I recently was teaching through the 10 Commandments using the Westminster Catechisms, and discovered something interesting in relation to the 6th commandment (“You shall not murder”). This commandment requires us to endeavor to preserve the lives of other people (WLC 155, WSC 68). What I found intriguing was a text, Deuteronomy 22:8, cited to support this claim, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” Jewish roofs were flat so people could walk on them, and a parapet around the edges would prevent people from falling off and becoming injured.
What was interesting was the connection by the Westminster Assembly of this zoning regulation to the 6th commandment, an exegetical connection that Calvin also makes in his commentary on the verse. Building a safeguard on the roof was an expression of loving your neighbor by preserving their life.
What would it take for someone to fall off without a parapet and die? They would have to be on the roof (not necessarily a regular occurrence, especially not your own house), would have to be either careless (their fault!) or slip (rare in a dessert), and then fall from a one-story roof in the just the wrong way to be fatally injured (unlikely from that height). Parapets were protection against an unlikely scenario that could just as easily be the fault of the person falling. And yet, God commanded that parapets be added to preserve human life. This is what keeping the 6th commandment looks like: protecting human life from what might appear an unlikely or dubious threat.
Now do masks with COVID-19.
This is a follow-up post to my two-part series on the Westminster Standards and gay Christianity, which can be found here. In this installment I will be addressing the question of transgender pronouns and the Westminster Standards. I am not here addressing the subject of transgenderism in general and the best medical or social response to it, for which I recommend the work of Madeleine Kearns on the subject.
The topic of transgenderism and pronouns is a fraught one, but exactly because of its complications it needs to be addressed. There are two foundational principals that I am not interested in demonstrating here, but am rather assuming. First, that men and women are distinct in sex and gender and these distinct attributes are not interchangeable (e.g. Gen. 1:27, 2:20-24, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 11:8-15; cf. WCF 4.2, WLC 17, WSC 10), and second, that our bodies are not incidental to being human but constitute who we are. Men have male bodies and women have female bodies. Men ought to be men and women ought to be women.
There is a difference between sex and gender, in that sex refers to someone’s biological sex while gender refers to someone’s personal or social identity that directs their sexual behavior, which is normally, and ought to be, tethered to their biological sex. Someone’s gender is how they live out their biological sex, and ought to be reflective of that sex. Since our bodies matter and are constitutive of our identities, our genders should be consistent with our embodied being. In other words, men should be masculine and women should be feminine. Men should identify as men and women should identify as women…
[[EDIT, June 9th, 2021: An investigation by the Department of the Interior has found that the protestors and parishioners were not cleared in order for President Trump to have his photo-op. This post was built around false information, and I have posted an acknowledgment of that here. I am leaving the original post up in order to maintain the record.]]
The protest outside the White House was apparently cleared by police using tear gas and grenades so that President Trump could go and have photos taken outside St. John’s Church. Leaving aside the question of the propriety of a President using police to disperse a lawful protest for a photo-op, there was no communication between the President and the church prior to his visit, and the church was relegated to a set piece in the midst of turmoil. But worse than that, the police used tear gas and concussion grenades to clear away the church’s clergy from the church property. A President used agents of the state to remove pastors from a church (who were tending to injured people) so that he could pose with a Bible in front of a place of worship. This is despicable.
I reread J. I. Packer’s classic Knowing God last week for the first time since my teenage years. It was an overlong return, and well worth the read. Something I had not recalled, and was pleasantly surprised to find, was the Anglican Packer’s rejection of the use of images of God in worship. The edition of Knowing God I reread was from 1993, and Packer had faced so much pushback on his original position that he included an additional section in that chapter explaining why he had not changed his mind in the 20 years since the book’s original publication. So, evidently, this was a significant enough feature of the book to have warranted a lot of attention, and yet I had managed to forget it. The thing I was delighted to find in Packer’s argument was that his conclusion generally overlapped with my own: Images of God, including depictions of Christ, should not be used in worship; ambivalence in regards to the appropriateness of images of God for didactic purposes outside of worship; and finding prudent uses of images of God in art limited but acceptable.
Packer lays out his argument in these ways…
The Gospel Coalition published an article by Baptist pastor Phil Newton called “10 Ways Pastors Can Encourage Church Attendance.” Take one guess which reason fails to make the cut.
The word “sabbath” never even appears in the article, much less the biblical idea that perhaps pastors can encourage church attendance by teaching that it is a Christian duty.
WSC 60: How is the sabbath to be sanctified? The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.
I know that TGC is an ecumenical organization, but where are its Presbyterians on this?