God is the Measure

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Against all the many varieties of contemporary humanism, the Bible asserts that God is the measure of all things, not humans. Worshiping God, understanding God, and bearing witness to God must all be decisively different because of the difference of who God is and the difference in the way he reveals himself. The Copernican Revolution changes its thinking and living forever, and in every way. Because of who God is, it is completely and absolutely impossible for “Man” alone to the measure of all things. To be sure, of all the life forms on earth only humans measure the world and life as we do. But those very measuring rods–reason, nature, and the scientific method–need to be measure and justified themselves, and none of them can justify themselves by themselves.

The truth, rather, is that “humanity before God” is the measure of all things, the standard of human responsibility, and the secret to a life lived well. None of us will understand or live life well until we see ourselves as individual women and men in relation to the One who is our Father, our Creator, and our judge. Such is the power of the sun that the earth goes round the sun, and not the sun around the earth. Faith in God is a revolutionary faith with a calling to turn the world the right way up.

Os Guinness, The Magna Carta of Humanity

Guinness observes that humankind has a tendency to define humanity downward, while the faith of the Bible defines humanity upward–as beings created in the image of God. This makes a tremendous difference, Guinness notes, in not only how we regard ourselves, but in how we regard one another. This belief endows the individual with dignity and worth, reminds the individual that they are accountable to their Creator, and charges the individual with the responsible to regard their neighbor, likewise, as a divine image-bearer. Regarding God as the measure of all things has implications for the individual, but also for the community.

The Preacher Shouldn’t Be There to Talk About You, Even Though They Likely Will

First, even if you lived a wretched life, the preacher shouldn’t lie about that. Maybe they should tell us the truth. Maybe the best thing we could hear is that you were a rotten person. Maybe we should make it a goal to live as exemplars of virtue, rather than as warnings against vice.

Second, the proper focus of a Christian funeral is God, not the deceased. A death is only the occasion for gathering. A Christian funeral is a service of worship. We hope we can give thanks for the person who has died. Sadly, there are cases where this is very hard to do.

Third, if you live in such a way as to be remembered by others as a “good” person, I do not want to dismiss the positive outcomes that could result from such an aim. But beware. We do good things all the time from bad motives. It would be better to live for the glory of God, realizing that all is a gift, than from a self-aggrandizing motivation.

Fourth, at a bare minimum, the truth that should be told at a Christian funeral is the truth of the gospel: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. That is why we can grieve, but not as those who are without hope.

Marvel: Going the Way of Star Wars

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Nothing’s really been right since Iron Man died, has it? Everything the MCU has given us since Avengers: Endgame has carried a whiff of the sideshow. These days, the Marvel brand stands for prodigious quantity but so-so quality. The series miraculously got us emotionally invested in a broad range of compelling characters, but is now morphing into merely a factory that emits product. Marvel used to make us feel we really couldn’t skip a single episode of the saga. Now that it’s lobbing many hours of decreasingly interesting entertainment at us each month, though, it’s hard to keep up, and there is no longer any particular reason to do so.

Kyle Smith, “Bland Widow

I’m afraid he’s right.

Prevailing Orthodoxies

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At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

George Orwell, “The Freedom of the Press

Unfashionable opinions can be wrong; prevailing orthodoxies can be right. I don’t know what Orwell expects here, but I do know that he is correct regarding the power of ideology to silence, the need to cultivate environments that allow for the free and open exchange of ideas, and the establishment of a public discourse that encourages speech, civil disagreement, and the possibility of reasoned argument and exchange.

Reminds Me of a Certain Regime and Recent Global Event

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From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then, again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a reevaluation of prominent historical figures. This kind of thing happens everywhere, but clearly it is likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie. It is pointed out that all historical records are biased and inaccurate, or, on the other hand, that modern physics has proved that what seems to us the real world is an illusion, so that to believe in the evidence of one’s senses is simply vulgar philistinism. A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying a historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual. The exact sciences are not, at this date, menaced to anything like the same extent. This difference partly accounts for the fact that in all countries it is easier for the scientists than for the writers to line up behind their respective governments.

George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature

Much of what Orwell said continues to hold true, however, we are now at a later date, one in which the sciences are no longer exempted from these kinds of pressures.

