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Q & A

Here’s a place to ask questions and get answers about things that might be off the topic of the day.  You all are free both to ask and to answer.  But no quarreling.  If you ask a question and get an answer that you don’t like and you feel the need to express your outrage to the world, get your own blog.

  1. Karen permalink
    September 24, 2006 2:20 pm

    In reference to I John 1:6, what does “walking in darkness” actually mean? Avoiding personal sin in our own walk with Christ or does it also mean not participating in “dark” things? Where’s the balance of reaching out to the world, being a friend, and abstaining from evil? How much do I “get my hands dirty” with unbelievers without tarnishing the image of Christ? A practical example: a friend of mine who is practicing a sinful lifestyle was in a play advocating ungodly things. She knows I do not support those things or the philosophy behind the play. She was in the play. Do I go as a friend because she desperately wanted me to or do I not go because it’s blatantly against Scripture? I didn’t go, and that pretty severely damaged the relationship. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision.

  2. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    September 24, 2006 9:08 pm

    (From my work email):
    Hm. Okay, for a beginning, I would add in some additional passages for consideration. Take a look at Rm 1:32, seeing that approval of sin is similar to the sin itself. Now, tolerance of the sin is not necessarily the same as approval, but I would suggest that there is a principle to be taken aboard there that applies to tolerance of sin as well. On a bit, add in Rm 6:1-16, noting that skirting *around* sin is awfully hard to distinguish from “presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness”. And with these, I’d add in some balance with II Tim 2:24-26, emphasizing that as believers, while we should desire to glorify our Lord with our actions, reaping the rich blessings of greater conformity with His Law, we ought not to be imperious or arrogant in our witness to the world, even as we serve as living examples of the offense of the cross.

    From these and many other passages, I would suggest that we should not get our hands dirty with unbelievers at all, though I certainly fall to such things from time to time. Our reaching out to the world in this case should be the righteousness of Christ shining through us, offering a view of the “cleanness of hands” that the Psalms speak of to a hard, dead heart. Our relationships with family and friends are very important, but never at prejudice to our relationship with Christ.

    BUT, we must take care that if we are going to stand in righteousness, we need to always give testimony that the righteousness is that of Christ applied to our weak flesh, not our own–because our own righteousness will never withstand the close scrutiny of friendship or family-ties. If we live transparent lives, not pretending that we are free from our own sins, yet pursuing righteousness that we receive in Christ, it will inevitably stand out to the world as something alien–and glorious. And we need to learn to stand against only those things which are true sins, not things-that-our-churchy-friends-think-are-sins. Rm 14 & 15, and I Cor. 8 are important here. Otherwise we set up a pharisaical second set of standards that will allow the dark heart a chance to hide from the piercing light of the gospel.

    Let me offer up another practical example: In my line of work, there are many periods of travel with only other men in close proximity. I have been been in a position of removing fellow Marines (drunk) from a Spanish brothel, refusing to participate in their party, and serving as witness against their sin, without ever saying a word about it. Let me tell you: As we went home that night, most of them were VERY aware of their guilt, and some did not react well to my presence during the almost silent walk to the hotel. In fact, to this day some of those men avoid my presence, and I still have never had to speak of it. Now, in order to maintain that relationship, should I have sat at the bar, joking with them as they took their turns? Should I have gone along to all the strip clubs while there was no one to know except me and them (and God)? Should I have watched all the pornography that is so common among Marines? How much greater a witness I’ve had, sitting at the far end of the squad bay, reading my Bible and quietly struggling against temptation as the rest of my platoon watched a flik at the other end. Because your friends will notice, just like they’ll notice if they can pull you into it. We do not only represent ourselves to the world, we are a picture of Christ to them, and if they can pull that picture into the dirt and feel like their guilt is mitigated, they will do so in a heartbeat.

    I can’t promise that you’ll win or maintain all your worldly friends. Pretty sure you won’t. But when the person who has always hated you for your faith pulls you aside, breaks into tears as he asks for your prayer intervention for his dying father, or confesses a sin that is tearing him apart and begs you to tell him what to do before he kills himself, the hostility you endured will be long forgotten. And the heart strength that the Holy Spirit builds in you through these times can be used greatly in His service.

  3. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    September 24, 2006 9:51 pm

    Reviewing this, I’m not too thrilled with the “things-that-our-churchy-friends-think-are-sins” language. My point in this is to underline that, while we need to be gentle with the conscience of others, we ought to pursue our own maturity in discerning sin from not-sin, so that we can avoid setting up that pharisaical standard I mentioned. And also, so that we do not burden our own consciences with weights that are too heavy to bear.

  4. September 25, 2006 9:12 am


    I would have to know more details about this play before I could answer whether or not I would have gone to it for the sake of my witness to an actor. But, in general, I’m willing to forbear with quite a lot in such cases. If I thought that by viewing the play I would actually be sinning or exposing myself to temptation to sin (for example, if the play contained graphic depictions of sexual immorality) then I would flee from it. But if it’s just a bunch of sinners spouting their sinful philosophy, I’d suffer through it for the sake of the post-play conversation.

    In my decisions about what plays or films to view, I make a big distinction between nudity and violence for this simple reason: You can pretend to kill someone, but you can’t pretend to be naked. A film that portrays violence may be worth watching if the overall message is good. But looking on another’s nakedness for entertainment is always wrong.

    As to 1 John 1:6, I think that darkness is more than just a metaphor for evil. It includes the idea of hiding your sin, which is why when we walk in the light we have fellowship with each other (1:7) and “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be _exposed_. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly _seen_ that his deeds have been carried out in God.” (John 3:20-21)

    Notice also that we walk in light _as He is in the light_ (1:7) So the oft-heard guideline about asking, “could you take Jesus along with you?” to decide such matters is actually pretty good. But remember that Jesus befriended sinners and was mistaken for a glutton and a drunkard.

  5. Oddball permalink
    September 25, 2006 3:16 pm

    Is anything really the end? I mean, when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.

  6. September 25, 2006 5:17 pm

    People should be envying us. I envy us.

  7. Karen permalink
    September 25, 2006 8:31 pm

    Bethlen Gabor,

    Thanks for the thoughts and your personal example. Tolerance vs. acceptance and their difference—good stuff to chew on…

    The one thing I struggle with is the balance between what Isaiah543 mentioned and what you mentioned. The example of Christ can sometimes be hard–He was constantly in the presence of sinners; yet, He was God and perfectly competent at resisting evil and remaining pure, whereas I am definitely not. So how do I balance His example and the knowledge that I am to be not of the world, but in it?

    Isaiah 543,

    The play had some definite graphic sexual immorality which is the main reason I chose not to go. There was also some blasphemous (in my opinion) aspects, i.e. gross sinners being “prophets,” etc.

    In reference to the John 3 verses: I had discussed this play with some of my other believing friends. While they did not support the play itself, they supported my desire to live out Christ to my actor friend. If believers are aware of the actions you take which could be construed as “dark,” would that be somewhat like walking in the light since I was not trying to hide it?

  8. Karen permalink
    September 25, 2006 8:34 pm

    Bethlen Gabor,

    I forgot to mention–the darkness I was originally discussing wasn’t the “churchy sins” you referenced. It was more on the line with serious immorality. Just to be clear. :) I don’t want to be misconstrued as setting up pharisaical like standards.

  9. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    September 26, 2006 10:37 am

    I feel your trouble. It’s tough to maintain that balance, and I don’t always stay on the right side of the line. When I say (and think about) the ‘line’, I don’t want to set up an idea of a simple rule to follow, and we’re good. While there is always a clear good and evil in any given situation (as you pointed out, Christ did this flawlessly), I’m not always able to discern it. My sense so far is that this is really what you’re speaking of.

    I don’t know that there is an easy answer, to this. I’m happy to offer up my own struggles and experiences, as long as it’s clear that I don’t see myself as offering “the answer”. The best I can manage is a “snapshot in time” picture of my view right now. I think everybody understands that, but like you wrote, it’s good to be clear.

    One way of pursuing this balance that is usually helpful to me is my conscience. Conscience is a tricky indicator, vulnerable to hardening and often silent when I need it. But if I’m uncomfortable with doing something, it’s often a pretty good indicator that I need to go another way, or at least look REAL hard at my motives. Living in the world, being with and loving those who hate Christ (knowingly or not), serving as a functional, practical example of Christ-likeness in the world–these things never stain my conscience–only my own actions do. But I really cued in on your thoughts of “getting my hands dirty”–that resonated. Life, work, and witness in the world never leaves me with that dirty feeling. When I do get that feeling, it comes from something in my own heart that got me involved with an activity with unbelievers, not so that I could maintain a Christ-like relationship with them, but rather because I wanted to sin right along with them. This is what I struggle against, what leaves me with the sense of soiled clothes.

