Author Archive | Denny Burk

The disappearing “middleground” and the coming conflict

David Gushee has written a column for Religion News Service arguing that the “middleground” is disappearing on LGBT rights. He writes:

Middle ground is disappearing on the question of whether LGBT persons should be treated as full equals, without any discrimination in society — and on the related question of whether religious institutions should be allowed to continue discriminating due to their doctrinal beliefs.

It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.

Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.

Gushee is no doubt right about this. Those pushing for LGBT “rights” do not mean to offer any accommodation whatsoever to those of us who dissent from the moral revolution overtaking the West. All dissent must be eliminated, and those who continue to defy the revolution must be marginalized as morally retrograde bigots. There will be no hiding. No compromises. Everyone will eventually be smoked-out. And those who resist will be crushed. That is their aim. Continue Reading →

My favorite 2016 Olympic Moment

Look at what Second Lieutenant Sam Kendricks does in the middle of his Olympic pole vault run when he hears the national anthem. I think this may be my new favorite moment of the 2016 Olympics.

Kendricks went on to win the Bronze medal in the event.

Hillbilly Elegy lives up to the hype

Today, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis officially earned the top rank on The New York Times bestseller list, and deservedly so. I finished this book yesterday, and I think it lived up to the hype. There are already many capable reviews out there, so I won’t offer a full review here. Nevertheless, I would offer a handful of brief reflections.

It would be misleading to say that the book is about the plight of the working poor in America. It is not nearly so abstract. The book is actually a searching, introspective look at the author’s own troubled childhood in the Appalachian region of Kentucky and southern Ohio. Vance tells the story of his life. He is the son of a drug-addicted mother and of a family-deserting father. His mother’s dissolution pressed him and his sister into an endless parade of temporary live-in boyfriends and husbands. He was surrounded by drugs, alcohol, violence, and emotional abuse. The picture he draws of his own childhood is nothing short of heart-breaking. Nevertheless, some key influences “saved” him from repeating the mistakes of his parents.

The book demonstrates in spades that there is no simple statist solution to the so-called “plight of the working poor.” Vance’s experience shows that the problems in these communities lie far beyond the reach of the nanny state. Rather, broken people produce broken cultures and social pathologies. The only way to fix the culture and eliminate the pathologies is to fix the people. And that is the primary conflict of the book. Can people really change? Indeed, Vance’s own doubt about whether he himself could truly escape the demons of his past is one of the most poignant aspects of this story. It is clear that the problems he describes are primarily moral/spiritual in nature, and therefore so are the solutions.

This book is salty. Big time. But I hope that doesn’t turn readers away from this story. It is a story that all of us need to hear and understand. Why? Because it is the story of our neighbors. It is the story of us. That is why reviewers like Rod Dreher have had such high praise for Hillbilly Elegy. Dreher writes:

It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read… For Americans who care about politics and the future of our country, Hillbilly Elegy is the most important book of 2016. You cannot understand what’s happening now without first reading J.D. Vance. His book does for poor white people what Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book did for poor black people: give them voice and presence in the public square.

This is no exaggeration. The book is really that good and that important. Highly recommended.

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A sober warning about “The Transgender Contagion”

If you haven’t read David French’s article “The Transgender Contagion” yet, let me encourage you to do so. One paragraph in particular is worth highlighting. French writes,

We’re not far from the day when a child will be taken from a loving home simply because the parents refuse to believe that their little girl is actually a little boy. We’re already living in the days when telling your girl child that she shouldn’t undergo treatments that will render her infertile and painfully mutilated is deemed to be intolerant. And we refuse to believe that such behaviors are at all influenced by peer groups or social trends. Instead, your daughter is simply “trans,” just as she is either black or white.

If you think this is an overstatement, you are not paying attention. The medical community has embraced the transgender revolution, and dissent from its ideology is no longer allowed. Continue Reading →

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Marrying Creed and Conduct

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” -2 Timothy 3:16 

To say that scripture is “profitable” has nothing to do with money. It simply means that scripture is useful, beneficial, or advantageous toward a certain end. In this case, Paul says that scripture is beneficial for four things: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. John Stott suggests that these four are divided into two groups: creed and conduct.

