I Want It!

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Yesterday I happened to speak at my church where I was given the task of preaching on 1 Corinthians 13. Within that sermon, I made a point on love not seeking its own. I would like to expand on that point in today’s blog as I continued thinking on it throughout the day.

Go to any department store or grocery store and watch children with their parents in line begging for something like a piece of candy. What is their reason that they always give for why their parents should buy that for them?


As Christians, we’re told to not seek our own but the good of others. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting something for yourself to an extent. You need the basic necessities of life. However, your main priority is to be the Kingdom and we are told that we ought to esteem others as better than ourselves and be seeking their good more than our own.

We are to be childlike indeed, but we are not to be childish, and yet so many times we are. We each seek simply what we want and who cares about anything else? There are times that things don’t go our way and we don’t get what we want. What are we to do then? Grow up and deal with it. God never promises to give us everything we want.

But what is our problem? Is it that we want things? Could it be that the Buddha was right after all and the key to happiness is to extinguish our desires? Would it be better if we did not want anything after all?

Well, no.

C.S. Lewis said that the problem is not that our desires are too strong but rather that they are too weak. We do not want that which we ought to want and want what we ought not want. Where our desires can be for the right object, they can often be not in the right proportion. We are told to seek first the kingdom of God because too often we’re too busy seeking our own kingdom.

What we often think with our petty wants is that we want something and we want it then and so since we do, we ought to have it then and because the world doesn’t go the way that we want it to, we get angry about it. Though we may not agree with the stoic philosophers in all they said, they had a great truth in saying that our happiness ought not to be dependent on the contingent external circumstances around us. We as Christians should seek our ultimate happiness in God.

We can have other things that can bring us happiness and if we get them, that could be good. If not, oh well. We don’t get everything right now. For instance, my wife and I like many of you at this time are concerned about our finances with my just having a part-time job and donations being down. The problem with worry is saying “If we do not have what we need right now, we will never have it” forgetting that in this very passage Jesus tells us to seek the kingdom and not worry about what we need. Just trust God to provide.

But if that provision is not here right now, it can be difficult.

Of course, a lot of the idea of what we want is the problem of sin. A young couple wants to have sex without having the burden of going through marriage, and so they just go for what they want. A person wants justice against an enemy and rather than wait on God to provide it someday, decides that murder is a better option. Someone wants an object he cannot get and rather than go out and work for it and earn it, he decides upon thievery.

Being the way we are, we also take this attitude and put it onto God.

“Well if God wants everyone to be saved, obviously, He should just give everyone a grand vision of Himself and prove He exists right now!

Nothing happened?

See. God doesn’t exist!”

This is actually a common argument that can be seen in atheistic circles. If God existed, He would do something like this. Why think this is the case however? Do we not often think we know the best way to get something that we want and it turns out that that isn’t so because there are other factors in the situation that we overlook?

Yet somehow, we think we have it all figured out when how it should be that God goes about His plan.

Perhaps if we wish to argue the existence of God, we should argue from truths that we know rather than speculations about what should be?

Then, we need to change our desires. We need to desire the things of God more and if we do not, we need to ask why. There is some good in all that we want, but we need to ask ourselves if we are really wanting the good.

We don’t want to be children after all.

Truth of God in Genesis

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’m going to be continuing our look at the presuppositional approach tonight by going to the beginning, that is, the book of Genesis. Can we find that the writer did affirm truth outside of an explicit knowledge of God or not?

To begin with, let’s start with some moral truths. The only command we know of given to Adam and Eve is to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Other than that, they are given quite free reign. The question has often been asked how it is that they would know that they ought to obey God. However, the Genesis account indicates a unique relationship between Adam and God in that God walked in the garden and Adam was not too surprised to see Him, only ashamed that he was naked before God, and that God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. It is likely that Adam did understand where he came from as a creation of God to some extent, though this does not make him a master theologian.

His children meanwhile are knowledgeable of sin somehow and what they ought do and ought not do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before murder enters into the picture. Note in the passage as well that Cain fears justice from other people. We can spend so much time answering the question of Cain’s wife that we miss the concept of justice.

The preaching of Noah is much much later. However, we are only told of Noah’s preaching and no miracles. The world is to understand that they are doing wrong. This is an important point in that without the aid of Scripture which did not exist at the time, people were to know moral truths. This is something I plan to look at in much more detail when we get to Exodus.

There is similar activity taking place with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God tells Abraham that the outcry against the towns is great. Why did judgment come to these towns? Because they ought to have known better. They would root this knowledge in the power of reason. Now there is no denial that God’s existence explains the ontological source of the moral truths, but how one knows the moral truths is different. One can know moral truths without holding to a theistic worldview.

Whether an atheist is being consistent or not is a different question, though it is an important one. However, that one cannot explain necessarily how they know certain truths does not mean that those truths cannot still count as knowledge. Few people overall are philosophers who will ever sit down and examine truth this way. Ask the average person on the street when he was born and he’ll tell you. Ask him how he knows and he could point to testimony of parents and/or birth certificates. Ask him how he knows those are reliable and he’ll give something else. At one point, unless he just walks off out of irritation he’ll say “I just know!”

