Enough for my vote

I cast my vote in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary via email yesterday. Because when you consider the polar opposite amounts of competence and corruption in our current government, exercising your civic duty with the same communication mode that all your dad’s friends use to forward around conspiracy theories and bad jokes just seems like the secure way to go. I’m sure [cough, cough] that my vote will be counted. At least I tried.

To be clear, I would not count the email with the subject Fwd:Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: DEMOCRATS MURDERED ANTONIN SCALIA as one of those conspiracy theories. I’d file that one as Within The Realm of Reasonable Possibilities. Is it really that hard to believe that they would murder in the pursuit of their cause? For decades they’ve been actively encouraging the killing of millions of defenseless babies in pursuit of their sexual jollies. Why not Scalia, too?

And that brings us back to Saturday’s presidential primary. Who do you trust to nominate someone like Scalia to the Supreme Court? Who has the guts for that type of fight—because he’s going to have to fight both the Democrats and the weak-stomached Republicans. Speaking of weak-stomached Republicans, just asking these questions assumes that the GOP Senate will not fold up like origami elephant for the rest of Obama’s term. That is a BIG assumption.

This leads to another question. Who is not like those weak-stomached Republicans, who bend whichever way the Washington political class tells them to? That leaves Cruz and Trump. If you read my satire piece yesterday, then you’ll see why I can’t vote Trump. It turns out that once your scratch past most of Trump’s bluster, he is too much like the rest of the GOP establishment class—amoral, self-interested, and all-to-willing to compromise on core principles.

So I cast my lot with Cruz. I still had to hold my nose at a few things, most notably his awkward pauses and squinting. I also don’t care for his inflated defense budget or his bad habit of putting a red, white, and blue veneer on Christianity. But overall, I think he is the best guy left. He’s a proven conservative, undeniably pro-life, has a brilliant legal mind, is a constitutionalist, has a tolerable foreign policy, and will drive progressives batty. In this field, that’s enough for my vote.

But nobody in Washington likes him; he’s a nasty guy! The fact that people in Washington do not like Ted Cruz is at the top of my list of reasons of why I do like Ted Cruz.

What about the other guys? I’ll try to sum up the other candidates in a few sentences each, which should make it obvious why I don’t think they are up for being president.

Ben Carson—I’m not sure if he is running for president of the United States or of Mars. He always seems to be unaware of what’s going on around him, occasionally bringing his attention back to earth to make another bad joke about not getting enough speaking time during the debates. He’s a nice guy, with some good ideas, and will make a great surgeon general.

Marco Rubio—Honestly, I wanted to devote a whole post to the baffling question of why people fawn over Rubio. Of course, the answer is that he is young, ethnic, handsome, and has a cool last name. He’s the Republican Obama. Never mind that he is a people-pleaser who changes his positions on key issues so that the Important People will like him. Never mind that he is rehashing old George W. nation-building foreign policies—you know, the kind that led to ISIS; the kind that will get us into another war to overthrow a leader, this time in Syria. Never mind the lame tagline, “A New American Century.” And never mind that he wants to conscript your daughters for war.

Jeb!—”Geez, I mean, come on guys.” That’s really all I hear from Jeb! He really should replace the exclamation point and be Jeb:/ He’s a big lump of boring. And he’ll be open borders and open war. I’m fascinated by the Bush family. But no thanks, not again.

John Kasich—John Kasich is like a televangelist. He’s full of smiles and positive vibes and we-can-do-this! platitudes. And all the while he’s taking your money and spending it elsewhere. Kasich is a Government Believer; this is a time for a skeptic, someone recognizes the limits of what a government is able to do.

Tomorrow my fellow South Carolinians will go to the polls to do their part in selecting the next president. I’m hoping everyone wakes up from their Trump-drunk stupor, but I’m not counting on it. People are angry—and rightfully so—and Trump personifies their anger. Unfortunately, he does not personify our ideals. Still, South Carolina will probably vote Trump.

And that makes about as much sense as trusting your email ballot will be counted.

Upstate Christians back Trump

GREENVILLE, SC—An upstate coalition of conservative Christians has announced its endorsement of Donald J. Trump in Saturday’s GOP presidential primary. The group, which has often maligned Barack Obama’s lack of pre-presidential experience, points to Mr. Trump’s proven record as a reality-television star as evidence of his readiness to carry the country’s nuclear codes.

Upstate Christians are known as family-values voters. Appearing on ABC’s The View, Mr. Trump solidified his family-values bona fides, valuing his daughter so much that he noted, “if Ivanka was not my daughter, I’d be dating her.”

