Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Faith Lost Pointlessly

It always saddens me to hear stories of young men and women from Christian homes who have gone off to university and purportedly “lost their faith”. The all-too-common phenomenon strongly suggests two things: (1) it wasn’t much of a faith; and (2) the students who truly abandoned the faith over intellectual difficulties placed more trust and confidence in their secular professors, textbooks and the mythical gods of Science and History than in the Bibles they had been reading their entire lives.

We can’t do much about the first problem.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Biocentrism and Reality

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

The soul: it’s a heavy topic, and one that not everyone agrees about. Dr. Robert Lanza is a biologist who says that consciousness creates the universe rather than the other way around. He’s what is called a “biocentrist”. His is a relatively new theory, having come into play around 2007. The fundamental notion behind it is that the much sought-after “Theory of Everything” scientists are looking for cannot be found until biology is placed at the head of the sciences.

Tom: It’s interesting, Immanuel Can, to see the spiritual dimension of life acquiring some scientific credibility. Do you want to take a shot at explaining Dr. Lanza’s theory?

Friday, February 09, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: What’s the Point?

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

Some people market Christianity like fire insurance, and others buy into it in fear of judgment. Then there are the folks like Joel Osteen who tell us being a believer will make us powerful and successful. Others who claim to represent Christ tell us that knowing Jesus will make us better human beings, improve our relationships or help us cope in bad times. Intellectual believers may say that in their search for truth, the Christian worldview best explains things about which they have always wondered.

Tom: Immanuel Can, there is a certain amount of rationality in most of these motives, but do they really get to the core of the Christian message?

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Youth Problems Part 2: Life in Suspended Animation

I grew up a Trekkie.

You remember that word? It was a nerd word. A “trekkie” was a person who loved the television show Star Trek. My daily ritual was to get home and plop myself down in front of the telly and catch whatever rerun was on that day. I think I saw most episodes of the original show a half dozen times or more.

I remember one episode called Space Seed, in which the crew of the Starship Enterprise discovers a ship loaded with sleeping men and women. They’re all in what’s called suspended animation: alive, but asleep and on life support, so that they can endure a lengthy trip through space. The crew revives one named Khan, and he turns out to be a kind of wild superman they’re unable to control. He’s more than a little agitated that he and his people have become the rejects of planet Earth.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Youth Problems Part 1: Double Jeopardy

“I wouldn’t want to be a teenager today!”

I hear that a lot. And I suppose there’s something to it. It’s not easy going through those vulnerable transitional years today.

But then it’s never been.

It’s a really unnatural stage of life. Today, we may take it for granted; but we are losing touch with just how irregular, how unhealthy and how bizarre it really is. That’s because most of us were raised through a socialization process — including urban economic life, mass schooling, post-secondary training, late induction into adulthood, and so on — that took it for granted. We are out of touch with just how developmentally weird it really is.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

College / University Survival Guide [Part 3]

My father always said he would prefer I never had a motorcycle. He had ridden when he was young, and he said it was very dangerous. He certainly was not going to buy me one. But I was fascinated with them, and by the time I was nineteen I owned one — a dirt bike.

I crashed it on my first day out; no real damage, just a good mud bath. After that, I got the hang of it, and was off. I never really crashed again. Sure, I came close a few times, but that was half the fun. Being young is about taking on those risks and seeing how far you can push your limits. That’s how you grow up and find out what you’re capable of.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

The Commentariat Speaks (28)

Over at Blog & Mablog, Justin has a question about a difficult passage at the end of James:

“What is the purpose of anointing with oil [James 5:14]? Does it make our prayers extra powerful? Is that for us in this day and age?

I am genuinely curious due to the fact that in our church there is a sister that has just been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. We do pray and have been praying for her, her husband, and their children.

This past Sunday during our announcements after the service our pastor stated that he and another elder were going to fulfill the James 5 principle and personally go and anoint her head with oil for healing.”

Oddly enough, we just discussed this passage in our weekly Bible study.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

College / University Survival Guide [Part 2]

What can a Christian do to maintain his or her faith on campus in the presence of a fairly discouraging atmosphere of indifference?

