Musing on the Differences Between Men & Women

“Encamp outside the camp seven days. Whoever of you has killed any person and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves and your captives on the third day and on the seventh day. You shall purify every garment…. Then Eleazar the priest said to the men in the army who had gone to battle: “This is the statute of the law that the LORD has commanded Moses… You must wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean. And afterward you may come into the camp.” Numbers 31:20-24 (ESV)

Woman is the glory of man, because in her softness she receives, enhances, celebrates, and embodies what a man’s hardness provided. Hardness, however, is not comforting nor sustainable, and man therefore longs to see, to touch, to connect with, and to reside within the softness his flinty determination has provided for and enabled.

Hardness takes out of the world, carves, separates, tames, defines, borders, excavates, sculps, and protects: a man wrests the opportunity for peace from chaos. Softness receives, shapes, rearranges, bears fruit: women fill the now boundaried void with peacefulness.

Men are designed to more easily compartmentalize the hardness required in a sin-broken world from the environment of home, while women are more interconnected and struggle to separate what may be required from where they find rest.

Men learn from a woman’s softness that pleasure is obtained not through hardness but through gentleness. (Gentleness is strength under restraint.)

A man cannot sustain a constant state of hardness but prepares ahead of time to be ready when called upon. Softness, on the other hand, is a state conducive to dwelling.

A man must learn the necessity of preparatory denial. A woman learns that persistent joy is experienced by providing comfort.

A goal or purpose is obtained via hardness but enjoyed via sharing and reception.
Hardness exhausts; softness comforts and restores. Provision exhausts; reception inspires and renews.

Mutual satisfaction and ultimate personal expression is conditionally experienced within the confines of and after the provision of shelter and sustenance. This is seen in relational dynamics and in physical environment. The raw opportunity provided by a man is received by the woman and filled by her soft skills with comfort and peace.

As a hardened one, a man’s greatest longing is fulfilled and pinnacle experience is realized through the reception by and intermingling with a woman’s softness. He sees, feels, and otherwise experiences the glorification of what his hard sacrifice has won, and what he has provided becomes what it otherwise could not have been. In perceiving this transformation of what has been received, gratitude is experienced, wonder is evoked, appreciation whelms, loyalty is reinforced, and weariness assuaged.

Because each man and each woman is unique, the specifics of how this presents in any given marriage is widely varied.

The Importance of Religion

While my oldest daughter was in Bible School I would receive almost weekly pleas to come replace her professor of this or that (which I must admit, makes ole Dad feel good).

This morning her prof started off a unit on Soteriology by proclaiming that Christianity is a relationship not a religion. My daughter, of course, groaned…as we all should at that inaccurate platitude. But it got me to thinking about why we hear this so commonly in Christian culture.

Religion is the form of one’s relationship with a deity. All relationships have form. Marriage, for example, is the form of the relationship with one’s spouse. We would laugh at someone who said, “I have a relationship with my wife, not a marriage.” So why don’t we laugh when someone says, in equally ridiculous fashion, “Christianity is a relationship not a religion”?

It comes down to two things, I think. First, we forget that religion is a relationship, so the over-correction doesn’t strike us as odd, like it should. Second, we’re misdefining religion as “an attempt to obtain righteousness via works.” But that’s a definition of false religion, not of religion. Granted, “false religion” applies to any religion but Christianity, so it’s an easy misstep to make.

Why is this distinction so important? Well, what’s happening with marriage as we increasingly ignore the requirements of its form(s) should give us a clue. The form of a relationship is what gives that relationship its permanence. It is the practice of a relationship’s forms that distinguish it from different relationships, marks it out as sacred, and enables it to endure. Any relationship without form is fleeting, transient, and limited in its ability to shape or impact us.

The very word religion tells us this. The word comes from ligare, the Latin word from which we get “ligament” and it means to bind; just as ligaments bind muscle to bone, so religion binds us to God. So the next time you hear someone say that Christianity is a relationship not a religion, beg to differ, and explain to them that religion is the very nature of our relationship to God, and without being a religion our relationship to God would falter and wither.

