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by Stanley Pace
Video games are fun. I’ve played my share. I remember the wonder of my first Atari. And my younger brother’s first Nintendo blew that out of the water. A friend and I would ride our bikes for six miles, including a very long climb up a hill, to play space invaders at the local state park. I once had $15 worth of bagged quarters stolen that I’d left on a console at an arcade. That was devastating. At thirty, I purchased an XBox “for the boys in the church.” And even though I pulled two all-nighters playing through Halo with one of our college students, it really only got used on Sundays when the kids would pile into my sitting room. That lasted for about a year, I guess. Then we made them go outside, which opportunity they took to shoot each other with air soft guns. I’m sure that was much better for their spirits, if less comfortable for their bottoms. The only rule we made for those who begged to play was that they couldn’t cry or get mad when they got shot.
So, I enjoyed playing video games when I was young but I could never stick with it for long. After all, I hated wasting a beautiful day when I could be outside. I don’t fit into what is now the 25-35 year old crowd of video game addicts. But I know some. Of course there are various types of video games that can addict. There are the racing games and the building-things games, but I would argue that the vast majority of the most popular games today involve some sort of destruction. Whether it’s Hulk smashing things or military first person shooters or some other sort of destruction, the ones to which boys seem to be most addicted require them to enter into video violence.
It’s no wonder that violence of some sort is marketable to gamer boys. Boys are ordinarily built with the proclivity to demonstrate strength. They like to smash things early on. Pillow fights and punching dad, jumping in a pile of raked leaves and breaking lego fortresses, digging holes and merrily shooting spiders off their webs on a trek through the woods (my personal favorite as a boy) – all these are a form of destruction. I’m not saying these things are immoral (but perhaps I ought to have had a little more compassion on the spiders), but they are definitely things boys like to do.
Boys also like to build things. And this, too, is an exercise of strength, sometimes more mental, sometimes more bodily. There is a time to build up. And there is a time to destroy. And often, demolition is the necessary prelude to remodeling and renovation. Our boys need to be strong in order to do these manly things. And so we let them test and develop their strength while young. We let them glory in their expanded biceps after eating their butter beans. We let them be boys with the hope that one day they will use their strength to do God’s work. And we delight in their delight of youthful strength and energy.
Not to oversimplify, but let’s just consider these two “uses” for a boy’s/man’s strength – building and destroying. What happens to a boy whose days are filled with exercising nothing but the latter. I.e., what happens to a boy who spends all his time destroying things but never building? Some boys seem to focus only on this, like Sid from Toy Story, who destroyed all his toys and burned things. Like Sid, these boys tend to become bullies. They are frightening. All their desires are bent on using their strength for destruction. And when their attention is turned towards another person, they remain in that mindset.
Now, don’t write my conclusion for me. My thesis is not that video games necessarily tend to make a boy more violent. I’m more concerned with the nature of violence itself, and what happens to a boy who uses his strength only for violence.
On one level, violence is a very lazy use of strength. It doesn’t take the whole man to break something, only his muscles. It often requires very little mental exertion. And boys’ biggest challenge is that of mental laziness, sluggardness. The biggest deficit in the use of strength for breaking things is patience, which is itself self-mastery, an exercise of strength over one’s own nature. It takes an exercise of the heart’s strength to be patient. I would argue that patience is a chief attribute of courage. Patience is the opposite of sluggardness. It takes patience to complete a task. It takes patience to consider others better than yourself. These good things require courage because courage is, at bottom, the willingness to face and try to overcome personal pain and discomfort in order to do what is right. Patience in relationships is nothing other than self-sacrifice, which is the essence of courage. Building things requires the “strength” of the whole man.
Video games subvert patience. They are fast moving – on to the next kill, on to the next scene of destruction, on to the next thoughtless but reflexive breaking. This is the opposite of patience. The raging rampaging that a boy enacts in a shoot-em-up video game may be fun for a time, but when the boy becomes consumed and his whole time is spent in this mentality of destruction, he loses self-mastery. He loses the ability to concentrate on the task at hand. He becomes impatient, as is illustrated every time on of his younger siblings distracts him or crosses the screen while he’s in action. He becomes mentally lazy because his heart muscles have atrophied. He becomes a coward because he forgets to overcome the discomforts that face him down whenever he’s required to do something “constructive.”
But doesn’t it take courage to sneak around those corners and expose yourself to virtual danger in order to advance to the next level? Well, certainly it takes courage to expose yourself to danger in order to accomplish a virtuous end. But, though it may take courage to expose yourself to “real” danger, boys learn pretty quick how to use the restart button. There is no real danger, so there is no real courage being tested. And I would suggest that it takes no courage to kill a man, unless you are considering the violence done to your own conscience. It takes courage to risk your life, to die, certainly, but not to kill.
