What is “Hipsteranity”?

I’ve seen the term “Hipsteranity” floating around, here and there, in various places across the internet.  To the best of my knowledge, no one has actually defined this term at any length or in any substantive way.  If that’s truly the case, then let this post be the first to make the attempt.  When the term “hipster” comes to mind, we typically think of someone in the Millennial generation (20s or early 30s) who is said to have unconventional creativity, relative affluence, progressive politics, a proclivity toward alternative health practices, and a general “indie” streak.  In another sense, it’s hard to really define hipsters and some have said that this subculture is a manifestation of post-modernism.  I’m using the term in its modern sense.  And so when we talk about Hipsteranity, what we’re really talking about is a blend of this hipster subculture with modern Evangelicalism.

Whether the acolytes and camp followers of Hipsteranity really wear skinny jeans, eat all organic foods, sport ridiculous beards, listen to indie rock, or buy all of their clothes from thrift-stores is really irrelevant.  What I’m talking about here are theological trends more than anything else.  Your average devotee of Hipsteranity will likely have a few recognizable traits and characteristics.  Next to his glass of local craft beer, you’ll probably find a book by Rob Bell or maybe even Brian McLaren.  When he goes off to Bible study (or whatever it’s called these days), he’s most likely toting an ESV.  His church service is some kind of “experience” in which the t-shirt-clad pastor is sitting on a bar stool–not giving a sermon, mind you–but giving a “talk” to the congregation.  Consistent with his demographic, he’s probably not going to be married.  Even if he is, he and his wife will have very few or no children.

To be sure, Hipsteranity transcends the theological spectrum.  While Hipsterians embrace theological liberalism generally, not all of them embrace obvious heretics like Bell and McLaren.  The movement exists within orthodox circles as well.  Even within the Reformed camp, Hipsteranity has made its mark.  This is especially the case with regard to the so-called “Young, Restless, and Reformed” (YRR) group.  They may have orthodox views on basic theological concepts (e.g., authority of Scripture, virgin birth, deity of Christ), but they’re liberal in virtually every other way.  Popular figures who reflect them include writers like Tim Keller, Thabiti Anyabwile, John Piper, and Russell Moore.  Their favorite websites include places like The Gospel Coalition and the Reformed African American Network.  Among the patchwork of different groups making up Hipsteranity, the YRR crowd is probably the most unique since they uphold basic orthodox doctrines while at the same time embracing liberalism when it comes to culture, politics, music, and so forth.

Speaking broadly, Hipsterianity is very ecumenical in nature and has a very “mere Christianity” outlook.  Many (if not most) of these folks grow up in largely conservative households, both theologically as well as politically.  Rejecting many tenants of their upbringing, they embrace all kinds of progressive causes.  Promoting these causes under a thin packaging of Christianity, Hipsterians have styled themselves as “social justice warriors” and have co-opted the rhetoric of cultural Marxists.  They are especially obsessed with racial issues, hence they lock arms with movements like Black Lives Matter.  Stopping the slaughter of unborn children, defending the institution of marriage, and preserving religious liberty are causes looked upon with a jaundiced eye.  Typical of their Millennial demographic, Hipsterians are also more likely to embrace women pastors, homosexuality, and “transgenderism.”

Within the milieu of Hipsteranity, most of their angst seems geared toward tradition and especially anything that smacks of inequality.  They love to lampoon and criticize the cultural deficiencies (real or perceived) in “Red State” areas of the country (along with broader Evangelicalism).  Through the lenses of their Buddy Holly-style glasses, they correctly see the failures of the “Christian Right” for what they are and are tired of the conventional culture wars of the past several decades.  As I alluded to earlier, the substance of Hipsteranity is really nothing new at all.  It’s the same old theological liberalism hiding behind a plaid-flannel shirt with thin suspenders.  What Evangelicalism is grappling with right now is what the so-called “mainline” Protestant denominations went through about a century ago.  The biblical gospel is coming into conflict with yet another social gospel.  Truly, there’s nothing new under the sun.

