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An Argument for Church Membership from a Different Direction

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 – 1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Quite often, when I hear any reference made to the above passage, the reference has to do with whether or not a Christian can file a lawsuit against another person, especially another Christian. Of course, that is a fair topic of discussion in the passage. Paul is clear that there should not be a reputation in society of Christians going after one another in courts of law. But I think there is something that we miss if we only think that the question is, “To sue or not to sue?”

Paul’s argument is quite simple, and it speaks to a need that every Christian has. Small matters should be adjudicated in the church. Issues of conflict between members of the church should be brought before church leadership, and godly church leaders should be able to judge well enough to prevent Christians from going to law against one another.

Ask yourself what is implied in this standard. What does the word of God assume? It is almost a throw-away assumption, but it really matters. Assumed in this paragraph in the word of God is that every Christian will be so connected to his or her local church that the ways of God may be followed. It assumes that every local church should have recognized, godly leadership. It assumes that every local church will know who does and who does not belong to that church. It assumes that individuals will have a genuine concern not to go against the decisions handed down by church leaders and affirmed by the body. In short, this passage implies a clear grasp of biblical church membership.

Every Christian should be connected to a local church. Let’s not play the exception game here. We all know that a person providentially hindered by health or inalterable circumstance has to deal with that statement differently. But, given all normal life, every single Christian should be actively connected to a local church. Every local church should know exactly who is and who is not a member of that body. There is no way to follow the commands of God as a church if your church does not keep track of exactly for whom the church is responsible and who has sought to be a part of the body. And, no, attendance in general is not enough. No pastor or group of elders can be held responsible for the souls of every individual who happens to come in on a given Sunday morning. Shepherds have to have a way of identifying which sheep they are caring for and which belong to other flocks.

Are you a Christian? Go to church. Connect to your church. Officially join that church. Let the elders know that you want to be under their care. Let the elders know that you want to be someone they can count on.

Are you part of a church? Urge your leadership to take biblically based church membership seriously. Plead with leaders to know who belongs to the body and who does not. Plead with the body to recognize how important it is that we all know each other and care for one another. Ask for leaders to practice genuine church discipline with a heart for restoring the wayward.

The truth is, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 makes no sense at all for a person who will not join a church. Nor does it make any sense for a church that is not faithful to pay attention to church membership and practice church discipline. Nor does it make sense for a person who says they are connected to a church but who will not connect with the life of that church. The passage only makes sense for a person who actively, joyfully, willingly joins and participates in the life of a local church.

I’m Not My Own Judge

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 – 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

When writing to the Corinthian church, a body that had been playing favorites among different teachers, Paul is clear that he does not find their opinion of him to be a big deal. Their judgment is not how he evaluates his spiritual life before the Lord. And then Paul says something very helpful. The Apostle tells us that he also is not the one to truly evaluate his spiritual life. It is the Lord who judges him.

In our world today, we often will talk with people who will be quick to tell us how good they are. There are many who will tell us of the rightness of their choices, even choices that go against the word of God. And they will tell us that what they choose to do is OK because they feel no particular conviction regarding the issue.

Perhaps, however, we should take a lesson from Paul. Perhaps we should not think that we are the ultimate determiners of whether or not our thoughts and actions are righteous. Instead, perhaps we should hold our lives up to an external standard, an unchanging eternal standerd. Perhaps we should weigh our actions, our choices, our hearts against the holy word of Almighty God. The Bible will help us to know if we are doing and thinking things that please the Lord. The Bible is far more stable than our wavering emotions or society’s shifting standards. I am not my own judge. You are not your own judge. The Lord is the only judge.

I do not judge myself. It is the Lord who judges me. And, thanks be to God, he has caused to be perfectly written down for me what his standards of righteousness are . May I love the Lord and live under his word. And, thanks be to God, he has provided Jesus Christ to fulfill on my account the commands of God and cover my guilt for falling short of God’s glory.

