Daily Archives: 2 May 2019

For the Christian, The Law Is Still Relevant

melanchthonThe keeping of the Law should begin in us and increase more and more. – Melanchthon

Me Too, Bro. Me Too.

Fake Christians Are Easy to Spot

Or as Jesus noted, ‘You will know them by their fruits. A bad tree does not produce good fruit and a bitter well does not produce sweet water’.

Selderhuis: The Interview

Coming up on the next episode of Office Hours (Monday) from @wscal: I talk with Dr Herman Selderhuis about the Synod & Canons of Dort and about some lesser known aspects of the work of the Synod in evangelism, missions, and Bible translation among other things. Subscribe in iTunes, in the wscal app, or here in any podcast app: wscal.edu/feeds/oh-feed/

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Dumbest Thing to Ever Come Out of a Human Mouth

Who Is, and Is Not, a Christian?

If you aren’t a disciple, you aren’t a Christian. Jesus commissions us to evangelize with the goal of disciple-making, not passive, uninvolved church member making. give Matthew 28:17ff a looksee.

Because Every Nut Has a Gun, A Baby Has Been Shot

A 1-year-old was shot near a gas station in a road rage incident in southwest Houston, according to Houston Police. It happened near the Southwest Freeway at Gessner around 1 p.m. Wednesday. The child’s father, 20, told police he accidentally rear-ended another vehicle. While trying to apologize, he said he saw the driver pull out a gun.  Police said the man told them he feared for his life and drove off. That is when the suspect fired two shots at the man’s vehicle, hitting the 18-month-old in the chest, police said.

The bullet traveled through the trunk of the vehicle and struck the child in the chest, police said. The child’s father, who also had 3-year-old in the vehicle, pulled into a nearby gas station for help. People inside immediately called for help. The child was awake and alert and was taken to a hospital in stable condition. The child is expected to survive, police say. “We believe it’s road rage. We have no indication that they knew each other.” said Officer J.G. Jones with the Houston Police Department.

Because every nut has a gun, and the only way Americans know to solve problems is to shoot first and ask questions later.

This Is Progress: ‘Loot to Order’ Pages Removed from Facebook

Facebook has shut down 49 “loot-to-order” antiquities-trafficking pages selling bespoke artifacts from war zones to clandestine collectors, in response to a two-year BBC investigation.

The BBC probe, published Thursday, found that looters were smuggling everything from ancient statues to Roman mosaics out of Iraq and Syria into Turkey, where they could be sent to the buyers who ordered them through the social-media pages.

Two things.  1), good.  2), if you are using ‘loot to order’ services, you are an evil person.

Archeologist Amr Al-Azm, who is a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, worked with the BBC to expose the racket. He found pictures of mosaic floors still embedded in the ground in Syria, which were offered with an option for the buyer to choose styles and colors “if available.”

He also showed BBC reporters the Facebook pages offering any number of statues from the looted ancient city of Palmyra, implying that the Islamic State terror group fighters had not destroyed all the antiquities there. Some 70 percent of all artifacts purported to come out of Syria are fakes, but the Facebook sites guaranteed authenticity.

“What we’ve seen is an explosion of sites and users on Facebook,” he told the BBC. “It’s transnational and Facebook is essentially allowing this to happen on its watch.”

Al-Azm told the BBC that buyers are often working on behalf of anonymous collectors across the world, including some in the U.S. who are looking for rare art from war-torn areas that might easily be written off as destroyed. As such, the provenance of the artifacts will more easily escape notice.

The BBC found that several sites offered a way for buyers to ask for specific antiquities. “In one case, Facebook administrators ask for Islamic-era manuscripts to be made available in Turkey,” the BBC reports. It is not clear if the purchase and delivery was carried out.

“It’s really opened our eyes to how accelerated these trafficking networks are,” researcher Katie Paul told the BBC. “Now if you dig something up in your backyard and you don’t know a trafficker, you can hop on Facebook, share pictures of what you’ve found and connect with people who are willing to buy it.”

Good for him!

