Friday, August 31, 2012

The Nagging Question

by CWK

Wise men in ancient Israel (ca. 1000 B.C.) had this to say,

Proverbs 21:19: It is better to live in a desert wasteland than with a nagging woman.

Proverbs 27:15: A quarrelsome wife is like a continual dripping on a raining day.

Ancient wise men set themselves to dissuading women from nagging. How? First, by painting a picture of just how miserable life is with a nagging companion; such a life is worse than living in solitude in a barren sand bowl. Second, by making an obvious, but often overlooked, point about nagging. It drives men c-r-a-z-y. No, really, crazy. Nagging is like mental water torture. It drives men to a state of rattled insanity. So said the ancients.

To the ancient chorus of wisdom, I now join my voice. This post an attempt to eradicate all nagging from the face of planet earth. Yep, this is another man trying to persuade women not to nag their brothers, husbands, courtiers, and fathers. Hello out there in cyber world to women, friends, Romans, and countrymen.  I'm going to try and convince you that nagging is the worst thing a woman can do to get the men in your life to do what you think he should do.

Let me begin by answering the objections echoing back from cyber-city. Yes, men also nag; they can also, "beat a dead horse." Still, we can all agree that nagging is a vice more women are tempted to. How many wives complain of their husband's nagging? Not many. How many husbands complain of their wives nagging? You see my point. Second, yes, men need to be better leaders and do things, something, anything. In fact, the vice of passivity in men is usually the root of the vice of nagging. Yes, if men were more active, women would have less cause to nag; things would get done, quickly, efficiently, and on time. However, the key point for women to understand is that nagging does not produce the man you want, even if you get the thing you want. Nagging doesn't produce active and engaged men. It produces, inevitably, passive and disengaged men. Also, it's no good claiming that your problem with nagging is all his fault. Saying so is avoiding responsibility for yourself, before God. Maybe he should play his part better; maybe you identify with Amy Winehouse, "All I need is for my man to live up to his role!" -- but what about your part? What about your role?

Consider that nagging puts men in the position of, "Darned if you do. Darned if you don't." You desperately want the men in your life to lead, to take initiative, to do things. Well then, consider, if they give in to your nagging, that's a sign of weakness: a sign that they can be widdled down to submission: a sign, actually, that they ain't no leader. So, if the man gives in, and you get the thing you think you want, you aren't really getting the man you want. If, on the other hand, they resist your nagging -- if they take arms against a sea of pleadings -- then you are not getting the thing you want, though you may still be getting the man you want. This is the catch 22 every man finds himself in when faced with his wife's/girl-friend's/daughter's nagging. Somewhere, in his weary mind, he is thinking, "If I give in, that's weakness. If I don't give in, then she doesn't get what she wants." This is a no-win situation for him, and for the woman. This is, in terms of relationship, a zero sum game.

There are two, and only two, kinds of men produced via nagging. Some men are eroded into flabby cripples after years of nagging -- "Yes, honey," is their standard response. Occasionally, they bestir themselves, zombie-like, from lazy chairs, and mindlessly just barely accomplish a thing or two. Other men resist nagging, and grow colder and more distant over the years. They become like statues without ears. At some point, they can't hear their wives anymore. They lose their confidence. They lose their vitality. The best they can do is cling to shreds of manly resistance. And cling they do. Often, this second group of men turns to affairs, or divorce, or zany adventures to recharge their manliness and assert their own will. And assert they do.

Here's the thing: men live by respect. Respect is the oxygen of manliness. Without it, men turn either flabby or stony. So, I ask you, dear sisters, does either of these men sound appealing to you? A lifelesss zombie? A stony-hearted statue? Is it worth getting what you want if the man in your life becomes, as a result, a zeal-less zombie or a stolid statue? Is it worth it?

Women: If you need to understand any one basic thing about men, it's this: men need respect. Respect is the one thing they need. Respect is the one thing they crave. Why do guys try to score when their girl is watching during a meaningless play ground b-ball game? Why do guys ascend the latter of Fortune 500 hundreds? Drive cars at dangerous speeds? Why do little boys show off in front of little girls? R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And every man is singing, "Find out what it means to me." The way to love a man is to respect him. To a man, all the so-called love in the world means nothing - zero, nada -- if not founded on respect.

So, ladies, there's a better way to get the thing you really want, and all the while build up the man you really want. This is the road less traveled. The road signs reads R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This is the road of encouragement, submission (yeah, I said), and a gentle and quiet spirit. A model of this is Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. Read it, and take notes, if you want to know how to win the heart of a man and/of help the men in your life ascend to noble activity.

Ladies, this may startle you, but I can 100 percent guarantee you that, if you travel the dirt road of respect, you will get BOTH the thing you want and the man you want. You can have it all. First, though, stop and ask, "What do I really want?" What is the thing, more important than any other, that I desire? It is not certain trinkets, or leave to do this or that, or your own way with finances. The thing you want is not a thing, but a man; the thing you want above everything is the man you want. If you focus more on respecting your man you will help sculpt him into a masterpiece of lively leadership. You may not get the 'things' you want -- you will get something better. You will get THE 'thing' you really wanted.

Finally, a word to guys. It's tough being a man in a material world, with so many material girls, and so many billboards calling your very calling as a man into question. It's tough, but by grace, it's possible. So, don't turn flabby or stony. Choose to be the best man you can be. Determine to be a leader, and a decider. Don't suck your thumb when it's time to decide, when the game is on the line, and everyone is looking to you. Think hard, then make decisions. Make decisions! Make mistakes. Do things. Do tough things. Do even tougher things. Be proactive. Be a step ahead. Have a plan. Be a man. Ask yourself -- "Is my wife nagging me because I haven't shown leadership and initiative?" If so, then don't lie down in self-pity. Rather, take the lead. Take initiative. Take charge. No matter how many mixed messages are sent your way via entertainment and the wise men of the age -- no matter, what women want is, after all, pretty simple. They long for a certain kind of man: a proactive and engaged leader. All they want is, "is for (their) man to live up to his role."

Beyond Lukewarmness

by CWK

Talking, talking: meaningless babble –
any-thing not to rouse the rabble.
Like some thoughtless brute machine
we keep walking, stalking
the satisfactions of these faceless dreams.

And, as for me, I must confess,
on clear days, when vision's best,
these seeming dreams turn vapid and absurd:
less like solid hope; more like fear deferred;
less dreams; more akin to nightmares dressed
in gawdy purple to deceive and to impress.

I wonder -- I swear, I wonder by the hour.
Have we fallen under some dark power?
Have we been sleeping 'way the days?
Have when been acting on the stage
that was our life as if our life was just a play?

I speak; I must. I know I court wrath.
"Tell it not!" I heard, "Tell it not in Gath!"
I know to say these things, so plain,
is an invitation to disdain --
but I shall not refrain.
I will shout it once for all, for all to hear.
Maybe, I may be less than sane
but madman sometime see more clear
the sights that sane men cannot bear.
Mock me. I don't care.
This is what I say; hear it if you dare...

Our deeds are few and far --
but our words fill up the vastness
of night's sky, like a billion blinking stars.
Words! -- without heart from men without chests;
words without number, better unsaid
-- but pleasant words, as men smile about the dead.

Words! -- piled high in graves, with lies interred;
we speak them oft, with voices soft, but slurred.
We barter revolution for a mild protest,
then tend trifles with worlds of weary words;
trading wakeful wars for sleepless rest,
and saying nothing more, and nothing less
than nothing – but we, or I, digress.