I don’t write all of this to deride anyone or make light of this movement.  Nor is this necessarily a polemic against a particular theological current.  Many of the people who make up Hipsteranity are fellow believers in Christ.  Sure, I’ve generalized quite a bit here.  It’s almost impossible not to do so.  I’ve done my best to describe a movement which self-consciously eschews labels and descriptors.  As much as our modern culture hates labels, they are essential to have any meaningful identification and communication.  I write this post because we need to be aware that such views are plainly within our midst.  It’s probably safe to say that most of you reading this know individuals who fall into this category to one degree or another.  And I’m not suggesting at all that these Hipsterians all agree on the same things, emphasize the same things, or look the same way.  I’m simply saying their general way of thinking has impacted the church and will continue to do so in the future.

For the record, I have nothing against beards (I have one), craft beer (it’s great), eating organic (I do that), or shopping at thrift stores (I do that too).  But I’m not going to build a doctrine around that which is trendy or novel.  In the realm of theology, novelty is not a good thing.  We shouldn’t be chasing after the latest popular social cause and making that our central mission.  We shouldn’t imbibe theological trends which cause so many to stumble and abandon biblical teaching altogether.  When we do this, we’re playing with fire and the consequences are generational.   I’ll fully acknowledge that the Hipsterians bring legitimate criticisms and concerns to the table, but it’s the basis upon which they bring those concerns which makes me pause.  For example, it’s one thing to want to be a good steward of creation and thus advocate sound policies to protect the environment.  It’s quite another thing, however, to import the worldview of radical environmentalism (replete with its idolatry) into what is supposed to be a biblical conversation.

It remains to be seen what impact this movement (for lack of a better term) will have on the future of Evangelicalism.  Personally, I think we’ll have to wait a few generations to see the impact in its fullness with clarity.  For biblically-grounded Christians, it’s up to us to remain ready to give an answer to theological liberalism no matter what its present manifestation looks like.

Posted in culture, heresy, theology | Leave a comment

SB 1146

Pied_Piper2

The previously odious legislation in the State of California known as SB 1146 has been amended and the concerns of Christian colleges and universities have been relieved.  For now.  What was it about SB 1146 which attracted so much concern and outrage?  This proposed legislation directly threatened the religious liberty of said institutions by forcing them to compromise their convictions on homosexuality, “transgenderism,” and the like.  Any institution in which students received State or Federal assistance would come into the crosshairs.  In practical terms, this means that those educational institutions would no longer be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual ethics.  The “LGBT” agenda would once again supersede religious liberty.

Mark my words when I say that this isn’t the last you’ve heard about legislation like SB 1146.  This time around there was enough momentum to stop it.  However, there will most definitely be a next time.  It isn’t over.  Not by a long shot.  Similar legislation will come back into play later.

Having said all of that, this is yet another reminder of why broader Evangelicalism needs to embrace a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to taking any form of government funding or assistance.  I’ve said for years that this type of snare will only come back to bite those who fall into it.  It was true of George W. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” and it’s true for students at Christians schools who take government aid.  In the early days of these United States, many Christians (mostly Baptists) joined ranks with the Jeffersonian Republicans in arguing for an institutional separation between church and state.  They rightly saw religious establishments as ultimately representing a threat to religious liberty.  Consider government funding as yet another example of filthy lucre.

As it is, there are already a number of private colleges/universities which prohibit their students from taking any kind of government aid whatsoever.  Hillsdale College is one of them.  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is another.  I’m really glad those examples exist because what those institutions do ought to become the norm for Christian schools everywhere.  Of course there is the issue of whether every Christian needs to go to college in the first place, but that’s a whole other discussion for a different post.  The point is, a steadfast refusal to take any kind of government aid is essential in order to uphold any kind of doctrinal integrity.  We can’t have it both ways.  What I’m proposing would certainly be a drastic change for how many Christian institutions operate, but this discussion will of necessity happen sooner or later.