Spiritual Direction: A Definition

The practice of Spiritual Direction is ancient and takes as its foundation the biblical precedent that when perplexed we are to look for Christ’s guidance in the words of another. Ecclesiastes 4 (vv 9,12c) informs us that two are better than one because the results of their efforts are magnified, and a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Jesus promised his disciples that wherever two or more gathered in his name, he would be in their midst. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus Paul cries out, “What am I to do, Lord?” and is instructed, “[G]o into Damascus, and their you will be told (by Ananias) what to do.” As he read the Scriptures, the Ethiopian Eunuch exclaimed, “How can I understand, unless someone explains it to me?”

Spiritual Direction is the communal practice of focusing our attention on the experience of another so as to notice the work of God in the midst of life’s tumult. It is a three-way effort, with the directee sharing, the director listening, and the Spirit supervising. The spiritual director must be attending not just to the voice of the directee but also to the work of the Spirit, whether revealed in the narrative or perceived as they listen. The goal of spiritual direction is ongoing conversion to the image of Christ by observing and responding to the promised work of God in our lives.

Liberty

Moral law provides the structure of freedom. Liberty is living freely within that structure.

“Mores” (the plural of mos), are the group of standards or norms that express societal understanding of right and wrong. It was first used by Cicero (De Fato, II.i) to translate the Greek ethikos. “Moral” means “according to the mores.”

When used of human societies this is a subjective groups of norms, pertinent to the group or culture from which they spring. When used by Christians it refers to the character of God as the norm or standard which defines what is good and right.

Moral law then, is law that springs from the unchanging nature of God as the norm by which good or evil is determined. That which accords with the character of God is good and right. That which is out of sync with the character of God is evil or wrong.

Liberty is not freedom from rules but the right to live according to the law and free from tyranny, which rides roughshod over the law.

Moral law provides the structure of freedom. Liberty is living freely within that structure.

Discovering Our True Selves

“Human beings are by nature actors, who cannot become something until first they have pretended to be it. They are therefore not to be divided into the hypocritical and the sincere, but into the sane, who know they are acting, and the mad who do not.” -W.H. Auden

The process of transformation is not exclusively, or even primarily, interior nor exterior; rather, it is intentionally a tapestry of life’s aspects. Liturgy is a storied framework into which we enter and discover ourselves participants in a grand narrative. According to God’s design it is word-comprised, action-oriented, imagination-stimulating, and imagination-received.

We have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit but not habituated to Christ’s character; that is a process of taking thoughts and behaviors captive as we find ourselves increasingly within the story we were at first only rehearsing (Auden says “pretending”). Then captured by, formed by, and eventually inhabiting and inhabited by.

A Note to My Kids

We are not brains with bodies. Information is not the sum of what creates understanding, nor the ultimate goal of knowing God (or one another).

Thinking the right things is important. Let’s be honest, hugely important, but it is not the primary goal of coming in to relationship with God, exploring that relationship, and coming to live out of that relationship.

We are saved by the grace of God (kindness we do not deserve) through faith in Him, but what is “faith”? Let’s be clear — faith is not absolute certainty; only God can be absolutely certain. Faith is having enough confidence to yield. Faith is an allegiance evidenced in action and motivated by trusting confidence. It is comprised of some certainty, some mystery, and an at times reckless trust, which is affirmed and enhanced by experience: our own and that of others.

As Michael Heiser has said, “God doesn’t ask that we get a comprehensive education before we believe. He wants us to embrace fully a simple idea: that we cannot save ourselves, but what Jesus did can save us.” There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support that simple idea, but humans are such complex creatures we can easily ignore the weight of evidence and fool ourselves into a different conclusion.

I can testify that many years of intellectual investigation have convinced me allegiance to God makes sense, but it is profoundly powerful to the persistence of my loyalty that my experience confirms this conviction. Especially in my youth, however, I relied upon the experience of others to bolster my confidence, and that is as it should be.

God’s revelation to us is intended to encounter our minds, our bodies, and our emotions. His plan ignores no aspect of our person, though we can easily neglect to make use of His robust provision by over-emphasizing our minds, our feelings, or our bodies. There is goodness in attention to every aspect of being created in God’s image (of being human), and there is danger in ignoring the total package.

