Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Winning?

Bea tweets, “If god hates gays why do we keep winning?”

Good question. It sounds an awful lot like a punchline with which marauding Philistines might have taunted Israelite farmers around 1070 BC in the midst of plundering their produce and livestock with impunity: “If the God of Israel really hates the practices of the Canaanites, why is it we are running roughshod over his people?

“And by the way, your mother wears army boots!”

Monday, July 15, 2019

Anonymous Asks (49)

“I have a friend who says she is not religious. How do I respond?”

One thing I am slowly learning not to do is to tell other people exactly what they should say when witnessing for Christ. There are probably worse ways to share your beliefs than recycling someone else’s arguments in words you wouldn’t normally use, but I can’t think of too many at the moment. The best case a Christian can make is one he fully understands and believes with all his heart, and is able to express in the same sort of everyday language he uses to enthuse about a football team or a great song.

So I won’t tell you how to respond. The response needs to be all yours. What I might be able to do is to help you work through what your friend is really telling you when she says she is “not religious”, so you can decide how best to attempt to share Christ with her.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Place of My Own

One thing is absolutely certain: we are all going someplace when we die. It may be nowhere more exciting than the digestive systems of worms and soil microbes, thereafter to be distributed throughout the earth’s ecosystem over time, but it is certainly a place. Or places, if you prefer.

Biologically, we do not choose our place. It is imposed on us. Spiritually, however, we do; moreover, we testify to the choices we have made with every daily act we perform. Death makes all choice irrevocable.

This is true even when we are not aware we are making any choice at all.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (67)

A lot of things change in three thousand years, but human nature is not one of them. I am always astounded to find how many of the ancient Hebrew proverbs remain relevant today, if not directly, then certainly by application.

We are looking at the last five verses of Agur’s oracle, which include the last of his six observational quaternions of lists (seven total).

This one is maybe a bit more difficult to work out …

Friday, July 12, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Churches in the Crosshairs

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

Tom: Last week, IC, Bernie and I discussed the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Toronto, Canada, which consisted of 8,000 Catholics, Buddhists, Baptists, Bahai, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans and indigenous spiritualists. They gathered to complain about Donald Trump and disseminate tactics for effectively infiltrating evangelical churches in order to convert us to the globalist / ecumenicalist cause.

Since they’ve been so kind as to warn us of their intentions in advance, I thought maybe we could consider how best to keep them out, or perhaps how to bring them in while thwarting their efforts.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

I Want to Die

I was baptized young.

Not so young that I did not know what I was doing. After all, I believe in believer baptism only … just like the scriptures tell us.

I was around ten, I think. I asked for it to happen. No one pushed me. And at that time, I had a ten-year-old’s faith, and a ten-year-old’s understanding. Nothing wrong with that … it’s just not where I am today.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

That Wacky Old Testament (14)

Yesterday we looked at the sometimes-controversial fifth chapter of Numbers, in which God gives instructions about how a jealous husband should deal with a wife thought to have committed adultery.

The confusion this chapter produces in modern women reading it for the first time is really quite entertaining. Brought up to believe unquestioningly in “equality” of every possible sort, they quickly look around for the parallel chapter in which a wife could take her husband to the priest and have him tested for adultery. The less-experienced Bible students are shocked to find it doesn’t exist.

The world was a different place in those days, especially in the nation of Israel. Some things have changed. Some have not.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

That Wacky Old Testament (13)

The “bitter water” test found in the fifth chapter of Numbers is the source of a fair bit of confusion and debate.

There are arguments that it legitimizes abortion, arguments that the test couldn’t possibly work, and of course we can’t forget the obligatory fussing that the test was unegalitarian because it was not applied to men.

That makes the chapter worth a little more attention, surely.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Anonymous Asks (48)

“Why doesn’t God interact with us today the way he did over the periods covered in the Bible?”

It is important to notice that God did not always interact with men and women in exactly the same way over the periods covered in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, he revealed himself at many different times and in many different ways. There were also long periods in between these self-revelations — sometimes ten generations or more — during which God appears to have been silent, and no new word from heaven was forthcoming.

