Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amazing Grace for the Jacked Up










Read the Bible, and you'll conclude that the best of God's people are jacked up. Any cursory survey of the lives of God’s messengers and ministers confirms that the answer to the rhetorical question “who is sufficient for these things,” is in fact “no one” (2 Cor.2:16). We find multiple blights and blemishes in the very people presented as paradigms.

Abraham, the father of faith, has his bouts with fear and faithlessness (e.g. Gen.20). Isaac is a spitting image of his daddy by buckling under the same temptation (Gen.26). Jacob deceives and manipulates to possess God’s promises. Moses strikes when he should speak. David embodies the ethos of worship on the one hand, but then manipulates, lies, kills, and covers up on the other. Solomon waxes in righteousness in the first part of his ministry, and wanes in idolatry in the later part. Elijah surges with faith before the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth, only to dwindle into despair with the threats of Jezebel. The apostles are seen foolishly jockeying for positions of power as Jesus walks the path to Golgotha. The disciples are repeatedly labeled as faithless and hard of heart. Peter denies Christ when pressured by the Jews. After the advent of the Holy Spirit, Peter compromises the message of the gospel when pressured by… the Jews. John Mark defects. Paul discloses the chasmic gulf between his desires and his faith.

All this to say, the biographies of great men of God remind us that they are no less in need of the pure and perfect righteousness of Christ than anyone else.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slain In The Spirit

"And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last" (Acts 5:5)

Ananias and his wife were Slain In the Spirit.

No..really, they were.

However, this "Pentecostal" phenomena probably won't gain much popularity among our many of our chaos-matic brothers and sisters today. There was no barking, laughing, gyrating, or rolling. Just falling to the ground...dead.

Ananias and Sapphira were dispatched by the Spirit for pretending to give all the money they pledged to the apostles from the sale of their property. They allowed for others to think they did more than they had done; that they were more righteous than they were; that they "sold it all" for Jesus. Ironically, they go down in church history as hypocrites and spiritual spend-thrifts. In the attempt to fool men, they foolishly sin against God, and are forever remembered as fools.

I can't help but to see myself in these two. I can't help but to think of my tendency to make people think that I follow Jesus with more intensity than I do; to allow them to suspect that my depravity does not run deep in my most noble actions; to allow folks to think that my deeds are not propped up by the pure righteousness of God in Christ; to fool men and women into thinking that I am sold out, have "sold it all," have given it all to and for the glory of God, when I have "kept back" plenty. So much of my religion is a sham needing to be Slain In/By the Spirit.
Spirit, would you slay those parts of my heart that refuse to believe what the gospel says about my righteousness and yours? Would you slay the desire to be pleasing to others at the price of pleasing you?
Ananias and his wife should have slew their own pride and simply given the little they wanted to give. Yet, they attempted to garner respect and admiration from their peers at the price of grieving the Holy Spirit.

Sad...and common.

With the last bit of dirt placed over their bodies, and with the news God's startling chastisement spreading, the fear of the Lord waxed and the fame of this couple waned.

Slain In the Spirit.

Selah

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hungry Grace


When most people suspected Saul of Tarsus' conversion as being a trick to roast Christians, Barnabas saw true signs of the grace of God underneath the unchanged exterior of a notorious enemy of Jesus. Barnabas became Saul's advocate when very few would (Acts 9:26-28).

When Paul would later look upon John Mark as spineless and useless for the ministry due to his desertion of them at Pamphylia, Barnabas perceived signs of the grace of God underneath a timid and sometimes wavering young man. Barnabas became Mark's advocate when very few would (Acts 15:36-40); when it meant separation with Paul (btw. Paul would later seem to recant his estimation of Mark - 2 Tim. 4:11).

When Peter needed a trance and a thrice-repeated command from Jesus himself to accept the Gentiles as candidates for the gospel, and the elders of Jerusalem needed the appeals of Peter, Barnabas "witnessed the grace of God" in the Gentiles and "rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord" (Acts 11:22-23).

Barnabas was convinced that the power of the grace of God given through Jesus can and does change people. Moreover, Barnabas trained his eye to see the smallest seedling of grace sprouting in the expansive, hard, and hostile ground of people's lives...and proceeds to celebrate and encourage it where he sees it.

Thank you Barnabas for believing and modeling the gospel for us. Thanks for teaching us that the grace of God empowers a person to see hope in hopeless people: in people who are hostile towards God and man (Paul); with people who are weak, flaky, and cowardly (Mark); with people who are indifferent and unlikely to find the right path (The Gentiles). People like us.

Whenever the testimony of experience says, "look at how sin abounds," the testimony of grace boldly shouts back, "grace does much more abound."

In fact, grace has a voracious appetite. Grace looks at sin in broken people and salivates; the hunger pangs overwhelm; there is no sin not viewed as edible; no depravity viewed as unworthy of consumption. Grace is hungry.

Moreover, even the smallest bit of grace has both the hunger and capacity to consume the greatest of sin and sinners. And so the smallest amount of grace present in a person consumed by their own junk, is grounds for expectation.

I pray this morning that I would have far more confidence in the grace of God to change myself and others then I have had in the power of sin to keep us the way we are. God, train my eye to see grace when others only see ruin.

Selah.








Thursday, October 28, 2010

How To Read the Bible (without becoming a cult-leader, heretic...)

Just finished a booklet on how to read the Bible entitled, How To Read The Bible (Without becoming a cult-leader, heretic, snake- handler, Pharisee, fundamentalist, etc...)

Check it out - HERE



Friday, October 15, 2010

Blame it on the Brain: A Review

Blame it on the Brain: A Review by Jake Magee

It seems that with each advance of the physical sciences, there is a corresponding challenge to find its integration to Biblical Theology. There are at least three responses that a Christian might make to various discoveries of the physical sciences:

(1) Questioning whether there is really an “advance” due to incompatibilities to the Christian faith.

(2) Maintaining a healthy agnosticism relative to the nature and content of the data.

(3) Affirming them as confirmations to Biblical truth.

Edward T. Welch’s book Blame It on the Brain offers us a fair and balanced theological and practical approach to the complexities found in integrating the offerings of the brain sciences with the Christian faith. The book is divided into two parts: In part one, Welch provides a Biblical paradigm of personhood in contrast and critique of prevalent secular models. In part two, Welch teases out the implications of this paradigm to the common and challenging problems of living. Let’s look at each part.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Roman Catholic Responses (lots of peeps chiming in)

I found a thread of folks discussing the Surprised by What? article that I wrote which is hosted at Monergism.com (HERE) and Christian Publication Resource Foundation (HERE). Nearly 400 replies and 3,000 + views. - HERE

Friday, October 8, 2010

Roman Catholic Responses (Joe)

A Roman Catholic (Joe) has offered a critique of an article I've written and is hosted at www.monergism.com entitled Surprised by What? A Defense of Sola Scriptura - HERE .

