A short description of what we’re up to can be found here. Comments are welcome but may be moderated for content and tone.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hooray for the Hypocrites

One of my Neo-Calvinist friends wrote to me yesterday. He said that I should like a favourite preacher of his (David Platt). He said that this preacher “holds to the Reformed theology”. Then he added, “People who truly understand the Reformed theology have a passion for lost souls”.

His first statement is probably true.

If the second one is true, the first one is certainly false.

If a Calvinist loves the salvation message it might make him a nice person but it also makes him a bad Calvinist.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mythical Native

So you’re speaking to someone about the gospel. And suddenly he gets that ironic glint in his eye. He folds his arms, steps back and says, “Well, what about the people who have never heard? What about people not born in Christian cultures, or even in cultures with some other religion? Hey, what about the native on some remote South Sea island, who has never even seen a white person and knows nothing about Western culture? If you have to believe the gospel to be saved, then isn’t that poor guy going to hell? And how is that fair? After all, he never even had a chance.”

He smiles smugly at you, confident you won’t be able to field that one. And you stumble.

Well, what about it? How can we believe in salvation if not everybody has a chance? How fair can it be to proclaim the gospel if the truth is that God simply doesn’t make it available to everyone? What about a ‘nice guy’ who isn’t, simply by virtue of birth or upbringing, even aware of the gospel?

How do we answer that one?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Trouble with the Truth

Some years ago I picked up a volume compiled by Walter Truett Anderson entitled The Truth About The Truth. It was a collection of essays, actually, each one detailing some way in which the modern conception of “truth” has been warped. It had chapters on reification (the modern tendency to mistake mere traditions for inevitabilities), the love of the ironic tone, the tendency to accept things at face value, the obsession with commercialism, gender fluidity, cultural pluralism and the loss of the integrated self, and so on … all very interesting, and some of it insightful. But so far as the concept of a stable, universal, actually-existing kind of truth, very cynical.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tom Takes Another ’Nother Breather

You may have noticed I like doing a “retrospective” post once a year, usually on a Sunday in the summer just as I am about to disappear somewhere far away for a couple of weeks and totally ignore the Internet.

It gives me a chance to preview what’s coming for the next week or so, which in 2015 was a Top 10 of our most-read posts, and in 2016 was Worship Week. It also gives me a chance to let our readers know how things are going generally, to say thanks to a few people, and to take stock.

All good things, so let’s have at it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Gift of Singleness

This is the first of two extended lines of thought that wouldn’t fit conveniently into my post from two days ago. You may remember that one: John Piper was giving advice to a single mother who wondered if she should be looking for a husband.

A couple of common evangelical catchphrases were bandied around in the exchange and caught my attention. First, Piper referred to the “gift of singleness”. Later, the young woman declared she did not feel “called to marriage”. You have probably heard people say things like that. You may have said them yourself.

Both phrases sorta-kinda employ the language of the New Testament, but both do it in ways that can mislead us if we’re not paying attention to the way they are used.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Bad Reasons to be Non-Denominational

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Christianity Today reports that about 1 in 6 Christians now refer to themselves as “non-denominational”, which is about double the number who did so as recently as the turn of the century.

Tom: Gallup says:

“Increasingly, Christian Americans … prefer to either identify themselves simply as Christians or attend the increasing number of nondenominational churches that have no formal allegiance to a broader religious structure.”

What do you think about that, IC? It’s not all good news, is it?

Immanuel Can: No, probably not. Some of it is.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shooting from the Lip

“Pastor John” Piper is answering his mail again, which nearly always ends up, well ... interesting, to say the least.

This time he’s responding to the single mother of a three-year-old boy who wants to know whether the Bible teaches she should be looking for a husband.

Piper is rarely reluctant to engage with questions the Bible doesn’t directly answer, and this one is no exception.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Multicultural Road to Hell

I’ve got a simple message in this post. Simple, yes, but not the less needed for all that.

What have you done with the gospel, Christian? Where is your voice these days?

I’m not telling. I’m asking. I don’t know you, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. Really, this is a question only you can ask yourself, and only you can answer.

Well, you and God, of course, because that’s the urgent point. God knows what we’ve done with the gospel. He knows whether we’ve been living like we believe it, or only saying we do, and living another way. He knows.

I don’t.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Did or Didn’t

Who are you, and what’s your job in the Body of Christ? Do you know?

When you and I confessed faith in Jesus Christ from the heart, God saved us, and the Bible says he saved us with certain objectives in view. Those objectives were both general and specific. Unless we were saved in the last six months, I think we should probably know something about that.

Hey, if you don’t have a clue, it might be time to give the subject some thought.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Separation Anxiety

If our culture has a mortal sin, it is discrimination, the penalty for which is shaming, mockery, job loss or exclusion from the in-group.

We are told not to discriminate between moral and immoral behaviors, regardless of the real-world outcomes such actions produce. We are told not to discriminate between the productive and unproductive use of our tax dollars, because to do so demonstrates that we are ‘phobes’ of one sort or another. For similar reasons, we are not allowed to distinguish between employees who are capable of performing required tasks and employees who are not; or between students who understand the material and students who do not. Instead, we must meet demographic targets for success based on levels of perceived historical victimhood.

We might say our society has separation anxiety. It’s in a mindless panic to make sure nothing is ever usefully distinguished from anything else.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Not As Simple As It Looks

Getting things done in the Christian life is not a simple process.

Oh, maybe it looks simple. The apostle Paul could pray this:

“… that our God may … fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Simple, right? Christians like Paul pray, and a powerful God takes care of business.

Well, I guess we could read it that way. But I think there’s another side to it.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Inbox: Grace and Gratitude

PB takes thoughts from last Monday’s post in an interesting direction:

“ ‘Grace’ as understood today does indeed fall woefully short of conveying the depth of meaning in charis. Gratia, whence cometh grace, was ‘a goddess of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility in Greek mythology’, so it isn’t that the meaning has changed — it’s pretty close actually. It’s as you say — we don’t have an equivalent in English for charis.”

If we are to talk usefully about grace to people who do not understand what we mean by it, we are probably best to use four or five different English words, each conveying a single aspect of the meaning of charis.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Rightsizing the Church

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

On his blog, Karl Vaters considers new strategies for church planting and concludes the Body of Christ might well function as effectively or even more effectively with 50 smaller churches than a single megachurch.

Tom: Interesting post, IC. He says a lot of things I agree with that not too many other evangelical pastors are saying, and also makes a few statements I find a little naïve or maybe misinformed. First off, it sounds as if he believes megachurches are planted like regular churches, and grow more or less naturally to their colossal size.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Unmuddling the Muddle

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Christian teaching about prophecy is a chaotic muddle.

Within Christendom, in the broadest and most general terms, we find Preterists, Historicists, Futurists and Idealists. When we get into specific features of the prophetic calendar such as the Millennium, we fragment further into Pre-, Post- and Amillennialists, and the Premillennialists subdivide yet further into Pre-Tribulationists, Mid-Tribulationists and Post-Tribulationists. If I’ve left your view out, forgive me.

You will be unsurprised to find that I have no particular interest in trying to straighten all that out, and no patience for it even if I had the skill.