Sunday, April 30, 2023

Wrath and Discipline

Back in May 2018, the Southern Baptist Convention had a series of what appeared to be #MeToo moments: accusations of an “avalanche of sexual misconduct” and alleged institutional cover-up that put the Convention squarely under the media microscope. Al Mohler wrote a confessional sort of op-ed in which he said, “The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance.”

He entitled the piece “The Wrath of God Poured Out”.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Mining the Minors: Habakkuk (3)

So far, Habakkuk’s prophecy has taken the form of a Q&A session with God. The prophet has bemoaned God’s apparent lack of interest in the perversion of justice and corruption within his nation. God has replied that it’s actually going to get worse before it gets better: he is in the process of raising up the Chaldeans and using them to discipline his arrogant and erring people.

Naturally, that revelation provokes further questions.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Cognitive Dissonance

My youngest son was going out the door this afternoon, trying to figure out what to wear. He asked, “Is it a warm twelve degrees or a cold twelve degrees?” I said, “You’ll be fine the way you are. Unless we get the rain they have been saying is 100% likely for the last four hours.”

It was a bright sunny day. Not a drop of rain to be seen anywhere. Not a cloud in the sky.

Halfway up the stairs he stopped and said this: “They can’t tell us what’s going to happen in the next twelve hours, but they can tell us what’s been happening for the last six billion years.”

I said, “You have now learned everything important I could ever teach you.”

Too Hot to Handle: Billy Graham Regrets …

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

Evangelist Billy Graham, in a 1977 interview with Christianity Today:

“One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years he would spend two of them studying and one preaching. I’m trying to make it up.”

Tom: Does that quote surprise you at all, IC?

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Christ-Shaped Empty Space

Regarding last week’s post about spiritual narcissism, one further thought has been with me lately.

The attraction to following a single, charismatic, spiritually-talented man is an interesting case of misdirected spiritual longing. As human beings, and especially as sons of God, we are constituted for the destiny of eternal relationship with a Man. He is our legitimate spiritual leader and source of spiritual food, the rightful head of every direction we’re going, and the source of all our future hopes and blessings. To be given over to serving him is our highest and best destiny, and even now we have a longing for that — a longing God gives us, and which we must have.

It’s a longing for our Shepherd … the Good Shepherd.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Amalekites Revisited

I love looking at Old Testament stories and tracing history through its books. Sometimes I try to draw practical lessons from the things that happened in times past. Other times I leave that process mostly to the reader. Some lessons are more obvious than others, and we don’t always need to be beaten with a 2×4 to register what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us.

Early last year we published a post I entitled “The Prototypical Enemy”. It concerned the Amalekites and their relationship with the nation of Israel over a 900-year period. In that post, I tried to link together a bunch of different scriptures to present a history of the Amalekite people. It was a lengthy one, so I left most of the practical applications to the reader.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Problem of Genocide

I have had a number of opportunities to talk about the Bible with co-workers over the years, but I am usually careful not to do it on company time. Our Human Resources department takes a dim view of employees talking politics, race, religion or any other controversial topic in group situations where someone may take offense. Generally speaking, I try to respect their wishes.

There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes an opportunity is just too obvious to pass up.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Anonymous Asks (246)

“Is it wrong to pray for your ex back?”

When a relationship ends, it is axiomatic that the partner who ends it suffers less than the partner who gets no say in the matter. There are rare exceptions, like the woman who leaves an alcoholic husband she loves very much for his own good, or the man who separates from a fidelity-challenged woman he adores, but generally speaking the partner who gets left behind is the one most injured.

Still, some believers are able to let go of a departed partner easier than others. For those of us who make it our practice to cast our cares on the Lord, the temptation to try to use God to get what we want most out of another person is very real and very common.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

What Does Your Proof Text Prove (27)

“Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.”

The passage quoted above is from Genesis 14. It describes the actions of four kings who fought with five other kings in the valley of Siddim in the land of Canaan, where Abraham lived. Battles were going on around the patriarch as he pitched his tent in the land God had promised him, and Abraham, it seems, generally kept as far away from these as he could.

In this case, his relative Lot lived in Sodom, which had been pillaged in the conflict. With family involved, Abraham couldn’t morally stay out of it.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Mining the Minors: Habakkuk (2)

Manifest Destiny was an ideology promoted by newspaper editor John L. O’Sullivan in the 1850s in order to justify the annexation of Texas and Oregon by the United States. He maintained it was God’s will for the new nation to expand “from sea to shining sea”. Though contested by some, his idea had sufficient currency to get itself trotted out repeatedly to validate the acquisitions of New Mexico and California, and later the purchase of Alaska.

All Manifest Destiny really means is “It should be obvious we deserve whatever we want.” But attaching God’s name to it was magic in selling it to the nation.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: The Virtual Soapbox

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

IC and I watched a video the other day. Not in the same room, because we live many miles apart and can’t get together as often as we’d like. But we share many interests and tend to bounce links back and forth, and this was one of them.

I’d like to think we could learn something from it.

