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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Out of the Closet and Out of the Sea

Globalism is out of the closet. Finally.

For years now, politicians from countries all over the world enraptured with the Ideology That Dared Not Speak Its Name have pursued their dream of global government. Until the end of last year, they were savvy enough to do it behind the scenes, giving the occasional barely-perceptible nod to national interests in order to avoid raising the hackles of the rank and file that their policies had impoverished and unemployed by the millions. Attentive observers of Washington and the Eurozone noticed something was a bit off, but recognized that being overly vocal with their suspicions would tend to nuke their credibility with the audience that pays the bills.

Hey, even political commentators have to eat, right?

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Man Without A Clue

To call Agur a bit of an obscure Old Testament character would not be out of line.

The first twenty-nine chapters of the book of Proverbs set out the compiled wisdom of Solomon. Obviously not all of it; we’re told he wrote 3,000 proverbs and an additional 1,005 songs, so this is the tip of a large iceberg. It’s a pretty impressive resume by any standard.

Agur son of Jakeh, on the other hand, rates a mere 33 verses, most of which he gives over to the making of lists: “Here are four things that are small but wise …”, “Here are three things that shake the earth …”, “Here are three things that are very stately …” and so on.

While it is certainly the inspired word of God, I’m not sure the average observation attributed to Agur stacks up with those of the great king of Israel.

I will tell you this though: he had a few good lines in him.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Hatred of King Jesus

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

These “companions” were not bad guys.

The psalmist is probably speaking of other Israelite royalty, so Jesus had something significant in common with them despite their human failings: they were all kings. People like David, Solomon and Hezekiah. They served God, they honored God, and they led his people out to victory.

Not bad guys at all, some of them.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

B-B-B-Betty in a Dress

Have you ever heard of a “mondegreen”?

That’s the technical word they give it when you listen to something, but you hear something different.

Apparently, people do it all the time when they’re listening to song lyrics, for example. There is some phrase that is sung, but their ear picks up something different, often with irrational results.

Want to see if you’ve ever mondegreened? Okay, if you have even a passing familiarity with popular music, you might be able to guess what famous songs produced the following mondegreens. (I’m guessing most of us are in middle age somewhere, so I’ll keep the examples a bit retro.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Different Ways to Die in the Dark

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

Islamophobia is the hot topic of the day. Once again Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is breaking new legal ground. Motion-103, introduced by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, is allegedly intended to combat religious discrimination, often referred to in the media as Islamophobia.

Its detractors claim Motion-103 would make for bad law: too broad, too specifically focused on Islam rather than religious discrimination generally, too confused between racism and religious discrimination.

Tom: First of all, are we “phobic”, Immanuel Can?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Perception Is Not Reality

Perception can be fantasyland
My former boss used to love to say “Perception is reality”. All he meant by it, I think, is that it’s important in business to consider how our actions appear to others. That’s certainly a relevant concern when your income depends on your ability to convince people to buy stuff, but it’s not quite what the person who coined the phrase intended to convey.

The line has been attributed to eighties political strategist Lee Atwater. I dislike it thoroughly: communication is tough enough without deliberately eroding the meaning of words. Our general failure to apply our critical faculties to aphorisms like Atwater’s simply accelerates the disintegration of language into meaningless babble.

I’m not kidding. Hey, we’re talking about the nature of reality here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (10)

The book of 2 Kings starts with a bang — or at least with fire from heaven, which is plenty eventful enough for most of us.

The prophet Elijah has just passed on another of his many messages from God, this one to the effect that the illness suffered by wicked King Ahaziah will surely result in his death. Ahaziah is understandably less than thrilled to receive this news. He sends a military unit of fifty men with their captain to bring Elijah back to Samaria, where he lies bedridden, presumably in hope of intimidating the prophet into foretelling a fate more to his taste.

The captain is insufficiently deferential to the prophet, who promptly calls down fire from heaven on him and on his soldiers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sovereignty in Action

Our Calvinist friends tell us God is sovereign, and I would be the last to disagree with them. Of course, we define “sovereignty” a little differently.

I think it’s possible to believe that God is King of Everything without believing he personally ordains every act that takes place within his kingdom. John Calvin, on the other hand, was convinced that “all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God” and that “nothing happens without his counsel”. Words like counsel and government imply not just knowledge but personal direction.

But if God is behind every single event that takes place in the universe, then why do the scriptures constantly single out certain events to assure us that it was God who did them? I mean, he does EVERYTHING, right?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Media and the Gospel

“The medium is the message”, said the great philosopher of mass media, Marshall McLuhan.

It’s his most oft-quoted line, since it’s so often true. When you have a message to send, you’ve got to be very careful about the form (i.e. the “method” or “medium”) in which you’re sending it, or the message itself can become horribly distorted.

