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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Molehills to Die On

We should be willing to die for the preservation of the gospel. It is a mountain I should be willing to die on. If I would sacrifice my life to maintain the purity of the gospel, that means I should also be willing to sacrifice my family, my friends and any other relationships. I should be willing to be banished to an island by myself before I would recant the genuine gospel message.

I don't have a problem with that. In a weird sort of way, I sometimes long for that. There have been a few times that I have encountered strong resistance (nothing yet that I would dare call persecution, however) for the sake of the gospel message. It's actually energized me. I've found myself excited, yet calmed by the Holy Spirit as I've faced those situations. Though I would feel bad for my family, should I not be here to provide for them (though the Lord can do much better than I), I can think of no greater way to leave this globe than defending the gospel to your death. (Revelation 2:10). As a father, I can also think of nothing greater, than for your children to know you died defending that message. I hear about the mountains to die on and my personality lends itself toward looking for a helmet to put on and advance the army, rather than hide in the bunker and hope that day never comes.

My problem isn't whether I would die defending the mountain of the gospel message. My problem is figuring out whether I would die on a hill that really isn't worth giving your life. I love doctrine. Doctrine is the discovery of Who God is. It's not intended to be "cold hard intellectual facts" but rather learning more about the One Who deeply loves you. Because of this passion, I know I can get overly aggresive. I also tend to think about the implications of certain doctrines, and they then make me nervous. I want to celebrate differences theologically (as each are a reminder that we are finite and can't fully fathom an infinite God) but want to fight for that which God has clearly revealed. I worry that at times I may see a small, insignificant mound of dirt on which I am ready to plant my flag, set up post, and defend that mound to the death.

Here's some areas I struggle to know whether it is a mountain, or a molehill:

1. Evolution. Despite the fact that accepting the theory of evolution causes one to do exegetical gymastics that weren't intended, it becomes a mountain to me in regards to salvation. Soteriology is at stake when death is a process for progress and not the product of sin. If death did not enter the world through one man, did justification really enter the world through the One Man (Romans 5:18)? To some, it's just a pointless debate over Genesis. For me, it becomes a debate about whether God really desires to deliever us from death. Is that taking it too far?
2. Praying through saints. This topic seems to be coming up much more than I expected. Some argue to me that it is no big deal; that it's just asking a dead person to pray on your behalf. It's no different than when we take prayer requests and urge the Body to pray for one another. However, the practice was not introduced with this intent. The practice of praying to saints began through the idea that those saints acheived extraordinary righteousness. The belief is that God requires a certain level of devotion from all of us. Those that are deemed saints went above and beyond God's call for devotion. Therefore, when you pray to a saint, you are basically asking them to apply some of their extra righteousness to you and your situation. You are basically asking them to go before God on your behalf, reminding God that He needs to listen to them, because they have some extra righteousness they attained through works on earth. Once that is explained to a person, how can they just respond, "Well, that's not what I mean when I do it?" Isn't that participation in a practice that is anti-Biblical? Isn't this concept rancid with self-attained righteousness? These are the questions that run through my mind.
3. Losing Salvation. This one has grown for me, so I move forward with caution. I used to argue this is entirely semantical, and that the difference wasn't a big deal. However, now it's grown in me to the point that I ask, "If it is merely semantics, why wouldn't a person change their termonology to be more accurate theologically?" How does a person read Romans 8 and believe salvation can be lost? How can you claim it is grace alone, and that no sin can keep you from being forgiven, but then say that sin could cease you from being forgiven? How does a person reconcile this view with Ephesians 1:13-14, that the Holy Spirit is our earnest payment, guaranteeing that we have eternal life? I know very wonderful people who I truly believe are saved that hold to this view, so I ask these questions with hesitation. However, I find myself wanting to fight to defend the preservation of the saints because I fear the implications of the other view.
4. New Perspective of Paul. If you have no idea what that phase means, follow this link. It's the first article on the page. The link within the article is an mp3 you should download and listen to. To some, this is merely a discussion of 1st century Judaism. However, to me, I think it's extremely scary when you begin to diminish the message of imputed righteousness in Romans and Galatians. Though I know this isn't the case always, I find myself assuming that a "New Perspective Person" has thown the baby out with the bathwater, making Jesus' death more about culture than about a substituionary atonement. Then I find myself wondering if anyone even cares.
5. Openness Theology Those that hold to the view that God does not know all that is going to happen in the future. That He is still sovereign, and has millions of different possible plans, but that He's not sure which path man will chose to go down. Some say this is no big deal, it's just an attempt to reconcile man's will with God's sovereignty. To me, it is abandoning God's soveignty and elevating man's will. I don't understand how this view accepts prophecies about the Messiah (for God wasn't controlling the outcome, was He) or how it deals with the gospel message being established BEFORE the foundation of the earth. To me, a God Who is not totally sovereign is no god at all.

This is not the exhaustive list. What is one to do with these thoughts? I am such a messed up man. I find myself vacilating between fighting over every undulation or giving up too much ground for fear I am fighting over too much. Now you know how to pray for me!


  • At 11:43 AM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    I'm a little confused by the evolution comment. I'd agree that a fairly strong case could be made that the issue touches on fundamental issues of faith, salvation and our relationship to God... but I've always assumed that the "death" that was introduced into the world with sin was certainly spiritual and in many ways metaphorical... but not physical.

    Are you saying that humans and plants and insects and animals and bacteria and all forms of life were exempt from a physical death before the introduction of sin?


  • At 1:48 PM, Blogger The Honus said…

    An interesting comment Jer. While I have traditionally been taught the very same understanding of life without physical death, I'm not sure that the passage's primary understanding wasn't a death (separation from God) spritually. But the actual Hebrew word in chapter two does mean a literal, physical death, from which most hypothesize there was no death (at least of people) prior to the fall.

    Here's my thing about evolution though. Why does the primary Darwinian hypothesis of natural selection and the sister notion of the "survival of the fittest among limited resources" stand in opposition to the Scriptures? This is evolution. Micro-evolution, but evolution none-the-less, and in the truest form that Darwin himself published. Death is not part of the evolutionary process - and it certainly doesn't call death progress - in fact it is only through naturally overcoming death that evolution moves on (according to the theory). I can deal with adaptations within a species over a given period of time (time being the critical issue) without it shaking my faith or my understanding of Genesis.

  • At 2:10 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i agree that micro evolution does not contradict the model of a fallen world, and it's representation we see in Scripture. However, the statement "survival of the fittest" implies death to the weaker. the advancements of micro evolution are because those that adapt multiply and are strong, and those that don't adapt are elimated. death is a very necessary part of the process of evolution.

    the curse of death was certainly one that is spiritual. in fact, Paul states that most are roaming this planet currently in a state of death (ephesians 2). however, this does not exclude, or mean that the curse of death does not also include physical death.

    i believe this is when we read genesis way too fast. we just run right over genesis 3:21--"the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." we just think, oh well God gave Adam some leather chaps to cover his anatomy. i think we miss the profound nature of message here.

    the wrath of God against sin required Him to shed blood to cover (temporarily, till completed at the cross) Adam and Eve's sin. Yes, I believe that when God killed the animal for Adam and Eve's clothing (for imagining him making "skin" just out of the air is inconsistant with the text and logic), that was the first animal to experience death in all of the created order. (don't miss the illustration of an innocent animal paying the price for wicked man's sin.)

    a genuine survey of the entire Bible will reveal that death is a bad thing. to be in Christ's prescence is great and we long for that. but death is a result of sin. that's why it will be cast in hades (Revelation 20:14; cf Revelation 21:4). if physical death is simply part of the created cosmos, and not also a product of the fall, why is God eliminating it at the final judgement?

    it's mind boggling, but yes, i believe the pre fallen world was void of all forms of death and disease.

    by the way....i also edited my post and added another one since jer and honus commented...not because of their comments though.

  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger jason said…

    I'm gonna have to disagree on the whole physical death thing. If we take a close, exegetical look at Gen. 3 and we see what God has to say about Adam and Eve's sin. He basically says three things
    1. He curses the snake (Satan) saying that it will "bruise" (ie temporary wound) the messiah but he messiah will "bruise" (ie permanent wound, death). We know that this will be physical, that Satan will be physically thrown into a lake of fire
    2. The woman's punishment is also physical, pain in child-bearing. If you ask any mother, they'll tell you how physical this pain is.
    3. The man's state was that he would toil with the ground for the rest of his days. But the final statement is what we need to focus on;

    "By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, becuase from it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you will return".

    It would seem to me that physical death (aka "returning to the dust") would be listed as product of Adam and eve's sin.

    Not only would that seem to be true, but also, Satan denies that death would be the product of sin at the beginning of the chapter (Gen 3:1-5). Adam and Eve had been told that death would be the product of disobedience.

    I think the whole of chapter 3 would be hard to understand without looking at these statements without the idea of a very real physical death as punishment for sin.

