Showing posts with label Peter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter. Show all posts

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.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Two Promises

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

In Matthew 16, upon Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus responds with two promises, which we may briefly restate as: (i) “On this rock I will build my church”, and (ii) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven …”

Tom: There’s more to these promises, obviously, but I wanted to consider a couple of issues. First, whether these are two separate promises, or if the second is merely some kind of amplification of the first, and second, when can we anticipate the realization of these promises.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Laughter of Jackals

When I was young, back in the 1970s, disaster movies were in vogue. Perhaps the most memorable was Jaws (1975), but before that were such noteworthies as The Omega Man (1971), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Airport and Earthquake (1974). Afterward came such screen gems as Rollercoaster (1977), Meteor, Hurricane and The China Syndrome (1979). All in all, there were more than fifty such major Hollywood disaster productions released in the period.

And everybody was going to see them and talking about how great the special effects were or how spectacularly people were shown dying in them.

Odd, don’t you think?

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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Indirect Evidence for Inspiration

In an era when not just politicians, lawyers and Muslims but average men and women increasingly play fast and loose with truth, one may forgive a little scepticism when someone makes a claim.

All scripture is breathed out by God”, Paul once wrote to Timothy.

That is a pretty significant assertion, and it is not one that can be substantiated by direct evidence. Christians cannot produce Polaroids of Paul or David in the process of writing the words of God surrounded by a nimbus or with an angel handing them a scroll. Nor can eyewitnesses confirm the presence of any Spirit Being overshadowing, indwelling, controlling or directing the authors of scripture. They are all long gone, if such witnesses ever existed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

How Saved Are You?

Most of us associate our salvation with a specific incident: a conversation, a sudden realization, a moment in which it became clear to us that the Lord was speaking; that God was right and we were wrong; that we were sinners and that there was something we urgently needed to do about that. So in our own way we cried out to God: some with tears, some more tentatively, still not completely sure what might be involved. How much we may have fully grasped of the role of Christ in both salvation and in the government of our lives from then on almost certainly differed from person to person.

But my point is … it was a point in time. And if you say the word “salvation”, that event is primarily what we think of.

An event is good. If you have one to look back on, I’m glad.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Gospel in Context

Ever preached from one of these?
Anybody who has browsed my Bible Study series is familiar with the conviction (not uniquely mine) that context may well be the single most significant tool for determining meaning available to English students of scripture. It has certainly been the most useful to me.

This is not about that. It’s about the importance of a different sort of context: situation and audience.

A few weeks ago Immanuel Can and I had occasion to discuss the subject of the gospel and what it actually is. The four Gospels themselves (of course) record the beginnings of the “good news”, but necessarily cannot fully elaborate on all its implications. It requires the rest of the New Testament to do that, but a very good starting point is a study of how the apostles actually preached it from the very beginning (up to and including Acts 13, at any rate, which is as far as I’ve currently gone in my study).

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Purpose of the Sacrifices [Part 6]

Continuing an examination of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. We started with what the sacrifices WERE NOT and are now examining what they WERE.

In my last post we looked at the sacrifices as a reminder of sins and asked why a constant reminder was necessary for God’s people.

But what other purposes did the sacrifices serve?

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (13)

“Go, tell his disciples and Peter …”

The earliest manuscripts of the gospel of Mark end with a “young man” (read: angel) instructing three terrified women at the open tomb of the Lord Jesus to go and share the news that while Jesus of Nazareth had died and been buried, Christ the Lord had risen and planned to meet with his followers once more.

No wonder they trembled.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Calling a Spade a Spade

Popular science fiction author China Miéville is troubled by how the media refers to the … er … troubled.

When asked about the 2011 riots in London, England, his primary concern seems to be the language used to describe those who assaulted pensioners, burned people out of their homes and threw bricks at responding firefighters:

“For a long time I’ve been struck and horrified by the incredible cultural spite we’ve got in the UK towards young people. The constant use, for example, of the term ‘feral’ to describe troubled children should be a matter of utter shame: that our culture has normalised that adjective is an expression of our culture’s moral degradation, far more than children’s.”

In Miéville’s view, the moral degradation of modern British culture is epitomized in its failure to speak kindly of its most debased element.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Spirits in Prison

Yesterday I pointed out that the apostles use the word “gospel” in slightly different ways at different times, emphasizing certain aspects of what we might consider an acceptable presentation of the good news and omitting others entirely.

Never is this more evident that in the third of Peter’s four references to the gospel found in his first epistle. His use of the word, and the context around it, open up what may be described as a theological can of worms.

Or perhaps later commentators on 1 Peter opened that can all by themselves.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Gospel According to Peter

We all know what “the gospel” is, don’t we? Or at least we think we do.

