Sunday, January 31, 2016

Earthly and Heavenly

Asked what three things they would take to heaven if they could, respondents demonstrate impoverished imaginations:

“My crucifix, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album and a photo of my best friend who died last year”

“My PS3, cell phone, picture of my family”

“My iTouch, my electric guitar and my copy of Pilgrim’s Progress printed in the 1800s”

The most common choices are computers and game systems. A few pets work their way in as apparent afterthoughts.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

None Of This Needs To Be Permanent

A lot of people have spent an inordinate amount of time doing some really neat calculations with the ages of the ancients given to us in Genesis 11 and elsewhere. These numbers have been used to estimate the age of the earth, to speculate about the synchronization of human history to a 50 year Jubilee cycle, and so on.

Despite the fact that we don’t know anyone in our day who has lived to 600 (or especially to 969, like Methuselah), I take these rather strange accounts quite literally. If you don’t, and you can find another logically consistent explanation for the existence of such a careful and apparently historical record, good for you: I’m not looking for a debate about it.

I find it interesting to read and meditate on such things, though I don’t go to the lengths some do in analyzing them.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Where Do You Get Your News?

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

Millennials are among the most flat-out gullible people I have ever encountered. For the most part, they wouldn’t know truth if it smacked them upside the head. Their manipulators and peers circulate fiction as fact on social media 24/7. They mistrust everyone except those they should.

Older folks still watch the six o’ clock news and have newspaper subscriptions. They grew up with media reputed to be fairly trustworthy in an age when the illusion could be reasonably sustained that there existed such a thing as journalistic ethics. Many of these are our fellow believers, people of goodwill for whom the habit of giving others the benefit of the doubt is well ingrained.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quote of the Day (16)

This entire G.K. Chesterton essay is worthy of consideration, but my favourite bit is this splendid, gleeful demolition of the anti-Christian argument from Incarnation mythology:

“Mr. Blatchford and his school point out that there are many myths parallel to the Christian story; that there were Pagan Christs, and Red Indian Incarnations, and Patagonian Crucifixions, for all I know or care. But does not Mr. Blatchford see the other side of this fact? If the Christian God really made the human race, would not the human race tend to rumours and perversions of the Christian God? If the center of our life is a certain fact, would not people far from the center have a muddled version of that fact? If we are so made that a Son of God must deliver us, is it odd that Patagonians should dream of a Son of God?”

Chesterton goes on to break that down further ...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Witnessing to Witnesses [Part 3]

Jehovah’s Witnesses profess to believe the Bible is the inspired and accurate word of God but reject its consistent testimony to the deity of Christ.

That combination doesn’t work. It’s intellectually vacuous and spiritually dangerous.

You may not regularly engage with JWs, but the extent to which scripture parallels Jesus with Jehovah (or YHWH, or in most Bibles, “the Lord”) is still a subject very much worthy of consideration. John wrote that the Father has given all judgment to the Son in order that “all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father”.

That’s the aim of this series.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why Not Now?

We live in an age of instant gratification.

If I want a superior coffee experience, I have only to walk to the corner, or drive to my friend Rod’s house. If I want to know what’s happening across the world, five minutes with CNN will probably do it. If I want to feign expert knowledge of virtually any subject, half an hour of Googling enables me to pass myself off as conversant with all but the genuinely knowledgeable.

God doesn’t operate that way. It’s a bit vexing at times, I must admit.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Quote of the Day (15)

Sometimes you get the neatest quotes from the fertile minds of the writers of crime fiction:

“It’s pretty arrogant, calling all other gods, apart from the one you’ve come up with, idols. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Every dictator’s command to his subjects, of course. The funny thing was that Christians couldn’t see it themselves, they didn’t see the mechanism, the regenerative, self-fulfilling, self-aggrandising aspect which meant that a superstition like this could survive for two thousand years, and in which the key — salvation — was restricted to those who were fortunate enough to have been born in a space of time which was a merest blink in the eye of human history, and who also happened to live on the only little bit of the planet that ever got to hear the commandment and were able to formulate an opinion about the concise sales pitch (‘paradise?’).”
— Jo Nesbo, Midnight Sun

Nesbo’s character is wrong about two huge truths here, and both are worth thinking about.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Always Misunderstood

ViralCraze’s “10 Bible Verses That Are Always Misunderstood” explains the parable of the Good Samaritan ... by not really explaining it:

“Jesus asked the question, ‘Who is your neighbor?’ The simple answer is the one who you choose to show mercy to.”

This is the generally accepted response, and it’s not entirely wrong. Still, a careful reading of the passage shows it is not quite what the Lord Jesus said.

