Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Next [De]Generation

“There are three types of lies,” Mark Twain famously quipped, “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

I know he was overstating the case somewhat, but my time in higher education has given me plenty of opportunity to see that he was not far off. Statistics have a way of impressing people with the apparent solidity of the numbers they generate. Many of us, especially the numerically inclined, tend to think they’re telling us something profound, truthful and scientific. But I have discovered that often they are not, and until you know how the numbers were obtained and how they are being interpreted, you can never be quite sure how solid they really are.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

New CU Substack

Anyone who has attempted to maintain an email subscription to ComingUntrue over the years knows Blogger’s email tool is notoriously unreliable. Often, we do not even receive our own posts. Substack is basically a newsletter subscription service that is proving increasingly popular and much more reliable.

Effectively immediately, I’m going to try publishing each post to Substack as we create them in hope this may make life easier for our friends who prefer email delivery to browsing the web. You won’t get all the features available at the regular website (sidebars, archive pages, topical studies, search box, etc.), but you’ll get the content of each post seven days a week (we hope) in a clear, readable form.

Prophet and Loss

When truth is revealed, men have an obligation to hear it. The Lord will judge those who claim to speak it, and he will also judge the hearers for the way they receive it, which is to say that we need to accept and respond to the things we hear that are true, and reject the things we hear that are not.

What scripture doesn’t talk about all the time is how difficult that process can be for the onlooker.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Headship and Representation

Today I am going to generalize, because there’s no way to discuss the topic at hand usefully without doing so. Since it is my occasional, bitter experience that some people detest generalizations, I will dutifully warn you up front that you are in for endless amounts of them if you read on. Best come back another time if you find yourself emotionally triggered by statements about averages offered in the absence of hard evidence.

You heard me right. I’m not even going to offer statistics to support the assertions that follow. Why not? Because people of a non-generalizing disposition who dislike what I have to say will simply dispute the data. Again, bitter experience. That, and those capable of pattern recognition don’t need statistics to back up what they already know.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Anonymous Asks (311)

“Why are Christians homophobic?”

Homophobia is a ridiculous pejorative that applies literally to almost no Christians in the real world. It fails miserably as language, in that if it means anything at all, it means “fear of that which is the same”. The term is a convenient way to deflect arguments that address the dangers and evils of a lifestyle that exalts sodomy. I do not use it.

That said, if you don’t celebrate perversion, anyone who inquires why that might be will probably use the word, so we may as well formulate an answer for them.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

An Esophagus Full of Camel Hair

From the department of straining at gnats and swallowing camels, The Standard Bearer ran a series of posts by David Englesma in 2017 and 2018 criticizing the standard premillennial interpretation of Romans 11, culminating in this one and this one. Based on this chapter (though not exclusively), premillennialists anticipate (in Englesma’s own words), “a mass conversion and salvation of Jews, and their restoration as an earthly kingdom of God in Palestine”.

That’s a fair representation of my beliefs, an exegetical hill I’ll happily die on.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (26)

We are coming down the home stretch in Zechariah, moving topic by topic, though not necessarily in the order these future events will take place. Today’s four verses are set in millennial Israel, describing the geographic upheaval that will take place at the second coming of the Lord Jesus and continue into the millennium, as well as a couple of statements concerning the rule of Christ during this period.

That rule is a well-established Old Testament fact. Zechariah can sum it up in two sentences.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: The Peasants Are Revolting

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

Joel Kotkin of The Daily Beast coins the term “Great Rebellion” to describe the phenomenon of eroding trust in elite opinion-shapers: scientists, politicians, economists, corporatists and the media. He’s not alone: Village Voice and even the Huffington Post have just run similar articles.

Tom: The peasants are revolting, Immanuel Can.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Infinite Improbability and the Multiverse Hypothesis

I’m going to start this post with an apology. I’m sorry.

I usually don’t go all egg-headed and philosophical in this space. I think that usually truth can be spoken plainly and simply, and it’s my aim to do that. Every now and then, though, I run into something that is bugging a whole bunch of people — Christians among them — and that just can’t be treated without going off the grid. This is one of those issues. If I lose you, don’t worry; this probably isn’t an issue that’s come up for you, and it needn’t worry you. Tomorrow there may well be a post that suits you more directly.

On the other hand, if you’ve run into the arguments below, you might be very glad for some help with them even if it takes us into deeper waters. So I’m going to risk it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

From the Bookshop Basement

My Christianity is not my father’s Christianity. His was not his father’s, nor his grandfather’s, which was different again.

You will understand that I am not talking about differences in the substance of what was and is believed or practiced. We have a common salvation. The faith was once for all delivered. Paul taught the same things in all the churches and in all his letters. If one departs from these things, he is preaching “another Jesus” and “a different gospel”.

