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.