Thursday, March 31, 2016

One Corporate Setting

What is the “whole church” anyway?

Crawford Paul says, “Home studies, conversation studies, group prayer times etc. do not fall under that condition [the instructions of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 about church order in which women are silent and men teach and lead, Ed.as long as the whole church is not expected to attend or be gathered in one corporate setting. In these cases, men and women are free to participate in those activities.”

But what scriptural authority does Crawford have for this freedom of audible participation for both sexes in situations in which the “whole church” is not expected to be present but any combination of its members may be? If he has any, he does not cite it.

This may be because such authority does not exist.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Culture Creep

Early this year, Crawford Paul wrote about how local churches can change to promote growth. One commenter gently took him to task:

“Post what changes you want, and what it means to open discussions (women speaking?) and be more specific.”

Short version: I jumped all over the commenter, who seemed generally opposed to change in the church and suggested Mr. Paul’s posts were fostering discontent. It seemed to me he was reading things into Crawford’s appeals for change that simply weren’t there (the subject of women speaking was never addressed in the post). I even suggested the commenter might be jumping at shadows.

Now I’m wondering if maybe I owe the poor guy an apology. He may not be so paranoid after all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Sincerest Form

Imitation ... or caricature?
My uncle, having lived in England all his life, has an accent. It is strong and distinctive.

On occasion, my brother deliberately imitates him to humorous effect. You might think his version of my uncle exaggerated until you hear the real thing, when it becomes clear my brother’s homage may well not go far enough. Other times, in conversation with my uncle, one or another of his Canadian relatives finds himself unconsciously picking up and mimicking my uncle’s speech patterns.

Imitation may be conscious or unconscious, but it is always an action (as opposed to a state of mind). It is something you have to DO. Thinking about imitating someone is not imitation.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I Found God in a Hallmark Card

Three unfortunate Will Bowen readers commiserate ...
Or not. Maybe you saw this on Facebook yesterday:

“EASTER symbolizes our own capacity to transform. Our ability to die to our former selves and awaken to a whole new life. Your ideal self lies dormant within you now ready to be called forth, ready to shine, ready to bless your world.”
— Will Bowen

Uh, well ... not exactly.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quote of the Day (19)

I find the following paragraph from C.R. Hallpike’s Do We Need God to be Good? An Anthropologist Considers the Evidence rather striking:

“This powerful and important doctrine for right living was worked out in great philosophical detail in Greece, India, and China; we do not find it in explicit form in the Old Testament which was not philosophically minded, but in the New Testament St. Paul added the religious virtues of faith, hope, and charity to the classical virtues of justice, reasonableness, courage, and self-control.”

I’m far from agreeing with Hallpike on everything, but he’s got me thinking with that line. The Old Testament, he says, was “not philosophically minded”.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Recommend-a-blog (18)

Larry Taunton is the author of 2011’s well-reviewed The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief and the author of the forthcoming The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, which I will probably have to purchase on the basis of the title alone.

Taunton is a Christian columnist and cultural commentator primarily known for organizing “The God Delusion Debate” with Richard Dawkins in 2007, a discussion to which at least a million people tuned in. He was friendly with the late Christopher Hitchens (hence the book, presumably).

He has also recently taken up blogging.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Getting Relevant

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

I heard that most young people drop out of church today, either for a short or indefinite time, around age 18-19. I was concerned: after all, if we lose the next generation, what’s going to happen to the church? But then I found this glossy new resource, and it’s really helping me to understand what today’s young adults are going to find relevant by way of spiritual stuff. I’m sharing it with you, Tom, because I know you’ve got young-adult children of your own.

Just in time, eh?

Tom: Uh, thanks, IC, I think. Why is it that some Christians seem to think that being “relevant” actually means “pandering” or “condescending”?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Who Reads Anymore?

I’ve heard that Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time may be the most famous book people have never read.

That’s right: Never.

It’s sold ten million or so copies. Lots of people mention the book, laud it, base their opinions on it — but few of these have actually ever read it.

Maybe that’s understandable. It is, after all, a fairly challenging book. For a mathematician, it’s a good read, perhaps; for the average person it’s a quick road to Slumberland. Even though it’s pretty short it only takes a few pages to render most folks unconscious.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cognitive Dissonance

In my neighbourhood it has become trendy to post a blue sign on your front lawn, one that reads, “Leave fossil fuels IN THE GROUND”. I walk by several of these each morning.

These messages adorn the snow-covered lawns of $800,000+ homes with their natural gas furnaces blasting away in the face of our Canadian winter, their driveways filled with SUVs and other premium fossil fuel-consuming vehicles.

Such cries for change are eminently dismissable, their transparent virtue-signaling drowning in cognitive dissonance and unintended irony.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No Getting Around That

Rachel Held Evans vs. John Piper? Who could resist weighing in? Not me.

Some background: My favorite popular Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans has been sharing with her readers how well ditching “strict gender roles promoted by conservative evangelical culture” in favor of “a relationship characterized by mutuality and flexibility” is working for her and her husband Dan as they welcome their new baby into the world.

