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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Recommend-a-blog (25)

John’s Gospel is my favorite.

Those of you who think we shouldn’t have favorite books and especially favorite Gospels are, of course, welcome to make the requisite harumph-ing noises, but a greater number of readers are probably quietly affirming, “Yeah, me too.” And of course in finding particular delight in John, I am not in the least disparaging Matthew, Mark or Luke, all of whom wrote with specific purposes, intended audiences and special emphases, and each of whom is tremendously edifying in his own particular way.

But John is just different.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Crashing and Burning

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

We’ve all seen it, and seen it many times: a Christian in the public eye crashes and burns. He (or she, recently) confesses to the commission of one sin or another, usually an affair of some sort, and follows the confession by taking a time-out from the affected area of service (or leaving it altogether), announcing that the family needs “healing time”, and so on and so forth.

Tom: I bring this up because it’s happened again, IC. I’m not going to mention the name; the details are unimportant and likely unprofitable to pore over. But you and I have discussed the situation a little, and I wondered about your thoughts on how such things should be handled biblically. There aren’t many apostolic scandals recorded for us in the New Testament, are there …

Immanuel Can: No, there aren’t.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Horrific Hymnology

A year or so ago I wrote three posts on music (you can find them here, here and here). My point — then and now — was that we all have a responsibility to be discerning and to choose our music based on biblical principles rather than personal preference. And so that I would not be taking that responsibility away from anyone, I talked about the key principles rather than particulars of which musical pieces might be indicted or approved by a discerning observer.

Moreover, if anyone did not agree with me about their selections for congregational singing, I did not want to pass any judgment on them. After all, we all stand or fall to our own Master. So if the hymns and songs somebody else’s congregation wants to sing don’t square with the sort of list I would choose, I say, “No hard feelings”. I am not the last word in musical orthodoxy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Who’s Got the Microphone?

One natural follow-up question from Saturday’s post on the subject of roles is this: “Did women ever prophesy in New Testament church meetings?”

I ask it largely out of curiosity: even a crystal-clear scriptural example of a prophetess addressing both men and women in a congregation (assuming we could find one, and we can’t) would not really help us toward working out our own roles in a day in which we are no longer able to prophesy in the specific sense in which Paul uses the word.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Future Harvest, Present Grace

Fox Business says one reason a significant number of Millennials struggle to find work is that self-control is still considered a major workplace asset. Rightly or wrongly, employers tend to associate that quality with older workers.

Self-control is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals; to do the necessary things even when our emotions get in the way — not a priority much stressed in the last few generations. Karl Moore notes, “Millennials value emotion. They are taught in high school and university a Postmodern worldview which puts thought [and] emotions on nearly the same plane.”

Well, if how I feel is going to dictate what I do today, I should not be surprised to find at the end of the day that I haven’t got a whole lot done. And that is a problem.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Evil in Unexpected Places

“No one gives up on something until it turns on them.”
― Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti’s statement may or may not be true, but there is something to be said for people who live consistently.

Those who have become disillusioned by the behavior of Christians are among the most intensely disillusioned people I have ever met. How do you initiate any kind of dialogue with someone completely convinced he has taken the measure of your faith and found it wanting?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On the Mount (21)

It’s going out of style now, but in times past a man proposing marriage would get down on one knee in front of his intended and ask for her hand.

As anyone who has ever googled “Marriage proposals gone wrong” can attest, that sort of thing can be risky business. The man usually makes the sacrifice of purchasing an expensive ring, then goes about proclaiming his love, most often in public, making himself visibly (not to mention emotionally) vulnerable and taking the chance that his request may be denied and his efforts come to nothing.

Sacrifice and humiliation. Interesting combination. But if you want something badly enough, maybe a little humiliation is no big deal.

Old Testament fasting was a little bit like that.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mind the Ditches

The folks at the assemblyHUB website have embarked on an initiative to reexamine the biblical roles of men and women in the church, the world and the home (WAMS 2018). To date, Dan Kruszelnicki, Bernadette Veenstra (twice) and Crawford Paul have weighed in on issues like complementary gender roles, women usurping authority and women’s silence in the churches.

For reasons I will get to shortly, I find myself less than delighted.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Eternity In Their Hearts

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

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes the argument that God has put a longing for the eternal into the human heart, yet seems to have provided less revelation about eternity than some of us might wish. And notwithstanding the fact that we’ve had plenty more prophetic revelation since the book of Ecclesiastes was written, we still have a tendency to speculate about what lies in store for us at the end of history as we move into eternity.

Tom: We’re discussing a recent Todd Billings post at Christianity Today entitled “The New View of Heaven Is Too Small”. What was your last point, IC?

