In an article on Public Discourse, Christopher Tollefsen writes of Aquinas’s three natural-law-based reasons why incestuous unions ought to be forbidden, and one of those reasons touches on an aspect of incest I hadn’t thought of before:
Aquinas’s third reason is that incest is contrary to an “accidental” end of marriage: the binding together of humankind and the extending of friendship. We see this at virtually any wedding when two unrelated families gather to celebrate their new connection. Incestuous unions would have nothing of this sort to celebrate.
This is interesting because it seems to be related to one of the problems with homosexuality. See this quote from John Piper on Romans 1, which I previously posted (with more context) in “Worshipping Images of Ourselves”:
We learn from Paul in Ephesians 5:31-32 that, from the beginning, manhood and womanhood existed to represent or dramatize God's relation to his people and then Christ's relation to his bride, the church. In this drama, the man represents God or Christ and is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. The woman represents God's people or the church. And sexual union in the covenant of marriage represents pure, undefiled, intense heart-worship. That is, God means for the beauty of worship to be dramatized in the right ordering of our sexual lives….
[T]he disordering of our relationship to God is dramatized by the breakdown of that heterosexual union.
Homosexuality is the most vivid form of that breakdown. God and man in covenant worship are represented by male and female in covenant sexual union. Therefore, when man turns from God to images of himself, God hands us over to what we have chosen and dramatizes it by male and female turning to images of themselves for sexual union, namely their own sex.
If homosexuality, contrary to the purpose of sexual union in marriage, is an image of our turning away from God and worshipping ourselves, then incest, as a similar turning inward towards those in our family who are like us rather than an outward turning towards a different family, is likewise contrary to the purpose of our sexuality. We’re to worship outward, not inward, and our sexuality is meant to reflect this.
It has taken me a while to realize how artistic God actually is—that many (surely, all!) aspects of this world, not just sexuality and marriage, exist to ultimately point us to Jesus. Like the beauty of a painter who speaks to us through images in his artwork, God has created and arranged the things of this world to paint for us Christ and His work on the cross. Here’s another example of this from John Piper:
One of the reasons God created bread—or created the grain and the water and yeast and fire and human intelligence to make it, and I mean the really good kind, that’s not mainly air—is so that when Jesus Christ came into the world, he would be able to use the enjoyment of bread and the nourishment of bread as an illustration of what it means to believe on him and be satisfied with him. I believe that with all my heart. Bread exists to help us know what it is like to be satisfied in Jesus.
The temple, the Lord's Supper, the holiness code, marriage, bread, even slavery—look at the painting God has created for us, the images in the story He is telling us, and see Christ, our needed redeemer. As James Sire says in Apologetics Beyond Reason, “As it turns out, our world is so fashioned and has such a history that it is no exaggeration to say that every person is created for Christ and everything created makes a case for Christ.”
Thinking Matters, an apologetics organization in New Zealand, is looking for someone who’d like to be an apologist missionary in their country for a year. This is the organization that brought me, Brett, and Jay Watts (from Life Training Institute) out there to speak a couple of years ago, and we had a fantastic time. I loved the people there—they were warm and hospitable, and of course the country is beautiful.
The culture is very secular, but there’s a growing interest in apologetics (and even a few well-known apologists, like Matthew Flannagan), and you’d have a chance to help fan that flame, bringing glory to God by encouraging believers and reaching out to non-believers through apologetics:
Thinking Matters New Zealand Foundation would like to extend an invitation to a suitable apologetics graduate or mature worker who wants to gain practical experience volunteering in New Zealand.
This is an opportunity for someone who can raise their own support from a home church or mission organization to complete a one year full-time ministry placement that gives them the opportunity to serve the wider Church in New Zealand – based in beautiful Tauranga, on the East Coast of New Zealand….
The commencement date and period of commitment would be negotiable – but a1 year placement would ideally be sought, with the possibility of extending into a longer term position if appropriate.
At the end of your term you will have both gained ministry experience, and also had an opportunity to build strategic relationships with strong, apologetics-friendly churches throughout New Zealand which could open further doors of ministry opportunity.
Learn more about the position and its requirements here, and you can hear more from Rodney Lake about Thinking Matters in this short video Brett shot while we were over there. Pass this along to anyone you think might be interested!
Thomas Sydenham, born in 1624, was a Christian physician known as the father of English medicine. He is responsible for significant advancement in epidemiology. He advocated diagnosis by observing the advancement of symptoms. Of course, this is familiar and obvious to us today, but it was not the medical practice of the time. His observations during the Great Plague of London in the 17th century and subsequent smallpox epidemic led him to recommend more careful observation and distinction among diseases and more thorough testing of therapeutic cures before declaring them cures and using them on patients. The care and cure of the patient was always at the center of his method. He innovated the treatment of smallpox and malaria. Even though some of his suggestions were discounted in his lifetime, they influenced later generations of doctors. His book Observationes Medicae became a standard medical textbook for 200 years.
Sydenham's family had close ties with Cromwell in the English revolution, and Sydenham fought in the war, being left for dead in one battlefield.
His Christian convictions shaped his practice of medicine and motivated him to find better treatments to alleviate suffering. He wrote:
It becomes every man who purposes to give himself to the care of others, seriously to consider the four following things:
First, that he must one day give an account to the Supreme Judge of all the lives entrusted to his care.
Secondly, that all his skill, and knowledge, and energy as they have been given him by God, so they should be exercised for his glory, and the good of mankind, and not for mere gain or ambition.
Thirdly, and not more beautifully than truly, let him reflect that he has undertaken the care of no mean creature, for, in order that he may estimate the value, the greatness of the human race, the only begotten Son of God became himself a man, and thus ennobled it with his divine dignity, and far more than this, died to redeem it.
And fourthly, that the doctor being himself a mortal man, should be diligent and tender in relieving his suffering patients, inasmuch as he himself must one day be a like sufferer.
There are just 9 days left until the third annual reTHINK Student Apologetics Conference in Orange County, California on the 26th and 27th. At this conference we raise the bar of expectations for students and, at the same time, make the training accessible to their young minds. It's a challenging line to walk, but if the response from the first two years (over 1,000 people have attended) is any indication, we've found a way to be effective. reTHINK is a big undertaking, so why do we put all that energy and work into it? Because the church needs to recapture young minds with the truth: