Saturday, July 04, 2020

Time and Chance (43)

The so-called “golden rule of Bible interpretation” is this: When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense. I have heard this line attributed to a few different people, so let’s give credit both to whoever came up with it and to those who have helpfully passed it on.

We often find this principle provoking heartfelt agreement among Bible teachers. It is slightly more unusual to find expositors following it with consistency.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Faith in the Crosshairs

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

The website GodIsImaginary is an interesting study.

As you might guess from the title, it’s the work of evangelical atheists attempting to lure gullible Christians into the spiritual equivalent of a Venus flytrap. The bait is a little bit of flattery: “I’m going to assume you are an educated Christian”, “You are a smart person. You know how the world works, and you know how to think critically.”

It’s quite a clever move actually. For once, they’ve dialed back the mockery and abuse atheists can rarely resist in the interest of catching more flies with honey.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Mercy of Fire

“Some bells cannot be unrung.”

So goes the saying when something has been done that cannot be undone. The ink has been spilled, the glass has been shattered, the clock cannot be rewound, the world has moved on. The arrow has flown, the words said cannot be recalled to the mouth, and “send” has been pressed. There is no going back, no fixing things “as they were”, or maybe “as they should have been”.

From now on, for good or for ill, things can never be the same.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Too Big for Its Boots

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

A “lofty opinion” is a theological argument that is too big for its boots. The Greek word from which we get the expression is hypsōma, which means an elevated structure. Rightly recognizing the apostle is speaking of metaphorical heights, other English translations use the expression “pretension” or “presumption”, “proud obstacle” or “speculation”.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy

We’ve been looking at the question of whether God really prepares some people for destruction and others for glory. How and to what extent is his sovereignty exercised within the human heart?

Romans 9 is much misunderstood where this subject is concerned. In yesterday’s post I made the case that nothing in the first 18 verses of the chapter deals with the subject of individual salvation. Paul’s subject there is God’s election of nations and other groups to strategic roles in human history for his own sovereign purposes.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Anonymous Asks (99)

“What should I do about my ‘privilege’?”

The Lord Jesus once told a story about a man who tested three of his servants by bestowing upon them varying degrees of privilege. To one he gave five talents of money to invest, which a marginal note in my Bible tells me was something in the order of 100 years’ wages for a laborer. That was a huge privilege, not to mention a mammoth responsibility. To another servant he gave two talents, or forty years’ wages. To a third he gave a single talent to manage, which is still more than I make in six years.

All three servants were exceedingly privileged.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Right There in Front of My Face

From the Department of Missing the Obvious, let me present John 3:16, which I have been hearing my entire life without really hearing it.

This happens. Unfortunately it happens quite a bit. Bear with me. Perhaps the three things I am going to share with you today about God’s love are perfectly evident to you, and always have been.

Let’s just say they didn’t jump out at me, even though they were always right there in front of my face.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Time and Chance (42)

Forty-two Saturdays into our study of Ecclesiastes, we come at last to the phrase which we have taken as our theme: “Time and chance happen to them all.”

Why do things happen to us the way they do? Ancient mythology makes reference to three goddesses who were thought to assign individual destinies to mortals at birth. The Greeks called them the Fates. The unsaved talk about “Lady Luck”, usually on their way to the casino, personifying an imagined force to which nobody can really appeal, but which every gambler hopes to have on their side. Even atheists find themselves inexplicably using the phrase “It was meant to be”, as if a random roll of the dice could actually signify intelligent purpose.

But in a world without revelation and with no sure way to know if there is a God or how he operates, we can only blame time and chance for the good and bad things that come our way.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Bucking or Buckling?

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

I promised last week we’d talk about this subject some Friday in the future, and there’s no time like the present.

Tom: IC, we opened a can of worms on the subject of authority and just how the Christian ought to respond to it. That’s not something evangelicals have had to worry about too much in the West for many years, but it’s a topic that’s becoming increasingly relevant as governments begin to encroach on the freedoms we currently enjoy in the interest of a “just society”.

So how about it? Got any grenades to lob on this subject?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Train to Tribulation and the Road to Hell

Thanks for coming back.

In yesterday’s post we were attempting to understand the massive collectivist “winds” that are blowing across the modern world right now. The purpose was to help Christians see that these are nothing new, nothing unexpected, and nothing untypical of mankind. The language changes, maybe, but the forces at work are always the same.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Let’s Get Together and …

“They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name…’ ”

I’m going to write today as briefly, as bluntly and yet as informatively as I can.

I will do this because I feel we are dangling presently on a precipice of a major social crisis. The Christian position in this must be made clear, and made clear now, if Christian choices are to be well made.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What Does Your Proof Text Prove (12)

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

Growing up in an evangelical community, it was understood that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were not our fellow believers. These groups were commonly referred to as cults, and considered spiritually dangerous. Pairs of these odd-looking “missionaries” would occasionally make their way through our neighborhood from house to house ringing doorbells and soliciting opportunities to talk to people about the tenets of their belief system. On more than one occasion I heard this verse from 2 John applied as a warning about them: “Do not receive them into your house or give them any greeting.”

As a result, when I was home alone and saw through the peephole of our front door two pasty white guys in matching snappy haircuts, bleached shirts, neatly pressed dress slacks and sensible shoes, I promptly made myself scarce for fear of violating John’s instruction. Hey, the word “Hello” might accidentally slip from my lips and cause me to “take part in their wicked works”.

Is that really the sort of thing John had in mind?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Anonymous Asks (98)

“Are Christians supposed to be perfect?”

We all know Christians sin. This is the reality we live with. I was just making another pass through the apostle John’s first letter, where we find these familiar words: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Whatever might be the expectation of us, and whoever might be expecting it, the fact is that we fail, and fail with some regularity. The longer we walk with Christ and the better we know his word and his character, the more clearly we will see our own spiritual inadequacy. So any Christian who claims sinlessness is lying, not just to the world, but more importantly to himself.

That is what is actually happening in our lives, but what is supposed to be happening?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Little Monday Morning Quarterback

Have you ever been in a disagreement that got out of control? I have.

People are different. Some respond to criticism by trying to placate the other side, even groveling if necessary. They are willing to cede any intellectual or moral position in hopes of ending the argument, even when they believe they are in the right. They take the proverbial knee ... or occasionally the literal knee.

Others fume and fuss and become emotional when the logic of a critique disturbs their received worldview. They take correction personally, as a negative commentary on their character rather than a learning opportunity. Easily baited into debating hypotheticals, they can even find themselves arguing positions they don’t really believe because they are so caught up in trying to “win”.