Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Statsman Always Posts Thrice

My inexplicable obsession with statistics has been chronicled here and here, but I do try to keep a handle on it, recognizing it ain’t everyone’s cuppa. Mind you, the first stats post was in 2017, and the second only last year, so they are coming faster every time. As one hard-bitten detective might say to another on your favorite cop drama, “Uh oh, he’s decompensating!”

I’ll try not to run on too long.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Anonymous Asks (294)

“Should I join an accountability group?”

Jeremy Myers says accountability groups fail miserably in that they “force” members to lie. His sexual temptation accountability group fell apart when police arrested a fellow member and successfully prosecuted him for molestation. Naturally, his attraction to minors had never come up once in all the group’s conversations about lust.

Understandable? I think so. I mean, would you talk about it? I wouldn’t. I’d spend all my energy trying not to even think about it.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Back to the Pigsty

Is brokenness desirable?

Unless you are around great numbers of mainstream evangelicals on a regular basis, you may not think so. But if you have been in such esteemed company, you’ve probably heard the enviable qualities of a broken spiritual state touted so enthusiastically over the last few years that you may have come to believe Christians ought to seek out and cultivate it.

Okay, let’s consider that.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (9)

There’s no getting around the fact that the Bible’s pictures of wickedness are frequently female. We’re going to study one today.

Commentators occasionally feel the need to apologize for this, as if maybe the Holy Spirit might be a tad misogynistic, or perhaps the prophets of God went off the reservation and used imagery consistent with their patriarchal biases that he might not have personally approved.

Hey, we all know the Lord Jesus loved women …

Friday, March 15, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: The Discipline of Discipline

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

Immanuel Can: The only verse in the Bible that everyone today seems to know is “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

Tom: Sounds about right.

IC: Okay, so that verse seems to people to be conveying something important. Maybe it needs some closer examination.

Tom: Fair enough. Well, it seems to me there’s an obvious incentive on the part of those who use it to rebut any potential critique of their own behaviors — or the behaviors of those for whom they choose to be advocates. I mean, quoting a verse to an unbeliever would carry no weight at all, so it’s clearly a device to disqualify dissenting Christian opinion and shut down any debate before it begins.

It’s saying to you and me, “Aha, see, you’re not allowed to have a view on this.”

Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Mercy of Fire

“Some bells cannot be unrung.”

So goes the saying when something has been done that cannot be undone. The ink has been spilled, the glass has been shattered, the clock cannot be rewound, the world has moved on. The arrow has flown, the words said cannot be recalled to the mouth, and “send” has been pressed. There is no going back, no fixing things “as they were”, or maybe “as they should have been”.

From now on, for good or for ill, things can never be the same.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Confession Session

As is often the case, this week’s instalment of Doug Wilson’s letters column turned out to be thought provoking. A reader notes that he can’t recall a single time in the lengthy history of Doug’s blog that Doug has spoken about his own struggles with specific sins.

It raises a perfectly reasonable question: When is public confession of my sins appropriate, and when isn’t it? What constitutes a legitimate Christian “confession session”?

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Quote of the Day (47)

“He hated congregational religion. He hated the smiles and the manners of the Sunday-dressed Scottish Protestant, the emphasis on a communion not with God but with your neighbours. He had tried seven churches of various denominations in Edinburgh, and had found none to be to his liking. He had tried sitting for two hours at home of a Sunday, reading the Bible and saying a prayer, but somehow that did not work either. He was caught; a believer outwith his belief. Was a personal faith good enough for God? Perhaps …”

— Ian Rankin, Knots & Crosses

Monday, March 11, 2024

Anonymous Asks (293)

“Is the sanctity of human life a biblical concept?”

Scripture is clear throughout that human life has intrinsic value. God made man in his own image and after his own likeness, a statement made about no other created beings in the universe.

That alone should make us cautious about taking the life of another.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Waking and Breaking

We live in a broken culture. Not breaking. Broken. They did not see fit to acknowledge God, and God has given them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

In Romans, that manifests in heartlessness and ruthlessness, dishonesty and disobedience, among a litany of other bad things. In reality, a debased mind manifests in all these ways at the expense of others, but it is also unbelievably self-destructive and internally contradictory.