With hearts disaffected, we boast of love.
We speak -- of what?-- of what we know not of!
We speak of sensations, senselessly;
of affection, detested; of desire, but distant, disinterestedly.
of depths we speak; depths bereft of density;
of respect, yes, yet disrespectfully;
of fervor, yes -- a kind lacking in intensity;
of peace, in pieces: peace with no serenity;
We speak of tastes, untested;
of zeal, without zest; of the good, absent best;
of knowledge, unknown; of seeds, n'er sown;
of sights, unseen; of scent, sans essence;
of fasts, flush in decadence; of presents, not presence;
of persons, impersonally; of freedom, but rather reservedly;
And often to music we refer:
to music we have never played and never heard.
All our passion is the echo of a whispered rumor:
echoes cold, and dry, and stale--
like distant thunder: heard, but never felt.

Somewhere beyond lukewarmness
lies the distance between:
our self, and our all;
the answer and the call;
our faith and our creeds.
Somewhere amidst the vastness
there lies a bridge between
our words and our deeds:
what we would, and what we could do,
what we might, and what we should do,
and what we never seem
to get around, or get around to.

There’s this abyss: this gulf between
all boasts and the least bold deed:
what we hear, and what we heed;
what we say, and what we really mean.
I swear, I’d trade all our fads and fashions
for a single ounce of  passion;
And, I'd trade all our promises,
for a fickle fraction of true action.
I'd trade, I swear, every book in this dim age,
every word of every page,
for the truth that made men bleed:
for a single word of a single creed.
By my troth, I’d trade this sky of castles
for a chance to take my chances.
I would forsake the bright future forecasted
for a single second of sublime time
spent here and now, in a real ray of sunshine.
I would gladly gamble all my paper estates
for the prospect, for one day,
to walk upon a banal beach, and perchance
hold a grain – just one grain – of real sand
in my cold hand.

Talking, talking – all these wasted days
are filled with passive verbs, retreats,
delays, over-night stays, and more delays.
We fantasize of feasts, but never eat.
We cut the cards, but never play.
We talk of fire that warms our feet;
we sing of wrong in songs of right –
but the heat and song don't ever lead
to lives of life or lives of light.
I swear, I’d rather fail and fall on a clear day
in a real fight
than sit and talk of nonsense
in the moonlight.

At the first sign of a battle,
when we hear a saber rattle,
we disperse like the shade at high noon.
And when faced with disgrace or doom,
as all men are, late or soon,
we bow meekly, like flowers a swoon.
Great Scott! I'd rather be a barbarian --
benighted, illiterate, clad in rags out-worn,
charging wild-eyed with the hoard --
than some mild mannered poet
who spends his life indoors,
and composes books of nothing
while admiring a gourd.
Good grief! I'd rather drown out in the ocean
than die slow upon the shore.

I've heard some men of ages past
reviled for clinging fast to well-worn creeds;
at worst, I see their names have lasted
in the annals of the days of dare and deeds.
Good night! I'd rather tip toe over hades
knowing life and love will not abate me
at the appointed end of all my days,
than sit with idle men and silly songs debate,
while every second lost is lost a thousand ways.

Lately, on clear days, when vision's best,
I have been bold to peer into the vastness:
into the gulf between here and there.
It has occurred to me, more than once, to dare:
to close my eyes and hold my breath
and leap either to my life, or to my death.
And anon a sweet thought came: a sweet thought this:
A man might fling himself into the abyss
and tumble a million miles –
but he would, at least, at least for awhile,
fall into the distance 
between the answer and the call:
the distance between what he is
and what he just might be.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kirk Cameron, Piers Morgan: Concluding Thoughts

Conclusion: Jesus Our Cause and our Captain

My previous posts may seem critical of Kirk Cameron. Let me solemnly avow: we all have much to learn from him. He actually tried -- but was cut off by Morgan -- to do many of the things we discussed in the preceding posts. He probably did way better than I would have in such a trying situation, and before a national TV audience; I've certainly done much worse in much less trying situations. So, consider this not so much a criticism of anyone, but rather a call for all of us to reconsider biblical engagement in a hostile environment. What does it mean to represent Christ in this wide, wild, and dangerous culture? Surely, we must begin to cultivate a wise disposition centered on the Person of Jesus Christ. And Charles Spurgeon reminds us that we are not only to point others to Christ in the midst of the fray, we must continually look to Him ourselves:

Sharpen your swords, soldiers of the cross, and be ready for the fray, but as ye march to the battle let it be with heads bowed down in adoration before him, who alone can cover your heads in the day of battle; and when you lift up those heads in the front of the foe, let this be your song, "The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; the Lord has become my salvation!" And when the fight waxes hot, if your head grow weary, think of, "him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself."

Cameron, Morgan, pt. 8

Wise Witnesses # 6: The Question of Questions

At the end of Matthew 22, in response to yet another trick question, Jesus poses a riddle of profound depth:

Mt. 22.41ff: Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David." He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord“Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Again, whole books could be written about these words, "Who is the Christ, really? How can David speak of his descendant as his Lord? His God?" Whole books, enough to fill many libraries, have been written, and they are still being written, to answer this inquiry. That's as it should be; this is a deep question, "What think you of the Christ?" Many have answered truly; no one has answered fully; no one ever will.  

Jesus subject here is his own person: The Christ. He introduces a meditation on the person of His Person. Who is the Christ? He is the offspring of David -- and yet Lord of David. He is son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God; he is, must be, very human, in living flesh; he is, always has been, very God of very God, the living God. With this question, Jesus is tossing a tea cup to men by the shore, and saying, "Drink the ocean."

Such thoughts satisfy the mind of curious man like a tidal wave of sweet water suddenly engulfing a thirsty man. "I can see the deeps, but I cannot see the bottom," Augustine said. "Such thoughts are too wonderful for me," said Job once, and David more than once.

"What do you think about the Person of Christ?" Here is a real question: a question worthy of meditation: a question which ponders the depth of the knowledge of Son of God. Knowledge, incidentally, which the apostle Paul deemed the most valuable thing in the universe (Phil. 3.8). "What do you think of Jesus?" Here is a question which also calls us to take responsibility for our own disposition toward a Person. We must not forget, though we may think of theology as dusty and distant, God takes it personal. To reject Jesus is to reject God, heaven, life, joy, happiness, and eternity; in such rejection, you sign your own death warrant, "condemned (John 3:17)."

What do you think about Christ? This is a question about a Person, but also a personal question -- not, "What do others think?" and not, "What do the best theologians think?", but, "What do you think?"

A fitting response from Jesus’ assailants would have been to put their hands over their mouths, and bow right then and there: before Him who has the power to question every human answer; to him who is the answer to every question, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords -- "Who are you, Lord? ...well, for that matter, who am I? A man with a surplus of words, but a deficit of knowledge, and now, here I am before The Holy One. Woe is me; I am ruined. I repent in dust and ashes."

Who is Jesus Christ? This is a real question. This is a question which truly curious men should be asking, and a question which sincere men could spend a lifetime pondering, "Who is this King of Glory?" 

If you consider this kind of question for a moment, you'll pity Piers Morgan and his superficial curiosity. I wonder: has he ever considered what a real question is? -- a real question worth asking? -- a real question worth answering? His onslaught of simplistic poking at Cameron's moral compass reveals – not how deep he is – but how sadly shallow. What think you of Christ? Such a real question, "reduces... jostling egos.... to the feeble crackling flicker of burning sticks against a majestic noonday sun (Muggeridge, The New Statesman, "Am I A Christian?")."  

"Who am I?" -- with this, Jesus silences his critics once and for all by tossing a question on their heads that weighs more – not just than other questions, but than all other questions combined: “Who am I?!” He asks it at other times, and in other ways, and here he comes back to it, and presents it as a riddle. How can the son of David be the Lord of David? Now, here's a question that Cameron might have brought up. It is the question of questions. It should be at the heart of all of our apologetic endeavors.