Speaking Truth and Giving Offense

Luke 11:45-46 – 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

Sometimes the thing that you learn from in a passage is not exactly the passage’s teaching point. In Luke 11, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their hypocrisy. But the content of the reproof is not what got my attention this time. Instead, the method of Jesus, particularly in light of recent conversations about tone, is on my mind.

In the middle of this conversation, lawyers, experts in the law, told Jesus that his rebuke of the Pharisees offended them, insulted them. What Jesus did in response was to double-down, directing his next series of reproofs specifically against the lawyers. They tell Jesus, “You’ are offending us.” Jesus responds, “Woe to you.”

One of the dangers of our present culture is that many see offending others as doing them harm. Thus, many believers refuse to directly speak out against sin. Instead of pronouncing the kind of woes that Jesus spoke against the Pharisees, many hide behind a series of qualifications, of prefacing remarks about how loving we really are, before hinting at the possibility that certain acts are destructive and forbidden by God. Many believe that they can soft-sell condemnation, look more loving, and draw crowds to the church. They fail to recognize that, if the church truly preaches the gospel, either people will be actually saved, or they will hate the message. After all, the gospel is either the aroma of life to life or death to death.

I think there is certainly a difference in being, for lack of a better term, a jerk and in being honest. We should be able to speak to others with class, respect, and civility. But as we tell the truth, we will offend others with the truth; there is just no avoiding it. Jesus could not have been Jesus and ignore the sin of the lawyers. The Savior was never going to say, “O, I’ve offended you? I’m sorry, just keep on doing what you’re doing.” That would not have been holy.

No, I do not wish to be ugly in my social interactions. I surely want, if I must offend others, to offend them with the content of the message and not its delivery. But, if I am going to be a faithful preacher of the word, I will have to say things that, no matter how I would try to package it, our modern culture will hate. I cannot refuse to tell the truth simply because somebody says that the truth insults them. And, thanks be to God, if I stick with the gospel and do not find ways to take ugly cheap shots, I’m going to look like Jesus in the process.

Unexplained Good Law

2 Samuel 6:6-8 – 6 And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.

Sometimes we fully understand the laws of God. Sometimes we do not. Some spend a great deal of time looking through Leviticus to offer explanations and rationales for the regulations. Why the food laws? Why the thing about boiling the young goat in its mother’s milk? Why not wear a garment of two fabrics?

In many a discussion of this sort, I have often responded with a reminder that God has every right to make a regulation for Israel, and for us, without explaining to us his rationale. We do not need explanation to obey our Heavenly Father any more than does a toddler need to know why mom and dad have made rules about not running out in the street. There well may be a solid reason that the toddler can understand. There may not be. But either way, the rule is good and, and the toddler should obey.

At the same time, I think it can be nice, from time-to-time, for us to see that God’s laws are not only right because he gave them. God’s laws are good because they are always good. God has never given a regulation that is unrighteous. The Holy One could not do that, as to do so would be to go against his very nature.

This all comes to mind as I watch the account of the death of Uzzah. This is a familiar passage for many a believer. Uzzah touched the ark of the covenant. The wrath of God burned against him for his presumption, and Uzzah died. And there we learn something of the deadly nature of holiness. The unholy dare not touch the holy.

We can draw from this account a gospel picture. If we were thrust into the holy presence of the Lord without the Lord doing something to shield us, to cover and take away our sin, we would be consumed. Like Uzzah, we are not nearly holy enough on our own to touch the holy. We would die. Thanks be to God that Jesus, the Son of God, took on flesh to pay for our sins and to impute to us his righteousness!

And, when it comes to understanding the law of God, this passage offers us a reminder that I find important in this time reading it through. Touching the ark will kill a sinful man. This is apparently why God gave meticulous instructions as to how the ark should be carried. It was to be wrapped up and not exposed. Levites who knew what they were doing were to carry the ark on their shoulders and walk it to its destination using the poles God commanded made for this purpose. And, had the people of God followed God’s instruction for carrying the ark, Uzzah would never have been in a position to come close to touching the ark or to have felt the need to do so.

