Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Twice-Told Tales

I love scripture. Obviously I love it from a spiritual standpoint: what it tells me has saved me for all eternity. There is simply no way to top that.

But as a reader, writer, and lover of language, I find the scriptures endlessly fascinating in the way that they were constructed and the purposes they were intended to serve, both by the Holy Spirit and their human writers, to the extent we are able to discern these intentions by careful observation.

I love the scriptures in this way too, as many others do. For me, a deep dive into the Word is as refreshing as a dip in a mountain stream and more enlightening than the most profound secular literature.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Those Who Don’t Know History

We are where we are today as a society because we do not know who we are. We do not know who we are because we do not know where we have been, and we do not remember the lessons we should have learned when we were there.

Okay, there are other reasons as well, but ignorance is a big part of it. My kids were never really taught either History or English in high school. Even in the first decade of the new millennium, the ‘woke’ monster was stirring within public education. History had already become a problematic subject, and the great works of Western literature, allegedly full of patriarchal prejudices and badthink, were being chucked aside in favor of contemporary novels propagandizing about teens and abortion.

Having already ruined math, they basically stopped teaching anything else useful. And it’s far worse today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

14 Inches to the Northwest

I actually wrote this one back in November 2017, but Millennium Tower is back in the news again, so here goes ...

Apparently building your house on something quasi-rock-like won’t cut it.

San Francisco’s Millennium Tower has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches to the northwest since 2006. If that sounds like nothing, bear in mind that this is a 58-storey state-of-the-art concrete monster that drew millions in investment dollars from people like former NFL quarterback Joe Montana.

The problem? Not built down to bedrock.

Does that take you back 2000 years or what?

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Division and the Preservation of the Bible

People often complain that Christians are divided. Denominationally, intellectually, interpretationally, geographically and/or racially divided. Some even take this as evidence the claims of Christ are untrue.

I take a little different tack on that subject. In 2014, I wrote about the reasons Christians are divided. In 2015, I even wrote about the good that occasionally results from these divisions.

If I keep coming back to the subject, it’s not because I want to repeat myself but because so many people see it as a major problem.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Picking and Choosing

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

Hmm, this smells like clickbait … or deliberate provocation.

An Amy Julia Becker blog post from early 2015 suggests Christians should scale back our New Year’s resolutions and quit trying to read the Bible cover to cover.

Tom: Mrs. Becker wonders about the helpfulness of reading the Bible in its entirety and practically brags about not having read Nahum “in ages”. You can almost feel the calculated poke in the eye to Christians committed to getting through the whole Bible annually as she adds, “Perhaps you’ll join me”.

Thanks but no thanks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Language and Thought Complexity

When not writing up the results of his research for publication, anthropologist Christopher Hallpike lived among the mountain tribes of Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea for a period of ten years studying every facet of two very different primitive cultures. His latest anthology, Ship of Fools, includes a fascinating chapter entitled “So all languages aren’t equally complex after all”, in which he thoroughly debunks the conventional wisdom about the relative complexity of languages, namely the uniformitarian belief that All Languages are Equally Complex (ALEC).

ALEC is a relatively modern invention popularized by linguists like Noam Chomsky and evolutionary psychologists like Steven Pinker, wholly ideological rather than a product of actual boots-on-the-ground research. It is the undemonstrated and undemonstratable conviction that “There are no simple or primitive cultures: all cultures are equally complex and equally modern.” Or again, “People think the same thoughts, no matter what kind of grammatical system they use.”

Monday, August 02, 2021

Anonymous Asks (156)

“Is everything in the Bible true?”

In what is often referred to as the high priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus speaks to his Father on behalf of his followers. “Sanctify them in the truth,” he requests. Then he adds these words: “Your word is truth.”

Now, the Bible is the word of God. That’s not simply a nickname Christians have given to our favorite book so we can impress unsaved people with its authority; that’s something the scripture calls itself. The phrase “word of God” is used 48 times in the Bible, and the phrase “word of the Lord” another 255. These expressions are used about the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets, taking in the entire Old Testament. They are used to describe both the teaching of Jesus and his apostles, which became the basis for our New Testament. They are used as a synonym for “scripture”, which includes both, and about which Jesus himself declared, “Scripture cannot be broken.” So then, the Bible itself claims to be truth from cover to cover.

But it should be obvious that not everything in the Bible is true in exactly the same sense.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Untwisting God’s Words

Tertius once told me about something that happened to him many years ago, when he was a young Christian. He had started to study the Bible with a friend who had a particular mainline church denominational background.