This is why over the years of your childhood I have commended to you a 3 Streams approach to the Church. The evangelical churches tends to emphasize the mind, the sacramental churches to emphasize formation through action and its repetition, and the charismatic churches tend to focus on our emotional/spiritual experience. This is not to suggest that any of those traditions entirely neglect the other streams, but to speak of what is easily mistaken for what they most prize.

I encourage you to expand beyond what you took away from your upbringing, but I also exhort you not to abandon the allegiance you were taught and saw modeled in your parents, our friends, and your grandparents. I can tell you confidently that while there is no end to exploration, the conclusion of it all will affirm the pillars of what you have been taught: God exists, He is good, He loves you, and He will save you from yourself, the world, and the devil.

Phinehas and the Equipping Function of Ordination

“And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped.” Numbers 25:6-8

“In earlier times Phinehas son of Eleazar was the official in charge of the gatekeepers, and the LORD was with him.” 1 Chronicles 9:20

I have often wondered how Phinehas knew it was appropriate to take such radical action, but after noticing this note in 1 Chronicles I realize he was ordained to the task of safeguarding God’s house. It has been my experience that one knows things when engaged in service to God’s people that one would second guess in everyday life. Ordination, it seems, conveys an anointing to the task.

John Wayne is Not Our Problem

(The title of this post is a reference to the increasingly popular book by Kirsten Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.)

Christians, our failure is not that 81% (based on exit polls) of “white evangelicals” voted for Trump, but that Trump was even a candidate. We are seeing large-scale accusations that the “white evangelical” voting block is really just power hungry. No, what is being seen is the vestiges of a once clear moral sense now in tatters.

The failure of Christians in the application of Christ’s character to civic action, is not in having voted for the lesser of two evils candidate, but of failing to ensure that a character-filled candidate was available. That prior failure is behind the growing chorus of false accusations about why we voted as we did; a chorus increasingly joined by liberal Christians confused about the basics. But of course, conservatives are also confused about the basics (though in different ways) —and that is the point.

Don’t get it twisted: biblical values are under attack, and the solution to our massive moral decline is not to embrace anti-biblical values, but to be truly radical (Latin from radix = root) and return to the character of Christ in every way. Don’t criticize the seemingly incongruous protests of the last 50 years coming from conservative leaders. Instead, get behind a total return to biblical life: which will transform every. single. aspect. of your life: how you eat, how you vote, how you spend, what you watch, what you listen to, etc.

The problem is our complicity with the evil of our culture; the solution is not to join it, but to be truly radical. There is no corner of your life over which Jesus does not declare: that is mine.

This is a gospel issue, because when Christian lives do not display a real alternative to the hopelessness of the world, the Gospel will not be embraced.

What is the fix? Start with you: set your heart to study, to do, and then to teach God’s law. You understand, I hope, that God’s law is nothing more than the application of Christ’s character to human circumstances, and wherever we see it in Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation—it serves to model for us, via application of principle, how we are to live today. Of course we cannot “keep it” so as to accomplish our salvation, but if a failure to imitate Christ’s character condemns us, then having been justified from the reality of that condemnation we are now set free to stumble after the imitation of Christ in our admittedly failure-ridden fashion (the righteous person falls seven times but get up yet again).

One final tip: getting radically Christlike will not make you acceptable to the progressive culture (secular or Christian), so if you’re feeling appreciated and embraced by those in tune with the zeitgeist…something is off.

The Sacrament of Nature

into the mountainsI love being in places where one can recall and receive the sacrament of nature. God’s cathedral engages all the senses. There is over-much to take in for the eye-gate; the foot feels the soft pad of dust and needles. The nostrils fill with the scent of pine or sage, and the ear hears the white noise of water over rocks or the choir of birds and insects.

Grace pervades the soul and the Spirit rushes by in wind and water, and my prayers reach heavenward disguised as sparks from a fir log in the fire.

I watch the the water run over the terraced rocks and wonder whether I am like the ever-running water orterraced water over stones the silently enduring rocks.  The water is every millisecond a different shape, never stopping and always the same, flowing and flowing. The rocks sit stolidly, watching them reveals no change, but year by year they are molded by the eternally running water.

