Showing posts with label Anonymous Asks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anonymous Asks. Show all posts

Monday, May 20, 2024

Anonymous Asks (303)

“What does it mean to be spiritually dead?”

Let’s start with the fact that scripture doesn’t use the phrase “spiritually dead”. Not once. Spiritual death is a concept we’ve derived from the word of God, but it is not the language of the Bible. First, then, we need to figure out what “spiritually” means as the Bible uses it.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Anonymous Asks (302)

“How should parents who are divorcing/separating deal with child custody issues?”

How does one do a bad thing in the best possible way? This the dilemma for divorcing Christians. Finding the will of God in one area of your life when you are already rejecting the revealed will of God in another area is always going to be a losing battle. The Lord never intended Christians to divorce, and his word does not provide a great deal of direct guidance to those in the process of demonstrating they don’t want it.

The best we can do is derive some general principles from scripture about behavior patterns that are always good, and leave it at that.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Anonymous Asks (301)

“What causes church splits?”

Let’s start with this proposition: God is gracious, and may continue to bless the efforts of his people even when they make mistakes, often in spite of them. But I think we can safely say the Lord is never behind factionalism. Even Martin Luther worked to reform Roman Catholicism from within for fifteen years before settling for the alternative.

In short, there is no such thing as a good church split. Some other outcome is always preferable, and something irreplaceable is lost in every fracture of a local testimony.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Anonymous Asks (300)

“What does ‘I shall not want’ mean?”

This famous line from Psalm 23 has been translated many different ways, from the NIV’s “I lack nothing” to the NLT’s “I have all that I need” to the CEV’s “I will never be in need.” Most translations follow the traditional KJV rendering, if for no other reason than that generations are familiar and comfortable with it.

It should be evident this is not always true in the most literal sense that we might take it.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Anonymous Asks (298)

“Does the Bible support the pre-existence of Jesus?”

I love trick questions. I don’t suppose the author of today’s intended it to be tricky, but it’s tricky all the same. It’s much like the line I read some years ago in Catholic Answers about levirate marriage being an “ancient Jewish law” at the time of Onan. The only part they got right was that the custom was ancient: the word “Jew” would not come into popular usage for another millennium or thereabouts, and even the Law of Moses was still four hundred years away.

So this is going to sound like niggling, or a distinction without a difference, but it’s really not. The phrase “the pre-existence of Jesus” enables us to unpack a rather important truth.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Anonymous Asks (297)

“What does it mean to test the spirits?”

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians not to despise prophecies but to “test everything; hold fast what is good”, it was around the middle of the first century in one of the first books of the New Testament committed to parchment. The infant church was still in its initial growth spurt, most of the second half of our Bibles was still unwritten, and God spoke frequently through Christian prophets when the Old Testament was insufficient to meet the spiritual needs of gathered believers and provide them with necessary direction from the Head of the Church.

Because prophecy was so frequent, false prophecy was also frequent, so it was necessary to determine when God was really speaking and when he was not.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Anonymous Asks (296)

“What should I do when falsely accused?”

Accusations have never been easier to spread than in the internet age. They can ruin careers, drive their victims into bankruptcy and affect the lives of family members, friends and associates in extremely unpleasant ways. Even when true, accusations are often hurled willy-nilly and frequently prosecuted with nothing remotely resembling due process or compelling evidence.

When false, you have real worst-case scenario. Good luck proving your innocence.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Anonymous Asks (295)

“Should churches be seeker sensitive?”

A few weeks ago, I went to a church I’d never attended before. I took a couple of friends, one of whom is searching for meaning in her life and finally considering the possibility that her problems may have a spiritual component. From my perspective, the main attraction of this particular church was that it was close to her home and the online statement of faith looked orthodox.

The perfect is the enemy of the good and all that, right? I just wanted to get her there, and get her some spiritual food.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Anonymous Asks (294)

“Should I join an accountability group?”

Jeremy Myers says accountability groups fail miserably in that they “force” members to lie. His sexual temptation accountability group fell apart when police arrested a fellow member and successfully prosecuted him for molestation. Naturally, his attraction to minors had never come up once in all the group’s conversations about lust.

