Showing posts with label Corinthians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Corinthians. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Better Second Fiddle

Back in 1939, theorist Kurt Goldstein coined the term “self-actualization” to describe the motive to realize what he called “one’s full potential”.

In Goldstein’s view this drive might take the form of creative expression, pursuit of knowledge or the desire to contribute to society in some personally-defined way. Goldstein believed self-actualization was any organism’s “master motive” and its most basic drive in life. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory built on Goldstein’s concept and is probably the most familiar expression of it.

Among others in Christian circles, Rachel Held Evans seems to have bought into Goldstein’s theories.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The pendulum swings. Even Christians are not inclined to be creatures of moderation, it seems.

At one end of the arc, believers sit docilely in pews being entertained. Assuming the pastor is not merely a well-packaged platform presence of minimal substance and that he genuinely possesses a spiritual teaching gift, he is the only one who gets to exercise it. At best, the performance holds our interest. At worst, we find ourselves constantly checking the time.

At the other extreme it’s a bit chaotic and unpredictable: men and women “share”, digress, pontificate, tell stories and interrupt each other to such an extent that impartial observers would be hard pressed to distinguish between spiritual gifts, natural impulses and mere gleeful enthusiasm at the opportunity to actually DO something in the church for once.

Few churches find the sweet spot between hierarchy and anarchy, between boredom and bedlam.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Turning the Beat Around

Today’s title? Sorry about that ... it just worked. And yep, that’s right: now you’re going to have Vickie Sue Robinson’s 1976 disco anthem in your brain all day. My bad.

Disco’s not my taste either. In fact, as a leftover child of the New Wave era, I’ve always thought it was the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse. But that’s not going to help you with Vickie today. Like it or not, she’s going to be in your head.

You can thank me later.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Mr. MacArthur, Please Find a Different Verse

“Are you a Christian?”

That’s not me asking. That’s renowned Bible teacher John MacArthur. He’s suggesting we all need to do a little self-examination to see if we are “in the faith”. And he thinks scripture supports the practice.

Hmm. I’m wondering if that might not make for a large number of miserable, panicky Christians questioning their salvation for no good reason.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Infants, Innocence and Ignorance

“Be infants in evil ...”

“We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs.”

In the first instance, Paul appears to be suggesting that Christians in the churches of Corinth were better off the less they knew about evil. Perhaps naivety has its benefits. In the second, the same apostle writes to the very same Christians that “we” — which I take to mean Paul and Timothy, authors of the letter and fellow workers in Christ — are familiar with the manipulations and schemes Satan uses to pit Christian against Christian. That implies a bit of inside knowledge about the way in which evil works, or at very least basic pattern recognition.

Is Paul suggesting there are two different standards of understanding about evil: one for experienced Christian workers and another for the average Joe and Jane in the pews? Or possibly Paul is just being inconsistent ...

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Living Large

“What church do you guys go to?”

The question came out of left field. She had been poking around at her desk, seemingly preoccupied with the day’s business. Normally our exchanges were rare, light and usually practical.

I liked her as a person, but we hadn’t had many deep conversations. There was always a brittleness in her manner if any spiritual matter ever appeared on the horizon — not an uncommon happening if one teaches literature, as we both did. A lapsed Catholic, now essentially secular in all her habits, she usually avoided such topics completely. So to foray into spiritual issues so suddenly was very unlike her.

“An evangelical church up the road. Why?”

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Bible Study 12 — Context [Part 6]

The final instalment in the re-presentation of our 2013-2014 series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here.

The second Bible study tool we are discussing is context. For justification, see the first post on this subject.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Be Careful What You Wish For

What are the limits of the patience of God? More importantly, how many of us are wise enough to discern those limits and stop short of them?

