Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Operating Without an Ephod

Been psyching myself up to write this post for a while. Readers who have a robust, biblical concept of God’s will that enables them to make sound decisions and always look back on them with confidence and peace can probably give it a pass and not miss too much. Readers who don’t may wish to blunder along with me.

And, yes, I’m going to ramble. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but my thoughts haven’t got much structure to them.

Okay, maybe just a little bit of structure. A good starting point is distinguishing God’s moral will for believers from what we might call God’s directional will.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

When Is a Priest Not a Priest?

“... and David’s sons were priests.”

Hmm. That would seem to require an explanation, no?

God had chosen the tribe of Levi to serve him as a priestly caste. Even then, not all Levites qualified to serve as priests. Service at the altar was limited to the sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother, who were ordained in an elaborate ceremony and served in that capacity thereafter.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Anonymous Asks (212)

“Is it realistic to teach abstinence until marriage to today’s Christian teens?”

The subject of sexual morality comes up frequently in the New Testament but nowhere is the Christian standard for the unmarried made more explicit than in 1 Corinthians 7. That standard is self-control, which in the case of sexual desire means total abstinence. The contrast to self-control is burning with passion, which Paul clearly portrays as undesirable. He writes, “If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Intercession Session

Paradise is lost beyond recovery as far as man is concerned. There will be weeds in your garden, pain in your body and distress in your mind until the Lord returns; not all the time and in the same measure perhaps, but frustrating conditions will come and go in everyone’s experience; those who have faith and those who have none.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (42)

Between present-day Israel and Syria sits a tiny Middle Eastern republic of a little over four million people. It is an ethnic hodgepodge of Arabs, Armenians, Kurds and Turks divided almost equally between Muslims and (nominal) Christians. Before the introduction of Arabic as Lebanon’s official language, its people mostly spoke a Western version of Aramaic. More than three times as many Lebanese live outside Lebanon as live in it, the vast majority of these in South American countries.

From the tiny number of Jews remaining there (in 2020 Lebanon’s Jewish population was estimated at 29, a community described as “elderly and apprehensive”), you probably would not guess that the territory once belonged to Israel. But it did.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Feeding the Sheep

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

When the Lord Jesus restored Peter, he gave him a job: “Feed my sheep.” He repeated his instructions twice, each time with a slightly different verb, and in one instance with a slightly different object.

Assuming we think there is an example in this anecdote for Christians to follow, the net effect is to make the men who shepherd the people of God in our present age responsible for the entire flock — young and old, of whatever type — and to charge them with the care of their spiritual diet, as well as their guidance and direction.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Trouble with the Truth

Some years ago I picked up a volume compiled by Walter Truett Anderson entitled The Truth About the Truth. It was a collection of essays, actually, each one detailing some way in which the modern conception of “truth” has been warped. It had chapters on reification (the modern tendency to mistake mere traditions for inevitabilities), the love of the ironic tone, the tendency to accept things at face value, the obsession with commercialism, gender fluidity, cultural pluralism and the loss of the integrated self, and so on … all very interesting, and some of it insightful. But so far as the concept of a stable, universal, actually-existing kind of truth, very cynical.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Neglected Salvation

“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”

The “great salvation” spoken of in Hebrews provokes a variety of reactions. Some who hear it are offended by the message itself. After all, it tells them the very best they can do in this life is of no account to God, and that there is no way to approach the Infinite on anything but his own terms, which turn out to revolve around glorifying a Jewish carpenter rejected and murdered by the world of his day.

You can understand why people might initially find that proposition makes them grind their teeth. It seems like nonsense to them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Inbox: Random Mutterings About Infinite Value

Recently received:

If I said I had a million dollars and I asked you how much I needed to add to that to reach infinity, you’d shortly tell me something like “You can’t get there from here.”

If I said I was completely broke and had zero in the bank — and then asked how much I needed to add to that to reach infinity, you’d answer in precisely the same way.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Anonymous Asks (211)

“Is apostolic succession biblical?”

The Greek word translated “apostle” means messenger. The Bible uses it in two senses: (1) formally, meaning a member of the Twelve, or else Paul; and (2) generically, meaning other messengers who took the gospel to the world of their day under apostolic authority, such as Barnabas, Timothy and Silvanus.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Filled in Spirit

In writing this and other articles I have to keep mind I have only learned in part to practice what I preach. However, I will not keep back from others what I know is good for us all to obey. I feel safer when encouraging rather than exhorting, but we are told to do both.

“BE [CONTINUALLY]
FILLED IN SPIRIT ...”

I have used only capital letters, but not just for emphasis; the original Greek manuscripts did not have the upper/lower case distinction many other languages do.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (41)

We have discussed the “ten lost tribes” of Israel several times in our study of Hosea. Yet many Christians do not believe there are descendants of Ephraim out in the world awaiting discovery and restoration to their ancestral homeland.

