Saturday, October 24, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (5)

The Hebrew word translated “presence” is literally “face” or “countenance”. It appears in every book from Genesis through Malachi, over 2,000 times in total. When used of God, as in “the presence of the Lord”, it refers to any location in which God chooses to present himself to human beings or any location in which he is said to make his residence.

That phrase “presence of the Lord” is used three times in the book of Jonah, all in this first chapter.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Numbers Game

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

Earlier this month, the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University released its 11th and latest detailed analysis of the results of its January American Worldview Inventory 2020 survey. In a long list of bullet points, CRC Director of Research George Barna noted that, among other disturbing trends, 44% of respondents who self-identify as Christian said they believe the Bible’s teaching about abortion is “ambiguous”, and that 34% said abortion is morally acceptable if it spares the mother from financial or emotional discomfort or hardship.

Tom: The Christian news website Not The Bee (“your source for headlines that should be satire, but aren’t”) took the survey at face value and pushed back hard with a salvo of scripture, and good for them.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

He was a walking nightmare — tall, balding, all angles-and-bones, a vulture of a man. His beady eyes peered out predaciously over his hawk-like nose, and his battered tweed jacket emanated chalk dust clouds as he strode up and down the aisles. We students cowered in fear, praying he would not ask us the next question. Chances are we couldn’t answer it.

Hey, chances are we couldn’t even understand it, so high over our heads was his vocabulary.

But cowering would not save us. He would pick someone at random. “You,” he would say. “What does ‘ephemeral’ mean?” His respondent would not know. He would repeat the question, stepping closer to the cringing child. No answer.

He would persist: “Don’t you have a dictionary? … Can’t you ask anyone?”

Silence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Third-Tier Faith

Once in a while when confronting others with the claims of Jesus Christ, Christians run into a response like “I truly wish I could believe that, but I just haven’t got the faith,” or “If only I could be sure what you’re saying is true ...”

Sound familiar? I’ve been thinking a lot about that excuse.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Denominations and Discernment

Discernment is a difficult quality to teach. Some people have a great deal more of it than others. It’s a quality that seems to me increasingly and depressingly rare.

It’s not hard to think of Christians who have known the Lord for years, yet remain more than a little gullible and sometimes require the protection of family and friends. You probably know some too. They like people. They think the best of everyone. They have a tendency to be so gentle and trusting that they fall for almost every new thing that comes along, provided it is presented with a smile. They mistake niceness for goodness and pleasant talk for the gospel truth.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Anonymous Asks (115)

“What’s the difference between being spiritual and being religious?”

The answer to this question very much depends on whether we come at it from the perspective of the man in the street, or from that of the scriptures.

The Man in the Street

The man in the street thinks a mystic is spiritual and a priest religious. He sees the religious person as a cog in the ecclesiastical machinery, observing traditions and doing his duty as part of a larger religious community. The “spiritual” person, on the other hand, is someone operating outside institutional religion; thought to be in harmony with the natural order, and communing with the universe or some such. The religious person would always be in church on Sunday (or Saturday), while the “spiritual” person may or may not.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Commentariat Speaks (19)

Moscow, Idaho is home to Christ Church, a conservative reformed evangelical gathering of about 900 people that has produced an unusual number of what Wikipedia calls “institutional projects”, including New Saint Andrews College, the Logos School, a Christian book publisher, a scripture translation group, a three-year ministerial training program and four spin-off churches in Montana, California and Myanmar.

Christ Church congregants form an active community of homeschoolers and Christian businesspeople within Moscow.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (4)

All names have some level of significance to the people who bear them, though you may feel free to disagree if you have been afflicted with parents who think calling a child Apple or Moon Unit is a bright idea. Thankfully those folks are comparatively rare.

In ancient languages, most names were not simply a pleasing combination of vowels and consonants chosen by moms and dads who were stuck for a name they could agree on; they also signified something else. The Lord renamed at least one of his disciples, and he did not do so without purpose. The name Simon, which means “to hear”, was changed to Peter, meaning a rock or stone. Much is said about that renaming in religious circles, not all of it accurate, but it is certain that the change was significant both to the Lord and to Peter. It redefined who he was.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Preaching or Peddling?