Perhaps most appealing to Upstate constituents is Mr. Trump’s politically-incorrect, tell-it-like-it-is speaking style. Jimmie Darnell, a deacon at Muddy River Baptist Church, noted,” we are plain tired of the Washington ‘stablishment and their slippery, divided tongues.”

Just a few years ago, before talking like a conservative in order to run as a Republican for president, Mr. Trump “told it like it was “ about his abortion views. On a national news broadcast, Mr. Trump said he supported the legality of partial birth abortion. To say it politically incorrect—as Upstate Christians insist—Mr. Trump, as a sane adult and speaking publicly of his own volition, stated that he supported the practice of taking a developed baby partially out of the womb, stabbing it with a pair of long surgical scissors, and then sucking the baby’s brains out with a vacuum.

“We’re gonna make America great again!,” exclaimed Pastor Clint Judson. The babies could not be reached for comment.

Darnell, also a small-business owner, lauded Mr. Trump as a “businessman who knows how to get things done,” and drew special attention to Mr. Trump’s nuanced and finely tuned trade policy with Mexico. “We’ll tell them to go f#<& themselves,” Mr. Trump outlined in a policy speech in New Hampshire recently.

Mr. Trump’s business acumen is perhaps best seen in the diversity of the businesses he own. For example, if elected, Mr. Trump would be the first U.S. president to own a strip club at the exact moment he puts his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office. “Don’t worry, we’re far enough from DC that the lightning won’t strike us,” joked Darnell.

Endorsing Mr. Trump, a noted eminent domain enthusiast, unites this Christian coalition with Knox White Republicans living in Greenville’s West End who specialize in stealing other people’s property to build uppity boutiques for Yankee housewives.

Mr. Trump, though he has offered little in the way of substantial ideas during his campaign, has assured the American public that he has the “best guys” who’ll make “great deals.” Mr. Trump’s lawyers are heralded as examples of the candidate’s “best guys.” For example, these lawyers helped him file for divorce from his second wife (the one he met at church and subsequently slept with while married to his first wife), just days shy of their prenuptial agreement’s expiration date. He then leaked the news to a New York newspaper and left a copy of the morning paper on his wife’s bed, which is how she learned that her marriage was over. “Flawlessly executed,” said Rev. Judson. “I mean, I’m not sayin’ I agree with it, just that it was pretty savvy. We need somebody like that dealing with Putin.”

“Plus, the way I figure it,” Rev. Judson went on the explain, “it takes a mighty religious man to find his next wife at church.”

Muddy River Baptist Church recently set a church record by giving $1300 to the annual international offering, showing, in Mr. Darnell’s words, “MRBC’s commitment to the nations of our world.” He then went on to tout the nuance and precision of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, which the candidate thus summarized at a rally last week, “we’ll bomb the sh*t out of them.”

“In the end, we need a candidate who can make America great again,” said Judson. “We need someone who can reverse ObamaCare, for example.”

Clearly, the one GOP candidate who has come out in favor of universal government-paid-for health care is the man to reverse President Obama’s health-care-for-all initiative.

The coalition is expecting the philandering, baby-murder supporting, property-stealing, strip clubbing reality-TV star to unite the party and usher in a new golden age of Reaganism.

“God bless America,” Judson added.

[File under Satire]





Dancing at a royal ball

God is telling a story. He is telling the one True Myth, the one true Fairy Tale, the one true Epic Poem. We are his characters.

Life full of scenes. Millions of scenes. Your scenes. My scenes.

Most are incredibly boring—brushing teeth, buying groceries, changing diapers. Some are incredibly moving—old married couple holding hands, military dad surprising his family returning from the frontline, mom comforting teenage daughter after her first breakup. Some scenes are passionate—making love, protesting injustice, crisis prayer. Some are horrific—car accidents, abortion, war. Some are heroic—lifeguard pulling kid out of the pool in time, firemen running into the World Trade Center, your kid standing up to the class bully.

But most of life’s scenes are of an everyday-normal quality, which sadly makes them ripe to be scenes of shame.

Scene: Fussy. Scene: Complaining. Scene: Angry.

Yesterday morning my 18-month old daughter came up to me in the kitchen while I was trying to finish washing breakfast dishes and make coffee. Her outstretched arms told me she wanted to be picked up. The day before I had read these words from Joe Rigney:

“My one-year old walks up to me wth arms outstretched. I can see it in his eyes. He is searching for something: approval, affirmation, acceptance. The kind that only a father can give. He is hungry for a father’s love, for the Father’s love. 

