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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Libels and Labels

People love labeling stuff.

This is not without good reason, I think. In bringing the animals to Adam to see what labels he would put on them, God dignified both, granting the man authority and the animals identity. It was also an immensely practical thing to do. Imagine the complexity of having to forever refer to “that big leathery thing with tusks and a hose for a nose” or “the small furry black thing that lives in my house that is not the same as the slightly larger small furry black thing”.

You can see why we have taken to labeling things like fish to water. It simplifies life.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Dear Dr. Peterson,

I’ve been enjoying immensely your online lecture series on The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. Hearing you reframe these familiar truths and ancient tropes in the terminology of psychology and mythology — and occasionally in plain secular language, rather than religiously and liturgically — has lit up the OT landscape for me in a new way. As you mentioned in your fourth lecture, a hypothesis that works itself out in human experience on multiple levels is that much more likely to represent the real state of things.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Choosing A Church

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

Woodcrest Church has a helpful “Denomination Selector”. No, really, I’m not kidding.

The survey* asks the user to agree or disagree with a series of 24 statements along the lines of the following:
  1. There is one God
  2. Godhead exists as three distinct Persons
  3. The Bible is free from error
                       |
  1. There a literal Heaven and Hell
  2. The preferred day of worship (or Sabbath) is Sunday
  3. People receive charismatic gifts today (tongues, prophesy)
  4. A woman can serve as a pastor or a church minister
                       |
and so on.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Humility and Compromise

Most Christians would agree humility is a goal genuinely worth pursuing. After all, it is our Lord himself who both modeled it for us and encouraged us to behave humbly toward one another.

Paul picks up this theme and runs with it, declaring that disciples of the Lord Jesus are to, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Religious habits that promote personal exaltation over others are not Christian habits.

So why is it so many of us confuse humility with taking a “live and let live” attitude toward inferior teaching in our churches?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Semi-Random Musings (1)

My workplace isn’t a complete and utter hive of political correctness like so many major corporations today, but that’s sure not for lack of trying.

In our case the issue is economics rather than ideology. It has been deemed insufficiently cost-effective to put a dedicated Human Resources rep in what is really only a regional satellite office, so instead we are PC-policed from over a thousand miles away. Which means we aren’t, really.

That would be a nice benefit if we were free to enjoy it. But we aren’t. Somehow, without any discussion of the subject, we have managed to begin policing each other … for free.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ten Commandments That Failed

It seems morbid, perhaps, to be raising the topic of 9/11 well over a decade after it was all over. It was a sad, bitter moment, one that we might all wish to forget.

But wisdom does not always come quickly, and events of this magnitude take a very long time to understand. There are some things which are best left unsaid in the heat of the moment, but are better brought slowly to the surface when due time has passed. Such is the case with what I am writing today.

Even now, the fall of the World Trade Towers is not an easy subject.

Monday, June 19, 2017

This Would Be Why I Can Do Without Denominations

Wow, those Southern Baptists sure don’t waste any time.

Seems like the Alt-Right only really came to the attention of the mainstream for the first time back in September when Hillary Clinton gave her now-infamous “basket of deplorables” speech in New York City. Whether calling a significant number of Trump supporters racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamaphobic hurt the Clinton campaign is a matter of opinion; what isn’t debatable is that today the “deplorables” have their guy in the White House.

The Dems don’t.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Bad Idea Revisited

Here’s yet another post about the need to reunite the visible Church. They’re a dime a dozen at the moment, a fact which might set off alarm bells in the heads of our premillennialist readers.

As is usually (but not always) the case, well-intentioned folks are convinced the Church cannot be effective on the world stage until it is politically unified:

“The first step in [retaking our culture and rebuilding our civilization] is UnSchisming the Church. And the first step in UnSchisming the Church is to agree that the Body of Christ needs to be whole again. The 3 segments of the Church [Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant] are going to have to agree to that before we can make any movement on resolving this issue.”

Color me a bit cynical on that front, but I appreciate the thought.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Can I Sit Down Yet?

Ever sat through an 18 minute prayer?

