Dreaming of Discipleship

“I don’t smoke or drink you know,” he said irrelevantly, “because I think they are drugs. And yet I fancy all hobbies, like my camera and bicycle are drugs too. Getting under a black hood, getting into a dark room—getting into a hole anyhow. Drugging myself with speed and sunshine, and fatigue, and fresh air. Pedaling the machine so fast that I turn into a machine myself. That’s the matter with all of us. We’re too busy to wake up.” G. K. Chesterton

So it is with the majority of Christian activity today. Unlike the well-greased, lubricated, and oiled machine, which was the early church, the church today is in cruise control, running on the fumes of yesteryear. It was preached this past Lord’s day, that there is a profound difference between those who are professing Christians and those who are practicing disciples; without a doubt, the latter to be desired very much so over the former. Oh, but such a distinction shouldn’t and couldn’t apply to me and my local congregation! For we are much too concerned with doing the Lord’s work to be slighted with such a clarification of terms. We regularly attend Sunday school, volunteer for various ministries upon the simplest of provocations, and God do not let us forget to mention the fact that we are among those elite Christians who take up their crosses to attend the weekly Wednesday night services. My local congregation and I are much too busy for the Lord to not be included among those disciples who are indeed practicing.

But, if I may be honest and frank, I shouldn’t object to the notion that my past years in service to the Lord and His church, has indeed felt too awfully close to that of a dream. A dream, in the sense that I have felt very little of the actions I acted on behalf of the Lord. I have desired very little of that which I have sought, and have kept very little of that joy experienced while in worship. Very much like a dream, each Sabbath has come and gone, leaving very little impact on my daily life throughout the years past. Oh, I have awakened before. I have awakened each Monday morning to an opened Bible and cup of coffee, only to find the remnants of the dream I had dreamt just the day prior. If only I could be this active in the reality of day to day life, and feel it as I did in the time I spent dreaming. If only I didn’t have to tell my co-workers on Monday of the marvelous and spirit-filled service I attended just twenty-four hours ago; but that they would to become awakened to the reality themselves by my mere presence. It would be a great thing, if by the way I conducted myself among those un-churched, that they needed not a debriefing of my Sunday affairs with words, but rather, couldn’t help but be awakened to that solemn reality by the mere life I lived in their presence. But I am not a naïve fool. I know that such an event could only be brought about by I, myself, not being asleep. I must be awakened to something much more than what constitutes the majority of Christian service today. Discipleship without desire is drudgery. This drudgery of doing must be in time replaced with the discipleship of being. But where hence does such knowledge come from?

I mustn’t spend too much time on the source of this knowledge, for it is common to most all men without need of special revelation. I believe it must continue to go without saying that a man cannot be determined to be good or bad by observing him in any single act or deed. Many of evil men have been observed doing the greatest acts of charity at any given time, only doing so to give rest to a weary conscience that has so long been under conviction for many a evil deeds. Such is also true of observing a good man commit the most heinous act of wickedness. Did not King David lay with Bathsheba, and afterwards have her husband sent of into the frontlines of battle to embrace a most assured death? And yet, our Father without hesitation still proclaimed David was a man after His own heart! A man is much more than any act of service he may offer unto the Lord at any given time. Indeed, to rightly declare a man as good, one must look unto what the man longs for with the utmost desire. What does the man desire above all else? Are the man’s longings holy or unholy? Is he stricken with grief when he finds himself in a dream-like state of merely doing rather than being?

Men must be trained for war with evil by engaging in an active battle with sin. One who merely does, without being, will never take great pains at mortifying sinful longings. For those sinful desires of the flesh will never pain those who are of carnal nature, as opposed to those who are seeking to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. These battles against sin are for the good of men. For spiritual battles can only be won through the empowering of the Spirit of God. And where the Spirit of God dwells, there is freedom; even more, freedom from the drudgery of dreaming.

All of Hell’s legions that may come against a man with any success, can only come against that man who is sleeping on the Spirit of God. But how strong and ready is the man who is awakened by the Spirit of God unto holy longings. With this type of man, who trust in God with unwavering faith, all things are possible. Trials and temptations are but fickle occurrences, unlike his persevering faith. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all. Have we not heard it is the joy of the saints to contend earnestly for the faith? If one desires to no longer dream of discipleship, but rather, live it without drudgery, let him earnestly and with all joy engage in battle with unholy longings. Satisfied and content will the righteous man be during and after the battle. For battles can only take place in the day to day life of a disciple who isn’t merely dreaming. There is more bliss in the genuine confession of repentance, than in years of merely dreaming of discipleship. There is no sorrow after being so filled with bliss after a genuine confession of repentance, or the joy felt by the righteous man who has resisted the desire for the unholy.

The joys of the genuine disciple cannot be found or experienced while one is only dreaming of doing battle with sin. To experience joy the righteous man needs only to look back upon the sin that used to have dominion over him; yet, today that sin is only a reminder of the grace and favor of God upon him. Do you not remember how joyous it felt when you once remained steadfast under the fiercest of trials, and felt the bliss of holy longing and satisfaction in obeying God? Disciples are made in war, not dreams.

So let us declare war against no one but ourselves and our unholy longings. For sin never sleeps; therefore, neither should we dream of discipleship any longer.

Reaching Those in Active Addiction

“His argument was this: that the dedicated man might go anywhere among any kind of men, even the worst kind of men, so long as there was nothing by which they could hold him. If he had any ties or needs like ordinary men, he would become like ordinary men. St. Francis was the last man in the world to think any the worse of ordinary men for being ordinary.” G.K. Chesterton

It has been a common question that I have pondered as an addict in recovery, “How do we reach those who are in active addiction?” This dilemma poses all sorts of problems for those especially affiliated with any Protestant evangelical church. Those in active addiction are most often times on the streets homeless, or living in environments that are anything but conducive to a former addict’s recovery. Aside from the former addict who is in recovery, the places that those in active addiction frequent are not even conducive to any born-again believer’s sanctification. So, if addicts dwell amidst the people, places, and things that could potentially compromise a believer’s relationship to God, how in the world are we ever going to get the good news of the Gospel to them?

Take note, our Christian faith will not have the impact it should upon unbelievers until those who do not believe see those who believe living consistently with the doctrines they profess as true, and like it. The latter part is tantamount to the success we will ever hope to achieve in reaching those in active addiction. So much of Christian activity today has this sort of implicit mercenary attitude behind it that insinuates to unbelievers that we really do not like what we believe. We are choosing to abstain from those things (drugs in this case) not because we have found a spiritual substance that is much more fulfilling and satisfying than any drug could ever dream of making us; but rather, we choose to abstain because all our past hopes at using became failures. It’s as if our attitude says, “If I had not gotten arrested, if I had not lost my kids due to my habit, if my wife wouldn’t have said she’d leave me, if I could just have a job that didn’t drug screen, then I would still be using. This whole church going routine is just an aid to my pessimistic outlook upon life that keeps me from being depressed about my not using. I have sobriety, and sobriety they say is the goal, God however, was and is, just the means to the end of sobriety.” Until we have former addicts who have lived the hell that is addiction, who have been given the joy unknown to any unbeliever, living as if they actually do, indeed like the life lead by the Spirit, as opposed to the substance, we will not have any hope for those in active addiction. They are of all men most pitied.

