Thursday, April 18, 2019

Retro Christianity

“In a post-Christian society, all faithful people begin to look a little Amish.”
— Ken Myers, host of Mars Hill Audio

Nice quote, Ken. Love the way you put that.

He’s got a point, though. In the ongoing moral and cultural decline of modern society, there must surely come a point at which the difference between how Christians live and how their neighbors live becomes too great to escape notice any longer.

And then, in a sense, we will all be “Amish”. I mean those who actually care to be Christians will be.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Agents and Automatons

“Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.”

Not at all his will, despite strong urging.

Apollos had precisely zero interest in doing things the way Paul, with all his godliness and experience, thought they should be done. The two took opposite stances.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Five Times as Much

“Benjamin’s portion was five times as much.”

The Spirit of God frequently uses Old Testament characters to depict aspects of the person and work of the coming Messiah. To list only a few, Adam, Abel, Melchizedek, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon and Jonah may all be compared in one way or another to the Lord Jesus Christ. Just in case we miss them, the writers of the New Testament (and sometimes Jesus himself) draw our attention to these pictures or “types”.

Joseph is generally considered a better type in that his character and experiences are more “on-model” than, for instance, Jonah or Adam. Numerous similarities may be observed between Joseph and the Lord Jesus. This chart lists 27, but the accompanying article suggests there may be as many as 100. Not only that, but it is generally held that that there are no moral missteps in Joseph’s record which would serve to ruin the sterling comparison.

Or so I have always been taught.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Anonymous Asks (35)

“Why is it ok for the church to sell coffee and other products when Jesus was outraged when merchants were selling things in the temple?”

Ow. That there is a zinger of a question, maybe the best yet.

Let me confess that I am not personally familiar with the practice of churches selling coffee. That’s a new one on me.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Mopping Up the Mess

Kate’s husband Sam cheated on her. For just shy of three years. One night, confronted with Kate’s suspicions, he breaks down in tears, blurts out the truth and begs for Kate’s forgiveness. He abruptly terminates his illicit relationship, confesses his infidelity to the elders of their church, and resigns from his responsibilities teaching Sunday School and administering the church’s financial affairs. Several months later, Sam is living in a motel while he and Kate go through marriage counselling.

Kate knows she is responsible to God to forgive her husband, and she is working hard at that. Her question is whether forgiving Sam means she must take him back, not just as partner in life but as her spiritual head. Several of Kate’s church friends have strong opinions about this. They insist she should do it, and do it as soon as possible.

They say she has not truly forgiven Sam if she won’t take him back.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (54)

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

These are well-known biblical truths, and yet notwithstanding the accumulating evidence that possessions and happiness are quite unrelated, the stampede to acquire as much as possible as quickly as possible never abates.

Three of these next ten verses are about money: those who have it, those who don’t, and those who are trying to get it.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

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

Time has a way of dealing with issues that once seemed irresolvable. In 2018, we passed the 25th anniversary of Gail Riplinger’s New Age Bible Versions, a 1993 offering that rocked the evangelical world by purporting to expose the NASB, NIV and other modern translations of the Bible as literally satanic and their translators as practicing occultists.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Valley and Peak

On September 9, 1939, The Telegraph reported that a woman from London, England named Frances Fripps was accidentally struck by a local bus. Taken to Middlesex hospital, Miss Fripps awoke to find someone bending over her bed. To her utter astonishment, she recognized her visitor as none other than the Queen of England, there for a surprise tour of the hospital.

“They told me I had been trying to knock down a bus,” gasped Miss Fripps, “and now I find you here, your Majesty. What a day!”

What a day indeed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Relative Righteousness

“She is more righteous than I …”

Judah’s wife had died. He wasn’t exactly a young man at this point, but as they say today, “He had needs.” The cult prostitute he encountered on the road to Timnah was an admittedly sinful but pragmatic way of managing those very normal human impulses so he could get on with the necessary business of shearing his sheep undistracted.

What Judah didn’t know was that the veiled “prostitute” was actually his daughter-in-law, the former wife of his eldest son. She provided her services to him that day in exchange for a young goat from Judah’s flock, which she never received.

Technically, then, not actually a prostitute. Perhaps not a role model exactly, but nobody in this story really is.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Two Kinds of Anxiety

“I want you to be free from anxieties.”

