Sexual By Design – Douglas Wilson

Culture, Theology

Since I took a dig at Douglas Wilson 2 weeks ago, I thought I would express some appreciation for him here. There’s a lot about Wilson’s theology that is troubling to me, to say the least. But there’s also a lot about Wilson that I absolutely love. He is a charitable, winsome, brilliant Pastor who has done significant work to advance several things I’m very passionate about: Classical Christian education, Reformed theology, and intellectual/biblical engagement with the non-believing world. I appreciate Wilson’s wit, his tact, and the guy’s books and blog posts are just really fun to read. A modern day Chesterton (who is, by the way, one of his heroes).

With that said, I was very thankful to take time last night to watch Wilson address a very angry and unruly group of students and teachers at Indiana University. He gave two lectures: 1. Creation Sexuality and 2. Redemption Sexuality, each around 40 minutes. Then he opened the floor for 2 hours of questions and, it appears, went outside after the facility was closed to continue the conversation with those who had more to ask. I am struck (as I was in his debates with Christopher Hitchens) by his steadfastness in the moral law of God and its binding nature on all mankind, whether one believes it or not. Additionally, I am impressed with how well he stayed on point – there were literally hundreds of opportunities for him to point out logical fallacies, contextual errors, and outright false statements, but he thought it better to stay focused on what wasmost important.

Lastly, it was interesting to see textbook Post-Modernism and the intolerance of the tolerance movement on display. The basic tenant of Wilson’s dissenters was, “You’re wrong for seeking to impose a view of morality on other people…” Which, surprisingly, never struck any of them as insanely hypocritical since they were telling him he was “wrong.” It seems to be a very common thread in Christian/non-Christian dialogue that we are labeled as hateful or unloving because we say that certain actions are sinful or that people are living a sinful lifestyle. In other words, we are often told we are not entitled to our biblically informed opinions because they do not conform to the supposed cultural  standard and call on people to consider an alternative. It’s as if I would be told I’m unloving because I scream at the top of my lungs for someone to get off the track because a train is coming… after all, what right do I have to tell them what they should do? I know, I know… I should be more tolerant… but I’m feeling a bit judged by that, so back off.

Below are the preview videos of the Q&A session – you can watch everything here: Sexual By Design: Douglas Wilson in Bloomington, IN

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Pride: Sin’s Sinister Seed (Part II- Its Basic Definition)

Christian Living, Worship

Part I

While we have already observed in the last post the basic meaning of the word translated as pride in Proverbs 16:19, and seen that it literally means something like a swelling excellence, it is helpful to broaden out the base of that definition a bit.  To help us get started, here are some definitions of pride offered by various men who have spent time giving this issue serious biblical thought.

C.J. Mahaney in part defines pride as when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence on Him.

William Farley calls pride spiritual blindness, a delusional, inflated view of self.  It is unreality on steroids.

Farley also writes

here is the great paradox:  the proud man thinks he is humble, but the humble man thinks he is proud.  The humble man sees his arrogance.  He sees it clearly, and as a result he aggressively pursues a life of humility, but he doesn’t think of himself as humble.  The proud man is completely unaware of his pride.  Of all men he is convinced that he is humble.[1]

Finally, Jonathan Edwards writes along those same lines in The Religious Affections, that

the proud hypocrite is quick to discern the mote in his brother’s eye… while he sees nothing of the beam in his own.  He is very often denouncing others’ pride, finding fault with others’ apparel and way of living; and is affected ten times as much with his neighbor’s ring or riband as with all the filthiness of his own heart.[2]

What are the consistent themes in these wise words from others who have thought long, hard and Biblically about this?  Pride holds others to impossible standards while constantly excusing itself.  It does this by gaining the high ground through self-exaltation.  When I have exalted myself in my own mind and have depreciated others, I will always have a better view of other people’s faults than my own.

Eventually my pride places me at the pinnacle of my own universe.  And then what has happened?  There is only one who is worthy, who ought to occupy that position at the pinnacle of my universe.  That is the position of worship, and therefore it is a throne which we can only allow God to occupy in our hearts.  But our pride actually dethrones God from the place of worship in our universe and rather than installing some idol of stone, takes a seat for ourselves on the throne of the Most High.  Unchecked pride makes a man exalts himself over others until he worships and serves himself rather than God.

There is therefore both a horizontal and a vertical dimension to pride, yet the two are always linked and increase in proportion to one another.  Horizontally, we want to be above others; vertically, we want to occupy the highest place of worship in our own realities.

Here is my basic definition of pride:  Pride is self-idolatry.  

What is an idol? It is anything we worship in the place of God.

What is worship?  It is our highest rendering of service and honor and glory and devotion and praise and accolade and significance and joy and fame and love.  It is saying to the object of worship: you are what I will live for and you are what I will find my ultimate identity in and you are what I will make sacrifices in life for and it is you who I will delight in.  The heart of pride does all this for itself.

Pride is in-grown worship, which is just another way to say self-idolatry.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he answered in Matthew 22:37-40

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus says that the greatest commandments, the way God wants us to live, is that we would put other people above ourselves and put God above all.  We love others as we would love ourselves, therefore showing preference to them and seeking their best above our own; and above all we give God all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.  Again, there is the horizontal and the vertical- but this time we see it as God would have us live.