Either the laughter in my eyes, the smile on my face, and the strength and tenderness of my arms will tell the truth about God, or their absence will blaspheme the Father of lights. 

My son is reaching for me, and looking for God. 

My son, the theologian.”

I am guilty. I have blasphemed the Father of lights almost everyday this past week. Right after breakfast. “Just a minute, sweetheart.” “I can’t pick you up right now.” “Can’t you see I’m doing the dishes and I need both hands.” “Why can’t you just go play?!” “Stop screaming!”

I thought about the above passage from Rigney’s The Things of Earth. I thought about an N.D. Wilson talk I listened to a month ago, the one about life being full of scenes. I decided to make this one count.

If the heavenly host were going to tune in to this part of the story, if they were looking in at my scene at 8:30 a.m., in my kitchen, on a random Thursday in January, then they were going to see a father pick up his daughter, hold her close, and dance.

In that moment we were a King and a Princess dancing at a royal ball. We were practicing the night before prom. We were at her wedding reception. She was a Great Lady and I her long-adored aging father. I sang the music and led the dance. We twirled. She giggled. I teared up. We both rejoiced. I dipped her at the end and gave her the biggest kiss of the day.

And….cut. The moment lasted just a minute. She then went to play with her brother. I finished the dishes. But it was just about the best 60 seconds of my week.

On to my next scene. And yours.

And such were some of you

So almost every time I post something I wake up the next morning and remember something I meant to add to the post or wish I would have written. Such is the case with yesterday’s review of The Free Speech Apocalypse and I am glad of it because it gives me the opportunity to expand on the left-out idea a bit more today.

One of the reasons I suggested for why you should see the film is because it shows in live action and colorful language the great Gospel need of our day. I mentioned that what we see in the film is Romans 1 type of hard-hearted, high-handed sin.

It is at this point that we should all remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “and such were some of you.”

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
”—1 Corinthians 6:9-11

We are all sinners. The militant Pride marcher and the Sunday School teacher. We were all, at one point, dead in our trespasses and sins. We were all children of wrath. Some of us manifested our sinfulness in many high-handed and perverted ways. For others of us, that high-handed sin existed in us in seed form and would have grown into full, horrible bloom had God not intervened, had grace not interrupted our lives. But all of us started in the same sinful, sinking boat.

So the difference between Christians and the free speech-hating intolerista sexual revolutionaries is that we Christians have received the gifts of repentance and faith. And since we did nothing to earn or deserve such gifts we should feel not one ounce proud of having received them. We make no pats to our own backs.

Rather, we hope and desire for all the poor souls to get off the sinking ship, to receive with gladness the gift of salvation, to join in the song of the redeemed. We welcome them all by the blood of Jesus.

Why you should watch The Free Speech Apocalypse

For my money, when it comes to our current cultural moment—that crowning moment of Western Civilization when a United States Presidential administration orders that a teenage boy be allowed to shower with the schoolgirls because on that particular day he’s singing the old Shania Twain song with a little extra umf: Man, I feel like a woman—no one understands, analyzes, knows the hidden plays, and articulates the strategies better than Doug Wilson, a pastor in Idaho. I’m both not hesitant at all and a little hesitant to say this. I’m not hesitant at all because it is true. I’m a little hesitant because a few good folks, allergic to hard truths and plain talk as they are, break out in hives every time Wilson writes the word sodomy, and though I’m working hard at ruining my reputation, I still care a little. If you think it is nonsensical and a violation of the law of noncontradiction to be both hesitant and not hesitant at the same time, congratulations! You are among the few in America who can still be reasoned with.

As such, I want to recommend to you The Free Speech Apocalypse, Wilson’s new documentary. The film is fundamentally a cultural commentary on the intolerance movement among American liberals, exposing its contradictions, strategies, and hilarity. And by hilarity I mean it’s so lame it’s kind of funny. The organizing narrative thread centers on a series of lectures entitled Sexual By Design, given by Wilson a few years ago at Indiana University. Let’s just say that a lot of the students who showed up were less than thrilled with Wilson’s beliefs regarding human sexuality. And if they had been content to just be less than thrilled, the event could not have been used for a movie. Instead, they employed the power moves of the Left to try to shout him down and shut him up; Wilson needed 20 police officers to ensure his safety…for giving a lecture…on a public university campus. That’s why the film is called The Free Speech Apocalypse. The First Amendment is crashing hard.

