Monday, December 15, 2008

Modern Day Pharisee

Though not too often, I have heard comments made to the effect that conservative Christians are modern day Pharisees. With the brief concession that there are some extreme fundamentalist groups (together with their schools) who perhaps could be classified as Pharisees, I am convinced that conservative Christians couldn't be farther from a Pharisee.

At its most basic level, I believe this false accusation is more a compliment to Pharisees than a slam on conservative Christians. Or to put it another way, the accusation greatly misunderstands the Pharisees and places a false (and better than deserved) stereotype on them.

For the record, lets consider Jesus' beef against the Pharisees. There are, of course, a great many passages for this, so I'll just mention two.

1) In 15:1-9 Jesus confronts their fundamental sin: "why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? . . . 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

2) Chapter 23, the famous "woe to the Pharisees" chapter. Let's get some of the highlights from the text:

- v. 4: "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger."
- v. 13: "You shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in."
- v. 15: "You travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."
- v. 27: "You are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness."
- v. 33: "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"

It is obvious that the Pharisees had a lot of issues. Certainly they were human, just as we are, and therefore we share with them in the sins that are common to man. But it must be understood that Jesus didn't cast his most violent and damning speech on them because they were prideful or wanted to be exalted in the eyes of others. Those are surface issues that everyone deals with (even tax collectors and prostitutes). When we deal with issues of pride, fear of man, selfishness, you-name-it, even hypocricy, we are not acting like Pharisees. We are acting like sinful people.

The root problem of the Pharisees that invited Jesus' human wrath and God's eternal wrath was their false religious system. They set up their tradition over and against God's Word. When they read and interpreted God's Word it was selective and only to serve their own purposes. The religion of the Pharisees was not "Judaism" as God had established it through Scripture. Therefore Jesus treated them like a cult who distored Scripture by adding, removing, and modifying it. Pharisees put their hope fully in themselves and their works. They had no room in their theology for God's grace toward sinners. They had no room for mercy. It was follow their rules (not God's), or be the subject of their scorn (not God's).

Are conservatives sons of hell? Do they made their converts twice the sons of hell? Are they full of dead men's bones? Are they unable to escape hell? Do they prevent people from entering the kingdom?

To call conservative Christians the modern day Pharisee is paramount to calling it a false religion.

There is another related issue that needs to be dealt with (briefly, because I have a serious headache). Some have also said that if Jesus came today that we would reject him. I say we would have every biblical right to reject him. Even if someone came with miracles we should remember that the Anti-Christ will perform miracles even to where he could deceive the elect if it were possible. If he came today like he did 2000 years ago (though wearing modern clothing), that means we have completely misunderstood everything and are a false religion. Setting up that type of scenario is faulty thinking. It assumes that Jesus could come in that way again, which goes against our understanding of Scripture. The question is not "would I accept Jesus coming today like he did then," but rather "do I accept Jesus today for who he was then?"

This may require some more development and clarification in a non-headache moment, but for now here is a two-sentence summary:

When we, as born again Christian, sin, we do not act like Pharisees--we act like sinners. We did not kill God's Son as Pharisees. We killed God's Son as sinners. We did not say "This is the heir. Let’s kill him and take the inheritance." The tax collectors did not say it. The Pharisees said it (in the parable told by Jesus). It was said by those who were entrusted with the vineyard, not by everyone. We need to use proper hermeneutics to understand who said what and who did what so we can properly compare ourselves.

If you want an example of what I think is modern day Pharisee, probably the best correlation is Catholicism.

The pejorative term Pharisee should be reserved for people destined for hell who are guilty of the same fundamental sin of the Pharisees, and never used for those bound for heaven.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: God's Lesser Glory by Bruce Ware

“Readers will find this book unkind to open theism” (9). To what extent? “We have [in open theism], then, a fundamentally different god, not merely a different version of God” (230). Such are the opening and closing remarks of a devastating analysis of open theism. Bruce Ware, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the author of God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism. The book is organized in three main sections: (1) What is it? (2) What’s wrong with it? And (3) what difference does it make? There is one question asked and answered on virtually every page of this book. It is the very question concluding a series of questions presented in the first chapter: “is such a God the God of the Bible?” (18). The answer returns again and again as an emphatic “No.”

The introductory chapter provides the motivation for the reader to be concerned about the issue. Ware details some of the influence open theism has had in Baptist General Conference as an example that this issue is not fortified in the walls of academia, but is in fact finding refuge and strength in congregations around the country. Not all churches have opened their gates to this teaching, as exemplified by the Southern Baptist Convention. Publishers such as InterVarsity Press and Baker Books along with Christianity Today have provided a platform from which open theism has reached the Christian church at large. Though this chapter is focused on understanding the importance of this issue, the analysis of open theism throughout the book solidified this theme.

Theologies usually have some measure of foundation in formerly existing doctrines, and Arminianism turns out to be the foundation of open theism. Ware explains how Arminianism in its traditional expression is seen as faulty in the eyes of open theists because it does not allow for true libertarian freedom. Therefore open theism begins with the Arminian foundation of God’s love, human freedom, and genuine worship, and seeks to be consistent in its understanding of the relationship between God’s omniscience and man’s free will. The reconciliation of God’s omniscience with man’s freedom is the root issue in open theism. Ware explains from the open theist perspective how they perceive traditional models of understanding as faulty, and their own model as viable.

The “perceived” viability of open theism is presented in chapter three as Ware brings forth the primary tenets that open theism attempts to derive from Scripture. The first major principle is that God’s openness allows for real relationship between and people. Because God learns and can be surprised by human actions, he can have a real relationship and not one based on absolute foreknowledge. Secondly, because God does not know the future, everything he does involves some measure of risk. God risked rejection when he created the world for the sake of relationship, and he lost the bet, so to speak. Third, because God cannot always know the outcome of his decisions, it is not uncommon for him to repent as in the decision to flood the world. Fourth and perhaps most important, because God does not know the future and allows people to have libertarian freedom, he is not to blame when tragedy strikes. Here in summary form are the primary issues which Ware addresses in detail throughout the rest of the book.

