September 2, 2022
As I am preparing to teach my Theopolis Zoom class (“Infancy and Maturity in the Messiah’s Kingdom”), I have been reflecting on the integral relationship between maturity and wisdom.
Wisdom is not simply knowledge. It is true that biblical wisdom has as its core the intimate knowledge of God’s Word. But in Scripture, experience with conflict seems to be a key element in applying that knowledge in mature wisdom. Wisdom arises within the context of conflict and suffering. This is the pathway to maturity.
We can see this in the juxtaposition of Adam and Jesus (the new Adam). Adam in some ways is created as an adult but has no life experience, and therefore he is not just “given the car keys.” The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (a function of mature wisdom) is withheld from him. When conflict arises in the form of the tempter, instead of growing through applying the word he has received, he waits to see what will happen to Eve, and then grasps for something for which he is unprepared.
In the case of Jesus, immediately upon his baptism he is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the serpent. As with Eve, he cites the word of the Father, but in his case that word trumps what the tempter has to say. This is part of the process of conflict and suffering by which he is “perfected” (i.e. matured and completely prepared for his task; the Hebrew and Greek words carry similar ranges in this regard). This often does not sound right to us (“Jesus didn’t need to undergo such a process! He’s God!”) — but it’s what we are explicitly told in Hebrews 2:10 and 5:8–9.
Do you want to grow up in Christ? Learn the Word, and face conflict and suffering in faith and faithfulness.
September 28, 2019
Reflections on the Man-made Climate Change Discussion
I do not frequently write about the perceived climate crisis.
There are numerous reasons for that. I am not a science buff, much less a scientist.
Moreover, I don’t have time to write all the things I really want to write. There are books in biblical studies and novels residing in my head, along with numerous shorter pieces, and they await me impatiently: I frankly have little time to write at this stage of my life.
Aside from that, the climate issue is a polarizing debate, and it’s not necessarily the discussion I want to serve as the cause of alienation.
Nonetheless, I am writing now in spite of it all. I am not presenting myself as an expert in climate science, nor am I primarily interested in putting forward expert expositions of others defending competing scientific viewpoints. My curation would surely be inadequate for such a task.
My aim here is to approach things from another angle. (Although I do want to come back — and who would not? — to the wonderfully scientific subject of cow farts, attributed with being responsible for more greenhouse gas [!] emissions than “cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.”) The reason I am willing to risk such a polarizing discussion is that biblical reflection is at the heart of my calling, and the crisis of the times virtually demands at least a bit of such reflection. So here it is, very briefly.read more »
July 9, 2017
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.) read more »
July 3, 2015
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.read more »
October 19, 2014
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.
October 14, 2014
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.read more »
September 18, 2014
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.read more »
May 24, 2014
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.
read more »
May 22, 2014
May 16, 2013
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:read more »