1. The Old Testament and New Testament are each multigenre.  Both have much historical narrative; both have some apocalyptic writing.  Of course, the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, and there are songs, poetry, and prayers in each.  The New Testament lacks a listing of laws per se (no surprise there!).  The New Testament epistles most resemble the minor prophets in the Old Testament.
  2. Re Catholic/Protestant:  Early Christians apparently read and interpreted Scripture (especially letters) without any intermediary.  Also, they prayed to God, not to anyone else.  (Did the Jews ever pray to the prophets?  I doubt it.  On the other hand, the Jews did have priests who served as intermediaries on at least some things.)
  3. Beware of trying to describe too precisely the nature of God, Heaven, Hell, and other aspects of divinity.  We just aren’t that smart.
  4. God wants us to be joyful and serene, but that doesn’t mean we should ever expect to stop serving Him.  That, in turn, may mean that we never stop struggling and fighting, if that is what he calls us to do. Evil is here, will always be here (until Kingdom comes), and it can’t be left alone.
  5. Is it easier to be tempted when we are unhappy, or are we more likely to grow spiritually when we suffer?  That is, does hardship make us as likely to turn away from God  as to turn toward Him?  The answer to this question may vary depending on individuals and circumstances.  In any event, I don’t think it makes sense to court unhappiness and suffering or, conversely, not to strive to be joyful.  God ultimately wants us to be joyful — not hedonistically happy, but joyful.  Suffering can be a tool to make us better people, but it is never an end in itself, and if we can behave better without suffering, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Perhaps God uses suffering as a last resort of sorts.
  6. Here’s another run at the issue just raised (i.e., in #5):  Pain can open people to God and lead them to Him — but it can also drive people from God.  That is, Satan can use pain for his purposes, too, can’t he?  Certainly at least he thinks he can; see the Book of Job.  Maybe the two points can be reconciled or can work together this way, at least in some cases:  God wants us to use the pain that Satan inflicts to increase our faith, and this is the reason that He generally allows pain.  God didn’t afflict Job; He let Satan do so; and He expected and wanted Job to respond appropriately.
  7. Two truths and some followup:  (a) It is very hard to improve on the Golden Rule when it comes to morality; and  (b) it is very hard to have morality without God.  It follows that Jesus’ roadmap is hard to improve upon:  Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.  It also makes sense for that love to be publicly and regularly expressed, human nature and psychology being what they are.  And the elaboration of how to ensure that we act in a way that will help and not hurt ourselves and our neighbors is done very well by the lessons and rules set out in the Old and New Testaments.
  8. Why would God create homosexuals if the kind of sex they find fulfilling is a sin?  One answer is that this argument proves too much, since people are created with all kinds of sexual desires — for adultery, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, and so on — that no one would say we must therefore accept as nonsinful.  Indeed, all sin, not just sexual sin, is found by us sinners to be “fulfilling.”  But here’s another thought:  All people are created with burdens to bear; all people must suffer; suffering, indeed, can improve us (see#5 above).  Having a desire for a kind of sex that cannot be indulged is just another burden, another struggle.
  9. Human beings undertake projects and risks that are wholly disproportionate — in difficulty and danger — to any material payoff.  Think of the spice trade, or the arts, or what we build and wear.  We strive for the ineffable.  Is this part of being made in God’s image?  Does it show we are hard-wired to be seekers?
  10. The universe’s complexity and man’s intelligence argue against random creation.  Think, for example, of a man traveling by jet from Oklahoma City to Norfolk and all the has to happen and have happened for that to occur.  Does that sound like a natural phenomenon when you consider all that goes into that one event?  The two are also things to adore — as is the phenomenon and ubiquity of love, by the way.
  11. Beware of basing a big part of your faith on a single problematic and isolated verse in Scripture.
  12. Here’s a useful exercise:  Make a list of bad things that almost happened to you, but then didn’t, and thank God for that as you periodically review that list.
  13. Think of how much a child — or perhaps even better, a grandchild — loves you, and how undeserved it is, how unworthy you may be of such love.  Then imagine how much more undeserving we are of God’s love.  That helps to appreciate grace.
  14. We are each given a creaky airplane to fly.  Each is creaky in its own way, and it is creaky in a way designed to challenge us and, if we meet the challenge, to bring out the best in us.  Some are creakier than others, to be sure, but none is perfect and none is hopeless.  Indeed, the creakiest craft may end up having the best pilot — it may have to — depending on how he performs.  As C.S. Lewis said, there will be some surprises in Heaven.  You can be proud of your airplane, but remember that not only is it not perfect but that God judges the piloting not the airplanes (all of which He created, after all).   Likewise, do not disparage the creaky airplanes of others; their pilots might be better, and that is what counts.  Fly your best, and remember that one mark of excellence in a pilot is his ability to help others fly well.
  15. What does it mean to love God?  Love in human relationships is not always — in fact, is only occasionally — wildly emotional.  It is as often clearheaded and dutiful, evidenced by loyally doing the right thing.  It is not unreasonable to think that our love for God most often be the same way.  A good Christian can be stoic and cheerfully resigned, even as a good husband, parent, or son when he must do what he must.
  16. II Peter 1:16-18 — and, to perhaps a lesser extent,  3:15-16 — are each remarkable, are they not, in containing a cross-reference from one New Testament book to another, and by different authors?  Also, the proactive apologetics of the latter is interesting.
  17. If a Martian picked up the Old Testament and read it, he would be struck by how much it is about history and land.  That’s not what would strike him about the New Testament, which is much less time- and place-oriented and much more forward-looking.
  18. The “story” told by the Old Testament plus the New Testament is much more satisfying and compelling — is it not? — than the Old Testament alone, or the Koran.