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The Spirit of the Age as Foundation for Morals

It has been quite popular for some time now for people to engage in moral/ethical argument on the basis of what year it is (“It’s 2017.…”) or its sister argument (“the flow of history/right side of history”).

I haven’t decided whether such people really don’t realize how stupid the form of argument is, or whether they actually do, but are so cynical they use it anyway. It doesn’t seem nice to impute that level of obtuseness, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly complementary to impute that level of cynicism either.

If you want to see how frivolous the form of argument is, simply use it with reference to mindsets and attitudes in the past which we now denigrate. For example, the early twentieth century had an extraordinarily high regard for race-based eugenics, not only in Germany, but (sad to say) in much of the West, including the “free democracies,” especially among the intelligentsia. (Of course, this is now largely swept under the carpet.) (more…)

On Discrimination

In cases such as the bakery in Oregon (Sweetcakes by Melissa), we have heard repeatedly that the problem is “discimination.” This is then to be compared with the barring of “niggers” from eating establishments and other businesses back before the victories of the Civil Rights movement.

Trouble is, the analogy breaks down at the most fundamental level. (more…)

Two Assemblies of Psalm 1

It’s sometimes overlooked due to the ambiguity of English renderings such as “the wicked” and “the righteous” (translations of words which in fact are plural in the Hebrew), but Psalm 1 is a thoroughly communal statement regarding competing assemblies. Yes, it is talking about “the man” who is blessed, and indeed some of his activity is the sort of thing that would mark his life in private (e.g. his day and night “meditating” upon Yahweh’s Torah).

Nonetheless, the focus of the Psalm as a whole is communal. It is the counsel of wicked men which he does not walk in, and he does not sit in the seat of the scorners. That last clause could just as suitably be rendered he does not dwell in the assembly of the scorners, and this assembly is then ultimately contrasted to the congregation of the righteous men in verse 5.

Thus, while Psalm 1 is (legitimately) lent to the idea of something like private devotions, it is ultimately a statement about community. The righteous meditator is not one whose meditation is that of hermit, but rather is one whose meditation takes place within the congregation of the righteous. His righteousness is as public as the unrighteousness of the sinners in whose way and counsel he refuses to walk and stand.

Mutter Your Way to Life or Death

Psalm 1:2 tells us to meditate upon the law (Word) of God day and night. The Hebrew word translated “meditate” literally could be rendered “mutter.” What is in view is ruminating upon the Word of God in such a way that it is internalized and transforms our thinking.

Now consider what happens if we meditate upon the perceived slights against us and our hardships and difficulties. We all know the type of person who, when facing difficulty, starts muttering “under his breath.” This is a form of meditation, but now it is meditation upon the discontentment within our hearts rather than upon the Word of God. (more…)

Spanking and the Rod of Correction

This is a pretty good piece by Matt Walsh.

In relation to the overall point, there is currently a popular notion that the rod in Scripture is not disciplinary. But that take simply will not work. Look up 1 Corinthians 4:21 and see if Paul can make any sense on that viewpoint. In the context of fatherly/motherly correction, Paul speaks of coming with a rod to address wrongdoing.

Yes, as is commonly noted, the shepherd used a rod to protect sheep—but that is not the picture deployed in the Scripture passages being considered (namely, those in Proverbs that advocate the rod being applied to “a child.” Let me hasten to add that the shepherding image is not  at all irrelevant to the total picture. Psalm 23:4 is an excellent portrait of the shepherding role of parents just as it is (directly) of the shepherding role of Yahweh. (more…)

Festivity and Transformation

One of the most beautiful promises of Scripture is Zephaniah 3.17: “Yahweh your God is in your midst; the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.”

This is the portrait of a loving Father, and it is something that we need to internalize – not only as Church leaders, but as congregational members.

If we ask the question: “How often is there something in my life that God could be correcting?” – the answer would have to be, “Always.” Even the strongest believers in this life are en route, are taking a journey in spiritual growth, and are immature in a host of areas.

The shepherds of the flock have a special calling to be aware of the needs of the sheep. And that awareness involves discerning where the flock needs correction and growth.

But while that is true, we must remember this: God does not correct everything at once. If He did, we would melt with fervent heat, and have no time to enjoy life with Him.

God is in our midst, and He delights in us; He makes quiet time for us; He even sings in celebration over us.

That doesn’t mean that He ignores our sins and weaknesses, or that they do not matter.

But it does mean that He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103.14).

If you are a loving and wise parent, you should be able to understand this. If you look at your child, you can see many things that need work. There are sins and immaturities that you have your eye on.

Must We Behave?

New post over at The Untamed Lion.

Do We Need to Be “An Example”?

I recently came across an online piece from a Christian author that dealt with the struggles of young women who are trying to be “examples,” but feel like they are failing. The piece was engaging, and good things were said.

But ultimately, it went sideways, because it made the great dichotomy all too many modern Christians make: a divide between Christ and behaviour. Her answer to the example problem was to deny that young Christian ladies (or implicitly, any of us) need to be examples. And while she admitted that we are already “light in a dark place,” she insisted that the light comes from Jesus, not “awesome behaviour.”

There is, I concede, something that sounds right there. But there is also something gravely wrong, and this approach is ultimately unbiblical and unhelpful. In the comments section, I responded this way: (more…)

Slavery, Polygamy, and the Bible

Non-Christians (and increasingly, those who self-identify as “Christians”) frequently dismiss biblical ethical norms with a quick “Oh, but the Bible condones slavery and polygamy!”

With, of course, the obvious implication that the Bible’s morals are awfully unreliable. Because it “condoned” things that we find offensive, and that even Christians seem embarrassed about. (We Christians, after all, seem agreed by now that both polygamy and slavery are bad.)

And then, having cast aside the Bible as a reliable guide, we enlightened moderns can take on that role of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong.

Now, there are several answers to that line of argument, one of which is that the Bible does not simply condone either slavery or polygamy; it regulates them, which is not the same thing.

Moreover, the slavery the Bible countenanced was never based on kidnapping, an offense which in fact carried with it the death penalty under the Mosaic law (Exodus 21:16). “Slavery” among fellow Israelites was a form of indentured servitude, and “perpetual slavery” was only countenanced in connection with prisoners of war. Even in their case, the Mosaic law did regulate things to avoid their mistreatment. If a slave ran away, other Israelites were forbidden from assisting in his return (Deuteronomy 23:15); and if a slave’s master seriously harmed him, the slave was automatically authorized to go free (Exodus 21:26). Even a slave wife (concubine) was to be granted freedom if her husband ever diminished her marital rights (Exodus 21:10-11).

But there is much more involved in understanding the Bible’s position regarding both slavery and polygamy than scouring the Mosaic law and ensuring a balanced and proper interpretation of these situations through its case laws—as important an exercise as that indeed is.


Sabbath: Import vs. Ethos

In Galatians 4:8-10, Paul calls the Galatians to task. Why? Because they had formerly been enslaved by idols, but now, having come to know God, they have returned to the weak and beggarly stoicheia (elements) of the world, becoming enslaved again. This is seen in the fact that they “observe days and months and seasons and years,” i.e. the Sabbath-oriented calendar of the Mosaic law.

At first glance, this line of argument seems mystifying. How can Paul suggest that observing the Sabbath and the new moons and Mosaic festivals is like returning to paganism? After all, God Himself gave the law, including the Sabbatical calendar.

The answer to this lies in (1) understanding Paul’s old creation-new creation contrast, as well as (2) making a distinction between import and ethos.