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

Mike Leake has a few words to say here about stewardship of the word of God. Leake says that preachers and teachers tend to approach their responsibilities one of two ways. In Scenario 1, like the servant in the parable of the talents. In Scenario 2, like Paul instructed Timothy, guarding “the good deposit”.

Tom: One approach attempts to improve on what has been given while the other simply attempts to retain what has been given.

What do you think of his analysis, and how do you approach the word of God when you’re responsible to share it with others, IC?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Atheist’s New Clothes

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ”

Sometimes the Bible just hits the nail on the head.

You run into a lot of people who pride themselves in being atheists. They rattle on about how they are the only intellectual option … that every scientist is an atheist … that no one who has any sense would be anything else … and so on. Their smugness, their self-satisfaction, their certainty seem so great that the unprepared believer is often blown back on his heels.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

How Saved Are You?

Most of us associate our salvation with a specific incident: a conversation, a sudden realization, a moment in which it became clear to us that the Lord was speaking; that God was right and we were wrong; that we were sinners and that there was something we urgently needed to do about that. So in our own way we cried out to God: some with tears, some more tentatively, still not completely sure what might be involved. How much we may have fully grasped of the role of Christ in both salvation and in the government of our lives from then on almost certainly differed from person to person.

But my point is … it was a point in time. And if you say the word “salvation”, that event is primarily what we think of.

An event is good. If you have one to look back on, I’m glad.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Gap Anticipated

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

The Bible repeatedly claims to be God-breathed, both in its component parts and in its entirety. Statements to the effect that God has spoken are made several hundred times in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel alone, and they are sprinkled liberally through the rest of the scripture. Other writers and speakers in the Bible made similar assertions to that which Paul makes here: that the whole thing (Law, Prophets, Psalms, Letters, Gospels) is God speaking, right down its glyphs and diacritics in the original languages.

Stop and think about that a moment.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Anonymous Asks (114)

“Where did Jesus come from?”

Before there was ever a Jesus of Nazareth, there was the Word. This is one of the names the writers of the Bible use to describe the Pre-Incarnate Christ.

The Pre-Incarnate Word

John speaks of “the Word”, who “was with God” and who “was God”. The Word made all things that have been made, without exception, which means the Word existed not just at creation, but prior to it. Since nothing that was made was made without him, that must include Satan. Satan is not any old created being. He was the “anointed guardian cherub” who served in heaven before his fall. Thus it is evident the Word was operating in eternity well before the rest of creation was brought into existence.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Why Your View of Prophecy Matters

Does is really make much difference how you view Bible prophecy?

Most Christians would affirm that all scripture is God-breathed and profitable; that’s fairly fundamental. It follows that the study of prophecy is also profitable, though whether its details are easily deciphered or have immediate application to the lives of all readers is another question altogether.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (3)

“The word of the Lord” is an expression that occurs 242 times in the Old Testament. It is a claim that God has spoken and a demand that he be heard. It is not the only way that the writers of the Old Testament choose to convey the truth that God has something to say, but it is probably their most prominent and frequent way of expressing it.

The word of the Lord is unspeakably powerful. The psalmist records that by it “the heavens were made”. Sometimes the word of the Lord tells great men of great things to come. Other times it warns of  impending judgment. Still other times it appears to address and correct a small, technical injustice, or to establish a personal relationship. It may operate on a grand scale, or intimately and personally.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Making Tough Choices

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

Tom: Last month, IC, you and I had a conversation in this space about what might come after the COVID crisis for local churches, as well as for Christians generally in a transformed economic and social environment, and I don’t want to revisit the topics we considered at that time at any length.

But in the last week or two (assuming you are not reading this in Sweden), you are probably hearing about significant “spikes” and “surges” in the COVID-19 infection rate wherever you live. Some people are calling it a “second wave”. The U.K. has seen the worst surge, topping what they experienced in April and May, but Canada is looking ugly too, as are the U.S., France and especially Spain. (I’m using the World Health Organization (WHO) stats; graphs of confirmed cases and deaths day by day in each country are found by scrolling down below the maps.)

Thursday, October 08, 2020

A Sign From God

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

Jesus Christ was a sign from God.