Joe:

Dear Mr. Magee,

I recently read an article defending sola scriptura at:
http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/SurprisedbyWhat.html

I found the article very interesting and well presented. If you are not the author of this article, I apologize and please ignore this e-mail. If you are the author, I would like to share my thoughts on it.

Your quote:

“Now, if I say that Frank’s Furniture Farm is complete or adequate to furnish perfectly my house, I mean that I don’t need to go anywhere else. In other words, Frank’s Furniture Farm is sufficient, or good enough; no other store is necessary. In the same way, Paul is saying that Scripture is adequate and complete to perfectly furnish the believer to live life as God intends; nothing else needs to be added. In short, Scripture is necessary and sufficient. Contrary to Scott Hahn’s and Bob Sungenis’ assertion that “sola scriptura is simply not taught anywhere in the Bible, either explicitly or implicitly,” 2 Tim 3:16 &17 is as explicit and clear in its support of Sola Scriptura as John 1:1-3 is explicit and clear about Christ’s deity.”
End quote.

Roman Catholic Responses (Randy)

A Roman Catholic (Randy) has offered a critique (HERE) of an article I've written and is hosted at www.monergism.com entitled Surprised by What? A Defense of Sola Scriptura - HERE .

Randy:

Jake Magee responds to some conversion stories in Surprised by Truth. He is actually pretty fair and rational. He takes seriously the fact that well-formed, intelligent protestants came to believe Sola Scriptura is false. He also takes seriously the consequences. If Sola Scriptura is false then "Protestantism has been dealt a fatal blow."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marriage Bootcamp (Audio)























Marriage Basics - Here

Marriage Problems - Here

Marriage Solutions - Here

Marriage Tips - Here

Friday, August 27, 2010

Psychologizing Sin & Its Impact on Biblical Counseling

by JM

It is certain that pastors must offer techniques to aid those they serve. Abstract principles without specific application is akin to giving people a destination without a vehicle; urging people “to be warmed and filled” without blankets and a food voucher. The question then becomes this: is there a kind of therapy unique to Biblical Counseling? It is clear enough that many therapies are reflective of underlying worldviews. Freudian psychology results in uniquely Freudian applications. Skinner’s Behavioralism has birthed unique therapeutic/clinical models. What about a Biblical worldview? One might argue that the Biblical model for the application of the doctrine of sanctification is minimalistic, and therefore the Biblical model for counseling should be minimalistic. Paul seems to offer this model when he deals with the works of the flesh in people’s lives:

(1) Instruct: Get people to understand the gospel and its implications for facing the problems of living.

(2) Command: Urge people to stop behaving in ways that don’t reflect the truth of the gospel.

When Paul deals with the works of the flesh in people’s lives he effectively tells people to “stop it” by putting off the old man and putting on the new man. Should this minimalism be carried over to our counseling model? I worry that to overcomplicate the counseling process (let’s say by charting surgically precise prescriptions for very particular problems) might communicate a greater power to sin than we should, as well as distracting from more efficient solutions. For any problem and behavior P, it is more than likely that P is made up of an elaborate web consisting in thoughts, examples, attitudes, history, etc… that are causally linked. Let’s represent it as follows: P [T, E, A, H, etc…]. As counselors we might feel that therapy should consist in interacting with the nuances and causal connections of T, E, A, H, etc to P. The other option is to deal with the set as a whole by addressing what is common in all these areas of sin. I opt for the later.

I do not feel confident that we have Biblical warrant to baptize Freudian-like introspection and insert this as the typical practice in the typical church counseling circumstance. The general truths of the gospel rightly understood and applied are more than sufficient to aid a believer struggling with the seemingly infinite complex of sin and depravity. We do not need physician-like knowledge of a disease to receive treatment for it. I need only to trust the physician and follow his prescription – the physician being God and what he declares about us in His Word.

Some may rejoin by urging that this generalism offers no solutions to a mass of people who are hurting. I feel that it’s just the opposite. Psychologizing sin limits help to a special class of professionals who have only been on the scene for the past 60 years. For thousands of years we have been sheep without shepherds, wandering aimlessly without the penetrating psychoanalysis needed to live a life pleasing to God.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Danger of Social Justice










From Justin Taylor - Source

From a letter from Senior Tempter Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, who is in training to tempt Christians:

About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate.

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster.

On the other hand, we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice.

The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy [=God] demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner.

The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis pp. 126-127.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marriage Is...









Some thoughts on God's Intention for Marriage from Genesis 1 & 2.

Marriage is invented by God, not by society

Without a design for marriage, there is no set definition for it. Unless God tells us what counts as marriage, culture may define what counts as marriage. The Bible teaches us that God designs and therefore defines this union (Gen 2:24).

Marriage is monogamous, not polygamous

Monogamy means that two particular people are bound together. Polygamy refers to someone having multiple spouses at one time or throughout their lives (Serial-marriages).

Marriage is heterosexual, not homosexual

Marriage is to be entered into and enjoyed by two people of the opposite sex.

Marriage is a covenantal, not contractual

Contracts are founded on services provided, covenants aim at the creation and protection of relationship; contracts emphasize personal rights, covenants emphasize personal responsibility; contracts tend to dissolve when one party fails, covenants tend to absorb the failures for the sake of the union; contracts have a very limited shelf-life. Covenants are long-lasting.

Marriage is complimentarian, not egalitarian

Some would insist that gender should not define how a husband and wife should relate to each other, to their families, and to their world. This is called egalitarianism. In contrast to this position, the Bible teaches that God created husbands and wives to behave in a particular way that expresses their gender. Men and women are created the same in value, but not the same in function. Their differences are designed to compliment themselves, their union, their family, and the world. That’s complimentarianism (Gen 2:18-25).

Marriage is God-imaging, not Man-imaging

Marriage is not an end by itself. It’s a means to the end of imaging God (i.e., displaying God). God created Adam and Eve in His Image; marriage unites men and woman to portray God in a unique way that a man or a woman will not do by himself or herself. Marriage exists to glorify God by pointing to his redemptive plan of salvation through Jesus (Eph.5:32).

Marriage is kingdom-building, not self-service

God created both male and female to marry, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and “subdue it” (Gen. 1:26-27). Together they create culture for God by joining together for the goal of making God known through their relationship, making babies (creating other humans), and working to ensure the extension of God’s dominion in and through themselves and their children. Human family is a delivery system for the expansion of God’s family.

