Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Bible Study 02 — Comparison [Part 2]

Another instalment in the re-presentation of our 2013-2014 series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here and the previous post here.

Last post I concluded with the idea that the best interpreter of scripture is more scripture, as opposed to culture, history, political correctness and other external sources of meaning that we are often tempted to impose on the word of God. Our first Bible study tool is comparison.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Bible Study 01 — Comparison [Part 1]

This is the first instalment in the re-presentation of our series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here.

Looking for Answers

A group of Sadducees once tried to convince Jesus by the use of an absurd hypothetical that resurrection of the dead is impossible. The Lord didn’t simply give them a lecture on his personal opinion or fall into the trap of answering their silly question. Instead, he referred them right back to the Old Testament that they professed to believe in order to correct their misunderstanding:

“Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.’ ”

“Have you not read what was said to you by God?” he asked, and proceeded to astonish them with a conclusion drawn from the use of the tense of the Hebrew equivalent of the verb “to be” in the book of Exodus.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Anonymous Asks (155)

“What is the difference between an archangel and a cherub?”

Whether we are talking about Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy or even the cults, religious tradition has plenty to say about the more powerful angelic entities, their roles, descriptions, names and history. Most of what is written is conjectural. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all wrong, but even accurate speculation is still just speculation. It has no authority for Christians.

So then, I will try to stick pretty close to the scripture on this one …

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Bible Study 00 — Introduction

Studying the Bible is good for you.

Forgive me for stating the obvious. The late Christopher Hitchens would probably have disagreed, famously insisting “Religion poisons everything.” I could bob and weave and insist that Christianity isn’t really a religion properly speaking, but Christianity was certainly one of the targets, if not the main focus, of Mr. Hitchens’ ire.

But Christianity, properly understood and practised, doesn’t poison anything at all.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (25)

One attitude that seems to characterize nations on the brink of being judged, conquered and dispersed in scripture is an all-but-universal denial of the inevitable.

Jesus himself prophesied judgment on Israel. And yet the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 was the direct result of the First Jewish Revolt against Roman rule, which had begun four years earlier. Large numbers of Jews simply couldn’t imagine losing to Rome despite the long odds. They were in absolute denial of reality. So the rebels gambled with the lives of their friends and families and lost, setting the stage for centuries of Jewish diaspora.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: ‘Apostles’ and ‘Prophets’

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

Everybody’s looking for greater certainty these days it seems, even Christians. Our own Immanuel Can has written at length about how the resurgence of Calvinism is evidence of it, and I’ve recently done some reflecting on how Christians often speak about the “call of God” to bolster their confidence in what in most cases are just their own decisions.

Tom: This, though, might take the cake, IC. A new and rapidly-growing charismatic movement mostly off the radar of other Protestants. Independent Network Charismatics (or “INC Christians”) find their certainty in alleged “prophetic” voices and the pronouncements of “super-apostles”.

It’s big-bucks too. Christianity Today notes that the Asuza Now conference in the LA Coliseum drew 50,000 people in the rain, and almost nobody knew about it outside the INC movement.

How’d you like to have the apostles and prophets back, IC?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Worldviews: Question 1 — Origins

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth … God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

In my last post, I promised to say something further about worldviews. I noted that a thing called “Worldview Analysis” is gaining currency in Christian circles and well beyond. I said that I’ve found it a very helpful way of looking at life: one that provides some key answers to profound questions that all people have.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Purpose-Built

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Remember pet rocks? Five million of those useless things were sold in 1975-76. They were marketed to people with a droll sense of humor and no time or energy to devote to a real pet. Like any fad they quickly disappeared, but for a brief period of time the pet rock craze made the people who came up with the idea some serious money.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Language of the Debate (4)

Professional magicians refer to the art of misdirection as “attention management”. I like that. The basic idea is to direct the eyes of one’s audience to one thing so they do not notice another.

That pretty much sums up how the word antisemitism is being used today. It has become the favorite attention management device of con artists and people with unsavory agendas.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Anonymous Asks (154)

“What is a reprobate mind?”

