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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

4GW and the Church

Have you read anything about 4GW? It’s an interesting study.

4GW is short for Fourth-Generation Warfare, a term first used in 1989 by a team of U.S. military analysts to describe conflict characterized, as Infogalactic puts it, by a “blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians”.

In simplest terms, a 4G war is any conflict in which one of the actors is not a state but a sub-population of some sort, ethnic or otherwise. 4GW’s goals are usually complex and long term, and may be achieved through guerrilla tactics, terrorism, psy-ops, economic pressure, media manipulation and/or other non-traditional means.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Giant Problem, or That Stupid Sword Again

There are giants in the land.

Not Goliath, whom David slew, but that bad habit you can’t give up, and most of the time don’t really want to.

Somebody I know is fighting a giant. In his thinking, maybe 5% of the time he’s in a place where he makes an offhand remark about how he needs to go back to church, or how he needs to start reading his Bible again, or how he really needs God in his life. The rest of the time he’s just doing his thing like he’s always done it, and I suspect the will and character of God are the last things he’s thinking about. Life provides bucketloads of convenient distractions.

But can God work with 5%? I’d estimate he can. See, I’ve been there too.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Idolaters in the House

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
— Jeremiah 29:7, NIV

“Never seek their peace or prosperity …”
— Ezra 9:12, ESV

Two instructions: both from God, both to Israel. To the casual reader they may appear to be diametrically opposed, but they are not. The commands occur at very different times in Israel’s history under very different circumstances, and are issued with respect to very different groups of people.

The differences are instructive, I think.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Castle and the Cave

It is often said that the three enemies of the human soul are the world, the flesh and the devil. The first and last members of this triad are instantly understood; the middle one ... well, not always.

In the New Testament, the word “flesh” (Gk: sarx) possesses a range of related meanings from merely natural (“the two will become one flesh”) to expressly wicked (“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these”).

This being the case, when we come across references to “the flesh” we may find it helpful to ask ourselves in which sense it is being used.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I Got No Strings (Among Other Things)

In her book Sacred Psychology of Change: Life as Voyage of Transformation, Marilyn Barrick writes this:

“As you may remember, the wood carver, Geppetto, gazes out his window at the starry heavens above and wishes upon a star that the puppet, Pinocchio, he has carved and painted might be a real boy. His words have been echoed by children ever since, ‘Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.’ ”

Pinocchio being a children’s story, Geppetto eventually gets his wish, though not without a fair bit of grief along the way.

In the real world getting our wishes is not so common.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Religion by the Numbers

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

Lyman Stone is a Lutheran believer who likes math. So he has built, in his words, “a complete annual dataset for every religious group in America as far back as I could get data.” That turns out to be 1925. If you want to know how your favorite denomination is doing demographically these days, especially compared to how it has done historically, Stone might well be the most informed guy on the block.

George Barna would be proud. Maybe. Assuming he doesn’t mind the competition.

Tom: You’ve mentioned before that you’re not a big stats guy, IC. What is it you don’t like about parsing data?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Snare Is Broken

We have escaped like a bird
  from the snare of the fowlers;
  the snare is broken,
  and we have escaped!

The escape David refers to in Psalm 124 was a literal, physical one, from an enemy that would have swallowed both him and his alive if it could; an enemy with “teeth” that regarded him as “prey”. He uses metaphors in his praise, but there was nothing metaphorical about the things from which he escaped. Very likely it was cold steel or a slew of arrows aimed in his direction.

The escape I’m thinking about is of a different sort.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Body and the Local Church

“It’s very clear from scripture that the expectation of the church is that it grows (Ephesians 4)”
— Crawford Paul

This is an interesting statement, and it’s useful in helping us to consider the difference between the Church Universal and any given local gathering of saints, denominational or otherwise. See, I’m not entirely sure it IS the Head of the Church’s expectation of his local churches that they always be in a state of perpetual growth.

The letters to the seven churches in Revelation clearly contemplate local gatherings in danger of having their lampstands removed. That’s not a good thing, but it’s a recognized reality. And even if those seven letters hadn’t been written, human nature, history and simple observation should probably make us reluctant to consider local churches as much more than temporary fixtures in a much greater plan; pawns on the divine chessboard, if I can say that without offending too many who have invested their lives in the “local testimony”.

