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Friday, February 23, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Sophistry

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

We’ve all seen this story before. Those of us who’ve lived long enough to remember Hal Lindsey have seen it repeatedly: a guy who specializes in the study of prophecy and has been teaching one book of the Bible for thirty years all over the world. His bread and butter (often quite literally) is finding something new to say about the same old subject that is also both current and, ideally, sensational.

Tom: And so, hot on the heels of Hanson Robotics’ press releases about their new “artificial intelligence” creation (and ‘her’ subsequent appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s show), here comes Bible teacher Mark Correll with his latest twist on prophecy: the first beast of Revelation 13 could be … AI.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trinity Matters

Let’s Be Simple

Here’s a simple thought.

But it will be the least simple of my simple thoughts, by far.

The triune God is not just far superior to any of the polytheists’ gods, but also to any monolithic type of god. It is better that we serve one God in three Persons than that we claim God is a big singularity.

Really?

At first glance, you might not think so. You might think it’s easier and better to have to explain a God that’s just a big ‘One’ than to have to unravel what it means to say God is triune. You might think, for example, that Muslims and monotheist Jews and even Hindus have an easier job talking about God than Christians do.

Moreover, many Christians have a very difficult time explaining what one-in-three really means, in application to God.

Check that: every Christian does.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Details, Details …

Hebrews says that God spoke by the prophets (and presumably to the prophets) “at many times and in many ways”. Among these methods were visions, dreams and riddles.

The apostle Peter had one such experience on the housetop of Simon the tanner while waiting for a bite to eat and praying. Luke says, “He fell into a trance.” Peter heard a voice uttering actual words (as opposed to merely receiving an impression) and saw an accompanying vision, but the end result was perplexity, not sudden clarity.

Peter had indeed witnessed something spiritually meaningful, but had yet to find the appropriate context in which to apply the instruction he had received.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What’s Our Excuse?

We’re getting away from it now, in the kangaroo courts of Human Rights Tribunals and college campus inquisitions, but due process used to be a thing.

Built into the Law of Moses were several important procedural provisions designed to ensure that justice was done, including the oft-quoted “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” First century Jews applied this principle across the board. It was the essence of fairness.

Yet we have it on the authority of several gospel writers that in the case of the Lord Jesus, the rulebook went out the window, as it did at Stephen’s trial and in Jewish attempts to get their hands on the apostle Paul.

In first century Judea, the kangaroos were out in force.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Motion of No Confidence

The origins of the circumcision ritual are deeply buried in human history. The act has come to be associated primarily with Judaism, but there is plenty of evidence it did not begin there.

Infogalactic says, “Circumcision is the world’s oldest planned surgical procedure.” The earliest historical record of the ritual dates from about 2400 B.C. in Egypt, several hundred years before God introduced Abram to it.

The importance of the Genesis account lies not in it being some kind of “first” in human history — it almost surely wasn’t — but rather in the establishment of God’s covenant with Abram and his seed; a covenant of which circumcision is merely a token or symbol.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On the Mount (18)

Back in 2013, Republican congressman Jeff Duncan toured a Department of Homeland Security training facility in Maryland and observed eight or nine IRS agents engaged in target practice with semi-automatic Colt rifles. It later occurred to him to ask, “Why do IRS law enforcement agents need standoff capability that you would have with a long rifle or with a weapon similar to an AR-15?”

Good question, but it goes to the basic nature of taxation.

Taxation is not “giving”.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

All That Remains

Ear wax is a good thing.

(No, Microsoft Word’s autocorrect function is not playing havoc with my posts again; this is precisely how I intended to start this one, though I quite understand if you’re confused.)

Ear wax really is a good thing. We are unbelievably well designed, and everything that happens naturally in our bodies is in service of one purpose or another. Cerumen, as it is more formally known, is about 50% fat and serves to moisten the ear canal, fight off infection and help keep dust, dirt and debris from getting deep inside your ear.

Mind you, it IS possible too have too much of a good thing.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Virtual Christianity

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

James Smith’s Los Angeles Review of Books has a piece up called “How to Find God (on YouTube)” about a gang of “apostles” and “prophets” we discussed in this space last year.

Tom: You may remember our conversation about Independent Network Christianity (or INC), the post-Pentecostal charismatic internet church movement from California. (By “post-Pentecostal”, I mean that they are signs-and-wonders focused, as you might expect, but have no connection to denominational Pentecostals like the Assemblies of God. They are total freelancers.)

How do you feel about autonomous “Christian” movements, IC? Are they suspicious by definition?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What Are We Waiting For?

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Thoreau famously wrote.

I hate to say it, but a great number of modern Christians could be described in just that way. Their lives are quietly unhappy — unhappy to the point of deep frustration, and even depression. Having been told that the Christian life should be abundant, joyful, meaningful and characterized by freedom, they find themselves living in a way that is dull, tired, seemingly pointless and characterized by a bunch of “have to’s” — when they stop to characterize it at all.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Of Judges and Secret Kings

Not every popular song is about you or me.

For every My Funny Valentine, in which almost every listener pictures someone who makes me “smile with my heart”, instantly identifying with the songwriter in his slightly maudlin rhapsodizing, there’s a “Galileo Figaro magnifico!”

Say what? What does that even mean? But Bohemian Rhapsody was hugely popular and remains a rock classic, though nobody who’s ever heard it has the slightest idea what it’s about.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (8)

It’s That Man Again was the most successful British radio comedy of the WWII era. One of its more famous sketches featured a pair of handymen named Claude and Cecil who were so excessively deferential they never managed to get anything done. Cecil would say, “After you, Claude,” and Claude would reply, “After you, Cecil,” and that would pretty much be the end of that.

The writer of the Daily Reflection at The High Calling is having his own “Claude and Cecil” moment.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Semi-Random Musings (5)

Last week’s Too Hot to Handle discussion with IC on the subject of collective identity opened a bulging can of worms, and we could hardly avoid leaving a few of those slimy stragglers wriggling around in the bottom of the rowboat.

One such not-entirely-explored issue is the importance of caring for immediate and extended family, a responsibility that in the New Testament is committed to both Christian men and women.

It’s also a responsibility Western governments have in the not-too-distant past assumed on our behalf — not entirely, but extensively.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On the Mount (17)

It takes courage to stand up and pray in public if you’re shy by nature, but not that much courage; maybe only a little more than it takes to spill your guts on Facebook or Twitter. Judging by the number of people doing that, it must feel pretty good. And of course if you’re the type of person who loves to be the centre of attention, it doesn’t take any courage at all to pray in public. It’s like swimming to a duck.

It certainly doesn’t require faith.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Price of Proximity

God is holy.

Not a new thought, I know, but one that, in the opinion of the Holy Spirit, merits mention three times in the nine verses of Psalm 99: “Holy is he! Holy is he! The Lord our God is holy!”

Amen. In fact, he’s so holy that in the Old Testament, those closest to God tended to pay a price for their proximity.