Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pastor or Entertainer with a Message?

There are some pastors who error in that they speak as comedians with a message. Some error in that they are not comedians, but they don’t have a message either. There are some who preach the God’s Word, but do so through entertainment. There are some who preach seriously, but they’re not preaching God’s Word.

It is hard to criticize a pastor who preaches a passage, explaining the text accurately and with good explanation, but does it in such a way that is missing the gravitas of the passage. On the one hand it is refreshing because hearing anyone who gives an accurate treatment of the text is good. On the other hand it is annoying because the constant jokes make it difficult to think seriously throughout the sermon. It’s hard because it is fun to listen to a speaker who makes you chuckle and laugh.

Despite the reality that it is enjoyable to listen to this kind of preaching, I would never want this kind of speaker to be my long-term pastor for the following reasons:

1. I wonder if this person can be serious about anything for any length of time. How will they act in a funeral service? Will they make a joke when my spouse is in the hospital? Do they understand that there is a time for laughter and a time for weeping?

2. The Bible is not a book of jokes, nor do the truths it contains give way to laughter. Life can be funny and light-hearted, and laughter is good in its rightful place, but studying Scripture is not the time to make weighty matters light. Sermons should convict sinners, edify believers, challenge the soul, encourage the weak, break the strong. It shouldn’t make anyone jovial.

3. A sermon filled with modern illustrations and funny examples is out of necessity not filled with biblical illustrations or historical background. At the end of the sermon you might understand the truth, but you won’t understand the text—and there is a significant difference.

4. Pastors who are entertaining to listen to, no matter how correct their message, are reliant upon their personality and not the truth. People flock to them because they enjoy listening to the speaker, not because they love the truth he speaks. The fact that he speaks the truth legitimates their flocking to him, but it doesn’t cause it.

5. One of the important goals of good preaching is to teach by example how to study the Bible. An entertaining sermon week after week after week cannot achieve this goal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Gospel

God has revealed Himself in the Bible as the Creator. The Bible starts with the words, “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). The Bible makes no attempt to prove God’s existence but rather focuses on God as Creator of all things. The New Testament tells us that God not only created everything, but it was created for him (Colossians 1:16). That is to say that God created the universe for himself—for his glory. He did not create because he lacked something or needed anything (Acts 17:25), but rather in order that he would receive the glory that he deserves (Ephesians 1). Because God created everything, he also owns everything. As Creator he has the deed to the universe and can do with it what he wills (Psalm 24:1). God is under no obligation to operate on the opinions of others, especially finite created humans.

Among the many attributes that the Bible uses to describe God, the most unique trait that God embodies is holiness. Holiness means uniqueness, separation, distinction. On multiple occasions the Bible describes heavenly scenes in which angels surround the throne proclaiming God’s holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). God is holy, unique, and distinct from his creation because he is perfect and lacking in nothing. He is perfectly righteous, just, loving, and merciful. He is perfect in wrath, goodness, graciousness, power. There is no evil in him because he is the standard of good. There is no sense in which he is imperfect or unable to accomplish his will. There is no lack of perfection.

As Creator and Owner, the most holy God requires perfect obedience to his law. If we want to have a relationship with him, we have to be perfect according to his standard. In other words, nothing less than absolute perfection is acceptable to Him. It is not enough to be 51% good. It is not enough to have a super majority of goodness. It is not enough be 99% good. God says that we could live a perfectly righteous life, yet if we failed at one point we might as well have broken the whole law (James 2:10).

This situation poses a serious problem because the Bible also says that everyone is a sinner. There is no perfect person that has ever lived. We understand sin pretty easily; sin is just not meeting God’s standard. Since God’s standard includes things like obeying governments, every time we speed on the highway we are in a real sense breaking God’s law. But we also sin when we don’t do things. For example, we sin when we don’t acknowledge God for who He is. We sin when we think of God flippantly and we sin when we misrepresent God. We sin when we act wickedly and we sin when we think we’re acting good. The Bible says that even our righteous deeds are offensive to God because we think that somehow the little good that we do will bring us favor from God and outweigh the wickedness in our hearts. We sin when we fail to acknowledge God and we sin when we replace God with our own gods of money, sex, power, and pleasure. There are millions of ways that we all sin on a daily basis. The main point is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

God is also perfectly just, therefore, He cannot let sin go unpunished, and He has declared that the penalty for sin is eternal death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Not only do we deserve to die physically, but we are already dead spiritually because of sin (Ephesians 2:1). We have sinned against an infinite God and we must pay an infinite penalty. It may not make sense that what we would consider to be a minor act lying would deserve death. But we understand that under the right circumstances a slap on the face can land one in a federal prison. The issue is not the act itself, but the one against whom the act is perpetrated. Punching a spouse has its consequences, but punching the President of the United States had severe consequences. In the same way when we break God’s law, we are sinning against an infinite being and therefore that act requires infinite consequences.

Unlike every other religion in the world there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. There is no finite righteous deed that can overcome infinite punishment. Every attempt we make to please God on our own is actually an offense to God because we think that somehow by doing good deeds here and there we can make up for our sins against the infinite God. On our own we cannot please God, or do anything that gets us anywhere near heaven (Romans 8:7-8).

Of course, God knows that we can do nothing. So He did something. While as Creator and Owner he could have chosen to destroy this world and start over, he didn’t. He decided to put himself on display by making known his own character that could not be known any other way. By choosing to save and redeem part of humanity he puts on display his grace and mercy. By allowing another part of humanity to suffer the consequences of their sin he puts on display his perfect justice. In everything God does he displays his own perfection. So what did he do? He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth as both God and sinless man. Jesus lived a perfect life even though He was tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus proved he was God by fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, many of which he could not orchestrate (like the place of his birth); he performed many miracles and proved his power of sickness and disease, the weather, knowledge of men’s thoughts and hearts. The reason the religious leaders of the time hated him was exactly because Jesus claimed to be God in what he said and taught.

After living a perfect life, he demonstrated God’s love by dying for us and paying the penalty for sin. Because he was perfect he did not have to pay for his own sin, therefore he could pay for another’s sin. And because he is God he could pay for an infinite number of sins, not just one person’s sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that God “made him [Jesus], who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” And just to be clear, Jesus didn’t pay for sin because of what the Romans did to Him. When Jesus was on the cross, God the Father poured out His wrath on Jesus thereby satisfying the just and eternal penalty for our sin.

But as we remember every time we celebrate Easter, Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose again on the third day and accomplished victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Sin and death no longer held power over Him, and they do not hold power over those who believe in Him. His resurrection clinched the victory that He came to accomplish.

Let me summarize what I’ve said so far. The Creator God is perfect and requires perfection. Man is not perfect, must pay the penalty for sin, and there is nothing he or she can do about it. Jesus came living a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead thereby paying the debt that man owed God.

Now, because of what Jesus accomplished, he offers eternal life to everyone who believes in him. You’re probably familiar with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” God has made it possible for us to live forever with him. What we could not do, God did by sending Jesus to die in our place (Romans 8:3).

What does He require of us? To repent and believe. Repentance simply means turning away from sin, and turning toward God. It means not living the way we want to, but living the way he wants us to (Isaiah 55:7). So we must repent. And we must also believe. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” We must believe the good news that the Bible teaches. Put another way, we must believe in Jesus and submit our lives to him.

What happens when we believe? A great exchange occurs. God takes away all the sin we have committed in the past, and will commit in the future, and replaces it with all the righteousness of Christ. Think of it this way: God treated Jesus Christ on the cross as if he lived our life, and when we believe in Christ, God then treats us as if we lived Jesus’ perfect life. Perhaps you have heard the definition of justification “just as if I’d never sinned.” That is true as far as it goes, but justification is so much more than that. It starts with being declared innocent of all charges of sin, and moves forward to declare us perfectly righteous. In accounting terms, not only are we no longer in debt having a zero balance, now we have infinite resources in our account. This is the great exchange: our sin for Christ’s righteousness. This is why Paul could write, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Even though God freely grants forgiveness, it doesn’t mean it isn’t costly. As some have said, it is free, but it will cost you everything. It is costly because we go from being our own master to having Jesus be our Master. We give up living independently from God and surrender ourselves to him becoming dependent on him. Don’t think that you can believe in Jesus and your life can continue on as it always has. Perhaps many things will stay the same, perhaps not. The point is you must be willing to let him change everything if he wants to. So consider the cost (Luke 14:25-33). But also remember that being reconciled to God far outweighs the cost. What we have given up, we give up freely because we love God and he has been so kind and gracious to us. It is costly, but it is like selling everything to buy something one thing that is more valuable than everything put together.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Understanding Anger

Anger is universal. It is not limited to human beings but is expressed by the devil and his demons and most supremely by God. It is not merely an emotion, nor is it merely an action. Anger is not entirely positive, nor is it entirely negative. What exactly is anger and how should we evaluate it? David Powlison has written a helpful article dealing with anger in the biblical context and how Christians can understand it with precision and clarity.