I have, and I promise you it is tough sledding. Anyone who says otherwise nodded off for ten minutes in the middle.

Is that an unspiritual attitude? I’m not trying to be mean. The prayer culprit almost surely thought he was doing a good thing. Perhaps he was trying to avoid a few minutes of awkward silence, or maybe he wanted to make sure every concern he thought was important to God got covered. Maybe he thinks a spiritual prayer is a long prayer, or maybe that’s just what he’s used to.

Maybe his dad prayed like that, and maybe inside he was screaming, “Can I sit down YET?”

Friday, June 16, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Rethinking Sunday School

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

Tom: I have a confession for you, IC. I was a terrible kid in Sunday School. I made everybody’s lives miserable, from the guy tasked with leading the singing to my individual Sunday School teachers. I really didn’t like it much.

The odd thing is that I had nothing against church particularly, or the Bible. I even believed it was true. But I was a total cut-up.

How about you?

Immanuel Can: Yep. Dead with boredom, and ready to make trouble.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Mark of the What?

Rod Dreher brought it out of the closet with The Benedict Option.

By “it”, I mean the ongoing discussion in evangelical churches about being “in the world” but not “of the world” in a political climate where the Powers That Be are increasingly disinclined to let anyone opt out of their pro-LGBTQWERTY program, and in which technology has given them the tools to make sure you don’t, at least not without hurting you in a big way.

Wait, what? You say there IS no ongoing discussion about these matters in your local church?

Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Letters from the Best Man (5)

The following is absolutely fictional and increasingly common. There is no Brad and definitely no Jill, in case that is not obvious. There are, however, way too many people in their position.

Dear Brad,

Yes, it has been a while, and I’m happy you feel up to keeping in touch. I know it’s been hard. Dan mentioned you ran into Jill at the mall, but neither he nor I can imagine how difficult that was for you.

Your account of that accidental meeting reminds me how easily we can miscommunicate, but I think I can relate to your confusion: years of familiarity combined with sudden, obvious emotional distance can make you reassess everything you once thought you knew.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Let’s Just Back That Up A Step

From the Department of Missing the Obvious: I appear to have missed the obvious, and for most of my life. Funny how that works.

The more seasoned believers who read and comment here occasionally are welcome to have a giggle at my expense, though I know some of you well enough to be sure you’ll be considerably more gracious.

This is how the Christian life goes, right? So I throw this out there for any who are as thick as I am, which may well be nobody.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Agenda is Served

I don’t read much that comes out of the wilderness of liberal Christendom (some will argue that’s a good thing, and I won’t argue back). So it was a little jarring to come across a rather poetic meditation on the Holy Spirit here that refers to him throughout as “she” and “it”.

Uh, no. Just no.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Too Big to Fail

My morning walk/prayer reverie was disrupted by the sight of a bumper sticker that read like so:

“God is too big to fit inside one religion.”

Interesting. One the surface it sounds like a compliment — this guy has a big god. Big is good, right?

Well, yes and no.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Tactics and Their Acceptability

A well-known biblical precept begins with the words “Do unto others ...”

Context strongly suggests the Lord intended his followers to engage with his teaching actively rather than passively, by performing positive moral acts toward those in need of them.

That said, the negative implication most commonly drawn from his words (“Refrain from doing things you WOULDN’T like done to you”) is not wrong.

Either way, the social justice crowd would do well to pay attention.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Alt-Personhood

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

Fox News reports that the Baltimore Book Festival has dropped Rachel Dolezal’s invitation to participate in the festival this year after receiving too much negative public feedback.

You may remember Ms Dolezal from a flurry of media scrutiny in 2015 when it was revealed that the leader of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wasn’t really a person of color after all, but was in reality a little blonde in blackface.

Tom: IC, I don’t understand. Society says it’s not only okay but morally imperative for me to self-identify as a woman if that’s how I feel about myself, even if I have been born biologically male. It will defend my right to call myself any made-up gender I like, even to the point of stripping you of your right to disagree with me about it in the public space.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

A Dose of Worldliness

What does it really mean to think or to speak “like a Christian”?

