Friday, December 31, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Offenders for a Word

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

Christianity Today’s Caleb Lindgren interviews author Brian J. Wright about his new book, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus.

Tom: We bounced this article around by email last week, IC, and it was fodder for a few interesting observations. I thought we might revisit it here. One major weakness of Lindgren’s interview is that he never quite gets Brian Wright to define “communal reading” for us, and the term then ends up being used to describe a whole bunch of different things in the course of the interview.

Care to take a shot at defining it?

Thursday, December 30, 2021

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, December 29, 2021

My Contingent Ego (or A Matter of Pride)

You can’t discuss a matter effectively unless you really understand what the other side is saying.

Mischaracterizing the other position is extremely common in theological disagreements. I try very hard to avoid it here by quoting people directly, linking to context, and reading and contemplating an argument before I reply to it. I try even harder to avoid speculating about the motives of those with whom I disagree, since these are irrelevant to the truth or error of a person’s viewpoint.

But even these precautions cannot guarantee I have really heard and comprehended what the other side is trying to communicate.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Infinite and Infinitesimal

“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.”

Here we have a series of what can only be called anthropomorphisms. Okay, I suppose technically we could call them “verbs ascribing human actions to that which is not human”, but let’s take six syllables over fifteen. The point is that the writer of Exodus is using language we understand to describe processes we can’t possibly comprehend.

Consider ...

Monday, December 27, 2021

Anonymous Asks (177)

“How does one write effectively about Christianity in a work of fiction?”

The Christian faith has been a defining feature of my life so long that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of it at some level, even if it was only that I didn’t like the pews in church because my feet couldn’t reach the floor, or that my parents didn’t approve when I got down and crawled between them during the service. My childhood reading was full of “Christian” literature, from the too-saccharine adventures of the Sugar Creek Gang to the memorable spiritual analogies of C.S. Lewis’s children’s books.

Later in life I developed a taste for detective fiction and sci-fi, and discovered that secular writers have their own reasons for depicting Christians and their faith in one light or another.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Division and the Preservation of the Bible

People often complain that Christians are divided. Denominationally, intellectually, interpretationally, geographically and/or racially divided. Some even take this as evidence the claims of Christ are untrue.

I take a little different tack on that subject. In 2014, I wrote about the reasons Christians are divided. In 2015, I even wrote about the good that occasionally results from these divisions.

If I keep coming back to the subject, it’s not because I want to repeat myself but because so many people see it as a major problem.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Peace Rules

December 24, 1914. Nightfall.

British, French and German troops are hunkered down at Flanders, fighting the latest “War To End All Wars”. Barbed wire. Bayonets. Machine guns. Gas. Trenches half full of fetid water, with walls composed of human bodies. Dysentery, decay, despair and death. Miserable troops on both sides of a sixty-yard space of devastated earth shiver in the clammy cold of winter, waiting for the order to scrabble over the top.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: A COVID Christmas

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more holiday-oriented than usual.

Tom: I was out for my early morning walk in a little bit of a mood, and I decided the thing to do was to spend my prayer time thanking the Lord for the good things he has brought into my life and the great things he is doing in this world.

I’m sure you can imagine exactly what happened, IC: my mood changed drastically.

Immanuel Can: Gratitude will do that, won’t it? One of the great sins of mankind is lack of it.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (7)

Mining the Minors and Immanuel Can’s usual Thursday post have swapped spots this week. I’m sure you can guess why.

As I noted in the fifth instalment in this series, the latter verses of Hosea 2 — in my English translation at least — divide nicely into three sections, each of which conveniently begins with the word “therefore”. These divisions are not completely arbitrary. They reflect three movements in God’s program for idolatrous Israel, a program to which Israel must respond either positively or negatively. I also noted that the English translators of the ESV signal the intentionality of these movements with the words “I will”.

The first movement in verses 6-8 gives us two of God’s “I wills” and one of Israel’s.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Things Hidden in Darkness

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn. He was named by his mother in hope that his existence in the world would be a turning point in her relationship with her husband, who had eyes only for her more-attractive sister. But now that Leah had given Jacob a son, perhaps finally she would be loved.

As one might anticipate, that optimistic gesture turned out to be futile. Leah’s hopes were dashed.

Did young Reuben resent the way his father treated his mother? Come on, a firstborn son? We feel responsible for everything that happens to everybody. That’s just the dynamics of birth order. It would have been impossible for him to grow up unaware of the ever-present tension between his mother and her sister, or of the lack of interest his father displayed in Leah. No, Reuben was right in the middle of all the family intrigue.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Why Not Now?

