Monday, November 06, 2023

Anonymous Asks (274)

“Are democracy and Christianity compatible?”

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

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

I’m not sure I believe it anymore.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Jungles and Gardens

There is a big difference between a jungle and a garden.

Gardens have gardeners. Jungles do not. In the jungle, vines and weeds grow everywhere, sometimes strangling new growth and keeping desirable plants from blooming. Trees you don’t want block the sun from reaching those you do want. The root systems of vegetation that produces nothing useful suck up water needed by fruit-bearing growth. If you want a garden and not a jungle, it won’t happen naturally. Somebody has to tend it.

Eden was a garden, not a jungle. Those “somebodies” were Adam and Eve.

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Mining the Minors: Obadiah (2)

C.S. Lewis called pride “the essential vice, the utmost evil … the complete anti-God state of mind”. Solomon wrote, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”

Obadiah is the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible, so it doesn’t take the prophet more than two verses to get to Edom’s problem. Yes, it’s pride. Pride that metastasized into hatred of their brothers. Pride that pulled the wool over their own eyes and made the Edomites believe they were untouchable. Pride that convinced them they could put one over on the God who had decreed “the older will serve the younger”. “Not so,” said Edom.

It was the word of God. Of course they were wrong.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: A Sticky Situation

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

Tom: A couple of posts back, Immanuel Can made this comment:

“I don’t think most people understand what ‘situational ethics’ means. What I find when I ask them is they have no idea of the theory, or even of who Joseph Fletcher was, let alone what he said: they just think that whatever it is, it allows them to do as they please, and still claim to be ‘ethical’ in doing it.”

I haven’t heard the term in a few years, but I remember it was regularly referenced when I was growing up. 83% of atheists claim to believe all ethics are situational. What does that mean exactly, IC? Maybe some of the atheists hurling the term around don’t know much more than your first year philosophy students ...

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Old Guy with the Ponytail

I saw an episode of The Fresh Prince of Belair recently.

Don’t ask.

Man, remember that show? At one time it was all the rage. The jokes seemed so clever, so cutting-edge. It seemed like suddenly every kid on the playground was sliding his pants down, turning his ball cap around, and trying to talk like Will Smith.

“Yo, yo, Homes … whaddup? How you gonna play me?”

** Cringe **

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

The Problem with Progress

The thesis of Glen Scrivener’s most recent book The Air We Breathe is that Western societies have absorbed Christian values by osmosis. He suggests that even if we haven’t noticed it yet, our collective convictions about the importance of equality, compassion, consent, enlightenment, science, freedom and progress all come originally from the Bible and are a radical departure from both pre-first century views and those of most non-Westerners today.

Few of us Westerners are Christians, yet the faith of our fathers has subversively Christianized society in some respects at least. Even those who object fervently to the Christian faith often object for reasons only the Christian faith itself could ever supply.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Glen Scrivener on Equality

A Church of England minister and evangelist, author, speaker and filmmaker, Glen Scrivener has an unusual knack for making the things of heaven relatable in today’s culture. I picked up his most recent book The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress and Equality after watching a YouTube interview with John Anderson about its thesis. Scrivener contends that a number of core Western values have their basis in the Christian faith of our forefathers. Our societies, he argues, have absorbed these values by osmosis. Most of us don’t know why we believe these things, but we believe them all the same.

In general, I think he has a valid point to make. When you get down to specifics, however, it’s another story.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Anonymous Asks (273)

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

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

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

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Impossible Problem

When Jarred Cinman wrote an opinion piece for his blog in 2015 entitled “The five best reasons not to believe in God”, I doubt he imagined he was breaking new ground in the ongoing debate over whether the world would be better off without religion. He couldn’t have. After all, he quoted Stephen Fry, whose own swipes at God have prompted the occasional comment in this space.

Unbelief is hardly a novel concept.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Mining the Minors: Obadiah (1)

“Two nations are in your womb,” the Lord told Rebekah, and “the older shall serve the younger.” The story is so well known that I hardly need tell you the older brother’s name was Esau and the younger Jacob. Jacob became the father of the nation of Israel, Esau the father of Edom, and God set about fulfilling his word to their mother (with some minor, totally unnecessary assistance from mom and a notwithstanding a less successful effort to thwart it from dad).

Later, God would tell his prophet Malachi, “I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.” Paul quoted that much-misunderstood line in Romans 9 to the delight of determinists everywhere.