In fact, the parable is not about identifying our neighbor at all.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Horrific Hymnology

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Objectively Bad

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

Here we are, Immanuel Can. It’s 2016, and my friend Rachel Held Evans is once again raising spiritual issues of singular importance.

I had not realized that she and husband Dan are expecting a baby, but it does explain why her blog output is down to about one post a month. And if my recollection of raising children remains unimpeded by creeping senility, her writing output is likely to remain at an all-time low for the indefinite future, assuming it does not tail off altogether.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

More Where That Comes From

Being transformed into the image of the Son of God does not depend on me.

Thank the Lord for that.

There are things about Christian service that can be learned. Skill sets can be developed. Techniques can be applied. Practice sometimes makes perfect. I could, for instance, wholly apart from the Spirit of God, acquire a greater understanding of Hebrew and Greek through diligent study and as a consequence become a more accurate Bible teacher.

Whether much of eternal value would come from that apart from the Spirit of God is a separate question, but it can certainly be done.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Witnessing to Witnesses [Part 2]

Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the deity of Christ but profess to believe the Bible is the inspired and accurate word of God.

With respect to salvation such theology puts its adherents in danger of eternal separation from God. With respect to the understanding of scripture the position is simply nonsensical, failing to account for and deal with dozens of different ways in which the writers of holy writ specifically equate Jesus with the “Jehovah” the Witnesses claim to worship and call “Father”.

John wrote that the Father has given all judgment to the Son in order that “all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father”.

That’s the aim of this series.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Some Things Shouldn’t Need Specifying

Elsewhere, LLC comments:

“At our last business meeting (December), our pastor and the deacons proposed an addition to our statement of faith, affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman. The older members of our church were surprised on the grounds of “We thought it was already in there.” The pastor, the deacons, and the secretary had gone back through thirty years of church records and couldn’t find it anywhere ... so the change was made.

I suspect we’re in the minority of churches.”

I suspect LLC is correct.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Under the Shadow

People do things. Things good or bad, generous or selfish, trustworthy or manipulative, wise or horrendously ill-considered.

Paul tells the Corinthian church that the people of Israel were examples. The things that they did in the desert on the way to Canaan and the things that happened to them as a consequence of their behaviour were written down to instruct us, “on whom the end of the ages has come”.

It seems reasonable to assume this is true of most of Bible history: it happened, not randomly but with divine purpose. And we can benefit from observing the mistakes and successes of those who lived thousands of years before us, avoiding the former and pursuing the latter.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tolerating Evil: Moral Relativism and the Slippery Pole to Hell

This is the third in my series on relativism.

I began by pointing out the two types of relativism, epistemic and moral, and showed that epistemic relativism is irrational. After that, I did a post showing that whether we are thinking of science or religious belief, we really know things only probabilistically … and that this is okay — that high-certainty belief is much better than low-certainty belief, and that in any case, being a Christian means knowing God both as an evidentiary probability and as a relational Person, which means with pretty great certainty; better, even, than a scientist can offer. So it is true that truth exists, and it is true that we can know that truth exists.

So far, so good.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Unpacking Conspiracy Theories

The internet has given us unprecedented access to English language commentary from all over the world and has preserved it for us conveniently accessible for an indefinite period. Why not take advantage?

Back in October, the Hungarian Spectrum attempted to unpack the refugee crisis in Europe:

“Hungarian public officials quite openly expressed their doubts that such an unexpected migration of so many people could happen without some central direction.”

There are plausible conspiracy theories. Then there are those that are moonbat crazy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Blow Up the Worship Team

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

Nate at PracticalWorship has decided to “terminate the Worship Team”. I believe he used the words “blowing up”, in fact.

I got all excited. This is radical Christianity, folks!

But to my personal disappointment, Nate doesn’t actually mean it. By “blow up the Worship Team”, he actually means “change its name to ‘the MilePost13 Band’ ”. He lists two reasons for the change: first, that an actual name gives the band a sense of identity, pride and ownership and makes them feel like professionals.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Posing on the Precipice

At age 69, when you put on a bodystocking for a music video, you may be trying to communicate all sorts of things.

You may be saying, “I’m in really good shape for my age”.

You may be taking a political position: “Every age is as valid and important as every other, and therefore the fact that I look ridiculous in this thing should not be noted. I am making a social comment about ageism”.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Witnessing to Witnesses [Part 1]

They are door-knockers extraordinaire, trudging suburban streets in pairs, looking for converts. That’s a lot of legwork, and I give them credit for persistence in an age when such commitment is rare.

They are Jehovah’s Witnesses, or “JWs”. Maybe you’ve picked up their flagship Watchtower magazine in a laundromat or seen them flogging books on a street corner in your downtown core. Often they are mistakenly referred to as a Christian denomination, though they are anything but.

After all, when you deny the deity of Christ, his physical resurrection and salvation by grace, you can’t really be said to be Christian, can you?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Moving the Goalposts

I was speaking with a Christian father a while back whose teenage son had criticized others for using racist language. But when his father asked him to explain exactly what he meant by ‘racist’, his certainty began to evaporate. The closest he could come to any sort of definition was that racism has to do with mentioning somebody’s race, and maybe being critical of them. Beyond that, it seemed like he was simply parroting what had been drilled into him at school.

But really, what is racism? Does anyone know anymore?

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Thought Experiment

The famous wording originated with Thomas Jefferson and survived three full rounds of edits: one from Julian Boyd, a second from the Committee of Five and a third from Congress. The final version reads:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Let’s talk about the pursuit of happiness.

It ain’t scripture, folks, but enough people can relate to the concept that a nation built around it (and the other “truths”) has survived 240 years. And people continue to find the notion appealing today.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Big Gamble

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

What Should We Think About Death?

The British Humanist Association would like to tell us what we should think about death.

The plummy tones of comedian Stephen Fry introduce the concept, but you really can’t enjoy it in its full glory without the cartoon visuals. This link should maximize your viewing experience:

“One thing we can be sure of is that we will die. Everybody will.”

Tell us something we don’t know, Stephen.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Star Wars and the Masculinity Crisis

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

I happened across this column by Mark Judge today in Acculturated, Immanuel Can, and I recognized a favourite hobby horse of yours in the subject of masculinity. So I thought why not exploit the current heat around the new Star Wars movie (which I have not seen, by the way) and discuss this a bit, since even secular writers are now drawing attention to the problem.

Tom: Have you seen the movie, by the way?

Immanuel Can: Nope. But I do like the subject of the article.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

It’s Alive!

Sometimes you can learn as much by the way something is said as you can from the content of the message itself.

The incidental assumptions upon which the teaching of the apostles is based are often as fascinating and revealing as the assertions of truth themselves. Their absolute conviction with respect to the source, nature, reliability and accuracy of the word of God is the bedrock upon which every Christian doctrine rests.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I Almost Wish You’d Stop Posting Altogether

Complaints, complaints. You always get them, don’t you.

These are not complaints about Coming Untrue, I hasten to add (though we may be overdue for a few). No, I plucked them from the comments section of another evangelical blog where they were presumably destined to disappear quietly into the ether. The writer of the piece being critiqued prudently elected not to respond to his critic in kind.

But such sentiments are the sort of thing generally expressed by self-designated representatives of the status quo whenever anyone proposes a change to, well … anything at all.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Recommend-a-blog (16)

“Inviting Jesus to come into your life in the past is not proof that you are genuinely saved.”
— John MacArthur

The idea of inviting Jesus into my life or heart is not to be seen anywhere in scripture, and yet it is found everywhere in Christendom. I’ve been hearing it since childhood. The concept is easily caricatured and rarely defended, but still it persists.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Mr. MacArthur, Please Find a Different Verse

“Are you a Christian?”

That’s not me asking. That’s renowned Bible teacher John MacArthur. He’s suggesting we all need to do a little self-examination to see if we are “in the faith”. And he thinks scripture supports the practice.

Hmm. I’m wondering if that might not make for a large number of miserable, panicky Christians questioning their salvation for no good reason.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Worth Waiting For

“Time preference” is an economic term that expresses the relative value of having something now as opposed to having that same thing later.

People with high time preferences focus primarily on their well-being in the present and in the immediate future. They choose now over later more often than average.

People with low time preferences, on the other hand, look further down the road. They most often choose later over now.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Quote of the Day (14)

Today I find myself praying for a loved one going through tough times. That’s not unusual.

But somewhere in the middle of my prayer it becomes apparent to me that what I’m most concerned with alleviating is not really the specific problem she encountered today or even her feelings about it: these are only drops in a near-endless and apparently all-but-unsolvable stream of ongoing calamities. Primarily I am troubled by the level of stress her problems are currently causing ... me.

I mean, feeling sick with anxiety is really putting a damper on my day, folks!

Friday, January 01, 2016

No Passage Back

Frozen New Year’s Day morning and I’m on my way to work with a line from an old Eagles song running through my head:

“I had to find the passage back to the place I was before …”

Except there is no passage back to the place we were before, is there.

Time is unidirectional and it seems to move faster as we age. The speed is probably a conceit of advancing years, but it certainly feels like a truism.