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BOOK REVIEW – Against the Flow, Part 1

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” by Simeon Solomon (1863) (PD-Art, Old-100)

Acclaimed Oxford University Professor, John Lennox, has written another book with significance for Christians confronting the modern world.  Against the Flow – The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism is an analysis of the biblical Book of Daniel.  Lennox finds striking parallels between the Prophet Daniel’s time and our own.

Lennox examines the Book of Daniel systematically, addressing the faithfulness of Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego), young boys forcibly transported from their homeland during the Babylonian Captivity; Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; the madness of Nebuchadnezzar; Belshazzar’s feast; Daniel in the lion’s den; and Daniel’s own prophetic visions [1].

In the process, Lennox discusses a variety of other topics including the flawed nature of man, the Kingdom of God, the perils of various forms of government, and the deification of man.

The Flawed Nature of Mankind

“History teaches a consistent lesson:  there is something obviously wrong with human nature…’A great and prolonged police strike, the existence of a revolutionary situation…and the exhilaration of conquest in an enemy country are likely to show up the seamy side of human nature amongst people who, cushioned and guided by the influences of normal social life, have hitherto presented a respectable figure to the world’ ” (pp. 125-126).

-Against the Flow by John Lennox

The author begins from the premise that mankind is flawed, as Christian theology teaches and history amply demonstrates.

“…[U]nrecognized flaws in human nature such as pride, cupidity, and self-centeredness can produce a dangerous self-righteousness that convinces people they are one hundred per cent right, and others similarly wrong…Christendom itself has been guilty at times of such self-righteousness, [as] when it tortured and burned heretics in a supposed effort to ‘save’ their souls.  But that attitude has also characterized…political movements, such as Nazism and Marxism, with their vast toll on human life” (pp.126-127).

-Against the Flow by John Lennox

John Lennox does not exempt Christians from this assessment of the flawed nature of mankind.  In fact, he warns Christians not to become self-righteous.

“There is a deep flaw in human nature, but humans still perversely insist on placing their faith in it…[T]he only satisfactory answer to man’s flaw is God’s supernatural power…” (pp. 128, 132).

-Against the Flow by John Lennox

John Lennox drives home the point that human beings persist in their error, that pride leads them to judge God by human standards.

The author explores how the failure to believe in God actually corrupts reason, as reflected – among other things – by degenerate imagery in art and entertainment. Read more…

Fake News

Edward R. Murrow (1947), Source CBS Radio (PD as published in US 1923-1977 without copyright notice)

“American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst.  To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.  It is as simple as that.”

-Journalist, Edward R. Murrow, testifying before a Congressional Committee (May 1963)

The renowned journalist, Edward R. Murrow, said that about his profession a half century ago.  But it no longer seems to apply.  The line between fact and opinion, truth and falsehood, in journalism and government has been blurred to such an extent that we can no longer distinguish one from the other.

The consequences for our democracy will be dire.

News Bias

Americans may prefer to believe what sounds appealing and confirms their worldview.  Liberals can choose news with a liberal bias; conservatives can choose news with a conservative slant.  Truth, we are told, is relative.  Image, we are told, is everything.

But reality has a nasty way of making its presence known.

And facts matter.  We determine public policy based upon them…at least, we once did.  Now it appears that lobbyists determine how we allocate billions of taxpayer dollars – facts be damned!

Historical Truth

“Today, and every day from now on, we will be with you from America to talk about the war… The news may be good or bad for us – We will always tell you the truth.”

-Pledge by Voice of America, official international broadcaster of the US Federal Government

Did the Holocaust actually take place?  Edward R. Murrow confirmed from Buchenwald concentration camp that it did.  Radio broadcasts by the Voice of America sustained the French Resistance during WWII, and those behind the Iron Curtain in the decades afterward.

But historical truth is another thing we are losing.

Dictatorships and the Credibility of the Press

We may argue over what facts mean, what they signify.  But we ought to be able to agree on what they are. Read more…


“Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection” by Alexander Ivanov (1835), Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg (PD-Art, Age-100)

“…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?’

“She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’

She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ ” (which is to say, Teacher)” (John 20: 14-16).

Have a blessed Easter!


Above All


Before Pilate

“Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!)” by Antonio Ciseri (1862), Museo Contonale d’Arte (PD-Art, PD-Old 100)

Pontius Pilate served as the Roman prefect of Judea from AD 26 to 36.

Pilate is mentioned in the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), by the Roman historian Tacitus, by the Jewish historians Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, and others.  What we remember about Pilate, however, is his involvement in the trial of Christ.

Those familiar with the Gospels will recall the details of that trial:  how Pilate inquired whether Christ was an earthly king, in rebellion against Rome; how Pilate declared having found no fault in Christ; how Pilate offered to set Christ free for the crowd; how Pilate washed his hands, in a futile gesture proclaiming his innocence of Christ’s blood. Read more…


“Flagellation of Christ” by Peter Paul Rubens, Church of St. Paul, Antwerp, Author GFDL (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Ancient Romans would scourge a condemned criminal before putting him to death. The Roman scourge was a short whip with several thongs to which small pieces of metal were knotted. Sometimes the scourge had a hook at its end, for added impact.