  • At 4:17 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    A world devoid of all forms of death and disease isn't just mind-boggling, it's unfeasible.

    The trouble is, death and decay are necessary processes to sustain life for any measure of time for all living things and that's true on a global level. A theoretical world where nothing ever dies would, paradoxically, be uninhabitable.

    We know that foodstuffs existed in Eden (they're a fundamental part of the story after all), but consumption of any sort requires the death of something else. In fact, on a cellular level, millions of little "deaths" are going on constantly within our bodies to keep us alive.

    Animals require the death of plants and other animals. Plants require the death of animals and other plants. All of them require the death of bacteria. Oceans require the death of sea life. It goes on and on and a world where all of these bets are off is a world that doesn't obey any of the laws of physics required to sustain reality in our universe.

    A true pre-death reality would have to be some sort of spiritual realm where physics don't apply. No entropy. No diminishing returns. No Laws of Thermodynamics. No notions of "temperature" or "immunity" or the friggin' Krebs cycle.

    And Honus' allusion to the Physical Death Rule only applying to human beings is a bit easier to swallow, but still problematic. An immortal human: does he age? How can he not? Is he also a spiritual being exempt from the laws of physics? Does he have internal organs? If so, do they behave anything like the ones we have today? Can he be injured? Is eating necessary, or is it more of a luxury or way to pass the time? Does he have powers of regeneration? Does he experience pain? Can he endure any sort of physical trial and still survive?

    Sure, the questions might seem to be getting silly and the easy answer is "only God knows," but c'mon. The secular world has a difficult time with a literal interpretation of the Genesis account and for good reason.

    I understand the reluctance to interpret the passage metaphorically, but are we really prepared to throw the fundamentals of physics, chemistry and biology out the window to accomodate a literal interpretation? I don't know Hebrew and I certainly can't hold an intelligent conversation about the original language of the Scripture, but I'd be a right puddin' head to consult only Scripture about the origins of life on Planet Earth.

  • At 7:42 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    everything you are saying is well thought out, consistent with what science teaches and logical.

    but it is flawed. it is flawed in the same way that john eldrige books are flawed. we have to be careful not to impose the rules we see in a fallen world to a perfect world. our current science is going to be inconsistent with the order of a perfect creation. the fall effected all things. (Romans 8:19-22).

    yes, creation without entropy is difficult to fathom. however, i find a God Who is Life (John 14:6) creating a PERFECT world with death as a mechanism and him saying "It is good" even more difficult to fathom. by being life, He can not have a part with death (for death is the abscense of life).

    plant death is not necessary to eat fruit or leaves. cary should be thrilled to know that God's original desire was for us to be vegetarians! however, after the flood He did explain we do not have to be confined to that any longer (i'm not saying it's wrong now, i'm just saying i'm free to eat a steak).

    some of this is theory we don't need to worry about. i believe the fact that that death is inherited and imputed to all of us clearly teaches that adam and eve sinned before they procreated. otherwise, abel (or any other decendant) could have been sinless. therefore, we are not talking a great amount of time before Adam and Eve sinned. (knowing my own personal sin nature, i would even assume that adam and eve rebelled quite quickly.) therefore, the concern about a planet filled with people who never die or deteriorate that keep reproducing is not a reality. Don't forget, God planned to send Christ before the foundation of the world, therefore, He knew man would sin and die. many of the questions about what if he jumped off a tall cliff or cut himself are just that...what if's. we can speculate, but it's not productive.

    i don't think the debate requires original languages. i do believe that we can read a passage in it's context, and see that death refers to both physical death and spiritual death.

    take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:20-26. it's inconsistent exegetically to acknowledge that Scripture clearly says Christ is raised from the dead (a physical ressurrection) and then say the rest of the passage can't mean physical death.

    and who is the last enemy? death (verse 26). this can not mean "seperation from God" for Scripture is very clear that there will be those who will be seperated from God for all eternity. Revelation 20:14 tells us that death will be abolished.

    yes, i think it will blow us away. hey, it may even scare us a little (fear is a natural response when we are face to face with the glory of God). but I believe we will marvel for all eternity in a world that knows no death.

    the carnivour will eat plants. we will not suffer decay. there will be no drought or disease.

    it will, in a word, be heavenly.

  • At 9:48 PM, Blogger The Honus said…

    Problem # 1 - Evolution still does not see death as progress. The theoretical perfect "end" of evolution would be physical immortality by a perfectly adapted organism that experiences no decay or death.

    ... but ...

    Problem # 2 - A comparison of eden to heaven is of no value. Eden is the first reference to anything terestrial, or of this world. Heaven is ethereal, thus outside of and beyond the created realm and most certainly not bound to the physical laws governing over the earth (and presumably, eden).

    Problem # 3 - While the rules were most certainly altered in eden, if we are willing to grant no decay at all, why are we not willing to grant millions of years for potential physical scenarios to occur in the geological or astrological realm? They both seem equally hypothetical using only the text as my guide.

    Finally, if I may. Here is a fundamental distinction that I think is always going to separate certain viewpoints. I cannot believe that any level of solid Bible study (call it proper exegesis) is going to tell you everything that there was to know about this period of the history of the earth (and try to figure out Genesis 6:1-4?!?), and that must be precisely as God wants it. If it were an absolute essential to our faith (thus a mountain, rather than a mole hill to borrow the distinction) then it would be knowable. Why can't we be satisfied with saying that we (all humans on both sides of the debate) don't know whether this should be literal or figurative, but God is certainly an amazing and creative guy? And he undoubtedly deserves our praise! I guess I am coming to value the splendor of an amazing God beyond my imagination more than a tidy God that I can write a complete textbook about. If it makes me a heretic, well MacArthur will send me to hades where I'll wish I had viewed the origin debate differently.

    I do enjoy the lively debate however.

  • At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A wise man once said, "Keep the list of things you're willing to die for short."

    Remember that an elder is not supposed to be contentious.

    See if Romans 14 and 15 helps any with knowing what things to fight about and what things to just let go.

    Scripture seems to allow for levels of maturity. Certain teachings are "milk" and considered "elementary". Others are for the mature. Give people grace, time and space to grow.

    No one is right about everything.

  • At 8:02 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i agree to keep the list short. do you see any of these 5 as unnecessary, all five, or none of them. i'd love to hear what you think there.


    i agree that this is something we can't fully know about. (and i am certainly not doubting you or jer's salvation because your views differ a little)...

    however, i think that when the Bible and my experience seem to be saying two different things, i should follow the route of the Bible. it's not a hill to die on, but i do feel i would not be a very good Bible teacher in my church if i ignore that passages clearly state that death entered the world at the fall...and as far as 6 day creation, i have to break the rule that NEVER anywhere else in scripture is the hebrew word "day" accompanied by numerals (1st day, 2nd day, etc.) that it does not mean a literal day. therefore, to justify what i see around me, i have to make a hermenutical leap that on any other passage or topic i would consider inconsistent.

    you're right, "heavenly" was the wrong word to use. i didn't mean that the new earth (or eden, for that matter) were anything like heaven. i simply meant that i believe eden and the new earth were so completely different than what we see on this globe now (after thousands of years of it being in a fallen state) that it trandscends what we see now. it's not a mountain, for i certainly wouldn't split fellowship over this...but as a teacher i personally wouldn't be able to justify the textual stretches i'd have to make to support such a view.

    and that's back to the struggle for me. i certainly wouldn't disassociate with a person or refuse to participate in the gospel proclamation with a theistic evolutionist or old earth creationist. however, i don't know that i would allow a theistic evolutionist to teach on origins in our fellowship. and i would probably want to make sure an old earth creationist allowed the class to hear the arguements supporting a young earth creation (since i believe they are more biblically supported). i guess the struggle is that the mountain-molehill discussion isn't one just relegated for theory. there are practical decisions that come into play with it.

    i'm also struggling with your comments regarding evolution (and granted, don't have the exposure to science that you obviously do). i don't believe death is the goal of evolution, but don't see how evolution works without death. again, doesn't the phrase "survival of the fittest" imply that the unfit do not survive? sure life, comfort, success and adaptation to the environment are the goals, but doesn't evolution require death to acheive those goals?

  • At 8:04 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i agree that an elder is not to be contentious, but he is also to protect the flock. that means not just teaching sound doctrine, but defending it...and exposing false doctrine.

    again, i'm not wishing to just be theoretical...this stuff gets fleshed out regularly for us.

  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger The Honus said…

    I'm not saying that creation wasn't six literal 24 hour days. Neither am I saying that there is some kind of day-age theory at work. I'm saying that "exegeting" this passage as literal, historical fact is great, but if it turns out that it's an ancient figurative poem (like many of the Psalms and Job) we wasted a whole lot of time and energy on something that is at best secondary (defending the literal interpretation).