Here are four reasons you should watch the film:

  1. To know what is happening and what is coming. The fact of Donald Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate is evidence of a collective frustration with political correctness and speech sensitivity. Yet, I’m still not sure most of us realize the extent to which free speech is under threat and how the Left is maneuvering to castrate public discourse in America. Nowhere is this more evident than our universities, where coddled students now require trigger warnings, safe spaces, and counseling any time someone poses an idea that doesn’t give them warm fuzzies. Just this week, Yale students lost their collective wits when a university official wrote an email suggesting that students were capable of handling controversial Halloween costumes like adults. Demands for apologies and resignations ensued. These same students will occupy places of cultural and political influence in the future. We need to be aware and prepared for what’s coming.
  2. To see the hidden strategies. When playing defense in football, it’s good to know that not every time the quarterback looks like he’s handing the ball to the running back is it an actual handoff. Sometimes he runs a bootleg and throws downfield to the tight end for a touchdown. The point is that we need to be aware of what our opponents are actually doing. This film exposes several tactics including: raw power by victimhood, demands for apologies as a means to gain power, and shouting in order to silence. No arguments, just rage and hurt feelings.
  3. To be, quite literally, encouraged. The crying need of the hour is for those who love Jesus and the good, the beautiful, and the true to be full of courage. This film calls believers to courage. We do not have to surrender the dictionary. We are free to recognize the liberal worldview as bankrupt and lame. We do not need their permission to think, speak, or even to disobey their own unlawful laws. We should have the courage to insist on that fact that truth is fixed and words have meanings. We need the courage to resist their demands for apologies.
  4. To see the great Gospel need of our day. What we see in this film is Romans 1 type of stuff. We are seeing inventors of evil. We are seeing those that not only practice evil, but give approval to those that do (and incidentally, they are demanding that we give approval to what they do, which is kind of their whole point). These kinkosexual revolutionaries are deep into the suppression of the knowledge of God. This kind only goes out by prayer. Viewing this film has the potential to tempt you toward anger. Rather, we should look with pity and love at the enslaved. Do we still need to fight? Absolutely. But let us remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood—even if the flesh and blood is dancing half-naked with a rainbow boa necklace in a gay pride parade—but against principalities and powers and the Devil himself. Culture and politics are downstream from religion. So we must fight the battle primarily in people’s hearts with the Word of Christ, the Gospel. The battle is spiritual so let us use spiritual means. Of course, let us not also forget that when the New Testament speaks of people being filled with the Spirit—which would make that person spiritual—the event that follows is usually that person proclaiming Christ boldly and casting down idols with words that would land you in sensitivity training and an on-air apology today. So this is not unrelated to the film’s central premise. Still, we should keep in mind that repentance and faith are gifts from God. Let us pray accordingly.

If I had to name one criticism of the film it would be that regular readers of Wilson’s blog would not necessarily encounter any new ideas. He’s written most of this stuff already. Still, the ideas are helpful and wise enough to hear again, in living color, with lots of extra scenes and commentary from a few others. For those that are not regular readers, after they get done saying I’ve never thought of it like that before, but that’s brilliant, I think they’ll stop by Blog and Mablog a bit more often.

I’ll end this review with my favorite quote from the movie. “If you’ve ever exercised your First Amendment right of free speech, thank a Christian. We invented it.”

When you open your Bible

Lord willing, tomorrow morning—or at some point in the day—you will open your Bible to read. Or at least you want to. Or plan to. Or think you should. For many of you, this reading will be a source of delight and spiritual edification. For many others, your daily Bible reading is a duty that hangs like thick fog, devoid of all joy and expectation. It feels like drudgery. Just get this done so you can open Facebook without guilt. This post is for the latter group. I want you to be filled with wonder at the very idea of the Bible.

When you open your Bible to read, you are reading the very words of God. I know it sounds familiar, but just think about what that means. We are talking about the God who thought up snow-capped mountains, deep-raging seas, lizards, and the ant colony. The God who gave us flowers and bees and declared they should work together to give us honey. The God who dreamed up birthday cake. The God who went to great lengths to create a world under water that few humans will ever glimpse with their own eyes. The God who spoke galaxies into existence so far away that no human will ever glimpse them with their own eyes in this life. The God who decreed the ecosystem of insects in the Amazon. The God who decides whether today’s clouds are puffy or flat or shaped like an elephant.

We are talking about the God who is Lord over all things. He has raised up great men like Moses, Constantine, and George Washington. He adorned women of valor like Ruth, Mary, and Lottie Moon. He stealthily planted quiet men and women of honor and dignity in obscure places—visit your church’s senior adult Sunday School class to meet these heroes. Kings and presidents and dictators and Congress are alike streams of water in his hands. All of history’s kingdoms, democracies, republics, and federations are under his thumb. No civilization has or will ever escape his gaze—and none would want to.

