Thursday, March 21, 2019

One Wild and Awful Moment

Hidden away in the deep wilderness of Canada’s Algonquin Park is a memorial plaque dedicated to a grandfather and a teenage grandson who lost their lives in a storm on one of the lakes.

How it got there is a mystery to passing canoeists. The location is quite remote.

The plaque itself is of considerable size and weight, apparently being made of bronze. Time has softened the edges of some of the letters and greened the surface; but the plaque has not been moved since it was put there half a century ago. It is solidly drilled into the rock face. Someone went to a lot of work to ensure that their loved ones would not be forgotten.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

No, But …

And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’

God said, ‘No, but …’ ”

Two lines out of context. Allow me to supply some.

Abraham is once again in conversation with God. This is the fifth time God has brought up the subject of his covenant promises. Months or years are passing between each remarkable event, but every time the Lord appears or speaks or encounters Abraham in a vision, he elaborates further on what he intends to do on Abraham’s behalf. In Genesis 12, he promises to make from him a great nation, give him a great name, bless the whole world through him and protect him from his enemies. Each new encounter provides details the previous ones did not.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Missing Backstop

It was I who kept you from sinning against me.”

Francis Thompson famously referred to the “Hound of Heaven”, his metaphor for a God whose hand is so relentlessly upon the affairs of a person’s life that the divine influence can be neither evaded nor ignored.

There have been times when I too had a very strong impression God was personally on my case, and that all my efforts to circumvent or evade his will were doomed to end in utter futility. At other times, his impact on my choices and the circumstances around them, if present at all, has been incredibly subtle. Absent evidence of God’s direct involvement, to ascribe any specific decisions I have made in this life to the influence of providence would be, I think, quite presumptuous.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Anonymous Asks (31)

“How do I know I’m saved?”

This is a question which occurs to nearly every young believer at one point or another. Some struggle with it more than others.

If you’ve run your question by fellow Christians, someone has probably quoted you Romans 10:9: “[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Less Different Than We Think

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”

“Rich” and “poor” are relative terms. Welfare recipients in Western society are not poor by the standards of East Africa. Likewise, many Africans would consider our Western middle classes incredibly rich, and yet hundreds of thousands around us are much better off than we are.

When James speaks of rich and poor, he specifies the sort of thing he means. The contrast between these two types of men is not merely a matter of degree; their lives are so different they might as well be different species. The very least of it is in how they present to the world. The poor man wears shabby clothing, and not because he didn’t bother to pick up a decent used Arrow shirt from the local Goodwill. He simply has nothing better. There are no welfare cheques in his future. The rich man across the way is decked out in fine garments and sports an ostentatious gold ring. He probably dressed down for the occasion.

That paints the picture for us just fine.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (50)

Today’s verses are vaguely linked by the unexpected: unanticipated changes in circumstances; sudden, radical changes in behavior; the moment when the thing on which you have glutted yourself loses its appeal; and the moment when you find you have become so hungry anything at all looks like food.

Hey, these things happen. We don’t always see them coming, but they happen.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The United Method

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

A few weeks back, the United Methodist Church voted to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy.

Tom: Now I’m not big on tradition for tradition’s sake, but I think this decision is probably worth remarking on just because it is so unusual for a large denomination these days. The progressives in every sizable group of Christians are always hard at work moving the window of acceptable discourse, faith and practice to the left, and have experienced great success over the last century or so. By way of contrast, “conservative” Christians have reliably failed to conserve very much at all. You’ve seen it, Immanuel Can, and I’ve seen it too.

Did you notice what made the difference this time?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Unbearable Heaviness of Individuality

“Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place …”

“Then Menahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria and put him to death and reigned in his place …”

“Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the people of Gilead, and struck him down in Samaria, in the citadel of the king's house with Argob and Arieh; he put him to death and reigned in his place …”

“Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place …”

Ah, the kings of Israel. Their history is very much like that of all the idolatrous nations around them. Somebody gets the kingship, then somebody else murders him and takes over. And each one is as bad as the last.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” as Roger Daltrey famously intoned.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Written On Their Hearts

“Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham …”

“Scripture imprisoned everything under sin …”

Yes, the scripture is indeed the word of God. All the same, I have great confidence in assuring you that scripture — graphē, if you prefer Greek — did not do a single thing described in these verses. Not literally. A piece of paper, papyrus or animal skin does not “foresee”. It does not “preach”. It does not “imprison” anyone.

