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As I look back, one of my greatest educational irritations is that I never was offered a class on thinking. Even if I was, I probably would not have taken it. Consequently, I operated contently with a sloppiness of thought and did not know it. And the problem seems to be widespread. Our day is one which is filled with thinking errors. We persuade with sentiment and experience rather than truth and logic. Rules of reason are violated often in the public sphere with little concern. Subjective fancies carry more sway in convincing us than objective revelation. It’s a day of serious errors in thought and reason.

Enter a well-educated, logic ninja, Puritan to the rescue. Isaac Watts is typically most known for his classic hymns, especially “Joy to the World,” which is resounding this time of year. But in his spare time amidst pastoring, writing children’s poetry, books, and 750 hymns, he wrote an excellent book on how to think. Written in 1724, it is concisely-titled, Logic: The Right Uses of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth  With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences. It’s a great introductory book on the art and science of responsible human thinking, or, logic. For about two centuries, it was the go-to textbook at places like Oxford and Cambridge (where Watts was earlier forbidden from attending for his non-conformism), and Harvard and Yale.

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bibleI have never been persecuted. Not really. Sure I’ve been called names, but my bank account and my health have not been affected in any way for being a Christian.

I recently did an informal (and most definitely unscientific) survey, asking people who they thought was the most mature Christian. Although I got many different answers, there was a trend. Most people pointed to someone who had suffered severe trials or even died for their faith.

It does seem that those who have been persecuted are more mature. They seem to evangelize more, to say no to sin more often and to be an encouragement to those around them.

Perhaps persecution is coming for all of us, but as of right now we just don’t know too many Christians who are facing persecution. We hear of the bakers, florists and millionaires on TV losing businesses and TV shows, but we have a long way to go to experience what the “others” in Hebrews 11:36-38 who were even sawn in two for their faith and whom the world was not worthy of.

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’Tis the season to be controversial. Regrettably, Christians can be vulnerable to a form of orthorexia when it comes to celebrating or conscientiously objecting to the celebration of Christmastime.

Let’s first take a step back.

Orthorexia is when people try to eat so perfectly that they end up obsessing about their health to the detriment of their health.orthorexia

In the vegetarian—excuse me, “plant-based”—community there is wide consensus that humans should not be consuming cow-flesh. Motivation for this commitment is rooted in one of three factors, but often results in an equal-part blend of the following reasons:

  1. The undeniable health concerns (immediate improvement: watch Forks Over Knives, and/or longevity: read The China Study).
  2. The alarming environmental threats caused by cow flatulence and overgrazing (watched Cowspiracy yet?).
  3. The ethical convictions (Sir Paul McCartney’s Glass Walls stomach churning expose). Usually the motivation to go plant-based or at least plant-strong is firmly rooted in one of these factors and then blends in parts of the other two. But from that irreducible common ground the denominationalism begins its interminable divergence into branches and sub-branches of vegetarianism.

Some vegetarians who would never consume beef, pork, mutton, or poultry (notice how labels for meat distance the product from its source?) have no issue with scarfing down some shrimp and calamari with their gluten infused veggie cheese and egg burgers. Purist herbivores would label those dilettanti as pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian—the lowest rung of plant-strong compromisers. The class structure among eaters reflects their commitment to the cause. Orwell might say: “All animal products are equal, but some are more equal than others,” right?

If you really want to repent of your unorthodox omnivore ways you need to eschew all animal products and thus achieve the enlightened state of veganism. Eco-ethical vegans (as opposed to dietary vegans) will not even wear leather Birkenstocks, nor read from a calf-skin Bible. But vegans still gobble up grain and bread, with all its sticky gluten-rich glory. Gluten is a dietary gremlin that allegedly wreaks havoc with your gut flora, causing symptoms like bloating in an increasingly swelling segment of the population.

As you narrow the filter and strain out those pesky paleo-types you get the “glugan,” or gluten-free vegan. From there it goes down to fruitarians, raw whole food only (meaning no cooked veggies or supplements either), raw whole food juice only, and eventually to a diet plan that looks harrowingly similar to Gandhi’s guide to a successful hunger strike.

At this point of deprivation you are orthorexic. Your weekly meal plan looks as empty as a prisoner’s day planner. You might call it your John the Baptist Diet (not to be confused with its diametric opposite: the Typical Baptist Pastor’s Diet).

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It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones–C. S. Lewis

Picture by Albert Bridge

In his introduction to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, C. S. Lewis engages in something of an apologetic for reading old books. Lewis felt reading old books was essential, even though the wisdom of reading old books is not always self-evident. But it is a good idea to read old books, and you should value reading them for they will benefit you in numerous ways.

There are a number of bad reasons to avoid reading old books, which you should never use as an excuse to avoid reading old works of literature. I list four of them here, quoting Lewis liberally to make the point.   Continue Reading…

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Today I want to make our readers aware of a new book that is sure to serve the church well. It’s written by our friend, Dr. Matt Waymeyer, who serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Immanuel Bible Church and the faculty of The Expositors Seminary in Jupiter, Florida, and who has made excellent contributions to The Cripplegate over the years. His book is called Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model (Kress Biblical Resources, 2016). (Available from Amazon and Kress.) If you’re interested in eschatology or studies of the Kingdom of God, you’ll benefit greatly from Matt’s work. He’s given me permission to reproduce the preface of the book, and I hope it entices you to read the whole thing.