What is a sign? It is something that is not what it seems to be, but looked at correctly, points beyond the surface appearance to something else.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

A Unique Learning Experience

“That is not the way you learned Christ.”

Learning Christ is not like learning Marxism or Islam or Buddhism or Taoism. It’s not even like learning Christianity.

All religious and political movements have recognized founders whose words are studied, analyzed, memorized and followed dutifully, but their adherents are not “learning” Karl Marx or Muhammad ibn Abdullah or Siddhartha Gautama or Laozi; rather, they are learning propositions and theories these men set forth about life, the universe and the proper ordering of society.

Some religious and political leaders succeed, at least to a limited extent, in living out their own ideals. Others don’t do so well at that. Either way, it is pretty hard for us to learn them, even if we are determined to try.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Walking Before God

When Abraham, who was still called Abram at the time, was in his hundredth year on this planet, God appeared to him. He gave him a rather daunting challenge: “Walk before me,” God said, “and be blameless.”

Many good things would come of this. Years later, when Abraham was “well advanced in years” and the fulfillment of God’s promises to him was apparent, the patriarch would speak to his servant of “the Lord, before whom I have walked”.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Anonymous Asks (113)

“Does God give second chances?”

Absolutely. You might be having one right now.

By human standards of fairness, God gives people an inordinate number of chances. He is far more gracious when wronged than we are, and he is being wronged millions of times every moment of every day.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Mining the Minors: A Belated Explanation

Andy Stanley’s Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (2018) was a bit of a grenade in the baptistery. In it, Stanley argued that modern, mainstream Christianity is fatally flawed, fragile and indefensible in the public square because we have anchored it to an “old covenant narrative and worldview”. Stanley contended Christians need to “unhitch” ourselves from the Old Testament to become relevant to the world.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (2)

Our Bibles do not tell us who wrote the book of Jonah. Tradition has it the account was written by Jonah himself.

Alternatively, similarities in the narratives lead some Bible scholars to conclude the story of Jonah was written sometime in the 8th century BC by men from the same group of Hebrew scribes credited with assembling 1 and 2 Kings from a variety of other documents; documents like the “Chronicles of Samuel the Seer”, the “Chronicles of Nathan the Prophet”, the “Chronicles of Gad the Seer”, the “Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite”, the “Visions of Iddo the Seer”, the “Chronicles of Shemaiah the Prophet”, the “Chronicles of Jehu the Son of Hanani”, the “Story of the Book of the Kings”, and so on. These earlier documentary sources, which may or may not have been inspired by God in their entirety, later served to provide the Spirit-led editors of Kings and Chronicles with the historical details from which they drew the spiritual lessons with which we are familiar.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Spare Some Change?

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

Last week we were discussing how we can best live out the truth that, denominations notwithstanding, the church of God remains one Body, not many.

Tom: I do think the number of available evangelical church options out there can be beneficial in some ways, especially for elders. For instance, when you find that great new couple who want to join your church but can’t restrain themselves from talking about the glories of speaking in tongues, or the blessed benefits of Reformed Theology, or why women ought to worship audibly, the multiplicity of options allows you to easily point them to the gathering in your neighborhood that might suit them better in that respect without a lot of hard feelings.

After all, it's not like you’re saying, “If you don’t like the way we do it, there’s no place for you in the Church.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Lies, Myths and Misinformation: Christianity Causes Wars

The application of the statement “religion causes wars” to Christianity is actually a double lie.

It’s a lie because its detractors classify Christianity as a “religion” just the same as any other. You be the judge of whether or not that’s fair. But let’s give them that one for the sake of argument.

It’s also a lie because it’s not even accurate to say that the disparate group of things secular people call “religion” causes wars. It’s not just intuitively wrong, it’s statistically absurd.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Witnessing and Misdirection

Most falsehoods don’t come with handy labels
Put them on the spot, and people won’t always tell the truth.

They may throw up smokescreens, use cover stories, ask questions they don’t really want answered, tell outright lies — engage in every variety of misdirection.

This comes as no surprise to anyone with the gift of evangelism, or anyone without it who tries to talk to people about the Lord. Where the subject of faith is concerned, it takes wisdom and experience to discern what really matters.

At least initially, people tend to be least candid about the things that mean the most.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Marching to Where?

