Saturday, December 31, 2016

God Helps Those …

One strategy ...

... or another?
Does he? Really? Does God help those who help themselves? Is the key to spiritual victory simply staying in motion at all times?

Some Christians recoil at the notion. “They that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,” they reply. Sit tight, pray hard, and all will be well. Or at very least, it will be as God wills it.


At the other end of the spectrum lie those who quote the same adage to justify a flurry of activity for its own sake, with or without God’s involvement. They just can’t bring themselves to sit still, and need a sufficiently spiritual rationalization for their own impatience.

Perhaps neither extreme is quite correct.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

No Guarantees

For the Christian, winning is not guaranteed.

Oh, of course it’s guaranteed in the long-term. We’ve read the ending of a story that has already been written, edited and published to the world. It is a done deal. All is to be summed up in Christ, and those of us who belong to him are destined to be glorified with him and united with him for eternity.

That’s definitely what you’d call a win. Might not happen in your lifetime or mine, but our long-term prospects are guaranteed.

Short-term is another story. Today may hold what appears to be a resounding loss.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tax Collectors Do the Same

Living involves action after action, choice upon choice, day after day.

Those of us who are children of God find ourselves regularly involved in what appear on the surface to be exactly the same kinds of daily interpersonal transactions as everyone else. “Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” the Lord asked his would-be followers. “Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Yeah, they do. Thus, when a Christian loves his enemies and prays for his persecutors, he stands out from the crowd. When he simply and normally loves his family and greets his friends, he doesn’t.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Truth by the Bucketload

We have a lot of truth available to us, almost surely more than at any previous period in human history. We certainly have everything we need for the purpose of pleasing God during this present era. We have truth by the bucketload. Truth by the truckload. Torrents of cascading truth.

But we do not have it all. Not by a long shot.


Relax, I’m not talking about revisiting the question of inspiration in the Apocrypha or credulously skimming pseudepigraphal volumes in hopes of finding hidden spiritual gems. Some of these ancient sources may indeed preserve words that originated with God, but sifting such gold out of all the inauthentic dross in which they now reside would be a task no scholar, however spiritual, could credibly presume to undertake.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It May Be the Armor

“Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off.”

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s helmet and coat of mail; they worked just fine for Saul.

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s intentions; at the time he thought well of David. He had no desire to sabotage David’s efforts and every reason to hope he might succeed against Goliath.

And there was definitely nothing wrong with David; Saul’s armor just didn’t suit him.

Sometimes other people’s methods don’t work for us.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Peace Rules

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Dreams, White or Otherwise

I had a dream.

No, not like MLK. That’s more of what we call a vision than a dream. Mine was nothing inspiring or quotable. Just a regular dream, the ordinary kind where your mind drifts randomly.

The Grand Entrance

In my dream I went to Hallowby Hall. I had heard that it had the most amazing Christmas decorations on the planet. Everyone said so. And I couldn’t wait to see them.

So I went there. And even as I approached I must say I was impressed. Rich, red carpets led the way up the front stairs. Gold gleamed from towering archways. Tall trees of blue and green framed either side, and from beneath each bough multi-coloured lights winked mischievously. Banners of satin crowned the entranceway, and from underneath gleamed the golden light of a dozen shining chandeliers. Such a glorious sight I had never seen.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Shut Your Trap

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Did God Invent Slavery?

If the ongoing debate over the appropriate Christian response to the institution of slavery is not the single touchiest subject currently batted around by evangelicals in multicultural societies, it has to be at least Top Five.

Some Christians, perhaps wisely, dodge the issue entirely if at all possible: “Are there slaves today anywhere in the West? Have there been any for over a century? No? Well then, it’s irrelevant what I think about it. Next question!”

Most of us wouldn’t put it that baldly, but we would be just as happy discussing something else.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Visceral Atheism

Atheists contend their position is so intellectually robust as to be unassailable.

In Psychology Today, Satoshi Kanazawa makes the argument that atheists are more intelligent than religious people because “humans are designed by evolution to believe in God”, meaning that those who have become aware of this are smarter than those who have not.

That view makes atheism the red pill and the rest of us benighted Matrix-dwellers, if you’ll excuse the metaphor.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Quote of the Day (29)

Fred Reed is a smart guy. Definitely smarter than me. Closing in on seventy and anticipating the economic, cultural and political disasters looming over the United States, the former journalist bolted to Mexico to write away his retirement, mostly online.

Fred is that special sort of smart that sees the holes in both sides of an argument. The great thing about being alert in that particular way is that it generally means you are humble enough to say “I don’t know” on a regular basis, something you never hear from the majority of scientists, politicians and media pundits.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why Are We So Easily Shaken?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Harlequin Romances, Detective Fiction and the Essence of Prophecy

Christendom is packed with a bewildering array of denominations, sects and cults, each with its own emphasis.

God has his own emphasis, and seems to go to great lengths to make it clear. Somehow or other, large segments of Christendom manage to regularly miss it, despite the fact that they have taken the name of Jesus as a fundamental part of claiming to be Christian.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Yes, They Both Start With ‘D’

It occurs to me that — very occasionally, of course — I may have been the tiniest bit more dismissive of other believers than I ought.

Christian X’s wife runs the show, my youthful self noted. Scratch him from my list of potential spiritual advisors. Christian W has three kids who are off the rails, IMHO. Or at least they’re not very friendly in youth group. Christian Y’s car is awfully expensive: obviously too worldly. And Christian Z? Sure, he and his new wife use that cottage for the Lord, but wouldn’t that money be better invested in missions? Not to mention that divorce. Can you even be saved and do that?