There’s actually quite a lot. Let me suggest that just as learning requires habits of study, staying strong in your faith requires a sort of ongoing maintenance program that counteracts the corrosive effects of secular indifference.

What’s in the survival program? Okay, let’s look at that. I’m going to put things in four categories: “preparing” (i.e. what to do right now, in order to get ready), “arriving” (i.e. what to do immediately upon getting to the campus), “surviving” (i.e. basic priorities to get you through the first year and beyond), and “thriving” (i.e. how to employ your faith to enrich your academics and actually give you a strategic advantage). How’s that?

Thursday, August 24, 2023

College / University Survival Guide [Part 1]

It won’t be very long now until universities and colleges in North America begin gearing up for the year. And with this, a whole new cohort of Christian young people will enter post-secondary life for the first time.

Are they ready?

Parents often worry about that. Everybody knows that university can be a challenging place in which to hold to your faith. It’s full of new ideas — most of them secular, and not a few genuinely anti-Christian — and new experiences — not all of them perfectly healthy and safe. But it’s also a tremendously exciting time for many young people; and when we consider it part of a natural process of moving from parental control to full independence, then there’s every reason to be positive about it. (And parents, when you consider the alternative, what’s better?)

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Faith’s Got Legs

It’s been a good winter for walking.

There’s hardly been any ice on the sidewalks, for one thing. For another, you could go out in February and march about in a thin jacket.

My little terrier has been ecstatic, actually. He loves a good walk. Dogs need a couple every day; and unlike in other winters, there have been plenty of smells around for him to get into. He stops everywhere, and he finds everything delightful. My dog trainer would never approve, but I can’t resist indulging him a little bit, and so our peregrinations contain frequent pauses to let him sniff about. Sometimes I actually think we walk his nose more than we walk my legs. But who could begrudge him a winter like this?

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Settled Science

Science promoters reassure us of the safety of the peer review process. Most people imagine peer review consists of teams of scientists performing experiments to verify claims made in published studies. In reality, peer review often consists of little more than proofreading, and vast numbers of allegedly peer-reviewed studies have been demonstrated to be fraudulent. The editor of one of Britain’s top medical journals opined that “much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue”.


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Messengers and Marketers

The apostle Peter is writing about the letters of the apostle Paul, and he has this to say: “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” When something is hard to understand, it can stumble people, becoming an obstacle to faith or discipleship.

Believe it or not, that’s not always a bad thing.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Evidence We Can Point To

Apologists gotta apologize.

You can’t blame them, really. It’s how apologists are made, and the body of Christ would not be complete or anywhere near so well defended if we didn’t have them. But sometimes, no matter how hard we want to demonstrate that some assertion we disagree about in scripture is intellectually, historically, scientifically or factually defensible, we are going to hit a wall.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Anonymous Asks (251)

“What does ‘test yourselves’ mean in 2 Corinthians 13:5?”

Self-assessments are notoriously hard to get right, even for Christians. As Jeremiah put it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” If our security in Christ depends on our ability to correctly analyze the state of our own belief, then we are bound to be perpetually short of the spiritual confidence necessary to live victoriously.

I think the key to properly understanding that passage is recognizing Paul intended “test yourselves” neither individually nor subjectively. Evidence to follow …

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Sailing the High Seas

An old friend sent me an email a while ago. He was concerned:

“My daughter is going off to university next year, and she wants to take English Literature as her major! I’m worried about her: could you talk to her?”

I had to smile. Sure, I could talk to her. After all, I had been through all that, and I had survived just fine, thank you.

But why the panic?

Monday, January 23, 2023

Anonymous Asks (233)

“Is Christianity wish fulfillment?”

The idea that the Christian faith is a form of confirmation bias or a pleasing fantasy concocted by people who simply can’t cope with the hard realities of life has been floating around in one form or another for thousands of years. The old catchphrase “pie in the sky” was a flippant dismissal of the sort of person who puts all his stock in the belief in life after death rather than embracing a philosophy of “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die” like sensible, realistic people do.

To that I reply, “Say what???”

Sunday, November 27, 2022

When Is It Wrong to Pray? (1)

True faith is an expression of submission and obedience.