It can’t. It couldn’t. Ink, paper, the printed medium — these things are inanimate.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Flooded Out

Secular historians advance the argument that the spate of flood myths found everywhere around the globe is the natural result of local peoples preserving stories about local floods. These do not, the experts say, provide evidence for the truthfulness of the Genesis flood account.

That line of reasoning makes a certain sort of superficial sense: there are lots of local floods, and some of the flood stories out there are surely a product of those. But some are not. When you actually examine the content of these flood stories more closely, you find that a non-trivial number of them have features in common with the book of Genesis, and therefore with each other, that no local experience and lore can explain.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Anonymous Asks (30)

“Is the unforgivable sin knowing the Holy Spirit and accepting his existence and then opposing him, or is it having Satan in you without you knowing about it and then claiming it’s the Holy Spirit, and vice versa?”

Well, that’s quite a mouthful. Let’s try to unpack that.

There are a couple of things about this question that show the person who asked it is at very least headed in the right direction in his thinking. For instance, he grasps that the unforgivable sin is closely related to the person of the Holy Spirit. That is definitely true.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Worst Myth Ever

When comparing the flood account from the Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet XI to that of the Genesis flood, I took a few paragraphs at the outset to establish that the two accounts are roughly contemporary: they were written and edited within a couple hundred years of one another.

The reason this is important is that secular historians commenting on tales of the miraculous reliably resort to the “primitive man” argument: the notion that in times past, men could believe in miracles because they were ignorant of the laws of nature, and therefore wrote about unusual — even impossible — events uncritically and unselfconsciously.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (49)

Did you know there are very few references in the Bible to domesticated dogs? Maybe the puppies under the dinner table in Matthew 15, but that’s about it.

Moreover, the Bible does not have much good to say about man’s best friend. I don’t have a real handle on canine history in the Middle East 3,000 years ago, but I can work my way through the entries in a concordance, and the picture isn’t pretty. There are no Shih Tzus in arms or Chihuahuas in purses. The average mutts on the street are scavengers or predators, more like wolves or jackals than Jack Russells. The word “dog” is both a Hebrew and Greek euphemism for a male cult prostitute or some other sort of really bad person. If you want to grovel, you refer to yourself as a dog, and if you want to really grovel, a dead dog.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: No Way to Hide Your Lyin’ Eyes

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

Tom: I had never heard the name Jussie Smollett before last week, IC. Had you?

Immanuel Can: No. To be blunt, his activities were of absolutely no interest to me, or to anyone I knew, before a couple of weeks ago. But he’s got my attention now.

Tom: I suppose we should briefly summarize the unraveling Smollett fiasco for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention … do you want to do the honors?

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Acting Christian

“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Most of the time I enjoy writing these posts.

Sometimes, not so much.

Like today.

Today, I feel the truth of what I heard a preacher say once: “When you point your finger at somebody else, there’s always three pointing back at you.” Or, as the scriptures would put it, “Not many of you should become teachers ... for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Flood Myth-takes

It is often said today that the flood account in Genesis is spiritual truth taught in the form of myth. Confronted with the claims of secular scientists about the age of the earth and of humanity, many Christians have beaten a hasty retreat from reading Genesis literally into reading it more like one of Jesus’ parables: it means something important, sure — just not quite what it says.

I say meh to that.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A Tale of Two Floods

Scratched into twelve clay tablets in cunieform script, the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the oldest written story in existence. Well, parts of it anyway. It recounts the adventures of a quasi-historical king of Uruk believed to have ruled around 2700 B.C. Tablet XI of the Epic contains one of three surviving Babylonian flood stories, each of which has a number of elements in common with the Genesis flood account.