Which is more about life: the rocks or the water? I observe the drop of the land and the twisting course of the river and note that the water shows no sign of having cut the path, but seems to flow as directed, and I muse on the interdependence of leader and follower.

Grace is always available but must be observed and accepted to be received in all its capacity. I think the unconscious effect is never so transformative as when received and welcomed, cherished and imbibed. Nature overflows with grace and yet is inhabited by “red in tooth and claw.” This is the way of our world, I think.

Rain falls on the righteous and the wicked, but only those who notice and practice gratitude receive the full grace. The water falls over the rocks whether anyone sees, but the sprites watch and the angels hear, and sometimes we are there to drink deep and receive the peace.

The dominical sacraments work like this too. They do their work whether we recognize it or not, but the effect is enhanced and expanded by our observation. Start with paying attention and add gratitude into the mix, then watch to see what happens over time. You are the rocks and the elements are the water.

terraced water over stones2

“Christianity is not a religion.”

“Christianity is not a religion.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It breaks my heart every time.

Only someone who doesn’t understand what religion is could even consider making a statement like this. Religion is the form of a relationship with a deity. All relationships have form, and we ignore the form to the peril of the relationship.

A marriage, for example, is unmistakably a relationship, but it’s very existence depends upon the form, or the “rules” that comprise and preserve the relationship. Imagine saying, “Honey, I love you, but I just don’t understand why you want me to sleep at home all the time. I can’t handle all these rules, I just want a relationship with you.” Or how about this, “Honey, I know we’re married, and I love you so much, but I want to go out to eat with other women at least twice a week.” How long do you think that relationship is going to last?

What so many who proclaim this platitude actually mean is that Christianity is not an exercise of “legalism.” True enough; emphatically so. As Dallas Willard was fond of saying, however, “Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.”

The existence of your relationship with God depended entirely upon His effort, but the maintenance of that relationship in healthy fashion very much involves you coming into alignment with God’s views on reality and the reshaping of your beliefs and behavior with what He defines as good, beautiful and true. This process of transformation involves intangible realities like “relationship,” but all intangibles are displayed, evaluated, and nurtured via the tangible.

The internal (relationship) and the external (religion) are never supposed to be divorced. Instead, God designed them to be concomitant. The word “religion” comes from the same Latin root from which we get our word “ligament.” Ligare means “to bind,” just as a ligament binds muscle to bone.

…all intangibles are displayed, evaluated, and nurtured via the tangible.

Imagine beginning a relationship without an external (tangible) form. It’s impossible. Whether it begins with a question (speech act), “Will you be my girlfriend?” or a commitment of time together, it is impossible for the relationship to begin or persist without the exercise or avoidance of external acts.

Want to nurture that fledgling relationship? You bind the other to you via externals like writing letters, making phone calls, going places together, and also by externals you carefully avoid: writing letters to different girls, spending time with other girls, etc.

All relationships have and require form. We call the external display/exercise of relationship with a deity: religion. The conduct of a religion simultaneously displays and deepens our allegiance (bond) to that deity. Christianity is very much a religion; in fact, it is the only true religion. It is a religion we delight in because of the existence of our relationship with God, which He provided by grace through faith, so that, we might walk in the good works He prepared beforehand for us to do (Eph 2:8-10).

Final note: in a contemporary culture that suffers from a glut of denominations who first hollowed out their external structures from any internal significance and then crumbled all together so that only the shell of a former profound worship exists, it is easy to disdain the externals and proclaim the exclusive necessity of the internal realities. This is precisely what North American evangelicalism has done. The problem is that hollow, legalistic externals and incoherent, unsupported internal emphases are both equally destructive. We are presently reaping the whirlwind of both errors.

Is it not most irrational to accuse religion because of the scandalous ways of some individuals, while simultaneously completely slighting and overlooking the holy and heavenly walk of many others? Are all who profess godliness loose and careless in their lives? No, some are an ornament to their faith and the glory of Christ. Why must the innocent be condemned with the guilty? Would you condemn the eleven disciples on the actions of one Judas?

John Flavel (d. 1691), ed. Jason Roth. Keeping the Heart: In Modern English (p. 11).