There are some who start philosophy in a position of denial saying they don’t know anything. This seems problematic at the start for how can we say that we know that we don’t know anything? How could such a claim be backed unless one had an argument and one thought that that argument was valid. Of course. some philosophers have still used a similar method. Descartes decided to start with only believing whatever could not be doubted at all. Descartes’s claim of “I think, therefore I am” has been called into question. Why should the fact that he thinks lead to his ontological existence?

Descartes had started with a method. Why not start with a truth instead? We look at what we know and then ask “How is it that I know this thing that I know?” This was the method of the medievals and I believe it’s the method most of us would use. It doesn’t mean we accept all things blindly. We can question ourselves on some knowledge claims and should, but there are things that we do just know.

Why is this important? Because in Genesis, judgment is assumed to be understood to be deserved. Even if one does not know the God who is doing the judging, one is to know that they are doing something wrong and they are living in violation of a moral law. For theism, Abraham was called out and it is unlikely he had such a theistic knowledge that he was able to speak about the Trinity at that point.

Why bring this up? For the ancients, knowledge was possible. This was even without at times having access to direct revelation of God, such as Scripture, since it did not exist. One could appeal to reason in this case, and there is nothing wrong with that! God created reason and meant it to be a mechanism for finding truth. The problem is not reason but reasoners. Of course, I agree with the presuppositionalists in saying the problem of man is moral largely, but that does not mean I agree with the way they get to the truth.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Trust In The Storm

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. Before doing continuing writing on presuppositionalism, I’d like to write about some of what’s going on. It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly, but I am hoping that this can be a blessing to you readers as well as reveal to you the honest reality of what our situation is like over here.

As regular readers know, I moved to where I am a little over 3 and a half years ago to continue education. Since that time, it has been a wild ride. It was in late December of 2008 that I was offered a job with a ministry. It was much better than what I was doing then and it certainly paid a lot better so I took it. I was doing something I got to enjoy and getting paid well for it. Meanwhile, my roommate and I had found an awesome church and I’d already got to teach a number of times.

Back in August of 2009, I visited a friend who was coming to the Seminary and he told me about a girl that I should talk to. She lived in another state four hours away so I emailed her. We started talking that way and on AIM and eventually on the phone. In September, we decided that we wanted to give a dating relationship a try. The next month, I went to meet her. At the end of that month, I took her to meet my parents. With the wisdom of many counselors behind me, in December, I proposed, and she said yes.

All is going well. Right?

Then comes April with the end of the month being near. My wedding is about three months away. My boss calls me into the office wanting to talk to me and at that point, I hear the devastating news that the company can’t afford to have me around any more. This was entirely out of the blue with no warning whatsoever. Thus, I’m about to get married and saving up money for a honeymoon and living with my wife (after the wedding of course) and then the rug gets pulled out from under me.

Fortunately, several friends and family came through at this time sending much in the way of donations. One kind donor who I’ve never even met in person sent enough money to make sure my wife and I could go on our honeymoon, and we did have a very nice one. For awhile, I had more money than I’d ever had before. Of course, wedding gifts were also coming in which were quite a help.

Still, there was no steady income coming in and in the midst of this, we saw difficulties. My pet back home had passed away recently. My grandmother later died around Thanksgiving last year. I was still unemployed. I had a sudden flare-up in my abdomen after getting back from Thanksgiving as well and it turns out it was my gallbladder and we had to have that removed. I only recently got a part-time job in retail. It brings in some, but it’s not enough to cover the bills really. We’ve had to apply for food stamps, something that I hated to do, and even those we’ve run dry now. The transmission on the car could need to be worked on soon and we are looking for a new place to live as our rent is bound to go up soon.

It’s been hard every time to get out the checkbook.

Still, I’ve tried to be a good husband and I hope I’ve succeeded. I do not raise my voice to my wife and if she says something or does something that needs to be addressed, I am firm but gentle in how I deal with the situation and make sure that I affirm her afterwards every time. I try to love her with the grace that I believe God has loved me with. I’d still say I have a long way to go.

Last night, we were at a college ministry that she likes to go to. Other than the leaders, I believe we are the only husband and wife there and I am quite certainly, other than the leaders, the oldest one in attendance. I found myself sitting during much of the singing. Honestly, a lot of music doesn’t usually prepare me for worship. Give me 2-3 songs for 10-15 minutes and I’m fine. I know a lot of you enjoy and appreciate music more than I do. Good for you. God bless you. Somehow, I find it hard to connect with worship music often. There are exceptions. The Mrs. can tell you that when I hear “Holy, Holy, Holy” I have to sit down immediately with the awe of the God I serve.

As we listened last night however, I found myself angry over what was going on in my life and wondering where God was then. It can be hard to hear about the goodness of God and the love of God when He seems to have left you. I also think however that it is important to realize that this can be a normal attitude to have. The Psalmist had it several times and was honest entirely with what he said. I believe it was Madeline L’Engle, a Christian writer, who wrote the following:

Dear God,
I hate you.
Love, Madeline.

It’s seven short words but so much is contained in those words. L’Engle has a deep anger in her at that point, but she ends it on love. She realizes that though she does not seem to be on good speaking terms with the Almighty at this point, she does seek to trust Him and she wishes to just let Him know exactly what is going on.