    On the standards problem: The Scriptures call us to obedience to God’s moral law, and sets up love as the lense to focus for specific problems. It is not love to leave someone in sin without offering them repentance and christ–though often the best vehicle to use in this is not leading in with verbal admonition, but beginning with graciousness and the gentle example of Christlikeness; the talk will come when appropriate. But love is also gracious in the “gray areas”, not forcing others to fit our own specific views. I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. What I find is that in applying love as the standard for the gray areas, I end up following one path for personal conduct (what my conscience can or can’t bear), while allowing latitude in others’ views. BUT, I still am responsible to my Lord for my own conduct, for listening to the Spirit’s work on my conscience, for keeping my hands clean in the course of my own life. Love requires me to be gracious to those who are doing something I don’t agree with, but it can never require me to stain myself with sin. Looked at in black & white terms, love and forbearance cannot legitimately be used to commend unrighteousness.

    All that to say this: If you are serving as a (relatively) gracious and (relatively) Christ-like witness to your unbelieving friends, then pursue righteosness in your own personal conduct, and do not feel compelled to take part in activities that would stain your conscience. Love them, enjoy your time with them, demonstrate and speak to them of Christ, His Law, and his mercy to sinners, and do not be needlessly harsh to them when they do what sinners do: sin. But stand firm, and do not let them draw you into their sin, because they are indeed sinners, and will pull you down with them if they can. Partly because they love you–with tainted love. But partly because they can use that, in their own hearts, to defend the activity as “not so bad if a Christian will do it”. Don’t be afraid to take part in those “gray area” activities that they take part in. But don’t hesitate to separate yourself when they are inviting you to stain your conscience. This is an inevitable part of maintaining relationships with non-christians, and is a good part of the offense of the Cross.

    The last part of this is gaining and maintaining confidence in your conscience and personal standards. The only answer I can offer in this is 1) to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide you, through your conscience and the counsel of other Christians. And 2) to build discernment and maturity over time with a dedicated and broad study of the Word and Christian Doctrine, and cultivating a life of devotional prayer and personal worship. We know we need to do these things, and they are part of our lives. But we also need to trust these things, draw strength and confidence from the means that the Spirit has given us to provide that discernment. Human certainty is unattainable, and the taint of sin in our lives afflicts us (perhaps rightly) with fear and doubt, but continual second-guessing brings only paralysis when we face a need to decide and act.

  10. September 26, 2006 3:17 pm


    I do agree that when you are faced with a gray area like this, speaking to other believers about your decision to go and seeking their counsel would be a way of walking in the light.

  11. Egana permalink
    September 27, 2006 2:57 pm

    “You can pretend to kill someone, but you can’t pretend to be naked.”

    man O man…

    this is where the action is! Can you pretend to turn your best friend into a chicken? Can he peck you? Do you bleed pretend blood? Is it free range? Man, I miss the blogosphere!

  12. September 27, 2006 4:24 pm

    Yes, you can pretend to turn your best friend into a chicken.

  13. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    September 27, 2006 8:49 pm

    But he’s likely to peck you. I would.

  14. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    September 27, 2006 8:49 pm

    But that’s just me.

  15. September 27, 2006 10:56 pm

    here’s a question from Egana that was posted on Lady in Waiting’s blog that I intend to answer here tomorrow:

    do you ever wish YOU had a pastor? I mean, we always know we can go to you and get a straight answer, or a word aptly spoken, or some prayer, and we can sit under your authority and benefit from your shepherding, and we can listen and feast as you faithfully offer us the words of life every Sunday morning….

    how does God provide these or similar blessings for pastors and their families?

    if you could choose your pastor (pas, present, or future) under whom would you sit?

  16. September 27, 2006 11:49 pm

    But who came first? The chicken, the egg or the friend?

  17. Karen permalink
    October 1, 2006 1:34 pm

    I’ve looked up some sources on I John 5:16-17 in regards to sin and death. I was confused as to how any sin could not lead to death (17b) since it’s pretty obvious that sin is unrighteousness and keeps us from God, i.e. leads to death. It seems the Greek verb tenses in verse 16 are in a progressive form, meaning a continual, habitual sinning leads to death. However, verse 17 refers to believers who commit sins, but not habitually, will not receive death. Is that a somewhat, though cursory, okay understanding of these verses?

    Why can God grant another believer’s request for life for his brother (v 16)? Forgiveness and reconciliation with God has to come from the individual, right? Or is this just meaning that we pray for others, asking God to grant them repentance (2 Tim 2:25), and God works in them to cause them to personally ask for life?

  18. October 2, 2006 12:43 am


    I’m a few days later than promised, but here’s my answer about having a pastor. When I was new to town, I sought out an older pastor and we prayed together almost every Tuesday morning for about ten years. When Katie was on bedrest in the hospital, I asked him to visit us and that felt really good. Unfortunately, he’s not here anymore and so I have lost that regular input. You could pray for another relationship like that, but the way pastors move around these days, it’s a rare blessing.

    But I also believe that although I’m the only regular teaching elder, all the elders are undershepherds and so they pastor me.

    I also have listened to hundreds of John Piper sermons and regularly attend his pastor’s conference, so he is kind of a pastor to me. I sit under his teaching, but he’s not going to visit me or my family in the hospital.

    Thanks for asking!

  19. October 2, 2006 12:44 am


    I preached on this (1 John 5:16f) once. Watch the front page and I’ll post an excerpt soon.

  20. Egana permalink
    October 2, 2006 10:45 am

    I *will* pray that for you! Thanks! What a blessing to know when someone wants something, or needs something. Then we can pray and trust God to answer, and bless that person.

    Thanks for sharing your desire, so that we can be be blessed to pray for you, and then you and your family can be blessed by God (with either the granted request or something better!)

  21. Karen permalink
    October 3, 2006 5:14 pm

    Isaiah 543,

    Thanks! That does clear things up. And is an encouragement to persevere in prayer.

  22. Karen permalink
    October 10, 2006 3:52 pm

    How is the use of apocryphal literature in Jude to be explained? That the specific quote which was incorporated was inspired of God? If not, why would the use of apocryphal quotations to support biblical truth be allowed or even necessary? One resource says “it is the use of the particular reference that is inspired,” but I don’t see how that mitigates the problem…. unless it’s similar to using modern analogy or philosophy to explain biblical concepts? I guess, to me, that’s different than actually being incorporated in the Word of God… maybe I’m being too nitpicky!

  23. October 10, 2006 4:15 pm


    We didn’t discuss the quotations in Jude specifically this past Sunday, because we were running short on time. The quotations from the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch and Assumption of Moses fall into the same category as quotations from other non-inspired literature, for example:

    One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12, NASB).”

    By quoting the Greek philosopher (Epimides?), Paul is not thereby declaring the philospher’s entire work to be Scripture. But we can say that the quoted words are now “inspired,” i.e. by virtue of the Holy Spirit breathing out those words through Paul. This is probably the same idea that your source has in mind when it says, “it is the use of the particular reference that is inspired,”

  24. October 13, 2006 8:32 am

    Pedometer question:
    Is the pedometer widget display an aggregate figure for the week, or just the daily step count?
    -The People Want to Know!

  25. October 13, 2006 10:29 am

    It’s the daily count. If you haven’t seen it on Beth’s blog, there’s some kind of “Walktober” competition that we are signed up for as a team.

  26. October 13, 2006 1:12 pm

    Dang! :) I only got up to 888 steps yesterday. Some team captain I am! But I wasn’t really trying. :) I wasn’t planning on trying until Monday… and then I was going to blow everyone out of the water. Unfortunately, I forgot my pedometer at home today, so I won’t even have a count for today…

    But where, oh, where did you get the widget?? Did you make it yourself?

  27. October 13, 2006 1:20 pm

    It’s just a text box. It doesn’t auto update or anything. Now that would be cool! A pedometer attached to my cell phone that uploaded my steps to the web. Live updates on the Walktober competition! People would be glued to their computer screens following the action!

  28. October 13, 2006 3:21 pm

    combine that with a little GPS action and we’d be stalking you! how cool! oh, wait, this is getting scary…

  29. October 15, 2006 12:35 am

    *cracks up*

    Yeah… and that’s when the Internet gets a little too weird for me :)

  30. October 15, 2006 1:13 am

    In the past week I’ve had to occassion to hear you address either a Scripture text or theological question taking a particular aspect of the Law into consideration. Specifically, the Law has been exemplified as the ‘supreme sin-manifestation device’. Are there other aspects to the Law that we should rejoice in as Christians? I’m thinking of Psalm 112 or 119 – doing the law is his delight.



