Monday, August 31, 2009

All for Love

We get these breaded fish fillets at Sam’s Club that I just love.

One afternoon I was bit by the munchies and went looking for the chocolate chip cookies my wife and kids had baked the night before. I walked into the kitchen, saw that we had leftover fish, and forgot about the cookies. That’s how much I love this fish.

It strikes me that this may be a good measure of how much you love something or someone – what do you give up for them?

I often give up something I’d like to do and do something I don’t want to do – to be with my wife. I often watch tv shows that make me contemplate suicide – to be with my kids.

For love of my wife I’ve given up other women, independent control of my time and finances, and the freedom to dress myself.

What do I give up for love of God?

What do you give up for love of God?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

“What the heck was that?”

Have you ever had that reaction to something you read? It’s how I felt many times while reading N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl.

That’s not to say it’s not a good book. It’s well-written, compelling, and downright fascinating in places. But sometimes it leaves you scratching your head.

Wilson has described it as “creative non-fiction,” and that’s certainly accurate. It also reminds me of the “familiar essay,” which is supposed to be about the journey more than the destination. The style is … unusual, but after becoming acclimated you’ll be able to follow him.

In a nutshell, Wilson says the universe, with all its beauty and blemishes, is a canvas on which God’s self-expression is displayed. He encourages us to step back from the details and enjoy the big picture. Along the way he examines evil, hell, snowflakes, bunnies, lightning, and the incarnation. And capital punishment in ant colonies. It’s an interesting ride.

Aside from a few completely unnecessary mild profanities, it’s a good read and well worth your time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can We Trust the Gospels? 5

If the Gospels are theology, can they be history?

The title of the next chapter of Mark Roberts’ Can We Trust the Gospels? is also a question often asked by skeptics.
“Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not writing simply out of antiquarian interest. They weren’t scholars who found Jesus fascinating and decided to write about his life to further their careers. Rather, they were faithful believers in Jesus who composed narratives of his ministry for theological reasons. In the language of our contentious world, the Gospel writers had an agenda” (p115).
But why must this hurt their credibility?

Roberts points out is that they were quite open about their agenda. Mark’s Gospel begins not with “the history of Jesus of Nazareth” but “the good news of Jesus Christ.” The other writers were equally clear about their perspective with John’s being the clearest of all (John 20:30-31).

But does that mean that their histories are unreliable?

Early Christians clearly placed an emphasis on the historical reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The scriptures, particularly 1Cor 15, 1John 1, and 2Peter 1, speak of the eye witnesses of the events of the Gospels.

The Gospel writers, “like the vast majority of Jews before them and Christians after them, believed that what actually happened made all the difference in the world. It was in the realm of history that God made his presence known, revealing himself and his salvation. Therefore history … was at the heart of the evangelists’ theology” (p120).

Paul spells out how much we depend on the historicity of the gospel:
…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead…. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1Cor 15:13-15)
The events of Jesus’ life, and especially His death and resurrection, were not regarded as a useful fable, a story of spiritual significance. To them the story was true, or it was meaningless.

This alone doesn’t prove that the events of the Gospels happened, but it does tell us that we can’t discount them simply because they had a theological agenda in writing them.

The book in blog form: Are the NT Gospels Reliable?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Apologetic Reading Links

=Recommended Reading for Critical Thinking and Apologetics from Doug Geivett

"My lecture on “Apologetics in Your Home” has been popular at conferences. During this presentation, I recommend the following books to parents..."

=Christian Apologetics Blog Directory

=Reasonable Faith: the website of William Lane Craig

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Surprising Scripture on the Saints

There are passages in the Bible that don’t say what we expect. They sometimes take us by such surprise that we don’t read them correctly.

One that I’ve been known to misread:
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of the glorious inheritance of the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Except that’s not what it says:
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph 1:18-19)
God thinks of Himself as richer for having us.

Whatever He saw in us that made Him willing to go to the cross continues; we are valuable still.

So precious are God’s people that the prophet says,
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zeph 3:17)
What is valuable is never abandoned, discarded, or abused. It is protected, cherished, and enjoyed.

We are valuable to God. I am valuable. You are valuable.

We are His treasure, and I pray “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

Friday, August 14, 2009


=My Holy People
"Sometimes we Christians get hung up on the rights and wrongs of discipleship, forgetting the deeper purpose. Like the Israelites, we are called to be set apart from the world around us and devoted wholly to God. The Christian life is not a matter of following the right rules so much as it is living fully for God’s purposes and glory."

=On Not Living Up To Your Promise
"We think the way back is too long and it might be if our goals are still worldly acclaim, but if we simply turn around, Father is waiting. He is waiting to put a ring on our finger and a robe on our back. He rejects no repentant soul."

