William Struthers on the importance having a mentor and the problem of peer-to-peer accountability

The presence of an ongoing mentoring relationship with an older, wiser and more mature man has a significant impact on psychological well-being. A mentor is someone deliberately chosen whom you see as modeling a life that is on the path toward sanctification. A mentor serves not only as guide but as model of one who has become conformed to the image of Christ. Finding someone who has traveled on the same paths that you have helps a man deal with the challenges he is facing and helps anticipate those yet to come. Only those who know a man well can tell when he is lying, and only those who care for him deeply will call him out when he is.

Often men look for accountability with their peers, but a man needs a mentor to give him wisdom that his peers cannot. Peers may struggle with the same issues, be unaware of their own flaws, overestimate their knowledge of the problem or not have enough life experience to make sense of it all. Men who surround themselves with their peers and proudly refuse to accept the counsel of their elders fall into a locker room mentality. In the locker room mentality, peers go through the motions of accountability; they all know they are lying, but no one wants to call another out lest he be called out. This accountability has no substance, no bite, and is the sign of a shallow relationship. Many of these peer accountability relationships eventually dissolve.

William Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, 185

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The Roman Catholic church’s definition of pornagraphy

The definition is here quoted from Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers, psychology professor at Wheaton College. After examining several different attempts to define pornagraphy, Struther’s states that the Roman church’s definition is the one he prefers:

2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

William Struthers, Wired for Initimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, 29

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C.S. Lewis on the demonic desire to make Christianity a means to social justice (or anything else)

Lewis is writing as “Uncle Screwtape”, a veteran demon who is tutoring his nephew in the art of temptation. This being the case, God is referred to as “the Enemy”.

About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want meant to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that ‘only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations.’ You see the little rift. ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game.

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 126-7

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John Frame, ethical integrationist

A fully Christian ethic accepts only God’s Word as final. That word is found preeminently in Scripture, the covenant constitution of the people of God (Deut. 6:6-9; Matt. 5:17-20; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21), but is also revealed in the world (Ps. 19:1ff.; Rom. 1:18ff.) and in the self (Gen. 1:27ff.; 9:6; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). A Christian will study these three realms, presupposing their coherence and therefore seeking at each point to integrate each source of knowledge with the other two…

For ethical judgments involve exegetical, empirical, and psychological knowledge, which in turn involves logic and other skills. Since different Christians have different gifts, we need to work together…

Yes, the scriptural word is primary as the covenant constitution of the people of God. Yes, we cannot properly use the Scriptures without the subjective illumination of God’s Spirit. Yes, Scripture is meaningless unless it is applicable to situations, so we must indeed understand the times in which we are living. No, none of these perspectives, rightly understood, takes precedence over the other two, because each includes the other two…

John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 194-197

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John Frame’s critique of Barth’s teaching on human language and divine words

This is from Frame’s chapter on epistemology in his book on the doctrine of God:

More recent thinkers have also appealed to divine transcendence to show that there is something inappropriate about using human language to refer to God. Such claims often have the force of relativizing the truth of all human language about God, including that of Scripture. For example, Karl Barth says:

“God does not belong to the world. Therefore he does not belong to the series of objects for which we have categories and words by means of which we draw the attention of others to them, and bring them into relation with them. Of God it is impossible to speak, because he is neither a natural nor a spiritual object. If we speak of him, we are no longer speaking of him.”*

How, then, can we preach or teach about God? Ott paraphrases Barth’s answer:

“Barth’s solution is that in our own strength and with our own possibilities it is impossible for us us to speak of God. The fact that we speak about him and yet are unable to do so is a fault which God himself forgives, and in doing so he takes our human words and concepts which in themselves are inappropriate and transforms them into a fitting witness to himself.”**

How can they be a fitting witness if they are in themselves appropriate? If “God is good” is inappropriate in itself, what does God do to that phrase–or to us–to make it appropriate? This claim should be related to Barth’s well-known view that revelation is not the communication of propositions or information, but a nonpropositional communication of God himself to us. What is communicated is God’s power, love, and salvation, but not verbal content. Like Aquinas, Barth is not entirely consistent in this view. One wonders what value there is in the many volumes of of Barth’s Church Dogmatics if indeed all its words and sentences are inappropriate. Would it not be less expensive to seek God’s will in a cheaper, but also inappropriate source, such as a telephone directory?

Certainly God’s grace plays an important role in our preaching and teaching. But it does not change the meanings of our words from false to true. It often moves us to abandon false words and substitute words that are true to God’s Word. But nothing in Scripture suggests that God takes a false sentence and makes it true by sheer grace.

