Sunday, December 31, 2017

On the Mount (11)

After questioning the Lord Jesus, the high priest stood up before the Jewish council and asked, “What is your decision?” Mark’s gospel tells us, “they all condemned him to be guilty [enochos] of death.”

That same Greek word, usually translated “guilty” or “liable”, appears four times in the Sermon on the Mount. It is legal terminology. The Sanhedrin had no problem delivering its verdict, but it lacked sufficient clout to carry out its sentence without Rome’s ratification.

In the kingdom of heaven, however, there are no such inconvenient limitations.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Just As I Am

Aubrey Sitterson just lost his job.

Until earlier this month, Sitterson penned the long-running comic book GI Joe, a war series based on Hasbro’s successful toy franchise. The book was canceled after its publisher determined projected sales wouldn’t cover Hasbro’s licensing fees. The series has been bleeding red ink ever since Sitterson began making drastic changes to a number of beloved characters in the name of inclusivity, re-imagining whites as people of color and, if the PJ Media report is correct, even one bulked-up male soldier as an overweight lesbian.

For a property primarily marketed to men and boys, that last one’s an interesting choice, but apparently not one that Hasbro, his publisher or (more importantly) Sitterson’s readers were prepared to support.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Terms of Engagement

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Two Swords

Consider this passage in Luke’s gospel for a moment:

“And he said to them, ‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’ He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: “And he was numbered with the transgressors.” For what is written about me has its fulfillment.’ And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’ ”

Two swords. Hmm. A call for a more militant Christendom, maybe?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On the Mount (10)

“It was said ...”

So begins our next distinct section of the Sermon on the Mount, and since it’s a lengthy one, I won’t reproduce it here in its entirety but simply link to the relevant “paragraphs” or “subsections” for convenience.

I’m going to need to make a few general comments about this section before diving into its subsections individually, because they have so much in common.

There are six of these, a number which in scripture makes me go “Hmm ...”

Monday, December 25, 2017

What It’s All About

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate some surprising things. In my twenties, I finally “got” Shakespeare. How many people, like me, loathed him at first meeting, usually in high school? I guess there are some things you just have to be old enough to understand. And some people never do.

By my thirties, I suddenly found I had a feel for non-fiction reading. In my forties, I developed a taste for comparative religions and philosophy, then for apologetics. Now, in my fifties, I suddenly discover that some of the music styles of songsters more celebrated by my parents’ generation have started to speak to me with very strange poignancy. Again, I guess sometimes you just have to reach an age.

Lately, I’ve found myself strangely compelled by the work of Burt Bacharach.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Harking the Herald Angels

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Forgiven and Forgotten?

A couple of fairly old quotes raise important issues about forgiveness:

“The confession should be real and full, and at once forgiveness and cleansing follow, though not often realised to the full at once. David was forgiven the instant he confessed his sin in the presence of Nathan, but later he wrote the 51st Psalm.”

“David confessed his sin and was straightway forgiven, but the Lord dealt with him governmentally in three ways: ‘the sword would never depart from his house,’ the child would die, and he would receive the same treatment he had meted out to others (2 Sam. 12). So that though sins are forgiven and forgotten in one sense, they are not in another.”

— William Hoste, Bible Problems and Answers (1957)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The “Divinity” of Christ

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

The Atheist’s New Clothes

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Words, Words, Words

Back in 1971 warmed-over sixties folkie Pete Seeger penned this little ditty:

“Words, words, words in my old bible
  How much of truth remains?
  If I only understood them
      while my lips pronounced them
  Would not my life be changed?”

It goes on. Seeger riffs on the Constitution, oral tradition and written history in much the same vein. But his tone is meditative rather than rebellious. He has no new “truth” to declare with his usual hippie bravado. In fact, he seems to wish he could find some of that rare truth in all those “words, words, words”.

Because, yeah … if he understood them, his life would most surely have been different.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quote of the Day (38)

Moira Greyland on being raised by sexually abusive parents:

“I understand why it feels so hollow to forgive: I have no problem at all with never even getting mad at what they did to me. My response is frozen in time. I cannot even begin to forgive them for what they did to other people, which is why I was able to take action against them when a child was in danger.”

