Friday, October 31, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: Lack of Vision

A more current version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reorient Yourself

Orientation.

That’s the magic word, isn’t it. That’s the game changer.

We used to talk about sin. Same-sex behavior, for example, was understood to be  sinful. Those who engaged in it were choosing to sin and those who didn’t were choosing not to sin. “Orientation” didn’t enter into it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It Ain’t All About You Either

More Reflections On the Song of Songs

This continues an overview of the Song of Songs that is more about what the book is not rather than what it is. I’m looking for ways to interpret a rather unusual portion of scripture that do not result in an excess of speculation. Such esoterica finds its way into public teaching more than it ought to.

Yesterday’s post looked at four more-or-less traditional interpretations of the book. Today’s post explores a fifth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It Ain’t All About Me

Reflections On the Song of Songs

Let me start with a couple of quotes that intrigue me. They may even be true:
“All the Scriptures, indeed, are holy ... but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”
— Rabbi Aqiba
“If a manuscript of this little book were found alone, detached from the biblical context and tradition, it undoubtedly would be viewed as secular. The book has no obvious religious content.”
— Dennis F. Kinlaw
While every part of scripture has given rise to some level of disagreement as to its meaning and value over the years, it would be difficult to find two such extreme statements about many other books of the Bible.

Of course Kinlaw doesn’t say the book has no religious content, but that such content is not obvious. And he’s right.

Perhaps so is Rabbi Aqiba.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inbox: Dangerously Clear-Headed

The most current version of this post is available here.

Timing Is Everything

A more current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy

We’ve been looking at the question of whether God really prepares some people for destruction and others for glory. How and to what extent is his sovereignty exercised within the human heart?

Romans 9 is much misunderstood where this subject is concerned. In yesterday’s post I made the case that nothing in the first 18 verses of the chapter deals with the subject of individual salvation. Paul’s subject there is God’s election of nations and other groups to strategic roles in human history for his own sovereign purposes.

At stake in the debate is our view of God. Can there be anything more important? A God who elects some to salvation and others to damnation is arbitrary and cruel. His offer of salvation is a lie. Faith is meaningless and hell inescapable for the “unchosen”. Worse, the death of Christ is no more than a symbol.

These things are not taught in Romans 9.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Strategic Roles in Human History and God’s Election

The most current version of this post is available here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: Culture and the Gospel

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“Participation Awards” and Honour

A more current version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Shape of Character

Shape my character? How does that work exactly?
Have you ever tried to shape your character?

It’s not something I think about doing in those words exactly. Yes, I know: everybody’s character has a shape. You develop convictions about right and wrong over time. Then you either choose to act on them or you don’t. Character results, of one sort or another. It happens to everyone, including me.

But Immanuel Can dropped this gem on me in an email exchange the other day:
“The lack of any concept of male virtues leaves many young men at sea as they try to shape their characters and grow up well.”
and I thought, “Shape their characters? Who shapes his character?”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Disturbances in the Narrative

Does Pilate’s famous question have an answer?
It was Kate McMillan at SmallDeadAnimals.com who coined the phrase “disturbance in the narrative” to refer to a news story, scientific discovery or other revelation of fact that pokes holes in the popular consensus. It’s an apt description.

There have been an excessive number of disturbances in the narrative in the last week.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The First Amendment, Harassment and Leftist Overreach

The other day, Qman brought up the ongoing news story about subpoenas served on five pastors of Houston churches for their position on … well, we’re not sure now exactly. The City is evidently fishing for something:
“The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.”
“Homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker” cuts a fairly broad swath, but Fox News is already calling it a “war over religious liberty”. Five specific pastors have been named and are collectively represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a law firm that specializes in cases to do with religious liberty.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Time to Man Up

No obnoxious gym teacher in sight.
photo credit
I hate that phrase. Always have. Puts me in mind of drill sergeants or particularly dull and obnoxious gym teachers pushing you to scramble up a knotted rope in front of the whole class.

But I can’t think of a better way to say it.

Implicit in the platitude is the suggestion that the way you are behaving is unmanly, which is not a fair assumption. Possibly it also intimates that to behave like a woman is a bad thing.

Which it isn’t, of course — provided you’re actually a woman.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the decline of masculinity among millennials (and men of previous generations), and we looked at greed and the push for universal higher education as societal causes of the epidemic of malaise on the part of males generally, and their failure to assume their God-given role in the family.

Today I’d like to look at a third contributing factor:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Descent of Man

Modern masculinity is on its way down.
North American Christian men, it’s not your fault. I get that.