If one could conclusively demonstrate the fallacy of open theism’s rejection of the doctrine of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, the debate comes to an abrupt end. This is exactly what Ware has accomplished in chapter four. Walking through the biblical texts used by open theists Ware clearly shows how the “straightforward” readings by open theists are invalid, either by immediate context or by other texts which directly relate to the issue. The careful attention to the whole counsel of God reveals how open theism must ignore or deny one text in order to affirm a certain understanding of another. At times Ware appeals to logical conclusions using the narrow straightforward interpretation to show how one cannot maintain such ideas without denying other explicit teachings about God.

Contrary to open theist ideas, Scripture has a lot to say about God’s exhaustive foreknowledge regarding the breadth and the depth, the extent and the content of what God knows. Many of these texts are treated in chapter five as Ware unleashes the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge. Though space does not allow extensive commentary on each passage, Ware shines the light of the glory of God as demonstrated in his foreknowledge. Open theists claim that often these texts refer to a specific situation, or are limited instances of foreknowledge, and it is going too far to attribute exhaustive foreknowledge. The former claim is certainly true, however Ware demonstrates that in order for God to foreknow and control one, two, and the many situations and prophecies laid out in Scripture, it would take exhaustive foreknowledge because of the infinite number of variables which could alter the future.

In attacking God’s foreknowledge, Ware demonstrates how open theism indirectly attacks God’s wisdom. Chapter six gives a clear and thorough argument against the attack of the only wise God.

The effect of all this in our daily lives is devastating. It actually creates a different kind of Christian; one who can’t pray with confidence, need not ask God for guidance, and does indeed have reason to blame God for tragedy. Chapters seven through nine are dedicated to this and one cannot help but grieve for Christians under open theist pastors.

Reading this book has two effects for the Christian who believes strongly in the deity of God. First, it creates anger and frustration over a doctrine which makes God in man’s image. Second, it causes us in the depth of our soul to worship the God of Romans 11:33-36.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Translation Theory Introduction

The act of translating of a text from one language to another has been a necessity since the Tower of Babel when God confused the language of the people (Gen. 11:1-9). Though translation has been done throughout history, formal theories of translation—and the resulting debates—have only been in existence for the last century. Until the Gutenberg invention of the printing press in 1456, only 33 of the world’s approximately 6,170 languages had a translation of Scripture. At the end of the 20th century, over 2,000 languages, or 80% of the world, had parts or the entire Bible available to them. The increase from 33 to over 2,000 did not occur gradually. In fact, even 400 years after printing press, still only 67 languages had some portion of the Scripture. The 19th and 20th centuries saw a dramatic increase in missionaries and organizations committed to translating Scripture which naturally demonstrated the need for standard methodology of translation.

There are two primary translation theories which continue to be the center of increasingly fervent debate. Though terminology has varied over the years, it appears the dust has begun to settle regarding what to call the theories: Formal Equivalence and Functional Equivalence. Much time and effort has been spent on arguing for each position, and I have found it difficult to get a brief synopsis of each side with its proposed arguments. This paper is an effort to allow both sides to make their arguments without analytical comment. The purpose is not to come to a conclusion on which method is superior, but rather to have a fundamental understanding of the arguments for each position.

Key Terms and Definition
Many specialized areas of study have their own set of terms and vocabulary that are necessary to keep in mind in order to navigate the field. Misunderstood definitions often draw needless arguments, therefore where a definition undergirds one side of the debate, I will present the definition from that viewpoint.

Formal Equivalence. Leland Ryken has written the most recent and somewhat controversial book in this debate. He takes his stand on the formal side of the debate and defines it as follows: “a theory of translation that favors reproducing the form or language of the original text, and not just its meaning. In its stricter form, this theory of translation espouses reproducing even the syntax and word order of the original; the formulas word for word translation and verbal equivalence often imply this stricter definition of the concept.” By mentioning the “stricter form,” Ryken hints at the reality that there are varying levels of formal equivalence. The strictest end would be a word-for-word lexical translation which makes no other changes to the text. Such a translation has not been made for distribution, but its closest cousin would be the American Standard Version (ASV) which is considered by all as the most literal translation available. The other end of the formal spectrum would most likely be the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Functional Equivalence. Originally this view was called Dynamic Equivalence but more recent works attempt to leave the word “Dynamic” behind in favor of “Functional.” Eugene Nida is the undisputed father and proponent of the Functional Equivalent method. He defines this method as follows: “[it] consists in reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source-language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style.” Nida immediately states that such a definition requires “careful evaluation of several seemingly contradictory elements.”

Source and Receptor Language. Source or native language is simply the original language from which the translation is based. In the case of Bible translation, it refers to Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Conversely, receptor language is the language which receives the translation.

Transparent Text. This term is used in two different ways, equally defined by both methods. In the context of functional translation, this term indicates that the message of the original text is transparent to the receiving reader. In the context of formal translation, it indicates that the translation is transparent to the original text. In the former, the message is clearly seen, in the latter, the original form is clearly seen. The two definitions are not mutually exclusive, but rather emphasize either aspect of the translation.
Formal Equivalence Method

The practice of translating Scripture according to what we now call formal equivalence has been the general practice of translators through the centuries. Advocates of functional translation methods are quick to point out passages where historical translations veer from the original, yet it is clear that ancient translations are primarily formal in nature. English translations in particular have historically leaned toward a formal translation. Clearly the evidence demonstrates that an unofficial standard of formal equivalence has been the practice of the church. With that historical background, let us now look at the various arguments put forth by advocates of this position.

Arguments for Formal Equivalence
Retaining the words. Words matter. Words are the fundamental units of language. Meaning and ideas are derived from words and are dependent on the words in their individual meaning combined with syntax and grammar. Therefore the most basic and objective method of transferring meaning is to maintain the translated words. Leland Ryken makes the argument that “there is no such thing as a disembodied thought… when we change words, we change meaning.”

