Nathan Englander: What Jewish Children Learned From Charlottesville


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Credit Edu Bayer for The New York Times

In the NYT, @NathanEnglander) writes,

While harking back to my pious, head-covered days, I am reminded of a notion that our rabbis taught us: The theft of time is a crime like any other. Back then it was about interrupting class — one minute wasted was a minute of learning lost. But multiply that minute by everyone in the room, and it became 15, 20 minutes, half an hour’s worth of knowledge that none of us could ever get back.

Saturday in Charlottesville was just one day, but think of that one day multiplied by all of us, across this great country. Think of the size of that setback, the assault on empathy, the divisiveness and tiki-torched terror multiplied by every single citizen of this nation. It may as well be millions of years of dignity, of civility, of progress lost.

Just from that one day.

Thank you, Mr. Englander.

Read the whole article here.


John Calvin on Paul’s Unanswered Thrice-Prayer for Relief – 2 Corinthians 12:8



It may seem, however, to follow from this, that Paul had not by any means prayed in faith, if we would not make void all the promises of God. ‘We read everywhere in Scripture, that we shall obtain whatever we ask in faith: Paul prays, and does not obtain.’ I answer, that as there are different ways of asking, so there are different ways of obtaining. We ask in simple terms those things as to which we have an express promise — as, for example, the perfecting of God’s kingdom, and the hallowing of his name, (Matthew 6:9), the remission of our sins, and every thing that is advantageous to us; but, when we think that the kingdom of God can, nay must be advanced, in this particular manner, or in that, and that this thing, or that, is necessary for the hallowing of his name, we are often mistaken in our opinion. In like manner, we often fall into a serious mistake as to what tends to promote our own welfare. Hence we ask those former things confidently, and without any reservation, while it does not belong to us to prescribe the means. If, however, we specify the means, there is always a condition implied, though not expressed. Now Paul was not so ignorant as not to know this. Hence, as to the object of his prayer, there can be no doubt that he was heard, although he met with a refusal as to the express form. By this we are admonished not to give way to despondency, as if our prayers had been lost labor, when God does not gratify or comply with our wishes, but that we must be satisfied with his grace, that is, in respect of our not being forsaken by him. For the reason, why he sometimes mercifully refuses to his own people, what, in his wrath, he grants to the wicked, is this — that he foresees better what is expedient for us, than our understanding is able to apprehend.

John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians, Vol. 2, 2 Cor. 12:8

The Levite in Us


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The Old Man Confronts the Ephramites, The Levite Finds His Concubine on the Doorstep, and The Levite Cuts His Wife in Twelve Pieces, by James Tissot (1836-1902)


Literarily, the writer of Judges 19-20 frames the story of the Levite and his concubine to stand in juxtaposition to the earlier Levite story in Judges 17-18. Terms link the two passages – “Bethlehem-Judah” (17:8; 19:1), “Ephraim” (17:1; 19:1), “Levite…sojourned/sojourning” (17:7; 19:1), and “inquired of God” (18:5; 20:18).

The story also has parallels to that of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Therefore, the reader should anticipate a scene in which a local host offers hospitality (Gen. 19:2-3), evil men approach (19:4-5), the evil men rebuke the hospitality standards (19:6-9), and mediating angelic beings rescue the Abrahamic relative (19:10-11). However, no one intervenes, demonstrating that the guest is acting in discord with the covenant of Abraham. Instead, the host offers his own daughter and the guest’s concubine to the evil men (Judg. 19:24). Eventually, the Levite seizes the concubine and gives her to the Sodom-like men (19:25).

Rather than a Moabite offspring coming as a result of the poor choice of the male figure in this story (in comparison to Lot, Gen. 19:37), the narrative witnesses the death of the concubine (Judg. 19:26-27). Israel then must act as their own mediators and provide justice and deliverance (Judges 20). The mercy for which Abraham pleaded on behalf of Lot is absent in the narrative because no one is concerned about pleasing the Lord, as they have rejected him as their King (Judg. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).

Significantly, Judges 19 ends with the Levite dismembering the concubine. He uses her death as a rallying cry for Israel to make judgment upon the acts of the Benjaminites. Yet the Levite has not dealt with his own sin—his own disregard for the Law, his rejection of the father-in-law’s hospitality, and the demeaning treatment of the concubine in life and death. The Levite is a hypocrite, blaming the men of Benjamin for the evil he could have prevented if he had obeyed the law of God, listened to the father-in-law, and stood his moral ground in the old man’s home.

