The God of love (1): Star Trek and the impossibility of impassibility

Thought

Spock vs. Data

Star Trek, in all its reincarnations, is a great show. It is so pretentious in its aspirations to say something meaningful and so inane in its working assumptions, that it works as an almost perfect mirror of the values and concerns of the society that existed when it was televised. The highly evolved and civilized Federation of the future almost always reflects the concerns of the slightly left-of-centre-leaning portion of North American society who were the target of the show’s producers. The ‘Federation’ is simply ‘the Democratic Party writ large’. And so the show acts like a great expression of the cultural intuitions of the societies to which we belong and live and minister in. (more…)

God’s sovereignty; human responsibility

Life, Sola Panel

Recently after a sermon on 2 Timothy, we received the follow comment on the topic of election. My answer follows.

Question: You said that God calls all people everywhere to repent and follow him. But we are also taught that only the elect are able to turn back to God. So how, then, are the non-elect culpable for their actions when they are given no opportunity to turn back?

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Do we need a bit more suffering?

Life

Here in Mexico, many middle-class people spend a significant amount of time and money reducing suffering and the potential for suffering. I suspect Mexicans are not alone in their engagement of this pursuit. (I’m using ‘suffering’ in a very broad sense here—anything from ‘annoyance’ to ‘effort’ to ‘persecution’.) For example, here in Mexico, you can perform many tasks in ‘drive-thru’ mode to reduce the ‘suffering’ of having to get out of your car and walk. Buying lunch, going to the ATM, buying the paper, buying new windscreen wipers (!) and taking your kids to school are all activities it is possible to undertake in a suffering-free manner.

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Apostasy and God’s faithfulness

Thought, Sola Panel

 

The National Director of the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES), Richard Chin, has begun preaching through 2 Timothy at our church. When he covered chapter 2, we received a couple of questions. I ended up answering them as the pastor here.

Question: 2 Timothy 2:13-14 says, “if we are faithless, he [Christ] remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself”. Can you explain to whom is God faithful?

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Ministry-minded ageism?

Life

 

According to TS Eliot, you know you’re old when you wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled.1 But in Christian circles, it seems, you know you’re old when you start thinking older people haven’t passed their use-by date. It would appear that I’m old, and perhaps that’s why I’m noticing just how much ageism has snuck into our ministry mindset and fellowships.

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Temptation and the garden

Life, Sola Panel

 

All our temptations are garden temptations.

I don’t usually talk much about gardening when I lead Bible studies, but recently during our study on Genesis 3, I asked, “What does the Garden of Eden show us about God?”

The answer? God is abundantly generous. He didn’t give Adam and Eve a dry loaf and a cup of water; he gave them a beautiful garden brimming with varied, wonderful fruitful plants to eat and enjoy (Gen 2:9).

And what was God’s word to the people he’d made? “Eat! Eat freely from every tree in the garden!”1 There was only one tree they weren’t to eat from, and that was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:16-17). In other words, the only thing they weren’t to do was to rip God’s authority away from him, and decide good and evil for themselves.

But that’s not the way Eve saw it.

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Biblical tolerance

Life

A biblical word for ‘tolerance’ is ‘patience’. Within the Bible, patience is not just ‘passively waiting’, but ‘enduring suffering without retaliation’. (more…)

The life and lessons of J Gresham Machen: Carl Trueman talks to Peter Hastie

Dr Carl Trueman is Dean of the Faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and teaches as a professor of historical theology and church history. He is married to Catriona, who is originally from the island of Lewis, off the west coast of Scotland. They have two sons, John and Peter, aged 11 and 13. Carl was brought up in a very supportive but non-religious home, and was converted to Christ at a Billy Graham rally at the age of 17.

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God, the universe and all that: Part 4

In the fourth instalment of a five-part series, we uncover the answer to the riddle. (Read parts 12, and 3.)

We’ve been looking at Psalm 8, and we’ve seen the puzzle it presents us with. On the one hand, we are nothing compared to the majestic God who created the universe. On the other hand, God tells us that we are important—that we are created for a purpose in this world. (more…)

God, the universe and all that: Part 3

Thought, Sola Panel

In the third instalment of a five-part series, we discover humans are significant in the universe after all. (Read parts 1 and 2.)

We’ve been looking at Psalm 8 and have discovered that stargazing should make us wonder why God the creator should have anything to do with us. (more…)

[email protected]/Click: Some great material for your children’s Sunday School

Review, Sola Panel

 

I teach Sunday School for children regularly, but I don’t always have the time and energy to write my own lessons. So last year I found myself in the market for Sunday School material.

Thanks to a friend trawling through the shelves at a Christian bookshop, what I discovered was [email protected], put out by Youthworks in conjunction with CEP. (In Britain, it’s published as Click by The Good Book Company). I suspect that lots of churches in Sydney are familiar with this material, but many other churches aren’t.

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God, the universe and all that: Part 2

Thought, Sola Panel

In the second instalment of a five-part series, we contemplate the extent of our significance in the universe.(Read part 1.)

We’ve been looking at Psalm 8, and we’ve discovered that stargazing helps us to see how insignificant we really are.

Just think about the size of space for a moment. Imagine you could get into the fastest jet on earth (last time I checked, this was the SR-71 Blackbird). Its official speed record is almost 2,500 miles per hour. Now imagine you could speed it up 100 times to 250,000 miles per hour. Then imagine that you could take it on a trip to space. It would take you an hour to get to the moon—that’s pretty reasonable! It would take you eight days to get to Mars, the closest planet to Earth. It would take you four months to get to the planet Saturn (remember, we’re travelling 100 times faster than the fastest jet ever built). It would take you a year and a half to get to the planet Pluto at the edge of our solar system. To get to the closest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri, it would take you 12,000 years. To get to the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy, it would take you 80 million years. To the next closest galaxy, Andromeda, it would take you seven billion years. To get to the edge of the visible universe, it would take you 40 million million years. And they think that the size of the non-visible universe is vastly huger than this: that would take you a million million million million, etc. years.

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Stark treatment of the Crusades

Life

 

Revisionist history is probably as common as it is unethical. There are lessons to learn from the past, but if the past is distorted for the sake of present-day lessons, then it is no longer serving honest inquiry, but has become propaganda.

The destruction of the World Trade Centre by Muslim terrorists has spawned in the West a new fear of Islam, as well as a new desire to understand Islam. At the same time (and rather strangely and illogically), it has spawned new attacks upon Christianity. For example, the event in New York motivated Christopher Hitchens, one of the ‘new atheists’, to speak against religion as a damaging force in the world. So what began with some Muslim extremists was generalized to all religion, and then (it seems) particularized by a renewed and increased attack upon Christianity. Go figure.

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