Thursday, June 04, 2020

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).

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Congregations in Boxes

If you are anything like me, you have probably watched no end of amateur Christian video uploaded to YouTube in the last two months. The medium definitely has its limitations.

Still, there is a certain amount of courage required to record your thoughts to be replayed in a public forum. The whole thing is pretty stark: it’s basically a person in a box. You are seriously exposed.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Not Done in a Corner

From the scientific perspective, peer review is the litmus test of reliability.

The idea is this: that in order for a newly published academic theory to have any credibility with either the scientific community or the general public, it is necessary for independent parties to test it: to carefully read through the documentation that supports it; to re-calculate the mathematical formulas that lie behind it; to examine the steps by which the theory was constructed and certify that its conclusions were arrived at in accordance with normal scientific procedures; in some cases even to re-perform whatever experiments are alleged to prove it and examine their results for consistency.

You cannot do science off in some dark corner and then refuse to allow anybody to see what you have been up to. If you do, nobody will believe you at all.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Anonymous Asks (95)

“Do you have to say certain words to become a Christian?”

Entering into a relationship with God is not like signing up to play for a ball team, getting initiated into a college fraternity or joining MENSA. There are no tests to pass, no dotted lines to sign on, no secret handshakes and no code words like “Open, Sesame” which must be spoken to allow access to God.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Divine Multi-Tasking

A teacher once told me about a student who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. He didn’t mean it literally, of course; it was a comment on the student’s intelligence. We assume the smarter a person is, the more things they are capable of doing at the same time.

A juggler keeps multiple balls in the air simultaneously. It can be impressive to watch a skilled multi-tasker at work. But human beings have upper limits on our juggling ability. The maximum number of items ever juggled is either 13 or 14, depending on who you believe. The case has been made that the laws of physics make juggling 15 items impossible. At least, nobody alive can do it.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Time and Chance (38)

Revelation is a glorious thing.

The phrase “through a glass darkly” is often used to describe our current condition: we do not know everything we wish we knew about God’s purposes for us. We would like to know more; of course we would.

But when we apply that biblical phrase to ourselves, I believe we are erroneously putting ourselves back twenty centuries in time and assuming ourselves to be in the same condition as the Christians to whom Paul wrote in the mid-first century AD with respect to the knowledge of God and his purposes.

And yet we are not in their situation. Not at all. We are much, much better off than they were.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: To Debate or Not to Debate

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

Is there such a thing as too much discussion?
Kristin Howerton thinks evangelicals need to rethink our response to the gay marriage issue. “Is the debate over gay marriage what we want to be known for?” she asks:

“Do these squabbles speak love? Does the loud and passionate protestation about same-sex marriage draw others to Christ?”

Tom: Good questions, Immanuel Can. Is there any easy answer? Or is this a debate where both sides may have legitimate concerns?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Anatomy of a Genocide

Serious efforts to exterminate Jews have happened more than once, and the word of God assures us they will happen again. The book of Esther is the story of a relatively early attempt.

The Medo-Persian empire was not Nazi Germany, and it is not Armageddon, but there are still a few interesting things to be observed about genocides, how such things can even come about at all, and what a persecuted (or soon-to-be-persecuted) minority can learn from them about how best to conduct itself in the face of overwhelming numerical opposition.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Sound and Unsound

It is difficult to miss the adjective “sound” in the first couple chapters of Titus. In fact, it occurs more times in Titus than anywhere else in the New Testament. In instructing his younger associate, the apostle Paul refers repeatedly to both “sound doctrine” and being “sound in the faith”, the latter being the result of the former. Soundness was the apostle’s desire for the Christians in Crete, and indeed for all believers everywhere.

In Greek, the word “sound” is hygiainō, which means “healthy”. It has the sense of fitness and functionality. In Luke it is contrasted with both sickness and injury.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Anonymous Asks (94)

“Is it possible to go a whole day without sinning?”

No.

Shortest Anonymous Asks ever.

Okay, I suppose I could elaborate a little. It is only possible to imagine you have gone a whole day without “sinning” if your definition of sin is grossly deficient, if you are stupifyingly un-self-aware, or maybe if you happen to be in a coma.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Good Applications and Bad Ones

Billy Graham noted that the character of our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances may change. Jesus does not.

TL Osborn says that because Jesus Christ does not change, you can count on being healed from sickness, just as he healed the sick in the first century.

A commenter at Christian Forums says the fact that Jesus Christ never changes means dispensationalism is false teaching.

We all agree that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” However, it is evident we do not all agree about precisely what that means.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Time and Chance (37)

Last week we encountered the term “vanity” for the umpteenth time in the book of Ecclesiastes, and considered another entry in the Preacher’s list of realities he found frustrating, and which he could not hope to understand without direct revelation from God. In this case, he had observed that there is a species of wicked people who move freely in polite society and who, far from being punished for their crimes, are more often politely indulged ... and sometimes even celebrated.

He continues this thought in the next couple of verses, in the process adding yet another “vain thing” to his list of conundra.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Getting Relevant

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

I heard that most young people drop out of church today, either for a short or indefinite time, around age 18-19. I was concerned: after all, if we lose the next generation, what’s going to happen to the church? But then I found this glossy new resource, and it’s really helping me to understand what today’s young adults are going to find relevant by way of spiritual stuff. I’m sharing it with you, Tom, because I know you’ve got young-adult children of your own.

Just in time, eh?

Tom: Uh, thanks, IC, I think. Why is it that some Christians seem to think that being “relevant” actually means “pandering” or “condescending”?