That’s definitely not what I have in mind.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Quote of the Day (48)

Cultures do not suddenly plummet into the abyss for no reason. Yes, corrupt and self-serving leadership plays its part, and we have seen plenty of that in the last few decades. Still, assuming democracy is indeed the least-worst governmental option, and assuming it works as claimed to any degree at all, we have to look beyond leadership to explain how we have gotten into our current mess.

The man on the street has to be called to account.

Monday, July 08, 2024

Anonymous Asks (310)

“What does it mean to ‘call upon’ the Lord?”

The expression “to call upon” the Lord sounds admittedly archaic today. We don’t talk about calling upon the doctor, the lawyer or the bankruptcy trustee.

With reference specifically to God, the words “call upon” are a translation of the Hebrew qārā' or qārā' šēm, which means to address by name, to single out or identify. The first time the phrase appears in scripture is in Genesis 4, where the statement is made, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

What time was that? So glad you asked.

Sunday, July 07, 2024

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (31)

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Have you ever played Telephone Tag? (Maybe where you grew up people called it Broken Telephone or Chinese Whispers.) It’s a game played sitting in a circle. It begins when someone outside the circle whispers a sentence to a person selected at random, who then whispers it to the person on his right. The message continues around the circle until it reaches the person sitting to the left of the original starting point, who then declares aloud what he thinks he heard.

If the circle is large enough, you’ll frequently find the product of the exercise bears little resemblance to the original message.

Saturday, July 06, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (25)

Martin Luther said of Zechariah 14, “Here, in this chapter, I give up. For I am not sure what the prophet is talking about.” Apparently he wrote two commentaries on Zechariah, both of which ended abruptly with chapter 13. John Calvin likewise demurred to offer an interpretation, for which many of us are eternally grateful.

There is no problem interpreting Zechariah 14 if you take it literally, believe God is God and that he keeps his covenants with no cute allegorical cheats. None. So I am definitely not boldly going where no man has gone before. Lots of men have gone there. They just didn’t spiritualize everything they ever encountered in the Old Testament and apply it to the Church. Steer clear of that interpretational dead-end, and you’ll be fine. So let’s have at it!

Friday, July 05, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Religious Scrupulosity

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

Sometimes you come across something so odd you don’t know what to think about it. For example, when Immanuel Can sent me this link last week, I responded with, “Seriously? Is this real????”

Tom: Turns out it’s as real as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and probably worth making Christians aware of, assuming they have not encountered it already.

The post IC linked me to is not about OCD per se, but about a particular variety of OCD referred to in the article as “religious scrupulosity”. Like other forms of OCD, religious scrupulosity is a biochemical aberration. As we discussed last week, Christians who try to give spiritual help to a person suffering from a biochemical condition which affects their spiritual lives, and who dive into counseling them without acknowledging and accounting for these underlying physical causes, are likely to frustrate both themselves and the person they are counseling.

Maybe I should let you explain it a little bit, IC.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

He was a walking nightmare — tall, balding, all angles-and-bones, a vulture of a man. His beady eyes peered out predaciously over his hawk-like nose, and his battered tweed jacket emanated chalk dust clouds as he strode up and down the aisles. We students cowered in fear, praying he would not ask us the next question. Chances are we couldn’t answer it.

Hey, chances are we couldn’t even understand it, so high over our heads was his vocabulary.

But cowering would not save us. He would pick someone at random. “You,” he would say. “What does ‘ephemeral’ mean?” His respondent would not know. He would repeat the question, stepping closer to the cringing child. No answer.

He would persist: “Don’t you have a dictionary? … Can’t you ask anyone?”

Silence.

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

On Being Babylonian

If you’ve been paying attention to politics in Europe and south of the border, you’ll know that the so-called rules-based international order — the neo-liberal status quo in the West — is staggering around like a drunk looking for somewhere quiet to vomit. Tens of millions of voters across Europe, Canada and the US simply aren’t buying anything their leaders are telling them anymore.

Projecting power around the globe ain’t what it used to be, folks.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Bring on the Screwdriver

Inclusion is exclusion by another name. Somebody always pays the price.

This morning I went shopping at a retail chain that normally collects for cancer research, hospitals, the homeless and other causes with moral legitimacy. They could have been doing that today. Instead, they were virtue-signaling like so many of their competitors, rainbow flags everywhere, and the senior behind the cash register politely inquired whether I would like to donate a couple dollars to “the Pride”.

I just about lost my teeth … and the ones I have are not dentures.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Anonymous Asks (309)

“Why did God punish David and Bathsheba’s innocent child with death?”

I came across this question at the GotQuestions website and was curious how they would answer, as it’s something I’ve reflected on at length. It’s a reference to the events of 2 Samuel 12, in which God afflicts the bastard child Uriah’s wife bore to David, who subsequently dies of the illness much to David’s sorrow.

The sad death of comparative innocents is one of the more perplexing mysteries we ever encounter, and the GQ writers usually offer solid, biblical answers to difficult inquiries. Moreover, scripture doesn’t tell us God’s motivation in this instance, it simply tells us what happened, which means the writer of the post was obliged to conjecture.