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One of the most encouraging developments in evangelicalism over the past several decades has been the remarkable resurgence of reformed theology. This rediscovery of the doctrines of grace has not only captured the Bible’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation but also strengthened the unity of the church around the centrality of the gospel.

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Not too long ago I talked about the verses in Scripture that God used to get me to start sharing the Gospel. I was reading through the entire Bible at a Bible school in central Italy and I ran across a passage that changed my life. Ezekiel 3:17-21 proved to be some of the toughest and most convicting verses in all of Scripture for me. As I read those verses over and over again I thought of the people over the years who I had had the opportunity but failed to share the Gospel with.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I wept as I thought about how unfaithful I had been for so many years and for some reason my mind kept going to my junior high friends in Italy. I had been unfaithful to share the Gospel in general and yet it was those friends that kept coming to mind the most.

Junior high in Italy works a little differently than America. For three years from 6th-8th grade you stay in the same classroom, and it is the teachers who move from room to room. So for three years, each day you spend time with the same 20-25 students. Over our three years we became like a family. And I could only think of two people in the entire class that I had shared the Gospel with.

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Every presidential election produces those whose candidate lost and who view the result as a surefire indicator that civilization has fallen. “This is the worst it’s ever been!” they exclaim.  “You have no idea how hard things are going to be because my candidate didn’t win!”

We expect those responses from people whose lives revolve around politics. But this year I’ve seen several Christians caught up in “the sky is falling” response, so I want to offer a course correction:   Continue Reading…

love-buttonWhether you are for or against the sport of hunting, I’m confident you’d agree that there are certain dangers attached to the activity, especially when there are other hunters afoot. And it’s safe to assume that the risk of those dangers would be increased when visibility is diminished. It is obviously safer (for the humans) to hunt in daylight than in the fog.

Honorable hunters adhere to a code: they don’t use laser scopes, for example, as this can cause the animal to freeze in a proverbial “deer-in-the-headlights” fashion, which is frowned upon as unsporting—as if binocular vision, opposable thumbs, and access to a firearm doesn’t make fairness a moot point anyway.

As fundamental as visibility is to hunting, in Texas (of course) even the blind are permitted to use guns. Visually impaired hunters, however, are only permitted to pull the trigger when accompanied by a surrogate sighted guide who peers over their shoulder and gives the all clear.

A hunting blind is a structure used to mask the scent and visibility of the hunter from his prey. But blind hunting inverts the logic of that effort, rendering the prey impossible to spot while the hunter is exposed. It wouldn’t be illegal to hunt wearing a blindfold; it would just be obtuse.

And yet in a similarly obtuse way, Christians who seek for a spouse online are willingly impairing their ability to discern.

From time to time a millennial congregant will ask—on behalf of a friend, of course—if it is biblically permissible for Christians to subscribe to online dating sites. I explain that although the concordance at the back of a study Bible doesn’t have the words “online” or “eHarmony” listed, the word of God is still as relevant today as it was for forlorn singles in the Ancient Near East, such as Adam, Isaac, and the 200 Benjamite bachelors of Judges 21.

One possible misstep when scouring the Bible for advice on spouse-seeking, is to view narrative descriptions as patterns to emulate. I hope it’s incontestable that neither waiting for God to supernaturally create a bride from your rib as Adam did, nor the kidnapping plot of the Benjamites, are intended to be normative for Christian singles.

The truth is that God’s word deliberately leaves great liberty in the area of match-making. But just because a method may be permissible does not mean it is wise. “All things are lawful but not all things are profitable.”

So, in honor of Cyber Monday, here are some essential factors in romantic matches that online dating robs you of:

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holidays.thefuntimesguide.com

Here we are again, launching into another holiday season. Most likely, many of us will be spending time with relatives of various spiritual persuasions both this weekend, and over the Christmas holiday. Times with lost relatives can be tricky.

I remember one such situation with my French, atheist grandfather who passed away a few years ago. His name was Georges Lycan, and he spent most of his life as a carefree, pleasure-loving actor in France. That I know of, he appeared in over a dozen Broadway-like plays in France, several TV shows, and about 50 movies, probably the most well-known being his role as Sheriff Stone in the Charles Bronson Western, The Red Sun.

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For years, Brian Williams had told a story of incredible survival, but each time he told it grew in mythical status.

The first time he told the story it was probably the truth.

Thanksgiving DinnerHe went to Iraq to cover the war as a reporter for MSNBC and took a helicopter ride.  When he landed, he found out that a helicopter an hour ahead of his was shot at from the ground.

Over the next few years as he retold the story, the helicopters distance grew closer, until finally it was his helicopter that was the one that was shot at. At one point he even described seeing the shooter on the ground and described his emotional state as he saw his life flash before his eyes.

Eventually, some of the guys who had been there during the time couldn’t handle hearing him be introduced as a guy who was shot at in Iraq, and they told the truth about the story. Soon after that, Brian Williams lost his job and became the butt of every joke dealing with exaggerating stories.

As I have thought about Brian Williams, I’ve thought about the temptation in every heart to live incredible experiences. We all want to be able to tell stories of survival that would make us look good in the eyes of others around us. We’re all tempted to exaggerate stories and to make ourselves look better that we actually do.

And yet, as believers, we have a story that we can tell as often as we want that cannot be exaggerated. We have experienced something far greater, more unbelievable, and more supernatural than anything anyone can experience on earth. We have been given a new heart.

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