Daily Archives: July 2, 2018

July 2: Conflict and Certainty

1 Samuel 2:22–4:22; James 1:9–18; Psalm 119:17–32

Conflict drives fiction and riveting movies, but if we had it our way, we’d live stable, stress-free lives. We might crave the excitement or change of a vacation, but we rarely welcome an unexpected complication. So when James says to “count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas 1:2), we are tempted to dismiss his perspective as something that works on paper but should not disrupt our real lives.

James shows us how to internalize a faithful response to unwelcome conflict. He starts by describing a negative reaction: When difficult times come, we might be like the person who prays and then doubts that God will provide him with wisdom for the situation. This person complicates the conflict by internalizing it with uncertainty and doubt. He is “like the surf of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed about” (Jas 1:6).

The irony is that, although we only create more conflict when we doubt, we like to think we can trust ourselves. As long as we remain in control (we tell ourselves), we can avoid the storms of life. It’s tempting to manufacture an attitude of stubborn self-sufficiency—of inner strength.

That’s the opposite of how we should respond. God wants us to meet the chaos by trusting in Him. We might feel tossed about by life’s events, but God provides us with wisdom for the chaos we encounter. When we ask Him and trust that He’ll provide us with wisdom, He gives generously and without reproach (Jas 1:5).

Stability isn’t an inner strength, but certainty in God’s provision is. We can meet the uncertain with the certain when we trust God to help us work through the chaos. We can also remember that, at the end of the novel, the protagonist who endures conflict is changed by the experience. In the same way, God is working through the conflict in our lives to make us more wholly devoted to Him, since “testing produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:3). And there will be an end: We’ll “receive the crown of life that he has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12).

How are you turning to Christ in the midst of difficult circumstances?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

July 2 Coming to Christ

“… coming to [Christ] as to a living stone” (1 Peter 2:4).

✧✧✧

Jesus Christ is the source of every spiritual privilege.

Often Christians speak of salvation as “coming to Christ.” That’s an accurate, Biblical description, for Jesus Himself said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28); “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35); “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Those are metaphors for salvation.

Coming to Christ initiates all your spiritual privileges because in Him God “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

The Greek word translated “coming” in 1 Peter 2:4 conveys more than initially turning to Christ for salvation. It implies remaining with Him. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament this word was used of those who drew near to God for ongoing worship. It was also used of Gentile proselytes—those who chose to identify themselves with God’s people.

When you came to Christ, a permanent relationship of intimate, personal communion was established. Before that, you were rebellious toward God, without hope, and alienated from God’s promises. Now you’ve been born again to a living hope, you abide in Him and in His Word, and you have wonderful spiritual privileges.

Indeed, you are a privileged person, and the greatest of those privileges is your personal relationship with Christ Himself. Continue to draw near to Him today through prayer and worship.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Tell Jesus how much you love Him and how you want your relationship with Him to be all it should be.

For Further Study: Read Ephesians 2:1–22. ✧ How did Paul describe our spiritual condition before salvation? ✧ How are sinners reconciled to God? ✧ What analogy did Paul use to describe our relationship as Christians to Jesus Christ?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 196). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #5: Are Questions More Important than Answers? — Canon Fodder

I continue to work my way through a series entitled “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.”  It’s an examination of 10 core tenets of progressive (or liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

Now we come to the fifth commandment and it is a genuine classic: “Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.”

There is perhaps no commandment in the series that better captures the ethos of modern liberalism.  Position yourself as humble and inquisitive, merely on a journey of discovery. And position the other side as less-than-humble dispensers of dogma.  Brilliant.

Indeed, this is Gulley’s complaint about the church.  He argues the church has been “committed to propaganda” and “towing the party line” instead of the “vigorous exploration of the truth” (93).

Ok, so what shall we make of this fifth “commandment”? A few thoughts.

A Caricature of Christianity

We begin by noting (as we have in other installments), that there is an element of truth here. No doubt there are some, even many, who come from a more fundamentalist background where a quick (and rather unsatisfying) answer to questions was always in ready supply, but any serious intellectual engagement with those questions was frowned upon.

In such contexts, questions were not encouraged.  You were merely to accept the answer you were given.  No discussion allowed.