Minimal interpretation. Robert Thomas acknowledges that translation does include a degree of interpretation, but it must be avoided “as much as possible by transferring directly from the surface structure of the source language to the surface structure of the receptor language.” Ryken refers to the needed interpretation as “linguistic interpretation” as opposed to “thematic interpretation.” The former seeks to find the receptor language words which best convey the source language word meanings as opposed to finding a new way of expressing the meaning of the section with or without the same words. The more interpretation that is done in translation, the more the translation becomes a commentary.

Original meaning. Along similar lines with the previous argument that interpretation should be kept to a minimum, is the idea that the translation should convey the meaning of the original text, not the translator’s interpretation of it. The main goal is to give the reader the transparent text of the original so that they can come to their own conclusion when there is a difficulty in the text. This comes to the forefront most on ambiguous passages. It is the job of the reader, not the translator to determine the original meaning of the ambiguity .

Leave it to the reader. According to the formal translation method, if the reader does not understand elements of the original (idioms, theological words, symbols, history, etc.), they should be willing to study or use an aid rather than have a translation that requires no effort. Since it is nearly impossible to know the background of the typical reader, it is best to make the translation transparent to the original and challenge the reader to do the work of interpretation. This not only increases the abilities of the reader, but it also causes them to think carefully about Scripture as opposed to reading quickly when everything is easy to understand.

Objective limits. Perhaps the greatest desire of formal translation advocates is to hide the translator and make the translation transparent so that the original shines through. Formal equivalence places great emphasis on the objectivity which with translation is done so that multiple translators can come up with essentially the same translation. Side-by-side comparisons of multiple formal translations show minimal difference which often come down to linguistic interpretation.
Centrality of the text. When it comes to Scripture as set apart from other books, preserving the original text as much as possible should be the focus of translation. The further translations stray from the original text, the less it can be trusted and ethically deemed the Word of God.

Functional Equivalence Method
The proliferation of missionaries around the world in the last two centuries and the subsequent need for translations in primitive languages has brought problems to the fore that had not been dealt with on a major scale in the past. These problems can be understood best in the form of questions. How do you translate “Lamb of God” when a tribe has no concept of sheep? Is it legitimate to invent words in a language which has no corresponding word for “justification”? Do you maintain a literal translation of an idiom when that same idiom has a completely different (and undesirable) meaning? In response to these and other questions Eugene Nida, in conjunction with Wycliffe Bible Translators and other organizations, has developed the functional equivalent method of translation. The functional method of translations elevates meaning over form and reader over author.

Arguments for Functional Equivalence Method
Meaning is everything. “Translating must aim primarily at “reproducing the message.” To do anything else is essentially false to one’s task as a translator.” Mark Strauss states it more bluntly, “Every translation must change what is said (in Hebrew and Greek) to capture what is meant.” No two languages have a one-to-one correspondence to any significant degree. Therefore in order to maintain meaning, it is necessary to leave the source language form behind and find a meaningful form in the target language which will carry the same meaning.
Provoke a response. Scripture was not written to convey facts and truths with no impact to how we live. Therefore translation should seek to invoke the same response for the modern reader that the original hearer experienced. In other words the translation should have the same impact at the outset.

Simple, not complex. God has given us his revelation for us to understand. It is the translator’s responsibility to translate it in such a way that people can easily understand without aid. In addition there are settings where study aids are not available such as an oral reading. The translation must relieve the text of ambiguities and statements or forms which can be understood more than one way so that people can hear and respond to the Word. Nida puts it this way, “If we assume that the writers of the Bible expected to be understood, we should also assume that they intended one meaning and not several, unless an intentional ambiguity is linguistically 'marked.'”

Respect the language. Those who work on the front lines of Bible translation on the mission field are keenly aware that every language is unique. Each language has its own “word-building capacities, unique patterns of phrase order, techniques for linking clauses into sentences, markers of discourse, and special discourse types of poetry, proverbs, and song…” A functional translation takes this into account and seeks to form a translation as though it were native to the receptor. Readers of the translation should not feel like they are reading a translation.
Respect the originals. Hebrew and Greek are languages like every other language. They suffer from the same limitations, ambiguities, and cultural influences. We must not treat them as though they are divine languages to be preserved for eternity. Rather, we must recognize that God communicated in the language of the people in the original writings, and as faithful translators we must translate into the modern language of the people with the receptor’s own idioms, grammar, vocabulary, and syntax.

Priorities. When we commence translating God’s Word, we must have priorities as to who the target readers are. Whether the readers are scholars or children will make a significant difference in the vocabulary and structure used. For wide-distribution translations, certain priorities must be kept in mind. Non-Christians should have priority over Christians. There are two simple reasons for this: (1) intelligibility allows Scripture to be an instrument of evangelism, and (2) it prevents Scripture from becoming obscure “high church” language. The second target age is 25-30 as opposed to children or older adults. The reason is that older adults who are used to a generational language understand terms and phrases which have gone out of use for decades. On the other hand children have a limited vocabulary and are not able to recognize literary features very well. People ages 25-30 have the established English skills and the current vocabulary which generally bridges the gap between all ages. Finally, there are times when the language of women needs priority over that of men. While this would not apply in the United States as much, foreign countries often have a “work-place vocabulary” that women are unaccustomed to. In these cultures where women remain at home, it follows that they teach the children. Therefore the women must understand the translation best in order to instruct the children.

I have attempted to demonstrate the primary arguments put forth by each side of the debate. In my research I have discovered that there are issues which need to be addressed more in order to think more critically. One unanswered question is whether the principles for translating into an established language with a tradition of Bible translations should be the same as translating into a language which has not previous translation and perhaps no literature tradition at all. Another question is whether translating Scripture should have different principles than other forms of literature, particularly since proponents on both sides believe in plenary inspiration.
There is one issue to which all parties agree: translating and spreading Scripture is a high calling and we must apply all diligence in the process. Whether it is supplying a Gospel to a native in Mongolia who has only the Quran, or whether The Gideons are supplying Bibles to hotel chains across the world, the Word must get out by the hands of faithful men.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: The King James Only Controversy, by James White

James White is a professor and apologist who tackles issues thoughtfully, clearly, and most of all, biblically. The King James Only (or AV Only) controversy is becoming more rare and at the same time more intense as modern versions increase and fundamentalist churches decrease. White admits that rebuttals against AV Only advocates have been written before, but confesses the need for a “broad response to the general claims” (VI) of the AV Only group.