Walter Breen, Greyland’s father, died in a California prison at the age of 64. He was there because of his daughter’s testimony.

Monday, December 18, 2017

One Thing Worse

Sin serves a purpose. In fact, having observed a little of the way God works, I’m guessing it probably serves more than one.

But this at least sin does: it proves God right.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned … so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”

Oh, we can rationalize our desires with the verbal dexterity of a sophist, excuse them with petulance of a six-year old, or romanticize them with the eloquence of a poet, but the places they lead us are inevitably, inexorably and invariably bad.

Just as God has warned.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

On the Mount (9)

The website Judaism 101 lists every one of the 613 Mitzvot, or commandments of the Law traditionally recognized by the rabbis from Genesis through Deuteronomy. If you’re planning on trying to keep them all (an undertaking I don’t recommend), it’s quite a daunting read.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is first baptized by John, then tempted in the wilderness by the devil. On the heels of successfully frustrating Satan, the Lord begins his ministry formally with the declaration “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and follows it with the “good news of the kingdom” preached in the synagogues and streets of Galilean towns and villages and accompanied everywhere by miraculous works that authenticate his message.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Bulwark Never Failing

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Picking and Choosing

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lies, Myths and Misinformation: Christianity Causes Wars

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Semi-Random Musings (4)

Dr. Jordan Peterson likes to say the Bible is “hyperlinked”, by which he means something along these lines: that the earlier writings inform the later ones, and the later writings explain the earlier ones. Despite having been written by numerous different authors, it’s one great connected web of spiritual information.

Without giving away everything IC and I expect to discuss this Friday, we’re taking a similar position on the subject of daily Bible reading: it takes all of God’s word to interpret any given portion of it accurately. Bits and pieces here and there will not get the job done.

Other Christians take a different view.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lambs in the Midst of Wolves

When the Lord Jesus sent seventy-two disciples ahead of him two-by-two into the Israelite towns he intended to visit, he deliberately made his followers just about as vulnerable as it was possible to be.

“Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”

So, no spare tunic. No spare anything, for that matter; not even a change of clothes, from the sound of it. No backup sandals when the pair on your feet wore out, which was bound to happen when you consider the distances involved. No moneybag, so you couldn’t even buy your next meal.

Lambs among wolves. Pretty much the go-to metaphor for vulnerability and risk.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Happy Birthday to Us

Hey! For once I didn’t forget.

Way back in 1982 when Bono nicked the words of one of King David’s most familiar psalms for U2’s “40”, he only got as far as the first three verses. He missed out on my favorite:

“You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

Anyone who undertakes the task of telling his fellow men and women of the Lord’s wondrous deeds is fighting a losing battle. Human life is way too short, human intellect is staggeringly insufficient, and no earthly language is up to the job.

And don’t even get me started on God’s “thoughts toward us”.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Between Museum and Megachurch

The most recent version of this post is available here.

On the Mount (8)

If the chronologists have it right (and they seem to agree more than they disagree), the Sermon on the Mount was preached less than halfway into the Lord’s ministry, probably during its second year.

God’s kingdom is mentioned eight times in the Sermon’s three chapters. In these studies we have tried so far to ensure we don’t ignore the elephant in the room: the Sermon’s original, primarily Jewish audience.

As a nation, Israel did not take up the Lord’s offer to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

A Homily That Isn’t

I was about to refer to what follows as a homily, but I must correct myself in advance: properly speaking a homily is a commentary that follows a scripture reading. In this instance no scripture has been read or even referenced:

“The Church was not established in this way so that we could put all settings on autopilot, and wait for the Second Coming. As we look at the history of the Church, we see that we must constantly learn, generation after generation, what it means to be Israel.”

In this case there’s a perfectly good reason the word of God has not been called upon: I cannot think of a single verse of scripture that legitimately supports such a statement.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Where the Grass is Greener

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

There Is No ‘Plan B’

I have a friend who regularly sends me emails full of ‘Christian’ content, mostly the type of cookie-cutter platitudes and cheesy, sentimental anecdotes popular on social media. One or two have actually been pretty decent. I have no idea where he finds them all.

