christian Theology Blog Staff

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Grand Theft Auto 5 and a Christian view of Video Game Violence and Sex

grand theft auto 5 wallpaperHi *****,

The first question might be is murdering someone morally problematic?  The dependent question would be, is enjoying pretending to murder someone morally problematic?  If we say yes to the former we have room to talk about the later.

Then which sinful thoughts, words or deeds can we pretend that we are doing for the purpose of pleasure or recreation?

Are there sinful recreations?  And if so, are such recreations sinful in themselves or by what they bring out of us, what effect they have on us, or what effect they have on our relationship with God, our neighbor or the community?

A related question would be, are these kinds of things good as long as they are in the heart and not manifested as an external action?

One issue that would need to be reconciled is that when murdering a fictional person in a video game, there is no actual violence; a second would be that there might be no actual anger.  The reason that would be important is that in Jesus’ exposition of the Ten Commandments as the continuing expression of the moral law of God, He said “I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”.  And then later, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee”

If one is merely looking at pictures of virtual women there is no actual woman corresponding to the graphic, only all of them.  Similarly, if one is playing a level of a video game and murdering an innocent or hundreds or thousands of them for pleasure and recreational purposes, is that then a moral good?  Being that no action of men or angels is morally neutral (we being created for conformity to the likeness of Christ as instruments of worship) though many are by our merely human estimations, morally ambiguous.

Is pornography, by analogy (and we need to use an analogy of some kind because there seems to be few things left that prick a Christian conscience) a moral problem in itself, a moral problem as used, or a moral problem of production and distribution?  What of patently obscene materials? These even by the morally and often legally absurd Supreme Court of the United States were found to be legally unprotected materials under the United States Constitution. We’re they wrong?

Ethical scholar Dennis Prager famously argues that in his historically dependent tradition of the pharisees, there is no moral error with producing, buying, owning or using pornography because the actions are entirely inside the person’s heart and he never touches the woman, and thus remains clean because God would never judge the heart.  He goes on to argue for the legitimacy of the Christian or Jew patronizing strip clubs and other such institutions because there is no actual physical act correspondent to the internal desire or actions of the mind and heart.

Child pornography is still illegal even if entirely the product of an artist’s creative labors, even if it does not correspond to any actual existing child. Does this make sense?  Since it is the regulation of what is ultimately reducible to imagination and the product of the depraved mind but not external actions?

At this point, child pornography and more general pornography are still grounds for church discipline, but the institutional church because peopled with men, usually follows the world around looking for ways to seem more sophisticated and respectable.

But as for now the church can and must maintain vigilance especially in regard to the care, shepherding, repentance, and restoration of erring members that might fall into sins of sexual moral depravity, without being quite so sensitive to what the world will think of us should we reject something they love, because we love something they reject.

The ease and availability of this kind of internally degenerative material is shocking to the conscience and available through every communicative electronic medium, and quite frankly, the producers of these materials want our young men.  They want their minds, they want their money and they want them for the long haul.  We know of course that temptations and trials don’t always lead to repentance and faith but are often the means to infidelity, moral failure and eventual apostasy.  Apostasy generally happens one sin at a time and not all in a lump.

“Jesus told his disciples, “It is inevitable that temptations to sin will come, but how terrible it will be for the person through whom they come”

I think we can at least say this, as a Christian pornography and gratuitous violence as recreations are neither value free nor left to the discretion of the individual conscience.

Practice makes perfect for well or ill.

And we become that which we love in our hearts, “for as a man thinks in his heart, that is what he is”.

This has a lot to do with the training and shaping of a Christian conscience; what a Christian will find disgusting and unacceptable can be changed through ongoing exposure to and accommodation toward injustice, fleshly indulgence, unchaste thoughts, immoderate humor, etc. Purity is one with responsibility not because we do not have Christian Liberty, but because we do.

Contrary to much contemporary Christian thought on the matter, Christian Liberty is not the justification for the Christian to practice myriad evils without the nagging weight of conscience, it is being free from the dictates of mere human judgement in regard to arguable matters. Christian Liberty says yes to all that God says yes. Fleshly indulgence says yes to all that shares its passions. The laws of God are the only arbiter in these matters.

As R. C. Sproul writes on this: “The tragedy of the contemporary evangelical church is its failure to know and establish the law of God.”

For example, The Wesminster Large Catechism in its judgment upon what thoughts and actions are obedient to the law of God within the bounds of Christian liberty says this:

Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

And on how we break the law of God under Christian Liberty, this:

Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

The laws of God are the ethical expression of the nature of God as a personal being involved in the faith and life of His Church. Far from their being something irrelevant to contemporary Christian faith and practice, they are contemporary Christian faith and practice.