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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Quote of the Day (24)

If you’re looking for a scapegoat in the ongoing war of the sexes, don’t look here:

“Weak men drive women insane, and insane women make men weak.”
— John C. Wright

Not wrong, but we’re no closer to a solution.

Feminism has already made tremendous inroads into today’s church. The war of the sexes is not yet waged in every Christian home and place of worship, but if you haven’t experienced it, trust me, it’s coming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Inbox: The Finishing Stroke

Ever ask a simple question and get one of those answers that just won’t quit?

Having opened that can of worms before, I know the feeling of looking at your watch and realizing that you’ve inadvertently set yourself up for a reply on the scale of a Homeric recitation of ancient Greek epic poetry in dactylic hexameter.

Then again, sometimes it turns out the question wasn’t so simple after all. Or, in this case, that it provided the occasion to do an in-depth study that I trust may have had a few unexpected benefits.

In Exodus 32 God told Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book”. The simple question originally asked was, “What about those who repented (if any did)?”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Inbox: The Book of Life in the Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation contains the majority of the Bible’s references to the moderately mysterious and much-discussed “book of life”. No study of the subject (such as the one beginning here and concluding here) that failed to address these verses would be particularly useful.

This one may not be either, but let’s at least take a crack at it.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Inbox: Booking It

In connection with the episode in Exodus 32 where God says, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book,” WD wonders, “What about those who repented (if any did)?”

Good question. I think this might be the first mention of such a heavenly “book” in scripture (assuming we take the reference literally), but similar language comes up in other places more than once. The Hebrew in Exodus is çêpher, an umbrella term for all kinds of written decrees, long and short, variously translated “book”, “letter”, “scroll” or “evidence”. The sense of the word is not merely a communication but a communication that has legal force.

That part we can all agree on. Don’t worry, it won’t last ...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Distance Between

IC’s post on immanence/transcendence last week got to me for a number of reasons. (If you haven’t read it, what are you reading this for? Go. Now.)

When I was a little boy, our family crossed the ocean on a liner sizable for its day. I don’t remember much of the journey; I suppose most of it was fairly uneventful. What I do remember vividly is coming up on deck with my father one bright day when the sea was slightly turbulent. It wasn’t stormy, but it was far from calm. Great swells repeatedly arose to starboard, higher (I thought at the time) than the ship itself, gradually dipping and moving slowly and methodically under us. The horizon seemed to disappear and I found myself convinced the deck had tilted at some sort of incredible angle (though I suspect that was only my disconcerted, childish impression).

It was my first experience of “big”, and it stuck.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Retro Christianity

“In a post-Christian society, all faithful people begin to look a little Amish.”
— Ken Myers, host of Mars Hill Audio

Nice quote, Ken. Love the way you put that.

He’s got a point, though.

In the ongoing moral and cultural decline of modern society, there must surely come a point at which the difference between how Christians live and how their neighbours live becomes too great to escape notice any longer.

And then, in a sense, we will all be “Amish”. I mean those who actually care to be Christians will be.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Coalition of the Unwilling

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

The Gospel Coalition is an evangelical colossus, with close to 8,000 affiliated congregations across the U.S., 65 million annual website pageviews, regular live events, a full slate of in-house blogs and other media promoting its theological checklist.

Tom: But one very slightly unsettling feature of TGC’s ministry, Immanuel Can, is that they seem to have little interest in engaging in the exchange of ideas, as this Jonathan Merritt article very effectively documents.

You’re quite familiar with TGC. What do they stand for?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Look It Up Your Own Self!

My biggest source of confidence in understanding and interpreting the scriptures has being looking in-depth for myself at the passages in which I’m interested before reading any commentaries or looking into any other educated opinions.

Sure, I’ll look at what others have written about the Bible — but only after I’ve spent a good long time establishing my own opinion about what the Holy Spirit was saying, trying to grasp the issues involved, and praying them through.

