Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Heart Behind the Sword

Christians struggle to explain Cain’s wife. Christians struggle to explain Lot’s wife.

Meh. Those two are a comparative walk in the park. You want tough? Try explaining Ezekiel’s wife. No bonus points for falling back on “Well, God is sovereign and there are things about life we can’t really understand.”

Yeah, and the sun is hot and water is wet.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Commentariat Speaks (13)

Many moons ago I wrote a post about the evolving definition of the word “religion”. When I was a teen it was common to hear that “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” By the strictest definition of the day this was probably true, and it was a distinction worth making.

Today, however, the popular usage of “religion” (and the dictionary definition with it) has broadened sufficiently that this is no longer the case, and anyone who insists upon repeating that old saw is not just pedantic but factually incorrect.

The point that among religions Christianity is uniquely relationship-based remains worth making, but the stark contrast between religion and not-religion no longer exists. You can have your religion more or less relationship-free if that’s your thing.

Not that it’s likely to do you much good.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Root and Shoot

There’s an odd and rather bleak passage in Job in which he compares human beings to trees. “A man dies and is laid low,” says the beleaguered believer, but “there is hope for a tree.”

Why? “Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”

Pouring water on a headstone does not generally produce similar results.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (11)

Some people never learn from experience. Proverbs 1 talks about two of those: the scoffer and the fool.

Others learn only through negative examples, either by charging in and doing it wrong themselves the first time, or by watching others fail. That’s better than never learning at all, but for those who only learn from their own mistakes, it’s somewhat like bellyflopping your way through life. Every bad landing hurts more than the last one.

A third sort of person is well aware they know less about life than they would like, and therefore looks for guidance.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: The Correct Church

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

In 2002, Julie Staples (for the Protestant side) debated Apolonio Latar (representing Catholics under the initials ‘AL’).

At one point in their exchange Latar said this:

“Sola Scriptura leads to doctrinal anarchy, which is further reason why you need an infallible authority. Look at all of these Protestant denominations, 30,000 of them the last time I checked. How do you know you’re in the correct church?”

Now it turns out the “30,000” is vastly, wildly overstated, as others have since demonstrated. Regardless, everyone would certainly agree that there are lots of denominations and lots of different beliefs within Christendom.

Tom: So my question is, how would you personally have answered Latar? How do you, Immanuel Can, today, know you’re in the correct church?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The God Point

Everybody’s on the JBP train today, it seems.

I mean the “Jordan B. Peterson” train. For those who have been living under a rock (or perhaps have no love for YouTube or other media), Dr. Peterson has been the center of much rapt attention over the last couple of years. How a psychologist and philosopher of religion rose to the pinnacle of worldwide publicity is quite an odd story. Starting with his principled stand against transgenderism and compelled speech in Toronto, continuing with his publications in print and on YouTube, and then in widely-viewed and controversial interviews on worldwide television, JBP has positioned himself as the most famous public intellectual of recent years.

What’s really surprising is the scope of his reach. Not only does he have a new bestselling self-help book on the market, he has a comprehensive program of self-therapy on offer as well. Perhaps most surprisingly, he’s also widely publicized lengthy lectures on biblical themes. If anybody has made religion a hot topic in the last few years, it’s been Dr. Peterson.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dueling Diotrephes

“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.”

John’s third epistle is thought to date from around AD65, and to be one of the last books of the Bible written. When the beloved apostle wrote it, local churches had been planted all over the Roman empire, had named elders or had them named for them, and many of these had had a decade or more to mature and to benefit from and share significant portions of what we now call the New Testament.

That’s when the wolves started coming out in force.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Semi-Random Musings (8)

“Darwinism was once a well-fortified castle, with elaborate towers, moats, and battlements,” says author Tom Bethell. “Today, however, it more closely resembles a house of cards, built out of flimsy icons rather than hard evidence, and liable to blow away in the slightest breeze.” So begins Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates.

What isn’t initially obvious is that the “debates” in view are almost all in-house, which to me is a big selling point. Rather than rehash the arguments of creationists, Bethell has instead elected to draw his citations primarily from a murderer’s row of big names on the other side of the table who stray here and there from Darwinian orthodoxy.

As you might anticipate, where weaknesses in their case have come to light through disagreements in the evolutionist camp, these have not always been well-publicized.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Big Cover-Up

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The word “covers” is in Greek kalyptō, meaning to “veil or hinder knowledge”. Absent the rest of scripture to balance it, a literal reading could easily be taken to suggest that the loving thing to do when we hear about someone else’s sin is to bury it deep and keep it from coming to light.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

On the Mount (34)

How firm is your foundation? For many Christians, that question is largely theoretical.