Understandable? I think so. I mean, would you talk about it? I wouldn’t. I’d spend all my energy trying not to even think about it.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Anonymous Asks (293)

“Is the sanctity of human life a biblical concept?”

Scripture is clear throughout that human life has intrinsic value. God made man in his own image and after his own likeness, a statement made about no other created beings in the universe.

That alone should make us cautious about taking the life of another.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Anonymous Asks (292)

“Why are there so many Christian interpretations?”

Knowledge is fundamentally divisive. The moment any of us determines to “get to the bottom” of this or that subject, he begins to depart from the popular narrative about it. One possibility is that he gets labeled a conspiracy theorist and marginalized by society. Another is that he becomes an expert and people start turning to him for advice.

Any exposure to increased information, true or false, creates divisions.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Anonymous Asks (291)

“How should a Christian respond to being in a loveless marriage?”

People have different personalities and experiences, as well as different levels of character development and maturity, so it should not come as a surprise that we enter married life looking for different things. In general, men are looking for respect from their wives, and women are looking for love from their husbands.

I am getting that from a couple of places.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Anonymous Asks (290)

“What does it mean that the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth?”

The Lord Jesus promised his disciples that when the Spirit of truth came, the Helper from the Father who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, he would guide them into “all truth”.

Before we look into the meaning of this promise, we need to remember that every member of the Lord’s audience at the discourse that began in the upper room was in a unique and impossible-to-duplicate position.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Anonymous Asks (289)

“How can we know the Holy Spirit is present with us when nobody is expressing strong feelings?”

Some Christians — often women, let’s be honest — evaluate the spiritual temperature of a religious gathering by its perceived emotional intensity; by whether participants spring a leak while praying, singing or sharing their thoughts. If they had their way, there would be a box of Kleenex in every pew and we would take our spiritual temperature by how often they need replacement.

Is this actually a biblical idea?

Monday, February 05, 2024

Anonymous Asks (288)

“When does grief become excessive?”

Grief is appropriate in a fallen world. The Lord Jesus taught that those who mourn are blessed, and will be comforted, and that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Scripture teaches that God himself may be grieved by the sins of his children.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Anonymous Asks (287)

“I know the Bible says we’re not supposed to depend on our feelings, but sometimes, honestly, it gets hard to feel my faith. Any thoughts?”

Feelings? Yes, they’re tricky things. You’re right to wonder about whether it’s not just a little too optimistic to simply suppose Christians never ought to feel down. We all have moments in life when things are not just a little dark, but really, really dark. What’s interesting, though, is that the writers of the Bible are far from unaware of this.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Anonymous Asks (286)

“Should Christians in democracies feel obligated to vote?”

Voting is not mandatory. Depending on how you think about it, voting can be anything from a privilege to a perceived civic duty, or even an exercise in futility.

Let me give you an example of the latter. In Canada, a “riding” is an electoral district with fixed boundaries rarely adjusted by the reigning Powers That Be unless it favors their party’s re-election chances.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Anonymous Asks (285)

“Why would God release Satan after 1,000 years?”

Any answer to a “why” that is not clearly spelled out in the text of scripture itself is bound to be somewhat speculative, but it seems to me that the text of Revelation 20 does indeed give us a few clues with which to formulate a reasonable suggestion.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Anonymous Asks (284)

“Is it inauthentic or dishonest for two Christians to remain married when they don’t get along?”

It is simply a sad fact of life that not every Christian enjoys the company of every other Christian at every moment. Almost everyone grinds our gears in one way or another. As soon as the honeymoon is over (and sometimes before), you will find out things about your partner you didn’t know and don’t like. Put two very different believers under the same roof, bind them legally and spiritually to one another, and you have a recipe for persistent unhappiness when one or both behave unbiblically.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Anonymous Asks (283)

“Why should I care about the sovereignty of God if it has no practical effect on my life?”