If we searched the internet for a summary of the gospel, we might come away a tiny bit confused. John Piper, for instance, presents his gospel in six points. Bible Gateway reduces Piper’s six points to five. Phil Johnson goes with four, not one of which is identical to any of Piper’s, but all of which come directly from the apostle Paul.

For the new Christian, these differences in content and emphasis may be a bit hard to process.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Two Promises

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Message You’re Sending

“There’s always someone looking at you.”

The line was penned by Sir Bob Geldof way back in 1979, long before personal computers with memories that the average person cannot easily erase, long before the Internet, before the NSA was on your hard drive and tracking your every movement through your cell phone, before your TV started watching you while you watch it, and before the unblinking eye in the sky that is Google Maps. It seems more than a little prescient, but Geldof had become (briefly) famous, and the world was paying more attention than he would have liked.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Word, Uncontained

“It’s got to be in here somewhere ...”
This YouTuber, blasting away in ALL CAPS, wants us to know that “THE BIBLE CANNOT BE THE WORD OF GOD.”

Oh, he calls himself a Christian, make no mistake. But he insists the Bible is “the words of men that have recorded some words of God sometimes”. So much so that the caps come out again:

“Our focus and our trust must be in Jesus, WE MUST BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.”

Being led by the Holy Spirit with our focus on and trust in Jesus seems a pretty good deal to me. It’s his understanding of what that means that’s the problem.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Timing Is Everything

I came across this quote one night last week:

“It is astonishing how often a book or article gives false information; and if we rely on such a work too heavily, our exegesis will be badly skewed. Even ordinarily careful scholars make mistakes …”
— D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies

Only a day later I happened to encounter a bit of badly skewed exegesis that is, just as Carson warns, the direct result of relying on false information. Naturally, it leads down an increasingly familiar and doctrinally-errant road.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Laughter of Jackals

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

How Saved Are You?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Follow the Evidence

Secular humanists frequently start with an agenda and worry about details later, if at all.

The justification for any course of action is often jerry-rigged into the mission statement after the mission itself is well under way; the why comes after the what has already been decided.

For instance, Alister McGrath points out this interesting fact about Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis:

“Freud’s atheistic view of the origin of religion comes prior to his study of religion; it is not its consequence.”

In other words, Freud first decided on his theory then went about doing the research to back it up, not the other way round. His theory did not arise inductively from his studies but from his own prejudices.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Does the Bible Need a Disclaimer?

Perhaps a little something like this?
The following ultra-litigation-conscious, politically correct disclaimer comes from the first page of a current reprint of G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man on my bookshelf:

“This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race have changed before allowing them to read this classic work.”

I had to laugh out loud at the naivete of anyone worried about modern children reading Chesterton. The publishers are, regrettably, quite safe from legal repercussions on that front.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Indirect Evidence for Inspiration

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Debunking Heavenly Mythology II: Saint Peter and the Pearly Gates

[Originally presented March 25, 2014]
In a previous post I spent a few hundred keystrokes on the things of heaven, trying to point out how very ill-equipped the best of us is to fully comprehend them, even with the aid of the imagery of Scripture, since “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”.

But our inability to fully apprehend everything about heavenly things is not a license to manufacture any old view of heaven wholesale. The only reliable source of knowledge about things outside current human experience is the word of God itself.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Promiscuous Freedom and Enslavement

“… promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption …”

[Originally presented April 11, 2014]
Imagine yourself sitting in the center row of a darkened theatre, in an evening performance of a show entitled Cabaret. Tonight’s offering is a musical, and yet it is a musical unlike most others. It’s almost entirely devoid of the kind of cheerfulness that is usually associated with that particular genre, focusing as it does on the excesses of the Weimar Republic in the days just before the outbreak of World War II. Such humor as the play has is heavily ironic, filled with innuendo, and ultimately black.

As you may recall, the government of the Weimar Republic was a notorious failure. Beset by massively complex political challenges, splintered by factions, weighed down with incompetence and undermined by corruption, the Weimar administration dragged Germany through a period of widespread economic, social and political debasement. This debasement was felt on many levels, from the heads of state all the way down to the social conditions and private lives of the citizens. Cabaret revels in some of the more unsavoury aspects of this society, which became truly sick with sin. Using the metaphor of the infamous cabaret shows of the ’30s, the play follows one society’s decline into unrestrained individualism, indulgence and debauchery.

In the two hours in which you have been in the theatre you have been dragged through the bowels of German interbellum night-life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ushering In Armageddon

It was probably Michael Ortiz Hill, author of 1994’s Dreaming the End of the World: Apocalypse As a Rite of Passage who started it with a comment in a January 2003 essay for the political newsletter CounterPunch.

Hill said of George W. Bush, “The man is delusional and the shape of his delusion is specifically apocalyptic in belief and intent”.