The first chapter sets out to treat the opposition fairly by making a distinction between five general positions in the AV Only camp. This is extremely helpful since too often debates tend to polarize positions as either completely right or completely wrong. The first two or three groups are moderate and would not give rise to this controversy. However the final two groups (“The Inspired KJV Group” and “The KJV as New Revelation”) are the predominate positions and are the focal point of the controversy. It is primarily the arguments of these two groups to which White responds.

Chapter two provides a brief but helpful history of Bible translation from the Septuagint to the King James Version. The primary point of this chapter is to demonstrate that each translation began as revolutionary and eventually became tradition. Jerome’s Vulgate caused an uproar in its time for breaking from the traditional text, then Erasmus created a not so insignificant stir in creating a Greek translation which many thought undermined the then traditional Vulgate. Erasmus’ Greek New Testament became the foundation of the King James Version. As White states, “He who once resisted tradition has become the tradition itself” (17). It is essential to understand the tradition and truth are not synonyms, and while truth never changes, tradition does.

With the various positions and brief history in place, White moves on to provide a foundation for understanding the technical aspects of the debate. Manuscripts, text-types, variants, and other related topics are covered clearly and succinctly. Such information is academic and scholarly in nature, but essential in this debate and White does a superb job explaining the concepts without losing the reader. Often an incomplete treatment of these issues can result in a mistrust of the text we hold in our hands, but White carefully explains how God has preserved the text with very little variation throughout the ages.

The fourth chapter takes the concepts learned previously and takes the discussion to the next level showing how translators decide what variants to use from the different manuscripts available. It also allows the translators to speak for themselves by quoting the preface of the 1611 edition of the KJV and demonstrating that even its translators acknowledged the need for improvement. By asking questions and allowing the translators to answer through portions of the preface White draws out the method and perspective which produced the KJV. He further points out how through many editions the KJV has been revised and corrected primarily with regard to spelling, punctuation and other relatively small changes. However for those who hold to an inspired KJV, White points out that this is a significant issue.

The center of the book, chapter five, is the most disheartening section of the book. In it White gives the unfamiliar reader a broad overview of the popular writings and proponents of the AV Only position. Though Christians disagree and debate over many issues, it is typical for such debates to be relatively cordial, respectful, with the various positions giving reasonable explanations. In the overview which White provides, the AV Only advocates act abusive, disrespectful, unreasonable, and altogether unbecoming as Christians. Misrepresentation, out of context quotations, poor logic, and name calling appear as staples in the arguments White draws out.

Chapters seven through ten of the book deals with the types of differences between the KJV and modern versions. The first type is a difference of translation. White walks through a number of examples that AV Only advocates cite as changes, deletions or additions to the text. He shows how in many of these cases the difference is a legitimate translation which does not in any way change the meaning, and in many cases the modern version is a better rendering that makes the meaning more clear.

The eighth chapter focuses on differences which arise from a textual choice (drawing information from the textual criticism chapter). White goes through how it was determined by modern translators that the Textus Receptus contained a reading which was not original to the text. In many cases modern translators have decided to use a different source text other than the Textus Receptus for any number of reasons believing that the alternate reading was more original. Even in these cases a footnote is often placed to notify the reader of such differences. White ably navigates this sometimes complex field again demonstrating that modern versions have no evil plot behind them, but only a devotion to the text as it was originally written.

One of the major arguments stated by AV Only proponents is that modern versions try to denigrate the deity of Christ, his participation in the Godhead, his Sonship, and even his own name. White clearly shows how these allegations are false and at times could be turned on their head.

The final chapter of the book brings out the difficulties within the KJV itself. These include extremely poor translational choices, the change of terms which cause confusion to modern readers, and even anachronistic terms (Easter, rather than Passover). These problems notwithstanding, White’s desire is not to denigrate the magnificent accomplishment the KJV represents or even discourage people from using it. His single goal is to combat those who claim that it is the only translation you can use while still calling yourself a Christian.

If there were one asset and liability to this book it would be its thoroughness. To the previously unconvinced reader this book supplies more than enough evidence to give a reasoning believer confidence in the preserved Word of God in multiple translations. But to the already convinced reader this book can feel like using sledge hammer to drive a small nail into the wall. There is almost too much information for those who want to take it and “use it” against a KJV advocate. Rather than using what I learned in a personal discussion, I am more likely to simply recommend or give the book to someone who is interested. I am thankful James White has taken the time to treat this subject with care and precision so that even the most uninformed person can pick up this book and benefit from it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Book Review: Worldly Saints, by Leland Ryken

As one who has not been exposed to the Puritans perhaps beyond quotations in sermons, I found this book to be very insightful, thought provoking, and encouraging. Based on formidable research, Leland Ryken has demonstrated clear understanding of the thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and passions of the Puritans.

Much of what we hear regarding the Puritans from the public sector is filtered through the values and morals of a secular mindset. In this book Ryken has allowed the Puritans to be understood on their own terms. Throughout the book Ryken goes beyond the external manifestations and seeks to uncover the foundational values and worldviews that provide the motivations for their actions.

If one were to ask what was the most prominent fact about the Puritans that stood out to me I would quickly reply how pervasive the Bible was in their daily lives. Without arguing over particular interpretation and application, one cannot fault the Puritans for their pursuit to understand and apply Scripture in every area of life. Ryken soundly debunked stereotypes popular in public education that the Puritans were strict broods for the sake of it, that they lacked mercy, compassion, and anything we would consider fitting to decent human beings.

