Thursday, August 31, 2017

Semi-Random Musings (2)

There’s often quite a difference between what we assume went on in a Bible story and what probably really happened.

My mental pictures of Bible characters and their environment tend to auto-default to the flannelgraph cutouts of my Sunday School years. These presumably came from the fertile minds of whoever was drafted to produce the art for the curriculum. But such sacred two-dimensional imaginings are not necessarily the first thing a ten-year old challenges or even notices. They are what they are, and they stuck with me.

This was long before Veggie Tales, so thankfully I don’t carry around the mental image of the prophet Daniel as played by Larry the Cucumber. Not much, anyway.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Things NOT Done in the Body

The most recent version of this post is available here

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Letters from the Best Man (7)

The following is absolutely fictional and increasingly common. There is no Brad and definitely no Jill, in case that is not obvious. There are, however, way too many people in their position.

Dear Dorothy,

I haven’t had much of a chance to work through what you shared with me in your email, nor an opportunity to pray about it the way I intend to, but I figure it’s better to get back to you sooner than later.

You’re right, I must confess: I never in a million years expected to hear from you. I’m almost positive the last time we saw each other was at Brad and Jill’s wedding, which makes it over a decade now. And I agree: discussing my best friend’s failing marriage with his mother-in-law puts me in almost as awkward a position as it puts you to discuss your daughter’s current relationship problems with me. I expect neither of us will be at our best as we are both working with understandable biases and with only partial information. But I think if we are careful and Christian about it we may be able to do some good for two people we love without breaking any confidences or meddling in their lives.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Poking the Bear

“A soft answer turns away wrath”, says the writer of Proverbs. I learned that as a child, though I didn’t always use it to my advantage. Still, it’s a good bit of wisdom to have up your sleeve in a confrontation, and too few people today know much about how to de-escalate a conflict.

But what if it’s not your objective to defuse anger? What if you’re looking to provoke a strong emotional reaction?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Different Package

Yonatan Zunger is a former Distinguished Engineer at Google, a product of Stanford and a very smart guy, so it’s a little surprising to find him making spectacularly unrealistic generalizations like this one: “Anyone can learn how to write code.”

The context of the comment is unimportant and would take way too long to explain, but having spent a significant portion of the last 20 years troubleshooting other people’s rather sad attempts at writing code — or even at manipulating existing code — I almost laughed out loud when I read it.

Still, we should probably cut Mr. Zunger some slack and assume he didn’t mean to make such an absurd and utterly unsupportable claim.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Calls and Feelings

Two weeks ago I posted some thoughts on the “gift of singleness” that didn’t conveniently fit into an earlier post (the one in which John Piper gives advice about marriage to a single mother).

There was another interesting thought-thread associated with the woman’s question, and since Piper hasn’t addressed it, I think it’s time to take a whack at it. It’s this statement I’m referring to:

“Now, as I attempt to wrap my head around the overwhelming task of raising this boy into a man by myself, I do not feel called to marriage.”

“Feeling called” may be a very common evangelical trope, but ask yourself this: Exactly how biblical is it?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: The Christian View of Premarital Sex [Part 1]

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

In an article appropriately entitled “Premarital Sex: Is It A Sin Or Not?” Charles Toy of contends it’s … not:

“There is no passage of the Bible that references premarital sex as a sin against God. The association between sin and premarital sex is a new Christian idea. The only possible reference to premarital sex being a sin in the Bible is in the New Testament. This premise although, is generally dismissed by theologians because the Greek word pornei, or sexual immorality is commonly incorrectly translated into the English word fornication.”

Tom: Immanuel Can, what say you?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Positives of Negatives

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fatal Friends: Dawkins and Calvin

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Freedom: The False and the True

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Do Christians Hate Science?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why Are We So Unsatisfied?

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Mental Scrapbook

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Eternal Insecurity

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dismembering the Church

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hooray for the Hypocrites

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mythical Native

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The Trouble with the Truth

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tom Takes Another ’Nother Breather

You may have noticed I like doing a “retrospective” post once a year, usually on a Sunday in the summer just as I am about to disappear somewhere far away for a couple of weeks and totally ignore the Internet.

It gives me a chance to preview what’s coming for the next week or so, which in 2015 was a Top 10 of our most-read posts, and in 2016 was Worship Week. It also gives me a chance to let our readers know how things are going generally, to say thanks to a few people, and to take stock.

