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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Quote of the Day (27)

It was Epicurus who first posed this famous paradox around 350 BC:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

At least we think it was Epicurus. Some believe the lines were misattributed to him by later philosophers like David Hume. But it hardly matters who said them and when: the fact is that men have struggled to explain suffering as long as men have been thinking about their place in the universe, and this particular formulation is one of the ways they have attempted to deal with the question.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Down the Road

Every day of our lives, by means of the Holy Spirit’s agency, God is steadily working away to achieve in each of us the character of his Son.

Transforming us involves both IN-forming us and RE-forming us — but there is often a fair bit of time that elapses between the two.

Sometimes that means today’s lesson is only understood later this week. And sometimes full understanding of any given piece of spiritual information is years or even decades away.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

If you tell me, I forget.
If you show me, I remember.
If you involve me, I understand.
— Old Teaching Axiom

In his recent post on the subject of platform preaching, Tom writes, “For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that one-man platform ministry is the way to go, not because I believe it to be the most scriptural model, but because it’s what we’re all doing and I see little hope for wholesale change.”

He just doesn’t see any reasonable prospect that we can be induced to reevaluate our conventional church behaviors to the extent of questioning the value of platform ministry.

Well, Tom and I usually agree. But not on everything. Not on this.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Too Far Gone

Does your church need an ... er ... equalizer?
“You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
— Korah’s Rebellion, Numbers 16

Christian women are priests just as Christian men are priests; therefore Christian women should be able to do everything in the churches that Christian men have traditionally done.

So goes the modern argument, and it’s dead wrong.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Priests and Priesthood

If all believers are really priests, why is it that some churches still don’t allow women to exercise the priestly role of teaching the Bible publicly?

Martin Luther famously referred to a general priesthood in his 1520 tract To the Christian Nobility of the German NationLuther did not actually coin the phrase “priesthood of all believers”, and the idea itself obviously did not originate with Luther but rather with the writers of the New Testament. Still, the fact remains that the doctrine we know by that name has been a significant feature of Protestantism for almost 500 years.

This being the case, you’d figure any questions about the status of women in a universal priesthood must have been asked and answered hundreds of times.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: E-dification

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

In case you’ve never seen it before, TL;DR is internet shorthand for “too long, didn’t read”. Its existence and very common usage online points to a problem for Christians seeking to communicate the truth of God to others through technology, which is that we are often working with a very short window of attention.

Tom: There is little point in us bemoaning reduced attention spans, Immanuel Can: they are a reality among millennials, and if we want to speak for God in the current environment, we’re going to have to learn to deal.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Rights and Freedoms

In the wake of the U.S. election, Crawford Paul muses on the role of the church in a democracy. Here’s his setup:

“The dilemma comes when the church, which is NOT a democracy, exists in a nation that IS a democracy. How does the church uphold a democracy that would ensure their right to follow the teachings of the Bible while at the same time grant rights to those who contradict the Scriptures?

Hmm. I agree with much of what Crawford says in his piece, but I have a very different take on a few of his assumptions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Enemy Within

In modern English usage, the difference between jealousy and envy is not clear-cut, as this Merriam-Webster article helpfully points out. In fact, the two terms have become so muddled that three major language guides from the mid-20th century disagree about their respective meanings.

For convenience and to avoid making the confusion worse, I’ll use “jealous” to describe the anticipative emotions that arise over losing something you have, and “envious” to describe the desire to possess what belongs to someone else.

But I won’t pretend to have the final word on the subject.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Omission (Im)Possible

It’s Star Trek time again.

Relax, I’m into the third season of the original series; my fascination with this particular retro-pop culture diversion will wane shortly. In the meantime, I found this exchange instructive:

Claudius Marcus: I believe you all swear you’d die before you’d violate that directive. Am I right?

Spock: Quite correct.*

Dr. McCoy: Must you always be so blasted honest?

Ah, honesty. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. Sort of.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mismeetings of the Christian Church

“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love:
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.”

So sang the congregation.

And they sang it every Sunday.

They sang it whenever it was announced that they had a visitor or new congregant come among them.

A nice gesture, wasn’t it?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Motion Granted

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”
(Isaiah 53:10, KJV)

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
(Matthew 3:17, KJV)

Not only the King James Version but many English translations of the Bible, old and modern, use the word “pleased” in both verses, accurately reflecting the meanings of the relevant words in each original language. Both the Greek and Hebrew words translated “pleased” have wide semantic ranges and are frequently rendered as “pleasure” or “delight”.

