Why I Don’t Bother With The Losing Salvation Debate

Is this debate worth having? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I saw someone else on Facebook recently make a post about losing salvation saying the idea was heretical. A later post toned it down, but the die had been cast. This is one of those debates I used to take part in, but now I don’t really even bother.

In all openness, my thinking is much more on classical Arminianism. I reject open theism and I don’t hold to Calvinism. However, if you asked me if I believe in works salvation, of course not. Now some people will say that saying you are to believe in Christ counts as a work, but I just consider this pedantic.

This does not mean I deny the sovereignty of God. My thinking on the whole issue is I just hold to two statements. God is sovereign. Man has free-will. How do those work out? Beats me. Better philosophers than I have wrestled with that and it’s not a necessary question for me.

So what about losing salvation? This question I think misses the mark because we really lose sight of the goal. I think we all agree that we want to preach the gospel so that people get saved and come to know Jesus, we want to instill a life of discipleship in people, and we want them to live holy lives.

The Calvinist will evangelize because he doesn’t know who the elect are and he knows that this is the means God has chosen to bring people to salvation. The Arminian will evangelize wanting to give everyone a chance to come to know the gospel. Both are doing the same thing. Both will encourage repentance, holy living, and discipleship.

So why not focus on those things that we are encouraging? Why not instead of thinking about salvation and if it can be lost, have people live in such a way that it won’t be a concern. The overwhelming majority of Arminians don’t think you can just casually lose your salvation. Instead, it’s more that they think you have to outright apostasize or participate in some blatant sin, such as those in 1 Cor. 6.

I will interject this. I do think it needs to be addressed when someone is concerned they have lost it, such as the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. If someone is doing a sin that they are concerned about, we really need to be doing is calling them to repentance. A little bit of leaven goes through the whole dough and sin can easily destroy everything in someone’s life.

Yet looking at this, let’s suppose we have someone that both Calvinists and Arminians agree is living in blatant sin. What are both sides saying? Calvinists are saying “Was never saved to begin with.” Arminians are saying “Lost it.” Again, both camps agree on the conclusion. The person is not a Christian.

Therefore, instead of debating on this point when we agree on so much really, why not ask this question. How can we encourage Christians to lead more holy lives? What can we be doing to foster discipleship? How can we help those who are struggling with sin and those who are unrepentant?

Oddest thing. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing anyway? If we do that, then the question really won’t matter.

Now some might say, “But you’re not trusting in God for your salvation.” I don’t know any Arminians who rely on their works for salvation. We say God is the one who is saving us and it’s not because of what we do. How that works with sovereignty and free-will I do not know, but I do just choose to trust God and live as I ought.

Thus, I don’t engage in the debate between Calvinists and Arminians. It would be far more profitable for both sides, and may both of us see one another as fellow Christians, to just come together and work on what we can do to increase discipleship and holy living, which we do agree on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

How do we deal with temptation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Lord’s Prayer goes on to ask God to lead us not into temptation. As the joke goes, most of us are pretty good at finding it ourselves. Most of us when we get into temptation have usually got there by ourselves and we’re sunk by it. The first sign you are likely to fall to a sin is that you do not think you can fall to a sin.

“Sure, I love my wife, but it’s just lunch with this female co-worker and I’m not interested in it and we’re both having our break at the same time. What could go wrong? I’m safe.”

Then before too long they’re arranging to meet in a motel together.

“Sure. I can go and do a little bit of drinking. Yeah. I know I used to struggle with alcoholism, but that was years ago. One beer won’t hurt me.”

I have heard this story so many times. It always ends the same way. Years of sobriety go out the window at that point.

“It’s my Dad’s magazine collection and it’s always intrigued me. I’m sure I can handle whatever it is.”

Years later this boy is consistently looking at pornography on the internet. When he marries a woman finally, he has a hard time performing since his mind has been trained to not be aroused by ordinary women anymore.

“The family is in need. I can just cut a little off the books here at work. I’ll pay it back.”

The family is definitely in need years later when he goes to jail for embezzlement.

If we want to win the fight against sin in our lives, we have to ask to not be led into temptation because we know we are weak. If we think we can handle it in our own strength, then it is pride. If we have fallen into pride, then we have fallen into the chief sin and all the other sins will come easier.

This is one reason I have strong rules such as not riding in a car alone or being alone with women who I am not related to. If you are a woman contacting me, I will keep you at a distance to an extent because I do not want to risk ever doing anything to put another relationship between me and my own wife. If I think I cannot fall to that sin, I already have. Why risk it? What’s the gain in it?

Why should we ask God to not lead us into that? Because it not only damages us, but it damages the Kingdom. If we are seeking God’s Kingdom on Earth, our falling into sin makes it less likely that we will see that Kingdom advanced. Every time we sin, we are acting against the Kingdom and serving the other Kingdom instead.

Lead us not into temptation also acknowledges our own weaknesses. It forces us to say that we are not capable on our own. We depend on God for everything, which we do. It doesn’t matter how long we have been a Christian, we still need help. We will always need it.

May we not be led into temptation. May we also not find it on our own.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Some Thoughts On Gun Violence

What is the real cause of the violence we see in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, I will tell you my political persuasion on the issues involving mass shootings. I am the type that is so conservative that I would only fly on planes that have two right wings. I am very much for the second amendment and the right to bear arms. However, when I listen to the gun debate there is something that is missed. I understand it being missed by the secularist mindset, but I don’t expect it to be missed by Christians.

Many times, we hear talk about needing help for mental illness. It’s true I am sure that many people who do the wicked acts of mass shootings could have mental illness. The problem with this is it creates a stigma on mental illness that keeps people with mental illness who would never do something like this from getting help. Imagine what it would be like if whenever the news talked about something like ALS, we also heard it in connection with mass shootings.

Here’s one of the main problems with this. I am not at all opposed to good therapy and psychiatric medicine. I think such tools are extremely helpful. My wife’s own therapist has said that she thinks everyone should see a therapist and even many therapists see therapists.

If we paint the problem as mental illness, then the solution would be that if we could eliminate this mental illness, we would eliminate these mass shootings. This overlooks one of the most important Christian doctrines. It assumes that man as he is will not do evil and that if we can just fix that defective part in his brain, we can prevent that.

But the real problem is not really mental illness, though it can compound that.

The real problem is sin.

And we all have it.

Earlier I said that some people with mental illness would never do something like a mass shooting. I am not recanting that, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. In actuality, I think every single one of us, you and me both, are capable of greater evil than we can imagine.

Maybe you wouldn’t now, but if you were in a position of power, would you take the opportunity? Most of us don’t wake up in the morning thinking of some great wrong we want to do. Consider having an affair. Most husbands and wives don’t wake up in the morning and say “I think I’ll ruin my marriage today and have an affair.”

Instead, it starts with the opportunity to have lunch with a co-worker or just talk to someone casually. Before too long, one is looking for more and more opportunities to be with that person. Then suddenly they find themselves meeting one another in a hotel room. The evil just came gradually.

It’s hard to avoid looking back to Nazi Germany when thinking about this. Look at the evil that they did. We know now it is very easy to lead people to do great evil. Milgram established this with his experiments.

We don’t need to look that far. Consider the abortion industry. We have killed numerous babies in our culture and many people have done so with a clean conscience. This is defended as a moral right. (Ironically, these same people complain about God in the Old Testament putting children to death. Go figure.) This evil has become so normalized many people no longer see it as evil.

Chesterton once said we don’t differ on what we will call evils so much. We differ on what we will call excusable. I really think a lot of gun violence goes back to the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the family. What a shock that many of the evils we tolerate, sex outside of marriage, pornography, abortion, homosexual practice, etc. are all connected to sex. Even now society is trying to make pedophilia more acceptable. Many Christians I know have no problem with the concept of living together before marriage, something Christians for hundreds of years would have condemned immediately.

It’s easy to blame the problem on many other factors. If we remove violent video games, this will help deal with it! I don’t care for many overly violent video games, but at the same time, I am a gamer and one of the most peaceful people I think there is. The overwhelming majority of gamers are not like this.

Maybe it’s guns? Guns can give people a means to do something, but the evil is still there in their heart. Oklahoma City took place with everyday products. 9/11 was done with planes. People have used cars to go on mass rampages. I really don’t think gun control laws will work. Such laws will take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals who don’t care about the law will use them. If you really don’t care about the law against murder, you’re not gonna care about the one against having a gun.

At the heart, the real issue is sin and we need to return to that. The reality is you and I are both capable of being the next mass shooter. The huge overwhelming majority of us won’t do something like this, but if we dare deny our capability, then we are denying the great evil we have within us. If any of us had the opportunity, we need to be vigilant. One of the surest ways you can fall for an evil is to say it is one you will never commit.

If the issue is sin, there is only one solution. Christianity. It alone is the means to deal with sin in one’s life. Politics has its purpose, but it cannot save society. Only Jesus can do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Draw Of Sin

Why is it we get drawn into sinful things? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about matters and he started talking with me about some of my writings on the topic of pornography. He told me that he thinks I don’t mention that it’s normally a sin people fall into unintentionally. I can fully agree with this which leads to some thinking on the nature of sin and its draw.