I was speaking with a loved one recently about the methods we should take to get the word out about our church’s meetings on Friday night for those struggling with addiction. The trend seems to be that those who come are only those who have a loved one suffering from addiction, or one who has a substantial amount of clean time. At best, and this so far seems to be a rare case, the closest we have seen to one in active addiction is one who has already reached their proverbial “bottom.” This proverbial “bottom” being that voice inside one that says, “I’m fed up with living in hell on earth, I’m tired of feeling like my only two choices are that of using or withdrawing, I want to be changed, I want to be made anew, indeed, transformed.” As I said, this is an exception to the trend of those who have came to the meetings. It is so rare. And what is even more crucial to the point, is that this one at their bottom would have had no inclination to attend this biblical-based meeting had they not at one time attended church in the past. This seems only natural to me. For I myself, was not in the least bit interested in any such meeting when I was in active addiction, especially in the beginning stages of addiction when my using was unknown to others, and drugs had yet to take from me everything. I knew the reason why I ran to substances initially was that I had practiced the routines of Christianity, lived the life of sobriety, and I had become depressed to say the least. There are reasons for this becoming the case in my life that I have wrote about in other post. So, if one is interested in knowing the particulars of how to avoid the pitfalls of addiction, and becoming “burned out” spiritually, then they would do well to read them.

So, what are we to do when faced with the problem of reaching those in active addiction who have no such interest in coming to biblical-based meetings or even have no interest whatsoever in living the life of sobriety.

Could it be that a lot of our problem is that so much emphasis has been placed upon getting those who are not interested in living sober, to somehow mysteriously become interested in living sober without any reference to the good news of the Gospel? Sure, this sounds cliché. But I mean much more than what is often presupposed by most when they refer to reaching addicts with the good news.

Let’s look back upon the quote by G.K. Chesterton in this article, “His argument was this: that the dedicated man might go anywhere among any kind of men, even the worst kind of men, so long as there was nothing by which they could hold him. If he had any ties or needs like ordinary men, he would become like ordinary men. St. Francis was the last man in the world to think any the worse of ordinary men for being ordinary.” What those in active addiction need to compel them to come to meetings on Friday night, is a former addict now in recovery, who is so filled with the Spirit of God, that he or she can find themselves among the people, places, and things that used to have dominion over them, and these things have absolutely no affect upon their obedience to Christ. Those in active addiction need to see born-again believers, who once were as they now are, blind, but yet they see. They are living a life lead by the Spirit, and praise be to God they are liking it. I can tell you, without a doubt, in the latter stages of my struggle with addiction, had someone who was formerly addicted to heroin and crystal-meth came along and was living proof that the life I was choosing to live is no where near as fulfilling as the life lead by the Spirit, it would have had profound impact upon me. Don’t misunderstand me, I knew many people and lived with people who were, and are as Godly as I could ever aspire to be; however, that was a discouragement to me believe it or not. I had tried living as obedient to Christ as they, and I had only become depressed in time. I felt that they had something within them that I lacked; something that compelled them to keep on keeping on. I have found out this side of addiction that the thing they possessed that I didn’t was the grace of God upon their life. I possessed much of self, much of the will-power of Tanner, but had very little of the grace of God that leads to the desire, joy, and satisfaction in living a life lead by the Spirit.

I know what some people’s reaction will be to this suggestion, “I can not think of a more unwise proposition for any former addict, than that of frequenting the people, places, and things that at a time almost lead to their very destruction.” I want to clarify that what I mean by “frequenting,” is not living among those in active addiction, as if, the former addict pitches a tent among those addicted and attempts to live as saint among sinners. That indeed, would be very unwise. I am not suggesting that those who at once struggled with addiction to alcohol, take it upon themselves to go to the bar in hopes to convert those who most frequent the bars. What I am suggesting, is that when a former addict reaches a point of maturity in their spiritual walk with God, when they are so dedicated to the service of God, when they have no ties or intention of ties with the substances of this world, they should merely make that phone call to the one they know still suffering, take food and clothes to the addicted homeless, ask that one still suffering out for a cup of coffee (perhaps it would be wise to have another Christian who has not struggled with addiction for support and accountability in this particular situation), solely with the motive being that they show them not only with words, but with evidence of their life lived, that there is good news, and that news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If writing was enough, I would have no need or desire to do these things myself; but hiding behind words is easy. However, living a life of obedience to God, and liking it, is the hardest, yet, most pleasurable thing a man could ever take part in.

The significance in this approach is that the one who is reaching out to those in addiction is one who has been in the addict’s very shoes. Not that God can’t use the one who has never used, all things are possible with God, but it is only natural that one will see the power of the Gospel in the current life lead by the Spirit of one who was at one time under the dominion of substances. It has been said that one without a past is one without a testimony. The power of the former addict’s testimony upon those currently addicted is just that; he is no longer addicted. Their past is the current addict’s hell on earth, and somehow, under the influence of some mysterious power higher than themselves, the gates of hell didn’t prevail. If this isn’t attractive to those suffering, those who have genuinely begun to see their predicament as suffering, then I have no need to continue writing about this subject. But we who believe know the truth, and the truth has set us free.

I, for a fact, know that there are some who I used to use with, used to deal with, that read the things I write and are to say the least, skeptical. They think to themselves, sure, we have heard all this before. We have seen your type before. We will see you again under very different circumstances Tanner. To them, I would agree to an extent. Indeed, you may have heard all of this before in some manner. If it was up to me, and only me, most assuredly, you would see me using and dealing again. But that’s the beauty of grace. I possess that which isn’t of me, nor can I not give away that which has been given to me. It may be said, and justly so, that if I never again put a needle in my arm I will hear the Savior say one day, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” Of course, some will presume that such an attitude will surely cause me to fall prey to another awaiting sin other than addiction. Such a comment would most likely be made by one who has never injected heroin or crystal-meth into their body. For me to never return unto the trenches of addiction, would require daily dying to self in such a way, that no other sin of such a magnitude could have such a devastating effect upon me. There is no alternative on earth this side of addiction left unto me; it’s literally use or live. If it was up to me, apart from God’s grace, I would be just another type that you have seen come and go. But what separates me from those you have seen come and go, is that Jesus Christ saved me from who I was. He continues to save me from my destructive self. If Christ doesn’t save me today, I won’t be saved. If ignorance is bliss, it’s because you haven’t heard of this.

Ascent of Thorns

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’”

We are not certain as to exactly what Paul was referring to when he spoke of being “pained with a thorn in the flesh, and buffeted with a messenger of Satan.” Perhaps, this thorn in the flesh could have been a troublesome reminder or tempting thought that was constantly manifesting itself in Paul’s life; so much so, that it caused the apostle much grief and anguish. Some have suggested that Paul was referring to acute bodily pain or sickness; others think it was the indignities done to him by the false apostles. Whatever it was that St. Paul had in mind when he spoke of this thorn in the flesh, it is imperative that we take note of how God used what Satan meant for evil, to bring about good in Paul’s spiritual walk.

In verse 7, why did Paul say that God had allowed Satan to continuously harass him as a thorn in his flesh?

The definition of conceited is as follows: excessively proud of oneself. So it is evident that one of the primary reasons God had allowed Satan continually tempt or harass Paul was so that Paul would not become prideful, confident in self, egotistical, or even narcissistic.