The article is structured around the following five points: 1) The Bible is about anger, 2) Anger is something you do, 3) Anger is natural, 4) Anger is learned, and 5) Anger is a moral matter. Points three and four seem contradictory but the thrust of the fourth point is such that it should read “Anger Expression is Learned.” Following the fifth point the article ends with seven tests one can use to evaluate anger.

When one hears the statement “the Bible is about anger” perhaps the popular sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” comes to mind. Or perhaps one would contradict stating that the Bible is about grace; or it is about Jesus. Powlison makes the case that grace cannot be understood without anger, and Jesus’ incarnation would not have occurred if not for anger. From the moment of the fall, God’s anger toward sin has been the backdrop of all the positive elements of Scripture. Would grace be grace if God was not angry? Why would the Son die on the cross if God wasn’t angry? What is the motivation toward holiness if sin doesn’t have a consequence? Satan’s very existence is defined by anger as is known as the destroyer, murderer, and the father of lies. If God—the Holy One—can express anger, and Satan—the destroyer—can express anger, what does that indicate? It clearly indicates that anger has both positive and negative elements. It can be entirely good and entirely evil, though not at the same time. God’s anger is productive while Satan’s anger is destructive. God’s anger at sin was expressed by paying the penalty for sin on the cross resulting in justification. God’s anger at sin is continually expressed by disarming sin’s control of the believer through sanctification. God’s anger at sin will be expressed by finally eradicating it in glorification. Therefore the gracious loving acts of God are at the same time expressions of anger toward sin.

Contrasting God’s productive anger is Satan’s destructive anger. Though we know that Satan’s pride caused his fall did not anger precede pride? Satan must have been angry over his lower-than-divine position in order to desire a higher one. His anger was again expressed by deceiving Eve into rejecting God’s command. In the New Testament his anger came full force in bringing Jesus to the cross working through the Jewish leaders as well as Judas. In the end Satan’s anger will be brought to full force through the Anti-Christ who will amass a world army to do battle with God’s people. Therefore all of Satan’s works are expressions of his anger toward God. With those two real extremes in mind we can now consider human anger and evaluate it in relationship to God and Satan’s anger.

Though the first explicit mention of anger is in Genesis 4 in the episode between Cain and Abel, Powlison considers the first expression of anger to be Adam’s attitude and actions after the fall. This is based on Adam’s blame shifting, sense of superiority (blaming God for giving him the woman), and his sense of innocence because these are aspects closely related to anger. The woman demonstrated the same attitude in blaming the serpent. In the next chapter anger is fueled by jealousy and results in the first recorded murder between Cain and Abel. These instances of anger resulted in a world full of violence (Gen. 6:11). Powlison goes through a number of passages demonstrating characteristics of anger. In short, anger can be easily aroused, mask itself in innocence, be vengeful, result in cursing and uncontrolled actions. Anger is equated with murder in that it can hurt helpless people, make unjust judgments, cause character defamation, bring physical harm, and inner hatred. Righteous anger be characterized by loving reproof and correction, confrontation, protection of the innocent, and motivation to do good. Powlison also discusses the motivations for anger, namely, desires and unbelief. He reminds us that the Old Testament is clear that the Israelites grumbled because their desires were not met and in many situations they did not believe God would take care of them (e.g. by defeating Pharaoh’s army and the inhabitants in the promised land). Cain’s anger stemmed from his desire for approval and the anger of Potiphar’s wife stemmed from her unmet desire for Joseph. Virtually all sinful anger stems from getting what you don’t want or not getting what you do want.

The consequences of anger are an increasing amount of anger and destruction. Proverbs 29:22 states, “An angry man stirs up strife.” That is to say that anger is not self-contained. It spreads to others around it. Even God gets angry when we’re angry, but His anger is a righteous anger at our sinful anger. The Bible is filled with people who were continually angry such as Saul, Jonah, Jezebel, Nabal, Pharisees, and even the disciples became angry on occasion. Righteous anger is rare, but we do have records of people exhibiting this behavior. Moses expressed righteous anger when the people were worshipping a false god while he was on the mountain. Samson exhibited righteous anger when he knew the enemies of Israel were celebrating. We have many records in the Psalms of David’s righteous anger at the prospering of his enemies and his desire for God to glorify himself in their destruction. Finally, hints of Paul’s anger toward false teachers can be found throughout his epistles.

With this foundation of anger understood, Powlison moves on to discuss observations about the expression of anger.

Though anger is an emotion it always acts out through words and/or actions. Powlison refers to this as “Anger is Something you DO.” Not only do we typically act out in anger but our bodies change physically. Muscle and nerve tension, swollen nostrils, body temperature rises, at extreme times adrenaline can surge the body. This explains the terms often used for anger such as hot-tempered, breathing fire, steamed, volcanic, etc. Anger also involves our minds as we make judgments, replay the offense mentally, and perhaps quickly plot revenge. Anger also always has an object on which it is focused. Anger typically occurs between people as in families, politics, religions, work, friendships, etc. but it can also occur toward a impersonal object such a Balaam’s donkey, a pet, a piece of furniture that gives a stubbed toe, etc. Most importantly anger occurs between people and God. No anger toward God is just, but it abounds on earth as people blame God for suffering and difficult times.

For those who believe in the doctrine of utter depravity it is no surprise that anger is natural, but at the same time how one expresses anger is learned. Parents who yell at their children reap yelling children. Parents who react physically without self-control have the same problems in their children.

The final point is that anger is a moral issue. This is easily seen by the fact that a person gets angry when they feel wronged. That is to say they have made a moral judgment about something and deemed it wrong as opposed to right, therefore they react in anger. Not only does anger evaluate right and wrong, but it is also evaluated by God and others. Is the anger righteous or sinful? God reacts to sinful anger with righteous anger, people typically react to sinful anger with sinful anger.

Though Powlison uses a significant amount of Scripture, there was also much support by observation. That is not entirely bad as anger is something we are all familiar with and see all around us. But Scripture provides many of the same supports we see around us (which makes sense since the Bible matches reality). It would have been nice to see more information coming from Psalms and Proverbs which are rich with this issue. Overall as Part 1 in a series it was a helpful start at the subject and ended with good evaluative questions to ask oneself on whether a moment of anger is righteous or sinful.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Counseling and the Problem of the Past

What follows is a review/analysis of an article.

What relationship does the past play in a counselee’s current circumstances? Should the counselor seek to understand the past? Should the counselor use the past in counseling? What does Scripture say about how we should think about the past? These are all questions which John Bettler seeks to answer in “Counseling and the Problem of the Past.” The article, taken from a lecture, begins with comments regarding different methods of biblical counseling and the need for a Biblical Counselor’s Confession of Faith which would allow for differences among biblical counseling methods yet provide a line of demarcation between true biblical counseling and any other form of counseling. The need becomes apparent in the discussion of the past because there are differences of opinion regarding the role of the past in biblical counseling.

According to Bettler there are three main difficulties which the past presents to counselors. First, it is a counseling problem because counselees inevitably bring it up. Whether they are trying to make connections in their own mind or for other reasons they may bring up something out the blue from the distant past which may or may not have relevance to the situation at hand. As the counselor sitting and listening to this recollection, how do you respond? Do you pry for more information, ignore it altogether, or tuck it in the back of your mind for further reference? Secondly, the past is a cultural problem because of the culture’s preoccupation with the past. Nearly everyone is a victim of some form of abuse or dysfunction and that supposedly allows us to excuse current behaviors. Third, the past is a psychotherapeutic problem. Pop psychologies tend to come and go with the theories reaching limited acceptance. However psychoanalysis theories are comparatively old and abiding. Freud’s view of the person as a closed system, the idea of the unconscious, and catharsis are all significant foundations of psychology which have maintained a “persistent challenge to Christianity.” Biblical counseling must have a viable view of the past to answer these dominant secular worldviews of our day.

With these problems understood Bettler moves on to provide the biblical view of the past and how it plays a role in counseling. There is a significant emphasis in all of Scripture on the need for God’s people to remember God’s past and future works. Many of the feasts and ceremonies commanded in the Law of Moses were specifically for Israel to remember God’s redemption out of Egypt. The sacrifices were to cause them to look forward to God’s redemption in the future. In the New Testament believers have the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ’s sacrifice in the past and his return in the future. Negatively there is also an emphasis on remember the sins others in the past which serve as a warning for us (1 Cor 10:1-13).

Additionally, the past is relevant in counseling because it is the context in which the person lives. As Bettler correctly states, “That counselee in front of you wasn’t born yesterday.” Understanding the past is understanding what has lead the counselee to his current situation. The difficulty is that the counselee is a biased replayer of the past. Memories are active, selective, and creative meaning that we choose to remember certain things in certain ways which may or may not reflect reality. Therefore what happened is not as important as how the counselee reacted. The most significant application of the past, according to Bettler, is using the past to discover a person’s “manner of life,” namely, those patterns a person has developed over time which lie beneath the current situation.

