Sunday, September 15, 2019

It Ain’t All About You Either

Continuing an overview of the Song of Songs that is more about what the book is not rather than what it is. I’m looking for ways to interpret a rather unusual portion of scripture that do not result in an excess of speculation. Such esoterica finds its way into public teaching more than it ought to.

Wednesday’s post looked at four more-or-less traditional interpretations of the book. Today’s explores a fifth.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Time and Chance (1)

Ecclesiastes is a difficult book. Still, in my early twenties I kept coming back to it despite its apparent bleakness — or perhaps because of it. Its relentlessly frank take on the unhappy business of living in a fallen world was (and remains) refreshing, not in comparison to the rest of scripture, I now realize, but set against the bland and near-insensate Churchian conformity of post-hippie ’70s evangelicalism in which I was inadvertently immersed as a teen, and which had regrettably permeated my understanding of most of the New Testament and deadened my enthusiasm for its truths.

Happily, nobody in that crowd taught Ecclesiastes the way they taught Ephesians. Perhaps they forgot it was there.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: These Things Break Bones

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

In sharing Christ with others it is not unusual to come across an unsaved person who is honest, self-aware or willing to disclose where he is in his thinking. What is rare is to find all three in the same person.

Tom: I recently watched David Berlinski in a lengthy interview with Peter Robinson doing a very fine job of exposing the flaws in Darwin’s theory of evolution. The exchange prompted a whole train of thought on how subtle self-deception can be, and how easy it is to sidestep the most important questions a human being can ever ask.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Mismeetings of the Christian Church

“Blest be the tie that binds
 Our hearts in Christian love:
 The fellowship of kindred minds
 Is like to that above.”

So sang the congregation.

And they sang it every Sunday.

They sang it whenever it was announced that they had a visitor or new congregant come among them.

A nice gesture, wasn’t it?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

It Ain’t All About Me

Let me start with a couple of quotes that intrigue me. They may even be true:

“All the Scriptures, indeed, are holy ... but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”
— Rabbi Aqiba

“If a manuscript of this little book were found alone, detached from the biblical context and tradition, it undoubtedly would be viewed as secular. The book has no obvious religious content.”
— Dennis F. Kinlaw

While every part of scripture has given rise to some level of disagreement as to its meaning and value over the years, it would be difficult to find two such extreme statements about many other books of the Bible.

Of course Kinlaw doesn’t say the book has no religious content, but that such content is not obvious. And he’s right.

Perhaps so is Rabbi Aqiba.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

From One End of Heaven

“He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

There are various schools of thought about what the Lord Jesus meant with this rather difficult statement. The phrase “from one end of heaven to the other” is admittedly an unusual one. A literal reading may lead us to think of people being plucked out of the skies all over the world and gathered to one place. For what reason, we wonder? And who exactly is this “elect” of which the Lord is speaking?

Monday, September 09, 2019

Anonymous Asks (57)

“Isn’t hell an unreasonable punishment for not believing in a specific set of truth claims?”

If not believing a specific set of truth claims is all there is to it, perhaps our questioner has a point. But is that really what the Bible teaches: that the ‘idealogically unsound’ will be banished from the presence of God for eternity?

Let’s consider ...

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Stepping Up

“Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them …”

“Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.”

It doesn’t always work this way in church. There are no guarantees. Sometimes the person who has done the hard work of contending for the faith in a particular area steps aside or is overshadowed by others who come along at the right time with the right gifts, experience and skill sets to be involved in the next step of any particular initiative.

And that’s okay when it happens. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” says the apostle. That’s the right perspective to keep about such things.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (75)

A 2009 University of Canterbury psychological study of long-term couples turned up an interesting fact: ‘marriage goggles’ are every bit as real as ‘beer goggles’. On average, men in happy marriages rated their wives as notably more attractive than their wives rated themselves. (If you’ve ever gone dress shopping with your wife, that will probably not surprise you.) Furthermore, notwithstanding the ravages of age, men in happy marriages consistently rated their wives more attractive than third parties rated them.

