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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Preaching or Peddling?

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

Mike Leake has a few words to say here about stewardship of the word of God. Leake says that preachers and teachers tend to approach their responsibilities one of two ways. In Scenario 1, like the servant in the parable of the talents. In Scenario 2, like Paul instructed Timothy, guarding “the good deposit”.

Tom: One approach attempts to improve on what has been given while the other simply attempts to retain what has been given.

What do you think of his analysis, and how do you approach the word of God when you’re responsible to share it with others, IC?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Inbox: Mutual Subjection in 1 Peter 3

One of these things is not like the others ...
Margaret Mowczko’s argument from 1 Peter that husbands should be subject to their wives was addressed in this space in October 2014 and reposted here a few weeks ago.

But Marg has refined her argument since 2014, and I think it’s only fair to update my critique to deal with her most recent points.

Marg feels I missed her main point (in either iteration of her post).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Not Enough Fingers

When everything is falling apart around me, when things are going south in a big hurry, I find it helpful to ask myself “What is MY role here? Is there something I should be DOING rather than just standing around looking concerned? Should I pray, act, consult others or wait (or some combination thereof)?”

Sometimes that question gets asked very quickly, or skimmed right over: if there’s water shooting out of a leaky pipe and accumulating on the kitchen floor, going away to pray and meditate about my next move is probably not the most useful response. On the other hand, if the issue is the ongoing decline of my local church and its increasing disobedience to its Head, the question of what I should do about it deserves some serious consideration in the presence of God.

Ideally, my stored knowledge of scripture or that of others is what provides the answer to that question when it is needed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Did God Do That?

That ominous yellow ticket under your windshield wiper: did God do that?

Just curious.

Some Christians are determinists. They think everything that happens, no matter how minuscule or insignificant, is a product of God’s deliberate calculations; in effect, that God micromanages the universe. In believing this, they feel they are glorifying God, because they are acknowledging his sovereign rule.

In their view, yes, God gave you that ticket. You will thank him later.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Truth Under the Bus

Liars gonna lie. It’s what they do.

I was just enjoying the passage in Mark where the chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jews — all those folks who, at the time of Christ, were supposed to be the moral authorities to which everyone looked for an example — come to Jesus in the temple and ask precisely where he has acquired authority to clear the temple, driving out the money-changers and salespeople and overturning their tables.

So Jesus agrees to tell them, provided they answer this question first: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”

At which point the chief priests, scribes and elders start sweating bullets.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Blessed Worldview

How did this end up as the first verse of the very first Psalm anyway? Think about that for a while.

“Blessed is the man who walks not
 in the counsel of the wicked,
 nor stands in the way of sinners,
 nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

A warning about testimony, perhaps? Agreed, it doesn’t look good when a child of God associates with wicked people, or sinners, or scoffers. He or she might be thought to be one of them.

Only problem is, the Lord did, right? Sinners, at least.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Myth, Allegory, Metaphor

Tim Challies has a few relevant queries about the way theistic evolutionists allow their scientific opinions to trump scripture:

1. If the description of the creation of the world is either just a vague metaphor for what actually happened or perhaps some kind of allegory, where do we determine that historical narrative actually begins?

My comments: The can of worms we open when we allegorize the creation narrative is quite a bit bigger than we may think.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Spare Some Change?

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

Last week we were discussing how we can best live out the truth that, denominations notwithstanding, the church of God remains one Body, not many.

Tom: I do think the number of available evangelical church options out there can be beneficial in some ways, especially for elders. For instance, when you find that great new couple who want to join your church but can’t restrain themselves from talking about the glories of speaking in tongues, or the blessed benefits of Reformed Theology, or why women ought to worship audibly, the multiplicity of options allows you to easily point them to the gathering in your neighbourhood that might suit them better in that respect without a lot of hard feelings.

After all, it's not like you’re saying, “If you don’t like the way we do it, there’s no place for you in the Church”.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Want to Die

I was baptized young.

Not so young that I did not know what I was doing. After all, I believe in believer baptism only … just like the scriptures tell us.

I was around ten, I think. I asked for it to happen. No one pushed me. And at that time, I had a ten-year-old’s faith, and a ten-year-old’s understanding. Nothing wrong with that … it’s just not where I am today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The David Connection

It occurred to me while reading through the Gospel of Mark that the significance of many little things perfectly obvious to Bible students or people with a Christian upbringing is probably quite lost on first time readers, especially those whose background is not Jewish.

Little things like the words of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, who cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” That “Son of David” thing must have been important: after all, the blind guy kept repeating it despite everybody around him trying to hush him up.

He wasn’t the only one. That title was something Jesus heard regularly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Redhead Returns

None of us knows God perfectly or understands him in every respect.

That statement will not come as a shock. To believe the human intellect capable of grasping the Infinite is ignorance and arrogance in near-equal measure. Theologians generally acknowledge this, and those who have seen God’s glory are frank in expressing it. Job said, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost”.

