After Darkness, Light

 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (John 12:46)

In Him We Exist: Finding Shadows of God in Everything


The Shadows of God in the World: Everything is in God

The world is haunted by God. One cannot walk the earth without encountering religion, spirituality, or other such expressions of a sense of the divine. In fact, to put it very boldly, the annals of history might be summarized as mankind’s aching and agonizing orbit around the idea of God.

The ancient Egyptians, Mayans, and Aztecs had a clear sense of the divine, marking their worship with structures we find today like pyramids and altars. The ancient Greek city of Athens, with all of its wisdom, could not tolerate the rumor that Socrates denied the gods. Mosques, temples, and churches fill every continent on earth today. On and on we could list examples from every geographical place on earth and in every era of history.

To put it simply, we know there is a divine entity. But this entity seems strangely hidden behind a veil of mystery. What—or who—is God? And where do we find him?

The Apostle Paul gives his audience at Athens what I think is one of the most powerful and majestic pictures of who God is. The God whom Paul reveals is not the white bearded man in the clouds. He is not the spirit animal residing in the forest. He is not the god-like man atop Mount Olympus. Paul gives us a much more terrifyingly large picture of God in Acts 17:24-28:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.

Simply put, Paul says that God does not exist in the world. The world exists in God.

Quoting the Greek poet Epimenides, he explains that we live, move, and have our being (exist or are) in him. Paul deliberately quotes this Greek poet because he knows mankind sees shadows of God. He tells these Athenians, ‘Here’s an example from your own culture!’ He understood quite clearly that this poet was looking into a truth. Epimenides grasped that, in some way or another, we are within God. The church father Chrysostom explained it in this way: God pervades us in the same way the air surrounds and fills us.

We are to understand the world as a mirror that reflects the being of God. It reveals who he is, a type of speech that transcends words yet declares his glory (Psalm 19:1). He is not far away in some distant part of space, but here, present among us whether we are rising on wings of the dawn or settling on the far side of the sea (Psalm 139).

This explains our sense of the divine. He is all around us. Mankind sees shadows of God everywhere.

This has an incredible amount of implications on how we view the world.

The Sun, the Fountain, and the Ocean: God is the Source of Everything We Enjoy

Reflections of God are everywhere. Who he is can be sensed in nature, in friendship, in art, in romance, and in all things.

The theologian Jonathan Edwards (my personal hero) explained it as such:

To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.

The wonderful things we enjoy, like marriage, family, friendship, are indeed great pleasures. But why do we enjoy them? Where do such things have their origin?

With this understanding of God, it is easy to explain why we enjoy them. It is because such things are shadows of the one true GodAll such things are sunshine beams, water droplets, and streams that find their origin in God. He is not only the author but the sustainer of such things (Hebrews 1:3). Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17)

Evil and the Presence of God: Explaining Evil and Suffering

Though all goodness extends from his being, we may not say that God is everything to include evil. God is not everything. Everything is within God. God is love (1 John 4:16), a God in whom darkness cannot reside. We may interpret evil—murder, theft, adultery, sexual immorality, lying—as resistances to this divine presence. Such things exist within God and are tolerated by God’s great patience, but he is not present therein.

C.S. Lewis once described sin as the absence of good. Sin, or evil, is like a hole in the ground, an absence, a void. The divine presence of God departs from such places. Evil is defined by the absence of God’s good presence. Where evil is, there he is not. Therefore he departs from evil, as he demonstrated to the Israelites when his glory departed from the temple (Ezekiel 10). The wrath of God is not so much hellfire, but abandonment (Romans 1).

The presence of God is what holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). When God’s presence is resisted, we become undone. We experience death, an undoing of goodness, in all of its sinful and evil expressions. Death corrodes us from the inside out, culminating in bodily death.

Looking Beyond the Shadows: Finding God as He Is

Humanity has always been content with the shadows. We sense the divine, but we cannot grasp him. Like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, we seem to be content watching the flickering shadows, unwilling to get up and walk out into the glorious light outside. We are content to remain rotting, dying, stinking of evil and chained to a destiny of death. What shall we say to these things?

Thanks be to God, who rescues us through Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 7:25)

Jesus Christ comes to us as the full and embodied presence of God. He is the sun itself, the fountain of goodness, the beautiful stream, the wholeness of Deity (Colossians 1:19). He arrives to demonstrate to us the reality of what the shadows in the world point us to.

This mysterious God is no longer mysterious. The veil has been torn. God has, as it were, kissed his bride, creation, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus beckons us to look beyond the shadows. The goodness of things like food and drink are not real—they point to the reality of the life-giving presence of God in bodily form (John 6:55). It is only through this bodily form that we come to know what we sensed all along in the shadows of life. The God who has always been here, symbolized for us by the things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4) like marriage and friendship, has come as a person we can touch, see, hear, and love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

Through his birth, through his teachings, through his ministry, through his passion, through his resurrection, we come to find—at lastthe God in whom we exist. It is he who has loved us and sustained us all along, and it is he whom we must stop running away from. We must leave the far country and come back to our Father’s house.

There, he will wipe away every tear. There, he will reinstate us as sons and daughters. There, he will unleash the floodgates of his brilliant and infinite creativity, inviting us to explore, create, enjoy, and live peacefully within him for eternity.

May we, in view of this marvelous reality we live in, say with Paul:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.


Submission: The Key to Harmony in the Home and Society

My wife and I chanced upon a local dog park one afternoon. We had just gotten a new puppy, so we decided to take him to learn how to socialize with other dogs and humans.

The first afternoon was so intense for me. This was my first time in a dog park. The dogs were running all over the place, wrestling with one another, growling, and doing all sorts of other crazy things. I didn’t understand how they interacted. As I kept my eye on our puppy, Augustine, I saw him timidly wagging his tale, chasing the pack at a distance, sniffing other dogs, and laying down whenever another dog would approach him. He was shy and unsure, naturally.

The next few days, emboldened, he was now running crazily around the dog park like the others. Perhaps he was even a bit too excited, because more than once an older, larger dog had to growl at him and force him to lay on the ground. The other owner had to run and grab his dog to prevent what seemed like the buildup to a dog fight. Augustine, as I read later, had not learned how to submit properly.

Our puppy is now a bit older and knows how to socialize with other dogs now. He has learned that he needs to have a posture of submission. He knows what causes a dog fight. It’s when two aggressive dogs, both seeking to assert dominance over the other, refuse to submit to the other. The dogs declare to one another, “Me first!” The result is usually a few embarrassed owners, a soured atmosphere in the park, and expensive bills from the vet.

This experience at the dog park was a microcosm of how similarly relationships within the home, the church, and society work. Reading through the book of Ephesians, I saw that Paul was essentially dealing with the same problem of dog fights so-to-speak, only within the Church. The whole letter, as is often taught, is about unity. But what does that look like and how is it achieved? Seeing the dog park analogically helped me to get a better sense of this.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

Paul, in the book of Ephesians, goes to great lengths to describe what Jesus Christ has done here on earth. In a summary statement, he tells his readers, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:1-2).

God’s example = The way of love = The sacrifice of Christ

This simple formula is the spine of the whole point Paul is making. Christ’s sacrifice is the blueprint design for how Christians are to relate to other Christians—and, by extension, everyone else.

How precisely does this submission work? First, he looks to the home:

  1. Wives deeply respecting their husbands (22-24)
  2. Husbands dearly sacrificing and loving their wives (25-33)
  3. Children dutifully obeying their parents (6:1-3)
  4. Parents decently rearing and teaching their children (6:4)

The common thread between all of them is a posture of submission. It is not simply the wife who must submit. The husband must submit to his wife, too (notice that he receives far more admonition than the wife!). Both spouses have their own unique way of playing the role of Jesus. But the common thread is submission, declaring “You first,” not “Me first.”

Then, in the rest of chapter six, he describes our struggle with the rest of society, exhorting Christians to take up the armor of light. Interestingly, none of the weapons are inherently offensive weapons except the sword of the Spirit, a sword which is really a sword of healing. What, after all, is the point of the Word of God other than to call sinners to healing in the risen Savior? What is the point of wearing the armor if not to defend against the world in the struggle to do God’s rescuing work within it?  This means the armor of light is others-focused. It functions as the battle armor for the medic in the battle of redemption. In society, too, therefore, we submit ourselves to our neighbors in love and declare to them, “You first.”

Paul’s theme, then, is certainly unity. But the means by which he says we will arrive at this unity is submission. We must submit to each other and adopt the sacrificial attitude of Jesus Christ.

This requires a lot more strength than the alternative. It is easy to let our anger burn and our ego flare. It is easy to lash out at our detractors and to fight against each other in a bitter struggle over dominance. This is the behavior of dogs. The way of the cross stands starkly opposed to this dark chasm of a dog eat dog world. In Jesus’ kingdom, it’s you first, not me first. Therein is the gospel, and therein we discover the key to harmony in our discordant world.

This blog post was born out of a frustrating conversation with a student who believes that lashing out is the better way to deal with relational issues.

The Lottery: A Tale of Two Powers

Today, I was tempted to purchase a lottery ticket. I’ve always been opposed to the lottery, not so much because I think it’s somehow inherently evil, but because, on a practical level, I’ve never understood why anyone would invest in such ridiculous odds.

Well, today, I honestly felt the allurement of buying a ticket.

“One billion dollars. It is physically impossible to spend this amount of money, no matter what crazy stuff you spend it on,” said a coworker today. Everyone was buzzing about it at work.