This may help explain why women who abandon their partners in their forties and fifties for an internet fling often wind up alone. Nobody will ever find them quite so attractive as their former husbands will. Even if they would like a do-over, there simply isn’t enough time left to them to build that sort of bond all over again.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: A Sticky Situation

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

Tom: A couple of posts back, Immanuel Can made this comment:

“I don’t think most people understand what ‘situational ethics’ means. What I find when I ask them is they have no idea of the theory, or even of who Joseph Fletcher was, let alone what he said: they just think that whatever it is, it allows them to do as they please, and still claim to be ‘ethical’ in doing it.”

I haven’t heard the term in a few years, but I remember it was regularly referenced when I was growing up. 83% of atheists claim to believe all ethics are situational. What does that mean exactly, IC? Maybe some of the atheists hurling the term around don’t know much more than your first year philosophy students ...

Thursday, September 05, 2019

College / University Survival Guide [Part 3]

My father always said he would prefer I never had a motorcycle. He had ridden when he was young, and he said it was very dangerous. He certainly was not going to buy me one. But I was fascinated with them, and by the time I was nineteen I owned one — a dirt bike.

I crashed it on my first day out; no real damage, just a good mud bath. After that, I got the hang of it, and was off. I never really crashed again. Sure, I came close a few times; but that was half the fun. Being young is about taking on those risks and seeing how far you can push your limits. That’s how you grow up and find out what you’re capable of.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

That Wacky Old Testament (15)

If ... the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.”

Flogging is a barbaric practice, or at least so goes the conventional wisdom. It has been officially abolished for almost a century in most Western countries. Yet, as the above-quoted passage shows, public flogging was at very least passively sanctioned under the Law of Moses, a fact that may cause the occasional squawk of disbelieving protest from well-meaning liberal Christians.

Do they have a point? Let’s consider.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (15)

In the first century it was said without exaggeration that “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him.” If you were interested in what Moses had to say, you could find out all about it in any city among the nations. Judaism was not some obscure cult religion. Its influence on the world was inversely proportionate to the relative insignificance of the Jewish people.

For the most part, it was not the conduct of the Jews among the nations that gave the Law its broad appeal and drew Gentile proselytes to it. In fact, Jews were often disliked and not infrequently persecuted.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Anonymous Asks (56)

“Will we have a second chance to go to heaven?”

There are at least three different reasons a question like this gets asked. One is very Catholic, a second very Protestant, and the third ... well ... universal.

The Catholic might best have his question paraphrased as something like “Is there a purgatory, and do we get to go to heaven at the end of it?” The Protestant is really asking “Is this ‘rapture’ thing I’ve heard about really in the Bible, and if I get left behind, do I get another shot?” The universalist is asking some version of “Surely hell cannot last forever, can it?”

But if you’re looking for an excuse to put off becoming a Christian so you can do it at a more convenient time, the answer to the question is going to be the same no matter what theological presuppositions underlie it.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

The Examination Process

Not all tests are alike. Not all have exactly the same purpose or method.

Even God’s tests are not all designed to demonstrate exactly the same thing.

Some Old Testament examples may better demonstrate this.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (74)

How can you tell whether a woman fears God? It’s not a trick question, but it does strike me that the fear of God tends to work itself out in different ways depending on the role and responsibilities of the person in whom it is found. It will not always look the same from individual to individual.

For example, a father and husband who fears God prioritizes financial provision for his family. A child may display his fear of God through obedience to his parents. A wife and mother? Well, care for the affairs of her husband and family is certainly one way, but so also is her composure and self-control. Taken together with other character qualities, these things point to a healthy respect for the will and glory of God.

Continuing our look at the character qualities of the proverbial “excellent wife” ...