The reason many Christian schools got themselves into this pickle in the first place was because Christianity became the cultural norm in America.  Once the church finds itself in a comfortable position within the larger culture, we tend to get complacent and accept things we ought not to accept.  We take things for granted and put down our guard.  Then once the culture moves into a moral free fall, we ourselves in a compromised position.  History repeats itself.  No matter the source, outside money always has some kind of strings attached.  It’s inescapable.  And as the old saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Posted in civil government, education, homosexuality, religious liberty | 1 Comment

Refocus and Fortify

Puritan Family

Yesterday not only marked the beginning of a new month, but it was the beginning of a new and more intense focus for me.  Both as a husband and as a father, I decided it was time for me to prayerfully refocus on family life.  A more intense focus coupled with a need to fortify is the way things ought to go.  If you’re an astute leader of your home, then you’ll know when things need an adjustment.  You’ll know when things need correction, big or small.  What I’m talking about here is the whole of family life, not just selected parts.  Prayer, worship, catechesis, finances, eating habits, home improvements, yard work, hospitality, long-term plans, etc. come into play.  Every area of family life is brought into focus and shaped for the better.

As some of you may know, our family has been through a lot over the past couple of years.  We’ve experienced a lot of heartache and turmoil.  Our physical health has suffered.  So has our spiritual health.  Last year’s ordeal of fighting a legal battle to keep custody of our oldest daughter really did drain us spiritually, emotionally, and in various other ways.  Yet today, I dare say that I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time.  I have more joy now and for the future.  In various ways, God has shown Himself to be faithful in the midst of all this.  He has used these circumstances (and is still using them) for our good.  Even though Emma is not living with us at the moment, she’s probably closer to us now than before all this started.  And that’s quite a blessing.

Being the leader of my home I recognize that I need to be more disciplined and focused.  I need to better equip myself so that I can lead and serve my family better.  That’s what servant leadership is about.  At the same time, I also recognize we’re still healing.  And there’s a lot of healing that needs to be done.  We need to grow in accordance with that reality.  God has used the events of the last couple of years to show me my weaknesses, especially as a parent.  That’s cause for praise!

In certain Christian circles, we hear a lot of talk about the so-called “Benedict Option.”  It’s the notion that there’s a time and place for Christians to step back from the culture, take stock of the situation, and disengage for a time in order to better ourselves spiritually.  That’s overly simplistic, but you get the idea.  You might say that what I’m trying to do right now is a type of “Benedict Option” at the family level.  It’s a time to refocus and replenish our resources, so to speak.  To be sure, I’m not going to give up all of my outside commitments.  However, I will draw back quite a bit.  As many Christian fathers can tell you, it’s very easy to let things on the outside become a distraction to the detriment of family life.

My previous posts about our cultural decline being especially manifested in this president election cycle are certainly a bit gloomy.  Yet there’s a providential silver lining in all of that.  Like many others, this would be the time of year I’d be volunteering for campaigns and the like.  Much of my free time would have been spent trying to help elect a candidate.  But the righteous candidate didn’t win the presidential nomination.  In fact, it doesn’t even look like the Constitution Party candidate will get on the ballot here in Virginia.  And there’s really nothing going on down-ballot.  The handwriting is one the wall and it’s almost as if the outcome of the election is already here.  All of that being said, this is a golden opportunity for me (and everyone else) to focus on their families.  In a sense, it’s liberating.

I know other people may have other distractions, but the point is made.  There are times when we as husbands/fathers need to step back and prayerfully change course in the direction of our families.  It’s a time for fortify and strengthen.  We need to realize that by doing so we’re making investments–and we’ll never live to see most of the fruit of those investments.  They’re generational in nature.  We need to love our wives as Christ loves His church.  We need to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  The immediate result will be a healthy family culture which will exist to glorify God.  Why ought we to do these things?  Because we were called to this.

Posted in family, marriage, redeeming the time | 5 Comments

Another School Year

Stack of Books

This was the start of the new school year for many children around the country, homeschoolers being no exception.  With all of the preparations in place, children in the Dermer household began the next leg of the journey in learning.  Watching all of the preparations and seeing what they’ll learn, I’m probably more excited than they are.  My favorite part is being the main consultant for any related to history or civics.  It looks to be a good year and things have gotten off to a pretty good start.

