Saturday, December 29, 2018

The wall

We're in a game of chicken on the wall. When will the "partial" gov't shutdown end? Trump has threatened to close the border.

Most Republican leaders would blink, but he's not a conventional politician. The political risk for Republicans is that gov't shutdowns are generally unpopular. However, with the midterms behind us, the GOP is in no immediate peril, and by 2020, the shutdown will be forgotten while other issues occupy center stage. Moreover, this is a signature issue for Trump, so if he holds firm an wins, the base will rally behind him. 

But there's a political risk for Democrats, too. To begin with, many Americans oppose an open border policy. In addition, if the gov't shutdown continues, it may dawn on voters how expendable much of the Federal gov't really is. We're in the midst of a gov't shutdown, yet life goes on. It makes little appreciable difference. So why are we paying for all that extra gov't?

It's like popes who overplayed their hand by placing countries under edict to punish a rebellious monarch. But it backfired because Catholics discovered that life went on as usual with or without the sacraments. It made no discernible difference. 

What if a partial gov't shutdown sends the message that we have far more gov't than we need? It wasn't the end of the world after all. 

Composting human bodies

There's a one-upmanship among secular progressives. New York and California are the leaders of the progressive wing in the culture wars, so Washington and Oregon sometimes take the initiative to signal that they, too, are players. 

How we dispose of human bodies is symbolically significant. Symbolism isn't unimportant or all-important. For those who have the luxury, how we dispose of human bodies is an interpretation of what it means to be human. The final interpretation of what it means to be human. 

Sometimes it's not a universal statement. Sometimes it's a statement about social class. At one extreme are Pharaonic entombments. One notch down are funerals for English royalty and other dignitaries, entombed at Westminster Abbey. Papal funerals are a religious counterpart.

Then you have family crypts for the rich, or fancy sarcophagi. These are ways of signaling to the world that the decedent was more important than the lumpen. 

Christian custom favors burial in the ground. The decedent is buried with his feet facing east. This reflects belief in the resurrection of the body, as well as venerable belief that Jesus will return from the East. Thus, the dead in Christ will face the returning Savior. Whether that's accurate is a different question. 

Open casket funerals give those who weren't present at the moment of death a chance to say their final farewells. But before the age of modern embalming, the dead were buried quickly. 

Burial spawned the mythology of the Netherworld. Or perhaps the mythology of the Netherworld supported burial. Which came first?

Cemeteries have an advantage if living relatives live within commuting distance of the cemetery. We also have military cemeteries. 

Then there's the tradition of church graveyards. That's a nice tradition, although the Catholic church gamed it. 

Some cultures have the custom of a funeral pyre. Speaking for myself, I prefer the symbolism of a funeral pyre, emblematic of the soul liberated from the corpse and rising to heaven. To me, burial has the unintended symbolism of the soul trapped in a coffin. The soul chained to a particular plot of ground. But I realize the intended symbolism is the body awaiting reunion with the soul. In any case, this is metaphor rather than reality.

Back to composting human bodies. In blue states, the political class are atheists, although some may dabble new Age beliefs or pop Buddhism. For them, humans are just animals. When you die, that's it. Humans are just a part of nature. Just a product of nature. Nothing more. Earthlings from start to finish. That's the emblematic significance of composing human bodies. Like Christian burial, that, too, is a statement about human nature. A secular statement. A ruthlessly, defiantly secular statement. 

From a Christian standpoint, there is something majestic about the cycle of nature. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes. But from a consistent secular perspective, there's nothing beautiful about the cycle of nature. That's an example of a shallow, sentimental humanism that projects meaning onto something objectively meaningless. 

Does it matter how we treat corpses? It's analogous to cannibalism and necrophilia. In naturalism, it's all arbitrary. Nothing is sacred. There are no lines you may not cross. You bury your pets and compost your parents. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

