Keeping Grace Unreal

  1. Atonement contradictories
  2. Circumstances which permit an exception
  3. Keeping Grace Unreal
  4. Demons & Angels


I sometimes hear people say we should use all of the theories of the Atonement, because each one supplies something essential to our understanding. I can’t agree completely, because the early church belief that God forgives freely isn’t compatible with the later theory that he had to be paid first (whether for the sake of his honor, or to achieve justice, or for some other reason). But there is much beauty to explore in the scriptural language of offering, once it’s liberated from the overtones of a one-for-one transaction.

Frederica Matthewes-Green, Welcome to the Orthodox Church, page 152.


If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

West Virginia v. Barnette. Thanks to David French for reminding me of this marvelous quote, which he brought up after stirring up Twittersphere fury by “deadnaming” Chelsea Manning on the occasion of his release from prison.

When I use a male pronoun to describe Chelsea Manning, I’m not trolling. I’m not being a jerk. I’m not trying to make anyone angry. I’m simply telling the truth. I’m reflecting biological reality, and I’m referring to the created order as outlined in Genesis 1 — “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Nor is this a matter of “manners.” I’ve encountered many well-meaning people who’ve told me that I should acquiesce to new pronouns because it’s the polite thing to do. I want to avoid hurting feelings, don’t I? I want to treat someone the way I’d like to be treated, right? What’s the harm in a little white lie?

But when your definition of manners requires that I verbally consent to a fundamentally false and important premise, then I dissent. You cannot use my manners to win your culture war. I will speak respectfully, I will never use a pronoun with the intent of causing harm, and if I encounter a person in obvious emotional distress I will choose my words very carefully. But I will not say what I do not believe.

Yes, but strident pushback in the Twittersphere isn’t an official prescription or proscription, right?

Right. But officials here and there are in fact prescribing behavior with laws that French (and I) will conscientiously disobey:

For example, in New York City the government will punish employers, landlords, businesses, and professionals who use the “wrong” pronoun. Here’s how the New York City Human Rights Commission describes a “violation” of its human-rights law:

Refusal to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun, or title because they do not conform to gender stereotypes. For example, calling a woman “Mr.” because her appearance is aligned with traditional gender-based stereotypes of masculinity.

Even worse, the Obama administration put the issue of pronouns front and center in every federally funded educational institution in the United States. It issued guidance (since repealed, though the issue is far from resolved) containing clear language mandates:

Under Title IX, a school must treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their education records or identification documents indicate a different sex. The Departments have resolved Title IX investigations with agreements committing that school staff and contractors will use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity.

This is, to put it bluntly, compelled speech. It’s a violation of the rights of conscience of the speaker. It’s an effort by the government to coerce verbal agreement with a contested and contentious personal, religious, cultural, and scientific debate.

So, Obama’s gone, and even Jared and Ivanka, moles in this Administration, are unlikely to persuade Ivanka’s childfather to stay a course so offensive to his Evangelical supporters.

But we’ll always have New York City — and Minnesota, which prescribes a slightly different orthodoxy as its “exception” to people’s free speech right.


Maddi Runkles has never been a disciplinary problem.

She has a 4.0 average at Heritage Academy, the small private Christian school she attends; played on the soccer team; and served as president of the student council. But when her fellow seniors don blue caps and gowns at graduation early next month, Ms. Runkles, 18, will not be among them.

The reason? She is pregnant …

(Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished by Christian School.) I tried to come up with a better introduction than that. Ms. Stolberg seems to have competently and fairly covered the story, but the feel of the story is “Meh.”

I disagree with the school’s decision, but although the school’s not speaking of its reasons, I’m pretty sure that an outsider accurately identified them:

Navigating that balance is exceedingly difficult for Christian educators, and schools respond in various ways, said Rick Kempton, chairman of the board of the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents about 3,000 schools in the United States and many others overseas.

“There’s a biblical term that many Christian schools use, and it is the whole idea of grace: What would Jesus do?” Mr. Kempton said. Of Ms. Runkles, he added: “She’s making the right choice. But you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, ‘Well, that seems like a pretty good option.’”

(Emphasis added) Yeah. Don’t you dare act like grace is real. The Christian way is to stigmatize someone until she’s no longer embarrassing.

Mr. Kempton continues:

Some schools, he said, might insist pregnant students finish the school year at home. That was one option considered for Ms. Runkles. She took a two-day suspension as the Heritage board — led at the time by her father, Scott — wrestled with her fate.

Mr. Runkles, a bank vice president, recused himself from decisions involving his daughter, but ultimately he quit the board in anger over how she was treated.

“Typically, when somebody breaks a rule, you punish them at the time they break the rule. That way, the punishment is behind them and they’re moving forward with a clean slate,” he said. “With Maddi, her punishment was set four months out. It’s ruined her senior year.”

Maddi’s fornication was both a sin (don’t even bother trying to argue that it wasn’t) and a violation of this school’s rules. I get the feeling she acknowledges the sinfulness as well as the rule breach. She acknowledge the latter at least publicly.

But the pregnancy, though a reminder of Maddi’s sin, is not a sin. And the way this school treated her, while not the end of the world, is exactly why a lot of Maddi’s add abortion on top of their fornication, as King David added murder to his and Bathsheba’s adultery.

Because Maddi had been accepted at Bob Jones University for the Fall, I justifiably presume the school is Fundamentalist or at least leans that way. I don’t know how, for instance, a typical CSI school (versus ACSI) might respond, but Heritage Academy had a choice:

  1. Punish Maddie for the rule breach and then proceed as normal, thus risking that some dim bulbs in the school won’t think fornication is really all that bad.
  2. Punish Maddie for the rule breach and then hide her away while she’s pregnant because that’s an embarrassing reminder, thus risking that some bright bulbs will recognize that face-saving trumps grace.
  3. Consider dropping the punitive fundamentalist mind, putting on the mind of Christ instead. See item 1. (Remember that time when He said to the woman caught in adultery “Go and sin no more“?)


In a world of demons and angels, we can’t agree on who’s which. And we don’t have the charity in our hearts to admit most of us are somewhere in between.

(Tony Woodlief, Charity for All? Not in Today’s Debates Over Civil War Memorials)

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Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.