Video games may be sapping your boy’s courage. While he leaps from kill to kill, wielding his strong weapon of choice, he may actually be losing the thing he most needs in order to use his strength to God’s glory – self-mastery, temperance, patience, even perseverance.
While it’s fine and good to let boys bounce around in their young strength, even if it means picking up the pieces of an occasional broken lamp now, our primary concern should be what’s happening in their hearts and where their feats of strength direct them in the end. Above all, we ought to be sure to teach our boys to love using their strength in the most worthy way. We ought to direct them to build things, not just break them.
And times are such that we need a generation of boys who will become men who build things rather than break them. We’ve already got a whole generation of destroyers which, very soon, our boys will have to clean up after. After all, who is the stronger, the iconoclast or the sculptor? Or rather, who is the most valuable. There is a time for all things under the sun. Violence is here. Let us build the City of God.
By Contributing Scholar, Timothy LeCroy
There does not seem to have been any distinctive everyday dress for Christian pastors up until the 6th century or so. Clergy simply wore what was common, yet muted, modest, and tasteful, in keeping with their office. In time, however, the dress of pastors remained rather conservative, as it is wont to do, while the dress of lay people changed more rapidly. The result was that the dress of Christian pastors became distinct from the laity and thus that clothing began to be invested (no pun intended) with meaning.
Skipping ahead, due to the increasing acceptance of lay scholars in the new universities, the Fourth Lateran council (1215) mandated a distinctive dress for clergy so that they could be distinguished when about town. This attire became known as the vestis talaris or the cassock. Lay academics would wear an open front robe with a lirripium or hood. It is interesting to note that both modern day academic and clerical garb stems from the same Medieval origin.
Councils of the Roman Catholic church after the time of the Reformation stipulated that the common everyday attire for priests should be the cassock. Up until the middle of the 20th century, this was the common street clothes attire for Roman Catholic priests. The origin of the clerical collar does not stem from the attire of Roman priests. Its genesis is of Protestant origin.
The Origin of Reformed Clerical Dress
In the time of the Reformation, many of the Reformed wanted to distance themselves from what was perceived as Roman clerical attire. Thus many of the clergy took up the attire of academics in their daily dress or wore no distinctive clothing whatsoever. Yet over time the desire for the clergy to wear a distinctive uniform returned to the Reformed churches. What they began to do, beginning in the 17th century as far as I can tell, is to begin to wear a neck scarf, called a cravat, tied around the neck to resemble a yoke. Thus common dignified attire was worn by the pastor, supplementing it with this clerical cravat. This style can be seen in many of our famous Reformed divines, one of the more famous of whom being Charles Hodge.
When Reformed pastors would enter the pulpit, they would add what is known as a “preaching tab” or “neck band” to their clerical dress. This type of dress is nearly ubiquitous among 17th and 18th century Reformed pastors. Here are a few examples:
In the following picture we see more clearly the use of both the clerical cravat and the inserted preaching tabs by one Thomas Chalmers.
The reader will note that the men depicted here were of great eminence as Reformed pastors and theologians. They are all well known for their commitment to Reformed theology and biblical teaching and practice. These are not obscure men who sported clerical attire.
One might ask whether this sort of attire was universal among the Reformed. The answer is, no. Upon perusing several portraits included in the Presbyterian Encyclopedia of 1880, published by Presbyterian Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, I found that there was diversity of clerical attire chosen by Presbyterian pastors of the 19th century. Some wore clerical cravats. Some wore what looks like a modern rabat with a collarette (a black vest which closes at the top with a bit of white collar revealed all around). Others wore bow ties or neck ties. The conclusion to be drawn is that in the Presbyterian tradition, there has been diversity of clerical dress without any type enforced over the other.
Another objection that might be raised is whether or not this neck band or cravat, such as we see Charles Hodge wearing, was in any way distinctive clerical garb. Several 19thcentury sources reveal that these cravats were, in fact, considered distinctive clerical garb. The following quote is from a 19th century source called The Domestic Annals of Scotland, Volume 3:
In the austerity of feeling which reigned through the Presbyterian Church on its reestablishment there had been but little disposition to assume a clerical uniform or any peculiar pulpit vestments. It is reported that when the noble commissioner of one of the first General Assemblies was found fault with by the brethren for wearing a scarlet cloak he told them he thought it as indecent for them to appear in gray cloaks and cravats. When Mr. Calamy visited Scotland in 1709 he was surprised to find the clergy generally preaching in neckcloths and coloured cloaks. We find at the date here marginally noted that the synod of Dumfries was anxious to see a reform in these respects. The synod – so runs their record – “considering that it’s a thing very decent and suitable so it hath been the practice of ministers in this kirk formerly to wear black gowns in the pulpit and for ordinary to make use of bands do therefore by their act recommend it to all their brethren within their bounds to keep up that custome and to study gravitie in their apparel and every manner of way.”