The atheist bubble

RESPONSE TO COMMENTS ON NYTIMES INTERVIEW…/su…/christmas-christian-craig.html
I am delighted that our all-too-brief interview evoked such a vociferous reaction! I’ll take hostility over apathy any day!
The most striking impression I had of the many criticisms is the ignorance they evince of the whole realm of Christian scholarship, which seems to be invisible to the detractors. They seem to be blissfully unaware that there are thousands and thousands of like-minded philosophers, New Testament scholars, and scientists who share my belief in the tenets of “mere Christianity.” These scholars are active in their professional societies, publish in peer-reviewed journals and with top academic presses, and teach at our universities. Are we to regard such eminent scholars as Alvin Plantinga, George Ellis, and N. T. Wright as idiots or charlatans? Never heard of them? That alone should tell you something.
The fact is that these detractors tend to be living in a world of their own, safely sequestered, not only from Christian scholarship, but from the broad range of scholarship pertinent to the issues discussed. Some of them go so far as to castigate Mr. Kristof for daring to disturb their tranquility by invading their world with his interview. Their intellectual isolation is evident, for example, in (i) their endorsement of Jesus-mythicism, a view which, having been tried and rejected by scholars, went out with the 19th century; (ii) their adherence to scientism, a self-defeating epistemology popular during the first half of the 20th century which is now virtually universally rejected by philosophers; and (iii) their scepticism about the possibility of miracles, despite the almost unanimous recognition by contemporary philosophers that Hume’s argument is a failure.
It’s interesting that many of the detractors are fine with theists’ holding their views by faith. But they become angry when it is suggested that there might actually be evidence in support of Christian theism. Why the anger? Many of them seemed to have overlooked the modesty of my claims. I’ve argued that belief in Christian theism is reasonable. That doesn’t preclude that unbelief is also reasonable. Must we impugn the rationality of those with whom we disagree?
Many of the detractors seem to think that theistic belief is intellectually contemptible. They thereby evince their apparent lack of familiarity with contemporary debates concerning the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, which have served to make theism a viable option even among physicists. Today theism is a respected, if minority, position among professional philosophers. If you’re interested in looking at some of the contemporary developments of arguments for the existence of God, take a look at The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
As for Christian theism, I wonder if the detractors are aware that mythology is no longer regarded as a relevant category for understanding the historical Jesus. During the twentieth century there was among biblical scholars a movement which has been called “the Jewish reclamation of Jesus.” It came to be appreciated that the proper interpretive context for understanding Jesus of Nazareth was not pagan mythology but first century Palestinian Judaism. With respect to Jesus’ virginal conception, in particular, pagan myths of gods’ assuming human form and having sexual intercourse with human females to sire offspring is precisely the opposite of a virginal conception!
How one views the virgin birth story will doubtless be affected by whether one thinks that in Jesus God has chosen to decisively reveal Himself. How we assess his alleged resurrection from the dead will be crucial here. Today the wide majority of historical scholars who have written on the topic affirm that Jesus of Nazareth was executed by Roman crucifixion, that his corpse was interred in a tomb by a Sanhedrist named Joseph of Arimathea, that that tomb was discovered empty by a group of Jesus’ women disciples early Sunday morning following his crucifixion, that various individuals and groups had experiences of seeing Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Now you may disagree with these facts, but then you need to refute the evidence that convinces the majority of scholars otherwise. These facts seem to make belief in Jesus’ resurrection and in his radical personal claims quite reasonable—unless you’ve got some overriding argument for the impossibility of miracles. Given theism, the burden of proof falls on the sceptic’s shoulders.
So I stand firmly by my claim that belief in Christian theism is a reasonable faith and would invite its detractors to look once again at the evidence in its support.

The deconversion playbook

Is Christianity dying in England?

Taking a break from church

In this article, Maxwell makes some good points. That said:

i) Losing confidence in Christianity ought to erode confidence in values generally. Indeed, the logical link between faith and value is a reason to maintain commitment to Christianity. 

ii) Especially if you're passing through a season of doubt, I wouldn't recommend reading divergent views on theodicy, since that will be disorienting at a time when your faith is already disoriented. Stick with something reliable, like Why Is There Evil in the World (and So Much of It?) by Greg Welty. Also, Leibniz and Plantinga are too cerebral for most laymen. 

iii) There's a difference between doubt and loss of faith. 

iv) As for taking a break from church when you suffer a crisis of faith, that raises a number of questions:

It depends on part on whether you're suffering from emotional doubt or intellectual doubt. I don't see how intellectual doubt is a reason to resent the company of other Christians.

By contrast, since emotional doubt involves a sense of alienation from God, that's more likely to alienate you from a sense of fellowship with other Christians. 

v) It also depends on the kind of church you attend. If it's a smaller church where everyone knows each other, then it may be too demanding to maintain the chipper facade. Sometimes we just want to be let alone. And that's more the case for introverts. 