Recognizing that in an article there is limited space and extensive treatment of the issue is constricted, there are other aspects of Scripture’s use of the past that are relevant to counseling which Bettler neglected to address. Bettler listed three things God wants us to remember: His past works of deliverance and provision, Christ’s death and future return, and the past sins of others. However none of these uses of the past relate to the counselee who brings up their distant past of either their own sin or sin perpetrated upon them.

There are at least three additional ways that God wants us to utilize the past in our own lives. First, God wants us to remember our former life. Second, He wants us to remember His transforming work and its basis. Third, in times of sin he wants us to remember the times we were faithful.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul reminds the Corinthians that those who practice sin will not enter God’s kingdom. The sole purpose for telling them that is to remind them, or cause them to remember, that is who they were. The sins which Paul listed were not randomly chosen for their severity or shock value. Paul specifically listed sins which the people in the church of Corinth had participated in prior to salvation. The purpose of this was to demonstrate how their actions (suing believers in courts of law) were irreconcilable with their new eternal status. This is made clear by Paul’s three-pronged argument against suing believers: 1) saints will just the world, 2) saints will judge angels, and 3) the unrighteous won’t be there. The conclusion is that since the saints have a prestigious eternal position (in contrast to the unrighteous), then why would they allow the unrighteous to judge them? However lest the Corinthians get prideful over their position, Paul reminds them that they too were at one time in the category of the unrighteous and it was God, not themselves, that took them out of that category. Therefore we can extract a general principle that God wants us to remember our past in order to keep us humble as believers.

Another passage which makes use of the past is Ephesians 2:1-10ff. In this familiar passage Paul first reminds his readers of the destitute state in which they once lived. The motivation for this recollection was not primarily humility, but to provide the foundation for God’s grace. Before Paul could emphasize the one-sidedness of their salvation he had to destroy any notion that any person is saved of their own merit. This universal destitution and gracious salvation is the basis for Paul’s next point (2:11-22) which is the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ. The broader principle we can extract from this text in terms of that past is anyone who has a low view of God’s grace has a high view of their life before Christ. In other words, if anyone thinks they contributed to their salvation in any way, they need to understand from God’s perspective who they were before Christ. The past, in this case, magnifies God’s grace.
A third use of the past is demonstrated in Revelation 2:1-7 where the Lord dictates a letter to Ephesus. The key verse is verse five where the Lord says, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first…” In this context the Lord is calling for the church to repent of “abandoning the love [they] had at first” (v. 4). The Ephesians have a history of faithfulness in this area so it is not as though they are unaware of what to do. They simply need to be reminded of their past faithfulness and called back to it.

Certainly these additional three uses of the past, together with those mentioned in the article are not exhaustive of potential biblical uses of the past in counseling. However it should be noted, as stated in the article, that the past is not a source of blame or excuse for current behavior.

Another issue which would require more time and research to develop is the different Greek and Hebrew terms which are translated “remember.” μιμνῄσκομαι has the emphasis of “recollect” and “remind oneself” whereas μνημονεύω emphasizes more “keep in mind” or “think about.” How these terms (and others) are used in their contexts would be a necessary study which was not examined in the article.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Truths that Overcome

Many books and articles have been written to help both counselors and counselees learn to how to handle sexual sin and temptation. Because of the variety of expressions of sexual sin typically these articles are more focused on dealing with a particular nuanced version (e.g. pornography, masturbation, or homosexuality). Some resources attempt to deal with the presentation problem and correct the behavior, while others go deeper at root causes and help bring about change from there. My goal in this paper is to collate the fundamental issues that drive sexual sin in general. My hope is that through this paper the counselor or counselee will be able to take a hold of God’s Word, correct their thinking where it has been wrong and move back onto the path of righteousness.

What is sexual sin? How do we know when someone has transgressed into it? As with all sin sexual sin does not begin with a physical action. While sexual acts are in and of themselves sinful outside biblical boundaries they are not the core issues. The core issue is what is going on—and what had gone on—in the heart. My definition of sexual sin is an unchecked desire for a person, object, activity, or sensation which is outside the bounds of marriage or outside the biblical purpose of sexual activity, and which may or may not be expressed in a physical action. Whether we call it an idol of the heart, a lust or desire, or a fundamental misunderstanding (or rejection) of biblical truth, the reality is that all these come into play to one degree or another. Articles have been written to address each of these areas of sexual sin, and my hope is that this paper will bring all of these concepts together for a holistic counseling paradigm.

Changing the Mind

Repentance of any sin begins with the mind. The foundational meaning of metánoia in the New Testament is a change of mind. Change behavior certainly follows but without the change of mind it is only hypocritical. Therefore it is important in dealing with sexual sin to deal extensively with the mind of the counselee. What do they believe? How do they view sexuality? How do they view marriage? What is their understanding of intimacy? What do they think is the purpose of sex? Whom do they think owns their body? These and many more questions must be asked in order to assess where the counselee needs to have teaching and correction. The rest of this paper will examine several primary texts which deal with the most fundamental mind and heart issues that drive sexual sin. The order in which these issues are dealt with in this paper is not indicative of a natural progression in a person’s heart. The counselor would need to determine which issues and in which order to address these with the counselee.

To Whom Does Your Body Belong?

One of the universally fundamental issues at the core of all sexual sin is a misunderstanding or rejection of the truth that whether single or married our bodies do not belong to us. We do not have the right to do anything with our bodies that we desire. 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 discusses how this principle applies to all people whether married or single. The primary truth is this: as believers our body is for the Lord, a member of Christ’s body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and bought by God. In short, God owns our body. Paul describes the result of sexual sin like this: “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” (6:15). To do such a thing is to “sin against his own body” (6:18) because it is doing with the body what it was not intended to do.

When God created us and subsequently saved us there came upon our bodies a new mandate. Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The physical body is a gift from God that enables us to worship and serve him. The body is unique among God’s creation. We stand upright, have opposable thumbs, we are able to communicate, think, rationalize, learn, and invent. Our bodies in conjunction with our minds are wonders of creation and uniquely fit to accomplish God’s purposes. Therefore to use the body in a way and for such purposes that are opposed to God is not only a rejection of our redeemed purpose, but God himself. Paul refers to this in Romans 1:24-27 as actions which “are contrary to nature,” “dishonoring of their bodies,” “shameless acts,” which ultimately “exchange the truth about God for a lie.”

The person struggling with sexual sin in mind and body must come to grips with the fact that they are not their own. They simply do not have the rights to do what they will with their body. Secondly, regardless of whether the counselee is married they must also realize that their body belongs to their spouse. If they are unmarried it is critically important, even if more difficult, to realize that their body belongs to their future spouse because anything that happens today will impact their future marriage. If they contract an STD now it will have the same impact on their future marriage than it would for a currently married couple (if not more).

Paul spells this principle clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:4, “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but he husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” The reason Paul is making this point will be the subject of the next section, but his point in this verse stands on its own even as it serves a greater purpose in the context. The point could not be more clear: no spouse has the right to do what they want with their own body because it does not belong to them, it in fact belongs to their spouse. The implication of this is when a married person sins sexually by pornography, adultery, or some other form, they are not merely being unfaithful; they are also taking what belongs to their spouse and employing it for their own purposes. The same principle applies to the unmarried person. While unmarried everyone is a steward of their body, waiting until the day when they will give themselves to their spouse. In God’s sovereignty a person’s spouse is known by God and in the same way that our sanctification is complete in one sense and progressive in another, so in God’s eyes those who will marry are as good as married in God’s eyes. Sins done in the body (1 Cor. 6:18) have lasting impact and will without doubt have an impact on one’s future spouse.

According to the world, “it’s your body, you can do with it what you want.” This is not only the argument for body piercing, tattoos, and all sorts of body mutilation, but it is also the argument for seeking every sexual experience possible. If our bodies truly were our own perhaps such a case could be made, but the fact is our bodies are not our own. First and foremost our bodies belong to God. We are stewards of the physical and mental capacities that we have been given for approximately 80 years. God has a purpose for our bodies and we must submit to his purposes, not our desires. Secondly our bodies belong to our present or future spouse. As sexual beings we were made for each other, not for ourselves. This necessarily takes us into the second point, namely, for whom is your sexuality?

For Whom Is Your Sexuality?

In the previous section we ended discussing Paul’s statement regarding who owns the rights to our bodies within the marital relationship. The text quoted comes from the context of 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 in which Paul discusses the necessity and providence of marriage. Paul begins in verse two, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” It is interesting that Paul does not say one should simply “get married” to prevent sexual immorality. Paul is certainly not advocating that marriage is the conduit to self-gratification. This is made clear here and in what follows. First, Paul says “each man should have his own wife…” This excludes homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, harems, and anything that violates a heterosexual monogamous sexual relationship in marriage. Secondly, Paul describes a clear principle of ownership (which he elucidates in verse 4): “his own wife” and “her own husband.” Out of context this verse could be interpreted to allow self-gratification, but what Paul says next removes that possibility. “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband” (3). The clear focus is other-centered. That is to say that your spouse is your own, not for your own pleasure, but for their pleasure. In the same way that a soldier may sign up for the military not primarily for their own benefit (though many do), but to serve and benefit their country, a person should not get married to fulfill their sexual dreams, but to fulfill the needs of their spouse.

Paul then clearly describes the reason for spouse-gratification rather than self-gratification. Your body does not belong to you; it belongs to your spouse for their benefit. Therefore, “do not deprive one another… so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (5). Again, the focus is not on self-gratification to stave off temptation, but on spouse-gratification for their purity. Put another way, God gave you a spouse so that you can help them avoid sexual sin.

The beauty of this truth is that in the process of giving “conjugal rights” and “not depriving one another” both husband and wife are equally served and have their needs met. It is not like the server who distributes food and gets only leftovers for himself, or the preacher who serves the spiritual meal and receives little to nothing from the congregation. There are many examples of one-sided service and edification, but a sexual relationship should be equally satisfying to both husband and wife at the same time. There may be times where one is benefited alone for health or medical reasons, but that should be the rare exception, not the rule.

This principle takes the marital sexual relationship beyond physical activity to spiritual edification whereby each spouse is assisting their spouse in holiness by reducing their openness to temptation. In addition to producing children and simply enjoying the pleasure of a sexual relationship, God has provided that relationship so that each spouse can serve the other and help them avoid sexual sin.

Whom or What Are You Worshipping?

In biblical counseling the concept of heart idols can be utilized in almost every situation. James’ admonition in James 4:2 that “you desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” is at the root of virtually all relationship problems as each party has unmet desires and expectations. The word translated “desire” is epithumía which in this context has a sinful connotation, but the term is not inherently sinful. Desires and passions can be both healthy and good or sinful. The determining factor is both the object and the level of desire. When epithumía is used in a sexual context, it is always sinful. This is because strong sexual desires are always self-centered in the sense that the body naturally wants to be sexually satisfied and is not really all that interested in whether or not anyone else is satisfied. Therefore the fundamental answer to the question of who are you worshipping is yourself. The person who practices sexual sin of any form is worshipping themselves by their own lusts regardless of the impact on others. But sexual sin can also be worship of another or an activity.

Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks to this issue of sexual activity as worship. In Romans 1:18-32 Paul describes a progression of truth suppression and worship exchange which includes exchanging “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (23). While ancient cultures worshipped many forms of man-like images, some of the prominent ones are images of many-breasted women in various cultures. Other sexually charged images were utilized in temples where one worshipped by lying with a prostitute. Sexual activity in religious worship led to non-religious forms of worship. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator” (25). Paul explains what he means by continuing: “their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…” (26-27). Men and women worship and serve the creature by committing acts which are both contrary to nature and contrary to God’s revelation.

The formula is simple: the one whose standard is adhered to is the one being worshipped. If a person is obeying God’s standard for sexuality then God is being worshipped. If a person’s own standard of sexuality is being obeyed, then they are worshipping themselves. If a person is adhering to another person’s or group’s standard of sexuality, then they are being worshipped. In reality when God is not singularly worshipped, then worship is spread around to oneself and others. Sinful expressions of sexuality are idolatry. Biblical expressions of sexuality are God-glorifying.

Who is in Control?

Once a person has made sexual sin a habit, the world calls it an addiction or a disease and tries to convince the person that they have no control over their problem. They are really not at fault and must be rehabilitated by external means because they don’t have control to be able to change on their own. Those who struggle deeply with sexual sin admit that in their experience they find it virtually impossible to resist the temptations of lust. God tells a completely different story for the Christian struggling with sin. According to Scripture, the believer has all the necessary resources to overcome sin in power of the Spirit.

Romans 8 is the key text for this principle. In the previous chapter Paul has been speaking of the conflict in the believer where experientially sin feels like it has some measure of control in our lives. But while this may feel like it is true, Paul then proclaims that it is patently false. Sin does not have control over the believer because “the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (8:2). The key issue in overcoming the strong pull of sexual sin is to whom does the counselee give control—the Spirit of the flesh? Paul says “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (8:5). We ought to “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (8:4). In writing to the church in Colossae Paul makes a similar point, “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God… Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion…” (Col. 3:2-5).

Scripture is clear that unbelievers have no choice in this matter. They are ruled by sin. Believers do have a choice and the sign of true repentance is choosing to walk according to the Spirit, obeying God’s commands, pleasing God. The Christian counselee struggling with sexual sin must agree with God’s Word that they do have control and because of the indwelling Spirit we have “all things that pertain the life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). In the moment of temptation they may feel like they are compelled to sin, but they must know that they are not. In that moment the counselee must proclaim this truth to themselves and be reminded that God’s Word is true above our feelings.

To What Must You Change?

When a person is seeking counseling, they are seeking change. Usually the counselee has a different goal that the counselor would have for them, sometimes they are so confused they don’t know what their goal should be. When a person struggles with sexual sin it usually invades their life. It may impact their finances, but it may not. It may impact their friendships, but it may not. It may impact their occupation, but it may not. These different areas are external consequences that depending on the type of sexual sin and severity of the problem may or may not be affected. What is always affected is a person’s heart and mind. All sexual sin begins in the heart and mind, but it doesn’t all end there. Therefore all change must begin in the heart and mind, and that will often indirectly impact external areas. A person deeply engrossed in sexual sin has a mind which easily wanders into lustful thinking. Virtually anything can cause their mind to go astray at any time—especially boredom. Therefore true change not only deals with behavior and desires, but one must train the mind to have God-honoring thought patterns and to control a wandering mind.

There are two key passages that help us know what a person should strive to become. The first is Galatians 5:16-25. Paul begins this section by explaining that those who “walk by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (16). How do you know if you’re walking by the flesh? You bear the fruit of that, namely, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry” (19ff), etc. How do you know if you’re walking in the Spirit? You bear the fruit of that, namely, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (22-23). Space does not permit us to discuss how each of these fruit counteracts sexual sin, but we will briefly consider the first and last—love and self-control. The person struggling with sexual sin must change to be a loving person who exhibits self-control. Love of course has nothing to do with feelings and emotions. Love is simply a commitment to do what is best for another (see 1 Corinthians 13:5-8). A sexually immoral person is not loving because they are only concerned for themselves. They don’t consider how their thoughts and actions will impact others, they simply want their desires met. On the other hand a loving person will crucify “the flesh with its passions and desires” (25) and seek the good of others. Secondly they will exhibit self-control. The sexually immoral person is impulsive in their mind and usually in their actions. Their goal is to be self-controlled so that when their mind wanders they take their thoughts captive and repent and think about right things. If they are on the Internet and there is an enticing image or website link then their first instinct is to ignore it or close the browser whereas before they would instinctively click on it. If they drive by an adult store they are able to continue driving rather than impulsively stopping and walking into sin. In counseling it would be helpful to go through each of the categories and help the counselee see what their life should look like when they are walking by the Spirit rather than the flesh.

The second key passage is Philippians 4:8. This is a helpful verse for the counselee to memorize to counteract sinful thinking, however it is only a starting point. When a person finds themselves having sinful thoughts, this passage should be used as a reminder to transition to thinking godly thoughts. It is not helpful to simply recite the verse as some sort of incantation that will take the thoughts away. Instead one should recite it as a reminder of their responsibility and move on to have productive thoughts which crowd out the sinful thoughts. For married men they can think about their wives (mainly in a non-sexual way) and thank God for His gift of a wife who loves and cares for him. Meditating on the gospel, reciting the gospel to himself, can be helpful to remind oneself of God’s grace and forgiveness and the ways in which God demonstrates his love. If he is at work then he can simply refocus and think about the tasks at hand. If in school then refocus on the lecture or homework. We can honor God by thinking about any number of things whether they are spiritual in nature (the gospel) or not (work related tasks). The key is simply to train the mind to not wander into sinful territory, but keep it focused on what is pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

There are other areas of change that should be discussed, and have been in other works. Galatians 5:16-25 and Philippians 4:8 provide the foundation of change that is needed before other change is sought.


Scripture clearly portrays sexual sin as a choice from which one can change if they have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. Good biblical counseling will not merely deal with outward actions and behaviors, but will get into the core issues of someone’s life examining what Scripture teaches about what drives sexual sin. In the course of teaching a counselee what Scripture teaches there are at least five issues which the counselee must adopt into their worldview.

First, the believer must learn to view their body as the property of someone else, namely, God. God has purchased our bodies by the blood of Christ and therefore as its Creator and Purchaser he determines how it is to be used. Secondly their body belongs to their spouse, whether or not they are married. When a person sins sexually they are usurping the authority of their spouse over their body. Second, not only does their body belong to their spouse, it is for their spouse. God provides marriage not for the purpose of self-gratification, but for mutual gratification so that each spouse can please the other and assist them in reducing sexual temptation. Third, how one uses their sexuality is a demonstration of whom they worship. If they worship God they will remain obedient to God’s standard of the proper sexual relationship. If not, they worship themselves and others in adhering to ungodly standards of sexuality. Fourth, the believer must know the biblical truth that no matter how strong sexual temptation is, God has given his divine power via the indwelling Holy Spirit to control any temptation. Fifth, the sexually immoral have become so self-described by their sin (e.g. “I’m a homosexual”), that they need biblical guidance as to what they are to change to. It is not enough for them to acknowledge their need to stop their thinking and behavior, they need to know what to become.