I assume he sends them my way because he knows I’m a Christian and expects that they’d be of interest to me in the same way that, say, NHL trade rumours interest a hockey fan, or an article on Jeff Tweedy may interest a fan of the band Wilco. It’s a nice gesture on his part.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A Fistful of Jell-O

Too many times, trying to get a handle on complex disagreements within the Body of Christ is like trying to grab a fistful of Jell-O. And not the cubed, wobbly, gelatinous sort either. More like the runny, near-liquid stuff that races away across the tabletop or squirts between your fingers when you finally catch up with it.

Good luck nailing that down.

A long-time reader pointed me to this blog post by Barbara Roberts at A Cry for Justice, which might well represent the quintessential runny Jell-O story.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Testimony and Evidence

It’s not enough to be nice.

No, really, it’s not. If you want to be trusted — if you want to build confidence, and if you want to establish a lasting relationship — you need to first express the truth in words, then you need to embody it. Or the other way round, if you like. But when we want to send a message and have it understood, our testimony and the evidence to back it up must go together. One or the other alone will not cut it.

That first aspect of communication is expressed in scripture this way: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word.”

Right. Verbal expression is critical in building trust.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

On the Mount (7)

While the prophet Daniel revealed the coming of a “kingdom that shall never be destroyed” that was to be “given to the people of the saints of the Most High”, John the Baptist got the job of formally announcing the arrival of the King to his nation.

If all we had to go on was the book of Daniel, we might associate heaven’s kingdom with the power, glory and dominance of the earthly empires that preceded it, and which it would forever eclipse and obliterate: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

That idea would not be wrong so much as it would be incomplete.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

An All-Too-Common Problem

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!”

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way.”

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Three times in eight verses David reminds his readers not to get worked up over the apparent success of people who make their own way in life by taking moral shortcuts.

If the righteous need this many reminders, fretting must be a very common problem, right?


Friday, December 01, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: More Than Me

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Choking On Our Empathy

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Statute of Limitations

In many countries certain crimes have limitation periods, after which their perpetrators can be assured they will not be prosecuted for their misconduct. The practice goes all the way back to classical Greece prior to 400 B.C. For Athenians, every illegal act except homicide set a five-year clock ticking, at which point the guilty man or woman could heave a sigh of relief and move on to mulling over the potential legal fallout from more recent sins.

Likewise, for obvious reasons my insurance company does not want to be inundated with claims for covered losses that occurred Way Back When. So if you rear-end me at a traffic light on my way to work later today, I have precisely 365 days to initiate a claim, after which I will have a pretty tough time collecting anything to which I might otherwise have been entitled under the terms of my insurance agreement.

Prayer is not like that. It has no statute of limitations.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Quiet, Not Silent

“For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit.”

Contentious, evil people always take advantage of those who can’t or won’t fight back. If that’s not a universal truism, it’s as close to one as matters.

Our political, legal and social structures are so constructed as to allow the forceful and aggressive to dominate the peaceful.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Legitimate Usage

Here and there in my daily browsings I stumble across atheists in the process of diligently constructing monuments to unbelief. These often take the form of websites attempting to debunk Bible prophecy.

Two totally unscientific observations: (1) the preferred strategy of many atheists is to throw every conceivable objection at the proverbial wall in hope that one or two will stick; and (2) most such objections arise from unfamiliarity with the text.

But not all.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

On the Mount (6)

In my previous posts in this series I’ve been attempting to demonstrate the extent to which the content of the Sermon on the Mount, while often looking forward, remains inextricably tied to the Old Testament.

But the kingdom of heaven with which the Sermon is deeply concerned is itself a New Testament concept — a new frame, a new way of describing the government of God on earth. First proclaimed by John the Baptist, the kingdom occupies a central place in the teaching of the Lord Jesus. You will not find the phrase in your Bible prior to (or, rather remarkably, after) Matthew’s gospel, where it occurs 31 times.*

Before going much deeper into the Sermon, we need to pause briefly to consider what “kingdom of heaven” means.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Quote of the Day (37)

The very articulate Stefan Molyneux hosts Freedomain Radio, the most popular philosophy show on the Internet — not that he has a lot of competition in that department. Molyneux has described himself as an atheist, though these days he seems more of an agnostic than a hard-nosed denier.