My mind began to imagine the possibilities of what I could spend the money on. At that amount, I would be at the level of an insurance company. I could create a self-multiplying fund, meaning an endless amount of money for generations. I could fund missionaries all over the world. I could plant churches and establish charities. I would not have to worry about the struggle of paying bills, and neither would my friends and family. I could be a real power in the world.

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)

I had to take a step back. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with wealth, I knew. But what I was seeing in my imagination was the age old tale of two powers. It is one of those ancient tales that gets retold every generation. It is the tale of Adam, of Abraham, of Jacob, of Saul, of Hezekiah, and ultimately of Jesus. It is the tale of strength and weakness.

Where does a man find power? In strength or in weakness? This question is posed throughout history, and throughout history the universal answer has always been ‘strength.’ That is, mankind has always sought power by means of strength. He has always looked to his physical ability, to his circle of influence, and ultimately to his wealth. These things, he thinks, are the means of his power. And it is always, always the source of power which becomes the source of trust.

When Jesus arrives on the scene, suddenly the world gets flipped on its head. Suddenly we begin to see a paradigm shift. The Devil offers him the wealth and power of the world, and he says, ‘no.’ He refuses such a position of worldly power and embraces the life of a poor carpenter and itinerant rabbi. Instead of taking up an earthly throne, he takes up a wooden cross. Instead of living the good life, he dies the worst death imaginable.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

The person who best captures this upside-down living is the Apostle Paul, who, when tormented by a thorn in the flesh, realizes that it is in fact the thorn which makes him strong.

It hit me. When we are weak, then we are strong. I don’t need the lottery, and neither does any Christian, because it is when we are weak that our strength is fully realized.

It is when we are most dependent upon God that his power starts to become fully manifest in our lives.

How else does a bunch of Jewish peasants overturn the world? They had nothing, yet they had everything, because God was working in their nothingness to showcase his glory. This is the reason Gideon had to work with such few men. This is the reason the young David had to be the one to conquer Goliath. This is the reason little Israel was to be the country which birthed the Messiah. It is because God must be the clear source of power, not gold or chariots.

The tale of two powers is the tale of a very famous paradox. That is, true power is found in weakness. This is because weakness is the ground that God loves to plant himself in. And where God is, there the true power lies.

We don’t need the lottery money. We need more of the Spirit of the living God.

The Resolutions That Shaped Me

Five years ago, I was perusing the dusty and untouched religion section in the Santa Monica College library. Nobody had touched these books in ages.

It was no accident that I happened to stumble upon a name that I had seen before in a high school textbook. By no stroke of luck, I stumbled upon the writings of a man who would set me on course from being a goofy, lazy, messy-haired teenager into a focused, intense, and intentional younger man.

Encountering Jonathan Edwards was one of the turning points in my Christian walk. Foremost among his writings in my mind are the Resolutions. Reading through these, I found a comrade, a brother, a like-minded young man who shared my zealous interest in following Christ.

This New Years’, if you are thinking about writing some resolutions for yourself, consider looking through Edwards’ resolutions first. I am confident you will find inspiration to not only be more Christ-centered in your goals, but also motivation to really follow through.

Below, I have pasted the Resolutions as Edwards wrote them. Enjoy.


The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don’t hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is

perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Proverbs 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no; except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

44- Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July ii, and July 13.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14′ and July ’3′ 1723.

64. Resolved, when I find those “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those “breakings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear’, of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Four Views on the Bible’s Origin

Positions on the Issue

Neo-Orthodoxy: Karl Barth

The first position we will examine is the Neo-Orthodox position. This view is represented by Karl Barth, who wrote extensively on inspiration. Barth and those who follow him in the Neo-Orthodox tradition hold that inspiration is “the effective powers by which God discloses himself freely to men, making them accessible to himself and so on their part free for him.” This inspiration then is essentially a type of transcendent communication from God to man. Barth explains this further in his writings, arguing that upon the moment of inspiration into an individual reading the Bible that “the Bible therefore becomes God’s Word in this event.”

The Bible, then, is not an objectively inspired document, which is to say it does not stand by itself as a document which contains the word of God as breathed out by him. It is a vehicle by which inspiration occurs at certain places to certain people. Hence, inspiration is subjective in this sense. It does not occur only to those reading or writing the Bible, but it can occur on multiple levels, which might be “affirmations of theology,” the “history of salvation and revelation,” the “hearing and speech of biblical witnesses,” and the “being and act of the community,” among others.

Preaching and meditation are others vehicles by which those of the Neo-Orthodox tradition see inspiration as occurring. This multi-faceted level of inspiration is the hallmark of this position because inspiration here is not limited to the Scriptures, nor is it inherently a quality of the Scriptures. By nature of the way Neo-Orthodox theologians define inspiration, that is, a subjective communication from God that can be transmitted via different vehicles, inspiration must necessarily be broader to include Scripture but not be limited to Scripture. It is sort of the wind or atmosphere that carries men to the Word of God, influencing hearts and minds in transcendent fashion. Its nature is not explicitly clear according to Neo-Orthodox theologians, only that it is some form of power that influences the mind and heart.