Marriage is pro-sex, not pro-abstinence

“The two will become flesh...” The Bible teaches that a vibrant sexual relationship between husband and wife is the seal and sign of the greatness of marriage (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31-32), an ongoing expression of service of two people to each other for mutual satisfaction (Pro.5:15-20; Song of Solomon; 1 Cor 7:1-5), and therefore a way to glorify God.



Friday, June 18, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Do You Know When You've Been Called?


How do you know when you've been called to be a pastor? Here are some of my thoughts on the topic - HERE

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When "Messianic Christianity" Becomes Dangerous



A few years ago, I was invited to sit in on a bible study that was pitched as a time to learn more about the Jewish roots of Christianity by a pastor from a Messianic Congregation. I love the topic and desired to put on the scuba gear and dive a little deeper. Having brought a few folks from the congregation that I served, we quickly learned that the gathering had the agenda of converting Christians (who do not observe the Jewish customs as found the Scripture), call them to repent of Anglicizing Jesus, and to embrace Jewish Christianity. This email exchange is a small sample of conversations we had as a group and in personal correspondence before we were asked to leave.

Jake

Thanks for coming out and sharing your convictions in such an approachable way. Looking over your paper and thinking over the talk, I have to say that there’s a lot that must disagree with. I’ve included some of my thoughts in this email. Please let me know what you think.

Sabbath

In your presentation, you essentially said Christians who do not obey days such as Sabbath are in disobedience to God. When James declares that faith works, you interpret “works” as referring to things like Sabbath-keeping. Which means, in your view, that Christians who do not keep Sabbath are not working as they should. Again, when Jesus says that those who love him keep his commands, by “commands” you believe that he is referring to things like feast-keeping.

Now this is also what you’ve said in your paper. You say that Archbishop is correct when he says “the written word explicitly enjoins the observation of the seventh day as the Sabbath.” Also, the church has “adopted, and do practice, the observance of Sunday, for which they have only the tradition of the (Catholic) church.” In other words, you’re saying that if we truly believed in Scripture alone, then we would keep Sabbath and abandon the tradition of Sunday worship.

It’s almost as if your claiming there’s no substantiation at all for the present practices of mainstream Christianity. This is odd to me, because I think that there’s not just a little, but significant Scriptural and historical support for how Christians regard their relationship with Jewish customs. I assume given your claims, that you have done serious analysis of the support that Christians give for why they do not adhere to certain Mosaic prescription. I would love to here you’re critique of these reasons. Here are some of the reason I would give for my position.

For example, I’m sure you know of the references in the New Testament of Sunday worship. Contrary to your claim that the Council of Trent (in the 16th century) or Constantine (in the 4th century) replaced the Sabbath with Sunday, we have ample Biblical and Historical evidence to the contrary.

We know that the empty tomb was discovered on the first day of the week (Matt 28:1). Further, we see that Christians so venerated the resurrection that they began worshipping on Sunday. We see believers gathered together in holy convocation (Acts 20:7). Paul would have believers set aside their earnings to be given on the first day of the week within the context of worship (1Cor16:1).

Further, we see the testimony of early church leaders who confirm the importance of Sunday.

Ignatius (30-107), "If, then, those who walk in the ancient practices attain to newness of hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but fashioning their lives after the Lord's Day on which our life also arose through Him, that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ, our only teacher."

Justin Martyr (100-165), "And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place and memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits....Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assemble because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness in matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead."

The Epistle of Barnabas (between 120-150), "'Your new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure' (Isa 1:13) You perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me but that which I had made in giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is a beginning of another world. Wherefore also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, a day also in which Jesus rose from the dead."

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (178), "The mystery of the Lord's resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord's Day."

Cyprian (220-258), "The Lord's day is both the first and the eighth day."

Though obviously not Scripture, these leaders provide powerful historical evidence that the wide spread practice established practice of the Christian faith was that of Sunday worship. I think this is especially relevant with guys like Ignatius and Justin Martyr, the former probably being a disciple of the apostle John (with Polycarp), and both of them writing in a time that if they conveyed any serious deviation of the faith, they would have been immediately check by the larger Christian community. We find no such rebuttal.

I think the most power evidence is found in Paul’s writings. Paul wrote most about this topic because God had selected him to be the chief apostle to the Gentiles. As such, he was forced to wrestle with both cultural and spiritual matters directly related to what Gentiles should and should not do in coming to the faith which was do deeply rooted in Judaism.

Take Romans 14. The book was certainly written to a congregation with both Jew and Gentiles (the briefest of surveys reveals this). It its certain that Paul was very concerned about the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. In that context Paul says,
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. …One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
In this chapter Paul declares that there are certain things that Christians are at liberty to adhere to or not. The thrust of Paul’s exhortation is that we should never exercise our liberty in such a way so as to stumble those who do not have the same convictions on areas in which we have liberty. Conversely, Paul chides those who would charge believers with disobeying God because they don’t share and obey the same areas of conviction that they hold to.

I find it fascinating that Paul uses both dietary and ceremonial areas as examples of genuine liberty. It’s as if Paul says, some of you believe that certain foods are kosher, others of you being that all foods are kosher. That, Paul contends, is an area of genuine liberty. Again, one person esteems one particular day as the day that we should set aside for worship (let’s say Saturday), and some of you believe that its another (let’s say Sunday), Paul says that this is an area of genuine freedom. That is to say, we should not label someone disobedient if they worship on Saturday or Sunday. “Each person must be fully convinced in his mind.”

Paul would even go further. As an apostle of the Gentiles, he was in constant struggle with various groups who declared that Gentiles “ought to” conform to Jewish practices and feast-keeping, circumcision, dietary restrictions, etc… For example,
Galatians 4:1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
As you know, Paul is dealing with a congregation plagued with teachers who instructed these believers wrongly about the relationship of believers to the law. For example, Paul refers to the Judiazers compelling Titus to be circumcised. Paul refers to the hypocrisy of Peter who would have the Gentiles live like the Jews, even though as a Jew he lived like a Gentile. Paul chides the Galatians for believing that they could be perfected by the works of the law, even though their salvation began by grace alone. Later on Paul says that the law was our schoolmaster to drive us to Christ.

In chapter 4, Paul says that these particular people were beginning to “observe days and months and seasons and years.” Commentators are almost in universal agreement that Paul is referring to Jewish feasts and festivals. What is fascinating is that these believers at one point did not observe these things, and then they turned back to the weak and worthless elemental things by observing them. Granted, Paul is referring more to how they used them (as a means of continuing in the flesh what has begun in the Spirit), but Paul’s point is that observing these things are not even essential (as you seem to indicate).