Twelve years down the road, conventional wisdom may have settled down a bit. The Bush legacy, so far as the mainstream media is concerned, may be that of a bit of a goofball, an accused liar, an incompetent or even the architect of multiple foreign policy disasters.

But what the Bush presidency demonstrably failed to do was to usher in Armageddon, if indeed that was ever his intention.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dogs, Sorcerers and Saints

I have a Catholic friend who is not a fan of the name Peter. She almost flinches at it. The name has associations, you see.

I think she’s sorta half expecting to meet him someday. Maybe.

In the tradition in which she was raised, Peter stands at the gate of heaven as an endless stream of the dead parade before him. As the man with the keys to the kingdom, she was taught, he personally gives the final decree on whether you go “up” (in her words) or “down” (presumably with his thumb, being the hip fellow Peter is reputed to be), all on the basis of the things you have done in this life.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Quality Control

Knowledge is not enough.

We know this, of course. Where the Christian life is concerned, it’s first principles that real blessing is reserved for those of us who not only hear the words of Christ but who act on the wisdom we have heard. Believers who are satisfied with mere exposure to truth are kidding themselves. There is no reward for head-knowledge, and neither testimony nor substance in the Christian who prides himself in it.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

How Saved Are You?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Debunking Baptismal Myths #4: Trump Cards and Semantic Ranges

We’re looking in depth at a series of objections raised by one of our readers to the Protestant argument that one must be a believer to be baptized.

One such objection cites the words of Peter to Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost right after the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples. The sound from heaven of a mighty, rushing wind drew Jews from all around, and upon their arrival they found a group of Galileans mysteriously speaking in languages ranging from those of Mesopotamia to those of Crete and the Arab nations.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Gospel in Context

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Laughter of Jackals

A more current version of this post is available here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Timing Is Everything

A more current version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Deadliest Attack on Happiness

Author Trent Hand lists what he believes are the deadliest attacks on happiness:

1.   Comparing yourself to others
2.   Talking about your dreams instead of going to work on them
3.   Listening to people with nothing positive to say
4.   Focusing on the news
5.   Deciding someone else needs to change
6.   Thinking “happiness” is a destination you can reach
7.   Forgetting to say “thank you”

Clearing negative influences out of our lives does have a certain utility.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Bible Contains the Word of God

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I’ll Wait, Thanks (or, I guess this makes me a ‘Huddle Person’)

Uh oh. Apparently, I’m told (and not for the first time) biblical literalism is not healthy. Not healthy for those I would like to win to Christ, and not healthy for me. It’s (at least potentially) repressive, and possibly worse.

In it, Michael Gungor coins the term ‘huddle people’ to describe me and my ilk, then gives us a lecture about the dangers of failing to accommodate ‘science’ in our Christian worldview: 
“... you can still love God and love people and read those early Genesis stories as myth with some important things to teach us. Not all of you will be ready to do that, and that’s perfectly ok. But know that if you create these dichotomies where we force people to either fall into the camp of scientifically blind biblical literalism or a camp where they totally write off the Bible as a complete lie, you’re going to rob a lot of people of some of the richness that the Bible offers. You’re going to create a lot more jaded, cynical people that are completely anti-religion out there. And you are going to continue to repress the questions that lurk in the back of your own mind. And that’s just not healthy. That sort of thinking actually quashes and limits human thriving in the world.”
— Michael Gungor

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Calling a Spade a Spade

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Fight a Smear Campaign

In social circles we call it gossip. In the courts it’s slander or libel, depending on the media used. In political circles it’s referred to as mudslinging or swift-boating. On the web it often manifests as cyber-bullying.

Whatever; it’s a good old-fashioned smear campaign.

Use of the technique can be traced back several millennia at least, and may be as old as mankind. The motivations behind smear campaigns differ but you can bet that, more often than not, there’s more than just mean spirits or the sheer fun of maligning someone in play.

Most of the time, somebody wants something. The smear campaign is a means to an end.

So how do you fight one? Good question.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Follow the Evidence

A more current version of this post is available here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Do Christians Hate Jews?

Many Jews today feel that, because of historical atrocities committed against their people by the so-called “Christian” church, all Christians are Jew-haters. Unfortunately, not only many nominal Christians but even some real believers harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, and this only confirms the suspicion in Jewish minds.

But does the New Testament allow Christians to be prejudiced in this way?

Definitely not.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Debunking Heavenly Mythology II: Saint Peter and the Pearly Gates

In a previous post I spent a few hundred keystrokes on the things of heaven, trying to point out how very ill-equipped the best of us is to fully comprehend them, even with the aid of the imagery of scripture, since “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

But our inability to fully apprehend everything about heavenly things is not a license to manufacture any old view of heaven wholesale. The only reliable source of knowledge about things outside current human experience is the word of God itself.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Purpose of the Sacrifices [Part 6]

The most recent version of this post is available here.