Pride is the complete opposite of the greatest commandment.

Pride pushes others down and lifts itself up until it loves itself with all its heart, with all its soul and with all its mind.

Pride is self-idolatry.  That is its basic definition.

Having seen that, in the next post we’ll continue to look at pride by considering its Biblical Dimensions.

[1] The above quotes from C.J. Mahaney and William Farley were gleaned from this post on

[2] Edwards, The Religious Affections, p. 261.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Pride: Sin’s Sinister Seed (Part I- Introduction)

Christian Living

Pride is a monster which anyone who has taken honest and careful inventory of their own hearts is all too well acquainted with.

I do not think it is an overstatement of the fact to assert that if we were to trace any and every sin to the moment it of its birth, the unseen moment our hearts began to turn towards rebellion and our minds began to pave the way for giving in to temptation, we would find that at the root of all our sin is pride.

Truly, pride is sin’s poison seed.

I have a hill in front of my house which is infested with blackberry vines.  Every year I go out into them and I chop them all down to the dirt and then I go and buy the most toxic chemicals which can legally be obtained and drench I the soil with them.

And for a while they stay down.  But in reality the roots are deep below the surface, and in time new shoots of fresh green growth sprout up and entangle themselves in my wives flowers and before I know it the hill needs to be hacked down and scorched all over again.

Pride is like that, even in the heart of the Christian.  It always wants to come back, it always looks for opportunity, it is always ready to shoot up new growth and quickly overwhelm us.   And our reaction to it must involve the sort of aggressive response I take to my blackberry vines.

The Christian life, while it is completely and totally grounded in the perfect work of Jesus Christ, a salvation all of grace and to which I can add nothing, although the Christian life is completely and totally grounded in those wonderful, central, foundational gospel realities; the Christian life is not a life of serene and stationary repose.

The Christian life involves the battle against remaining sin in our lives.  It involves the hard work of ongoing repentance, and growth in godliness.  The old writers called it mortification, which is another way of saying putting sin to death.

I’m going to take a few posts to look Biblically at the Christian’s ongoing battle with the sin of pride.  .

Our key text is perhaps the most famous text in all the Bible concerning pride, Proverbs 16:18-19.  These verses are short and largely self-explanatory.

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

The word translated pride in this verse carries a literal sense of “swelling excellence.”  What an accurate word picture that is!  That’s what pride does, it asserts its own excellence and then it swells itself.

It is this swelling sense of one’s own excellence which the text says goes before destruction, and this haughty spirit which goes before a fall.  Again, the word picture is so accurate.  The fall in the verse speaks of a stumbling, of not being able to keep your footing.

So here’s the Bibles picture of what pride does to you: it swells your head up until you can’t walk right and you stumble.

If you’ve ever watched a young child learning to walk, you’ve seen this.  The issue for very young children is that the ratio of head to body size is substantially different in a young human than a mature human.  Kids have to grow into their own heads.

When your head is about half the size and weight of your entire body then it is difficult to stay upright.  You’re like a human bobble-head just waiting to topple.  And that’s what pride does to you.  It swells up your head and then when you try to walk you fall flat on your face.

The importance of killing pride in our lives is driven home in the next verse: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

So do you see this?  In this verse there are those the world would label winners, and there are those the world would label losers.  The winners have the spoil.  They have the prize, they get the reward.  But if the cost of that prize is pride, then it is better to be with those the world would call losers- the lowly.  It is better to lose out on the world’s prizes than to cultivate pride in your heart.

You can almost hear an echo of Jesus’ counsel that it would be better to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye than to allow these members to cause you to sin.  Someone once said that in the Bible, sin never survives a cost-benefit analysis.

It is inarguable from the words of Scripture that this issue of pride is serious and relevant to us all.  In the next several posts want to build somewhat of a theology of pride, and also offer several practical helps for fighting against it.

Let’s build a clear and Biblical system for thinking through this particular sin, so that God might be glorified as we seek to be faithful to the command to be killing it in our lives and growing in grace and love and humility.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Every Foreign Land is Home, Every Home Foreign

Christian Living, Church History

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs.  They do not live apart in cities of their own, nor do they speak some different language or practice some extraordinary way of life.  Nor yet do they posses any invention discovered by the intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some are.  They live in cities of Greeks or barbarians as the lot is cast, and they follow the local customs in dress and food and the other details of daily life.  Yet the constitution of their own polity is remarkable and admittedly paradoxical.  They live in their own home-towns, but are only sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, but endure all hardships as foreigners.  Every foreign land is home to them, and every home foreign… Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven… They love all, and are persecuted by all…” (anonymous, Epistle to Diognetus, circa 150 A.D.).

Leaving aside some of the thorny issues raised by early Christian apologetic efforts, this quote is extraordinary.  It is amazing to be able to so identify with an anonymous man writing two thousand years ago from half way around the world.  “Every foreign land is home to them, and every home foreign” is perhaps as beautiful and sublime a picture of the Christian’s pilgrimage in this world I’ve ever read.  It captures both the heart which fuels missions, and the fire which produces martyrs.

(By: Nicolas Alford)