What do I see here? God had a law. God’s law was good. God’s law had a purpose. And even if Uzzah or David did not understand the purpose behind the command of God, Uzzah and David should have obeyed. Taking the command of god lightly got Uzzah killed.

I’m grateful to God that Christ has come to fulfill the law of God on our behalf. I’m glad not to be under the Old Covenant codes. I’m glad not to be part of a legalistic religion. But I think there is great wisdom in realizing that God has good commands, even ones he does not explain to us all the way. It is good for us to trust the Lord and keep his commands for his glory and our good.

Unequally Yoking Your Affections

2 Corinthians 6:11-16a

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…

I want to ask us to think about our affections. Whom do you love? Toward whom are your emotions stirred? Where are your loyalties? Do you realize that loyalty in one area can impact loyalties in a variety of areas in your life?

In 2 Corinthians 6, we see a verse and thought which are well-known by many Christians. This is the “unequally yoked” passage. Almost any faithful Christian reads this passage and knows that it tells us that Christians should not willingly and knowingly marry non-Christians. It is unwise for a Christian single to date someone who is not a believer. If our lives are going in different directions, we cannot pull the plow together.

For certain, I agree that not being unequally yoked together with unbelievers includes not dating or marrying someone outside of the faith. My goodness, as a pastor, I have seen far too many people’s faith deeply hurt by them attaching themselves to someone who does not share it. So often, a person’s walking out of the church for a season of life is tied to them developing a romantic attachment to someone who is not a part of the family of God. So, certainly, do not hear what I’m about to say as going against the classic teaching on this passage.

But I want to suggest that this passage is about more than dating. The passage is about developing tight connections to unbelievers in a variety of ways. It has to do with major business partnerships, deep friendships, strong admirations that develop devotion. After all, there is more than one way to yoke yourself together with another person. If yoking yourself together with a person has the ability to influence what you desire or how you think, you should be careful not to put on that type of yoke with someone whose life is valuing as ultimate things that you, as a Christian, cannot value as ultimate. If your life is given to Christ and his glory as number one, you will have a hard time living as a business partner with somebody whose top priority is increasing their own wealth, even for basically good reasons.

Now, let me expand even further. After all, in the past, I have had no problem applying unequally yoked to things beyond marriage. What I’m wondering about in this reading through this passage is the immediately prior context. Paul brings up the call not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers just after challenging the Corinthians about their affection for those who faithfully teach the word of God. The Corinthians seem to have grown disaffected toward Paul and those in his ministry who are bringing the faithful proclamation of God to the Corinthians. In the first letter, Paul also pointed out that there were divisions growing in the church as people followed this teacher or that one.

Why would Paul need to challenge the Corinthians not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers immediately after pointing out to them that their affection for faithful teachers of God has waned? Might it be that the more affection we give to the things of the world, the less affection we will have in our hearts for those who proclaim the word of God? Could it be that, as we grow more and more committed to things outside the church, our hearts have less and less room for loving the people of God, the teaching of God’s word, and the brothers and sisters in Christ who should be central in our affections?

I certainly do not wish to develop my own moralistic standard for you to have to follow here. But I would like for you to think for yourself about the things that can grab a person’s affections so as to lessen his or her affections for the things and the people of God. These things may or may not be evil things. But they can be a yoking of one’s heart with things that have nothing to do with the Lord and his ways. It might be a hobby, entertainment, or friendships. It might be a particular commitment to something political, to an activity for your kids, or to your favorite sports team. It could be scholastic, relaxing, or adventurous. It seems that, the more our hearts are committed to things that have nothing to do with God, the less our hearts have room to be committed to the things and the people of God.

So, without me spelling out what I think you are too committed to, especially when that commitment ties you together with those who do not love Jesus, let me ask you to examine your heart. Examine your time. Examine your budget. Examine your soul with true honesty. What is in your life that is keeping you from loving the people of God more? What is keeping you from loving the word of God and the worship of God more. Where have you voluntarily yoked yourself together with others who do not know the Lord? What was your original purpose? What is your purpose now? Is that purpose truly God-honoring?