Large churches provide more personal space for anonymity, where you can retain some aspects of worship without having to make small talk. It allows you to maintain some distance or calibrate your degree of involvement. 

I think some aspects of Christian worship, like good Christian music and architecture, can be sustaining even if you're spiritually alienated or at low ebb. The text, music, and aesthetics can still speak to you.  

vi) If someone is merely suffering from intellectual doubt, I see no reason to avoid church or Christian community. How are you better off on the outside? It's not hypocritical to attend church even if you lose your faith. Sometimes attendance is a statement of hope rather than faith. Waiting for the clouds to clear. Even if they never clear, you need to stay on the trail. The forest is not your friend. If you leave the trail, you are bound to be lost–in every sense of the word. Morally, spiritually, intellectually. In this life and the next. 

vii) Even a pastor shouldn't automatically step down if he suffers a crisis of faith. That's something he should try to work through. Perseverance is about forging ahead during the worst times. 

Admittedly, the demands of pastoral ministry can be exhausting if a pastor is in crisis. And there comes a point where it may be necessary to step down if loss of faith continues. 

viii) Apostates typically suffer from the childish illusion that intellectual honesty is an absolute virtue. Which fails to appreciate the fact that atheism can never be a genuine alternative. What are you leaving Christianity for? Nothing good or better is waiting for you if you turn your back on Christianity. Walking in the twilight of doubt is still incomparable better than walking in the darkness of a grim, godless existence. And if you think atheism isn't hopeless, you're fooling yourself.

Many apostates romanticize apostasy and act as though making a clean break is an improvement. But if you wish to see intellectual dishonesty on display, watch apostates rationalize atheism. There's no merit in taking responsibility outside the only paradigm that makes responsibility meaningful. That's just egotism masking nihilism. The problem is not lack of intellectual honesty regarding Christianity but atheism. There is no duty to be an atheist. 

ix) You ought to have Christian friends outside of church. Even if you take a break from church, that doesn't mean you abandon Christian community altogether. Your faith should always be larger than church attendance. In a sense, your faith should always be independent of church attendance. If you pass through the valley of the shadow of doubt or loss of faith, you ought to have Christian friends outside of church you can fall back on–for basic emotional and intellectual companionship. Where you don't have to play pretend. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Translation policy

A while back a Korean scholar asked me of he could translate my MA thesis into Korean. Naturally I gave him permission.

I say that to say this: the primary reason I'm a blogger is so that my stuff will hopefully be helpful to Christians or seekers. So the more widely disseminated the better. I don't sell anything. My stuff is free for the taking. I don't collect royalties.

So whoever wants to translate stuff of mine into Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, Korean, Hindi, Farsi, Swahili, Urdu, Arabic, Malay, Lao, &c. is more than welcome. Hopefully it can benefit the global church and not just the Anglosphere. 

More Enfield Audio Digitized

Earlier this year, I wrote about funding a project with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to digitize Maurice Grosse's collection of audio cassettes from the Enfield Poltergeist case. Guy Playfair's tapes have now been digitized as well. I'd like to thank the SPR again, especially Melvyn Willin, who did most of the work.

There are around 100 cassettes in Playfair's collection, beginning in September of 1977. The tapes recorded in the Hodgsons' house apparently end in October of 1978, but there are some tapes of radio and television programs about the Enfield case from later years as well. He also recorded a couple of radio programs on Enfield from the first half of September of 1977, including the one that persuaded him to get involved in the case. Playfair's collection has some duplicates of the tapes in Grosse's, and some of Playfair's duplicates are better copies of tapes that have poor audio quality in Grosse's collection. So, the duplicates have proved useful. And much of the material in Playfair's collection isn't found in Grosse's. That includes, to cite a few examples, a recording of the incident in which the poltergeist ripped a fireplace out of a wall it was cemented into, Playfair's conversation with Milbourne Christopher about his visit to the Hodgsons' house as he drove Christopher back to his hotel, and Playfair's visit with Janet Hodgson when she was being examined by Peter Fenwick's team at the Maudsley Hospital.

Alan Murdie wrote Playfair's obituary in the July 2018 edition of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 82, no. 3). The closing line of the obituary is applicable to Playfair's work on the Enfield case: "Guy’s life was about finding proof and for many of us his findings succeeded in removing many doubts." (192)

I thought of what Hernani Guimarães Andrade, who had taught me all I knew about psychical research, had often said to me while I was working with his research group in Brazil. 'When spontaneous cases come up, we drop everything and go after them. They will not wait for us.' He had made it sound like a moral obligation.