When I was growing up, the D.A.R.E. program was the big thing. This was a program meant to keep kids off of drugs. I never attended a meeting or anything like that, but I was well aware of the organization. There were several commercials done in that age with kids talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up and one common line in them was “No one ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.’ ”

And this is how it is with most sins in our lives. Very few spouses will get up in the morning and say “You know, I think today would be a good day to have an affair.” Someone stopping at the bar for an evening won’t likely be thinking “I really want to be an alcoholic.” Someone who overeats on Thanksgiving too much is not likely thinking “I want to get addicted to food and become really overweight.”

With the last two, it’s not to say those automatically happen. A lot of people do overeat on Thanksgiving and manage to control themselves the rest of the year for the most part. Some people can go into a bar and get a drink and control their alcohol and be just fine. These can just be gateway points.

Here’s something to think about. When we are tempted with sin, we are in some way tempted with something that we think is good. This is not to say that the sin is good. No sin is. This is to say that this is our nature.

The porn addict has a desire to see a beautiful person of the opposite sex naked and has a desire to have sex. None of those are wrong desires. Most teenage boys growing up especially will have those desires and that’s normal for them. Having the desires is not a problem and is no sin. It’s what one does with the desires.

In this, C.S. Lewis gave a great piece of wisdom. Only good people understand temptation. Bad people do not. Bad people give in to it. Good people wrestle against it and can be grieved greatly by it. With her interest in saints in the Orthodox Church, I have told her that the saints are the ones who are most aware of their sin and struggle against it. Take the best saint you can think of in any tradition, and yes, we Protestants need to recognize there are some people who have led lives that we think are exceptionally holy, and realize that as they were dying, they still had sins they were struggling with.

This doesn’t mean that someone won’t want the sin. That is part of the struggle. You will not be tempted with something that is disgusting to you. Most of us will not be wrestling with the temptation to have sex with our mothers, for example. That seems absolutely repulsive to us even if we think our mothers are beautiful and wonderful women.

Some of you might be skeptical of the idea of temptations involving perceived good. What about murder? Usually, a crime is committed for one of three reasons. Money, sex, power. None of these are evil in themselves. It is how they are wanted and how they are used. A person wanting a murder could want justice. Justice isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the murderer wants to be judge, jury, and executioner.

Even the suicide wants something good. The suicide wants some peace from what is going on in their lives. Peace is a good thing. They just have a wrong way of wanting to get that peace.

In some cases, one does need to remove the object of temptation. It’s not in all cases, but some. If you have a problem with overeating, you can’t respond by removing all eating from your life. You’ll soon have another problem. It depends on the object of temptation entirely.

If one is tempted with porn, one should seek to cut things off entirely since porn in itself is a sin. It’s not wise to say that one needs a moderate amount of sin in their lives. In other cases, self-discipline is the idea. It also requires self-examination where you look into yourself and ask “What do I really want?” Don’t settle with a base answer like sex, power, justice, etc. Ask why one wants those things.

Suppose we go back to the guy tempted with porn. What does he want? On a basic level, he wants sex and he wants to see a naked woman, or in this case, women. Having a desire for the naked human female form is not wrong and having a desire for sex is not wrong. Yet we could ask what other things this guy wants. Perhaps he wants to feel like a man. That could be a root of the problem. Then we have to ask why this guy thinks he needs porn to feel like a man. He could ask what it really means to be a man. These are the productive questions.

Many an affair begins innocently. A woman starts talking with a man at the office and then they talk and talk and one day they go out together for lunch at the same time and just happen to go together and they just talk and talk and before too long, they’re in a hotel room together. At the start, she just wanted someone to talk to. That wasn’t wrong. What could we ask?

Why does she want this connection? What does it provide for her that she’s lacking? If she is already married, how is she viewing her marriage? Are there legitimate problems that need work? (And in every marriage, the answer is yes) What can she do to improve it?

Many times, dealing with the actions can be just like dealing with the symptoms of a disease without dealing with the disease itself. We Christians often talk about repentance so much, but that repentance which we rightly talk about is a process. It can be a long and hard and painful process. Repentance does not mean the temptation goes away or one no longer struggles. That we are struggling is really a sign of how seriously we are taking sin. People who don’t care don’t really talk about repentance. If you are feeling guilty for a sin and wrestling with it, even if there is a part of you that still wants it, as far as I’m concerned, you are in the process of repentance.

Finally, have some grace for yourself. Everyone is always struggling with some sin and for many of us, we’ve been struggling with the same kind of sin for years. Grace seems to be a concept we often think applies to everyone else instead of ourselves. Picture what you’re saying to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to anyone else in the same situation, don’t say it to yourself. Grace is always there for people who are willing to struggle through the walk and God is always there with them even if one doesn’t feel like it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/10/2018: Kyle Greenwood

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the deeper waters and find out.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. In due Christian fashion, we have been debating it ever since. I suspect that the two most debated books in the Bible are Genesis and Revelation and when it comes to Genesis, it’s largely the first 11 chapters and especially the first two.

So if we have been debating this for so long, and our Jewish friends before us have been debating it, what have we been saying? It might be too much to ask one man to go all throughout history and see what people are saying about Genesis, but fortunately, our guest this week took the path of editing a volume on it. By doing this, he allowed a number of people to look at the text and how it was interpreted throughout history.

He’ll be here with us today to talk about that book. We will look throughout history. Has it been the case that everywhere people have been talking about this book it was believed that the Earth is young and that only changed when evolution came along? How have people seen Adam and Eve? All these questions and more will be discussed with my guest, Kyle Greenwood.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Kyle Greenwood earned the Master of Divinity from Hebrew Union College and the PhD from Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion. He taught nine years at Colorado Christian University and is now an associated faculty in Old Testament at Denver Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary. Greenwood is the author of Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible between the Ancient World and Modern Science, is the editor of Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1–2 Through the Ages and just submitted a manuscript to Zondervan titledDictionary of English Grammar for Students of Biblical Languages. Kyle has been married to his wife Karen for over twenty-five years and they have three teenage children. When he’s not teaching or writing, he enjoys exploring the outdoor playgrounds of Colorado and serving in his local church.

We’ll be discussing the interpretation of these passages throughout the ages. We’ll talk about how the Jews interpreted it, how the Fathers interpreted it, how the medievals interpreted it, how the Reformers interpreted it, and then how it is interpreted in our times. We will discuss the different ways the text can be approached. Some people will like and think are treating the text properly. Some will be thought by a few out there to be a horrible way to approach the text. Some approaches could actually just make us laugh.

For those wondering where the show has been the past few weeks, we have had cancelations beyond my control and things like that. We hope to be back on an even schedule before too long. Please do realize I am trying to do all that I can to make this show the best that I can for you. I hope you’ll go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Maybe It’s Not The Devil

Do we give too much power to the devil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I was at my small group when someone asked me about Preterism. What about Revelation 20? I told them I’m of the opinion that the devil is bound right now. I got asked about all the evil that is still in the world today.

I pointed out that Jesus in the middle of His ministry said the Kingdom of God was among the people and yet He was having to cast out demons. I could have added that Psalm 110:1 says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. 1 Cor. 15 goes on to say the last enemy is death. John 12 has the prince of this world being cast out.

This got us to talking about temptation which is something I notice regularly happening with Christians. So many Christians I know think that whenever they are tempted, that means the devil has to be working on them. I mean, yeah, that has to be it. It can’t be that you yourself are a fallen and sinful human being. Obviously, if that devil would just leave you alone, you’d be walking around living like a saint entirely as you would never be tempted.

Scripture regularly tells us that our hearts are the problem. The devil can hypothetically tempt us of course, but as the old saying goes, “Don’t lead me into temptation. I can find it by myself.” We don’t really need much encouragement to do evil. We’re pretty good at finding it ourselves.

If we keep blaming the devil, we never get to the real problem. There’s something inside of ourselves that needs fixing. If we look at an external problem as the great cause of our being tempted, we can’t do the self-examination that we should be doing.

It also leads us to some form of pride. This is just how important I am. The devil is going after me to stop me from doing what I should be doing. The problem isn’t us. It’s the devil.

We could also ask what difference does it make? A man sits down at his computer and is tempted to look up internet pornography. Doesn’t he have to pray to stand strong and resist the temptations of the flesh regardless? Why not just work on that to begin with?

When we do this kind of thing, it can lead us to a sort of Christian dualism where we think the devil and God are equal and opposite partners. They’re not. If my eschatology is correct, the devil is bound now and while there is still some demonic activity going on, it is much lower than it was.

I honestly think too many of us in the church are spending way too much time focusing on the devil instead of Jesus. I also, since we’ve said something about eschatology, think we spend more time trying to figure out who the antichrist is than figuring out who the Christ is. Scripture calls us to be sober-minded. There’s no need to be paranoid about the devil every step of the way. Work out the evil in your own heart with the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Addiction

How do we deal with addictions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife goes to Celebrate Recovery and seeing as she can’t drive, I’m her ride. The meetings are held at our church and they are a blessing to go to. I am finding it easier and easier to communicate with the men that I’m in group with. Everyone who come to the group has a major struggle. I generally talk for me about wanting to be a better husband. Each meeting has early on an account of someone giving their story and there is one running theme.