Ask another way. Is your affection for the people of God dull? When you consider the people of God, do you just like people outside the church better? Is that a personality thing? Is there something wrong with the people of God? Is that a “you thing?” Might it be that your commitments to things that do not honor God have overridden your affection for eternal things?

Of course we are to love our neighbors and take the gospel to the nations. I’m not suggesting a monastic existence. However, if you are a maturing Christian, you can look at your life and see where your affection for the people of God needs to be widened. And you can, if you seek the Lord honestly, see where you may have yoked yourself too tightly to the world.

Do Not Ignore This Hope

1 Corinthians 15:50-53 – 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Discussions of the future among Christians can be fascinating. Sometimes we find a group of Christians in a friendly debate over the millennium. Other times we find people breaking fellowship over differences in expectation of the order of future events. Sometimes there is sweetness. Sometimes there is mockery. .

Sadly, I believe that the ugliness of attitude that we see in some has made others unwilling to look to the future as much as Scripture does. That is a loss. To ignore the word of God’s promises for what is to come is to rob yourself of comforts that God intends you to have.

Consider the passage above. God makes beautiful, clear, soul-encouraging promises. A day is coming when all who are in Christ will be called to the sky to meet Jesus. Those who have died will come out of their graves. Those who are alive when Christ returns will rise to meet him in the air. Our bodies, dead or alive, will rise at the call of the final trumpet. And god, by his mighty power, will transform our bodies, regardless of present state, into flawless bodies that will last forever.

Please note, I’m not making some sort of particular eschatological argument here. I’m not making a pre-mill or post-mill argument. I’m not discussing tribulation. Nothing I have said embraces or makes fun of any book or movie series you love or love to ridicule. What I’m trying to say here is simple Scripture. A day is coming when all who know Jesus get eternal, never-wearing-out, never-failing, never-dying bodies. All who know Jesus will rise from the dead to be with the Savior and to find perfect and forever joy in his presence. We must not lose this hope. God intends we have it.

Last week, there was a shooting connected to a domestic dispute in my peaceful little neighborhood. My family heard the shots. We heard the sirens and the police helicopters. We heard the sounds of the dead woman’s sister’s grief and horror. We heard the officer using his bullhorn to call the criminal out of the house and surrender. And we were truly powerless to be of help in the situation.

As I write this, my wife is recovering from a surgery. A procedure had to be done to relieve some significant pain she was facing. Now she is dealing with the pain of recovery. As I write this, my mom is downstairs getting coffee. Mom has been recovering from a stroke that she experienced in 2020 and back pain that she has had since forever ago. As I write this, I write with an earbud in my ear as my computer reads aloud to me when I need to check the wording or spelling in a line. I cannot see the screen or anything on it. I have to function in life with eyes that simply do not work.

These things and a thousand others that you can add should remind us that we live in a world that cries out for the return of Jesus. We live in a world that desperately needs the gospel and the growth of God’s kingdom. We live in bodies that long to be transformed into what they one day will be.

I do not need to set an eschatological timeline to find hope in the word of God when the Lord promises us all new, resurrection bodies. This life, as it stands, is not to be my home. This life is a grand opportunity for us all to glorify Jesus, even as we face hardships. This life is also shaped to help us remember that we need, more than anything, to be in the presence of our Lord. This life is designed to help us see that we are not yet what we wish to be. We still fight against sin, against sickness, against threats, against the schemes of the devil. And, if we are willing to let Scripture teach us, we will press on with hope, looking forward to the reward to come in Christ.

Perhaps you do not like eschatology (end times) discussions. Perhaps you have been put off by the arguing and sniping from group to group. I get it. But do not let this stuff keep you from looking at the word, seeing the promise of the future, and rejoicing. Do not let it make you stop longing for your new, resurrection body. Do not let it keep you from praying, ?Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Do not let it keep you from praying, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” Even if you cannot spell out a timeline or understand anybody’s millennial position, look to the promise of the return of Jesus with true hope.

