“Nonsense Remains Nonsense Even When We Talk it About God”

The Problem of Pain book coverI started C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain today on a flight to Honolulu. Now, before you get envious, it is for work. However, I sill stipulate that there are far worse places and things to do for work. 🙂

In either case, it is yet another thought-provoking work by him, and I am sure it will generate a good number of posts here on Traditores…this being the first. Getting on with that…

How many of you have ever heard someone ask, “Can God create a rock so large He cannot lift it?”

To them, hopefully with kindness in your heart and voice, you can respond:

[God’s] Omnipotence means the power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense. There is no limit to His power. If you chose to say “God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,” you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words “God can.” It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but non-entities. It is no more possible for God than the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

It is easy to see how this quote from chapter two applies to the rock question, but we humans fall afoul of this far more often than we realize; whether as believers building a self-contradictory systematic theology, or non-believers rationalizing our rejection of the Divine through an intrinsically impossible standard for an acceptable God.

Nonsense remains nonsense.

May These Sad Words Never Be Said of You

Wooden cross in hand with BibleAs I continue through a very painful part of Scripture (where we generally hear about how unfaithful the kings of Israel and Judah were), I ran into something I hope will never be said of you (or me):

[Jehoram] was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings (2 Chronicles 21:20, English Standard Version, emphasis mine).

May your time on this world cause the opposite reaction, and may you and your loved ones meet together again with Jesus in eternity.

I Am Ordinary


Ordinary.

I’ll never walk with God like Enoch.
I’ll never be as righteous as Noah.
I’ll never match the meekness of Moses.
I’ll never show the fearlessness of Daniel.
I’ll never develop a heart like David.
I’ll never attain the wisdom of Solomon.
I’ll never have a voice in the widnerness like John.
I’ll never turn back as whole-heartedly as Peter.
I’ll never teach theology like Paul.
I’ll never know love like John.

Until.

The cry of command.
The voice of an archangel.
The sound of the trumpet of God.

Then.

I’ll be quite extraordinary.

When Your Death Shows God’s Favor

Men carrying casketI’m reading through the Bible again this year and a couple weeks ago I ran into an interesting section. My instinct is to consider God having a person die early is a bad sign…e.g. Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5). Basically, early death by God’s decree = bad.

To quickly catch you up for a clear exception to that rule we’ve got Jeroboam, who, after God made him king of Israel, deciding it would be good to make sure his subjects didn’t head to the Lord’s temple to worship: [Read more…]

When Kings (Should) Go Off to War

Genesis 3:5Greetings

It has been waaaaaaaay too long since Michelle, Augie, and I have been here at the Antrim Church of Christ…and as I typed up my sermon notes I knew I could confidently say how great it is to see you all. We may live 2,000 miles away for now, but you are still our family and always will be. How is it that Paul said it? “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit” (1 Corinthians 5:3, in part).

Of course, let’s just hope I never have to continue with the rest of that verse and say “and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” 🙂

You will forever be a part of us, and if the Lord does not bring us back in Antrim again, we’ll make sure we put in for the same neighborhood in heaven. Well, we’ll do that even if God does return us here more permanently. 🙂

King David

Although I suspect I could spend a full sermon’s time talking about how much we miss you…that’s not what we are here for, is it? Instead it is to hear the Word of God from the Word of God…so let’s dive right in by turning to to 2 Samuel 11:1:

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

That’s a curious verse, isn’t it?

Being spring…it is apropos to base a sermon on…but that’s not what is curious about it.

How many here think the “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…but David remained at Jerusalem” indicates David was doing something wrong? [Estimate count of hands.]

Well, then you ____ agree with John MacArthur:

Staying home in such situations was not David’s usual practice (5:2; 8:1—14; 10:17; but cf. 18:3; 21:17); this explicit remark implies criticism of David for remaining behind, as well as setting the stage for his devastating iniquity.1

Now, how many of you instead think the “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…but David remained at Jerusalem” is just a statement of fact…nothing positive or negative meant? [Estimate count of hands.]

Well, then you ____ agree with the Faithlife Study Bble:

This is probably not intended to be a disparaging remark toward David; in 10:7, he takes the same course of action (see also 3:22). The death of such a powerful figure in battle would likely spell defeat for the nation; David stays behind for his safety and the welfare of his kingdom (see 18:1—4; 21:15—17, especially 18:15 and note).2

Although I am an “assume the best” kind of guy, I have to admit I’m with MacArthur. Especially since what follows is one of David’s greatest failures…it really seems to be saying…

“In spring, when David should have been out valiantly leading his army, he instead was dilly-dallying back in Jerusalem.”