One of the biggest strengths of this book is the proliferation of original source quotes. While it would be very easy to proof text and make points from a few isolated phrases, the abundance of quotations on virtually every subject make it clear that the views expressed therein ought to be taken as representative of the whole, unless otherwise noted. It is important to note that the quotes are not taken from a few select authors who meet the criteria, but by a massive slew of authors. Taking a look at the Index of People in the back of the book makes even one who has just finished the book astounded at what they have just read.

Another strength of the book is its organization. With each chapter covering one of the major aspects of life everyone faces (e.g. work, marriage, money, family, etc.), Ryken was able to go in depth with each topic and view it from various angles and perspectives. He often brought in the perspectives of the reformers, the Catholic Church, and Anglicans to show how the Puritans differed (in the case of Catholics and Anglicans) or were in continuity (in the case of the reformers) with them.

The biggest weakness I found in the book was that in chapter eleven where Ryken addresses some of the negative aspects of Puritans, it almost undid everything he wrote in the first ten chapters. Because he covers the major faults in one chapter, he isn’t able to get into much detail as to how the faults weigh against the positive aspects. I think it would have been better to temper all the positive statements throughout the book with some minor qualifications along the way. Reading the first ten chapters you get the feeling that the Puritans more or less were the ideal Christian culture. Then chapter eleven leaves one wondering if the idealism was completely lost in practicality.

A related weakness that I found interesting is that chapter eleven focused on the Puritans’ weaknesses with the view to what we could learn from them. The majority of the book speaks descriptively about the Puritans, yet in the chapter on their faults, the focus changes slightly to an instructive tone. Perhaps one could make the argument that Ryken is not giving the faults a fair representation among the massive amount of positive recognition. To be fair, he is trying to swing the pendulum away from a complete focus on the negative and often false representations.
Overall I enjoyed the book and found it be inspiring in how Christians should be living as a body of believers, sharing their possessions out of care for the poor, using their riches to further God’s kingdom, instructing children in the Lord, educating from the foundation of Scriptural truth, and working in a way that glorifies the Lord. It makes me look forward to reading some Puritan books I’ve recently received.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Alive, Part 2 of 2

The first question Paul answers in Col 2:13 is in what way did God make us alive? The answer is simply, “God made [you] alive together with him.” Taken out of context it would seem that God, being the nearest antecedent to the relative pronoun, makes one alive together with himself. Yet in context it is quite clear that him refers to Christ. Paul’s entire argument in 2:8-2:15 is based on the position of the believer with Christ who is part of the Godhead. Therefore we find the following anthem, “you have been filled in him… In him also you were circumcised… having been buried with him… you were also raised with him… (2:10-12).” Add to this the final statement about Christ in 2:12 that Paul made, “God, who raised him from the dead.” Immediately after this statement Paul launches into 2:13 with the death and resurrection of the believer with him, namely, Christ. Eph 2:5 dispels any further doubt by explicitly stating that God “made us alive together with Christ.” To fully understand how God makes a sinner alive with Christ, the Righteous one (1 Jhn 2:1), Paul answers a second question: what means did God use to make us alive?

Paul provides two means by which God made us alive. The first means is “having forgiven us all our trespasses (Col 2:13).” The word Paul employed for forgiveness is not the common Greek word (ἀφίημι). Instead Paul used χαρίζομαι which has the idea of “to forgive, on the basis of one’s gracious attitude toward an individual (Louw-Nida, 1:502).” Whereas ἀφίημι displays “God as the Judge to whom man is responsible (TDNT, 1:512),” χαρίζομαι demonstrates God as “gracious by forgiving wrongdoing (BDAG, 1078).” God’s grace has not just forgiven us of sin in general, but particularly all our sins. God has taken account of each sin committed and has graciously forgiven each one.

The second means is the cancelation of debt by payment. The word ἐξαλείφω (canceling) is quite unique in the New Testament . Peter used the same word when he preached at Pentecost saying, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted (ἐξαλείφω) out (Acts 3:19).” The concept the word conveys the idea “to remove so as to leave no trace, remove, destroy, obliterate (BDAG, 344).” This word is also frequently used in the LXX in reference to sin. Perhaps the most significant occurrence is in Isa 43:25: “I, I am he who blots (ἐξαλείφω) out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” The Psalmist cries out to God to “blot out my transgressions (Ps. 50:3, 11),” but “not the sin of his [the wicked] mother (Ps. 108:14).”

What did God blot out? “The record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands (Col 2:14).” This record of debt (χειρόγραφον) is a hand-written certificate of debt whereby the signer acknowledges his obligation the debt and agreement with the consequences (TDNT, 9:435). It is as if at some point the sinner gives God a signed promissory note listing all the sins he has committed and prescribed penalty (death) for defaulting on the loan. In saying “that stood against us” Paul pushes the metaphor further by claiming that the “document in question was one of condemnation (Dunn, 165).” The due date had passed and the loan was now in default. When God makes the sinner alive, rather than requiring immediate payment of the debt, he removes the debt completely without a trace. Lest the reader accuse God of keeping unbalanced books, Paul quickly explains how God can cancel the debt and remain just in His action. Paul very simply states: “this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This is a clear reference to the practice of nailing the indictment of the one crucified on the cross for all to read (Dunn, 166). Though Jesus’ cross did not literally have our sins attached for all to see (it could not contain them!), God figuratively nailed them there and they were seen by the only one that mattered—God.

God could justly cancel the debt because it has been paid for on the cross. Paul wrote in Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus paid for the “legal demands” of our promissory note, and therefore God wiped away our debt and gave us life.

Having gone through this passage we conclude by comparing it to Eph 2:1-9 which is a parallel passage where Paul essentially teaches the same truths with a slightly different focus. In Colossians Paul briefly states the former condition of the believer and moves on the emphasize the gracious forgiveness provided by the cross. In Eph 2:1-3 Paul extensively describes the former state of the believer, and sharply contrasts it in 2:4-9 with the God’s grace. He describes God as being “rich in mercy”, having “great love”, demonstrating “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us.” Twice Paul repeats “by grace you have been saved (2:5, 8).” Paul’s theme in Eph 2:1-9 is you are saved by God’s grace, and by God’s grace alone. The theme in Col 2:13-14 is God has done away with the instrument of death, and has given you life. Put another way, in Ephesians Paul emphasizes God’s grace in salvation (rescue from the former way of life), and in Colossians he emphasizes God’s grace in regeneration (removing the dead nature, and giving new life).