The Gilgamesh account is only one of many flood myths found in various ancient cultures around the world. Christians who discover the spate of other flood stories in circulation are alternately reassured and disconcerted: reassured because one might reasonably expect a genuine historical event to wind up recorded in more than a single place, even if grossly distorted by time, miscommunication and cultural baggage; disconcerted because not a few of these flood stories are alleged to be older than the story in Genesis.

Should we be reassured or concerned? Let’s consider.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Anonymous Asks (29)

“Does Jesus love us all equally?”

Equality is the signal obsession of our age. I’m not sure people living hundreds or thousands of years ago would have asked this question or even thought much about it.

So let’s ask another one: does it really matter?

We already know Jesus loves us. You probably learned it in Sunday School: Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so. And one of the most famous verses in scripture tells us that “God so loved the world …” God gave his Son for us, and his Son gave himself on our behalf. That’s love.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Lightning and Molasses

Last week I took issue with an argument made by the higher critics that Genesis 2 teaches that animals were created after mankind rather than on the fifth and earlier part of the sixth days, as described in chapter 1.

Their argument, if you recall, is based on a straightforward linear reading of chapter 2. The creation of man is described in verse 7, they say, followed by the creation of beasts, birds and livestock in verse 19, then the creation of woman in verse 22. That “contradicts” the order given us in chapter 1.

My response was that the narrative is not linear, and that all the events of chapter 2 are not given to us in consecutive order. There is no reason they should be.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (48)

Growing up, I knew teens who never skipped school, never called in sick for work just to goof around, and wouldn’t think of failing to do their chores when they got home. You probably did too.

Proverbs repeatedly highlights unhealthy ways to behave. That’s great if you and I are tempted by those habits or lifestyles: a timely warning to a wise man or woman is always a useful thing. But what if we are not subject to such temptations? Are proverbs of any use to people who seem like they came out of the womb already mature, competent and dutiful?

Absolutely.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Surveillance State

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

CNET reports that the Chinese government is now using surveillance cameras, facial recognition and smart glasses to score people on their social behavior.

Tom: Mariel Myers says, “China plans to give all of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, based on how they behave.” Not ten years down the road, or even five, but next year. The technology is already up and running. Get a low enough score, and you could be publicly shamed or denied all sorts of privileges.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

When Life Really Hurts

There’s a woman in my church — a lovely woman, a mother and a wife, and selfless servant of the Lord’s people, one most highly esteemed. She has been a grief and addiction counselor, and has spent her whole life ministering to others in their moments of darkest sorrow. Her husband is also a wonderful person, and his career for several decades has been as chaplain to the elderly, caring for fragile souls on the doorstep of eternity.

This woman has just been diagnosed with aggressive, metastasizing liver cancer. The fatal kind.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The “Two Creations” Myth

I keep reading that there are two different creation stories in Genesis. More importantly, the argument is made that the stories are not just different but mutually contradictory.

This was news to me when I first heard Jordan Peterson say it, and I have been reading Genesis regularly over the course of my entire life. At first I wondered if the problem was that I hadn’t been reading carefully. Yet, even poring over the text repeatedly, I find I simply don’t see the issues that prompt the higher critics to assign Genesis 1 to the Babylonian captivity and most of Genesis 2 to a different author at a different historical period.

So why do the critics insist the narrative from Genesis 2:4 on forms “a second account”?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Extinction Agenda

A follow-up to last Sunday’s post, inspired by this article from CNN:

“A small brown rat which lived on a tiny island off northern Australia is the world’s first mammal known to have become extinct due to ‘human-induced climate change,’ the government says.”

As a Christian, I must confess the demise of the Bramble Cay melomys greatly disturbs me. Sure, it’s only a “small brown rat” on some obscure South Pacific isle nobody’s ever heard of, but the media is obviously convinced this particular small brown rat matters. After all, the little guy has been front and center on every major news outlet for several days now, eclipsing even the latest alleged faux pas from the media’s perpetual nemesis, President Trump.

So, even though he looks like every other species of dun vermin I’ve ever seen in my life, let’s mourn this late little fellow’s unique and special contribution to our ecosphere.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Anonymous Asks (28)

“How did people know about God before the Bible?”