Friday, August 30, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Not Even Once Through

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

Immanuel Can: I recently came across this quote, which might be worth a little back-and-forth:

“My wife and I are both voracious readers (two to three books a week), so there is little of intellectual interest that I do not enjoy. And of course, the Bible is perhaps the single most interesting book ever written, though it's not really ‘a’ book, is it? I have long been bewildered by the fact that so many people claim the Bible as their authority, but have never bothered to read, much less study it, even once, all the way through. Doesn’t that amaze you?”

Tom: Doesn’t that amaze me? Well, it does and it doesn’t ...

Thursday, August 29, 2019

College / University Survival Guide [Part 2]


What can a Christian do to maintain his or her faith on campus in the presence of a fairly discouraging atmosphere of indifference?

There’s actually quite a lot. Let me suggest that just as learning requires habits of study, staying strong in your faith requires a sort of ongoing maintenance program that counteracts the corrosive effects of secular indifference.

What’s in the survival program? Okay, let’s look at that. I’m going to put things in four categories: “preparing” (i.e. what to do right now, in order to get ready), “arriving” (i.e. what to do immediately upon getting to the campus), “surviving” (i.e. basic priorities to get you through the first year and beyond), and “thriving” (i.e. how to employ your faith to enrich your academics and actually give you a strategic advantage). How’s that?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Testing, Testing ...

“After these things God tested Abraham ...”

Once upon a time — okay, it was tenth grade actually — I wrote world’s worst exam. I doubt the test itself was unusually difficult, but I was uniquely ill-prepared to write it, having spent the first few months of my Fall semester reading novels in math class and ignoring my homework assignments with impeccable consistency. I had done so well in Grade 9 math that I had acquired the mistaken notion that paying attention to the course material was optional, and that I could figure it all out if and when I needed to.

Apparently it isn’t, and I couldn’t. I turned in the exam with exactly one line filled in: my name.

That was the tiniest bit embarrassing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Inclusion by Exclusion

In June of this year, the popular knitting website Ravelry banned support of U.S. president Donald Trump from the platform with the following statement:

“We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy.”

Interesting. It’s inclusion by exclusion. And it’s trending; the gaming forum RPG.net had previously banned expressions of support for the president in October 2018, explicitly referring to his “open white supremacy” as “evil”.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Anonymous Asks (55)

“Why is envy one of the seven deadly sins?”

The “seven deadlies” date back to the late sixth century and Gregory the Great. At the time, he was engaged in reducing Roman Catholicism’s list of most odious offenses a person could commit to something more manageable. The former list had included such questionables as sadness and acedia, which is basically apathy.

In short, the list of seven deadly sins is a human construct, not something taught explicitly in the Bible. Opinions as to which sins should be considered the very worst tend to vary, obviously. For example, the ninth and most awful circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno is reserved for the treacherous, who didn’t even make Gregory’s list.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Ideal and the Reality

“There will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess ...”

“There will never cease to be poor in the land.”

It is impossible to argue that the glaring contradiction between the quotes above can be explained away by assigning them to different dispensations (or covenants, if you prefer), by pointing out that they were written by different writers at different times for different audiences, or even (if we’re totally desperate to be done with the issue and silly enough to throw inspiration under the bus), by contending that one or another of them is mistaken.

None of the usual explanations work.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (73)

On my way home from work I try to keep an eye out for people begging in the street. I don’t mean on the sidewalk, but literally in the lanes of traffic at almost every red light, on foot and in wheelchairs, sometimes panhandling so aggressively that you could easily run them over if you weren’t paying attention.

As it turns out, coming right up to within inches of a seated driver locked in traffic and staring down at him is a considerably more effective motivation for charity than holding out a plaintive hand to passers-by on the sidewalk, who can easily escape by foot. Women driving alone are especially intimidated by grimy, glowering teens wielding squeegees, and quickly (and unwisely) reach for their purses, probably hoping to save their vehicles from a kick, a scratch or a flying blob of spit.