Matthew Henry, in reference to this passage had this to say:

The design of this was to keep the apostle humble: Lest he should be exalted above measure, 2 Corinthians 12:7. Paul himself knew he had not yet attained, neither was already perfect; and yet he was in danger of being lifted up with pride. If God love us, he will hide pride from us, and keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered, to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan, which he did not send with a good design, but on the contrary, with ill intentions, to discourage the apostle (who had been so highly favored of God) and hinder him in his work. But God designed this for good, and he overruled it for good, and made this messenger of Satan to be so far from being a hindrance that it was a help to the apostle.

I am reminded of what my father had pointed out in a recent Friday Night Light meeting after hearing several attendees share how God had used their past hurts, hang-ups, and habits to remind them of their weaknesses. To paraphrase what he said, “God has in a way blessed you with the knowledge of what you can potentially become or do, without acknowledging your weaknesses before God and daily asking for His assistance to overcome these hurts, hang-ups, and habits through prayer.

Many believers when experiencing a time in their walk with God when He seems distant or quiet are not fearful that they are on the verge of slipping back into a former manner of living that is the equivalent of being in chains of bondage. Unfortunately, these believers run the risk of becoming apathetic, passive, and complacent in their walk with God. Where we who have struggled with the chains of addiction at once in our lives would be keenly aware of our desperate situation at a time like this, other believers are unaware of the danger lurking right before their very eyes. They are building the very gallows upon which they will be hung. So we should thank God with St. Paul that He has given us these thorns in the flesh as reminders of our utter dependence upon the grace of God in our lives.

This brings us to the next point worth noting in this passage: the believer’s proper response to trials and temptations. What was Paul’s reaction to his thorn in the flesh?

The apostle prayed earnestly to God for the removal of this thorn in the flesh. When believers are stricken with any type of grievance, our natural response to any such affliction should be that of prayer. Therefore, we are sometimes tempted that we may learn to pray.

The apostle prayed to God on three occasions that the thorn in his flesh might depart from him. However, take note that though afflictions are sent for our spiritual benefit, and we may pray unto God for the removal of them: we should desire also that they may reach the end for which God designed them. So as afflictions are sent our way to teach us to pray, so are they to teach us to continue in prayer, despite of the immediate response of God to those prayers.

Christians may be aware of the fact that we are weak in the flesh and we daily battle sin; but has that knowledge of our weakness had any effect on how we live our lives? The extent of one’s belief in his own weakness will be evident in the strides he takes in praying for the grace of God to resist sinful temptations. To what extent do you glory in your weakness? If the incarnate Son of God (being fully man, took upon Himself a cursed natural body that possessed the effects of sin and its temptations) saw the importance of praying and fasting for 40 days in the wilderness so that He might conquer the temptation of the greatest of tempters; how much more should we as finite sinful men devote ourselves to prayers for victory over sin?

Prayer is the leverage that moves mountains. Mere cognitive affirmation of man’s weakness must be surpassed by a belief in weakness that leads a spirit of poverty. E.M. Bounds, in his book, Thy Will Be Done, comments on Matthew 5:3, “The Greek word for poor means a pauper, one who lives by begging. The real Christian lives on the bounties of another, whose bounties he gets by another.” Blessed are those who realize that without Christ they are nothing. Blessed are those that live as beggars relying upon the sovereign hand of God to sustain them. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).”

“But whatever it was, it was so far analogous to the story of the man making a tunnel through the earth that it did mean a man going down and down until at some mysterious moment he begins to go up and up. We have never gone up like that because we have never gone down like that; we are obviously incapable of saying that it does not happen; and the more candidly and calmly we read human history, and especially the history of the wisest men, the more we shall come to the conclusion that it does happen.” G. K. Chesterton

The wisest of men have at one time taken it upon themselves to dig deeper and deeper into the trenches of self-righteousness, only to find that the deeper they dug, the more unrighteousness they came across. The descent in time became an ascent. An ascent that lead further than ever away from the trenches of self-righteousness and unto the imputed righteousness of Another; this ascent, can only be climbed by going down rather than up. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, and the lowly; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Pursuing Joy

“The way of the wicked is dark, and therefore dangerous; for they stumble and yet know not how to avoid it the next time. They fall into trouble, but never inquire wherefore God contends with them; they consider not that they do evil, nor what will be the end of it.” Matthew Henry

As I have said before in another post what seems to be lacking from what I can tell, at least in written form, is literature that identifies the preliminary patterns of thought that lead people into the destructive ways of addiction. I believe it would be safe to say that common among all those addicted is the initial desire to be satisfied with joy. Certainly, this desire in and of itself is not necessarily bad, for this desire is what creatures created by God have been endowed with by Him. All mankind, having been created to live eternally, have the desire to be satisfied eternally. The problem addicts entertain is the false notion that the means to this end of satisfaction can be achieved through mood altering substances or chemicals. What should be plain to them is the nature of the object they utilize in hopes of achieving eternal joy, is just the opposite, indeed, merely temporal. The fact that seems to escape everyone at times, even believers, is that every man we will ever come into contact with is an immortal. Souls, unlike bodies are immortal. They will spend eternity being joyously satisfied in the presence of God’s love, or longing for escape from the presence of a Holy God’s wrath.

C.S. Lewis once said, “All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be.'” When joy ceases to be seen as a future fulfillment, we will without any due temperance, go to any and all extremes to escape the present here and now. How common it is for addicts to dwell on past use, or in anticipation of future use, just so they can mentally escape the here and now of sobriety. They become utterly afraid of living one single moment of life not under the influence; they long for their soul to be filled with a place that isn’t so barren. Note, sobriety isn’t the reward of not using, living everyday sober becomes continuously rewarding. For one becomes in the spiritual frame of mind to serve God and be served by His grace. Christians are not mercenaries living without the things they take pleasure in the most. Christians recovering from addiction are daily recovering that which was lost as a consequence of their using, thus, being at present rewarded and in time eternally rewarded.

Those who seek the approval (restoration) of their loved ones primarily before the grace and mercy of God, are seeking to please men and not God. They are seeking that which is temporal therefore will reap the full rewards of that chief end, sobriety, only to the extent that other people recognize it in them. We should rather seek to please God, having Him be glorified in and through us for this has rewards for not only this life, but the life to come. It is important to remember that discipline without desire is drudgery. Drudgery is what is experienced by mercenaries, which is not characteristic of the Christian life.

