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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Inbox: Me and Western Civilization

Disclaimer time!

Living in the post-Christian West will not save you. There is nothing magical about the values embraced by America’s founding fathers that confers grace to the human heart, makes men and women right with God, or causes them to be in any way preferable (from God’s perspective) to their fellow human beings steeped in paganism or in blundering around in religious darkness.

Being born into a society where the Christian message still has a residual influence, however diminished, does not make us Christian. Recognizing and appreciating its benefits does not grant us brownie points for cleverness, though it is clear those who do not value what they have been given are ignorant of history and poorly informed about the many drawbacks of living elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Someone Else’s Stuff

Erick Erickson wants to give away your stuff. [Caution: language in linked post]

Technically, I suppose, he wants YOU to give it away. But he would also like you to give away your wife’s stuff, your neighbour’s stuff, your co-worker’s stuff and your children’s and grandchildren’s stuff. So it amounts to the same thing, right?

As a Christian, I have to draw the line at such extravagant generosity.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Inbox: Timing Is Everything

God’s timing is always impeccable.

The gospel spread like wildfire in the first century precisely because God had put all the pieces in place centuries prior. As James noted when the apostles and elders gathered in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of imposing the Law of Moses on Gentiles, “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues”.

Ironically, the fact that the whole world of James’ day had access to an obscure set of Jewish laws was a function of Israel’s disobedience.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Kiss on the Lips

When I lie to you, I have wronged you. On some level I know it.

Immediate repentance and a request for forgiveness can fix that, although asking and receiving forgiveness for some of the stupid, pointless lies we tell can be humiliating. It rarely works out like a sixties TV confession where Ward pats Beaver on the head and says, “That’s okay, son, we all make mistakes; the important thing is being man enough to admit them” — after which everybody goes for ice cream.

More often the person you have wronged looks at you like you have three heads.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Under Construction

Twice each day for the past two weeks, my morning constitutional has taken me past an older house in the middle of major renovations. Each day, any remotely attentive passer-by could observe two to three men on the job along with all the requisite heavy equipment, trucks and supplies. A radio blasted encouragement as the construction crew scurried back and forth.

And ... nothing happened. Not a thing. From the street, there was no observable progress whatsoever.

In a way, it reminds me of many of us.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Where Would You Like to be Judged?

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

Not all religions acknowledge coming judgment, but Christianity does.

Tom: As we discussed last week, Immanuel Can, the Bible teaches there is both a general judgment of sinners and a separate, distinct judgment of Christians. That division was not clearly traced in our Old Testaments, and most Jews know next to nothing of it.

But it’s there in our New Testaments, and getting rid of it involves ripping out whole pages of Paul’s epistles.

Immanuel Can: Lay it out for us, Tom: what’s the difference?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Meaning of Life in Three Rounds

On paper, the apostle Paul vs. Solomon, king of Israel doesn’t add up to much of a fight.

If you get them both in their primes, Solomon has world class trainers and equipment and the most lavish possible facilities in which to prepare, along with all the wisdom in the world with which to strategize.

Paul, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to be convalescing after any or all of a recent stoning, beating or flailing, as well as taking his regular buffeting from a messenger of Satan. There’s also an off chance he has not eaten recently or that he’ll miss a scheduled bout because he’s serving a jail sentence or pulling a Robinson Crusoe somewhere in the Mediterranean.

In short, on the physical plane Paul is a pushover (though he does have a disturbing tendency to beat a ten count when his opponents are sure he’s done and dusted).

On the spiritual plane, though, Solomon is fighting with both hands tied behind his back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Church Without Wings

In one of the towns in which I lived as a child there was a church that called itself “Berean”. I’ve noticed quite a few such establishments, and I wonder if many people know what it actually means.

It’s a reference to a group of ancient Jews who lived in a town called Berea, and who were among those who experienced the early ministry of the apostle Paul. They listened to the gospel Paul preached; and yet they didn’t just trust it. They checked it out for themselves, comparing his New Testament teaching with the word of God in the Old Testament. Acts says that they “received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Repackaging God

God is who he is. This is first principles.