Or put differently, Paul’s response is this: not only should these things not be regarded as a means to salvation, but more relevant to your claims, Paul says that these are things that don’t even have to accompany someone’s salvation. That is, the works mentioned by James (ch.2) are not these kinds of works.

Another relevant passage is Colossians 2:
Colossians 2:8-17 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. 16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Again, we have an obvious reference to the law and how Christ takes the debt we owe and fulfills it. In verse 16 we have the conclusion that no one is to act as our judge in regard to food or drink and what days I celebrate on, like the Sabbath (continuing the theme of Romans 14). Paul is clear that God is not displeased with a person who doesn’t eat kosher or doesn’t worship on Saturday. Put differently, God isn’t more pleased with someone who does. These things are shadows which have passed.

If You Love Me, Keep My….

In your article, you make an argument that since the Father and Jesus are one, then the commandments of which Jesus speaks of are the commandments given by God to obey Sabbaths, feasts, etc.

Firstly, it’s unlikely that the disciples were thinking in those terms when Jesus gave this injunction. Further, Jesus no where commands his disciples that they should obey Sabbaths and feast days. Peter and John weren’t thinking, “Oh, do you remember that time when Jesus told us to attend synagogue every Sabbath.” What we do see in context is Jesus saying things like,
John 13:34 4 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
I think that it is instructive that when John refers to this discourse in his epistle, he doesn’t make reference to Sabbath keeping, feast days, etc…. Rather he refers to loving one another (1 John 2:3-11)

When Paul talks about the liberty of believers when it comes to what we eat and drink and the days we worship God on, his discussion is preceded by a reference to the relationship between the spirit and the letter of the law, the spirit of the law referring to Christ’s commandment
Romans 13:8-10 8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Paul applies a principle laid out in Romans 13:8-10 which says, even though I am free to worship on a different day and eat what I want, love will sometimes direct us to forgo our liberty for the sake of someone who is weak in the faith
Romans 14:13-17 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
I derive from these passages that the heart and soul of God law is such that it sometimes transcends the details of it. (the kingdom isn’t eating and drinking…) Paul isn’t worried about the detail of keeping a certain day, but how we keep that day. What’s instructive is that Paul says that Sabbath-keeping (or feast-keeping) is not the sort of thing I ought to do no matter what, but rather it is that which I should or should not practice given the spirit of the law which says to love God and one another.

We derive this important application: If Sabbath-keeping or eating Kosher stumbles my brothers, then I think Paul would say he would forgo Sabbath keeping and Kosher eating in those circumstances (eating what set before us without question), because there’s a “greater” command that trumps these.

This is confirmed by James discussion of what it means to work when he says,
James 2:8 8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.
Add to all these observations the fact that Paul makes a distinction between one keeping the moral law and the ceremonial law, such that one can keep one and violate the other.
1 Corinthians 7:19 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.
It is clear from this passage that we can’t argue that,

Since the Father commanded circumcision
And Jesus and the father are one
Therefore, Jesus commands circumcision.

for Paul argues that the Mosaic edict to be circumcised is not the commandment of God that we should be keeping.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more I would like to say, but I’ll reserve my comments. I think you have made some grand claims about a believers relationship to the Mosaic law - especially the suggestion that there is no viable support from Scripture for forgoing Sabbath-keeping.

I think that it may be beneficial for your study on Thursday nights to address those verses that Christians have always given for why they do not feel that Sabbath-keeping is binding on them. No one doubts that these things were binding for the ancients, but the question is whether they are binding now. Put differently, if we spend our time focusing on Old Testament passages about how we ought to keep the Sabbath, this doesn’t address the question of whether we should now.
P.S. Could you forward those references about anti-Semitism in the church in the first-few centuries (Origen, Chrysotom, etc…)

Blessings, Jake

From Messianic Pastor

Jake,

If it takes awhile for me to reply, don’t get discouraged, I’ve got a full plate right now but I’ll do my best. One thing that will help us both is if we can approach scripture from the same perspective. Every bit of scripture was written by and for those people who had and understood Torah from a perspective that was both taught and practiced in their societies. The Apostle Paul most especially taught from that perspective, after all he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. My understanding of ‘proofs’ that backed up my former beliefs about such subjects as the Shabbat and food issues etc. greatly changed when I really allowed myself to see that. My 20th century understanding and training simply did not jib with any semblance of that perspective. In your letter you expressed concern that the practices of the modern church don’t line up appropriately to that which would be pleasing to God. Categorically, many of them do not but that does not mean that none of them do. The real question is going to be, ‘Is anyone willing to actually correct the ones that don’t?’ Jews and Gentiles both are guilty of going to their own little corners and making up defenses for their own past and present faulty practices.

Men have for various reasons moved the practice of the faith far away from God’s directives, this may or may not apply to your personal actions, you will have to be the judge of that. I cannot speak on behalf of every Messianic Believer anymore than you can on behalf of all Christianity. I will answer as many of your objections as time permits but as I have already traveled the road that you are on I understand how people react when they get defensive about their faith. My hope is that if you continue to participate that you can trust the Lord to both protect you and at the same time direct you as He desires. Not everything that you have learned so far in your walk is absolute. Not everything that I have learned so far is absolute. Certainly some things are but for those things that are not, my hope is that God will through His grace enlighten us all.

Here are some references concerning some of the early church ‘fathers’ remarks and teachings.

Justin Martyrs Dialogue with Typho the Jew
John Chrysoston Against the Judaizers (8 homilies)
Martin Luther On the Jews and Their Lies
Origen Against Celsus II 8
Tertullian An Answer To The Jews

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia also gives some information and quotes if I remember right. It’s a so-so source for this information but Anti-Semitism and Anti-Judaism is well documented and easy to find.

History of Anti-Semitism
Christianity and Anti-Semitism

There are tons of Jewish writings on the subject and many are from Messianic perspectives. Jim Rickard already sent you information about the First Fruits of Zion organization and Tim Hegg. Through links etc. you can find book references and or articles that address these issues.