Nor does Scripture ever suggest that human words are in some general sense inappropriate to refer to God. Rather, it claims over and over that its own words, and other words that truly convey its content, are entirely appropriate and should never be disobeyed or disbelieved. It is wrong, therefore, to say that human language is defective as an instrument of divine-human communication.

However, analogy does play an important role in our knowledge of God. There are a number of areas of theology where the divine mystery is so impenetrable that we can only get a small glimpse of the truth. Often that glimpse comes through analogies. We have already seen in our discussions of human responsibility and the problem of evil that some theological problems elude our attempts at precise solutions. In those areas, I have suggested some analogies (the storyteller model, the greater-good defense) that point in the direction of better understanding, but do not remove all difficulty. We shall see that the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and the doctrine of the Trinity also resist our attempts at precise, literal formulation. But theology has accepted ex nihilo (a phrase very difficult to define) as a suitable analogy of creation. And Scripture itself provides the names Father, Son, and Spirit, as suitable analogies for the Trinitarian persons. 

John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 209-11

*Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 1.2, 750

**Heinrich Ott, God, 99-100

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John Frame: “The meaning of Scripture is its application.”

I would even maintain that the meaning of the law is discerned in this process of application. Imagine two scholars discussing the eighth commandment. One claims that it forbids embezzlement. The other thinks he understands the commandment but can’t see any application to embezzlement. Now we know that the first scholar is right. But must we not also say that the first scholar understands the meaning of the commandment better than the second? Knowing the meaning of a sentence is not merely being able to replace it with an equivalent sentence (e.g., replacing the Hebrew sentence with the English sentence “Thou shalt not steal”). An animal could be trained to do that. Knowing the meaning is being able to use the sentence, to understand its implications, its powers, its applications. Imagine someone saying that he understands the meaning of a passage of Scripture but doesn’t know at all how to apply it. Taking that claim literally would mean that he could answer no questions about the text, recommend no translations into other languages, draw no implications from it, or explain none of its terms in his own words. Could we seriously accept such a claim? When one lacks knowledge of how to “apply” a text, his claim to know the “meaning” becomes an empty–meaningless–claim. Knowing the meaning, then, is knowing how to apply. The meaning of Scripture is its application.

The interesting result of that line of reasoning is that we need to know the world to understand the meaning of Scripture. Through study of the world, we come to a greater and greater knowledge of the meaning of the law. Adam was told to replenish the earth and subdue it. That “subduing,” however, entailed the development of hydroelectric power and cathode rays and miniaturized transistors. But Adam didn’t know all that. The meaning of “subduing” would grow on him gradually. He would see a rock and ask, “How can I use this in subduing the earth?” He would study it, analyze it, and try various projects with it. Eventually, he would find a use for it and thus learn something more of the meaning of “subdue.”

This need to gain extrabiblical knowledge to understand the Bible is not an onerous necessity. It is a natural, normal part of our task, and God expects us to do it. He expected Adam to get the information necessary to understand, and Scripture regularly demands its application to current issues. The Pharisees were reproved because they failed to apply the Old Testament Scriptures properly to events of their own time, namely the ministry of Jesus (cf. Matt. 16:3; 22:39; Luke 24:25; John 5:39f.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16f.; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

Thus every fact tells us something about God’s law. Everything we learn about eggs or petroleum or solar energy or cold fronts–all of this information shows us something of how we may glorify God in the use of His creation. It helps us exegete 1 Corinthians 10:31–and much more.

John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 66-67

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John Frame on whether biblical theology is more biblical than systematic theology

People often get excited about biblical theology (as opposed, particularly, to systematics) because it seem to them to be close to the biblical text. It uses more of the actual biblical vocabulary than does systematics, and it goes through the Scriptures in roughly historical order, rather than topically, as systematics does. I enjoy these features of biblical theology, but I would caution the reader from concluding on the basis of the reasons just mentioned that biblical theology is “more biblical” than systematic theology. As we have indicated earlier, the work of theology is not to mimic the scriptural vocabulary or its order and structure but to apply the Bible. And to do this, theology may (indeed must) depart somewhat from the structure of Scripture itself, for otherwise it could only repeat the exact words of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Thus a theological discipline that departs a great deal from the structure of Scripture is not necessarily less adequate, less biblical, than one that departs to a lesser extent. Furthermore, the resemblance between Scripture and the biblical theologian is sometimes overstated. There is a great deal of difference between Vos’ Biblical Theology and the Pauline epistles, for example! For that reason, I consider the term “biblical theology” a misnomer and would prefer to call this discipline the “history of the covenant.” Force of habit, however, and the desire for brevity being what they are will dictate otherwise.

John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 210-211

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