Earlier this year I picked up a copy of his book Universally Preferable Behaviour: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, figuring I might review it here if it turned out to be of interest. The case for ethics apart from God is a tough one to make, and I was curious what sort of evidence Molyneux might produce.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Weight of Tradition

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Contemplating Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Spam for the Clergy

Ooh look, a free e-book!

I generally ignore spam in my inbox, but this is graphically well-packaged spam disguised as free Christian reading sent to a guy who takes his best shot at posting five times a week, so why not? It’s entitled Toxic Leadership: 5 People Churches Should Never Hire, and it purports to offer evangelical clergymen their chance to avoid one or more of those “fatal church hiring mistakes”.

Who could pass that up?

Also, I love the word “toxic” ...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (7)

Hands up if you’ve figured out Marshall Brain’s agenda.

First clue: he’s plugging a book entitled God is Imaginary. Second: a lengthy post asking “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?”

Yeah, I thought so too. But what interests me is the passage of scripture from which Brain starts his anti-God ramble, because there’s no logical way to get from there to where he ends up.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Moving in Circles

History is cyclical, nothing is truly new, and the capacity of men and women outside of Christ for evil, self-involvement and delusional thinking is no different today than millennia ago. That’s not what progressives teach, but it’s reality.

God repeats the same lessons to mankind generation after generation after generation, but the penny never drops.

In the seventh century B.C., Isaiah watched, warned and wrote about a nation at the end of its civilizational cycle. What he saw was not pretty, and it looks alarmingly familiar to those watching our own culture circle the drain.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

On the Mount (5)

When God set about creating the universe into which he eventually placed mankind, the first thing he did was turn on the lights.

The very first.

And it wasn’t so he could see to work. Where God is concerned, “night is bright as day”. No, it was entirely for the benefit of his creation.

Today, we take light for granted. You want to see, you just flip a switch. Or push a button on your cellphone, which, if you’re like me, you take to bed with you in case you need to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without stepping on anything black, furry and alive.

Convenient, especially for the cat. But quite a recent development.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Evil That Men Do

Some time ago I acquired a cat. Or she acquired me.

She came through my window, crawled onto my shoulders, head-butted me and began to purr like a broken air conditioner. She had an obvious upper respiratory infection and one bad eye, but seemed energetic and very sociable. Once she found the dog’s dish and began to chow down, she obdurately refused to leave.

Initially I thought she was an outdoor kitty belonging to a neighbour, but from her trusting nature and complete absence of interest in going anywhere near the door, I concluded that being outdoors was not normal for her (something that was confirmed when her former owner admitted she had been outside for only two weeks of her life).

Still, whether the original owner (who declined to take her back) lost his cat intentionally or otherwise, her untroubled, sunny disposition suggests that he must have treated her reasonably well.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Future Church

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

One More Kick at the Can

Confrontation is not easy. Not for most people at least, which is a good thing: people who lick their chops at the thought of a good set-to are the last people who should be confronting anyone.

My job involves the occasional confrontation. Happily, not often; maybe three times in the fifteen years I’ve been supervising. In our office, the kitchen is the best place to chew someone out when you absolutely have to. It’s open and accessible so that nothing is done behind closed doors, but far enough from the troops that nobody hears what you’re saying — unless you intend them to.

At least that’s the way I choose to do it. I’ve never liked the practice of running to upper management when I have issues with the behavior of employees who report to me. Not at first, anyway.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who’s Running This Place Anyway?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of Words and Wording

Which version of the Old Testament did Jesus use?

Being a Jew, one might expect him to quote from the Hebrew scriptures, which would surely have been the “official” word of God in his day. But this was not always the case. Craig Evans makes the case that the Lord often quoted from a well-known Greek translation of the proto-Masoretic Hebrew, and even occasionally from the Aramaic tradition.

If you find that odd, here’s something odder: once in a while, a non-literal translation is more useful than a literal one.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Reset Button

Get behind me, Satan,” said the Lord Jesus to an entirely earnest Peter.

It sounds a little unkind, but Peter was in need of serious correction. In that moment he was thinking naturally rather than spiritually: all his standard defaults had kicked in. In the realm of ordinary human logic, death and suffering are things to be avoided under virtually every circumstance.