That is where I was last night. Ironically, the speaker that night was speaking on a topic I do know well and at the end for Q&A, I had offered to help and so he told me to come up as well as we all answered questions and I believe the listeners loved the responses that I had to give. I often look at such answers as simple answers anyone could give, but that could be a way of discounting myself. It is not to say that the answers are everything, but they are the result of years of studying.

There I am then upset about what is going on and in fact, I use the recent history to answer a question about how God is sovereign over all things and bring up a principle that is essentially that of Romans 8. My wife and I discuss on the way home all that has happened. I tell her how things feel and she tells me how things are. She tells me the thing we have to do now is to trust in God that he will get us through.

It is odd when one who is normally the teacher gets taught the exact things he’s supposed to be teaching.

So in the midst of the storm, I write to those also in the midst of the storm. In America, we know times are tough economically. The gas prices keep rising higher and higher every day. The cost of living just increases and it creates a lot of political unrest. As one at a job where donations for a Children’s charity are being collected, I see firsthand that giving is down. People aren’t wanting to part and a number come through my line saying “I need a donation.”

In all of this, my wife is right. All we can do is trust in God. When we prayed last night, we prayed honestly. We told God we weren’t happy with what was happening and that at times, he seems to be absent. However, where else can we go? As a theologian, I know the arguments that show me the nature of God and how He knows all things and the future is in His hands. It may look at the time like he does not know what He is doing, but He does.

Last night, she insisted for our Scripture reading that we read Matthew 6:25-34 about worrying. I also read Romans 8:28-30. I can say that if these events have got us focusing on Scripture, at least some good is coming out of them. Biblically, all of it will work for good. It is not saying all that is happening is good, but that it will work for good.

So if you’re in those hard times too, hang in there. You’re not alone. We’re in them together. Don’t also assume as some do that because one is in ministry the blessing of God is constantly on their life with them doing well. Oh God has blessed me indeed, especially seeing as I have a loving wife, but there are a lot of hardships at the time as well. Being a Christian does not insulate you from suffering but gives you a reason to fight on in suffering.

I hope this account has been helpful to some of you. I plan to continue our regular series soon, but today, I was of the opinion that this should be written on instead.

Eschatological Insanity

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve decided I’m going to write again on the recent rapture talk with a look at what it is that the atheistic community is saying as well as looking at what Camping himself has said about his predictions and see what it is that can be learned.

Consider this one first from Atlanta. What does the writer tell us?

The argument from my reading is that the idea of Christ returning is just patently absurd and that we all want to go to a Disneyland with no sex, booze, or anything fun.

Yes indeed. We all want to sign up for that one. It’s bad enough that the author thinks he’s made a real representation of the story, but then he says that the problem is falsifiability. Yes readers. You read that right. Christians are afraid to test their belief. Therefore, all that needs to be done is set a date for the rapture. If it does not happen on X date, then it is false and will never happen.

Let us hope that the author never takes bets on professional sports.

The problem is not that Camping has an eschatology. Everyone does. The problem with setting dates is the idea from Matthew 24:36 that only the Father would know the date. As is the case of course, this is only a little detail that is overlooked. Such an attitude of setting a date and not seeing it happen could lead to a number of odd conclusions.

We will have flying cars by September 30, 2015. If we do not have them then, we will never have them.

We will be invaded by aliens on July 6, 2034. If we are not invaded then, we will never be invaded.

Israel and Palestine will put an end to the land war on April 22, 2029. If they do not do so then, they will never do so.

Science is a great tool, but one cannot deal with the past and the future using just the scientific idea of falsifiability. All that we have had falsified is that the rapture did not happen on the date Camping predicted. We do not have a falsification of the belief that Christ will ever return.

Next we have P.Z. Myers here.

Ah yes. This is what religion fosters. Just have examples of people believing crazy things and you can see what it does.

Fair enough….

Could it be anything like saying without evidence that Jared Loughner was a Republican who listened to talk radio despite even all the evidence coming in to the contrary and jumping on a screen shot without even investigating it to prove to the rest of the world that you were right only to find out that that shot was not accurate?

All something Myers did by the way.

No. The problem is not religion. The problem is just that a lot of people don’t know how to think and they add religion into the mix. The same can happen with any belief. Now I agree with what Myers wants in the end to happen to Camping. However, Myers is taking the sensational and making it the typical, instead of realizing that 99.9% of Christians around the world condemn this nonsense.

Far be it for Myers to actually deal with a sane position on eschatology….

Finally, we come to Mr. Camping himself. What does he have to say? Let’s take a look.

And here we have just a humble Bible teacher who says he makes no apology. Never mind that he’s made a laughingstock of the church leading those of us who condemned what he said into embarrassment as we are inevitably seen as thinking the world was going to come to an end that day simply because we’re Christians.

There is nothing humble about Camping. It is only arrogance to think that you can know something that Christ Himself said He did not know. Now Camping has gone to a spiritual understanding saying that Judgment Day did come and that the world will be destroyed on October 21st and it will not be spiritual, but he himself is not selling his possessions before then.

How convenient….