As always, I pray over my children individually before they begin another year of schooling.  Specifically, I pray that the Lord would bless them not just in terms of academics, but also in terms of their spiritual growth.  May they always be reminded that wisdom begins with the fear of God.  May they look to His word as the foundation for all truth.  May they hide His word in their hearts, that they would remember it all the days of their lives.  All of these things are my hope and prayer.

Not too long ago, I got a copy of Andrew Case’s book, Setting Their Hope in God.  If you’re familiar with the Valley of Vision, then you’ll appreciate this book and how it’s laid out.  Basically, it’s a book of prayers for parents to pray over their children.  This is a resource of great benefit to Christian parents, especially if you struggle with what to pray and how to pray it.  One of the practices I see lacking in the American church today is a steadfast devotion to prayer.  This book is an aid to alleviate that problem.

Remember, too, to pray for those hardworking homeschool mothers who devote themselves past the breaking point.  Pray for us homeschooling fathers to be invested and engaged.  There’s a lot of work involved in raising Godly seed, but the Lord will bless those faithful efforts.  Especially on the hard days, let us remember to think generationally and what God has called us to do.

Posted in discipleship, education, family, prayer, teaching | 2 Comments

The Importance of Pastors Knowing the Greek New Testament

Textus Receptus

Today I stumbled across this quote from Baptist scholar A.T. Robertson on the importance of pastors knowing the Greek New Testament:

“It ought to be taken for granted that the preacher has his Greek Testament. This statement will be challenged by many who excuse themselves from making any effort to know the Greek New Testament. I do not say that every preacher should become an expert in his knowledge of the New Testament Greek. That cannot be expected. I do not affirm that no preacher should be allowed to preach who does not possess some knowledge of the original New Testament. I am opposed to such a restriction. But a little is a big per cent. On nothing, as John A. Broadus used to say. This is preeminently true of the Greek New Testament.

“The real New Testament is the Greek New Testament. The English is simply a translation of the New Testament, not the actual New Testament. It is good that the New Testament has been translated into so many languages. The fact that it was written in the koine, the universal language of the time, rather than in one of the earlier Greek dialects, makes it easier to render into modern tongues. But there is much that cannot be translated. It is not possible to reproduce the delicate turns of thought, the nuances of language, in translation. The freshness of the strawberry cannot be preserved in any extract.

“The most perfect vehicle of human speech thus far devised by man is the Greek. English comes next, but Greek outranks it. The chief treasure in the Greek language is the New Testament. Homer and Thucydides and Aeschylus and Plato all take a rank below Paul and John and Luke. The cultural and spiritual worth of the Greek New Testament is beyond all computation. In the Renaissance the world woke up with the Greek Testament in its hands. It still stands before the open pages of this greatest of all books in wonder and in rapture as the pages continue to reveal God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

This is something to keep in mind–something to motivate me–as I pick up the study of Greek once again.  May the Lord bless me and other men preparing for ministry to that end.

Posted in education, exhortation, ministry, redeeming the time, Scripture | 1 Comment

By What Standard is Incest Wrong?

Virginia Law

Title page to the earliest statutes governing Virginia, firmly based upon biblical law.

 

That’s not a title for a subject I ever thought I’d have to write about on this blog, but there it is.  Sadly, we have to openly ask such a question in America in 2016.  What prompted a cultural discussion about incest is a story which has now gone viral about a mother-son New Mexico couple who are prepared to fight a legal battle (and do whatever else it takes) to be together.  Authorities in the State became aware of their relationship and are cracking down.  Now there’s a court order instructing them to stay away from each other, but they’re determined to continue their illicit relationship whatever the cost.  There’s even a “support and advocacy” organization giving aid to this incestuous duo.

Any of this sound familiar?

Over a decade ago, many Christian and conservative commentators warned that the cultural acceptance of homosexuality would necessarily open the door to acceptance of behaviors like polygamy and incest.  I was one of those giving such commentary.  As soon as the warning was uttered, the one speaking it was shouted down and accused of engaging in a “slippery-slope fallacy.”  Well, the slope is here and the whole country is about to slide down.  Last year’s Obergefell decision by the Supreme Court to effectively legalize same-sex “marriage” gave a boost to legal efforts to legalize polygamy.  The popularity of television shows like “Big Love” and “Sister Wives” are also aiding in normalizing of this behavior.  And after polygamy, incest is apparently the next frontier.

