Russell and Duenes

Archive for September 2009

Read Scripture, Get into an Accountability Group and Take a Cold Shower

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What follows is a little dialogue I had with a friend this week about the issues of single-sex education, adolescence and younger age of first marriage, with a particular focus on how these issues affect boys. My rejoinders are in italics:

I would say that I’m not comfortable with anyone taking a position that there’s any human condition God can’t deal with [i.e., living in a culture where most teenagers, in order to obey Christ, will have to put their sexual desires on hold for about 10 years].  Granted, teenage boys are up against it when it comes to atomic hormones and today’s social paradigms, but I’d hate to think society has finally come up with a problem God can’t equip his followers to tackle.

I’m not taking the position that there’s a human condition that God can’t deal with. Could God have given the Israelites the strength to avoid idolatry while leaving all the idols in the land of Canaan? Of course! But God told them to remove the idols, lest their hearts be drawn to them and they end up worshipping them. It is one thing to trust God’s power and another thing to put God to the test by asking him to handle something that we should be taking responsibility for. I’m taking the view that our co-ed educational system and our movement toward later marriage is sin and needs to be repented of. God will not override what he has ordained. “Society” has not come up with this problem. God’s people have acquiesced to the falsehood of adolescence and been complicit in not training their boys to be mature men when they should be. They’ve allowed boys to pursue all sorts of distractions and just kind of drift into manhood (if they ever get there). God indeed equips his followers to tackle the problem, and God’s equipping, for most men, is marriage. When we don’t take our cues from God and His Word, then we cannot blame God when sin happens. What I’m proposing is indeed a way in which to “tackle” the problem, namely, start training up our boys (and girls) socially, educationally, spiritually in ways that are different from our culture (imagine that!). Get them ready for marriage at a younger age. Teach them what it means to be a man and provide arenas in which they can pursue it in the fellowship of godly men. And help them understand what God’s will is. One of the reasons God has given us marriage is so that young people don’t “burn with passion,” as Paul says. So obedience to God, even in this culture, does not mean leaving boys to take cold showers and get into accountability groups where the best of them, about every two weeks, confesses that he’s masturbating or some such thing. We’re practicing the gospel of sin management. Boys are trying to manage desires that should be finding expression much earlier. Surely it is a serious sin in our churches that most Christian boys are growing up following the same values and trajectory that our culture does: Go to school, try to get a girlfriend in high school, get a little physical action short of sex, go to college, get into a job, have some adult fun, set your sights on attaining the suburban house and acoutrements, and try to get married in your late 20’s when you’re finally set up.

Also, you’re assuming young boys wanting to do the wrong thing (look at porn, boink girls, bop their baloney) is a certainty.  Is this the case?

Of course there are boys who are walking in line with the gospel in this arena. But I think the reality is that the LEAST that most boys are doing is fantasizing and getting off. But what’s worse is, if I’m a youth pastor mentoring boys who are 16 and who are asking about how to pursue holiness, my options seem to be: Read Scripture, pray, be involved at church, and have accountability. I’m being a bit reductionistic, but the point is, that this pastor cannot give those boys any hope of fulfilling their sexual desires under Christ for a good 10 years or so, for marriage is the only lawful arena in which they can enjoy intercourse. Surely this “news” has to be disheartening at the least.

I do agree that our culture is rigged to generate moral failure (which isn’t all that surprising when you see the planet as the battlefield that Greg Boyd describes), and I’d further agree that you’d have a better shot leaving for Bananastan, or some other place where you could rig some kind of medieval E-harmony matrimonial selection system, but that’s probably not reality.  We’ve got to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt.

We always have to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt. You and I have no disagreement over that. What we are likely disagreeing over is how to “play” our hand. There is actually a rather large scale, Christian “in house” discussion going on these days over “biblical” dating, courtship, etc. But what needs to get more play are questions over the validity of our “adolescence” paradigm. Also, we need to re-think our educational paradigm. Single sex classrooms will not, by themselves, solve the problem. Nothing will entirely solve the problem, but Christians have got to do a better job of challenging the reigning ideas about how to educate their children, especially their boys. This is not a call for cultural withdrawal, but for cultural challenge. The Christian church has always been able to challenge the cultural imperatives, and in so doing, often ends up steering the culture in good directions.