Family Radio is paid for by donations. No one at this point should donate a penny to such a cause. The church has been mocked as a result of what Camping has done. There are far better ministries out there that can be supported and many of them are from Christians who really do think about the issues and can help defend the faith against adversaries today.

It is a shame that eschatological insanity rests on all sides. That someone like Camping even has a platform shows how much the American church has fallen.

The Average Canaanite

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’m going to take the time now to return to my look at presuppositionalism. Mainly, the claim that one has to affirm the God of Christianity if they are going to be able to coherently affirm anything at all. To do that, I’d like to take a look at your typical Joe Canaanite in the ancient world around the time of Abraham.

This is a man who does not have a Bible yet at all. After all, Moses has not been born so he has no way of reading the book of Genesis, or any other book, save maybe Job. He does not have a personal prophet to him although one could say that in a limited sense, he has the traditions of his fathers that have passed down. However, he has no way of archaeologically confirming a flood or that even YHWH was the one who revealed himself to Noah.

What is it that he is to be told? He is to be told that he knows the truth of the God of Scripture and that he is denying it. Now I do agree that Romans 1 makes a strong case that one is aware of God by looking at creation. In many polytheistic cultures even if not all, there is belief in one high god who is supreme over all the little gods.

The problem is that Joe Canaanite cannot point to a Scripture that he is denying and he certainly can’t make statements like “God is triune” at this point. This is important since the presuppositional approach makes a constant appeal to the self-attesting triune God of Scripture. The same is also said of Christ, but what is it that this person can know of Christ really?

Now the question I have to ask is “Does Joe Canaanite know anything?” I see no reason to think otherwise. I think he can know who his parents are, where he lives, what his name is, what he had for breakfast, how to hunt wild animals, the names of the pagan deities that he worships, etc. All of these are knowledge claims that can be held by him.

Now does that mean that God is unrelated to knowledge? Not at all. If there was no God, there would be no knowledge. It is agreed by Christians that God’s ontological existence is necessary to explain reality, but having knowledge of God is what is disputed. Does one have to know God as a Trinity who revealed Himself in Christ in order to have knowledge? This would be a much more difficult claim to defend.

Joe Canaanite presents a problem. How could he have knowledge of the Trinity and Christ at the time he lives? Does he have some knowledge of God available to him? Yes he does. This is only a basic rudimentary knowledge however and likely it’s to be filled with errors. Your average Canaanite would not have the philosophical acumen to reason like Aristotle. (For that matter, your average and even above-average modern doesn’t either!)

Does Joe Canaanite still need to repent? Yes. Why? Because he has the moral law that he can have knowledge that he’s violated. The moral law consists of truths that we simply can’t not know. If you need an argument to convince you that murder is wrong for instance, it is quite likely you need more than an argument. You need a good therapist and I need to do the best I can to avoid you.

What about his salvation? I cannot answer definitively on that except to say that the judge of all the Earth will do right. For the time being, I can say that I have no reason to think Joe Canaanite can make no claims to knowledge and that he can have zero knowledge of God. How this happens will be worked out in future blogs.

Eschatological Sanity

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Back on May 4th, I wrote on the supposed Judgment Day being today. Interestingly, I haven’t been able to connect to the Family Radio web site of Harold Camping since last night and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when he’s shown to be wrong yet again.

Now we have all laughed about matters some. There has been no major earthquake in New Zealand that has started moving across the planet. I have no doubt that I’ll be sleeping next to my wife in my bed tonight. If you post on Facebook, you see a lot of people having a good laugh over that and I honestly understand that. We’ve told our own jokes on the matter in our household.

At the same time when we pray at night, we pray about the people who have been hurt by this. My wife will ask me “What’s going to happen to the people who spent their life savings?” I don’t know. I can’t know. I do know that they will be hurt however. They would have placed all their trust in a man and found that that man was not reliable. The sad reality is many of them will transfer that over to the Bible. After all, if the Bible guaranteed it and that which it guaranteed was false, then the Bible must be false.

Many of us have seen people like this. They become very angry apostates a lot of times. The same mentality is there unfortunately. It is the cult thought entirely. These people have been hurt. What the solution is for now is us to develop some eschatological sanity. After all, most of us will be just fine when the sun rises on May 22nd, but some people won’t be.

Starting off, know the Scriptures. If you have a view of eschatology, be able to defend it. If you’re a dispensationalist, be ready to defend that. If you’re a preterist, be ready to defend that. However, realize there are extremes. For the preterist, to be a hyper-preterist as they are called is to go into the heresy of denying the bodily resurrection. For the dispensationalist, teaching like that of Camping can be the problem.

That anyone took Camping seriously is a problem. These people are counting on someone else to be their interpreter of Scripture. I have no problem with going to other teachers and getting their opinion on matters. Many of you read this blog for that reason. When the day comes however that someone takes what is in this blog as infallible then I will have a problem. Please check out what I say elsewhere.

A good friend of mine wrote that Camping’s problem with dating is extreme hubris on his part, and I agree. It can seem that with eschatology, so many of us are so busy trying to figure out when it is that we don’t live like we ought to. Peter told us in 2 Peter 3 that since the end is coming, we ought to live holy and godly lives. Are we doing that?