Paul now goes on to show that the profit of Scripture relates to both creed and conduct (16b, 17). The false teachers divorced them; we must marry them. The NEB expresses the matter clearly. As for our creed, Scripture is profitable ‘for teaching the truth and refuting error’. As for our conduct, it is profitable ‘for reformation of manners and discipline in right living’. In each pair the negative and positive counterparts are combined. Do we hope, either in our own lives or in our teaching ministry, to overcome error and grow in truth, to overcome evil and grow in holiness? Then it is to Scripture that we must primarily turn, for Scripture is ‘profitable’ for these things.

John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy, p. 103

Yes, marry them indeed. Every day. Every moment.

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Herman Bavinck on the Covenant of Redemption

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III:214-15:

This doctrine of the pact of salvation… is rooted in a scriptural idea. For as Mediator, the Son is subordinate to the Father, calls him God…, is his servant… who has been assigned a task… and who receives a reward… for the obedience accomplished… Still, this relation between Father and Son, though most clearly manifest during Christ’s sojourn on earth, was not first initiated at the time of the incarnation, for the incarnation itself is already included in the execution of the work assigned to this the Son, but occurs in eternity and therefore also existed already during the time of the Old Testament… Scripture also clearly… sees Christ functioning officially already in the days of the Old Testament… The pact of salvation makes known to us the relationships and life of the three persons in the Divine Being as a covenantal life, a life of consummate self-consciousness and freedom… Continue Reading →

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My Take-Away’s from the Trinity Debate

Over the last two months, you might have noticed that there was quite a bit of online debate concerning the Trinity. These conversations are far from over, but the initial online surge does seem to have subsided at this point. For that reason, I have wanted to share some of my reflections on what has transpired. This isn’t all that can or should be said on the topic, and perhaps some readers may think it too much. So at the risk of saying both too little and too much, here are eight take-away’s from the recent Trinity debate.

1. On Nicaea: Before this debate started, I would have identified myself as a standard fourth century Nicene Trinitarian. I haven’t moved from that identification but own it all the more fervently (and with greater clarity) as a result of what has unfolded over the last two months. I believe in eternal generation, a single divine will, inseparable operations, and the whole Nicene package. I have probably done more reading on Nicene Trinitarianism in the last two months than I have ever done previously. It has been good for me, and I am thankful to God for it. There are certain elements of this controversy that have been quite unpleasant, but I wouldn’t trade the growth that’s come from it for anything in the world. Continue Reading →

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Saving Christian Colleges from Annihilation by the State

In case you haven’t heard, the California state legislature is poised to pass a bill that would effectively close down Christian colleges in California. The long and short of it is this. There is bill in California that would deny federal funds to any college or university that maintains faithfulness to what the Bible teaches about sexuality. The ERLC released a statement today opposing the bill and describing its harms:

Senate Bill 1146 results in its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality. If SB 1146 were to pass, it would deny students’ ability to participate in state grant programs—programs that exist to help low-income students, and which are overwhelmingly used by racial minorities—at schools that are found in violation of the bill. Moreover, it would severely restrict the ability of religious education institutions to set expectations of belief and conduct that align with the institution’s religious tenets.

The statement statement requests the California state legislature to drop the bill, and the request is signed by a number of religious leaders from across the country. Among other things, the statement says this: Continue Reading →

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If pedophilia is a sexual orientation, now what?

I have written in this space before about the idea that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, that it’s just another element of human sexual diversity not to be condemned but understood and sympathized with. We are now at the next stage of normalization. Indeed, the DSM-V already recognizes pedophilia as a sexual orientation (p. 698). But now we have a full-length academic book arguing the same: Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis, by Stephen Kershnar.

In this book, Kershnar questions whether pedophilia should be considered a mental disorder and/or morally wrong. His argument is that it can only be considered a mental disorder if and only if two conditions are met: (1) if the condition causes harm and (2) if the harm results from a dysfunction in a mental mechanism. Kershnar contends that pedophilia is a “natural function” with an “evolutionary explanation.” Thus it does not meet the second criterion. He further argues that pedophilia doesn’t harm the pedophile and that it does not necessarily harm a “willing” child. So pedophilia doesn’t clearly violate the first criterion either (pp. xviii-xix). Continue Reading →

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