And this God wrote a book.

He wrote a book and gave it to us. He gave it to us in our own language. He gave it to us for our own good. For no higher good exists than to know this God. The means by which we may know him are the sixty-six collected books of Holy Scripture.

If God had not spoken, if he had not written a book, if he had not revealed himself to us, we would not know him. Sure, we could look at the sunset over the water, the Amazon insects, or the heights the Alps and know that God exists; we could know that he is creative, powerful, and deserving of our thanks. But from nature alone we could never know that he is a Trinity, that the Father has a Son. We could not know that this Son took on humanity and offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for all men. That he was raised from the dead to be the first fruits of the future resurrection of all who believe and, indeed, the whole creation. No, he had to write a book to reveal these things. The wonder is that he did so. We certainly do not deserve this book.

But here we have it. Deep mysteries of the universe, ancient wisdom, practical instruction for daily life, comfort for seasons of suffering, and a telescopic look into the eternal future are all at your fingertips: atop your nightstand, at your desk, on your smartphone. You have been given access to an eternal library. History, biography, poetry, songbook, pithy quote book, sermon collection, personal letter, and apocalypse. These have been given to you for your good, instruction, and knowledge—your knowledge of this God who loves, creates, speaks, governs, writes.

So, duty? Drudgery? Drudgery?! Oh, wake up sleeper. You have the very words of God.

North Greenville and the Inexhaustible Mercies of Christ

So I promised to land the plane on writing about the North Greenville University situation. Unfortunately for those passengers on board, haggard as they are from gate changes, delays, and recycled oxygen, this plane has been circling above the runway for several weeks as I’ve engaged in private conversations and been on the road traveling.

I intended on ending my comments by applying the inexhaustible mercies of Christ to this unfortunate turn of events in Tigerville. However, I must first plead for the mercies of Christ to deal with the plank in my own fingertips.

The short version is that in my first post—How North Greenville Got the Gospel Wrong—I sinned by assuming motives that I had no way of knowing. I assumed and charged that the Board of Trustees acted deceptively in order to cover up for the former President, the school, and to guard against losing any donors for an embarrassing situation. I did not heed the wisdom of Proverbs 18:17—“the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

I am thankful for subsequent conversations with those in the NGU community that revealed a bit of the other side of the story. As I now understand it, the Board acted in order to secure the President’s departure with as little damage as possible, particularly any legal damage. I have since written to a couple of Board members, the interim president, and some faculty members to express my apology. I offer the same apology to you. I am sorry for making accusations in this space that, to my knowledge, were false.

In this situation I think it is important to understand the difference between something being covered up and a “cover-up.” In the first instance, legitimate reasons exist for not disclosing certain information. In the second instance, involved parties come together in order to suppress information for illegitimate reasons. The details of the President’s departure were covered up, no doubt. But I have seen no specific evidence of an orchestrated “cover-up.” Rather, the hand that the President dealt the Board and university administration was incredibly difficult and complicated. There were no easy decisions. We don’t necessarily have to agree with or endorse every way the Board handled the situation—I don’t—but that does not necessitate that their manner was sinful. I was unloving to assume the worst of their actions and motives. I have repented of this sin.

All of this brings us to the point I wanted to make initially, which is this. The worst situations give opportunity to showcase the inexhaustible mercies of Christ. I hate that I sinned against the Board in my initial post. I hate the sins of the former President, whatever they were—and we do not know the details nor extent of what all went on. I hate that relevant information was covered up (in the first sense of that usage, see above). I hate that mistakes were made. I hate that brothers and sisters in Christ have been hurt.

But Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Therefore, all these sins can be removed and cast out from us as far as the east is from the west. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, which means that he died in the first place, taking our sins with him and burying them in the grave forever. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and my crimson stain of accusation is white like fresh-fallen snow. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and Dr. Epting can repent and rest. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and every last Board, faculty, and staff member, every student, and every alumni can walk in the bright light unashamed, with head held high—because that’s where we see Jesus, killed for our transgressions and raised for our justification.

I love how Spurgeon counseled those wrestling with great sins:

“Great as are thy sins, the blood of Christ is greater still. Thy sins are like great mountains, but the blood of Christ is like Noah’s flood; twenty cubits upwards shall this blood prevail, and the top of the mountains of thy sin shall be covered.”

Kevin DeYoung tweeted this out recently: “No matter how big the mistake, there is bigger grace for those who repent.”