Anyone familiar with the gospels recognizes that testing the patience of God is dangerous. Satan once took the Lord Jesus to a pinnacle of the temple and reminded him of the promises of God in the Old Testament about the protection of those who make the Lord “their dwelling place” in the hope that Jesus would jump in order to make a point. The Lord responded by quoting the Law of Moses: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Knocking Over the Hurdles

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about how important it is not to put barriers to Christian faith in the way of the unsaved. I certainly don’t want to do that, and I’m very sure you don’t either.

Archaic language and holy jargon can be hurdles. Arguing about the age of the earth can be off-putting, as can paternalism, denominational conflicts, smugness, and a host of other far-too-common attitudes and practices that needn’t and shouldn’t get in the way of the knowledge of Christ.

These things are unnecessary, and it’s shameful to see someone shake his head and retreat into the darkness of ignorance and eternal loss over the bad manners and misplaced priorities of the messenger, over mere tradition, or over form.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Living Large

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Why Do Christians Disagree?

Religious skeptics, along with many sincere believers young and old, find the lack of agreement among Christians to be a most perplexing and off-putting fact.

Denominationalism is only one manifestation of its reality. Within virtually all denominations we can find numerous ‘minor’ convictions still considered significant enough by their proponents to justify breaches of fellowship with those who hold different views, amicably or otherwise.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Do We Need Revival?

I meet with a group of believers, more than one of whom prays regularly and passionately for revival.

Often these requests go beyond the local level and become a bit denominational in character. Occasionally they are even more sweeping, taking in all of evangelicalism, or perhaps the church throughout North America.

I’ve always found the term “revival” a little awkward, and I now realize why: notwithstanding our hymnology, “revive” is an Old Testament word and “revival” is really an Old Testament concept.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Implementing the Peace Principle

Legally speaking, a conflict of interest is a situation in which a person owes a duty to more than one party, the execution of which duties are either incompatible or mutually exclusive. In other words, discharging one’s responsibility to the first party may result in negatively impacting or failing to discharge one’s responsibility to the second.

This is not a situation with which Christians are unfamiliar. Conflicts of interest are part of the package.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Tactics and Their Acceptability

A well-known biblical precept begins with the words “Do unto others ...”

Context strongly suggests the Lord intended his followers to engage with his teaching actively rather than passively, by performing positive moral acts toward those in need of them.

That said, the negative implication most commonly drawn from his words (“Refrain from doing things you WOULDN’T like done to you”) is not wrong.

Either way, the social justice crowd would do well to pay attention.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Still Ticking Boxes

How many times have you heard that Christians are not under law, we are under grace?

A fair number, I’m guessing. But living by the Spirit rather than by the letter of the law requires more than just ticking boxes. We cannot read instructions in the New Testament in the same way many Israelites read their law; as if, having observed all direct commands, we are now free to behave however we may please.

Life by the Spirit just doesn’t work that way.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Much Does It Have To Hurt?

So ... how much do you need to hurt before God will forgive you?

It’s a good question. I have a friend who holds himself responsible for a tragedy that occurred a few years ago. I’m not even sure he’s actually guilty of the sin he believes he committed: when others make choices so fast you don’t have time to think of how to respond until it’s too late, how much responsibility is yours and how much is theirs?

The Lord knows. I wouldn’t dare guess.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (1)

Someone just murdered my favourite verse ...
It’s time for a new semi-regular Coming Untrue series, I think.

Writing four to five blog posts every week for more than three years involves a fair bit of research, as you might imagine. I don’t keep track, but I suspect I average as many as ten hours a week just looking things up, whether it’s Greek or Hebrew in Strong’s, cross-checking other people’s statements of fact, or looking up verses that others have quoted as evidence of this or that. Hey, I’m not complaining; I benefit greatly from the exercise.

But one thing I notice is that way too often Christian writers cite proof texts that have little or nothing to do with what they are alleged to demonstrate.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It May Be the Armor

“Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off.”

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s helmet and coat of mail; they worked just fine for Saul.

There was nothing wrong with Saul’s intentions; at the time he thought well of David. He had no desire to sabotage David’s efforts and every reason to hope he might succeed against Goliath.