All good things, so let’s have at it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Gift of Singleness

This is the first of two extended lines of thought that wouldn’t fit conveniently into my post from two days ago. You may remember that one: John Piper was giving advice to a single mother who wondered if she should be looking for a husband.

A couple of common evangelical catchphrases were bandied around in the exchange and caught my attention. First, Piper referred to the “gift of singleness”. Later, the young woman declared she did not feel “called to marriage”. You have probably heard people say things like that. You may have said them yourself.

Both phrases sorta-kinda employ the language of the New Testament, but both do it in ways that can mislead us if we’re not paying attention to the way they are used.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Bad Reasons to be

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shooting from the Lip

“Pastor John” Piper is answering his mail again, which nearly always ends up, well ... interesting, to say the least.

This time he’s responding to the single mother of a three-year-old boy who wants to know whether the Bible teaches she should be looking for a husband.

Piper is rarely reluctant to engage with questions the Bible doesn’t directly answer, and this one is no exception.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Multicultural Road to Hell

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Did or Didn’t

Who are you, and what’s your job in the Body of Christ? Do you know?

When you and I confessed faith in Jesus Christ from the heart, God saved us, and the Bible says he saved us with certain objectives in view. Those objectives were both general and specific. Unless we were saved in the last six months, I think we should probably know something about that.

Hey, if you don’t have a clue, it might be time to give the subject some thought.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Separation Anxiety

If our culture has a mortal sin, it is discrimination, the penalty for which is shaming, mockery, job loss or exclusion from the in-group.

We are told not to discriminate between moral and immoral behaviors, regardless of the real-world outcomes such actions produce. We are told not to discriminate between the productive and unproductive use of our tax dollars, because to do so demonstrates that we are ‘phobes’ of one sort or another. For similar reasons, we are not allowed to distinguish between employees who are capable of performing required tasks and employees who are not; or between students who understand the material and students who do not. Instead, we must meet demographic targets for success based on levels of perceived historical victimhood.

We might say our society has separation anxiety. It’s in a mindless panic to make sure nothing is ever usefully distinguished from anything else.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Not As Simple As It Looks

Getting things done in the Christian life is not a simple process.

Oh, maybe it looks simple. The apostle Paul could pray this:

“… that our God may … fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Simple, right? Christians like Paul pray, and a powerful God takes care of business.

Well, I guess we could read it that way. But I think there’s another side to it.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Inbox: Grace and Gratitude

PB takes thoughts from last Monday’s post in an interesting direction:

“ ‘Grace’ as understood today does indeed fall woefully short of conveying the depth of meaning in charis. Gratia, whence cometh grace, was ‘a goddess of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility in Greek mythology’, so it isn’t that the meaning has changed — it’s pretty close actually. It’s as you say — we don’t have an equivalent in English for charis.”

If we are to talk usefully about grace to people who do not understand what we mean by it, we are probably best to use four or five different English words, each conveying a single aspect of the meaning of charis.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Rightsizing the Church

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Unmuddling the Muddle

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Christian teaching about prophecy is a chaotic muddle.

Within Christendom, in the broadest and most general terms, we find Preterists, Historicists, Futurists and Idealists. When we get into specific features of the prophetic calendar such as the Millennium, we fragment further into Pre-, Post- and Amillennialists, and the Premillennialists subdivide yet further into Pre-Tribulationists, Mid-Tribulationists and Post-Tribulationists. If I’ve left your view out, forgive me.

You will be unsurprised to find that I have no particular interest in trying to straighten all that out, and no patience for it even if I had the skill.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

My Church Must Change

There’s a thread of an idea that pops up at the end of a previous post that I wanted to take a few more moments to explore, since it’s been cropping up over and over again throughout my life.

Parents love their kids, or at least they should. In properly-functioning family units, which would hopefully include most Christian families, parents generally fulfill their responsibilities more consistently and effectively, though none of us can claim to have achieved perfection in parenting. Far from it.

But some parents cannot resist putting a finger on the scales to help their kids through life. This is the source of all kinds of trouble.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A Suspicious Inversion

It’s been a few years but this guy still grinds my gears, and since he’s quite literally the poster boy for a generation — or at least for the last administration — there is a problem with that, and I hope we can see it.

Now, to be fair, nobody wants to marry a guy who resolves domestic quarrels with a fist to the face. At least, nobody normal and emotionally healthy does. But be honest here: how many women truly want to partner up with a man who possesses neither the will nor the physical strength to act in a crisis?

That’s a different question, isn’t it. This guy is all that in spades.