  31. October 15, 2006 10:02 pm

    I have no problem saying with the psalmist, “O how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day!” But the psalmist loves the torah, and torah is not the same as the law of Moses. Torah comes from the Hebrew yarah which means to point or direct or instruct. Torah is instruction, wisdom. All of life can be thought of as torah (God’s word to us) and todah (thanksgiving, our word to God). The torah contains the law of Moses, but the overall message of the torah is the failure of the law of Moses, its impotence to produce the holiness it demands. The two main characters in the torah are Abraham and Moses. Abraham, the man of faith, fufills the law (even though he didn’t have it!) (Gen 15.6, 26,5). Moses, the man of law, died in the desert because of unbelief. (Num 20.12) Meditate on that day and night. (ht: John Sailhamer)

    I have believed in Calvin’s third use of the law, though I think many do not use it properly and turn it into a new legalism. I am becoming more and more drawn to the Lutheran view of law and gospel. They emphasize the fact that although there are eternal moral principles in the law of Moses that we fulfill as we bear the fruit of the Spirit which is love, which is the fulfillment of the law, we are no longer under the law of Moses in any sense, but we are under the law of Christ. See these past posts:

  32. October 16, 2006 10:07 am

    For those who want to think more about this issue:

  33. egana permalink
    October 18, 2006 10:13 pm

    my only question is…

    21, 373?


    lying is a sin, ya know…

    I know you are in Christ, and as such you sins are paid for, and your sins bring God more glory as his grace “super-abounds” to cover them, but c’mon… at least lie in a more reasonable way so that you won’t get caught by man…

    21,373? no way…

    I’m sooooooooooo jealous!!!!!!! What are you doing, walking in your sleep to get your steps count up?

  34. October 18, 2006 10:30 pm

    I’m only around 5,000 tonight…

  35. October 18, 2006 10:51 pm

    Well, it’s partly because I’ve been in the habit for about a year now of walking an hour most days. But walking an hour only gets you about 8-12,000 steps. The real secret is that I’m a pacer. Last Friday while I was writing my sermon I got 9,000 steps before noon _without leaving the office_.

  36. egana permalink
    October 19, 2006 9:20 am

    That’s so awesome!

    I hope everyone understood that I was teasing, and not really accusing this good man of lying!

    Anyway, I am glad your on MY team… or that I am on YOUR team… or whatever! You are our secret weapon! keep up the pacing, and the prayer walking… your numbers challenge me to up my own activity level…

  37. October 19, 2006 11:59 am

    talk about a ringer!

  38. October 20, 2006 2:42 pm

    Beth, only 888? This morning I had 285 in the short time between putting on my shoes and walking out the door. I’m up to 11,003 so far. I don’t pace, but my legs “bounce” a lot as I work. It will be interesting to see what my day’s count is.

  39. October 20, 2006 6:10 pm

    Well, today I’m at 3,104, but that’s from taking the pacing advice- I walked around while my microwave was heating my Lean Cuisine, and in those six minutes, I racked up an extra couple hundred. I still intend to walk home from work eventually, and thus put the smackdown on my count, but I’m saving it for next week… tomorrow I’ll have to walk a lot at a wedding… but, uh… does anyone have any suggestions for where to clip the pedometer on a wrap dress?? I’m at a loss…

  40. egana permalink
    October 21, 2006 3:53 pm

    no polite places come to mind… any horizontal elastic…

  41. October 22, 2006 10:08 pm

    What do you think about “humor”, or hyperboles, among Christians like, “You’re going to hell for that”? I’ve heard people use them around me, and it just makes me feel uncomfortable. I usually say that it’s just based on heretical theology, and talking like that does more harm than good. I also hear a lot of members of churches that have exuberant worship joke about how they get the “cult” label a lot. Personally, I think that it’s just irresponsible to do those things. Does the word say anything about it?

  42. October 24, 2006 2:17 pm

    I love hyperbole. It’s like the greatest thing in the universe. Seriously, I see the danger of being misunderstood in the examples you’ve cited, but I guess I’m not too scandalized by such things.

  43. October 24, 2006 8:42 pm

    I was talking to a guy from IV about a talk a girl gave in some large group setting. For some reason, she kept repeating “We are not a cult” and everyone thought it was weird. This is the sort of situation I had in mind.

  44. eva permalink
    November 1, 2006 10:13 am

    Do we know (or what do you think) if Satan fell before the creation or post-creation? And was the tree of the knowlege of good and evil placed in the garden post-Satan’s fall?
    Related question…did God “know” evil before Satan’s fall?
    Kind of unrelated thought…the OT is not exhaustive history. Wonder if there was any other fallen angel sometime in history past?

  45. November 3, 2006 11:20 am

    Do we know (or what do you think) if Satan fell before the creation or post-creation?

    Satan’s fall had to be post-creation, because he is part of the created order (Colossians 1:15-16).

    And was the tree of the knowlege of good and evil placed in the garden post-Satan’s fall?

    I don’t know. I don’t think that Scripture tells us much (if anything) about the timing of Satan’s fall.

    Related question…did God “know” evil before Satan’s fall?

    Yes–as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (Ephesians 1:11). God has exhaustive knowledge of all past and future events (Isaiah 46:9-10) and His purpose will be accomplished even in the evil desires and actions of men (Acts 4:27-28). This does not mean that God is the author of evil, nor that men are forced by God to sin (see

    Kind of unrelated thought…the OT is not exhaustive history. Wonder if there was any other fallen angel sometime in history past?

    There are other records of angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4), and the demons are regarded as fallen angels. The elect angels (1 Timothy 5:21) did not fall.

  46. November 6, 2006 9:17 am

    Thanks Eric, for taking that hard question. I would just add that Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, and Revelation 12 are passages for more study,

  47. Oddball permalink
    November 8, 2006 2:55 pm

    I suspect that Eva had the physical realm in mind, when asking whether Satan’s fall occurred before or after the creation.

  48. Oddball permalink
    November 13, 2006 2:45 pm

    I just thought of a question somewhat related to Eva’s.

    Do you believe in literal “trees” of knowledge and life? If there was a a literal tree of knowledge of good and evil, did it have a legitimate purpose other than to tempt man? (James 1:13)

    I’ve always thought of sin as a distortion/misuse of something good. (1 Tim. 4:1-5.)

    For these reasons, I’m inclined to see “eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge” as a metaphor for seeking to define good and evil autonomously, i.e. seeking to “become like God.”

    Am I making any sense here?

  49. eva permalink
    November 15, 2006 1:18 pm

    Thanks for these responses. Yes, I had the creation of earth and mankind in relation to when Satan fell. Secondly, I am wondering why the tree was put there since God tempts no man.

    New question related to Oddball…Is it important to believe the Adam and Eve and tree story as literal?

  50. eva permalink
    November 15, 2006 1:20 pm

    (Correction to my second sentence… I had the creation of earth and mankind in mind when asking about when Satan fell – pre or post creation)

  51. Oddball permalink
    November 15, 2006 2:16 pm

    I don’t think that belief in a literal Adam and Eve is biblically debatable. Read “Genesis in Space and Time” by Francis Schaeffer for more on this.

  52. November 15, 2006 3:49 pm

    Eva – I asked a lot of similar questions about Genesis on my blog (NewLeaves) and many people contributed useful answers that helped me very much. You are welcome to go back to the beginning over there and read the relevant posts and especially the good comments that people made, and comment yourself if you would like. On my blog, on the left side of the screen, there is a “posting calendar” – click on “oldest posts” and you will go back to Genesis 1.1. I apologize for promoting my own blog, but it does seem somewhat relevant.

  53. November 15, 2006 6:28 pm

    I do believe in literal trees, but of course real history can still be metaphor. Also remember that the tree of life shows up again in Rev 22. And one reason why a literal Adam is so important is what we’ve been learning in Romans 5 about Adam being a representative head of humanity and thus a type of Jesus.

  54. November 15, 2006 8:18 pm

    Also, in 1 Timothy 2:13 (“For Adam was formed first, then Eve”), Paul seems to assume that Adam and Eve are literal, since he is using them as examples to support a point.

  55. Karen permalink
    November 16, 2006 11:04 am

    A couple questions from Titus…

    1) in 1:15, Paul says, “to the pure all things are pure.” Obviously not everything in this life is pure–what is Paul referring to here? Food?