In many ways, we ought to be living like the end could come today. We ought to be living as if our Lord could come back and surprise us at any moment. Do we want to be caught unaware? However, we are not told that we can KNOW when that time will be. The house owner does not know when a thief is coming, but if he KNOWS one is coming, he will be preparing himself.

Folks. There’s been a 100% failure rate with prophecy predictions by doomsayers on when the end is coming. This is nothing new. Let me state what we are 100% certain of. Jesus will physically return one day. We will have our loved ones rise up and if we are dead, we ourselves will rise. Now we can talk about signs and such and think the end is near, and some do that, but Christ did not set dates and neither should we.

Pray for the people who have been hurt by this and pray for Camping as well. He too is in the image of God. Let us hope he repents also and that those who have been hurt can somehow be compensated.

Thoughts on Love Wins

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like to write today on my thoughts on “Love Wins.” I finally got around to reading this book that has created a firestorm of controversy and I have listened to a debate Bell did on the Unbelievable radio program.

This book is very readable. I happen to enjoy Bell’s writing style and I have heard him speak through some of his NOOMA programs and I did enjoy a lot of what he said. Bell however is more pastoral than theological and there were times that I believed in the book that the pastor’s heart was overruling the theologian’s mind. I believe the two should work in tandem, but it seems that Bell wants one to overrule the other and if it’s the head or heart, it’s going to be the heart. What you prefer to be true is what is true.

On a practical level, Bell does have some good points. Bell writes of how we can make Heaven or Hell here on Earth right now. Some Christians can be so focused on the future life that they miss the reality that is going on now. If we are cutting ourselves off from the things of God, we are creating our own private Hell. If we are getting closer to the goodness of God, we are preparing ourselves for Heaven.

Bell is also right when he talks about how most Christians view Heaven as if it was another dimension or a physical realm somewhere else out there. I am of the belief that Heaven is physical, but it’s defined by being the place where God’s presence is made manifest. A new Heaven and a new Earth mean that creation will be reborn and filled with the manifest presence of God. Bell writes in one point of how some pastors have said Heaven would be like a church service that never ends, to which I do agree, that could often sound like Hell to most of us.

What got Bell started on this work also is important. It was a presentation at church about what it means to be a peacemaker and a woman included a note from Gandhi to which someone had put on there in reply, “Reality check: He’s in Hell.”

Now when I heard that I wondered what on Earth would make someone think they needed to write that. What does that have to do with the truth of Gandhi’s principles? Would we want to reject the theory of relativity if we said “Reality check: Einstein’s in Hell” or would we want to reject the Declaration of Independence if we were told “Reality check: Jefferson’s in Hell.”?

Bell asks how we know that Gandhi is. I say it’s completely irrelevant to the truth of what he’s saying, but I understand the kind of attitude Bell is writing against. He is opposed to the turn and burn message people usually give. I oppose the way it’s often used today as well. However, before commenting on that, I’d like to state other points I agree with Bell on.

Bell does say that to many Christians, all that matters is if you’re going to Heaven. This is a common attitude and it is one we need to stop. What matters is if one is becoming like Christ. In our day and age, we have too many cases of signing on the bottom line to become a Christian and then that’s it. There’s conversion without discipling.

It’s also relieving to hear Bell write about how many people say that the most important aspect is to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus. Bell says that the problem is that this does not show up in the Bible. In our modern age this kind of thinking is everywhere and I was pleased to hear someone else say it.

Bell is also correct when he criticizes people who say they can’t believe in a God who judges. Bell contends that we all want a God who judges, particularly when someone does something evil to us. We want God to give them what they deserve. We want God to make things right again.

In speaking about how we live, Bell I think makes some good points. He brings out how we need to change our attitudes. For instance, in speaking about a racist, Bell says that a racist would be miserable in Heaven since he would be up there in Heaven with all of “those people.” There are attitudes we need to remove from each of us to be ready for the presence of God.

A great line on page 46 is that Bell says “our eschatology shapes our ethics. Eschatology is about last things. Ethics are about how you live.” Now eschatology is not about morality, but it does influence morality. If you believe that you will live in the presence of God, you will live accordingly. If you believe there’s no Heaven to gain or Hell to shun, you will also behave accordingly.

Now on to points I disagree with.

To begin with, Bell is a pastor and he does not interact with those who disagree. You do not find the classical defenses of the doctrine of Hell in this book. There are no references to Christian apologetics where the doctrine of Hell is defended. It could be Bell for the sake of argument is entirely right in what he says, but he needs to show it by interaction with the other side.

Second, Bell is not really clear where he falls. For instance, at the end of the chapter “Does God get what God wants?” Bell says that if we want Heaven, we will get Heaven, and if we want Hell, we will get Hell. He says that love can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced. We will get what we want because love wins.

However, at other places, he asks if God will really punish someone forever for sins committed in such a short lifetime. Bell states on page 175 that if God will do that, nothing will disguise that one true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, and awful reality. Bell asks if God becomes a God of wrath once someone dies while a God of love while they’re alive.

The answer is that he’s always both to us. Romans 1 tells us that the wrath of God is being revealed. The wrath of God is a present reality. However, the love of God is also present. It is not God that changes when we die, but rather we cement ourselves in the position we were in relation to Him before death.

