Iain Murray on John MacArthur and Fundamentalism

Iain H. Murray, John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 77–78:

MacArthur has written of Fundamentalism moving apart in two directions after World War II:

One wing, desperate for academic respectability, could not resist the pluralism of the modern age. . . . Another wing of Fundamentalism moved in the opposite direction. They were keenly aware that an obsession with academic respectability had led their brethren to abandon the fundamentals. For that reason they distrusted scholarship or spurned it altogether. This right wing of the fundamentalist movement was relentlessly fragmented by militant separatism. Petty concerns often replaced serious doctrine as the matter for discussion and debate. [N. 9: Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), pp. 95-6.] [Read more…]

Mirror Reading

Several years ago I took a class from an expert in Second Temple Judaism who made this argument on the first day of class:

The biblical text is always reacting against a certain set of assumptions, beliefs, or presuppositions, so when interpreting any biblical text, you must always ask, “What is this reacting against in its context?”

I raised my hand and asked follow-up questions to make sure I understood the argument correctly.

I wasn’t convinced then, and I’m not convinced now.

Here’s what three other New Testament scholars have written about this:

1. Bob Stein

Robert H. Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 205–6:

The Danger of a Mirror Reading of the Epistles

It is immediately apparent in reading the Epistles that their occasional nature assists the reader in reconstructing the situation in life for which they were written. [Read more…]

Ten Fatal Dangers of Materialism

Randy Alcorn, Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2011), 47–56:

Beyond the examples in Scripture of many people who are warped and destroyed by greed, and its warnings against idolatry, the Bible also lists various dangers of becoming centered on money and possessions. Warning: Don’t dismiss this as negativism. On the contrary, if we understand the dangers of materialism, it will help liberate us to experience the joys of Christ-centered stewardship.

  1. Materialism hinders or destroys our spiritual lives. . . .
  2. Materialism is a broken cistern that can’t hold water. . . .
  3. Materialism blinds us to the curses of wealth. . . .
  4. Materialism brings us unhappiness and anxiety. . . .
  5. Materialism ends in futility. . . .
  6. Materialism obscures many of life’s greatest blessings. . . .
  7. Materialism spawns independence and self-sufficiency. . . .
  8. Materialism leads to pride and elitism. . . .
  9. Materialism promotes injustice and exploitation. . . .
  10. Materialism fosters immorality and the deterioration of the family.

Related: What We Should Do with Our Money (esp. the resources at the bottom of the post)


This week I listened to the audiobook of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Nov. 2010). Wow. What a story.

One of the book’s motifs is that POWs craved dignity as much as they craved physical necessities like food and clothing:

Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide. This is likely one of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose. On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler’s death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty. In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet. (p. 183, emphasis added)

What is “the only real foundation for human dignity and human rights”? Humans are created in the image of God.

Charlotte’s Web: A Model of Good Writing

Last month Tony Reinke encouraged me to read E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952) to my daughter. Not only would my daughter love it, but I could learn a lot about how to write better.

That was good advice. My daughter Kara and I read it together in late April and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was her first “chapter” book without pictures on every page. I watched the 1973-film several times as a child, but I had never read the book (nor have I seen the 2006-film).

E. B. White knows how to write. Simple. Clear. Elegant. Magical.

That didn’t just happen. White worked tirelessly at it. He revised Charlotte’s Web many times until the wording was just right. (White contributes to the first of the “Six Useful Books on Writing” I list here.)

I love how the book ends. Someday I hope my friends can say this of me: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

A Good Excuse for Not Wearing Neckties

Public-health officials trying to reduce hospital-acquired infections have adopted this one:

forbidding doctors to wear neckties because, as the U.K. Department of Health has noted, they

  • “are rarely laundered,”
  • “perform no beneficial function in patient care,” and
  • “have been shown to be colonized pathogens.”

—Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Super Freakonomics, p. 298 (bullet-points added).