That being the case, so much for expectations.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Commentariat Speaks (11)

Cail Corishev on truth:

“I think the rhetorically-challenged person hears ‘truth’ and thinks, ‘literal truth in correspondence with the facts.’ In that regard, he sees a picture of Donald Trump riding a war horse over a corpse labeled CNN while a cartoon frog-pope waves, and sees no truth at all. Literally, nothing in that picture is true, so that’s bad, maybe even Leftist.

But rhetorically, that picture is completely true, and a better, more persuasive representation of the truth of that situation than you could convey in any amount of dialectic.”

Now, like everyone else, I too can be sold by a grand rhetorical flourish, but that’s fairly unusual. Generally I’m inclined to skepticism. So here’s the meme to which Cail is referring.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elementary, My Dear Christian

The giving of the law to Israel through Moses at Sinai was a truly spectacular event, attended by “blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them,” as the writer to the Hebrews so eloquently puts it.

The law that God gave on that grand occasion is described in glowing terms by the psalmist: wondrous, delightful, sufficient for all sorts of situations, sweeter than honey, perfect, sure, right and true. Of all legal codes by which men have ordered their societies down through the centuries, the law of Sinai was the very best.

But law itself did not originate at Sinai. Laws were no new thing.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vision, Inspiration and Leadership

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ ”

What makes a person give up everything in order to follow Christ?

What motivates a lifetime of obedience and service?

What makes men into real men, spiritual men, dedicated men, godly men, and what makes women into women of substance?

Well, let’s see what the Bible says about that.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Quote of the Day (35)

Photo: Adam Jacobs, under license
I’ve been promising to transcribe this and fisk it since I first came across it a few weeks ago, so here we go.

Jordan Peterson (for the three remaining people who haven’t heard of him) is a U of T professor who took a lot of flack late last year for adamantly refusing to use the made-up gender pronouns of the transgendered Left with his students. Since then, he’s been all over YouTube, and I’m not surprised. The number of Canadians willing to take a public stand in front of the daunting combo of the State, the State-owned media and the Progressivist lobby for things like morality, tradition or (God forbid) anything even remotely resembling Christian values is, well, microscopic.

The following exchange occurred in the question period after Peterson’s fourth lecture in his Old Testament series, which was NOT about abortion. Not at all.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Unsanctioned “Churches”

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

Tom: I just came across a blog entry by a Christian fellow named Danny Eason. Danny had this silly idea of inviting a bunch of random (I believe his own description is “ragamuffin”) believers into his home for “Coffee and Jesus”. He describes their get-togethers like this:

“... fellowship, studying the Word (we’re walking through Ephesians), corporate confession and prayer, and worship through song. The time together is incredibly relaxed with no official format.”

That and, oh yeah, “Breaking of Bread”.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

Yesterday I dealt with the most practical reason ecumenicalism is a non-starter.

But not every argument against a major campaign to reunite the Church organizationally is all about utility.

The other reason we haven’t seen a lot of small, local churches devoting their energies to ecumenicalism is theological.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sacrifices and Trade-offs

Nathan Abdy says some churches pay insufficient attention to what’s currently being taught in the larger evangelical community. I have argued that, at least in my experience, lack of elder awareness about the big picture isn’t a problem.

But then I also happen to know some exceptionally well-studied, highly intelligent older Christian men. I hope they represent the larger trends, but I could be wrong.

If so, that’s an issue. After all, elders keep watch over both the flock and themselves. That’s their job. “Pay careful attention,” said the apostle Paul. So they should, and so should we all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In a Nutshell

Have you ever been taught how to effectively share the gospel? Some of us have, some of us haven’t.

Better question: If you had only a few seconds to communicate the essence of salvation, which verses would you choose to put it across? How much could you get in there in, say, thirty seconds?

My son was asked how he would explain it this week.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

“Well, you know, many roads lead up the mountain …”

So he said to me.

People say stuff like that all the time when they want to avoid facing God. “I can do it my way,” they say, hoping that saying it strongly enough will make it true. Or, they say, “Everybody’s got a piece of the truth, but nobody’s got it all,” like the story of the blind men and the elephant (if you know that little tale).

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Stuck in the Middle With You

“Clowns to the left of me,
  Jokers to the right,
  Here I am
  Stuck in the middle with you.”
— Stealers Wheel, 1972

Doesn’t it seem these days like the world has divided right down the middle? We’ve got Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, Brexiters and Europhiles, open borders advocates and controlled immigration people, social justice warriors and free speech advocates, the politically correct and the deliberately controversial, individualists and collectivists … and on, and on, and on.

Iron and clay, maybe.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

On Not Showing Up to the Conversation

I’ve watched with interest the back-and-forth over at assemblyHUB around Nathan Abdy’s multi-part online defense of ecumenicalism.