We live in an age of instant gratification.

If I want a superior coffee experience, I have only to walk to the corner, or drive to my friend Rod’s house. If I want to know what’s happening across the world, five minutes with CNN will probably do it. If I want to feign expert knowledge of virtually any subject, half an hour of Googling enables me to pass myself off as conversant with all but the genuinely knowledgeable.

God doesn’t operate that way. It’s a bit vexing at times, I must admit.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Anonymous Asks (176)

“What specific verse/passage about human nature resonates the most with your observations?”

That’s a tough one to pin down. Whichever passage I choose today, I’m almost guaranteed to find an even better one tomorrow.

Would you settle for a top five?

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Heiser Bolt of Lightning

A couple of weeks ago I promised to devote an entire blog post to the bolt of lightning that hit my synapses when I read a single, throwaway paragraph in Michael S. Heiser’s The Unseen Realm. It was a delightful experience to find that the scriptures account for the cognitive dissonance I and other Bible students experience when we compare many prophecies in their original Old Testament contexts to their fulfillments as described by the writers of the New Testament.

A familiar example of such a “Whuzzat?” moment: Matthew’s use of the words “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (6)

When Canada rejected Stephen Harper as Prime Minister in favor of a candidate whose most identifiable features were his last name and haircut, I was completely unsurprised.

At the time I often lunched in a semi-trendy midtown café frequented by liberal-leaning twenty-somethings. It’s a small place; even if you are not inclined to eavesdrop, the tables are wedged in so tightly that you can hardly fail to pick up the broad strokes of any animated conversation in the room. Back in 2015, day after day, patron after patron, the subject was politics and nothing but. Young Canadian urbanites hungered for an abrupt swing to the left, and they were determined to make it happen.

And so they did. The country has yet to recover.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Where There is No Vision ...

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

Kevin Miller is an Executive VP at Christianity Today International. In this article he lays out a number of ways that one can go about developing a vision.

Tom: Immanuel Can, Miller is ignoring the elephant in the room: he starts with the unstudied assertion that good leaders must always be men of vision and charges right into how we can all acquire it without addressing why this quality is allegedly a critical component of leadership.

And he’s not alone.

Immanuel Can: You’re right, Tom, there are a lot of people talking about our lack of vision as Christians today. What do you think accounts for this widespread concern, and how legit do you think it is?

Thursday, December 16, 2021

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, December 15, 2021

Another Cat and Dog Story

Trust between two beings is a wonderful and tremendously fragile thing.

Another cat and dog story. Sorry. You find your illustrations where you find them, and I’ll do the same. Pet haters may tune out here.

Dogs and cats are very different beings. Obviously, each member of a species is a unique set of data points on a wide spectrum of behavioral characteristics. Your Rottweiler is not my Shih Tzu. Your amiable moggy is not my brother’s exceedingly defined Siamese. Some animals in each species exhibit more trust than others. But generally speaking, dogs are way more trusting than cats, and cats are way smarter. At least those are the uneducated observations of a lifetime of enjoying God’s creation up close.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Man With No Handles

“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

What was the Lord talking about here? It is true that he always did what the Father commanded, but I suspect in this time and place he was talking specifically about what might motivate him to go to the cross. He prefaced his declaration by noting that the “ruler of this world” was making his move.

Nevertheless, for all his apparent power, Satan had no claim on him.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Anonymous Asks (175)

“What does the Bible say about church-hopping?”

In the early first century, the world had a grand total of one local church. It may have had thousands of people in it, but “all who believed were together and had all things in common”.

In AD45, you couldn’t church-hop. There was nowhere to hop to.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Doesn’t Always Mean What We Think It Means (7)

In Greek, the words “Jew”, “Jews” and “Jewish” (sometimes translated “Judean”) are all variations on Ioudaios. That term was discussed in what some might call excruciating detail in the second post in this series, the length being necessary because of confusion arising from the way “Jew” is used today in popular secular and religious parlance.

Unsaved folk often refer to Gentiles converted to Judaism as “Jews”. This is most likely an accidental byproduct of unfamiliarity with biblical usage and/or the preferences of actual Jews, as opposed to evidence of a hidden agenda. Real Jews draw a clear distinction between their fellow Jews and converts to Judaism, whom they call proselytes. (Certain well-known evangelicals also use “Jew” to describe Gentiles, but for very specific theological reasons we won’t get into today.)

Suffice it to say that the Bible doesn’t use “Jew” that way.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (5)

Like many features of modern Bibles, chapter divisions are not inspired. The Spirit of God was not their author. They were added by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1227 and first appeared in the Wycliffe English Bible of 1382. Generally speaking, they make scripture easier to navigate and we should probably be grateful for them.