Addiction.

I am sure I have my own addictions, but I honestly can’t place them. As I thought about this, I’m sure we all do, because it could easily be the case that all sin is something like this. It has been said that for the devil, the sin he did was that he saw all the glory of YHWH in Heaven and thought of nothing but his own prestige. Note something if that is accurate. There is nothing wrong with your own well-being, but there is a problem with putting that first.

Something you need to know about addictions is that everyone who is addicted is addicted to a good thing. Some of you might balk at that. Surely it is not good. In some cases, the actions are not good, but the person really wants not the actions, but the good that comes with the actions.

Consider if we talk about sexual addictions. Sex is a good thing, yet if you meet a man who struggles with sexual addiction, he does not want the sex for the sake of sex. No. He wants sex because of certain things sex gives him. He delights in seeing a woman naked. He enjoys the feeling of sexual release. He desires to be wanted and wants to be passionate with a woman. It could be any of those things. It could be all of them.

None of those are bad things. A man should enjoy seeing a woman naked. He should enjoy sexual release. He should want to be wanted and want to be passionate with a woman. These are not bad things.

The sin is not the desire itself. The sin is putting that desire over something else. In this case, the man is using the woman’s body often as an object and caring nothing about the woman herself and is not willing to make a commitment to her. If he is married and his wife doesn’t give, well okay. That’s rough, but just hop on the computer and look at some porn. If the wife can’t be used, use another woman.

How about cutting? If you see my wife’s Facebook, you know she has struggled with this and is about to go four months without. Why does someone want to cut? It’s not because they really enjoy the act itself. It’s because of what results from the act. It makes them feel better about emotional pain. Nothing wrong with that part. All of us want to diminish emotional pain. It’s just how we do it that’s wrong.

Many times with addiction, a strange place seems to be reached. It is the position of saying that we cannot be happy without X, whatever it is. Not only that, we are willing to risk what anyone else could tell us would be greater goods in order to get this lesser good.

C.S. Lewis years ago compared us to children who are offered a day at the beach but instead keep wanting to make mudpies in a sandbox. We are offered so much and we settle for so little. Lewis said our desires are not too strong, but they are too weak. We settle. We are far too easily pleased.

When we get like this, two words come to mind to describe this. Both of them start with an S. I’m going to be blunt so be prepared.

The first word is stupid.

If you were offered a day at the beach and yet insisted on mudpies in a sandbox, unless there is some factor about the beach we don’t know about, that’s just stupid. It is. It is not the result of sound thinking.

The other word is the one we don’t like to use, but it needs to be used. In fact, I think until we come to realize that unless this word is seen as the real culprit, the problem will never be dealt with.

That word is sin.

You see, the problem isn’t that we love some little thing too much. It’s that we love some greater thing too little. A man with a porn addiction hopefully loves his wife, but sadly, in that moment, he is loving his addiction more.

Lewis had something to say about this as well. He said that when we want forgiveness of sins, we usually want excusing of sin. “Yes, Lord. I did look at pornography, but my wife was really frigid today and I had such a raging desire and I figured it was better to deal with it than to live in stress and anxiety over it.”

Excusing is just stupid. For one thing, God knows all the excuses we could give. He knows the mitigating factors that lead to a sin. He takes them into account and judges us fairly. Yet no matter what it is, in every single action, there is still something that was done wrong. That is the sin. It cannot be excused. There is no excusing sin. It must be confessed and forgiven.

For addiction, repentance doesn’t need to become a one-time deal. It must be a lifetime. It must be our constant repenting. What is that repenting? For the time being, we put something else on the throne of God. We put something else as essential to our happiness save God Himself.

1 Tim. 6:17 does say God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment. He gave us food, sex, money, fame, and all of these properly understood are good things. What is the problem is that we make these good things the main gods of our lives when addiction comes up.

I think also some of this could be that well, our churches aren’t doing a good job. Most churches give us just simple platitudes. Christianity is not about submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord. It’s about learning how to be a good person. There’s nothing wrong with being a good person, but the church has to give us something unique. Jesus can’t be just a way to be a good person. He has to be a way to God. Jesus did not come to just give us morality. He came to give us God.

We also have an emphasis on heaven in our churches, and yet there is no excitement about heaven. People will say they want to go to heaven when they die, but they don’t think about it. I have to say I’m guilty of that as well, and if we went by the description of heaven in most churches, who could blame anyone for not being excited? Heaven is often depicted as a neverending church service, yet how many of us can be looking at our watches wondering if the preacher will be quiet soon after ten minutes and yet we’re supposed to enjoy an eternity of this?

I really think we need to get in some good look at Heaven. Consider a book like Peter Kreeft’s Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing. To go back to Lewis, Lewis spoke of how we can not picture happiness sometimes because we’re so fixated on one thing. For a little boy, chocolate can be the greatest good. His older brother says lovemaking is far greater. The little boy wonders if the couple has chocolate in it. (To be fair, they can, but it’s not essential.) The little boy does not realize that the couple has something going on that is far better so much so that chocolate pales in comparison. Picture if what we have in lovemaking that is so good cannot compare to what awaits us in eternity.

One reason we also don’t get excited about Heaven is that we’re not excited about God, and again, why should we be? God is often depicted in these static terms. He forgives us and He loves us and that’s about it. Nothing is said about His glory and majesty. Nothing is said to excite us to His nature. We worship Him, but do we really know why we do? Many of us worship God I think out of familiarity and because you go to church on Sunday and that’s just what you do.

Picture it. We’re really saying there is a being out there who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, loves us all, will give us all that is essential to our happiness, has acted in the world through great events like the Exodus and the sending of His Son Jesus, still does miracles today, will give us all everlasting joy in Heaven, but at the same time prior will be our judge and we will give an account of everything we do to Him.

Oh. That’s nice. What’s on TV tonight?

It really is how we approach the topic.

It’s also shown that we do that because we don’t take sin seriously. Much of our psychology and such is about dealing with our feelings. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s rarely about dealing with our behaviors. We want to feel good. We just don’t often want to be good.

Have you ever considered that every act of sin, no matter how small, is an act of divine treason? In some way, you are denying one or more of God’s attributes.

You are denying that God has the power to judge you when you sin. He says He will, but you don’t fear that. You will do it anyway.

You are denying that He knows what is best for you. He says He will provide your joy and happiness if you trust Him. Nope. You have to find your own way.

You are denying His omnipresence. God won’t see it. He isn’t there. He won’t notice it.

You are denying His love. God is holding out on you. If God really wanted your happiness, He would provide immediately this thing that you want for your happiness.

We could go on, but the point is you are denying God. You are then trying to take His throne. Every sin is setting ourselves up as the real god of the universe.

So let’s look. We don’t take sin seriously. We don’t take God seriously. We don’t take Heaven seriously.

About the only thing we seem to take seriously is ourselves.

Yet as I say that last part, a caveat comes up. Many times, it can be a popular saying to say “I am my problem.” You’re not. The problem is not you. Why? Because sin is not your identity. You are not an addiction. You have an addiction. The problem is your sin. Get rid of your sin and everything about you is wonderful at that point. Really. Not a joke. Everything about you will be wonderful if you get rid of sin. The same for me.

We must realize our enemy is not ourselves. It is our sin, and we have to have zero-tolerance for it. Paul would write in places like Romans about how we were set free from sin. How can we let it be master over us again? If we submit to sin, we are not submitting to King Jesus. If we are not submitting to Him, we are saying something else is master besides Him.

Now some good news. God forgives us even in our sin. God is willing to work with us. He knows that we are dust. He knows our struggles. We do need to turn to Him and I think we need to turn to Him in an informed way. We really need to think about God.

You see, the reality is that we will pursue what it is that we really desire. We have to ask ourselves if we desire the object of our addiction more of if we desire God more. Every time we give in, we know which one we really desire more at that moment. It’s also again, pretty stupid and sinful. What we desire here is often momentary and doesn’t last long.

Consider a man who has a good marriage and great kids. What happens? He gets tempted by a girl at the office and before too long, he’s meeting her in a hotel and is throwing away years of a good marriage and being a good example to his kids just so he can have a tryst with another woman that won’t last that long. The act of sex is not an all-day thing in itself. (You can spend all day preparing for it, but you won’t spend all day doing it.)

Most of us would realize that’s stupid indeed, but the man when he’s caught in the action does not see that. All he sees is the sex that he wants. That’s it. That’s why we need to listen to others. Is what we really want, a moment of pleasure, worth sin against a holy God? Is it really worth putting ourselves and our loved ones through pain? Is it?