In contrast to the Levite, the concubine – who was mistreated in life and humiliated in death – dies in place of the man, saving his life from suffering, disgrace, and death. Her death then stands as an injustice in the eyes of the Levite and greater Israel (Judg. 19:29-30). In this story, she is the type of the one to come who will die in place of those deserving death.


George M. Schwab, Right in Their Own Eyes: The Gospel According to Judges (P&R).

Awe of the Creator’s Creation

4434517-space-wallpapersFrom crystalline caves, to distant galaxies, to the tiny phytoplankton in the ocean that produce more than half of the earth’s oxygen, the world we live in is complex and wondrous. Our own brains have 100 trillion to 1,000 trillion neural connections and more than 100,000 miles of myelinated nerve fibers. For a Christian, a natural awe in creation is the outcome of an awe of the creator. These amazing things we see, including our own brains, are the works of his hands.

– Dorothy Boorse

Natural selection certainly operates. It explains how bacteria will gain antibiotic resistance; it will explain how insects get insecticide resistance, but it doesn’t explain how you get bacteria or insects in the first place.

– William Dembski



Word-Centered Church, Jonathan Leeman

Word Centered ChurchI am excited to see Jonathan Leeman’s, Word-Centered Church (Moody Publishers), in print as a repacking of a very good earlier work, Reverberation. Leeman especially does a great job of helping the church member understand how God uses the preached word to conform our lives into the image of Christ. His work is a good place to start in order to see a case for enjoying Scripture daily as a joyous love exchange between the believer and our Lord. (“Is that in the book?” Yes, if you read it prayerfully and with discernment.)

prpbooks-images-covers-md-9781629952918I also am excited to see O Palmer Robertson’s, The Christ of Wisdom. Reading Robertson’s understanding of the literary structure of the Psalter and individual psalms was so rich that I am eager to see how he complements that study as he goes through the rest of the major books of biblical poetry.

Raymond Chang on the Significance of Campus Diversity


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My Facebook friend, Raymond Chang, posted a piece on a friend’s experience with campus diversity. He is granting me permission to repost it (below). The post brings to fore some of the problems we face on college and university campuses with moving forward on racial diversity and the lingering problems of racial and ethnic insensitivity.

On Christians campuses, the struggle to achieve a diverse campus at all levels of the institution can be as challenging as attempts to do so on non-Christian campuses. The intent to please Christ by the cultivation of a diverse campus life reflects the Savior’s love for “people for God from every tribe and language and peoples and nation” (Rev. 5:9). But good intentions require yeoman efforts and changes of hearts and minds at all levels in order for conversations on diversity to find welcoming atmospheres, and for diversity to be viewed as a magnolia planted in good soil rather than as a briar patch for only the bravest to traverse.

Duke University has been leading the charge in the fight for campus diversity for over 30 years. By their own admittance, Duke stills lacks success at some levels, as a recent controversy at their divinity school might also reveal. Maybe Duke’s efforts (and failures) can help all of us think through the ways forward—ways, on Christian campuses, that will honor the Lord and help us reach 6.5 billion lost people with the gospel.

Raymond ChangRaymond Chang

May 5 at 9:57am

An enlightening case study:

A friend is at a large state school in a medical program with 450 students. Each class is comprised of a little over 100 students.

One of his classmates posted a “disrespectful and dignity stripping” rant on their class’ Facebook page making fun of a professor’s accent from an Asian country. This classmate clearly didn’t take into consideration that this professor was teaching at a graduate level in a language that wasn’t his mother tongue.

My friend noticed how it received over 30 likes (out of 100 people in the group) with a host of comments thinking it was hilarious. Each class is comprised of about 15% Asians, with 1-2% black and about 4% Latino. He noticed how the majority of the likes were by white students he has seen treat people (mostly patients) differently based on race and socioeconomic status when they came into the clinic. He remarked, “When we are in the clinic, I see how condescending my white peers are to patients who look poor or foreign.”

Of all the comments, the one that stuck out to him most was one by another student of color who thought the post was hilarious. He saw how other people of color who weren’t aware of the racial dynamics made it difficult for p.o.c’s who were trying to bring about the change the institution needed.

In response to the post, my friend wrote, “Who’s next?” Then, he listed the other faculty of color one by one who had accents or cultural differences other than the ones white people considered normal.

One by one, the likes went from 30 down to 10. The comments also disappeared one after another. Eventually, the O.P. was deleted too. The original poster found my friend’s phone number and asked to talk, realizing his act was racist without realizing it himself.