At very least, most of us are so used to them that we can’t imagine reading the Bible any other way than chapter by chapter.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Fellows in the Same Ship

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

Scott Mannion believes in the value of fellowship: the communal spirit; taking ownership of problem-solving at the local level, rather than looking to government for answers; “distributing the burden of cognition”, as he puts it. He’s promoting fellowship vigorously, because he believes top-down solutions to our problems are simply not working.

Tom: Mannion’s YouTube video is the first time in a very long while that I’ve heard the word “fellowship” used outside a purely religious context. He certainly gets the concept right. IC, this one was your baby: what was it about the video that grabbed you?

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Assumptions and Loaded Conversations

Back in 2012, NBA Commissioner David Stern caught flack for cracking an old joke in an interview with Jim Rome. Rome asked him if the NBA lottery was rigged. Stern came back with, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

Of course, this immediately got him into trouble with the PC set, who took him to be making fun of the very serious issue of wife abuse. I can sympathize with their ire; but in fairness, I think it’s not what Stern was trying to say. He was actually referring to an old (admittedly somewhat tasteless) joke. I think I first read it on a bubble gum wrapper when I was a kid, and I remember seeing it in other places as well. It was one of those things that was “just around”. The joke went like this:

Question: What’s a question you cannot answer either “Yes” or “No”?

Answer: Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Perhaps Stern and I chewed the same gum, I don’t know.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Thoughts of Eternity

We were crossing a boulevard in downtown San Francisco a few years ago. A street preacher on the far corner had a microphone and an amp, and every reference to “the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin” echoed up and down the avenue at serious volume, etching themselves into our eardrums as we drew closer. I guess that’s legal in San Francisco; everything else sure is.

My unsaved friend turned to me and asked, “Why do they do that?” Which gave me twenty uninterrupted minutes to tell her.

Hats off to the loudmouth on the corner.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Two Camps

Jacob was a natural manipulator. Born the second of a pair of twins, he came out of his mother’s womb hanging on to Esau’s heel. That makes sense: why expend your own effort when you can just ride along in big brother’s slipstream? That act, probably completely unconscious, defined him and became his name, and “grasping the heel” became a Hebrew metaphor for taking the easy way out.

Cheating, we call it. And Jacob did it over and over again.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Anonymous Asks (174)

“What tools exist for getting a perspective on Bible history and confirming its accuracy?”

There is no better way to get a bird’s-eye perspective of Bible history than by repeatedly reading the Old Testament from beginning to end. If that sounds like a lot of work, well ... it is. But, for the serious Christian, it’s absolutely worth committing to and making a part of every day of your life.

While you are building that knowledge base, though, there are a few shortcuts you can use.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Seven Sabbaths

Quick question: How many Sabbaths was the Lord Jesus accused of breaking?

Well, we can’t say for certain, as there is no guarantee the writers of the Gospels were attempting to document every occasion on which the Jewish leadership became offended with him for allegedly doing it.

What we do know is that the first four books of the New Testament make reference to seven occasions when the Lord explained the reasons for his behavior.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (4)

As previously mentioned, the book of Hosea is made up of both background historical material as well as the content of the message given by God to the nation of Israel through the prophet. These last four verses of chapter one set up the remainder of the book for us. Chapter two will take us directly into Hosea’s message.

But first, Hosea’s wife Gomer has another child to bring into the world ...

Friday, December 03, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Culture and the Gospel

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

Immanuel Can: I’m going to temporarily suspend our self-imposed five-sentence limit, Tom, in order to tell you a story about something that happened last year when our provincial standardized test was performed.

You need to know that teachers are all given a specific script for what they are and are not allowed to tell students on the day of the test. They are expressly forbidden to go beyond this script, and doing so is grounds for firing. Teachers cannot add any directions, explanations, definitions or any other kind of information to this. They are not allowed to give any guidance once the test begins, no matter what a student wants or needs. It’s standardized, period.

One of the questions on the test asked kids to imagine a picnic, and then write based on their imagining.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Is Your Faith Boring You?

The great mathematician Blaise Pascal claimed all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Modern people don’t sit in rooms alone very well. They find it boring. And, in fact, being bored is one thing almost all of us instinctively hate. Particularly in our present day of social media, cell phones, portable games and constant mental stimulation, it seems to us that solitude and silence are indicators of something being terribly wrong. On those occasions when we find ourselves momentarily bored we immediately fumble for our phones or look around for some new distraction.