    2) ah, the usual quandry about women–while I don’t disagree that women should be “working at home” (2:5), I also don’t think women are constrained just to be housewives and mothers. Sometimes work outside the home is financially necessary or even needed for survival (i.e. Ruth). But would the absence of male leadership in Ruth’s family exempt her from this “law”? Proverbs 31 is also a glaring example of a woman who did not only work in the home. In Titus, is Paul just trying to encourage women to make the home a priority, and not to say that is her only allowed realm?

  56. November 16, 2006 12:25 pm


    1) A quick survey of a couple commentaries shows that most restrict this verse to the question of food, but I’m not so sure. I see this as parallel to what he says in 1 Timothy 4:4, for everything created by God is good. In that context he includes not only food, but also marriage. I think the point is that, contra the gnostics, created things are good. Evil is not a thing. There are no evil things. There are only evil perversions of good things (ht: Augustine).

    So, for example, pornography is not pure. But pornography is an evil perversion of a good thing (sexuality as created by God).

    2) I don’t think you find in Titus 2:5 any prohibition of women working outside the home, you only have a commendation of the virtue of married women working in the home. If you can do both, go for it. If you can’t do both without causing your household to suffer, then don’t. And, don’t forget, there are some women who do neither. Not all “stay at home moms” work at home and love their husbands and children. These would be the ones that Paul is telling more mature women to correct. After all, there weren’t opportunities for employment outside the home for women in that time and culture, so those who weren’t working at home weren’t working anywhere.

    It is my opinion that mothers of small children should, if at all possible, spend the lion’s share of their time with their children. The advantages of this to the child are well documented. But this is my opinion, I don’t think you can make a law out of it from Titus 2:5.

  57. Oddball permalink
    November 16, 2006 2:06 pm

    “I think the point is that, contra the gnostics, created things are good. Evil is not a thing. There are no evil things. There are only evil perversions of good things (ht: Augustine).”
    I agree. That’s why I have trouble with a literal tree of knowledge. Do you see my point?

  58. November 16, 2006 2:26 pm

    Hmm. Well, it seems to me that the knowledge of good and evil is not itself evil. What was evil was disobeying God when he said not to eat it. It is interesting that the phrase knowledge of good and evil is used elsewhere in Scripture (Heb 5, Isa 7:15f) as a mark of maturity. So why is it bad for Adam to know it? Perhaps by eating of the tree he was rejecting childlike faith and wanting to figure it out, like our kids say when they want independence “all by myself”.

  59. Oddball permalink
    November 16, 2006 2:56 pm

    But my question is:

    Did the tree itself have a legitimate use, or was it created merely to test Adam and Eve?

  60. November 18, 2006 8:33 am

    (joking) Genesis says that the tree was “good for food, and a delight to the eyes” so if being practically similar to the other trees in the garden counts as a legitimate use, then yes. : )

    If you mean, did the tree serve a purpose for beings other than Adam and Eve, like did the angels come and eat the fruit, or did God make some personal use of the tree above and beyond it just existing there waiting for Adam and Eve to disobey the one command he gave them, I don’t personally think the Genesis text says anything about that. As far as my own, perhaps flawed, reading of the text goes, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a real tree just like all the others, in a real place, with real people and a real God (because otherwise at what point in Genesis do you draw the line between “metaphor” and “reality”?) but this tree, and the tree of life, were special and set apart and endowed by God with special qualities. It wasn’t the real tree and the real fruit that had legitimate uses in the sense you might be asking about, unlike the golden apples in Greek mythology. In this case it was the qualities assigned to them by God that made them special – in the same sense (I think) that certain people and certain places are set apart by God as different, for good or for evil.

    If you are referring to that old question, “Why did God put the tree in the garden since he knew that they would disobey. Why did he let that happen?” i.e. was there a purpose to the tree and therefore the Fall besides God testing his creatures to see whether or not they would obey, since he already knew the answer? Here is something I heard a while ago that has sort of stuck with me on the subject:

    A world in which evil has been experienced and overcome is more glorifying to God than a world which never knew evil at all.

    I admit I don’t know how theologically sound that is, and hopefully someone wiser than I will correct me if need be, but that concept was reinforced for me this morning by a quote from John Piper:

    “God’s grief over the sinfulness and loss of man reveals that in and of itself sin is not praiseworthy or good or delightful or pleasing to God. In relation to its own ends it is hateful to Him and grievous. As an attitude or an act which aims to dishonor God sin grieves God. The death and suffering of the wicked, considered simply as the loss and destruction of human life is not a delight to God, but a pang.

    God’s grief over sin and condemnation is owing, therefore, to His ability to view sin and condemnation as ends in themselves, which thus considered are grievous. But He is not an eternally unhappy or frustrated God because He can and does view sin and condemnation in relation to the universality of things where it is considered not for its ends but for God’s ultimate ends through its existence. When God looks at the totality of redemptive history in this way, He rejoices at what He sees, with even sin and condemnation redounding to His great glory.”

  61. Karen permalink
    December 3, 2006 3:42 pm

    As to the different commands Christ gives concerning provisions for evangelism (Luke 9:3 and 22:36)–can that be explained by the coming Cross, and that the future will now become more dangerous? But beyond the sword for protection, why would He also command them to take material provisions since earlier (22:35) they had affirmed they hadn’t lacked anything. How does the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy connect with this? Christ was already accused of being with transgressors. Does this second command negate the first one?

  62. martian koolaid permalink
    December 3, 2006 9:13 pm

    The second command was given at the Last Supper, so I think this has to do with the difficulty of evangelism when Christ won’t be doing it himself after his resurrection. My notes say that in 22:36 “sword” is not meant literally and when he says “It is enough”, he is frustrated at their incomprehension of what he’s trying to tell them. He does say, “But now”, so I think the latter commandment negates the first. Still, it’s a good question why he made this new commandment since Christ will provide for us regardless of whether he’s walking on Earth or in heaven.

    “Sword” could also refer to the word of God like in other place of Scripture, but that metaphor doesn’t seem to hold when the Apostles say, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.”

    As for being numbered with the transgressors in this case, I think Isaiah’s prophesy refers to him behing hung on the cross with other criminals.

  63. December 5, 2006 12:02 pm

    Quick question:

    I’m curious as to your (and other E-Free-ites) response to this conversation:

    Specifically, I wanted to know if I’m standing on solid theological ground here. I don’t expect (or even necessarily want) you guys to respond there, but if you could respond here or e-mail me, I would really appreciate it, because I want to make sure my position is Scriptural.

  64. December 5, 2006 3:48 pm

    Or rather, I guess just the regular link to the post would work better:

  65. December 6, 2006 6:43 pm

    Sheesh! These questions are getting harder.


    Of the two passages I would say that the Luke 9 one is more situation specific to the apostles (though there are principles there for us today) and Luke 22 is the more enduring instruction for us and the Isaiah quote is to prepare the disciples for persecution. I need to do a little study before I can respond further.


    Wow, that’s a lot of reading you’ve assigned. :-) I think you’re comment of 12-05, 5:52 was good, and then you gave a bit too much away after that. We must be even bolder in saying that even sin and suffering are in God’s decrees, though not in his revealed will for us. We are responsible for our sins, we will them for evil, but God wills them for good (Gen 50:20). See also Isa 45:7. I would discourage you from continuing the conversation online with your friend. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. She needs time to think and suffering to process and then maybe she might be more responsive in a face-to-face way. That’s just my opinion. Maybe it’s generational bias, but I think some things just almost never happen in the blogosphere.

  66. Oddball permalink
    December 7, 2006 2:29 pm


    Did God endow the tree of knowledge with evil qualities?


    Does God will that we will evil?

  67. December 7, 2006 3:13 pm


    In the “decree” sense of the word “will”, yes.

    Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

    Gen 45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

    Acts 4:27-28 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.

    Isaiah 10:5-7 Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation, I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder, And to trample them down like mud in the streets. Yet it does not so intend Nor does it plan so in its heart, But rather it is its purpose to destroy, And to cut off many nations.

    Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

    Westminster Confession of Faith 3:1 God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:(1) yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,(2) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.(3)

    (1)Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:33; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15,18.
    (2)James 1:13,17; 1 John 1:5.
    (3)Acts 2:23; Matt. 17:12; Acts 4:27,28; John 19:11; Prov. 16:33.

