Monday, June 30, 2014

The Missing Ingredient

What is understanding? Here’s what they think at Harvard:
“In a phrase, understanding is the ability to think and act flexibly with what one knows.”
In other words, understanding is putting information into action, applying what we have learned in a practical way to our lives.

So did something go wrong with the 2008 presidential election? Because everybody agrees President Obama is a pretty smart guy. Surely he had lots of “information” to put into action.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

‘Leftist Utopia’ and the End

In a blog post aptly entitled “I’m Sorry, But Your Utopia is Just a Little Creepy”, David Thompson assembles a series of rather ominous quotes and links on the modern family.

First, from Anthony Daniels (or ‘Theodore Dalrymple’ if you prefer), doctor and psychiatrist, on observations arising out of his practice in England:
“In the course of my duties, I would often go to patients’ homes. Everyone lived in households with a shifting cast of members, rather than in families. If there was an adult male resident, he was generally a bird of passage with a residence of his own somewhere else. He came and went as his fancy took him. To ask a child who his father was had become an almost indelicate question. Sometimes the child would reply, “Do you mean my father at the moment?” Others would simply shake their heads, being unwilling to talk about the monster who had begot them and whom they wished at all costs to forget.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Political Correctness, the Slave Metaphor and New Testament Truth

Mary C. Curtis at the Washington Post is not a fan of politicians invoking the “slave” metaphor to get attention:
“There are many ways to make a coherent, urgent political point without recalling the rope and the whip, the rapes and murders. Slavery, part of our shared American history, is not just a word … To use past anguish as present-day metaphor trivializes evil and shows disrespect to those who endured.”
But, to be fair, hyperbole is a pretty common device.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Greatest Love of All

Pride is a terrible thing.

I give full credit to translators of the Bible and don’t assume for a second that I know better than the least of them. But I have noticed that if translators come to their job with a predisposition to see a particular thing in a passage, as in every area of life, that’s what is seen.

No knock on them for it. There are enough translators and enough translations of Scripture to pull us back to where we should be. No translation difference I’ve ever come across is so radical as to completely reverse a meaning or utterly transform the message of the word of God. We always have numerous other translations to compare to any imperfect attempt to convey meaning.

I do wonder about Romans 12:3 though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Slavery in the Old Testament [Part 2]

Since the accusation has been made that God endorses slavery, I began in yesterday’s post to examine the subject of slavery in Israel to ask whether God, in fact, endorsed it at all. Let’s continue with a second relevant principle to bear in mind.

Two Principles Worth Considering (continued)

As established yesterday, the fact that God tells his people to obey laws in general does not mean they are good laws or that he approves of them.

But this case is different. The objection may well be raised that the Mosaic Law is not like ‘laws in general’ in that it came directly from God, and said exactly what he wanted it to say.

However, even the Law of Moses did not perfectly represent God’s will, preference or desire for his people. This may initially sound a bit heretical, but God was not ‘ok’ with some parts of Israel’s Law, especially when they were slavishly and literally followed rather than used as a guideline to discern a higher, more loving intent. Those who merely followed the letter of the Law doing the minimum possible would inevitably fall short of God’s real purpose.

Principle #2: The Law did not represent God’s perfect will.

The Law in its written form (the ‘letter’) represented whatever diluted version of God’s will that his people might reasonably and generously be expected to follow, given that they were a mixture of believers and unbelievers characterized by stubbornness, selfishness and rebellion from Day 1. And even so, Joshua told the Israelites who promised to obey the law that they wouldn’t be able to keep it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Slavery in the Old Testament [Part 1]

The following quotes are lifted from another blog commentary. Like many comments that appear after blog posts with a sizable audience, they are completely unrelated to the actual topic under discussion. Possibly to their credit, neither the moderator nor any other commenter took the bait these two were dangling.

I, on the other hand, have great difficulty resisting a baited hook, so here goes:
“I have always wanted a slave and from what I can read in MY bible that is totally ok with God right?”
— Emily
“Hi Emily, You see God only let them keep slaves then, because at the time that was how economies worked. There was simply no other way for God to help Israel prosper, they needed to be just the same as the surrounding nations.”
— Minion68
(It ought to be mentioned, in case it is not evident, that the second comment is pure sarcasm, as Minion’s other comments relating to the same post make exceedingly clear.)

