Bible, Christianity, Church and State, Civility, Discipleship

Online Reading (March 11, 2022)

Some things I have been reading in the midst of this busy week. 

On Ukraine from the ERLC: “Thus far, the leader of Ukraine has shown the world that, contrary to what we’ve seen among many global leaders recently, virtue is not dead”

On “purity culture” from desiringGod: “They may not have dated young or kissed someone before marriage, but they didn’t get to taste what God means by purity either.”

Scotty Smith on praying for an evil ruler: “Father, either bring him to yourself, put him down, or take him out. You are “sovereign over all kingdoms.” You alone are God, You alone are worthy of our adoration, affection, and allegiance.”

On the Bruxy Cavey sandal from Christianity Today:After a three-month-long investigation, Cavey, 57, publicly confessed on Tuesday to an “adulterous relationship.” The church said it amounted to abuse of authority and sexual harassment against a woman under his pastoral counsel, asked him to resign, and removed his teachings from its website.”

ICC reports on the cost paid by some to be Christian online: “The assassination of Iman Sami, who was known as Maria, is suspected to have been retaliation by her family following a TikTok video she posted where she was singing Christian spiritual songs.”

Bible, Christianity

Is it arrogant to say you are correct about what the Bible says?

A truly great teacher can overcome the inability of a student. 

As a Christian of a more conservative Evangelical persuasion, the doctrine I find myself most commonly dealing with at its heart is the place the Bible holds in my thinking.

Of course, few non-Christians question me directly on the point, as what I do with a specific book is of little import for the modern person. The problem usually comes up in the ways that Christian thinking will run counter to modern sensibilities on some issue or another. It goes a little like this:

Friend: You believe X? Why would you believe that?

Me: Well, I think God has some opinions on it that I feel I need to follow?

Friend: And how do you know what God thinks?

Me: well, in the Bible…

At this point the discussion will go off in several different tangents, some will question my specific reading of the Bible from either more or less ostensibly Christian viewpoints, while others will say that interpretations need to be subservient to an ethic of something or other (usually mercy or grace for my rich powerful friends, usually justice or equality for my more impoverished friends), still others will question the value of the Bible itself as a valuable source.

The last group is a different situation than I want to deal with here. They aren’t really coreligionists but tend to think they are, but their opinions aren’t in view here.

The issue with the groups based on interpretations will also break down roughly into two categories. The first group will agree with me on the role of scripture, and we will have a coffee or nachos as we discuss those ideas, the second will be honestly questioning the ability to claim any correct interpretation of the text at all, even calling the desire to come to a conclusion as to what the text says arrogant. In this final case, I think they are trying to be humble, but the result is anything but. The reason comes from the role and status of scripture as I understand it, and as I believe is expressed in 2 Tim 3:12-17.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.

2 Timothy 3:12–17 (ESV)

Most will simply read 3:16-17, because it’s usually enough to get to the point of making scripture the standard for faith and practice for those of us that generally trust the Bible. The issue with the idea that it is arrogant to claim to understand the scriptures is that the scriptures claim a higher status than that. They claim to be able to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ”, which is in addition to the fact that it also claims to be “breathed out by God” (I thinkLightstock 156814 xsmall stephen dawe an allusion to the Holy Spirit) and useful for teaching correction and reproof. 

We can get more deeply into the role of scripture later, but here it’s important to state clearly, scripture is the standard for Christian faith and practice, and is useful. It seems to mean that while it may be difficult to come to correct conclusions, and mistakes are possible, it is still possible to know what the Bible says on a given topic and to thus be correct. 

Quite simply, there is a difference between knowing there is a possibility that you are wrong (true humility, calling you to check your work), and believing that you actually cannot be right. The former means you seek truth, the latter means seeking the truth here is impossible because of your inability. The former says that the teacher is capable and I am fallible, while the latter claims the teacher is incapable of overcoming my fallibility. What started as a desire for humility has become a pride in your own fallibility. It is to say that while the scriptures are God-breathed, our inability is so powerful as to overcome God’s power to lead us into all truth.

My belief that I can be correct about Biblical teaching then, when rightly applied, is not arrogance about my ability to learn, but confidence in God’s ability to accurately teach.

Christianity, Politics

Wars and Rumours of Wars

I didn’t do my little list of things to read on the internet today, mostly because something else is taking up a lot of the news. There’s nothing like the invasion of a formerly fairly stable country (though admittedly one with lots of problems itself for people who were watching) to suck the air out of the room. It does kinda cause self-reflection, especially since I know people living in Ukraine, and I’m presently praying they’re safe.