This to say, it would have been good for Cameron, and it is good for us, to direct discussions to the Person and Work of Jesus. We don't engage in controversy for our own name, simply to shout our own little opinions. We engage as soldiers of Jesus Christ, for the glory of His name, to speak the words of His truth. Our message, unlike the world's, is not private, nor self-concerned, and it is not open to debate. We come to speak the truth about The One who is The Truth.

Cameron, Morgan, pt. 7

Wise Witnesses # 5: Question The Questioner

Back to Matthew 22, after confronting the Pharisees' malice, Jesus then goes on to give an order (this further takes control of the situation), followed by another question (He continues to switch the field of battle to a ground of his choosing):

22.19ff: Jesus said, “Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Whole books could be written about the shrewdness and subtlety of Jesus here. He gives them a true -- but not simple sound-bitey -- answer. And notice, he answers their question with yet another question, “Whose likeness and inscription…?” Malicious individuals will often pose questions hoping for a sound bite they can quote to make us look bad; they want us to hand deliver a straw man for them to eviscerate. Basically, they don’t want to hear our answer; they want us to state a simple answer so they can proceed with their attack; they want us to be on the defensive so our position is more easily blasted. Jesus isn’t havin' it; he will not go out like that. He takes charge by telling them to show him a coin. Then, he turns the tables on them with a question, “Whose likeness…?” He puts them on the defensive. "I'll play," Jesus is saying, "but I'm gonna cut the cards."

Answering a question with a question is the best way to ‘turn the tables’ in a verbal war. It puts us on the offensive. In effect, replying to a question with a question says, “Who do you think you are? I’ll do the question asking here, thank you very much. I’m in charge of this situation.”

Jesus is like a verbal samurai; he’s smart, quick, agile, always a step ahead of his attacker. He’s showing us the way to engage in verbal war, and take ground for truth and righteousness.

Cameron, Morgan, pt. 6

Wise Witnesses # 4: The War of Words; The War of the Worldviews.

Fourth, in terms of how Cameron might have been wiser: he might have recognized his questioner was hostile, and played the game of verbal war more adeptly. A sterling model for engaging in a war of words can be found in Matthew 22. There, Jesus takes on foe after foe, all the while dodging bullets, and avoiding landmines. 

Mt. 22.15: Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.

Sound familiar? This is exactly what Morgan was trying to do to Cameron: entangle him in his words, and get him to fall on his face before the culture watchers.

Mt. 22.5ff: Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay axes to Caesar, or not?”

Notice, they even begin with the same kind of mock curiosity that Morgan began with. "Ain’t nothing changed but the year it is." How does Jesus respond? Not, at first, by answering their question. He refused to engage on their terms. Military strategists say that one of the keys to any battle is choosing the battlefield, and making sure you fight from a position of strength. Jesus refuses to let these men choose the battlefield. He won’t play the hand they tried to deal him. He won’t fight when/where they choose. Instead, 

22:18, But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?”

Jesus is aware of their malice (as Cameron should have been of Morgan’s), and he calls them on it with a confrontational question: "Why are are you trying to to test me?" He questions their question; he questions the motive behind their question. Jesus knows this is not a friendly q and a. These men are not interested in humble theological inquiry. So, Jesus exposes their corrupt hearts, and takes control of the conversation. This is a hard, but vital, lesson to learn. Some questions are insincere. Some men ask questions, not to seek truth, but to destroy it. 

So, it might have been more effective for Cameron to address Morgan’s malicious heart with a searching question like, "Why are you trying to stir up controversy? What is your agenda here?" It would have put Morgan (instead of Cameron) on the defensive. It would have exposed Morgan’s insidious intent. It would have exposed Morgan, not Cameron, as the true bad guy. 

Again, to reemphasize a point made above: we need to realize who we are speaking to. Some don’t approach us with sincere curiosity. As Paul warned, "Not all men have faith." Some approach us, not in friendship, but with knife in hand, looking for a break in our armor big enough to insert the blade. In such situations, we need to stay on guard, and confront malicious intent. 

I know a preacher who, because of his speaking schedule around the country, gets asked lots of questions. Sometimes, he refuses to answer. This annoys people, and they reply, "Why can't you give me a good answer?" To which he responds, "As soon as you ask a good question, I'll give you a good answer."

Cameron, Morgan, pt. 5

Wise Witnesses # 3: The Heart Of The Matter.

Cameron might also have engaged Morgan on deeper and more fundamental issues. 
 Regardless of the sneaky tactics of Morgan, we should know not to engage in moralism or moralistic debate with unbelievers. With unbelievers, moral disputes of any kind are seldom profitable. Why? Because the issue, the real problem, is not their professed morality or lack there of. Rather, the real problem is one's relationship to God. It is idolatry that leads to immorality; immorality is God's judgment on idolatry (Romans 1.18ff). Sure, immorality is a sign of the wrath to come -- but, it is also a sign that wrath has come: a sign, in response to our forsaking God, that God has forsaken us. He has let our wicked hurts run free.

Idolatry deals more deeply with the plight of mankind than moralism, but the problem goes deeper. Why are we idolaters? Why? Because we are all born in a state of guilt and dastardly rebellion against God; sin is not surprising. We don't, not at first, become sinners because we sin; we sin because we ARE sinners. Sin is, apart from grace, all we can do. Sin is not surprising – grace is.

Sinful rebellion against God is our nature as the heirs of Adam. Our natural condition, down to the heart of our hearts, is spiritual deadness. We don't need a few new morals; we need a whole new heart. Something -- not supplemental and external, but fundamental and internal -- is wrong with us. Morality is our problem in the same way that a chipped nail is the problem of a corpse; in other words, only a problem if one prefers looking lively over being alive. This is why, when Jesus was approached by Nicodemus, he cut him to the heart, and dealt with his heart, in a single phrase, “You must be born again (John 3.3).” Jesus brushed aside Nicodemus’ faint praise, “You are a swell teacher Jesus. I think real high of you.” He brushed this aside, rather rudely and abruptly, and got to the relevant real deal, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus tried to damn Jesus with faint praise; Jesus, in response, told him, with no praise, that he was damned. 

Piers Morgan, like Nicodemus, certainly has a fair admiration of Jesus the teacher. He has his own ideas about a ‘loving’ God as he made plain in his Lewis Black interview. He clearly thinks of himself as moral, and even morally superior to Cameron. In his own mind, neither his religious views, nor his ethical guidelines, are a real problem. He's right; he'd be shocked to find out how right he is. These are not the real problem. He's got much deeper problems: he is, at present, dead in sin, and blind to truth. His moral preening before cameras is viewed by many -- but, it is, in the strictest sense of the word, a 'viewing': he's sound asleep at his own wake.

Unbelievers often want to mud wrestle over moral questions, and they usually pose such questions in dreadful worse cased scenarios, "What if your daughter were raped?" In a way, many unbelievers are actually too moral or, rather, too concerned about only morals; too caught up in defending their personal self-righteousness, and being morally superior to others. Ah, the smugness. What a strange thing to see a corpse smile with satisfaction. I sometimes wonder if the world has forgotten that Jesus' followers include scores of former prostitutes, drunks, blasphemers, embezzlers, and low-lifes: scores of people even now snubbed by the self-satisfied elite. Micah prophesied that The City of God would be populated by the lame. Huh? 

And the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore (Micah 4.7).
I read those words again today, and again, scratched my head. Even now, The City of God is being colonized -- to the derision of the so-called healthy -- by men who crawl forth on all fours with dust on their lips? What a strange prophecy -- does it ever fail to shock? Does it ever fail to startle that one Saul of Tarsus, the least moral man who ever lived, the infamous chief of sinners, is one Jesus' most famous followers. 