Other opinions are great, but they’re worth precisely what the commentator has invested in them. Which is often not quite as much as we think.

That’s not a complaint. It’s just math.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Recommend-a-blog (19)

Douglas Wilson meets Rachel Held Evans
Douglas Wilson. Ah, Douglas Wilson.

Yes, THAT Douglas Wilson: the one quoted in the notorious Gospel Coalition blog post about men, women, sex and authority, the same post that got Rachel Held Evans mightily agitated and for which its writer, Jared Wilson (no relation, so far as I know), was compelled to eventually apologize (though Jared’s dutiful groveling is now well and truly buried, probably by TGC, and I haven’t got the patience to seek out and link to the inevitable archived version; feel free to concoct your own conspiracy theories).

Doug Wilson remained gleefully unrepentant.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quote of the Day (23)

Intellectual autonomy is a chimera, a mirage, a phantasm, a will-o’-the-wisp.

Most of us make our choices (be they heaven or hell, life or death, blessing or ruination) primarily on the basis of the testimony of others, not because of any independent intellectual exercise. Those who succeed in freeing themselves of the “outdated worldview” characterized by belief in the existence and authority of God have merely accepted the default assumptions of other, much more dubious would-be authorities.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Valley and Peak

On September 9, 1939, The Telegraph reported that a woman from London, England named Frances Fripps was accidentally struck by a local bus. Taken to Middlesex hospital, Miss Fripps awoke to find someone bending over her bed. To her utter astonishment, she recognized her visitor as none other than the Queen of England, there for a surprise tour of the hospital.

“They told me I had been trying to knock down a bus”, gasped Miss Fripps, “and now I find you here, your Majesty. What a day!”

What a day indeed.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Worship of Angels

I went to an old-time hymn sing last week.

It’s not that I prefer the old hymns. I’m just as much a fan of new choruses as the next guy … provided they’re theologically sound, of course. And singable: there’s no point in trying to sing something that’s lame musically. But if it’s all coming together, I don’t much care how new or old the tune is. If the words are good, and the tune is great for congregational singing, I say let’s go.

The whole service was quite nice, really.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why Do Christians Worship?

[NFL fans will not miss the obvious; this post was written well prior to the acquisition of Manning’s second (and final) Superbowl ring — Ed.]

Prior to the Superbowl, there was much discussion about Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

Everybody seemed to want to know where Manning rates on the list of all-time football greats. It was not a subject debated only by the talking heads on TV. Jim Rome rambled on about it on my car radio. It came up at work. It came up at my local diner. Even people who would otherwise be uninterested in football seemed to have an opinion about Manning’s legacy in the two weeks between conference finals and the big game — and even more so during the game itself.

It is in the nature of mankind to have something to say about greatness.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Tom Becomes a Redhead

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

Worship is one of those polarizing subjects.

At one end of the spectrum you get Christians for whom everything is worship; hence terms like “worship team” and “worship leader” and so on. Such a concept of worship is so broad as to be almost meaningless. At the other end you have the ritualists, whether they are Catholicized and liturgical or simply traditionalist evangelicals with very rigid ideas about what a church’s corporate worship ought to entail. Such a view of worship fails to deal adequately with Romans 12:1.

Both extremes claim scriptural evidence for their positions, though I would argue that both views of worship are too limited. Everything in the Christian life may be done worship-fully, but choosing to worship remains a specific and deliberate act.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Higher Learning

The martyrdom of John Lambert came up in discussion with my fellow blogger IC last week. Lambert was burned at the stake in 1538 for refusing to retract his objection to the doctrine of transubstantiation. As he died, Lambert is reported to have cried out over and over again, “None but Christ! None but Christ!”

Subsequent to our conversation, IC sent me a link to a video clip of an episode from the otherwise-execrable TV series The Tudors, in which John Lambert meets his end. Interestingly, the show’s producers opted to change Lambert’s dying statement to “All for Christ! All for Christ!”