I stopped searching the pages of the classified advertisements for a cheap flight to Portugal, and went indoors. Here was a colleague [Maurice Grosse] who clearly needed help, and I reckoned my holiday could wait a few days….

I rang Maurice Grosse and asked if he needed some help. He did, he said.

And so, on Monday 12 September 1977, I postponed (as I thought) my holiday plans, and went along to the 'house of strange happenings.'…

Of one thing I was quite certain: for nearly four months, the [Hodgson] family had undergone a series of experiences totally inexplicable in terms of presently known science. Incredible things had happened, and Maurice Grosse and I knew they had happened, some right in front of our eyes. But what did it all mean?

The sad part of it was that so few people seemed to be interested in finding out, and how fortunate it was that Grosse had seized upon the case with such enthusiasm, and kept going despite all obstacles. Had he not done so, I hated to think what state the [Hodgsons] might be in by now….

We arrived at Bounds Green underground station just in time for my last train into central London. It was nearly empty until it reached Piccadilly Circus, when it suddenly filled up with lively theatregoers clutching programmes, and talking excitedly about the show they had just seen. I envied them, in a way, though I too was on my way home from the show I had been going to two or three times a week for nearly six months. 'Show' is a suitable word, for it was clear that the poltergeist, whoever or whatever it was, needed an audience, and I had to admit that it had a sense of timing and a control of its audience that any professional actor would envy.

And yet, I thought, as I listened to the happy voices around me, by the time the final curtain comes down at Enfield, if it ever does, then I will have had a lot more to think about than if I had spent a night out in the West End….

I felt I had reached the limit of what I could do, by getting the facts of the Enfield case on record. From now on, it was up to the real experts.

We said goodbye and headed for our respective homes. The Enfield case might have ended, but the search for the explanation of it had barely begun. I hope that this book will encourage others to join in this search.

(Guy Playfair, This House Is Haunted [United States: White Crow Books, 2011], 30, 175, 195-96, 269)

Failure of nerve

Prayer shawls

On Facebook I got into a discussion about whether 1 Cor 11 requires all Christian women to don a prayer shawl in church. 

1. Church history is not the context of Paul's statement. Many Christians who insist that Christian women are obligated to wear a prayer shawl in church are cessationists, so the prophecy part is defunct from their perspective. Moreover, Paul's description of worship at Corinth is quite different from a typical Baptist or Presbyterian church service, so there's a danger of selectively prooftexting a position when our worship doesn't correspond to the overall pattern in 1 Cor 11-14.

2. To claim the Bible says what it means and means what it says is a simplistic hermeneutic. For one thing, Scripture has lots of satire, sarcasm, hyperbole, irony, paradox, and metaphor, so there's sometimes a significant difference between what it says and what it means.

3. It isn't necessary for Scripture to say X is culturally conditioned to know that X is culturally conditioned. To take a comparison, the parables of Jesus often use culturebound imagery. Imagery based on life in 1C Palestine. Now, the message of the parables is timeless, but to apply them today we must extract the message from the culturebound imagery.

4. One consideration that's often germane to interpreting biblical statements, commands, and prohibitions, is the implicit point of contrast. What error are they correcting or opposing?

5. Likewise, this is what gave rise to the Sabbath controversies between Jesus and the Jewish establishment. Once again, it's sometimes necessary to go behind a command to ask the purpose of the command. 

Christ's opponents labored under the illusion that they were being faithful to Scripture by mechanically obeying commands, but there are situations in which rote obedience is unfaithful because it fails to take into consideration the intention of a particular command or prohibition. 

6. Some commands and prohibitions are absolute but others must be applied in comparable terms and situations. Missionaries and translators must often deal with that. To take a comparison, there are societies that don't have bread and wine. So celebrating the eucharist would require substituting analogous foodstuff and drink.

7. Symbolism is often culturebound, so what matters is the principle. A different symbolic might be required to signal the same principle.

Dress codes often have a degree of cultural conditionality. They send different signals at different times and places. To robotically reproduce the same dress code without regard to what that signifies misses the point of Paul's argument. If it fails to retain the same symbolic impact, then that defeats the intended purpose. 

