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, October 31, 2017

The Price of Admission

If you read only the complaints of Social Justice Christendom, you might be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the only possible reason a local church can possibly object to the idea of having fellowship with practicing homosexuals is a lack of love.

And, to be fair, one has to admit that at times Christians have reacted to homosexuals in ways that might be considered less than charitable (though the strictest Christians tend to be considerably kinder than even the most moderate practitioners of Islam).

But not every gathering of Christians is the Westboro Baptist Church. And thankfully, few believers conduct themselves like Fred Phelps, though the media has a tendency to perpetuate the stereotype.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New and/or Reactionary

Gary McIntosh has written an intriguing guest piece for Christianity Today on the subject of the history of spiritual gifts profiles, and it raises a bigger question concerning the validity of new movements and trends within Christendom.

Given a minute, you’ll probably think of half a dozen examples of what McIntosh means by “spiritual gifts profiles”. Books, seminars and platform ministry on the subject of gifts are found everywhere these days. These attempt to inventory and describe each of the spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit of God with a view to helping Christians recognize the gifts they’ve been given and use them more effectively for God’s glory.

But McIntosh points out that this level of attention to the gifts is a fairly recent phenomenon; perhaps not quite big enough to refer to as a “movement”, but certainly a notable trend.

And to some people anything new is automatically suspect.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On the Mount (1)

I’m working my way through the Sermon on the Mount again (Matthew 5-7). It’s a pretty pivotal piece in Christ’s teaching ministry, and one that seems to invite scrutiny on multiple levels.

Infogalactic’s entry on the Sermon lists eight different categories of views about it, the most commonly held of which is that it “contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship”. Augustine called it “a perfect standard of the Christian life”.

I struggle with that. See, the Sermon is fundamentally Jewish; and while Christianity has its roots in Judaism and would not exist without it, the two are not interchangeable.

If we miss that, we’re missing more than we might think.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (4)

A commenter at Christian Forums attempts to refute the Dispensational view of the Bible. Leimeng says:

“Much of Dispensationalism is a false teaching in the same way that calvinism, arminianism and pelegarianism are. The Bible clearly states that God is not a God of Changes, and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

The statement that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever comes word-for-word from the book of Hebrews, but I don’t believe it means at all what Leimeng claims it means.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Nominally Protestant, Leaning Catholic

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

Faith alone. Scripture alone. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s historic declaration of these biblical truths — truths fundamental to Protestantism and, more importantly, to a clear and consistent understanding of what God has spoken to mankind in his word.

Tom: This piece ran in Christianity Today earlier this year, Immanuel Can, in which Sarah Zylstra argues (based on the findings of a Pew Research poll) that many of the estimated 560 million Protestants around the world today no longer believe justification with God depends on faith alone or that scripture is the only final authority for Christian faith and practice. They are nominally Protestant, but leaning Catholic.

If true, that’s would seem a little discouraging.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Inbox: Have I Got a Deal for You

Alison writes:

Something [has] been bothering me for really long time. Everybody says “Read the book of Job for comfort, blah blah blah” but look at Job 1:8.

“Have you considered my servant Job?” The speaker is God.

OMG did you get that?!?! It was YHVH who pointed Job out to the Adversary in the first place! He might as well have said, “Sic him, Satan!”

[Throws hands in the air and wonders what it’s all about anyway]

That’s a big question, Alison. And though your wording may jar some readers, I think that at the end of the day, it’s actually quite a fair one.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dropping the Secular Pretense

“If secular America does not die, then America will die. If we do not drop the secular pretense with loathing then it is inevitable that God will drop us. With loathing.”
— Doug Wilson

Hey, Doug, somebody’s trying. The “secular pretense” has officially been dropped. In fact, I can’t recall a world leader who invoked the name of God more deliberately or with greater consistency than President Donald Trump in the months since his inauguration.

You can like him, you can hate him, or you can ignore him. You can claim he’s pandering to evangelicals, and you might even be right. But he’s definitely doing something President Obama didn’t.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bubbling Under the Surface

Sometimes God gets angry. Sometimes his righteous and thoroughly justifiable anger is even directed at his servants:

“The Lord was angry with me because of you.”

“The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him.”

“The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord.”

“He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around.”

But the consequences of God’s anger (not to mention its duration) are not always precisely the same.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Do We Need Revival?

I meet with a group of believers, more than one of whom prays regularly and passionately for revival.

Often these requests go beyond the local level and become a bit denominational in character. Occasionally they are even more sweeping, taking in all of evangelicalism, or perhaps the church throughout North America.

I’ve always found the term “revival” a little awkward, and I now realize why: notwithstanding our hymnology, “revive” is an Old Testament word and “revival” is really an Old Testament concept.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kings and Functionaries

One must be careful what one wishes for, not to mention one’s choice of words.