The phrase “reprobate mind” comes from the old English translation of Romans 1:28, where Paul declares that when men and women reject the knowledge of God and refuse to honor and give thanks to him, God gives them up to a “reprobate mind”.

The Greek word underlying the translation is adokimos, which means literally “not approved”, and refers to something that does not meet objective standards of acceptability; for example, a counterfeit coin, a metal alloy which doesn’t hold up when subjected to stress, or soil that looks normal but in which nothing can grow.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

In Due Season

The author, on one of his better days.

I get tired.

I’m a little tired right now, as a matter of fact. There are days and weeks when I seem to be doing the same thing over and over again, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. And I think, “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” I’ve asked the Lord about it, I’ve prayed for a resolution, and yet …

Yeah, you guessed it: every week, it’s just more of the same.

It’s a special sort of modern, western, slightly self-indulgent “tired”, when you think about it. Persecuted Christians get tired too, I’m sure, but in a very different way. Despair and exhaustion are a far cry from boredom and ennui.

But we in western Christian culture have the malaise of repetitive, often (apparently) ineffectual service to contend with nonetheless.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (24)

The Israelite legal requirement for multiple witnesses to any criminal charge goes back to the Law of Moses and the book of Numbers, but is itself restated many times in scripture. By the time we encounter it in the New Testament from the apostle Paul, there is a new twist on the “two or three” rule. “This is the third time I am coming to you,” he writes. “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

Did you catch that? In this case the three witnesses are all the same person. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that’s not precisely what God intended.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Bad Reasons to be Nondenominational

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

Christianity Today reports that about one in six Christians now refer to themselves as “nondenominational”, which is about double the number who did so as recently as the turn of the century.

Tom: Gallup says:

“Increasingly, Christian Americans … prefer to either identify themselves simply as Christians or attend the increasing number of nondenominational churches that have no formal allegiance to a broader religious structure.”

What do you think about that, IC? It’s not all good news, is it?

Immanuel Can: No, probably not. Some of it is.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Worldviews: An Introduction

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world … Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going …’ ”

Jesus Christ was a person who really knew who he was. His critics (and there are more today than ever) say all manner of things about him and against him, but I have never heard one of them suggest that he had any confusion about his identity. Nor have they suggested he had any uncertainty about what he was doing. No one was ever more definite.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Little History and a Look Down the Road

The famous Phoenician seaport of Tyre has a long history intertwined with the history of Israel. When Canaan was first divided into tribal allotments under Joshua, the border of the territory assigned to the tribe of Asher ran right along Old Tyre’s city limits.

This immediate proximity to one of the greatest trading centers of the ancient world made it natural for the people of Israel to engage in commerce with their northern neighbor, so that when David needed to build himself a palace, the materials, carpenters and masons all came from the friendly king of Tyre.

David recognized in this act of friendship an indication that God had established his kingdom. He was not wrong.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Grace of Receiving

It is undoubtedly more blessed to give than to receive — I know, I didn’t exactly come to that conclusion on my own — but I suspect it may also be easier, at least for Christians.

When we become children of God, we receive a new nature like that of God himself. Paul urges the Ephesian believers to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Anonymous Asks (153)

“Do Jews go to heaven?”

Before we rush to give a pat answer to what seems an obvious question, we should stop to ask what the questioner means by “Jews”. The word is used several different ways today, and the answer very much depends on which sort of Jew the writer has in mind.

A discussion of how the term came to be used to mean so many different things to so many different people may be found here.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

A Thwarted Coup d’État

“And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ ”

The synoptic gospels recount an incident where Jesus is informed that his family members have gathered outside his residence in Capernaum and want to see him. The Lord then turns to his disciples inside the house and asks them, “Who are my mother and brothers?”

Such a reaction may at first sound a little dismissive to us if we do not understand the circumstances. But of the three accounts, only Mark provides insight into the true motives of Mary and the Lord’s earthly siblings.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (23)

Who would eagerly anticipate and call for God to act in judgment? You might be surprised.