Again, I’m saying this as someone writing more on the outside and seeing the pain of addiction, which for me is when my wife chooses it in some way. One of the great sadnesses is realizing all the good that is being missed out on when the lesser good is desired. It’s quite amazing isn’t it? One can follow the path knowing the lesser good will end in pain every single time, and yet each time that time is thought to be the exception. This time when we follow the addiction, we will get the happiness that we want!

Our ultimate happiness is only found in God. He has given us several other things to make us happy here in this world and we should enjoy them, but we must never make idols out of them. Use them for the glory of God, but don’t think they are the glory of God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Phil Johnson on N.T. Wright

What do I think of Johnson’s critique of Wright? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

ETA: My first writing of this said R.C. Sproul. I was notified that this was by Phil Johnson so I have done necessary edits..

When I was in seminary, for a class on salvation for systematic theology proper, we were assigned to read The Future of Justification by John Piper. This was a response to N.T. Wright’s work on the topic of justification. I had heard about it some, but I never took the time to really look at it. As I read Piper, he would frequently quote Wright. When I read those quotes of Wright I would think “That certainly seems like a plausible way of looking at it more in line with Second Temple Judaism.” Before too long after finishing that book, I got Wright’s book on the topic and went through it and while I don’t sign on the dotted line yet, I do find it quite persuasive.

A friend asked me about this all yesterday. He has a fear that Wright has a position here that is heretical. Our discussion, which was friendly and I do like that, ended with him sending me this from Phil Johnson. So let’s take a look at this piece.

Johnson starts off with glowing praise of Wright and what a great scholar he is. Before too long, the clouds darken. Wright has a position that is not evangelical at all obviously. He has a position that denies Sola Fide.

Let me point out early on then that I am not a Calvinist. You can hold that against me if you want, but I’m just not, and that was before reading Wright even. I have never subscribed to Calvinism. I just do not find it a persuasive position on the Bible.

So let’s gon on and quote Johnson.

Wright begins by giving a sketch of the pedigree of twentieth-century scholarship on Paul. He acknowledges that the New Perspective is deeply rooted in the work of a line of scholars who were by no means evangelicals. Indeed, most of them were hostile to the evangelical perspective. He lists, for example, Albert Schweitzer, W. D. Davies, Ernst Käsemann, and E.P. Sanders as the main influences in developing the New Perspective.

Schweitzer’s contribution was to emphasize the fact that Paul was a Hebrew, not a Hellenist. Paul thought in Jewish categories, not Greek ones. Schweitzer therefore argued that the traditional Protestant emphasis on justification by faith missed the heart of Pauline theology. Paul’s emphasis was on our union with Christ [true enough], but Schweitzer argued that it is therefore wrong to think of justification by faith as a forensic declaration, the way historic Reformed and Protestant theologians always have. Here’s how Wright describes Schweitzer’s view on page 14: “What mattered [to Schweitzer] was being ‘in Christ’, rather than the logic-chopping debates about justification, [and therefore] one was free to live out the life of Christ in new and different ways.”

Notice, then: the historic Protestant understanding of justification by faith was under attack from the very birth of the earliest ideas that led to this new interpretation of the apostle Paul. Forensic justification was denied in favor of living out the life of Christ.

Please note that part of the problem with this and with later looks is that this is simply poisoning the well. These people were not evangelicals. So what? It’s good to read critics of our position. They can point us to our blind faults. If the evangelical perspective has not been correct all these years, maybe it’s the others who can show us that who are just as much trained in the field as we are.

What has to be asked is can the data be separated from those who hold it? If the answer is yes, then there is no problem, and I don’t see any other answer. Data is data regardless of who discovers it. We also have no reason to think Wright would be wanting to be in line with someone just because of who they are. Wright has in fact written a leading evangelical defense of the resurrection of Jesus. (You know, the central fact of Christian teaching.)

Wright’s point seems to be that the New Perspective on Paul has an impressive scholarly pedigree. What I want to point out is that these views are rooted in the kind of scholarship that has historically been hostile to evangelical distinctives, such as the authority and inspiration of Scripture. It is ironic, and I think not without significance, that the earliest exponents of this new expertise on Paul were all men who were happy to discard whatever portions of the Pauline writings did not fit their theories. So you have experts on Paul who reject large portions of what Paul actually wrote.

Okay. Did Wright do this? Has Wright jettisoned parts of Paul just because they disagree with his theories? It reminds me of how for a time thinkers in the medieval period were hesitant to take the words of Aristotle. He had been used by the Muslims after all. It was Aquinas who took this information and said it could be used by the church and in essence Christianized Aristotle. Did he take every belief Aristotle held? No. Still, he took his system of thought and said that it was in line with Christianity. He was also right.

I think Wright has done similar. He has not thrown out the material because it comes from non-evangelicals. Instead, he has looked at the data, said they might be on to something, and figured how it does work better with the Pauline corpus in his mind than the traditional interpretation. If this is so, the point of origins is irrelevant and just a big genetic fallacy.

Wright also claims that our misunderstanding of Judaism reached its zenith with Luther and the Reformers—in other words, historic Protestantism. Wright thinks evangelicals in particular have perpetuated the misunderstanding because of our systematic and theological approach to interpreting the New Testament. We’re guilty of thinking in Greek categories rather than Jewish ones. We have been too prone to read Augustine’s conflicts with Pelagius and Luther’s conflict with Rome back into the biblical text, and that has corrupted and prejudiced our understanding of the Jewish culture surrounding Paul.

Note what Johnson is saying about Wright. It is not our misunderstand of Scripture. It is our misunderstanding of Judaism. That did affect how we read Scripture. I think the Reformers were right in their stance on a problem in the RCC back in their day. They looked at the issue of their day and I think they gave the right answer. The problem was they also looked at what Paul was saying and thought Paul was dealing with the same issue. It was understandable why they would think that, but were they right? That is the key question.

For instance, if we look at the Gospels, we don’t find this being discussed that much. There is not really discussion on justification. It could be damaging that one time Jesus is asked about this topic, he tells the questioner to follow the commandments and then go and sell everything he has and give to the poor. He hardly gave the answer of justification by grace through faith.

Does that mean that it is false? No. It means that Jesus knew the heart of this person and this person was not willing to sacrifice to be a disciple. Jesus often speaks about the cost of discipleship. The strong words in Luke are highly misunderstood but they are the ones about hating your own mother and father and brother and sister. It doesn’t mean to literally hate, but Jesus is saying “Don’t become a disciple unless you are willing to give up everything.”

And let’s face it, we’re all still working on that one!

Let’s go to Jesus’s message in Mark. He starts by saying the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel. Question. What was He telling people to believe? If He was saying justification by grace through faith, on what grounds? No one other than Jesus had the foggiest idea that He would die on a cross and rise again, yet there was something in Jesus’s message to already be believed. What was it?

His baptism had had Him displayed as the Son of God which would be implicit evidence that He is the Messiah. The good news then is that the Kingdom of God is here. God is becoming king. Jesus regularly spoke about the Kingdom of God in His messages. Jesus spoke of it often. We barely say a word about it in church today.

How does this tie in with Paul? Go to 1 Cor. 15. Paul says that the Gospel is that Jesus Christ died and was buried and rose again for our sins. For Paul, this was the sign that the kingdom had come. Jesus being the promised Messiah meant something. The promise to the patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had come to pass. The one whom Moses wrote about had arrived. By raising Jesus from the dead, God had vindicated Him and shown that this man is His chosen king to rule the world. It was a new age. Our modern new age culture is wrong. The true new age began when Jesus was declared king of this world. Christ does not find His identity in us. We find ours in Him.

Let’s also keep in mind we have something the Reformers did not have. We have access to Jewish writings they were not aware of that have changed the way we see the culture and we can see that we were wrong in some understandings. I am sure that if the Reformers were here, they would be eagerly wanting to look at these writings and learn all they could from them and if they were wrong about something, they would want to be the first ones to know it.

Please note also that you can say all of this and still say the Reformers were right in their struggle. You can still say that faith alone is all that one needs to be saved. We will get into more of this as we go along.

He goes on to say (still on p. 32), “This point is clearly of enormous importance, but I cannot do more than repeat it in case there is any doubt: Jews like Saul of Tarsus were not interested in an abstract, timeless, ahistorical system of salvation. They were not even primarily interested in, as we say today, ‘going to heaven when they died.’” (By the way, that is a ridiculous statement, and if you want to see how ridiculous it is, read Hebrews 11:13–16. Those who had true faith were interested in going to heaven when they died. Hebrews 11:16: “they desired a better country, that is, an heavenly [one].”)

Except it’s not a ridiculous statement. What we have apparently is one text in the Bible that Johnson thinks makes his point. We don’t even have anything from Paul who this is supposed to be about. When Hebrews speaks of a heavenly country, what were they thinking? Going some place else when they died? No. They were thinking I think about God making this world His abode. This world is not an accident. It is not an afterthought.

Unfortunately, we have done this so much that we think going to heaven is the point of Christianity and then it’s not often so much about heaven as it is a get out of hell free card. You can have a call to salvation in a church service that talks about heaven and says absolutely nothing about the resurrection. It has no call to repentance. It says nothing about discipleship. Instead, it all becomes about how do I get to heaven.