Good question. Most of human history was a Bible-free zone.

The Bible as we know it — the 66 books with which Protestants are most familiar — is actually a relatively new thing, which is probably what the writer of today’s question is getting at. Roughly speaking, the individual books found in our Bibles today were written over a 1,600 year period beginning about 3,500 years ago, which means almost half the history our Bibles record took place millennia before anything “official” was done to preserve it.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Cake on a Fence

Theistic evolutionists attempt to reconcile the claims of secular scientists with the claims of the Bible. The idea is that by allegorizing or mythologizing the early chapters of Genesis, Christians can retain the important moral teaching of scripture without losing their audience.

It is an increasingly popular position, though hard numbers of Christians who hold it are difficult to come by. On the low side, a Gallup poll taken for the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday showed only 24% of frequent church attendees believe in evolution. On the high side, a more recent study claimed almost 50% of Roman Catholics believe it.

That’s an apples/oranges comparison, of course, but the actual percentage of Christians who feel comfortable acknowledging some form of theistic evolution probably falls somewhere in between those two numbers.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (47)

Our Bible is full of moral lessons taught with food. The fruit of a very special tree in Eden. Manna and quail in the wilderness. The leeks and garlic of Egypt. The widow’s jar of flour and jug of oil. Five loaves and two fishes. The bread of heaven. The leaven of the Pharisees.

And honey. Why not? Honey is loaded with carbohydrates and natural sugars. It takes approximately seventeen minutes of brisk walking to burn off the 64 calories your body gets from eating a single tablespoon. In Israel, honey was the … er … gold standard for a luxury food item. Canaan was, after all, the land of milk and honey.

All today’s proverbs are about food, and two are about having too much of a good thing.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Abandoning Evangelism

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

Relevant Magazine says the results of this new study by Barna are shocking.

Tom: I’m more inclined to nod sadly at the obvious, I guess, which is this: 47% of millennials believe evangelizing others is … wrong.

I’m not sure why anyone is surprised. We live in a society that prizes tolerance, inclusivity and a sort of pseudo-respect for the traditions and culture of others above all else. On top of that, the vast majority of Christians have allowed their children to grow up in an environment that propagandizes them from 9:00 to 3:15 five days a week for most of their formative years.

What exactly did we think would happen, Immanuel Can?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Atheism’s Answers

So … what if atheists took themselves seriously?

So seriously, as a matter of fact, that they actually tried to live out the rational implications of their own rejection of all possibility of God or gods? What then?

As I said in yesterday’s post, getting answers to this question turned out to be more difficult than it might initially appear.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Asking About Atheism

I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with atheists.

You might wonder why. You might say, “People have to be open to the voice of God, or they hear nothing at all. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear,’ said the Lord. A man whose ears are already shut gets nothing — and, if we follow the Lord’s example — should get nothing, for he does not unite his hearing with any measure of faith. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

Even secular common sense accepts this. “A man convinced against his will remains an unbeliever still,” goes the axiom.

So why bother to talk to people whose minds are already made up? A fair question.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Calling a Spade a Spade

Popular science fiction author China Miéville is troubled by how the media refers to the … er … troubled.

When asked about the 2011 riots in London, England, his primary concern seems to be the language used to describe those who assaulted pensioners, burned people out of their homes and threw bricks at responding firefighters:

“For a long time I’ve been struck and horrified by the incredible cultural spite we’ve got in the UK towards young people. The constant use, for example, of the term ‘feral’ to describe troubled children should be a matter of utter shame: that our culture has normalised that adjective is an expression of our culture’s moral degradation, far more than children’s.”

In Miéville’s view, the moral degradation of modern British culture is epitomized in its failure to speak kindly of its most debased element.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Anonymous Asks (27)

“How do I talk to an atheist about Jesus?”

A Christian believes a set of intellectual propositions about the nature and origin of the universe. He takes these on faith. An atheist believes a set of intellectual propositions about the nature and origin of the universe that he too takes on faith.