I suspect we are probably less adept than any previous generation at just sitting still and thinking.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Bolt-of-Lightning Belief

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say the internet has changed the way we find answers to our spiritual questions.

In times past, we might have picked up a book on a subject that interested us, plowed through it in due course, and agreed, disagreed or partially agreed with its author, which either satisfied our curiosity or provoked further investigation. But that’s a fairly laborious process, and not every Christian is up for it.

Typing a string of text into DuckDuckGo is not laborious at all. Anyone can do that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A House of Trade

“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Jesus had nothing against pigeons; he made them after all, as John’s first chapter well establishes. Furthermore, the poor pigeons were only present at the temple to serve as sacrifices, a practice the Lord had himself authorized.

But these pigeons were not in the process of being carried to the altar in the arms of guilty or devout Jews. They were caged, on sale, and probably marked up at a premium for the convenience of having a cheap sacrifice handy when you needed one.

The Father’s house had become a house of trade.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Anonymous Asks (173)

“Do guardian angels exist?”

How many angels are there? We can’t be sure, but there are indications in the Bible that number is stratospheric. Hebrews speaks of “innumerable angels in festal gathering”. In Revelation, John writes of “many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands”.

The Greek expression underlying the latter phrase may refer to vast numbers generally, or may refer literally to the number 10,000 times itself.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Intended Meanings and Frivolous Applications

Disclaimer time: our loving Father is not indifferent to the details of his children’s lives. He cares about our strained relationships, our problems at work, our finances and our trips to the doctor’s office. It matters to him when we grieve over a lost pet. If you are not grateful for that level of divine attention today, you certainly will be at some point down the road.

The bone of contention in what follows, then, is not whether God cares, but how his care is normally expressed to us. After all, we can’t appreciate the Lord’s love if we can’t recognize it. If we are expecting it to manifest one way and it manifests in a different way, we may feel God doesn’t love us at all.

More importantly, we really don’t want to lead other Christians to expect from the Lord things they are most unlikely to receive.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (3)

Two sentence recap: The northern kingdom of Israel went into Assyrian captivity in three stages, the final one occurring with the fall of Samaria in 722 BC. The southern kingdom of Judah went into Babylonian captivity over a century later, with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Those readers less familiar with the history of God’s earthly people may wonder why an empire as aggressively expansionist as the Assyrian would be satisfied with devouring only the northern kingdom, leaving the south to its own devices.

The answer is that it wasn’t.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: The Future Church

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

We’ve written here on many occasions about current trends within Christendom and what they say about North American Christians. Last week, for instance, we did a piece on giving by millennials. But I wouldn’t say we do an inordinate amount of speculating about the future, because while we can see from scripture where both the world and the people of God are ultimately headed, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to plot exactly where we are on that timeline.

Tom: Still, Carey Nieuwhof is willing to go out on a limb and tell us where he thinks the Church is headed in the next few years in his article “10 Predictions About The Future Church”.

What did you think of Carey’s musings, Immanuel Can?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Mental Scrapbook

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, as the famous adage goes. Your raw materials define what is possible with them.

The same is true of your mental life: you cannot make a good life out of bad imaginings.

Your mind is a scrapbook. Like any scrapbook, it collects fragmentary images of whatever you decide to put in there. Over time you fill it up. And eventually, what you have put into it defines the kind of life you’re going to have. That happens because the ‘resources’ you put into your mental scrapbook become the raw materials for your present attitudes, your frame of reference for present experiences, and the repository of images for your present imagination.

Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Candles and Flags

“So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”

On the bright side, at least Lot didn’t have to start with an explanation of who “the Lord” was. He had at least that much of a testimony: that he was a worshiper of Yahweh, as opposed to whatever god or gods were worshiped in Sodom, where he had rather unwisely made his home.

Evidently his prospective sons-in-law knew that much about him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Happy Accidents

My college painting teacher had a name for improbable color choices or brushstroke combinations that gave a pleasing and unexpectedly-mature aesthetic to student-level work.

He called them “happy accidents”.

Most often he was correct. Sometimes things happen at random that just work.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Anonymous Asks (172)

“Did Noah’s sons represent races?”

We are often told diversity is our strength. Yet many of the very same people who chide us to accommodate the differences between men and women from different parts of the world also insist there is no such thing as race, other than the human race.

So then, to answer questions about the origin of races, we would first have to agree about the meaning of “race”. Good luck with that in our hyper-politicized environment.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Infants, Innocence and Ignorance

“Be infants in evil ...”

“We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs.”