So what? Such minor tweaking of dialogue takes place all the time in the process of bringing real stories to big and small screens alike. It’s still a powerful scene, and the viewer’s sympathies are fully with Lambert, which is presumably the writers’ intent.

Still, there is a difference in meaning, and I think it’s one worth noting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Traitors at the Table

People: you just can’t count on them.

That’s one of the things you can count on about human nature. We don’t have what it takes to see things through.

Oh, we mean well enough … and we intend to try our best … but often our best is a lot less impressive in the delivery than we thought it was going to be.

And let’s face it: most of us are just not in anything for the long haul. While the idea is new and the fire in us is fresh, we’re all enthused about whatever’s going on. But fires cool, and new turns old, and we lose interest.

A career, a program, a plan, a commitment, a hobby or a marriage … all fine in the short term, but give any of them enough time and everything turns out to be work.

So we quit. And honestly, sometimes by the time we do it’s just as well that we do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In Need of Analysis: Worship as a Lifestyle [Part 2]

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

We have been discussing worship as a lifestyle, a concept set out by John Piper among others, and how the recent discovery of a “worship lifestyle” compares with the way the word “worship” is actually employed throughout scripture.

First we drew a sharp distinction between two ways scripture uses the word: (1) to describe “acts of worship” (the public appearance) and (2) to refer to “worship” itself (the heart reality). Then we went on to establish that genuine worship is deliberate, sacrificial, obedient and informed by the character of God himself. It is not a mechanical, rote act, nor is it to be engaged in casually. It takes place at specific times, not at every moment of life.

Monday, June 13, 2016

In Need of Analysis: Worship as a Lifestyle [Part 1]

The subject of worship is currently getting a little more attention than usual in Christian circles, and that’s not a bad thing. We have John Piper to thank for this, among others who have written about worship as a lifestyle.

Piper starts by encouraging us to enlarge our thoughts of worship:

“… don’t think worship services when you think worship. That is a huge limitation which is not in the Bible. All of life is supposed to be worship.”

and goes on to describe eating at Pizza Hut to the glory of God, having sex to the glory of God and dying to the glory of God. So eating moderately, healthily and gratefully is worship; loving sex within the bounds of marriage is worship; chastity, too, is worship. “You are always in a temple,” Piper says. “Always worship.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tom Takes a Breather (2)

Long-time readers will probably remember that we did this in June last year, and it was so much fun (for me at least) that this year we’re doing it again. You’re currently reading our 921st consecutive daily blog post since December 2013. (To be fair, a little over 6% of those posts were recycled, but if you don’t tell, I won’t.)

I’m going to take this coming week to recharge my batteries and work on a few pieces without an immediate deadline looming, but really that’s just a convenient excuse to do this:


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Christianity Without Christ

If you missed the goings-on in the streets of San Jose last week outside a rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump, you might have been the only one. Protesters waved Mexican flags and were caught on camera burning Trump hats, egging, punching and kicking Trump supporters and calling them “racists” and “fascists”. One police officer was assaulted. Video clips on YouTube show victims almost uniformly white and attackers almost uniformly Hispanic.

A minor skirmish, really, but we’re only in June. It’s a long way to November, and there’s no guarantee the election of a new president — no matter who he or she may be — will do anything to substantially ease racial tensions.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Unpardon Me

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

Matthew, Mark and Luke all make reference to a sin that will, in Matthew’s words “not be forgiven”. Mark calls it an “eternal sin”.

The reference has been a source of distress down through the centuries to Christians who fear they may have committed it and be irreversibly destined for perdition.

Tom: Personally, Immanuel Can, I’ve always thought the unpardonable sin was lazy exegesis, but I haven’t got much scripture to back me up there.

Immanuel Can: Lazy exegesis? Bad, yes, but probably pardonable if you repent. Now, being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan … that’s a whole different category: expect perdition.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

A Tale of Two Speeches

Ah, Rachel Held Evans, what would I do without you?