Focus on Truth Above Doubt

Romans 16:17-20

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

It is interesting that the fall of man occurred around a tree of knowledge. The tree is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, Adam and Eve already had knowledge of good. They knew God. They knew what God had said was good. The only new knowledge to be gained was knowledge of evil.

There is a danger in knowing too much. At times, fascination with questions can harm the soul. That was true in the garden. It is surely true in the church. Dangerous doctrines destroy.

Here I do not suggest that any Christian should be cocooned from truth. But what I think we should be cautious about is fascination with evil. We should watch out for people who are eager to question the faith. We should be careful of those who would lead us to deconstruct faithful doctrine.

In verse 17 above, Paul calls on the Christians not to spend time with but to avoid those who question or deny true doctrine. For the most part, the average Christian is not going to be blessed by hanging out with a doubter. Instead, doubters have a way of sewing discord among those who do not share their doubts. In the world in which we live, it is easier for a doubter to sound wise, open-minded, and tolerant.

Paul tells us in verse 19 that it is better to be wise about what is good and innocent of evil. Rather than exposing ourselves to the barrage of doubts and complaints of the sinful world, there is a wisdom in simply focusing on truth. Rather than diving down a rabbit hole of questions and complaints about the faith, we should look more to true and right doctrine.

Ok, now let’s put this in perspective. Some Christians are fascinated with the arguments of those with whom they disagree. We should be grateful to God for well-informed, well-disciplined apologists who can address the doubts and the false doctrine of opponents of the faith. However, for the average Christian, there is not a need to do a deep dive into the doubts of those who would lead us away from truth. Why? The more time you spend arguing against wrong thinking, the more it can do you harm. Constantly opposing false teaching without a regular dose of loving truth for truth’s sake can dry out the soul. Such a person, assuming he remains faithful to true doctrine, can become a bitter and mean-spirited person. Alternatively, some who regularly engage with proclaimers of falsehood can so come to value the good opinion of those who oppose God that they actually compromise in order to look more sophisticated.

What is the path for most believers? Be wise about what is good and innocent of evil. Pour yourself into the truth of the word. Love the Lord. Pray. Seek to understand Scripture more and more. Gather with the faithful to affirm one another’s faith. Take ten looks at Jesus for every 1 look at a doctrine you oppose.

For clarity, I’m not one who thinks we should live in a bubble unaware of the thoughts of others. What I believe is that we should not become so focused on what is negative that it overshadows our love of truth. We should not love arguing more than we love Jesus. And we should not embrace those who teach falsehood so much that we are tempted to compromise truth for the sake of our gaining the respect of the world. Love Jesus first, foremost, and far beyond anything else.

Beware Working Salvation Yourself

1 Samuel 24:12 – May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.

1 Samuel 25:30-33 – 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!

In 1 Samuel 24 and 25, David is in two very different situations with one similar temptation. In chapter 24, David has the opportunity to kill King Saul, the man who has been chasing him down to take David’s life (a scene which has a similar event repeated in chapter 26). In chapter 25, David has the opportunity to strike against Nabal for the insult done him and his men. In both instances, God prevents David from taking matters into his own hands, from working salvation himself.

Notice, as you consider these two situations, David could have easily justified his actions. And, from the way that God has recorded these events, David’s self-justification would have been wrong. David could have argued that Samuel had anointed him as king over Israel, and here God had given him the kingdom if only he would end Saul’s life. In chapter 25, David easily could have rationalized that Nabal had earned what he would receive from David.

But, in both of these instances, God had another lesson to teach us. God intended to put David on the throne in his own timing. God intended to provide for David’s men through the wisdom and kindness of Abigail. Had David stretched out his hand and attacked in either situation, David would have failed to see the salvation that the Lord intended to provide. More than this, David would have found himself guilty of attacking a man still called the Lord’s anointed in the case of Saul or simply of lowering himself to do violence to a fool in the case of Nabal. Either way, David would not have been guiltless.