That’s a long way of saying not all giving is inspired by generosity.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Atheism by the Numbers

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

A short list of statistical data about atheists compiled by Pew Research Center:

94% approve of LGBTQ lifestyles
91% believe in evolution
87% approve of abortion
83% believe ethics are situational
78% are white
78% have no children
69% vote Democrat
68% are men
65% never discuss religion
54% feel wonder at the universe
43% have a college degree (vs. 27% general public)
40% are ages 18-29
40% have never married
  9% proselytize weekly

Tom: Some of these things I knew, some I didn’t. Anything you find surprising there, IC? I’ll admit to raising an eyebrow over the claim that only 9% are out there regularly commending their view of the universe to others. It sure seems higher than that online.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

College / University Survival Guide [Part 1]

It won’t be very long now until universities and colleges in North America begin gearing up for the year. And with this, a whole new cohort of Christian young people will enter post-secondary life for the first time.

Are they ready?

Parents often worry about that. Everybody knows that university can be a challenging place in which to hold to your faith. It’s full of new ideas — most of them secular, and not a few genuinely anti-Christian — and new experiences — not all of them perfectly healthy and safe. But it’s also a tremendously exciting time for many young people; and when we consider it part of a natural process of moving from parental control to full independence, then there’s every reason to be positive about it. (And parents, when you consider the alternative, what’s better?)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sons and Supplicants

“You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.”

Even today there exists a fair bit of confusion around the Mosaic prohibition against Israelite men — priests especially — shaving their foreheads, beards or temples. There are a variety of rabbinic views on the issue.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

These Things Happened

Stephen De Young attempts to reconcile myth and history:

“In reality, the Old Testament historical texts are of the genre of mythic history. This term is not an oxymoron as there is no innate contradiction between myth and history. Myth constitutes the story of the spiritual reality which accompanies and underlies events in the material world. Mythic history, therefore, tells the entire story of an event. Myth as such speaks of beings and events in the invisible, spiritual world. History in the modern sense speaks of people and events in the material world. Mythic history explains the union of both and makes the events of history participable through ritual.”

It’s a neat little trick that doesn’t quite work. Or perhaps it’s simply too late.

Points for giving it a shot, though.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Anonymous Asks (54)

“How do biblical texts apply to modern society?”

Does scripture address hot-button topics like immigration reform, gay marriage, abortion, eugenics, internet porn and gun control? More importantly, in the event the Bible does not give us answers to the major questions of our day, does that mean we are free to do whatever we please in these areas?

These are relevant questions.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Taking Canaan by Degrees

“The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.”

For the believer, victory often comes in increments.

That goes against our natural instinct about how things should be, doesn’t it? After all, occupying enemy territory in the Christian life is not just desirable, it is morally imperative.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (72)

As mentioned in previous posts, the specific details of the wife’s labors in Proverbs 31 are largely unimportant. It is the character qualities they show us that matter most. The fact that these verses speak of fields and vineyards does not limit wifely excellence to the spouses of farmers. Let’s not discourage ambitious, creative married women living in modern urban settings. An excellent wife today might write or edit books, give music lessons, provide after-school care for neighborhood children or popularize her own YouTube channel.

Okay, maybe not YouTube. These days, anything excellent on YouTube is guaranteed to get demonetized.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Five Bad Reasons (2)

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

Liberal Christian blogger Benjamin Corey claims more believers — especially older ones — are becoming “LGBTQ-affirming”, and this Pew poll appears to back him up. Whether this is due to social pressure, a fear of being thought intolerant or just plain old battle fatigue remains to be seen.

Tom: Corey lists five reasons he believes Christians are changing their minds about homosexuality. Immanuel Can and I are fisking his arguments for orthodoxy. We’re not finding much ...

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Command Performance

I’ve been thinking about the commandments.

People say that in the Old Testament, God is full of these things. Rabbis claim there are 613 of them, as a matter of fact — an odd number, to be sure. Why should God have an opinion on these particular items? Why not 614? Why not fewer?

And the nature of the commandments — everything from killing each other, to what people eat, to how they wash, to how they match their fabrics … and still the list is not exhaustive, for it leaves many aspects of life totally unmentioned and spends what we might deem far too much time on others.