The very desire to do what God commands us, is the gradual reward that we receive from God through His grace. It will not reach its full consummation until we are in the world to come with Him, and in the presence of His favor fully potentiated. The desire to obey God, and the reward in so doing, is only the preliminary reward; indeed, only an echtype of the fully manifested reward that awaits us in paradise. What used to be a  longing to use, to artificially simulate this satisfaction, is in time replaced with a divinely inspired longing to know and obey God. Addicts cannot continue to elevate temporal objects, that only provide artificial joy, to the place where only the Object of objects can rightly reside. Again Lewis observes, “If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”

It was not the drugs that we desired. It was the feeling they produced in us. The worth of any desire is within the object that produces that desire. How worthless and temporal, even fleeting have drugs proved themselves to be to us? If we put our full trust in such an object we will not get very far without soon being betrayed by that object. This is what makes addiction so deceptive. We desire or long for something that isn’t necessarily bad. Indeed, God created us to be Christian hedonist, that will eventually no longer long for that longing. However, until we stop choosing to place our hope and trust in the wrong mediating objects of joy, we will only find ourselves less fulfilled than when we first begun longing or desiring. We often are told a man’s relationship for God should come before his relationship and desire for his wife, and vice versa. Why though? There are two reasons: (1) In loving God foremost, the man will be taught by God how to be more efficient at loving his wife and, (2) people are only what the grace of God within them causes or permits them to be to us. If God removes the man’s wife from earth, the man’s heart will be left void if she has become his chief object of desire. Likewise, drugs becoming the chief object we look to for our compelling desire to continue life will inevitably leave us broken and desolate. Lewis states, “Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet the remarkable thing that such philosophies of progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere.”

All men are technically pilgrims on earth; but only those souls who know not God possess this inconsolable longing for joy– joy not to be confused with pleasure or even aesthetic pleasure. Joy is that feeling that comes and goes, always leaving us with an echo or type of the fulfillment only those born again will experience in paradise. It is not true when men speak of joy as arousing from their Christian commitments or duties, as if it has become a present reality in their life. Complete unadulterated and undefiled joy cannot be obtained by any immortal this side of heaven. God originally created us for more, and joy unceasing we will have, yet in time. Joy at this future point in time, will come to it’s full fruition for those who believe; however, joy will be the ill remains of the unbeliever’s thoughts in the eternal presence of a Holy God’s wrath, which also, has reached it’s full potential. Where the worm never dies, neither will the inconsoladating memory of brief stabs of joy produced by mood altering substances.

Once man has tasted of the only true alternative to living the unsatisfying life of addiction, he will be in continual longing for that form of living eternally. All those who hate God love death; likewise, all those whom love God love life. Matthew Henry once said, “All the enjoyments and entertainments of sense are not comparable to the pleasure which gracious souls have in communion with God and doing good.” Mere reason has taught us that to return unto the sources of allergy would contradict the principles of wisdom that preserve life. Realizing this, we will begin to view our past addictions as not injustices, but rather, the justice of God upon our lives. In this we glory, for when we are weak, He is strong.


Essays on Addiction: Finding the Balance

It seems to me that there has been very much written in regards to how men should approach the subject of addiction, how it affects one’s brain chemistry, strategies for preventing relapse, and so on. What appears to be lacking, at least in written form from what I can tell, is literature that identifies and addresses the preliminary patterns of thought that are common among all those who have experienced addiction. This is not to say there there is absolutely no literature at all on this issue; but what has been written has been written by the pens of those who were more concerned with retaining their membership among some evangelical group, inner ring, or secret society.

Due to the fear of one virtue gaining entrance into some inner ring’s approach of treating addiction, these modern groups have reacted by allowing no other virtue other than the one they are known for to be included in their treatment of addiction. We see the same issue among modern churches occurring all the time. Abundant are the churches who fall into one of the following categories: easy-believism, legalism, chosen therefore frozen, chaotic charismatics, impersonal mega-church,, post-modern, or steeped into traditionalism. One would be hard-pressed now days to locate a church that is not defined by one virtue they have given preeminence to, solely as a defensive reaction against another churches decision to arbitrarily give preeminence to a seemingly antithetical virtue. Just as the churchman needs a biblical balance of all Godly virtues, so the addict needs to be given all the virtues consistent with recovery.

The problem that has somehow gone unnoticed by moderns concerning their methods of treating addiction is likened unto the same age old problem that has bewildered philosophers since the beginning of time. It is the problem that Cornelius Van Til referred to as “the one and the many.” Man’s problem is to find unity in the midst of the plurality of things. Van Til states in his, Introduction to Systematic Theology, the following:

“If we wish to know the facts of this world, we must relate these facts to laws. That is, in every knowledge transaction, we must bring the particulars of our experience into relation with universals….  As Christians, we hold that in this universe we deal with a derivative one and many, which can be brought into fruitful relation with one another because, back of both, we have in God the original One and Many. If we are to have coherence in our experience, there must be a correspondence of our experience to the eternally coherent experience of God. Human knowledge ultimately rests upon the internal coherence within the Godhead; our knowledge rests upon the ontological Trinity as its presupposition…”

Philosophers have never been able to agree upon a solution to this issue due to their strict adherence to the one or the many. It was not until Immanuel Kant proposed the idea of two realms, the phenomenal (human experience/empirical) and the nominal (metaphysical/spiritual) that anyone had attempted with any success, in my opinion, to find a cogent balance between the one and the many.  Kant was on the right track, as far as his attempt to synthesize the two principles into one coherent system is concerned; however, what left his worldview lacking was that man, not God, was seen as the final reference point in determining how he knew anything at all to be true. That is a totally different subject matter, but one can see the dilemma philosophers from the beginning of time have struggled with: the reconciliation of one philosophical school of thought (Rationalism) with another seemingly antithetical school of thought (Empiricism). Is it by man’s reasoning or man’s firsthand experience that we determine what constitutes truth? Van Til taught that the solution to the problem of the one and the many can be found within the ontological Trinity. Within the Trinity we have God as one (unity) among three persons (plurality) with equal ultimacy.

Moderns affiliated with protestant Christianity have, to put it lightly, expressed much disdain for any contribution of science to their methods of treating addiction. Perhaps, much of this resentment is due to a lack of understanding in the field of science; regardless, we must not be afraid of scientific discoveries that have shed much needed light on the subject of addiction. For God is not proved by scientific endeavors, but rather God proves the evidential basis for such scientific endeavors. For what reason would we have in designating someone with an abnormal label, such as an addict, within a world filled with biological accidents, who merely react to random neurotic impulses without rhyme or reason? The very term “addict,” assumes that there is an intelligible approach to interpreting the regularities, and tendencies of human nature. Thus, we can conclude it is rather unnatural for a man to turn an appreciative pleasure into that of a necessary pleasure.

Just as those who have attempted to fit all of the heavens along with it’s mysteries into their finite heads, so have moderns made the mistake of being to narrow-minded in their approach to addiction. For the moderns, there can be no hint of science or religiosity after the course of action has been chosen for recovery. If the religious modern senses the slightest stench of scientific fact within the psychologist’s theory of addiction, he will without hesitation conclude that the theory contains no truth, and must be opposed to the word of God. Likewise, the modern psychologist would have every addict believe they are infected with a disease (not spiritual as original sin would suggest) that relinquishes them from any responsibility for their actions.

It must be noted that there is a point, a point at which man’s finite mind must not attempt to cross by reason in hopes to explain the mystery of the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility. Once man crosses this abstract point, he ceases being a man in thought, and elevates his own intellectual reasoning to a place that only the Author of reason can rightly be enthroned. Indeed, it is at this point God is placed on trial in the dock, and ceases to be the self-attesting, and self-verifying God found within the Scriptures. Men who cross this point not only remain there for longer than they originally intended, but they will eventually establish for themselves an “inner ring,” which focuses upon humanistic reason as their primary virtue, at the exclusion of the fear of the Lord.