If Johnson thinks that one passage can make something a ridiculous statement, then I have one passage from Jesus (Said three times) about selling all you have and giving to the poor to have eternal life. Therefore, it would be “ridiculous” to think that Jesus would believe in justification by faith. Do I think that? Not at all. I think all the passages have to be properly understood. The same with the Hebrews passage.

Johnson quotes Wright saying

Despite a long tradition to the contrary, the problem Paul addresses in Galatians is not the question of how precisely someone becomes a Christian or attains to a relationship with God. (I’m not even sure how Paul would express, in Greek, the notion of ‘relationship with God’, but we’ll leave that aside.) The problem he addresses is: should ex-pagan converts be circumcised or not? Now this question is by no means obviously to do with the questions faced by Augustine and Pelagius, or by Luther and Erasmus. On anyone’s reading, but especially within its first-century context, [the problem] has to do, quite obviously, with the question of how you define the people of God. Are they to be defined by the badges of the Jewish race, or in some other way?

At this point, the question to ask is “Is Wright right?” Let’s go back to the sources and look and see. Let’s look at those writings we have now that the Reformers did not have. Let’s look at the research. Johnson responds with

Wright is explicitly acknowledging that if the New Perspective is correct, and first-century Judaism had no issue with works-righteousness, then all the traditional interpretations of Romans, Galatians, and the other Pauline epistles must be thrown out the window, and we must go back to square one in our exegesis of the apostle Paul.

Wright’s critics, including me, have pointed out that this is a pretty audacious claim. Wright is claiming, in effect, is that he is the first person in the history of the church—or at least since the time of Augustine—who has correctly understood the apostle Paul (and hence the majority of the New Testament). Wright is pretty careful not to state explicitly that he thinks this would require a complete overhaul of Protestant confessional standards. And some of Wright’s Presbyterian advocates in America have denied with great passion that Wright’s beliefs pose any threat whatsoever to the historic Protestant creeds. But it would seem patently obvious to me that if the whole foundation of our Pauline exegesis is brought back to square one, then we can throw out every creed and systematic theology ever written by anyone who adhered to the old perspective on Paul, and start over with our theology as well. And in practice, that is precisely what is happening. That’s the very upheaval you see in the various controversies that are being addressed in this conference this weekend.

One can picture what it would be like if R.C. Johnson had been in a position of power in the RCC at the time of Luther.

“Can anyone believe this monk? He thinks he is the first one in church history for 1,500 years to truly understand the Scriptures and the rest of us have got them wrong! This is surely an audacious claim! If we follow him, we will have to go back to square one in our understanding of Paul!”

I remember years ago someone sent me a conversation with Al Mohler and others talking about Wright’s perspective. One speaker on this panel said “Wright may think he’s found something new in the Scripture, but he’s going against the tradition.” Yes. We as Protestants should have a problem with someone going with what they think they found in the Scriptures when that goes against our traditional understanding. Pardon me, but isn’t that what happened in the Reformation?

It’s happened elsewhere too. Galileo went against the tradition at the time as well. I also do think Galileo was arrogant. There was something else about him too. He was right. If we just say “Tradition!” then we always risk just being wrong. We dare not say we want skeptics to be open to Christianity if we are not open to being wrong.

We go on.

Of course, the apostle Paul uses that phrase repeatedly. In Galatians 2:16— in that one verse alone—he uses it three times: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” According to Wright, when Paul spoke of “the works of the law, he did not have in mind the moral requirements of the law of God. Rather, he was speaking of the badges of Jewish nationalism—circumcision, the dietary laws, the priesthood, the holy days, and whatnot. In other words, he’s talking about the ceremonial law. Quoting again from page 120, Wright says that the question Paul is addressing in Galatians is “the question of how you define the people of God. Are they to be defined by the badges of the Jewish race, or in some other way?”

In this, I think Wright is definitely on to something. Peter’s main issue was not what must I do to be saved. His issue was how he would be perceived by the others. People living the Gospel do not need to eat according to the Law. The Law does not show that they are Christians. It is faith in Christ. Peter’s actions were a denial of that. Peter’s salvation was never an issue.

Paul is then saying to the Galatians that the Judaizers think that to be a Christian, you must keep the law. It is not so you can be saved, but to show that you are saved. All true Christians will keep the Law. How can you recognize a Christian? He keeps the law. Unfortunately, this would catapult us right back to Judaism. How do you recognize a Jew? He keeps the law. How do you recognize a Christian? He keeps the law. Christ becomes useless then.

So what is it that sets a Christian apart? Faith in Christ. How do you know someone is a Christian? They have faith in Christ. If you want to say the law is what identifies you, then you indeed have to keep all of it.

Wright insists that in the true Pauline theology, justification by faith has almost nothing to do with a person’s standing before God, but it has everything to do with the corporate makeup of the covenant community. To quote Wright again (p. 119),

Justification” in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about “getting in,” or indeed about “staying in,” as about “how you could tell who was in.” In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church.

So in Wright’s view, justification is not about how we relate to God; it’s about how ethnic and cultural groups relate to one another. Page 122: “What Paul means by justification … is not ‘how you become a Christian’, so much as ‘how you can tell who is a member of the covenant family.’ … [Justification] is the doctrine which insists that all who share faith in Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their racial differences.”

Is Wright right? I don’t think Johnson is. Wright is not saying it is about how we relate to one another. It’s about indeed who the community is. How the community treats itself is a good question, but the question is who is a part of the community. Whose community is it? The community of God.

This fits in very well with Judaism at the time. We in our world are much more individualistically based. To say to march to the beat of your own drummer and be your own man would make no sense to them. We often have the habit of reading our questions into Scripture thinking the Scripture is addressing the same questions when it is not. I think this is what is often happening in our reading of Genesis 1 as an example.

Is there no soteriological or personal dimension in Wright’s understanding of justification, then? There is, and this is one of the most troubling aspects of his work. Like many today who are proposing new understandings of justification, he bifurcates justification into immediate and future aspects, and pushes the personal and salvific dimensions of justification into the eschatalogical future, in a final judgment. Page 129: “Present justification declares, on the basis of faith, what future justification will affirm publicly … on the basis of the entire life.”

That’s troubling for two reasons: first, it makes a person’s covenant faithfulness—obedience—the basis of final justification, thus grounding the ultimate declaration of righteousness in the believer’s own works, rather than grounding justification completely in the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

And it does no such thing whatsoever. Last I checked, we all seem to think that works are a part of the evidence of salvation. James is right. If you say you have faith and you have no works, then you do not really have faith. How is this a problem? I don’t know any evangelical who wants to say you can say the sinner’s prayer, live like a heathen, and still get eternal life at the end. Faith in Christ ought to result in some works.

And even though Wright’s defenders have tried desperately to exonerate him from this charge, it seems clear to me that throughout his book, he is selfconsciously and deliberately rejecting the main distinctive—the material principle—of the Protestant Reformation. In Luther’s words, this is the article by which the church stands or falls. In Calvin’s words, it is the principle hinge of all religion.

If Johnson thinks this is convincing, then I’ll use the same principle. It seems clear to me that Johnson has encountered a new idea and it goes against what he has always believed in his mind, so he has started pushing the panic button. I think this is also what Geisler did when Licona came out with his ideas and it is sadly a common evangelical tactic.

I also think it’s odd to say the church stands or falls by this. What happened to the resurrection? Do we really think the world was hearing in the first century “Good news! You can be justified by grace through faith!” and that was the contorversial message? The controversial message was about this dead man named Jesus who was alive and God’s Messiah through whom He would rule the world.

And you see this most clearly in the fifth distinctive of Wright’s position that I want to highlight for you. Here is idea number five, if you’re making a list of these: According to Wright, Protestant and Reformed exegetes who in the mainstream of evangelical theology have all misread what Paul meant when he spoke of “the righteousness of God.” According to Wright, divine righteousness is not an asset that can be imputed from God to the believer. It has nothing to do with virtue or excellence or moral rectitude that can be imputed. Instead, God’s righteousness is simply His covenant faithfulness. And when Paul speaks of the believer’s righteousness as a righteousness that comes from God, he is talking about covenant membership, our status in the covenant, which ultimately must be maintained by our own faithfulness.

Now if that sounds to you like implicit denial of the classic doctrine of imputation, I believe that is precisely what Wright is saying. He downplays or denies or redefines the principle of imputation at every turn. Page 98: “If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys, or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom.”

According to Wright (p. 123), 1 Corinthians 1:30 is “the only passage I know of where something called ‘the imputed righteousness of Christ,’ a phrase more often found in post-Reformation theology and piety than in the New Testament, finds any basis in the text.” Wright then goes on to argue that if we are to claim 1 Corinthians 1:30 as a proof text about the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, “we must also be prepared to talk of the imputed wisdom of Christ; the imputed sanctification of Christ … “ and so on.