If we reject divine determinism as unbiblical, we may be tempted to conclude that the sovereignty of God has no practical consequences for believers. In fact, this is quite untrue.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Anonymous Asks (282)

“Do I need institutional accreditation to pastor?”

It very much depends on what you mean when you use the word “pastor”. There are at least three possibilities I can think of. (1) You are contemplating making a livelihood from preaching and teaching in a local church. (2) You desire the work of an elder and are just using “pastor” in a less formal sense as a synonym for “shepherd”, which it is. (3) You are using the word in a completely informal sense, meaning you just want to care for God’s people even if nobody but the sheep and the Lord notices you doing it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Anonymous Asks (281)

“What’s the difference between legitimate criticism and the kind of judgment Jesus condemned?”

Judge not, that you be not judged,” said the Lord Jesus, providing critics of the Christian faith with their all-time favorite verse, which they translate into something like “Never form an opinion about how we live or what we are doing, and definitely never express one.”

Well, we know the Lord didn’t mean that. He also said, “Judge with right judgment,” so the first verse is manifestly not intended to be taken as a blanket statement.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Anonymous Asks (280)

“Is there such a thing as a necessary evil?”

I opened up this can of worms by referring to systematic theology as a necessary evil a while back, so obviously I think there is. From the perspective of humanity, “necessary evils” are undesirable choices that may confront us for no reason we can discern, but more often come about when we have already departed from the word of God in some way, and no longer have the same menu of options available to us as we would have had prior to sinning.

Such choices are “evils” not in the sense that choosing them is in itself always a wicked act, but in the biblical sense, where all possible outcomes of our choices are varying degrees of disagreeable to the person choosing. The Hebrew word for “evil” may refer to either sin or simply misfortune.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Anonymous Asks (279)

“Is it possible not to worry about tomorrow?”

Our question today relates to a passage in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount in which the Lord Jesus encourages those who desire to follow him to trust their heavenly Father for their daily needs the same way he did during the three years or so in which he taught and healed in Judea and Galilee.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Anonymous Asks (278)

“Why does Paul call our difficulties a ‘momentary, light affliction’?”

Our question today comes from 2 Corinthians 4. To answer it, we need to look carefully at the pronouns Paul uses throughout his letter, as these are key to understanding the passage.

Short version: I do not think it’s our difficulties to which the apostle is referring. I believe he is referring to his own.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Anonymous Asks (277)

“Will everyone in the lake of fire suffer to the same degree?”

Catholic theologians speak of mortal and venial sins, distinguishing between degrees of evil. Dante’s The Divine Comedy contemplated a hell divided into nine descending circles, with the worst sinners at the bottom, distinguishing between degrees of punishment in the afterlife. Greater sin in this life, greater punishment in eternity, or so goes the thinking.

“But much of Romanist theology has no basis in scripture,” you protest, “and Dante’s not the Bible.” Very true. If some Protestants view the lake of fire as a great equalizer, perhaps they are simply reacting to extra-biblical traditions proclaiming the opposite.

If the Catholics believe it, it must be wrong, right? Well, maybe not in this case.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Anonymous Asks (276)

“Should a Christian listen to secular music?”

Wow. I am SO the wrong guy to ask that question. Maybe IC will take a second crack at this one next week and do better.

I love the old hymns, by which I mean pre-1940. (There was a rah-rah kind of self-involved lyric-writing popular after WWII that I cannot stand, epitomized in the Gaither style that dominated the new hymnology from the mid-fifties on.)

From then on, in my humble estimation, popular Christian music has only gotten worse.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Anonymous Asks (275)

“Should a couple be financially stable before getting married?”

Anybody who reads here regularly probably knows I have repeatedly encouraged young men to get their financial house in order not just prior to marriage, but prior to getting into any serious relationship with a young woman. The reason should be obvious: if you find yourself without sufficient self-control and employability to manage your own finances, what business do you have inviting someone else to share your life with you?

And that’s before we even consider the cost of bringing children into the world and raising them together.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Anonymous Asks (274)

“Are democracy and Christianity compatible?”