No doubt, man opens the Scriptures to find that there is no questioning the fact that men are born dead in sin without the ability of themselves to reconcile the present gulf between God and themselves,. Yet, it is an indisputable fact that God will not spare every human being past, present, and future from eternal damnation. So faced with two truths and what seems to the finite mind an injustice within the infinite Mind of all, men choose one truth in lack of faith, consistently rejecting any notion of their own fallibility. This is like a man attempting to paint a picture with only one eye open when he has two good eyes at his disposal. It would bid the psychologist and the Arminian well to reject their humanistic credo’s and heed to the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:14-16, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So it depends not on human will or exertion but on God who has mercy.”

Any theory that aims to treat addiction that does not take into account the necessity of both science and spirituality will always deprive those addicted of the most trustworthy and honest definition of their perilous condition. We need more men and women who are more concerned with truth than being consistent with the principles of some “inner ring, or secret society.” We need more men and women who are not scared to be different, and in their own unconventional way still have one foot in the empirical world of sense, and the other in the metaphysical world of spirituality. We can only understand all there is for us to know about addiction by being honest with ourselves, and admitting that we cannot understand addiction as God understands it. It is through what we know we don’t know, that we will come to know anything rightly.

Just as with the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility, we will only see addiction the way God sees it, when we understand and admit that the secret things belong unto the Lord. The minute we step outside of analogous thought patterned after God’s law, there is no alternative left to us but the autonomous sinful speculation of men. God has not given us the ability to see into the hearts of men, discovering their inner motives for choosing substances rather than the Spirit. But what God has given us is the Gospel, the only means by which men’s heart can be turned from hearts of stone desiring substances, into hearts of flesh desiring a life lead by the Spirit.


Essays On Addiction: A Letter To Me

If you’re reading this I want you to know it is not too late. No doubt, you have found yourself in such a state of mind that would be nothing short of barbaric to wish upon even your worst enemy. If you could but see only a glimpse of the near future, I am sure it would do a much better job than this present letter at talking you down. I am aware that pride has currently beguiled you into believing that you are not seriously giving any serious consideration to the thoughts running through your head, but as you will soon know as I,  pride does indeed go before the fall. You stopped long ago considering “giving up,” and decided “giving in” was the more sensible and adequate solution to this crisis. There is, as you know, a grave difference (no pun intended). The former beholds a future you know nothing of which scares you and produces all kinds of hopeless sensations. The latter, beholds nothing except ceasing to be altogether. To cease being is the price to be paid if you so desire to escape the fear, anger, guilt, self-pity, and depression. As one once said, “active habits are strengthened by repetition, but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Like you were initially trapped by your desire for instant gratification, so now you are caught between the horns of a moral dilemma. Confess your sins to another bringing this crisis to light, and you not only shame yourself, but your family and friends as well. Knowledge and experience of the withdrawal leaves you contemplating your job and the impossibility of showing up to the job site in such a condition. How did you get here you ask? Unfortunately I can only offer you half of that answer, as always, time will tell the rest. Drugs didn’t always have you craving so much, yet, giving so little in return did they? You’ve found that the higher the substance took you, most assuredly, it would take you even lower in due time. For a time, it was pleasurable, then the euphoria wore off and that bear by the name of “tolerance” began to rear his ugly head. Tired of facing the only two decisions you feel the substances have left you with (withdrawal or use), you have began to think thoughts you once assumed were for the weak-minded and lost. Perhaps it was the anger of being dealt this hand repeatedly that gave you the mind to add this new alternative solution. No longer feeling like you were getting your money’s worth every time you got a bag will have that effect upon a man. Twenty dollars had long ago been replaced by a much steeper price; indeed, there had been a cover-charge on life itself. You have spent much time forsaking to do the things you ought to have done, yet, what is most sad is your have neither been doing the things that you like despite the most earnest intentions.

Enough with kicking a man while he is down. You are ready to be given an antidote or remedy for this state of affairs, and if one cannot be given, this new third option you’ve reluctantly contemplated will win by default. You without a doubt know there are alternate roads to sobriety. Broad and many are the paths to sobriety just so long as you do not continue to use. But sobriety isn’t what you desire is it? For you know all to well of a time you lived in sobriety that had become unsatisfying to say the least. Sobriety is but the means to the end of desire. It is desire that you long for. Since desire has been absent from your life you have sought other means to that end, perhaps not fully aware of the destruction they promised. It should be noted that constantly thinking of yourself and your own state of mind is what has lead you to abuse substances. You thought so much of yourself, and not of desire, that you felt compelled to exercise complete sovereignty over your sensations and emotions. Lack of desire got you feeling down? No problem, just become the mighty captain of your volition with this pill. But pills take time. Time is inconvenient and in-conducive to your longing for desire. The needle it is. Never mind you could have shifted your focus from desire itself to the Object of desire. But of course, you don’t know this yet. The form of the desire is in the object desired.

The enemy wants you to be concerned with thoughts that produce within you feelings of anxiety, self-pity, fear, etc. He would rather have you contemplating the abundant possibilities which could happen to you, rather than focusing on the revealed will of God. Your prayers are being weakened by constant worry, anxiousness, and negativity in general. I wish  you would come to realize the enemy wants you to spend much time thinking of yourself, your current mood, or your state of mind, anything of yourself just so long as it isn’t Himself. When you think about the object of fear biblically, and pray for grace and perseverance concerning the feared object, you are on the way to recovery.  However, as soon as your focus shifts from the object of fear unto fear itself, all things visible are seen through the lens of fear. The results of such thinking are incalculable, as you have seen for yourself. Don’t get carried away and assume you have figured out the problem in it’s entirety. There’s a catch, which has always been a fault of yours. Suppose you complete a certain action or abstract thought that is consistent with virtuous humility. Never are you afterwards not left with the temptation to reflect on the humility exhibited by yourself rather than where the gracious revelation of that humility came from. You proceed thinking you have got this whole devout, pious, spirituality thing in the bag. Thus, good has turned to bad upon reflection and improper thinking.

One last thing, you remember me using the term “recovery.” It’s a deceptive word for what in reality I promise you will experience. Truth be told, you will become less of yourself and possess less of yourself than ever before. That is why many turn away from and so few turn on this path. This is worth writing down. What lead you to drugs was a state of mind that you felt you were being deprived of. You took occasion to abuse your God-given hedonistic nature nevertheless, and reassure yourself that you deserved this happy state of mind at all costs. The worth and value of a state of mind is only found within the mind of which that state takes place. You shouldn’t have even begun to seek anything of yourself, even a state of your own mind. Desire cannot be located within yourself. Ironically, what those in recovery have actually found was never their’s to begin with.  But all things that come from Him must return unto Him without void. How will you be found? Will He find you rich with yourself and all your vain pursuits, or broken, poor in self, meek, humble?

The enemie’s victory comes when you erroneously believe you are in control of your thoughts simply because you are reacting to your chosen states of mind. To be ruled by your own autonomous thoughts is to be ruled by the enemy. There is no neutrality remember. Don’t you always tell yourself, there is no alternative than that of theonomy or autonomy? It will be God’s law or your law that captivates your every thought. Choose ye this day…

P.S. I overheard a conversation between our formidable foes, Screwtape and Wormwood the other day. Thought it may interest you. Went something like this:

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from God. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, and without signposts.