Say what you will about Wright; he himself makes it abundantly clear that he does not like the notion of imputation, because he does not believe divine righteousness is something that can be reckoned, or put to the account, of the believer. And he is equally silent—ominously silent—about the biblical teaching that the believer’s guilt was imputed to Christ and paid for on the cross.

We can wonder if Johnson has changed any of this since Wright has now a whole book on the atonement, but I am doubtful that he has. Wright is correct that only one text explicitly says anything like that. It’s strange that Johnson would seem to have a problem with Wright saying he only has one text that can be said to argue for this position when that’s exactly what Johnson did earlier in this article with Hebrews 11:13-16.

Therefore, he says, we have got the gospel all wrong. And he says this repeatedly. Page 60: “‘The gospel’ is not, for Paul, a message about ‘how one gets saved’, in an individual and ahistorical sense.” Page 41; here is how Wright 10 describes what he is convinced is a misunderstanding of the gospel: “In certain circles within the church … ‘the gospel’ is supposed to be a description of how people get saved; of the theological mechanism whereby, in some people’s language, Christ takes our sin and we his righteousness.”

Some people’s language”? Wright himself disdains to use such language. He is careful to insist that he is not intolerant of people who do use that language. He goes on (p. 41): “I am perfectly comfortable with what people normally mean when they say ‘the gospel’. I just don’t think it’s what Paul means.”

But if that’s not what Paul means, it’s not what Scripture means. Is Wright suggesting that Protestants have historically proclaimed a “different gospel”? It would certainly be uncharacteristic of Tom Wright to anathematize anyone, but he does rather clearly imply that he thinks Protestants have been getting the gospel wrong since the 16th century.

And many Calvinists have been saying the same about others. Anybody seen that saying “Calvinism is the Gospel”? If that is really meant, then that would mean anyone who is an arminian is holding to a different Gospel. Wright has not denied the Gospel. Instead, He has broadened it. It’s not just about the individual. It’s about the community of God and God Himself.

Johnson says Wright thinks we’ve been getting it wrong for a long time. So did Martin Luther. If we followed Johnson consistently, we would have to get rid of the Reformation.

Now I promised to give you as many biblical answers to Tom Wright’s New Perspective as time allows, and in the time that remains, that is what I want to do. Let me try to answer each one of the five ideas I have outlined with at least one or two biblical arguments:

First, there’s the notion that we have misunderstood first-century Judaism. I answer that Tom Wright has erred by lending more credence to secular scholarship than he does to the testimony of Scripture. We ought to draw our understanding of the first-century religious climate from the New Testament itself, and not from the disputed conclusions of a handful of skeptical twentieth-century scholars who refuse to bow to the authority of Scripture.

And I say Johnson has not looked at the data that has been presented. Is the data wrong because some non-Christians came up with it? Do we really want to present an echo chamber approach? We tell non-Christians they should learn from Christians and non-Christians both, but we will not do the same?

And what about Johnson? Is he going directly to Scripture? I contend that he has pointed to tradition in this piece far more than he has to Scripture. Once again, I thought the Reformation had something to do with questioning long held traditions because of the truth of Scripture, but maybe I was wrong.

And what does Scripture say about the religion of the Jews, and the Pharisees in particular? Scripture clearly teaches that their central error was that they trusted too much in their own righteousness rather than resting their faith in the Old Testament truth that God would cover them with the garment of His own righteousness. Paul says this explicitly in Romans 10:3: “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” Jesus also said it repeatedly. He constantly criticized the Pharisees for trying to justify themselves. Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican? Luke 18:9 says Jesus told that parable “unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” And the whole point of Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3 was to show that he once had “confidence in the flesh”—those are Paul’s precise words in Philippians 3:4. But Paul turned from that, jettisoned his self-righteousness, regarded it as dung, and testified that his one hope now, as a Christian and a believer, was “To be found in [Christ,] not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

Unfortunately, quoting a Scripture does not mean your interpretation of it is correct. The Jews in Romans 10 were rejecting Christ and saying “We will show our righteousness by the Law.” That would fit in just fine with what Wright says. In Luke, the Pharisee is not righteous because he keeps the law. The tax collector is because he lives by faith. Again, this is just fine with Wright. In Phillipians 3, Paul was one who kept the law blamelessly by his words, but his righteousness was not in keeping the law, but by identifying himself as a believer in Christ. Again, Wright would have no problem.

Wright tries to do away with the force of that text by removing the word righteousness, and suggesting that Paul was talking about “covenant membership.” But both the context and the very words of the passage prove that what Paul was describing was the difference between two contrasting ideas of righteousness—one he calls “my own righteousness,” and the other, an alien righteousness—the righteousness of God in Christ.

Not at all. Paul being faithful to the old covenant would not save if God had made a new covenant. The righteousness of the new is superior to the old for it is based on the fulfillment of the promises of Christ. That Johnson has not considered what someone who works to understand this can come up quickly shows me that Johnson is just pushing the panic button.

Wright is simply wrong—egregiously wrong—when he suggests that self-righteousness was not a problem in first-century Judaism.

Johnson is simply wrong—egregiously wrong—when he suggests that self-righteousness was a problem in first-century Judaism and maybe he should have read those scholars that Wright read instead of dismissing them.

By the way, Wright is making a caricature of the historic Protestant position when he suggests that most interpreters have equated first-century Judaism with Pelagianism, the notion that sinners can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and save themselves through their own works.

Just quoting this to say the irony of a caricature here is amazing.

Of course Judaism had a major emphasis on grace, and the mercy of God. The Pharisees knew the Old Testament, and the idea of grace was plainly prominent in the Old Testament. But the religion of the Pharisees, and the bulk of first-century Judaism, had corrupted the Old Testament notion of grace. Their religion wasn’t like Pelagianism, which is utterly devoid of grace. But it was much like semi-pelagianism, which has a watered-down notion of grace, and still places too much stress on human works. Semi-pelagianism suggests that grace is enough to get your foot in the door of salvation, but you have to maintain your salvation, or your covenant membership, by your own faithfulness and obedience to the law.

And Johnson bases this on….what? What scholarship on Second Temple Judaism is he reading to tell us that this is the way Jews thought? Your guess is as good as mine.

Listen, even in the way Tom Wright describes first-century Judaism, it is clear that there was a semi-pelagian tendency in that religion. And frankly, one of my great concerns with Wright and others who have followed his lead (as well as people like Norman Shepherd and the Auburn Avenue movement) is this: Their notion of “covenant faithfulness,” where a person maintains his membership in the covenant by legal means, through obedience, and looks for a final justification grounded at least partly in their own works—smacks too much of neonomian legalism for my tastes. It turns the gospel into a “new law”—a toned-down legal system where the requirements are diminished so that imperfect obedience counts as true obedience. And that makes the sinner’s own works either the ground or the instrument of final justification. That kind of thinking frankly has the stench of semi-pelagianism all over it. It is a subtle form of works-righteousness.

Except Johnson is reading his individualism into this. The Jew would not say I am doing the works of the Law so that I can be saved. They would say they are doing it because they are saved and this is what people of the covenant do. How do I know I am in the covenant? I fulfill my part of it! God is my patron! My role is to do what He has commanded me to do!

My reply is that if Wright is correct and the only issue Paul was concerned about was racial and cultural divisions in the Galatian churches and elsewhere, the force of Paul’s response is a little bit hard to understand. If Paul’s plea was merely an echo of Rodney-King theology (“Why can’t we all just get along?”) it’s hard to see why Paul himself pronounced such harsh anathemas against the Judaizers in Galatians 1. In effect, Paul banned them from the table Wright insists ought to be open to everyone who acknowledges Christ as Lord.

Actually, Paul’s response is pretty easy to understand. If the Galatians go the way they are doing, then Christ is useless because it’s being part of the community by the old standard as I said earlier. This is not about getting along. Again, Johnson has made, dare I say, a caricature, of the situation.

What about this third distinctive? Wright says we have mistaken what Paul meant by the expression “works of the law.”

Romans 3:20 alone blows that argument to smithereens. Paul says, “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

It’s the moral law, not the ceremonial law, that puts our sin under a bright light and condemns us. Paul is not talking about ethnic badges here; he is talking about the moral demands of the law. And he is saying as plainly as possible that the law, with all its high moral standards, cannot possibly justify us, because it condemns us as sinners.

Romans 3:20 hardly blows it to smithereens. Johnson speaks about the moral law and not the ceremonial law, but we have to ask if a Jew would have made that distinction. Paul in fact in the passage that talks about the morality of those who follow the Law also talks about circumcision. Does Johnson think that circumcision is part of the moral law? Is a Gentile man immoral if he does not get circumcised?

Does the Law show what sin is? Yes. The Law then could not be the final basis for justification. It would have to be something else that would show someone is justified. That would be faith in Christ. Again, this is not a problem for Wright’s view. Johnson strikes me as someone who does not want to learn what his opponents believe. He’s quick to find something he thinks makes the case and then declares victory.