Defining Pornography

  • lurid or sensational material; often used in combination.
  • a description of or treatise on prostitutes or prostitution; hence, obscene writing
  • licentious painting or literature; especially, the painting anciently employed to decorate the walls of rooms devoted to bacchanalian orgies.
  • the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction
  • sexually explicit writing, images, video, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal

I have been reluctant to address this issue because it is so distasteful, but given that it has now become the ‘coin of the realm’, so to speak (meaning that it is not just available, but part of the normative content of our culture), I think it has become imperative to speak in order that we might share a common definition, reject all that tears down rather than builds up, and pursue the ideal that God established.

Here’s a bit of the history that led me to this commentary. Of all things, my 72-year-old mother sent me an article by Dr. Michael Brown addressing a hit song/video by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Now I’m aware that Cardi B exists, but have ignored her as eminently distasteful. I’ve never heard of the other lady.

So I googled up the lyrics to see what all the fuss was about. I do not recommend this, and would caution anyone reading that these lyrics will provoke an emotional reaction similar to what Phinehas must have felt before he drove the spear through the couple cavorting in front of the Tabernacle (Numbers 25:1-9).

Incensed, depressed, and seeking to galvanize the faithful, I posted on my FB page:

“Let us be honest, forthright, and clear. There ought to be no fuzziness here. The hit song WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion is pornography.

The lyrics are pornographic; the video is pornographic. That this is not just tolerated in our society but trumpeted and celebrated, is simultaneously a terrible indictment of our culture’s present disease, and will be an inestimably destructive force on the mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our culture: men and women.”

And here’s where the real turn happens…

A dear friend of mine, a former roommate from Bible School, commented, “…It was definitely erotic with a lot of imagery. Can’t say it reaches the level of pornography….”

Yesterday I was depressed; now I am roused to battle.

So let’s talk pornography… what is it, how ought we to define it, and what is its opposite?

This song (WAP) is pornography by very definition. The first use of the word in English that we know of is traced to 1842, but it comes to us from the Ancient Greek, πορνογράφος (pornographos), where it referred to writings about prostitution. It’s a compound word comprised of πόρνη (pornē), “prostitute” and γράφω (graphō), “I write.”

This song begins, “There’s some whores in this house,” repeated four times. This is literally writing about prostitutes.

If we turn to the Scriptures we find that πορνεία (porneia) referred first to prostitution: sex for sale, but quickly came to refer to any illicit sexuality: that is, sex used for purposes or in a manner twisted from God’s intent, marital intimacy and procreation. So, sex used as an exchange, used to procure desired ends, used to covenant with anyone other than a spouse, or in the service of a deity, was all abhorrent: pornographic. The song describes exclusively pornographic exercise of sexuality for anti-biblical, ungodly purposes, and in lurid, sensational, exchange-oriented, control-focused manner. (pornography: lurid or sensational material, often used in combination. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.)

The next evolution of the word, was in the Roman period where it came to describe “licentious painting or literature; especially, the painting anciently employed to decorate the walls of room devoted to bacchanalian orgies.” (Collaborative International Dictionary of English). Think, the walls of Pompeii, which I cannot even use here in exemplary manner. Here we find the genesis of pornography being associated with images.

Each of the three women highlighted in this video (Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Kylie Jenner) are dressed like prostitutes, and engaged in lurid, sensational, enticing, and obscene (“abhorrent to morality or virtue; specifically, designed to incite to lust or depravity) behavior. The fact that the visual aspect of this song/video doesn’t rise to the extremes of what we now commonly call pornography reveals the depths to which our society has descended, not an inaccuracy of definition. And that is precisely part of what moves me so profoundly to something bordering on despair. As a father, I am filled with slow burning, deep running rage at the devastating harm this pornographic putrescence wreaks upon our children.

We ought now to speak of the “pornographic” nature of non-sexual things. Violence is the other porn of our culture. Here’s the thing: porn is the lurid display of natural but unrestrained passions. We’re all familiar with the term “blood-lust,” but have you considered that in the devolution of mores, culture, of humanity, the perversion of sex comes first and is followed by an even deeper twisting where violence becomes entertainment. Christians, myself included, we have been taken unawares: caught by a more profound perversion while protesting the one that was first waved in our faces.