When a person believes on Jesus Christ, he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s who Jesus is. A believer receives a Lord who saves and a Savior who lords. The person who expresses faith in this way may never understand all that involves. They simply know they are lost, they realize they need salvation, they cry out for mercy and they put their trust in a Lord who saves, with the emphasis (in their minds) on being saved.

However, once they have come to him, they realize they have come to one who not only saves but also rules. He is Lord.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

What Kind of Faith Do You Have?

Samuel Rutherford once wrote to his friend, “I find it most true that the greatest temptation out of hell is to live without temptations ... Faith is the better for the free air and the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withers without adversity. The devil is but God’s master-fencer, to teach us how to handle our weapons.” The Lord has used that last sentence more than once to lift discouragement and despair from my shoulders. I believe it expresses the truth.

So tell me, what kind of faith do you have?

Friday, October 21, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: When We ALL Get to Heaven

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

The Huffington Post headline reads “Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics”.

The Post adds, “Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists. During his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome, Francis emphasized the importance of ‘doing good’ as a principle that unites all humanity.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

What Should We Think About Death?

The British Humanist Association would like to tell us what we should think about death.

The plummy tones of comedian Stephen Fry introduce the concept, but you really can’t enjoy it in its full glory without the cartoon visuals. This link should maximize your viewing experience:

“One thing we can be sure of is that we will die. Everybody will.”

Tell us something we don’t know, Stephen.

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’.”

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Faith in Action

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” says someone who doubts the truth of what he has been told.

That statement is absurd. He should know there is no need to believe anything once it is seen. The fact that “one day faith will give way to sight” does not mean faith is inferior to sight; each faculty has a time and opportunity to show its worth. The time for faith is today, the time for sight is tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Acts of Faith That Aren’t

Some things in my life that might look like faith to the uninitiated are really just me being me.

I’m not alone in this. Like many other Old Testament saints, Jacob’s faith rates a mention in Hebrews 11. But it’s interesting to see the act of faith for which he is commended, and to consider the many acts for which he is not.

It would, of course, be foolish to think the Hebrews list of acts of faith is exhaustive: the writer concludes with the words “time would fail me to tell”, which statement strongly implies numerous acts of faith left unmentioned among which may well be a number of Jacob’s.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

On the Supposed Misuse of the Old Testament

Online commentators argue that the apostle Paul misuses the Old Testament.

Some of these are garden-variety cranks, determined to prove all English versions of the Bible inaccurate. They insist reading the Jewish Tanakh is the only way to go. There’s really no placating people like that. Others set Paul against Jesus, maintaining that only the words of Christ really matter, and that the writings of the apostles are unreliable, inferior and downright wrong. Still others, like Pete Enns, object particularly to Paul, arguing that he read the Old Testament out of context, failing to respect what its authors intended to communicate.

How does the average Christian reply to such accusations?

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Faith of the Calvinists

Okay, I’m writing this post because I came across something so bizarre I didn’t even know what to say to it at first. You’re going to have to bear with me, because you’ll probably have trouble believing anyone could get anything so wrong. But I promise you this is the truth.

I was writing back and forth with one of my Calvinist friends. As you know, I’m not one of them myself, but that doesn’t keep me from liking quite a few of them as people.

Don’t ask. I like a lot of strange things.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Same Spirit, Different Display

“I’ll believe that when I see it” is an often-heard doubter’s response to an account or prediction he does not choose to accept. If we take his words literally, he limits certainty to what can be verified by one of his senses, in this case sight.

Some people are prepared to step beyond that if they consider their instructor or source to be reliable. In doing so they exercise faith in the source.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Theism and the Skeptics [Part 2]

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Have you noticed that our age is great for pretending not to know what the Bible says it could and should know?

Honestly, it’s enough to make one cynical.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Atheists in Foxholes

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

David Rönnegard is 37. He has a PhD in philosophy from the London School of Economics, and is a researcher and teacher in corporate social responsibility in Stockholm. But far too soon David’s friends and family will be using “had” and “was” rather than “has” and “is” to describe him.

