Establish the work of our hands...

For whatever reason, I just spent five minutes reading a bunch of Reformed superstars' tweets being exchanged among Reformed groupies. Glorious truths of God are reduced to sound bites recirculated by fan-boys who come away thinking they have struck a blow for the Gospel by tweeting twenty words and attaching some super-apostle's name.

The Bible tells us "solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). But we're fat Americans, so instead of "practice" and "training," we have become facile, glib, feebleminded, giddy, and frothy in our repetition of the banal, phylacteried, hackneyed, and bromidic.

If you don't know those words, there's a reason.

Typical of the stuff we cycle through is, "Jesus didn't die so he could say he did his part. No, he died to save his elect in full." Then we attach a name to these twenty words, as if anyone could own copyright on such an obvious truth repeated by every pastor since the Apostle Paul.

Poor Mark Driscoll was caught... repeating Peter Jones who, himself, was only repeating Burning Man news items while adding lyrics from his high school buddy, John Lennon. And Lennon? He was just channeling Yoko who had read a Mark Driscoll book on marriage which inspired her to get John to do an album photo shoot...

You see? It's all a Tibetan prayer wheel and wheel keep on turning.

I've told my congregation countless times that nothing in my work is original. It's all learned from fathers and mothers of the past, and the older the better. It's the same with everyone else.

I mean, go back and read that quote. How could anyone bother to attribute it to someone unless that someone is more important than the quote? In other words, all the words are just an excuse to declare that I'm a fan-boy. They're the Reformed equivalent of skin for gang tattoos and football jerseys for "18" and "MANNING."

So many free-floating inanities and such little time. Alas and alack.

Former generations read Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, and if they took anything away from it that was brief, they'd learned it after hundreds of hours studying his theology of the Atonement. Then, having given themselves to solid food for the mature, their practice produced the fruit of discernment and they came to understand a certain syllogism which they sometimes used to call others to take up solid food so they too could practice until they were able to discern good and evil.

Do you know that syllogism?

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, "Because of unbelief."

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


Or as Charles Hodge said, "a new idea never originated in this seminary."

Would it be fair to say that we live in a soundbite culture? This sort of sloppy thinking and sloppier expression can be seen in many areas quite removed from theology. It is also so far from what the French call bons mots; that is, the remark which is as short as a soundbite - but far more profound.

(My personal favourite of these is CS Lewis: "the trouble with finding [your] place in the world is that the world will end up finding its place in [you]". Some Oscar Wilde comes to mind as well).

Owen must have been plagiarizing John Piper:

"We can conclude this section with the following summary argument. Which of these statements is true?

1. Christ died for some of the sins of all men.
2. Christ died for all the sins of some men.
3. Christ died for all the sins of all men.

No one says that the first is true, for then all would be lost because of the sins that Christ did not die for. The only way to be saved from sin is for Christ to cover it with his blood.

The third statement is what the Arminians would say. Christ died for all the sins of all men. But then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus, or they must join us in affirming statement number two: Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect so that God's punitive wrath is appeased toward them and his grace is free to draw them irresistibly out of darkness into his marvelous light."

Did you guys make a New Year's Resolution to stop blogging?

Sorry for the absence, brother.

Re: "Jesus didn't die so he could say he did his part. No, he died to save his elect in full."

I understand that the truth itself is as old as the hills, but I do actually think that it's framed in a poignant and helpful way in this tweet. I perfectly understand why someone would post something like this that they find particularly helpful, and it seems only natural to me to then want to direct credit to whomever they found helpful.

That being said, I understand the danger you see in the practice of Christian celebrity name dropping, though I think just as much conceit can be signaled through dropping John Owen's name as in dropping Mark Driscoll's name. Instead of saying, "Look at me, I'm hip and edgy," it says, "Look at me, I'm sophisticated and holy 'cuz I read old Puritans."

Of course, the truly holy people only tweet Bible verses. "I am of Christ!"[1]

[1]Saul of Tarsus, from a 1st century letter to a people group in ancient Corinth.

Dear Alex,

Thanks for the pushback. Maybe I weakened my argument by citing any particular tweet. Criticism that risks citing an example of the sin or error is as weak as the example cited, so often it's better not to cite any particular, but simply to state the concern generically.

On the other hand, specificity is the lifeblood of communication, and maybe partly because it puts the writer out there where anyone can show his example to be wanting, as you did. So I suppose my example served the purpose intended?

Backing up, though, I spent a good bit of time reading such tweets from Reformed men that day, and I couldn't escape the conclusion it was all about fawning over celebrities by citing things they'd written, most of which was inane. Milk rather than meat, and all very positive. Inspirational. Helpful thoughts for the day, as Rita Cuffey would put it. A giggling excitement over fashion as a certain adipose man of the first part of the last century would put it.

In the conglomerate, I think no one could escape the reality of the superficiality of it all.

About Owen, my point isn't to push my Owen over the man's hero, but to say that Owen is a book and meat, and that we should not waste our time on tweets about tin-man celebrities when we can read a book by a giant. So yes, I suppose this can appear as my bragging about my superior taste, but I hope some of the men reading this decided to be done with celebrities and give themselves, instead, to giants.

I hope that was my intent, dear brother.


Thanks, Tim.

I actually wasn't intending to criticize your use of Owen. I just thought it would be helpful to point out that repenting of our sound-bite Twitter giggling over fashion doesn't simply consist of replacing [celebrity]'s quotes with [Puritan]'s quotes. Doing so might just mean we're seeking the approval of different men than we were before, but still not seeking God's approval.

I'm pretty sure you couldn't fit that syllogism in one tweet anyhow :)

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