In meditating on these truths the believer cannot help but stand in awe of God’s mercy. As we continue to struggle with sin in our earthly bodies, sin which has been done away with and forgiven, we eagerly hope for the coming King who will transform us to be like Him and will finally and completely do away with sin. To God alone be the glory!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Alive, Part 1 of 2

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus challenged Nicodemus’ soteriology. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jhn 3:3).” Nicodemus, wondering how a man could produce this for himself asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born (Jhn 3:4)?” Jesus confronts Nicodemus’ works-righteousness by declaring, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jhn 3:6).” Nicodemus wondered how a man could make himself be born again, and Jesus taught him that only the Spirit can convey spiritual life.

Though Paul was not present during Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, he was nevertheless very aware of this concept and used it frequently in his writings. Yet there is particular one passage where Paul explains the means by which God has makes man alive. After Paul pointedly reminds his readers in Col 2:13-14 of their sin induced state of spiritual death, he makes it clear that because sin is the cause of death, the only way to bring life is to remove sin. Therefore when God produces spiritual life in a person, he forgives that sinner’s trespasses; not by means of averting His eyes to sin, rather by accepting the payment made on the cross.

The grammatical structure in Col 2:13-14 is such that v. 13 contains the two primary clauses: (1) “you who were dead”, and (2) “God made [you] alive together with.” This essay will focus on the second clause which is followed by supporting clauses in vv. 13-14 which the answer two questions: (1) in what way did God make “you” alive, and (2) what means did God use. Of first importance is to understand what Paul meant by God “made alive together with” which is based on a single Greek word συζωοποιέω.

Paul coined a new term to describe the believer’s relationship with Christ. συζωοποιέω which is translated “made alive together with,” has only one other use in Eph 2:5 which is virtually an exact parallel. This form of the word συζωοποιέωis found nowhere else in Greek literature, which testifies to its unique soteriological significance (see next paragraph). The prefix συ emphasizes our “identification with the risen Christ.” In examining ζωοποιέω without the prefix, we find that the giving of life is a Trinitarian activity. In Jhn 5:21 we find that the Father and the Son give life to whomever they will. Implicitly Rom. 8:11 teaches that the Father (“he who raised Jesus from the dead”) gives life. Finally, 2 Cor 3:6 teaches us that the Spirit gives life. We know that the Father is the one who gives life in Col 2:13 because the surrounded context (2:8-15) portrays Christ as a participant, not as the initiator. It is important to note that “God initiates the salvation process, because spiritually dead people cannot make themselves alive (MacArthur, 109).” When Jesus resurrected the dead to life during His earthly ministry there was no initiative coming from the corpse. Lazarus was totally incapable of doing anything until Jesus commanded him to “come out (Jhn 11:43).” A corpse has no cognitive ability to even think about doing anything. Therefore God always takes the initiative when He gives life to a dead sinner.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dead, Part 3 of 3

The second condition Paul states only in Ephesians 2:1: “dead in trespasses and sins.” “Sins” (ἁμαρτία) is the most general word for sin in the Greek and therefore it is difficult to find any critical distinction with παραπτωμασιν. Lincoln argues that παραπτωμασιν and ἁμαρτία are in hendiadys as plural synonyms and that it “helps to convey an impression of the immensity and variety of the sinfulness of the readers’ past.” Best agrees stating “there is no reason to doubt that the words are synonyms.” MacArthur gives helpful meaning to the hendiadys, “Paul does not use the two terms here to point up different kinds of wrongdoing but simply to emphasize the breadth of the sinfulness that results from spiritual deadness.” Ephesians 2:2 continues the singular idea from the previous verse with “in which you once walked…” This would seem to remove the possibility of the second condition stated in the introduction, but a distinction must be made between the hendiadys here and Paul’s use of “dead in trespasses” in Colossians 2:13 where no hendiadys is found.

The final condition in Colossians 2:13 translated “uncircumcision of your flesh” is very unique in the New Testament. Many commentators, such as John MacArthur and Matthew Henry , see this phrase as indicating the physical state of uncircumcision as either literal (MacArthur) or symbolic of being outside the covenant people (Henry). However, a number of observations indicate a different conclusion. A metaphorical understanding of circumcision is common in the Old Testament where the Israelites were often accused of an uncircumcised heart. This Old Testament use is carried over into Acts 7:51 and Colossians 2:13. Just prior to making this statement, Paul reminds the reader that they were “circumcised in Christ with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ (2:11).” Paul is clearly speaking in a spiritual sense, applying physical terms to a spiritual reality. Despite its irregularity in the New Testament, the context weighs heavily on the meaning favoring a non-physical circumcision. What, then, does it mean to be uncircumcised in the flesh? Zemek helpfully concludes σαρκὸς (flesh) is a reference to the unregenerate human nature. Additionally, Paul describes our circumcision in Christ as “putting off the body of the flesh (2:11b).” Therefore, “uncircumcision of your flesh” means to have the mechanism of our unregenerate sinful nature attached. Put another way it is the natural state of sinfulness prior to experiencing the regenerating work of God.

Paul wrote the darkest picture of the unbeliever. They are not influenced by sin, merely inclined to it, not even highly prone to it. Paul teaches in these two verses that the unbeliever is spiritually dead because of the sinful nature of their soul which is manifested in acts of sin. Paul adds to the bleak picture by preceding his descriptions of man with a glorious picture of Jesus as the living and reigning One. The sinner is left hopeless and in complete dependence on God to do a saving work, which is exactly what the Apostle Paul intends the reader to understand.