Abdy is a Bible College student who feels the churches in which he circulates are out of touch with the broader Christian community: “If the greater Evangelical Christian world is a party, then ‘the Brethren’ are in the corner twiddling their thumbs, waiting for it to be over.”

Now, in some quarters them’s fightin’ words, and the feedback reflects it: “It’s so sad to read articles like this,” or “Today, [evangelicalism] is a big mess.” Other comments are cautiously approving or even enthusiastic.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Another Kind of Empowerment

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

It’s an oldie but goodie. Much-loved opinion columnist Dave Barry has a few words to share about the Sailor Moon cartoon my own daughter grew up watching:

“Sailor Moon is the blond, ponytailed heroine of a wildly popular Japanese cartoon show. Sailor Moon leads a team of female superheroes who wear miniskirts and go-go boots; according to the AP story, they ‘combat evil and sexism’ using special powers that they get from their ‘magical brooches, scepters and compacts.’

That’s right: These heroines, striking a bold blow against sexism and outdated stereotypes of women, get their power from jewelry and makeup.”

Boom. Mic drop, long before mic drops were a thing.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

What’s Behind Faith?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
(Hebrews 11:1)

“I consider rationality (in a nutshell) to be: ‘an accurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.’ I can think of no better definition of faith than the exact opposite of this: ‘A grossly inaccurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.’

However, I invite those who have faith, and profess it as a virtue, to submit their definition of faith.”
— Joseph Dorrell, Ted Talks, 2012

Okay, Joseph. Let’s play.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sound Advice from a Secular Source

Consider the source, but not too much.
The word of God is full of good advice. So full, in fact, that many of us regularly take biblical advice that was given to other people entirely; advice that has no obvious direct connection to us.

Sometimes that works out all right anyway, provided the instructions are general enough to apply more broadly. For example, God told Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” That piece of wisdom came in a specific context to a specific person and had a specific historical meaning, but that doesn’t mean we’re crazy to say to ourselves, “You know, things will probably go better for me if I approach God the same way as others with whom he says he is pleased.”

Just like Cain ought to have done … and didn’t.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Quote of the Day (34)

The late Christopher Hitchens famously claimed men can be good without God. To prove his case he challenged his detractors to name even one moral action performed by a believer that could not equally have been performed by a nonbeliever.

Hitchens is dead and gone, but his claim is not. Others continue to advance it in different ways. Stefan Molyneux explores the subject in Universally Preferable Behaviour: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics. Dr. Jordan Peterson, notably coy about his belief in the existence of an actual Supreme Being, lays down a rationalistic scenario in a series of recent lectures in which the Bible, though apparently the product of naturally evolving morality rather than divine revelation, still serves a vital purpose in civilizing man, providing an irreplaceable basis for social interaction and transforming the individual.

Goodness without an actual God. Hmm. Does that work for you?

Monday, July 03, 2017

On the Value of Frank Speech

A couple of stories about calling it as you see it.

The first was in a video lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson. Pointing to a particular vignette in the Hieronymous Bosch triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, Peterson improvised:

“That’s the lion lying down with the lamb. So that’s this idea that’s maybe projected back in time that there was a time — or maybe will be a time — when the horrors of life are no longer necessary for life itself to exist.

And the horrors of life are, of course, that everything eats everything else and that everything dies and that everything’s born and that the whole bloody place is a charnel house and it’s a catastrophe from beginning to end.

This is the vision of it being ... other than that.”

Boy, you could have heard a pin drop. He had the attention of everyone in the room.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

If You Don’t Know, Just Say So

When you don’t know the answer to something, the only truly honest response is “I don’t know”.

Some people just can’t bring themselves to say it, sadly.

This poor soul dared to pose a question on an internet forum a while back. The silly fellow had been reading his Bible (on his own, possibly) and had the temerity to come across this verse:

“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’ ”

Hooboy. Some people just know how to pick ’em.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Thought Experiment #3: Consciousness and Memory

I’ve been thinking again about the consciousness of God.

I know: heavy subject, holy ground, tread carefully. I’m on tiptoes.

We recently ran a post from Immanuel Can on the subject of memory. He makes the case that there are certain things Christians need to let go of and move on from in order to stay spiritually healthy. I think he’s right about that. Now, for IC, that moving-on process entails refusing to nurse or justify feelings of grief, bitterness or anger about things we cannot change.

We need God’s help for that, and it’s easier said than done, I know.