    I'm saying that it doesn't alter my faith (thus my soteriology) if it wasn't, and therefore it's a mole hill. Perhaps even worse than a mole hill, it's a massive bog or distraction. We get so bent out of shape over other possibilities that shouldn't have any affect on our faith, but we give them that power by elevating them to primary importance (mountains). We feel strongly about them (and this is good - i certainly don't advocate compromising what we are convicted of as truth) so we contrive reasons for them to be even more important than they really are. We start to question if we can have a solid doctrine of salvation even if we don't believe that somehow the digestive system (thus the death and decay of ingested food) resulted from the fall rather than existing in Eden. It just seems so trivial to me whether or not Adam ever had to squat behind a pomegranate tree for a little relief.

    About the evolution and death thing ... I've had the unfortunate task of studying cosmological arguments for and against God in prep for this semester and I've become painfully associated with more science than Don DeYoung ever could have imagined I would, and I just think that for making such an emphatic statement like, "Soteriology is at stake when death is a process for progress and not the product of sin," misplaces death in the evolutionary system, and would sound like foolishness to anyone defending and evolutionary viewpoint whether theistic or naturalistic. Death is a by-product of failed adaptation and mutation, according to current evolutionary models. And I can't think of any way that they would consider it progress. Perhaps it helps the survivors by eliminating competition for resources, but that still doesn't make it progress for the one who died.

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger David said…

    I'm reading a book about marriage by Ravi Zacharias, and in it he makes the point that marriage "is not merely a provision; it is a pattern." It strikes me that this applies to much more than just marriage. Everything that God has done to make biology and society function properly is not just practical - it also in some way reflects the character and work of God. So when I look at zoological death before the fall of man, I have to ask, "How does that fit into the pattern of God's character and work?", and when I do this, and can not justify saying that death, even on an animal level, could have any other root than sin.

    Now, this causes serious scientific problems for me. Does that mean Adam didn't exfoliate before he sinned? Did snakes not shed their skin? Where did the species of wasp that lays its eggs in a dead tarantula so the hatchlings can feed after birth lay her eggs before this? What do we do with animals like spiders, whose entire biology is wrapped around the concept of predation (spinning webs, excreting anticoagulants, etc)? I honestly don't have answers to these questions. However, I do know Isaiah 11:6-8 says one day in the future predator and prey will graze and lie down together. My only option is to take God at His word.

    I think the thing to realize when we look at the seeming impossibility of pre-fall biology being so fundamentally different from the way it is now, is that we aren't recognizing just how much sin has cursed nature. It's easy to watch a nature show and look at the lion/gazelle balance in Africa and think "That works really well. What a marvellous design. God meant it like this." But isn't it possible, going back to the "it's not just a provision, it's a pattern" thing, that nature functioning as it does now is a daily evidence (pattern) of the irrevocable consequence of sin? The fact that biology is now dependent upon death and decay is a way in which the created order groans under the weight of our sin until the day it is all made new.

    In response to the statement about the Genesis account of creation being figurative - There is a difference between the poetic (which does not necessarily mean metaphoric) language used in Job and Psalms and the literal prose used in the Pentateuch. Being willing to say the Genesis account of creation might be figurative opens a Pandora's box of problems for the Bible student. If the first 3 chapters are figurative, maybe the story of Abraham is figurative also. Maybe Sarah wasn't really ninety years old. Maybe there was no literal Abraham at all, and the Genesis account of his life was just God's way of poetically saying, "I had a plan, but the plan I actually used didn't read very well on paper, so I thought you would enjoy this version of the story better." Problem is, the account of Abraham is central to many New Testament passages qand doctrines. If I'm going to preserve the literal account of ANY of the Genesis story, or the O.T. or the entire Bible for that matter, I have to preserve the literal account of the first three chapters.

    I trust my comment has been completely unclear and will do no service to anyone who reads it. This, like everything else, falls into a pattern!

  • At 7:02 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    Even after all these years, Honus, you continue to put the 'Jesus' in 'exegesis'.

    Danny, what's flawed about asking questions? I'm asserting that it's much easier and, in my mind, sensible, to adjust an interpretation of Scripture than it is to adjust the fundamentals of physics, chemistry and biology. What's lost in assuming "spiritual" or "metaphorical"? By contrast, what's gained by assuming "literal" and "physical"?

    I'd also disagree that death is "bad". There's very little bad about it, especially if you're talking about the cyclical nature of birth and rebirth necessary to sustain our planet and, frankly, our reality.

    "Absence of life"? Yes and no. I think it's a part of life, certainly, and an inevitability... but, personally, I'm grateful for death. I need death and so do you. Not just all the deaths that keep me alive, but I need my own eventual death to be a reality. It contributes to giving my life purpose and savor. It reminds me who I am and my own significance or lack thereof in the overall scheme. We have to have death or we'd all be insufferable. That's not to say I crave the day when my time's up, but it forces me to self-examine. I'd be lying if I said I'm not dreading my next birthday a bit: I'll be 30. Just a number, but it's an important number to me and death's a part of the reason it's important.

    Plant death is necessary to eat fruit and leaves, by the way. Plants are unable to stagnate. They're in a constant state of growth or death. Given that there's a finite amount of territory on the earth (and, I'm assuming, Eden), plants dying to allow for other other plants to spring up is a necessary part of it. I don't see anything imperfect about a decaying apple core helping the grass to grow. Why can't that be a part of the original Perfect Plan? It's ingenius when you think about it. Ingenius and lovely and splendid.

    What's unproductive about speculation? Isn't comparing your own sin nature to Adam and Eve's pre-Fall sensibilities contrary to what we believe about them?

    (And here's a stumper: why was it a "sin" for Adam and Eve to disobey God? If they had no knowledge of Good or Evil, what would make them think that there was a Bad-ness inherent in doing something that God told them not to do?)

    We could take the easy way out of all these issues if we wanted: smile, shrug, say to each other, "it's some mystery, isn't it? Only an awesome God like ours can figure it all out!" and bop along our merry way to Kroger's. But deep down we know it's a cheat. I grew up with that crap and I'm no longer placated by it. (Not trying to say that's your intent, it's just a approach to the stickier points of Scripture that tends to get my goat.)

    It's all a part of what's, in my mind, the Big Question: at what point do we stack a provable truth (of math or science or life in general) against an unprovable notion from Scripture (which we're asked to accept by faith) and, upon discovery that they conflict... a) admit that the Scripture is flawed or b) admit that our interpretation is flawed?

    I'd contend (and I realize that I'm on shaky ground here), that if we're never prepared to do either ('a' included), we're not interested in Truth, only answers.

  • At 9:09 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    here's a couple snap shot points, working backwards from jer:

    1) we can not accept the view that Scripture is flawed. (errors in the Word either generate from an ignorant God or a deceptive God...obviously there are problems with either option there) if we do, we have no trust in the gospel message. any person who does not acknowledge that they make interpretive errors has a major pride problem. i know i make interpretive errors, i just have no idea what they are. if i knew, i'd change them. Truth took on flesh, so we should all be about pursuing it, and it is objective. instead, we should strive that our answers coincide with Truth. where they don't, we should change. unfortunately, we can't see many of the ways that they don't.

    2) your question about what made their sin "sin" is a great one. it will make a great blog post some day. (to get a conversation going and figure out some things, not all things about it.)

    3) death is embraced in our fallen earth, however, God embracing death creates problems:
    a) is enoch incomplete? he didn't die. maybe you can assume that as poetry or metaphor (i'm not opposed to doing so in places that clearly call for it...not because it's hard for us to grasp, but because the text clearly shows us it's metaphor...ie. places in daniel and revelation). what about elijah though? that's a historical narrative with an eyewitness. were they shortchanged somehow because they didn't experience death?
    b.) if death is good and natural for life, why is Christ a Victor over death? why do we have quotes about death being swallowed up in victory? why is creation groaning? breathing is part of life. we see Scripture that says that God is the giver of our very breath, but we don't read anywhere where Jesus claims victory over it. it's not necessary. but death is called an enemy. victory is needed over an enemy. Jesus Himself said a kingdom can not be divided. how can death be a good thing (thus reflecting the character of God) yet be called an enemy?
    c.) God is Life. The Christian God is clearly not a god of yang-ying. By being Life, God has to be the abscence of death...not a balance between the two. death is not part of life, it's opposite of it. now, is death happening in my living being (and even necessary for me to continue living)? sure, but that doesn't mean that somehow when something dies it didn't really die because it contributed to life. no, it died.

    4.) i never said asking questions or speculating is wrong. i said saying i must change my view of Scripture because of what i see currently in science is ignoring that all of my scientific observations are of a fallen globe. again, creation has been so radically changed that i must be careful not to change interpretation rules just to match the fallen planet i now observe. sure, it may bring science and the Bible closer together, but could sacrifice greater things. the "gap theory" was an attempt to bring the two worlds together, yet both sides found major flaws in that view and it's been thrown out by nearly everyone. it's like looking at your car after it's been consumed by a fire and trying to assess whether it was a nice car before the blaze. there is so little i can really tell about it's condition.