That said, John equates eternal life with knowing the true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. So while our knowledge of God may be incomplete, it is absolutely vital that the things we DO know about him are accurate.

Monday, September 19, 2016

What’s Behind the Scenes

The Christian’s nemeses — world, flesh, devil — do not all operate precisely the same way.

The world allures us. Flesh betrays us. But neither worldly attraction nor physical desire require an active intelligence operating behind the scenes. I tend to think Christians who blame Satan and his scheming agents for every bad choice they have made are probably ascribing to the powers of darkness a greater level of interest in their personal affairs than is really the case. In our fallen world, it is likely that most of our failures are a combination of our own inclination to self-destruct and the detritus of lives that have done so already.

But not always.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Lone Voice

Earlier this year I sat in a gathering of fellow believers listening to a passionate speaker grossly misapply scripture to his subject (that is, when he wasn’t skipping past the supporting references in his PowerPoint presentation entirely).

The meeting had to do with the perceived need for a particular sort of social activism, but that’s unimportant: the issue could as easily have been anything. The point is, context was ignored, facts were misstated, commands to national Israel in specific situations were given universal application, differences between saved and unsaved were obscured, and so on. Put politely, it was a mess — or so it appeared to me.

But from the sorts of questions posed to the speaker after his presentation, I was sure I was the only person in the entire room who felt that way.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Quote of the Day (25)

Last Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau addressed Muslims in an Ottawa mosque. I almost managed to refrain from commenting, but here goes.

Never mind that the particular imam connected with that mosque happens to be a member of a group considered a terrorist organization. Never mind that the women in Trudeau’s entourage had their heads covered in deference to Islam in their own country; that’s all fine and to be expected from a Liberal government.

No, the real kicker was Trudeau’s subject: Canadian values.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: He Ain’t Baptist, He’s My Brother

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

Tom: Quick quiz, IC: How many different local churches have you been part of? I’m not counting churches you’ve visited, but just those you would have considered “your church” for whatever period of time; churches in which it would have been notable to others if you weren’t there.

Immanuel Can: Um … rather more than most people, I suspect. I’ve been regarded, for some time, as a regular attendee of … I make it 14. I might be missing one or two. My youth and early adult years were marked by a lot of moving around, so it wasn’t a product of unhappiness in most cases. How about you?

Tom: Eight. Second question: How many of those churches were in the same town as one of the others?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Where Would You Rather Live?

Not all choices come out the same
God brought thirteen tribes out of Egypt to be a people for his own possession, but only ten-and-a-half of those tribes actually settled in the Promised Land.

The remainder seized the opportunity to claim land they had won from unexpected battles on the far side of the Jordan River rather than wait to receive an inheritance in Canaan.

This was not the best idea they ever had.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Timing Is Everything

I came across this quote one night last week:

“It is astonishing how often a book or article gives false information; and if we rely on such a work too heavily, our exegesis will be badly skewed. Even ordinarily careful scholars make mistakes …”
— D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies

Only a day later I happened to encounter a bit of badly skewed exegesis that is, just as Carson warns, the direct result of relying on false information. Naturally, it leads down an increasingly familiar and doctrinally-errant road.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Star Trek, Salvation and Sermons

Back in the early 1990s, The Humanist magazine interviewed the famous producer Gene Roddenberry, creator of the TV show Star Trek. The first series had been off the air for years and was long into syndication. Roddenberry was in the process of cranking out its eagerly-awaited sequel, Star Trek: The Next Generation — soon to prove yet another great hit.

The interviewer got the famous producer chatting about the relationship between the show and his own secular humanist beliefs.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (4)

Broken Arrow asks a perfectly sensible question:

“Pretend for a minute you are a 28 year old, white male, Millennial. Your current girlfriend had an abortion when she was 19, owes $24,000 in student loans for a worthless degree, and works as a receptionist for $16 an hour. You owe a little less but have been in and out of work since 2008. You have a college degree in Computer Science, but most of your money has been made in manual labor after your job was outsourced, which is pretty good money when you can find the work. You have no health insurance, but are paying the Obamacare tax.”

Sounds like an eerily familiar scenario so far.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recommend-a-blog (21)

Michael Patton is a writer, blogger and president of Credo House Ministries. He is also, as he puts it, “waiting to die”.

This is where our readers usually check out, and I don’t blame you. On this blog, posts that are obviously about death are among our least-read, a fact that doesn’t surprise me at all. I suspect this is true across the board: after all, who wants (naturally, at least) to think about dying? In some ways, even Christians can be as uniformitarian as atheists: we know full well that we are all “waiting to die”, but a world without me in it still seems difficult to imagine.

I’ll see if I can find a great big gravestone picture to make the post’s subject especially obvious.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lost Territory

“Here’s what God has given you. All you have to do is go and take possession of it. So what’s holding you up?”