And there was definitely nothing wrong with David; Saul’s armor just didn’t suit him.

Sometimes other people’s methods don’t work for us.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Did God Invent Slavery?

If the ongoing debate over the appropriate Christian response to the institution of slavery is not the single touchiest subject currently batted around by evangelicals in multicultural societies, it has to be at least Top Five.

Some Christians, perhaps wisely, dodge the issue entirely if at all possible: “Are there slaves today anywhere in the West? Have there been any for over a century? No? Well then, it’s irrelevant what I think about it. Next question!”

Most of us wouldn’t put it that baldly, but we would be just as happy discussing something else.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Commentariat Speaks (6)

“Socialism is basically Christianity without the divine power. Socialism is man’s attempt to bring utopia to reality.”

Uh ... not really. I mean, yes on the utopian bit, no on the comparison to Christianity.

It’s not just the absence of divine power, though that’s certainly one reason socialism reliably fails. As Margaret Thatcher noted, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Other Fly in the Ointment

The careful student of scripture, as I have pointed out in two recent posts, gets his cues about appropriate Christian behaviour and church order from instructions found in the New Testament. Historical narrative in the Bible provides us with much useful information, but it should not be considered authoritative in the same way as is a direct commandment.

That’s a useful principle to observe if you want to avoid confusion. God is probably not calling you to exterminate idolatrous Canaanites, slay giants with a slingshot or lead a slave uprising in Egypt. Likewise, he probably does not expect you to perform miracles, speak in foreign languages you don’t understand or predict a coming famine.

Still, every rule of interpretation seems to have its occasional exception, which is lamentable in that it requires us to exercise discernment rather than simply checking boxes. Oops.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Chameleon Turning Plaid

Hey, I’m trying! I’m trying!
Easy question: What do all these statements have in common?

It’s locker room talk — it’s one of those things.

If everybody’s watching all of the backroom discussions and the deals, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.

Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.

Answer: They take for granted that speaking out both sides of one’s mouth is perfectly normal.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What Lies Behind

What do we do with the past?

In one sense, obviously, not much. It is what it is. We can’t change it, we can’t rewrite it, and while we can reinterpret it, that may not be a particularly useful exercise if our current outlook is an honest one.

Still, how we process our past and how our thoughts about it affect us today are significant.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Turning the Beat Around

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Inbox: Measuring the Wind

WD writes, “How does the Spirit work in a person’s life and how can one know He is?” An excellent question.

It’s also a question I wouldn’t dare try to answer in a single blog post, even if I thought myself an expert on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which I don’t. But our reader’s question has been lurking at the back of my mind as I’ve worked my way through William Trotter’s little pamphlet on worship and ministry in the Spirit.

As much as impressions may be powerful things, I remain cautious about attributing to the Holy Spirit anything that is merely subjective, mystical or personal.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Happy Ending

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
— Orson Welles

Such a great line. If anyone knew how to tell a story, the legendary director did.

Life, however, does not neatly and naturally subdivide itself into an introduction, three acts and a tidy conclusion. We do not script our entrance or our exit, and we exercise minimal control over events occurring in between.

And all of it is very much open to interpretation.

Monday, August 01, 2016

What We’re Here For

I don’t know how many people remember Rocky (1976), the boxing drama about a loan shark’s debt collector from the Philadelphia slums who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship. It was released forty years ago, after all.

I saw it as a kid and don’t remember being particularly impressed by the story or enthralled by the characters. I found it all a bit grimy, if I recall. What stuck with me about the Rocky Balboa character, though, was that he just wouldn’t stay down.

Oh, he takes a beating alright.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Golden Calves and Sacred Cows

Just another divine bovine ...
Anyone who has carefully read the New Testament through more than once will concede that most modern evangelical church meetings bear little resemblance to the gatherings described in the letters of the apostle Paul.