Essays on Addiction: Sinners Yet Saints

We lived to use and used to live. Addiction expressed itself in ways that were anti-social and that made detection, diagnosis, and treatment difficult. It became our nature to isolate ourselves from the outside world. The veil of self-deception was at once invisible to our own self-consciousness; yet, transparent to all those around us. We fabricated misconceptions about the nature of addiction presupposing that nature must consists of violence, street crime, dirty needles and jail. It wasn’t until our lives were characterized by violence, street crime, dirty needles, and jail that we realized we had reached our proverbial bottom. It was sea and islands now, the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.

The cards of life had been dealt, and we sought to bluff our enemies all in gesture. We knew not when to hold them, nor when to fold them. We tried to face life on life’s terms and had failed. Drugs ceased to make us feel good. We hopelessly sought to medicate a spiritual disease with any and all substances. We fell into an implicit pattern of selective thinking which prevented us from coming to grips with reality. Some of us were deceived by the enemy into believing those substances deemed culturally acceptable would do us no harm, nor anyone else. However, we are now aware that we are unable to to use any mind altering or mood changing substance successfully.

Higher mental and emotional functions such as conscience, and the ability to love, were sharply affected by our use of drugs. No matter how well we may have appeared to be in control, using drugs always brought us to our knees. We were willing to exchange all the sober pleasures of the world for that flower we had yet to smell, or that tune we had yet to jive with. The joy and peace we sought could never be obtained by our own will-power, as pleasures often are. All that was tranquil and reliable had disappeared from our lives. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many spurts of joy; but no life and certainly not life abundantly.

The Holy Spirit tells us that it would be insane to go back to the source of allergy. We understand that by definition that is all that was ever meant by the term “addict.” Those who upon ceasing to use experience this phenomenon of craving that somehow escapes those unaffected by addiction. There is no such thing as a social addict however. It is the reaction to drugs that made us addicts, not how much we used.

In time we began to possess a humble realization of our own sinfulness, and the need for grateful acceptance of God’s grace. The old man wanted to look around and compare himself with everyone else. We had become pharisees, thanking God we were not as addicted and infected as our counterparts. The problem with self-righteousness is that it is nearly impossible to see in ourselves. Indeed, it is the most deceiving sins known to mankind. Possessing an armor that is impregnable apart from the grace of God. It wasn’t until meeting a certain tax collector that we internalized the credo of the prince of preachers, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

No longer do we define our sin in it’s more obvious forms– forms of which we are not guilty. We no longer select to think autonomously, but rather seek to think analogously God’s thoughts after Him. In His light we see light. We realized the bigger threat to ourselves was not the flagrant sins, such as, murder and adultery; but looking upon our neighbors sawdust with contempt while failing to remove the log within our own eye. Praise be to God that the veil is being lifted, the door opened, and the curtain drawn aside–by grace we have entered into a new realm. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone.

We knew very little of settled joy and peace in life. We sought momentary happiness and the self-destroying perpetuation of it. We did many people great harm, including ourselves. But most of all we grieved the One who loved us most, our Father in Heaven. Through our inability to accept personal responsibilities we were actually creating our own problems. We seemed incapable to face life on life’s terms. However, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. We have found that elusive flower, and have yet to hear a tune as sweet as Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.

Our own story is now seen to be part of a much bigger story, which helps us understand how we fit into a greater scheme of things and discover and value the difference we can make. We are people who normally would not mix. But exist among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness, and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us.

We are sinners becoming who we already are…saints unto God.

An Addict’s Treaty with Reality

“Whenever we fail- and fail we will, the Spirit of God will work on us and bring us to the foot of the Cross where Jesus carried our failures. That is potentially a glorious moment. For we could at that moment accept God’s abundant Mercy & Grace and go forth with nothing to boast of except Christ Himself, or else we struggle with our shame, focusing on that as well as our track record. We fail because we have shifted our attention from Grace & Mercy. One who draws on God’s Mercy & Grace is quick to repent but also slow to sin.” Mutua Mahiaini, Leader of Navigators Ministry in Kenya.

It was asked of me not too long ago how could someone as spiritually grounded, well-instructed, and disciplined fall away as hard and fast as I had? So that anyone reading isn’t in the dark as to what this person had in mind when referring to “falling away,” they were referring to my battle with addiction to heroin and crystal-meth. So, how does one who is a genuine, blood-bought, redeemed by God, born-again believer get to such a place in his/her life? Good question. In fact, that is a question of utmost importance. For the answer to that question had evaded myself for quite some time. Not just “some” time, most assuredly, the loneliest, darkest, and suicidal time in my life to be exact. It was not until recently that the answer to that question became evident. Of course, God began to show me where I had strayed and how I strayed from His decretive will long ago. And not to downplay the complexity of how this fall took place by reducing it’s cause to one simplistic answer. There were numerous variables at work for my spiritual state becoming likened to that of an apostate.

However, this morning while reading, The Discipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges, I came to the sobering understanding of my misunderstanding of God’s grace at work in one’s life. It is quite simple really. One does what he does by what motivates or compels him. “Compel” in this sense is what drives or causes one to press on in life. The apostle Paul said that “the love of Christ” should be what compels us as believers (2 Cor. 5:14). Unknown to myself to a degree, the “love of Tanner,” rather than love of Christ was the driving force in my life. What do I mean by the “love of Tanner?” Essentially, grace had been removed as the key ingredient from the recipe of successful Christian living. I was operating on sheer will-power, self-determination, implicit self-righteousness, and an intense pharisaical sense of duty. I was doing all the means of discipleship: daily quiet-time, prayer, Bible-study, and church attendance. The problem was the motive with which I did these things was not out of a love for Christ based on His redeeming death, burial, and resurrection; but rather, a sense of “I ought to do these things because I am supposed to as a born again believer.” Note, will-power in and of itself will not keep you from sin. You must abide in Christ through the living Word and prayer. It is an astonishing, yet simplistic fact that one who is spiritually full will not seek those things which spiritually bankrupt.

Bridges observes, “A sense of obligation and duty never stimulates such a desire within us. Only love does that. If we are going to persevere as committed disciples of Jesus Christ over the course of our lives, we must always keep the gospel of God’s forgiveness through Christ before us. We should, to use the words of my friend Jack Miller, ‘Preach the gospel to ourselves everyday.’” The problem with failing to obey God out of compelling love is that it will inevitably always lead to one of two emotions: duty or guilt. So, back to the original question that was asked of me, “How could someone so spiritually grounded, well-instructed, and disciplined fall away as hard and fast as I did?”