Here we see several members of the 18th c. Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) having their hackles raised over some ostentatious clergymen wearing scarlet cloaks and cravats. Later they hold a Synod where they decide that they ought to wear black gowns and to make use of neck bands. This paragraph shows us two things: the wearing of cravats was considered to be distinctive clerical garb, and the synod of the kirk decided ultimately that modest use of neckbands was permitted. (There are many more such examples in 19th century sources which can easily be researched on Google Books. I invite the reader to see for himself.) Thus when we see all manner of 17th-19th century Reformed pastors sporting preaching tabs, neck bands, and cravats, we should interpret them to be intentionally sporting distinctive clerical garb. We should also gather that the author of these annals, one Robert Chambers, included this anecdote in his work in order to promote the modest use of bands and clerical garb in his day.
The last bit of history to cover regards the origin of the modern clerical collar. According to several sources, including one cited by the Banner of Truth website (no Romanizing group), the modern clerical collar was invented by a Presbyterian. In the mid 19th century heavily starched detachable collars were in great fashion. This can been seen up through the early part of the 20th century if one has watched any period television shows or movies. If we observe the collar worn by Charles Hodge we can see that at first these collars were not folded down as they are today, but left straight up.
Yet in the mid to late 19th century it became the fashion of the day to turn these collars down. You and I still wear a turned down collar. The origin of the modern clerical collar is simply then to turn or fold the collar down over the clerical cravat, leaving the white cloth exposed in the middle. According to the Glasgow Herald of December 6,1894, the folded down detachable clerical collar was invented by the Rev Dr Donald McLeod, a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland. According to the book Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, “the collar was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.”
Yet two questions arise: how did the clerical collar then fall out of use among Presbyterians and how did it come to be so associated with Roman Catholic priests? The answer is that up until the mid 20th century the prescribed dress for all Roman Catholic priests was the cassock, a full length clerical gown. Yet during the 20th century it became custom for Roman Catholic priests to wear a black suit with a black shirt and clerical collar, which collar they appropriated from Protestant use. Owing to the large number of Roman Catholic priests in some areas, and due to the fact that some sort of everyday clerical dress was mandated for all priests at all times when outside their living quarters, the clerical collar became to be associated more with the Roman Catholic Church than with the Protestant churches. It stands to reason that once again a desire to create distance between the Reformed and Roman Catholics and the increasing desire throughout the 20th century for ministers to dress in more informal ways has led to the fact that barely any Reformed pastor wears any distinctive clerical dress these days, though plenty of examples show that our eminent forbearers desired to do so.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, 2003
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, 1996
The Presbyterian Encyclopedia, Alfred Nevin, 1880
Wikipedia: Clerical Collar
Wikipedia: Bands (neck wear)
Wikipedia: Clerical Clothing
Clerical dress and insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry McCloud, 1948
Domestic Annals of Scotland, From the Revolution to the Rebellion of 1745, Robert Chambers, 1861, pp. 147-148.
Ken Collins’ Website – Vestments Glossary
Banner of Truth Website
Pastor Garrett Craw’s Blog
Dr. Timothy LeCroy is a Special Contributing Scholar to the Kuyperian Commentary and is the Pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Columbia, MO.
This post originally appeared on Dr. LeCroy’s blog, Vita pastoralis.
Guest Post by Alan Stout
In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to not deny federal benefits to homosexuals that enter into a false marriage covenant. I thought I would address this issue.
In small ways and great, we have given in to false teaching and false gods. We are timid before the gods of tolerance, sensuality, entertainment and comfort. We became ensconced behind our Church walls, boldly proclaiming our outrage over sin, other people’s sin, in closed meetings of other like-minded Christians. We have proclaimed “a different path” to those already walking that direction and rejoice that prophetic ministry has found such receptive ears.
The Church of Christ bares much responsibility for the woeful state of marriage in our nation. It is not because we have not spoken out against sodomy or homosexual relationships, we have, but because we have done so while leaving out the biblical purposes of marriage, making it an idol to be added to our shrine.
In and of itself, these in-house conversations are not sinful. Going to a conference on marriage in order to build yours up is not a bad thing. The problem is this: in practice, we as the Church have undercut the very foundations we purport to love. The result of this erosion is adultery, no fault divorce, and now the Federal tearing down of marriage itself (See Antonin Scalia’s dissent as the Supreme Court over-turned the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA).