Wright’s definition of justification (as “covenant membership”) downplays and almost completely eliminates the ideas of sin and forgiveness from the doctrine of justification completely. But forgiveness and redemption from the guilt of sin are the very issues Paul is dealing with in Romans 3 and 4. And Paul’s illustrations and Old Testament proofs make it clear that what he is talking about is first of all individual, not corporate, justification. He is dealing with guilt, not merely covenant status. Romans 4:4–5: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to the one who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted [“reckoned”; “imputed to him”] for righteousness.”

Verses 6–7: “Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered.”

There’s no way to be faithful to the meaning of that text if you try to evacuate the notions of individual guilt and forgiveness from the idea of justification.

No way? Challenge accepted!

In fact, it is quite easy to be faithful to the text. Why is Abraham cited? Abraham is exhibit A in all of these. Abraham was the friend of God. Abraham was the person God made an original covenant with. If Abraham was justified by works, then the Jews would have a case. What does the text say though? Abraham believed in God and it was credited to Him as righteousness. Abraham’s identity marker then was not circumcision. It was faith to the covenant. We today are declared righteous by faith in the covenant. The difference is we see the covenant afterward.

David says the same. There is no need for individualism here. Community minded people certainly know individuals exist. Their focus is just not on the individual. It is on the community. The group comes first and then the person comes second.

I could go on, but time is short. Let me just give you one other example, from the teaching of Jesus. That parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18 teaches the very thing N. T. Wright wants to deny about the doctrine of justification. This is the one place where Jesus expounds most clearly on the principle of justification. And he is fully in agreement with the classic Reformed interpretation of Paul. He ends that parable by saying in Luke 18:14: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

There you have the principle of justification apart from works of any kind. It deals with individual guilt and forgiveness, not merely corporate relationships. One man was justified; the other was condemned.

And this passage I also explained earlier. Each individual has to show how they are a part of the community, but the question is what establishes the community? Many of us are interested in what establishes the individual. The ancients were not.

But Scripture nonetheless does speak of the imputation of righteousness to the believer. Jesus commands us in Matthew 6:33 to “seek” God’s righteousness—a notion that doesn’t fit with the New Perspective definition. Ephesians 4:24 connects the notion of righteousness with “true holiness.” In other words, it is a extensive moral attribute, not merely “covenant faithfulness.” Any definition of righteousness that does not include those concepts is an impoverished definition.

But why not? This is again simple enough. Jesus’s point is that God will be faithful to His people. Seek that when seeking God. Remember His promises and trust Him. Ephesians is about our being faithful to the covenant on our end. Again, this is not a problem.

Righteousness is a much bigger concept than Tom Wright will acknowledge, and herein lies my chief complaint with his approach to theology: he has made righteousness a smaller concept than Scripture does. He makes sin a minor issue. He downplays the idea of atonement. He barely touches on the sinner’s need for forgiveness. He diminishes the doctrine of justification by declaring it a second-order doctrine. What he ends up with is a theology that is destitute of virtually all the lofty concepts that the Protestant Reformation recovered from the barrenness of Medieval theology.

Yes. Next we’ll be told that he kicks dogs when he walks across the street and takes candy from babies. Not at all. Johnson is pushing the panic button here. In fact, I think many on the other side diminish the resurrection by making it a second-order doctrine. Justification is a result of the resurrection. The resurrection is not the result of justification.

There is nothing in Wright’s perspective that downplays sin. Sin is the reason the Kingdom of God has to come on Earth. There is nothing that downplays forgiveness. One cannot enter the Kingdom without it. There is nothing that denies the atonement. One cannot be at peace with God without accepting His covenant.

From here we go on to a look at Steve Chalke and that this is where Wright is taking us. We will downplay sin and the atonement and everything else. If downplaying is the problem, then let me make a suggestion. Only twice in this article does Johnson mention the resurrection. When he does, he is talking about Wright’s defense of it. Nowhere in this piece does Johnson in any way tie justification to the resurrection.

Now if I was talking about justification, I would have to go to the resurrection. The cross is not what justifies us because if Jesus had remained dead, there would be no forgiveness. Jesus would have been just another sinner who died for His sins. It is because He rose from the dead that everything is different.

In fact, I’d go back even further. Too often when we give our talks about the Gospel, we start with Adam and Eve and then jump straight to Jesus. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that stuff in the middle that we call the Old Testament could be important. Just saying!

Like Johnson, I am not a prophet, but I do think I see where the wind is blowing here. We can expect that evangelicals will once again push the panic button when a new idea comes up and refuse to look at the claims and go into protection mode instead. Such is a disgrace for us. It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle it without debating it.

What do I encourage you to do? Do what should be done. Read both sides. If you think these secular scholars are just trying to undermine evangelicalism, read their work. See what they say. What is their claim? What is the data behind it? Does the data back the claim? Read Piper, but read Wright as well. Learn from all. Come to your own conclusion.

And let it be clear also I am not pronouncing any anathemas on those who disagree. I stand with any who proclaim that Jesus is the Lord of all who rose from the dead bodily. That is the essential for me. I don’t expect my theology to be right in everything. When my time for judgment comes, I will say that I placed my trust in Christ and that is all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Who’s To Blame?

When someone does evil, who is responsible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m in a Christian group on Facebook where anime is discussed. That’s just one interest of the group, but my wife has a great interest in the genre, so it’s something for us to do. Anime for those who don’t know is more and less a Japanese cartoon. Today, someone shared a story about an 18-year-old boy dressing as an anime character and chasing a 9-year-old girl.

All of us commenting thus far agree this kid has a problem. You don’t go around chasing a girl that you don’t know. I emphasize that last part because an older brother could obviously chase around his younger sister in play for instance, provided they both know it’s play. Go to the article and what do you see in comments? Before too long someone is blaming it all on the anime instead.

Now let’s go with the claim that a lot of animes out there contain things that are wicked and evil. Yes. So do a lot of your shows on Netflix. To be fair, so does the Bible. Of course, the Bible condemns it, but it’s still in there because the Bible shows the real nature of humanity. Not everyone is pretty and nice. Even in many Christian films you have some sort of villain or evil that has to be overcome.

The early Christians lived in a world surrounded by far greater evil than we can imagine. The wonder of Corinth was that there was even a church there. The city was rampant with prostitution. Gods and goddesses would be depicted in extremely sexual terminology. What does this tell us?

Culture does no doubt affect us to some extent, but we have to decide what is going to be the greater force in our lives. Those of us who are Christians have decided that Christ is greater than the culture around us. We also know that we can’t insulate ourselves around us entirely from the world around us.

Of course, I’m not suggesting throw caution to the wind entirely. I will not watch anything with pornography. I have a woman who I love and whose body I treasure and I don’t want to risk putting before my eyes and other image that would be a temptation to me like that.

On the other hand, many people would advise some Christians against reading atheistic literature. For a young Christian starting, that could be right, but for me, I regularly read material that argues against Christianity. It’s what I have to do and many times, I enjoy it. It keeps me making sure I’m still on the right path and it can be amusing to see the bad arguments and to argue against atheists and know their literature better than they do. Sometimes if I buy the book, someone might say I’m giving money to the authors, but I figure the little they get from me is nothing compared to what I’m able to do with the information.

The big problem with all of this is that we look at someone doing something sinful and we’re able to blame what influenced them. There’s no doubt, something can influence someone anytime, but that is not the main culprit. The greater problem is the individual himself. Some individuals have limitations that others don’t have to be sure, but ultimately, the choice comes down to the person.

Whenever you commit a sin, there is only one true cause. That is yourself. You are responsible. You have to own it. Other people could have done things that got you further in that direction. Others items in culture could have influenced your thinking, but the responsibility comes to you. When you stand before God, you will not be able to blame culture or other people for what you did wrong. You will only have yourself to give an answer for.

So what’s the key to living in this culture then? Wisdom. Learn to discern. Understand what you put in your mind. Learn what is real and what isn’t. Of course, it doesn’t mean only watch what is real. Christians have long been people of the imagination. It means to know that just because it happens in a book or on the screen doesn’t mean it will happen in reality. Fantasy should cause you to look at reality in new eyes.

By the way, I say this as an avid fan of fantasy, namely through TV shows, movies, and video games. Fantasy can inspire us to be better people and look at the world with wonder, but we must remember that that is not the real world. Again, learn to discern.

And could this be the real problem here? We don’t spend enough time teaching our kids about how they should behave and then when they want to misbehave, we blame it on everything else instead of realizing we didn’t bring them up right. Even in the story, the parents are sadly thinking that it’s no big deal. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

From there, we follow a Romans 14 kind of attitude. Something may be wrong for one other person, but not for another. An alcoholic should not try to go and witness in a bar most likely due to the temptation. I could walk in and find zero temptation by the alcohol due to my lifelong vow to not drink alcoholic beverages.

Hopefully we will learn to take more responsibility for oursleves instead of blaming everything and everyone else around us. Our culture is part of a blame game and this has been going on since the Garden of Eden. (This WOMAN that YOU gave me.) We as Christians need to learn to submit our wills to God. God will not force us to not sin, but He will give us the strength to avoid any temptation if we will learn to rely on Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To Sin?