Now, you may or may not remember this, but it wasn’t the apostle Paul who wrote those famous words “casting all your anxieties upon [God], because he cares for you.” That was another apostle whose name begins with ‘P’.

All the same, many — maybe most — Christians have at one time or other heard these words appropriated to remind them to let go of all their cares and concerns, and hand their worries over to God, who loves us. Some of us heard the line from our mothers, and so the idea comes with a boatload of sentiment attached to it.

What it should not become is an excuse for passivity.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Anonymous Asks (34)

“How do you know God is real besides ‘look all around you’?”

Mileage varies. For me, one of the most powerful evidences of God’s reality is my cat. She is a slightly-dinged-up work of art. The Theory of Evolution by Whichever-Mechanism-is-Currently-in-Vogue offers one possible explanation for her existence. The Bible offers me what I think is a better one: she was designed by an Artist of unparalleled skill. It also offers me an explanation for why she is slightly dinged up: she’s collateral damage from the fall of mankind.

So “look all around you” works for me, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Fair enough.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Parts of Speech

“The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.”

“The Spirit of truth … proceeds from the Father.”


It is correct to say that the triune God reliably tells the truth [Gk: alētheuō] and that he always speaks truly [alēthōs]. He is both accurate and ingenuous.

And yet despite their aptness, these statements are not sufficient. They fall short. Scripture makes such claims repeatedly, but that is not all it says.

The doctrine of God’s veracity and reliability does not turn on verbs and adverbs.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (53)

We are coming to the final few Solomonic proverbs assembled by the men of King Hezekiah. Probably at this point the transcribers had run out of bigger themes to explore. All forty-five which remain are two-liners that appear unrelated to one another.

Their brevity is no reflection on their quality. More than a few of the most famous and familiar proverbs you will hear quoted by Christians come from this section of the book.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Branded

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

They started in 1988 with a 27-year old “senior pastor” named James MacDonald and a couple hundred interested Christians and seekers gathered in a Chicago high school auditorium. Today, they are known as Harvest Bible Chapel, a megachurch with campuses all over the Chicago area and over 100 affiliated fellowships in North America and internationally.

Tom: Today, the mother church is being investigated for alleged financial shenanigans.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

How Do You Love the Gospel?

I hear a lot of people talk about their love for the gospel. But then I also hear a lot of talk about how people “love” ice cream, their cars, their mates, their pets, and the NFL.

I’m pretty sure there’s a difference in each case.

There are different ways to love. Some of them are a million miles from the others. So what are people talking about when they say they really love the gospel?

I’m going to give you three different ways. There are probably more, but I’ve seen these three a lot.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (12)

I cannot say what the process of becoming honest is like for the occasional white-liar, but people who practice deceit definitely have great difficulty quitting.

I have probably detailed in some post or other my own experience of giving up the practice of lying cold-turkey by forcing myself to publicly confess every single new falsehood I uttered, and doing so the moment the words left my lips. It involved a level of red-faced humiliation and personal exposure I was very much unused to. Rarely was a confession received in quite the way I expected.

I suppose all bad habits are hard to break.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Bit Players in an Eternal Drama

When Jacob returns to Canaan from sojourning in Paddan-aram, along with his wives, family, servants and flocks, he finds himself anticipating the inevitable confrontation with his brother Esau. The same Esau whom Jacob had swindled, and from whom he had fled in fear more than twenty years before. Esau who, it is reported, has four hundred men with him. That doesn’t bode well. The writer of Genesis tells us “Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.”

A reasonable reaction, all things considered.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Anonymous Asks (33)

“Why does God allow trials, tribulations, and suffering?”

If we are speaking of suffering in general, whole books have been written in answer to this question. Our own Immanuel Can wrote an open letter about it to conservative author Dinesh D’Souza in 2016. If you are looking for a philosophical explanation for the necessity of pain in a fallen world, you may find it there.

One thing we can be sure of: the answer is not simple. Another thing we can be sure of is that people who observe suffering are bound to speculate about its cause. It’s human nature. Perhaps you remember the question Jesus’ disciples asked upon encountering a blind man: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?”

They were wrong, of course. Those are far from the only two options.