Let’s go back where we left off and read four more verses:

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant” (2 Samuel 11:2—5).

So here we have king who God said was “a man after [His] heart” (see Acts 13:22, 1 Samuel 13:14) take another man’s wife and commit adultery.

And, of course, it doesn’t stop there…because Bathsheba got pregnant and her husband couldn’t be tricked into having sex with her (out of solidarity with those in the field of battle)…David had him killed in a cowardly, secretive way.

How does a man after God’s heart fall into such deep, dark sin?

The same way we humans have from the beginning. [Read more…]

Arguments from Silence

Bible with candle and crossA couple days ago a friend of mine tweeted this:

I know there are many faithful men who have “multi-campus” video churches,I just don’t see Scripture that allows for pastor who’s not there.

My response was:

But it also doesn’t directly speak against it. I think, however, it goes against the scriptural motif.

Personally, I would argue that the Bible doesn’t specifically speak to anything that equals a modern day full-time, paid pastor…let alone one who has multiple campuses via video hook-up. I am not saying that the Word gives no guidance…for instance it does say people who preach full-time should get paid (see 1 Corinthians 9:12-14) and it’s pretty logical that a minister should meet the qualifications of an elder (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9). However, just because the Bible does not directly define the existing positions in Christendom does not mean they are wrong (or, for that matter, that they are right). We have to be very careful not to make “arguments from silence.” [Read more…]

Polls Won’t Matter When You Stand Before God

Scientist with scientific iconsI suppose you could consider its title trolling, but I clicked through on “Science Is a Good Substitute for God.”

The article’s final line (other than a disclosure from the author that he’s been an atheist since his teens) is:

It turns out that people who rely upon the efficacy of the human intellect to solve problems have a greater chance of living satisfying lives than those who cling to the supernatural hope that an unseen sky-God will somehow save them from their troubles.

This is based on polling described in Ronald Bailey’s post…and it may be true. However, if Christians are right, God exists, and there is an eternity beyond our earthly life then…

So what? [Read more…]

Defining Sin So You Cannot Commit It

Funny looking man thinkingThis post is a collection of musings based on how the world seems to be interacting right now, especially on social media. Hopefully it won’t seem too disjointed. 🙂

#1 — If you are a Christian, everything else is secondary to our Lord and His commands.

That statement is the most important thing you’ll read in this article. Many of the problems I implicitly point out below wouldn’t happen if we put into action what we are taught by God through Scripture.

For instance… [Read more…]

An Exclamation Point Society (and Church)

Exclamation point of fireAs I was driving Augie to our monthly-ish haircut and our weekly Saturday morning breakfast together and reflecting on a Twitter friend saying a popular pastor committed blasphemy…

It hit me that, at least on social media (and it seems elsewhere), we are an “exclamation point society.”

Nobody just misspeaks, they LIE!!!

Nobody just interprets the Bible differently, they BLASPHEME!!!

Nobody just errs, they COMMIT HORRENDOUS, UNFORGIVABLE SINS!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong, people do lie…blaspheme…and commit horrendous sins (although the Bible makes it clear that pretty much anything can be forgiven). However, we seem to have lost any ability to wait until we have all the data to judge, to assume the best, and to give an iota of grace to our “opponents.”

To slow and temper our accusatory tongue.

Considering our Example…Jesus Christ…why do we rush to (emphatically) condemn? Also, when it becomes clear that our initial judgment might have been a bit overboard (or perhaps completely wrong), why can’t we just admit it versus arguing until the cows come home that the nuance doesn’t matter…or change the subject to some other wrong the bad guy has unarguably committed?

It pains my soul.

Especially since it has infected the church as much as larger society…

To wrap up, some scriptures to consider… [Read more…]

“Is It Okay to Be Mean to a Bad Person”

Angry manA month or so ago my little guy, Augie, asked me, “Is it okay to be mean to a bad person?”

How would you answer that? Not just “yes” or “no”…but what would be your reasoning for your response?

I cannot remember exactly what I told him (my memory is not that good), but it was no. I wouldn’t be surprised if I connected my response to the Sermon on the Mount, which, for instance, says:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45, English Standard Version).

As much as we might get satisfaction out of an evil-doer suffering, it is impossible to read Jesus’ words above and think that “it is okay to be mean to a bad person.” Jesus Himself is our perfect example. Whether “What would Jesus do?” or “What did Jesus do?” — our Lord never returned kind for kind…even when He was suffering most:

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments (Luke 23:33-34).

Jesus was the epitome of “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

No, Augie, it is not okay to be mean to a bad person.