All the same, I think we have a good idea what’s being asked here, and that is this: Why does it appear there is no longer any absolutely categorical, personal, undeniable, back-and-forth interaction with God available to us?

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Closer Look

I did not grow up with liturgy. The closest thing was probably the occasional corporate reading of scripture from the back of a beat-up hymnbook with a busted spine, where at least you could be sure everyone was looking at the same translation for once.

Agreed, that’s not very close.

The Upper and Nether Millstones

Of course there were always very sincere, older, conservative Christians around who prayed out loud in religious clich├ęs so hackneyed and distinctive you could see them coming several sentences in advance. But that’s not really liturgy either; it’s more like chronic failure of imagination. My brothers and I would mouth these pieties to one another as they rolled off the speaker’s tongue in amusement at our own rather profane cleverness in anticipating them.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (66)

Everybody loves an underdog.

Ask any sports fan. We are always delighted to cheer the overcomer, the up-and-comer, and the unexpected victory from the team that wasn’t expected to get it done. It’s called bandwagoneering, and it happens regularly in cities whose teams haven’t won in years. People with no previous interest in basketball, baseball or football suddenly start talking about the home squad as if they are family members.

But underdogs are not just a regular feature of professional sports. Creation has plenty of them on display. The best thing is that these natural examples of overcoming were not cobbled together at last minute with millions of dollars at the trade deadline; rather, they were designed by God to teach us all lessons of enduring value.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Those Pesky Evangelicals

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

The 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Toronto, Canada was ecumenicalism monetized, organized and with a working agenda for planet-wide spiritual dominion.

That’s not hyperbole. They’re not hiding much these days, and almost anyone who makes an effort is free to come in to their major gatherings and take a look. They want both a world government and a viable world religion to make it happen. Something close to 8,000 delegates got together to plug away at the project. These included Catholics, Buddhists, Baptists, the Bahai, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, indigenous spiritualists and even a video message from the Dalai Lama. You name it, they were there. Carl Teichrib was also there, reporting.

Tom: Assuming it’s accurate, what interests me about Teichrib’s summary is that the Interfaith Engagement panel he attended was particularly troubled by evangelical resistance to their project. They considered at length how to break down the walls that keep evangelicals from fully participating in their little Babel 2.0. Their recommendations were intriguing.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Straight Talk

Some years ago, Dr. Gordon Marino, the ethicist, wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education called “Before Teaching Ethics, Stop Kidding Yourself”.

In this article, Marino complained of the cottage industry of posers and pseudo-experts we have today who dispense advice to us about how we ought to conduct our moral lives. Ethics, he argued, were not so much a matter of specialized knowledge as of ordinary people doing what they already knew to do.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Conspiracy Theory

I’ve been enjoying the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, the writer of many books in the New Testament. The book of Acts tells Paul’s story several times, each version bringing out new details not recorded in the others.

Atheists and detractors like to point out alleged contradictions in scripture; anything that might be interpreted, however implausibly, with sufficient elasticity as to make less than perfect, logical sense of the biblical narrative. Such things are accounted for variously as factual mistakes, copyist’s errors or conspiracies among believers to commit pious fraud.

TheThinkingAtheist.com is a great place to go if you want to see the sort of thing that passes for Bible criticism among those who have already made up their minds before reading a single verse.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Quote of the Day (41)

In a week when the usual suspects have been howling for a “disproportionate response” to the downing of a U.S. navy spy drone, it’s refreshing to find a commentator who prefers violent provocations be met with no response at all.

Don’t worry, this is not about the Strait of Hormuz or what constitutes Iranian airspace. The provocation is storyline-only, and the response to it is disproportionate only if you fail to consider the circumstances in which it occurs.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Anonymous Asks (47)

“How did people stay alive so long back in the Old Testament?”

If we are going to consider how it was that people were able to live to exceptional ages in the early chapters of Genesis (930 years for Adam, 912 for Seth, 969 for Methuselah, which is the highest recorded, and so on), we had better first ask the question, “Did they really?”

After all, some Bible students believe they did not. I think they’re wrong, but we should at least let them weigh in.