I’m a bit cautious about the practice of grabbing verses out of the Old Testament and some parts of the gospels for the benefit of Christians living in the Church Age.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is centuries of historical precedent for appropriating Israel’s promises to ourselves in hymnology and liturgical language, this practice is quite unnecessary: the church has its own unique place and promises in the plans of God.

Generally speaking, when we replace our own promises with those made to national Israel, we are trading down.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Anonymous Asks (112)

“What’s the difference between reincarnation and resurrection?”

The concept of reincarnation is a component of many religions, the four largest of which originated in India: Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. Greek philosophers like Plato, Socrates and Pythagoras promoted something similar, as do Spiritists, Theosophists and numerous smaller, tribal societies, as well as some of the more obscure sects of the Abrahamic religions.

Obviously then, not all believers in reincarnation believe precisely the same things. Forgive me if I generalize a bit.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Seeing What We Want to See

Christians cannot agree across the board about what the Bible teaches. If we could, there would be no need for denominations, and there would be a single, clear, accepted interpretation of every verse of scripture.

Wouldn’t that be nice? But it ain’t so, and we all know it.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (1)

“You can’t survive three days in the stomach of a whale,” complain the critics. “It’s impossible.”

Christians may be sorely tempted to concede their point, or at least to downplay the necessity for a historical Jonah. As a result, students of the Bible have taken many different positions with respect to the historicity of the book of Jonah, and with respect to its intended meaning. William R. Harper, editor of the October 1883 edition of The Old Testament Student, has provided an outstanding summary of ten of these positions here.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: He Ain’t Baptist, He’s My Brother

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

Tom: Quick quiz, IC: How many different local churches have you been part of? I’m not counting churches you’ve visited, but just those you would have considered “my church” for a period of time; churches in which it would have been notable to others if you weren’t there.

Immanuel Can: Um … rather more than most people, I suspect. I’ve been regarded, for some time, as a regular attendee of … I make it 14. I might be missing one or two. My youth and early adult years were marked by a lot of moving around, so it wasn’t a product of unhappiness in most cases. How about you?

Tom: Eight. Second question: How many of those churches were in the same town as one of the others?

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Between Museum and Megachurch

I’ve been to a few churches lately. And I’ve got some questions. Maybe you do too.

Two weeks ago I visited a tiny congregation. Everything about them — the building, the furniture and the people — was redolent of a past generation.

Not near past. Long past.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Language of the Debate (2)

The Christian media urgently wants Christians to stop believing — and even more importantly, to stop circulating — what it calls “conspiracy theories”. I previously came across and responded to one of the earliest of these calls to cease and desist back in September of last year, and lo and behold, here are a whole bunch more folks writing almost exactly the same thing Aaron Brake wrote at Stand to Reason, and maybe even more so.

Interfaith Now says Christians “have to do better”. Christianity.com says, “Let’s unite together in spreading God’s truth, not rumors!” Relevant magazine argues that Christians only believe in “conspiracies” because they need to feel like they are in control. Christianity Today insists, “Gullibility is not a spiritual gift.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

My youngest son has an amazing memory for detail. If you play him a song he’s familiar with, he can tell you when he first heard it — year, month and sometimes day — where we were and what we were doing at the time, and probably what video game was released that week.

I, on the other hand, can go back into the ComingUntrue archives, read a two-year-old post, and wonder “Who wrote that?”

It was usually me.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Anonymous Asks (111)

“How often do you need to say ‘amen’?”

This is kind of a different question, because it’s really more a matter of etiquette than morality.

Amen is one of those weird words that is exactly the same whether you’re looking through a Greek or a Hebrew concordance. It’s a Hebrew word that Greek-speaking Christians in the early church picked up and used to mean the same thing it meant within Judaism. In the King James it is often translated as “verily”. It is an affirmation of agreement. It simply means “indeed”, “so be it” or “absolutely”. Sometimes it means Yeah, me too. I feel that exact feeling, I think that exact thing and I want exactly that to happen. “Amen” is convenient shorthand for all that.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Time and Chance: The Post-Game Show

The heavens declare the glory of God and God’s invisible attributes have been clearly perceived in the things that have been made; our Old and New Testaments are in absolute agreement on this. Even if the Creator had never uttered a word to his creatures, men would be without excuse.