Jesus appears rather drawn to than repelled by these kinds of broken people. He can, obviously, deal decisively with whatever immorality there is, and whatever guilt and power accompany such immorality. So, ironically, a man's morality is often a bigger hindrance than a man's immorality. A man's morality may divert his attention from his deeper problem: his utterly corrupt and dead heart.

By getting mired with Morgan in a battle of the wits over morality, Cameron was wasting his breath. Morgan wasn’t convinced, and he wasn’t going to be convinced. He couldn’t even fathom what Cameron was saying; it was literally folly to him. No surprise. Blind men can’t see truth no matter how big the letters are painted. When Jesus confronted Nicodemus, he went to the heart of the matter: the heart. Mankind is blinded by sin and in a mad rage against the good God. Jesus told Nicodemus he’d never see the Kingdom unless he was born again. He didn’t try to paint the picture of the Kingdom in vivid colors; Nicodemus couldn’t see any color apart from the gracious intervention of God. 

The grace of God -- there’s the only remedy for dead rebels: transformation and spiritual vision comes by the grace of God. It comes, not by man's decision, but by God's, as God unilaterally raises dead sinners out of their spiritual graves and opens their blind eyes. We can’t argue anyone into the Kingdom anymore than we can argue a dead person back to life. Even if we were to win the argument, and persuade them of our position -- well, all we've done is polish a chipped nail on a corpse.

Kirk Cameron, Piers Morgan, and Wise Apologetics, pt. 4

Wise Witnesses # 2: Sound Doctrine Not Sound Bites.

When it comes to being more wise, Cameron might have refused to hand deliver what were sure to be offensive sound bites. Much of the discussion revolved around sexuality with Morgan trying to get Cameron to say something, anything, to rouse the masses into madness. Morgan was almost salivating as he asked, twice, "Is it... a SIN?" 

After the discussion about sexuality, he engaged Cameron (a well known pro-life advocate) on abortion, the other highly flammable moral issue of our time. He did so by questioning what Cameron would do if his own daughter were raped and became pregnant. Wouldn't he then approve of an abortion? Doesn't he have a heart?

You gotta admit, Morgan is gooood. His questions, and this one in particular, were calculated to make Cameron look like a bad guy: the overall stratagem (well achieved by the end) was to toss Cameron gut-wrenching complex questions, and pressure him into short offensive answers. 

Actually, on television, almost any answer Cameron gave would be offensive; these interviews are replayed only for sound bites in media outlets. Few will watch the whole interview. Not to mention, on a 30 minute show, there's not much time for thoughtful interchange.

So, how might Cameron have responded more wisely? He might have pointed out that time would not allow discussion of issues  which were too important and sensitive to give short shrift. 

He might have questioned Morgan's tactic -- unhelpful in itself -- of posing dismaying, the-sky-is-falling, scenarios as tests of morality. Such an approach to ethics sets us adrift in murky waters. "If your daughter was raped?" -- I've got a worse, even gloomier, scenario. What if an comet struck earth tomorrow and destroyed all human life? What would you do then? All this kind of questioning tends to abstract ethics from the here and now, and into some dark future -- a future which will likely never be. Jesus said don't fret about tomorrow; each day has plenty trouble to keep us busy.

Many years ago, I had a job interview. The interviewer was an older lady, and didn't know much about genuine Christianity. Yet, she was curious when I mentioned my work as a preacher in the PCA. Then, a light bulb went off, and she said, "Hey! That's the denomination that doesn't ordain women!" Clearly, the very thought offended her. Next, with marked annoyance, she asked, "Why won't you ordain women (i.e., what is wrong with you bigots)?" You could feel the heat rising in the room as she awaited my answer. She was waiting, just waiting, to cast scourges on whatever I said next. 

All this happened near the end of the interview. Due to time constraints, we had, at most, 5 minutes to continue talking. I knew that, at best, we'd engage in a short and heated debate wherein I might get a few major points across. So, I said, "That's a great question, and an important one. There is a good answer. I'd love to talk to you more about it when we have time to really sit down and address the matter." The room cooled, and we parted on friendly terms. The job didn't work out, and I never got a chance to sit down with the lady, but I'm convinced I did some good. If nothing else, I let her know that sound doctrine cannot be reduced to sound bites. Truth has thick layers, deep texture, and it requires careful explanation. 

Kirk Cameron, Piers Morgan, and Wise Apologetics, pt. 3.

Wise Witnesses # 1: Lace 'Em Up Tight

How might Cameron, and we, handle hostile situations wisely? First, by recognizing when we are in an hostile situation. Cameron might have taken better stock of the battle field he was walking into. If you are doing an interview with Piers Morgan, you can expect that he’s looking for an angle to trap you in a verbal forest fire. He's shown again and again that he cares more about ratings than rational discourse; people like to watch things burn, and he's a skilled arsonist.

Cameron’s purpose on Morgan’s show was to talk about his film Monumental; that’s what he tried to talk about. Morgan’s purpose was, as always, on all his shows, to talk about what he wanted to so as to create a story and drive ratings. This is a man who came to fame in America by gaining media-shy Michael Jackson’s trust (not an easy task), and then using that trust to get close enough to stab him square in the back. Morgan is the master of the assassin interview: a verbal hit man with an impressive body count. This is what he has been doing for many years; this is what he does for a living; this is what he does better than anybody for a world-class living on one of the biggest news stages in the world. Yeah, he's a pro.

Let's watch the pro in action. As Morgan broached controversy with Cameron, he did so shrewdly. He began, "If I asked you, for example, what your view of gay marriage is, what would you say?" Note: he doesn't ask; he poses a hypothetical thought experiment that might be asked in an alternate universe. This is so sneaky. It enables Morgan to keep up the appearance of being friendly with the interviewee; he's not a bad guy, and he's not really responsible for the wickedness involved in asking a contentious question with, to quote Eliot, insidious intent. He might as well have said, "If I hypothetically were to place a live stick of dynamite in your lap for the pleasure of blowing you to smithereens -- for example, only as an example -- what would you say to that, old chap?" But the "if" and the "for example" and the seeming mildness of the interviewer all cover the ill-motives. In his opening question, Morgan shows why he has a PhD in con-tro-versy. He courts trust, abstracts the discussion, and confuses the answerer, and all at the same time. This is brilliant, but dishonest, and rather serpertine. It calls to mind another serpent, and a garden,  and a tree, and a harmless query, "Did God really say?"

But Cameron didn't bite. He took a wise turn, "Well, go ahead and ask me." This was a refusal to mince words: a demand for Morgan take responsibility.

Morgan still refused to ask the question directly; he knew that would come off as despicable. Instead, he played the innocent inquisitor (He used the same tactic to devastating effect with Michael Jackson), "These issues are interesting to me...," he said, like a baffled child in search of understanding. Then, he changed the angle of the question, and posed it to Cameron as a family man, "These issues are interesting to me about what you would tell your kids who you are trying to protect, for example. Would you tell them that gay marriage is (pregnant pause) a sin?" You gotta admit, Morgan knew his man. Cameron is known above all as a family man, and Morgan is appealing to his sense of care for his defenseless children. The question was about sexuality; Morgan has turned it into a question about the heart of a father. 

While Morgan did his homework, and knew his ‘target,’ it seems Cameron didn’t do his homework; he certainly didn’t know that he was a target. He answered Morgan’s seeming childish curiosity by directing the discussion toward God's definition of marriage. He was trying to offer a thoughtful and helpful answer. But then,  Morgan went in for the kill. In search of an offensive sound bite, he cuts Cameron off mid-sentence, "What...What do you believe?" In other words, "Don't tell me why. Don't give me a detailed presentation of truth. Give me what I really want!"

The interview stumbled on. All the while, Morgan tried to get Cameron to say something negative. He used questions like, "Do you think homosexuality is a sin?" Cameron kept trying to steer things in a better direction, without much success. And the fire raged. 