Scourging quickly and painfully removed the skin, producing substantial blood. Shredded flesh and exposed muscles were intended not only as a punishment for the criminal, but a warning to others.

Jewish law permitted only forty stripes less one (Deut. 25: 3).  Scourging by the Romans had no legal limit to the number of blows.  With the objective crucifixion, however, the Centurion would direct the scourging stopped short of death.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement for our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed…” (Is. 53: 5-6).

Lord Jesus, You took our sins upon You.  Your flesh was torn that we might be healed.  How You could have loved us so much, we cannot fathom.

Help us to persevere in the face of cruelty and injustice. Help us to be the reflection of Your love to the world.


Originally posted 3/27/13



Rangifer Tarandus with calf (Arctic deer known as “rheindeer” in Eurasia, “caribou” in North America), Author Lukas Riebling (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Each spring Arctic caribou migrate north to their traditional calving grounds. The journey north then back again south in the fall runs them approximately 800 miles.

By twos and threes, by tens and thousands, they gather.  Steadily heading in a direction unseen, the caribou cross icy streams and tractless wastes.  Ever watchful for predators, the animals search for tender shoots beneath the snow.

At last they arrive at their destination…as generations have done before them. And newborn calves (protected in their mothers’ wombs all through the cold winter  months) finally meet the world.

Who provides directions to these animals?  Who supplies their nourishment? Who designed their bodies for this climate and this endeavor?  Who engineered their instincts so that calves are born en masse, giving each the best chance for survival?

There is a single answer to all these questions.  And the same God who watches over these creatures with such care watches over us. Read more…

Dark Road

Neurologic testing several months ago revealed that I have cerebral vascular disease.  I have, in fact, had a series of what are termed “silent” strokes.  Medication I was taking masked the subtle symptoms.

The result of inadequate blood flow (“ischemia”), silent strokes can be a predictor of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia, as well as more strokes to come.   The research is not entirely clear as yet.

Contributing Factors

Strokes run in my family, so they are no great surprise.  All I can do to moderate the risk is watch my weight, eat a diet low in sodium, get regular exercise, and attempt to control my blood pressure.

Unfortunately, I have had severe allergic reactions to most blood pressure medications.

No less than eight of the other medications I was prescribed for years (not to mention the OTC medications I took to reduce my reliance on those prescriptions) were all known to raise blood pressure.  There is every likelihood they were contributing factors to the ischemia.

What we rely on to ease our pain and keep us safe can actually be a source of danger.

Between the Ears

In any case, the diagnosis is a little too close to home for calm disinterest on my part.

Lawyers and writers define themselves by what they have “between the ears”.  Our perception of reality and capacity to convey that to others constitute who we are, at least in human terms.

A Different Perspective

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed –  always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4: 8-10).

We forget that God has a different perspective.

God sees our lives from beginning to end, and knows beforehand every trial we will face.  We may pray for a cup to be taken away.  But if that is not to be, He will neither leave nor forsake us. Read more…


Desert rock formation, Israel, Author Tiia Monto (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Though He parted the Red Sea for them, the Lord did not lead the Israelites directly to the Promised Land. Instead, they spent 40 years in the desert learning to trust Him.

That is how it works. Over and over, we are drawn to Him in need. The more self-reliant we think we are, the less we have learned.

God uses our very needs as His tools. This is not abandonment – nor even “hands off” management – but loving care, based on an intimate knowledge of each of us.

Wherever we may be in our lives, He is with us, guiding our steps with the goal of bringing us home.

You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation” (Ex. 15: 13).

Lord God, You parted one sea and stilled the waters of another. Powers and principalities are as nothing before You. This is the strength You offer us.

Like Moses before us, we call on Your name. You have purchased and will plant us in the mountain of Your inheritance. We praise and thank You for all You have given us, and all we know You will accomplish in our lives.


Originally posted 8/5/12


Love Poured Out

“Jesus Carrying the Cross” by El Greco (16th Century), National Museum of Decorative Arts, Buenos Aires, Source (PD-Art, Old-100)

The 18th Century rabbi, Israel ben Eliezer, wrote of suffering:

“Each prayer has its own meaning, and it is, therefore, the specific key to a door in the Divine Palace.  But a broken heart is an axe that opens all the gates.”

The sick, the needy, the desperate, the lost; the grieving; the persecuted and imprisoned; the abandoned and alone.  These understand suffering.

To the sick and those in pain, Christ is the Great Physician.  To those in need, the desperate, and the lost, He is the Way.  To the grieving, He is the Man of Sorrows. To the persecuted and imprisoned, He is the Advocate and Counselor.  To the abandoned and alone, He is the Beloved.

The source of all comfort, Christ is with us in all trials.  None of us is truly abandoned, for He is there.  In return, Christ asks that we extend a hand to the lost and less fortunate, that we reach out in love even when  we may be rejected.

Christ does not urge us to live cautious lives.  Love is not measured with an eyedropper, in safe increments.  It is poured out, as balm on the wounds of the world.  As His was for us.

Originally posted 5/26/12