Monday, April 30, 2018

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (9)

It is never a good thing to be on the wrong side of a theological question. Sometimes it’s disastrous.

But it’s also possible to be on the right side of a question while making the wrong sort of argument: one that cannot be substantiated or does not prove your point.

Kent Rieske is trying to make the case that the Calvinistic definition of “election” is not a biblical one. I’d argue his basic thesis is correct.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

On the Mount (28)

As I mentioned in a couple of recent posts, we cannot be 100% sure which of Jesus’ various references to God specifically as Father to those who believe in him came first chronologically. This is because not all the gospel writers present the events of the Lord’s life in the order they occurred. Some writers, as Luke often does, group them thematically.

In Mark, the first “your Father” doesn’t appear until chapter 11, in the context of forgiveness. In Luke it is chapter 6, and the statement, “your Father also is merciful.” In John, the expression “your Father” does not appear until after his resurrection*, when he says it to Mary Magdalene. Prior to that point, the Lord speaks exclusively of “my Father” or “the Father”.

If I had to guess, I’d go with Matthew.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (4)

According to the FBI, the United States has more than 1.4 million gang members affiliated with roughly 33,500 gangs. Less than a sixth of these were in jail in 2011, and those in jail were likely as active in gang business as those outside.

Other than the obvious tax burden, what does any of that have to do with you or me? Probably not much. I met a Hell’s Angel once. He was a pretty scary guy. But that’s a few minutes out of one day in my life. Not a big deal.

Christians who work with the incarcerated would probably have a different take.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: On the Offensive

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

Tom: I’ve got a verse and a half for you, IC, followed by a question. Here’s the scripture:

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”

Kind, patient, gentle: that’s the standard for the servant of God handling the word of God in the face of opposition.

Here’s my question: How do we reconcile the apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy with the way he speaks in his letters or at other times and places?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

If There Were No Christians

Nag, Nag, Nag …

My friend WiC has been after me for some time to publish a list of the things Christians have achieved for modern, Western society and for the world in general. I think he has the idea that it would be handy for many of us to have easy access to such a list. And I have stalled as long as I can. Lest he wear me out with his insistent asking, I am now capitulating to his request. I trust his conviction that many of you will find it helpful will prove true.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Breaks in the Pattern

I was talking to my son the other morning about the parts of the Bible that are hard to wade through. You know, the repetitive bits, or the ones that contain such an excess of specific detail that they should by all rights be of interest to few people other than architects and historians.

The chapters you find yourself skimming rather than reading carefully.

I reminded him that while “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable …” it is not all equally profitable. It is also not all equally relevant to your current circumstances or mine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Not With A Ten-Foot Pole

You can tell a fair bit about where modern evangelical culture is headed by the sorts of questions it asks and answers, and perhaps even more about it from those it doesn’t.

There are verses of scripture with which nearly everyone engages. Google-search a question related to one of these and you come up with pages and pages of links to discussions of the subject; more than anyone would ever have time to read. For example, the question “What is the sin unto death?” returns hundreds of possible answers based on what must be thousands of hours of Bible study.

Which is great if you’re concerned you might not yet have committed it and wish to avoid doing so.

Monday, April 23, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (3)

How many ways can you ruin your life, or at very least dig yourself a hole so deep that climbing out of it affects the rest of your days?

I suspect the number is large, and the book of Proverbs is full of too many to list. You could have an affair, be chronically lazy, refuse to listen to good advice, marry the wrong sort of woman, make a practice of telling lies, turn your home into a war zone, talk too much or be characteristically proud. All of these things, we are advised, tend to bring about varying degrees of destruction and ruin. Simple observation of the world around us demonstrates their essential truth.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

On the Mount (27)

They say you’re either a cat person or a dog person. Or neither, I suppose.

I’m the former, I think, but dogs are just fine with me too. A little more work, perhaps, and a little less intelligent than a feline, but a worthy beast when trained in some basic ways and when living in harmony with man. Huskies will pull sleds, sheepdogs will tend sheep, and many other breeds have uses both practical and otherwise pleasing.