A New Reading of the Mesha Stele

The biblical King Balak may have been a historical figure, according to a new reading of the Mesha Stele, an inscribed stone dating from the second half of the 9th century BCE.

A name in Line 31 of the stele, previously thought to read ‘House of David’, could instead read ‘Balak’, a king of Moab mentioned in the biblical  of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), say archaeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein and historians and biblical scholars Prof. Nadav Na’aman and Prof. Thomas Römer, in an article published in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

The authors studied new high-resolution photographs of the squeeze, and of the stele itself. These new images made it clear that there are three consonants in the name of the monarch mentioned in Line 31, and that the first is the Hebrew letter beth (a ‘b’ sound).

While the other letters are eroded, the most likely candidate for the monarch’s name is ‘Balak’, the authors say. The seat of the king referred to in Line 31 was at Horonaim, a place mentioned four times in the Bible in relation to the Moabite territory south of the Arnon River. “Thus, Balak may be a historical personality like Balaam, who, before the discovery of the Deir Alla inscription, was considered to be an ‘invented’ figure,” they suggest.

“The new photographs of the Mesha Stele and the squeeze indicate that the reading, ‘House of David’ – accepted by many scholars for more than two decades—is no longer an option,” the authors conclude. “With due caution we suggest the name of the Moabite king Balak, who, according to the Balaam story of Numbers 22-24, sought to bring a divine curse on the people of Israel.

“This story was written down later than the time of the Moabite  referred to in the Mesha Stele. Yet, to give a sense of authenticity to his story, its author must have integrated into the plot certain elements borrowed from the ancient reality, including two personal names: Balaam and Balak.”

I’m looking forward to reading their essay (and not just about it).  I love these guys.

The Perverted ‘Pastor’ Who Turned into an Atheist

Dave Gass (you don’t know him, he’s a nobody) went on a twitter rant yesterday listing all the reasons why he just couldn’t continue to be a pastor. He claimed that he hadn’t believed for a long time and it was something he had long contemplated.

It turns out, though, that Mr Exvangelical had other, more sinister motives for leaving Christianity and those motives have to do with his own perverse and adulterous inclinations and greed.

To wit-

Gass is a pervert who groomed a woman in his congregation, slept with her, and then when found out left his wife, kids, and split with a ton of money from his church.’ – via someone who knows.

Why do I mention this? Because before people applaud the so called bravery of those abandoning faith, maybe those clapping for them should discover who they really are and not make heros out of scoundrels and thieves and adulterers.

A Companion to Heresy Inquisitions

Inquisitions of heresy have long fascinated both specialists and non-specialists. A Companion to Heresy Inquisitions presents a synthesis of the immense amount of scholarship generated about these institutions in recent years. The volume offers an overview of many of the most significant areas of heresy inquisitions, both medieval and early Modern. The essays in this collection are intended to introduce the reader to disagreements and advances in the field, as well as providing a navigational aid to the wide variety of recent discoveries and controversies in studies of heresy inquisitions.

The table of contents is available, as is often the case these days, at the publisher’s link above.

The purpose of the work is not to detail the gory details of inquisitional doings, but to examine the ‘why’ of the inquisitions.  To that end we read

With the coming of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, inquisitions came to be mocked and vilified as the most fear some weapon of the Roman Church. Polemical writers multiplied their terrors and body counts, stretching them beyond all historical recognition.

And more particularly

This collection is intended to offer a survey of the latest scholarship about inquisitions. Therefore this volume seeks primarily to focus on the origins, machinery, and operations of heresy inquisitions at different periods and in various contexts. In that sense, the chapters will concentrate particularly on the theoretical and administrative side of the inquisitions, rather than focusing on the witnesses interviewed or the “heresies” detected.

Readers then should be forewarned that many of their preconceptions about the Inquisition will be debunked and their viewpoints undermined.  And that’s a good thing.  Because it is a fact that

Scholars have done a mighty service in embedding the institutions in their contexts and, in so doing, demonstrating the absurdity of the literary and popular fixations of the myth of the “Inquisition.”

But why, then, did the Inquisition happen?  After all, there is no pressing necessity for the harsh methods of Inquisition.  So what happened to make ‘satan into satan’ (as it were)?

Heresy inquisitions were not, then, inevitable. Henry Charles Lea, the greatest American historian of inquisitions, saw the Middle Ages as “bloodthirsty.”

The essayist goes on to point out that the ‘bloodthirsty’ image may be a bit of an overstatement, and the situation was much more nuanced.  Indeed

By the high Middle Ages, Christians had been warning each other of the risks and darknesses of “choice” (haeresis) for centuries. As is well known, the sense of the Greek haeresis, meaning the neutral choice among different philosophical schools, transformed in the hands of the earliest Christians, who identified certain doctrines, texts, and customs as heresy in the very process of – and in the service of the process of – claiming others as orthodoxy. The “choice” of such things was to select error, to follow individual stubbornness over community consensus, and to turn from God.

The onslaught of error is the precipitating cause of the inquisition.  This fear of otherness has its roots in Augustine (and even earlier, back into the New Testament itself).  As we are informed

Augustine was the avenue for the earliest, Greek strains of heresiology to enter the medieval West.

But

As early as the 1st century, Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35–c. 107) advised that the poison and corruption of heresy could be avoided by obeying bishops.

The cure, then, was to rid the body of its error.  And that is why inquisitorial procedures came on the scene.  But we still have not arrived at the place where we can understand the ‘why’ of the inquisition’s violence.  To understand that fact, we are informed

As we have seen, some of these spiritual foundations of medieval heresy inquisitions reached back to Christianity’s origins, if not quite so far as the Garden of Eden! But fears of heresy, the relationships between a stubborn individual and an authoritative community, warnings about purgatory and hell, body versus soul, et cetera flowered forth into persecution only in the apt circumstances – of the state, of the church as an institution – of the high Middle Ages.

And more to the point:

Perhaps what changed in the high Middle Ages was simply that Latin churchmen gained an unprecedented amount of confidence and power, in which they finally decided that they could attempt to be as coercive as Augustine’s God – the coercive God whom Christian clerics had long worshipped, but whom they had not, until then, dared to emulate.

I.e., the establishment of the truly authoritative Church (and not just spiritually authoritative, but politically so in no uncertain terms) was the catalyst for the violence of the inquisition.

From this point onward, the Church began to exercise its authority over body and soul.  And used every tool at its disposal to do so.

Although Bernard did not succeed in suppressing Henry at the council of Pisa, the Cistercian monk’s efforts, in fact, reveal the importance of the council as a tool in the defense of orthodoxy against popular heresy.

And

As the sermons of Ademar reveal, heresy and its repression was one of the major concerns of Western Christendom in the 11th and 12th centuries.

And then, most tellingly

It was inevitable that inquisitorial procedure would be applied to the prosecution of heretics, since purgation was hardly an effective means of countering the spread of heresy.

Mere correction didn’t work to correct error.  Harsher measures were needed.  The remainder of the volume shows in brilliant detail how all of this worked itself out in the history of the Church.

This volume is fascinating, well written, and engaging.  Get it.  Read it.  Absorb it.  Learn from it.  Teach from it.

Where Scripture isn’t, The Church Isn’t Either

The Romanists assail us in the present day, and terrify the unskilful with the name of Church, while they are the deadly adversaries of Christ. Therefore, although they exhibit a temple, a priesthood, and other similar masks, the empty glare by which they dazzle the eyes of the simple should not move us in the least to admit that there is a Church where the word of God appears not. — John Calvin

The same, to be fair, could be said of the Emergents and the Seekers and other pseudo-Christian sects today.  Simply claiming to be ‘Church’ doesn’t make it so.  Where Scripture is absent, where it is ignored, the Church doesn’t exist.

The National Day of Prayer, Again

Today is the National Day of Prayer– when we’re supposed to ask God’s blessings on our Country and our World.  A day I’m regularly ambivalent about.

