Wednesday, August 05, 2020

COVID-19 and the Will of God

“It was God’s will.”

Ah, the magic phrase. You hear it said by devout people at funerals, usually with palpable resignation. “He was taken before we were ready, and we’re all hurting, but somehow we know — though we can’t quite see how it might be since he was such a great guy and will be so profoundly missed — that his untimely and painful death was God’s will.”

So that’s all right then. Even if it isn’t, really.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Marching as to War

“... making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel ... that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

This is not the only time Paul asks for prayer specifically for himself and for the work he was engaged in. Colossians 4 contains a similar request, as do both Paul’s first and second letters to Thessalonica. We may take it this was an apostolic custom. The writer to the Hebrews does the same.

I wonder why.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Anonymous Asks (104)

“Why is sexual purity so important?”

This is an excellent question for young Christians to resolve in their hearts and heads before it becomes emotional and personal, especially in a cultural climate where we are repeatedly told that pre-marital sex is not only not sinful, but healthy, normal human behavior. Chaste teenagers are currently considered more than a little defective. Heaven help you if your dedication to sexual purity lasts into your twenties.

So why have Christians always taught that sexual purity is so important?

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Thank You for the Failures

God wants to save “all people”, or so we are told.

Some readers understand that concept very broadly. They see that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”, and conclude from it that God would prefer it if every single human being on the planet were to turn from sin and self to Christ, who is God’s only way of salvation.

This may very well be true, though I don’t think it’s exactly what Paul was telling Timothy.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Time and Chance (47)

Not all fools are avowed atheists.

All serious foolishness begins with the assumption “There is no God.” But there are different ways of denying the existence of God in one’s heart. One way is to do it like Richard Dawkins, who says it with a lot of pseudo-scientific bother and fuss. He can’t stop thinking about it and trying to prove it. Then there is the functional atheist. He never tries to talk anyone out of their belief in God, and he certainly doesn’t write books about God’s non-existence. He may even concede that God might possibly exist, but he lives every moment of his life as if God does not.

Either way is foolish, but at least a Dawkins recognizes the existence of God as a problem for his worldview and is working away at coming to grips with it. The other fellow is perhaps in a worse state, as he never thinks about God at all.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: No-Fault Separation

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

Immanuel Can: I’ve got something on my mind this morning, Tom.

I was reading this article. Now, this is an old and still-debated topic, and I don’t deny that the author probably has some good points. But what struck me about this article were several things.

The author asks why it is that people leave a church, and then he goes on to suggest three reasons. In order, they are: (a) our subculture (by which he actually seems to mean the larger, secular culture of consumerism); (b) expectations (and he emphasizes in particular the tendency to forget that the church is a “family”); and (c) the “fatal assumption” … that newer is better (which, by some sort of path, “leads the average church goer to hold the opinion that it is better to be served than to serve.”)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Blessed are the Hated

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

What? “Do not be surprised?”

Well, that is kind of surprising in our age. After all, we’re the “let’s get along” society. No culture in the history of the world has been so omnitolerant, so permissive, so inclusive and so welcoming of everyone and everything as modern, Western society. We are so morally earnest to make sure that nobody’s feelings get hurt, nobody gets excluded, nobody is marginalized or oppressed, that we bend over backward to accept absolutely everything.

And given that many Christians have also bought into the mindset that we must always be liked by our society and must do everything to be seeker-sensitive, welcoming, open, all-loving, and always, always of good social reputation, should it not surprise us if the world turns around and suddenly expresses hostility and hatred to us?

How could they do that? We’re so nice!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

On Knowing and Being Known

“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

To really know someone and to be known by them is one of the greatest pleasures a human being may experience in this life.

It is also absolutely terrifying.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Praying for Catastrophe

Etymology is a really cool thing. It simply means the history of the development of a word. An etymological study of language is one that investigates how the words we use came to mean what they mean today: where they originated, what they meant back then, and when and how they changed, expanded, diluted or sometimes even reversed their meanings to become what we understand by them when we use them today.

Lately I have been thinking about catastrophes. Did you know that originally a catastrophe was not necessarily a bad thing?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Anonymous Asks (103)

“What is one way you can worship God without using music?”

Must I pick only one?

Okay then, but first, a word about music as worship.

I’m very glad someone actually asked this question, because it hints at just how many evangelicals think of worship almost exclusively in connection with congregational singing, and have not given much thought to whether there are better ways to worship God than in the middle of belting out a cheesy modern melody and waving your arms around ... or worse, pummeling your drum kit.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

David’s Covenant and the Resurrection

On Tuesday we looked at the first six public messages in the book of Acts to consider how one’s audience ought to determine the content of a gospel message, a pattern well established by the apostles in their preaching.

It seems obvious that the apostles did not simply memorize a few key points to preach about in every situation. They did not utilize a predictable series of Old Testament proof texts. They were not merely checking boxes, but responded to the needs of the particular audience to whom they were preaching.

So now here we are in Acts 13.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Time and Chance (46)

All productivity comes with a certain element of risk.

This is true for code monkeys, spot monkeys and everyone in between the two extremes (the code monkey being a computer programmer at his keyboard; the spot monkey, a professional wrestler whose specialty is flying through the air and landing on people without killing them). Too much time pounding the keys can ruin your wrists, which everyone who has carpal tunnel syndrome will tell you is very painful and not easy to get rid of. Then again, a 360 off the top rope that ends on the ring apron instead of its designated target will probably break your neck, so maybe there are worse things than sore wrists.

For me the big job hazard is paper cuts. Lots of paper cuts. First world problems, I know.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Coalition of the Unwilling

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

The Gospel Coalition is an evangelical colossus, with close to 8,000 affiliated congregations across the U.S., 65 million annual website pageviews, regular live events, a full slate of in-house blogs and other media promoting its theological checklist.

Tom: But one very slightly unsettling feature of TGC’s ministry, Immanuel Can, is that they seem to have little interest in engaging in the exchange of ideas, as this Jonathan Merritt article very effectively documents.

You’re quite familiar with TGC. What do they stand for?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Multicultural Road to Hell

I’ve got a simple message in this post. Simple, yes, but not the less needed for all that.

What have you done with the gospel, Christian? Where is your voice these days?

I’m not telling. I’m asking. I don’t know you, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. Really, this is a question only you can ask yourself, and only you can answer.

Well, you and God, of course, because that’s the urgent point. God knows what we’ve done with the gospel. He knows whether we’ve been living like we believe it, or only saying we do, and living another way. He knows.

I don’t.