    5.) ironically, i think Jesus is easier to see in a literal exegesis. Christ's sacrifice and ressurrection redeems me from every kind of death, not just a spiritual one. His physical ressurrection gives me joy to know that i will someday have a real, literal body that will continue with God for eternity.


    again, you say things clearer than me. i should just call you or ask you to write my posts for me.


    1.) i now realize the problem with my statement before was the use of "progress" not "process." i thought your problem was with the opposite. fine, if i concede that progress shouldn't be used (which i'm not sure), process must. can a model of evolution work without death?

    2.) i don't intend to be a bog or a distraction. i hope that a discussion between brothers can sharpen us all, without keeping us from honoring the Lord. if this was wrong of me to post on the internet, i'm sorry. i love you guys and don't want to divide relationships here. i acknowledged my struggle to discern mountains/molehills (point of the post). i feel this conversation is helping me formulate what i believe, and causing me to search Scriptures to see where i am wrong. but if it's causing division that will keep the gospel from being brought to the nations, we can cease it now.

    3.) i'm struggling to understand where you stand. are you saying you believe in a literal six day creation but don't think it can be taught? what can we have confidence to know isn't figurative?

    also, is it safe for me to assume that since we only are talking about evolution that you guys see the other four topics i listed as major errors too?

  • At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    whooow, you guys!!!! your debate is a little over my head! guess i'm just a child at heart!! if there was no fall of man, there would be no need for a savior! and as far as all the other things about how things work, God is God and He can do what He darn well pleases!! Do we forget that when we try to "figure " things out?lg

  • At 8:28 AM, Blogger The Honus said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 8:31 AM, Blogger The Honus said…

    To simplify:

    1) Death is not central to evolutionary theory, it is a necessary byproduct of natural selection. It is never seen as progress, in fact just the opposite.

    2) Discussing what is important and not important is a worthy task. I thought that this entire discussion was about mountains and mole hills and what qualifies as each. I think this issue is one of the most glaring mole hills that time gets wasted on becasue there is so much of it that is unknowable, and whenever we make emphatic claims we do our primary message, the gospel of God's grace, a disservice through distraction

    3) I'm saying that it doesn't matter where I stand becasue it's a mole hill.

  • At 6:18 PM, Anonymous ~d said…

    (And here's a stumper: why was it a "sin" for Adam and Eve to disobey God? If they had no knowledge of Good or Evil, what would make them think that there was a Bad-ness inherent in doing something that God told them not to do?)

    I don't have the expertise to tackle this one with any depth, but the simple answer is that "sin" simply means missing the mark of perfection. Perhaps Adam and Eve didn't really understand that doing what God asked them NOT to do would have such serious consequences. It's a problem that seems to be ongoing in our society, even though we have so much more experience with sin and consequence. Nevertheless, they missed the mark and sin was born. And how do we know that we have the entire conversational text between God and Adam? Maybe he did know more than we give him credit for.

    But I'd consider this to be another molehill.

  • At 6:21 PM, Anonymous ~d said…

    and before anyone misunderstands just which part i believe to be the molehill, let me say that i was refering to the fact that we may never know exactly how Adam knew not to disobey.

  • At 4:32 AM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…


    Were Enoch and Elijah "shortchanged"? Well, sorta but not really. They did miss out on a fundamental human moment, but they still experienced an end to life on Planet Earth, which accomplishes basically the same thing. For all practical purposes, they got their "death" minus the messy business of their heart stopping and their breath leaving.

    Does death need to be bad for Christ to be victorious over it? Really, I think we're arguing over a contextual issue anyhow. If Christ is victorious over an "absence of life", (particularly an absence of life knowing God) then of course it's a good victory over a bad thing. But victorious over a natural process that the universe depends on to sustain itself? What would be the point? Why not "victory over algebra" or "victory over friction", for all the sense that makes?

    Part of the reason I find myself clinging to the spiritual and metaphorical interpretations of these issues is because I think we're discussing something that, when we get down to it, we really don't have a frame of reference for. It's the old chestnut: try to explain "red" to a man born blind. You can tell him it's a "warm" color, an "angry" color, a "severe" color, a "bold" color... but he'll only be able to associate "red" with feelings and aspects of his own experiences, not the color itself. How could he do anything else? We hear about Christ's "victory over death" and maybe even "the curse of sin" evident in nature and we grasp onto the literal stuff because that's all we've got: God changed physics. I think the truth is much different and much bigger and much stranger than God introducing literal decay and entropy into the world. Maybe God says "death" the way we'd say "red" to the blind man.


    With respect, I disagree. You don't have to take God at His word if you don't want to or choose to.

    At some point, we'll need to test Scripture with something beyond Scripture. Studying Scripture and Scripture alone will only tell us if the bible is consistent with itself, not whether or not it's true. And I guess that's what seems a little flawed about this discussion thusfar.

    A man is told: Allah is the one, true God. Allah has a plan for your life. That plan involves destroying the infidels. Allah would have you sacrifice your life aiming airplanes at buildings in a country far away. The infidels will try to tell you that this plan is evil, that Allah is not the one, true God. But they are infidels and Allah is Allah.

    Another man is told: Christ is the Son of God and the Bible is God's Word. Christ is the only way to God and those who believe otherwise are deceived. We can know this is true because the Bible is true and the Bible says so. If you agree, the Holy Spirit is working within you. If you disagree, the Spirit is quenched by your sin.

    So what then? Faith? Should we believe something that seems unreasonable to us simply because it claims to be true? Are we so naive as to think that studying the Bible and the Bible alone is enough to discover which way is the right way?

    All that's to say: if Scripture is true, it will not fall apart next to reason or science or the provable. So why not use reason also? Is it because the Bible says our reason is faulty? Well, what if the Bible's faulty? And, again, I know I'm going out on a limb here... should we really be so naive and narrow and stuborn as to place the Bible (particularly our interpretation of it) on a pedastal above the provable?

    If we do, how can we claim we're interested in Truth?


    I was always under the impression that sin was willful disobedience of God. Missing the mark of perfection doesn't necessarily have to be sin, does it? Has the boy who brings home an A- on his English quiz sinned? Of course not.

    Genesis talks about the fruit being the knowledge of good and evil and when they ate the fruit their "eyes were opened". No matter how liberal one gets with interpretations of Scripture, it's pretty tough to imagine that as Adam and Eve having just enough knowledge of good and evil ahead of time. As I understand it, they were sinless. They had no frame of reference for sin.

    We have a rule for the cats in our house: no jumping up on the dining room table. Needless to say, they do it all the time anyhow, as much as I yell at them and smack them on the rear and put them in "time out" in the bedroom. No use, though. They don't know that they "shouldn't" do it, they only know that I don't like it.

    So maybe "what was Adam's sin?" is a molehill. But it leads to a bigger question that I think is more of a mountain: "what is sin?"

    And, frankly, if the answer is "missing the mark of perfection," I'm afraid I'm not really even going to bother trying to avoid it because it isn't something I have a choice about. The choice has been made for me: I ain't perfect.

  • At 1:05 PM, Anonymous ~d said…

    jeremy -
    i believe "sin" is an archery term....means missing the mark (bullseye). consequently, since God's standard is perfection - and we aren't perfect - we sin...miss the mark. and no, i don't think that getting an A- on a quiz is sinning. that was the teacher's standard (or some hotshot's in the state education dept., not God's.

    the penalty for sin is death. God both set the price and paid for it by his death and conquest over sin/death. you are right, we can't avoid it completely, but we can avoid willful, deliberate, and habitual sin by continuing to live in Him. I John 3:5-6 speaks of this, saying that anyone who continues to sin in this way has never known God or understood who He is.

    danny, you can take it from here :0

  • At 4:11 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    this is interesting for me...typically, i'm on the side with people telling me to quit just using reason and logic. now i'm being told to use it.

    ok. there are two views, it appears, being expressed. both agree that our current world and the death free world described in Scripture do not appear to match.

    1.) One interpreting the passage literally says that the earth changed and that's why the two don't match. using Scripture, the person defends this view by saying:
    a). We see God curse the ground (Genesis 3)
    b). We have countless passages saying death entered the world through the sin of Adam (Gen 3, I Corinthians 15, Romans 6:23, just to name a couple)
    c). The Christian message is dependant on the fact that Jesus literally died and literally rose again. If death is not a consequence of sin, but a natural part of life and we are ONLY speaking of spiritual death (i do not mean to ignore spiritual death, but to say physical death is part of it too), God crucifying Christ was a cruel, needless event.
    d). We have hope of an eternity without death. When He promises so, we can trust that it what He means.
    e). It does not require a degree to understand God's Word. Statements by Jesus like "where moth and rust do not destroy" actually mean that moth and rust will not destroy things, instead of us having to think Jesus means, "well, moth and rust actually will destroy, but that's not my point, i mean something else."

    adding logic to it, death is either good or bad, but not both. (honus himself argued that we can't call death a positive because death is not progress for the bacteria that ceased to survive, even if it means my survival). if death is good, and just a part of life, why penalize murder? why worry about people in new orleans, but just see the tragedy as part of life? or, we see death as bad. and while we are stuck in a world where it happens all around us now, we trust that some day, God will end our battle against death and remove it.