At least, this is what Moses was told when the angel of Jehovah appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush that was not consumed, and it is the name by which Israel was to know him.

Today, God being who he is presents multiple difficulties for his followers. The differences between the culture in which God spoke to Moses and the culture in which we live are vast. The things God is, did, and continues to do often require that we explain him as best we can to others.

But in doing so, we must always be careful that we do not apologize for him. That would be a mistake.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mastering the Pastor Disaster

Her voice on the end of the phone was shaky. Clearly she was very, very upset about something. But she couldn’t bring herself to tell me what. Her words came out in a kind of extended groan that seemed to swell up from inside the depths of her heart, but could only leak past her lips. Something very bad had happened.

As our conversation continued, I gently drew more details out of her broken responses, and it became clearer. Not only she, but all her friends and her church, had been betrayed. A leader in their circle, much loved and widely admired, had turned the corner of a disastrous course. The first of the news had just broken; and she had called me less to tell me than to seek some kind of soothing for her aching soul.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Pastor of Disaster

Andrew sat back and stirred his tea. “What kind of church are you in?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “I was in a conservative evangelical group, but it seems perhaps I’ve been kind of bumped out.”

“What do you mean?”

“We were in one kind of church, but we had to leave; now we’re sort of in-between, looking for what the Lord would have us do.”

“I will tell you why you left.” His voice was even and certain. He leaned forward. “It was because of … that man.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Don’t Check Your Privilege

A whole lot smarter than you think ...
Everywhere I look these days it seems somebody wants to tell somebody else why their opinion doesn’t count.

Not a parent? You should have nothing to say about child rearing. Not a veteran? Your opinion about war is uninformed by experience. Lack a uterus? You can’t possibly have a valid take on abortion.

Tal Fortgang wrote a piece about privilege that ran on TIME’s website back in May of this year in which he declined to defer to those who claim the high ground (we can’t really call it the ‘moral high ground’, can we?) on various social issues. He has encountered a steady stream of abuse for his temerity. His detractors, if I have this correct, consider him too privileged to hold a legitimate opinion on the subject of privilege.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: The Judge of All the Earth

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

On her way to work a few months ago, a Muslim driver urged my friend to reconsider her ways in view of coming judgment. The driver knew nothing at all about his passenger, but he was convinced his god will one day be both her judge and the judge of all mankind.

Tom: Not all religions acknowledge judgment is coming, I suppose, but many do. It is not an exclusively Christian teaching. But there are some things about biblical judgment that make it distinctive, Immanuel Can, and perhaps we can explore some of those today.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What Lies Behind

What do we do with the past?

In one sense, obviously, not much. It is what it is. We can’t change it, we can’t rewrite it, and while we can reinterpret it, that may not be a particularly useful exercise if our current outlook is an honest one.

Still, how we process our past and how our thoughts about it affect us today are significant.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Transgression and Blessing

Perfect? No. But completely restored.
Can my sin be a source of blessing?

That’s not a trick question. There’s no “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” coming, don’t worry.

But it’s a legitimate consideration. A while ago, I exchanged emails with a brother in Christ who was deeply afflicted with guilt over things he had done after coming to know the Lord, and concerned that, given the magnitude of his transgressions, even deeply-felt regret, confession and a changed manner of life might not be acceptable to God.

Obviously good may come from repentance, but you wonder if any good can possibly come from the sin that (eventually) produced it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dear Dinesh: On Evil and Suffering

[Dinesh D’Souza is a writer, scholar, filmmaker and Christian apologist.]

Photo: Mark Taylor
Dear Dinesh:

Thank you very, very much for your 2007 book, What’s So Great About Christianity? I regret having not gotten around to reading it earlier. What a fine piece of writing!

It seems to me it fills a very necessary gap in our growing corpus of apologetics literature: rather than merely defeating atheist reasoning (yet again), it rightly points to the need for a more positive take on Christian achievements. It is an apology without an “apologetic” tone, if you take my meaning; a confident treatise on the goods of faith, rather than a defensive reaction to the current round of atheist hate literature. More of this is what we need.