“Many forms of Government have been tried,” said Winston Churchill in the British House of Commons in 1947. He continued, “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …”

It’s admittedly backhanded, but that’s still a pretty strong commendation, and I’ve had it quoted to me by Christians when I complain about modern democracies and their failings.

I’m not sure I believe it anymore.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Anonymous Asks (273)

“What does the Bible say about women’s rights?”

Many people have strong opinions about how things should be, some of which are better and more biblical than others. Graduating from mere personal opinion to a “right” requires two things: (1) collective agreement about what any group’s entitlements actually are; and (2) a means of enforcement when disagreements arise.

When a society is functioning properly, its laws have both these properties.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Anonymous Asks (272)

“How would you describe a relationship with God to an unsaved person?”

There are probably more ways to talk about a relationship with God than most unsaved people really want to hear, so I tend to try to keep my descriptions short and in the plainest language I can come up with, always hoping they may lead to further questions.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Anonymous Asks (271)

“Does the Bible promote multiculturalism?”

For our purposes, we may define multiculturalism as the political policy of promoting the settlement of large numbers from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds in the same geographic space on the assumption they can coexist peacefully, profitably and permanently. Most Western countries are increasingly multicultural these days, the developing world much less so.

Is that a good thing? Does multiculturalism originate in biblical thinking?

Monday, October 09, 2023

Anonymous Asks (270)

“What does it mean to receive the grace of God in vain?”

Today’s question comes from 2 Corinthians 6:1, where Paul writes to the believers in Corinth, “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” When you appeal to somebody not to do something, it’s evident there is a less desirable outcome you are trying to avoid.

So then, what does receiving the grace of God in vain look like?

Monday, October 02, 2023

Anonymous Asks (269)

“Does God love everyone or just Christians?”

Love is not just something God does, it’s who he is, the overarching quality that characterizes him and the “glue” that binds together all his glorious attributes. Scripture is clear that he expresses his loving nature freely in the world, sending rain on the just and unjust alike. This expression of love is often referred to as “providence” or “common grace”, made manifest in indiscriminate kindness, delay of judgment and so on. Such generalized goodwill on God’s part toward mankind despite our fallen condition makes sense: it would be odd for Christ to command his followers to love our enemies if God did not act lovingly toward them too.

And he did. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were loved before we were ever saved.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Anonymous Asks (268)

“Is numerology an important area of study?”

I recently had an extended conversation over coffee with an old friend who is away from the Lord and experiencing all kinds of family troubles as a result. Being male, he has difficulty admitting he needs help, so during our chat he constantly deflected by talking about everything else in the world other than the current state of his relationship with Christ. Donald Trump. The LGBTQ lobby. The deterioration of the school system. You name it, he talked about it.

Needless to say, we did not get to the bottom of his problems at home. The conversation was extended, but it was not of infinite duration. Eventually he had to leave to pick up his daughter from school, and that was that.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Anonymous Asks (267)

“Can a Christian be a stay-at-home dad?”

All “Can I” questions from Christians provoke much the same reaction in me, which is something along the lines of “Why do you want to do something you already suspect is questionable?”

In this case, really questionable.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Anonymous Asks (266)

“Does God still perform miracles?”

We often hear expressions like “the miracle of birth” or “a miracle of engineering”. Such things may be impressive to the senses or sentiments but they are not, properly speaking, miraculous. Calling something a miracle that occurs naturally every eight seconds or so in the U.S. alone stretches even figurative language to the point of absurdity.

The first step in answering the question “Does God still perform miracles?” is to ensure we are all talking about the same thing.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Anonymous Asks (265)

“Should Christians give out of their gross or net income?”

In my twenties when the Lord got hold of me, I was for a time the spiritual equivalent of a fire-breathing dragon. I was VERY gung-ho about the things of God. Sometimes that was a good thing. Other times I was way too dogmatic about truth I had yet to live out and about areas of experience in which I had yet to be tested.

If you had asked me today’s question every year of my twenties, I would’ve answered “gross income” every time. Today, not so much.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Anonymous Asks (264)

“Are there any valid reasons for divorce or separation beyond what the Bible specifically identifies?”