  68. December 8, 2006 10:46 am

    Oddball, here’s how I think about it, and as usual I am sure Mike will be kind enough to correct me if this is not right:

    There were two trees in the garden that were different than all the other trees. One was the tree of life, which gave anyone who ate from it eternal (physical?) life. (Gen 3.22) The other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which gave anyone who ate from it knowledge. It didn’t make them good or evil, it just made them aware of good and evil. And both life and knowledge are things which people should not try to get on their own, but which should come from God. Adam and Eve had been given everything they needed by God, but they tried to get more than what God had given them, and hence sinned by disobeying God’s command and by subverting God’s established order in numerous ways. So, no, I would not say that the tree itself had evil qualities. Sort of like, maybe, Guns don’t kill people, people kill people?

  69. Oddball permalink
    December 9, 2006 11:55 am


    If the fruit of the tree of knowledge was not to be eaten, what was it for? Did it have any good purpose?


    Have you read any of the early Church Fathers’ writings on some of the passages you’ve cited in your last reply to me?

  70. Karen permalink
    December 13, 2006 1:47 am

    I just read the chapter in Packer’s Knowing God about the prohibition of images. It sparked some thoughts:

    1) Although the Tabernacle and the Temple were not expressly built for the display of God’s glory, they were to be physical representations of His presence with us–places where He could dwell. Is not the thought behind paintings/pictures/icons the same? I.e. they are to be reminders of God, point us to Him, aid us in worshipping Him [not the image/icon]? I know any image belittles God in that it cannot capture the fulness of His deity and essence. But since we’re such pathetic beings anyhow, that’s impossible for us. So even an image to facilitate that for us strictly outlawed?

    2) If God orchestrated the plundering of the Egyptians to provide His tabernacle with lush furnishings and decor, and Solomon’s Temple was likewise extravagant with its use of gold, etc. what is that saying about the purpose of those places? Was the extravagance to reflect the glory of God? or to honor Him?

    3) What about artistic expressions of God–paintings of Christ, Madonna–not meant for altars, but simply for art. If they’re not meant for a “religious” reason per se, but are meant to honor God?

    4) Do you have any thoughts on the value of the didactic purposes of images? In the medieval period when few could read, understanding the Gospel often came through its portrayal in stained glass. Or for today–the vast majority of books to teach children the Gospel picture Christ and God. Packer was taking a hardline on this, and I’m not persuaded… yet.

  71. Oddball permalink
    December 13, 2006 8:17 am


    I hope nobody minds me presuming to chime in with my own thoughts on your question.

    Our church (Imago Dei) places icons at our communion tables. I don’t personally see anything wrong with religious art that inspires as well as teaches. It would seem to be perhaps the highest use of God-given creativity. My objection is the the use of icons as prayer tools, especially when employed in devotion to saints.

  72. December 13, 2006 10:39 am


    I agree with Calvin that the use of images is permissible as an aid to instruction, but not as an aid to worship. In Deuteronomy God not only tells us not to worship other gods, but he tells us not to worship Him in the way that the nations worship their gods, by which he means don’t make images. So the Catholic defence that they don’t worship these images, they worship God through the images is, of course, true, but beside the point. God says he doesn’t want to be worshiped in this way.

    Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. …15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves

    Deuteronomy 12:3-4 You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. 4 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.

    Now, of course, we’re not under this law, right? But I would still urge you to seek wisdom from the Spirit of Christ as you meditate on these laws and see if you don’t think there are enduring principles here for us.

    As to the extravagant gold and jewels on the temple, I think that this highlights the absence of such things in the NT. Now we think on Christ in the heavenly tabernacle of which the one on earth was just a shadow. The reason for the Puritans austerity in their architecture was that they didn’t want anything to distract them from the fact that they were seated with Christ in the heavenly realms and that’s where the real worship service is happening.

    The reason I never saw The Passion of the Christ is that I want my image of Jesus to come from the Scripture alone. Jesus is the only image of God I want to have and the Scriptures paint the only image I want of Jesus. In the beginning was the Word.

  73. Oddball permalink
    December 13, 2006 1:39 pm

    Must religious art only edify the mind, not the heart? Are worship and instruction the only possible uses of images?

  74. December 13, 2006 2:07 pm

    No, there are plenty of other appropriate uses of images. I’m not commenting on religious art. I’m just against the use of images in worship.

  75. Oddball permalink
    December 13, 2006 2:43 pm

    I hope I’m not being too argumentative. I’m really just trying to sort through this.

    I would agree that we should not direct prayer/worship to (or “through”) images, but nor do I think we should require strict visual austerity in worship. Like music, what we see shapes our mood, and I have trouble with the concept of banishing visual beauty (including icons, stained glass, etc.) from a worship setting. Am I making any sense?

    I’m also not sure why seeing “The Passion” movie would constitute improper worship, though I suppose it could become that for some.

  76. Karen permalink
    December 13, 2006 3:27 pm

    Shouldn’t have the OT believers thought of God as in the heavenly tabernacle as well? Wouldn’t the extravagance have distracted them and led to a confusion of where God actually dwells? Why would that argument apply for us and not for them?

  77. Karen permalink
    December 13, 2006 3:38 pm

    Or does it have something to do with progressive revelation and how much they understood about God? I would think their understanding of Yahweh at Tabernacle and Temple time isn’t near as developed as our understanding of Yahweh is now… Would you agree? Hence, our response/reaction to Him needs to be different than theirs?

  78. December 13, 2006 3:44 pm


    There is probably some parallelism here with the use of music in worship. There are some who advocate a severe austerity of musical expression in worship, and this seems silly. Why have music at all if not to affect the emotions?

    On the other hand, music can move the human soul to such an extent that it can compete with genuine, Spirit-filled worship. Because music is so powerful, it’s quite possible for people to feel as though they’ve had a “spiritual” experience when in reality they’ve just heard some really great music.

    All people, regardless of religious or philosophical affiliation, can be deeply moved by music, so it behooves us to order our corporate worship explicitly around the person and promises of Christ himself, so we can focus on what will really give our hearts light and life. If the music is so compelling that it competes for the heart alliegence in the worshiper, then it is doing a disservice to that worshiper.

    So perhaps the danger lies not in acknowledging that art and music change our moods, but in seeking the power of art and music to change us instead of focusing on the true source. And this, of course, is true of any of God’s good and perfect gifts, which can either be embraced with thanksgiving or compete for our final love and loyalty.

    What do you think? Does the music idea map onto the visual art idea somewhat?

  79. December 13, 2006 6:14 pm

    This is just a personal story, not a well thought out theological position I hold.

    I had the great opportunity to go to Greece as a high school trip. While we were there we visited the remains of an old monastery. It was just a shell of a building, really, and the best thing about it was that it was dark and cool inside, and the only light came through hundreds of little holes carved into patterns in the stone. I wasn’t a believer then, but I felt totally overpowered and humbled by the age and the history of the building, and especially by the sense of awe and strange beauty that still seemed to cling to it. I bought a little tiny icon in the town outside the monastery, to help remind me of that incredibly odd feeling – the icon shows Jesus on a throne, holding a book, gold background, IC XC, the whole bit. I bought it because I thought it was beautiful, certainly not out of a sense of religious devotion. That icon has been hanging up in my various apartments and houses ever since then. When I came to know the Lord, I took a second look at that icon, to see if maybe I should get rid of it. It still doesn’t do anything for me as an object of worship, and in fact I like it less now than I did before because I know that Jesus can’t even begin to be contained in a little wooden square with paint on it, any more than he can be contained in a song or a poem, because faith and love and obedience are not dependant on those sorts of “seen” things. However, my little icon serves as a good reminder to me – it is currently hanging above my kitchen sink, and I might be doing the dishes, and then look up and see him sitting there on his throne, and think “He IS on his throne! How great!” in the same sense that I might hear a worship song and think “He HAS paid it all! I DO owe it all to him!”

    So, I just admitted that I have an icon hanging up in my house. Hopefully no iconoclasts will show up here and whitewash it out of existence. :)

  80. December 13, 2006 7:06 pm

    This discussion of images in worship is refreshingly lively, but it is exceeding the parameters of the Q and A page. I think I should post on this in the near future and then hopefully you’ll still be interested enough to go at it there. This topic is not in my wheelhouse, so I will speak humbly about it when I do. Until then, I leave you with this thought…

    When Colossians 1 says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the word for image is icon. Jesus is the only icon we need. Only a living image can communicate a living God. Lifeless images are inevitably reductionistic. Many homes have a picture hanging of Jesus the gentle shepherd. How many have a picture hanging of Jesus on the white horse with a sword coming out of his mouth and blood staining his garments? Why behold one every day and not the other?