So that is the call to all of us: repent and receive. Repent of sin. Receive mercy. Receive grace. Has your tongue sinned against a neighbor? Repent and receive. Have you drank from cisterns not your own? Repent and receive. Are you a liar, a thief, a gossip, a fornicator, an idolater, a tyrant? Repent and receive. Are you angry, full of malice, sexually unclean, jealous, divisive? Repent and receive.

The resurrected Christ bids sinners to come. Come and repent. Come and receive. Receive the inexhaustible mercy and the unfathomable grace.

On optimists, pessimists, and patriots

Last week I published a little post on the current controversy surrounding my alma mater, North Greenville University. My take—that NGU got the Gospel wrong—resonated with a lot of people and ruffled the feathers of a few others. Then there were the ones who thought I was being played in the hand of Satan. In other news, I love the Internet!

I wrote that post, critical as it was, as a friend of the university, not a foe. Let me riff off of Chesterton to explain what I mean.

In chapter five of Orthodoxy, Chesterton writes of optimists, pessimists, and patriots. He is talking about places, countries, and the universe, but I want to apply it to our discussion of North Greenville University. Chesterton described two curious men running around during his childhood, the optimist and the pessimist. To the optimist, everything was right and nothing was wrong. To the pessimist, everything was wrong and nothing was right. The optimist “thought everything good, except the pessimist, and [the] pessimist found everything bad, except himself.” The problem for both men was their detachment from the thing in question; they each lacked both loyalty and love.

He goes on to use Pimlico, a small area in central London, as an example:

“Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing–say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be fore somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles.”

The man who loved Pimlico was a patriot. The patriot loves Pimlico for no reason, therefore nothing can make him cease to love Pimlico. He is enough of a pessimist to change the dreadful place and enough of an optimist to think it worth changing.

So what does this have to do with North Greenville? In our discussions of the current situation we need to know if we are optimists, pessimists, or patriots. To the optimist, nothing NGU does is ever wrong. These are the connoisseurs of Kool-Aid who have never once looked the least bit sideways at anything at NGU. If North Greenville does it, it is good. If you criticize it, you are bad. That the university is in the sty it is currently wallowing in is due to having too many optimists in chairs that should have been occupied by patriots.

To the pessimist, nothing NGU does is ever right. This group is represented by the disgruntled ex-students who got expelled and now bash NGU on Facebook every chance they get. Also included are the hyper-secularist jihadis who drink craft beer in the West End and make themselves feel better about life by rejoicing in the calamity of Christians. The pessimist would have been shouting profanity from the rooftops even if the trustees would have dealt openly with the President’s departure the very hour they learned of the alleged misconduct. Nothing will ever satisfy the pessimist.

According to Chesterton, the problem with the pessimist is not that he chastises, but that he does not love what he chastises; he has no primary loyalty to it. The problem with the optimist is that, “wishing to defend the honour of this world, [he] will defend the indefensible. … He will be less inclined to the reform of things; more inclined to a sort of front-bench official answer to all attacks, soothing every one with assurances. He will not wash the world, but whitewash the world. “

When a patriot looks at North Greenville he sees both glory and grime, not one or the other. He is like the guy who knows how good egg rolls go with chili-cheeseburgers and he knows that he will smell like the Thai and I for three days. He loves the university whether or not it appears glorious and he loves it in spite of the grime.

When I wrote How North Greenville Got the Gospel Wrong, I wrote as a patriot. I did not write because I want NGU to be hated, but because I want NGU to be holy. Not because NGU is bad, but because it is good. Not because I don’t care about the university, but because I most certainly do care.

The pessimist will not like that I care. The optimist will not like the way that I care.

So to the pessimist I say: I love North Greenville. I love the longtime, faithful professors who have served students for decades, taking little pay and many headaches. I love the staff who understand their work as a calling from the Lord. I love the coaches with whom I worked for three years—they care about wins and they care about souls. I love the students who have gone out into every domain of society under the Lordship of Jesus. And yes, we have our quirks—those tacky painted PVC-pipe fences and the no-crossing-the-curb-at-the-girls-dorm rules and the twelve names on every building, just to name a few—but they are our quirks. Worse, we have our sins. But let us not crucify the university. Let’s crucify the sins. And forgive them.

To the optimist I say: the manner in which the President’s departure was handled was—by all appearances and what is publicly known—well below board. He was given a hero’s farewell and six-months pay and no one was the wiser to the accusations leveled against him and the real reasons surrounding his retirement. We were all led to believe—though no one with two wits about them actually believed it—that the President had, of his own accord, decided to fade quietly into the night. This was the latest episode in the culture of unaccountability at NGU. We are children of the light and should not abide such shade.