We would also be hopelessly confused, frustrated, and conflicted, grasping for an explanation of meaning and purpose that forever eludes us, feeling the pull of eternity in bodies destined only for the grave.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Time and Chance (54)

We have arrived in our study of Ecclesiastes at what the Preacher calls “the end of the matter”. The matter under consideration, if you have a long memory, was this: “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” What is the point of man’s existence? Why are we here? This was the question he set out to answer.

Through twelve chapters, the Preacher has undertaken the task of examining the experience of being human from every possible angle in hope of gaining insight into its meaning and purpose, always using only what he could observe and infer from the input of his senses. What he discovered was that when you approach the big questions of life in that way, the experience is frustrating and the answers elusive.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: After COVID

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

Immanuel Can: I’m noticing a very common theme springing up in news organizations and on the internet right now. There are lots of articles talking about the changes to society that will persist after the COVID-19 crisis is over. For instance, ABC says the major things that will remain different will be: more automation and more work-from-home options in employment, increased telemedicine, stricter travel regulations and precautions, and more virtual education. Another media source predicts masks everywhere, no more handshakes, loads of anxious parents, closer cliques, more centralized government control, smaller cities ... and a whole bunch of other things. All that’s speculation, of course. But some of it’s probably going to turn out to be right.

It seems what’s missing from such articles, Tom, is any reflection on what all the shifts will do to local congregations of Christians. Of course they will be subject to the same changes as anyone else, for starters. But are there any special concerns that Christians should take note of? What trends do you see as either opportunities or ominous possibilities for Christians after COVID?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Reasons to Get Going

“Jesus said … ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’.”

Ah, these little sayings that sometimes escape our notice.

I don’t know about you, but I always find it very exciting, and yet also not a little embarrassing, when I come to realize a verse I’ve known all my life has waaaay more to it than I ever realized.

This is one of those verses. Let’s break it down.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (13)

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The commendably-honest Sarah Frazer acknowledges she once believed this familiar promise in Psalm 37 meant “I can have anything I want.” If so, that would be quite a promise, but it would reduce God to a mere term in a larger equation, where if you treat that term a consistent way, you can always expect a predictable outcome.

Nice deal if you can get it, but quite a comedown for the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe to be reduced to a component of your personal math problem.

Let’s suggest that might not be the verse’s intended meaning!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

That Guy Outside Starbucks is NOT Jesus’ Brother

God bless the poor.

In fact, I don’t even have to ask him: we’ve been told he will; at least inasmuch as their poverty is primarily one of the spirit.

But we should pray for the poor, of course, and share as we are able. We should care, we ought to avoid partiality and we need to act. Our faith does not amount to much if it does not make us compassionate in a very practical way toward those in need, and toward those who may have started life at a huge disadvantage, or have encountered trials and troubles we have never experienced.

But that guy outside Starbucks who invades your space — the one with the tatty green or brown jacket, bad breath, body odor and uncomfortable social habits — while he may be made in the image of God and deserving of whatever we are able to do for him for that reason alone …

Sorry, that guy is just not Jesus’ “brother”.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Anonymous Asks (110)

“What should a believer do before he dies?”

Some denominations prescribe rituals to be administered by the church in a man or woman’s final moments on earth, and perhaps this week’s question is coming from someone with that sort of ecclesiastical background.

If religious routines are what the dying are calling for, we would not wish to rob them of their comfort, but I should probably point out that we do not find any commands at all about “last rites” in our Bibles. The Christian is neither obligated to perform them nor to have them performed. It may even be that the practice encourages a false sense of security about one’s relationship to Christ and one’s eternal destiny.

That would be very unfortunate indeed. In any case, it’s not the sort of preparation we are going to discuss today.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Act Like What You Are

Clean living requires an act of the will, and acts of the will require a changed mindset — at least if they are going to stick for any length of time. Down through the centuries, men and women who sought to control their natural appetites have attempted to “live clean” with different goals in view.

