Sunday, January 31, 2021

Nothing New Under the Sun

If the shifting political and social narratives of the last several years have not convinced you that the vast majority of the general public are being lied to deliberately and repeatedly, then probably nothing will.

For myself, I am convinced that no matter the subject, just about the only story that isn’t accurate in any given news cycle is the one being told to us by politicians, corporations and media; the one which is said to be most popularly acceptable, and the one its authors are at greatest pains to preserve by censoring any contradictory information or expression of opinion that might make it less persuasive.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (19)

In the last five months I have written slightly under 26,000 words and 19 blog posts about the book of Jonah. That’s less than many, but more than most. Needless to say, I take the story of the rebel Israelite prophet very seriously indeed. Jesus viewed it as historical, and that seems to me the way it ought to be regarded.

Nowadays we are being told Jonah is actually a comedy. My idea of comedy basically begins and ends with Dick Van Dyke and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Jonah most definitely is not in that vein at all.

So did I miss the boat, so to speak? Is laughter really the best medicine? While the view of Jonah as satire, parody or farce is not common in the churches in which I normally circulate, a few liberal Bible scholars with degrees and big reputations have written to that effect, and we should probably take at least take a few paragraphs to consider their position.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Abandoning Evangelicalism

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

Rachel Held Evans, who is post-evangelical herself, documents dissatisfaction among those she calls “defenders of the marginalized” in U.S. evangelical churches. In some quarters, it appears, the fact that so many of their fellow pew-occupiers voted for Donald Trump is not going down well.

Brandi Miller tweets, “I drafted my divorce papers with evangelicalism a long time ago. Tonight I serve them.” Glennon Melton asks, “Does a Love Warrior Go? YES. If that’s what her deepest wisdom tells her to do.”

Tom: What do you think, Immanuel Can? Imagine your fellow churchgoers voted for an immoral, bigoted incompetent with no regard for the dignity of women, as Rachel so delicately puts it. Something worth leaving your church over?

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Big Gamble

When I first entered my profession, I was in my mid-twenties. As a brash young man, I remember being irritated by the requirement that I should begin to save for retirement. For one thing, I was young, and young people never think much about being old. I thought I might well even be dead long before my investment came back; I certainly had no assurances I would not. But more importantly, as I was starting out in life, I knew I could make good use of that sizeable portion of my income that was going to be carved out for the retirement plan, and there was no way to get at it.

I would have if I could have.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

You Worship WHAT?

What do you think: worth dying for?
This is interesting. asked the following question: “If there is a god, does that being necessarily deserve worship?”

Get this: 73% said no. Are you surprised?

Probably not. But ignorant as it may be, perhaps the logic and underlying assumptions of the “no” brigade are worth a moment’s consideration.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Binary Thinking

How we choose to express disagreement is often more important than what we are disagreeing about in the first place.

Some folks have a tendency to take aim at the most ridiculous, transparently caricatured representation of the side they oppose. I used to put it down to straw-manning. I considered people who argued this way manipulative and calculating.

Now I wonder.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Anonymous Asks (129)

“What’s the difference between encouragement and flattery?”

Years ago, I got together for coffee with an elder from a church where I had enjoyed happy fellowship for several years. This was not the first time and it wouldn’t be the last; he is one of those godly older men who takes the job of shepherding very seriously indeed, and he kept track of me long after I had moved out of town and was no longer, strictly speaking, his “spiritual business”.

I had worn a particularly goofy, juvenile T-shirt to the coffee shop, and as we sat down together, he shot me a wry grin and asked, “So, when are you going to grow up?”

That was encouragement. It sure wasn’t flattery.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Built-In Self-Destruct Button

If you have spent a lot of time reading the Old Testament and trying to get into the mindset of the average law-abiding Jew, you probably agree with me that Christian freedom is a marvelous thing.

The believer’s relationship to the Law of Moses is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christian life, notwithstanding statements like “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

But freedom is not something we human beings do easily or naturally. We prefer rule-keeping.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (18)

When God gives a mission to one of his servants, there is always more than one thing going on. He is not just sending a message or getting a job done, but also teaching his most faithful followers more about himself.