In my humble opinion, it won’t be long before polygamy is culturally accepted in America.  Legally speaking, it’s the next shoe to drop.  The media and entertainment industries will continue to fuel its acceptance much like they did for the homosexual and “transgender” movements.  A bit further down the road, we’ll see the same thing happen with those who practice incest.  The propaganda and talking points will emulate the homosexual movement almost verbatim.  I can hear it now:

“Hey, Josh.  Why are so opposed to this?  They’re consenting adults.”

“So what if he has multiple wives?  How is their relationship affecting your marriage?”

“How are you affected by this woman’s relationship with her father?  Just because you find it icky doesn’t mean it should be illegal.”

“Hey, I thought conservatives were against big government.  Why are you in favor of them intruding into people’s bedrooms?”

And I could go on.  As you can see, we can literally write the talking points for them.  It’s the same strategy just with different forms of sexual depravity.  But how did we get here and why is our culture so rapidly going into free fall?  This is the direct consequence of Western civilization’s wholesale abandonment of a Christian worldview.  Yes, this is what happens when you abandon Scripture as the authoritative standard for conduct in society.  The increasingly dominant Secularism is not going to provide a coherent sexual ethos other than, perhaps, a loosely-defined “consent only” ethic.  As long as there are consenting adults involved, all is well.  But even the issue of consent itself is increasingly open to question.

Can a professing atheist or agnostic argue against incest?  He can’t.  There is no standard to which he can appeal.  All he has are his own personal tastes and preferences.  That’s it.  Who is he to judge and by what standard?  The Christian, by contrast, can appeal to the transcendent authority of God’s revealed word.  It is not only a standard, but an infallible one.  He can look to Leviticus 18 where incest is condemned by the Lord as sin.  More foundationally, the Christian points to Genesis 2:18-25 and Matthew 19:4-6 as God’s positive affirmation of what marriage is supposed to be.  It is God alone who created our sexuality and defines its boundaries.  Nowhere in the Scriptures does He positively affirm polygamy, incest, or same-sex relationships.  The boundaries are clearly marked.

When a society ceases to acknowledge God as creator, sustainer, and lawgiver in order to pursue their own mythical autonomy, we get exactly the kind of moral chaos we see today.  The fact that this is happening so quickly is a testament to the swift judgment that is upon our culture as we speak.  As it says in Romans 1, we’re being given over to depraved and futile thinking.  As a society, we’ve lost the ability to reason about even the most basic of moral issues.  There may be a consensus that the incestuous relationship of this mother and son causes our stomachs to turn, but there’s no consensus regarding a standard by which we can judge their conduct.  As Dostoevsky reminded us, there is no moral standard without God–all things become permissible.

As we continue to trudge through the 21st century, we need to be reminded that this situation is nothing new for the church.  The people of God have seen this kind of thing before.  Just as the church survived (and even thrived) under the rule of the sexually immoral Roman Empire, so too will she survive a sexually immoral United States of America.  The pressure to conform and affirm will be immense, but Christ calls us to be faithful.  Even when the chaos threatens to undo us, may the remnant in America represent a solid rock that will outlast this present culture.

Posted in apologetics, culture, homosexuality, marriage, Scripture, Secularism | 7 Comments

Into the Wilderness

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I don’t mince words when I say that looking for a solid, biblical church is akin to a trek through the wilderness.  Granted, I’m not talking about literally walking through a desert as the Israelites did.  Yet it can definitely be a spiritual desert void of much spiritual food.  This month will mark one year since my family and I began this search.  What a journey it has been.  We’ve seen a little of the good, plenty of the bad, and lots more of the ugly.  Along the way, I hope the Lord has used this time in the proverbial wilderness to grow us in our faith.  He’s given us a bit of manna along the way, but that same manna has also pointed us in the direction of eventually resting in a local church.  Somewhere.  At some point.  And so the journey continues.