More on that later. Much later.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Not Even Once Through

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

Immanuel Can: I recently came across this quote, which might be worth a little back-and-forth:

“My wife and I are both voracious readers (two to three books a week), so there is little of intellectual interest that I do not enjoy. And of course, the Bible is perhaps the single most interesting book ever written, though it's not really ‘a’ book, is it? I have long been bewildered by the fact that so many people claim the Bible as their authority, but have never bothered to read, much less study it, even once, all the way through. Doesn’t that amaze you?”

Tom: Doesn’t that amaze me? Well, it does and it doesn’t ...

Thursday, October 26, 2023

On Being Taken In

“ ‘You see,’ said Aslan, ‘they will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.’ ”

— C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

“You are not going to fool me with that religion stuff.”

That seems to be the position of many people in our modern world. There are many religions, they observe, and they disagree about all kinds of really basic things, like who God is, what morality should be, and what the point of life itself is. And since they all disagree, there’s got to be a lot of tommyrot and humbug out there.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Disqualifying Dad (An Unlikely Defense of John Piper)

John Piper is a well-known 77-year old Minnesota pastor and media presence with four sons, three of whom currently do not rock his spiritual boat. Barnabas is a pastor in Nashville, Benjamin a construction worker and Karsten a college English teacher. If either of the latter two are not believers in good standing at their local churches, we certainly never hear about it.

Yay for good parenting doing what it is supposed to do.

Abraham Piper is another story. The man even has his own Wikipedia entry and a TikTok following of over two million for his two pages, self-described as “a smidge of sacrilege” and peppered with salty language. Not a believer, and not only out and proud of it, but formally excommunicated to boot, and dedicated to taking shots at the faith and publicly mocking his father’s beliefs.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Taking Sides

A humorous video on YouTube depicts a flummoxed actor trying desperately to come up with the “right take” on the ongoing situation in Israel. As we all know, actors are expected to comment on every serious issue in the news, presumably because popularity = expertise (a questionable assumption at best). Naturally, this actor is looking to express an opinion that will meet with universal approval, and he recognizes that publicly embracing either Israel or Palestine will infuriate ±50% of his fan base.

Whatever to do?

Monday, October 23, 2023

Anonymous Asks (272)

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Love and Conditions

I have a friend in a bad family situation.

Actually, I have a large number of these. Most of you probably do too. No physical abuse, only a little occasional verbal nastiness, but the relationship is not a Christian marriage and the children are not growing up immersed in or even exposed to the training and instruction of the Lord. The biblical authority structure is not there and, at least from the outside, all the love appears to be flowing in one direction only.

My friend proposes to fix the situation by loving the family unconditionally, perhaps because so often we hear that is the way that God loves us.

Does he really? Maybe we need to explore that idea a little.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Mining the Minors: Joel (10)

Of all the Minor Prophets to date, the New Testament’s writers arguably quote Joel the most. I say “arguably”, because some of the language used by Joel is so similar to that of other prophets, especially Isaiah, that in several cases it’s not certain whether the NT writer was thinking of one passage or the other, or perhaps had both in mind. Many of these occur in the book of Revelation.

For anyone interested in deeper study of the end times, I’ve included all possible references in each of the Minor and Major Prophets at the end of each section. There are too many of these to quote them all in full here.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Atheism by the Numbers

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

A short list of statistical data about atheists compiled by Pew Research Center:

94% approve of LGBTQ lifestyles
91% believe in evolution
87% approve of abortion
83% believe ethics are situational
78% are white
78% have no children
69% vote Democrat
68% are men
65% never discuss religion
54% feel wonder at the universe
43% have a college degree (vs. 27% general public)
40% are ages 18-29
40% have never married
  9% proselytize weekly

Tom: Some of these things I knew, some I didn’t. Anything you find surprising there, IC? I’ll admit to raising an eyebrow over the claim that only 9% are out there regularly commending their view of the universe to others. It sure seems higher than that online.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Mouth Almighty

Mouth almighty, that is what I’ve got,
 Mouth almighty, telling you
    what’s what.
 Mouth almighty.
 I wish I’d never opened my mouth
    almighty …

— Elvis Costello (1983)

Some years ago, I was working at a Christian summer camp.

By all evidence, it had been an excellent year — many children’s lives touched, many young people growing in knowing God, good friendships formed, spiritual growth on every side, and a safe and successful physical program.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Spirit of Adoption

Jews pray to God generically, though they sometimes write his name “G-d”. Muslims pray to God generically; that’s what “Allah” means. The devout men and women of the Old Testament addressed their prayers to God generically: “O God” (or, more frequently, “O Lord” and sometimes “O Lord God”).

But they never prayed “O Father”. Not once.