  81. martian koolaid permalink
    December 16, 2006 7:40 pm

    I have a question about the difference between what is recorded in the Bible, and what is actually proclaimed as truth or law. The book of Job is a good example of this. Bildad is wrong in his reasons for Job’s circumstances, but many use the book of Job to justify certain heresies. What keeps us from interpreting stories of incest and polygamy in the OT as good when I can’t think of any verses denouncing the actions of many of these people.

    I also brought this up at the Men’s Bible study when we were discussing John the Baptist as saying he is not Elijah, when it clearly said that Elijah had to come again before the Messiah. So I ask the question I asked at Bible study, was John the Baptist simply wrong when he said that?

  82. December 18, 2006 12:36 pm

    Yes, I think the Bible truly and infallibly records some of the wrong things that people have said. John the Baptist evidently was not aware that he was the Elijah who was to come. Bildad does say some stupid things, and by a careful interpretation of the whole book, especially the end where God says he was wrong, we learn not to be like Bildad.

    (who by the way was the shortest man in the Bible. Many people erroneously think it was Kneehimiah, but it was in fact, Bildad the Shuhite)

  83. December 18, 2006 12:38 pm

    I have another funny Bildad story. One time at the church I attended during seminary our worship leader was to read Psalm 18:1-3 for a call to worship. He mistakenly turned to Job 18:1-3 and read…

    Job 18:1-3 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: 2 “How long will you hunt for words? Consider, and then we will speak. 3 Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight?

    I was on stage standing next to him playing the guitar. I just about lost it.

  84. December 18, 2006 12:42 pm

    Another good hermeneutical prinicple (to get back to Martian’s question) is “narrative is not normative”. So just because the polygamy stories are told and not condemned doesn’t mean they are approved.

  85. December 18, 2006 4:03 pm

    How on earth do you know who the shortest man in the Bible is?? That’s like… seriously awesome Bible Trivial Pursuit answers :D

  86. Oddball permalink
    December 19, 2006 2:55 pm

    So how do you show that polygamy is not approved, especially when it’s regulated in Dueteronomy. I suppose the best we can do is argue that Jesus implicitly condemned polygamy (along with divorce) when he upheld Gen. 1-2 as God’s ideal for marriage.

  87. egana permalink
    December 30, 2006 6:19 pm

    polygamy stinks… i dunna wanna share…

  88. January 2, 2007 9:25 pm

    Can we ask for prayer requests on here? Well, I guess I am anyway…

    I’m totally concerned about my job right now, and would love a little prayer :) Basically, I screwed something up (partly my fault, though not entirely), and because they fired someone they hired with me two weeks into the job, I’ve been pretty insecure. Obviously, screwing things up does not help me be more secure (though it was fixed very quickly), and … I’ve realized that a lot of my self-worth is riding on this job right now… which I’d like to change, but I would not like to be fired from a job in order for God to teach me said lesson :/

  89. egana permalink
    January 4, 2007 8:02 pm

    I’m reminded of the secretary to the Ghostbusters….

    “I’ve quit better jobs than this!”

    **answers phone**

    “Ghostbusters, waddya want!?”

    There are lots of jobs out there. If this employer fires a new employee for making a mistake that was “fixed very quickly” then it is worth asking whether or not you would really WANT to stay….

    And, although the above is true, I know it will not comfort you, so I send you a hug as well and remind you that pleasing your employer is not why we love you! *grin*

  90. January 11, 2007 2:30 pm

    I ran across a quotation from Sirach today, and it got my wheels to spinning- can you give me a quick rundown of how we came to have Bibles without Sirach and the Maccabees and such? I’ve forgotten whatever it is I once learned about the dropping of the Apocrypha from the protestant Bible, and am curious.

  91. January 12, 2007 10:16 pm

    Eric has studied this more recently than I, so we’ll await his fuller response. But I can tell you that the Protestants didn’t drop the Apocrypha, the Papists added it in in the counter-Reformation. Rome never claimed inspiration for the Apocrypha before Trent. Rome and Geneva were actually closer together before Trent. At Trent, Rome distanced themselves from us to seize market share.

  92. blondie permalink
    January 17, 2007 8:19 am

    When Jesus says, “Deny yourself, Take up your cross daily and follow me.” He said this before the week he went to the cross. Was he looking forward in mentioning the cross, or was this a common way to die that people would have understood? How are we to understand what the Cross is that we are to take up? I don’t have a cross that costs my life.

    That verse is referenced so often it is bland for me. I want it to be tasty again.

  93. January 19, 2007 9:41 am

    This is a good question and one I’ve thought about much in the past. I’ve never felt wholly satisfied with my answer, but I’ll put a sermon excerpt about it on the front page soon and you can improve upon it in the comments.

  94. January 23, 2007 11:59 pm

    Hey Mike, if you have the time, I have a question concerning the timing of propitiation and imputed righteousness. Do we have our sins paid for in the past, and then when we have faith Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us? Are we technically in a neutral state between the atonement and actually having faith? Or are both the canceling of sin and the imputation of righteousness both granted upon having faith?


  95. February 7, 2007 9:43 pm

    Sorry to be so slow. This is a difficult question, but here’s what I believe is the simple answer.

    Although the forgiveness of our sins was accomplished by Christ on the cross, it is applied to us by the Holy Spirit when we believe. Before we believe, we are children of wrath (Eph 2) and the wrath of God remains on us (John 3).

  96. February 9, 2007 12:20 am

    Thanks for the answer. Yeah, that makes sense; in Ephesians 2, God transforms us from death to life all in one go.

    So if this is the case… how come we never hear the phrase, “Forgiveness through faith,” or “The application of forgiveness through faith” (we hear “justification by faith” all the time)? Does this question just not come up a lot? Or is there an obvious answer I am missing?

  97. March 3, 2007 12:34 pm

    What do you think of the idea that the prodigal son in the parable represents Jesus? I was initially skeptical, but the site below makes a pretty decent case…

  98. Egana permalink
    March 4, 2007 9:20 am

    “The parable itself gives us some clues that the Prodigal Son is Jesus–not just the fact he was criticized by the elder brother, i.e. the Pharisees. Much more direct evidence is what the father says to the elder brother at the end of the parable. “We had to celebrate and rejoice. This brother of yours was dead and has come back to life.” Those are the same words used to describe Jesus resurrection–the one who died has now come back to life. By his death–and by his resurrection–Jesus has won for us forgiveness, redemption, a place at the banquet.”

    this seems to be the heart of the author’s argument… I dunno, not very convincing to me…

    maybe the prodial son can be seen as a type of Christ, but I think most of the parable dwells on the foolishness of the younger brother, and the graciousness of the father. And since Jesus is not foolish, I just am not convinced. He was the perfect obedient son, he obedient servant of God that Iarael was not, so how can the younger brother’s attitude and behaviour toward his father be seen in any way paralell?

    Alright, I know this is *Isaiah543’s* Q & A board… I’ll be quiet now…

  99. March 15, 2007 4:21 pm

    At our Mars Hill Small Group the other night, we got to talking about laziness, which is castigated in 2 Thess. 3 (we’re actually studying Nehemiah, but we were talking about all the work done on the gate, and anyway, the subject came up).

    So, one of the girls asked a question that was really good, I thought, about what exactly we’re supposed to do as Christians, when people don’t want to work? She works in social services, and I think runs across a number of people she considers “lazy.” I would probably hesistate to use that description for much of anyone myself, but that’s only because I’m a big fat couch potato these days.

    Anyway, the leader read this passage from 2 Thess 3 aloud:

    In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

    We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.

    Which was all well and good, but it didn’t really answer her question (because, she obviously can’t stop feeding them), which the leader noted, and pretty much said that he didn’t really know the answer. I was really excited to be the one that pointed out that there was an answer if you kept reading, which was:

    If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

    Yikes! I don’t know that I’d have the heart to do that. But I don’t know :) Like I said, I’m more apt to be the lazy one than the correcting one, and it’s kind of a hard pill to swallow. Do you think that the author really intended people to disassociate with the idle folks in their communities? Or do you think they were referring to a different instruction in the letter?

  100. March 15, 2007 9:59 pm

    There may be some principles from this passage that would give the state wisdom in deciding how to dole out its resources, but the passage is only directly addressing how we should respond to brothers in the church who refuse to work. They should not be empowered to be lazy by the church’s benevolence, but should be disciplined by the church if they are truly neglecting to provide for themselves and their family. If they have real burdens that they can’t carry themselves, we should help bear their burdens. But if they are just lazily neglecting to carry their own load, they should be corrected. See Gal 6:1-10.

  101. March 15, 2007 10:02 pm

    As to the Prodigal Son question, I recommend listening to Tim Keller’s sermon “The Prodigal Sons”. See the Tim Keller link in my sidebar.