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: I Thought It My Way

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

Tom: Let me set this up for you, IC.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor whose struggle against political correctness we discussed at length here a few weeks ago, gives an extensive interview with two writers for the Winter 2016 edition of C2C Journal about the assault on free speech in Canada.

So one of his interviewers asks him about what it was about his refusal to buckle to the forces of “social justice” at U of T that has set off such a firestorm and his answer is that “There was something I said I wouldn’t do. That took the general and made it specific.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Falling Down Together

The Battle of Gibeon is a perplexing episode in Israel’s history.

Let me set the stage: Saul, the first king of Israel, is dead. The nation has not formally acknowledged a new king but instead is slipping back into tribalism. David has the anointing of God, but lacks a unanimous mandate from the people. His kinsmen in Judah formally recognize David as rightful king, but that probably says less about their spirituality than it does about their sense of family loyalty.

Of course you’d want your guy at the top of the heap. Everybody does.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Forgiving Jesus

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

A strong desire that can never be legitimately sated is a huge distraction. This remains true even if we can’t currently explain where the feeling comes from. Whatever its origin, like any other source of intense motivation, same sex-attraction complicates the Christian life and needs to be managed.

For reasons I can’t quite nail down, blaming God for unfulfilled desire is becoming a regular thing in Christendom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

God Made Me This Way

Thomas Nelson publishes a board book promoted on Amazon with this little blurb:

From a monkey’s swing to a zebra’s stripes, God made all of us just the way we are!

Using adorable animals, this book from Make Believe Ideas explores how fearfully and wonderfully God has made all of His creations. Parents and grandparents will be able to show little ones that God made them just the way they are for a purpose.”

When intended to encourage small children to be thankful for the divine ingenuity of their design, the phrase “God made me the way I am” is quite harmless and even helpful.

On the other hand, when I hear it from adults as an excuse for sin, I cringe.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Show’s Over

It’s the devil’s show I’m talking about, not God’s. I mean this present world.

The fact that it is the devil — Satan, Lucifer, Abaddon, Beelzebub, the Serpent of Old — who is running the show here on earth is not well understood in or outside religious circles, possibly because so many have difficulty with the notion of personal evil. Social evil, sure. Patriarchal evil, definitely. We’ll even maybe sorta kinda acknowledge that once in a while there comes on the scene a man or woman so virulently depraved that even a bad upbringing, lack of education, racism or poor social conditions do not fully account for it. Who would blame Jeffrey Dahmer’s mother, after all?

But an invisible supernatural being pulling the strings behind the scenes? A bit of a stretch. For the source of all the bad news in this world, let’s look elsewhere.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Any Story But Their Own

“ ‘Will any more harm come to her by what I did?’

‘Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.’ ”

— C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

I’ve always liked that last line.

Aravis asks the Lion about the fate of the slave she drugged in order to make her escape. Lewis does not tell us whether her question is prompted by guilt, compassion, fear or curiosity. All are possible.

But the Lion’s answer is simply, “No one is told any story but their own”.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Getting Reoriented

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Quote of the Day (28)

“ ‘Ruff, I talked to a mom in there who is going to give up everything for her kids, even her life. I also talked with a man who did not see the point of keeping one’s word. I want to be in her world, not in his.’

Ruff said, ‘You’d live longer in his.’

Gil said, ‘And be just as dead at the end and be called to account for my life.’ ”
— John C. Wright, Swan Knight’s Sword

See, now THERE’S a sentiment I’d want my kids to read and internalize.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Islands Shouting Lies

“We’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.”
— Rudyard Kipling, The Light That Failed

The public life that we lead is a façade; a mask we wear that is in large measure demonstrably false, primarily because it is an incomplete representation of who we truly are in private.

There are three reasons for this division between the public and the private life.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Don’t Be Outdone

Nowadays we don’t like to hurt anybody’s self-esteem. The solution? Give out prizes, ribbons and accolades just for showing up. My youngest son once brought home a trophy for participation.

“Hey Dad, look, I was there!”

No, actually, he didn’t say that. He rightly recognized even at the age of six or seven that there was little value to an award received for no particular effort. For merely dignifying an event with his illustrious presence. For managing to breathe and stand upright without any unanticipated side-effects.

I don’t know where the trophy is now and I suspect neither does he. If you ask me it was kind of pathetic.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (6)

“Socialism is basically Christianity without the divine power. Socialism is man’s attempt to bring utopia to reality.”

Uh ... not really. I mean, yes on the utopian bit, no on the comparison to Christianity.

It’s not just the absence of divine power, though that’s certainly one reason socialism reliably fails. As Margaret Thatcher noted, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Tracking True

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

God’s Man of the Hour

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Will Science Survive Our Politicized Culture?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Doubling Down

KFC makes the single best sandwich in the history of the world, in my humble opinion.

If you haven’t heard this, prepare to be appalled: A Double Down is 541 calories of pure brilliance: bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese and the Colonel’s secret sauce in between (here’s the best part) two KFC Original Recipe chicken fillets. No bun. Just an artery-clogging, heart-stopping quantity of tasty deep-fried meat.

Fortunately the sandwich only shows up erratically on the KFC menu, usually for four weeks every year-and-a-half or so. If you need to justify consuming one, I recommend fasting the day before. And the day after. Or maybe for a week.