Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Recognizing Our Limitations

An anthropomorphism is the attribution of human motivation, characteristics or behavior to that which is not human; in The American Heritage Dictionary, an inanimate object, an animal or some natural phenomenon.

The Bible is full of such figures of speech. One psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God ... day to day pours out speech.” Another records, “The mountains skipped like rams.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Hyperbole and Analogy

When trying to understand individual psalms, three questions are helpful to ask:
  1. How was this psalm understood by its original audience?
  2. To what other circumstances might this psalm legitimately apply?
  3. Where is Christ in this psalm; and, conversely, where is he not?
The first and third questions are easily understood, even if it is sometimes tough sledding to find the answers to them. The second requires a little explanation.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Anonymous Asks (116)

“How can you worship a God who could send your loved ones to hell?”

There is a something about the generosity of spirit in this frequently-heard and more-frequently-unheard complaint that I would hate to disparage. Loyalty to friends and kin is commendable, and self-sacrificial loyalty — the sort that feels uncomfortable partaking of a good thing from which others are excluded — is more commendable still.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Worth Dying For

When King David wrote, “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” the great warrior-poet was not reaching for an apt figure of speech to describe some vigorous spiritual exercise. He meant it absolutely literally. David had men on every side who were trying to kill him with bows, arrows, swords and spears. His enemies were not looking for a bracing intellectual argument; they intended to spill David’s blood, and spill it in copious quantities.

Moreover, God was not standing aloof from David’s very physical struggles. He was right in there equipping his servant to pierce, crush, injure and maim his fellow man.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (5)

The Hebrew word translated “presence” is literally “face” or “countenance”. It appears in every book from Genesis through Malachi, over 2,000 times in total. When used of God, as in “the presence of the Lord”, it refers to any location in which God chooses to present himself to human beings or any location in which he is said to make his residence.

That phrase “presence of the Lord” is used three times in the book of Jonah, all in this first chapter.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Numbers Game

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

Earlier this month, the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University released its 11th and latest detailed analysis of the results of its January American Worldview Inventory 2020 survey. In a long list of bullet points, CRC Director of Research George Barna noted that, among other disturbing trends, 44% of respondents who self-identify as Christian said they believe the Bible’s teaching about abortion is “ambiguous”, and that 34% said abortion is morally acceptable if it spares the mother from financial or emotional discomfort or hardship.

Tom: The Christian news website Not The Bee (“your source for headlines that should be satire, but aren’t”) took the survey at face value and pushed back hard with a salvo of scripture, and good for them.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

He was a walking nightmare — tall, balding, all angles-and-bones, a vulture of a man. His beady eyes peered out predaciously over his hawk-like nose, and his battered tweed jacket emanated chalk dust clouds as he strode up and down the aisles. We students cowered in fear, praying he would not ask us the next question. Chances are we couldn’t answer it.

Hey, chances are we couldn’t even understand it, so high over our heads was his vocabulary.

But cowering would not save us. He would pick someone at random. “You,” he would say. “What does ‘ephemeral’ mean?” His respondent would not know. He would repeat the question, stepping closer to the cringing child. No answer.

He would persist: “Don’t you have a dictionary? … Can’t you ask anyone?”

Silence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Third-Tier Faith

Once in a while when confronting others with the claims of Jesus Christ, Christians run into a response like “I truly wish I could believe that, but I just haven’t got the faith,” or “If only I could be sure what you’re saying is true ...”

Sound familiar? I’ve been thinking a lot about that excuse.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Denominations and Discernment

Discernment is a difficult quality to teach. Some people have a great deal more of it than others. It’s a quality that seems to me increasingly and depressingly rare.

It’s not hard to think of Christians who have known the Lord for years, yet remain more than a little gullible and sometimes require the protection of family and friends. You probably know some too. They like people. They think the best of everyone. They have a tendency to be so gentle and trusting that they fall for almost every new thing that comes along, provided it is presented with a smile. They mistake niceness for goodness and pleasant talk for the gospel truth.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Anonymous Asks (115)

“What’s the difference between being spiritual and being religious?”

The answer to this question very much depends on whether we come at it from the perspective of the man in the street, or from that of the scriptures.

The Man in the Street

The man in the street thinks a mystic is spiritual and a priest religious. He sees the religious person as a cog in the ecclesiastical machinery, observing traditions and doing his duty as part of a larger religious community. The “spiritual” person, on the other hand, is someone operating outside institutional religion; thought to be in harmony with the natural order, and communing with the universe or some such. The religious person would always be in church on Sunday (or Saturday), while the “spiritual” person may or may not.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Commentariat Speaks (19)

Moscow, Idaho is home to Christ Church, a conservative reformed evangelical gathering of about 900 people that has produced an unusual number of what Wikipedia calls “institutional projects”, including New Saint Andrews College, the Logos School, a Christian book publisher, a scripture translation group, a three-year ministerial training program and four spin-off churches in Montana, California and Myanmar.

Christ Church congregants form an active community of homeschoolers and Christian businesspeople within Moscow.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (4)

All names have some level of significance to the people who bear them, though you may feel free to disagree if you have been afflicted with parents who think calling a child Apple or Moon Unit is a bright idea. Thankfully those folks are comparatively rare.

In ancient languages, most names were not simply a pleasing combination of vowels and consonants chosen by moms and dads who were stuck for a name they could agree on; they also signified something else. The Lord renamed at least one of his disciples, and he did not do so without purpose. The name Simon, which means “to hear”, was changed to Peter, meaning a rock or stone. Much is said about that renaming in religious circles, not all of it accurate, but it is certain that the change was significant both to the Lord and to Peter. It redefined who he was.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Preaching or Peddling?

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

Mike Leake has a few words to say here about stewardship of the word of God. Leake says that preachers and teachers tend to approach their responsibilities one of two ways. In Scenario 1, like the servant in the parable of the talents. In Scenario 2, like Paul instructed Timothy, guarding “the good deposit”.

Tom: One approach attempts to improve on what has been given while the other simply attempts to retain what has been given.

What do you think of his analysis, and how do you approach the word of God when you’re responsible to share it with others, IC?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Atheist’s New Clothes

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ”

Sometimes the Bible just hits the nail on the head.

You run into a lot of people who pride themselves in being atheists. They rattle on about how they are the only intellectual option … that every scientist is an atheist … that no one who has any sense would be anything else … and so on. Their smugness, their self-satisfaction, their certainty seem so great that the unprepared believer is often blown back on his heels.