Revenge-story? Not for Christians. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” John Wick-fan? That’s pornography. Here’s a thought: in ancient Israel, when coming back from war the men had to remain outside the village in order that they not bring the impurity of violence and bloodshed into the home environment. What do we do? We pay for it to be streamed into our living room. Christians ought to abhor the pornographic display of any passion used in a restraint-exceeding manner.

That sounds so tame, so antiseptic, so non-threatening, but our reaction ought to be like that of St. James, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:1-12).

And if the tongue, how much more so the hand raised in violent intent or the genitals lifted in ungodly pursuit of wicked design? If the tongue is a forest fire, the raging hand is a conflagration, and the rebellious genitalia an inferno.

Prescriptive Foundations for the People of God

We must first establish the underlying, persistent authority of the Old Testament and only then ask whether that authority has specific prescriptive application to ourselves. Let us make it clear in no uncertain terms that the enduring authority of the Old Testament is a fundamental requirement for canonicity, for interpretation, and for application (2 Timothy 3:16). In every circumstance we are beholden to the foundational nature of the Torah for our initial guidance. In our individual lives and in history, humans learn what is good and proper by observation first.

The law of God, wherever it appears in Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation), always displays the character of God applied to human affairs. This is as true of Genesis 9 as of Exodus 20, and of Leviticus 23 as of Matthew 5-7.

While a specific case law instantiates a particular enduring ethical principle, the transitory specificity of the case does not obviate the enduring application of the moral law. So, for example, while we no longer use flat roofs for hosting social gatherings, I remain constrained by Deuteronomy 22:8 to salt my sidewalks when icy and to put a fence around my swimming pool, and if it should become the case that roofs once again become a common gathering place, I will once again be commanded to build a parapet around my roof.

Furthermore, this case law has civil import. We are instructed in the proper extent of civil government by Deuteronomy 22:8, which has no penalty for failing to build a parapet, unless someone dies as a consequence of not having done so, in which case the negligent offender is guilty of manslaughter. While it is accurate to recognize that we are no longer commanded that each contemporary government should make it a law that roofs have parapets, each government is commanded to punish those who fail to love their neighbor in such a way that the neighbor is harmed.

Furthermore, that same government is constrained from interfering until such harm occurs: the civil government is given the sword: “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom 13:4).

It is essential we recognize that the Apostolic Scriptures introduce no innovation, rather they reveal what has always been but was not recognized. They amplify what has been previously declared, revealing what has always been the intent. Nothing is overturned by the Apostolic writers, rather the deeper and the broader is revealed, hidden as it were, among the already declared. We see above how Romans 13:1-8 amplifies the content contained in Deuteronomy 22:8.

Jesus’ walk with his two disciples on the road to Emmaus is the quintessential display of the New Testament’s function. At first sight, the two disciples do not recognize Jesus in front of their eyes, but, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).

There is a primary and essential continuity between the Hebrew and the Apostolic scriptures, and there is no division between law and grace except in function. The law on its own multiplies sin and condemns the sinner, but the law when paired with grace is no longer “the law of sin and death” but “the law of the Spirit of life. (Romans 8:2). It is, indeed, the same law, but transformed in function; it no longer condemns but now guides the redeemed and regenerate man, and to the Spirit-enlivened eyes it now illumines the way of Christ. So could David exclaim, “Oh how I love your law,” and “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches” (Psalm 119:97,14). “I will run in the way of your commandments when you set my heart free!” (Psalm 119:32).

No sooner have I penned these words then I hear the forthcoming chorus of “buts.” “But Acts 10.” “But Romans 14:14.” Yes, and but Colossians 2:16-17, but Romans 10:4, and Galatians 3:13. And I might reply “but Matthew 5:17 and Romans 7:12.” BUT, the solution is not in pitting these passages against each other, but in finding the simplest and most contiguous reading that allows these passages to faithfully complement one another. In obedience to the laws of hermeneutics and of logic (that we might not multiply complexity beyond necessity), we ought to read these passages, so far as possible, through the eyes of their initial recipients, never permitting our interpretation to cause contradiction among them, and never allowing our interpretive understanding to undermine corollary principles, e.g., the rules of canonicity, or credulity.