Why does God care about all these particulars?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Right Thing to Do

My job involves the occasional visit to another office. I make a fair number of new acquaintances this way. Names on the system become real, flesh-and-blood co-workers with delightful qualities, quirks and the occasional less-appealing feature, depending on the individual and the sort of situation we have to deal with.

Generally speaking these are good experiences. It’s hard to relate to people you don’t directly interact with.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Faith of the Gospel

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

These “opponents” were primarily Jews.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Anonymous Asks (53)

“Why should I pray if God already knows what will happen?”

Before we begin, I should point out that knowing what will happen is not the same as wanting it to happen, nor is it the same as making it happen. In fact, some people even argue that God does not know absolutely everything that will happen. I’m not one of them, so we won’t waste a lot of time considering that possibility.

Nevertheless, the distinction between God knowing and God causing is worth keeping clear in our minds when we talk about prayer.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Recommend-a-blog (29)

Evangelicals are under attack. The bigger the denomination, the more resources and congregants they have, and the more formally they are constituted, the more enthusiastically the enemy is coming at them.

The Southern Baptist Convention (15 million members) is currently hardest hit, but that makes a certain sort of sense: they are the second-largest Christian denomination in the U.S., and the largest Protestant denomination. Get effective control of that behemoth and you’ve really accomplished something.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (71)

As mentioned in the previous two posts in this series, the description of an excellent wife in Proverbs 31 is frequently dismissed by its modern critics as anachronistic. They point to words like “distaff” and “maidens” and mockingly inquire whether all Christian women ought to have a loom in the house and servants to call on.

It is true that the excellent wife’s described routine is that of a fairly well-to-do Hebrew woman some three thousand years ago. That said, it should be evident that our habits and routines declare to the world what sort of person we are. A wife who habitually falls asleep on the couch at 2 a.m. after a few cocktails and a movie, then struggles out of bed bleary-eyed around noon to lounge by the pool gossiping with her girlfriends is not simply operating on a slightly different schedule than the home-schooling mother of three down the street. Her habits are making a statement about her values and character.

Good character remains good character whether we see it displayed in the daily activities of 1000 BC or in those of AD 2019.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Five Bad Reasons (1)

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

More Christians are becoming “LGBTQ-affirming”, says blogger Benjamin Corey, basing his claim on this Pew poll.

This comes right on the heels of a Harris Poll commissioned by GLAAD which appears to indicate — much to the chagrin of LGBTQ advocates — that affirmation of same-sex relationships by unsaved millennials is trending in the opposite direction.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Sailing the High Seas

An old friend sent me an email a while ago. He was concerned:

“My daughter is going off to university next year, and she wants to take English Literature as her major! I’m worried about her: could you talk to her?”

I had to smile. Sure, I could talk to her. After all, I had been through all that, and I had survived just fine, thank you.

But why the panic?

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Under the Microscope

“... so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

It matters what the church is and how it conducts the business of God. It matters because the multifarious wisdom of God is revealed both in what we are and in what we do. We may choose to obscure that wisdom, or we may choose to hold it up in the light to be seen and marveled at throughout the universe.

In short, what we are and what we do matter because we are being watched. God’s ways are under the microscope.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Kissing Jesus Goodbye

Joshua Harris, pastor and author of 1997’s moderately controversial I Kissed Dating Goodbye, on doing much the same thing to the man he once called Lord and Savior:

“I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practise faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”

Put bluntly, Mr. Harris has apostatized.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Anonymous Asks (52)

“Why is the Bible so weird sometimes?”

I’d love to know what specific sort of “weird” the writer of today’s question was thinking about. An example or two would’ve been great. Unfortunately, when your questions come from people who have chosen to keep their identities secret, it’s a bit of a trick to get them to clarify.

That’s okay. I’m pretty sure every reader of this column can think of some story in the Bible, or some command in the Law of Moses, or some principle taught by some church somewhere that seems weird to them. I can think of dozens.