Anti-Semitism/anti-Judaism is not in anyway a post New Testament issue. The Exodus took place because of it and sets the example of what God will do in response to it. The book of Esther portrays those that hated the Jews just because of who they were -- God’s chosen people. A trace of Haman’s ancestry can be quite revealing. Satan has been at work amongst God’s people and those around them for some time in the area of deception that leads to hate. The adversary works both sides of the street in his efforts to destroy and thwart God’s plans for the return of Yeshua. Satan doesn’t care about winning, he knows that he has lost but he cares more about prolonging the anguish and despair amongst men through His deceptions in the Jewish and Christian communities. As long as he can keep the Christians practicing their religion, claiming to love the Lord but not doing the things that even the New Testament says prove that love [see1 John 2] , the witness to the Jewish community will not provoke them to enough jealousy to turn to Yeshua in mass. As long as the Jewish community can be deceived into believing the Christian Messiah is a completely anti-Torah God and they turn more and more into replacing God’s instructions for living with rabbinical substitutions there will be no unity of the faith with the church. Prophets have concentrated too long on all the bad things that have to happen before the Lord returns. It is time for a change. It is time to focus on the positive requirements, like the BRIDE making herself ready for the coming Lord. Most people don’t even have a clue as to what that means. Defensive posturing is a wasted effort, it’s time to be honest with ourselves and really apply our efforts to seeking and practicing truth no matter how long the church or the synagogue has done something.

Some of the worst 7 words that the church uses are, ‘We have always done it this way.’ And the second 7 worst words are like it, ‘We have never done it that way.’

I will address your concerns eventually. I am not into a personal bantering back and forth between us at the study. First of all it won’t completely satisfy you if your mind is already made up in a certain direction, second of all, not everyone there is there for that purpose. I am willing to meet with you in a personal forum different from this study to go over some of your concerns as time permits. Since the first actual subject of this study will be dealing with God’s appointed times, I think that most of your concerns about the Sabbath will be addressed.

In Yeshua


From Jake

Paul, thanks for taking the time to respond. When the study was pitched to me, it was described as a study on the Jewish roots of Christianity. When we arrived, and the paper was distributed, it became apparent that the study was about why Christianity ought to return to its Jewish roots. I'm sure that just a miscommunication, but it was a little unsettling. So, what exactly is the purpose of the study? What’s the rest of the group expecting?

As you understand being in the ministry, I'm bringing a bunch of guys to the study that I feel personally responsible for spiritually (I being their pastor). If I sense that something is being shared that needs clarification or challenge, I feel obligated to chime in; in a respectful manner of course. Bantering, No. Some form of dialogue, I would expect.

As to the topic, your making some big claims – namely that the Christian Church has been in error for the majority of her history. Now I grant this may be true (for the church is most obviously fallible), but this to me requires some strong evidence and not suggestions or circumstantial evidence. Some of what I read so far seems circumstantial. I’ll definitely take a look at those references.

As you saw in the previous email, I cited some very early fathers that speak in no uncertain terms about the relationship of Christianity and the Sabbath. I read “Fiscus Judaicus” and found it quite circumstantial. In particular, why would a church that was known for a sometimes overzealous desire to protect their fidelity to Jesus (almost looking for martyrdom) cave in to a tax that required them to renounce obedience to Jesus (if in fact custom-keeping is what it means to be faithful to Jesus), especially when the tax was only 2 days of wages for a year per person? Are they willing to die but not pay a small tax. Instead, this strongly suggests that custom-keeping really wasn’t regarded as a part of one’s fidelity to Jesus in the earliest church.

Also, I am working through Hegg’s article on Romans 14. To be honest, I found a lot of circular reasoning and unsubstantiated claims. He says that Paul is clearly talking about Halachi differences. But he really doesn’t show how. Also, Nanos interpretation of the “weaker brother” is contextually weak at best.

I thought his treatment of Acts 11 was puzzling. Do you really think that the “unclean” animals were those Torah-permitted animals that weren’t Rabbinically slaughtered? Peter says “I’ve never have eaten anything unclean.” This would mean that Jesus only ate Rabbinically slaughtered animals (for Jesus and Peter ate together a lot); the same Jesus that was notorious for violating the Halachi convictions of his day. This seems highly unlikely. Also, doesn’t this ruin the analogy between unclean animals and Gentiles? If the animals that Peter was to eat weren’t really unclean, then was Jesus saying that the Gentiles were never unclean? Or, did he mean what he seems to mean: The Gentiles were truly unclean, and through the gospel they are made clean. In the same way, these meats were really unclean, and through the gospel they have been made clean.

I agree that context is critical. I love Scripture and history, and I desire with all of my heart to interpret Scripture in historical/grammatical/theological context. And although we all come to the table with presuppositions, I try to approach things as objectively as I'm able. So I’m very open to dialogue and correction. I know that there are some things that I believe that are wrong, I’m just not exactly sure which beliefs are, and hopefully in the process of reducing them. There’s more I’d like to say.

Maybe we can discuss them tomorrow.

Blessings. Jake

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Brief Discussion of God’s Freewill and Ours














Friend

Hey Jake,

If Adam was in a state of freewill, prior to the fall, due to having moral equipoise, as Pink puts it, to either choose good or evil, without bias, at what point do you think God's sovereignty affects Adam's will to choose evil? If Adam's will is truly free, it would seem that the same paradox is involved between Adam and God, as the one that exists now, between all humanity and God, pertaining to sovereignty and freewill.

I'm wondering if the catalyst was the temptation by an external source, which was the serpent. Without the devil's influence, Adam's free will may have never been tested and found lacking. Wouldn't you think? And God, knowing this, used the serpent as part of His sovereign, eternal purpose. Thus, God, through the temptation, which was executed and succumbed to freely, carried out His purpose, sovereignly.

At some point, I'm trying to arrive at the final source. God's sovereignty is eternal; yet, at some point, in the name of justice, man's ultimate culpability must rest on his own choice (i.e., Adam's). Adam's descendants--I totally get it--have not had freewill, but their will is driven by the evil in their heart, thus enslaved to it. But Adam did. But, he was perfect, not holy; so not impervious to sin. He could have chosen righteousness, but didn't. I don't believe that was a random choice, that could have gone either way, if I believe in the sovereignty of God, but it was free. Was the temptation irresistible, much in the way grace is?

Jake

Hey my friend

I think that with Adam (pre-fall), God's sovereignty was expressed via foreknowledge rather than active foreordination. I'm not sure if that leads to the paradox you're referring to. If so, how so?

I think I agree with your second paragraph, with one amendment: the first test of Adam's faithfulness was occasioned by a tree, the fruit of which he was forbidden to eat (the first 'thou shalt not'), regardless of the serpent. The serpent's temptation was move A & E to draw false inferences from God's prohibition (to make the commandments seem contrary to their happiness, as an expression of undue glory on God's part, etc...). Notice, there is one tree and two declarations about this tree: (1) "its unlawful" - God (2) "its lawful" - Satan. A & E's decision would boil down to who's word they trusted.

