The Sad End of Fred Phelps

In the interests of full, candid disclosure, this is by no means a eulogy. Nevertheless, it is not my intention to heap scorn or contempt either. To whit:

Fred Phelps was a vicious man who terrorized his family, neighbors, and the families of grieving veterans. He did this in the guise of the pastoral office and founded a cult who propagated his twisted, aberrant views. Ostensibly, Phelps claimed to preach the Gospel. His own words and deeds bewrayed the truth: Phelps was a monger of fear and hatred without any genuine interest in the souls of men. 

After reportedly being excommunicated from his church, he met the end appointed to all men. He now has no more to do with us mortal men. He has stepped into eternity and stands before the One whose eyes are a flame of fire. The same One whom Phelps claimed, falsely, to represent. The same One whose Name Phelps blithely used to victimize people, inducing them to rail and blaspheme God. Of Phelps, it can rightly be said, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” [Romans 2:24]

There are many who want to celebrate the passing of this man and feel a sense of vindication and relief. It is true that this man can no longer victimize people in the name of the Gospel and one would rightly feel relieved at that prospect. He can no longer misrepresent Christ and His Church. He can no longer peddle poison in the place of the water of life. No longer will Phelps claim to offer bread only to hold out a stone. No longer will he offer an egg and we find a serpent from his hand instead. 

Nevertheless, there is also a cause for much sorrow. This man left a wake of misery in his path. Phelps’ creation, the falsely-called church in Topeka, will likely continue on in some hideous variation for many years or even decades to come. Preaching a gospel that is not the Gospel. Offering serpents for eggs. Stones for bread. Poison for water. 

And herein lies the manifest tragedy of it all: Phelps could have done so much praiseworthy and honorable had he been an earnest and sincere Gospel minister. Sadly, there was no Gospel in his message. Only hate and fear. There was no free offer of Christ and Him crucified for sinful men. Only vitriolic rage.

Ultimately, he will now have to deal with the One who trieth the hearts and reins of men. Whatever his disposition was when he met his end, we cannot peer into. What we can do is do him and his family the dignity they never offered anyone else and resist the urge to clap our hands and applaud the end of his earthly sojourn. We can also use this as an opportunity to speak to our friends and neighbors about the genuine Gospel.

Angry Truckers vs. The Civil Magistrate

Lately, I have been very disturbed by calls from many corners, including some Christian ones, for the deliberate overthrow the government by having truck drivers go to D.C., bog down traffic (potentially slowing emergency services), and placing Congressmen under citizen’s arrest. It has also been suggested that we hold “citizen grand juries” to try these individuals. I believe, as well intentioned as many of the people who are suggesting this are, this is sheer lunacy.

Don’t get me wrong, this government is corrupt and in great need of reform. These people have lost all conception of the notion that they are God’s minister to enforce His laws. No one would like to see change any more than me. Clearly every branch of government, from the top down, has failed to do its God-ordained duty. They kill the innocent and acquit the guilty on a daily basis.

That having been said, the proposed course of action is even more dastardly. While one might invoke the Constitution as an authority to overthrow the government, there is a problem: Simply because something is Constitutional does not mean it is morally acceptable or praiseworthy. It was, as way of reminder, written by men who raised the sword against their own King, their lofty ideals notwithstanding.

While there are certainly times where civil disobedience IS required on the part of the Christian (Exodus 1:17), outright rebellion is called by Scripture by the same execreble name as wichcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). The midwives in Exodus did well in ignoring Pharoah’s evil command. The note on Exodus 1:19 in the Geneva Bible reads:

Their disobedience herein was lawful, but their dissembling evil.

These truck drivers are angry. They have the right to have their grievances addressed in a just an equitable manner. On the other hand, as private citizens, they do NOT have the right to attempt to “arrest” anyone. It would be an entirely different story if the individual governors of the states ordered these Congressmen arrested when they returned home. There are times when it is appropriate for an inferior magistrate to use his properly designated authority to protect his subjects from a superior one. While this would surely be controversial, it would at the very least be the act of one who was ordained with the authority by which to act.

Something to consider: As bad as things are, outright anarchy is still more dreadful and evil.

Christ did not …

Christ did not throw contempt on these Jewish† songs, so slighted now by men who profess to be his faithful followers, but spoke of their prophetic application to himself, his work, and the glories of his Gospel kingdom. And we have good evidence that they were sung by him and his band of followers. He did not tell his disciples that these Jewish Psalms were no longer to be used by his people. He did not tell them that they were thenceforth to celebrate the praise of God’s Anointed, of Zion’s King, and Zion’s Lord, in songs of their own composition. Neither did he give them a new book of Gospel songs, nor direct that after his ascension to his Father’s right hand, and the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them, they should indite godly songs to his name. Their duties he certainly did point out to them before taking his leave of them, and his instructions they faithfully obeyed, but in no part of their history, in none of their teachings and epistles do we read of any of them composing a new psalmody for their converts, or the church, though they were frequent and fervent in songs of praise. And let those who talk so lightly of these Jewish psalms, and their inappropriateness to be sung in Christ’s Church, read Peter’s eloquent quotation from the 16th psalm, on the day of Pentecost, after the Spirit had fallen on him and his brethren. But we might give reference to almost the extent of the whole book of Psalms to prove that they are full of the praise and glory of the Messiah and His kingdom. Now if any man think he can better express the deep secrets of the Christian faith, the devotional thoughts and aspirations of the Christian’s soul, or the trials, the afflictions, the consolations, the joys, and the varied providences of God’s church, than he finds them portrayed and presented in the Book of Psalms, let him essay the task, but let him refrain from the presumption of asking the church to elevate them above, or place them in equal honor with those inspired songs.

By Rev. Andrew Stark, L. L. D., The Psalms of David. Metrical Version of the Church of Scotland Defended. December 1847

The Inestimable Comfort of the Doctrine of Perseverance

[We reject the errors of those] Who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification, regeneration, and continued preservation by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the apostle Paul: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him (Rom 5:8-9).” And contrary to the apostle John: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).” And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:28-29).”
The Synod of Dordt (1618-19)

The doctrine of perseverance is one of great comfort. In it, we find that our salvation is vouch-safed by the very one who brought it forth. The Lord Jesus Christ, as Scripture says, is the Author and Finisher of our faith. When this doctrine is taught and taught correctly, the assurance it brings is immeasurable. When it is neglected or outrightly denied, only fear can result.

I distinctly recall a certain sermon where this doctrine was denied. Sadly, this was not an overt Arminianian who was preaching this, but rather a man who professed to hold to Reformed doctrine. In the course of his sermon, he argued that it was indeed possible for a Christian to permanently, irrevocably repudiate his salvation and new life in Christ. It is inconceivable the damage that such teaching causes.

Christ our Lord holds everything in His hands. This includes matters of last things. Consequently, let us hold to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, the same as confessed by the Reformed faith and particularly here in the Canons of Dordt.

The law of God…

The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

This is made clear by the Apostle in his letter to the Romans (3:21): »But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.« St. Augustine interprets this in his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹ (De Spiritu et Littera): »Without the law, that is, without its support.« In Rom. 5:20 the Apostle states, »Law intervened, to increase the trespass«, and in Rom. 7:9 he adds, »But when the commandment came, sin revived.« For this reason he calls the law »a law of death« and »a law of sin« in Rom. 8:2. Indeed, in 2 Cor. 3:6 he says, »the written code kills«, which St. Augustine throughout his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹ understands as applying to every law, even the holiest law of God.

Heidelberg Disputation, Theses I