Wait, I’m pretty sure I’ve used that opening line before.

Never mind. The point is that our good friend RHE has a few words to say on the subject of a commencement speech she gave back in 2003 upon graduating from a conservative Christian university and what, if given another shot at the same gig with proverbial 20/20 hindsight, she would say differently today.

Fair enough. I hope we’ve all learned something in the last 13 years.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Game Misconduct

Most hockey fans are familiar with it, though I suppose it happens less in international play than in the NHL.

Hockey has two minute penalties, five minute penalties, compound penalties like “double minors” and a variety of other ways of maintaining order. But it is only the rarest and most egregious offenses that call for ejection. The player who receives such a penalty is sent straight to the dressing room.

Game over.

It’s called a game misconduct, and something similar may happen to Christians.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Paying Attention

God, to the prophet Balaam:

“You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”

Now check out when this statement is made. It’s at the tail end of almost 40 years of what must have seemed like absolutely pointless wandering, basically filling in time. It’s made about a people who had just spent years watching their parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts die in the wilderness for their disobedience.

Blessed, huh?

Monday, June 06, 2016

Inbox: Sucking the Life Out of “Vampire Churches”

One never knows when a clove or two
may come in handy
R.J. sent me an article this week and asked me what I thought.

I read the title: “Vampire Churches”.

Instantly, visions of caped characters sweeping across the congregation, making “Nyuhaha” noises all the while sprang into my mind. I could see them clamping eager fangs on the swooning portly matrons of row three, their stodgy husbands standing by and intoning, “This is just not on!”

I read a little further. The article seemed passionately worried about the defection of pop writer Anne Rice from Catholicism. Strangely, I was not as troubled as the author about that.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Lurking Sentimentalists Beware

At the risk of getting clobbered by the chronically sentimental, I’d like to ask a few hard questions about a relatively recent trend within evangelicalism. Baby dedications are now being offered as a service in churches that claim to base their faith and practice solely on the principles and instruction of the New Testament.

You know what I mean: special events at which new parents “present” their baby and some designated individual asks them on behalf of their church (in front of friends, family and brothers and sisters in Christ) if they are willing to raise their child “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”, or something like it.

I find the logic baffling.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Quote of the Day (22)

Yup, in Canada this is just another pylon marking our national descent on the mad Gadarene slide:

“Canada’s House of Commons has passed the government's proposed assisted suicide law.

The House of Commons voted 186-137. The law still requires Senate approval.”

What’s that? You say the phrase doesn’t ring a bell?

Friday, June 03, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Faith in the Crosshairs

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

The website GodIsImaginary is an interesting study.

As you might guess from the title, it’s the work of evangelical atheists attempting to lure gullible Christians into the spiritual equivalent of a Venus flytrap. The bait is a little bit of flattery: “I’m going to assume you are an educated Christian”, “You are a smart person. You know how the world works, and you know how to think critically”.

It’s quite a clever move actually. For once, they’ve dialed back the mockery and abuse atheists can rarely resist in the interest of catching more flies with honey.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

“We Should Only Allow …”

I’m reading a twenty year-old article on the subject of divorce written by a Christian whose judgment and understanding of scripture I respect and whose personal conduct as a believer is excellent.

So it’s hard to explain why I feel a bit irked as I work my way through it. I think it has to do with the phrase: “We should only allow …”

I wonder, who is “we”, and what is the biblical mechanism by which we choose to “allow” or “not allow” certain sorts of choices to be made by other believers?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Making Sure

People who don’t think a genuine believer in Jesus Christ belongs irrevocably to him use a variety of verses to support their claim that it is possible to be saved and then lose your salvation.

This isn’t a verse I’m used to seeing used that way:

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

The usual suspects are full of catchy expressions like “eternal sin”, “sin that leads to death” or even “impossible to restore them again to repentance”. Separate such phrases from their contexts and it is possible to become quite confused and concerned about the permanence of salvation.