There are both practical and spiritual lessons here for us. On the practical side, we must realize that God is active in our lives. God is able to work to defend our reputations or right many a wrong done against us without us having to take matters into our own hands. When we are insulted, especially in a meaningless arena like social media, we do not have to rise to our own defense at every provocation. Often times it is better for us to turn the other cheek and allow others to speak out in our defense. God has ways of accomplishing his will that can keep us from stooping to the level of those who would sin against us.

In a spiritual sense, there is a depiction of the gospel in both chapters. The wording in both instances has to do with salvation. The lesson to learn is that, ultimately, David must not try to work his own salvation. With New Testament eyes, we can see that we cannot try to work our own salvation lest we miss out on salvation. Christ has done the only work that can be done to save our souls. Attempting to earn any part of salvation negates your participation in true saving faith via God’s grace in Christ.

Hating Evil

Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.

Wisdom speaks. The wisdom of God, personified in Proverbs 8, cries out to mankind, warning us, reproving us, calling us. And we must learn from it.

Here in verse 13, I see something from wisdom, from the wisdom of God, that I do not think is popular in modern Christianity. Perhaps it is not popular in my own weak heart. But it should be. I know, we all know, that we are to fear the Lord. Here we see that the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.

So, the question: Do we hate evil? Look around. Examine the church. Examine yourself. Do you hate evil? I am not asking myself or asking you whether or not you think it sad when something major and ugly takes place in society. I’m asking if we hate what God calls evil. Do we actually hate things that society embraces but which God calls evil? That will be unpopular.

Honestly, even hating evil as a concept is fairly unpopular today. Our society suggests that we should be saddened by what we think is wrong, or perhaps we should just tolerate what is wrong, but surely we are not to hate it. Read the posts of many popular Christians today, and you will not see language that indicates hatred of evil. Our posts have far more to do with sympathy and empathy for the wicked than of hatred of evil.

But if we are to follow the Lord, if we are to fear the Lord as his word commands, we must hate evil. God’s wisdom says so. This tells us that, as loving as Jesus is, he hates evil. And Jesus is our Lord. May we learn to be both strong and gracious like the Savior. And may we seek the help of the word and the Spirit to hate what God hates.

Strange New World — A Review

Carl R. Trueman, Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022), 208 pp, $17.99.

How did we get here? For society to have become what we have become, to value what we value, to disavow what we disavow, there must have been a trajectory. In Strange New World, Carl Trueman traces for us the course of change that has shaped society’s embrace of radical individualism which has defined for us a new sort of ethic, particularly a new sexual ethic.

It is possible that you have heard of Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. That work has been applauded by scholars since its publication. If that work has a flaw, it is that it may be too rigorous, too academic, for the average reader. Strange New World is the more accessible version of that tremendous work, offering the same analysis without all the weighty and difficult quotations that will slow some readers down.

In Strange New World, the author tracks for us a variety of changes in the way philosophers, artists, and other influential people have explained reality. For example, many now suggest that a person’s internal view of himself or herself actually defines that person more than does any external or physical reality. Technology has allowed for changes in our bodies and in our families that were never available to previous generations. In many parts of society, to object to or limit a person’s choices is now seen as doing that person harm instead of as honest disagreement as it was in times past. Those shifts have worked their way into a commonly held view of truth that has become prevalent in our society. These changes are impacting how many nations address issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression, religious liberty, sexual morality, LGBTQ issues, victimhood, and a host of other things.

Most of this book, like Trueman’s larger book, is an analysis of the patterns of thought and social change that have brought us to our present circumstance. This is not a theological study intended to teach a sweet lesson with each chapter. This is a faithful analysis of what society has embraced over time and why. The author does offer in the final chapter some very helpful points for modern Christians about how to navigate the world in which we live, functioning more like second century Christians in a world hostile to their faith.

When I read The Rise and Triumph of the Modern self, I recommended it for those who were willing to put in the work. Now I wholeheartedly recommend Strange New World. This newer work is shorter and more accessible with the same solid insight.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for posting an honest review.