In the case of my boys, I’ll be spending a lot of time dealing with their “wanter”, and the chief tactic I’ll be employing will be (to quote Dallas; would you expect anything else?) to “ravish them with the Kingdom of God”.  They may not choose to reside there, but for me to think it doesn’t have enough allure to hold them seems to me a massive misunderstanding of the reality of the universe.

I’ll be dealing with my son’s desires as well. I will be trying to ravish them with the goodness of living in God’s kingdom, both now and for eternity. But life in God’s kingdom does not allow us to go against God’s design. Part of the “reality of the universe” is that God made us as sexual beings, and we come into our sexual flowering in our early teens. This is not something that God calls the majority of us to deal with by seeking personal holiness. Rather, his call on our lives is to live in light of the truth. As Dallas would also say, truth is just what it is, and our opinions about it have no effect whatsoever on its reality. An illustration might help. Let us say that our schools are showing pornography to our boys, we would not tell them, “Well, that’s just the way things are right now, and your life in God’s kingdom will help you to overcome any lustful thoughts you have while you’re looking at the porn in your school.” Rather, we would take them out of such a school and start our own. So, we should intentionally seek means by which to raise our boys so that they can better live sexually in the ways that God has designed them to live. If our culture is not a help in this way, then we must find alternatives, which surely God in his wisdom can give us. This would be a way to trust God. I’m not so arrogant as to suppose I know the exact way, and I’m probably being too idealistic, but if we don’t begin to kick around these issues, we’re one-hundred percent guaranteed to see nothing change.



Written by Michael Duenes

September 29, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Duenes, Ethics, Philosophy

It’s time to be different

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Edward Hadas, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, writes in this month’s Touchstone about Jewish experiences of assimilation into our secular culture. From it, he draws two parallel lessons for Christians. It is interesting that my colleague and I were discussing these very issues for several hours on Friday. I’ll leave the myriad applications of his two lessons for you to ponder.

First, Christians must work hard to identify and resist the many seductive Baals of the age. The siren song of a reason that stands away from God may be as old as the serpent in Eden, but it seems to sound particularly alluring in a scientific era. Then there are various devious suggestions of ways to help – supposedly – Christianity thrive in a de-Churched world. For example, the suggestions that Christians emphasize their individual emotions and subjective understanding are not actually a validation of the divine image within but an excuse for rejecting the loving discipline of the Church. Similarly, a call to respect for other religious traditions often turns out to be a denial of the uniqueness of Christian revelation. Christians must also learn to resist the temptations of pseudo-religions. Just as Jews flocked to Marxism and Freudianism, Christians turn to nationalism (though not so much recently) or godless cults of happiness, comfort and experience…

The second lesson is that resisting Baal is hard work. Too many Jews assimilated in order to avoid the embarrassment of being different. Christians living in a non-Christian society must be willing to be different. Indeed, for the sake of the gospel, they should be willing to welcome the discomfort or even persecution that comes with differences in practice and belief. The Christian need to be counter-cultural is a simple matter of logic. If Christian culture did not conflict in fundamental ways with the culture of the age, then the age would not be non-Christian.

Though I may have mentioned it before, I cannot recommend subscribing to Touchstone magazine more highly. It is far and away the best Christian magazine I have ever encountered. Trust me, and subscribe. A year’s subscription is going right now for only $14.95. You can get it by clicking here, and on the subscription page, type SUMMER into the special code box.


Written by Michael Duenes

September 27, 2009 at 6:58 am

Posted in Duenes

Can’t wait for this film

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Rarely do I look forward to so-called “Christian” films, but as I’ve said before in this space, I’ll be darned if I’m not excited about this one.


Written by Michael Duenes

September 26, 2009 at 3:44 am

Posted in Duenes, Movies

should christians fast with muslims for ramadan?

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The following article appeared in USA Today: Muslims Find New Ramadan Fast Partners: Christians. Here’s my quick take, which will only make sense if you read the article first.