When injustice is rampant in society, those who are hurting tend to identify the beneficiaries of their perceived oppression and blame everyone in that targeted group regardless of personal involvement. In Germany it was the Jews. In Mao’s China it was the wealthy landowners. In Western society it is the “patriarchy”. In the Israel of Amos’s day, it was the rich.

So then, up goes the cry for judgment: If only God would deal with this fellow over here, or that group over there, everything would be fine.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Rightsizing the Church

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

On his blog, Karl Vaters considers new strategies for church planting and concludes the body of Christ might well function as effectively or even more effectively with 50 smaller churches than a single megachurch.

Tom: Interesting post, IC. He says a lot of things I agree with that not too many other evangelical pastors are saying, and also makes a few statements I find a little naïve or maybe misinformed. First off, it sounds as if he believes megachurches are planted like regular churches, and grow more or less naturally to their colossal size.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

In Need of Analysis: Wake Up and Smell the Potpourri

I’ve never really liked Christian bookstores.

They have that cloying sweetness typical of the boutiques my wife loves, the ones that sell knick-knacks, scented candles and throw pillows. There’s just an unreality to such places that hits you from the moment you step in the door, a sense that you are entering a zone that has nothing at all to do with the world outside, and where perhaps strange and delicate mythical creatures can thrive.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but you get the idea. If you’ve been in such a store, you know: there’s just something terribly weird about the place. The divergence between the real world and the interior environment — and even its divergence from other store environments — is quite startling; and when you first walk in it takes you a moment to adjust.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Under the Science Bus [Part 2]

Before Christians join Michael Gungor and a growing number of fellow believers in throwing Noah, Adam, Eve, Jonah and a bunch of other Old Testament standards under the big ol’ scary Science Bus, I’m going to suggest we ask ourselves a few more questions about science:

5.  Are Scientists Infallible?

One only needs a quick glance at Wikipedia’s lengthy list of superseded scientific theories to recognize that they are not.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Under the Science Bus [Part 1]

I have a degree of respect for the intelligence of critics who dismiss scripture in its entirety on the basis that it is unscientific or incredible, though I don’t agree with them (and, in many instances, their arguments would be more convincing if they would take the time to actually read what they are criticizing).

At least, if wrong, their position is intellectually coherent.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Anonymous Asks (152)

“Should we worship the Holy Spirit?”

Long before the Word was made flesh, the Holy Spirit was present in the world and active on behalf of the Godhead. We find him in the second verse of Genesis, the fourth-last verse of Revelation, and everywhere in between. He is mentioned approximately 100 times in the Old Testament and well over 200 in the New. It has been demonstrated from the scriptures that he possesses the same attributes as both Father and Son.* His significance to us can hardly be overstated, since without him we would not have the written Word at all.

So it’s a good question: Why not worship the Holy Spirit? He’s certainly worthy of our worship.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

With One Hand Behind His Back

“This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.”

It must be very frustrating to be Satan.

Picture this: you are bound and determined to thwart the will of God, to destroy his work, to make null and void his promises, to corrupt his servants and taint everything he touches, to remake the world in your own image and to make your name greater than his.

And God beats you every time. With one almighty hand metaphorically tied behind his metaphorical back.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (22)

Towards the end of Deuteronomy, when God is renewing the nation’s covenant in Moab with a new generation of Israelites, Moses sets a choice before the people. The choice is life and good, death and evil. One road leads one way, the other in the opposite.

Obey God’s commandments as your fathers did not, Moses says, and you will live and multiply. These commandments are synonymous with “good”. Goodness is not a matter of personal opinion. God has declared what it is. No discussion is necessary. “Choose life,” Moses strongly recommends.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: EDM in the ‘Sanctuary’

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

Christianity Today notes a new trend in “worship”: electronic dance music. As writer Jeff Neely puts it, “layers of computer-programmed electronic backing tracks, quarter-note bass thumps, and cycles of musical ‘builds’ and ‘drops’, much of it set to a tempo around 130 beats per minute.”