In the first instance, Paul appears to be suggesting that Christians in the churches of Corinth were better off the less they knew about evil. Perhaps naivety has its benefits. In the second, the same apostle writes to the very same Christians that “we” — which I take to mean Paul and Timothy, authors of the letter and fellow workers in Christ — are familiar with the manipulations and schemes Satan uses to pit Christian against Christian. That implies a bit of inside knowledge about the way in which evil works, or at very least basic pattern recognition.

Is Paul suggesting there are two different standards of understanding about evil: one for experienced Christian workers and another for the average Joe and Jane in the pews? Or possibly Paul is just being inconsistent ...

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (2)

Jonah is a historical account that includes a mere eight words of actual prophecy (five in Hebrew), while Amos is a series of prophecies that includes a mere eight verses of history.

This mixture of historical narrative with the word of the Lord (as well as occasional visions and discussions between the Lord and the prophet) is typical of all the prophetic books of scripture. Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah each contain lengthy narrative passages, usually describing the prophet’s personal situation and/or events going on around him.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Religious Freedom, Limited

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

The Independent reports that Belgium’s Walloon region is the latest territory to ban kosher and halal meats. Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand all got there first, in each case turning a deaf ear to the protests of Jewish and Islamic minorities.

Tom: That’s fine with me. We’ve already established in the U.S. and Canada that there are reasonable limits on religious freedoms, though these have been applied more frequently (and certainly more visibly) against Christians than against religious minorities recently.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Post-COVID Christianity

Well, the COVID crisis has sure taught us all some lessons, provided we’re conscious enough to think them over. And the purpose of this post is to help us do that; first, by listing some very obvious things we all cannot help but realize, and then by talking a little bit about how Christians should be feeling about all of it.

Because it’s really not the same for us as it is for everyone else.

Hang on. You’ll see.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Second-Hand Christians

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.”

Lot wasn’t Abram. The Lord didn’t speak to Lot directly as he had spoken to Abram. The Lord didn’t “appear to” Lot.

Abram went; Lot went with. Abram went as the Lord had told him; Lot went as Abram told him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Out of the Ground

“When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.’ ”

Er ... what is this exactly? Lamech’s declaration about Noah seems, to say the least, thick with irony. How should we understand the fatherly intent here? What was Lamech trying to communicate?

Monday, November 15, 2021

Anonymous Asks (171)

“Is the United States a Christian nation?”

I have commented before that the word “Christian” makes a poor adjective. It doesn’t tell you much that is useful. I have seen lies, error and heresy on sale in “Christian” bookstores, false believers in “Christian” youth groups, and atheists playing “Christian” rock.

Christianity is just not something you can ascribe to groups, especially groups as large as a nation. One becomes a Christian by trusting Jesus Christ for salvation and recognizing him as Lord. Groups can do all kinds of things an individual can’t, but only individuals can be saved.

So what is really being asked here? Here are a few possibilities:

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Holy Kiss and the Social Distance

A few years ago over lunch, a friend pointed out to me that the holy kiss is not merely a passing reference to an ancient custom in the Bible’s historical narrative; rather, it’s a New Testament commandment given by two different apostolic writers not once, not twice, but FIVE TIMES. It was obviously important to both Peter and Paul, the Jachin and Boaz of the early church.

As such, we would be unwise to ignore it or handwave it away. The holy kiss should never be “kissed off”. At least, I’m uncomfortable doing that.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (1)

Time for a one-paragraph summary of our 59 posts in this series to date. Ready? Go!

The prophet Jonah preached to the Assyrians in Nineveh around 760 BC. Their repentance delayed the destruction of their empire by a century or more. That delay left Assyria available for God to use when he judged the ten northern tribes of Israel for centuries of injustice, pride and unrepentant idolatry. Less than a generation after the prophet Amos delivered the word that Israel was about to lose its kingdom for the foreseeable future and that its people would shortly be dispersed throughout the Assyrian empire, the city of Samaria fell to the Assyrian army.

We continue to move through the Minor Prophets chronologically. The next messenger on our list is Hosea.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Surveying Evangelicalism

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

The current state of our evangelical Christian churches is not the easiest thing to encapsulate in a few sentences. While each of today’s Protestant denominations originally sprang from a set of shared doctrinal convictions and associated practices, few could ever have been called monolithic, and evangelicals are even less so. Some groups bear the same name but believe and do things very differently indeed.

Tom: My experience with folks from the denominations is primarily online, but our own Immanuel Can has been out church-shopping of late, and may have a better view from the trenches ... er, pews. Does the average modern evangelical church building still have pews, IC?