  102. April 15, 2007 4:08 pm

    So… this may be a long and involved question… what are the differences between what EV Free believes and what the Presbyterian church believes? Take, for instance, the Westminster Confession of Faith:

    Just curious :) We’ve run across a lot of Presbyterian churches out here, and wanted to know what the low-down was on them :)

  103. April 15, 2007 8:35 pm

    The EFCA statement of faith is quite skeletal and doesn’t take specific stands on issues that distinguish us from the Presbyterians (except for church government, we’re congregational).

    It will be more helpful for me to tell you where I differ from the Westminster Confession of Faith.

    -I don’t baptize babies.

    …Actually, that’s about it. There are other minor exceptions, but baptism is the only thing that would keep me from being able to be ordained in the PCA. My other exceptions would be shared by other PCA pastors.

  104. April 16, 2007 9:38 pm

    Interesting. Well… child baptism is not so insurmountable an issue (for me, at least) that I couldn’t chill in a PCA church, I suppose. I mean, they can’t baptize babies I don’t have ;) So far as I could tell the only major difference was a more liturgical worship style, but again, that’s not something that would necessarily bar me from participation (though it certainly isn’t our preferred style). Good to know, though, about the two issues you can see. I hadn’t thought about church governing style much, though. I might have to ponder further on that one. I don’t imagine we’ll wind up at either of the two churches, but it’s good to know what their/our differences might be, so we can be aware of them, I guess.

  105. April 30, 2007 3:09 am

    Next church shopping question :)

    Does a Christian have any duty/obligation with regards to a cult? Or maybe, better asked, what would you do, if you encountered a church that showed cult-like tendencies?

    Carl and I ran across this kind of a situation this morning (you can read about it on my blog, if you sign in to Livejournal- I friends-locked it, but it’s the first friends-locked entry)… and I was just curious what your thoughts were.

  106. April 30, 2007 10:58 pm

    I don’t think you have any obligation towards a cult besides staying away from them, unless you really are gifted and called to an apologetic ministry or one of their members is friend or family.

    But as for your specific encounter Sunday, I read your blog and given *only* what you said about them, I would hesitate to use the word “cult”. I usually reserve that word for people who deny essential doctrines or use manipulation to keep people from leaving. This guy was inviting people who weren’t on board with his agenda to leave. That may be immature and insecure and impatient, but I would hold out hope that they could grow up and not be a cult.

    Or maybe they are and there’s lots more weirdness you didn’t mention.

    I read your post on Driscoll is over the top to a fault, but I’d be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There’s a lot of great stuff going on at MH that might be worth forbearing the overstated complementarianism. If there’s ever a place that complementarianism warrants overstatement, Seattle would be the place, right?

  107. May 1, 2007 3:01 am

    Perhaps. And like I said (somewhere or another)… I like Driscoll, and I think his church is doing great things here. I want them to keep going, to survive and thrive, but sometimes he just rubs me the wrong way :/ And unfortunately, since his church is so centered around him as a personality, it’s hard to get around that by focusing on the great elders/deacons/outdoor ministry leaders/whoever… at least not on the first few visits.

    As for the things that warrant overstatement in Seattle, I think missionality is top of my list, and well, focusing on the community (which is kind of missionality, I guess)… So far as I can tell Seattle is a whole bunch of lonely people all thrown together from all over the place, and a good number of them lack the social skills to rectify that on their own :/ I don’t know about how much complementarianism needs to be mentioned here- there’s not enough women here for me to have a viable sample! It certainly makes finding males to fill those leadership positions easier ;) But certainly Seattle is very politically liberal, and complementarianism doesn’t quite mesh well with that mindset a lot of the time, I think.

  108. May 1, 2007 9:59 pm

    1 Peter 3:18-22

    This sounds a lot like the “Harrowing in Hell” doctrine from the Apostle’s Creed. But I don’t buy that “prison” necessarily means “hell”.

    Ephesians 4:8-10

    This also might suggest that. My question is, do these verses support harrowing in hell? If not (which is what I believe), then what is the obvious rebuttal besides their ambiguity?

  109. May 1, 2007 11:24 pm

    “Harrowing in hell”. Huh. I’ve never heard that phrase before. I assume it’s some translation of “descended into hell”. Anyway, I don’t believe it either. Grudem’s ST has the answer you’re looking for. The phrase is actually excluded in the earliest versions of the apostle’s creed, so lots of people didn’t buy into it even way back then.

  110. May 2, 2007 12:54 am

    I encountered that phrase in Wikipedia. The “harrowing” is a little more than just descended, and it seems to be specifically part of the Mormon view. As far as I know, it wasn’t taught to me as a R. Catholic, although the “descended” certainly was.

  111. blondie permalink
    May 2, 2007 4:30 pm

    When John Elderidge says in his speaking and in his book that we are given a “good” heart when we recieve the gift of salvation I seem to have a hard time grasping the validity of that thought. Is that a right understanding of our new heart? Is it true? Our hearts are changed, our hearts can be hardened or softened, our hearts are circumcised, we are given a new heart, eternity is written on our heart… the list goes on and on, but nowhere have I found it described as “good”. Am I missing a passage or overlooking one?

    When I begin to think that I now have a good heart instead of a deceitful one it seems to open up a can of worms that I don’t like. When I am loving to someone from my good heart it seems very easy to take the credit for the work. It feels like this rendering of the effect on the heart leads me down a path of human achievement. I love thinking of my salvation as God’s work, all of it. So, this other way of thinking of my heart seems foreign, maybe it is all just semantics. If so, I’ll stick with the words the scripture uses to describe what has happened to my heart.

  112. May 3, 2007 11:35 am

    I haven’t read or heard any John Elderidge, so I can’t interact with him specifically, but a quick computer search turned up these verses

    Luke 6;45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good

    Luke 8:15 “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

    I also think of Romans 7 where Paul says “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my flesh” which implies that there is something good in him now besides flesh.

    Surely the new creation that God has made us is “good” though not yet completely unhindered by indwelling sin. And, of course, all the glory for that goodness in us goes to God, for he created it and is working in us to will and to act according to his purpose.

  113. July 20, 2007 2:50 pm

    I have been listening to a lot of Piper recently and was convinced a few years ago on the statement that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Recently while studying the 5 points of Calvinism I have been unable to put together Christian hedonism and total depravity. If we are totally depraved then how can God’s glory be dependent upon our satisfaction?

  114. July 20, 2007 4:35 pm


    The term “total depravity” refers to the fact that we are unable to come to Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit’s graciously enabling us to trust upon Him. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to in more modern language as “total inability”. It is a description that applies to the unregenerate individual. It does not apply to someone who has been born again. When God removes the heart of stone and replaces it with the heart of flesh, we experience a real change–we are now are able to desire what is truly good; to love and glorify God.

    As to the question of how God’s glory can be dependent on our satisfaction–In the strict sense, God’s glory is not dependent upon anything in His creation. God simply is glorious, and is eternally so, and always has been, even apart from the creation.

    At the same time, God’s glory is revealed to us in many ways–by the creation, by our own experience, and by His word. So we can say that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” in the sense that God’s glory is most revealed to us (and to others) when we are most satisfied in Him.

    God has also chosen to find pleasure in His creation, and especially in his covenant people, the church. So we can also say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” in the sense that God takes the greatest pleasure in his covenant people when they are truly satisfied in Him, and I think that is the primary sense in which Piper uses this phrase.

  115. July 20, 2007 6:57 pm

    Thanks, Eric.

    In addition, Eden, I think it’s important to stress the phrase “in us”. That is, to say “God is glorified IN US, when WE are most satisfied in Him” is not the same as saying “God is most glorified when the maximum amount of people are satisfied.” For further discussion of this issue, see the comment thread linked below in which I participated.

  116. August 27, 2007 7:28 am

    Here is a question my wife asked to ponder. While I ponder I thought getting your insights would be helpful as well. So, here is the question…

    “Is it possible to be delivered without receiving salvation?”

    By delivered, we are not assuming charismatica. She noticed that the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt but died in the wilderness, particularly at the base of Mt. Siniai when Moses brought the Law down and found them worshipping idols.

  117. fred flintstone permalink
    August 28, 2007 8:05 am

    This is Isaiah543 here. For some reason, wordpress is not letting me comment on my own blog when I’m logged in as me. If anybody knows how to fix this, send me an email.


    Many people were delivered from slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea but were not delivered from their sins through faith. Paul says this in 1 Cor 10. Does that speak to your question, or is there more you were getting at?