An Example

A few years ago, a local political party in our neighbourhood decided on a new election strategy. Instead of putting their efforts into boring, windy debates or expensive campaign posters, or listing it on dull trifold brochures that everybody just throws out, they would use a new medium — a comic book.

That’s right, folks: somebody thought that was a good idea.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Best Move

One of Satan’s most effective and longstanding cons is getting people moving when they really ought to stand still. He did it with Eve, didn’t he? That tree in the middle of the garden was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise.

Thing is, it was just as good for food the day before. It was just as delightful to the eyes three weeks before that. The wisdom it conferred would be the same yesterday, today or tomorrow. There was exactly zero urgency about having a bite of its fruit right then. None whatsoever. Nobody was going to starve, and that exceptionally desirable tree was not going anywhere.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Playing Word Games

Keeping laws cannot save us, as we were reminded earlier this week. God gave his law to Israel for the purpose of demonstrating to mankind our total inability to consistently abide by whatever rules we might make for ourselves, not so that we could accumulate sufficient spiritual brownie points to inspire St. Peter to open the gate of heaven just a crack and let us squeak through.

That being understood, laws still serve a very useful purpose. They cannot by themselves reclaim a single lost human heart, but a society in which the majority of citizens recognize and respect the rule of law will do notably better over the long term than a society that operates only on the principle of the will to power.

We are currently observing the abandonment of the rule of law south of the (Canadian) border.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Forgive Us, But …

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

In Islam, the word tawbah refers to the process of asking Allah for forgiveness. The ritual is comprised of three stages:
  • Recognizing your sins and mistakes;
  • Feeling ashamed to having violated Allah’s trust;
  • Making a promise to never repeat the mistake.
Western culture, on the other hand, has largely dispensed with the practice of seeking forgiveness, not least because a public confession of wrongdoing may create liability issues. So you get bafflegab like, “I regret if anyone was offended by ...” instead of a sincere apology.

Tom: Immanuel Can, can you recall the last time someone unsaved asked you to forgive them?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (9)

“The law of the Lord is perfect ...”

Not only perfect, but more desirable than gold and sweeter than a honeycomb. So says the word of God, and I believe it. But perhaps we ought to ask ourselves exactly what the Psalmist intended to convey with the word “perfect”. Because when people today examine what the law of Moses says on the subject of slavery, or the role of women, or animal sacrifices, they seem to find an awful lot to quibble about.

They would argue — quite forcefully, I might add — that the law of the Lord is far from perfect. Primitive, even.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Marry or Burn

I have a dear friend (he’s in heaven now) who spent his entire life waiting for the right woman to come along. Shortly before his death in his early sixties he was still doing it. Needless to say, she never appeared.

Mind you, the “right woman” was youthful, spiritual, fit, stunningly attractive AND willing to marry a much older, sedentary, admittedly peculiar man who didn’t bring home a whole lot of money even in the best years of his life and usually drove vehicles ten years past their prime.

You can see the problem. He was a great guy and he loved the Lord, but his fantasy just wasn’t happening, and everyone knew it except him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Faith, Inc.

“But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

A while back, I read a piece written by a fellow believer on the subject of finding peace in the quest to live one’s life in the will of God. I’d link to it but it has not yet been published. A major theme of his paper was that both the peace of God and the will of God are often found corporately rather than individually; that it was not intended that we live our Christian lives in isolation from other believers, but rather that we discover God’s will together through submission to one another and to him.

Corporate, eh? Interesting idea, and almost surely not one prompted by the spirit of the age in which we currently live.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sound and Silence (or Banishing the Banshee)

I have a neighbour that screams like a banshee — or at least she used to. She doesn’t anymore, and herein lies a tale.

Like many families, we live in a semi-detached house with nothing more than a cinder-block partition and a little ancient insulation separating us from our neighbours. You can’t hear everything that occurs on the other side of the party wall, but you can hear plenty, especially when voices are raised.

We heard plenty. Regularly. Our neighbour made sure of it.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Confidence to Command

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will put on] will be added to you.”

“If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Joel Osteen notwithstanding, there is no scriptural correlation between earthly prosperity and living according to the will of God. None. Bet the house on it — if you can afford one.

Better, if you’re just starting out in the service of God, bet your next fifty years or so.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bedsheets, Breeches and Bema

“The unexamined life,” said Socrates, “is not worth living.”

Well, he didn’t actually use those precise words, but that’s how it’s been quoted since — in books, on coffee mugs and t-shirts, and in the common memory. The essence of his words has remained, even if the particulars are a bit sketchy.