One day he received an angry letter from his friend’s priest, who was upset about the idea that two lay people were attempting to read and understand the word of God without his “professional” help.

“No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation,” declared the priest, quoting part of 2 Peter 1:20. From this, he expected Tertius to see that it was just wrong for a person not approved and trained by church authorities to dare to read and understand for himself.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Getting Reading Right

So I got talking with a guy the other day.

Those of you who know me know I’ve made my career among secular people. Philosophy being my thing, I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of different sorts of people — many very far from Christian. But in this case, I was talking to a youngish Christian who had been pulled sideways by reading too much of the Unitarians and various Gnostic sects before getting his grounding in scripture. He’s got shaken about the general reliability of scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and a variety of other issues, and he’s working his way through them.

I asked him what he thought was the touchstone of truth. He’d already expressed doubts about large sections of scripture, so I wanted to know what he was relying on to show him what was reliable and what wasn’t.

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, February 17, 2021

Failure to Choose is a Choice Too

The other day I came across a paperback a few years old credited to a number of generally reputable authors and entitled Hard Sayings of the Bible.

Why not? There are more than a few commonly misunderstood or genuinely obscure sayings in scripture to work with, perhaps even enough to fill a decent-sized book.

But I wonder if we don’t make some sayings harder than they should be.

Some Christians tend to mistake indecisiveness for graciousness. Thus a waffling, cover-all-the-bases interpretive position may be thought humble when it is merely uncommitted. A failure to point out the logical fallacies on the other side of a scriptural question may seem charitable when it is merely cowardly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Not Her Voice

Everybody wants to be heard. That’s understandable.

To understand and be fully understood is one of the greatest possible states to which human beings may aspire. When perfection comes, “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known,” says the apostle.

That suggests very strongly that those of us who have a relationship with Jesus Christ are already as fully known as we will ever need or want to be. Think about that for a bit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Gap Anticipated

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

The Bible repeatedly claims to be God-breathed, both in its component parts and in its entirety. Statements to the effect that God has spoken are made several hundred times in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel alone, and they are sprinkled liberally through the rest of the scripture. Other writers and speakers in the Bible made similar assertions to that which Paul makes here: that the whole thing (Law, Prophets, Psalms, Letters, Gospels) is God speaking, right down its glyphs and diacritics in the original languages.

Stop and think about that a moment.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Not Done in a Corner

From the scientific perspective, peer review is the litmus test of reliability.

The idea is this: that in order for a newly published academic theory to have any credibility with either the scientific community or the general public, it is necessary for independent parties to test it: to carefully read through the documentation that supports it; to re-calculate the mathematical formulas that lie behind it; to examine the steps by which the theory was constructed and certify that its conclusions were arrived at in accordance with normal scientific procedures; in some cases even to re-perform whatever experiments are alleged to prove it and examine their results for consistency.

You cannot do science off in some dark corner and then refuse to allow anybody to see what you have been up to. If you do, nobody will believe you at all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Written On Their Hearts

“Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham …”

“Scripture imprisoned everything under sin …”

Yes, the scripture is indeed the word of God. All the same, I have great confidence in assuring you that scripture — graphē, if you prefer Greek — did not do a single thing described in these verses. Not literally. A piece of paper, papyrus or animal skin does not “foresee”. It does not “preach”. It does not “imprison” anyone.

It can’t. It couldn’t. Ink, paper, the printed medium — these things are inanimate.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Anonymous Asks (17)

“Why memorize scripture?”

I don’t know about you, but more than once I have found myself wishing I had committed more of the Bible to memory when I was young. It’s much, much easier to memorize things in your youth than in middle age. As you get older, new information, names, places and details become harder to retain. Over-40s can still memorize new things, but it takes 20-30% more time for us to do it.

Hey, we’re old. Time is one thing we don’t have enough of.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Unhitched and Unhinged

It is important to grasp that Andy Stanley’s desire for believers to “unhitch” our Christianity from the Old Testament, a plea he articulates in his new book Irresistible, is not limited to how we preach the gospel. Stanley is calling for the comprehensive abandonment of the Hebrew roots of our faith.

This is what makes his idea such a poison pill. Those who swallow it will come to regret it.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Untwisting God’s Words

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Getting Reading Right

The most recent version of this post is available here

Friday, August 10, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Your Bible Is An Anachronism

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

Juan Cole at Alternet.org has bucketloads of fun in an article entitled “If the Christian Right Wants to Get Worked Up About Sexual Controversy, They Should Read These 5 Bible Passages”. He goes to town on Solomon’s 300 concubines, Abraham and Hagar, etc.

In a forlorn attempt at evenhandedness, Mr. Cole tosses in this disclaimer: “Ancient scripture can be a source of higher values and spiritual strength, but any time you in a literal-minded way impose specific legal behavior because of it, you’re committing anachronism.”

Tom: Immanuel Can, one of things I love most about Mr. Cole is the unquestioned assumption that each scripture he cites is a “gotcha” moment to the religious right. Like none of us have seen these passages until his article came along …

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Recommend-a-blog (27)

The internet is a big place, and it’s easy to overlook efforts that are very profitable indeed. In fact, given the lame ways some Christians self-promote, you might never hear about most of us.

This is certainly a problem we’ve run into here at ComingUntrue. I’ve always had an aversion to Facebook and Twitter, the two easiest ways to draw attention to what you are doing online. But while they certainly enable a new initiative to reach out to the largest possible audience, they also data mine you to death and routinely suppress conservative news and expressions of opinion. Thus we have never bothered to set up ComingUntrue Facebook or Twitter accounts. Over the years, I’m sure we’ve lost tens of thousands of pageviews because of it.

Too bad. Oh well. Not a policy I’m likely to consider changing anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Christians That Need to Be Saved

A man in a local church I used to attend had a habit of coming up to people and asking them exactly when and how they had been saved. He would probe for very specific details of the blessed event, presumably to confirm that the person he was interrogating was the real deal, genuinely a believer. I can’t remember what he did when he was dissatisfied with the answer but I’m not sure it was anything particularly helpful.

When he did it to me, it kind of threw me. Frankly, I didn’t know how to respond to him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Details, Details …

Hebrews says that God spoke by the prophets (and presumably to the prophets) “at many times and in many ways”. Among these methods were visions, dreams and riddles.

The apostle Peter had one such experience on the housetop of Simon the tanner while waiting for a bite to eat and praying. Luke says, “He fell into a trance.” Peter heard a voice uttering actual words (as opposed to merely receiving an impression) and saw an accompanying vision, but the end result was perplexity, not sudden clarity.

Peter had indeed witnessed something spiritually meaningful, but had yet to find the appropriate context in which to apply the instruction he had received.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

All That Remains

Ear wax is a good thing.

(No, Microsoft Word’s autocorrect function is not playing havoc with my posts again; this is precisely how I intended to start this one, though I quite understand if you’re confused.)

Ear wax really is a good thing. We are unbelievably well designed, and everything that happens naturally in our bodies is in service of one purpose or another. Cerumen, as it is more formally known, is about 50% fat and serves to moisten the ear canal, fight off infection and help keep dust, dirt and debris from getting deep inside your ear.

Mind you, it IS possible too have too much of a good thing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Words, Words, Words

Back in 1971 warmed-over sixties folkie Pete Seeger penned this little ditty:

“Words, words, words in my old bible
  How much of truth remains?
  If I only understood them
      while my lips pronounced them
  Would not my life be changed?”

It goes on. Seeger riffs on the Constitution, oral tradition and written history in much the same vein. But his tone is meditative rather than rebellious. He has no new “truth” to declare with his usual hippie bravado. In fact, he seems to wish he could find some of that rare truth in all those “words, words, words”.

Because, yeah … if he understood them, his life would most surely have been different.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Picking and Choosing

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

14 Inches to the Northwest

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Private Interpretation

I believe all scripture is breathed out by God. That’s not a new idea and it won’t shock anyone here. Holding and maintaining that view of the Bible is one of the marks of orthodoxy going back to the first century.

I’ve been enjoying the book of Job recently, every word of it God-breathed and profitable. But that does NOT mean every word of it is correct.

No, really.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Seven Reasons I Don’t Believe You’re a Prophet

Compared to the supernatural, real life can be pretty tedious.

I still recall vividly my childish frustration with the bits of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books that take place in WWII-era England. I wanted the Pevensies to hurry up and get through the magic wardrobe, or climb up on the picture frame in Eustace Scrubb’s bedroom, or for Eustace and Jill Pole to open the mysterious door in the stone wall behind the gym at their boarding school, or just go ahead and use whatever method they were going to use to travel to the land of talking beasts, dwarves, witches, giants and who-knows-what; the place where all the truly exciting things were happening. England was drab, grey and uninteresting by comparison.

I think some people feel pretty much the same way about the Christian life. They keep hoping for something a little zippier to come along.

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 07, 2016

Reading Too Much Into It


While observing that the vocabulary, syntax and idiomatic language of holy writ retain the characteristics of individual human authorship, I am confident each of these things was in every case perfectly superintended by the Holy Spirit of God. Thus Paul does not write exactly like James, who in turn does not write like David or Moses. Yet all not only spoke the word of God, they spoke the very words of God.

Let’s start with that. Even if I end up somewhere not everyone may like.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Life and Godliness

To whom much was given ...
What is really necessary to please God?

I’m not thinking of salvation here but of service.

The fundamental “work” God requires is “to believe in him whom he has sent”. Faith is foundational to pleasing God, but the faith that pleases God has always historically manifested itself in works. It can be no other way. Leaving aside the thief on the cross, it is pretty clear that love displays itself in obedience.

So faith precedes all works that matter to God, of course.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Division and the Preservation of the Bible

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

It’s Alive!

Sometimes you can learn as much by the way something is said as you can from the content of the message itself.

The incidental assumptions upon which the teaching of the apostles is based are often as fascinating and revealing as the assertions of truth themselves. Their absolute conviction with respect to the source, nature, reliability and accuracy of the word of God is the bedrock upon which every Christian doctrine rests.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Not Her Voice

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Close Encounters of the Philosophical Kind

Eric English is emerging. We’re not altogether sure what he’s emerging into, and it actually seems to be kind of intangible. I’m trying to grab onto it, and it’s floating away even as I type. Its essence is something like this:

“The WORD OF GOD is a moment that a human being encounters.”

I hope I’m not misrepresenting Mr. English’s position. He starts from the claim that the Bible is not the word of God, and that to assert that the Bible is God’s word is to diminish what it means to possess the ‘word of God’.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Below the Surface

A few thoughts for our Christian readers that I’ve condensed (and hopefully not distorted too badly) from R’B’s excellent series on interpreting scripture via the Jewish perspective. The original posts may be found here, here, here and here.

Orthodox Judaism seeks to understand the first five books of our Old Testament (for them, the Torah) on four levels. These principles may also be applied to the rest of the scriptures.

Having read about schools of thought like Kabbalah, which originated in Judaism, I feared rabbinical exegesis might be a bit wacky and mystical. For the most part that does not appear to be the case.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Indirect Evidence for Inspiration

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Crazy Uncle

Normally, I’d leave something like this alone. It is, after all, the Huffington Post, and anything they have to say on the subject of Christianity is almost guaranteed to be dismissive, frivolous and poorly informed.

But hey, it provides a useful lead-in to something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

In an article entitled “3 Reasons Why Apostle Paul Is the Crazy Uncle No One Wants to Talk About”, Pete Enns argues that “Paul’s handling of his Bible makes him look like the crazy uncle you make excuses for or avoid entirely”.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Failure to Choose is a Choice Too

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The “Cultural” Argument

What do we mean when we say a particular passage of scripture is “culturally limited”?

It’s a pretty common argument these days, used to dismiss everything from apostolic teaching about the respective roles of men and women at home and in church to New Testament instructions about sexual purity.

The assertion at its core is that any particular command, principle or example being debated was intended only to address a particular local situation for a limited period of time, not as a directive for the church throughout its history.

But the cultural argument is a powder keg. We need to be careful how we handle it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

It’s Not a Bug …

How many times have you made an ironic remark that sailed right over someone’s head, said something sarcastic that much to your surprise was taken literally, or made a joke that went over like a lead balloon?

You said one thing. A different interpretation was taken.

In the course of looking into the history of universalist thought, I came across this statement on one of the relevant Wikipedia pages: “The Bible itself has a variety of verses that appear to be contradictory if not given additional reader interpretation.”

That’s worth thinking about for a moment, isn’t it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Your Bible Is An Anachronism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Disturbances in the Narrative

Does Pilate’s famous question have an answer?
It was Kate McMillan at SmallDeadAnimals.com who coined the phrase “disturbance in the narrative” to refer to a news story, scientific discovery or other revelation of fact that pokes holes in the popular consensus. It’s an apt description.

There have been an excessive number of disturbances in the narrative in the last week.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Moment That A Human Being Encounters

A more current version of this post is available here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Bible Contains the Word of God

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Top 10 Ways To Argue Like A Christian

The internet is full of people arguing.

Yes, I know, the sun also rises in the east. Humans breathe air. Tell me something slightly less obvious.

Okay. The internet is full of Christians arguing. Some of us do it well. Some do it really, really badly. And the thing is, Christians shouldn’t argue like unbelievers. When you know the Lord Jesus, you have access to a weapon nobody but a believer can wield: the word of God, which is:
“… living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
There isn’t a more effective weapon forged, assembled or built in a lab in the history of the human race.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Leave Scripture Out of It

A more current version of this post is available here.