My friend has observed the institution carefully over the last three years and now that he is in his fourth year, he wants to leave the place better than he found it. As my friend is nearing the end of his program he is asking me what he can do. I look forward to helping him bring about change before he graduates.

These are some of his reflections from my phone call with him:

During his time as a student, he regularly heard off handed comments that were clearly rooted in prejudice and feels like he needs to do something before it’s too late (its already too late – he institution, like every higher education institution, is now playing catch up).

He expressed his frustration with the ways Asians are perceived as docile and black people are seen as angry. He also mentioned how he doesn’t want to be seen as an angry Asian because that is not who he really is. As his friend, I can attest to this.

He mentioned how students are doing things that only benefit themselves. He noted that they are operating out of a marginalized instinct and instead of advocating for systemic change, they huddle together to care for one another, which has its merits, but is doing nothing in the long run.

The faculty is very diverse, but to his surprise, it doesn’t make much difference because the administration isn’t. He noted that the faculty of color can’t stand up for students because they are concerned about their own tenure and promotions (which he understands). But he also notices how white faculty are fine challenging the institution on things that matter to them because their concerns are easier to digest for their superiors. He doesn’t know what to do about this because the people who can represent people like him don’t feel like they have the agency to because their livelihoods would be on the line.

He is frustrated with the diversity officer who doesn’t do anything except get people into the school. Once students and faculty walk in the door, they realize the institution is not what they expected it to be. The diversity officer is a very nice Christian woman who doesn’t do much except fill the quota of international and American people of color. The most she has done was facilitate conversations among people of color over meals. From what he’s observed, the diversity officer doesn’t do much to raise awareness about the communities the institution serves. The institution has a diversity officer for each major program – which means their program of 450 has its own designated diversity worker.

My friend feels a responsibility to talk with the student affairs office, the diversity officer, admissions, and if possible, the administration (who is all white) to address the issues at hand.

All these are things any institution can learn from. May we have the humility to learn from others.



Jemar Tisby in WaPo: Why a racially insensitive photo of Southern Baptist seminary professors matters


Jemar Tisby already is enduring racist comments for his article in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Why a Racially Insensitive Photo of Southern Baptist Seminary Professors Matters.” The article responds to a controversial photo of Southwestern Baptist Seminary professors posing as rappers. I will not repost the picture here, but one can find it attached to the article at the WaPo.

Significantly, Tisby touches upon the need for greater ethnic diversity among faculty members at US evangelical institutions. At one point Tisby writes,

Southwestern could certainly use this opportunity to dialogue about race and diversity, but I hope the seminary goes further. I hope it will commit to hiring professors and staff members from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The professors could conduct an audit of their curriculum to see if they are assigning works by scholars of color. The seminary could review the places it goes to recruit students. The leadership could visit other seminaries with more diversity to learn how they could change their own campuses. Sit down with minority students and ask them if they are willing to speak honestly about their experiences at the seminary…. But diversity initiatives and attempts to talk about race haven’t resulted in broad, systemic change. The homogenous environment of predominantly white churches and organizations means people who have all the same cultural blind spots will still marginalize minorities. People are more than offended by pictures like these. They are in pain.

Tisby should be commended rather than castigated for demonstrating, again, that “the problem of the Twentieth Century” is alive and well in the Twenty-First Century. SBC authors’, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, can’t get here fast enough to re-address these concerns. However, seeing that the photo in question arrives only 22 years in the wake of the 1995 SBC’s, “Resolution on Racial Reconciliation on the 150 Anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention,” I’m not sure the stain will go away before the return of Christ. Because, for whatever reasons, some people simply do not see the stain, and others do not want the stain to disappear.


Piper, on Reading the Bible Supernaturally



Reading the Bible“It appears that our entire encounter with the Bible, even if it involves our natural abilities, is a supernatural encounter. This would seem to imply that whatever we meet in the Bible—historical facts, poetic praises, proverbial wisdom, promises of help, descriptions of God’s nature, illustrations of God’s ways, standards of holy living, procedures of church discipline, predictions, calamities, warnings of Satanic opposition, summons to faith, analyses of human depravity, directions for husbands and wives, political insights, financial principles, and much more—all of it will only be seen aright when we see it illumined by, and in relation to, the peculiar glory of God. In other words, no matter how natural the process of reading is, and no matter how natural the objects discovered are, no reading and no discovery happen without dependence on God or without seeing all things in relation to his worth and beauty—if we are reading the way God means for his book to be read.”

John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 178-179. Also available via Kindle, and at wstbooks.