    Or we believe:

    2.) Physical death did not enter the world through sin because death is a beautiful thing that makes life possible.

    a.) it makes sense because we see death all around us and is even necessary to sustain some life.
    b.) imagining a world without death is too difficult so we remove the need to imagine it.
    c.) we use Scripture in a way that the world is much more comfortable for us to deal with.

    however, reason and logic would also cause us to deal with these issues:

    a.) Scripture says that creation was changed at the fall. We need to ignore these passages if we want to say this world as we see it now is what we need to interpret the Bible through.
    b.) We must ignore all of the passages that talk about death and clearly mean physical death.
    c.) We must figure out why God required animals to physically die and why the Ultimate Sacrifice (Christ) had to die physically.
    d.) Scripture is much more difficult to interpret. We no longer can trust that a passage that appears to be literal (for it gives zero indication that it is figurative language, other than it is hard to accept) is truly literal. The gospel message is suspect to attack.

    keeping this shorter than i even wish to, i'd love to hear specific response to these three thoughts:

    1.) Does it really appear more logical and reasonable to assume that when God says death we just don't know what He meant, or to accept when He says that this world was radically changed by sin, that it really was?
    2.) Do we really believe that our senses are perfectly reliable? Don't things like optical illusions, or how easy it is for man to be deceived, tell us that I am not a realiable source for truth? Wouldn't God's perspective be a little more realiable than mine?
    3.) Have you looked at the passages that have been referenced? That's not an attack, it's just a question. It appears that you are willing to change Genesis 1-6 because it's hard to understand, and don't see how this different view also changes many, many more passages of Scripture. it seems that the Scriptures shared, from either side, support the view that death entered the world through sin.

    and to be fair, real quick (not exhaustive) answers to some of your recent questions:

    1. Yes, death needs to be bad for Christ to have victory over it. Otherwise, it is something good, is not in opposition to God and doesn't require defeat. If death is good, that means it is of the character and nature of God, and should be celebrated, not defeated.
    2. Missing the mark is only one of several different definitions for sin. D is right though, sin is a violation of God's standard. when "missing the mark" is used, we see, contextually, that it is being used regarding morals. it is explaining that God does not assess sin on a curve. You either hit God's standard of moral perfection, or you miss it completely. That's not a problem for the believer, for the gospel is predicated that miss the standard of God's perfection and must have Christ's perfection given to us on our behalf.
    3. Yes, I trust Scripture more than myself. And I am not alone on this. So did the prophets, the apostles, the church fathers, the reformers and most how proclaim themselves Christian until about 150 years ago.
    4. Your cat analogy has holes (but i appreciate the attempt to make our discussion tangible.)
    a) we are created in the image of God. therefore, God can communicate with us and deliver His intent. your cats are not created in the image of Jer, so even apart from moral failure, your animals can't understand what you want.
    b) your cats are not self-aware. they opperate solely on cause and effect (instinctive) basis. they do not have the capacity to ask "why am i doing this?" or "why doesn't jer want me on the table?" you have that capacity to evaluate your decisions/actions and are therefore responsible to do so.
    c) God created Adam and Eve (they clearly knew this). God gave them all of creation around them (also aware of this). They knew that God was superior to them. Therefore, that God said not to do something was enough. When they ate, they did more than just violate some arbitrary rule set before them by God. They opposed the One who created them. They decided His statements to them were incorrect (for the serpent convinces them "you shall not surely die"). They decided they could, and had the right to become like God (again, his arguement was that God doesn't want you to be like him). They envied, they made God out to be a liar, they put themselves before God...just to name a couple things. it was a biggie.

    and we're back to my original post. i'm willing to accept that creation/evolution may be more of a molehill than i thought, but when we begin to question if Scripture is realiable or trustworthy, i think the hill is starting to climb.

  • At 4:20 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    allow me to try to explain the adam and eve thing with an illustration (knowing it will have holes in some respects):

    i tell rachel not to run into the street. she may not understand why, but she knows that's the rule.

    1.) she can ask me why. we can have a discussion about it. i can explain to her the risks. she may think that she can control cars and just tell them to stop, but i know she can't. she may not fully understand, but i don't mind the question. i'm more than willing to try to talk it through with her, for i want her to understand...knowing she's safe as long as she obeys, even if she doesn't fully grasp it.

    2.) she can go ahead an run out into the street. my approach must be different then, even if she asks "why" after being caught. either way, she doesn't really understand the consequences, but when she ran out, she showed a defiance. not just that she didn't understand, but really that she thinks she knows better.

    adam and eve MAY not have understood that disobediance was a violation of God's moral standards, but they did understand they weren't supposed to do it, and chose to anyway.

  • At 9:57 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…


    Maybe I'm missing the point, but I'm having trouble with the idea of sin originating with archery. I'm sure this isn't what you meant, but still.

    Christianity 101 isn't exactly what I was talking about and, fear not, I'm already familiar.

    Danny's doing a splendid job of articulating his position, tag-teaming someone that doesn't agree with some of the nuances isn't altogether necessary.


    Is pain bad? Well, we know that pain is actually useful and necessary. Though we're rarely grateful for it at the time, pain is an important part of our lives and our physical health and a necessary ingredient in our understanding of God.

    So why penalize people that intentionally inflict pain on others? Well, it's because inflicting pain and pain itself are separate issues and the same is true with murder and death. Unless the circumstance is extreme enough, death isn't a penalty that's ours to hand out to whomever we choose.

    I do think that death is (or at least can have the characterisitics of) something "good", but contextually, it's also "bad". It's almost useless to distill something as large and complex as death into "Good or Bad?", though. It's a reality. It's a concept. Is an "end" good or is it bad? The inevitable answer is "depends on what we're talking about" and I think the same is true about death.

    Re: moth and rust, my point isn't (nor has it ever been) that the truth is too big and too weird, so why bother? It's that we're only getting the part of the story that we can understand. Obviously, something bigger and grander than an end to moth and rust troubles is what's in store, but Jesus knew that people would more easily latch onto something that they deal with each day so that's the piece of the picture he gave to them. Nothing inaccurate, just incomplete out of necessity's sake.

    (If we were to try to explain to a man from the Middle Ages the wonders of satellites and e-commerce, he'd probably nod vaguely and ask us if we've taken care of the flea problem. "Yeah, dude, fleas are a snap. So what?")

    You know, I understand where you're going with the "if this is a metaphor, than what's to stop us from pretending it's all metaphor?" line of thinking, but let's try to resist. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. I'd agree: if Christ wasn't literally, physically resurrected on the third day, my faith is meaningless. As you say, it's a mountain. Absolutely, that event stood in direct defiance of nature and physics, but it happened nonetheless. Still, we can historically reconcile that event. I'm only saying I see the physics of a death-free Eden more problematic.

    By the way, the gospel message, I think, has always been subject to attack. We should scrutinize it. We should approach any Big Question with a tempered cynicism and an earnest desire for the truth and I don't believe we can afford to give the bible an exemption in this.

    Specific responses to your 3 thoughts:

    1) I'm not saying we don't know what he meant, I'm only saying it's potentially a metaphor or a spiritual term for something that we can only partially understand. But, in short, yes, to me an adjusted interpretation is more logical than the Eden story taking place in a physically impossible reality.

    2) How can we know what's God's perspective is without using our senses? We don't pop out of the womb pre-loaded with all the appropriate information. Our senses may not be totally reliable, but they're all we've got.

    3) Who's willing to change Genesis? I'm interpretting the word "death" differently. You're saying that dominos into all kinds of Scriptural issues... okay, I can accept that. Are you sincerely wondering if I've ever opened Genesis?

    I can appreciate that you trust Scripture more than yourself, but a) that isn't exactly what I meant when I was talking about stacking Scripture against the proveable and reason and b) what does that even mean anyhow? At the end of the day, you have an interpretation that you trust, which may or may not be the truest interpretation. But it makes the most sense to you, so you go with it. Maybe you adjust that interpretation when you gain other information or reflect on the information you already have. Maybe you use your experiences as a filter. Maybe you pray for wisdom and admit that you're winging it and trust God and do your best.

    If so, we have a lot in common.

    Yeah, the cat analogy isn't perfect. There are lots of differences between Gilbert and Adam, but I'd contend that there are plenty of differences between Rachel Wright and Adam as well. Rachel has a reasoning intellect and a soul and a body created in the image of God, whereas Gilb has none of these things. On the other hand, Gilb doesn't have a sinful nature, but Rachel does. So where in between Gilbert and Rachel did Adam stand? We'll know someday, but for the time being the question of Adam's sin remains an unsettling one for me.