Israel said to the prophet Samuel, “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They were looking for a judge and a defender, someone who would grant them justice against their domestic enemies and take up arms against foreign enemies on their behalf. Instead, in Saul, after an initial honeymoon period, they got a king who judged them arbitrarily, oppressively, selfishly and moodily, and who fought on their behalf with only limited success.

Exactly like all the nations.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Basic Math

Most people can do basic math.

Maybe not everybody can do linear algebra, probability or calculus, but even relatively low-IQ palace servants living 1000 years before the birth of Christ could hardly fail to notice that David’s latest wife, Bathsheba, had just delivered a baby well short of the average human gestation period of forty weeks.

Sure, David married Bathsheba the moment he could reasonably get away with it. But nobody was fooled. Their affair had to be the worst-kept secret in Jerusalem.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Witchcraft Using Christian Language

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

Christianity Today has an interesting piece on Benny Hinn’s nephew Costi, who no longer preaches the prosperity gospel like the rest of his family.

Tom: Costi’s description of the financial benefits of preaching the gospel and performing “healings” is a bit jarring, especially for those who’ve grown up in the family of a full-time Bible teacher. I don’t recall the 10,000 square foot mansions, the Benzes, the exotic vacations or the summer homes.

What do you think, IC? Was my dad doing something wrong?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What About the Witches?

The most extraordinary thought occurred to me today.

I’ve been debating with atheists online again …

Yeah, don’t ask.

Anyway, one of the funny things they do is to call up the alleged records of theist “atrocities”, which of course they then want to attribute to all Christians. Apparently, we’re responsible for everything from the Crusades and Inquisitions to the Holocaust and (according to atheist popularizer Bill Maher) “all the wars”.

If this lack of any historical or theological awareness were not funny enough, a favourite canard of theirs actually involves the Salem Witch Trials.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Galilee probably looked something
like this in the time of Isaiah.
Are Christians really the world’s most persecuted religious group?

Nelson Jones at New Statesman has taken up the issue at some length in response to a recent statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron: “It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world,” Cameron said. “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

Jones starts his article by appearing to agree with Cameron and others who have voiced similar sentiments but as he meanders on, it becomes evident that what he really wants to say is: 1) religion causes fighting, 2) Muslims are persecuted too, 3) “persecution” is a relative term, and 4) anyway, if Christians ARE being persecuted, it’s certainly not because of their faith.

Which pretty much covers all the bases.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That Poorly-Attended Prayer Meeting

Another article on the church, and yet another concerned comment about poorly-attended prayer meetings.

It’s a “head-scratcher”, we’re told.

Scratch no more, my good friends. It’s not that tough from where I sit.

I’m not sure that there are all that many Christians who really believe their church can succeed without prayer. Rather, I think the message many Christians are sending when they beat feet in the other direction at prayer meeting time might just be that they’re not convinced their church needs or wants THEIR prayers, or that their attendance on any given week will make the slightest bit of difference either to the Lord or to their fellow believers.

Much of the time I suspect they’re right.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Love and Response

Several years ago I gave some good advice to a struggling, depressed young adult. Basic things, really: Go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning, brush your teeth and get dressed rather than lying around moping until all hours. Eat properly. Exercise. Clean up after yourself. Jordan Peterson stuff, but before everybody knew who Jordan Peterson is.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

When to Stop

Scientists who subscribe to the the Big Bang Theory seem compelled to seek out some earlier cause for each event in their chain. Everything happens, they reason, because something else happened first. So, for instance, this astronomer argues that the “highly concentrated ball of matter” from which the universe is supposed to have begun was the product of decaying photons.

We might try to frame this sort of argument in the language of the book of Hebrews by saying this: something “visible” (in this example, light) eventually gave rise to “what is seen” (in this case, matter).

But obviously the writer of Hebrews would disagree with that formulation.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Semi-Random Musings (3)

Some meanings are just lost, I’m afraid. At least that’s how it seems to me when I dig into the original languages of scripture in hope of finding the most accurate translation of specific words.

To the post-modernist, a text means whatever he pleases at any particular moment. Authorial intent doesn’t matter in the slightest because the post-modernist assures us intent cannot be known and, further, if intent could be known it would carry no more weight than the most trivial and uninformed interpretation of the reader.

Word studies? Who cares?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: See You in Court, Brother

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

Wow. Christians going to court with one another.

You’d think this issue would be put to bed speedily by even the most cursory glance at Matthew 5:25-26 or 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. But no, believers are keeping their lawyers on speed-dial in significant numbers. It used to be the primary reason was child abuse, but last year it was something new: property rights.

Tom: Here I thought we’d all be meeting in cell groups in homes sooner than later as a result of lawfare trial balloons from the transgender, feminist or gay lobbies. But no, this is even stranger: we’re doing it to ourselves, Immanuel Can; not just as individuals, but whole congregations. And most of it involves issues related to church buildings.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Between Museum and Megachurch

I’ve been to a few churches lately. And I’ve got some questions. Maybe you do too.

Two weeks ago I visited a tiny congregation. Everything about them — the building, the furniture and the people — was redolent of a past generation.

Not near past. Long past.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I Liked You Better Before You Apologized

Here’s Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last Wednesday, responding to a question from a female reporter about the “physicality” of one of his wide-receivers as he runs downfield:

“It’s funny to hear a female talk about ‘routes.’ It’s funny.”

Oops.

Cut to the same Cam Newton last Thursday, after social media erupted over his “sexism” and at least one of his corporate sponsors went off in search of greener pastures:

“I sincerely apologize … I’m a father to two beautiful daughters and at their age I try to instill in them that they can do and be anything that they want to be.”

You know, I kinda liked Cam better before he apologized.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Jesus@Home

At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus established a base of operations near the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum, about 40 miles from Nazareth where he had grown up. Matthew tells us he made this move right after the arrest of John the Baptist, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

It was near Capernaum that he called his first disciples, preached the Sermon on the Mount and calmed the storm. It was from the same region that he sent out the Twelve into the rest of Israel to proclaim the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Implementing the Peace Principle

Legally speaking, a conflict of interest is a situation in which a person owes a duty to more than one party, the execution of which duties are either incompatible or mutually exclusive. In other words, discharging one’s responsibility to the first party may result in negatively impacting or failing to discharge one’s responsibility to the second.

This is not a situation with which Christians are unfamiliar. Conflicts of interest are part of the package.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Bridegroom Is Here

The Pharisees complained to Jesus about his disciples breaking the Sabbath by plucking and eating heads of grain as they made their way through the fields. If you had asked them why this mattered, they would have replied that they were concerned about the commandments of God. “It’s not lawful,” they said.

But when the people asked Jesus why it was that his disciples did not regularly engage in fasting, they were not asking about commandments or laws, but rather about a widespread, optional religious practice of the day.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Study of Plate Tectonics (or What Do I Do Next?)

Which way do I go? How do I respond to THAT? Should I wait, or should I act now?

The answers to such questions are not merely of academic interest to the Christian. From time to time, one choice or another gives rise to significant consequences, either good or bad. Other times nothing we choose to do or say matters in the slightest; what happens would have happened anyway.

But of course we don’t know that when we’re choosing, do we? So we find ourselves asking God for wisdom.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Not Going to Nashville [Part 5]

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

The Nashville Statement is a significant evangelical document. It’s an attempt by big names such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Russell Moore, James Dobson and others to formulate a written response to Western culture’s post-Christian “massive revision of what it means to be a human being”, especially as that revision relates to sexuality and marriage.

Significant though it may be, in our final installment we’re discussing why, here at ComingUntrue, we’re Not Going to Nashville.

Tom: On to the ante-penultimate Article then.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Who’s Holding the Scales?

I have to admit I’m appalled by the debates flying around the Internet these days. More and more, they seem like merely the propaganda of angry factions, not the rational pronouncements of people who think things through.

And the sanctimony ... oh, the sanctimony! Every faction sees its perspective as not merely just, but as the only side a reasonable, compassionate, fair-minded, informed, civilized or decent person could ever be on.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Problems You Can’t Fix

The rich get a bad rap sometimes. But they also have their defenders.

A few years ago in Forbes, John Stossel pointed out that the big-money folk in America don’t have enough spare change between them to put a dent in the financial woes of their own country, let alone the rest of the world.

“If the IRS grabbed 100 percent of income over $1 million, the take would be just $616 billion. That’s only a third of this year’s deficit.”

The finer details of Stossel’s math might be debated, but all the same he’s got a point, and one that won’t go away. Some problems can’t be fixed — at least not by human beings.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Everybody’s a Theologian

Augustine of Hippo (called Saint Augustine by some) defined theologia as “reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity”.

A theologian, then, is someone who engages in the study of theology, or has learned something about God.

Hey, by that standard everyone’s a theologian.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Believers in Orbit

Long-time readers here will be aware that I don’t always see eye to eye with Crawford Paul over at assemblyHUB. We’ve had one or two carefully-worded differences of opinion and a number of back-and-forths in the comments section there (and, to be fair, plenty of common ground too).

That said, I’ve got to concede his latest post makes some very good points.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Six times in Matthew 5 (v21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43), the Lord Jesus refers to things his audience had heard said. Some of these things are the direct commands of God through Moses in something very close to their original wording. Others appear to be rabbinical interpretations that expand on the originals.

In all cases, the conventional rabbinical readings are inadequate. So instead, the Lord infers from the Law of Moses principles of conduct and modes of thought by which his listeners might strive to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

Hearsay, it appears, was not good enough.