Peter could not conceive of any higher good such things might make possible.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

On the Mount (4)

“Until about 100 years ago,” says author Mark Kurlansky, “salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.” Not so much today. The modern Western diet includes an average of 10 grams of sodium chloride a day, mostly from processed food, and we are frequently urged to cut back on our intake.

Salt is cheap, and it’s everywhere.

Because of this, our own eating habits are probably not the best place to start meditating on the meaning of the salt metaphor from the Sermon on the Mount.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

14 Inches to the Northwest

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: What Gives?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Subhumanity and Satisfaction

“Deliver my soul … from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

David spends a portion of the 17th Psalm asking God to deliver him from wicked men and deadly enemies. But he finishes his meditation by asking for deliverance from a third, arguably less offensive group.

This last crowd sounds awfully familiar. Basically, it’s everyone who simply doesn’t appreciate the value of knowing God.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (6)

Postmillennialist Doug Wilson on God’s purposes:

“Future catholicity is set before us in the New Testament (Eph. 4:12-13), and anyone who kicks at that is kicking against God’s revealed purposes for the history of the church. Peter [Leithart] and I agree on the eventual reunion of all believers. It is just that Peter thinks it should have happened by now, and my best guess is that we are looking at another couple thousand years, right on schedule.”

Future catholicity. The eventual reunion of all believers.

Really? Is THAT what the apostle had in mind?

Monday, November 06, 2017

On the Mount (3)

I’m working my way through Matthew 5-7 in an attempt to process the words of the Lord Jesus from some approximation of the cultural and religious perspective of his original audience.

As established in my first two posts on the subject, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that most of the ears that took in the Sermon on the Mount were Jewish ears. Any Gentiles in that crowd were either proselytes of Judaism, or on their way to becoming proselytes, or else outside the community of the faithful just listening in. In those days, if you wanted to draw near to God, or even to obtain more accurate information about him, no better means existed than studying and obeying the Law of Moses.

Other generalizations could be made about the crowd that gathered to hear the Sermon, but let’s consider those when we reach the relevant portions of the Lord’s discourse.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Above Our Pay Grade

David, doing a Q&A in Psalm 15:

Q: “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”

A: “[He] in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord.”

That’s interesting, don’t you think?

Saturday, November 04, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (5)

David Brainerd is a little worked up, asking “Can anyone defend Paul’s misuse of scripture in Romans 3?”

He’s referring to verses 10 through 18, in which Paul strings together a lengthy series of Old Testament quotes in order to demonstrate that both Jews and Greeks alike are under sin.

Mr. Brainerd’s beef is that in their original contexts, none of these verses prove what Paul says they prove. Is he right?

Friday, November 03, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Witnessing as Hate Speech

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

On the Mount (2)

In this series of posts I’m working my way through Matthew 5-7 attempting (however feebly) to hear the words of Christ from the same cultural and religious perspective as the Lord’s original audience.

Since I’m not William MacDonald, and since this is a blog post rather than an exhaustive commentary, I make no apology for skipping lightly over some sections of the Sermon and dwelling at length on others as they may currently interest me.

All I can really promise you is that it’ll be consecutive and that it’ll be as Jewish as I can make it, and with any luck almost as Jewish as it actually is.

Ready? Let’s go.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Price of Admission

If you read only the complaints of Social Justice Christendom, you might be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the only possible reason a local church can possibly object to the idea of having fellowship with practicing homosexuals is a lack of love.

And, to be fair, one has to admit that at times Christians have reacted to homosexuals in ways that might be considered less than charitable (though the strictest Christians tend to be considerably kinder than even the most moderate practitioners of Islam).

But not every gathering of Christians is the Westboro Baptist Church. And thankfully, few believers conduct themselves like Fred Phelps, though the media has a tendency to perpetuate the stereotype.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New and/or Reactionary

Gary McIntosh has written an intriguing guest piece for Christianity Today on the subject of the history of spiritual gifts profiles, and it raises a bigger question concerning the validity of new movements and trends within Christendom.

Given a minute, you’ll probably think of half a dozen examples of what McIntosh means by “spiritual gifts profiles”. Books, seminars and platform ministry on the subject of gifts are found everywhere these days. These attempt to inventory and describe each of the spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit of God with a view to helping Christians recognize the gifts they’ve been given and use them more effectively for God’s glory.