How seriously ought we to take that? True, he’s called the Father of Philosophy, and he was notoriously smart. But the guy wore bedsheets, and died a long while ago. How seriously can you take a guy dressed in bedsheets?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Fat Lady Sings

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

Preparing to cut loose at
your church and mine.
David B. is a regular reader/commenter here. A few weeks back he (politely) asked Immanuel Can, “Why do you choose to fellowship in a church where you clearly disagree with how they operate?”

IC responded, “Maybe I’ll do a post on that …”

Tom: Maybe that time is now, IC, not least because I feel like it might be a useful topic for a number of our readers who have found themselves in similar positions.

As you suggested to David in your response, churches do not suddenly become heretical overnight. It’s my experience that almost anything can be smuggled into a local church provided it is done incrementally.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

A Fate Worse Than Death

You’re sick, and you’re wondering why.

Agnostics and Christians alike will tell you the genetic draw you got at conception is a relevant factor, and both would agree that the way you’ve lived your life to date matters too. Years of less-than-optimal lifestyle habits have a way of catching up with you: not just substance abuse, but sleep deficits, insufficient exercise, poor diet and even shift work all may contribute to chronic problems in later life. And Christians and the unsaved alike experience stress, though we probably handle it differently.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Perfectly Sensible

It all seemed to add up just fine ...
Great sins are committed for perfectly sensible reasons.

Absalom murdered his half-brother for raping his sister. His father knew about the rape and had done nothing about it. What was he supposed to do? If he failed to act, justice would never have been served.

King Jeroboam brought idolatry back to Israel. He reasoned it was better than having the people turn on him and kill him. Who blames a man for preferring life to death?

In each case the motives were at very least understandable. It was the methodology that got them in trouble.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Inbox: Message and Motive

“All your goats are belong to us!”
An anonymous reader takes issue with an older post on the error of universalism:

“Why so angry?”

Good question. It was April 2014 when I wrote that one as part of our “Heavenly Myths” series. I’ve lived ten lives since then, it seems to me. I couldn’t remember how I was feeling at the time if my life depended on it. Maybe I was a bit ticked about something.

So I went back and read the post and … nope, not even close.

Monday, February 06, 2017

In Need of Analysis: Wake Up and Smell the Potpourri

I’ve never really liked Christian bookstores.

They have that cloying sweetness typical of the boutiques my wife loves, the ones that sell knick-knacks, scented candles and throw pillows. There’s just an unreality to such places that hits you from the moment you step in the door, a sense that you are entering a zone that has nothing at all to do with the world outside, and where perhaps strange and delicate mythical creatures can thrive.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but you get the idea. If you’ve been in such a store, you know: There’s just something terribly weird about the place. The divergence between the real world and the interior environment — and even its divergence from other store environments — is quite startling; and when you first walk in it takes you a moment to adjust.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Millennial Kingdom and the Blame Game

What do these statements have in common?

“hollywood is to blame, so is tv”
— AllergicToEggs

“The devil made me do it”
— Flip Wilson     

Well, yes, they are both examples of the blame game we all play regularly.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (8)

You know, if you’re going to mock the Old Testament, it really helps to get your ducks in a row first.

It’s Internet Meme-Debunking Saturday again, folks, and Ivana Wynn at Ranker has provided us with yet another soft target: a list of her “Top 20 Bible Passages to Use Against Fundamentalists”, including this gem at #6, “No Bastards May Enter the Church”.

I love it when they make it easy for me.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Wrong Set of Chromosomes

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

Bill C-16 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. It also amends the Canadian Criminal Code to protect any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression against “hate propaganda” and to increase sentences accordingly against those who violate it.

Tom: The bill was rammed through Parliament with little discussion, no public consultation and no recorded vote. Thank you, Justin Trudeau! Last I heard it’s before the Canadian Senate for final approval. If the bill becomes law, people who say they’re transgender become a specially protected class of citizens in Canada.

How do you feel about that, Immanuel Can?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

One Touch Away

We live in a day of distraction, when every tiny, struggling spiritual impulse in our hearts and heads has to hack its way through a jungle of psychic noise just to hear the still, small voice of God. Difficult, I know. But there’s tremendous reward for the effort.

And, hey, few people today have to travel for days just to hear the word of God.

Others throughout history have had a much harder time of it. For us, the truth is one touch away.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Love Is All Around

Mary Tyler Moore died last week, and her passing merits a word or two even if no millennial has the slightest clue who she was.

I am the child of Christian parents who went to the mission field in the sixties with me in tow and came back just in time for Abba, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Get Smart and the tail end of the Guess Who’s first incarnation. Pop culture in the seventies blew me away, and it fascinated my mother in her own way, or so it appeared to me. When we finally got a TV, she watched her share of then-current fare, flipping channels whenever the content became inappropriate for family viewing. I watched with her to the extent I was allowed — and sometimes from behind the couch when I wasn’t.

And boy, did I LOVE those early seventies sit-coms.