Thursday, April 18, 2024

Now It’s Personal

“Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

In church circles, my father was well-known. He lived a life of selfless service, teaching and counseling among the Lord’s people, was a help to many, and was consequently famous — in a modest sort of way.

Because of this, my brothers and I could go to no new town without running into Christians who knew him. We became used to the phrase, “Ah, so you’re HIS son.” We had an instant welcome and unearned favor wherever we happened to go. We used to joke that just dropping Dad’s name was good in any town for three free meals and the hand in marriage of a girl from the local church.

Dad’s name was “coin of the realm”, as they used to say.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Literal Kings and Spiritual Kingdoms

So many failures of understanding in the Christian life are a product of conflating the metaphorical and the literal. It strikes me that the monarchy enthusiasts who gave rise to yesterday’s post serve as a fine example of the confusion that so easily results from taking figures of speech literally and from allegorizing that which was intended to speak of an immediate physical reality.

If you haven’t read it, we were discussing the origins, biblicality and implications of the popular phrase “Christ is King”. Which is totally fine, until it isn’t.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A Little Short-Sighted

My dad was not the sort of man given to what we used to call “hairy fits”, but if he were still with us, he might just have had his first over the current mania around the phrase “Christ is King”.

Christian Nationalists love to sign off with it, even the ones who aren’t actually Christian, so much so that some commentators are now claiming it’s anti-semitic trolling, the proverbial “dog-whistle” the Left is always carping about while engaging in endlessly themselves. Not so in most cases. As often happens, familiarity leads people to use phrases whose origins and implications they have never even thought about, let alone contrived to offend with. The vast majority of the time, using “Christ is King” as one’s epithet du jour is just an indication of biblical illiteracy, not evil intentions towards Jews.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Anonymous Asks (298)

“Does the Bible support the pre-existence of Jesus?”

I love trick questions. I don’t suppose the author of today’s intended it to be tricky, but it’s tricky all the same. It’s much like the line I read some years ago in Catholic Answers about levirate marriage being an “ancient Jewish law” at the time of Onan. The only part they got right was that the custom was ancient: the word “Jew” would not come into popular usage for another millennium or thereabouts, and even the Law of Moses was still four hundred years away.

So this is going to sound like niggling, or a distinction without a difference, but it’s really not. The phrase “the pre-existence of Jesus” enables us to unpack a rather important truth.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Ruminations on the Original Sin

I have heard the story of the Fall retold many different ways. In a 2014 sermon, Matt Chandler put Adam in the driver’s seat, actually baiting Eve into her act of disobedience to God. It was a broad caricature pandering to the female half of his audience rather than a faithful retelling of the Genesis account. Another sermon I heard two Sundays back minimized Eve’s part in the Fall to such an extent that the speaker never once mentioned her name.

Hey, in our militantly feminized modern church environment, I understand the temptation to soft-pedal a woman’s involvement in plunging her race into centuries of sin.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (13)

Sin has consequences. The vast majority of these are no fun. The usual result of experiencing the consequences of sin is sorrow, and sorrow is an emotional mechanism designed by God to produce better things in the long run. Sadly, some people never get beyond their sin-induced misery to the state of mind God intended it to bring about, like prodigals in the pigsty to whom it never occurs to return to the father’s house.

Biblical repentance is not merely feeling bad about the consequences of your sin, but recognizing its offensiveness to God and doing something about it. That’s what this second message in Zechariah 7 is all about.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Faith and Emergent Adulthood

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

Immanuel Can: Hey Tom, I’ve been reading a major recent sociological study published by the EFC and called Renegotiating Faith (2018). It’s about how changes in society are making it harder and harder for young Christians to arrive at what’s called “emergent adulthood”, the time in life when people make firm commitments either to be Christian or to become something else.

Tom: I see what you mean. It’s quite massive, isn’t it.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

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, April 10, 2024

The Best Laid Plans

I am at one of those junctures in life at which circumstances oblige me to decide where, and to some degree how, I may spend my next few years, always assuming I have them to spend. As I often do, I am talking up the various possibilities with other Christians, from whom I have occasionally picked up a useful insight or two.

In the course of doing so, as you might expect, I am hearing a fair bit about the will of God, the call of God and the leading of God. “Well, if the Lord leads,” said one friend, “perhaps you’ll end up here.”

Perhaps. But even apostles and prophets don’t always know with certainty what their future holds.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

The Commentariat Speaks (31)

Over at Doug Wilson’s place, Levi inquires, “What is your position on Satan being released at the end of this millennium? If the nations truly come to Christ, how can they be deceived when Satan is loosed?”

Doug responds, “Levi, I don’t believe that the elect will be deceived, but I do believe that there will still be non-elect individuals at that time who would be vulnerable. But then again, the revolt will be very short-lived.”

The postmillennial view of prophetic scripture has its difficulties. To me, Satan’s rebellion is one of its most substantial.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Anonymous Asks (297)

“What does it mean to test the spirits?”

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians not to despise prophecies but to “test everything; hold fast what is good”, it was around the middle of the first century in one of the first books of the New Testament committed to parchment. The infant church was still in its initial growth spurt, most of the second half of our Bibles was still unwritten, and God spoke frequently through Christian prophets when the Old Testament was insufficient to meet the spiritual needs of gathered believers and provide them with necessary direction from the Head of the Church.

Because prophecy was so frequent, false prophecy was also frequent, so it was necessary to determine when God was really speaking and when he was not.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Resurrection in Acts

It may be argued that the resurrection of Christ is the single most important truth ever preached. It is the lynchpin of the Christian faith.

The Holy Lamb of God came into the world, lived a perfect life, showed us the Father and died for our sins on the cross, but if God did not raise Jesus from the dead, we have no compelling evidence of any of these things and no reason to get excited about them. Paul trumpets the critical importance of resurrection in his letters to the Romans (“He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies”) and the Corinthians (“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”).

But we don’t have to wait for the doctrinal teaching of the epistles to understand the unique significance of Christ’s resurrection. It’s right there in the historical books of the New Testament as the central fact of apostolic doctrine, the truth that changed the world.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (12)

A couple of my Christian friends gave up certain food groups for Lent this year, provoking the occasional thought about the purpose of biblical fasting, though not necessarily inspiring me to join them. I’m on an eighteen-hour-a-day intermittent fasting program already, which is more than enough for me. Adding forty days of any kind of deprivation to that? Don’t think so.

Fasting has a long history as a perceived act of religious devotion, including among practitioners of Judaism, for whom the Law of Moses actually commanded it. Christians have no specific apostolic instructions to observe it, but some have always done so, citing the words of the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount concerning fasting, despite the fact that his own disciples did not make a habit of it.

Of course, the Lord’s instructions about fasting were directed to Jews, but that often goes unremarked.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: The Garment Stained by the Flesh

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

Tom: IC, it’s been a long time. I’ve been on the road, and so have you, and we’ve both had family stuff to deal with. The easiest way to handle the unexpected interruption in our schedules has been to recycle a bunch of four-year-old posts, some of which were genuinely worth revisiting. Even when I got back to my normal routine, I didn’t reach out for a while because I was looking for something certifiably hot that we could lob back and forth. And you know, I think I just may have found it.

So how about this: Should your local church host a small group for Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction? Pros and cons in one, two, three ...