As a reminder, this series is taken from a paper I wrote for theology class. Thankfully the professor thought I did really well!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dead, Part 2 of 3

In examining the phrase translated “dead in your trespasses,” we find the Greek text having “dead” (νεκρους) as an adverb to οντας (stative verb), which means that deadness here is the defining characteristic of the state of being. Scripture teaches that death is not limited to bodily existence, but is a way of describing the relationship between one state of being and its opposite. In the parable of the prodigal son the father exclaims, “my son was dead, and is alive again (Luke 15:24),” meaning that his absence was death, but his presence was life. Jesus told a hesitant disciple, “leave the dead to bury their own dead (Matthew 8:22),” indicating that to follow Him was life and to stay behind was death. Paul exhorts believers to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11)” because Jesus “died to sin (v. 10)” so that believers would no longer be enslaved to it (v. 18). Each context defines death not by the absence of physical life, but by the worst possible condition compared to the desired state of being. Therefore when Paul uses this term in our primary texts, he depicts the worst possible condition the unbeliever could be in due to his trespasses, sins, and the uncircumcision of his flesh.

Paul states the first condition of the unbeliever in Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1 (the latter in hendiadys) that the unbeliever is “dead in trespasses.” According to Bauder, παραπτωμασιν (trespasses) “emphasizes strongly the deliberate act … with its fateful consequences.” Many passages substantiate this by inferring intentional sins such as Matthew 6:14, 15 and Romans 5:15-21. This second passage is worth considering. In it Paul makes the direct correlation of “one man’s [Adam’s] trespass [παραπτωμασιν]” to the result that “many died.” Put another way, “by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners (5:19).” The end result is that “sin reigned in death (5:21).” Yet Adam’s sin perpetuated to all people such that none could blame Adam for their own death: “death spread to all men because all sinned (5:12).” Therefore Adam’s παραπτωμασιν began the cycle of death, but each person’s own παραπτωμασιν continues the cycle of death. This is what it means to be “dead in trespasses.” The question then becomes “how does παραπτωμασιν (trespasses) relate to ἁμαρτία (sins) in Ephesians 2:1?”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dead, Part 1 of 3

I haven't received the grade on it yet, but I'll post in a series format a paper I wrote on the condition of the unbeliever.

In the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Christians of Ephesus and Colosse he reminded them of their spiritual state before experiencing new life in Christ. Their former separation from God was due not only to their sinful behavior, but also to their very nature as sinners. Paul chose particularly vivid phrases to ensure his readers would understand the degree of their depravity and the extent and effectiveness of God’s grace. This essay will examine the unique phrases Paul used to demonstrate the condition of the sinner before God. Every unbeliever has an unregenerate sinful nature which is expressed by active sinful behavior.

Both Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 are significant in this discussion because of their similar wording and equivalent meaning. In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul verbalizes his prayer for the believers, concluding it by extolling God’s power in what He has done in Christ giving Him authority over all things (vv. 20-23). Colossians 2:8-12 begins with Paul exhorting the believers to stand firm in the truth because of who Christ is and who we are in Christ. When the reader arrives at our texts, there is a striking contrast between Jesus and the unbeliever. Jesus is above “all rule and authority (Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10)” and in whom the “immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power” was demonstrated in Christ (Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 2:12). The unbeliever is “dead in the trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1),” and in “the uncircumcision of [their] flesh (Col. 2:13).” These passages contain three phrases that define former condition of believers: (1) dead in trespasses, (2) dead in sins, and (3) dead in the uncircumcision of their flesh. Before looking at those phrases, it is important to ask, “what is death,” which will be tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something to boast about

Ephesians 2:8-9 is a popular verse for people who believe in election. According to the verse the purpose of making it not the result of works, is so that no one may boast.

What is interesting is that those on the other side of the issue maintain that their own free will choice which brought about their salvation is no basis for boasting. I have never met anyone on any side of the issue who was proud of their ability be saved because of their own decision. However that doesn't mean that pride isn't there.

I have met several who, when challenged with the idea of election, display their pride in full force because they made the decision to be saved. True, God gave the grace, but they made the decision. God saved them because of their decision.

Another display of pride in salvation is displayed in one's attitude to the unresponsiveness of others to the gospel. Often people pray and witness faithfully to friends, family, and co-workers, but wonder why don't they get it?, or why can't they see it? The underlying assumption is that the gospel is simple truth (which it is) which people should be able to undertand. However they forget Romans 8:7-8 which says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." As believers, we did not "get it" or "understand" the gospel. It was not our uninfluenced rationality that led us to believe in Christ. It was God's enablement and grace that caused us to believe.

Pride doesn't mean walking around gloating that one is saved. Pride in salvation is the refusal to ascribe to God the full extent of the work He has done, and take undue credit for oneself.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Which came first?

The most common view regarding election in American Christianity today is that God foresaw who would accept the gospel, and then choose them. The order being man's choice led to God's choice.

Yet there are two passages that seem to contradict that view:

Acts 13:48 "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Notice the order, it does not say those who believed were appointed, but the opposite.

John 10:26 "but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock"

This time on the negative side, those who are not part of the flock, do not believe, not the other way around.

Something to think about and study if you hold to the popular view. Thoughts?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The First Sin

When preaching on Genesis 3, I have always heard preachers condemn Eve for "adding" to God's word. God said, "do not eat of the fruit", Eve said, "Do not eat or even touch it".

The problem with that is this: if Eve added to God's word saying something He didn't say, nor intended to mean, then Eve sinned. And if Eve sinned, then that was the first sin, not disobedience in eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The implications of that are huge. That would mean sin was possible before the fall (the fall universally attributed to eating the fruit). If sin in the world before the fall, then Romans 5:12 (mouse over to read) if wrong.

What really happened in that garden that day?

The best solution is simply this. Eve understood the meaning of God's command, and was not a literalist. She understood God didn't mean that they could touch it, play with it, etc. God intended for them to stay away from the tree. Have nothing to do with it! This is not to say that touching the fruit necessarily broke the command. Eve simply employed the principle of "how far from the line can I stand" instead of "how close to the line can I get without crossing over".