The real difference is in the object of faith. The atheist believes in an abstraction, which he calls science. The Christian believes in a person. Abstractions do not love their devotees back, do not have relationships with them, do not care what they tell their friends, and do not actively equip them to do it more effectively.

The object of Christian faith, on the other hand, is a real, living, all-powerful, relationship-oriented Person who is hugely invested in the outcome of any discussion between believers and unbelievers. Moreover, he is fully able, if we are willing, to equip us to speak effectively on his behalf.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Symbol of a Symbol

Conscious he would soon be passing from this scene as we all do, Jacob blessed his son Judah.

That blessing is poetic, prophetic and open to interpretation on multiple levels, the most significant of which is that he is speaking in some measure of Jesus Christ, who was descended from Judah. One of the things Jacob says of Judah’s offspring is this: “He has washed his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of grapes.”

This is the first time any of the Bible’s writers associate wine with blood, though in this instance probably neither word is to be taken literally.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (46)

“These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.”

So begins the fifth major division of the book of Proverbs. It is made up of approximately 110 more bits of Solomonic wisdom of varying lengths.

As you are likely aware, Hezekiah king of Judah was no contemporary of Solomon. Solomon reigned over Israel from 970-930 B.C. or thereabouts, while Hezekiah did not appear on the scene until well over 200 years later. He died a little over 100 years before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, but for 73 of those 100 years Judah was ruled by evil men. Some of these were merely weak, others truly depraved, but one way or the other, wickedness was pretty much the defining characteristic of Judean rule leading up to Judah’s captivity.

It’s a fair bet nobody copied Solomon’s proverbs during those years.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Goodness of Abortion

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

In the last two weeks we’ve seen first New York then Virginia begin to rewrite their abortion laws.

Tom: In their new Reproductive Health Act, the State of New York removed abortion from the State’s criminal code and expanded access up to birth and the third trimester in what Governor Andrew Cuomo called “the most aggressive abortion law in the country.” Lawmakers and bystanders literally applauded. Not to be outdone, a Virginia Democratic lawmaker promptly proposed a bill that would make it possible for a mother to retroactively “abort” her child minutes after he or she is born.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Don’t Forget What You Never Knew

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day — just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

Ummm …

What do you mean, “remind”?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Flesh and Spirit

“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

There can be no doubt Jesus Christ was active in the world for thousands of years prior to his incarnation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Baptism and Freedom

Two Sundays ago in a post on biblical symbols and the spiritual realities to which they point, I promised to take a further installment or two to consider the symbolic acts of Christianity. People refer to these meaningful gestures as ceremonies, rituals, rites, sacraments or ordinances. What we call them is not terribly important provided we recognize their value and participate in them.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Anonymous Asks (26)

“Why is God so morbidly violent in the Old Testament?”

This is certainly God’s Old Testament reputation among unbelievers and the aggressively anti-Christian, isn’t it? I love to quote Richard Dawkins on this subject, since his description is possibly the most vitriolic I’ve ever encountered: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Well, at least he said “arguably”. Good. I’m going to argue it.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Invisible Chains

“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

There are few things more pathetic than a slave who doesn’t realize he’s a slave. But denial is a powerful thing.

In one of the Pauline epistles, there’s a sad little instruction to slaves not to pilfer. Well, I find it sad.

Think about it. Why would a slave bother engaging in petty theft?

Saturday, February 09, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (45)

Way back last April of last year when we started looking at Proverbs, I mentioned in passing that the book falls into seven fairly obvious divisions. We have now arrived at the fourth of these, which is a short group of lengthier “do” and “don’t” instructions prefaced with the words “These also are sayings of the wise.”

Translated literally from Hebrew, verse 23 begins, “These words belong to the wise.”

Friday, February 08, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Words are Immaterial

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

Tom: Clint Bryan at Christianity Today has a post up about something called the Hillsong Church. I’ve heard the name and vaguely associate it with religious music and the “worship team”-style presentation, but I know very little about the Hillsong phenomenon, and I don’t think I could hum even a single one of what Mr. Bryan says are very hummable tunes. If you tell me that’s a not-very-subtle indication I’m not exactly at the nexus of mainstream evangelicalism, IC, I suppose I’ll have to take the rebuke with grace, but I thought maybe we could talk about Mr. Bryan’s article since it touches on a subject you’ve written about a fair bit.

