Friday, February 03, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Terms of Engagement

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

The Chicago Tribune reports the Trump administration has quietly nixed the use of a number of social justice buzzwords in official documents. The Center for Disease Control and the Departments of Health, Justice, Education and Urban Development have all been advised that the words “vulnerable”, “entitlement”, “diversity”, “transgender”, “fetus”, “evidence-based” and “science-based” are off the table.

Tom: You’re a language guy, IC: Why does the terminology we use around the subject of controversial issues matter so much?

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Asking About Atheism

I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with atheists.

You might wonder why. You might say, “People have to be open to the voice of God, or they hear nothing at all. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear,’ said the Lord. A man whose ears are already shut gets nothing — and, if we follow the Lord’s example — should get nothing, for he does not unite his hearing with any measure of faith. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

Even secular common sense accepts this. “A man convinced against his will remains an unbeliever still,” goes the axiom.

So why bother to talk to people whose minds are already made up? A fair question.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

What’s in the Glass?

There’s an old bromide about a glass that may be considered half empty or half full, depending on whether the person drinking it is an optimist or a pessimist. Nobody ever stops to ask what we are in the process of consuming, which seems to me to be the more fruitful inquiry.

Before we ever begin a discussion of whether its half-emptiness or half-fullness is more desirable, Christians need to learn to ask this simple question: “What’s in the glass?”

Some substances you don’t want to drink at all, even if it’s only six ounces.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Praying to an Arminian God

I had just finished Sunday’s post when Antemodernist dropped a new post of his own into my inbox. In this one, he starts with a question posed by a Calvinist: “What does praying to an Arminian God actually accomplish, since he can’t compel anyone to believe?” The Calvinist went on to assert, “Arminians pray like Calvinists when they pray for salvation.”

Antemodernist answers the question, but first explores a much more difficult one: “What does praying to a Calvinist God actually accomplish?”

Monday, January 30, 2023

Anonymous Asks (234)

“If the Bible teaches the equality of the sexes, why has inequality always been the norm?”

This will probably come as a shock to some readers, but the Bible doesn’t teach equality, either of the sexes or of any other kind. If you doubt that, a concordance will sort you out in short order. There is a single verse in the New Testament where the word “equality” in the KJV may be construed to promote financial fairness, but the importance of strict equality of status, authority, privilege or even personhood is nowhere to be found in scripture.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Hail and Farewell

I probably disagree with Michael Heiser as much as I agree with him. As I commented in an earlier post, Heiser “seems like a guy who has gone down a bit of a theological rabbit hole and may be in danger of seeing nothing but rabbits everywhere he looks”. That said, I have found what Heiser calls his “divine council worldview” exceedingly useful in broadening and fine-tuning my understanding of how God works. His books The Unseen Realm and Reversing Hermon are well worth reading and a good place to start if you have never heard of the man.

I was understandably saddened to read that Mike will not be writing any more books.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Mining the Minors: Micah (21)

Among the religious documents of the world, the Bible is unique in many respects. Not the least of these is the assurance it provides to those who believe it. We may better understand the appeal of the worship of YHWH in ancient times when we set it side by side with the worship of other ancient deities.

No other religious experience of that era in human history was framed in terms of relationship. The historians who write about the worship practices of other nations do not even use the word. The pagan invoked “my god” repeatedly, but there was nothing about his religious experience that would assure him the deity he addressed (assuming he or she could even be identified) cared for anything but a peace temporarily negotiated through blood sacrifice and offerings.

YHWH accepted offerings, but he was not like that.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: More Than Me

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

This topic is considerably less incendiary than the current Palestinian situation or the question of whether or not churches should be led by one man, but when Squidoo.com posted its list of “ultimate questions” and asked which ones its audience considered most important, this one finished second:

“Why do people insist on looking outside themselves for a reason for their life?”

Tom: Immanuel Can, what do you think about that: is there more than me, and why should I care if there is?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Honoring the Spirit

The congregation I was in last weekend was singing this new song:

“Holy Spirit, come invade us now
 We are your church
 We need your power …”

Eh?

These people believe the Spirit of God is outside of believers, and has to be called on to “invade”? They think the church of God does not actually have the Spirit of God already?

Surely not! But why were they singing such nonsense?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Better Second Fiddle

Back in 1939, theorist Kurt Goldstein coined the term “self-actualization” to describe the motive to realize what he called “one’s full potential”.

In Goldstein’s view this drive might take the form of creative expression, pursuit of knowledge or the desire to contribute to society in some personally-defined way. Goldstein believed self-actualization was any organism’s “master motive” and its most basic drive in life. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory built on Goldstein’s concept and is probably the most familiar expression of it.

Among others in Christian circles, Rachel Held Evans seems to have bought into Goldstein’s theories.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Complements of John Piper

Darlene Parsons and/or Wanda Martin at The Wartburg Watch are deep into it over complementarian commander-in-chief John Piper. In an article entitled “John Piper Backs Himself Into a Corner and Even Reformed Complementarians Are Confused”, TWW points out that Piper has well gone well beyond any biblical mandate he might have for his views on the roles of the sexes.

If you have no idea what a complementarian is in the first place, join the club. Large numbers of Christians have never encountered the term. Though the idea has apparently been around for years, I only heard it used for the first time very recently.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Anonymous Asks (233)

“Is Christianity wish fulfillment?”

The idea that the Christian faith is a form of confirmation bias or a pleasing fantasy concocted by people who simply can’t cope with the hard realities of life has been floating around in one form or another for thousands of years. The old catchphrase “pie in the sky” was a flippant dismissal of the sort of person who puts all his stock in the belief in life after death rather than embracing a philosophy of “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die” like sensible, realistic people do.

To that I reply, “Say what???”

Sunday, January 22, 2023

More Where That Comes From

Being transformed into the image of the Son of God does not depend on me.

Thank the Lord for that.

There are things about Christian service that can be learned. Skill sets can be developed. Techniques can be applied. Practice sometimes makes perfect. I could, for instance, wholly apart from the Spirit of God, acquire a greater understanding of Hebrew and Greek through diligent study and as a consequence become a more accurate Bible teacher.

Whether much of eternal value would come from that apart from the Spirit of God is a separate question, but it can certainly be done.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Mining the Minors: Micah (20)

I find the next three verses of Micah’s prophecy very difficult to interpret, so much so that I almost put this post off another week to let it percolate. I like to do the spadework first, reading a passage repeatedly and then doing any relevant word studies before consulting the commentaries.

In this case, repeated readings and word studies still left me with major questions. I finally tapped out after checking eight or ten popular commentaries, few of which provided any satisfying insights, and concluded another week wasn’t likely to produce an epiphany.