If the commandment above is designed merely to correct this particular version of Christianity, then point taken.  Such a correction is needed.

But, it would be a caricature to portray Christians (or Christianity) as a whole as anti-intellectual propaganda-dispensers.  Indeed, most Christians have pressed very hard on the Bible and asked it the toughest of questions–intellectual, historical, and personal.

And they have found that it has provided solid and compelling answers.  Why should this be the cause for ridicule?

Which Position is Intellectually Irresponsible?

I suspect that part of the issue in play is that progressives think it is intellectually irresponsible to make the kind of truth claims that Christians have historically made.  It sounds arrogant.  Even cocksure.  How could anyone know such a thing?

The better course of action, they argue, is to say, “I don’t know.”

While this approach gives off an air of humility, there are problems with it.  For one, “I don’t know” is only the right answer if in fact that there is no epistemological basis by which a person could know something.

But, what if a person does, in fact, have a basis for knowing?  If he does, then saying “I don’t know” would actually be the irresponsible thing to do.

In other words, “I don’t know” is not always the right answer.  Sometimes its the wrong answer.

Let’s imagine you just took a class on the Civil War.  If at a later point your friend asks, “Did Abraham Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation?,” and you answer, “yes,” you could hardly be chided as an arrogant know-it-all.

Indeed, if you were asked that question and you said, “I don’t know” (out of some mistaken notion of intellectual humility) then you ought to be chided for rejecting a clear historical truth.

Of course, progressives will argue this is a false comparison because we know Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but we don’t know that, say, Jesus was raised from the dead.

But, that is the very thing in dispute!  If the Bible is, in fact, the inspired Word of God, then arguably we can be morecertain about the resurrection than about Abraham Lincoln.

The only way the progressive argument works is if he already knows the Bible is not the Word of God and therefore can declare all its truth claims to be dubious.  But, how does the progressive know this?  I thought it was off limits to claim absolute knowledge about such things?

To put it another way, the progressive has to know that you can’t know about the resurrection.  But that would require a high level of intellectual certainty, something that the progressive has just claimed that one cannot have.

Smuggling Certainty Through the Back Door

This leads to real problem with the progressive position, namely that its inconsistent.

On the one hand, Gulley laments the dogmatism and certainty of biblical Christianity.  All would be much better, he argues, if everyone would just admit their uncertainty.

But then, on the other hand, Gulley is quite certain about his views.  In fact, so certainty that he is quick to condemn other positions.  On one occasion he describes another person’s view of conversion as a “childish point of view” and that he was clearly “stuck” in a bad theological position.

In other words, he just smuggles his certainty through the back door.

And it is not just Gulley who does this.  Progressives are quick to condemn all sorts of behavior they see in the world around them, while insisting Bible-believing Christians are wrong when they do so.

So in the debate over same-sex marriage, for example, notice that we hear very few progressives say things like, “Well, we just don’t know the answer here. We can’t be certain about what to think about it.”

No, instead we get absolutism. We get certainty.  We get dogmatism.

Thus, one gets the impression that the real issue is not really certainty at all.  It is what one is certain about.  Progressives have simply swapped one set of certain beliefs for another.

In the end, we all have things we are certain about.  Things we believe are true and real.  The real question is the basisfor our certainty.  Christians base their certainty on God’s Word.

While that will be mocked by the world, that is the place Jesus himself stood.  He declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

via The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #5: Are Questions More Important than Answers? — Canon Fodder

I continue to work my way through a series entitled “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.”  It’s an examination of 10 core tenets of progressive (or liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

Now we come to the fifth commandment and it is a genuine classic: “Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.”

There is perhaps no commandment in the series that better captures the ethos of modern liberalism.  Position yourself as humble and inquisitive, merely on a journey of discovery. And position the other side as less-than-humble dispensers of dogma.  Brilliant.

Indeed, this is Gulley’s complaint about the church.  He argues the church has been “committed to propaganda” and “towing the party line” instead of the “vigorous exploration of the truth” (93).

Ok, so what shall we make of this fifth “commandment”? A few thoughts.

A Caricature of Christianity

We begin by noting (as we have in other installments), that there is an element of truth here. No doubt there are some, even many, who come from a more fundamentalist background where a quick (and rather unsatisfying) answer to questions was always in ready supply, but any serious intellectual engagement with those questions was frowned upon.