Partly this is an overreaction to British Israelism, a 19th century movement that claimed the people of Great Britain (and therefore most of the New World) were genetically, racially and linguistically the direct descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel. Despite its comprehensive refutation by archaeological, ethnological, genetic and linguistic research, BI still has its adherents, and therefore a significant number of Christians who feel compelled to keep reacting to and refuting their claims.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Ending the Gender War

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

Suzanne Venker at The Daily Caller says it’s time to “end the gender war”.

Venker says gender relations are seriously shot, and that the feminist establishment is to blame for telling women “You can do anything a man can” and “Society is simply holding you back.” She cites Camille Paglia, who confirms that “Men’s faults, failings and foibles have been seized on and magnified into gruesome bills of indictment.”

Even The Wall Street Journal concedes that an increasing number of men are checking out on the idea of marriage and family.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Two Can Play That Game

Pearls of wisdom from Mary Kassian:

“A husband does not have the right to demand or extract submission from his wife. Submission is HER choice — her responsibility … it is NOT his right!! Not ever. She is to ‘submit herself’ — deciding when and how to submit is her call. In a Christian marriage, the focus is never on rights, but on personal responsibility. It’s his responsibility to be affectionate. It’s her responsibility to be agreeable. The husband’s responsibility is to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church — not to make his wife submit.”

So it is “HER choice — her responsibility … deciding when and how to submit is her call”. So declares Mary Kassian.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What Does Your Proof Text Prove (19)

I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Do the souls of aborted babies go to heaven? Do babies and children go to heaven when they die? These are questions of deep concern both to believers and even to the occasional agnostic, who might be willing to risk finding him- or herself before the great white throne one day, but not their children.

And yes, people like this do exist. I know one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Sword, Self and Salvation

If you know the story of David’s life in any detail, you will probably remember that he had quite the collection of wives, as did most kings in those days. 1 Samuel 25 records the story of how Abigail came into David’s orbit. She was David’s second wife (or maybe third, depending on how you read some of the later historical comments about his family), and from the limited data given us in scripture, by far the shrewdest of the bunch.

Abigail’s remarkable discretion warrants an entire chapter of holy writ, which should be enough to merit a little consideration from the reader.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Anonymous Asks (210)

“Are all sins equal to God?”

The word “equal” is meaningless without a context of some sort. For equality to signify anything, we have to ask the question “Equal in what sense?”

Let’s start with “equally deadly”.

A Holy God

God is perfectly holy. All sins of every kind are offensive to him. He is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong”, as Habakkuk puts it. So telling lies is “equal” to murder, if only in the sense that either will cut us off from fellowship with a holy God and condemn us to an eternity apart from him. In this sense, all sins may be considered equally deadly. One is more than enough to seal our fate. It does not matter whether it is secret greed or public blasphemy against God himself.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Praying in His Name

There was nothing wrong with the content of the letter. It was carefully thought-through, but may as well not have been written. It was back on my desk, rejected by the post office.

Did I make a mistake in the house number? Was the stamp of insufficient value? Perhaps the machine mistook my ‘B’ for an ‘8’ in the postal code …

Some time ago I became concerned about the habit of closing our prayers with “in the name of”, followed by whatever name or title of the Savior was our choice: “Jesus” or “Lord” or “Lord Jesus Christ”.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (40)

As a child, my eldest son hated knowing the proverbial sword of Damocles was hanging over his head. He had a tendency to get into trouble, and he astutely observed that it was better to get the inevitable punishment over with speedily than spend all his time obsessing about when it might be coming.

Or maybe he just took note that, with his father at least, a sin confessed earned a lighter punishment than a sin hidden and untimely revealed by a sibling.

Judgment is inevitable both in this life and the next. Even a family relationship doesn’t earn anyone a pass; in fact, we Christians get ours before the world gets theirs. Peter says, “It begins with us”, and so it does.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Eternal Insecurity

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

Todd Strandberg would prefer that we remain insecure about eternity. Let’s allow him to make his case:

“The all-pervasive eternal security teaching has to rank as one of the devil’s favorite tools for deceiving man into neglecting or turning away from God’s plan of salvation.

Alarm bells should have sounded immediately the first time it was made known that eternal security allows its adherents to sin as they please.

I’m amazed that a doctrine so contrary to the Word of God could have so many people relying upon it as their means of salvation. Jesus said, ‘he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved’ (Matthew 24:13). For someone to think they can just claim Jesus as their Savior and go on living a life of iniquity is ridiculous. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:23 that when Judgment Day comes, he’ll be saying to many, ‘... I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity’.”