Forming Followers

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I’m not inclined to hire a graduate from one of America’s elite universities. That marks a change. A decade ago I relished the opportunity to employ talented graduates of Princeton, Yale, Harvard and the rest. Today? Not so much.

R. R. Reno in The Wall Street Journal, “Why I Stopped Hiring Ivy League Graduates

Reno argues that while elite institutions may graduate many fine individuals, these campus environments do not “add value” to job candidates who may want to write for Reno’s publication, First Things, a religious and socially conservative magazine and online outlet, even if the graduates of these institutions identify as religiously and socially conservative thinkers and writers.

Reno opines that on elite campuses, “Dysfunctional kids are coddled and encouraged to nurture grievances, while normal kids are attacked and educationally abused. . .Deprived of good role models, they’re less likely to mature into good leaders themselves.”

Absent conservative perspectives and a healthy campus environment where a vigorous discourse is fostered and encouraged, religiously and socially conservative students often choose instead to go along in order to get along, keeping their head down and doing what’s needed to get by. Why speak up if it will only earn you further marginalization, ridicule, and exclusion?

This means conservatives often cede the field, acquiesce, and steer clear of trouble. Reno observes that this is not good, and that over time this choice has a formative effect. He states, “I don’t want to hire a person well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up.”

Reno concludes:

A few years ago a student at an Ivy League school told me, “The first things you learn your freshman year is never to say what you are thinking.” The institution he attended claims to train the world’s future leaders. From what that young man reports, the opposite is true. The school is training future self-censors, which means future followers.

In a few years my children will likely consider a college education, and as they explore their options our primary evaluative factors will not be the prestige or social connections a given institution may secure by way of attendance and/or a degree. Rather, we will be asking about the quality of education and the type of person the institution has as their formative end. We won’t only focus on things like post-graduate job prospects or overall campus climate, but what the institution views as their understanding of human flourishing and how they encourage students to pursue “the good life.”

Review: The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Hardcover, Black Bonded Leather, and Brown Leathersoft Copies of the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible was first published in 1908. Zondervan is now issuing new editions in multiple translations. Check it out here. I received a copy of this Bible (Hardcover Edition) for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. I have a few thoughts.

About This Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible has been around a while. I’ve had a copy for years. My mom sent a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible with me when I went off to college, and briefly showed me how to use the reference system to trace themes and topics through the sacred text.

Not until now have I learned how the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible came to be. It was put together by Dr. Frank Charles Thompson, who began his ministry among Methodist people in the 1800s. He received his PhD from Boston University, was a scholar of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and took notes in the margins of his King James Version of the Bible. Congregants saw these notes, inquired as to their purpose, and encouraged Dr. Thompson to make these notes widely available. Thompson eventually partnered with a gentleman named B. B. Kirkbridge, who acquired the rights to sell and distribute the Bible–which was first sold door to door. Zondervan released an NIV version in 1983.

Translations and Tools

The latest issue from Zondervan has been printed in a few translations: the King James Version (KJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).

There are several ways to use the Thompson Chain-Reference, most famously using its topical system. More than 7,000 topical listings are found in the alphabetical index at the rear of the Bible and more than 4,000 of these topics are arranged into “chains,” threads which one can follow through the Scriptures. As a disciple of John Wesley, Thompson surely understood what it means to “search” the Scriptures, and highlighted pathways others could tread.

Find a sample here. You will be able to see the topic numbers, themes, and references in the margins.

The Thompson Chain-Reference also includes book introductions and outlines for each book. You can study chapters, passages, or verses, and follow the references listed in the margins to deepen your understanding and broaden the context of your study. This Bible also includes character studies that you can trace, a list of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament, maps that correspond to different portions of the biblical narrative, aids to memorization and recommendations for taking notes in your Bible, and a concordance.

This Bible also has a built in ribbon that can be used as a bookmark.

How I’ll Use This Bible

I take on writing projects occasionally that prefer use of the NASB translation, so this Bible will come in handy. I can use the Thompson Chain-Reference system to further my understanding of a given text. I’ll use for ease of reference and to further my study, to help me make connections across the whole of Scripture.

I’m always on the look out for editions of the Bible that could serve as one-stop tools for comprehensive Bible study. This is one of those tools. I generally recommend that a person own a good Bible translation, a good one-volume commentary, a good Bible dictionary, and an accurate Bible atlas. This Bible could serve all those purposes.

A nice new issue from Zondervan.