Take note, if you really believe that God’s approval or disapproval is based upon your performance of good works, you will eventually find yourself in a state of spiritual bankruptcy and paralysis. The new man will find himself at war with the old man and the old man constantly referring to the many failures on the new man’s part to be Christ-like. No doubt, the new man has a deep yearning to know and be like Christ; however, the old man is simultaneously preaching guilt with ever-increasing fervency in hopes the new man will admit defeat. It is of critical importance, however, that we realize the great potential in admitting defeat at this point. It is at our most poverty stricken spiritual state that we are most suited to be used by God. “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Many of us know the story of the rich young ruler in the Bible:

“And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, “Why do you callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” He saith unto him, which? Jesus said, “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”

It is rather conspicuous the fault with which the young man had in his thinking. We as Christians seem to have no problem identifying this. Jesus asked the young man, “Why do you call me good?” The young man needed to become aware of his spiritual poverty (not earthly or temporal poverty). That which the young man lacked was the initial and definitive redeeming unmerited favor of God. The problem we as believers have trouble realizing is that we presuppose our sanctification is based upon our good works. Does not our better knowledge tell us that our good works are as filthy rags (lit. menstrual rags) in God’s eyes? Did Jesus not tell the young man that there is only One who is good? We as believers do need to be challenged to a life of committed discipleship (just as Jesus challenged the rich young ruler), but that challenge needs to be based on the gospel, not on duty or guilt. Duty or guilt may motivate us for awhile, but only a sense of Christ’s love for us will motivate us for a lifetime.

Bridges says, “Few things cut the nerve of desire and earnest effort to change like a sense of guilt. On the contrary, freedom from guilt through the realization of forgiveness in Christ usually, strengthens a person’s desire to lead a more disciplined and holy life. And it is this deepened desire that will lead to earnest prayer for the Spirit’s aid and a more diligent effort to pursue discipline and holiness. Years ago I heard a godly minister say, ‘Discipline without desire is drudgery.’ What is it, then, that sparks the desire in our hearts to lead a disciplined, godly life? It is the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven, that no matter how much we’ve stumbled and fallen today, God does not count our sins against us (Romans 4:8).”

It is this “treaty with reality,” we as believers must surrender to: the belief that the greatest problem in all of reality is that God is holy and we are not. If we want life and life abundantly we will have to lose our life in Christ. If my dream in life is that Tanner would be fulfilled, then I’ll never find or obtain that end. In fact, I have proven that I’ll destroy my life seeking fulfillment apart from God’s grace.

This addict won by surrender. Absolute, paradoxical surrender is the only means to the end of sobriety. Sobriety, not to be misunderstood as the addict’s chief aim or idealized goal. Sobriety is but a way of seeing or “picturing” reality that is faithful to the way things actually are. Sobriety is the cognitive atmosphere man must place himself in to be most suited for glorifying his Father in Heaven. So, realize that every thought that comes into your head is not inherently yours. The enemy has a voice. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy everything that is meant for good unto you. Every thought must bow it’s knee to the Lordship of Christ. Take no prisoners in your thought life. Rather, take any and all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).”

Defending Calvinism: A Response to William Birch

William Birch, in his article, In Calvinism, God is the Problem of Evil, writes, “They made kings, but not through me; they set up princes, but without my knowledge [יָדַע, acknowledgment, i.e., blessing, approval, consent: they acted apart from God’s will].” How could such people, within John Piper’s theologically Calvinistic system, accomplish crowning kings and establishing for themselves princes without God’s alleged sovereign control? I thought God was deterministically sovereign. Piper continues: “God is sovereign over the nations and over all their rulers and all the satanic power behind them. They do not move without his permission, and they do not move outside his sovereign plan.”

Birch avidly describes any Calvanistic view of God as being morally bankrupt when it comes to reconciling the problem of evil. He alludes to what he believes are two illogical premises inherent in Calvinism’s view of God and His attributes.

First, because I know most will not read this article in full, I want to address the issue of the problem of evil. Perhaps the most popular dilemma unbelievers have presented against Christianity, can essentially be summed up as follows:


These two premises do not in themselves create any contradiction. The problem arises only when we add the premise:


So, it must be noted that it is absolutely necessary that anyone (unbeliever/arminian) who wants to present this problem of evil against Christianity/Calvinism, must without simultaneously destroying the preconditions for intelligibility, prove evil exists. Thus, the question must be asked, “Who is evil actually a problem for?”

Unbelievers (which are not my primary focus) fail to prove that evil exists due to not having a transcendent, objective standard of morality to determine good vs. evil. Dr. Greg Bahnsen writes:

“Perhaps the unbeliever takes “good” to be whatever evokes public approval. However, on that basis the statement “The vast majority of the community heartily approved of and willingly joined in the evil deed” could never make sense. The fact that a large number of people of feel a certain way does not (or should not rationally) convince anybody that this feeling (about the goodness or evil of something) is correct. Ethics does not reduce to statistics, after all. Ordinarily, people think of the goodness of something as evoking their approval — rather than their approval constituting its goodness! Even unbelievers talk and act as though there are personal traits, actions or things which possess the property of goodness (or evil) irrespective of the attitudes or beliefs or feelings people have about those traits, actions or things….The unbeliever might turn, then, to an instrumental or consequential understanding of what constitutes objective goodness (or evil). For instance, an action or trait is good if it tends to achieve a certain end, like the greatest happiness of the greatest number. The irrelevance of such a notion for making ethical determinations is that one would need to be able to rate and compare happiness, as well as to be able to calculate all of the consequences of any given action or trait. This is simply impossible for finite minds (even with the help of computers). But more devastating is the observation that good may be taken to be whatever promotes general happiness only if it is antecedently the case that generalized happiness is itself “good.” Any theory of ethics which focuses on the goodness of achieving a certain end (or consequence) will make sense only if it can establish that the chosen end (or consequence) is a good one to pursue and promote.”

For the Arminian, in hopes to relinquish God from being the author of evil, he has created a godling. A godling isn’t omnipotent or omnibenevolent. How can the Arminian account for uniformity in nature, scientific evidence/research, laws of physics, existence of miracles, etc., if God isn’t in complete sovereign control of the universe and all its creatures? Why is it that everytime we squeeze a tube of toothpaste, the paste actually emerges from the tube? If we do not have a sovereign God controlling the affairs of this world, we would be left with the atheist’s random, chaotic, pure chance view of the universe; which leaves us with no logical reason for expecting toothpaste to emerge from the tube. If the Arminian were consistent with his implicit pure chance presuppositions, he wouldn’t have any logical basis for expecting paste to emerge from the tube without hesitation as he does.

If God is not sovereign over nature, what reason can the Arminian give for expecting nature’s laws to remain in a consistent manner, to the extent that human experience isn’t chaotic and random? Not only does the Christian need a transcendent, immutable, omnibenevolent standard of morality, but the Christian also needs a sovereign God who isn’t in an ongoing power struggle with the laws of nature (as if those laws were in operation apart from God’s sovereign control).

So, the Arminian cannot present this problem of evil arguement against Calvinism, due to not being able to account for an omnipotent God. Likewise, the unbeliever shows that the problem of evil is ironically a problem for his own worldview due to not being able to account for evil without presupposing the Christians presupposition of a transcendental God who contains an immutable standard of morality within Himself.

Again, Dr. Greg Bahnsen observes, “The problem which men have with God when they come face to face with evil in the world is not a logical or philosophical one, but more a psychological one. We can find it emotionally very hard to have faith in God and trust His goodness and power when we are not given the reason why bad things happen to us and others. We instinctively think to ourselves, “why did such a terrible thing occur?” Unbelievers internally cry out for an answer to such a question also. But God does not always (indeed, rarely) provide an explanation to human beings for the evil which they experience or observe. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). We might not be able to understand God’s wise and mysterious ways, even if He told us (cf. Isaiah 55:9). Nevertheless, the fact remains that He has not told us why misery and suffering and injustice are part of His plan for history and for our individual lives.”

