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Tidbits – April 2021

Richer than you knew

Today’s complaints about “income inequality” mask the fact that, in the West, anyone who can afford a smartphone is richer than the richest oil baron or railroad tycoon of one hundred years ago. Just consider all the features our phones have on them that people of that time could never have dreamed of. We have in our back pocket:

  • instant access to newspapers, stock reports, and a library larger than any building could hold
  • all the music we own, and the ability to hear tons more
  • our very own personal GPS – try explaining that one to a 1920s tycoon
  • our own video recorder
  • all of our photos carried along with us at all times
  • our own TV, radio, camera, calculator, alarm clock, and calendar

That doesn’t even get into what all our apps can do. And just to underscore just how rich we are, let’s mention a big one that, admittedly, isn’t phone-related, but is appreciated by all: indoor plumbing – once a luxury item, now, thankfully standard issue! If some today want to focus on how much more Jeff Bezo, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk have compared to the rest of us, we should instead remember how richly God has blessed us!

Is God a gentleman? – an Arminian standard

If you’ve ever discussed God’s sovereignty and Man’s free will with an Arminian friend, you may have heard them say: “God is a gentleman, so He would never force Himself on us.”

How should we answer this claim?

First, it’s good to note that your friend may think this a positive portrayal of God – after all, when has being called a gentleman ever been an insult? But there is a problem: if the debate is framed this way, then the Calvinist understanding of God is truly horrific because if God were not to act the part of a gentleman, if He was to “force Himself on us,” then what is God being likened to? However, unintended, this treats the Calvinist position on God’s sovereignty as God the rapist.

How, then, can we answer this charge?

By going to Scripture. Do we find God as a gentleman there? No – He reveals Himself as a parent – God is our Father. As a parent myself, I know that sometimes my love is expressed by forcing my will on a child: they will go to bed, eat their vegetables, do their homework, and more, whether they want to or not.

My dad tells a story about when he was a kid out biking in the Netherlands with his own father. They were on the top of a hill with a major road below and my dad pointed his bike down the hill and started pedaling when, suddenly, his chain fell off. On this kind of bike that was the only brake so now he was flying faster and faster towards a major highway with no way to stop – he was heading towards certain death. My grandfather yelled at him to tip his bike to wipe out because as much as that would hurt it was better than getting killed. But he was just a kid and not thinking logically, so he wouldn’t do it. My grandfather raced after him, caught up to him just in time, and then pitched both of their bikes over just short of the highway. It hurt a lot but saved his life. My grandfather forced his will on his child…because he loved him.

God is not a gentleman; He is our Father and He will turn His children back towards Him. 

Just checking…

There’s a custom, still in use in many weddings, for the bride to come down the aisle with her face covered by a veil. The groom will then, right before the vows, lift the veil over her head. One interesting theory (impossible to prove) for the origins and timing of this veil flip is that it may be a response to Jacob’s marriage to Leah where the groom didn’t realize who he was marrying until it was too late (Gen. 29:22-25). Thus the veil flip – in the thousands of years since, no man has wanted to make that same mistake!

Why didn’t Samson get sick?

Most guys hold to the 5-second rule: should I drop food on the ground but pick it up before 5 seconds pass, it is safe to eat. The rule has some wrinkles: for something truly delicious there are provisions for an extension of even 3 or 4 seconds more. Some criticize this rule, pointing to studies that say bacteria can latch onto fallen food in an instant. But while such studies have done little to dissuade dads from brushing the grass off a fallen hotdog or hamburger patty,  we know there are limits. Even the manliest man isn’t going to pick something up off of the slaughterhouse floor.

So what was Samson thinking when he ate honey out of a rotting lion carcass? This wasn’t after just 5 seconds either, so why didn’t he get sick?

The answer lies in the amazing properties of honey. Pots of it have been found in Egyptian tombs, thousands of years old and still unspoiled. How many other foods can do that? What gives it not only this long life but the sort of anti-bacterial properties that allowed Samson to eat it out of a carcass? There are a few things, including a lack of water, and a degree of acidity (with a pH of 3 to 4.5), but the secret ingredient is…bee spit! Their stomach acid breaks down the nectar they ingest, creating a by-product of hydrogen peroxide. That isn’t something we’d normally want to ingest, but it is tiny and just enough to help prevent spoilage. It is also just enough to give honey medicinal properties that benefit us too, like being a low-cost, readily available treatment for burns – it reduces scarring and even offers some pain relief. While we prefer to get our honey from non-carcass sources, this is why Samson could chow down, and share it with his parents, without any digestive consequences. Because even honey is fearfully and wonderfully made!

