Thursday, September 23, 2021

Freedom: The False and the True

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

What is freedom? Does it mean what people today think it does? Does it mean doing whatever, whenever? Does it mean liberty to surrender to our own impulses? Does it mean opportunity to do whatever-the-heck we feel like at a given moment? Does it mean being exempt from moral censure or practical criticism regardless of what action we may choose to do?

Does it mean total independence? Does it mean not needing anyone, or not feeling the lack of anything?

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Reclaiming Communion

The Lord’s supper. The love feast. Communion. The Eucharist. The breaking of bread.

Call it what you are comfortable with. Like baptism, this ordinance-of-many-names has been co‑opted by the institutional church. The Lord’s table has been quietly moved from the home into the precincts of the “sanctuary”, where the permission of church leadership must be obtained in order to participate.

It’s high time ordinary Christians moved it back.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Dress-Rehearsing for the Apocalypse

Let’s get this straight right off the top: COVID vaccines are not the “mark of the beast”.

Admittedly, government strategies for implementing universal vaccination are similarly coercive. We are not quite yet at the stage where no one can buy or sell without the say-so of Pfizer or Moderna, but depending on where you live, restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated are becoming more than a little onerous. COVID vaccine passports are the hot button issue of the moment, notwithstanding mounting evidence that the science does not support across-the-board vaccination as a solution to the spread of the virus and its variants.*

So then, if the powers-that-be recognize vaccination will not solve the problem, why are the vaccinations still being pushed so frantically? Reasonable people are curious, to say the least, and less-reasonable people are speculating about a connection to end-times Bible prophecy.

Must I point out the obvious? Sure, why not.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Anonymous Asks (163)

“Do elders have authority?”

A hundred years ago nobody would have asked this question. Today, authority of every kind is being challenged at every level. Don’t like what the founders wrote in the Constitution? Just reinterpret it. Don’t like the Governor’s latest executive order? No worries, an unelected County Circuit Judge will shortly declare it unconstitutional so you don’t have to comply. Don’t want the fraudulent election results you certified audited? Just refuse to hand over the evidence of your malfeasance. Are the health care rights guaranteed in your province getting in the way of your ability to impose mandated vaccination? Don’t worry, we’ll find a way around that.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Dating Scene

It’s the eighth shortest book in the Bible and the second shortest in the Old Testament — only 1,131 words in English in two brief chapters.

But Haggai is full of dates. Almost a quarter of its 38 verses are given over to specifying times right to the very day. The book’s five prophecies to four different individuals or groups are each arranged around these dates.

Even readers unconvinced of the inspiration of scripture are unlikely to see such an obvious pattern as accidental or merely a writing tic. They will generally concede the author must be trying to make a point.

It might be worth a few hundred words to try to work out what the point may be.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (33)

Prophetic language in scripture is always more difficult to interpret from a distance.

This uncertainty is especially common when figurative language — a regular feature of the prophetic word — is in play. When a prophecy is fulfilled in a generation or less, its original audience has little difficulty unpacking a nicely turned figure of speech and applying it to their own situation. On the other hand, a 2,700 year distance from the events about which the prophet has spoken or written severely limits the modern reader’s ability to dogmatize about specifics.

The historical record just isn’t that comprehensive, and the culture and language barriers to understanding the text as its original readers understood it increase with every passing generation.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Where the Grass is Greener

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

If there’s a single more common inter-generational issue in churches today, I can’t think of it right now:

“My kids want to go to that church down the road …”

Hoo boy.

Tom: I bet that church down the road has a worship team, Immanuel Can.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

How Depraved Can We Be?

That’s a good question.

Our society is clearly messed up. It can be sick enough to think that promiscuity is normal, debauchery is freedom, and that homosexuality is love. It can be twisted enough to call killing the elderly “dignity” and butchering infants in utero “choice”. Morally, things look pretty bad.

That’s what the dictionary definition of “depraved” is. It means “very morally bad”.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Faith and Courage

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Was the Lord’s prayer for Simon answered in the affirmative? I believe it was. From the events described by Luke later in the chapter you might not think so, but there is a difference between a failure of faith and a failure of courage, no? And certainly Jesus appears fully confident of Peter’s speedy restoration, not only with respect to his fellowship with the risen Lord, but with respect to his ongoing responsibility to shepherd others.

It is not “if you turn again”, but when. The Lord himself had seen to it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Language and Thought Complexity

When not writing up the results of his research for publication, anthropologist Christopher Hallpike lived among the mountain tribes of Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea for a period of ten years studying every facet of two very different primitive cultures. His latest anthology, Ship of Fools, includes a fascinating chapter entitled “So all languages aren’t equally complex after all”, in which he thoroughly debunks the conventional wisdom about the relative complexity of languages, namely the uniformitarian belief that All Languages are Equally Complex (ALEC).

ALEC is a relatively modern invention popularized by linguists like Noam Chomsky and evolutionary psychologists like Steven Pinker, wholly ideological rather than a product of actual boots-on-the-ground research. It is the undemonstrated and undemonstratable conviction that “There are no simple or primitive cultures: all cultures are equally complex and equally modern.” Or again, “People think the same thoughts, no matter what kind of grammatical system they use.”

Monday, September 13, 2021

Anonymous Asks (162)

“Are angels God’s sons?”

The Old Testament contains five occurrences of the phrase “sons of God”; three in Job and two in Genesis. All five appear to me to be referring to angels. The New Testament gives us a further six mentions. Every one of these six refers to redeemed members of the human race.

That requires a little more explanation, but hey, that’s why we do this. Let’s go back to front, since the question is about angelic sons.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (17)

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

New believers seeking to understand scripture for themselves with the aid of Google and/or an online concordance may be forgiven for throwing up their hands in despair when they encounter verses like this one. There are at least three major schools of thought about Luke 17:33, and multiple variations within each.

Nevertheless, even in passages like this where there are genuine questions about what exactly the Lord was telling his disciples, some interpretations remain more logical, careful and likely than others.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (32)

Religious people do some very strange and inconsistent things. Some observe holidays to which they have no attachment in the name of a God in whom they don’t believe. Others appear to have an on/off switch that gets toggled to “off” every time they leave the church building Sunday around noon and head back to the rest of their weekly routine.

Apparently things were no different 2,700 years ago. Religious people were engaged in strange and inconsistent practices, and God sent the prophet Amos to Israel to point this out.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: The Weight of Tradition

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

Years ago I would regularly come across stories of how this theologian or that one came out of Catholicism and now calls himself an evangelical Christian. More recently I notice some going the other way. Among the reasons usually given for embracing Rome is an emphasis on church history and tradition that doesn’t exist in the same way in Protestant gatherings. Roman Catholicism is thought to have “roots” that go back to the early church.

To seekers of this sort, the value of a church experience is measured by whether their faith community is convincingly in touch with its own past.