No matter how hard you work, it is extremely difficult to earn enough to be the sole financial support of a family anymore; it’s well past time we acknowledged that.

We are living in a society that has made sacred cows of greed, universal higher education and feminism. While we may not personally embrace these values, it is evident that without leaving the world entirely it is impossible to escape the inevitable and natural consequences of the priorities of business, government and the individuals among whom we live.

While the conditions in which the modern Christian man finds himself are not his fault, the choices he makes as a consequence are very much down to him.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Benefit of the Doubt

The Internet is an amazing thing. Poor Tom Brennan, pastor of Maplewood Bible Baptist Church, posts this on his Facebook page:


One drive-by commenter just can’t resist taking his best shot:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Due Season

The author, on one of his better days.
I get tired.

I’m a little tired right now, as a matter of fact. There are days and weeks when I seem to be doing the same thing over and over again, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. And I think, “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” I’ve asked the Lord about it, I’ve prayed for a resolution, and yet …

Yeah, you guessed it: every week, it’s just more of the same.

It’s a special sort of modern, western, slightly self-indulgent “tired”, when you think about it. Persecuted Christians get tired too, I’m sure, but in a very different way. Despair and exhaustion are a far cry from boredom and ennui.

But we in western Christian culture have the malaise of repetitive, often (apparently) ineffectual service to contend with nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Turning the Beat Around

A more current version of this post is available here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Burning Down the House

No, I’m not going to break into the Talking Heads’ 1983 pop hit.

I’m tempted, but I’m not going to. You really don’t want to hear me do that.

But nothing raises the temperature in a local congregation faster than any suggestion we change the music. Countless battles have been fought, and whole congregations have divided over that sort of thing.

That’s really a pity.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

(Re)Making Music

I’ve heard it said that the quickest way to split a congregation is to change the hymnbook or repaint the walls.

Well, I have no feel for interior decorating, so that second one’s not going to be a problem for me. But like most people, I have more definite tastes when it comes to music. Some of the songs that my local church sings, I love; others, I confess, make me cringe.

There are lots of reasons, I guess. Some songs I don’t like because I’ve heard them way too often. Some aren’t set to my kind of tune. A few make me grimace because the lyrics are actually pretty poor, and some contain bits of nonsense or bad doctrine.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Meaning of Life in Three Rounds

A more current version of this post is available here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Inbox: A Multiplication of Woes

“I thought the definition of a church was ‘a multi-site group of local congregations all part of the Body of Christ’. But if that’s what the church is, then why would we need a flow chart in order to locate our authorities? There are elders, then there’s the Chief Shepherd: did I miss something?”
Before we get into the definition of a church, Anonymous’ reference to a “flow chart to locate our authorities” points out what may have been a lack of clarity in my graphic illustration.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Don’t Forget What You Never Knew

A more current version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A Multiplication of Woes

Need one of these to diagram your local church?
Multi-site churches. Wow.

If you want to get wrapped up in a modern church problem not contemplated by specific doctrinal teaching in the New Testament, this would surely be a prime candidate.

I didn’t even know what a “multi-site” church was until I read Jonathan Leeman’s recent blog post about the problems that tend to result from them.

Call me out of touch, but now that I think about it, I know of more than one local situation in which this sort of arrangement might appear to present a potential solution to complications resulting from sudden or unexpected church growth.

Monday, October 06, 2014

One Wild and Awful Moment

A more current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

A Man Without A Clue

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Big Government, Micro-Regulation and Morality

In a 2012 article for National Review entitled “The Perversion of Rights”, Mark Steyn laments the age of micro-regulation:
“That’s the real ‘hot topic’ here — whether a majority of citizens, in America as elsewhere in the West, is willing to ‘leave it up to the government’ to make decisions on everything that matters. On the face of it, the choice between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church should not be a tough one. On the one hand, we have the plain language of the First Amendment as stated in the U.S. Constitution since 1791: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

On the other, we have a regulation invented by executive order under the vast powers given to Kathleen Sebelius under a 2,500-page catalogue of statist enforcement passed into law by a government party that didn’t even bother to read it.”

Friday, October 03, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: Choosing A Church

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

(Maybe Not So) Far Kingdom

Anyone with their eyes on eternity is usually alright by me. Like these folks:



I don’t know what the rest of their music is like, but this got to me in a big way.
“There is a far kingdom on the other side of the glass
And by a faint light we see
Still there is more gladness longing for the sight
Than to behold or be filled by anything.”

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Analyzing the Narrative

The most recent version of this post is available here.