Mohler has a good point in talking about the message it conveys. I’m sure that if I fasted at Ramadan with some of the Muslims I know, they would take it as a sign that I’m OK with their religion. I’m almost sure of it. I would have to explain why I’m doing the fast, and if I explain that I’m not doing it in submission to Islamic beliefs, but simply as a way to show solidarity, well then it seems that a lot of the value has gone out of it. What bothers me is that final quote that talks about “not trying to convert them.” But I AM trying to convert them. If McClaren and his crew are not, case closed. Then the issue is far larger than Ramadan, and frankly, knowing the little I know about McClaren, it is far larger. When a pastor says, “it’s not my job to decide who goes to heaven or hell,” what he’s really doing is copping out. He’s trying to avoid the “conversion” card while trying to continue saying that he’s being true to his Christian beliefs. And sorry to say, but this is where Dallas Willard’s wrongheaded thinking about Christian pluralism – the view that some can be saved apart from a conscious faith in Jesus – leads. It leads to people not caring about conversion anymore. I’m all for being a peacemaker, and I think Christians should look for any and every possible way to build legitimate bridges with Muslims; and I don’t think Muslims should be conversion projects anymore than the guy in the cubby next to you at work is. But I do want the guy in the cubby to hand the controls of his life over to Jesus, so I want the same for the Muslims. I think it depends on the Muslim and one’s relationship with them. There’s something to be said for Paul’s dictum: I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. The saving part is important, but the becoming all things is important as well. I imagine that Paul did some things to be winsome to others that we conservative Christians would take umbrage with today. Would love to know others’ take on this article.


Written by Michael Duenes

September 24, 2009 at 5:04 am

Posted in Duenes, Islam

Top 6: American Sins

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I have decided to write a new “segment” on the site.  I will be introducing my “Top 6” list.  Part of the hope is that you will comment about the information on the “Top 6” lists and we can go from there.  Here is my first edition.

Top 6: American Sins

 1. Slavery- Slavery is truly America’s first comprehensive and corporate sin.  It is the hereditary system of kidnapping, rape and murder.  Slavery has led to some of the worst institutions, organizations and policies in American History to include, at the very least: Southern Segregation, Lynching, Red-lining, Inner-City poverty, the inequality of wealth distribution, the modern drug epidemic, the Ku Klux Klan, The Black Muslim Movement, The White Brotherhood, The White Citizens Council, overcrowded prisons, the increase in fatherlessness, lack of education, gangs and a misogynistic youth culture.

2. Abortion- The calculated murdering of millions of defenseless humans is cause enough to make this list.

3. Native American Slaughter- From Columbus and Cortes to Andrew Jackson and George A. Custer, Native Americans were held in check by Imperialistic Diseases, Unfair wars, racism, ethnic cleansing, and all out slaughter.  Then the Government removed them from their homes and gave them barren land in Utah, Oklahoma and New Mexico.  A Trail of Tears indeed.

4. The Sexual Revolution- With the upsurge in the pornography business as it gains billions of dollars per year, the sexual exploitation of girls and women around the globe, sexual slavery, the homosexual agenda, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and the innocence lost among America’s youth can be traced back to the development of the sexual revolution.  From the Flapper generation to the Ecstasy Generation the sexual revolution has done nothing but kill and destroy marriages and lives.

5. Governmental Corruption-  When Richard Nixon resigned from his Presidential post in 1974, he said: “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”  Actually, Mr. Nixon, instead of healing America, you forged a modern legacy of corruption and distrust that has moved the posture of American Government into the sewage tanks of our deepest nightmares.  The corrupt pardon you received from Ford, the Iran-Contra Scandal, Lewinsky-gate, and Weapons of Mass Destruction are all part of your Presidential family tree.  There have been countless Congressmen, Judges and public officials who have lied, cheated and fornicated on top of your hopes for healing America.  (And, NO, I haven’t forgotten about the illegal and immoral deeds of our other Government heroes like Warren Harding, U.S. Grant, Schuyler Colfax, Andrew Johnson, John Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, James Garfield, Thomas Jefferson, George Wallace, Marion Berry, Scooter Libby, John Edwards, Grover Cleveland, Ben Franklin, Strom Thurmond, Ted Kennedy {too early?}, John Kennedy- did I mention Bossism?

6. Corporate Greed- The following are Statistical Excerpts from Ralph Nader’s Letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, November 6, 2003:

-The total cost of white-collar crime in 1997 was $338 billion.

-Another estimate (by University of Cincinnati Criminal Justice Professor Francis T. Cullen) suggests that the annual cost of antitrust or trade violations are at least $250 billion.

-By comparison, the FBI estimated that in 2002, the nation’s total loss from robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson was less than $18 billion – less than a third of the estimated $60 billion Enron alone cost investors, pensioners and employees.

-In America, in 2008, 39.8 million people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007 — the second consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.

-Almost half of the world- over 3 Billion people- live on less than $2.50 per day.


Written by Michael Duenes

September 24, 2009 at 1:26 am