We should expect this. He is God, after all. If anyone is equipped to play multi-dimensional chess, it is the Divine Mind.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Getting Reoriented

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

Tertius drew my attention to this three-year-old blog post written by a self-described “twenty-something Christ follower” who says he is “same-sex attracted”.

That makes him a member of a small but disproportionately influential group. Infogalactic has this survey of the various attempts made to measure the demographics of sexual orientation. The numbers are all over the place, but nowhere do they exceed 5% of the population.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Zombie Church

I’ve always really liked Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, “Cloister Graveyard in the Snow”. In it, we see a crumbled cathedral with only a bit of the porch and chapel remaining amid twisted, dark trees. But if you look closely, in the middle ground, you’ll see a trail of monks still marching into the ruins, presumably to continue their monkish duties.

The painting has both a positive and a negative message about religiosity. On the one hand, it suggests faith can persist even when, socially speaking, religiosity is generally perceived be in ruins; but on the other hand, it also reminds us that ritual can persist even when the life of a church is gone.

I guess the message you take depends on the perspective with which you view it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Creating Cognitive Dissonance

A little over a week ago, I was watching one of those bog-standard political videos you find on YouTube these days: you know, the ones where a conservative interviews a group of young Leftists without revealing his own political leanings. He asks each interviewee a series of apparently random questions about what they believe, after which the results are cleverly edited together to demonstrate the rank hypocrisy of Progressivist thinking.

In this case the subjects being discussed were tolerance and compromise, and the results were absolutely predictable. Every young Lefty being interviewed claimed tolerance was the most important of all values and that compromise was critical when engaging in political discourse, but of course the moment they were given a list of specific conservative values and areas of possible agreement with the Right, it turned out they were all hopelessly intolerant and refused to compromise on anything at all.

“Aha!” said the conservative writers and editors. “Hypocrisy!” Well, no. Not exactly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Not Her Voice

Everybody wants to be heard. That’s understandable.

To understand and be fully understood is one of the greatest possible states to which human beings may aspire. When perfection comes, “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known,” says the apostle.

That suggests very strongly that those of us who have a relationship with Jesus Christ are already as fully known as we will ever need or want to be. Think about that for a bit.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Anonymous Asks (128)

“Should God choose our mate?”

That’s an interesting question, and I think the answer may have a bit of both yes and no in it. Obvious comeback: If he did, how would you know? What would that look like? What evidence would you need to feel confident God had stepped into your personal circumstances and ordered your future living arrangements?

There are definitely Christians who think this is precisely what happens; perhaps not in every case, but at least in those where a man commits his way to the Lord in prayer, or a woman seeks God’s will for her in the matter of marriage. I will not argue with anyone who feels that way, but again, that’s all it is: a feeling.

Unless of course you can produce evidence ...

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Too Clever For Their Own Good

Far too often the mere existence of a biblical record of how fallible, sinful men behave is taken as evidence of what God prefers.

That’s a mistake, whether it is done by unbelievers attacking the character of God and the morality of his instructions, or by believers looking to the frequently sub-optimal choices of Old Testament patriarchs for their standards of acceptable Christian behavior.

We can and should learn moral lessons from history, of course, but it is foolish to go beyond what is actually written. When we do, we are often being too clever for our own good.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (17)

If the book of Jonah were simply a historical account, by all rights it should finish at the end of chapter 3: Nineveh repents, God relents, end of problem for the next 100 years or thereabouts.

Except it doesn’t end, and we should be glad it doesn’t, because chapter 4 is the real point of the book. After all, Nineveh’s repentance was temporary, the salvation of its individual citizens only a matter of their avoiding their inevitable dates with Sheol for five, ten, twenty or seventy years, depending on their age at the time God held back his wrath against their city. If any of the reprieved Ninevites sought out the God of Israel and became proselytes, we never get to hear about it.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Will Science Survive Our Politicized Culture?