Certainly these five issues are not exhaustive and themselves have only been treated in summary fashion here. Numerous additional scriptures could and should be added to bring hope and clarity. The articles contained in the bibliography include other aspects which are useful in thinking through other foundational issues as well. In this culture of sexual inundation we can be so thankful that God’s Word is sufficient to provide hope and solutions to this sin which can be so entrapping, but by God’s grace and truth we are able to overcome.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I’m a sinner

Recently I watched a public discussion between one particular pastor and CJ Mahaney. CJ has written a short book called Humility: True Greatness. I have not read the book (yet) but apparently in there he talked about how a Christian should view themselves as compared to how they view others. Now again, I haven’t read the book, but I have heard him give messages where he discusses this, so I had some background as to the discussion these two pastors were having.

If there is one word that could describe CJ it would be humble. He is a sought after conference speaker and well known and respected among several different Christian circles and denominations. Nearly every time he gets up to speak he sincerely expresses how he is humbled to be there, not knowing why they would ask him to speak when there are many more gifted speakers, etc. These are not trite statements but clearly sincere expressions of humility. He also has expressed his view that he is the worst sinner he knows. That view is a major contributor to his humility. (As a side note, he doesn’t claim to have arrived at humility, and he nearly regrets writing to book because it makes people think he thinks of himself as having arrived, though he knows he has not).

Back to this public discussion (which occurred on stage at the end of a conference). The pastor hosting the conference wanted to pry into CJ’s belief that he is the worst sinner he knows. The pastor admitted what most, if not all, of us would admit, namely, that we are not the worst sinner we know. The pastor stated that if given the chance he could probably point out people attending the conference whom he thought would be worse sinners than himself in terms of scale and magnitude. Now before you judge him for saying that, he was just saying out loud what most of us think on a daily basis.

CJ’s response as to why he disagrees is that (and this is hard to say in the third person), CJ doesn’t really know anyone else as much as he knows himself. He really knows how sinful he is, but he doesn’t really know how sinful other people are. There may be external sins which could be compared, but external sins pale in comparison to sins of the heart. CJ knows his own sins of the heart; he doesn’t know anyone else’s sins of the heart, so as far as he is concerned, he is the worst sinner he knows.

That reminds me of something John MacArthur has said. In response to the question of “do you sin less as you get older,” John says (paraphrasing), “perhaps if you were to count every sin, you probably do sin less… that is the effect of true sanctification. But it doesn’t end there. The problem is the more sanctified you get, the more you understand the gravity of sin. The result is that you sin less, but you feel worse.” In other words, when an immature Christian overtly sins, there is some measure of impact on his conscience, but when a mature Christian sins the impact is significant.

There is a third aspect which I would offer for consideration. As a Christian grows in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, they become accountable for what they know. Practical example: a couple years ago I read an excellent book on parenting. One particular chapter came back to my life yesterday and I realized that I was not actively applying the truths of that chapter to my parenting. When I read that book, and specifically that chapter two years ago, I immediately became accountable for whatever biblical truth it contained. I could no longer claim ignorance. The same thing happens when we hear sermons or read books that teach us God’s standard of living. We become accountable for the rest of our lives. When we don’t live accordingly, we sin. As Christians we are continually becoming more and more accountable every week. Is your life conforming more and more as a result? Mine isn’t. It’s worse for me, James 3:1 should scare every person out of the ministry. It is only God’s calling on my life that compels me to sit under than warning.

I say all that to say this: I’m a sinner. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m much more of a sinner than you are. To the degree that I understand God’s expectations on my life, I know I fall infinitely short of that standard, and so I cry out with Paul: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Answer: “Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

If you want to read/listen more on our sin and God’s grace, check out two of the sermons on this page. Read/listen to the two messages: 4 Marks of a Hell-bound Man, and 15 Words of Hope.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Brief Look at the Purpose of Marriage

The purpose of marriage as set forth in Scripture is fulfilling the need for companionship. After God created Adam He said “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Companionship should not be misunderstood. It was not that Adam needed a companion to sit around and wait for him to “get off work” so they could spend time together. No, he needed an ezer kenegdo, a suitable helper, to provide companionship which included assistance in the tasks God had delegated to him.

This companionship is expressed by two other texts which speak of the marriage relationship. In speaking of the adulteress the author write that she forsakes the “companion of her youth” (Prov. 2:17). The Hebrew term translated companion here is used in Proverbs to speak of the intimacy of friendship (cf. Prov. 16:28; 17:9). Here it is a clear reference to her husband, but making the point that she did not merely leave a stale marriage, but an intimately close friendship to pursue sin. This verse portrays marriage as a close intimate companionship, something far beyond a merely physical or infatuous relationship.

The second text which adds another dimension is Micah 2:14. Here the term “companion” is the translation of a different Hebrew term which speaks of unity, coupling, joining. Therefore marriage is not just two people carrying on as individuals, they are united and joined together at the hip, as it were. Therefore the biblical understanding of marriage is that it is a deep, abiding, intertwined relationship of companionship between and man and a woman.

This is in contrast to the Catholic view of the purpose of marriage which highlights the propagation of the human race in order to fulfill Genesis 1:28. Certainly this is a function of marriage, but if it is a purpose of marriage then so is subduing the earth and having dominion over everything that moves in it (which no one suggests). Therefore propagation of mankind is not a purpose for marriage, but a function of it. Furthermore the context of this passage is not marriage itself but the duty of mankind. Exegetically this passage does not refer to marriage at all and it is only from the rest of Scripture that we can limit propagation to marriage. Anecdotally we know that marriage is completely unnecessary for propagation. Not only to animals do it routinely, but it also is occurring more and more around the world. The number of unwed mothers continues to rise as the number of marriages continues to plummet. Therefore marriage is technically unnecessary for propagating the human race.

Another wrong view of the purpose of marriage is that it legitimizes sex. In other words, the sole difference between a married couple and an unmarried is their sexual relationship (i.e. mating). Mating is distinct from propagation because it refers simply to the joining of two people in a sexual relationship. The arguments against this view are similar to the propagation view. Scripture in no place mentions mating as the purpose of marriage, only a function of it (Gen. 2:24). Yet even the concept of mating is unbiblical because it lacks the existence of a deeper relationship. Just as animals mate and are not faithful to one another, so do people mate apart from any level of relationship and without any thought to faithfulness or companionship. In other words, marriage is unnecessary for mating to occur.

Though marriage is not necessary for propagation and mating, marriage is the means by which propagation is fulfilled and in which a deep and meaningful form of mating occurs. But these are not the purposes of marriage. Marriage is first and foremost the solution to the problem that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Considerations in Elders and Leaders

UPDATE: I updated one of the paragraphs below where I had said that Peter’s business business was failing, not thriving. It now points to what Scripture actually says.

Gene Getz has written a book entitled Elders and Leaders: God’s Plan for Leading the Church. He is a long time pastor, author, seminary professor, and host of a radio program. After many years of wisdom and experience he was compelled by those around him to write a book on the issue of what Scripture says about biblical leadership in the book.

In today’s post I just want to focus on the chapter called “The Need for a Primary Leader.” The central thesis of this chapter is that Scripture teaches that above the plurality of elders, there should be a primary leader who leads the elders and the rest of the church. This is what most of us have experienced in churches with a the Senior or Lead Pastor to varying degrees.

Before reading this chapter I knew what to expect in terms of his conclusions, but I was caught off guard by his method of arriving at his conclusions. Up until this chapter the book had some more or less minor interpretive issues, but this chapter took the cake in eisegesis (reading a meaning into the text). Below are the examples:

#1: A Wrong focus on Peter

The first goal of the chapter is to demonstrate that Peter was the Primary Leader of the apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven. His initial proof is the number of references to Peter in the Gospels and Acts as opposed to the other apostles. In other words, he used statistics of the use of Peter’s name as a proof of Peter’s primacy. What is interesting here is that he does not include Paul in his consideration. If he did, he would find that Paul is mentioned almost twice as much as Peter in the book of Acts. In fact, Paul is mentioned 135 times in Acts, while Peter is mentioned 152 times in the Gospels and Acts. Peter is only mentioned less than 60 times in Acts, which is the story of the beginning of the church! What is even more, Paul wrote most of the New Testament letters to the churches! If Peter were the primary leader in Christiandom (as Getz states on page 149), then we would want to have seen him take some leadership in writing to the churches. Now of course my point is not that Paul was the primary leader, but simply that just Peter appears to be a focus in the Gospels (but not in Acts as Getz would have you think), does not automatically give him primacy.