Dr. Rönnegard has stage four lung cancer.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Theism and the Skeptics [Part 1]

In two previous posts (The Atheist’s New Clothes and What You Don’t Know Can Kill You), I pointed out that Christianity’s two skeptical critics, atheism and agnosticism, are essentially irrational and explained why they just cannot be taken seriously.

In this post and the next one, I’m answering the obvious first comebacks. These are what I get from the atheists and agnostics themselves, or from those who have been trusting in them. Theism, they say, must surely be susceptible to exactly the same criticisms I have raised against atheism and agnosticism — and perhaps, they venture, even more susceptible: for their supposition is that if their own positions are weak, then surely anything “religious” must be even less well thought out.

Sorry. Not so.

I can show them, but they usually don’t like it much when I do.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Standing on the Premises

No, that is not a typo, nor are we referring to the “many dwelling places” in heaven.

Now, there are indeed promises given in scripture so plainly that only unbelief can cause us to miss the benefit of them. For example, in Old Testament times God showed his care for Abraham, the “father” of those who believe, by condescending to put himself under oath. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that “when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Big Questions and the Loss of Faith

A few years ago, this little brain-teaser was making the rounds. Take a run at it, and let’s see how you do:

Three old ladies go to a hotel one evening, hoping to save money by sharing a room. The hotel manager charges each $20 for the night, though he knows the room is only worth $40. Shortly thereafter, the manager feels guilty that he has charged them too much, so he sends the bellboy to return $20 to the old ladies. On the way, the bellboy realizes that he cannot split $20 among three ladies, so he pockets $5 and hands them the remaining $15.

Here is the problem. The ladies paid $60 initially. Since they received $5 each, the net amount they paid for the room was $15 each, which adds up to a total of $45. The bellboy has $5 in his pocket, which if you add it to the $45 makes $50. Where is the other $10 that they paid the manager?

Now, if you’re normal, your instant reaction is, “This is amazing … a hotel room for only $20!”

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Things Not Seen

It’s a white world where I live. Earlier this week we had something like a foot and a half of snow fall in a matter of hours. I woke up to two hours of shoveling. My back is still feeling it.

But this morning I was out on the road again for my very early morning walk, which was a little slower going than usual. I guess the City has to prioritize where the plows go first. Many parked cars on my street were still under so much of the white stuff that you couldn’t tell the difference between an SUV and a sedan. You also couldn’t tell where the sidewalks were, or the fire hydrants, or many of the usual landmarks.

They were all still there of course. You just couldn’t see them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Another Cat and Dog Story

Trust between two beings is a wonderful and tremendously fragile thing.

Another cat and dog story. Sorry. You find your illustrations where you find them, and I’ll do the same. Pet haters may tune out here.

Dogs and cats are very different beings. Obviously, each member of a species is a unique set of data points on a wide spectrum of behavioral characteristics. Your Rottweiler is not my Shih Tzu. Your amiable moggy is not my brother’s exceedingly defined Siamese. Some animals in each species exhibit more trust than others. But generally speaking, dogs are way more trusting than cats, and cats are way smarter. At least those are the uneducated observations of a lifetime of enjoying God’s creation up close.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Faith and Courage

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Was the Lord’s prayer for Simon answered in the affirmative? I believe it was. From the events described by Luke later in the chapter you might not think so, but there is a difference between a failure of faith and a failure of courage, no? And certainly Jesus appears fully confident of Peter’s speedy restoration, not only with respect to his fellowship with the risen Lord, but with respect to his ongoing responsibility to shepherd others.

It is not “if you turn again”, but when. The Lord himself had seen to it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Having Your Cake

We are forever being told we need to keep open minds. Close-minded people tend toward confirmation bias. We wouldn’t want to just see what we expect to see, right?

Hey, an open mind is a wonderful thing. But an open mind needs to be open the same way a baseball glove is open.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Strangers and Sojourners

Abraham was a sojourner, as were Isaac, Jacob and their children. Moses too was a sojourner. They acknowledged themselves to be “strangers and exiles”, and thus their history provides a useful and familiar illustration of the relationship of believers to the world in which we live. Jesus said of his disciples, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” The apostle Paul wrote that “our citizenship is in heaven” rather than in any earthly nation. The Hebrews were urged to “go to him [Jesus] outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured”.