Debased thinking is fundamentally unfit to accomplish anything. But debased people make the best pawns imaginable.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (8)

In interpreting Zechariah, a great deal depends on the systematic theology of the reader. When you start with an ironclad overview of the prophetic scriptures in mind, it’s next to impossible to interpret individual passages without inflicting your prejudices on them. I’ll try to keep that in mind as I go along.

The next two visions are considerably more difficult. They must be, as scholarly opinions about their meanings are all over the map. I’ll give a quick summary of the major viewpoints and then, in most cases, tell you where and why I disagree with them, and what I’d suggest as alternatives.

Friday, March 08, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Majoring on the Majors

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

Tom: There’s a line I keep hearing these days that goes something like this:

“We should keep unity for the sake of the gospel. Major on the majors, and not on the minors. We shouldn’t fight over secondary issues.”

Immanuel Can, some things are worth fighting over. Jude urges his readers, who appear to be a very general believing audience, to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”.

So what’s really worth contending for, and what should be set aside for the sake of unity? In short, what makes something “major” or “minor”?

Immanuel Can: Ah. What do I mean, or what do most other people I meet seem to mean? Can you clarify?

Tom: I take it there’s a significant difference then.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Let’s Get Together and …

“They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name…’ ”

I’m going to write today as briefly, as bluntly and yet as informatively as I can.

I will do this because I feel we are dangling presently on a precipice of a major social crisis. The Christian position in this must be made clear, and made clear now, if Christian choices are to be well made.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Letters from the Best Man (8)

The following is absolutely fictional and increasingly common. There is no Brad and definitely no Jill, in case that is not obvious. There are, however, way too many people in their position.

You still up, Tom?

Sadly. Surprised you are. Don’t you have to be out the door by six-thirty?

Can’t sleep. Decisions, decisions …

What’s on your mind, Brad?

Two girls. Well, women, obviously. Friends who started coming to my Thursday Bible study.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

To Die a Virgin

Ed Shaw is attracted to men. Out of love for Jesus Christ, he never acts on those impulses. He hopes and expects to die a virgin.

That gives him enormous credibility as the author of 2015’s The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-Sex Attraction, in which Shaw affirms the scriptural basis for the orthodox Christian position on homosexuality.

In doing so, Shaw has a challenge for the church.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Anonymous Asks (292)

“Why are there so many Christian interpretations?”

Knowledge is fundamentally divisive. The moment any of us determines to “get to the bottom” of this or that subject, he begins to depart from the popular narrative about it. One possibility is that he gets labeled a conspiracy theorist and marginalized by society. Another is that he becomes an expert and people start turning to him for advice.

Any exposure to increased information, true or false, creates divisions.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Quote of the Day (46)

I’ve told this story before, but it perfectly illustrates the mentality addressed in today’s quote.

In the mid-eighties, I was introduced to a fellow college student who claimed to be very interested in Jesus Christ, but had a “few” questions about the Bible first. I naturally offered to help in any way that I could. He handed me a list of familiar posers along the lines of “Where did Cain get his wife?”

Okay, the issues seemed important to him, so fair enough.

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (7)

Wikipedia says, “A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work infinitely without an external energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, since its existence would violate either the first or second law of thermodynamics, or both.”

In the real world, systemic failure is inevitable. The most sophisticated humanly devised machinery eventually breaks down and grinds to a halt.

Friday, March 01, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Making Merchandise

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

As long as there has been a people of God in the world, there have been those who looked to take advantage of them. The Israelites had their false prophets, and Peter warns the young church to expect their share of false teachers. He says, as the translators of the King James Version so eloquently put it, “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.”

Tom: But of course the trick is always identifying such people, isn’t it, Immanuel Can? I mean, what does that look like in the real world?

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Even More Offensive

In my previous post, “Offensive Christianity”, I argued that many of us misunderstand the choice we have in facing Christ: we think it’s between faith and doubt — but in scripture, it is between faith and being offended.

Everybody struggles with doubt. And perhaps we tend to think that when we do, it signals something very, very bad. Maybe it means our faith has failed. Maybe it means we were never sincere in the first place. Maybe it means we’re lost.