From their tone, I get the feeling that both commenters have already made up their minds.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Living Large

A more current version of this post is available here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Missing Links

The other day in a piece entitled “Top 10 Ways To Argue Like A Christian”, I mentioned that my ten choices were far from exhaustive. So far from exhaustive that I thought of another one almost immediately but, you know, ten is such a nice round number.

But another important facet of presenting an argument, while not specifically Christian, is just all-around good form and decent, respectful behavior. It relates particularly to internet discussions and arguments, but has application any time we take on a published assertion of fact or point of view.

So, mind if I add an eleventh?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Everything Louder Than Everything Else

Ian Gillan of the seventies metal band Deep Purple reportedly once asked the sound engineer mixing the band’s live album, “Could we have everything louder than everything else?”

I’ve always loved that line. It just sounds like a title for the perfect rock and roll anthem.

But when you think about it for half a second, the request is absurd. If the bass is louder than the high hat, the high hat cannot simultaneously be louder than the bass. If you mix the snare drum louder than a guitar cranked up to 11, you cannot make that guitar louder in the sound mix without reducing the volume of the snare. It’s absurd.

“Everything” cannot be louder than “everything else”. It doesn’t work.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Top 10 Ways To Argue Like A Christian

The internet is full of people arguing.

Yes, I know, the sun also rises in the east. Humans breathe air. Tell me something slightly less obvious.

Okay. The internet is full of Christians arguing. Some of us do it well. Some do it really, really badly. And the thing is, Christians shouldn’t argue like unbelievers. When you know the Lord Jesus, you have access to a weapon nobody but a believer can wield: the word of God, which is:
“… living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
There isn’t a more effective weapon forged, assembled or built in a lab in the history of the human race.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When God Says No

As a parent, I try to be fair and generous with my children, but just the same, there are times when I say no to their requests. And not just the kind of requests that are foolish, extravagant, or ultimately harmful — sometimes I find myself saying no even when what they’re asking of me is harmless or even potentially beneficial to them, just because I’m too tired or don’t have the money or simply don't feel like it.

But God is not like that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Trinity (and other Committees)

Last week I spent a torturous hour and a half engaged in completing an online Job Safety training module. As a supervisor in a large office this type of thing, regrettably, becomes part of my job every time a new government rolls out a new initiative or an old one decides to ‘refresh’ their documentation (code for ‘same thing, new wrapper’).

And since we have more than 15 employees we must, under provincial law, have a safety committee.

I suppose if you have to be on a committee, the Job Safety Committee is the one to volunteer for. Coffee and donuts monthly for doing … not much. Finding a spot to hang the first aid kit, I suspect. In case a paper cut really, really bleeds.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Fight a Smear Campaign

In social circles we call it gossip. In the courts it’s slander or libel, depending on the media used. In political circles it’s referred to as mudslinging or swift-boating. On the web it often manifests as cyber-bullying.

Whatever; it’s a good old-fashioned smear campaign.

Use of the technique can be traced back several millennia at least, and may be as old as mankind. The motivations behind smear campaigns differ but you can bet that, more often than not, there’s more than just mean spirits or the sheer fun of maligning someone in play.

Most of the time, somebody wants something. The smear campaign is a means to an end.

So how do you fight one? Good question.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Literal and Figurative

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Follow the Evidence

A more current version of this post is available here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Clinging to Dust

A more current version of this post is available here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Christianity is a Crutch

A more current version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The ‘new’ New Atheism

A recent AlterNet article by Chris Hall declares:
“Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris Are Old News:
A Totally Different Atheism Is on the Rise”
The ‘new’ New Atheism is all about social justice. Hall sums it up this way:
“The activists who insist that atheism address matters of social justice are not distracting the movement from its purpose or being divisive; they are insisting it deliver on the promises that attracted so many of us to it in the first place.”
If the most significant promise of atheism is social justice, I can’t wait to see atheism try to deliver. It seems to me that an absence of belief (or belief in an Absence), is in a pretty poor position to promise much of anything.

But no, this is exactly what the ‘new’ New Atheists are saying. (Can we please just call them the “NNA” for short? Thanks.) So post-Dawkins disbelievers view their lack of belief “less as an end in itself”, but as part of the social justice conversation. We’re told that “an increasing number of the most passionate voices bringing new people into the movement [meaning atheism] are people of color, women, transgendered, or queer.”