=The Questions Have Changed
"A woman in our church is taking our denomination’s ministerial studies program. The course named “Introduction to Theology” asks her to respond to several contextualized questions deriving from the various categories of what used to be called Systematic Theology. Looking at the questions she was given she decided to rewrite them. She said the questions were not really the questions she was getting from either new Christians or inquiring seekers. The questions have changed."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Should Christians Marry Young?

What’s a good age to marry?

Everyone has an opinion, but over the years that opinion has trended upward.

I surprised myself on this a few years ago when a friend was talking about getting married. I said 23 seemed a little young to be getting married, and it was the better part of a day before I remembered my wife was 23 when we got married.

At the same time that Americans are marrying older and older, we’re reaching sexual maturity younger and younger.

Biblical commands to remain celibate until marriage have probably never been easy, but it was almost certainly more obtainable when getting married at 18 was the norm.

Perhaps this is a topic where the church should part ways with the culture, not because of explicit morality but because of wisdom. If our young marry, they have a healthy outlet for impulses that otherwise can lead to not just sin but also pregnancy, disease, and emotional hang-ups, among other problems.

Among the side benefits to be reaped are that married students tend to do better in college and stay out of trouble better, marrying young leads to kids younger which leads to grandkids when you’re young enough to enjoy them, and married couples can live off less money than two singles (important in college and after).

Wouldn’t that lead to more divorces? Since the divorce rate was lower in days when the marrying age was younger, youth alone must not be the problem.

Marrying younger is hardly a cure-all for the problems of the country or the American church, but it has the potential to positively shape the lives of the next generation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Christians and Healthcare Reform, redux

With all of the emotion that accompanies the health care reform debate, it was only a matter of time until people starting stepping over the line. Still, I’m sad to see statements like, “How can you be a Christian and not support health care reform?”

The truth is that just about everyone thinks things need to change. Not supporting any of the Democratic bills does not constitute thinking that our health care system is fine.

And not supporting a “government option” that appears to be designed to lead to a single-payer system is not un-Christian. People of good will can believe that this will only destroy what is good in our health care system and hurt the very people it is intended to help (along with everyone else).

Besides, the real un-Christian attitude is the one that wants to give all this power to the government, right?


As we’ve discussed before, when the discussion is about how to help people, it is not right to start pointing fingers at our brethren.

The un-Christian attitude, the sinful mindset, is the one that says, “I’ve got my health care; I don’t care about you.”

If you're interested in more on the politics of health care reform, visit My Three Cents.

Politics, Religion, and Brotherly Love
Conservatives and the Least of These
Physician Heal Thyself

Monday, August 3, 2009

Does Titus 2 Require Wives to Stay Home?

When we come across Bible passages that are difficult to understand, we recognize that we’re going to have to do some work to figure out they mean. But when a passage seems pretty straightforward, we often just take it at face value and don’t look to see if there’s more beneath the surface.

That can be a mistake. A “straightforward” reading may really be a superficial or even incorrect interpretation.

Is this such a passage?

“[Older women] can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:4-5).

Older women should train younger women to be “busy at home.” This has been taken by many to command that married women, and certainly mothers, be housewives.

But does it? We need to look closer. Context, context, context.

Biblical Context
One of the first things we should do when approaching any scripture is to look for parallel passages – i.e., those giving a different account of the same events or a different discussion on the same topic. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or a chain reference or study Bible will usually point you to verses that touch on similar ideas.

This passage is very similar to one that we find in 1Timothy. The verse that would catch our eye says:

“I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander” (1Tim 5:14).

Literary Context
That sounds like it is saying basically the same thing as the Titus passage. But if we look at the whole paragraph, it might not.

“As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander” (1 Tim 5:11-14).

When looked at in terms of the problem of young widows “being idle” and becoming roaming gossips, you might reasonably wonder whether this passage is a command that women be housewives or a command to stay busy about useful work.

Historical Context
What constitutes useful work? A survey of Bible Manners and Customs and a couple of similar works leaves me with the strong impression that women in that society rarely worked outside the home. So in that society, a woman generally had only one option – taking care of her household.

There were certainly exceptions – we know Priscilla worked making tents beside Paul and her husband Aquila (Acts 18:1-3). But women didn’t get a job at the corner bank in those days, which is why widows needed charity.

What’s the Conclusion?
So would Paul in 1Tim 5 or Titus 2 have been commanding women to be housewives when the vast majority of them already were? Or is it more likely that he was insisting that these women, who were already at home, stay busy and out of trouble?

What do you think?

How to be a Self-Feeder
A Concordance as a Devotional