#2: Many Assumptions

Clearly, Jesus focused on equipping Peter to be the primary leader” (218). Having given only the “proof” from #1, this is clearly an assumption, not a fact.

Furthermore, he focused next on John who was to be his associate (note again the statistics…)” (218). Again with only statistics as his proof, this is an assumption, not a fact.

When Jesus eventually called Peter… [he] was already the primary leader in [his fishing business]” (218). No biblical proof or evidence of any kind to support this. Pure assumption. Getz says that since Peter had partners (Andrew, James, and John), it shows that he was the primary leader. That’s only proves he had co-workers, not that he was the manager.

Peter was “once a tough-minded chief executive officer of a thriving fishing business” (148). This time he offers no support of any kind. This assumption ignores the fact that when Jesus first met Peter, he had worked all night and caught nothing (Luke 5:1-5). I’m no fisherman, but catching nothing is not one of the signs of a thriving fishing business! In fact, the only time we know that Peter’s fishing thrived was when Jesus miraculously intervened!

In reference to the washing of the disciples’ feet, Getz says that Peter resisted out of embarrassment “primarily because he was well aware that this was an oversight when he and John had arranged for this event” (149-150). Oversight? That’s more than an assumption. It is rejecting what the text says and importing a new reason for Peter’s resistance!

When he stood up on the day of Pentecost and [preached], not one of the apostles hesitated to follow him” (220). First, Peter's sermon did nothing to demonstrate his primacy. Second, the apostles didn’t “follow” him, they sat and listened. Getz is trying to get much more meaning out of this than there is.

Again and again, we read that “Peter and John” took the lead and, even though these two men worked closely together, they were not coleaders. Peter was continually the primary spokesman…” (220). Simply because Peter was the primary spokesman, does not automatically mean that he was the primary leader. There is no substantial evidence that Getz has put forward. It’s simply assumption upon assumption which has the appearance of an argument, but it is all a house of cards.

Based on what we see in the total biblical story of leadership, we can only assume that [Timothy and Titus] were also influential in making sure there was a key leader in charge” (223). Again, his “total biblical story” is a mound of assumptions. And he explicitly makes his point of an assumption.

Though we’re not told who lead the elders/overseers on a permanent basis after Timothy, we can assume it happened immediately or shortly thereafter.” The assumption pile is getting higher!

#3: Other Issues

Getz acknowledges that Peter never claimed this leadership for himself, but always considered himself as “a fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1). Getz points to Peter’s humility in this, I say it is clear that Peter never claimed it because he never had it.

Getz neglects Matthew 16:18 which is what Catholics use to affirm Peter’s primacy. There were a couple times where I wondered if Getz was alluding to this verse, but he never mentioned it. On page 151 Getz states, “As Jesus’ chosen leader, [Peter] began to speak the word of God…” If there were any text that would support Getz claim in this quote or any other section of the book where he affirms the same, Matthew 16:18 would be the text. And yet he never once mentions or references it.


There is more to say about Getz view of the primary leader, but in this post I just wanted to point out his poor use of observation and assumptions which he uses to make a significant point in how God’s church is to be led.

If you would be interested in more biblical treatment on this issue, I highly recommend Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch.

Monday, March 09, 2009

It was miraculous, not natural

John MacArthur’s first message in this year’s Shepherd’s Conference began like this: “Two years ago I started out the conference saying why every self-respecting Calvinist should be a Premillenialist. Last year I started out the conference saying why every self-respecting Calvinist should reject the Church Growth Movement. This year I want to start by saying why every self-respecting Calvinist, Evangelical, and Christian should be a six-day creationist.”

Pretty bold statement! If you would like to listen to the message, you can find it here. Just sign up for a free account and go to the Media Vault. It’s General Session 1 from the 2009 Shepherd’s Conference.

One of the most unique statements in the whole message was this: “Get past the idea that you need to reconcile Scripture with science.” In other words, then it comes to creation, forget science altogether. He even dismissed to a great degree what he termed “so-called creation science.”

Why did he say this? For the simple reason that creation was a miracle. A miracle, by its nature, in unnatural. A miracle can break every natural law in the book. You do not hear of people trying to perform science on Jesus’ walking on water (breaking the law of gravity, perhaps changing the nature of the water). No one tries to figure out how Jesus restored the withered hand of the man in front of the Pharisees. Certainly no one would figure out how a man who had been dead for several days could naturally be raised from the dead.

Yet when it comes to God’s display of miraculous power in creation everyone wants to figure out how it happened naturally. Of course it is unbelievers who primarily reject the biblical creation because they reject God and his power. Why do Christians follow suit and attempt to add biblical authority to the anti-God conclusions of unbelievers whose answer to problems is to add billions of years to allow for more evolution?

There is no need to look at psuedo-science evidence of what unbelievers refer to as a natural event. There is nothing natural about Genesis 1. The questions we ask regarding natural “problems” (e.g. how can plans survive without the sun, how was there light before the sun) stem from forgetting that there was nothing natural in what happened from days one to six.

It really does come down to this. You simply cannot explain a miracle in natural terms. Period.

Global language

Probably for the last time I want to emphasize how much the text of Scripture speaks of a global flood. This week we are covering Genesis 7, and in it there are numerous phrases that indicate a global flood. I’ll point out each one.

Verse 2-3: “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals… and a pair of the animals that are not clean… seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also… to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.”

These verses point to a global flood simply on the basis that the animals needed protection from being wiped out. Certainly there are unique animals in some regions, but why save every kind of animal unless they would all be wiped out throughout the earth?

Verse 4: “… every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Here God broadens the scope not just to animals and people in the land, but to everything he created. Surely no one would argue that God only created land animals in the Mesopotamian region. In fact, local flood advocates deny that everything God created died. God does not limit his statement as if to say “everything I have created in this part of the earth.” And with the entire context there it no way to bring such an implication.

Verse 11: “… all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.”

One could argue that the “windows of the heavens” that were opened were just over the Mesopotamian region, since that is the perspective of the text. But one could not make the same argument for “all the fountains.”

Verse 14-16: “they and every beast… and all the livestock… and every creeping thing… and every bird… every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life…. male and female of all flesh” (emphasis mine).

There is no room in the context to limit the “all” to those which Noah gathered. The two phrases “all flesh” and “breath of life” broaden the “all” to every creature [period].

Verse 19-20: “And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered… covering them fifteen cubits [22.5 feet] deep.”

If one part of the world is completely covered, and another part is not, does that not assume that something stopped the water from going past a certain point? Here such a barrier is removed. It’s not just the low hills that were covered. The text emphasizes the “high” mountains were covered. And not just the “high” mountains, but those “under the whole heaven.” There is absolutely no possible way to restrict that to a local area.

Verse 21-23: “And all flesh died that moved on the earth… Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground… they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.”

If God wanted to communicate total devastation beyond a given locality, I cannot imagine what else he could say. The text repeats its universal nature five times in three verses: four times saying what died and once saying what survived.

If one were to argue that “earth” could be translated “land” which could change the sense of several of these passages, I would simply ask what indication is there in the text that anything on the dry land throughout the globe survived?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence? Part 5

Today I'd like to point out some major deficiencies in Eldredge's view of God. He has a chapter titled "The Wild One Whose Image We Bear." In it, he does his best to portray God as the wild man he (Eldredge) wants to be. I'm thankful that he uses more Bible references here than anywhere else, yet most of those are from paraphrase versions that use the words he likes, or if the passages are appropriately translated, he pulls them from their greater context to give his meaning. Here are some quotes:

"Be honest now--what is your image of Jesus as a man? 'Isn't he sort of meek and mind?' a friend remarked. 'I mean, the pictures I have of him show a gentle guy with children all around...' Yes, those are the pictures I've seen myself in many churches. In fact, those are the only pictures I've seen of Jesus.... they leave me with the impression that he was the world's nicest guy... I'd much rather be told to be like William Wallace" (22). My question is, why do you need a picture at all? I personally think pictures of Jesus are worthless. They encourage finding Jesus' face on an egg, a rock, a wall, or anything that you can sell on eBay. And especially since most [American] depictions of Jesus are ethnically biased, I simply don't see why we need pictures to form our opinions of Jesus. Before you think I'm off my rocker, I know you can't get away from it with story books, stained-glass windows, etc. But I hope you see my point.

"Now--is Jesus more like Mother Teresa or William Wallace?" (24). Eldredge goes on in this paragraph to show both sides of Jesus... depending on the recipient. Gentleness to the sick and broken-hearted, rage to Pharisees. While his point is valid, he now leaves behind the gentle side and focuses heavily on the "wild" side. I haven't done a good comparison, but I'd be willing to bet there are ten times more instances of gentleness, compassions, etc. in the NT than fierceness.

"It then occurred to me that after God made all this, he pronounced it good, for heaven's sake. It's his way of letting us know he rather prefers adventure, danger, risk..." (30). In the context he's talking about going hiking and finding evidence of bears nearby. What is sorely lacking here is the fact that nature is dramatically affected by the fall. What we experience today in the woods is far different than what existed prior to the fall. Here, again, Eldredge neglects the affect of sin on the world.