That alone doesn’t necessarily make today’s churches “wrong”: both local autonomy and format flexibility are built into the New Testament church. Thus some of today’s churches may be most accurately described in the words of a local city building inspector who referred to a nearby triplex as “legal non-conforming”.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Living Large

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Gifts Yesterday and Today

Why are the spiritual gifts we observe in the book of Acts so much more impressive and obviously supernatural than the gifts we observe today? Why do some of the gifts on Paul’s ‘gift lists’ in Corinthians and Romans appear to be missing or underutilized in our churches?

If you’ve been reading the last two days (here and here), I’ve done my best to rule out A.W. Tozer’s chief culprits: unspirituality and bad teaching. These are certainly problems we may observe in many gatherings of Christians and of which we always need to be careful. I do not believe, however, that they are primarily responsible for the apparent dearth of gift in modern Christendom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Giant Reset Button

Photo: Flattop341
Baruch Davidson notes that the Jubilee year is not observed or commemorated in modern Israel.

Before the Assyrian conquest of the northern portion of the divided kingdom in the sixth century BC, Davidson says, the Jubilee was regularly celebrated. But a dispute over the interpretation of the words “all who live on it” in Leviticus 25:10 has led many Jews to conclude that the festive year of freedom may only be celebrated when all twelve tribes are living in the Promised Land. So until the return of the ten “lost” tribes, the Jubilee is on hold.

That may not seem a big deal today. It would have been a huge deal to an Israelite in the years before the Assyrian captivity.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Better Second Fiddle

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Communicable Defilement

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about the Levitical laws having to do with uncleanness and ritual defilement, and I applied them to the subject of mankind’s relationship to its Creator.

Since nothing happened to Israel in a vacuum and precious few of their laws are without some practical application to the Christian life, today I’d like to look at the issue of ongoing defilement and uncleanness in the era beyond the Law of Moses.

But before we do that, we need to take one last look back at Leviticus.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

One Corporate Setting

What is the “whole church” anyway?

Crawford Paul says, “Home studies, conversation studies, group prayer times etc. do not fall under that condition [the instructions of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 about church order in which women are silent and men teach and lead, long as the whole church is not expected to attend or be gathered in one corporate setting. In these cases, men and women are free to participate in those activities.”

But what scriptural authority does Crawford have for this freedom of audible participation for both sexes in situations in which the “whole church” is not expected to be present but any combination of its members may be? If he has any, he does not cite it.

This may be because such authority does not exist.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Culture Creep

Early this year, Crawford Paul wrote about how local churches can change to promote growth. One commenter gently took him to task:

“Post what changes you want, and what it means to open discussions (women speaking?) and be more specific.”

Short version: I jumped all over the commenter, who seemed generally opposed to change in the church and suggested Mr. Paul’s posts were fostering discontent. It seemed to me he was reading things into Crawford’s appeals for change that simply weren’t there (the subject of women speaking was never addressed in the post). I even suggested the commenter might be jumping at shadows.

Now I’m wondering if maybe I owe the poor guy an apology. He may not be so paranoid after all.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Beyond Baseline Obedience

The specs for the Ark are so clear
even Hasbro made a model of it.
Words on paper are rarely enough.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the written word. I wouldn’t be blogging daily if I thought written communication isn’t effective and meaningful. It’s a tremendous blessing, and one for which we should always be thankful.

Still, when the original communicator is no longer on the scene, the limitations of words alone start to become evident.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Poetry and Practice

The apostle Paul is not primarily known as a poet.

Still, even translated into English, 1 Corinthians 13 is poetic enough to have been set to music or read at millions of weddings all over the world, religious and secular.

So much so that Mark Woods at Christian Today wishes we’d use something else instead. He says, “Paul’s sublime, God-breathed words in 1 Corinthians have been co-opted and corrupted by a wedding industry that celebrates romantic love, which is all about hormones, at the expense of Christian love, which is all about commitment”.