Tom: IC, I think we might be better off leaving out the names of the principals, because I’m going to be blunt about issues that have to do with body language and manner, as opposed to the content of a man’s argument, and since ‘the internet is forever’, I’d rather not go on record with those sorts of criticisms of people whose overall Christian testimony and handling of the word of God I respect and value. Cool?

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Pastor of Disaster

Andrew sat back and stirred his tea. “What kind of church are you in?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “I was in a conservative evangelical group, but it seems perhaps I’ve been kind of bumped out.”

“What do you mean?”

“We were in one kind of church, but we had to leave; now we’re sort of in-between, looking for what the Lord would have us do.”

“I will tell you why you left.” His voice was even and certain. He leaned forward. “It was because of … that man.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Wisdom to Know the Difference

Remember the ‘Serenity Prayer’? Alcoholics Anonymous used it all the time, and sometimes credited it to an early twentieth century theologian. Many 12-step programs were still using it as recently as 2022, despite the general disfavor into which all things religious have lately fallen. It goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve never been to AA, so I haven’t heard it in a while. There is probably a good reason. Wisdom is in pretty short supply these days.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The Language of the Debate (7)

When a 28-year old former student who identified as a man shot and killed six people, including three nine-year olds, at a private Christian academy in Nashville the last week of March this year, more than a few media outlets took the unusual step of discreetly numbering the killer among the victims. Follow-up reporting on the tragedy chose to heavily emphasize the broader issue of gun violence rather than dwelling on the specific nature of the shooter’s mental and emotional difficulties. Audrey Hale left behind a manifesto rather than a suicide note, which to date has been quietly suppressed. Three days later, with impeccable timing, Joe Biden opined that “Transgender people shape our nation’s soul.”

Point made. When people from a protected class do wicked things, society treats them differently.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Anonymous Asks (245)

“Can a believer be content to live a worldly life?”

There’s probably a “no true Scotsman”-type answer to questions like this one, where you simply say, “No, because anyone who is content to live a worldly life cannot possibly be a genuine believer.” I might have used that one once or twice myself.

That answers the question, but I’m not sure it’s really sufficient. My experience is otherwise.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

The Commentariat Speaks (26)

Talk show host David Pakman comments on Twitter about the recent spree shooting at a Nashville Christian school:

“Very surprising that there would be a mass shooting at a Christian school, given that lack of prayer is often blamed for these horrible events. Is it possible they weren’t praying enough, or correctly, despite being a Christian school?”

If you guessed that a tidal wave of negative feedback prompted Pakman to quickly delete his tweet, points for getting used to the drill.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Mining the Minors: Habakkuk (1)

We have been moving through this study of the Minor Prophets in as close to chronological order as possible. Our last book was Nahum. Internal evidence strongly suggests Nahum wrote it between 660 and 630 BC. That makes my next choice a tough one: Zephaniah or Habakkuk? Both are roughly the same length, and neither can be dated with pinpoint accuracy.

I’m going with Habakkuk first for two reasons: (1) because ‘H’ comes before ‘Z’, and (2) in order to get the judgment of Babylon out of the way before we consider the judgment of Judah.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Snatched Up

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

Tom: So we did the Millennium, IC. Care to walk me through the ‘Rapture’?

Immanuel Can: I thought that was the same as the Second Coming. Next you’re going to tell me that Israel still exists and that I wasn’t predestined to election before the foundation of the world.

Tom: Do I need to put a </sarc> at the end there? Never mind. Sometimes you open a can and the worms just go everywhere ...

IC: Well, one way to manage the worms is to focus on making the distinction between the Second Coming and the Rapture.

Tom: Okay, then.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Dear Dinesh: On Evil and Suffering

[Dinesh D’Souza is a writer, scholar, filmmaker and Christian apologist.]

Dear Dinesh:

Thank you very, very much for your 2007 book, What’s So Great About Christianity? I regret having not gotten around to reading it earlier. What a fine piece of writing!

It seems to me it fills a very necessary gap in our growing corpus of apologetics literature: rather than merely defeating atheist reasoning (yet again), it rightly points to the need for a more positive take on Christian achievements. It is an apology without an “apologetic” tone, if you take my meaning; a confident treatise on the goods of faith, rather than a defensive reaction to the current round of atheist hate literature. More of this is what we need.

In the spirit of supporting that, I wonder if I could offer a thought that might further strengthen the case you are so courageously putting forward?

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Glory Unassailable

“When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

A friend and older brother in Christ who has been a role model going on thirty years never fails to distinguish between the sloppy, euphemistic way evangelicals use the word “glory” (as in “We’re going home to glory” and other such expressions) and the more precise way the writers of the Bible use it. Glory, he says, is not a synonym for heaven. Rather, glory is a state of being.

I used to wonder why he made such a point of this. Now I get it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

More Beads on the Abacus

A Belgian man obsessed with climate change reportedly took his own life recently after a series of exchanges with a so-called artificial intelligence (AI) on his smartphone. His widow says “Eliza” (the app’s default chatbot) had become his “confidante” and encouraged him to consider suicide as a contribution to saving the planet when his worries about the effects of global warming on earth’s environment became the primary topic of their “conversations”.