In the spirit of supporting that, I wonder if I could offer a thought that might further strengthen the case you are so courageously putting forward?

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Lie from the Pits of Hell

Is it Rachab or Rahab? Well, it depends on your English translation of the New Testament, doesn’t it.

For some people, translations are a reason to get into a major snit. For example, this nice Jewish fellow says:

“The common teaching in churches is that Rahab the Harlot is listed in the genealogy of the Messiah. That is a lie from the pits of hell.”

From the pits of hell. Okay, then; that’s pretty serious. Let’s capitalize the word “harlot” too, just so nobody ever forgets where Rahab came from.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Hope of Glory

Why can’t we all just get along?
I’ve been reading a fair bit of commentary by frustrated alt-right postmillennialist believers lately, folks for whom the reestablishment of Western Christianized patriarchy has become awfully close to an article of faith.

Their agitation is actually quite understandable, really. If your view of prophecy is that you are currently experiencing the thousand-year reign of Christ (or that the spread of the gospel should shortly serve to bring it about), at some point the evidence of your eyes has got to churn up some serious cognitive dissonance.

Right now, Satan doesn’t look all that “bound” to me.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Enemies Are By Themselves

A few years ago, an acquaintance in Northern Ontario was asked to take the funeral of a local man who had passed away unexpectedly. Nobody could say for sure whether the dead man did or didn’t know the Lord, so the speaker opted to give a clear gospel message.

When he was done, an older relative of the deceased, tears in his eyes, approached him to thank him for taking the funeral. To all appearances, this man was a secular success story; someone who, while apparently decent and moral, had shown little or no interest in the things of God for many years.

“I believe every word you just said,” he told the speaker. “I’ve wasted my life.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Vote Hillary Because … Abortion

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

I’m going to stop using Rachel Held Evans as a whipping boy … er, girl … right after this election, I promise. Her leftism and contempt for evangelical conservatives has become so glaringly obvious that it no longer seems reasonable to consider her in any way representative of mainstream Christian thought. More importantly, she is now so predictably modernist that one may as well discuss the musings of secular humanists instead; their conclusions are just as wrong, but at least they make a passing nod to intellectual coherence.

Tom: Only promise me, Immanuel Can, that you will discuss this latest column of Rachel’s with me. Please, oh please. RHE believes American Christians should push the button for Hillary Clinton in November because … abortion. I kid you not.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Turning the Beat Around

Today’s title? Sorry about that ... it just worked. And yep, that’s right: now you’re going to have Vickie Sue Robinson’s 1976 disco anthem in your brain all day. My bad.

Disco’s not my taste either. In fact, as a leftover child of the New Wave era, I’ve always thought it was the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse. But that’s not going to help you with Vickie today. Like it or not, she’s going to be in your head.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Race Card

It’s on, ladies and gentlemen. The bell has rung, and the Gospel Coalition smackdown is underway.

In one corner we have respected theologian Wayne Grudem telling American Christians they should vote for Donald Trump. In the other, respected theologian Thabiti Anyabwile insists they should vote for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, out on the ring apron, respected theologian Douglas Wilson is explaining the rules of engagement to both parties while recommending Americans vote for neither candidate.

He’s also being called a racist on Twitter for the crime of daring to disagree with a black man, but we should be used to that by now.

Wow. This part is almost more fun than the actual election.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Programming or Persuasion?

I grew up watching something that worked. Not everyone has that experience.

My father loved my mother and vice versa. They were not perfect — nobody is — but they consistently modeled their Christian faith for their children. As a result, I and my siblings grew up conscious there was at least one worldview out there that produced a positive real-life outcome for those who held it.

Some people think that’s programming.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Flipping the Switch

I was sixteen, I think, watching a young man in his twenties give his testimony.