Plato taught the suppression of fleshly desires in order to free the soul to search for knowledge. The Stoics disciplined themselves to manage their emotions in order to uphold what they believed was the essential dignity of human nature. Kant advocated moral asceticism in hope of cultivating virtue. Monks of various religious orders idealized poverty, fasting and celibacy as ways of expressing devotion to their gods.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Time and Chance (53)

With the advent of the internet, we have become all too used to people sharing their opinions with us.

Editorializing is far from a new activity — human beings have engaged in it for millennia. What’s new is the sheer scale of useless bloviating made possible through social media. More information is fine, but information bereft of both authority and coherence is not worth the effort it takes to process.

Back in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher is about to tell his readers something similar.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Christian Globalist

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

For the last fifty years, the media has quietly endorsed it. Politicians in every country in the world have worked tirelessly to build public support for it. Mega-corporations love it: who wouldn’t like to have the entire planet to choose from when optimizing for low taxes, inexpensive manufacturing and cheap labor?

Tom: Globalism is officially out of the closet, Immanuel Can. The Economist declares: “The danger is that a rising sense of insecurity will lead to more electoral victories for closed-world types. This is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.”

“Nothing matters more.” That’s pretty clear. So tell me, IC, is it possible to be a Christian globalist? Can we hold such an ideological position coherently and biblically?

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Inbox: Was Christ Actually ‘Good’?

I’m going to share with you a short exchange I had with a couple of philosophers, because it was interesting to me, and helped me think through a few things more carefully. The issue it raises might be something you’ve thought about as well.

A short aside: for the most part, I have reproduced my partners’ conversation mostly verbatim. I’ve only altered a couple of punctuation glitches, and made a couple of small line changes in my response. I’ve also inserted a few lines after-the-fact to help you track and to make it work as an article. But the substance is pretty much exactly as it really happened.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

If It Happens Again I’m Leaving

Doug Wilson is not the only Christian blogging about the phenomenon of people leaving a church over the issue of compulsory mask-wearing, but he’s probably more quoted on the subject than most. Responding in a recent post to questions from believers frustrated by the stand their own elders have taken over the issue, Doug has (perhaps inadvertently) opened a larger can of worms than the mask issue itself, which is the authority of elders to bind the consciences of those under their care over matters about which scripture is silent.

And the mask issue is certainly that.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Inbox: ‘Systemic’ Racism

Israel had the greatest system in the history of our planet.

God gave a plethora of laws to Moses on Sinai, yet they did not make for a perfect society because people are not perfect. Individuals observed those laws from time to time, and in doing so, benefited from them. But on a national level, Israel would not — nay, could not — follow those laws, notwithstanding the fact that they were morally excellent, decent, orderly, and taught lessons humanity absolutely needed to learn, not to mention they pointed to Christ. So God gave them, man received them, and the result was systemic failure.

Or was it?

Monday, September 07, 2020

Anonymous Asks (109)

“If God loves the world, why does he make people choose between loving him back or spending eternity in hell? That sounds more like an ultimatum than love.”

I agree: that choice does sound a bit like an ultimatum. The Bible also frames it as a command.

Why is that? Why is there no third option where God simply leaves me alone to do my own thing, and I leave him alone to do his? Surely a policy of benign indifference would be more loving than condemning millions of people to a lake of fire.

I wonder what simply leaving humanity to its own devices would look like ...

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Semi-Random Musings (21)

Most of our readers would not be aware that I have been at the office almost non-stop these last few weeks as a consequence of a plethora of COVID-related staff absences. That’s not because even a single employee of hundreds across the globe has contracted the coronavirus — so far as I know, they are all healthy as horses — but because almost nobody currently working from home has any enthusiasm about returning to work in the current environment, and the corporate powers that be are even less enthusiastic about ordering them to do so. The vast majority of my co-workers seem content to hunker down in their basements doing not too much of anything until sometime in Spring 2021.

Yeah, sure … that’ll be the end of it. Right.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Time and Chance (52)

Just this week, a friend of mine took his three-and-half-year-old grandson hiking through a local terraced cemetery. As they climbed, they stopped to read a gravestone together at every level. Recognizing the shape of the recurring word forms, the little boy soon began to repeat phrases like “In loving memory” and “beloved wife”.

When the two returned home to tell Grandma what they had been up to, her agitated response was, “I hope you didn’t tell him what the numbers mean.”

Yeah, those numbers …