If Bell wants to be a universalist, and there are definitely universalist tendencies in this book, I would prefer that he’d just come right out and say it. Bell seems to be unable to state a clear view on the matter. It is as if Bell wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to be able to speak universalist without having the label.

While Bell has interesting looks at Luke 15 and 16, he too often leaves questions unanswered that could lead to doubt, such as how it is that we are saved. Is it by believing the right things or doing good? The answer is by believing the right things, we do good, thereby showing that we are saved. Bell often presents views as being against each other when they can really work together.

Bell also uses loaded language. Often when he writes about Hell, he talks about people being tortured. For Bell, there’s no distinction made between a literal fiery Hell and a Hell that is more of an eternal quarantine. There are no degrees of suffering in Hell. Bell would give the impression that it’s an all or nothing idea.

Bell also says the only verses relevant to Hell are those that specifically mention Hell. This is simply false. For instance, I recall no place where Bell really interacts with Revelation 14 where it talks about the smoke of the torment going up forever and ever for those who oppose the Lamb. Bell tells us that the Old Testament does not say much about Hell, but for that matter nor does it say much about Heaven. Most of the people then were concentrated enough on just making it by on day-to-day living.

Bell says Jesus did not use Hell to try to convert pagans and heathens. However, it’s important to note that Jesus also didn’t interact with pagans and heathens. He spent his time in Israel and in that area, he was interacting with Jews and was using ideas that the Jews would have already known.

Bell is also problematic about saying Jesus is bigger than one religion. Bell says Jesus will transcend any label put on him, especially the one called “Christianity.” Is Bell opening the door for pluralism here? His viewpoint is unclear as Bell seems to be continually riding the fence.

Having heard him on Unbelievable answering questions about the after-death with saying that he did not know, my thoughts were “If you do not know, you have no basis writing on the topic.” Bell does have some good points on how we live and interesting looks at Luke 15 and 16.

I also write wanting to understand seeing as my wife has been a fan of Bell in the past and how this controversy has been hard on her. No one is asking Bell to become a “turn or burn” preacher, but rather to be willing to admit the reality of what he believes. If he is a universalist, come out and say it. If he is not, come out and deny it. Be sure to define what you mean by those terms. If he believes some people will spend forever in Hell, come out and say it. If not, come out and say it.

Bell does have a good gift for speaking and writing and it is my hope that he can use it for good. It would start with affirming the reality of the conditions of the after-death, the way that Jesus did.

Temple of the Future on Morality

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like today to write on something that Justin Brierley presented on the Unbelievable Facebook page. It’s an article on a site called “Temple of the Future” concerning morality and biblical truth. It can be found here.

Temple starts off with discussing recent programs of Unbelievable. To be fair, I have not got to listen to the most recent one yet on women in ministry. However, does the first one mentioned of a look at Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” really have much to do with morality? It’s quite likely that most evangelicals would agree with Bell on several moral issues. My opinion on “Love Wins” is coming sometime soon, but regardless of whether Bell is right or wrong, the question is not about whether an action is right or wrong. Bell could be a universalist or not be a universalist and still believe murder is wrong.

What of the program on the true face of Islam? It’s a wonder that this is being seen as something on the Bible when this is really something on the Koran if anything. An atheist could have been a guest on the show and could have stated that Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam. If he knew what the teachings were in the Koran or Hadith, then he could have presented what he believed to be an accurate argument for whatever position he held. Again, whether Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam doesn’t matter to me at this point.

The last one is the closest one we have to a moral issue, but is it really so much a moral issue? Does anyone really believe someone would go to Hell, for instance, for having a female minister? Augustine dealt with a question similar to this back with the Donatist teaching. What if someone was baptized by someone who was a heretic? Does that mean their salvation is null and void? Augustine said no.

Temple says it is foolish to let the questions of morality become exercises in literary criticism.

However, what is actually meant by literary criticism? Here are the main issues that we can raise.

Is the text that we have what we had then? This would be textual criticism. Whether what the text says is true or not does not really matter. Even if all that say, Paul wrote in Romans, is wrong, does that mean we don’t have what he originally wrote? All we want to know is if we have what he wrote.

What style is the writing in? Are we going to take Revelation in a literal sense? When Jesus says “Pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” is he to be taken literally? At the same time, when he says “Love your neighbor as yourself” is that to be taken literally, and how do we know when to take the text literally and when not? This is part of hermeneutics, that is, the art of interpretation of a text.

Finally, we come to the questions of “What does the text mean?” and then for our personal application “What does it mean to us personally today?” The first question is the most important one although we usually skip to the second. What does the text mean? This can also be a difficult one, but it’s not just with the biblical text. It’s with any text. We wonder what the text means in Plato, the Upanishads, the Koran, Nietzsche, government laws, or just ordinary conversation. ALL texts must be interpreted and some interpretations are right and some are wrong.

Turning to the program on church leaders, Temple simply says this is a dumb question to be asking. Why? Because it’s not the way most people in the 21st century think. So what? If someone wants to remain faithful to a text, it’s an important question to ask if there’s debate on what the text means. Granted, it’s not the most fascinating topic to the secular man, but again, so what? Are Christians forced to have debates and define debates in the way that the secular person prefers?