I think there's a difference between certainty and necessity. By "necessity" we mean that it could not have been otherwise. By "certainty" I mean that it will be one way rather than another, but not because an alternative was impossible (and also without specifying the grounds for its inevitability - prescience or active foreordination). Everything that is necessary is certain, but not everything that is certain is necessary. Adam's fall was "certain," but not "necessary." There are few things that are "necessary," all of which are rooted in God's nature, as in "God is necessarily good" (it's impossible for God not to be good). Now, whatever has happened and will happen is "certain" due to God's sovereignty - 'he predestines everything that comes to pass' (WCF) Given that God's sovereignty may be expressed in two ways: through prescience or active foreordination, therefore a thing may be "certain" for one of these two reasons.

Thoughts?

Friend

First, on your comment: God's sovereignty was expressed via foreknowledge rather than active foreordination. I'm not sure if that leads to the paradox you're referring to. If so, how so?

Isn't, according to Calvinism, foreknowledge and foreordination the same thing? (cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:20)

Isn't foreknowledge, in the prescience sense, the same way an Arminian understands it, that God merely knows what will take place and predestine it, based on that foreknowledge? If that's the case, then, to me, the paradox is the same for Adam, as it is for post-Adamic humanity, when trying to reconcile God's sovereignty and man's (supposed) free choice; God merely knew what was going to take place with Adam's temptation and fall, but didn't necessarily bring it about.

Now, I understand your 'necessity vs. certainty' analogy; you're saying Adam's predestination was certain, rather than necessary. So, given that all the proper ingredients, or variables, were put in place, the desired (will of God) outcome will be achieved with certainty? And is this what you are also saying about our own predestination? Is it, for us, as well, a matter of certainty and not necessity? So, when God chooses us in Him before the foundations of the world, He, of certainty, or of necessity, ordains us?

But, getting back to Adam, so what you're saying is that God, with certainty, not necessity, sovereignly brought about His plan, that Adam would fall by his temptation, by working the combination of circumstances that would guarantee that end result, according to prescience, or God's knowledge ahead of time, that it would so occur?

Jake

Calvinism and Arminianism both teach that (1) God predestines all things that happen, (2) God predestines all things in two different ways:

(a) actively (e.g. creation) and
(b) passively (i.e. prescience).

What they disagree on is what "things" are included in (a) and (b). Arminians will put more far more things in (b) than Calvinists. And the Calvinists will put more things in (a) than the Arminians.

But here's the kicker, both agree that the fall of man belongs in (b).

Do you think that (b) creates a paradox? What precisely are the truths that seem to cancel each other out?

Friend

It's interesting to me that a prescience view of the Fall is held by both sides. Correct me if I'm wrong, but here, God employs a seemingly different kind of sovereignty than He does for election. God chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, according to Paul, which precedes the Fall. But, after His election of us, which you're saying is active (based on the fact that humanity would not have freewill), God acts toward Adam in a passive sovereignty.

We were chosen before the foundations of the world, from all eternity past, to be found in Christ, according to the sovereignty of God and His unconditional election. Yet, with Adam, who was given freewill, with equipoise, to freely choose without bias, God takes a passive sovereignty, to work circumstances out, according to prescience. Wouldn't an immutable God continue to do the same for post-Adamic humanity?

The paradox, to me, is a Calvinistic sovereignty and an Arminian sovereignty coexisting. It makes sense that we, who have no freewill, are foreknown, elected, predestined and irresistibly drawn by God's grace; it wouldn't make sense, that God would be able to do all those things, if we had freewill. With Adam's freewill, these things seem more susceptible to randomness of Adam's actions, unless God is completely "active" in the Fall.

Jake

It's interesting to me that a prescience view of the Fall is held by both sides. Correct me if I'm wrong, but here, God employs a seemingly different kind of sovereignty than He does for election. God chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, according to Paul, which precedes the Fall. But, after His election of us, which you're saying is active (based on the fact that humanity would not have freewill), God acts toward Adam in a passive sovereignty.

I think that's a good summary of the Reformed position.

We were chosen before the foundations of the world, from all eternity past, to be found in Christ, according to the sovereignty of God and His unconditional election. Yet, with Adam, who was given freewill, with equipoise, to freely choose without bias, God takes a passive sovereignty, to work circumstances out, according to prescience. Wouldn't an immutable God continue to do the same for post-Adamic humanity?

I don't see a link between God's immutability and His being incapable of toggling back and forth between active and passive predestination. Perhaps you can develop that for me a bit.

If God continued to order the events of humanity post-fall according to his passive sovereignty, then unfortunately none would come to possess eternal life, given that the fall ruined the particular form of freedom that A & E possess. Now being inclined only towards unrighteousness, God would merely foresee their damnation. The rescue of the elect would take an active decree of God.

The paradox, to me, is a Calvinistic sovereignty and an Arminian sovereignty coexisting. It makes sense that we, who have no freewill, are foreknown, elected, predestined and irresistibly drawn by God's grace; it wouldn't make sense, that God would be able to do all those things, if we had freewill. With Adam's freewill, these things seem more susceptible to randomness of Adam's actions, unless God is completely "active" in the Fall.

If I'm reading you correctly, your assumption is that Edenic freedom would make election of anything unstable, for humans could always do otherwise. In this, I think you are accenting a common issue related to sovereignty and freedom.

The problem, as I see it, is that as the alternative, one then must hold to a hard determinism/fatalism of all things if God is said to have control of all things. I think that goes beyond the bounds of Scripture.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Brief and Candid Conversation About Doubt



























I have a good friend that has been seriously struggling with his faith lately (perhaps even losing it). Recently he posted an article entitled, "Empty: Some observations from Genesis," which contains some critical remarks on the narrative found in Genesis 3. With his gracious permission, I have included his post, as well as much of the candid conversation that we had over the matter. We hope that this might be of some help for others who are wrestling with doubt.

My Friend

I spoke with a good friend earlier in the week about who/Who was ultimately responsible for my salvation from sin. I have not come to any kind of conclusion as to the truthfulness of Christianity, or any other major religion for that matter. Theologically speaking, however, I should be able to reason my way to an answer to the above question. First and foremost, the issue at hand is not who/Who saves me, but rather, "Why do I need saving?” Reading through the first few chapters of Genesis lead me to several observations.

Apparently, there were several choices made that eventually led to eating the forbidden fruit and receiving the knowledge of good and evil. I feel the final choice to eat of the fruit, to be the original sin. It is a sin-filled act because it went against a direct order from God. Therefore, up until the point of actually committing the act of sin, Adam and Eve did not know the difference between good and evil. God made it clear to Adam that he would die after eating said fruit. He did not say that his choosing to eat the fruit would be sinful in any way. After all, Adam had no knowledge of sin. I might be able to assume that Adam knew death was not something to be wished for. If that was the case, his only motivation to not eat the fruit would have had nothing to do with the fact that it was sinful. It would have had everything to do with Adam fearing death. Eve is in a similar situation, being told that eating of that tree would bring about death. Essentially, God is telling them not to eat of the fruit because death is bad, not because a violation of His law is sinful.

