Issue #63

The Bible and Gambling, Thinking about Technology, God Loves through Human Love, and more...

Issue #63
Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Editor's Note: I'm sorry about the double e-mail last week. My hosting provider showed that the separate "Why the Garden Weekly?" blog post was not going to be sent as an e-mail, but it was anyway. I'm going to do my best to ensure that does not happen again.

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

What Does the Bible Say About Gambling? Should Christians Engage in Sports Betting? | Kevin Stone, Shea Houdmann, and Jeff Laird 🎧 →

Gambling has exploded in popularity with the legalization of sports betting. Apps and websites have commercials plastered through every sports game, and games have “prop bets” that let you gamble on everything, including what the next play will be.

The rise of sports gambling presents a problem for the Christian. Our lives should reflect and be for the glory of God. How does gambling affect that? What factors weigh into whether or not we should engage in gambling for recreation?

For More:

Christianity Is True ✝️

Does the Christian God Exist? | Matt Dillahunty and Braxton Hunter 📽 →

Hunter, the Christian in this debate, uses less-common arguments to make his case. Dillahunty uses a more typical approach: “I don’t see enough evidence to be convinced, and you shouldn’t be either.” This debate was gracious and well-argued on both sides.

Hunter leans on the free-will argument for God’s existence. He argues that if God does not exist, then we are not truly free in our choices. But since we are truly free in our choices, God does exist. This may seem like a strange tactic, but it’s true. If there is no God, then we are just physical "stuff" and our “free choices” are just an illusion created by evolution. All of our actions were caused by our surroundings. Hunter argues that we are more likely truly free, and therefore, God exists. It leads to an interesting debate.

Listen and Learn 🎧

We’re Thinking about Technology All Wrong | Matt Tully and Tony Reinke 🎧 →

Technology pervades modern life and Christians have largely adopted technological practices without deep thought. Reinke has written a “theology of technology” to try to give that deep thought about technology in the context of God’s created world.

Is technology good, neutral, or evil? Should we be optimists or pessimists about future technological progress? What about artificial intelligence?

Technology is the making and using of a technique to amplify native human powers. We go back even to David’s sling against Goliath; that was a form of technology. Goliath, obviously, is the techno-giant. He is like an army in one man, this warrior who was bred to slay nations and who had collected the greatest war armory that anyone had ever seen. This guy would take over his enemy in the field, and then he would plunder and take whatever tech he wanted…But David was not anti-technology; he was not without technology. He used a more primitive technology, which was a sling. It amplified the power of his arm and concentrated power to a single stone. For this battle, he shows himself to be the superior technologist because he knows that this is a battle where a sniper can beat someone who is going into battle as a hand-to-hand combat type of a warrior. Goliath could take out ten guys easier than David could, but David could take out one guy at a distance because he knows his technology better. He’s a master technologist in that way. Both of those are technologies…That’s kind of where I start in my book is defining technology in those two guys.

For More:

Musical Masterpiece 🎼

House of Gold | The Lower Lights (original by Hank Williams) 🎶 →

People steal, they cheat and lie
For wealth and what it will buy
Don't they know on the judgment day
That their gold and silver will melt away

Jesus said, come on to me
I'll break sin's chains and set you free
I'll carry you to a home on high
Where you'll never, never die

I'd rather be in a deep, dark grave
And know that my poor soul was saved
Than to live in this world in a house of gold
And deny my God and doom my soul

What good is gold and silver, too
When your heart's not good and true
Sinner hear me when I say
Fall down on your knees and pray

Jesus died there on the cross
So this world would not be lost
Sinner hear now what I say
For someday you'll have to pay

Even in Jesus’ time, wealth and power were the two great motivators away from following Jesus where he lead. Today it is much the same. Reflect on this song. Listen to it twice. Examine your own life and your relationship to wealth.

Explore the Scriptures 📖

The Clarity of Scripture? | Michael Bird 📃 →

Pop Protestantism believes in the clarity of Scripture. That is to say, that Scripture is clear enough that a Christian does not need a Pope or professor to tell them what to believe about the Bible. The plain sense of Scripture, combined with the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, is sufficient itself to lead believers into truth. Which means I don’t take Bible study tips from an Italian guy in a pointy white hat wreaking of garlic let alone from a liberal “religion” professor at Penn State wearing a Che Guevera T-Shirt. Plus, if you combine the clarity of Scripture with a thing called soul competency where each soul is competent enough to interpret the Bible for himself and herself, then, you really can say that Bible interpretation requires only two things: Me and my ESV.