*headdesk*

Tom: That’s my sister’s response, Immanuel Can, and I think it’s entirely apropos. Some things are beyond the pale. But perhaps we can use it as a jumping-on point to discuss the role of enthusiasm in worship, what sort of place the arts might have or not have in the context of local church gatherings, and so on.

That work for you?

Immanuel Can: Certainly.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

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, June 30, 2021

Not-Fake Love

“Let love be genuine.”

Familiar verses describe the positive qualities of Christian love — that it is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, is full of hope, and so on. Other qualities of Christian love are expressed by the New Testament writers as the absence of something bad — not arrogant, not rude, not selfishly insistent, not resentful.

Genuineness is a positive quality, but the word underlying Romans 12:9 is actually one of these Greek negations. We might translate it “not-fake”. Reflecting this, other translations go with “unfeigned”, “without hypocrisy” and “without dissimulation”, the last of which may be a little too archaic to be much use.

It reminds us that loving in truth demands we avoid insincerity.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (15)

In our early twenties, my cousin and I would get together once a week or so to study the Bible and debate theology. Our discussions were mostly amiable but a little frustrating for both of us. Because we attended churches that held very different views about the meaning of Bible prophecy and the future prospects of God’s earthly people, our underlying assumptions about the meaning of the texts we studied together were sharply at odds far too frequently for comfort.

One regular bone of contention was the meaning of the word “Israel”. My cuz used it figuratively, I used it literally, and back and forth we went. We never did resolve our debate. Funnily enough, I am still thrashing this out on a regular basis, just with different people.

And ... here it is again.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Anonymous Asks (151)

“Why do some Bible translations not capitalize pronouns referring to God?”

Much like personal choice of Bible translation and no small number of doctrinal issues, this is a question hotly debated among believers. People are rarely neutral about deity pronouns. The reasons for choosing to capitalize or not capitalize them may vary from publisher to publisher, but these three reasons provided by the publishers of the relatively recent English Standard Version are probably the most common.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Provided We Suffer

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Simon Peter didn’t want to suffer with Jesus.

Oh, he said he did. He thought he did. When he made his promises of loyalty, he wasn’t virtue signaling to the other disciples or pretending to love his Lord more than he really did. At least, it doesn’t read that way to me in the gospels. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Emphatic statements made from the heart, and quite ingenuous.

Then, to his horror, Peter found he wasn’t up to the job. His aspirations exceeded his execution. Put to the test, he discovered he wasn’t really ready to suffer with the Lord Jesus after all.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (21)

We hear a lot in the current environment about how the powers that exist have been instituted by God, and that whoever resists them resists God’s ordinance. And that is certainly true, but only to a point. Scripture is full of men and women who didn’t simply go along with unlawful orders from tyrants, and who, far from incurring judgment, were blessed by God for resisting the expressed will of those very “powers that be”.

It falls to each one of us to decide before God at what point Romans 13 no longer applies to our circumstances. Invariably, some of us will make mistakes, either acting too hastily in defiance of authority, or else waiting too long to put up resistance. But if I’m going to be one of those acting in error, I think I’d prefer to be too quick off the mark than to drag my feet and regret it later.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Religion by the Numbers

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

Lyman Stone is a Lutheran believer who likes math. So he has built, in his words, “a complete annual dataset for every religious group in America as far back as I could get data”. That turns out to be 1925. If you want to know how your favorite denomination is doing demographically these days, especially compared to how it has done historically, Stone might well be the most informed guy on the block.

George Barna would be proud. Maybe. Assuming he doesn’t mind the competition.

Tom: You’ve mentioned before that you’re not a big stats guy, IC. What is it you don’t like about parsing data?

Thursday, June 24, 2021

It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

The Lord is king forever and ever.”

The 2014 NCAA football championship final was an amazing game. The Florida State Seminoles and their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, high on a record-breaking season, were pitted against the upstart Auburn Tigers, recent defeaters of last year’s national champions. Florida State was touted as the prohibitive favorite — but as they say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Auburn stormed out onto the field and took the Seminoles off guard. Their crafty game plan, superior aggression at the line and some stellar execution by their offense rapidly staked them to an overwhelming 21-3 lead. Meanwhile, nothing the Seminoles tried seemed to work, and Auburn’s every touch of the ball was golden.

But as they say, the game weren’t over yet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Judgment and Clarity

I know a man whose whole view of God was shaped by his religious family’s reaction to the death of his mother from cancer early in his childhood. When she became ill, various devout family members offered speculation and conjecture about what the poor woman had done to incur God’s ire.

Appalled at their rush to judgment, the boy rejected Christians and everything we believe. Today, he still gets worked up if God’s name is mentioned even in passing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Putting It in Words

“They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”

Years ago I was blathering to one of my brothers about some girl who shall remain nameless, mostly because I can’t even remember who she was now; just another in a lengthy series of post-teen passing interests that remained unreciprocated, a blessing I appreciate more today than I did then.

Early in this conversation my brother told me to please shut up.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Anonymous Asks (150)

“Why did the Lord condemn Corban?”

The word korban comes from Hebrew transliterated into Greek, and has most likely made it untranslated into English by way of the 1611 KJV. The gospel of Mark tells us it means an offering, or “given to God”. Of course there is nothing wrong with the practice of giving things to God, and Jesus did not condemn the practice of Corban in any broad, general sense.

It was what the Jewish religious leaders had done with Corban that was the problem. As Jesus put it in quoting Isaiah, the Pharisees were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”. They had substituted their own tradition for the command of God, and in doing so were “making void the word of God”.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

You Don’t Know My Father

Let me tell you a story about my father.

Once upon a time (actually, more than once), a very badly behaved little boy sat in the back seat of the family car during a long road trip, deliberately provoking the driver by ramming his pointy little knees into the small of the driver’s back. It was a source of great pleasure to the boy, who disliked long car trips, had become bored and was looking for something fun to do.

From the front seat of the car came a series of calm responses something like this: “Stop that, please” … “I believe I told you to stop that” … “If you don’t stop that, there are going to be consequences”, and eventually, “The next time you do that, we’re going to have to pull over.”

Finally, after the third or fourth transparently intentional provocation, the car eased over to the shoulder of the highway, and child and parent made a trip into the woods together for some clarification as to who was in charge.

Keep this story in mind, if you will.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (20)

“Teachers told us
the Romans built this place.
They built a wall and a temple on
an edge-of-the-empire garrison town.
They lived and they died.
They prayed to their gods
but the stone gods did not make a sound.
And their empire crumbled
’til all that was left were
stones the workmen found.”

— Sting, All This Time

One of my favorite songs ever recorded by the ex-singer of The Police makes the point that empires rise and fall while the natural world goes about its business. “All this time, the river flowed endlessly to the sea,” goes the chorus. Being English, Sting singles out the Roman Empire, but he could as easily have written about those of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo-Persians or Greeks.

Or, frankly, the Americans.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: A House Divided

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

Immanuel Can: Tom, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but a division seems to be forming within the Christian community generally, and within some local churches as well, over the issue of what we all should have done about the government’s lockdowns. In some cases, the debate is becoming quite heated. One side says “the powers that be are ordained of God”, and that as a duty to love our neighbor, all Christians should be very thorough in obeying the government’s dictates. The other side points out that love of neighbor is the second commandment, not the first, the first being to love God above all, and that all Christians have a duty to “obey God rather than men”.

Tom: Actually, I’ve written extensively about that very subject here and here, and I’ve recently been enjoying a few of the more radical “first commandment” folks online. As you point out, both sides have their scriptures.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Louder Than Words

“Words, words, words,” says Hamlet.

He’s not enthused. And rightly so. Sometimes there are just too many words.

The Bible says, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.” It’s talking about prayer, of course, but the point carries more generally: even the smartest of us is pretty limited in knowledge. The Lord can use as many words as he wants, and every one of them will be right; but when we human beings talk too much, we make mistakes. Sometimes, we even roll right into sin.