I read the article the morning of April 1 and immediately started thinking the writer was pulling my leg.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Anonymous Asks (244)

“Is freedom of speech a biblical value?”

There is no such thing as a right to free speech. Jesus Christ didn’t have one. The apostles certainly didn’t have one. What they had was a divinely authorized responsibility to engage in costly speech. They walked out into the public square with a message almost nobody in positions of authority wanted to hear and inflicted it on the world in spite of all efforts to silence it.

As a result, the Lord Jesus was tortured and crucified. The apostles were delivered over to courts, flogged in the synagogues, dragged before governors and kings and, like Stephen, stoned by their own neighbors and kin.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

About the Weather

“Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.”

The line above is from the book of Job. The speaker is Elihu, the young man who attempts to correct his elders on the subject of suffering, since all four men who have held forth previously have, in one way or another, erred in their understanding of how God works. Like most young men, Elihu is full of earnestness and conviction, but also shows admirable restraint in allowing the discussion he is witnessing to reach an impasse before stepping in to offer his own opinion. Age and experience receive their appropriate deference.

Elihu’s mission is not to attack Job as all the other speakers have done, however unintentionally, but rather to justify God. So he begins to talk about … the weather.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Mining the Minors: Nahum (9)

The New Testament is full of staggering numbers of quotes and allusions to the Old. Its writers directly cite or make passing reference to all but four Old Testament books at least once: Ezra/Nehemiah (a single volume in Hebrew), Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. If we are going to be technically correct, we should probably add Nahum to these, as I will shortly demonstrate.

So here’s a question for you: if the New Testament writers can find no reason to quote Nahum, what good is the book to Christians?

Friday, April 07, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Situation Critical

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

Tom: By the time a cultural phenomenon makes it to The Daily Wire, it’s probably already at the tail end of the news cycle, which is about the time I usually discover things these days. Then, upon closer examination, I just happen to notice this “new phenomenon” is something that’s always gone on, except that somebody young and tech-savvy has coined a clever new name for an awful interpersonal dynamic and wants to tell us we should like it instead of hating it.

IC, let’s talk about “situationships”. Want to try to define this one for us?

Immanuel Can: In short, a “situationship” is an emotional and/or sexual relationship in which the terms of involvement are not defined to either participant. Usually it’s sexual, but the primary driver of the relationship is emotional entanglement with a decided “lack of commitment or clearly defined roles”. That’s how Corina Hsieh, the inventor of the term, defines it.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

“I Love You,” She Said Determinedly

A man and a woman are going to bed. It’s been a long day — work has been vexing, the children have been demanding, calls and emails have piled up, and best efforts at getting it all done have failed. Irritations have built up; and at times, the couple has actually been a bit snappish.

The husband is middle-aged, and somewhat dumpy and slightly graying. His earlier grumpy mood has subsided only into a plodding weariness as he gets ready to turn in. He’s left his slippers askew in the corner again, and hung his trousers over the chair instead of putting them in the closet.

The wife turns to her husband and says, “I love you.”

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Turnabout is Fair Play

Having given Michael Heiser’s The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible three posts of reviews that some will probably say border on hagiography, I promised to take a few lines to consider the other side of the story, as comparatively trivial in spiritual seriousness as Heiser’s “errors” may be — if indeed such they are.

Turnabout is fair play. Your mileage may vary. Here goes …

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

More About the Divine Council

I dislike systematic theology as a way of learning about the Bible: Dispensationalism, Calvinism, Replacement Theology, Covenant Theology, Amillennialism — you name it. “Isms cause schisms,” it is said. This testimony is true.

“Isms” also build weak Bible students who accept other men’s assumptions uncritically.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Anonymous Asks (243)

“Should Christians reject sentimentality and nostalgia?”

The writer of Ecclesiastes penned these words: “Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Some Christians take this to mean that all periods of history have their disadvantages and one may as well be born in any given century as in another. Clarke’s Commentary, for example, says, “This is a common saying; and it is as foolish as it is common. There is no weight nor truth in it; but men use it to excuse their crimes, and the folly of their conduct.”

Actually, it’s Clarke’s assertion that has no weight or truth in it, as a moment’s consideration easily demonstrates.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Mustard Seed and Leaven

Matthew 13 neatly collects many of the Lord’s kingdom parables in a single chapter, which is appropriate since Jesus taught seven of these on the same day, some by the sea to a large crowd, and others indoors to his disciples only. Among the parables he shared with the crowds (but did not explain to them) were two that were obviously intended to go together: the first compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed that grew into a great tree, the second compared it to leaven that contaminated three measures of flour.

That must have left more than a few Jews scratching their heads. More than a few Christians are still scratching theirs over them.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Mining the Minors: Nahum (8)

You may have seen a version of this meme cropping up on social media lately, attributed to one person or another. Best I can figure out, it was a science fiction writer named G. Michael Hopf. It goes something like this: “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

This saying is true. It ain’t scripture, but it’s good pattern recognition, and there’s no small value in being able to learn lessons from the past.