Cameron seemed surprised during the interview, and offended afterward, that Morgan would ambush him in search of an offensive sound bite. He rightly accused Morgan of stirring up controversy purposely, and for no good purpose. Of course that’s what Morgan did. That’s what Morgan always does. It wasn't surprising that Morgan courted controversy; it is slightly surprising that Cameron would be surprised that Morgan courted controversy.

Jesus told us to be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. Serpents are wily creatures; they don’t walk into traps unawares; they have a cunning instinct for self-protection. Did Morgan ambush Cameron with flammable questions? Yep. Did he do so in a sneaky way? You bet. Was he underhanded? Un-huh. A bit of a snake? No doubt. All the same, Christians are called on to be snakes as well – not morally, but intellectually. We are to be snakes in the grass when it comes to intellectual agility. When dealing with tricky people and tricky situations, we need tricks up our sleeve. There's a Chinese proverb, “For the man who is prepared, there is no emergency.” Situations like the Morgan interview can quickly turn ugly for the unprepared, "For the man unprepared, everything is an emergency."

A friend used to say, before basketball games, "You better lace 'em up tight." It was his way of saying, "Get ready -- don't be casual, or careless. This is going to be tough." Christians are called to, when appropriate, recognize hostile situations, and then lace 'em up tight.

Cameron, Piers Morgan, and Wise Apologetics, pt. 2.

The Bonfire Fueled By Vanity

A third distressing phenomenon is the extreme unwillingness of the average questioner to listen to the answer -- a phenomenon exhibited in exaggerated form by professional interviewers on the staffs of popular journals. It is a plain fact that ninety-nine "interviews" out of a hundred contain more or less subtle distortions of the answers given to questions, the questions being, moreover, in many cases, wrongly conceived for the purpose of eliciting the truth. The distortions are not confined to distortions of opinion but are frequently also distortions of fact, and not merely stupid misunderstandings at that, but deliberate falsifications. The journalist is, indeed, not interested in the facts.- Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of The Maker.

Almost as soon as the interview ended, Kirk Cameron was denounced as a moral criminal. A crime had been committed on public television, and the watching world gasped. The world was partly right: They had witnessed a crime -- just not by Cameron. The true crime -- for him, not a new crime -- was Morgan's flagrant disregard of journalistic ethics. 

Cameron was right in a subsequent interview on Fox and Friends to call Morgan disingenuous, and question his motives. Morgan is, after all, the one who started the conversation, and he is the one who coaxed Cameron further despite his clear desire to talk about other things. Morgan is the one who wanted to talk specifically about sexuality and abortion -- not Cameron, who just wanted to talk about his new documentary Monumental

Morgan was mild during the interview, but loud in subsequent comments. He's disavowed all blame, and accused Cameron of "whining." Further, he's dismissed Cameron as a hate filled and scientifically illiterate 
bigot. While still feigning surprise that Cameron said exactly what he knew, aye hoped, he would say, he's cast Cameron as an idiotic little alien who’d just landed in the 21st century America, fresh from some barbarous podunk planet. He even took the low high road of question the sincerity of Cameron's Christianity, "I just don't think you can sit there with a straight face and say I'm a Christian... (2:07)" 

During an interchange with Lewis Black, Morgan even stooped to misconstruing Cameron's comments as, "... by the way, I hate these people (2:14)." Hate -- now there's a word to stoke a controversy into a white hot blaze. A word, incidentally, which Cameron never used. You can watch the interview a hundred times, and you'll never hear the word "hate." You will, however, hear the word love -- not from Morgan, but Cameron. 

So, Morgan provided the kindling for the fire, then piled on dry wood, poured on gasoline -- and to make sure it burned white hot -- unleashed a flame thrower. Then, he backed away from the flames with feigned shock, and bogus self-righteousness, and condemned the inferno. In Morgan's last melodramatic tweet on the Cameron interview, he claimed disrespect only for Cameron's bigotry, and "inflammatory language" -- inflammatory language? So says the man holding a flame thrower.

I can't think of a word to sufficiently describe the vileness of Morgan's actions. He's like a charlatan who goes from town to town making money by promoting spectacles of gruesome violence. Then, when the show is over, he whips crowds into a frenzy in protest of such violence. Wait, there is a word to describe such a person; that word is hypocrite. 

The passion of every sincere journalist is, or ought to be, seeking truth in the cause justice. Morgan is concerned with seeking controversy in the cause of ratings. He is no different than the  tenth rate gossip mags that run sensational (and false) story lines to catch the eye of old ladies at the check out stand. Martin Luther demanded, "Peace if possible, truth at all costs." Morgan seeks, "Controversy if possible, ratings at all costs.

Now, let’s be clear, no matter what Morgan says about Cameron being an insincere Christian -- good grief, has Piers Morgan risen so high in his moral superiority that he can pronounce by divine fiat who is/is not a genuine disciple of Jesus? -- no matter, Cameron does represent Christianity. He is a sterling example of a Christian family man; he is also true to the teaching of Christ in commending counter-culture ethics, and the preciousness of human life. Lastly, and most importantly, Cameron was true to the whole spirit of Christianity in his humble demeanor during the interview. In fact, despite Morgan's insistent prodding to use the word "sin," the only time Cameron talked about sin was when he said, "... all of us are sinful. I can stand at the top of the list and say I need a savior." Morgan questioned whether Cameron was a sincere Christian; I question whether Morgan knows what a sincere Christian is. Worse, I question if Morgan sincerely cares about what a sincere Christian is.

Regardless, all in all, Cameron handled the situation well -- I'm sure, better than most. Yet, might he have handled it better? How might he have handled it better? What can we learn from the interview and the controversy that followed? Cameron faced a hostile and subtle interviewer in the context of a bitter and antagonistic culture. This is the usual lot of Christians throughout history, and increasingly, the lot of Christians in America. There’s a lesson for Christians in the interview and the controversy that followed. The lesson is: we not only need to stand for biblical Christianity, we need to do so wisely. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kirk Cameron, Piers Morgan, and Wise Apologetics pt. 1

by CWK

In my copy of the New Testament, I underline passages which take my fancy. Nearly all of them are about the deceitfulness of the cares of this world and of riches, about how concupiscence and vanity separate us from God... It is difficult to think of any sentiments which would be more intrinsically unsympathetic in most clerical circles. They are, I should say, about the most unpopular sentences it is possible to utter today... (they cause) on radio and television panels derision and incredulity. 
- Malcolm Muggeridge, The New Statesman, "Am I A Christian?," March 10, 1967.

The Kingdom of Hollywood and The Kingdom of Heaven

Hollywood is a town of tinsel, and plenty of it, a city flush with every kind of earthly wealth in the wealthiest nation yet seen on planet earth. Hollywood eats innocents alive, and then smacks her lips with knowing coolness; her plush mansions are a burial ground: her slain, a mighty throng.

Kirk Cameron, once a first citizen in the Kingdom of Hollywood, long ago transferred his citizenship to the Kingdom of Heaven. In the face of the greatest riches this world has to offer, he chose ahigher, sweeter, fuller, and more enduring treasure: a heavenly one. He traded glittering tinsel for solid gold. In so doing, he’s blazed a trail of integrity, faithfulness, and singular Christian virtue straight out of Hollywood. Every conversion is a miracle, but this is the spiritual equivalent of an escape from Alcatraz.  

Cameron is known to make stands for the Kingdom of God against the spiritual wasteland that is the Kingdom of Hollywood. In a recent confrontation on Piers Morgan Live, he dared to present a Christian's perspective on the two most incendiary issues of our day: sexuality and abortion. 