    (Personally, I smell a set up with God pulling the strings. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding. After all, who created sin in the first place?)

    What makes the Fruit Rule not arbitrary, by the way? Personally, I can't imagine anything more arbitrary. In fact, "eating this apple will curse the earth until the end of time" should go down in history as the All Time Biggest Arbitrary Rule of Ever Ever. But so what? So it's arbitrary. God came up with it and it's His show. God could have invented a scenario to save humanity that didn't involve allowing his Son to be tortured to death, too, but for some reason He decided that was the way to go. I don't get it and on my grumpier days I think it's pretty lousy, but I don't make the rules.

    Finally, a question: shouldn't we question whether Scripture is reliable or trustworthy?

  • At 10:04 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    By the way, Danny, I want to take a breath to say this: you are awesome. I've always been blown away by your articulate, intellgent and patient presentation of faith.

    Thanks for indulging the discussion.

  • At 10:34 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    whoa tiger, back down for a second. as for your comments to ~d, i think your reading some things into her comments since you don't know her. let me bring you up to speed. she's a wonderful woman who loves the Lord and by giving you "christianity 101" she is merely doing what we beg the members of our body to do: never assume a person is a believer, but instead seek the opportunity to present the gospel message. stick to getting feitsy with those of us who know you and trust the others commenting truly do care.

    by the way, she wasn't saying archery was the origin of sin, but rather the word for sin used sometimes ("missing the mark") is borrowed from archery. you either hit the mark or you didn't. you either did what was morally pleasing to God or you didn't...there's not really an in between.

    the problem with murder is not that it is painful or inflicting the extremist pain on someone else. it's a violation of God's moral code (for He created all men in His image and therefore they have great value). your right, pain can be good. my dentist can cause me pain. he can even intentionally inflict pain upon me for my benefit.

    however, just do a search of the word "death" at Bible Study Tools. you will find that the overwhelming amount of time, death is not discussed as good, it is not just considered just a part of life, and again, it is called an enemy...not only to men, but of God (Who has no reason to fear it!)

    i would argue the best way to know God's perspective is to read the Bible, not judge from our senses. What's the best way to discern your perspective of life in LA? Move out there and watch you and guess what your facial expressions mean? or, read your blog and see what your saying. and your blog isn't even inspired (in the doctrinal definition, not in the highly creative form of the word which you exibit). but i've also got to use common literary technique to figure out whether you're being sarcastic or literal. we should do the same thing with the Word. we make mistakes, sure. but your blog would be worthless if i read it constantly thinking "he MAY not have meant that."

    i'm not wondering if you've ever read genesis. i was just asking that since we've entered this discussion, have you looked at the references (mostly those outside of genesis) that have been given, or just trying to think about them from memory?

    also, i want to say that i know you, and i'm not implying that you aren't saved or that you aren't a disciple. the mountain/molehill thing is hard for me. i don't think your salvation is at stake whether you see death entering the world before sin did...but i am fascinated to hear how you reconcile some of the problems this causes for other passages of Scripture or doctrines the church has always held dear. i like this internet thing. i hope it's not hornking a bunch of people off, but i feel like this is a productive exercise for me, and appreciate your responses.

  • At 11:43 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    Wasn't getting feisty with ~d. In fact, my aim was to politely disagree and give her an idea where I stand. She was giving me the low-down on the basics of Christianity and then "handing off" to you, which I was assuring her wasn't necessary.

    Archery. Sin. "Miss the mark." Got it.

    I think you're missing what I was driving at with the comparison of death and pain. I wasn't trying to say that murder is bad because it's painful. I was trying to say that intentional murder for selfish reasons is comparable to intentionally inflicting pain for selfish reasons: it isn't the pain or the death that's bad or sinful, it's forcing them on someone. Substitute "sex" if it helps: I think we can all agree that sex is good and important in an appropriate context, but rape is despicable.

    Took you up on your suggestion to search Bible Study Tools and I think my results differed from yours. "Death" appeared mostly as an event, sometimes as a reported fact, often as a consequence or punishment, but as an "enemy" it was without question the minority of the time. Whatever the case, though, I can't imagine reversing my position that death isn't always "bad". I mean, sheesh, if we're going to get silly about it, how about the "death of sin"? The bad-ness of death is purely contextual, which is why I can't believe that the thing itself is bad. It's needed. It's necessary. And, personally, I don't see that as a shame.

    To state the obvious, how would one read the bible without using their senses? How would one hear the truth? Again, as imperfect as they are, they're all we've got.

    Also, again, no one is claiming that God is saying things in the bible that He really doesn't mean. I believe it, but I'm also willing to admit that I'm reading it wrong. I'm willing to consider the possibility that there are Truths that are only alluded to in the Bible because there are not words in any human language for some of the concepts that we'll someday experience and understand. If the bible is God's blog, then, you're right, you can get many of the ideas, but you're limited in your ability to get everything.

    As for reading Genesis and other passages, I've read some during the course of the discussion and taken the comment author's word for it in other instances. Some references from memory, it's true.

    I don't think anyone's implying that I'm not saved. Even if they were, no worries. I know the truth: I believe that I'm a sinful individual and that Christ alone can reconcile me to God.

    And I do think that death was introduced to the world with sin: a metaphorical, spiritual death. Possibly a physical death, but only for human beings. I do not, however, believe that physical death, decay and entropy itself was absent before sin in plants, animals, insects, sea life, bacteria and so on. Personally, I can't see how this distinction negates anything found elsewhere in the bible.

  • At 3:30 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Wow, where have I been all week. This really looks like a great discussion, guys! I just don't have time to read all your posts, so I skimmed.

    Nice job of hearty interaction and thought.

    Danny, I really appreciate your love of doctrine. I like doctrine too (of course), but it is merely a means to an end.

    What is that end?

    Any guesses?

  • At 3:49 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Jer has a point about questions.

    The more I grow (age, faith, etc.), I see more of my former "mountains" being exposed as "mole hills."

    I hear statments from "solid theologians" that make me want to vomit. It's Ken Ham, saying, "If you don't believe that the earth was created in six, 24-hour days, you are negating the whole truth of scripture."

    Congrats, Ken. You've made a mountain out of that hill that even a mole would laugh at.

    I'm just tired of Christians talking about issues we don't have answers for an acting like their opinions are the correct answers.

    I'm tired of Christians pointing the finger at each other and judging their takes on these issues.

    I'm tired of being the hypocrite who just criticized Ken Ham and now criticize myself for criticizing him.

    In summary, I wish I was Erwin McManus.

  • At 8:08 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    the end is the worship and glory of God.

    the same God who says we must worship him in spirit and truth! doctrine is the study of God to pursue worship in truth.

    gary, if i'm introducing you for a presentation. i mention your faithful ministry at deleware, i mention your love for jenni, allie, and luke. i mention you are a sports fan and a huge wolverine fan. you may be glad that i want to introduce you. you may be pleased by a lot of the positive things i've said, however, there is one glaring problem...i've wrongly identified you.

    now MAYBE being a michigan fan is something you could overlook, but what if it was more significant. what if i said your wife was named nadia? what if i said your daughter's name was gwen? worse yet, what if i didn't get luke's name wrong, but claimed he wasn't really yours. suddenly, no matter how great my intent to present you positively, if i wrongly identify you the way you would desire.

    my love of doctrine is not borne out of a love for information. it is not borne out of a love for being right. it's not borne out of a love of terms or words (i often use the wrong ones). it's borne out of a love for God. i want to bring honor and glory to God in every way possible and do not want to wrongly identify Him in my attempt to honor Him. Now, will I find out that i've got some things wrong...sure. we all will. however, that is not motivation for me to quit trying, but rather to do all i can to get it right as much as i can.

    not for my glory, but for His.

  • At 6:45 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…


    Good response. You also spelled "Jennie" wrong. =).

    He he he.

    Even in your response, doctrine is a means to an end. It is a correct and healthy means, but it is not required for that end.

    Lots of people throughout history have brought glory to God apart from doctrine. That is, apart from the fully-revealed Scriptures.

    I think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.... and all the other people in the Bible (and outside of the Bible) who simply loved God because they did - and because He revealed Himself and drew them to Himself.

    I am not sure that the "end" is to glorify God. Call me a freak, but I think the end is to "love God" and you can't do that without "loving people."

    Don't worry, I didn't think you just like doctrine for doctrine's sake, but it can come across like that if it gets in the way of the top two commandments (love God and love people).

    If my commitment to doctrine (or the pursuit or discussions thereof) gets in the way of loving God and loving people, then really the point of doctrine is lost. Doctrine is actually just one means to an end. There are other means to that end.

    Aren't there?

  • At 8:53 AM, Blogger The Honus said…

    Of course there are other means to that end. Prayer, service, communtiy, just to name a few. Of course we wouldn't know about these without doctrine. . . hmmmm?

    The question I suppose is one of great epistemolgical importance: how can I be sure that anything is "truely true?"