In essence, this is Joshua’s message to the last seven tribes of Israel. Having established themselves as a nation in Canaan by taking 31 hostile cities in a relatively short period, it only remained to settle the rest of the people in their God-given inheritance. No Canaanite king or combination of kings ruling in the territory nearby was strong enough to push Israel back into the wilderness and deny them the Promised Land. All they had to do was finish the job, which would require each tribe to win a series of minor conquests — skirmishes, really, compared to what they had been through already.

Previously they had won battles as a nation. Now Joshua would see what the individual tribes were really made of.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Digital Christianity

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

USA Today has a story about Christ Fellowship in McKinney, Texas, a church that is all-but-entirely online.

Download a worship program if you like. Stream a sermon and share your own thoughts about it in real time through live chat. Donate online or swap goods and services with your fellow believers. Sing along with a tablet hymnal, if that’s your cup of tea.

Tom: This is not merely an evangelical thing. Catholics with iPhones can download a “confession app” to speed up their next visit to the local parish priest.

Are we starting to reach the level of self-parody, Immanuel Can? Or do you see some value in a digital church?

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (3)

In a post entitled “Why is God So Selfish?” a commenter is perplexed about the things God does primarily for his own glory:

“God didn’t make this world for us, He made it for Himself. He made it to show off how strong and powerful and perfect He was. We were supposed to be His little mirror that He could stand in front of all day and look at Himself. He’s just a show off, and now all I can think of is that when you pray to Him to ask for help, is he really helping you because He knows He should, or is He doing it to show off what He can do?

God just seems selfish to me, and how He wants us all to worship Him, and practically bow down at His feet, and anyone who does otherwise is sent into a fiery pit. You know who that reminds me of? Adolf Hitler.”

Uh, yeah, okay. The implicit question here is not an uncommon one; so common, in fact, that even the obligatory Hitler comparison barely registers. Dawkins and Hitchens said worse.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Reading Too Much Into It


While observing that the vocabulary, syntax and idiomatic language of holy writ retain the characteristics of individual human authorship, I am confident each of these things was in every case perfectly superintended by the Holy Spirit of God. Thus Paul does not write exactly like James, who in turn does not write like David or Moses. Yet all not only spoke the word of God, they spoke the very words of God.

Let’s start with that. Even if I end up somewhere not everyone may like.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Straight Talk

Some years ago, Dr. Gordon Marino, the ethicist, wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education called “Before Teaching Ethics, Stop Kidding Yourself”.

In this article, Marino complained of the cottage industry of posers and pseudo-experts we have today who dispense advice to us about how we ought to conduct our moral lives. Ethics, he argued, were not so much a matter of specialized knowledge as of ordinary people doing what they already knew to do.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Anti-Invictus

Here is the apostle Paul describing his gospel to the Romans:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience …”

“… through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”

That’s an awfully funny way to put it, don’t you think? Bring the Gentiles to obedience. The obedience of faith. Those sorts of catchphrases could put people off.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Inbox: Some Sound Advice

A request for prayer about an upcoming opportunity with unsaved relatives generates the following response from a sibling:
“What’s really weird about your note is that apparently [noted evangelist who is much better than I am at such things] wasn’t invited to dinner.

Go figure.

I guess I’m left to understand that his particular set of attributes and skills are not wanted/needed and the Lord has other plans in mind for the time that require different abilities.”
Okay. Well then. Don’t stop on my account.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Excuse Me, May I Borrow Your Spear?

How many ways can activism and advocacy go wrong? Let’s see ...

As I’ve pointed out in this space already, this crazy election cycle finds Christian opinion all over the map in ways I’ve rarely seen before. For every Wayne Grudem explaining why you should vote Trump, there’s a Thabiti Anyabwile or a Rachel Held Evans pointing out reasons why another Clinton presidency may be preferable (not to mention there’s at least one Douglas Wilson holding his nose and calling for a principled boycott).

Everyone has an opinion, and most of us have reasons for it, however arbitrary and weird they may seem to others. Good. God would like that. “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The effort to vote intelligently and consistently with one’s conscience is a noble one.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Missionaries and Mindgames

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

Tom: We’re discussing IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America, a movie about the evils of the public school system.

The filmmakers tell us most American children from Christian homes are being discipled daily by pro-choice secularists, atheists, evolutionists, politicized bureaucrats, far left unions and oftentimes even child molesters, and that they are the subjects of a “vast program of social engineering designed to eradicate the Christian faith from American life”.

I noted a Franklin Graham quote in the movie trailer, IC, where he seemed to advocate sending our children to school as little missionaries of a sort. What do you think of the wisdom of that approach?

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Taking 31 Kingdoms

When I read Romans 12, I get a bit overwhelmed. There’s a lot there, after all.

This should not surprise us. Paul’s “therefore” in verse 1 follows not only the wonderful doxology at the end of chapter 11, but really follows logically out of the entire argument presented beginning in chapter 1 with the words, “The wrath of God is revealed ...”

It’s as if in chapter 12 he now tackles the question “How should we then live?” Okay then.