Therefore rather than condemning Eve for "adding" to God's command, we should commend her for understanding the force of it, and follow her example to not be literalists saying, "God didn't say I couldn't do this...", but rather take the position of "what can I do (or not do) to please God the most?"

God's Sovereignty

Here is a good definition of God's sovereignty:

This is the essence of God’s sovereignty; His absolute independence to do as He pleases and His absolute control over the actions of all His creatures. No creature, person, or empire can either thwart His will or act outside the bounds of His will.

Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, page 36

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sermon Mis-match

I've begun to pay attention to sermon titles. Sometimes it tells you something about the philosophy of ministry, sometimes it doesn't. Othertimes it just makes you wonder what the pastor was thinking.

One example would be a pastor I know (love and respect as a friend). If you look at the listing of his sermons on the website, you notice two oft-repeated words: "How to". The comforting part to me is that if you listen to the sermons, they are not the typical "how to" sermons you think of. They are generally good expository sermons... it just happens to be that he titles his messages quite often with "how to".

Another example would be my pastor, whose sermon titles read like the section headings in your Bible, usually with a "Part #" attached to the end. Nothing wrong with that either... just the way it is.

Yet there are many who feel that they have to title their sermons like you would a newspaper story, hoping that the title itself will make someone interested in listening. Personally I find this a bit odd since no one is likely to leave if they don't like the title of your sermon, nor are they more likely to stay if they know it. I seriously doubt people check the title of the sermon before deciding whether to go to church.

Today I listened to a sermon with this title "Cleaver vs. Simpson". The subtitle is "Busting the Myth of the Perfect Family." While many churches would offer sermons where the content would largely reflect the main title (with many illustrations of the Cleavers and the Simpson), this one did no such thing, thankfully. Instead, after a few introductory remarks the speaker (I have a hard time calling some people pastors or preachers when they don't preach the Word) said almost verbatim, "The Bible says that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love." Then he went on about how we need to be like God and gave a number of illustrative examples of what the means in our lives.

To some degree the practical aspect of the sermon was fine, but I was highly disturbed by the fact that the did not tell the listener: 1) where in the Bible it says that, and 2) why it says that.

The where is very important because almost everyone thinks that in the Old Testament God is mean, wrathful, quick to judge, kills everybody, doesn't forgive, etc. But in the New Testament God is gracious and merciful and loving and all the good fluffy stuff. What people need to know is that when God described Himself in the Old Testament, He said, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7). What is amazing is that this is literally within minute of almost wiping out the nation of Israel and starting over with Moses. Therefore when God describes Himself that way, we need to ask how can he say that, and be right?

There is an answer, and people need to be shown. This is the why that I mentioned before. People need to be shown because they don't have a mental picture of a gracious Old Testament God. Telling someone that in the Old Testament God is merciful and gracious is like telling a three year old right after he has been spanked that daddy loves him! If that three year old's recollection is limited to the moment of discipline he will not accept the love of the father. People need to know what God does in the Old Testament that qualifies Him as compassionate.

Another issue is that in the New Testament we find many passages that go something like God did this, so you must do that. Case in point would be 1 John 4:19 (hover over to read). If you just say God is love, so you should love, there is no experiential backbone to that command. It is a legitimate command, but it has less power than if you say, "God has forgiven you all your sins, therefore you ought to forgive others."

This particular speaker didn't give any Biblical examples of what makes God compassionate, merciful, full of love. I left the sermon without any reason to thank God for who He is, and felt very uncompelled to do anything myself because God was not put on display.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reflections on Grace

I would like to spend a few posts reflecting on what I have learned this semester, and even this year. It is a bit surreal to consider that at this point I have completed one year of seminary. Just one year ago, though we were living here, I had no idea what to expect. Having only heard stories of "this will be the hardest thing you've ever done" and "I got really tired of averaging four hours of sleep", I assumed those were universal experiences. And while it must be kept in mind that I purposefully made sure I did not over burden myself, I have not found either of those statements to be true for my experience thus far.

There is something to be said for going from vaguely knowing what Hebrew looks like, to being able to coherently translate and read it. Yesterday I recited Psalm 23 to my professor in Hebrew, which at the beginning of the semester seemed nearly impossible. But in the grand scheme of things that has very little importance when gauged against the backdrop of what the Lord has done in my life.

From one perspective you could say that I know more than I did one year ago, even a lot more. Yet the reality is that I know less because I have learned that there is a vastly greater amount that I don't know.

Many have said that seminary is a spiritual life killer. That focusing so much on the academics will frustrate you spiritually. I suppose that would be true at most seminaries where the academics are the highest prize. But you know you're in a good place when your professors encourage you to place grades several rungs down on the priority list. The Lord, family, ministry, perhaps then grades.

If I had to pick one thing that has been unexpected, it would be the reality and extent of the gospel. Consider Colossians 2:13-14, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your heart, God made alive together with Him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross."

I memorized this passage about a month ago, and I can't seem to get it out of the forefront of my mind. I was laying in bed the other night unable to sleep and this passage popped in my mind. Have you stopped recently to consider how much God has forgiven you? Did you notice in that passage that God nailed the record of debt with its legal demands on the cross? If He nailed it (passed tense) on the cross (past, completed, never to be repeated event), what does that mean for the sin you committed yesterday? This morning? Tomorrow?

We often think of God forgiving us of our "big" sins. Perhaps things people know about or perhaps not, but sins that by some measure are relatively large. Yet even the sin we commit when we speak with a harsh tone out of frustration, a fleeting thought of anger, a moment of pride, the words we speak when our mouth is driving faster than our minds, the times when we should be tapping someone on the shoulder and encouraging them to walk away from a situation, and we don't. These and many more sins that we sometimes awkwardly pass off, Jesus paid for with His blood.

This is not a revival of guilt, this is the context of God's sovereign grace.

Indeed the question is not how could a loving God let people go to hell?, but rather how could a holy God let me live and not punish me for what I have done?

So in this moment of reflection, I stand in awe of God's grace in my life to save me, make me alive in Christ by having forgiven me of not only my debt, but also the penalty for my debt.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.