Except that such a view is neither truly Protestant nor a healthy approach to biblical interpretation.

If you look at the Protestant confessions, whether the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession, the clarity of Scripture only applies to the things necessary for salvation. So yeah, reading the Gospel of Mark and Epistle to the Romans, you can figure out “What must I do to be saved?” without doing a Master of Divinity. But after that, all bets are off, not everything is clear, some stuff is disputed and debatable, and some things are downright baffling!

I’ve found that this is one of the most misunderstood things among Protestant Christians. To react against Catholic Christianity’s focus on the magisterium and the authority of tradition, modern Protestants have adopted a posture of “the Bible is all I need.” But this isn’t the meaning of sola scriptura (scripture alone). Sola scriptura tells us that scripture is the final authority, not the only authority.

This article is only 5 minutes. Please read it and reflect upon whether this pop Christian concept has infected your mindset.

Watch and Wonder 📽

What Is a “Woman” | Cameron Bertuzzi and Tomas Bogardus 📽 →

This video comes from late March 2022, when a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States said that she does not know how to define a “woman.” Many were outraged, but what would you say if you were asked? Cam Bertuzzi interviews a philosopher who has done work in gender theory, Tomas Bogardus, on that very topic. I invite you to think carefully about this culturally explosive topic.

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. That requires us to both know and defend truth and to do so with humility (you might be wrong about what you think the truth is so listen with an open mind), gentleness (anger is never the response when speaking to a skeptic), and respect (the other person is an image-bearer of the living God and deserves respect).

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

God Loves Through Human Love: How Grace Breeds Generosity | David Briones 📃 →

I recently encountered the idea of God’s grace causing righteousness within us in Tim Keller’s Generous Justice (my review), where Keller writes powerfully of how God’s grace should make us generous and make us seek justice for others.

In this article, David Briones takes a similar approach to God’s grace making us generous.

What about 2 Corinthians 8:3–4? Do the glosses “unconditional gift,” “undeserved favor,” or “a favorable disposition” work here?

[The Macedonian believers] gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor [same word for grace] of taking part in the relief of the saints.”

Grace here is not the immaterial gift of salvation or spiritual power. Rather, grace is the material gift of money or resources.

That may surprise you. Have you ever described the act of giving money as the giving of “grace”? Paul clearly does in 2 Corinthians 8–9, not just once, but six times (8:4, 6, 7, 19; 9:8, 15). The money bag he carried from these predominantly Gentile churches to the poor saints in Jerusalem is, strangely enough, “grace.”

But what is even more surprising about 2 Corinthians 8–9 is how the material grace of humans is inextricably connected to the immaterial grace of God.

Paul uses the grace (gift) of Jesus Christ as the reason that the Corinthian believers should be generous (2 Corinthians 8:9) because the greatest manifestation of God’s grace is the gift of God becoming flesh.

Consider 2 Corinthians 9:7–8. After stating that “God loves a cheerful giver” (quoting Proverbs 22:8), Paul takes a step back to explain the source of one’s giving. “God is able to make all grace [divine grace] abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work [human grace].” Also, 2 Corinthians 9:11: “You will be enriched in every way [by God] to be generous in every way [toward others].” Divine grace propels human giving.

God created a world of abundance. The ideal creation that humans were offered but failed to attain was a world of enough. And we know that the new heavens and earth will be a world of abundance as well. But Jesus also talked about there being enough for his people:

Then he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about the body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: They don’t sow or reap; they don’t have a storeroom or a barn; yet God feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than the birds? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest?

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you — you of little faith? Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

— Luke 12:22–34 (CSB)

Paul is telling the Corinthians that the gift of Jesus means that there is enough for them to give to the needy from whatever they have. Those who trust in Jesus can trust that he cares for them and will take care of their physical needs. God’s people should be marked by generosity because God is generous.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’

— Matthew 7:21–23 (CSB)

Joel Fischer