Yes, Dan is helping Rachel out by changing diapers, doing laundry, rocking the baby and making pot after pot of coffee.

Bravo, Dan.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tender Sentiments and Easy Living

How delicate can we get?
God, we are reliably informed, is eternal. He is also unchanging.

Oh, things certainly happen where God dwells; events on a scale we can hardly imagine. Think of passages like “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord”, or “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” or, best of all, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”. Momentous events indeed.

Still, if it is possible to speak of a heavenly culture (or perhaps atmosphere), that culture must, like the unchanging character of God, be impervious to trends.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

True Revolutionaries

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Trouble with the Truth

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: A Change in the Whether

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

Crawford Paul, who serves as an elder in an Ontario local church, has written a short post entitled “Consider Moving Your Prayer Meeting to Sunday”.

Tom: Now I’m not sure, Immanuel Can, how many churches in North America still have weekly meetings dedicated pretty much exclusively to prayer. It may not be a large number. Mr. Paul’s suggestion seems to be generally well received. But it does bring up the question of how much flexibility churches have in such matters, assuming we are using scripture as our guide, of course.

We might start by asking what constitutes a local church in the first place.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dial It Back A Notch

Marketing is an appalling thing.

My favorite sales technique is something called puffery, which is just what it sounds like: a whole lot of hot air. Okay, maybe “favorite” is the wrong word: it’s merely the technique easiest to identify, the one that, even to the uninitiated, screams ‘Marketing!’ at the top of its wheezy, overinflated little lungs. Once stung by the puffery-fish, you recognize it forever by any name.

Sadly, marketing to Christians has become just as fishy as marketing to secular rubes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Inbox: Things Jesus Did for Women

Martin van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist who, oddly enough, has written perhaps the best and most all-encompassing book I’ve ever found on the subject of equality. Equality: The Impossible Quest is not a theological book and van Creveld is not, to my knowledge, a Christian, but his diligent retracing of the historical development of the equality myth as it relates to all aspects of human interaction is well worth the few hours it takes to digest.

If equality was the original order of mankind (and it wasn’t, as demonstrated in an earlier post on this subject), something has gone very, very wrong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Inbox: Taking the Curse Away from Women

A commenter who uses the name Unknown takes issue with this two-year old post on the subject of the equality of the sexes in the New Creation.

This is a blog about growing in the Christian faith. IC reminded me last week that since December 2013, the CU staff has published well over 700 posts on various subjects or passages. Since there is no statute of limitations on comments here, we often have reactions submitted to older posts. One caution about that: there is no guarantee that something I wrote two years ago was expressed precisely the way I would express it today. While my convictions about the fundamental doctrines of scripture have remained consistent over the years, study and discussion with fellow believers often lead me to work through the occasional untested assumption and fine-tune my thoughts. When that happens, I’ll usually post something new about the subject or passage to clarify my current thinking.

That’s as it should be, I hope. The day we stop growing in understanding is a sad day indeed.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Two Can Play That Game

Pearls of wisdom from Mary Kassian:

“A husband does not have the right to demand or extract submission from his wife. Submission is HER choice — her responsibility … it is NOT his right!! Not ever. She is to “submit herself” — deciding when and how to submit is her call. In a Christian marriage, the focus is never on rights, but on personal responsibility. It’s his responsibility to be affectionate. It’s her responsibility to be agreeable. The husband’s responsibility is to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church — not to make his wife submit.”

So it is “HER choice — her responsibility … deciding when and how to submit is her call”. So declares Mary Kassian.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Where Did the Sabbath Go?

Doug Batchelor’s sermons on YouTube begin with the words “Happy Sabbath”.

Batchelor is a Seventh-Day Adventist, so this should not surprise anyone. Wikipedia calls Seventh-Day Adventism “a Protestant Christian denomination distinguished by its observance of Saturday ... as the Sabbath”.


“Very few people, after accepting Christ, dispute nine of the Ten Commandments, but the fourth they often see as a ‘personal preference’ or optional commandment. But it’s not just a recommendation from Moses; it’s the law of the Almighty.

The devil doesn’t care whether your sin is adultery or murder or Sabbath breaking, just as long as he can get you to sin and separate you from God.”

That sounds serious. So how come so many evangelicals don’t keep the Sabbath? Are we all casual about obeying God’s commands, as Batchelor suggests? Are we perhaps misinterpreting scripture?

I don’t think so.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Inbox: The Original Order Was Equality

One of the great joys of blogging is receiving feedback from our readers. I mean that sincerely.

We love comments: wildly enthusiastic comments, bitterly hostile comments or comments anywhere on the continuum between them. The readers I enjoy engaging with most make an effort to moderate my views or qualify my interpretations with other scriptures. Right or wrong, that’s always welcome. If something I’ve written strikes you as goofy, ill-considered or off base, chances are there are ten other people (at least) out there reading the same post and thinking exactly the same thing.

An unknown commenter is looking to modify my views on equality, so let’s revisit the subject.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Stinkin’ Selfish

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

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley inadvertently opened a can of worms with comments he made in a sermon earlier this month:

“When I hear adults say, ‘Well, I don’t like a big church. I like about two hundred’ or ‘I want to be able to know everybody’, I say, ‘You are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids or anybody else’s kids.”