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

The Autumn 2016 edition of City Journal is home to a lengthy but remarkably even-handed piece entitled “The Real War on Science”, in which author John Tierney points out that it’s actually Progressives rather than right-wingers that are holding science back.

Tierney reveals that academia has become what he calls a “monoculture”, much like the media, that is in danger of losing public trust because so many scientists insist on mixing politics with their jobs.

Tom: We’ve documented this trend here a number of times, Immanuel Can. [Way too many times to link to, in fact; click “science” in the topic sidebar on our main page to view all our articles on the subject.]

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Trinity Matters

Let’s Be Simple

Here’s a simple thought.

But it will be the least simple of my simple thoughts, by far.

The triune God is not just far superior to any of the polytheists’ gods, but also to any monolithic type of god. It is better that we serve one God in three Persons than that we claim God is a big singularity.


At first glance, you might not think so. You might think it’s easier and better to have to explain a God that’s just a big ‘One’ than to have to unravel what it means to say God is triune. You might think, for example, that Muslims and monotheist Jews and even Hindus have an easier job talking about God than Christians do.

Moreover, many Christians have a very difficult time explaining what one-in-three really means, in application to God.

Check that: every Christian does.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Too Close to Home

Robert Barron comments on the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew:

“Many devout believers find the brutality and violence of the story hard to take. In a very secularized society where people have lost the sense of God, you have to shake them into awareness with a shocking story with very exaggeratedly-drawn characters, with macabre and violent shocking action.”

Barron goes on to tell his listeners not to interpret the parable in a straightforward, literal way, or to compare this “crazy king” directly to God in every respect. He suggests the Lord was just using strong language to get our attention, to “grab us by the shoulders and shake us awake”.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Semi-Random Musings (22)

You really can’t make this stuff up.

As you have probably read or heard elsewhere by now, the 117th Congress got off to a rocky start January 3 with an opening prayer that concluded with the words “amen and awoman”. Naturally the video went viral.

Of course it did. In this emotionally-charged and hyper-politicized environment, how could it not?

Monday, January 11, 2021

Anonymous Asks (127)

“Do illegitimate children go to heaven?”

A child is called illegitimate when born to a woman not legally married to the father. He or she may be the product of any of a variety of circumstances: a one night stand, a brief, broken or casual ongoing sexual relationship, prostitution, adultery or even incest. Artificial insemination has also made it possible for a woman to bring a child into the world without committing to a relationship with the donor, and this option is becoming increasingly popular in some demographics.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Language of the Debate (3)

You have three seconds to answer: What’s the opposite of egalitarianism?

Three ... two ... one ... okay, all guesses should be in now. If your answer was “complementarianism”, my first thought is that maybe you’ve been spending too much time in the Recently Released section of your local LifeWay or Family Christian Bookstore — except both those chains went belly-up in the last four years and it doesn’t look like anyone is stepping up to fill their shoes. I guess maybe you could be Reformed ...

Here’s a crazy thought: the opposite of egalitarianism just might be biblical headship. Now there’s a dusty old concept.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (16)

There is a little bit of numeric symmetry in this last chapter of Jonah: God asks three questions, and because Jonah’s animosity toward the people of Nineveh and his disappointment at God’s delay in judging them are so intense, the prophet three times asks God to allow him to die. There are also three things in chapter 4 that God is said to have “appointed”, so there are three sets of three. Perhaps the symmetry is not so accidental.

Needless to say, it is fairly obvious Jonah’s request to die went ungranted, or else his story would never have been written.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Heretics Aplenty

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

According to Shane Morris of The Federalist, a LifeWay Research survey of 3,000 people found that significant numbers of Americans who identify as Christian actually embrace ancient heresies.

Tom: The survey results confirm my own prejudices, Immanuel Can. I’ve been reading for years that upwards of 80% of Americans claim to be Christian, and I’ve never been able to buy it. You can’t convince me Roe v. Wade has been law for the last forty-plus years because of 20% of the U.S. population.