Some people wonder why it’s taking us so long to settle down within a fellowship.  Truth be told, we’re having such a difficult time because so many of these churches rub up against our doctrinal convictions.  I’m not talking about differences over secondary issues, though some may construe it that way.  For example, we have convictions regarding the Fourth Commandment and you can probably call us Sabbatarians in that regard.  How are we supposed to fellowship with people in a church where the common practice is to go out to eat after the service?  (We simply can’t afford to do that anyway, but that’s another issue altogether).  Another conviction is being family-integrated in our worship.  In a number of churches, the pressure was on us to let our kids go to “children’s church” instead of keeping them with us in the service.

Focusing on worship itself, some churches have this “rock concert” atmosphere in which the music is ramped up loudly.  My wife told me on the way home from such a church that she just couldn’t focus on the worship of God because the loud music was such a distraction, a practical problem aside from any consideration of the regulative principle.  We’re not old fuddy-duddies, by the way.  Hollie and I are both in our early 30s.  In fact, we’re done everything we can to be flexible without breaking any of these convictions.  Differences in music?  Okay.  Casual dress?  That’s fine.  We’ve laid our hymnals/psalters aside and I’ve gone without a tie a few Sundays or two.  We really did try to fit into some of these places and show charity.

After years of not really having a lot of genuine fellowship, we definitely put a high premium on that.  Yet most of the churches we considered are pretty far away.  How are we supposed to have fellowship when almost everyone else is at least 45 minutes away?  Can’t happen.  You can think this is nitpicky, but I know of a pastor who actually tells some prospective members to find another fellowship if they don’t live close enough.  It’s that important.  Not only were these churches farther out than us, but they were in areas with a much higher socio-economic status.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s much more difficult to fellowship (and be able to relate) with a congregation of people who don’t have the same struggles and way of life.

I’m not writing all of this to complain or “vent my emotions” as it were.  In fact, Scripture tells us not to do that (Prov. 29:11).  Rather, I’m just laying out in general terms the paths we’ve taken and the problems we’ve experienced along the way.  And this isn’t to say that God hasn’t used these experiences for our good.  In almost every place we’ve visited, we’ve experienced kindness and warmth.  We’re blessed because of that.  In some places, we’ve heard good preaching too.  Yet those convictions we have are there and everywhere we go it just seems like we’re fish out of water.  Our goal was never to dot every “I” and cross every “T” in Reformed theology, but simply to find a church which actually worships biblically.

In one church in particular, I was told by one of the elders that we need to keep our doctrinal convictions about certain matters to ourselves and not discuss them with other members of the congregation, lest they be led astray.  Say, what?  Yes, that actually happened.  In another church, I filled out an information card to find out more about the church and perhaps talk with one of the elders.  No elder ever called, but one of the ladies from the church called to specifically talk with my wife.  She jokingly remarked to my wife that she was surprised to see a husband actually fill out the card.  I can only assume they aren’t big advocates of men actually being the heads of their households.

It’s very tempting to give into the notion that we’re just being too picky or otherwise trying to “find the perfect church” as someone else said.  But it really isn’t about that.  Not at all.  Last Sunday we listened to a sermon from Joel Beeke about the necessity of raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  In that sermon, he stressed the importance of children having a “seamless” witness of biblical Christianity from all of the influences around them.  That includes us as parents and it also includes the church we attend.  What kind of witness do we have when we lay aside convictions on essential matters just to put a check in the box for having attended church?  My wife and I have to answer to God one day for the influences we’ve placed around them.  Let that sink in.

So here we are…marching along in this spiritual wilderness.  Depending upon where you live, searching out a new can be a daunting, heartbreaking, and often depressing task.  We’re doing our best to keep our heads up and our eyes pointed toward Christ.  I write this as encouragement to anyone out there going through the same type of wilderness.  Sadly, this is normative for Christianity in America.  If you’re walking the same trek, you aren’t alone.  We know other brethren going through the same thing.  Perhaps this is a time for us as a family to humble ourselves, repent, and seek the face of God.  May I lead us to do just that and may we remember to have hearts of gratitude even in the midst of this.

Posted in family, worship | 12 Comments