Immanuel Can: Serious Christians need some kind of counter to the common misconception that the eternal state involves a lot of unrelenting, undifferentiated, disembodied, white-clad, purposeless hanging about on clouds …

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Big Gamble

When I first entered my profession, I was in my mid-twenties. As a brash young man, I remember being irritated by the requirement that I should begin to save for retirement. For one thing, I was young, and young people never think much about being old. I thought I might well even be dead long before my investment came back; I certainly had no assurances I would not. But more importantly, as I was starting out in life, I knew I could make good use of that sizeable portion of my income that was going to be carved out for the retirement plan, and there was no way to get at it.

I would have if I could have.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Broken Window Sins

All sins create distance between man and God.

Still, even before the sun rises tomorrow, the proud man can stick a pin in his swollen ego; the narcissist can begin to learn empathy; the drunkard can put the bottle down before his liver finally packs it in; the liar can start telling the truth; and the thief can commit himself to making his victims whole. John the Baptist taught wholesale, on-the-spot lifestyle modification to all he baptized. When you just stop doing certain things and start doing the opposite, all kinds of wonderful stuff can happen.

Then there are the “broken window” sins.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Opportunity and Desire

One of Chuck Snyder’s readers shares a not-so-unusual problem:

“I believe the Spirit of God is upon me to teach the Word of God with love, accuracy, patience and discernment to a lost and hurting world and to all who hunger for the truth. Several years of schooling and formal study took place in order to prepare and to show myself approved. Now, in my home church, I am given every job and project under the sun to be responsible for, except ‘teaching the Word of God.’ ”

I hear this sort of thing all the time: “My church doesn’t let me use my spiritual gift.”

Monday, March 05, 2018

Sojourners and Citizens

Not everything about sojourning is to the sojourner’s taste. That’s part and parcel of being on the road. As someone with no vested interests in the society around you — as someone just passing through — you have to kind of accept the way the locals live and occasionally look the other way, even if what they do is more than a little cringeworthy at times. When in Rome and all that …

In the Bible, sojourners were more refugees than tourists. Like Naomi or Jacob and his family, they were where they were because their own nation was experiencing famine, drought or invasion. Or, like David, Moses, Jacob (again) or Joseph and Mary, they were on the run because their king, their own people or even their family members would have been happy to see them dead.

The Christian, too, is far from home. All believers are.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

On the Mount (20)

The reciprocity principle is not a new thing. It’s said to be found in some form in nearly every religion.

Perhaps the earliest written formulation occurs in the Egyptian story of The Eloquent Peasant. “Do to the doer to make him do,” the god Maat is supposed to have said, which has been generally interpreted to mean something not wildly dissimilar to the so-called Golden Rule (though we can hardly overlook the obvious self-interest in the Egyptian version). The story predates the Law of Moses, in which Israel was commanded to love their neighbors as themselves, by a couple hundred years.

Ah well, all truth is God’s truth, as the saying goes. In any case, ancient Egyptian wisdom is not circulating the way it used to.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

One Bad Idea

Left uncontested, one bad idea can do astonishing damage.

When humanity fell, taking all of creation with it, the cause was a woman who defied the revealed will of God … and a man too weak to either call her on it or to take responsibility for his own sin.

A bad idea went uncontested. Today, generation after generation pays through the nose.

Again: assuming the Muslims are correct and that Ishmael is legitimately an ancestor of Muhammad, virtually every rocket launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip since 2001 can be attributed to a woman who proposed another really bad idea … and a man too weak to call her on it.

Abraham and Sarah, the Golan Heights sends its thanks.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: An Undersized Eternity

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

Tom: Earlier this week I poked around the subject of Christian hope a little. My sister had kindly linked me to Todd Billings’ recent post at Christianity Today entitled “The New View of Heaven Is Too Small” in which Billings talks about Michigan deer hunters who expect to continue enjoying their favorite pastime in heaven.

I’d rather not spend more time debunking other Christians’ cherished heavenly speculations, so I’ll trust that my own post didn’t completely fail to make the case that a New Testament view of our hope in Christ is rich, multifaceted and real.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Zombie Church

I’ve always really liked Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, “Cloister Graveyard in the Snow”. In it, we see a crumbled cathedral with only a bit of the porch and chapel remaining amid twisted, dark trees. But if you look closely, in the middle ground, you’ll see a trail of monks still marching into the ruins, presumably to continue their monkish duties.

The painting has both a positive and a negative message about religiosity. On the one hand, it suggests faith can persist even when, socially speaking, religiosity is generally perceived be in ruins; but on the other hand, it also reminds us that ritual can persist even when the life of a church is gone.

I guess the message you take depends on the perspective with which you view it.