"In an attempt to secure the sovereignty of God, theologians have overstated their case and left us with a chess-player God... But clearly, this is not so. God is a person who takes immense risks. No doubt the biggest risk of all was when he gave angels and men free will... He did not make Adam and Eve obey him, he took a risk... He let others into his story, and he lets their choices shape it profoundly... Now he lives, almost cheerfully, certainly heroically, in a dynamic relationship with us and with our world. 'Then the Lord intervened' is perhaps the single most common phrase about him in Scripture, in one form or another... Because he loves to come through. He loves to show us that he has what it takes... I am not advocating open theism" (30-32). For anyone who knows what open theism is, if it's not this, I don't know what is. The interesting thing is that I trust his statement that he doesn't believe in open theism. The sovereignty of God is a big topic that must be handled carefully. I don't think it is difficult to understand, but sometimes it is difficult to overcome our objections to the implications. That's where I think Eldredge is. To some extent he believes in God's sovereignty, but to maintain his other views he has to reject complete sovereingty and go over the edge into unbiblical thinking.

"And all his wildness and all his fierceness are insperable from his romantic heart. That theologians have missed this says more about theologians than it does about God." I think Eldredge misjudges theologians. The difference is that theologians, I think, place aspects of God's character that could be called "romantic" in balance with his other character traits. Eldredge, I think, elevates it too high beyond graciousness, justice, mercy, saving love, etc. When Eldredge says God is romantic, his definition is too human, emotional, and shortsighted.

"Do you know why [God] often doesn't answer prayer right away? Because he wants to talk to us, and sometimes that's the only way to get us to stay and talk to him." What? Where does it say that in the Bible? There are several reasons that Bible gives for unanswered prayer: spiritual warfare (Dan. 10:10-14), wrong motives (James 4:3), etc. Nowhere does God hold off answers simply as a teaser to keep us praying. I'm sorry but that's just rediculous.

I'd like to say much more on some of these posts, but I don't want to get too long. Is this enough to make my claim? Does it seem clear that there is much lacking from a good understanding of God's character? In working on this post, I can see glimpses of truth in much of what Eldredge is saying. I just think that he is misrepresenting scripture as a whole, and making mountains out of molehills.

This is the end of this series which I wrote almost three years ago. John Eldredge bases his thinking and books on non-Christian psycological understanding which by it's nature has a wrong anthropology. Therefore the only way to bring Scripture into the picture is to twist and morph it into a pagan framework. While I understand this series has its flaws and is certainly not exhaustive, I hope I have demonstrated that Wild at Heart is thoroughly unbiblical and cannot be trusted to supply the answers men need.

In its place, I cannot recommend highly enough a book called The Exemplary Husband by Stewart Scott. It also has a corollary book entitled The Excellent Wife by another author.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence? Part 4b

Yesterday I left off with the question of what change occurs when a person becomes a believer.  Here is what Eldredge has to say:

"What God sees when he sees you is the real you, the true you, the man he had in mind when he made you" (134).

"When we begin to offer not merely our gifts but our true selves, that is when we become powerful" (138).

"You are the hero in your story" (142).

"And your flesh is not you" (144).

"In the core of your being you are a good man" (144).

"We are never, ever told to crucify our heart.  We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those dep desires for battle and adventure and beauty.  We are told to shoot the traitor" (145).

"Has it ever crossed your mind that not every thought that crosses your mind comes from you" (152)?

"If I thought [pride, greed, gluttony] was all me, my heart, I'd be very discouraged.  Knowing that my heart is good allowed me to block it, right then and there" (163).

To sum up Eldredge's theology, when you become a Christian, your heart is instantly and wholly good.  If there is any sin, wrong thinking, or bad, then its not really you.  It's your false self, it's sometimes the devil.  The real you is good.  I have two major problems with his thinking in the above passages: 1) His focus on self rather than Christ, 2) His idea of false self vs. true self.  I'll only discuss the first because otherwise it'll get too long and the second one is quite a muddy discussion.

Here is how Paul talks about his life as a Christian:

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).  Eldredge never once makes reference to living by faith by the power of the Spirit.  No... Eldredge implies, "my false self is crucified, it is no longer it that lives, but my new heart that lives.  And I am free to do whatever my good heart desires."

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21).  To live is Christ, not my new heart.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin" (Rom. 7:24-25).

"And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). This is not a command to crucify our flesh. It assumes that we have already done so.

Notice the distinct differences.  Paul exalts Christ and only references himself to the point where he is dependent on Christ ("the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God...").  Never in the New Testament does Paul or any other writer make any claims of their own goodness.  That's not to say they weren't "good", but simply that when it came to talking about themselves, they could only say "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).  Eldredge is the exact opposite.  He focuses entirely on you, and wants you to do the same.  When Eldredge has a chance to point to Christ, here is what he does:

Here he is writing in his journal after a wearisome conference, "What of me, dear Lord?  Are you pleased?  What did you see? ... I yearn to hear from you--a word, or image, a name... This is what I heard: You are Henry V after Agincourt... the man in the arena, whose fase is covered with blood and sweat and dust, who strove valiantly... a great warrior.. yes, even Maximus. And then You are my friend" (135).

Maximus is the main character of Gladiator.  Where is the did I honor Christ?  Did I exalt Christ in my words and actions?  Did I point others to Christ?  Eldredge is overly concerned with his image as a warrior, as shown here and several other places in the book.  In this book, he makes no great effort to promote holiness, Christ-likeness (except Christ's "wild" side), living a Christ-centered life, etc.  It's about you, being self-satisfied, self-fulfilled, self-exalted and definitely not self-denying.

The next post will be on Eldredge's shallow and wrong views on God.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence? Part 4a

Today I want to show how Eldredge does not seem to recognize the effect of sin on mankind.  Here are a couple quotes:

"I want you to think of the films men love, the things they do with their free time, and especially the aspirations of little boys and see if I am not right on this" (p. 9).

"Capes, swords, camouflage, bandannas and six-shooters--these are the uniforms of boyhood." Same paragraph: "If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that 'the Lord is a warrior the Lord is his name' (Ex. 15:3).  Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed is a prerequisite for having fun... Boys want to attack something--and so does a man..." (p. 10).

What Eldredge is attempting to say in these quotes, and in the surrounding context, is that these desires stem from being created in the image of God (which he doesn't see as having been marred by sin).  Here is a mental picture Eldredge gives of the similarities between God and Man:


God Man
Loves action/adventure Loves action/adventure
Crave bloodshed Crave bloodshed
Love to attack for fun Love to attack for fun

Eldredge apparently has no concept of the depravity of man.  Not that man doesn't sin--he certainly talks about it elsewhere--but that the image of God is still intact in men.  Anyone who reads the Bible without using the lenses of Wild at Heart would quickly see that God is not like this.

The interesting thing is that Eldredge would disagree (with the idea that men are unaffected by sin).  Over in chapter seven he says, "Too many Christians today are living back in the old covenant.  They've had Jeremiah 17:9 drilled into them and they walk around believing my heart is deceitfully wicked.  Not anymore it's not... Your heart is good."  We'll come back to this again tomorrow, but for now let's focus on the dichotomy that Eldredge has created.

On the one hand his whole premise of Wild at Heart is that all men are naturally drawn toward danger, bloodshed, action, etc.  Yet on the other hand he acknowledges that once you become a Christian, you get a new heart (which should assume new desires)... meaning that your old heart was sinful.  On the one hand, your old sinful heart had all the right desires, but on the other hand, you get a new heart when you become a Christian. My first question would be, if my old heart had the right desires... what's the need for a new one? This is an irreconcilable issue within the book.  Except from the following perspective:  One can very easily, and truthfully, say that most/many men continue to be drawn to those things even after "becoming" a Christian (but to me, that would be like saying that 95% of Americans believe in God... they may believe in a god, but they certainly don't believe in the God of the Bible.  Those men may be "Christian" in the American sense, but not in the Biblical sense).  Here is what we'll discuss tomorrow:  when you become a Christian, what happens?  Or maybe a slightly different question, which I believe Eldredge answers wrongly, how does God see you?  What is the change that actually occurs?  And furthermore... what is the evidence of being a true Christian?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence, Part 3

Today I want to bring up Eldredge's apparent contempt for Christianity and the church "as it currently exists."  Here's the [longer] quote from page 7:

"And then, alas, there is the church.  Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men.  When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy.  The problem with men, we are told, is that they don't know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children.  But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming... a nice guy." (ellipse his) "That's what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Real Nice Guys.  We don't smoke, drink, swear; that's what makes us men."

On page 8 Eldredge quotes Robert Bly, the author of Iron John, "Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man--they are called priests..."

On page 13: "Compare your experience watching the latest James Bond or Indiana Jones thriller with, say, going to Bible study."