The Church owns this sin and here is where we bought it. We have so divorced marriage from the original purpose given by God that we have turned it into a covenant of shortsighted selfishness, failing to think generationally about what God has joined together. From creation one of the chief purposes of holy matrimony (marriage) has been the procreation of children. The Church has traditionally recognized this and proclaimed it during the wedding ceremony. For example the 1609 Book of Common Prayer, after which many of our American Christian weddings have been patterned, declares three reasons marriage was given to man. Here is how wedding ceremonies in the West have traditionally opened:
At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the Body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
Modern Sample Call to Worship
Dear friends and family, with great affection for ___ and ___ we have gathered together to witness and bless their union in marriage. To this sacred moment they bring the fullness of their hearts as a treasure and a gift from God to share with one another. They bring the dreams which bind them together in an eternal commitment. They bring their gifts and talents, their unique personalities and spirits, which God will unite together into one being as they build their life together. We rejoice with them in thankfulness to the Lord for creating this union of hearts, built on friendship, respect and love.
Our President, Barack Obama, tweeted out immediately after the decision, “love is love.” Mr. President, the Church has been saying that for years… to our shame. May we repent, may we go forward to the garden-city, may we say with our Lord to those who marry today, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” That is a significant part of marriage and unless providentially hindered, children are mandated by God. This needs to be embraced and extolled in every marriage and in the Church.
The culture of sodomy is, in the end, death. There is no future in the sexual activity of homosexuals, their homes die with them. What a shame that the Church has bought into this same culture.
I propose that we do a few things to counter this trend:
1. Pastors, teach and fight the anti-family trend in this war. Extol the cultural mandate, think generationally, preach from Psalm 127 and 128 and do not undercut the force of the blessing of children with stupid statements like, “some men’s quivers are smaller than others and they hold only one or two arrows (127:5).” Teach that it is a real blessing to have a table surrounded by little olive plants (128:3).
2. Pastors again, let me urge you to refuse to perform a marriage ceremony unless the reasons for marriage are clearly articulated, we must preach the whole counsel of God in this situation.
3. Saints of almighty God, do not neglect the clear teaching of Scripture. Embrace the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to deny this is death – in effect the same death the sodomite revels in. You too think generationally, long to see your children’s children (Psalm 128:6).
 The Eastern Church also contains a blessing that asks that the couple “multiply” like unto Jacob and Rachael.
Alan Stout is the Associate Pastor of Providence Church in Pensacola, Fl.
By Andrew Isker
Today as an American, if you were to log into social media, turn on the television, or even step outside your front door, you would hear the refrain, “I am thankful for our freedom, because we live in America.” While it is good to celebrate the few freedoms we do have left, to do so without any idea of where we came from and where we are going is utterly foolish.
That we have more freedom than, say, the subjects of the Soviet Union or Mao’s China, is not up for debate. We are not forced to starve on collectivist farms, nor herded into a gulag if we complain about it. And for all I know, today America might be the most free country in the entire world. But Americans in 2013 are far less free than Americans in 1776. For that matter, Americans in 2013 are far less free than Americans in 2012. This country would be unrecognizable to 18th century Americans. And it wouldn’t be (just) because of airplanes, iPhones, and automobiles. It would be because we think a people who are spied on, who are compelled to pay onerous taxes, and who are so enslaved to lust they would murder one million babies per year are free. If one were to look at the list of grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence, almost all of them could be levied against our government, and in fact, far more damning grievances could be added if the document was written with the U.S. Federal Government, rather than the British Monarch, in mind:
“He has intruded upon the privacy of a free people, and has protected the criminals who tread upon our rights.”
“He has furnished the heathen with arms, allowing him to slaughter our good Christian brethren.”
“He has perverted the institutions of our society; he has called evil ‘good’ and good ‘evil.’”
“He has played the whore with houses of commerce, and willfully aided their despicable machinations.”
It should be noted, that while 1776 is a good historical marker to show how much our freedom has diminished, to set that time up as a standard for freedom is idolatrous. Our ultimate standard for what freedom and a free people looks like must be the Word of God, not the ideals of 18th Century secessionists (who, lest we forget, were largely guided by a biblical idea of freedom). And the only way for freedom to be restored in this country is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to sweep across the country. And when that comes, celebration of Independence Day will no longer be ironic.
