Saturday, February 28, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (5)

I don’t think we’ve posted much on the subject of biblical commendation. If we have, I didn’t tag it appropriately and can’t find it now. [IC, that’s a really unsubtle cue …]

Happily, even if we fail to deliver, there remains a blogosphere. James Gibbons makes three timely and relevant observations about commendation in a post that you should read if you’ve ever thought about serving the Lord outside your own local church.

Currently, the practice of commendation is poorly understood among evangelicals and completely irrelevant in high churches.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Bury or Burn?

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

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance have a piece up on the subject of cremation vs. burial in which they list all the verses from scripture they can find to make the case for one or the other.

They come to no clear conclusion.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Debunking Baptismal Myths #4: Trump Cards and Semantic Ranges

We’re looking in depth at a series of objections raised by one of our readers to the Protestant argument that one must be a believer to be baptized.

One such objection cites the words of Peter to Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost right after the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples. The sound from heaven of a mighty, rushing wind drew Jews from all around, and upon their arrival they found a group of Galileans mysteriously speaking in languages ranging from those of Mesopotamia to those of Crete and the Arab nations.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Crowns

“And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head …”
(Matthew 27:29)

This event is recorded in three of the gospels and has become the basis for many paintings over the centuries. A crown of thorns is commonly referenced in pop culture and there are relatively few who aren’t familiar with the Christian source of the image.

But pause for a moment and ask yourself this: where would someone get a crown of thorns? These are not naturally occurring items that come easily to hand at a moment’s notice. Instead — as the gospel accounts tell us — such a crown needs to be woven together; it would actually require some skill, care and time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Traitors at the Table

A more current version of this post is available here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chasing Equality

Everybody wants to be equal. It’s the way of the world.

But equality means different things to different people. When hardline feminists or politicized homosexuals say they want equality, what they really mean is superiority. They are looking to acquire a trump card through which they will be able to dictate how they are treated — and even thought of — by the rest of society.

Not “equal” exactly, is it.

There’s also the question “Equality by what metric?” to consider. If by equality we mean that every human being ought to be considered as strong, smart or useful to society as every other, we are clearly talking rubbish.

That’s easy to say from my position of “privilege” as a white male, of course.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Christ Where He Doesn’t Belong

In Egypt? Really?
Back in the days when my brothers and I were happily misbehaving in the back row of open Sunday School, we quickly learned how to answer questions for treats. Like performing seals, we tried to outdo one another for a pencil, badge or snack.

Horrible, really, when you think about it.

The idea was that when the superintendent asked a question, the kid that got his or her hand up first won the prize, which naturally encouraged all kinds of cheating. The most effective way to cheat was to stab your arm up into the stratosphere long before the question was finished, and sometimes before it started. The downside was that you really didn’t have a clue what you were supposed to be responding to.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Debunking Baptismal Myths #3: Baptizing the Household

We’re looking in depth at a series of objections raised by one of our readers to the Protestant argument that one must be a believer to be baptized.

One such objection cites New Testament references to the baptism of entire households. Though there is no evidence at all to demonstrate that this involved anyone other than believing family members, it is suggested that this provides support for the practice of infant baptism.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: The “No Harm” Argument

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Many Fishers and Many Hunters

In France: the Telegraph declares “the exodus has begun”.

In Germany, according to the BBC, “anti-Semitism is acceptable again”. They tell the story of a rabbi who no longer wears his skullcap in certain parts of Berlin after being assaulted last year. 

And The Tower says Denmark — all of Scandinavia, really — has become “home to a scary, new form of anti-Semitism”.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Universal Human Rights: The Christian Legacy

The most current version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Debunking Baptismal Myths #2: Baptism and Belief

We’re looking in depth at a series of objections raised by one of our readers to the Protestant argument that one must be a believer to be baptized.

First off, Protestants would almost universally concur with the statement that it is possible to be baptized and not be a believer. Not good, but certainly possible. It happens. Rightly or wrongly, evangelical churches vet prospective candidates for baptism quite thoroughly in the hope of avoiding that exact situation. Baptizing an unbeliever — and possibly giving him or her a false sense of security about whether he or she has actually found peace with God through faith in Christ — is something most Christians want no part of.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Breaking Your Own Compass

By the oddest of coincidences, the standard of the
Nineveh Protection Units looks like ... a compass.
I did it my way.”
— Paul Anka

“I’ve got my own way. I can find my own way.”
— Duran Duran

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
— Judges 21:25

Ah, the conscience.

The Function of Conscience

On one hand, each individual’s conscience must be the final arbiter of his or her choices; a moral compass. While there is plenty of direction out there in the word of God to provide sound guidance for life, in the end, how that is applied and whether or not it is followed is down to each one of us. It can be no other way.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Horse Plunging Headlong

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Debunking Baptismal Myths #1: Suffer the Children

The scripture is certainly open to interpretation, and just about every possible interpretation of every possible verse has probably been advanced by someone or other since the Bible was compiled early in what is now referred to as the Common Era.

