Monday, January 25, 2021

Anonymous Asks (129)

“What’s the difference between encouragement and flattery?”

Years ago, I got together for coffee with an elder from a church where I had enjoyed happy fellowship for several years. This was not the first time and it wouldn’t be the last; he is one of those godly older men who takes the job of shepherding very seriously indeed, and he kept track of me long after I had moved out of town and was no longer, strictly speaking, his “spiritual business”.

I had worn a particularly goofy, juvenile T-shirt to the coffee shop, and as we sat down together, he shot me a wry grin and asked, “So, when are you going to grow up?”

That was encouragement. It sure wasn’t flattery.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Built-In Self-Destruct Button

If you have spent a lot of time reading the Old Testament and trying to get into the mindset of the average law-abiding Jew, you probably agree with me that Christian freedom is a marvelous thing.

The believer’s relationship to the Law of Moses is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christian life, notwithstanding statements like “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

But freedom is not something we human beings do easily or naturally. We prefer rule-keeping.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (18)

When God gives a mission to one of his servants, there is always more than one thing going on. He is not just sending a message or getting a job done, but also teaching his most faithful followers more about himself.

We should expect this. He is God, after all. If anyone is equipped to play multi-dimensional chess, it is the Divine Mind.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Getting Reoriented

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

Tertius drew my attention to this three-year-old blog post written by a self-described “twenty-something Christ follower” who says he is “same-sex attracted”.

That makes him a member of a small but disproportionately influential group. Infogalactic has this survey of the various attempts made to measure the demographics of sexual orientation. The numbers are all over the place, but nowhere do they exceed 5% of the population.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Creating Cognitive Dissonance

A little over a week ago, I was watching one of those bog-standard political videos you find on YouTube these days: you know, the ones where a conservative interviews a group of young Leftists without revealing his own political leanings. He asks each interviewee a series of apparently random questions about what they believe, after which the results are cleverly edited together to demonstrate the rank hypocrisy of Progressivist thinking.

In this case the subjects being discussed were tolerance and compromise, and the results were absolutely predictable. Every young Lefty being interviewed claimed tolerance was the most important of all values and that compromise was critical when engaging in political discourse, but of course the moment they were given a list of specific conservative values and areas of possible agreement with the Right, it turned out they were all hopelessly intolerant and refused to compromise on anything at all.

“Aha!” said the conservative writers and editors. “Hypocrisy!” Well, no. Not exactly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Not Her Voice

Everybody wants to be heard. That’s understandable.

To understand and be fully understood is one of the greatest possible states to which human beings may aspire. When perfection comes, “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known,” says the apostle.

That suggests very strongly that those of us who have a relationship with Jesus Christ are already as fully known as we will ever need or want to be. Think about that for a bit.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Anonymous Asks (128)

“Should God choose our mate?”

That’s an interesting question, and I think the answer may have a bit of both yes and no in it. Obvious comeback: If he did, how would you know? What would that look like? What evidence would you need to feel confident God had stepped into your personal circumstances and ordered your future living arrangements?

There are definitely Christians who think this is precisely what happens; perhaps not in every case, but at least in those where a man commits his way to the Lord in prayer, or a woman seeks God’s will for her in the matter of marriage. I will not argue with anyone who feels that way, but again, that’s all it is: a feeling.

Unless of course you can produce evidence ...

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Too Clever For Their Own Good

Far too often the mere existence of a biblical record of how fallible, sinful men behave is taken as evidence of what God prefers.

That’s a mistake, whether it is done by unbelievers attacking the character of God and the morality of his instructions, or by believers looking to the frequently sub-optimal choices of Old Testament patriarchs for their standards of acceptable Christian behavior.

We can and should learn moral lessons from history, of course, but it is foolish to go beyond what is actually written. When we do, we are often being too clever for our own good.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (17)

If the book of Jonah were simply a historical account, by all rights it should finish at the end of chapter 3: Nineveh repents, God relents, end of problem for the next 100 years or thereabouts.

Except it doesn’t end, and we should be glad it doesn’t, because chapter 4 is the real point of the book. After all, Nineveh’s repentance was temporary, the salvation of its individual citizens only a matter of their avoiding their inevitable dates with Sheol for five, ten, twenty or seventy years, depending on their age at the time God held back his wrath against their city. If any of the reprieved Ninevites sought out the God of Israel and became proselytes, we never get to hear about it.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Will Science Survive Our Politicized Culture?

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

The Autumn 2016 edition of City Journal is home to a lengthy but remarkably even-handed piece entitled “The Real War on Science”, in which author John Tierney points out that it’s actually Progressives rather than right-wingers that are holding science back.

Tierney reveals that academia has become what he calls a “monoculture”, much like the media, that is in danger of losing public trust because so many scientists insist on mixing politics with their jobs.

Tom: We’ve documented this trend here a number of times, Immanuel Can. [Way too many times to link to, in fact; click “science” in the topic sidebar on our main page to view all our articles on the subject.]

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Trinity Matters

Let’s Be Simple

Here’s a simple thought.

But it will be the least simple of my simple thoughts, by far.

The triune God is not just far superior to any of the polytheists’ gods, but also to any monolithic type of god. It is better that we serve one God in three Persons than that we claim God is a big singularity.

Really?

At first glance, you might not think so. You might think it’s easier and better to have to explain a God that’s just a big ‘One’ than to have to unravel what it means to say God is triune. You might think, for example, that Muslims and monotheist Jews and even Hindus have an easier job talking about God than Christians do.

Moreover, many Christians have a very difficult time explaining what one-in-three really means, in application to God.

Check that: every Christian does.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Too Close to Home

Robert Barron comments on the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew:

“Many devout believers find the brutality and violence of the story hard to take. In a very secularized society where people have lost the sense of God, you have to shake them into awareness with a shocking story with very exaggeratedly-drawn characters, with macabre and violent shocking action.”

Barron goes on to tell his listeners not to interpret the parable in a straightforward, literal way, or to compare this “crazy king” directly to God in every respect. He suggests the Lord was just using strong language to get our attention, to “grab us by the shoulders and shake us awake”.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Semi-Random Musings (22)

You really can’t make this stuff up.

As you have probably read or heard elsewhere by now, the 117th Congress got off to a rocky start January 3 with an opening prayer that concluded with the words “amen and awoman”. Naturally the video went viral.

Of course it did. In this emotionally-charged and hyper-politicized environment, how could it not?