Not wrong.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Mr. MacArthur, Please Find a Different Verse

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Phrases That Jump Out At You

This one did:

“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”

The three words that stuck in my head are “for OUR glory”.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Decently and in Order [Part 2]

The New Testament is not laid out like a textbook or reference manual.

If we’re honest, many of the conclusions generally drawn about first century church order and the way the early Christians conducted themselves when they met together are based on a verse or two here and there and the occasional example. Some things are very clear; others are mainly inference and supposition.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Decently and in Order [Part 1]

The Bible is not a textbook.

Some people treat it like one, but even a cursory look reveals it’s considerably more complex than that. It is a collection of history, poetry, ancient law, prophecy, doctrine, personal letters and more. Despite the fact that it is a compilation, the Bible is somewhat systematic in the sense that there are lessons taught consecutively from Genesis to Revelation that build on what has already been established. That should not surprise us if we believe it to be divinely authored. The final few books (from Romans on) are perhaps the most pointed and direct in addressing how the reader ought to respond to it.

But its format is not “textbook-y” in the least.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Unchristian, Sure … But is it Wrong?

Strictly speaking, an unchristian thought is a desire, wish or inclination that does not conform to the principles taught by Christ.

But the term is frequently used much more broadly in our culture and even in religious circles to describe things considered outright evil. If a sentiment is unchristian, the assumption is often that it is automatically wicked, uncivilized or unconscionable

And in many cases, that’s quite true. But maybe not in every case.

Is it possible, perhaps, to be “unchristian” without being wrong?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

By Any Other Name

Pretty, but you get better light when it’s in one piece ...
What is the church, really?

If we want to understand the concept as God designed it and as he sees it, we have to start with the New Testament. The truth about the church cannot be known any other way. Sure, there are lots of invented, historical ways in which we may conceptualize the church. But if we believe in the inspiration of the Bible, this is where we need to begin.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Room in My Heart

What do we mean when we talk about “living on” in one another’s hearts?

We certainly say it enough.

Thomas Campbell said, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”. If the content of our eulogies and obituaries indicates anything at all, then it seems we believe him.

Taken literally, Campbell’s statement is categorically untrue. Even if we firmly believe in Christian resurrection or some kind of afterlife, we recognize that death creates a disconnect between us and those we love that cannot be bridged this side of eternity. In the physical sense, dead is dead. But that is neither what Campbell means nor what we mean when we mourn using similar language.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Bring on the Hired Guns

So how much should you pay your pastor?

No, really, that’s the question.

Patrick Traylor poses it in this article. Patrick is an elder to quite literally thousands at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., as well as a lawyer by profession. As an elder, the man knows megachurches. As a lawyer, he ought to know all about compensation.

But is he right about what the scripture teaches on the subject?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joining the Choir

Is waving our arms absolutely necessary?
I make no claim to being world’s best listener.

When I advise someone to be patient, it’s most often because the thing they’re bothered about would not bother me in similar circumstances. So I consider that either they are worrying about something they have no control over (and therefore worrying pointlessly), or they are worrying about something over which they DO have control, but for reasons known only to themselves are unprepared to take the action required to deal with it.

Both types of unnecessary agitation are irritants to anyone of a pragmatic disposition.

Thus “be patient” from my lips often has the force of “please go away and flap your jaws elsewhere; I’m doing something more interesting”.

What does a choir have to do with patience? Give me a sec.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Do We Need Revival?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Get a Cat, Richard

Not my cat, but close enough
I’m feeling inadequate today, for a number of reasons.

One is age. Okay, fine, relatively speaking I’m not all THAT old. Still, when you get out of bed in the morning and creak all the way to the bathroom and don’t feel like yourself until you’ve had your morning coffee (assuming you are still allowed by your doctor to drink coffee and of course always assuming that alcohol is not involved), you start to think about how much worse it may get.

Someone at the midweek prayer meeting I attend recently offered up thanks for the life of a fellow believer who just reached 110, more than twice my age. That is, to me, a daunting prospect.