In such contexts, questions were not encouraged.  You were merely to accept the answer you were given.  No discussion allowed.

If the commandment above is designed merely to correct this particular version of Christianity, then point taken.  Such a correction is needed.

But, it would be a caricature to portray Christians (or Christianity) as a whole as anti-intellectual propaganda-dispensers.  Indeed, most Christians have pressed very hard on the Bible and asked it the toughest of questions–intellectual, historical, and personal.

And they have found that it has provided solid and compelling answers.  Why should this be the cause for ridicule?

Which Position is Intellectually Irresponsible?

I suspect that part of the issue in play is that progressives think it is intellectually irresponsible to make the kind of truth claims that Christians have historically made.  It sounds arrogant.  Even cocksure.  How could anyone know such a thing?

The better course of action, they argue, is to say, “I don’t know.”

While this approach gives off an air of humility, there are problems with it.  For one, “I don’t know” is only the right answer if in fact that there is no epistemological basis by which a person could know something.

But, what if a person does, in fact, have a basis for knowing?  If he does, then saying “I don’t know” would actually be the irresponsible thing to do.

In other words, “I don’t know” is not always the right answer.  Sometimes its the wrong answer.

Let’s imagine you just took a class on the Civil War.  If at a later point your friend asks, “Did Abraham Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation?,” and you answer, “yes,” you could hardly be chided as an arrogant know-it-all.

Indeed, if you were asked that question and you said, “I don’t know” (out of some mistaken notion of intellectual humility) then you ought to be chided for rejecting a clear historical truth.

Of course, progressives will argue this is a false comparison because we know Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but we don’t know that, say, Jesus was raised from the dead.

But, that is the very thing in dispute!  If the Bible is, in fact, the inspired Word of God, then arguably we can be morecertain about the resurrection than about Abraham Lincoln.

The only way the progressive argument works is if he already knows the Bible is not the Word of God and therefore can declare all its truth claims to be dubious.  But, how does the progressive know this?  I thought it was off limits to claim absolute knowledge about such things?

To put it another way, the progressive has to know that you can’t know about the resurrection.  But that would require a high level of intellectual certainty, something that the progressive has just claimed that one cannot have.

Smuggling Certainty Through the Back Door

This leads to real problem with the progressive position, namely that its inconsistent.

On the one hand, Gulley laments the dogmatism and certainty of biblical Christianity.  All would be much better, he argues, if everyone would just admit their uncertainty.

But then, on the other hand, Gulley is quite certain about his views.  In fact, so certainty that he is quick to condemn other positions.  On one occasion he describes another person’s view of conversion as a “childish point of view” and that he was clearly “stuck” in a bad theological position.

In other words, he just smuggles his certainty through the back door.

And it is not just Gulley who does this.  Progressives are quick to condemn all sorts of behavior they see in the world around them, while insisting Bible-believing Christians are wrong when they do so.

So in the debate over same-sex marriage, for example, notice that we hear very few progressives say things like, “Well, we just don’t know the answer here. We can’t be certain about what to think about it.”

No, instead we get absolutism. We get certainty.  We get dogmatism.

Thus, one gets the impression that the real issue is not really certainty at all.  It is what one is certain about.  Progressives have simply swapped one set of certain beliefs for another.

In the end, we all have things we are certain about.  Things we believe are true and real.  The real question is the basisfor our certainty.  Christians base their certainty on God’s Word.

While that will be mocked by the world, that is the place Jesus himself stood.  He declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

via The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #5: Are Questions More Important than Answers? — Canon Fodder

New Evidence Suggests SWBTS Wrong for Firing Patterson — Pulpit & Pen

A letter released by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary donors reveal the full story and makes a very plausible argument that trustees made the wrong decision in both the May 23 demotion and May 30 firing of Paige Patterson.