That’s one side of the story. There is another.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (12)

There is belief and then there is belief.

The oppressed people of Israel “believed” God had sent Moses and Aaron to deliver them from Egyptian slavery until Pharaoh suddenly doubled their workload and they began having doubts.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on them: it’s easy to believe something when it’s purely theoretical and doesn’t cost you anything. When belief persists despite resulting in humiliation, physical injury, hunger or economic loss, that’s when it starts to look a little more credible.

The book of Jonah tells us that the people of Nineveh “believed God”. There was nothing abstract or theoretical about it.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (9)

The book of Jonah provokes a whole spectrum of reactions. I find it just a little amusing to dig through blog posts and online commentaries only to discover that on one side we have Christians who want to take all the miracles out of Jonah so that it reads more plausibly, while on the other we have Christians who want to introduce new miracles into the book from between the lines of its text.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it can also be confusing to new readers of scripture.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Third-Tier Faith

Once in a while when confronting others with the claims of Jesus Christ, Christians run into a response like “I truly wish I could believe that, but I just haven’t got the faith,” or “If only I could be sure what you’re saying is true ...”

Sound familiar? I’ve been thinking a lot about that excuse.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Faith in the Crosshairs

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

The website GodIsImaginary is an interesting study.

As you might guess from the title, it’s the work of evangelical atheists attempting to lure gullible Christians into the spiritual equivalent of a Venus flytrap. The bait is a little bit of flattery: “I’m going to assume you are an educated Christian”, “You are a smart person. You know how the world works, and you know how to think critically.”

It’s quite a clever move actually. For once, they’ve dialed back the mockery and abuse atheists can rarely resist in the interest of catching more flies with honey.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

What’s Behind Faith?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
— Hebrews 11:1

“I consider rationality (in a nutshell) to be: ‘an accurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.’ I can think of no better definition of faith than the exact opposite of this: ‘A grossly inaccurate apportionment of belief in a statement concerning the objective nature of reality, with respect to the available evidence.’

However, I invite those who have faith, and profess it as a virtue, to submit their definition of faith.”
— Joseph Dorrell, Ted Talks, 2012

Okay, Joseph. Let’s play.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Youth Problems Part 2: Life in Suspended Animation

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Youth Problems Part 1: Double Jeopardy

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

From the Cat’s Perspective

I’m sitting in the vet’s office with a very unhappy young feline. She was okay in the car; a little curious but not overly concerned. Now her tail is fluffed up like a feather duster and she’s growling, a sound I’ve never heard from her before. The instrument poking into her ears was bad enough, the prodding and squeezing of her abdomen was worse, and then came the rabies shot and the growling if you accidentally touch her where it now hurts.

To top things off, this is only the preliminary round. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s getting spayed in two weeks. That’s when things will really get ugly.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Biocentrism and Reality

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Anonymous Asks (74)

“Does God only help those who help themselves?”

I hope you will not think I am equivocating if I answer, “It depends.” Because it does. Sometimes believers have to do a great deal of the heavy lifting while carrying out the plans and purposes of God. To shirk our obligations would be to defy God himself. Other times, getting involved in accomplishing God’s purposes is not only unnecessary, but can cause all kinds of complications and regret.

Abraham’s wife Sarah could tell you how badly that can go.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Faith’s Got Legs

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: What’s the Point?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

You Could’ve Just Asked

Some people approach God as if he is mechanical rather than personal; as if checking all the right religious boxes will get you what you want out of him, after which you can happily go on your way until the next time you need something.

It’s not specifically a Catholic thing, an Orthodox thing, or a Protestant thing, but it’s definitely a thing. The tendency to view God as a stimulus-response Being on a cosmic scale can infect even the most theoretically-liberated evangelical heart.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Anonymous Asks (63)

“If I doubt my salvation, am I still saved?”

Doubts are a part of life. If you have never had them, you simply haven’t lived long enough yet.

To understand the answer to this question, it is necessary to consider how we were saved in the first place. Paul answers it very simply: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Put your trust in the resurrected Christ, then acknowledge his right to rule. Over the world. Over your life. In public. Not complicated. These are the beginnings of the salvation process.