After the interview, Cameron found himself in a firestorm of rabid tweets and denunciations. Twitter was bitter; The Huffington Post was huffing and puffing. He was pilloried in cities all over the world wide web as a man with a hateful heart: immoral, backward, and ignorant. Piers Morgan, the man who started the fire, distanced himself from it all. Even though he started 'it,' knew exactly what Cameron would say, and goaded Cameron when he tried to change subjects, Morgan positioned himself as the poor bystander who'd been forced to watch a deed of infamy (see 1:36 on video). 

And thus was born the latest outbreak of a long running culture war. Here's my report from the front lines: a report, hopefully, which will strengthen and assist my Christian comrades in arms. See part 2.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chris McCandless: Where The Wild Things Are

Note: If you haven't read Krakauer's Into The Wild, or followed the debate surrounding the book, this won't make much sense.

My favorite childhood book was Where the Wild Things Are. One of my favorite 'adult' books is Into the Wild. These two books have more in common than the word, "wild." They both address an inherent thirst in the heart of all man/men: the thirst for adventure. This is desire to cut loose, take risks, and set off into the sunset alone, and without a plan; this is the inkling to set sail for a wild place, with a wild and free heart. Both books present a character following this desire. And, in both books, the main character (and by extension, the reader) learns that such journeys do not all end well. However, in Where the Wild Things Are, our little hero sees the folly of his ways and returns home. He learns that wildness unrestrained in the rough and tumble wilderness, with rough and tumble  creatures, is only fun for so long. And so, Max goes home to the domestic pleasures of a loving mother. It appears, especially in the portrait painted by Krakauer, that Chris McCandless learned a similar lesson. Only, he never made it home.

I submit that we should, in raising boys and in being men, continue to honor McCandless' zest for adventure even though his journey did not end well. There was something brave and bold about his life, and that is one reason his life, albeit short, had such an impact. I submit that critics of his have been too severe in their critiques. He died -- not simply because he was reckless -- but mostly because of what some would call bad luck, others call fate, and others (me included) providential particulars.

He had some genuinely bad fortune. For example, being poisoned and made weak by eating "Pot. seed." Also, his body was found only 19 days after his death. Let's say he had preserved the moose (which, incidentally, he might have if he'd not been given bad advice in South Dakota). Well, this would have gotten him through that final 19 days, and he would have been found. He wasn't just reckless, and he wasn't suicidal. One or two critical breaks in the other direction, and he would have made it out alive. We should think of his death along the lines of an "accident." There was no intentionality to his death, certainly not on his part. A truly reckless person often has a death wish; McCandless had the opposite: a life wish: a genuine desire to live life to its fullest: a genuine, and mostly good, desire to journey where the wild things are.

Aristotle argued that courage is the golden mean between feelings of of cowardice on the one hand, and feelings of recklessness on the other. True courage is not recklessness; nor is it sheepishness. It is somewhere, some golden place, between the two. I submit that McCandless had -- this is what fascinates us about him -- courage. He nudges us away from sheepishness. Such courage enabled him to set off, "into the wild." This courage should be honored. We need to learn, of course, that real courage avoids recklessness; there are many places and books and men from which to learn this. At the same time, we need to learn that real courage avoids the timid life of a coward. There are many men from which to learn this as well. Chris McCandless is among them.

It is part of a good man to do great and noble deeds, though he risk everything.- Plutarch
It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.
- Herodotus
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Boldness in a Relativistic Age


“Remember the speeches we spoke over mead, when we our boast won the bench raised: (the boasts of) heroes in hall about hard fight. Now, may the man who is bold prove that he is so! – Aelfwine in The Battle of Maldon, when he saw men deserting their posts.


A definition: BOLDNESS comes from embracing definite/clear/exclusive/ authoritative truth in the heart, and results in proclaiming and defending such truth with fearless freedom.

J.A. Alexander has defined boldness as, “freedom and plainness of speech as opposed not only to a timid reserve, but to a partial and obscure exhibition of the truth.” John Stott (based on the NT word parrasia) defines boldness as, “…speech which is candid (with no concealment of truth), clear (with no obscurity of expression), and confident (with no fear of consequences).” The apostles prayed for it (Acts 4.20-31), and the apostle Paul considered it essential for the full proof of his ministry (Eph. 6.19-20; Phil. 1.20; 1 Thess. 2.2).

If you are reading this, then I take for granted that you are interested in pursuing boldness. First, know this: if you are an American in 2012, you live in a relativistic age: truth is relative; nothing is worth dying for; everything is everything; everything is relative. There are no big T TRUTHS: truths which cover everything and everyone; there is only your truth, or my truth. Even the most illogical and immoral positions may be excused by reference to “personal truth.”
The modern habit of saying, "This is my opinion, but I may be wrong" is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying "Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me" - the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.
– G.K. Chesterton, Introduction to the Book of Job.

My truth; your truth. Upon such a philosophy you were nurtured from infancy. It is the spirit of the age. Such a position is untenable (see Leslie Newbigen’s, The Gospel In A Pluralist Society). Such a position also saps the lifeblood of boldness. Such a position makes us timid: men without chests.

The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about ‘what is true for me’ is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary symptom of death. There is an appearance of humility in the protestation that the truth is much greater than any one of us can grasp, but if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth it is in fact an arrogant claim to a kind of knowledge which is superior to [all others]...We have to ask: 'What is the [absolute] vantage ground from which you claim to be able to relativize all the absolute claims these different scriptures make?” ― Lesslie Newbigen, The Gospel In A Pluralist Society.

One consequence of uncontrolled relativism is an apologetic, weasel-y, cowardly, diffident, and timid demeanor: a non-boldness. After all, if there are no grand truths worth dying for, then there are no truths worth being bold about. When relativism reigns, men are left without grand reasons-to-be, without chests, and without courage to speak up.

 The man who called the cataract sublime was not intending simply to describe his own emotions about it: he was also claiming that the object was one which merited those emotions. But for this claim there would be nothing to agree or disagree about. ....  The Chest—Magnanimity—Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. ....And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive,' or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity.' In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
— C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

Men without chests have a particular communication style. Their voices are mild, just above a whisper; their octaves are high, just above a whine. They often resort to vague metaphors, “It’s kind of like… almost… sort of…” They pile up similes, like bricks, into high walls: not in defense of truth, but in defense from truth. Their speech is full of groping uncertainty, “maybe; perhaps; possibly.” They employ outrageous oxymorons like, “it seems certain.” Seems – certain? They are prolific in qualifying adverbs, but impoverished in action verbs. They wander indecisively along dark streets of meandering prose toward cloudy ‘ideas,’ or, ‘theories.’ They defer decision. They avoid definite assertions; they avoid anything which might offend. Instead, they ask a slew of rhetorical questions with sheepish shyness. They are fond of ‘personal theories,’ and conspiracy theories. Sometimes, they taste a crumb of the truth – and being starved for truth – this crumb nurtures them day and night. From the crumbs of truth, they build vast intellectual empires. And so, “the key to everything,” or, “the secret of life,” revolves around trivialities about, “finding oneself.” Formerly, wise men explained one thing by everything; these wise men explain everything by one thing.

Just as it is the latest fad [of Freudian psychoanalysis] to prove that everything is sexual, so it was the last fad [of Marxism] to prove that everything was economic.  . . .  It is a character of all these manias [from Darwin, Marx, and Freud] that they cannot really convince the mind, but they do cloud it.  Above all, they do darken it.  All these tremendous and rather temporary discoveries have had the singular fascination that they were not merely degrading, but were also depressing.  Each in turn leaves no trace on the true and serious conclusions of the world.  But each in turn may leave very deep and disastrous wounds and dislocations in the mentality of the individual man.— G.K. Chesterton, “The Game of Psychoanalysis”, Century Magazine, May 1923, quoted in Dale Ahlquist, Common Sense 101, pg. 110.