See, it’s when the rain falls, and the floods come, and the wind blows and beats on the house that its owner discovers the true value of the foundation on which he has built. Stack Western believers up alongside the apostles, the martyrs and the heroes of the faith over the last two millennia, and it’s a fair bet most of us have never seen more than a few dark clouds in the sky and the occasional bit of spatter.

Which accounts for a fair bit.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (10)

One in three American children is currently growing up without a father in the home.

Fatherless children are four times more likely to live in poverty as those with a dad at home, twice as likely to die in infancy, twice as likely to struggle with their weight and twice as likely to drop out of high school. Fatherless girls are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. And while the actual numbers are hotly debated, it is evident having an absent father also correlates statistically with higher levels of criminality, incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, behavioral problems and the likelihood of having been beaten up at home.

This is going on in a country with one of the best social safety nets in the world and with more money being directed toward the social problems exacerbated by fatherlessness than at any time in human history. Despite its deep pockets, the State is no substitute for a loving, involved father.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Offenders for a Word

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

Christianity Today’s Caleb Lindgren interviews author Brian J. Wright about his new book, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus.

Tom: We bounced this article around by email last week, IC, and it was fodder for a few interesting observations. I thought we might revisit it here. One major weakness of Lindgren’s interview is that he never quite gets Brian Wright to define “communal reading” for us, and the term then ends up being used to describe a whole bunch of different things in the course of the interview.

Care to take a shot at defining it?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

True Revolutionaries

Welcome back to our two-part treatment of the (post-)modern attitude to truth.

A little while back, we were observing that the concept of an actual objective truth has gone out of fashion these days. More and more, the average person of today tends to disbelieve that anything can be, in any final and universally binding sense, “true”. Truth has been banished because there are so many voices shouting so many messages that most of us don’t know where to find it if it did exist. We’re overwhelmed by multiculturalism, media overload, the speed of modern life and the decline of the formerly-solid touchpoints of religion and tradition, even if we know nothing about the theory behind it, or about the new skeptical “hermeneutics” being taught in the contemporary academy. We’re all just pretty confused about truth.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

We Won’t Even Say We Told You So

Advances in the study of genetics continue to raise uncomfortable questions about the credibility of Darwinian evolutionary theory, requiring ever-more-elaborate pseudo-scientific fantasies about the origin of species and, as usual, reminding Christians that the wisdom of this world is folly with God and “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”

It appears Darwin’s religion requires more faith than ever.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Two Verses, Three Interpretations

My preferred interpretation of yesterday’s kingdom parable has precious little in it that directly applies to the church, so I thought today we might consider two more verses from Matthew 13’s prophetic look at the kingdom of heaven from the perspective of the first century Jew.

In this case, the text is even shorter than yesterday’s parable (at least in English), but the folks that gave us chapters and verses in our Bibles elected to chop this verse in half.

And so long as we’re all talking about the same two verses, what does it really matter how they have been divided?

Monday, June 04, 2018

One Verse, Two Interpretations

One little verse in Matthew 13 …

It’s not the only kingdom parable in our Bibles told in a single verse, but it manages to pack eight or more possible points of correspondence with an important spiritual reality into thirty-something English words, depending on your translation.

Thus it’s long enough to be interesting, but short enough to mull over in a blog post rather than a book.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

On the Mount (33)

The house on the rock. We all know what that’s about, right? As the lyrics of the old Sunday School song put it:

“So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings will come down.”

Well, yes, that’s certainly one application: your life. But I don’t think we need to stop there, do we? You never know, we might miss something.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (9)

Do you remember a few years ago there was a rash of child psychologists telling parents not to say no to their children? Maybe there still is, but I’m past the stage of life where finding optimal child-rearing techniques is an urgent matter; I probably wouldn’t notice.

Anyway, it seems to me the rationale was something along the lines of “No” being an abstraction that is not aligned with the need of young children to explore their world and to develop their sense of autonomy and initiative.

Still, I remember finding the word moderately useful, so I’ve always wondered how voluntarily abandoning the use of it worked out for the parents and their kids. My guess is probably not well.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Which Ten Commandments?

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

Richard Carrier has an alternative Ten Commandments he’d like the world to consider, apparently on the basis of their utility:

“Unlike the Commandments of Moses, when suitably interpreted, none of these is outdated or antithetical to modern moral or political thought. Every one could be taken up by anyone today, of any creed, to some extent.”

Well, why not? Let’s take these babies out for a spin and see how they compare to the real deal.