Immanuel Can: Yep, okay. Where do you want to start, Tom?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Who Reads Anymore?

I’ve heard that Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time may be the most famous book people have never read.

That’s right: Never.

People sure do talk about it.  It’s sold ten million or so copies. Lots of people cite the title of the book, laud it, and claim to have found their opinions confirmed by it — but few of these have actually ever read it.

In a way, maybe that’s understandable. It is, after all, a fairly challenging book. For a mathematician, it’s a good read, perhaps; for the average person it’s a quick road to Slumberland. Even though it’s pretty short it only takes a few pages to render most folks unconscious.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Spirits in Prison

Yesterday I pointed out that the apostles use the word “gospel” in slightly different ways at different times, emphasizing certain aspects of what we might consider an acceptable presentation of the good news and omitting others entirely.

Never is this more evident that in the third of Peter’s four references to the gospel found in his first epistle. His use of the word, and the context around it, open up what may be described as a theological can of worms.

Or perhaps later commentators on 1 Peter opened that can all by themselves.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Gospel According to Peter

We all know what “the gospel” is, don’t we? Or at least we think we do.

If we searched the internet for a summary of the gospel, we might come away a tiny bit confused. John Piper, for instance, presents his gospel in six points. Bible Gateway reduces Piper’s six points to five. Phil Johnson goes with four, not one of which is identical to any of Piper’s, but all of which come directly from the apostle Paul.

For the new Christian, these differences in content and emphasis may be a bit hard to process.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Anonymous Asks (25)

“In dealing with authority, how can I explain things or make a point without sounding argumentative or disrespectful?”

The circumstances are not spelled out for us here. Is this a young man who wants to correct a Sunday school teacher, boss or professor on a point of fact? Is this a daughter who finds her father’s house rules restrictive and hopes for a little more freedom? Is this a sixteen year old pulled over in dad’s car for being five miles an hour over the speed limit who would like to know how best to negotiate his way out of a ticket? We do not know.

Fortunately, I think the biblical answer is not wildly different either way.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Symbol Is Not the Point

An ex-evangelical turned Catholic priest named Dwight Longenecker has, in his current religious incarnation, become a fan of ritual and symbolism.

“The most difficult thing for an Evangelical to accept in a conversation about the sacraments is that God actually uses physical means and liturgical ceremonies to dispense his grace and administer salvation. The typical Evangelical is heavily conditioned to dismiss all physical components of religion as useless and distracting ‘man-made traditions.’ ”

Hmm, let me think: Could I be one of Mr. Longenecker’s heavily conditioned, typical evangelicals? Possibly.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (44)

Two of our final five entries in Solomon’s Thirty Sayings speak about the future. Their point? That those who act wisely have one, while evil men do not.

The Hebrew word translated “future” is 'achariyth. It means an end, a latter time, or a posterity. In brief, the idea is that Someone Transcendent is governing time and watching over the world. Nothing done or not done adds up to nothing. All is being tabulated and will have its consequences down the road.

It therefore makes sense to govern ourselves accordingly, no?

Friday, February 01, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Locating the Thought Police

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

Immanuel Can: This is super interesting.

Tom: Do tell …

IC: It’s a chart measuring what proportion of two-sided debate and its opposite, so‑called “social justice” indoctrination, is being practiced at the various university campuses in Ontario, Canada.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Giving and Taking of the Spirit

Today I want to do a short follow-up from yesterday’s post, which was about bad songs that conservative evangelical congregations are singing these days.

My particular concern in that one was the really atrocious doctrine of the Holy Spirit that they seem to be teaching in song. I pointed out some of the raw falsehoods that are being sung passionately by those of us who really ought to know better: and I said that the victims of our error include all untaught believers and our own children, as well as the Spirit of God himself, concerning whom these songs promote raw falsehoods.

I ended with a passionate plea for us to stop.

And I really hope somebody is listening.