However, I am very appreciative of the current move toward greater transparency. I am genuinely grateful that university officials are meeting with various constituencies to explain the university’s actions. I pray that these conversations are fruitful and forthcoming and move the university toward healing. But I am going to be listening with one eyebrow raised so high it will appear that it is trying to high-five my cowlick. These are the exact same individuals who went on radio silence for eight months. And now they are going to spill the beans on themselves? Color me skeptical. I mean, when you hold all the information, it is quite easy to paint a soothing picture—in this case one of those creekside mountain churches by Thomas Kinkade, but without the spooky ghost-glow emanating from the inside. When you own all the paints you can hide those creepy orange hues in the corner of the attic in a box labeled “legal reasons.”

Chesterton’s patriot hated Pimlico enough to change it and loved it enough to think it worth changing. North Greenville is worth changing. Let’s start with a culture of accountability and transparency. Let’s start that with a full explanation of last January.

I will conclude (for the time being) my thoughts on the current situation at NGU later this week with a post titled: North Greenville and the Inexhaustible Mercies of Christ.


How North Greenville Got the Gospel Wrong

**Update: There has been some confusion as to whom I am referring by using the general term “North Greenville” in the below post. In no way do I mean to implicate the faithful faculty, staff, students, and alumni in any cover-up. Rather, the Board of Trustees acted as head of the institution and in its name. As the head, their actions affected and represented the rest of the body. But there are many Gospel-loving folks working and studying at NGU who should not be lumped into the same category. I’ve left the post as it originally was, but keep in mind that by “North Greenville” I mean the “trustees” or the “institution proper,” in its official actions.**

One week ago a video surfaced showing the former President of my alma mater, North Greenville University, caught in a vacation home alone with a female university employee revealing what is at the very least an inappropriate relationship.

Last January, just prior to the spring semester, the university’s Board of Trustees suddenly announced that Dr. Jimmy Epting would take a sabbatical through the spring and retire at the end of the school year. The interim president cited health concerns as “the catalyst” for this decision. Later in the semester the university held a special chapel service to honor Epting and his years of service to the university. During the service Epting gave a farewell address, in which he reportedly remarked that God was just leading him in a new direction, and sang with his Gospel group, the President’s Quartet.

No hint of the President’s sin was ever mentioned until someone uploaded the incriminating video on August 26.

North Greenville is a South Carolina Baptist institution that prides itself on being the place where “Christ Makes the Difference.” And our Lord Jesus has made quite a difference in many lives through this university, including my own. I hold two degrees from the school and worked in the athletic department for three years. I should also point out that I have known the President’s family since I was in middle school. I grew up playing basketball with his two sons. His sweet wife has been a good friend to my mother and has never been anything but kind to me. So I write this post not as a foe of the university, but as a friend.

North Greenville got the Gospel wrong. 

To use Eden as an analogy, the President’s sin was that of eating the fruit. He believed the lie and the Liar. He wanted what was not for the taking and disobeyed our Lord in order to take it. He broke covenant and he broke trust.

The university’s sin was the sin of making clothes out of fig leaves. Much like Adam and Eve tried to cover the shame of their sin in the Garden, North Greenville leadership tried to cover up its hero’s sin and shame, hiding behind garments made out of “health concerns,” “new challenges,” and “it’s time.”

How did North Greenville get the Gospel wrong?

The Gospel confesses sin—that is, it says the same about sin that God does. North Greenville hid sin. It pretended it wasn’t there. It said nothing of it.

The Gospel tells the truth because God is truth. North Greenville leadership flat-out lied.

The Gospel has nothing to do with darkness, but runs to the light. North Greenville, when confronted with its leader’s disqualifying sin, walked into darkness with him and became complicit. The university became complicit when it covered up the President’s sin and the reason for his retirement and led the university to celebrate the man whom they knew had sinned grievously and not yet publicly confessed and repented. (And yes, the nature of his office and the sin require a public confession and repentance).

The Gospel trusts God to save. North Greenville tried to save itself. Even if we assume the best motives of the trustees—that they were in good faith trying to spare the university the pain of a public scandal and the potential for donations to drop off—the trustees were trusting in lies to save them instead of our Lord Jesus.

The Gospel says you cannot love God and money. North Greenville—in its effort to not obstruct the donor flow—chose to love money.

In the Gospel, it is God who justifies. North Greenville tried to justify itself. The Gospel says that we are loved and accepted because of Jesus. North Greenville said we are loved and accepted because we are (or appear to be) moral and upright.