We know that a large part of Patterson’s firing at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) was due to the toxic public relations environment created by the furthest-left component of the Social Gospel coalition in the SBC; of that, there is zero doubt. When trustee, Bart Barber, issued a misleading and vague statement about their reasoning for ousting the seasoned Southern Baptist leader, it left the impression the trustees made that decision in a vacuum, based upon a pile of (still unseen and unreported) evidence of severe wrongdoing. In reality, Barber was influenced by a broad public relations coup d’etat manufactured by leftist, feminist, and gay evangelicals. Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer (who are both fully “woke”) took unprecedented potshots at the elder SBC statesman (Stetzer left SBC employment last year, but admitted in an op-ed that he had a score to settle with Patterson) in the vein of the #MeToo movement. Karen Swallow Prior, the radical animal rights activist, full-blown egalitarian, and gay-friendly Revoice promoter (and ERLC research fellow), started a petition to get Patterson fired, which was signed mostly by bra-burning, hairy-armed Rachel Held Evans-type feminists. Russell Moore’s staunch ally in the press, homosexual Jonathan Meritt, and other closely associated journalists who regularly work with Moore led the charge against Patterson from day 1.

Love him or hate him, Patterson was taken out by leftists and by progressive Southern Baptists who wanted him out of the way and by trustees who felt the public pressure created by those who are trying (and succeeding) at getting evangelicals to switch sides in the culture war. Any impartial, fair-minded survey of the situation should recognize that Patterson would still be the president of SWBTS if it weren’t for a coalition of progressives and a gaggle of hysterical trustees, terrified by the panicked, politically-correct zeitgeist of the age.

The other fact that must eventually be addressed is that the method of Patterson’s firing was shady as could possibly be. The legalities of what transpired were stretched to the limits; the ethical boundaries that surpass mere legalities were egregiously breached. Even those who are happy to see Patterson gone should be able to admit that no institutional process should work itself out like what we saw at SWBTS. It was not only irresponsible and embarrassing, it was possibly illegal and – without a doubt – unethical. The trustee’s behavior also opened up SWBTS to a rightful civil suit that has a good probability of winning.

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. – Proverbs 18:17

In the #MeToo frenzy that took over for the rational thinking processes of SWBTS trustees, important facts were overlooked, and others not considered at all. The other side has now presented their case, and it seems that there is a very good reason to doubt the trustees made the right decision. Gary Loveless, a donor and longtime supporter of SWBTS, wrote a letter to Kevin Ueckert, chair of the Executive Committee of the SWBTS trustee board. Loveless wrote his letter on behalf of 16 regular large donors to the seminary.

A brief summary of the accusations from the donors to the board are as follows:

  • The manner in which Patterson was fired was not only unethical but was “illegal.”
  • The charges against Patterson were vague and non-specific.
  • Patterson and his staff were not permitted to see the “evidence” against him.
  • Bart Barber’s statement at the SBC was “false and slanderous.”
  • The May 30 meeting happened while Patterson was in Germany, and was hurriedly scheduled contrary to bylaws, to happen without his presence (again, this is contrary to SWBTS bylaws).
  • Their flagrant violation of bylaws and ethical standards will result in the accrediting agency and the Texas Attorney General getting involved.
  • Ueckert said new information made it seem as though Patterson lied about something, but absolutely no one knows what Ueckert is talking about; no one has said it publicly and no one as told Patterson privately.
  • When Patterson’s staff released correspondence between he and the alleged “victim” who he allegedly did not handle with enough care (which would have exhonerated him of the bulk of trustee accusations), Ueckert insanely called the release, “unethical.” The donors rightly called out this idiocy.
  • In reality, Patterson had called the police within SIX MINUTES of the young woman’s allegations.
  • Regardless of what the now-infamous term “break her down” meant, the fact was, is and remains that the woman’s rape allegations were indeed false.

The Pattersons seem to be signaling that they will sue SWBTS, and possibly, trustees themselves who were individually involved in his firing. Regarding this particular case, it certainly seems as if the Pattersons do have legal legs to stand on. There was immense pressure from outside the trustee board to do what was politically expedient, rather than to judge rightly. They failed. The evidence is actually against them…strongly. Now, it looks like there will be a large financial price to pay, not only in an inevitable lawsuit by Patterson but in the loss of big donors to SWBTS.

Something tells me that Karen Swallow Prior isn’t going to make up the difference.

You can read the letter to the SWBTS trustee board here.

via New Evidence Suggests SWBTS Wrong for Firing Patterson — Pulpit & Pen