Ready for bigger things

While Covid has closed schools, that hasn’t squelched some kids’ creativity. On January 25 @ChrisArnoldInc tweeted:

“My wife is a teacher and apparently one kid has been changing his name to ‘Reconnecting’ during the Zoom lessons so that he doesn’t get asked any questions. Been doing it for weeks. The lad doesn’t need to worry about his education, he’s already a bona fide genius.” 

Good intentions don’t make the minimum wage good

President Biden’s administration seems intent on more than doubling the US federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. The intent of this minimum wage hike (and minimum wage laws generally) is to help the country’s poorest, by giving an instant boost to their income. But what the late Walter Williams (1936-2020) wanted to know was, what will happen to the worker who doesn’t already have the skills to produce at least $15 an hour worth of value to their employer?

“A lot of people will say, ‘The minimum wage is an anti-poverty device.’ That is utter nonsense. For kids who grew up in broken homes, who’ve gone to rotten schools … if they’re going to learn anything that will make them a more valuable worker in the future, they’re not going to learn it in their neighborhoods, they’re not going to learn it in their schools. So they have to learn it on the job. And what the minimum wage law does, it nixes that learning.”

The wit and wisdom of C.H. Spurgeon

  • “…idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.”
  • “…they are always talking about their rights; I wish they would give an eye to their own wrongs…”
  • “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
  • “Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow; sing of what is yet to be. Is this world dreary? Then think of the next.”
  • “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

A Christian case for Free Speech

The Christians case for freedom of speech is based on knowing:

  • Truth is real
  • Man is fallen

That there is a Truth to be found gives Christians a reason to permit even very offensive speech, to allow truth and lies to battle it out under the bright lights. We wouldn’t want an atheist banned from questioning God’s existence because to do so is going to make it impossible for him to get answers.

But Christian support for free speech is not absolute. We should censor some sorts of “speech” – pornography, slander, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – because of the great harm these lies cause.  But the fallen nature of Man is why we would only restrain speech in the most extreme circumstances, as Douglas Wilson explains:

“The foundational reason for insisting on free speech has to do with the Christian doctrine of the nature of man. Every restriction that is placed on men is a restriction that must be enforced by men. And the men who enforce are almost always a greater hazard to our liberties than the man in the street who wants to pop off about something. The men who enforce any restrictions on free speech have the same problem of sin that the general populace does, and in their case this sinfulness is combined with political power. This means that if you grant the authorities the power to punish the one who would yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, which they need to have, they will be tempted to use that power to punish citizens who are critical of them…. I do not want to defend free speech because each of us is so wise that we all must be given our chance to contribute our wisdom. No. Rather, I maintain that we are a fallen race, and cannot be trusted to police certain things. To the extent that the authorities have any power to regulate speech, that power must be carefully balanced and held in check…”

Tyranny of the busybody

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his [greed] may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock


Up Next


In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2021

On mundane faithfulness… “Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help mum do the dishes." - P. J. O’Rourke  Francis Schaeffer on being a cobelligerent, not an ally Francis Schaeffer made an interesting distinction between allies and cobelligerents that any Christians involved in any sort of political movement needs to understand: "Christians must realize that there is a difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally. At times we will seem to be saying exactly the same thing as those without a Christian base are saying. If there is social injustice, say there is social injustice. If we need order, say we need order. In these cases, and at these specific points, we would be cobelligerents. But we must not align ourselves as though we are in any camp built on a non-Christian base. We are an ally of no such camp. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is different – totally different; it rests on the absolutes given to us in Scripture. “My observation of many is this: suddenly they are confronted by some two camps and they are told, “Choose, choose, choose.” By God’s grace they must say, ‘I will not choose between these two. I stand alone with God, the God who has spoken in the Scripture, the God who is the infinite-personal God, and neither of your two sides is standing there. So if I seem to be saying the same thing at one point, understand that I am a cobelligerent at this particular place, but I am not an ally. “The danger is that the older will forget this distinction and become an ally of an establishment elite, and at the same time his son or daughter will forget this distinction and become an ally of some ‘leftish’ elite. We must say what the Bible says when it causes us to seem to be saying what others are saying, such as ‘Justice!’ or ‘Stop the meaningless bombings!’ But we must never forget that this is only a passing cobelligerency and not an alliance." – A Christian View of the Church Forgetting this distinction is where some Christians went off the rails with Donald Trump, excusing his evident sins (pride, arrogance, advocacy for homosexuality) because they thought he was our ally, and not just, at times, a cobelligerent. Canada’s Conservative Party under the pro-choice Erin O’Toole, presents another such dilemma/temptation: if we can use it – if we can treat it as a cobelligerent on some issues – wonderful, but Christians must not mistake it for an ally. “But the Bible promotes slavery!” C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity gave guidance on how we should approach people who ridicule the Bible by taking a small bit of it out of context. He was specifically addressing ridicule directed at the thought of people playing harps in heaven (Rev. 14:2) but his point can be applied broadly to any instances – tolerance, judging, slavery, homosexuality, gender roles, etc. – where people know only a scant verse or two, but feel knowledgeable enough to mock the Bible: “The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.” Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six Anyone who knows anything about Corrie Ten Boom knows that this was a woman of great faith – she hid Jews in World War II because she trusted the Lord would take care of her, no matter what might happen. In her autobiography The Hiding Place she also shows herself to be a woman of great humor, recounting a version of this joke/riddle from those days. Do you know how Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six begins? But there is no Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six! It goes only to 150. Shall I recite it for you? Please do! “Shout for joy!” Ah, but that’s only the beginning of Psalm One Hundred! And Sixty-Six too! Inerrancy: a small huge difference In his book Everyone’s a Theologian, R.C. Sproul notes how two very different positions on inerrancy can seem quite similar at first glance. He writes: ...note the difference in the following two statements: The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Bible is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice. The two statements sound similar, but they are radically different. In the first statement, the term only sets Scripture apart as the one infallible source with authoritative capacity. In other words, Scripture is the rule of our faith, which has to do with all that we believe, and it is the rule of our practice, which has to do with all that we do. These words change their orientation in the second statement. Here the word only restricts a portion of the Bible itself, saying that it is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice. This is a view called “limited inerrancy,” and this way of viewing Scripture has become popular in our day. The terms faith and practice capture the whole of the Christian life, but in this second statement, “faith and practice” are reduced to a portion of the teaching of Scripture, leaving out what the Bible says about history, science, and cultural matters. In other words, the Bible is authoritative only when it speaks of religious faith; its teachings on anything else are considered fallible. Say it out loud An Albertan, a Quebecer, a Spaniard, and a German were all on a Zoom call with their boss, who asked, “Can everyone see me?” to which they responded “Yup,” “Oui,” “Si,” “Ja.” (h/t to Al Siebring) Lyric of the month: “Chasing after the wind” In the remarkable Christian film The Song (reviewed here,) singer Jed King learns life’s big lessons the hard way, much like King Solomon. He realizes, as Solomon teaches in the book of Ecclesiastes, that success apart from God is empty, a “Chasing after the wind.” Why have everything? You’re leaving here with nothing. Can't take anything, because you have to move on. You were the wise one, putting your disguise on. Lying to pretend, you're chasing after wind. Why should you be, if no one's there to see? All your deeds are like raindrops in the sea. What do we mean, if nothing has meaning, If in the end we’re chasing after wind? I have everything; that don't leave me anything. I have my plans crumbling in the sand. Now I understand, I was born a natural man, racing to the end, chasing after wind. Why should I be, if nothing has made me? All that I've done, will flame out with the sun. Why should I sing, if nothing has meaning? SOURCE: Written by Richard Ramsey and performed by Alan Powell Jesus never said homosexuality was sinful? In a guest appearance on the Piers Morgan Live talk show that used to run on CNN, the host asked Dr. Michael Brown about Jesus’ thoughts on homosexuality. PIERS MORGAN: Can you point to a single public utterance by Jesus Christ – the Christ in Christianity – about gay people or about a gay lifestyle? Can you name one single thing? MICHAEL BROWN I’ll name you three for you Piers. Number one, in Matthew 5 Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill. He takes the central morals of the Torah to a higher level. In Matthew 15 he says that all sexual acts committed outside of marriage defile a human being, and in Matthew 19 He says marriage as God intended is the union of one man and one woman for life. Look, Jesus did not address wife-beating or heroin-shooting, but we don’t use that argument of silence .... We should love our neighbor as ourself, but that doesn’t mean that we approve of everything of our neighbor....


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