Short version: The NNA sees skepticism about God, heaven and the Bible as part of the discussion about race, sexual equality and sexual identity.

How does that work?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Two Kinds of Hard Hearts

“And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:52)
I’m thinking about all the times I’ve failed to respond to something in the word of God that should’ve been obvious to me.

See, I don’t believe every reference to a “hard heart” in Scripture means precisely the same thing.

The pharaoh of Egypt in the book of Exodus had a hard heart. He wanted to keep Israel in slavery, and was prepared to continue doing so no matter what miracles he saw. He was a man who put political expediency and ill-gotten profit ahead of justice, fear of God or even his own five senses.

That’s one kind of hardness.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Christianity Incorporated

A thought from the apostle Paul:
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB)
I just happened across a National Post article from a few years back that serves as a superb illustration of the sort of complications (“complications” being the polar opposite of the “simplicity” Paul refers to) that arise when Christians become corporatists.

In an article called “Breaking the Jews for Jesus code”, Post writer Joseph Brean takes every opportunity to poke holes in the credibility of Jews for Jesus, an evangelical group that is a participant in a five-year long Ontario Superior Court legal “saga”.

What a pile of unfortunate muck. Nothing is ‘simple’ about this story.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Friday, June 06, 2014

Blue Bloods and Bloodlines

“Family is the most important thing in the world.” (Princess Diana)
“Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” (Lilo and Stitch)
Whether it’s the personal opinion of a famous celebrity or the theme of a Disney movie, society is not about to run out of bon mots about family anytime soon.

I picked a couple of comparatively moderate ones, the sentiment dialed back to 3 or 4 on the goo meter. If you are in any doubt just how saccharine and cloying such expressions can be, try finding a Hallmark birthday card that accurately reflects your thoughts about spouse, child, parent or sibling. You’ll catch on quickly.

But I read this morning that just 26% of those between age 18 and 33 are married. The current generation is building families approximately only two-thirds as quickly as the generation before them, and at roughly only half the rate of the generation before that.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Atheism and Logic

I’ve read numerous books on the subject of whether the Christian faith is “reasonable”.  Most of these were consumed as a young adult, when the question seemed more urgent and I was considerably less equipped to argue it.

While some books were better than others and all made some valid points (most if not all of which are now lost in the sands of time), I do not recall many staking out the intellectual Christian position as aggressively as John C. Wright does in his latest “Wright Perspective” column.

By aggressive, I don’t mean nasty or mean-spirited. But, Lewis and Chesterton aside, the more modern books seemed primarily concerned with mounting a satisfactory intellectual defence of Christianity from accusations of unreasonability, illogic and incoherence. They were, if not on the ropes sucking air, perhaps a little over-occupied with avoiding the knockout punch.

Wright, on the other hand, comes out swinging and keeps moving forward.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

All The Time You Need To Get Saved

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Bible Study 11 – Context [Part 5]

Another instalment in an ongoing series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here.

The second Bible study tool we are discussing is context. For justification, see the first post on this subject.

3. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

Perhaps the best way to show the importance of local or immediate context in discerning the meaning of a verse is to link to some actual examples of interpretation gone wrong to demonstrate where an examination of local context might have provided a more accurate understanding.

Example 1:

This gentleman, for instance, takes a crack at a familiar verse:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
(Revelation 3:20)
About it, he says the following:
“The door is every man’s heart; the knock is his gentle, anonymous pleading with you to depart from evil … To open the door is to receive Christ into your heart. How is that done? To receive Jesus is to hear Him speak words from within your heart and to believe His words to be true as well as believe that He who is speaking to you is the Son of God, Jesus.”
To “open the door”, he says, is to “receive Christ into your heart”. From there he goes on to quote Isaac Penington on salvation and to reinforce the need for it.

There’s much here that seems reasonable ...

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Did Jesus Really Ever Claim to be God?

“Jesus was a good moral teacher. Sure, he had a special relationship with God and thought he was doing God’s work, but he never claimed to actually BE God. The idea that Jesus is God is something his disciples made up after his death”.
This statement or variations on it are very common. [It’s made by this particular Muslim, for one  Ed.

It is also erroneous.

If we are willing to sit down and examine the gospels, we will discover that on numerous occasions and in many ways Jesus claimed to be God.