Are we missing a more theological side to strife in our country? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another shooting has happened, this time in Oregon, and it looks like the shooter was especially wanting to target Christians. Now there are a lot of debates going on about gun control and such. I have my own opinion, but I don’t really want to talk about that. My blog is not meant to be about politics, but I would like to consider another angle to this whole situation going on. On a friend’s Facebook today I think one of my friends said what summed it up for me. “That was one evil dude.” Yes. Yes he was, and the sad reality is that it looks like in our society we’ve lost the real idea of what evil is.

You see, we live in a society that proclaims being tolerant and non-judgmental and accepting of other positions. When we talk about evil, too often we just refer to disagreement with someone or not making a wedding cake or something of that sort. Whatever your opinion of those, it’s hard to think that that really compares to murdering several people in cold blood. When 9/11 struck, evil did very quickly become a word we used more often. Yet unfortunately, we seem to have a collective short-term memory and we forget about the tragedies that strike us and try to explain what went wrong in someone’s heart to make them commit murders.

For instance, some people are talking about mental health. To an extent, I agree with them. We need to be taking mental health seriously. If you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy or some other physical condition, you can often find an organization pretty easily that is working to raise awareness. Think fast! What organization do you know of that is nationally recognized and known by many people that works for depression?

Do you have a hard time thinking of one?

Now there are of course some mental conditions with awareness out there. My wife and I both have Aspergers which puts us on the autism spectrum and there is indeed Autism Awareness Month. Somehow depression has slipped under the radar and it is a quite common occurrence here. Dare I say it, but the church is even worse. You see, we have this idea that in the church, you shouldn’t be depressed. You should be living a life of joy constantly. Have we forgot that our savior is described as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering? He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. He learned through suffering. Suffering and rejection were not strangers to the life of Christ and if your idea of how your life is to be is constant happiness, then Jesus is a sorry example of how you should live because His life was filled with stress and sorrow. The people that should have accepted Him the most rejected Him the most. This includes His own family!

By the way, that family would have also known about His miraculous origins and they still were ashamed of Him.

If someone has a chemical imbalance in their head, well they have a chemical imbalance. I’m not at all saying don’t pray for them in that. God can heal such an imbalance of course. I am saying don’t treat it like a stigma. For some people, this could be the cross that they have to learn to carry. We should also note that there is a difference between having depression and being depressed. I often tell my wife as well as others that you cannot choose how you feel. You can choose what you do with it even when that is admittedly hard. How many nights have I put my head down on my pillow wanting to sleep with a problem looming over my head and I have to try to focus on what I know of God and Christ through Scripture and reason? It’s not always easy. It takes active effort. Sorry, but I’m really skeptical of people who describe their lives as a life of joy. Is there joy in knowing Jesus? Of course. There’s also suffering in walking in a post-fall world.

Sadly, how many people do you know who have depression would want to share that fact in church? Hardly any. Church should be a major safe haven for people who are depressed. Many of us would be more open going to the neighborhood bar and pouring out our griefs to a bartender. You could be more prone to talk to an absolute stranger on a plane or subway about your troubles before you’d go to a church. When the world says the church is full of judgmental people, let’s be honest and admit that sometimes they have been right in what they’ve said. Could it also be many of us want to sweep under the rug the idea of other people being depressed because that means we can avoid dealing with our own internal problems?

And if this is something from a chemical imbalance, what about people who feel like pariahs for other reasons? How many people have confessed to abuse, especially sexual abuse, and then received the message that they were responsible for their abuse somehow? Or even worse, have the claim just dismissed? Of course some claims are false, but they should all be considered because these are real people we’re dealing with. Fortunately, there are many churches that are providing safe havens, such as giving programs like Celebrate Recovery to help with this bizarre realization that Christians actually struggle with sin. (Yeah. Really. No joke. Who would have imagined?)

The church is to be the body of Christ and represent Jesus on Earth. If sinners are afraid to come to you, there’s a problem, because they weren’t afraid to come to Jesus.

That having been said, while we should not ignore mental conditions, we should not act like everything is a mental condition. A mental condition could make something more likely to happen in some cases, but it does not necessitate it. After a school shooting that took place once, and I think it was the Sandy Hook one, my father-in-law went on Facebook in response to someone on his page talking about the shooter being said to have Aspergers and treating Aspies like a threat. My father-in-law spoke about how my wife and I have Aspergers and we’re not like that at all and the thought that she or I would go into a school with a gun and start shooting is just ludicrous.

Some people don’t need a mental condition to do evil. They have another problem. It’s one we all have called sin, and this is a problem we don’t really do much about.

In speaking that way, we could be making a drastic mistake.

We need to be clear that when we look at the evil, we don’t think it will go away just with medication or therapy. There is no pill you can give someone to turn them into a sinless person. Believe me, I wish there was. I wish there was something that would be “If you take this, you will no longer worry about the future.” “If you take this, you will be totally unselfish with your spouse.” “If you take this, you won’t be tempted to look at other women.” “If you take this, you will not have greed when it comes to money.” It would be nice, but it’s not there. The problem is not a problem of the wrong chemicals flowing. The problem is you and I are fallen sinful human beings and we do the behavior of fallen and sinful human beings.

Can therapy help with some of that? Absolutely. I’m not opposed to Christian therapy and I myself have partaken of it before in the past and today, while I do not see a professional therapist, I have a band of mentors and a band of listening ears because I have my own problems in this life and I need help dealing with them and I’ve had to learn the wisdom of reaching out and seeking help. Therapy will not help all of it because our therapists also have the same problem. Our therapists are fallen and sinful human beings.

What do we need to do then? Diagnose the root issue every time. Somewhere, there is still sin. Even if you have a mental illness, there is still sin. When it comes to the behavior my wife and I can exhibit as people on the spectrum, I tell them that we have an explanation, but not a justification. Do we need to change our behavior a number of times? Yeah. We do. Is there something in us that can explain why we behave the way we do at times? Yeah. Is there still something wrong in what we do at those times? Yes. Yes there is. That something is called the sin itself. There is some place in us where we still actively chose the wrong thing.

Could it be that if we got to the sin issue, we could change much of the woes of our country? Note this is more than getting people to know Jesus as their savior. (And no, this is not getting into Lordship salvation. This is not about whether people are saved but as to how seriously they are taking their following of Jesus.) There are a lot of people that get converted to Jesus and are thus babies in the faith and sadly, spend their lives as children. They do not grow and mature in their Christian walk at all. They are still fed baby food from their pulpits and never get to eat meat. There is not enough awareness about what God has to say in our lives. People want to come to a knowledge of God, but where are they getting it from? Too many are getting it from their feelings and personal experience instead of being people of Scripture. (It’s so amazing that so many of us who are Protestants and don’t like the idea of the Pope claiming to speak for God somehow think that our emotions are absolute pathways to the divine.)

This might sound outlandish, but could it be that what we really need in our churches is discipleship? We need to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. How many of us if we’re struggling in our marriage will have no objections to going to a marriage seminar to learn how to be a good spouse? How many of us would have no hesitancy in going to a seminar our workplace wants us to go to in order to learn how to be a good employee and do sales well? How many of us realize if we want to have a job in a credentialed field, we need to go to college and get a degree that will take years?

And yet when it comes to following Jesus, we think that all just comes naturally. (In fact, following Jesus should tell you to be careful about what comes naturally.)

Could it be we need to examine ourselves and look for what is described as the sin that so easily entangles? Note also that word. Easily. It’s easy to fall into sin. It’s easy to feel imprisoned by it and feel there is no escape, and if we think deliverance will come through a feeling, we are sadly mistaken. We need to let the sacred truths of Scripture penetrate our hearts and shine within us to expose what’s not good in us. Is that painful? Yep. Is it something we hate? Yep. I have had enough of my own prayer times where I’ve had to look at what’s in my own heart and frankly, not really liked it, but oh well. That’s the only way you grow in Christ. It’s not going to be sunshine and roses.

And you know what, most of us aren’t in danger of shooting up a school. Yeah. That’s true, but we can hate our neighbor in our hearts. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. Many of us won’t have affairs in our marriages. That’s true, but we do lust after others. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. We have our own sins that we do fall into. We have various objects and activities we get addicted to, and not even bad things. Food and sex for instance are good things, but they are not meant to be idols and they can never satisfy entirely. Some of us can struggle with greed in the church. Many, especially those who are leaders, and I easily include myself, can struggle with pride. These are still sin as well and these need to be dealt with.

By all means, have the discussions when these events happen about what needs to be done in the political field. Have the real discussions that need to be had on mental health, but Christians need to in the midst of these discussions not miss the most important one. We need to have a discussion on sin and what it means then to be a follower of Jesus in a world of evil where we are supposed to be spreading the good news that Jesus is King.

Sin is real. We can put any other label on it, but it will not change sin, and there are people dead today who shouldn’t have been because of sin, and there is evil we are committing today that we shouldn’t be because of sin. Deal with what’s out there, but each of us will give an account before God of what we’re doing as well. We can’t be willing to deal with the world if we’re not cleaning up our own house first.

In Christ,
Nick Peters