It was one of those beauties so full of clichés you might have been forgiven for mistaking it for the creative output of a team of Hollywood screenwriters or perhaps the lyrics to a Bryan Adams song. He had even been a sailor, if you can imagine. I mean, who goes to sea to act out these days? He’d tried the “broken cisterns”, as the old hymn goes, and “Ah, the waters failed”.

Except it seems they tasted pretty good to him at the time.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

“I Love You,” She Said Determinedly

Summer Evening at Skagen Beach
Peder Severin Krøyer (1899)
A man and a woman are going to bed. It’s been a long day — work has been vexing, the children have been demanding, calls and emails have piled up, and best efforts at getting it all done have failed. Irritations have built up; and at times, the couple has actually been a bit snappish.

The husband is middle-aged, and somewhat dumpy and slightly graying. His earlier grumpy mood has subsided only into a plodding weariness as he gets ready to turn in. He’s left his slippers askew in the corner again, and hung his trousers over the chair instead of putting them in the closet.

The wife turns to her husband and says, “I love you”.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Inbox: Measuring the Wind

WD writes, “How does the Spirit work in a person’s life and how can one know He is?” An excellent question.

It’s also a question I wouldn’t dare try to answer in a single blog post, even if I thought myself an expert on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which I don’t. But our reader’s question has been lurking at the back of my mind as I’ve worked my way through William Trotter’s little pamphlet on worship and ministry in the Spirit.

As much as impressions may be powerful things, I remain cautious about attributing to the Holy Spirit anything that is merely subjective, mystical or personal.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: The Christian Globalist

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

For the last fifty years, the media has quietly endorsed it. Politicians in every country in the world have worked tirelessly to build public support for it. Mega-corporations love it: who wouldn’t like to have the entire planet to choose from when optimizing for low taxes, inexpensive manufacturing and cheap labour?

Tom: Globalism is officially out of the closet, Immanuel Can. The Economist declares: “The danger is that a rising sense of insecurity will lead to more electoral victories for closed-world types. This is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.”

“Nothing matters more.” That’s pretty clear. So tell me, IC, is it possible to be a Christian globalist? Can we hold such an ideological position coherently and biblically?

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Happy Ending

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
— Orson Welles

Such a great line. If anyone knew how to tell a story, the legendary director did.

Life, however, does not neatly and naturally subdivide itself into an introduction, three acts and a tidy conclusion. We do not script our entrance or our exit, and we exercise minimal control over events occurring in between.

And all of it is very much open to interpretation.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Nobody Knows Where to Look

Try this on for size:

“The Russians are accused of trying to influence an American election. And how did they propose to disrupt our normal way of doing things over here? The answer is obvious when you think about it. They determined that they would tell the truth. When something like that erupts in the middle of a presidential campaign, nobody knows where to look.”
— Doug Wilson

Who knows what the Russians are trying to do, or if they actually have anything at all to do with the latest WikiLeaks infodumps? This is the craziest American election to occur in my lifetime, one in which interests are so wildly polarized that even the social and electoral havoc brought about by external meddling sounds like good news to some Americans, at least in the short term.

But more to the point, Wilson is right: truth is a terribly disruptive element.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (2)

Here’s an interesting idea: a religion that fits the people. An anonymous commenter says:

“Christendom is cancer. Pure and evil cancer. It is not a religion of white people. It is an Arabian religion which was imported. There was a fantastic interview with a Swedish woman on Red Ice Radio talking about the old gods and how they fit Sweden better because they gave role models to the people: a mother goddess, a warrior god and so forth. Christianity gives us a father figure and nothing else.”

Yes, you did read that correctly.

Monday, August 01, 2016

What We’re Here For

I don’t know how many people remember Rocky (1976), the boxing drama about a loan shark’s debt collector from the Philadelphia slums who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship. It was released forty years ago, after all.

I saw it as a kid and don’t remember being particularly impressed by the story or enthralled by the characters. I found it all a bit grimy, if I recall. What stuck with me about the Rocky Balboa character, though, was that he just wouldn’t stay down.

Oh, he takes a beating alright.