So when the Lord refers to someone as a dog, and it’s inarguably an insult, one has to stop and ask, “In what way?” What qualities of doghood are so very undesirable?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fatherhood Expounded

In a previous post, I pointed out that very little is said in the Old Testament about the fatherhood of God. It took the coming of the Son to fully expound the ways in which God’s relationship to believers is paternal.

Or perhaps we have that the wrong way round. Perhaps instead we should say something like this: The human father/child relationship was designed by God to illustrate how he relates to his creations and his creations to him. In other words, we can expect that human fatherhood done right will be “Godly” in character. I don’t think that’s too much to assume.

Either way, until the Son came and made the Father known — not simply as God but in his role as Father — only a very small number of the faithful understood God’s parental care for his people, and only in the most limited of ways.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Billy Graham Regrets …

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

Evangelist Billy Graham, in a 1977 interview with Christianity Today:

“One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years he would spend two of them studying and one preaching. I’m trying to make it up.”

Tom: Does that quote surprise you at all, IC?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Magination Run Wild

Ah, liberal Christians.

How they do let their Maginations run wild sometimes.

You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

First, a little history ...

Lining Things Up

The Maginot Line was a massive French fortification that ran 943 miles between the Alps and the English Channel. The brainchild of Minister of War André Maginot, it was designed to repel attacks from Germany. The horrors of the trench warfare in the first “War to End All Wars” had persuaded the French of the need for better national defenses. The Maginot Line had everything going for it: super thick concrete, steel-wedge gun turrets that were impervious to bombardment, large, air-conditioned living areas for troops, supply storehouses, its own railway …

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fatherhood Foreshadowed

How many times in your life have you started a prayer with the word “Father”?

For me it’s thousands upon thousands. Tens of thousands, perhaps. I can’t even begin to guess. In fact, it is fairly common for Christians to address God as their father, though I know many whose prayers customarily begin with “Dear God”, which, when you think about it, is a little perplexing.

How many of us think much about the fact that the family relationship with God into which we have been brought through faith in Jesus Christ is not only intimate but also unprecedented?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (2)

Just who is Solomon talking to in Proverbs anyway? Ever wondered?

“Well, that’s easy,” says the Bible student. “He’s talking to his son. Look at verse 8.”

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”

Now, the Bible student might well be right, but before we agree with him, let’s address the herd of elephants in the room.

Monday, April 16, 2018

New F A Q

In response to recent queries about why we do things the way we do them, we’ve posted a series of answers to Frequently Asked Questions here.

A Bit Too Welcoming

A recent post here touched briefly on the perceived need for churches to be more welcoming. Alan Shlemon addresses the same subject in a post entitled “Doing Church Biblically Can Be Messy”, which turns out to be rather a mess of its own.

Shlemon has written usefully on a number of subjects, but his take on a church that welcomed and loved a lesbian couple even though its pastor declined to officiate their ‘wedding’ ... well, let’s just say it’s not his finest hour. (Comments on the thread are now closed, but that seems to be the case with a number of other STR posts, so if you happen to follow the link to Shlemon’s post, don’t read too much into that. I suspect the liberal element would have little to scold him about in this instance.)

Helpful hint: when you’re talking about doing church ‘biblically’, it might be useful to indicate which bits of the Bible you’re actually referring to.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

On the Mount (26)

“Quit judging me,” squeaks the millennial blogger, her nose out of joint because someone dares to offer hard data demonstrating that her bloviations in no way reflect reality.

“How dare you judge me!” shouts the young homosexual, incensed that his parents have regretfully informed him they cannot in good conscience attend his ‘wedding’.