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Brains With Feet

I was reading a book on apologetics, a collection of essays. It had one by Sean McDowell. Yes, that Sean McDowell, son of the more famous Josh McDowell. (How tired he must be of hearing that!)

Anyway, I’ve read a few McDowell books, and from the first moment I opened one, I remember feeling a vague sense of … what was it? ... a sort of vague ‘missing’.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Machiavelli on Fortresses

I can’t help noticing that Hosea is not the only Old Testament prophet who declaimed against fortresses. You may remember he told his nation, “Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed.”

So it happened, as we have been discovering in our Saturday studies in Hosea.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Staring Down the Barrel

A recent Gospel Coalition “Good Faith Debate” included comments from a pastor who says using a firearm to stop an attempted massacre in a church is as erroneous as Peter’s attempt to prevent Christ’s arrest.

Uh, say what?

Such opinions naturally stir the pot. This responsive post entitled “The Neutered Evangelical Man” provides a great starting point for a discussion on whether Jesus really taught universal pacifism, and it prompted me to pull together a series of thoughts on the subject I have expressed in this space over the years.

Let’s start with a bang.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Anonymous Asks (209)

“Why do Christians try to impose their values on others?”

The word “impose” is an intransitive verb that means:

  1. To establish or apply as compulsory; levy.
  2. To bring about by authority or force; force to prevail.

Is this really what Christians do when they preach the gospel? At worst, we might say that they strongly recommend an alternative they believe preferable to the direction our society is currently going. The climate change folks, depopulationists, would-be socialists, vegans, vaccination mandate supporters, LGBTQ+ activists, and a whole host of other opinionated people do precisely the same thing.

But impose? Where is the force in the Christian message? Where is the coercion? Where is even the threat of such things?

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Should I Go to Confession?

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Whenever some people hear the words “confess” or “confession”, they think of what is encouraged in some churches — regular visits to an appointed location to unload any sense of guilt. It is an example of understanding a word, verse or promise in the light of common practice, then supposing the scriptures support that human tradition.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (39)

The Bible condemns a proud, independent spirit from Genesis to Revelation and everywhere in between. And where men prosper, pride often follows.

This sort of defective thinking first shows itself in Cain, who found ways to work the earth with some degree of success despite the curse. Cain knew what sort of sacrifice was acceptable to God but thought offering the evidence of own his success in his chosen field a better idea. Pride.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Islam Fading

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

This is a curious little video:

Tom: As you know, IC, I tend to take such things with a dumpster-sized grain of salt. There’s enough disinformation circulating these days to keep the Christian perpetually on his or her toes. But the gist of this video is that Islam’s popularity and reach may not be all it is cracked up to be. Rather than growing prodigiously as we have assumed, the evidence may suggest the influence of Islam is actually shrinking.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Mythical Native

So you’re speaking to someone about the gospel. And suddenly he gets that ironic glint in his eye. He folds his arms, steps back and says, “Well, what about the people who have never heard? What about people not born in Christian cultures, or even in cultures with some other religion? Hey, what about the native on some remote South Sea island, who has never even seen a white person and knows nothing about Western culture? If you have to believe the gospel to be saved, then isn’t that poor guy going to hell? And how is that fair? After all, he never even had a chance.”

He smiles smugly at you, confident you won’t be able to field that one. And you stumble.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Quote of the Day (43)

The always-excellent Antemodernist performs surgery on a post about Romans 13 and submission to authority from Stand to Reason’s Jonathan Noyes:

“Suppose a stranger walks up to you and declares himself a king and says he is your king, and by virtue of his authority over you, he compels you to pay taxes and serve in his militia. A bit strange, and you’d probably pretend to take a phone call to get away. Mr. Noyes, if he is consistent, cannot do this. He’d be disobeying authority.”

Like many of our readers, I have been struggling with this issue since early 2020. Prior to that point, if you had asked me when Romans 13 does not apply to Christians, I would have promptly answered, “When we are told not to preach the gospel.” That much I was sure of. Beyond that, I’m afraid I hadn’t given the illegitimate exercise of authority much thought. Since then I’ve had to give it plenty, the results of which you can find here and here.

Antemodernist has obviously been doing a fair bit of thinking as well.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Loving and Respecting

“Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Phil and Katie are a Christian couple in their fourth decade of married life. They have three grown children. Both are close to normal retirement age. As a director of a small company, Katie makes slightly more than Phil does in his role as middle manager for a larger one. She is also brimming with confidence that comes from long-term day-to-day success on the job.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Anonymous Asks (208)

“Should Christians boycott companies that support anti-Christian policies?”

I’m old enough to remember when discriminating was a synonym for discerning rather than a reason to call somebody out as prejudiced. Whether we are talking about products or services, a discriminating person looks at the available options and makes the best possible choice for himself and his family.

It’s hard to see what could be offensive about that.