Still, it seems obvious to us that there are two very different kinds of pleasure in view here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Canadians Under Siege

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

Yesterday, Immanuel Can and I discussed the potential fallout from Donald Trump’s election to the office of president of our esteemed neighbor to the south. For the most part, I think we’re actually pretty upbeat about being evangelicals in a country strongly influenced by a cultural environment that temporarily excludes compulsory politically correct gender pronouns and open hostility against all things Christian.

For Canadian Christians, our situation will probably turn on whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes his cues and influences from The Donald or from the inevitable moral drift of the last eight years of Leftist dominance.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: The Trump Years

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

Anybody bristling at the thought of one more word about last week’s U.S. election is advised to turn back here. But I promise this two-parter is absolutely our final discussion of the subject for a while — at least until President Trump actually assumes office and does something worthy of commentary.

Assuming, of course, we are allowed to comment.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nobody Says ‘Meh’

The dromedary is singularly unimpressed.
One handy-dandy Oxford definition:
meh
EXCLAMATION
informal
Expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm:
‘meh, I’m not impressed so far’

Tayyab Babar wants to help people speak persuasively — a highly useful skill whatever your subject. Theoretically, if you follow Tayyab’s rules, fewer people will say “meh” when you’ve finished expressing yourself.

For public speakers, this would be a good thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I Got Your Back — For What It’s Worth

“What a great idea!”
“Sure, run with it.”
“I trust your judgment.”

Some people need approval more than others. Some don’t really care one way or another. But nobody — and I mean NOBODY — is truly averse to hearing others enthuse about their ideas, even if the humbler ones among us sometimes find it a little embarrassing.

Three times in 1 Samuel 14 somebody gives positive feedback about the plans of another. In one case the approver is clearly right; in another the approvers are clearly wrong; and in the third instance it doesn’t seem to matter much either way.

It’s a good reminder that over-reliance on the encouragement of others is pretty dubious practice for the follower of God.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bringin’ the Crazy

I’m watching a bunch of crazy people. Or at least they’re acting that way.

YouTube is full of videos of disappointed young liberals screeching out their rage and fear at the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. Mainstream media outlets run pictures of crowds carrying signs that read, “If you don’t REVOLT, you can’t complain”, “Not my president” and “I’m afraid for my country”.

I’m reminded of the proverb that says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

Monday, November 14, 2016

No More, Eleanor

I know more than a few lonely people.

There’s no single — or simple — explanation for their loneliness. There are those who, often through no fault of their own, are social misfits, unable to successfully relate to those around them. There are those whose days are solitary as a result of their own life choices, and those who are housebound because of disability or age, and those who have lost a life-partner whose companionship cannot be replaced. Then there are people who, despite being surrounded by caring friends and family, feel a deep-seated and abiding loneliness because they cannot make one particular relationship work, and that absence matters to them so much that every other blessing in their lives pales into insignificance beside it.

Add it all up, and more than a few of us feel very much alone in this world, and those who are not lonely now may well be lonely later.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

More Use from His Enemies

“A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
― Baltasar Gracián

I can’t help but notice that all through the trial and execution of Jesus — at least seven times in Matthew 27 alone — enemies and bystanders cannot seem to avoid testifying to the exemplary character of the one they are busily engaged in putting to death, a fact that is both remarkable on its face and corroborative of Gracián’s adage.

If such a thing has ever happened before or since, I’d be more than a little surprised.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Inbox: Richard Carrier’s Moral Philosophy

A reader writes, with respect to one of our older posts:

“Richard Carrier has a lot of very detailed writings which establish his moral philosophy as both true and superseding all others. A quick google search will bring up quite a lot of it.”
— metautopiandreamer

First, my apologies to any readers who find the ensuing response too technical and wordy. The above comment more or less makes it unavoidable.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Evangelical Idiots and the Death of America

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

It’s the end of the world as we know it ...
Tom: Immanuel Can, today I’m feeling the urge to talk about Craig James.

Craig is the author of the book The Religion Virus: Why We Believe In God (he doesn’t). He is a blogger with a site also called The Religion Virus. I’m not so much interested in his atheism (because we’ve done that, and recently), but in his enthusiastic mischaracterization of the beliefs of Christians.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nothing to Worry About

The other day I happened across a series of comments responding to a post that referenced in passing the words of the Lord in John 17. You remember: the part where Jesus prays, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.

What did the Lord mean? I have rarely encountered greater diversity of opinion about just a few words. One person even not-so-tentatively floated the proposition that the Father has answered his Son’s prayer in the negative.

I’m thinking Eh, not so much.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Point of the Exercise

It is God that confers authority, but he doesn’t do it for its own sake.