Temple sees this as discrimination when we don’t allow women to be in ministry. To begin with, it is discrimination, but that assumes all discrimination is wrong. My work place is discriminatory. They only allow men to go into the men’s room and they only allow women to go into the women’s room.

The Boy scouts are discriminatory. You have to be a boy to participate. Places that give senior citizen discounts are discriminatory as you have to be at least 65 to get one. Restaurants that say kids eat free are discriminatory since you have to be a kid in order to eat for free.

The question is “What is the basis for the discrimination.” Does the Bible say women should not be in ministry because they are inferior? It would be good to see such a text. The closest Temple points to is Ephesians 2:22-24. Nowhere mentioned however is that the man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church which is hardly a dominating theme. As a married man, it calls me to constant self-sacrifice for my wife. Now do some people misuse this text? Of course. People can misuse any text, but does Temple want us to think the text has no meaning and is open to any interpretation. If so, then can he really say that the text teaches the inferiority of women? Can I not say “That’s just your interpretation.”?

Temple writes about two scholars of Shakespeare’s works and how they disagree over the meaning of what Shakespeare said and asks if we could ever come to a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant. Temple tells us that of course we couldn’t. Temple tells us that like any complete text, it’s open to interpretation.

Okay. Agreed. It is open to interpretation.

Then he says multiple valid interpretations.

Is this really the case? He would have to demonstrate this. Is he saying that supposing Paul wrote Ephesians that Paul believed in the inferiority of women and didn’t believe in the inferiority of women both? How could this be? If Paul puts the meaning into the text, then the text can only mean one thing. It could be difficult or even impossible for us to find out what he meant, but that does not mean that there is no meaning.

Furthermore, why should I believe that we could never reach a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant? Who knows what the future will hold. I’m certainly open to the possibility that we could someday. Temple just takes it as a foregone conclusion that we won’t. Where does this knowledge of the future come from?

Temple says to build our morality on the Bible is to be build it on sinking sand.

We’ve seen this song and dance before. One would think that Temple would have some familiarity with Natural Law thinking. Does he not read any Christian ethicists who argue not from Scripture but from the basis of Natural Law? Does he read someone like Budziszewski in a work such as “The Line Through The Heart”?

Of course, in the comments, he does present the Euthyphro dilemma as if this is something embarrassing to Christians. Granted, most don’t know how to answer it, but the answer is to ask what goodness is and if it can be defined apart from God. I believe it can just like Aristotle did and when we define goodness, which is that at which all things aim according to Aristotle, we eventually realize that God is that which is goodness in being being itself. Temple could read Aquinas in the Summa Theologica for information on goodness and the goodness of God.

The point is that this is the same idea we’ve seen over and over. So many today arguing against morality believe that Christians use the Bible and only the Bible, not realizing the Bible itself argues against such a claim in passages like Romans 2. Are we to think when the Israelites got the Ten Commandments that they had no idea murder was wrong before that? Of course not. Moses himself made sure, though not doing a good job of it apparently, to make sure no one was watching when he killed an Egyptian.

Hopefully atheists and others will soon stop making this argument and start actually interacting with Christian positions.

Clearing Up Grace

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Last time, I wrote on the need for the leadership of the PCUSA to repent. A faithful reader emailed me in response with some questions about what I had said about grace so I’d like to clear that up.

The first question was on what I had said about for grace to take place, there must be repentance from sin. Am I making repentance a way of earning grace? To be sure, I am speaking about salvific grace, in the grace that gives us forgiveness of sin. I do not consider repentance to be a work but rather an acknowledgment that you can do no works to earn grace but must rely solely on the blessing of the benefactor.

Do I believe confession comes first? Yes. If we say God forgives sin that is not confessed, then we might as well be universalists as that God does not require us to be in right relation with Him to enjoy His presence. However, if we are to enjoy the presence of God, we must be in right relation to Him as nothing unholy can be in His presence.

Now I did state that having grace for someone not doing something sinful would be like saying I need grace for loving my wife. There is a sense in which I need grace for loving her. I need grace in the case of common grace that I need the love of God to overcome my sinful nature. However, let us take an unforgiven non-Christian man. This man does love his wife. When he comes to Christ, does he need to say “God. Please forgive me for loving my wife.”?

No. Grace is there to forgive us when we fall short of the goal. You do not need to be forgiven for doing what God says. Forgiveness is the blessing given by God in His grace after all and He does not need to forgive a truly good act. Of course, if there is one evil act, the forgiveness of God is needed and in that case, God’s grace is needed.

Hence, when the PCUSA speaks about grace for people, if there is no sexual sin being committed, what exactly is the grace for? By the language, I do not think that they mean common grace and even if they do, exactly what about common grace is supposed to deal with sexual sin?

Finally, are grace and forgiveness interchangeable? No. They’re closely related however. Grace is a good disposition in God towards us and the result is that He grants us forgiveness. This is in the case of salvific grace of course. It does not apply in common grace as that kind of grace goes out to both believer and unbeliever.

I sincerely hope that this clears up any misconceptions anyone else might have had and keep in mind that I do want to hear such feedback from readers and if you think there’s something you’re misunderstanding or even that I’m wrong on something, by all means say so. Rest assured, I am not mocking grace, as one who hopes to give it to others and who has often received it himself from them and definitely from God.