To faithfully apply biblical commands, we must apply them to analogous situations. One of the errors of the 1C Jewish establishment was failing to take into account the underlying rationale for a biblical command. The primary force lies in the rationale.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A response to Frame's presuppositionalism

A friend drew my attention to Andrew Loke's article, ‘A response to John Frame’s Presuppositional approach to faith and reason.’ 

I don't wish to get mired in exegeting Frame's voluminous position. So I'll just focus on the ideas. What I say may well be consistent with Frame's position, but my response to Loke isn't meant to be a direct comparison. 

The Grandest Light Of History

"The birth of Jesus is the grandest light of history, the sun in the seasons of all time. It is the pole-star of human destiny, the hinge of chronology, the meeting-place of the waters of the past and the future. Why happened it just at that moment? Assuredly it was so predicted. There were prophecies many which pointed exactly to that hour. I will not detain you just now with them; but those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures well know that, as with so many fingers, they pointed to the time when the Shiloh should come, and the great sacrifice should be offered. He came at the hour which God had determined. The infinite Lord appoints the date of every event; all times are in his hand. There are no loose threads in the providence of God, no stitches are dropped, no events are left to chance. The great clock of the universe keeps good time, and the whole machinery of providence moves with unerring punctuality. It was to be expected that the greatest of all events should be most accurately and wisely timed, and so it was God willed it to be when and where it was, and that will is to us the ultimate reason....The world must know its darkness that it might value the light when it should shine forth, the world must grow weary of its bondage that it might welcome the great Emancipator. It was God’s plan that the world’s wisdom should prove itself to be folly; he meant to permit intellect and skill to play themselves out, and then he would send his Son. He would allow man to prove his strength to be perfect weakness, and then he would become his righteousness and strength. Then, when one monarch governed all lands, and when the temple of war was shut after ages of bloodshed, the Lord whom the faithful sought suddenly appeared. Our Lord and Savior came when time was full, and like a harvest ready for his reaping, and so will he come again when once more the age is ripe and ready for his presence." (Charles Spurgeon, The C.H. Spurgeon Collection [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 30, 881-83)

Monday, December 24, 2018

The nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke

There is something akin to an undesigned coincidence in this connection between Matthew and Luke. Luke tells us that Mary, a virgin espoused to Joseph, was found with child before they came together. In Chapter 2 we find Joseph traveling with his pregnant espoused wife, and it is clear that he took her as his wife and raised the child. This raises the question: Why did Joseph take it so well? Did he not have any questions? Did he simply take Mary's word for it?

Matthew answers all of this by giving us the other side of the story--Joseph's agonized doubts and the message in a dream assuring him that the child was conceived by the Holy Ghost. This occurs between the Annunciation in Luke and the journey to Bethlehem.Thus the two stories are complementary.

– Lydia McGrew

Is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?

Review of John Walton, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology

Will few be saved?

13 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Mt 7:13-14).

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Lk 13:23-30).

1. Will the majority of the human race be saved or damned? 

i) The two passages I quoted are standard prooftexts for belief that the majority of the human race is doomed to hell. That's what I'll be discussing in this post.

ii) There is another argument for the same position. If you combine exclusivism (i.e. one must believe in Jesus before death to be saved) with church history up until the present, then that's another argument for the proposition that the majority of the race will be damned. 

There are, however, some potential complications. There's the question of whether those who die before the age of reason are heavenbound or hellbound. There's the question of how much longer the churn age will last, and the success or failure of evangelicam worldwide.  

You also have progressives who subscribe to inclusivism and/or postmortem evangelism. That's becoming more popular. 

Even if we conclude that (i) fails to establish the claim, the claim may still be true, given (ii). But this post is about the first line of argument.

2. In addition, the traditional interpretation is a fixture of the anti-Calvinist polemic. Freewill theists routinely allege that according to Calvinism, the elect are a "chosen few". However, that's not based on Calvinism, per se. Rather, that's based in part on a freewill theist's interpretation of Mt 7:13-14–which he combines with the Reformed doctrine of election and reprobation. And to that extent it reflects a failure to distinguish between his own position and the opposing position. The critic is imputing one of his own assumptions to Calvinism. 