Now of course he quickly and abjectly apologized the moment the predictable blowback started, but Stanley’s not backtracking on his dislike of traditional-sized churches, just the ill-conceived and insulting way he expressed it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Inbox: Poor Image Management

One possible reaction to Exodus 32
Qman wonders how we can answer Bible students who find that reading about the judgments of God described in the Old Testament leaves a bad taste in their mouths and inclines them to think unfavorably of God.

It’s a good question and a common problem.

The more I read my Bible (and the older and crustier I get), the more tempting I find it to respond to questions about God’s character dismissively.

Not constructive. Got to work on that.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Testimony in the Twilight Zone

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Amiable Hedonism

Not every hedonist is stretched out in the sun, skin as orange as Hulk Hogan’s, quaffing endless daiquiris and enjoying the unwavering attention of blondes in bikinis. Not at all.

The red-eyed, coke-nosed, nightclubbing rouĂ© is always easy to pick out of a crowd. Blatant dissipation has a certain look to it. It’s a look often accompanied by pickled livers, deteriorated septa and a pressing need for drugs with names that end in -cillin.

But there is a less-talked-about and much more amiable variety of hedonism that often goes undetected. The neighbour who just shoveled your driveway may have hedonistic leanings. Your hard-working best friend might be a closet hedonist too.

That lady who’s always fundraising for the church down the street? A total hedonist.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Recommend-a-blog (17)

Tim Barnett at Stand to Reason tells us why Christianity with a mythical Adam and Eve simply doesn’t work:

“Imagine a young boy sits next to his grandfather, and a large scar across his grandfather’s cheek catches the boy’s attention. The boy asks, ‘Grandpa, how did you get that scar on your face?’ The grandfather replies, ‘Well, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ...’ Immediately the boy interrupts his grandfather, ‘No, Grandpa, I don’t want a fairy tale, I want to know how you got that real scar on your face.’

The problem of sin is real. We experience it every day. A fictional tale does not explain the fall of humanity into sin.”

Sunday, March 06, 2016

On Being Distinct

The golden calf episode at Mount Sinai was a moral disaster for Israel.

Idolatry was bad enough, but national idolatry on such a scale so soon after formally accepting the privileges and responsibilities of being called by Jehovah to be a people uniquely his own gave the lie to everything Israel was supposed to stand for. It made a mockery of Israel’s promises and a joke of its testimony to the nations around it. God struck the people with a plague, and Moses struck them with the sword of the House of Levi, killing three thousand.

Basically, a disaster.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Calf Exercises

How do you go from “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” to “Up, make us gods who shall go before us” in such an insanely short period?

And yet, I cannot imagine this sort of treachery and double-speak is characteristic only of Israel. “These things happened to them as examples,” Paul tells the Corinthians, “but they were written down for our instruction”.

We’re still reading them today, so maybe we can learn a thing or two.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Collision Impending

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

Germans in Stuttgart staged a protest rally last weekend over “family values”. At least 4,500 people took to the streets to protest new school curriculum that puts special emphasis on “sexual diversity and sexual minorities”.

What’s interesting about the German situation is that against the wishes of many Germans the Merkel government is importing unprecedented numbers of Muslims into its school system while simultaneously pushing an increasingly liberal social agenda, also against the wishes of a not-insignificant number of its citizens.

Tom: I bring this up, Immanuel Can, because our own Canadian government is on precisely the same trajectory and the U.S. is not far behind. It seems to me spectacularly ill-conceived social policy to pit one set of values against another. The cultural collision, when it comes, promises to be loud and destructive.

What are they thinking, IC?

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Somewhere Under the Rainbow

It appears some people have been doing a lot more thinking about gay marriage than I have.

Which is not to say it’s an unimportant issue in the Christian community. The number of people potentially impacted by the change in law, directly or indirectly, is significant. But my concern to date has revolved around the very real potential for government enforcement of ‘tolerance legislation’, something that could easily impact the self-determination of local churches. To me, that’s a major problem. Any thoughts about division within churches over the issue or about the impact of legalization on Christians with sexual orientation issues who might want to marry have been very, VERY secondary.

That’s because I don’t know any.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Answering a Skeptic

Not all college friendships last a lifetime, but one guy I went to school with has kept in touch for over 30 years. He maintained an attitude of genial bemusement about my Christian faith right up until his own daughter became a teenager, when he abruptly decided that a purely secular worldview was not what he wanted for her after all.

So I can relate to the plight of the writer of A Skeptic’s Journey Through the Bible, an anonymous blogger who says this about himself:

“Growing up a believer, I left my faith in my teens. Now that I’m at the age of starting a family of my own, I need to know in which direction to guide them.”

Fair point. Let’s help if we can.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Quote of the Day (18)

JR sends this gem along:

“As far as the leading of the Spirit, we only need Him to show up for 45 minutes at the breaking of bread to arrange the hymns and, after that, we’re pretty much good to go on our own.”
— Jabe Nicholson

No smart remarks from me today.

I figure I’ll just let that one sit there and burn for a bit.