Of all the commands Jesus ever gave his disciples, “Judge not” is one of the most comprehensively misunderstood and poorest explained.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Commentariat Speaks (12)

Gary McBride, a northern Ontario Bible teacher and author, posts a thought on the subject of corporate testimony:

“… in 1 Peter 2 we are a ‘royal priesthood’ bearing witness. Priesthood is a collective noun and is only demonstrated when believers gather.”

Having enjoyed Gary’s useful commentary on 1 Thessalonians, I know he chooses his words carefully, so I will try to do likewise.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: The Virtual Soapbox

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

IC and I watched a video the other day. Not in the same room, because we live many miles apart and can’t get together as often as we’d like. But we share many interests and tend to bounce links back and forth, and this was one of them.

I’d like to think we could learn something from it.

Tom: IC, I think we might be better off leaving out the names of the principals, because I’m going to be blunt about issues that have to do with body language and manner, as opposed to the content of a man’s argument, and since ‘the internet is forever’, I’d rather not go on record with those sorts of criticisms of people whose overall Christian testimony and handling of the word of God I respect and value. Cool?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Profound Apology

So I was supervising some young Christians, along with at least one unbeliever. They were viewing an apologetics video. It was one that had been professionally produced — you know, the kind that had enough money put into it to reasonably approximate Hollywood or TED Talk production values. Their local church had made it available, off that Christian video-streaming service that some churches seem to like.

The topic was “Why Does God Allow Suffering and Tragedy?”

What a great topic, I thought. Whether you’re a Christian or an unbeliever, that’s got to be something you’ve asked yourself, because you don’t live long in this world without running into some kind of suffering. If you’re fortunate, it’s small; but it’s astonishing how huge the things some children face can be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How Occasional is Occasional?

I have a Christian acquaintance of many years who is morbidly obese at the very high end of the spectrum. No quasi-medical justification (hormones, glands, depression, etc.) can fully account for her inability to lose weight. While there are certainly other factors involved, one is surely the consumption of large quantities of superfluous calories.

It is well established in scripture that gluttony is a sin, like any other out-of-control behavior. While obesity and gluttony are not synonymous (one can be thin and voraciously gluttonous), it is hard to argue that the inability to say no is normal, healthy Christian behavior.

My simple question: is she saved?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Housekeeping

As we close in on five years and 1,600 posts, I realized I needed to do a bit of housekeeping.

You’ll notice a new set of links right below the ComingUntrue banner (two lines of bold grey text). These take you to separate index pages with a list of links to every installment in our ongoing features and series in consecutive order. (Completed series on specific subject areas are still in the left sidebar right below the blog archive in alphabetical order.)

When I get a chance, I’ll try to make these indices a little more useful by adding things like who’s being quoted in each installment of Quote of the Day, or which blog is being recommended in each Recommend-a-blog, but this seemed like enough for one day.

How Not to Crash and Burn (1)

Wisdom is rare today: rarely understood, more rarely expressed, even more rarely followed.

As a result, we live among people with a chronic inability to connect the dots; to discover where and how the choices they made at various points in their lives have inexorably rung in the consequences they experience and bemoan today.

In a ward full of patients, we are desperately short of diagnosticians.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Not a New Problem

When the apostle John wrote his first of three letters preserved for us in the New Testament, it’s quite possible he was attempting to address a very specific local issue, and that the letter’s intended recipients would have understood what he wrote primarily in their own local context.

If so, he wrote it in a remarkably broad and general way, touching on issues that have troubled mankind since the very beginning of its history.

It seems to me that in his thinking John goes right back to the first chapters of Genesis.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

On the Mount (25)

As I have done repeatedly during our study of the Sermon on the Mount, I find myself attempting to sit in the place of the Lord’s original Jewish audience.

Do it with me, and picture the crowd around you, many of whom will never own a home and none of whom have ever heard of welfare, pensions, socialized medicine, public school or any other sort of government-mandated social safety net. Those here who are too old, too young, or too infirm to work are entirely dependent on their families. The women present rely on the industriousness, goodwill, fidelity, fortune and health of their husbands far more so than today. Even the working men and the few rich among us are surely far more conscious of the perils of war, famine and drought that periodically plague their nation’s economy, and the potential consequences of these on their families and dependents.