As a Christian that has been trying to live the Christian life for a couple of decades now, though, I’m finding my heart is doing something different than the last couple of times major wars happened. It might be because as a much older man, I’ve been through the drill a couple of times. I was a child of 5 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in support of the communist government there, I remember when the soviet union then collapsed, and hardliners later tried to overthrow the democratically elected government, I remember both Gulf wars, the Balkan conflicts, and obviously the most recent war on terror.  I’ve even been to a few countries that were in the past ravaged by war, or are sadly now failed states. 

Where once I was scared and nervous about what would happen (and don’t get me wrong, the present war in Europe may get a lot worse, and I know it), I’m now sadder than anything else. The fact is that as one of my more secularist friends put it today “I don’t know what I can do, so I’ll change my War UkraineFacebook picture frame”. Well, I do believe that prayer does things and that the prayer I give can have effects on things because the God I pray to has control of everything, but I’ve also read the book of Job. I know that God can have plans for the suffering I’m now watching on the internet, and if He does, His purposes will be ultimately served (even if those purposes include seeing God work through the prayers of His people). Jesus even warned us that such things would happen, and not to be alarmed by them:

“And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”

Matthew 24:6–8 (ESV)

So why am I sad? People are suffering, and suffering hurts. In one of the most famous passages of scripture (partially because it includes the shortest English verse in scripture) Jesus wept for the death of His friend Lazarus, even as He knew that in mere moments, He would be calling His friend forth from the grave. So even if I know that God can work things together for good, and even if I know that ultimately things work out for the best, that doesn’t change the pain on the journey, and nor does it change the fact that I weep for friends and strangers who will be devastated over the next however long this war lasts. I will pray, even pray in faith, but by God’s grace, I will weep with those who weep.

As Christians, these are all things we can do on a day like today.


Apologetics, Calvinism, Christianity, Culture, Discipleship

Online Reading (Feb 23, 2022)

Some more links for your reading (or given our culture, skimming) pleasure:

Plural Leadership: DG has an article on the way that Calvin led in Geneva, and how that required a team of people

Cultural Christianity: An oldie from Brett McCracken on how your Christian faith should inform (and have stress with) the culture you live in (clickbait title ignored).

Textual Provenance: Michael Kruger writes on the debate concerning Justin Martyr’s knowledge of the Gospel of John (and the results for dating the 4th Gospel).

Canadian Politics: CBC news goes with a clickbaity oversimplification of the functioning of a constitutional monarchy like ours to point out an (admittedly funny) problem our Governor General has had of late.

#anger, Bible, Christianity

On the Big Sticks we Carry in Friendship

One of my criticisms of the recent use by our federal government of the Emergencies act to deal with a large illegal and likely aggravating protest in the nation’s capital has been that it makes similar actions in the future easier. This isn’t a minor consideration, as there is likely a reason that this legislation hadn’t been previously used in the 34 years since it achieved royal assent (our least popular Prime Minister didn’t even do it during the 71-day Oka Crisis in 1990 when the protesters were armed and people had died).

The clearest problem comes from the chilling effect such heavy-Lightstock 550626 xsmall stephen dawehanded actions have on dissent. For example, the government has stated that it may freeze bank accounts without a warrant during this time. The mere threat of that happening is likely to make many people think twice before they donate to oppose government action. 

Why the sudden foray into politics on a blog about Biblical reflections on the sovereignty of God? It’s because similar dynamics can be at work in relationships, and provide a deep pitfall for the way we deal with one another. You see, friendships are often built over long periods of time, and through a lot of shared experience, and sometimes secrets. The fact is that the longest and deepest friendships often include knowledge of all the “dirt”, and it is the trust built through knowing that dirt and yet loving each other in any case that provides some of the best glue for those friendships.

But when we are angry with one another, it can be tempting to hurt the other person or manipulate them to do what you want through the use of secrets, or even by in anger just saying that one thing you should never have said. The problem is, like with the emergencies act, the effects can go far beyond the intended consequences, and can erode, or even destroy trust.

This is why the writer of proverbs gives this gem of wisdom:

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:9 (ESV) 

In anger, it can be tempting to use the repetition of the things you know about your friend to hurt them, but there are consequences, sometimes greater than you can think. Some words are harder to take back than others, and some words will hurt more than the feelings of another person, and go to the heart of the trust that helps the friendship to function.

And that is yet another reason to be careful of our own anger.