  118. August 30, 2007 3:52 pm

    Isaiah543 /fred,

    We were observing the language of “children of Israel” and the exodus. When did God consider them His? Before the exodus? At Sinai? After the second set of tablets? After the 40 years in the wilderness?

    Then, what are the implications for us as His children (Romans 8:15 and others) and our own salvation?

  119. September 4, 2007 11:07 am

    Yay, I don’t have to be Fred Flintstone anymore. For some dumb reason, akismet was sending all my comments to spam. Just my comments, not yours. Weird.


    The physical deliverance of Israel from Egypt was a type of our own deliverance from sin. But remember that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. (Rom 9). So the fact that many died in the wilderness does not mean that any of the elect will ever fall away. It does mean that there are members of the visible church who are baptized and participate in the Lord’s Supper but who are not regenerated and do not have faith in the Lord. These must be warned not to trust in any visible signs but to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.

  120. September 13, 2007 3:46 pm

    another question for you…

    What are the main differences between Reformed theology and Mormonism (Latter Day Saints, I think) or could you direct me to a good online resource liek you have done so many times in the past. My new neighbor in Mormon.

  121. September 13, 2007 4:28 pm

    Mormonism is a completely different religion than Christianity, so there are several differences between Reformed theology and Mormonism. For example, the nature of God–in Mormonism, God the Father is of the same species as Man, but he has experienced exaltation. Jesus is the Father’s literal, biological son, and we are all spirit children of the Father (i.e. there is also a celestial Mother, and we are all siblings, their spirit children). So there are no short answers. :-)

    If your friend offers you a copy of the Book of Mormon, I would be polite, take the book, and then take the time to read it. It’s not the most exciting read, but you’ll be showing respect to your neighbor. However, much of modern Mormonism does not come directly from the Book of Mormon.

    I recommend the book “Letters to a Mormon Elder” by James R. White, which is available to read online at

    For a quick overview, you may want to just read a few web articles. James White’s web site is — click “Apologetics” on the left side and then click “Mormonism”. In particular, read “Christian Grace vs Mormon Grace”, “I Testify To You” and “100 Verse Memorization System”.

    Two other excellent resources are Mormon Research Ministry at and Utah Lighthouse Ministry at

    You would do well to avoid stuff by Dave Hunt or Ed Decker (like “The God Makers”).

  122. Oddball permalink
    October 23, 2007 12:36 am

    I have a question about the ministry of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost. Haven’t all believers (since the time of Adam) required the work of the Holy Spirit in order to come to faith and then live a godly life? How exactly is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit unique to the New Covenant?

  123. October 29, 2007 12:23 pm

    Yes, OT saints were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. As to how *exactly* the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is unique to the New Covenant, that’s a very difficult question. I’d point you to commentaries on John 7:39 or to Grudem’s ST, p. 637.

  124. Ava permalink
    December 19, 2007 4:39 pm

    I have a question about Isaiah 7. I was reading it this morning and I’m confused about verses 15-16.

    15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

    This is speaking about Christ, right? But then wouldn’t he know to reject the wrong and choose the right even as a child?

  125. December 20, 2007 10:15 am


    Take a look at the surrounding context in which these verses occur. First, here’s the setting in which the prophecy is given:

    7:1 Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it

    These are the “two kings” that are spoken of in verse 16. Isaiah is telling King Ahaz that within a very short time (i.e. a woman’s pregnancy, birth, and a short time after), these two kings will be overthrown by Assyria, and will not prove to be the threat that they now appear to be. The child Isaiah speaks of is his own son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, as we see in chapter 8:

    3 So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz;
    4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father ‘ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

    So when 7:15-16 say “before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right”, they are speaking specifically about Maher-shalal-hash-baz, since it was in his lifetime that Rezin and Pekah were destroyed.

    From the gospel of Matthew, we can see that the prophecy about Maher-shalal-hash-baz was just a foreshadowing that pointed to the greater fulfillment, in the virgin birth of Christ. In the same way that the Lord rescued Judah unilaterally from Aram and Ephraim (and they could say “God is with us”, Is. 8:10), so also Christ would rescue his people from their sins (Matt 1:21-23).

  126. December 20, 2007 10:17 am

    Good question, Ava. It has a long and fascinating answer. I preached a sermon on this once titled: What’s Your Sign? Immanuel or Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz?

    In a nutshell, this prophecy has two fulfillments. One is the birth of Longname in Ahaz’s generation and refers to the deliverance of Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War. But clearly that 8th c. BC event did not exhaust the prophecy, and not just because the NT says so, but because Isaiah himself goes on to talk about “unto us a child is born” in 9:6.

    For another example of prophecy with multiple fulfillments, cf. 2 Sam 7:14, a prophecy that is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus but which says “if he sins I will discipline him” because it is partally fulfilled in Solomon et al. Compare that with 1 Chr 17:11ff which deletes all that stuff about sin and discipline because Chronicles is written after the exile and all that has already happened and only pure Messianic promise remains.

  127. December 20, 2007 10:19 am

    Ha! That’s funny. Looks like Eric and I were playing dueling banjos on this one. Good thing we agreed! :-)

  128. Karen permalink
    January 7, 2008 1:31 pm

    Does anyone have recommendations for a good online daily devotional? Thanks!

  129. January 18, 2008 2:45 pm

    How about this one?

  130. blondie permalink
    February 2, 2008 8:06 pm

    What is the origin of Christians praying before a meal? In the NT somewhere there’s a reference to prayer and a meal, but I think its after they had eaten they gave thanks.

  131. Egana permalink
    February 3, 2008 8:59 am

    Now THAT makes sense!

    ” Oh Lord, thank You for this yummy food. It was great and I feel so sweetly full and satisfied. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhmen…..”


  132. February 3, 2008 10:10 am

    I don’t know about the early church history that may lay behind the tradition, but at the Lord’s Supper and at the Feeding of the 4/5000 Jesus gave thanks before he distributed the bread. Praying before a meal is not something to which I’ve ever been naturally inclined. But I’m coming to see the wisdom of it. For one thing, I like to remind myself and my family that “man does not live by bread alone”. For another, the idea of “table fellowship” was a big deal in the days of the biblical authors. I tend to think eating is just about inhaling food. I think I wouldn’t be so fat if I just refused to eat standing up. It’s that thoughtless grazing that does me in. Praying before we eat sanctifies the time and reminds us that this isn’t just about food. It’s an opportunity for fellowship and thanksgiving. This is what I believe, not what I practice. In practice, I’m a buffalo wing vacuum cleaner.

  133. Egana permalink
    February 7, 2008 2:27 pm

    I have been having difficulty in 1 Peter. There are several things I do not understand. It causes me to question my understanding of the rest.

    At first I thought it would help me understand how God uses suffering in the lives of believers, but the more I study it, the more confused I get.

    Do you have any recommendations for how to understand this book? Or, barring that, any recommendations for further study and understanding on the subject?

  134. April 3, 2008 12:05 pm


    Next week I will be reading 1 Peter. Perhaps I will have some helpful thoughts for you then.

  135. egana permalink
    April 22, 2008 12:02 pm

    help me here… where do you talk about 1 Peter?

  136. egana permalink
    April 22, 2008 12:03 pm


    never mind…

    I found it….


  137. Shari permalink
    April 29, 2008 11:18 pm

    Hey, I have a off subject question. GODCENTERED versus freewill question here. I had somone share about how PETER told the LORD he would not deny him. BUT he did. THen they went on to say that which I do I dont want to do ..I do. You know the line. My church is pretty much free will approach to things. I have learned SOOOOOOOOOOOO much from Mike on GOD centered theology as well, thankyou MIKE! But I guess my question and comment is why did Peter Deny the LORD and why didnt the LORD cause him not to. Peter didnt want to deny him but he did?

    any thoughts…..
    Yours inChrist love,

  138. May 5, 2008 11:02 am


    I preached a sermon on this several years ago but I can’t find it anymore. But here’s a post that touches on your question.

  139. Shari permalink
    November 17, 2008 4:55 pm

    Thanks Mike for the previous link. I have a new question. Is God angry with us when we sin. If the Blood of Jesus has covered our sins and we stand in HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS…is God angry everytime we sin? I was pondering abuot this today. Why do we beat our souls up so much when we sin. There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ JESUS …and yes we should hate sin and work toward NOT sinning but I have a tendency to really condemn myself alot. How do we balance not condemning yet hatred toward sin? Thanks Shari

  140. redmingungit permalink
    October 28, 2009 1:39 pm

    Are there any good books about God as Father?

  141. October 29, 2009 10:45 pm

    Try the relevant section of Packer’s Knowing God.

    Shutting down comments now. Blog is officially dormant.

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