In short, everybody in the Lord’s audience has WAY more reason to be anxious than most readers of this post.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Semi-Random Musings (6)

Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, who have attempted to put together possible timelines of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances to his disciples over the period prior to his ascension.

As anyone who has attempted this will tell you, synthesizing four Gospel accounts and the summary Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15 is no easy task. There is simply not enough information provided to dogmatize about some of the details. Some calculate 10 appearances, others 12. Most don’t speculate.

One thing nobody can reasonably fail to notice about the appearances is this: however long each may have been, and however many of them there may have been, there is still an awful lot of time unaccounted for in between appearances ... the better part of forty days, in fact.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Snatched Up

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

Tom: So we did the Millennium, IC. Care to walk me through the ‘Rapture’?

Immanuel Can: I thought that was the same as the Second Coming. Next you’re going to tell me that Israel still exists and that I wasn’t predestined to election before the foundation of the world.

Tom: Do I need to put a </sarc> at the end there? Never mind. Sometimes you open a can and the worms just go everywhere ...

IC: Well, one way to manage the worms is to focus on making the distinction between the Second Coming and the Rapture.

Tom: Okay then.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Inbox: The Problem Begins at the Platform

In response to Tom’s post Five Lessons We Can Learn from Jordan Peterson, Russell writes:

“In the local church context, based on 40+ years of listening to sermons/messages, I would say there are a rare few who can hold people’s attention for more than 15 minutes. They present material in a boring and unorganized fashion. They are unaware of the learning and comprehension level of their audience. They are very very detached in their application to where people live their daily lives. Shame on them for being such poor communicators of God’s truth. Shame on us for propping up a system which perpetuates bad messages.”

Now, we might bridle at that — especially those of us who have a favourite speaker. We might say, “That’s not fair, Russell; I know Mr. X, and he’s really profitable and interesting: I could listen to him forever.”

Maybe. But how many Mr. X’s are there? Be honest now.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The New Head

The new department head was appointed internally.

That decision runs counter to customary business practice, which dictates that management functions are best performed by those trained and accredited to manage. However, the conventional wisdom fails to take into account that the learning curve for a manager in a new environment is long and steep. More importantly, the staff can have no confidence in or loyalty to someone who has been merely parachuted in; who knows nothing about the company’s product, processes and people — let alone someone who has no investment in what they are working to accomplish (beyond, of course, nailing down and taking home his annual bonus package).

So you appoint from within. At least, that’s how God did it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Christians That Need to Be Saved

A man in a local church I used to attend had a habit of coming up to people and asking them exactly when and how they had been saved. He would probe for very specific details of the blessed event, presumably to confirm that the person he was interrogating was the real deal, genuinely a believer. I can’t remember what he did when he was dissatisfied with the answer but I’m not sure it was anything particularly helpful.

When he did it to me, it kind of threw me. Frankly, I didn’t know how to respond to him.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Recommend-a-blog (26)

The Stand to Reason blog, a Christian online resource I’ve recommended here once or twice previously, has moved to a new domain. You can find a link to it here, midway across the banner atop the main page.

Always useful to be bookmarking the right thing!

Of the more recent posts I’d missed before discovering they’d moved, this one on inerrancy was most intriguing: Aaron Brake asks Does the Lack of Original Autographs Make Biblical Inerrancy Irrelevant?

Sunday, April 01, 2018

On the Mount (24)

There are two kinds of hatred.

Well, okay, fine … there are probably more than that. But I’m thinking of two very different kinds. The obsessive sort of hatred is obvious: it turns the stomach sour, occupies the mind constantly and spoils the enjoyment of life. Saul’s hatred must have been something like that. He expended ridiculous amounts of emotional energy and resources in attempting to rid the world of David, very much to his own detriment.

The other kind of hatred is despite.