The Gospel covers shame permanently with the blood of Christ. North Greenville temporarily covered its shame with wordplay, spin, and outright deception.

North Greenville has been used of God by preaching the Gospel far and wide. Sadly, in this situation, North Greenville did not believe the Gospel. It did not believe that only the blood of Jesus covers sin. It did not believe that if we confess our sin that Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sin. It did not believe that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. It believed the Liar.

In so doing, the university has thrown sludge upon the name of Christ.

It has also blackened its own eye. It has opened itself up to charges of high hypocrisy; it has expelled so many students over the years for much lesser offenses, but covered up (alleged) adultery in the Administration building.

North Greenville should stop hiding, stop spinning, and come clean. South Carolina Baptists are a gracious people; we have been forgiven our own grievous sins by our Lord Jesus. God is a gracious God who forgives stiff-necked people.

For the name of Christ, North Greenville should once again believe the Gospel, confess its sin, and walk in the light.


There is no self-justification

It wasn’t too long ago that the Internet was all aflame with #TakeItDown ranting and ravings—and even a few sane pieces—regarding the Confederate flag flying on the Statehouse grounds of my home state of South Carolina. As you’ll notice from the link above, I count myself among the sane voices who argued for the its removal. My Dad, a legislator, however, voted against removing the flag. And I was quite proud of him.

Why would I, who argued for removing the flag be proud of my Dad for voting against it? It’s quite simple actually. I wanted it removed because I thought it had been hijacked by obvious racists in the Jim Crow era. Instead it was removed in a hysteria of, what another SC legislator rightly called, a politically correct cultural cleansing, a manufactured crisis, an instance of our state being “manipulated to categorically condemn our ancestors to prove our own self worth.” This assessment is evidenced by the political shenanigans in the SC House (read about them at the above link), including a fast tracked bill, backing from Democrats to buy $400,000 of South Carolina-made Confederate rifles, the Speaker going back on the compromise bill he requested, and Governor Nikki Haley manipulating the GOP caucus with tears. Add to that digging up Confederate bones, vandalizing Civil War monuments, and taking the Dukes of Hazard off TV and what we had was not a step toward racial healing, but manufactured hysteria for the manipulation of racial tensions to make ourselves feel better (and to advance the political careers of some). I don’t mean that there were not righteous reasons for removing the flag or that all the people arguing for its removal were unrighteous. Rather, we were either used or ignored or both.

But that’s been over a month ago. Old news by today’s standards. What does that have to do with today, you ask.

Well, in his essay Dangers of National Repentance, C.S. Lewis warns young intellectuals about the dangers of repenting for the sins of other ages and that the “communal sins which they should be told to repent are those of their own age and class.” Lewis argues that in repenting on behalf of those from other ages we often violate the law of charity. We say “we” instead of “they”—even though “we” may not have even been born yet—and since penitents are not to be kind or give the benefit of the doubt to our own sins, we attribute the worst of motives to our neighbors. All the while, we are not repenting of the sins of our own age—the sins currently being committed.

And this is the point of this post. Right after we had whipped up a sufficient amount of self-righteousness by condemning the entire antebellum South for its racism, God gave us the Planned Parenthood debacle. At the precise moment that we wanted to feel good about ourselves for our humanitarianism, for our racial healing, for our progress, God held up a mirror.

And we saw blood on our hands.

We saw that we kill, on average, almost a million babies per year.

We saw that we have killed 13 million African-American children in a generation, more than the total number of slaves that crossed the Atlantic over the course of 300 years.

We saw that we fund an industrial abortion mill with $500 million of taxpayer money per year.

We saw that we customize abortions to spare certain organs because they are valuable.

We saw that we dismember babies and sell them for parts, with or without the consent of the child’s mother.

We saw that some babies are born alive and either killed or left to die, then shipped off for a higher price for being “intact.”

These are our current sins. Planned Parenthood is the current Middle Passage. Planned Parenthood is the current Plantation. Abortion is the current lynching. Our ancestors denied slaves of personhood because they were economically useful on the farm. Planned Parenthood denies babies of personhood because their livers and hearts are economically useful in the lab.

The point is that we cannot prove our own self-worth. We cannot earn our own salvation, no matter how loud we yell or how many tears we cry. There is no self-justification.

But God, in His kindness, has revealed to us our culture’s heinous sin—the killing and trafficking of our own children—so that we may repent and find salvation in the only place it is to be found: the Son, Jesus Christ.

He can wash away the blood.