The absence of boldness in public life, or in an individual’s life, can be traced back to the philosophy of relativism. Relativism is a wishy-washy perspective; it makes men wishy-washy in practice. The root of boldness is the seeing of and commitment to authoritative truth in the heart. Where there's no authoritative truth, there can be no boldness. It is common in our present culture (i.e., relativistic America) to hear writers and teachers use soft language, "perhaps, maybe, sort of, almost, kind of." Teachers and even Christian preachers are nervous about saying things in a definite and exclusive way. They want to be inclusive, subtle, and politically correct. Fair enough. But such a disposition is the opposite of boldness. If a man disavows clear defined truth, he will, as the daylight follows dawn, veer toward timidity. The way to be bold is not, first of all, to learn to speak in a grand and fiery manner. The way to be bold is to take hold of some grand and fiery truth. Possession of truth will make you bold. A bold man does not make a thing true. Rather, truth makes a man bold. 

Truth, clear and definite, makes men bold; truth, universal and exclusive, makes men courageous. Truth is by definition exclusive; contradiction of such truth is falsehood.

What success I have had results from the fact that I have always been certain that my military reactions were correct. Many people do not agree with me; they are wrong. The unerring jury of history written long after both of us are dead will prove me correct.
— George Patton, qtd. in Posterity Letters, Dorie McCullough Lawson, (Double Day, 2004) pg. 100.
– such is the conviction and boldness of a man who has got hold of TRUTH. I am right! You are wrong! Relativistic ears hate to call anyone wrong, but if an individual desires to be bold, they are going to have to see that on many, many issues, there is such a thing as black/white. On many, many issues, there is no such thing as a grey area. William Penn, while imprisoned in the tower of London, was strengthened by real truth, and the conviction that right is right, and wrong is wrong. He said, 
“My prison shall be my grave before I will budge a jot; for, I owe my conscience to no man. Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”
In a relativistic age, many truths die the death of a thousand qualifications. We feel the need to hem in every statement, and make excuses for bolder words. The bold man is willing to make a statement, and let it live: to free a truth, and let it stand on its own two feet before the stunned world. The bold man, confident in the truth of his case and cause, is willing to throw his cards down, and let the chips fall where they may. In the annals of history, no one possessed more bold energy than Jesus Christ. He words, like his deeds, are miracles: they come with sudden and bracing light. They fly like bullets, and cut like a knife. Jesus was not shy about saying, "If you do not repent, you will all likewise perish (Lk. 13.5)." He didn't qualify the word "all." He let the word "all" stand. Consider his use of strong terminology, "If anyone comes after me and does not hate your father, mother...even your own, life you cannot be my disciple (Mt. 10.37)." Jesus was not afraid to use all-encompassing strong language. Yes, there is a time to be gentle. But that time is not, "all the time." If we are gentle all the time, then the whole value of gentleness is gone. There is also a time and place to be private, but the gospel is not a private, nor a personal, matter. It is a public truth in the same way that the multiplication tables are public truths.
…the gospel cannot be accommodated as one element in a society which has pluralism as its reigning ideology.  The Church cannot accept as its role simply the winning of individuals to a kind of Christian discipleship which concerns only the private and domestic aspects of life.  To be faithful to a message which concerns the kingdom of God, his rule over all things and peoples, the Church has to claim the high ground of public truth.— Newbigen, The Gospel In A Pluralist Society.
So, clear and definite and exclusive truth makes for boldness – but such truth must be embraced in our hearts. In other words, we must believe; we must hold the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim. 3.9). With a sense of purpose and deliberation, we must set our hearts upon the truth.

We must also develop, by God's grace, what Jonathan Edwards referred to as "religious affections." This means learning to love the right things in the right order. We are to love true, and noble, right, pure, and admirable things. And we must love the best things best. A great hindrance to boldness is a disordered set of affections. For example, if we prefer peace over purity, we will never be bold. Why? Because our sense the value of things is disorderly: James counsels us to FIRST pursue purity, and then peace (James 3.17). Or, as Martin Luther put it, "Peace if possible; truth at all costs." We may also wrongly prefer (prefer = regard with greater love) peace over persecution; again, this is disorderly love, and contrary to Jesus' warning, "Do not fear him who can kill the body; fear him who can throw you, body and soul, into hell (Lk. 12.5)."

One great hindrance to boldness is the fear of man. Or, rather, fearing man more than God. The only way to be free of illegitimate fear is to cultivate godly fear. When Jesus urges us not to fear man, he points us to the proper fear of God, “Do not fear him… fear HIM… (Lk. 12.5).” We might also consider what a silly thing it is to fear weak and ineffectual man. After all, what can man do to me (Heb. 13.6)?

Francis Schaeffer conquered the fear of man by grasping, on the one hand,  the greatness of God, and on the other hand, and the smallness of man. In 1951, while living in Champery Switzerland, he wrote:

I thought how our dear Lord comes into more proper perspective in our thinking in such a place as this- for the higher the mountains, the more understandable is the glory of him who made them and who holds them in his hand. But the other side is also true: man also comes into his proper place. As the Lord gains in greatness in comparison to the mountains, so man diminishes. As it is with space, it is also true of time. My letters from here go to so many countries, and in the last few years I have found friends in many of them. As I have learned the history of these lands from those who tell the history from their hearts, time has come to mean something different to me than it ever did before, when time was measured only by the short scope of the hurrying clock or cold dates on a page of the history book. But as time falls into its proper place, again God seems to grow greater by comparison, and again it has the opposite effect on man. As the mountains shrink him down to size, so also does time…the rectifying process of space and time (has) caused my view of the Lord to grow greater , and my view of man and his works and judgments to grow proportionately smaller… The mountains are too high, history is too long, and eternity is longer. God is too great, man is too small…and if one man and a small group of men do not approve of where I am and what I do, does it prove I have missed success? No; only one thing will determine that – whether this day I’m where the King of Kings and Lord of Lords wants me to be.
— Francis Schaeffer, The Letters of Francis Schaeffer (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books), 1985.                                                                  
As a closing word, boldness does not mean that we are arrogant, or self-important. Genuine godly boldness begins with humility. Humility, first of all, as we bow before the truth. Humility, second of all, because we understand that boldness, like all issues of spiritual strength, depends first on God’s strength. So, with a sense of need, we walk humbly with God, living in his grace, depending on resources. And we pray,

Acts 4.29, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”

But if the biblical story is true, the kind of certainty proper to a human being will be one which rests on the fidelity of God, not upon the competence of the human knower. It will be a kind of certainty which is inseparable from gratitude and trust.
Lesslie NewbiginProper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship.

*with hyperlinks.
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor:

See that the work of saving grace has really and truly been accomplished in your OWN souls...take heed to yourself lest you perish while you are calling others to take heed of perishing...many have warned others that they come not to the place of torment while they rushed to it themselves...Can any reasonable man imagine that God would save a man for offering salvation to others while they neglect it themselves.

Do not be content with hearing, and approving, and assenting to the truth, and going no further.  Seek to have a personal interest in this salvation: lay hold by faith for your own soul; do not rest till you know and feel that you have gotten actual possession of that peace with God which Jesus offers, and that Christ is yours, and you are Christ’s.  If there were two, or three, or more ways of getting to heaven, there would be no necessity for pressing this matter upon you.  But if there is only one way, you will hardly wonder that I say, "Make sure that you are in it."