First of all, I am not going to defend the church as though it is perfect without fault.  We all know of churches that fail to be faithful to scripture and are, for the most part, not helping anyone.  There are two main points I'd like to make based on Eldredge's thoughts: 1) Regardless of what the church teaches, it is man's ultimately responsible for what a man learns, and 2) Eldredge attacks character qualities that scripture teaches.

Churches, by and large, have a great effect on individuals.  More often than not, find out what church someone grew up in (or goes to) and you can tell them what they believe.  People get saved in churches all the time.  But.  Who will be judged on Judgment Day?  Will it be the church?  No.  Each individual person will be judged.  If a boy walks down the isle at age 6, spends the rest of his life in the pew on Sundays, and at the end of his life can't spell gospel, you're likely to be looking at someone who was never saved.  That is no the church's fault.  Or, if that same boy grows up having gone to church and thinks that not smoking, drinking, and swearing  are what makes a man, then they very like haven't read the Bible.  That's not the church's fault.  Each person is responsible for their own spiritual growth.  I must be careful in saying this, because I don't remember (and that's kind of the point), but I don't remember a single time in the whole book that Eldredge challenges men to study the Bible.  He may have.  He may have done it multiple times.  But I don't remember.  Why do I not remember?  Because bleeding from every page is the call to get out into the wild, be dangerous, do things your mom wouldn't approve of, watch blood-filled movies.  The blame ought not to be focused on the church (though again, it desperately needs improvement), rather the blame should be on men who only blow the dust off their Bibles on Sundays... and many times not even then.  Oh if men (and women) would only read their Bibles they would see what a high calling God has for them.  And yet, this book and its successors have become the Bible by which many Christians are living (yes, I know some of them).  Much more needs to be said, but I must continue on.

I am shocked by the character qualities that Eldredge chooses to look down upon.  Keeping promises?  Being a spiritual leader?  Talking to your wife?  Raising your children?  Those are bad things? "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Eph. 5:25).  There are many ways that Christ loves the church.  But certainly among those are: keeping His promises, being our Spiritual Leader, talking to us (through His word, being the Word Himself), the Father is our example on how to raise children.  If there is anyone who thinks that any of these things are bad things (or unscriptural), please comment on that.

Now, regarding the last quote.  This is one of the most telling sentences in the whole book, which explains where Eldredge is coming from.  I have not done the numbers, but earlier I flipped through the whole book scanning every page (I was actually looking for this last quote which is on p.13, but I had to go through the whole thing and start over to find it).  The number of references to movies and length of time talking about them far outweighs how much he uses scripture like a pickup truck outweighs a motorcycle.  It is clear that Eldredge loves what Hollywood puts out ("while there are some good movies, there are many horrible churches").  Each and every reference to a movie is meant to esteem you (if you're a man) and show you how you ought to be like William Wallace (Braveheart appears to be his favorite).  I don't have time for it here, but many times he says something to the effect of "Jesus is like Wallace" or "Jesus is like so-and-so."  Not a single time does he put Jesus on a higher plane than a fictional, unsaved, blood-spattered, adulteress, sinful man.  If nothing else this should be where the Church rises in rage against the book.  Our perfect Savior who was slain to die for our sins holds a lower pedestal than ficticous characters in this book.  Sure he talks about Jesus somewhat frequently, but he only talks about the instances where Jesus can be seen (or construed using a non-literal translation) to be "wild with rage" or some other such thing.  Not once does he make reference to "Jesus wept" or "Summon the little children to come unto Me" or "He had compassion on them" or "The lamb that was slain" or the multitude of other references to Jesus as something other than wild.

Whoa... I'm off topic.  This is getting long, so I'll be short.  If a man finds more delight in watching a thriller movie than studying the Bible, that does not tell you how God made him, that tells you how sinful he is.  I know that I do not enjoy Bible study enough.  I do not delight in God as I should.  But that does not mean there is something wrong with the Bible.  That means there is something wrong with me. 

Oh reader, I know I am not an experienced writer nor an expert in the Bible.  But I plead with you... my heart is not that you agree with every word that I say.  My desire is that you consider what Eldredge is really saying.  The next post will likely be on Saturday because I'm going to cover a larger concept.  Eldredge teaches in the book that most of your hearts desires are good and need to be set free.  He believes that once you become a Christian you get a new heart (which is true, but he takes it to a whole new level), and you become a new creation (which is also true), but that you still have your "false self" (which is not true).  I hope you will continue to read, not for my sake, but so that you will be challenged to consider what he (and a great many Christians) believe.  Even if you disagree, please continue on this journey with me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence? Part 2

On Page 5 we find the following quote (the second use of Scripture):

"Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man... Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart. Look at the heroes of the biblical text: Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him (or is found by him) somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt. The same is true of Jacob, who has his wrestling match with God not on the living room sofa but in the wadi somewhere east of the Jabbok, in Mesopotamia. Where did the prophet Elijah go to recover his strength? To the wild. As did John the Baptist, and his cousin, Jesus, who is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Whatever else those explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves... Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for?"

Observation #1: There are very few things that scripture tells us is written on the hearts of men (Jer. 17:1; Rom. 2:15; 2 Cor. 3:3 to name a few). Adventure is not one of them.

Observation #2: While Moses was certainly in the desert, that's where he lived. His encounter with God was not on an adventure trip, but while he was working. The reason he wasn't in Egypt was not because he was trying to escape comfort and ease, but because he feared for his life after murdering a man.

Observation #3: Jacob also wasn't on a weekend adventure trip searching for his soul. He was on his way back home with dozens of people and his family. His encounter with God wasn't on the living room sofa because he was caravaning.

Observation #4: While it is true that Elijah, John, Jesus, and others went to the wilderness to rest, avoid people, and pray, Eldredge is making up the idea that they were going to search for themselves. There is not a single verse regarding any of these characters where they are trying to figure out how to be a man, who they are, and what they're made of. It definitely appears that Eldridge conveniently slips that in there unnoticed (by most), but he has no basis for saying it.

Eldredge's second attempt to use scripture to support his idea comes up short, in my mind. I do think that there is something about camp fires, hiking, and doing devotions on a lake that is quite special. But on the same token I can have just as good times with the Lord in my living room. Somehow he forgets that there is a major cultural aspect that must be considered. In our day there are designated areas set aside for wild habitat, parks, and forests. Back then the wilderness was everywhere you turned. For someone in the OT to be in the "wild" was no more abnormal than for us to be on the highway.

Tomorrow I'll be posting on his contempt for Christianity and the church "as it currently exists." And how in making his point, he ignore scriptures that teach what he despises.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wild at Heart: Biblical Evidence, Part 1

Note: I wrote this series almost three years ago on an old blog. The book came up in counseling class today, so I thought I would repost the 5-part series on this blog.

As I begin this little series of posts I want to reiterate that I do not think John Eldredge is a bad man with bad motives.  His motives are to be highly commended.  His passion and desire to help men are very admirable and needed among counselors.  What I take exception to, at least in these posts, is his use of scripture to support his psychological ideas.  These posts are not meant to be thorough and complete, just short, simple, and hopefully, clear.

On page 3 (which is actually page 2 of the actual content) Eldredge begins to make the point that man's heart is "undomesticated, and that is good." (Italics his)  The first use of scripture in the book, and in supposed support of this point in taken right out of Genesis.  First here is what Eldredge says:

"Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden's garden.  But Adam, if you'll remember, was created outside the garden, in the wilderness.  In the record of our beginnings, the second chapter of Genesis makes it clear: Man was born in the outback, from the untamed part of creation.  Only afterward is he brought to Eden.  And ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable desire to explore." (Italics his, Eldredge, p.3-4)

When I read this the first time my mind said, actually, I don't remember.  So naturally I got out my Bible to see what it said: "then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed... The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (Gen. 2:7-8, 15 ESV).

Observation #1: Genesis does not make it clear that Adam was made outside the garden, as Eldredge says, it makes very clear that Adam was made before the garden.  You cannot be born/made outside of something that doesn't yet exist.

Observation #2: Genesis 2:15 says that God put Adam in the garden to work it and keep it.  God's original and primary intention for man was to live in the garden and work to maintain it.

Observation #3: If, as indicated above, God's intention was for man to live and work in the garden, then man's desire to find fulfillment by exploring and leaving the garden/home/work is an attempt to find fulfillment outside of the Father's plan.  Furthermore, Adam leaving (or rather, being kicked out) the garden was nothing less than a curse and punishment for his and Eve's sin.  It was in the garden that Adam had fellowship with God, not in the mountains (preview for tomorrow's post).

The Bible gives no indication that Adam had any such desire to leave the pristine confines of the garden.  Neither should anyone suspect that he did.  For such a desire would be akin to that of seeing, walking, and talking with God, yet somehow being unsatisfying and wanting more.  Wait... it's that what happened to the Deceiver?  Isn't that why Adam and Eve ate the fruit?  Wouldn't that be sin in its most hideous form: rejecting Almighty God after experiencing His presence, glory, and goodness?

Please comment one way or the other.  I am truly open if I have missed something or misinterpreted something myself (I am fully aware that it is very possible).