3. We might begin by filling in the implicit imagery in Christ's two sayings. Try to visualize the whole picturesque metaphor. 

i) Jesus seems to be using mixed metaphors, although these are closely related metaphors. The basic picture appears to be a fortified city. The city has a defensive wall with one (or more) gates. The main gate is wide. Wide enough so that several people can leave or enter simultaneously. It can accommodate several people (some mounted on horses or mules) abreast. 

ii) Matching the main gate is the broad road. The basic idea is that the broad road is the default thoroughfare. The path of least resistance. Most folks unthinkingly go with the flow. To vary the metaphor, Christians must swim against the tide. 

iii) In contrast to the main gate is the side gate. Because it's narrow, people only enter single file rather than side-by-side. 

The imagery of gates and roads trades on spatial metaphors. Two divergent paths. One leads to heaven while the other leads to hell. 

However, the narrow gate may also trade on a temporal metaphor. The main gate closes at sunset. To enjoy the protection of the fortified city, you generally had to get there before sundown. If you got there after dark, you were out of luck. Had to sleep outside. Exposed to the dangers of bandits and nocturnal predators. 

But a function of the side gate was to admit some parties who arrived after dark. Yet that wouldn't be just anyone. That would be reserved for dignitaries or friends of the sentinel. 

So an additional lesson might be not to procrastinate. If you try the main gate, but it's locked, and there's a line at the side gate, it may close before your turn comes. A lost opportunity. This is similar to the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. It was too late for the foolish virgins to make up for lost time. 

If the spatial dimension of the metaphor illustrates the need to resist conformity, the temporal dimension illustrates the need for urgency. 

Furthermore, the narrow gate may be inconspicuous compared to the main gate, so you have to be observant or well-informed to find it, compared to the indifferent, inattentive masses. 

It's possible that I'm pressing the imagery beyond what Jesus intended. However, the reason imagery is sketchy is probably because the scene was so familiar to his audience that he didn't need to draw a detailed word-picture. His thumbnail sketch would conjure a fuller picture in the minds of the listener. So I think it's safe to pencil in the implied details. 

4. This also raises the question of whether his admonition is predictive or hortatory. Is he saying for a fact that when the roll call is recited, most humans will be damned? Or is he using contrastive imagery to shake people out of their complacency? Put another way, is it like some prophetic oracles of doom which are implicitly conditional or counterfactual? The purpose of the dire warning isn't to say their fate is sealed, but to give them an opportunity to avert disaster by changing course before the clock runs out.  

5. The version in Luke might suggest that the comparison is more specific. The point of contrast is not about the ratio lost and saved humanity in general, but the difference between the few Jews who respond to Jesus compared to many gentiles who respond to Jesus. On that view, perhaps the majority of the human race will be saved, but mostly drawn from gentile people-groups. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Correcting a Common Platitude. . .

We are often told "we should live as if Jesus could return today."

“Perhaps today!” This is a slogan that is commonly heard in various Christian circles. A version of this is found in the popular hymn:

Jesus may come today
Glad day, glad day!
And I would see my friend;
Dangers and troubles would end
If Jesus should come today.

The problem is that it sounds nice and pious and preaches well, but the Bible never teaches that this should be our motivation.

Rather, the Bible teaches in a singular voice that we should live in light of the fact that Jesus is returning.

See my most recent podcast episode as I unpacked this.

Theologies of revival

Christian manhood

I'm going to make some comments on some material by Paul Maxwell. I only ran across him recently. He used to be a contributor to Desiring God and TGC. 

He frequently says things I agree with. However, he seem to be a self-help guru, so there's a self-promotional aspect what he says. That can be a danger if you say things to sell books and do workshops. Finding a market niche. Cashing in on the Jordan Peterson phenomenon. 

Another problem is when a thirty-something starts giving advice on how to get through life. Although that's old enough to have some life-experience under your belt, there are other pitfalls and turning-points in the lifecycle you haven't experienced. When guys who are middled aged or senior citizens listen to young guys proffer sage counsel on the journey ahead, that lacks a certain…cachet. In fairness, the same could be said for young pastors. 

There's also the impression that his philosophy of life is still a work in progress. That what he confidently says today may not be what he confidently said 10 years ago or what he will confidently say 10 years from now. A certain amount of shakedown time is often advisable. Don't give directions until you can see ahead. 

By the same token, exegesis is often primarily an intellectual skill. A younger pastor can preach through Romans or Revelation. But other books of the Bible are more existential, and it's better to wait until you're more emotionally seasoned before you preach through Job, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, Lamentations, or the Psalter.