Call For Repentance to the PCUSA

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I was planning on continuing our series on presuppositionalism, but a friend in the PCUSA has informed me about the denomination changing rules on sexual behavior. The story can be found here.

This has nothing to do with presuppositionalism also. It is no secret that presuppositionalists are Calvinists, but not all Calvinists are presuppositionalists. A number of strong critics of the method there come from the Calvinist camp. What I say is something I want Arminians and Calvinists both to agree on. I do not say this to the PCUSA for their stance on Calvinism, but for their stance on morality, a stance that all Christians should reject.

The question under concern is if sexual fidelity really matters. We should thus start by asking why it is that sexual fidelity does matter. What is sex? is it just a bodily function like any other function? Do a man and a woman get together for a first date and eat a meal, which is a bodily function, and then go back to “her place” and have sex together which is a “bodily function.”?

The two functions are quite different. For one thing, eating is a necessity to life. No one can survive and not eat. People can survive however and not engage in sex. Of course, the species as a whole would die out if we never had sex, but having sex is not essential to any particular human surviving.

Sex is what brings about babies because the family unit is the unit to raise children in for the interaction of male and female. A child learns what a man is like and what a woman is like. Naturally, there are some people who cannot do this due to one spouse divorcing them or the death of another spouse. This does not mean the children are scarred for life, but they will be benefited by finding someone of the opposite sex to be a mentor figure to them.

The act of sex is something that brings about great trust. When a husband and wife have sex, they have to have total openness with one another as nothing is held back. As a married man, it is a great joy for me to know that my wife delights in my body and that I can delight in hers as well. I love the fact that I have someone I can be totally open with. I also love the fact that I have someone I can adore.

That great trust however is based on the covenant promise we made to one another. We promised one another to be faithful and indeed we have been. Neither one of us had any sexual partners prior to marriage and the only person we have each known sexually is the other. I know her in a way no one else does and she knows me in a way no one else does.

We often think about couples who do not have that commitment. In that case, sexual intercourse can be a test to see if someone is “worthy of marriage.” There is no total trust. What we have is that we can go to sleep next to each other every night and know we’re going to be there for each other. For me, it is a great wonder still to sleep next to a woman every night and know that we’re in a covenant together.

Sex with the opposite sex also means trust in what the other person is experiencing. I cannot know what my wife is feeling physically due to my not being a woman. She cannot know what I am feeling physically due to my being a man. We just have to have the trust with one another about what we do like and trust that the other person is getting that joy.

Why is sex so different? Because it’s not just a function like any other function. It is a function based on the whole body. Every bit of my body is male and I function as a male just as my wife’s body is all female and she functions as a female. It is bodily, but it is not merely bodily.

In our day and age, many of us can be insecure with our bodies. News flash for you men out there. Looking in the mirror and flexing will not determine your masculinity. You can be built like a tank and not be what God really means by a man by virtue of lack of masculine character. I, for one, definitely do not have a strong build as I am underweight, but my wife would affirm my masculinity not because of my body, which she does love, but because of my attitude and the way I love her and treat her.

For you women, while I affirm I love my wife’s body, she is not her body and her femininity is not to be found in her body. I have nothing against my wife using make-up for instance, although I do have specific tastes there. I like her to go light and not have a color different from her natural color. However, I want it to be clear that her femininity does not lie in the make-up.

Masculinity and femininity are character traits of the soul as well. Are we men acting like men? Are women acting like women? More important than your body is your attitude. Of course, we must be careful and this brings us to another point. The danger with what is being said is that in Christianity, the body does matter and so does what you do with it.

One could say only character matters, but character is often expressed bodily. I realize for instance that I have not treated my body right for several years based on an attitude problem. That is my own fault. That does not have to define me however and I am working on changing that.

God came to redeem a world of matter however and matter is good. The Son took on a body and rose in a body because the body is good. We are not angels. We are meant to be unities of body and soul. Male attitudes need to be functioning with male bodies and the same with females.

It would have been good of the PCUSA to have provided actual Scripture to justify sexual immorality. Sexual morality has always been something important to Christians. It is not just a physical action, while it is that. It is a powerful joining together of two bodies meant to mirror Christ and the church and I would add the greatest physical pleasure we can have on Earth meant to remind us of the great love in the Holy Trinity.

When sexual behavior is seen as something that does not matter, we are getting to the point of the incarnation not mattering and the body not mattering. God came to redeem a fallen world and that is a material world. If he says sexuality matters, then we need to know it matters.

But what about grace? Oh I’m all for grace! However, for there to be grace there must be repentance from sin. For there to be repentance, there must be confession. For there to be confession, there has to be awareness. One must have a moral standard of sexuality to be aware of sexual sin. Destroy the concept of sexual sin and there is no grace there. It would be like saying I need God’s grace FOR loving my wife as I ought. I can say I need His grace to do that as a fallen human being, but I certainly do not need forgiveness for that which is no sin.

In closing, I call on the PCUSA to change this policy. Continue with the historic Christian church in affirming not just orthodoxy in belief, but orthopraxy in lifestyle.