Does it mean to be able to make inside spiritual jokes, or to speak bluntly about the human situation? Does it mean to think only from individual experience, or to have a view of the world? Does it mean always to have tidy answers, or to be willing to speak unflinchingly about difficult questions? Does it mean presenting oneself as the self-satisfied fount of all knowledge, or as an earnest learner, a work-in-progress still growing into new answers?

Here are two sets of song lyrics from the same year. One song is nominally Christian and the other is not. Can you guess which is which?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

A Tale of Two Methodologies

Two kings, two different ways of doing business. One worked, one didn’t.

Here’s their story.

Well, technically it’s a story of two nations as well. The ten tribes of Israel had parted ways with Judah and Benjamin and formed their own political entity. The king of Judah was intent on reuniting the people of God, by main force if necessary. While he was mustering his troops, God sent word to him that this was not to be. Division was his chosen state of affairs for the time being.

Checkmate. So everybody settled down to live with the status quo.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

No Reinterpretation Required

Love is a two-stage project: there is the declaring of it and then the hard work of actually doing it. It is impossible to effectively communicate love without doing both.

The order of operations is not terribly important, but both elements are critical.

Now of course declarations of love on their own may mislead us and require us to do a little contextual reinterpretation. A classic Canadian rock tune from 1970 made the point that we often say “I love you” when we actually mean something else entirely.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Technical Difficulties

A reader reports that the internal link from the introduction page of all our blog posts to the body of the article has gone missing (the line at the bottom of each day’s intro that says “Read More »”).

I suspect the Blogger tech team are making adjustments to their program and we’ll be back to normal shortly. In the meantime, clicking on the title of any article takes you to the entire thing.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

The Best Possible Spot

There is a time-honored tradition in Old Testament oratory of addressing one’s enemies from the safety of a nearby hilltop.

Jotham called out his family’s murderers from Mount Gerazim. The Philistines hurled their insults at the Israelite army on one side of the Valley of Elah from the mountain on the other. Even David appealed to Saul from atop the hill of Hachilah.

Not too bad a strategy, really, before the invention of megaphones and loudspeakers: just stand far enough up and back to avoid the enemy’s arrows and occasional javelin toss while staying close enough to remain audible.

It was the best possible spot, especially if things went south and you had to beat a hasty retreat down the far side of the hill.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Some Deliverance

Divine law was not given to mankind simply as a means for us to avoid God’s wrath (though obedience to the law in any generation may defer judgment for a time).

Neither was divine law given only so that men would live happier and more productive lives (though history and the evidence of our eyes tell us societies in which God’s laws are obeyed are better places to live than societies where God’s laws are not).

Still less was divine law given as a means of justifying ourselves in the court of God. That one has never worked.

No, the law was never an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. The desired end was a flourishing relationship with the God who gave it.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Recommend-a-blog (24)

Are you a young Christian diligent in your pursuit of truth, burrowing into the scriptures daily and digging up every resource you can find on the side to explain those things you encounter there that don’t initially make perfect sense to you?

Well, I’ve got just the thing for you: it’s a new atheist app.

No, really. This is a useful tool, if only as a window into the mindset of active disbelievers who are expending an awful lot of time and energy trying to turn others from faith in Christ.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Why I Don’t Share My Faith

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

Tom: I’ve just finished wading through a list of reasons why Christians don’t share their faith. Here’s what Daniel Darling says keeps him from spilling what he knows about the person of Christ to a needy world:
  1. We don’t share our faith because we don’t realize we have a mission
  2. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand our mission
  3. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s mission
  4. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand what it means to be a friend of the world
  5. We don’t share our faith because we are ashamed of our identity
Immanuel Can, when I fail to share my faith, it is usually because I’m scared of messing up my next line. So I overthink it, and suddenly the conversation is over and I’ve gotten nowhere significant.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

History Told Twice

Nothing too profound this morning.

I’ve been enjoying a book on the gospel of Luke (see an earlier post) that draws attention to the differences between the gospel records. Not those pesky “apparent contradictions”, but just differences in content and presentation.

Each inspired record of the life of Christ has its own theme or themes. (In other news, water is wet.)