    And some would argue that you never can, others that certain truths are provable, while others still will say, "it's just faith."

    Perhaps the anxiety that many feel over claims of absolute certainty in areas where there is so much mystery is authentic doubt. Perhaps it is a genuine humility over their own shortcomings. Perhaps they feel it a disservice to the awesome wonder of the God who is.

    Whatever the reason, I have been leaning more heavily in recent days to the assumption that says, "I think I'm right on this stuff, but I'm most certainly willing to admit that I just don't know." (In the areas where limited information is available) I refuse to measure the validity of a truth claim based upon how rabidly I will defend it. It is either truely true, or it isn't. It does not depend on my level of trust.

  • At 9:15 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Just for clarity - are we talking about this as if "Scripture" and "Doctrine" are the same thing?

    Also, Honus, I think we COULD easily know about God apart from doctrine. Especially if we are talking about "formal doctrine."

    Probably depends on how we define "doctrine." A discussion like this is pointless unless we agree on some basic definitions.

  • At 12:58 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    teaching, instruction, training. in fact, in Matthew 15:9, doctrine is contrasted with the precepts of man. it's used 21 times in the New Testament. it's not just head knowledge, but is spoken of as being able to correct and lead to proper action.

    Romans 1 would concur with you, Gary that we can know ABOUT God apart from Scripture. However, Romans 10:14-17 makes it clear you can not come to know God apart from the Scriptures. And since it's an issue of knowing God and not just knowing about God, general revelation won't completely cut it. In fact, I agree with Honus (I think this is what he was saying), I don't know that my observations from general revelation are accurate until they are confirmed by specific revelation (the Word).

    As for OT saints, they didn't just "simply loved God because they did - and because He revealed Himself and drew them to Himself." He did reveal Himself, and there was a very specific way for them to respond to it. And Hebrews 1 tells us that God's mode for revealing Himself has changed in this age.

    as for glory being the end. two thoughts:

    a) how could anything but His glory be the end? He does not NEED by love or affection, therefore it is not the end for Him. That is not to say he denies or doesn't enjoy my love, but He works to the glory of Himself. even my love for Him simply works toward the glory of Him.
    b) how could i possibly love Him apart from glorifying Him? if i see Him for who He is, and acknowledge who He is, and love and adore who He is, how could i not desire to honor and glorify Him. i would argue that the one who chooses not to honor and glorify God is one who does not truly love Him.

    good doctrine can not get in the way of loving God or loving people. perhaps at times in our attempt to articulate doctrine we violate loving God or man...the problem is in our presentation then, not in the doctrine. if our doctrine ends in not showing love to God or man, then our doctrine is flawed and not true Biblical doctrine.

    if i have a neighbor who believes he is good enough to have a relationship with God i have an opportunity to match my doctrine to my action. i could go over there, say, "hey moron, your righteous acts are filthy rags you sick-o." the problems with that method have more to do with my approach and may be borne out of improper doctrine on what it means to be in the image of God (and therefore valuing someone). However, if in the name of "loving" that person I fear not offending them so much that I have not shared with them that there is none good but God, have I really loved them?

    truth is not the problem. truth is not the enemy. truth DOES NOT lead to legalism. the distortion of truth is poison (for it is what satan has done since the beginning).

    i agree with honus, the gauge of truth is not my enthusiasm. it's not dependant on my reaction. but how do we gauge which things are not clear. at times, we demand more "proof" in Spiritual areas of life than we do any other issue. we place such a high demand for proof that we could not function normally in any other area of life if we imposed the same "proof" standards. this is like the pharisees who watch Jesus cast out a demon and immediately walk up and ask for a sign.

    not to pick...this has been very helpful for me. but help me see that i should say i can't really know how God created the world when He said He did it in seven literal days (where consistant syntax requires that reading). where death is tied regularly to physical death throughout Scripture. where Jesus had to physically die to accomplish victory over death.

    i'm not asking for a fight. i acknowledge i can take things too far and probably am a bit dogmatic. (i believe much of that is probably do to His gifts He has given, but like any strength, it produces corresponding weaknesses...ie. being dogmatic when i shouldn't). i thought this was an area that was pretty clear. i'm more than willing to acknowledge it may not be. but i'm struggling to understand what standards we can begin to use to determine when the Bible is clear on something and when it is not.

  • At 3:36 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…


    I have a headache from reading all this. Here's a few thoughts, from my few remaining, functioning brain cells.

    (1) Jesus affirmed that the greatest commandment was to Love God. I would affirm that this involves bringing Him glory. I don't see any reason to argue about this.

    (2) Thank you, Danny, for the biblical definition of doctrine. We do, however, have to realize man's role (and we are experiencing it) in the communication of doctrine - Doctrine is really man's way of explaining what we learn from Scripture. There is good doctrine that is closer and more "true" to actual words, themes, and patterns of Scripture. There is bad doctrine that is unfortunately based on feelings or picking a favorite verse and twisting it to build a belief or teaching. I don't see what there is to argue or discuss about this.

    (3) By the way, "truth" often leads to legalism. Why? Because the truth is often in human hands and minds who tend to build Pharisee fences to guard or communicate the truth.

    While I believe in objective "truth," I also know that no communication of truth happens without subjective interpretations. Humans are subjective. Because of that, "truth" gets twisted. Communicated "Truth" rarely - if ever - sits on its own, unobserved, unprocessed, unfiltered. Once I start to communicate it, I have added subjectivity. Once I start to think about it, I have added subjectivity. Once I start to listen to it, i have added subjectivity.

    (4) Why can't we talk about the subjective truth? Why are Christians so afraid of that? Didn't God make all of us different for a reason? Didn't God give me a different fingerprint, a different background, a different personality than you?

    (5) I do agree with you, Danny, that we have to take the Bible (on faith) at its word. In other words, a 7-day creation, a physical death as part of the curse. When the Bible means to speak in symbols or figures, it tells you. At some point, we (in our fallen, aforementioned subjectivity) have to humble ourselves and point at the text and say, "that's what it says." Do what you want with it, but that's what it says. If it says, "and there was evening and there was morning - the first day," and God was writing to human readers... then he probably means 24 hour days. In Genesis, God is not out to confuse, encrypt,
    or confound. He's out to declare and reveal.

    (6) It would seem that the "END" in the Old Testament is "the worship and glory of God" (as Danny notes). However, in the New Testament, it would seem that the "END" is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength" (which, ironically is also in Deuteronomy.)

    Let me sum up our positions, here, Danny...

    -- I think you would word things this way: "We show glory to God by loving Him." (the goal being showing God the glory, the means being love.)

    -- I think I would word things like this: "We show love to God by seeking to glorify Him." (the goal being to love God, the means being bringing Him glory).

    (Re-read those above statements)

    You are choosing worship as the highest value. I am choosing love as the higher value.

    I would contend that you are coming with an Old Testament, doctrinal frame of mind.

    I would say that I am coming with a New Testament, relational frame of mind.

    We have no disagreement, just different understandings of the same truth.

    Does your understanding of "doctrine" allow for that?

    I believe that we are both right, and truth has not been compromised.

  • At 3:40 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Also, Danny - and everyone else here - you should probably read "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell. I would love to read together and chat about it or do posts about it!!!

  • At 9:26 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    1) very long post for you to claim we agree and that you see nothing to argue about...and then spend a lot of time making your case.

    2) why can't the Bible's definition of doctrine be the definition rather than yours? Doctrines are truths about who God is. teaching, preaching, modeling, etc. are all methods of conveying that truth. but doctrine is doctrine...what we do with it is what we do with it. but doctrine is still doctrine.

    3) Reread my last post. Truth never leads to legalism. think about your statement. how could true, factual issues about God the Father, His Son or the Holy Spirit lead to legalism? man, when he distorts truth, or conveys it wrong, leads to legalism. you do not invent a truth. truth is real. if you teach it wrong or teach something wrong, that is not truth.

    the pharisees were not clinging to truth. they were clinging to half-truth, or to their own rules. Jesus didn't say, "man, you guys got it right! you just don't love people enough." no, he said woe to them and told them their views of themselves and of God were wrong.

    you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free...huh, doesn't sound like legalism to me.

    4) what the heck do different fingerprints, races, preferences or backgrounds have to do with subjective truth? in fact, when we notice diversity it leads us to realize the creativity of God...which is, an objective doctrine. it's not that truth shifted, but rather, that God has always created differences.

    you have a fingerprint. that is true. i have a different fingerprint. also true. wow, God made men with differing fingerprints. ok, that's true too. quite a leap to say it means he makes truth different things to different people.

    5) Isn't it funny that we can have this big discussion even though you and I agree about the initial issue? Dude, we are two messed up people. Looking forward to this weekend where we don't have to type things and will probably find out we're saying similar things, just different ways. But obviously, we both care about the way it is communicated.