So we’re encouraged to be careful, talk only about what we know, use our words precisely, and not to multiply them without due attention to what we’re really doing. After all, teachers receive a more serious condemnation if they do a bad job.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Falling and Standing

“Son of Adam, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.”

Ezekiel the priest had fallen on his face at the sight of the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. As a son of fallen Adam, that was where he belonged. That is where we all belong, naturally speaking. Down through history, whenever men glimpsed the glory of the Lord even in smaller ways than the spectacular view afforded Ezekiel, they have tended to keel over.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

An Essential Human Right

Early in June, Nigeria became the world’s ninth country to either restrict the social media website Twitter, or ban it outright. Being neither a tweet generator nor a tweet consumer, I consider that no great loss for Nigerians. Twitter naturally disagreed, declaring an open internet an “essential human right”. The irony, of course, is that the same company has had no problem censoring the Nigerian president’s own tweets, not to mention banning US President Donald Trump entirely.

When you make the bed ...

Monday, June 14, 2021

Anonymous Asks (149)

“Did Jesus know he was the Messiah?”

Nobody ever displayed a more definite sense of his purpose in this world than Jesus of Nazareth.

We see it in him long before his ministry began. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” he asked his anxious mother. This was not some generalized impression that the people of God ought not to forsake gathering together, but a specific sense that he uniquely belonged where God had placed his name. “I must be.”

He was twelve years old and “about my Father’s business”, as another translation puts it.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Serving and Being

“Have you considered my servant Job?”

The jargon believers use with one another often sounds a little unusual to those unfamiliar with it, something of which I was jarringly reminded during a conversation a few weeks back with an unsaved friend. I lapsed momentarily into incomprehensible Churchian and unthinkingly used a euphemism to describe a Bible teacher with whom we are both acquainted.

I called him a “servant of the Lord”.

Servant?” my friend remarked. “What a strange thing to say!”

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (19)

There is no such thing as a truly secular state. Man was made to worship, and if he will not worship the one true God, then he will worship false gods. If he does not worship false gods, then he ends up worshiping himself. But worship he will, one way or another.

The problem with alternatives to the worship of the one true God is that they are all futile.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Not Going Back

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

If you’ve been watching the numbers over the last few months, it should be evident to even the most Negative Nancy that the COVID-19 rates of infection and death are finally decreasing steadily. We may reasonably discount the weekly cries of the media alarmists about the latest terrifying variant; that’s just what they do when they’re all out of stories about dying polar bears.

Tom: And so we are beginning to hear tentative musings about reopening businesses and getting back to something approaching our pre-March 2020 way of living. As someone who worked in the office throughout the entire song and dance, I was more than a little surprised to read that I am not necessarily in the majority in my desire to see society normalize. Tim Kreider of The Atlantic has decided he’d rather stay in bed, along with untold numbers of others who would rather work from home forever ... or preferably not work at all.

IC, didn’t one of the ‘seven deadlies’ use to be the sin of sloth?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Scales and Panes

I was chatting with a young man yesterday.

He considers himself a Christian. And maybe he is. I hope he is. But he’s certainly confused about something very basic to salvation; and maybe it will surprise you what it is.

He doesn’t really understand sin.

Now, understanding what it is we are saved from is pretty necessary to salvation, so I’m concerned. I want him to have a correct grasp of how sin relates to the holiness of God. And I’m troubled that his teachers have not taught him this.

So I’m going to try to do a short explanation for you. And I’m going to start with this question:

How bad is sin?

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

After the Fact

The Latin term vaticinium ex eventu is used by liberal scholars and critics of the Bible to describe a prophecy they believe was made “from the event”, or literally after the fact. For example, German scholar Ferdinand Hitzig objected to prophecies about the king of Egypt made in Jeremiah 44:29-30, calling them vaticinium ex eventu. The argument of men like Hitzig is that later writers forged one or more prophecies in Jeremiah’s name based on events which had already occurred, and grafted them into the existing text of Jeremiah, presumably in order to make his writings appear more credible.

Hitzig died in 1875, by the way, so obviously this is not a new issue. And he’s far from the only expert to make such claims.