Matthew records that the Lord Jesus told his disciples, “Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” God hates divorce and forbids it between his children. The linked phrase above beginning with “except” constitutes what most Bible students today feel is the only possible circumstance under which that general principle does not apply.

Separation is a little more nebulous.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Anonymous Asks (263)

“What does ‘despising the shame’ mean?”

Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”. I always love verses that talk about Jesus being exalted to the Father’s right hand. That’s our security as believers: the Father’s pleasure in the finished work of his Son. Every demonstration of that is a confirmation that we are loved and protected, and that the penalty for our sins will never come back to haunt us.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Anonymous Asks (262)

“Why do you consistently use an initial capital on ‘Bible’ but not ‘scripture’?”

Good question. Most older Christian writers tend to use Scripture rather than scripture. So why am I an outlier in this regard?

My general preference is typically that of modern editors, which is to use as few initial caps as possible, only where setting a word in all lower case would obscure the intended meaning.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Anonymous Asks (261)

“Why do some churches grow while others die?”

This is one of those questions for which there is no single definitive answer, especially given the way denominationalism has complicated something God made comparatively simple. First century churches were multi-ethnic, their membership driven by common faith and physical proximity rather than theological hair-splitting or spiritual consumerism.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Anonymous Asks (260)

“What’s the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?”

When translating scripture from one language to another, experts must take into account that no single word in the receptor language may capture the meaning of the original word precisely. In such cases, they may employ a phrase to replace a single word, or else choose the best possible single word approximation.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Anonymous Asks (259)

“What does it mean to be dead to sin?”

The phrase “dead to sin” comes from the language of Romans 6, in almost every translation you can find. Paul starts with “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” He ends with “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Fair enough. So what DOES that mean exactly?

Monday, July 17, 2023

Anonymous Asks (258)

“What does God have to say to single mothers?”

Go and sin no more”?

Okay, not funny. More than a few single mothers — widows, abandoned wives — get little or no choice in the matter. Still, many young women these days elect to bring a child into the world under less than optimal circumstances, in which case much of what the Lord would say to single mothers is likely to be the same sort of thing he would say to people who have sinned in other ways.

Even “sin no more” was also said to a man. So there is that.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Anonymous Asks (257)

“Who authored the Psalms?”

Scripture clearly identifies many of the psalmists with superscriptions. Sometimes we even get a little bit of detail about the circumstances in which they wrote. For example, the superscription for Psalm 3 is “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son”, and Psalm 7 is called “A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite”.

Please don’t ask what a “shiggaion” is. It’s one of those words Strong’s Concordance labels as “doubtful”.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Anonymous Asks (256)

“Why is fellowship so important for Christians?”

The early church devoted itself to four things: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers. The critical importance of three of these to church life should be obvious to anyone. However, the unique role fellowship plays in the life of Christ’s body may not leap out to the uninitiated reader of the book of Acts in quite the same way.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Anonymous Asks (255)

“Is there a biblical distinction between sex and gender?”

Despite the insistence of the trans lobby that sex and gender identity are two different things, nobody in the history of the world ever thought this until around 1950.

In 2021, journalist Tal Bachman wrote a powerful and well-researched 25-part series called “We Have Met the Enemy” (index here, trans expose commences with Part XIII) that laid bare the origins of this semantic fraud perpetrated by a failed musician from New Zealand who reinvented himself as a psychologist and “sexologist”.

His name was John Money.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Anonymous Asks (253)

“What does it mean that God will rejoice over us with singing?”

The question comes from a verse in Zephaniah, which reads: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

It provides a great illustration of the way many people tend to read the Bible.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Anonymous Asks (252)

“Is it possible to love a person you don’t like?”

Thankfully, yes. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We may wink at certain kinds of misbehavior, especially when we find them clever or funny, but God knows there is nothing to like about sin. Yet he displayed his love toward us when we were thoroughly detestable and utterly unfit for his presence.

But I suppose the real question is whether it is possible for human beings to love unlikable people. That’s a little tougher.