My article yesterday received over 1,300 hits. Not all, but some pro-death advocates have found a new song for their generation, I argued. They may just be waiting for the others to catch up. But it was not just the evangelical pro-life movement that was angelically perplexed by the “Hail Satan” chants, according to Life News, the satanists took offense:
The tweet comes from the so-called “UK Church of Satan,” which describes itself as A community of free thinking individuals and realists. Connecting followers of the Church of Satan in the UK.”
Unfortunate to see Satan’s name used in such a diabolical manner. Another example of what ‘Satanism’ doesn’t represent. #HailSatan
— UK Church of Satan (@UKChurchofSatan) July 3, 2013
By Uri Brito
This is a great day for these United States. It is a time of joy and celebration. And we hope to enjoy ourselves with one of America’s greatest inventions: hot dogs. But beyond all the fireworks, parades, and the good and healthy national festivities, we will also remember that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Sovereignty is good. It is right. And I believe there was much wisdom in that threefold pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. Undoubtedly we have not followed those principles very well in this nation. We have despised life by disposing of unborn infants, we have forgotten that God has set us free from ourselves and from the tyranny of sin, and we have also forsaken the liberty given to any nation whose God is the Lord. Therefore, we receive the just punishment we deserve, and that means the majority of our politicians and their policies. Washington has become a place of secret handshakes, unwarranted transactions, political elitism, sophist rhetoric, and cowardice. And finally, the happiness that we should certainly pursue is largely devoid of any form of Trinitarian rationale. Happiness–which is the pursuit of righteousness– without Nature’s God is temporary and unsatisfying.
We are first and foremost heavenly citizens. Our fellowship is heavenly. Our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness are not granted by this nation, but by a heavenly nation that this country has largely ignored. But this should not be the case. We are not pessimists. We know that even in the darkest moment of this country’s history, God is still on the throne, and He did not hit the pause button on his kingdom advance.
Be good citizens of this nation! Sing Psalms so loudly that the enemies will think there is an army of giants coming at them. Speak truth so firmly that Washington will be unable to shut her ears. Stand so strong that nothing will deter you from marching on. Love so convincingly that godly marriage would be honored. Obey the Lord your God; petition his mercy that God would spare us as He did Nineveh.
True patriotism rejoices when our country does right, and weeps when she chases after false gods.
Let us come together this coming Lord’s Day through the holy act of worship, and purify the Bride of Christ with confession and rejoicing, for in this manner this nation will find life, liberty, and true happiness.
Uri Brito is a dual citizen.
By Uri Brito
The chant outside Texas Capitol was consistent and unmistakable: “Hail Satan.” As the peaceful pro-life advocates were singing Amazing Grace, a group of loud pro-abortion chanters added their own version (hear video).
I am not saying that every woman who has ever committed abortion or support abortion are actively joined to some Anton Lavey gathering, or that Rachel Maddow will begin her show with a pro-Satan salutation, rather what I am saying is that this chant is an affirmation of the one who is behind these ideologies. Satan is the father of lies, and so he delights to hear his praises sung.
The Christian faith has always been a faith of life. The unbelieving heart is voluntarily against life. Policies and ideologies that delight in death are diametrically opposed to the Christian order. These loud advocates may have been trying to sabotage John Newton’s hymn, or to silence the pro-life sounds, but in reality they were revealing that which is fundamental to the way they look at the world. They were chanting from page one of their hymnals. Out of the heart the mouth chants. We are all worshiping beings. We all worship something or someone, and that worship is most clearly demonstrated in song.
Ideas have consequences and consequences have songs. Every generation has its own soundtrack. This generation has finally found one for her ideologies.
Uri Brito is founder and contributor to Kuyperian Commentary.
by Marc Hays
Thanks to a blue-light special at the Kindle store, I recently acquired an e-copy of N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. The first section addresses humanity’s struggle with justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty. His questions are honest and piercing. His logic is so seamless, that I find it hard to decide on a pull quote without doing a great injustice to the surrounding material as well as the quote itself, but, having said all that, here’s a portion that is exceptionally tasty. It is from chapter 4, For the Beauty of the Earth,
What we must notice at this stage is that both in the Old Testament and the New, the present suffering of the world–about which the biblical writers knew every bit as much as we do–never makes them falter in their claim that the created world really is the good creation of a good God. They live with the tension. And they don’t do it by imagining that the present created order is a shabby, second-rate kind of thing, perhaps (as in some kinds of Platonism) made by a shabby second-rate sort of god. They do it by telling a story of what the one creator God has been doing to rescue his beautiful world and put it to rights. And the story they tell, which we shall explore further in due course, indicates that the present world really is a signpost to a larger beauty, a deeper truth. It really is the authentic manuscript of one part of a masterpiece. The question is, What is the whole masterpiece like, and how can we begin to hear the music in that way it was intended? Read more…