The Arminian displays a lack of faith in God by refusing to accept that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists in the world. Birch goes on to say, “Piper continues: ‘God is sovereign over the nations and over all their rulers and all the satanic power behind them. They do not move without his permission, and they do not move outside his sovereign plan.’ (emphases added) Whether one considers the heinous reigns of Nero, Domitian, the cruelties of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, or the regimes of Stalin, Hitler, and currently ISIS, the horrors of war and the problem of evil are, according to Calvinists and their Calvinist theology, the direct cause of the decree and plan and will of God. This is the only consistent view for the Calvinist. Ultimately, whether a Calvinist is a hard or soft determinist, God has decreed, from eternity past, whatsoever comes to pass in our history; all was His idea.'”

Birch, in a rather conspicuous and fallacious way, has severely down graded the Calvinstic explanation of God’s sovereign decree. God has an element to His will which has been called by theologians as His “permissive will.” God does possess a “causal will,” whereby He directly causes events to take place, as opposed to indirectly permitting events to take place. Essentially, God permits evil to exist in the world for a morally sufficient reason.

Consider the story of Abraham when God ordered him to sacrifice his only son. Think of Job when he lost everything which gave his life happiness and pleasure. In each case God had a perfectly good reason for the human misery involved. It was a mark or achievement of faith for them not to waver in their conviction of God’s goodness, despite not being able to see or understand why He was doing to them what He did. Indeed, even in the case of the greatest crime in all of history — the crucifixion of the Lord of glory — the Christian professes that God’s goodness was not inconsistent with what the hands of lawless men performed. Was the killing of Christ evil? Surely. Did God have a morally sufficient reason for it? Just as surely. With Abraham we declare, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). And this goodness of God is beyond challenge: “Let God be true, though all men are liars” (Romans 3:4).

Birch, gives his explanation of the Arminian solution to the problem of evil, “God sovereign? Of course God is sovereign. What we learn from Scripture, however, is that the sovereignty of God is not tantamount to determinism. God is most sovereign over our free will thoughts, desires, and actions, as His exhaustive foreknowledge of all events, coupled with His exhaustive and meticulous plan for all the ages and everyone existing in those ages, supports both His sovereignty and our free will….(my emphasis, everything Birch has said thus far isn’t in opposition to Calvinism, but he hasn’t fairly presented Calvinism to say the least, my emphasis) Though we cannot choose contrary to what God foreknows we will freely choose, our decisions are ours, and not those that God has decreed for us to choose, as Scripture reveals in countless places, and as is denied by Calvinists.”

A sinner chooses what he wants. A sinner has free will according to Calvinism. However, a sinner is totally depraved and unable to choose to believe the gospel and repent of his sins. That decision, according to Calvinism, requires a supernatural act of God, whereby He changes the sinners heart and grants him the ability to choose between faithful obedience or disobedience to God. Prior to God regenerating an unbeliever, he is not going to choose God on his own accord. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11). We all act according to our inward desires unbeliever and believer alike. However, for our desires to change from evil to good, God must supernaturally intercede on an unbeliever’s behalf. “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Romans 9:14‭-‬16

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”Ephesians 2:1‭-‬6

Prior to regeneration, the Bible says we are dead in our sins. What can a dead man do? Exactly. The Bible also uses the analogy of being a new creation after regeneration. How many of us decided to create ourselves into existence? Jesus told Nicodemus that a man cannot inherit eternal life unless he be born again. How many of us decided to be born into this world? These are analogies, I realize this, but why do you think ths Bible uses analogies that are consistent with the Calvinstic view of regeneration? Prudent silence.

Birch, like the unbeliever, continues to perpetuate the sin which brought evil into this world initially. Birch refuses to accept that the secret things belong to God, and demands that God must be logically explained first by submitting to his own finite intellectual authority and moral evaluation. In conclusion, Bahnsen describes how Birch is categorically no different than an unbeliever in ascribing the Calvinstic view of God as being morally irreconcilable:

“The problem of evil comes down to the question of whether a person should have faith in God and His word or rather place faith in his own human thinking and values. It finally becomes a question of ultimate authority within a person’s life. And in that sense, the way in which unbelievers struggle with the problem of evil is but a continuing testimony to the way in which evil entered human history in the first place. The Bible indicates that sin and all of its accompanying miseries entered this world through the first transgression of Adam and Eve. And the question with which Adam and Eve were confronted way back then was precisely the question which unbelievers face today: should we have faith in God’s word simply on His say-so, or should we evaluate God and His word on the basis of our own ultimate intellectual and moral authority?”

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:19‭-‬24

The Open Book Test of Practicing Christianity On Facebook

I was recently asked, “Why do you leave your Facebook profile page open to the public where anyone can see all your activity?” My answer: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I’ll be blunt, I want anyone and everyone to see all of my activity on Facebook. Please pay attention to this statement: I would never be so confident in my holiness to feel that way about my lifestyle outside of social media. However, when I think about the unlimited amount of people I can potentially influence and persuade toward believing the gospel of the Kingdom, I can’t imagine why I would want to limit that range of influence in any way whatsoever. This should lead you to ask yourself as a Christian, why do I have a Facebook page? If we are to eat food and drink beverages to the glory of God, doesn’t this presuppose that our primary motive in having a Facebook profile should be to glorify God?

Now before anyone assumes that I am saying that you’re not being obedient to God if you do not leave your Facebook profile open for anyone to view, I am not suggesting that. It’s in bold and already copied, and ready to be pasted. So save us all some time and realize that isn’t what I am saying. I understand there are some good reasons for not having a public profile (safety comes to mind as one just off the top of my head).

What I am saying is, if you are a Christian, presenting yourself to the public on Facebook should be one of the easiest tests of your obedience to God that you will experience in your lifetime. It is an open book test. Think about it, prior to posting, commenting, clicking the like button, etc., everyone has relatively an unlimited amount of time, multiple choices, endless supply of information via the web and technology, and a version of the “phone a friend” available to them. Considering this, representing Christ in every area of social media without failing, should not be as hard as people make it out to be. If one of your motives in keeping parts of your profile private, is so certain individuals (pastors, parents, spouses, employers) cannot see the things you say and do, perhaps you should take advantage of the fact your participating in an open book test and choose righteousness over lawlessness more frequently.

I want everyone who knows me personally, whether it be family, co-workers, friends, etc., to realize that I realize I am just a sinner saved by grace. I do things everyday that is contradictory to the things I post on Facebook. I am aware that my Facebook page presents to the public a lot cleaner version of Tanner than Tanner in reality is. I’m being completely honest when I say that really does bother me. I do things everyday that I really do not want to do, but my selfish desires have victory over my selfless desires. However, I will not let my own failures outside of social media paralyze my efforts at sharing God’s wisdom, in hopes that anyone/someone may be regenerated and sanctified through viewing the gospel message all over my Facebook page.

We as Christians have in Facebook opportunities that men and women in earlier history spent their entire lives seeking to possess and utilize for the furthing of the Kingdom. To whom much is given, much is required. We as Christians need to seriously consider how obedient we have been regarding this open book test God has given us for the proclamation of the gospel.

Remove your lamp from underneath the basket, place it upon the hill of the city of God, and let the light shine.