    6) As an expositor of Scripture, I take exception of your view that I have an Old Testament perspective and you have a New Testament perspective.
    a) my job is to have a Biblical perspective. The same God was the originator of the Old and New and I am to glorify and love (or love and glorify, if you'd prefer) Him. I should have a whole Bible perspective of God.
    b) I think your quote sounds a little elitist. The Old Testament, being the redemptive story of the New Testament clouded (I Peter 1:10-12). As if you are choosing the better route. Again, I would say to pick a wholly New or Old Testament perspective would be to not teach the whole truth of God.
    c) I see tons of things about wrath and glory and love in the New Testament too. The "God-centered" perspective is most easily defended in the New Testament. (Colossians 1:15-17 to name one passage)

    Does my understanding of "doctrine" allow for us to have different perspectives? depends on what you mean. if you are talking that our ministries will have certain strengths and points of emphasis, then I would argue that is also engrained in us by our giftedness (and the needs of our Body). However, if you are asking if I believe that two people can believe opossing things about God and both be totally accurate. no, that doesn't work. they both may be wrong, one may be wrong, or they both may be true but incomplete. but in the direct area where they contradict, they can not both be right.

    it certainly not wrong to tell people to love God. it is certainly not wrong to tell people to glorify God. the perspectives of the statements are a little different, that's all. i'm ok with that.

    but i'm not ok with truth changing just because i am inadequate as a speaker or because the audience hears it differently.

  • At 9:29 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    granted, i will admit.

    i live in a postmodern world and i don't get it. i want to, because i want to reach people.

    but i totally feel like a fish out of water. at times, i wonder how i can minister to anyone. i wonder if i'm going to find myself obsolete.

    i wonder why i wasn't born 100 years ago.

  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger The Honus said…

    I don't know that I would say that you live in a Postmodern world, yet. There's an awful lot of Modernism that still hangs around. The logical, foundational arguments for the reliability of the Scriptures are Modernist arguments. The educational, "pastor as dispenser of truth" model of church is also Modern in approach. All the books that you can find at Christian bookstores raging against Postmodernism as "an evil dangerous enough to eliminate Christianity from the face of the earth" are all expressions of Modernity.

    By the way - foundational truths and those who can exposit them from Scripture will never become obsolete. My fear is that when I become unwilling to grow (thus change) I will become irrelevant. I know that it's a tired word and phrase that becomes overused, but I do beleive that relevance means more than simply loving God and loving people.

  • At 12:10 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    the truth of Scripture can never become irrelevent.

    the Church on mission is obviously not irrelevent.

    however, there are many churches that have compromised both in effort to become more relevent...and ironically have become irrelevent in the process.

    being a disciple of Christ should run counter to the life the unregenerate.

    however, i can certainly become irrelevent in the WAY i communicate those truths. i guess that's what i worry about. that it will seem like i am speaking another language because i really can't grasp the philosophy of those i'm sharing with.

  • At 1:37 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Truth leads to legalism because it is placed in fallible, human hands.

    Truth does not, however, produce legalism. Humans do.

    I agree - doctrine is constant, eternal, and biblical, in and of itself.

    However, "communicated doctrine" (outside of the words of Scripture) is ALWAYS SUBJECTIVE. Again, it is thus because humans are involved.

    Can we start a new thread now? I am tired of scrolling down for a half hour before Danny asserts that I'm criticizing Bible doctrine.

  • At 8:51 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    please be consistant with the use of the word truth, and i won't have any concerns.

    truth that is distorted is not truth. half-truths, partial-truths and non-truths are not truth. if i distort truth in the process or presenting it, i have not presented truth.

    again, i ask you: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life..." (John 14:6) How does Jesus lead to legalism? Truth comes from God. "Sanctify them by the truth, your Word is truth (John 17:17). How can something that leads to legalism be sanctifying me?

    you are taking the truth, then jumping to the abuse of truth...and calling them the same thing.

    "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

    These are all statements by Christ about truth. Obviously, He does not believe it leads to legalism. And it looks to me like he is calling people to pursue it...

    Depravity leads to legalism. Humanity produces legalism.

    The problem is not the truth, the problem is man. I know that's what you are saying, but the way you are articulating it is quite inconsistent with Scripture.

    i sense you are frustrated with me, and feel i'm barking up a tree i don't need to. i'm sorry, but i think making statements like "truth leads to legalism" is criticizing Biblical doctrine. i know what you mean, but it's not what you are saying.

  • At 9:09 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    qwow, i'm sorry this became personal.

    i'm not slamming you as a man. i'm not slamming you as a pastor.

    very early when you joined the discussion, i gave the Biblical defnition for doctrine. i guess i naively thought we would all use this definition.

    you're right, it gets confusing because posts say something about doctrine and then say something about "doctrine." we talk about truth, then someone posts about "truth." the quotation marks identify to me that a person is changing the definition a bit...and that's where things fall apart.

    i have no problem with the idea that we miss the boat when we convey doctrine. but that's the whole point. i've missed the boat. i haven't nailed it. there is truth and true doctrine, and i'm missing it slightly.

    i'm just baffled how truth is placed as the advisary of love (i'm not saying you do that Gary, relax). i think the reason i get so upset at the statement "truth leads to legalism" is because it is often partnered with some kind of statement about "well, i choose not to worry about truth, i just love people" as if that is even possible.

    you can't love people without truth. giving people lies, or letting them live in their own, is one of the most unloving things you can do. in fact, i don't even have a clue how to love, or what love is, unless i pursue truth. and for the person that thinks they can just hammer truth and not worry about showing compassion, they are missing a lot of the truth in Scripture about showing love. i don't see that the two can be separated.

    perhaps my defensiveness comes (and possibly my over reaction to your statements, Gary) from the fact that God has wired me to be a defender of truth. i love Him and want to bring Him glory. i greive for the person who has bought a lie and i know it will lead to distruction (for that lie is a sand foundation, and the house will eventually come down on it). it pains me when people think that my defense of truth is borne out of arrogance (you just always have to be right!) or just a cold, hard heart (like i just want the facts) and people don't realize it is borne out of compassion. i love God, i love people. and i want people to love God as they should according to His Word.

    think about it gary. i'm not really into debating that much. we have totally different takes on most sports issues, and we may tease one another a bit, but then we let it go. but when you and i had a discussion about katrina, i kept pursuing it. not to try to be right, but because i love you, and i want your ministry to be as great as possible. it was never about one of us being right or wrong, but was about getting to the bottom of what was right. that's the only way you and i can be effective pastors.

    as i said in my last post, i believe i know what you mean when you say, "truth leads to legalism," however, you are not using truth the same way that i am. i'm asking that we use the word truth the same way as it was in the passages i listed.

    if you use truth with that definition, i think you would agree there is no way possible that it can lead to legalism. we have to encourage our people in our flock to seek the Truth, knowing it will transform them more into His image. our people need to know that His Word is the source of truth, not us.

    yet, i understand what you are saying. truth has become distorted and tainted by men. and when that happens, legalism can follow. again, truth did not do it. man and his depravity did it. man and his depravity lead to and produced legalism.

    it may seem like i'm splitting hairs, but i think it's important. at least in our community, i run into people who decide not to encounter issues of truth (cohabitation before marriage, premarital sex, stealing music on the internet) with an approach of "well, i'm not going to get all hung up on the truth, i'm just going to love the person." sorry, if you ignore the truth, you're not really loving anybody.

    the reason they do this is because our society has made truth out to be the bad guy. and why not. the truth tells them they are morally depraived, that even their good works are inadequate before God, that Christ had to die for their sin because it was so disgusting to God, and that God determines the only way a person can come to Him. That we do not have enough autonomy to make our own rules. The unregenerate heart sees that as confining and narrow-minded. You and I both know better. We know these are the truths that lead to freedom and liberation.

    i think as Christians we must be very very clear about this. this is part of being salt and light. i don't believe you view truth in a way inconsistent with the Bible. i just believe some of the terms you used (and the multiple definitions of truth) present a message that could be misunderstood as inconsistent with the Word. and i think this is a big enough deal that we should make sure our words are as clear as possible.

    i love you bro. and i hope this doesn't mean you're going to quit commenting on my blog. your thoughts are needed and appreciated!

  • At 8:45 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Okay. Good post, Danny.

    Truth, in and of itself, is great. It's objective. It doesn't lead to legalism. I agree.

    The thing I am failing to explain well is that we so rarely see truth "in and of itself."

    Objective truth is always communicated Subjectively.

    It is that subjective thing that twists truth into legalism. I suppose one could say that subjective thing also often twists truth into untruth.

    I think at the bottom of all this, we agree on everything, we are just coming at it from different angles and using different words.

    Which, I suppose, would indicate that we are approaching our communication of truth in subjective ways. That is a reality that we both must learn to navigate with understanding and openness.

    You are dealing in the doctrinal (objective truth), and I am approaching it from the practical (how truth is talked about and/or applied subjectively). Both perspectives are needed, aren't they?

    I also think both perspectives are biblical. I haven't heard you agree with that one yet - do you?


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