But McIntosh points out that this level of attention to the gifts is a fairly recent phenomenon; perhaps not quite big enough to refer to as a “movement”, but certainly a notable trend.

And to some people anything new is automatically suspect.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On the Mount (1)

I’m working my way through the Sermon on the Mount again (Matthew 5-7). It’s a pretty pivotal piece in Christ’s teaching ministry, and one that seems to invite scrutiny on multiple levels.

Infogalactic’s entry on the Sermon lists eight different categories of views about it, the most commonly held of which is that it “contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship”. Augustine called it “a perfect standard of the Christian life”.

I struggle with that. See, the Sermon is fundamentally Jewish; and while Christianity has its roots in Judaism and would not exist without it, the two are not interchangeable.

If we miss that, we’re missing more than we might think.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (4)

A commenter at Christian Forums attempts to refute the Dispensational view of the Bible. Leimeng says:

“Much of Dispensationalism is a false teaching in the same way that calvinism, arminianism and pelegarianism are. The Bible clearly states that God is not a God of Changes, and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

The statement that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever comes word-for-word from the book of Hebrews, but I don’t believe it means at all what Leimeng claims it means.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Nominally Protestant, Leaning Catholic

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Inbox: Have I Got a Deal for You

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dropping the Secular Pretense

“If secular America does not die, then America will die. If we do not drop the secular pretense with loathing then it is inevitable that God will drop us. With loathing.”
— Doug Wilson

Hey, Doug, somebody’s trying. The “secular pretense” has officially been dropped. In fact, I can’t recall a world leader who invoked the name of God more deliberately or with greater consistency than President Donald Trump in the months since his inauguration.

You can like him, you can hate him, or you can ignore him. You can claim he’s pandering to evangelicals, and you might even be right. But he’s definitely doing something President Obama didn’t.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bubbling Under the Surface

Sometimes God gets angry. Sometimes his righteous and thoroughly justifiable anger is even directed at his servants:

“The Lord was angry with me because of you.”

“The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him.”

“The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord.”

“He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around.”

But the consequences of God’s anger (not to mention its duration) are not always precisely the same.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Do We Need Revival?

I meet with a group of believers, more than one of whom prays regularly and passionately for revival.

Often these requests go beyond the local level and become a bit denominational in character. Occasionally they are even more sweeping, taking in all of evangelicalism, or perhaps the church throughout North America.

I’ve always found the term “revival” a little awkward, and I now realize why: notwithstanding our hymnology, “revive” is an Old Testament word and “revival” is really an Old Testament concept.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kings and Functionaries

One must be careful what one wishes for, not to mention one’s choice of words.

Israel said to the prophet Samuel, “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They were looking for a judge and a defender, someone who would grant them justice against their domestic enemies and take up arms against foreign enemies on their behalf. Instead, in Saul, after an initial honeymoon period, they got a king who judged them arbitrarily, oppressively, selfishly and moodily, and who fought on their behalf with only limited success.

Exactly like all the nations.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Basic Math

Most people can do basic math.

Maybe not everybody can do linear algebra, probability or calculus, but even relatively low-IQ palace servants living 1000 years before the birth of Christ could hardly fail to notice that David’s latest wife, Bathsheba, had just delivered a baby well short of the average human gestation period of forty weeks.

Sure, David married Bathsheba the moment he could reasonably get away with it. But nobody was fooled. Their affair had to be the worst-kept secret in Jerusalem.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Witchcraft Using Christian Language

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What About the Witches?

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Galilee probably looked something
like this in the time of Isaiah.
Are Christians really the world’s most persecuted religious group?

Nelson Jones at New Statesman has taken up the issue at some length in response to a recent statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron: “It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world,” Cameron said. “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

Jones starts his article by appearing to agree with Cameron and others who have voiced similar sentiments but as he meanders on, it becomes evident that what he really wants to say is: 1) religion causes fighting, 2) Muslims are persecuted too, 3) “persecution” is a relative term, and 4) anyway, if Christians ARE being persecuted, it’s certainly not because of their faith.

Which pretty much covers all the bases.