But a kid without a mean bone in his body probably already knew that. 🙂

Jeg Er Alan (or, “What’s in a Name?”)

Alan Fahrner with a Red Sox hat on backwardsOver a month ago I had a very depressing call with a Christian minister who asked me to remove all references and links to his church from this Traditores web site and my personal Twitter account? Why?

Because both the name Traditores and my Twitter handle (AlanCult) could be misunderstood. He suggested I consider changing my Twitter handle.

I mournfully expunged all references and links and still hope his assurances that there was nothing else behind the requests are true. Hard to shake off, if you know what I mean.

Now, even though I would suggest that someone truly in a cult wouldn’t advertise it by working it into their handle, “AlanCult” has been misunderstood before. It (and “AlCult”) were created many, many years ago (before Twitter) by combining my name with that of my then favorite band, The Cult. However, at this point it is not worth further misunderstandings, and I have changed my Twitter and Facebook handles from AlanCult to JegErAlan…

Which means “I am Alan” in Norwegian.

And that, really, is all I am.

P.S. When using Google Translate to double/triple/quadruple check I had it right…it kept wanting to change “jeg er Alan” to “jeg er alene,” which means “I am alone.” Kind of apropos given how this situation makes me feel…

Tone Police Election Advice

The latest entry in the Tone Police Manual is thanks to the political season. If you think one of the candidates is the spawn of Satan, please consider the following before you change those thoughts into word:

Jude 9

Now that You Have Blown It

New Year’s Resolutions

Epic fail signWe are 10 days into the new year…and here is hoping that it has started off great for everyone sitting here in front of me. I know the Lord continues to bless my family and me in 2016.

How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? [Wait for hands to raise.] Anyone willing to share one or two things they’ve resolved for 2016? [Wait for answers.]

Are you interested in what other people resolve? I was…and for my tween/teen class last week we went straight to the Internet to find out. Now, I realize that I have to be cautious with that and I pay heed to something a famous president said said that I found on the web. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as advising…

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” 🙂

However, I think Nielsen is pretty safe, and their list of top resolutions for 2015 were:1

Stay fit and healthy 37%
Lose weight 32%
Enjoy life to the fullest 28%
Spend less, save more 25%
Spend more time with family and friends 19%
Get organized 18%
Will not make any resolutions 16%
Learn something new/new hobby 14%
Travel more 14%
Read more 12%

Ignoring the sad commentary on society that not a single one of the top ten resolutions (based on Nielsen’s survey between December 29, 2014 and January 2, 2015) were spiritual…are most of them are at least okay?

If you made any resolutions in 2016…were they included in Nielsen’s list? I had a four that showed up in one form or another…lose weight, be better with money, read more, and get my technical and general ham radio licenses (which would fall under “learn something new/new hobby”).

[Read more…]

Episode 8 – Heaping Burning Coals (Part 3 of 3)

Welcome

Burning coals

Welcome to the eighth installment of Traditores Higher Frequency. This week we have the third of three episodes related to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 21 wounded in early December of 2015.

When such a horrible act is committed, how should we react toward the perpetrators?

Before we continue with that however, I wanted to wish you and yours a Happy New Year. This is being recorded on New Year’s Day, 2016 for broadcast starting tomorrow, January 2. Here is hoping that 2016 is your best year ever…and that if you do not know the Lord Jesus that you’ll find him before the year ends…or you are called into eternity…whichever is first.

Also, I have a personal request. We are trying to be good stewards of time and money…so if you have listened to Traditores Higher Frequency…please contact us and let us know. We aren’t looking for funds, just feedback…and we would be blessed starting off 2016 with a note from you. To do so, please visit thf.fyi on the web and look for the “Contact Us” menu item at the top right…or e-mail me directly at alan@thf.fyi.

Now…back to the question that has driven the last two…and is driving this…broadcast.

When a horrible act like the terrorist attack in San Bernardino is committed, how should we react to the perpetrators?

In the previous installments we looked at Scripture that wished pretty harsh things on enemies…along with other verses that, for instance, told us to love our enemies. This week we try to bring it all together, harmonize those differences, and leave with something we can apply to our lives. May God will that you never have to go through what those on 9/11, 2001 or 12/2, 2015 had to…but you, most assuredly…will be wronged. My prayer is that when this episode wraps up you’ll know how the Lord wants you to treat those who sin against you.

Without further ado, let’s return to the Antrim Church of Christ in Antrim, New Hampshire

Heaping Burning Coals on 9/11 (Part 3) [Read more…]

Video of the Week

Proud dad alert. 🙂

This video of the week is a euphonium improvisation that my son, Michael Fahrner, played this morning at church: