Thursday, March 31, 2022

Why Are We So Unsatisfied?

A few days ago I offered readers a chance to comment on the subject of their level of satisfaction with their church experiences. To say the least, response was underwhelming. We had plenty of readers of that post, but none who took us up on our offer.

Two possibilities follow: (1) readers are so content with their church experiences that they have no point of contact with the article, or (2) readers do not feel comfortable speaking on this subject.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Commentariat Speaks (23)

In a post last week entitled “A Contradiction in the Church”, the Antemodernist observed that when the Christian community at large is clear and succinct in its condemnation, it is always against a sin that is convenient to hate. As he puts it, “Christians deal with the easy and convenient things, and so leave the important and difficult things growing like cancer.”

Publicly condemning masculine sins — foreign invasions, lust, violence — is the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, he suggests. Nobody minds and everybody cheers. But feminine sins — things like cross dressing or the homosexual mimicry of family life — have become virtually untouchable subjects.

I’ll grant him all that and go a step further.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Levitical Interlude #3: The Israelite Woman’s Son

The warden in the movie The Shawshank Redemption greets every new arrival with the words “Rule number one: No blasphemy. I will not have the Lord’s name taken in vain in my prison.”

Now, Shawshank is set in 1947 — not that long ago, all things considered — yet modern movie critics find the warden’s priorities perplexing.

“Ahead of murder?” inquires one.

Yes, even ahead of murder.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Anonymous Asks (190)

“What’s the difference between righteousness and holiness?”

New Christians may hear these two biblical words as pretty much synonymous. After all, both qualities are on regular display when a believer is living a godly life, and we may be forgiven if we sometimes find them difficult to distinguish.

Nevertheless, the writers of the Bible do use these words differently, and we should probably make the same careful distinctions they do.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Doing What We Ought

If I had entitled this article “Doing What I Ought” you might have thought “If he knows what he ought to do, why doesn’t he quit talking about it and just do it?” If I had written “you” instead, some might have decided to bypass this article altogether.

Instead, the title reads “we”, because both of us need to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit says about our privileges and responsibilities. There are things we should be doing, or doing with greater zeal. So before you turn away, think of this article as a reminder to us both.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (20)

A simile is a figure of speech in which the words “like” or “as” are used. A metaphor is a figure of speech where the terms of comparison are simply offered without the prepositions. In English at least, Hosea 7 is chock full of both types of comparisons. The nation of Israel is compared to at least five different things: (1) adulterers, (2) a heated oven, (3) an insufficiently baked cake, (4) a senseless dove, and (5) a bow that fails the archer.

With such a diverse selection of imagery, you would think the prophet would have no trouble making his point. But when hearts are hard enough, nothing gets through.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: A Time to Kell

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

Tim Keller has been under fire around here lately. In mid-February we fisked a Daily Wire column by Megan Basham that listed Keller among thought leaders credibly accused of enabling Francis Collins to flog COVID propaganda to evangelicals by introducing him as a “friend” during a joint interview for BioLogos.

Collins is a man of the Left, a self-described ally and advocate of the gay and trans lobbies, has facilitated and funded experimental transgender research on minors, and has publicly defended experimentation on fetuses obtained from abortion. It’s one thing to engage personally and privately with such an individual in the name of Christ. It’s quite another to represent him to believers as fellow member of the flock and a trustworthy expert on science.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Inbox: Sucking the Life Out of ‘Vampire Churches’

R.J. sent me an article this week and asked me what I thought.

I read the title: “Vampire Churches”. Instantly, visions of caped characters sweeping across the congregation, making “Nyuh ha ha” noises all the while sprang into my mind. I could see them clamping eager fangs on the swooning portly matrons of row three, their stodgy husbands standing by and intoning, “This is just not on!”

I read a little further. The article seemed passionately worried about the defection of pop writer Anne Rice from Catholicism. Strangely, I was not as troubled as the author about that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Levitical Interlude #1: Nadab and Abihu

The first historical interlude in the book of Leviticus is the longest of the three and culminates in the judgment-by-incineration of Nadab and Abihu, the elder two sons of Aaron, high priest of Israel.

This is neither the first nor the last time in scripture that God has introduced something new to human society only to have mankind promptly make a shambles of it.

Making a Shambles of It

We do not know the time interval between creation and the Fall, but it is not unreasonable to assume it was a comparatively short period. Man’s first mistake occurred at the first possible opportunity. The first murder occurred in the very first generation after the establishment of the new order brought on by Adam’s transgression. And when God rebooted the world with a global flood, Noah promptly got drunk and ended up cursing his own grandson.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Levitical Interlude #2: Day of Atonement

There are individual sins and there are corporate sins. A woman who has an abortion commits the former; a nation that enshrines her right to do so in its law commits the latter. I leave it to you to weigh which is the greater offense.

From Sinai onward, upon becoming conscious of having personally violated God’s laws, individual Israelites could bring their offerings to the tabernacle or temple all year round to have their transgressions covered over. But Israel’s corporate transgressions also needed a way of being covered over, being arguably more offensive to God than sins any lone Israelite might commit, and therefore more likely to be the source of an outbreak of divine wrath against the entire nation.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Anonymous Asks (189)

“Are there people who will never change?”

A friend of a friend served as an elder in his local church for many years. From all reports he was good at it. When he chose to step away from his responsibilities in his fifties, people wondered why, and a mutual acquaintance was nosy enough to inquire.

Here is the essence of his reply. Excuse the paraphrase.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Of Folds and Flocks

The Lord Jesus used the model of a flock when foretelling Pentecost and the formation of his church. He said this flock would need only one Shepherd, meaning himself. He thereby ensured his sheep would be brought safely home at the end of the day. None of his flock would be missing and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it, for he gave to each believer eternal life and no one could pluck them from his hand.

In this teaching the Lord was preparing his Jewish disciples for a hiatus in God’s program for establishing Israel as the head of the nations.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (19)

When Adam fell, he took with him our entire unfortunate race. When Adam died, we all died with him. When Adam transgressed, transgressing became part of how I experience being human.

Adam did not intend to become a murderer. The real murderer was the serpent. All the same, it was through Adam that Satan carried out his murderous plans, and he made Adam an unwitting party to the genocide of his entire race.

In scripture as in modern law, murder need not be a hands-on business.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: How Do You Read It? (5)

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

Tom: We’re in the middle of batting around commonly misunderstood Bible verses. Here’s another frequently-quoted line for you, IC, this one from Proverbs:

“As he thinks within himself, so he is.”

I mentioned in another post a few weeks ago that I’ve often found other people understand individual proverbs very differently from the way I understand them. This one is no exception.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Promiscuous Freedom and Enslavement

Imagine yourself sitting in the center row of a darkened theater at an evening performance of a show entitled Cabaret. Tonight’s offering is a musical, and yet it is a musical unlike most others. It’s almost entirely devoid of the kind of cheerfulness that is usually associated with that particular genre, focusing as it does on the excesses of the Weimar Republic in the days just before the outbreak of World War II. Such humor as the play has is heavily ironic, filled with innuendo, and ultimately black.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Structure of Leviticus

Leviticus is a Latin word derived from the Greek Leuītikos, meaning “levitical”, or “having to do with Levites”. The third book of the Old Testament is not the only place we find the Law of Moses laid out in detail for us: Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy preserve laws as well, but they are primarily historical books. Leviticus is unusual in that it contains almost nothing else but law after law after law.

There are three notable exceptions. We will definitely get to those.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Higher Than Law

“One who loves another has fulfilled the law.” So wrote the apostle Paul in Romans. Again, in Galatians he reminds his readers that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

His point is that Christians behaving lovingly don’t need to worry about whether they are acting in the will of God or conforming in every detail to God’s law, because they are doing what God wants without even thinking about it. Their conformity to godliness has become as automatic and unconscious as breathing.

But love is only higher than law when it’s actually love.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Anonymous Asks (188)

“Are you more likely to trust politicians who claim to be Christian?”

Some people are reluctant to claim to be Christians. Jordan Peterson has dodged the question for years, sometimes more adroitly than others, for reasons he explained in a recent video clip: “Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God if they examined the way they lived? Who would dare say that? To have the audacity to claim that means that you live it out fully, and that’s an unbearable task, in some sense.”

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Savior’s Name

When he used the phrase “in my name”, did the Son of God have a specific name in mind? Was it one of those names mentioned in Isaiah 9:6: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”? Was it the one the angel charged Mary to give her firstborn, or perhaps a title given to him elsewhere in the New Testament?

Each name and title suggests an aspect of his person or activity. This post explores a few of the ways we may use his name.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (18)

When God disciplines his people under either Old or New Covenants, it is not simply an expression of righteous anger. It is not merely a case of giving people what they deserve. Reproof and discipline in this life are acts of love designed to produce repentance, not an early preview of the torments of hell — though that is what certainly awaits the unregenerate if God’s warnings are ignored. But we have a God who declares he is not willing that any should perish, and he behaves consistently with that statement.

I like to think that if more people understood this we might see more repentance.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: How Do You Read It? (4)

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

Tom: We haven’t done a post on commonly misunderstood Bible verses in a while, IC, so I thought that might be fun subject to get back to for a week or two. This one is a favorite, particularly south of the border:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

To be fair, I’ve heard it prayed by Christians here too, beseeching the Lord that Canadians would suddenly and inexplicably vote to abolish abortion on demand, or oust Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Ontario government, or whatever.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Faith of the Calvinists

Okay, I’m writing this post because I came across something so bizarre I didn’t even know what to say to it at first. You’re going to have to bear with me, because you’ll probably have trouble believing anyone could get anything so wrong. But I promise you this is the truth.

I was writing back and forth with one of my Calvinist friends. As you know, I’m not one of them myself, but that doesn’t keep me from liking quite a few of them as people.

Don’t ask. I like a lot of strange things.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

God-Shaped Heart Surgery [Part 2]

The God-Shaped Heart by Timothy Jennings has quite a bit to commend it. Yesterday I detailed five of its better features. If you haven’t read that post, some terms I will use in today’s post will not make much sense.

Unfortunately, there are also a few yawning mineshafts to be avoided in Jennings’ book, some of which are more obvious than others. For this reason, I would be cautious about commending it despite the fact that it contains some helpful observations about God’s law and a useful analysis of the various ways in which human beings may respond to it.

In short, Christians who lack the ability to assess Jennings critically in the light of scripture should probably steer clear.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

God-Shaped Heart Surgery [Part 1]

Timothy Jennings is a Tennessee-based psychiatrist who is convinced Christians don’t really know God as they should. His 2017 book The God-Shaped Heart is perhaps best described as a minor controversy: minor because it failed to crack ECPA’s Top 100 bestseller list in any of its first five years of publication; controversial because Jennings takes a view of substitutionary atonement that rubs a fair number of his critics the wrong way, this reader among them.

If you read the reviews, it’s evident those who love the book really love it. And to be fair, there are some useful thoughts amidst the yawning mineshafts. You just don’t necessarily want to recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have his or her feet firmly planted on solid rock.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Anonymous Asks (187)

“What do you think of this app?”

In case any of our older readers have eyesight as dodgy as mine, I’d better describe what this inquisitive young fellow has sent me. We are looking at a small computer program you can download to your cell phone called Bible Study for your Mood.

The app consists of a series of black or gray buttons, each with a one-word emotional state on them: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Faith, Courageous, Tired, Confidence, Hopeful, Peaceful, Helpless, Forgiven, Strong, Afraid, Love, Worry ... and so on. Pushing a button takes you to a Bible verse that corresponds with your current mood, and gives the relevant book/chapter so you can look it up and keep reading.

That last part is important.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

The Coming Kingdom

The little band of Jewish disciples who followed the Messiah in “the days of his flesh” asked to be taught to pray. The Lord’s answer was in the form of a pattern prayer, one that was appropriate at that time while the kingdom of God was being announced as “at hand”.

But repentance was required of those who would be the King’s subjects and, for the most part, that was not forthcoming.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (17)

There is a point when national decline accelerates to such an extent that even those most in denial about it cannot ignore it anymore. I suspect we have arrived at it in Canada in the last few weeks.

Everybody knows something is disastrously wrong. Due process, the law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are all being ignored. Thousands have taken to the streets to express their unhappiness with the choices made for them by their government. Nobody knows what will happen next. In this recent video, Jordan Peterson and writer Rex Murphy call it “The Catastrophe of Canada”. Canadians who are not still getting their news from the CBC would agree that “catastrophe” is no exaggeration.

Back in Hosea, the same sudden awareness of impending disaster had come for Israel: “Ephraim saw his sickness.”

Friday, March 04, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: How Do You Read It? (2)

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

We had a good time with this last week, so Immanuel Can and I have agreed to revisit our growing list of commonly misinterpreted Bible verses and discuss three more examples.

Tom: How about this one?

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

How do you read that, IC?

Two or Three

Immanuel Can: I think the first question has to be “two or three whats”, or “two or three of whom”?

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Why Your Pastor Won’t Help You Now

Michael O’Fallon, host of the very worthwhile Sovereign Nations podcast, says he’s perplexed.

Some time ago he discovered a very nasty kind of false teaching was creeping into the churches in his denomination, a false teaching prepared in the fires of Marxism but now channeled by respected evangelical sources. It seemed obvious to O’Fallon that the first people who would be concerned and who would have a stake in understanding the danger would be those charged with maintaining sound doctrine on behalf of the church.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Two Central Facts

“If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Back in 1993, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope gave astronomers their first glimpse of what appeared to be a distant galaxy with a double nucleus. That just doesn’t happen, so a number of possible theories were immediately floated. To the best of my knowledge, no definitive explanation for this anomaly has ever been found.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Sticky Situations

I have used the expression “tar baby” in a couple of posts here over the years.

A tar baby is a wonderful old metaphor for a sticky situation, and particularly a sticky situation that never needed to happen. But its age and origin make it an obscure figure of speech — so obscure I later discovered even my own mother had never heard of it.

Well, that’s a situation that cannot go uncorrected!