Great words in reproving an error or sin, but weak arguments, produce laughter oftener than tears.... Let the reproof be as sharp as thou wilt; but the spirit must be meek. Passion raiseth the blood of him that is reproved; but compassion breaks his heart. We must not denounce wrath in wrath, lest sinners think we wish their misery; but rather with such tenderness, that they may see it is no pleasing work to us, but we do it that we might not, be a cruel silence, be accessory to their ruin, which we desire to prevent... A humble boldness, such a boldness as is raised from a confidence in God, and not from ourselves, or own gifts or ability, courage or stoutness... Some helps to produce this boldness. First, a holy fear of God. We fear man so much because we fear God so little. One fear cures another; When man’s terrors scare you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God; this is the way Jeremiah was cured of his aguish distemper, fearing man: Jer. 1.17... Third, keep a clear conscience: he cannot be a bold reprover, that is not a conscientious liver; such a one must speak softly, for fear of walking on his own guilty conscience... Unholiness in a preacher’s life will either stop his mouth from reproving, or the people’s ears from receiving. O how harsh a sound does such a cracked bell make in the ears of his audience!...consider if thou be not now bold for Christ in the ministry, thou canst not be bold before Christ at his judgment; he that is afraid to speak for Christ will certainly be ashamed to look on his face then. ‘We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ’ 2 Cor. 5:10. Now what use doth Paul make of this solemn meditation? ‘Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men’... It is a very small thing to be judged by men now for our boldness, but dismal to be condemned by Christ for our cowardice... pray for this holy boldness... it was the child of prayer (Acts 4.29ff)... Mark, they do not pray to be excused the battle, but to be armed with courage to stand in it; they had rather be lifted above the fear of suffering, than have immunity from the suffering... If this be thy sincere request, God will not deny it.

Wherein do evangelical Churchmen fall short of their great predecessors? Let us look this question fairly in the face. Let us come to particulars. They fall short in doctrine. They are neither so full nor so distinct, nor so bold, nor so uncompromising. They are afraid of strong statements. They are too ready to fence, and guard, and qualify all their teaching, as if Christ’s gospel was a little baby, and could not be trusted to walk alone. They fall short as preachers. They have neither the fervor, nor fire, nor thought, nor illustration, nor directness, nor boldness, nor grand simplicity of language which characterized the last century. Above all, they fall short in life. They are not men of one thing, separate from the world, unmistakable men of God, ministers of Christ everywhere, indifferent to man’s opinion, regardless of who is offended, if they only preach the truth. They do not make the world feel that a prophet is among them, and carry about with them their Master’s presence, as Moses when he came down from the mount... Ease and popularity, and the absence of persecution, are ruinous to some. An extravagant and excessive attention to petty details withers up the ministry of others. An absurd straining after the reputation of being “intellectual” and original is the curse of others. A desire to seem charitable and liberal, and keep in with everybody, paralyzes the ministry of others.

Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism, pg. 16-17: 

(Why is it that bible believing Christian colleges, seminaries, and even whole denominations abandon ‘the faith?) There are several different reasons, of course. But giving in to cultural pressure is often a significant factor. In every generation there are popular views in the culture that contradict what the Bible says, and it is so easy to compromise on one point or another... Almost nobody wants to tackle the subject (of evangelical feminism)! It is “too controversial,” which means it will stir up objections and many people will be upset. It is not easy to stand against the culture. It is much easier to give in and say women can do whatever men can do in the church and in the home.

Luther to Erasmus, Bondage of the Will, pg. 66-70:

Now, lest we be misled by words let me say here that by ‘assertion’ I mean staunchly holding your ground, stating your position, confessing it, defending it, and persevering in it unvanquished... And I am talking about the assertion of what has been delivered to us from above in the Sacred Scriptures. Outside this we do not need Erasmus or any other teacher to tell us that over matters which are doubtful, or unprofitable and unnecessary, assertions and contentions are not merely stupid, but positively impious; Paul condemns them often enough! ...What Christian can endure the idea that we should deprecate all assertions? That would be denying all religion and piety in one breath – asserting that religion and piety and all dogmas are just nothing at all...Woe to the Christian who doubts the truth of what is commanded him and does not follow it! – for how can he believe what he does not follow... In a word, what you say comes to this: that you do not think it matters a scrap what anyone believes anywhere, so long as the world is at peace; you would be happy for anyone whose life, reputation, welfare or influence was at stake to emulate him who said ‘if they affirm, I affirm; if they deny, so do I (Ter., Eun),. II. 2.21); and you would encourage him to treat Christian doctrines as no better than the views of human philosophers – about which, of course, it is stupid to wrangle and fight and assert, since nothing results but bad feeling and breaches of outward peace... Fear the Spirit of God, who searches the reins and heart, and is not deceived by stupid speeches... The Holy Spirit is no Skeptic; and the things He has written in our hearts are not doubts or opinions, but assertions – surer and more certain than sense and life itself.

Strunk and White, Elements of Style, 3rd edition:

 Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.. This is true not only in narrative principally concerned with action, but in writing of any kind. Many a tame sentence of description or exposition can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice... Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract... If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on any one point, it is on this: the surest way to arouse and hold the attention of the reader is to be specific, definite, and concrete.

Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles: The Green Stick, pg. 171: 

It is painful to me now to reflect on the ease with which I got into the way of using this non-language; these drooling non-sentences conveying non-thoughts, propounding non-fears and offering non-hopes. Words are as beautiful as love, and as easily betrayed. I am more penitent for my false words – for the most part, mercifully lost forever in the Media’s great slag-heaps – than for false deeds.

"Where two or three are gathered in my name" –  the imagery “in my name" comes from the Old Testament (1 Kings 8:29).  The name of God becomes resident in the temple. Jesus is referring to the "name theology" of the OT. The name of God goes with the temple of God. In the NT, the church is the temple; wherever the church goes, the name goes. "In my name" is temple talk. The temple was royal: it was God's palace. When we are gathered in church, "in the name," it is a royal image - the preacher is the royal herald. The preacher receives the message from the great king of heaven and has the objective of giving the message to the people of God. This is a far cry from the greeter, therapist, politician or teacher. A herald of God must be a holy herald. This is not an ordinary event. Not all things are holy as this is. Also, no herald in the ancient world would have dared to say anything different from what the king said. A royal herald says what the king says, no matter what. Heralds had authority. When preaching is true to the word, it is the word, and thus the people of God are to hear it.

The Preaching of the Word of God Is the Word of God. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.  Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is written And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor . . ., for they shall all know me (Jer. 31:34), and Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (I Cor. 3:7). For although no one can come to Christ unless he be drawn by the Father (John 6:44), and unless the Holy Spirit inwardly illumines him, yet we know that it is surely the will of God that his Word should be preached outwardly also. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, He shall tell you what you ought to do (Acts 10:6).

 Charles Spurgeon, The Evils Of The Present Time:

The next thing necessary for the present time is that we should have more faith. We need to believe more intensely in God, so as to trust Him more practically and more unquestioningly. The things which we believe must become more real to us. I fear we often use words without feeling their true meaning. This is terrible. It is a sort of willful murder to expel the soul from pious phrases, and still to use them. Let us be honest about the things of God; let us mean all that we say, and say only what we mean. It is a shocking thing for a man to talk all manner of Evangelical, gracious, and sanctifying things, and yet to mean nothing by them. I fear our pulpits are not free from such word-mongers. Let us not hold forth shadows before the people… To us Christ is a real Christ; and the Holy Ghost within a man brings real life from the dead. If we do not preach realities, I pray God we may be driven out of the ministry, in which we are only treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.

Augustine on The Aim of The Orator:

Neither is it a necessity to give pleasure; for when, in the course of an address, the truth is clearly pointed out (and this is the true function of teaching), it is not the fact, nor is it the intention, that the style of speech should make the truth pleasing, or that the style should of itself give pleasure; but the truth itself, when exhibited in its naked simplicity, gives pleasure, because it is the truth.  And hence even falsities are frequently a source of pleasure when they are brought to light and exposed.  It is not, of course, their falsity that gives pleasure; but as it is true that they are false, the speech which shows this to be true gives pleasure.