There’s lots of “weird” in the Bible, but the problem is not always the Bible. Most of the time it’s us.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sheep Without Shepherds

The first and last recorded requests Moses ever made of his God are almost identical. Both may be summed up in the words “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

The first time he said it, it was very likely out of a justifiable sense of personal inadequacy. He was a mere man — a lowly shepherd, of all things — confronted with the spectacle of flaming foliage in which burned the presence of the Eternal God. For Moses, “Please send someone else” really meant “Surely, O Lord, you must be able to find someone more qualified than I am.” Moses wasn’t a lazy man by any stretch, but the scope of the task with which he was presented was breathtaking.

Not everyone might have answered God exactly as Moses did, but any sensible soul would have felt his legitimate apprehension.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (70)

A few more general comments before we get to the meat of the chapter.

The Oracle of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:10-31)

Poor, much-maligned wife of the last chapter of Proverbs! Google her and see. After you get through the usual spate of citations from major commentaries, much of what you find is Christians complaining.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Over the Target

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

Immanuel Can: A thought occurs to me this morning. If there is one thing I could do for the people of God, I would want it to be this: I would want them to start talking again as if being a Christian really matters.

What I mean is that I’d like to provoke people to start saying things like, “Well, that’s the natural perspective, but how does the Lord fit into this situation?” or “What does the Lord have to say about the choices I have to make?” or “How do I get my kid to be more spiritual?” or “What will happen if I do X, in view of heaven?” You know the kind of thing … talking and debating as if something’s at stake there.

Tom: Okay, I can see that ...

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Wedded Blitz

Every summer, couples line up to tie the knot.

There was a time in my life when it seemed like every summer weekend was occupied with somebody’s nuptials. Now, however, like most middle-aged men, I’m quite content to leave that to the younger set, and if I’m roped into one or two such ceremonies during a summer that’s about my limit.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (14)

Numbers 4 states repeatedly that only men from the tribe of Levi between the ages of thirty and fifty were to be engaged in the service of the tabernacle. Upon reaching fifty, they were to “withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more.”

On this basis I have heard it suggested that local church elders should be careful not to stay in the saddle too long, and that age fifty is a logical time to pass the torch to the next generation. Presumably then, these men — still fifteen years too young to collect a government pension — should make their way back to the pews to spend their next thirty or forty years grinding their teeth at the spectacle of younger men making all the mistakes they have learned to avoid. Or else start spending all their winters in Florida.

This cannot be quite right. It isn’t.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Those Latter Days

While every Christian thinks it desirable for individual Jews to be brought into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith, I continue to be astounded at the number of evangelicals who reject the possibility of any future blessing for Israel as a nation. The number of expositors and online commentators who insist that the Old Testament prophecies of future glory for Israel have either been abrogated once and for all when Israel crucified its Messiah, completely fulfilled in the Church, or both, is truly mind-boggling.

In some hopefully rare instances, the popularity of this prophetic view is probably a natural by-product of the anti-Semitic spirit that has always been at work in the world. Jews have been hated and persecuted for centuries, many times without any cause at all. Sadly, that is no new thing, even among Christians. One hates to think Judenhass would poison anyone’s eschatology, but history tells us we cannot entirely rule it out.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Anonymous Asks (51)

“How do I deal with people in my life who have hurt me deeply?”

On one level this question is almost too basic. The weakest, newest Christians have heard “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Even raw pagans know we Christians believe that.

Thus if we try to deal with the question as written, the correct answer is a single word: love. That doesn’t make for much of a blog post.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The True Church

The world is full of religious people who don’t have any use for actual instruction from God. When we come across them today, we should not be surprised. They have been around since the very beginning of human history. They like the trappings of institutionalized religiosity but have no use for the spiritual reality these forms and conventions too easily conceal.

Cain was no atheist, no secular man. He observed the formalities. He made offerings to God. He spoke to God directly, and God spoke to him both before and after he murdered his brother, giving moral instruction where both surely knew it would never be heeded.

It didn’t help Cain any, but you can’t say God didn’t try.