My next observation is towards the condition of nakedness. Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness initially. It could be that they, not possessing the knowledge of good and evil, did not attribute public nakedness to be either something that was good or evil. They were very likely indifferent to the matter. If they felt the need to cover themselves with fig leaves after the original sin, then the state of being naked before God is evil. Am I to believe that God was letting Adam and Eve partake in a form of bliss that, under the umbrella of good and evil, would require fig leaves? All I have to go by is that before eating of the fruit, their nakedness was embraced, and after the fruit was consumed, it was not. I cannot accept that this God would operate under the cliché, "Ignorance is bliss". One can only begin to imagine the things Adam and Eve might have done should they not have eaten the fruit.

My third observation is that humans are not the only species that took a beating because of Adam and Eve's foul up. Apparently, (and don't let them know, they could harbor bad feelings) serpents were punished. "You [are] cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life." Genesis 3:14. I am sorry, I had to joke a little there; this whole topic is becoming rather serious. All joking aside however, the serpent received punishment for his act of deceit. This leads me to believe that God understood it was not exclusively Adam or Eve's fault. If humans today are under God's wrath, should they not repent, they (we) are paying a great price for something that is not entirely our fault. Actually, it is even more not our fault since we are generations removed from Adam and Eve. Serpents should face a fate far more worse than we will, but it seems that serpents these days do what they are going to do, without trying to bring religion into the mix. They eat, they sleep, they reproduce and they die. They do not seem to be so interested in saving themselves.

Next, it appears that God conveniently left out the whole Tree of Life bit. Adam was on a 'Need to know' basis and, well, he did not need to know. For those who do not know, this tree would give the consumer eternal life. "Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"-- Geneis 3:22. Now, if you were reading Genesis from beginning to end, you might, like me, be led to believe that Adam and Eve were already going to live forever. If not, then you must accept that when God told Adam that he would surely die if he ate of the fruit, Adam would have thought, "...well, I am going to die anyway, so WTF." Or, Adam was ignorant to his own finite existence, in which case, is just cruel. So Adam was ignorant, he was reminded of something he already knew, or he was an eternal being already. I doubt the latter, otherwise, why have a Tree of Life. The tree of life was around before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit.

So here I am today, and there you are. Theologically speaking, we exist now, but when we die, we face eternal joy or eternal damnation. If I want eternal joy, I am to repent of my sin and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If I want eternal damnation, well, I do not have to even want it. Apparently, that is the default condition. So, to come back to my original question, I need saving because of someone else’s' foul up. They only fouled up because of the deceit of the serpent. They had no filter by which to determine an act as sinful any more than a child is able to determine the nature of Grand Theft Auto as being bad or sinful. It seems that the early chapters of Genesis are a comedy of errors, the least of which were Adam and Eve's fault. I cannot reasonably accept Genesis in a literal way. Even if I could, I should not be held responsible for someone else's actions. If I indeed have an eternal spirit, it is worth much more, and should have no bearing on the mistakes of the first humans.

Jake

Hey my friend, I saw your post advertized on FB. I’m going to offer my critique and some candid words on the back end. I do so out of love for you my friend. Please excuse spelling and grammatical mistakes, as you will find many.

Critique

You suggest that the text teaches that Adam and Eve (‘A&E’ from here on out) had no moral sense, that “they did not know the difference between good and evil,” perhaps possessing a blissful ignorance. I think that you derive that from vss. 5, 7, and 22. I think however that this interpretation is simplistic for the following reason:

•“Knowledge” is a multifaceted concept in Hebraic thought. To know x, may involve conceptual and experiential dimensions. I may know about sex after Sex Ed, but its when I have it that I know about sex. Adam is said to “know” his wife, meaning a level of intimacy, not the acquisition of information not previously possessed. So, it is possible that Adam and Eve, though they had a knowledge of right and wrong in one way, did not have it in another (theory and experience perhaps). This fits well with the passage.

•In the previous two chapters man is marked with the imago dei (the image of God), by which man, although possessing many similarities with the animal world, is raised in dignity and differentiated by attributes not possessed by the rest of the animal kingdom in such heightened degree. One key demarcation is morality.

•If morality meant nothing to A & E like “;f;eeffee;;;” means nothing to us, then the narrative of Genesis 3 doesn’t make sense at all. Vs.2, “You shall not eat from any tree…?” Eve, if ignorant of morality proper, should have responded, “What do you mean by “shall not…”. Moral “oughtness” would be as meaningless as chicken scratches. And yet Eve relays enough conviction about right and wrong to waver at the serpent’s suggestions (vs.2). When God doles out particular punishments, he chides Adam for disobeying what he had “commanded” him (vs.17). Clearly, they were moral beings knowing the command of God, and yet spurned it at the suggestion of enlightenment.

•Consider that it was the serpent that said, “For God knows that in the day that you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vs.5). Your premise presupposes a certain interpretation of the serpent (taking him at face value). Remember, he is filled with half-truths, equivocations, and conflations. The point of the narrative is that the serpent was deceptive in this. Even in verse 22, we might take God’s statement to be bit of irony, “Behold” after stripped of their dignity, spoiled with sin, “man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” As if to say, “you listened to the serpent because of the promise of exaltation to God-like status (which was the very cause of Satan’s fall himself – Isaiah 14:14; Ezek 28:2), and instead of rising, you’ve fallen in shame.”

•A & E certainly knew that partaking of the fruit of that particular tree was sinful. What made their transgression especially heinous was due to considerations like these: (1) God made obedience so easy: what a light burden, that in the midst of such abundance, God should mark one as the test of faithfulness. The easier the obedience, the greater the punishment when there is disobedience. (2) Their action was a defiance of God’s authority so as to establish their own. Pride, the undue exaltation of a person, was the first sin. (3) They forfeited their dominion to a lesser creature, God having established A& E to be vice-regents over all creatures, even the supernatural.

As to the “shame” of nakedness, I also think your treatment is too simple and unfair to the text. Upon sinning, A & E knew they were naked and felt shame. The passage doesn’t mean to communicate that A & E didn’t recognize that one had an outy and the other an inny. Or that when they ate, they said, “Oh &$#&, I thought I had been wearing clothes this whole time.” Again, you’re not appreciating the word “knowledge.”

