Friday, February 15, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Goodness of Abortion

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

In the last two weeks we’ve seen first New York then Virginia begin to rewrite their abortion laws.

Tom: In their new Reproductive Health Act, the State of New York removed abortion from the State’s criminal code and expanded access up to birth and the third trimester in what Governor Andrew Cuomo called “the most aggressive abortion law in the country.” Lawmakers and bystanders literally applauded. Not to be outdone, a Virginia Democratic lawmaker promptly proposed a bill that would make it possible for a mother to retroactively “abort” her child minutes after he or she is born.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Don’t Forget What You Never Knew

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day — just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

Ummm …

What do you mean, “remind”?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Flesh and Spirit

“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

There can be no doubt Jesus Christ was active in the world for thousands of years prior to his incarnation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Baptism and Freedom

Two Sundays ago in a post on biblical symbols and the spiritual realities to which they point, I promised to take a further installment or two to consider the symbolic acts of Christianity. People refer to these meaningful gestures as ceremonies, rituals, rites, sacraments or ordinances. What we call them is not terribly important provided we recognize their value and participate in them.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Anonymous Asks (26)

“Why is God so morbidly violent in the Old Testament?”

This is certainly God’s Old Testament reputation among unbelievers and the aggressively anti-Christian, isn’t it? I love to quote Richard Dawkins on this subject, since his description is possibly the most vitriolic I’ve ever encountered: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Well, at least he said “arguably”. Good. I’m going to argue it.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Invisible Chains

“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

There are few things more pathetic than a slave who doesn’t realize he’s a slave. But denial is a powerful thing.

In one of the Pauline epistles, there’s a sad little instruction to slaves not to pilfer. Well, I find it sad.

Think about it. Why would a slave bother engaging in petty theft?

Saturday, February 09, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (45)

Way back last April of last year when we started looking at Proverbs, I mentioned in passing that the book falls into seven fairly obvious divisions. We have now arrived at the fourth of these, which is a short group of lengthier “do” and “don’t” instructions prefaced with the words “These also are sayings of the wise.”

Translated literally from Hebrew, verse 23 begins, “These words belong to the wise.”

Friday, February 08, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Words are Immaterial

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

Tom: Clint Bryan at Christianity Today has a post up about something called the Hillsong Church. I’ve heard the name and vaguely associate it with religious music and the “worship team”-style presentation, but I know very little about the Hillsong phenomenon, and I don’t think I could hum even a single one of what Mr. Bryan says are very hummable tunes. If you tell me that’s a not-very-subtle indication I’m not exactly at the nexus of mainstream evangelicalism, IC, I suppose I’ll have to take the rebuke with grace, but I thought maybe we could talk about Mr. Bryan’s article since it touches on a subject you’ve written about a fair bit.

Immanuel Can: Yep, okay. Where do you want to start, Tom?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Who Reads Anymore?

I’ve heard that Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time may be the most famous book people have never read.

That’s right: Never.

People sure do talk about it.  It’s sold ten million or so copies. Lots of people cite the title of the book, laud it, and claim to have found their opinions confirmed by it — but few of these have actually ever read it.

In a way, maybe that’s understandable. It is, after all, a fairly challenging book. For a mathematician, it’s a good read, perhaps; for the average person it’s a quick road to Slumberland. Even though it’s pretty short it only takes a few pages to render most folks unconscious.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Spirits in Prison

Yesterday I pointed out that the apostles use the word “gospel” in slightly different ways at different times, emphasizing certain aspects of what we might consider an acceptable presentation of the good news and omitting others entirely.

Never is this more evident that in the third of Peter’s four references to the gospel found in his first epistle. His use of the word, and the context around it, open up what may be described as a theological can of worms.

Or perhaps later commentators on 1 Peter opened that can all by themselves.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Gospel According to Peter

We all know what “the gospel” is, don’t we? Or at least we think we do.

If we searched the internet for a summary of the gospel, we might come away a tiny bit confused. John Piper, for instance, presents his gospel in six points. Bible Gateway reduces Piper’s six points to five. Phil Johnson goes with four, not one of which is identical to any of Piper’s, but all of which come directly from the apostle Paul.

For the new Christian, these differences in content and emphasis may be a bit hard to process.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Anonymous Asks (25)

“In dealing with authority, how can I explain things or make a point without sounding argumentative or disrespectful?”

The circumstances are not spelled out for us here. Is this a young man who wants to correct a Sunday school teacher, boss or professor on a point of fact? Is this a daughter who finds her father’s house rules restrictive and hopes for a little more freedom? Is this a sixteen year old pulled over in dad’s car for being five miles an hour over the speed limit who would like to know how best to negotiate his way out of a ticket? We do not know.

Fortunately, I think the biblical answer is not wildly different either way.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Symbol Is Not the Point

An ex-evangelical turned Catholic priest named Dwight Longenecker has, in his current religious incarnation, become a fan of ritual and symbolism.

“The most difficult thing for an Evangelical to accept in a conversation about the sacraments is that God actually uses physical means and liturgical ceremonies to dispense his grace and administer salvation. The typical Evangelical is heavily conditioned to dismiss all physical components of religion as useless and distracting ‘man-made traditions.’ ”

Hmm, let me think: Could I be one of Mr. Longenecker’s heavily conditioned, typical evangelicals? Possibly.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (44)

Two of our final five entries in Solomon’s Thirty Sayings speak about the future. Their point? That those who act wisely have one, while evil men do not.

The Hebrew word translated “future” is 'achariyth. It means an end, a latter time, or a posterity. In brief, the idea is that Someone Transcendent is governing time and watching over the world. Nothing done or not done adds up to nothing. All is being tabulated and will have its consequences down the road.

It therefore makes sense to govern ourselves accordingly, no?