Do you find the general public level of knowledge about Christianity surprising?

Thursday, January 07, 2021

What Are We Waiting For?

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Thoreau famously wrote.

I hate to say it, but a great number of modern Christians could be described in just that way. Their lives are quietly unhappy — unhappy to the point of deep frustration, and even depression. Having been told that the Christian life should be abundant, joyful, meaningful and overflowing with freedom, they find themselves living in a way that is dull, tired, seemingly pointless, and characterized — when they stop to characterize it at all — by a bunch of have to’s.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

A Second Opinion

One of Stand to Reason’s most popular posts last year was a Tim Barnett article entitled “What Must Ben Shapiro Do to Be Saved?” Barnett had been watching a 2018 YouTube interview in which the conservative pundit Shapiro got into a lengthy discussion with Roman Catholic bishop Robert Barron.

Shapiro and Barron found plenty of common ground, as one might expect. Then things got interesting.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Top 10 Posts of 2020

Trying to determine which ten of our 368 blog posts in 2020 drew the most eyes is not as straightforward a task as it might seem.

A post may have low numbers in its first week of publication, then catch fire later in the year when somebody links to it on Facebook or Twitter, or because it has a unique term in it that is being repeatedly entered into search engines. Totaling up pageviews only tells us a post is really popular when a few months have passed, meaning that articles written in the last quarter of any given calendar year are hard pressed to crack a Top 10 compiled purely by the numbers.

Sometimes, frankly, figuring out why any particular post drew so much attention is simply impossible even when you happen to be its author. (#6 comes to mind.)

Monday, January 04, 2021

Anonymous Asks (126)

“Did God create a second Adam?”

This is one of those questions that presumes familiarity with a particular New Testament passage. In this case the passage is 1 Corinthians 15, the subject of which is resurrection. It is there that the apostle Paul writes, “The first man Adam became a living being” (referring to a statement made way back in Genesis 2). Then he adds this: “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Paul then goes on to contrast this “last Adam”, who is clearly Jesus Christ, the “second man”, with the first man, Adam, in that “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.”

That’s where the language of our anonymous questioner is coming from, and that’s our starting point. Paul calls Jesus at various times in the passage the “last Adam”, the “second man” and the “man from heaven”.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Saying Goodbye to 2020 (and my Career as a Prophet)

Last year around this time I decided to test whether I have the gift of prophecy, so instead of making the usual New Year’s resolutions, I reeled off a number of what I thought were really obvious predictions for the then-upcoming year, the vast majority of which have been (or will shortly be) proven correct.

As I write these words, my prophetic pitch with respect to the U.S. election is still hanging in the air over the plate, and January looks to be a very interesting month. As to my other four predictions, in all honesty I can hardly claim much prophetic acumen: it turns out I was shooting fish in a barrel.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (15)

In the last few decades, those of us who live in multicultural societies have been thoroughly propagandized against any visible display of racial animus. The social project of stigmatizing Western “racists” — to the point where even inadvertently acknowledging obvious differences between people groups commonly results in social shaming and summary disemployment — has been a great success among liberal whites, though notably less transformative across other demographics.

Having grown up in an era largely free of war, half-lobotomized by the steadily-mounting pressure of political correctness, more than a few of us may have difficulty imagining a time in which intense race-consciousness might have served the occasional useful purpose.

That would be most of the rest of human history.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Biden Our Time

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

Tom: My co-writer Immanuel Can was exchanging opinions online the other day about the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency. One commenter wrote: “You have mentioned a day of judgment; perhaps this is how it starts.”

IC’s response: “That thought has occurred to me more than once.”

Since the prospect of a Biden presidency (or really a Harris presidency) has been looming over us during this Christmas season, and since the legacy media is determined to convince us the November election is a done deal, I’m okay with talking about what that might mean for believers, for the U.S., and for the world ... provided I get to say two things first about all the white flag-waving currently going on in the conservative and Christian media.