I particularly like Augustine’s treatment of this passage. He gives a very plausible explanation that when A & E refused to have God as their sovereign, God repaid the compliment by taking away A & E’s sovereignty over their bodies. This meant that appetites that were under their control were no longer under the power of their wills, one appetite being the sexual appetite (which the text hints at). Our inability to master our sexuality is a reminder of a forfeited dominion: ours under God’s and over creation (including our bodies).

You say, “it appears that God conveniently left out the whole Tree of Life bit.” I don’t think you are being fair to the text. This tree was a pledge of that immortal life with which obedience should be rewarded. With his disobedience, he lost all claim to this tree; and therefore, that he might not eat of it or delude himself with the idea that eating of it would restore what he had forfeited, the Lord sent him forth from the garden.

As to moral culpability, I think it is very clear from the text that the fall wasn’t exclusively laid at the feet of A & E, as is evidenced by the punishments doled out to each offender in the crime. As to how we are held responsible, keep in mind that Scripture teaches that A & E do have a greater responsibility before God because of their position as head of the human race and the how easy God made righteousness for them. With that said, Scripture also teaches that they are the fountain of humanity, and we are the stream. If the fountain is corrupt, so is the stream. John Locke, Jonathan Edwards, and many others have rightly argued that original sin is one of the most empirically verifiable doctrines. If morality means anything and “oughtness” should govern humanity, we desperately fall short of it. And though in one sense we clearly see this is a default position of our nature, and yet if we take any particular action where we sinned, our willful involvement in that activity should move a person to be careful about labels of determinism and fatalism.

I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of feeling like you’re punished for the sin of another. I think that our Western obsession with individualism robs vicarious realities from our worldview. We know nothing of the Hebraic and Eastern concepts of solidarity, oneness, and vicariousness. It may sound strange to your ears, it hasn’t sounded strange to countless cultures. This is why the Hebrews, with great joy, looked for a second Adam whose obedience to God would be counted to them as righteousness.

A Candid Assessment

Let me end with a few observations on your handling of the text. You start out your blog talking about theologically reasoning to a conclusion, indicating objectivity in your pursuit. You end your blog by saying “I cannot reasonably accept Genesis in a literal way.”

My friend, with all due respect, you have been extremely casual with your handling of this passage; you have not been reasonable. I would suspect that you consulted no commentaries or theological works on this passage and the doctrine of original sin (e.g., Edwards, In Defense of the Doctrine of Original Sin). I sensed no objectivity or principle of charity with which the critical thinking strives after. To be honest, it seems like you are emoting and calling it reason. This is all a bad foundation for concluding “I cannot accept Genesis in a literal way…” Make sure that your premises support your conclusions.

My friend, I know you are struggling with your faith. I understand that. But I sense that your doubt is bending your use of reason and critical thinking. I’m not saying that a person using their reason will come to my conclusions, but what I’m say is that they wouldn’t make the points you did. May I encourage you, start doubting your doubting a little more. The more you suspect your own reasoning, the better. It will cause your conclusions to be crisper and forceful. Step outside of your observations and lean on other folks who have wrestled with concepts that you never will and can. Use the fruit of their labor so that you won’t have to strive in vain.

Your friend who is for you.

Jake

My Friend

Hello Jake,

While I am going to really think about what you wrote, I do not feel it necessary to try to disagree with it. In my doubts, I have found that I tend to question everything. While I will not just take what you wrote at face value, I do not see the point in me trying to dissect the text anymore than you already have for me. You see, I approached the text, as you said, casually. This allowed me to possibly find something that was never there to begin with. Either way, your response brought up an important point. I think it is safe to say that even some of the most 'on fire' Christians might not even consider in their lifetime the casual, questionable things I saw in Genesis. That is great for them, but someone like me who is seriously doubting, and even more, lacking the theological sense that I feel you have, how am I suppose to read the text and see the same thing you do? How am I suppose to be aware of all the Hebraic words and or what they were really trying to say. I had no idea how Hebrew culture affected their literature or they way they wrote. I struggle with the idea that God uses literature to reveal Himself to us. People look at the Bible and come up with all sorts of interpretations and translations. Would not God, in wanting to reach the masses use a method of revelation that is common to all people, something they can all understand? Especially considering all the Gentiles that He knew would come. We do not grow up with the dedication to scripture as Jews have and still do. I use to read Christian apologetic, and feel convinced that Christianity was the right way. Now that I read Non-Christian material, I feel just as convinced...and it is maddening I tell you!! I admire you for your commitment to Christ, and I think deep down, I envy that passion. Does not God, if He is, know that all He would need to do for me to believe again and serve Him is "X". If He would just do that, I would be much more of an effective tool for His Will, than I am now, wallowing around in doubt. This is truly not what I thought my life would be turning out like. Take care, and thank you again for your openness.

Jake

I appreciate your honesty and humility. Perhaps God could have used something other than literature to communicate, but it seems like we're the kinds of creatures that communicate with words. Once you string a bunch of words together and write them down, you have literature and all of the elements involved (including culture, grammar, syntax, semantics, interpretation). Language is common to all people, and therefore a book is a sufficient option to communicate. Granted, the book is set in different cultural milieus, but I don't think that the cultural elements eclipse the fundamental message that God wants people to hear (though having a rich understanding of these cultural dimensions will give you a richer understanding of the fundamental message).

"Does not God, if He is, know that all He would need to do for me to believe again and serve Him is "X"."

I wonder about this statement. What if you are wrong. What if, even though God does "x" for you, you still wouldn't believe (e.g. Matthew 16:1-4). Or, what if God doesn't want "x" to be that thing without which you won't believe? Put differently, what if God doesn't want you to believe in him on that particular basis (though otherwise it is not an irrelevant component for belief)?

As I mentioned before, I think there's something not right with the standard that you have set for believing Christianity. I can't put my finger on it right now, but maybe its one of these: (1) It would seem to make "belief" into something different. I don't have "faith" or "hope" that circles are round. That's just a fact imposed on me. There's no faith-like virtue in this. If God were something as empirical as a oxygen, it seems to undercut something important about the pursuit of God by man. (2) I suspect that the standard of seeing or touching would undercut a lot of precious things we believe in the life (e.g. love, desire, imagination), as well as ways we know (e.g. intuition). (3) A psychologist could always step in and question the most stark and clear "displays" of God as being a hallucination, a dream, or a psychotic fit (how many people have seen divine personages at Patton State Hospital). (4) A philosopher will say that you can never step outside of your 5 senses to see whether or not your 5 senses are reliable. And so if you did have some type of perception of God (visual and audio), you can't be justified in this belief without assuming the reliability of your senses, which is a unjustified assumption.

I appreciate your openness.

Jake