Sure, a position of authority often comes with side helpings: popularity, riches, dignity, power, a (usually temporary) legacy ... and (in Old Testament times at least) a bunch of wives. But these are baubles. They are not the point of the exercise. Other things come with authority too: abuse, rebellion, heckling and a horrible, frequently harrowing level of responsibility — but let’s not get into those.

My point is that it is always and only the WORK that matters to God, not the status or other benefits that authority confers.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (5)

One feature of this election cycle that will stick with me is the Christian reaction to revelations of venality and outright criminality in the lives of public figures.

Sure, a few expect it. I’m afraid I’m among them. While mildly disappointed, we are rarely surprised. We shake our heads and carry on, thinking “There they go again” and “There is nothing new under the sun”.

But a large number of believers — whether because they are low-information voters or just good-hearted souls — have such difficulty processing the facts that they lag behind even uber-liberal actress Susan Sarandon, who concedes that the Democratic National Committee is “completely corrupt”.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Quote of the Day (26)

I have great appreciation for people who stick to the sola scriptura principle; people who are willing to go to the wall for what they believe the Bible teaches. It shows sincerity and courage, qualities that are most admirable.

But what do you do when, year after year after year, the facts on the ground stubbornly refuse to conform to your theological schema, a system of thought you are convinced is entirely scriptural?

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Everybody, Take a Holiday

Unless the political process degenerates even further (and we certainly can’t rule that out given the revelations of the last few days), by Tuesday we MAY have some idea who will serve as the next president of the United States.

Many commentators have expressed concern that even if, against all odds, Donald Trump should somehow win the presidency, he will be unable to deliver on the numerous promises he has made on the campaign trail — the “big, beautiful wall” comes to mind — because even if the House and Senate retain Republican majorities (which is by no means guaranteed), neither legislative branch will agree to forward a Trump agenda.

To which I reply, “Uh ... so what?”

Saturday, November 05, 2016

C.S. Lewis Goes YouTubing

Embedding is disabled by request on these C.S. Lewis videos posted on YouTube, but I’m happy to be able to link to them. They are way too much fun.

If you haven’t seen a “doodle” before, it’s a video enhanced with what looks like an animated chalkboard scrawl that illustrates the content being narrated for you. Someone has gone to the trouble of doodling at least thirty readings from the beloved Christian apologist.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Crossing Jordan

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

Coming soon in your size and mine
Those of our readers who don’t live in Canada — which will be most of you — may be unfamiliar with the current plight of University of Toronto professor Jordan B. Peterson. Professor Peterson is under the gun — protested by students and censured by his own administration — for refusing to address his students with gender neutral fake pronouns like “zhe”.

Tom: U of T trans studies instructor Nicholas Matte has called on Peterson to “stop abusing students”. But the threat of having to appear before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal doesn’t seem to bother Professor Peterson. He’s drawn a line in the sand: “If they fine me, I won’t pay it. If they put me in jail, I’ll go on a hunger strike. I’m not doing this, and that’s that. I’m not using the words that other people require me to use. Especially if they’re made up by radical left-wing ideologues.”

A tempest in a teapot, Immanuel Can? Or something more serious?

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Here, Let Me Fix That For You

The always-delightful Doug Wilson (and I say that without a trace of sarcasm) engages with the work of Russell Moore in this piece about building “collaborative majorities” in the Christian community for the purpose of politically engaging the broader culture, as the U.S. religious right has (often unsuccessfully) attempted to do.

As I have mentioned many times before, Doug, despite being postmillennialist Calvinist Reformed (is any of that redundant?) is one of my favourite Christian bloggers. He’s been on a tear lately about unity in the Body of Christ; a very reasonable concern that is close, I suggest, to the heart of our Saviour.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Threatened by Intelligence

A series of studies done at University of Buffalo, California Lutheran U. and the University of Texas, Austin, appear to show that while many men say they would like a partner who is smarter than they are when the question is purely hypothetical, when confronted with the reality they really … don’t.

“Six studies revealed that when evaluating psychologically distant targets, men showed greater attraction toward women who displayed more (vs. less) intelligence than themselves. In contrast, when targets were psychologically near, men showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them.”

This is surprising? Seriously?

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Rare In These Days

Northern hairy-nosed wombats are rare.
What was ubiquitous at one time and in one place may be exceedingly rare in others. This may be a bad thing, or a good thing ... or just a thing.

The writer of 1 Samuel notes that in the days before Samuel was called, “the word of the Lord was rare ... there was no frequent vision”.

Now, the Holy Spirit is not for a moment suggesting that the people of Israel lacked necessary direction from God for their lives, or that it was impossible to please God because nobody had the slightest idea what he wanted.

Not at all.