We Can Both Be Wrong, But …

One thing must be understood about interpretation, and that is this: It is very possible (though unlikely, given that the Holy Spirit was given to guide us into all truth) that every extant interpretation of a verse is wrong, and that believers in general have not yet grasped the meaning of a particular passage. In other words, we might all be wrong.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Church Is Too Easy

A more current version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Impossible to Renew [Part 2]

Having established the context, therefore, we may move on to a closer look at the passage in question:
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
This Passage does NOT Refer to Christians

Several phrases are used here which seem to imply that the audience are believers: they have been “enlightened”, they have “tasted the heavenly gift”, they have “shared in the Holy Spirit”. This is strong language to use of the unsaved. Doesn’t it, then, refer to Christians? Despite the controversy on this subject, we believe that the answer is no.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Impossible to Renew [Part 1]

This passage in the book of Hebrews has caused consternation to many a believer, and been the source of much controversy among Christians generally:
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
Eternal Insecurity

Read superficially, it strikes fear into the heart, for it seems at first to imply that those who have put their faith in Christ for salvation can lose that salvation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Infinite Improbability and the Multiverse Hypothesis

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, February 09, 2015

By Special Request

Stephen Fry’s little burrowing friend ...
Probably to his regret, in the process of trashing the Christian God comedian Stephen Fry ran into the logic buzzsaw that is libertarian Vox Day.

Fry was doing an interview for an Irish television show called The Meaning of Life. When asked if he thought he would get to heaven (Irish interview shows apparently ask more intelligent questions than their American counterparts), he decided to pontificate on the character of God.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Sceptics, Seekers and Opponents

Some fences are not for sitting
Vox Day has an interesting piece on the subject of A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian, a book written with the purpose of teaching, in Boghossian’s own words, “how to talk people out of their faith”.

Day makes the point that Boghossian’s position could not be more distant from that of authentic scepticism: “Boghossian’s very stated purpose is in direct and explicit opposition to everything Sextus Empiricus advises, beginning with ‘suspension of judgment’ ”.

Naturally a reader engages him on this.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

When the End Comes

So what will you do when the end comes? It’s a really good question.

Relax, this is not another regular instalment in my frequent “end of the world looms imminent” meme. I’m not thinking about the end of our current world order, or about the end of the Church Age, or even about the end of our own natural lives.

The quote comes from Jeremiah, actually, and “the end” has to do with the time that God’s judgment falls. That’s not God’s eternal judgment concerning where your or I will spend eternity, and it’s not God’s future judgment of the world and its nations. It’s the point in life, individually or corporately, in which things get so bad and so damaging and so pointless and selfish that God simply cannot fail to step in and demonstrate the folly of our ways in a very tangible, painful way during this life.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Baptized Into What?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Implacability of Hatred

Some bright spark (okay, got it now, it was a former Dutch cabinet minister, not just your garden-variety bright spark) last week suggested a unique solution to bring about peace in the Middle East.

Ready? Okay, here it is: Force Israel’s entire population to move to the United States.

Leave aside all the other current mid-east hotspots, the “Arab Spring” that turned out to be an Islamic Spring, ISIS, U.S. failure to change hearts and minds on the ground in Iraq and so on, and let’s suppose Herman Heinsbroek’s idea has a hope in Hades of actually bringing about lasting peace in Palestine.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Whistling Past the Graveyard

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Christianity Lite

Better entertained in goatland ...
I can’t speak to the condition of churches throughout the world, but I think it’s fair to say there is an epidemic of church-playing in North America these days. People are crowding into megachurches weekly to partake of a sort of ‘Christianity Lite’ in which scripture is still quoted as authoritative and many of the right forms are still observed.

But if YouTube reflects any sort of cross-section of Christian reality, many sermons seem to primarily involve wrestling the words of the apostles and prophets into the shape of modern secular values. And if the more popular Christian blogs show us anything, it’s that many believers lead lifestyles indistinguishable from those of someone who does not know Christ at all.

Too harsh? Maybe.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Saturn and Uniformitarianism

Maggie McKee at Nature.com has an interesting piece on the difficulties that a number of recent scientific discoveries pose for uniformitarians, several of them related to study of the planet Saturn.

For instance, Saturn’s rings, which are 90% water ice, should be darker than they are if they were actually formed 4 billion years ago as originally assumed. Comets and asteroids shed dust that in theory ought to darken the rings over time. So the rings are either younger than previously thought, or … something.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Vessels of Another Sort

Stephen Fry alleges that of all languages English “has the largest vocabulary … by a long, long, long, long way”. The language columnist of The Economist disagrees, or at least provides sound reasons why Fry may not be correct.

Regardless, there are only so many available words in any given language, and sometimes a writer of scripture elects to use similar language to describe vastly different spiritual scenarios.