Should we pray for our Country?  Yes.  But shouldn’t we also pray for our neighbors around the planet and even our enemies?  Absolutely.  Unfortunately, however, the NDP regularly becomes nothing more than nationalism parading as Christianity.

I’m all for national pride.  I think we Americans are the most blessed on the planet.  I think God has granted us far more than we deserve, and I think we’ve squandered it in an orgy of selfishness and self indulgence that the ancient Romans would admire.

I think if we Americans pray for anything today it should be to pray for national revival and spiritual awakening.  If that doesn’t come- if that doesn’t happen, then one day it may be the case (and I’ve mentioned this before) that God may tell us what he told Jeremiah (three times!) –

“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.’ – Jer 7:16

“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.” – Jer 11:14

“Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for these people anymore.” – Jer 14:11

The National Day of Prayer may need to become, among those who have an ear to hear, the National Day of “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.”

Maybe it already has, considering how far we’ve turned from God.

The ‘National Day of Prayer’ Is, By and Large, A Farce

It reminds me of the words of God through Jeremiah-

“You steal. You murder. You commit adultery. You lie when you swear on oath. You sacrifice to the god Baal. You pay allegiance to other gods whom you have not previously known. Then you come and stand in my presence in this temple I have claimed as my own and say, “We are safe!” You think you are so safe that you go on doing all those hateful sins! (Jer. 7:9-10)

Americans seem to think that they can despise immigrants and rip off their neighbors in shady business deals and deny basic care to their neighbors and their children and spend their money on vices and sins and shoot each other in Churches and Synagogues and Mosques and theaters and malls and schools and it’s all ok as long as they flip a blob of mucus foaming from their cursing mouths on the ‘day of prayer’ in God’s direction.  What absurdity.  What God requires is repentance and righteousness, not lip service.

Wake up, America.  Wake.  Up.

The National Day of Prayer

‪#‎NationalDayofPrayer‬ – “But when you pray, go into your closet and pray in private…” – Jesus

Quote of the Day

This will surely he known as the Age of Credulity. Television advertisements can safely assume in viewers a fathomless credulity, compared with which the most outrageous superstitions and supernatural manifestations seem credible. Believing nothing results in believing anything. –  Malcolm Muggeridge

Gross

Hymns drop off top 10 funeral music choices in favour of Ed Sheeran

Just gross.

Hymns have been completely squeezed out of the top ten musical choices at funerals, with mourners instead opting for contemporary songs such as Ed Sheeran’s Supermarket Flowers, a new entry to the list.

Frank Sinatra’s My Way again topped the latest chart drawn up by the UK’s biggest chain of funeral directors, but for the first time since the biennial exercise began in 2002 not a single traditional hymn made it into the top ten.

Data from Co-op Funeralcare, whose funeral directors arrange up to 100,000 ceremonies a year, revealed a dramatic shift in choices of music at final farewells as mourners reject the traditionally sombre funeral in favour of more personalised send-offs.

Hymns such as The Lord’s My Shepherd and Abide With Me – previously strong contenders in the funeral chart – have been elbowed aside as Sheeran and Westlife are catapulted into the top.

Do your own funerals, pagans.  Stay out of churches and stay away from Christian clerics.

The Latest Biblical Studies Carnival

Christopher Scott has it.

May 2, 1507

That, if you aren’t sure, is the date upon which Luther celebrated his first Mass.  Of that occasion Luther remarked

“When I was about to hold my first mass, my father sent twenty gulden for food and came with twenty persons, all of whom he put up. Somebody said to him, ‘You must have a good friend here that you should come to visit him with such a large company,’ etc.

“When at length I stood before the altar and was to consecrate, I was so terrified by the words aeterno vivo veto Deo that I thought of running away from the altar and said to my prior, ‘Reverend Father, I’m afraid I must leave the altar.’ He shouted to me, ‘Go ahead, faster, faster!’

“So terrified was I by those words! Already I had forebodings that something was wrong, but God didn’t give me an understanding of this until later.”