Barth would say this act of inspiration continually occurs today and certainly must occur as a means of salvation. Considering the early church in Acts, Barth concludes, “It was a result of this spirare and inspirare that the Word was understood and accepted by three thousand people.” Peter’s sermon in Acts is understood to be inspired by God, and likewise Peter’s hearers are recipients of this inspired sermon and are inspired to receive it as the Word of God, granting them salvation. This is therefore how the Neo-Orthodox define the doctrine of inspiration.

Roman Catholicism

The second position we will examine is the Roman Catholic position. While we could explore the different speculations and theories that the church’s theologians take on inspiration, we will limit ourselves to official dogma because we are interested in a strictly official Roman Catholic position. As such, we will look to Dei Verbum, wherein much of its doctrine of inspiration is contained. The church proclaims that the “Old and New Testaments” are “sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author.” They would see the Scriptures as having dual authorship, both human and divine. The divine authorship does not override or supersede the human authorship according to the church, for interpreters are exhorted to determine “what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.” In other words, inspiration is defined not as dictation, but as a divine influence of thought such that the human words of Scripture convey exactly what God intended, a process which might be called confluence.

What makes the Roman Catholic position unique, however, is that it believes that the church itself is inspired as well. While Dei Verbum does not explicitly state that the church is inspired per se, it makes statements that necessarily imply it. The inspired Apostles not only presented the word of God through one stream, Scripture, but also through another, tradition.

Tradition in the church receives a continuous supply of inspiration as it develops doctrine through official dogma: “This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.” While not explicitly labeled inspiration, this is most certainly inspiration, for it is revelation from God being transmitted through human vessels by means of a divine confluence of thought. Hence, as time moves forward, inspiration continues to flow into the church, and it “constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.” Further proof is seen when the council calls both Scripture and tradition as being “from the same divine wellspring.” Thus, we see that the Roman Catholic Church sees inspiration as occurring in both the Scriptures as well as sacred church tradition.

The Limited (Liberal) Position

The third position we will examine is the Limited position. This position is referred to as such because of its view of inspiration as being limited in extent. The Limited position defines inspiration as the divine influence of thought on humans, both the writers of the Bible and the individuals and communities of the world. However, what is unique about this position is that inspiration is always constrained. It does not reach into all thoughts of people, nor does it dictate words. It reaches only to certain categories of thought, but does not infringe into other areas.

Regarding inspiration’s influence on the biblical authors, God inspires theological statements and matters of faith, but no further. Inspiration does not occur in matters of historical, scientific, or social data in the Scriptures. Data such as measurements, dates, observations of natural events, societal ethics, and other matters which are not distinctly theological or pertaining to faith are seen as being untouched by inspiration. What this means is that the Scriptures are primarily the work of human authors without any divine influence. Only the theological matters are influenced by the divine, but the rest of it is prone to error.

Regarding this, Jack Rogers, a prominent theologian of this position, states, “Of course the Bible is error-ridden. The divine author was limited to and by the imperfect human writers he had to use in preparing it.” Hence, we see that inspiration in the Scripture is seen as being limited and not extending into all words or ideas of the authors. It remains, however, a medium by which humanity apprehends “normative divine revelation,” or that which is theological or pertaining to faith, such as love, integrity, hope, and other concepts. It is normative in the sense that it is not exclusive. It occurs elsewhere outside the circle of biblical authors.

What we see, then, is that the Limited position views inspiration as occurring in individuals and the community. Jack Rogers writes that God’s divine truth is being transmitted in an “ongoing work of the Spirit in the community, as discerned by critical rational judgment.” In other words, inspiration is continually flowing into the community of individuals in the world. Love, hope, faith, etc. are concepts which are being breathed out from God into the hearts and minds of people. While part of that inspiration touched the authors of the Bible, such inspiration also touches others as well, and does so perpetually throughout the ages. Such inspiration does not penetrate or dictate the minds or hearts of its vessels. It only influences them in a limited way, constrained to theology and faith. This is why it is categorized as limited.

Against These Positions

Plenary Verbal

In opposition to the three positions previously mentioned, I will argue in favor of the fourth position, Plenary Verbal inspiration. I will seek to explain the tenets of the position and argue from both a textual and historical standpoint that the position is verifiably the most reasonable among the four and therefore the most accurate position.

First, it is necessary to begin by defining our terms. The word ‘inspiration’ refers to the act of God by which he speaks through the instrument of a human. This definition will be further unpacked as Scripture references are considered. However, of consideration first is the word ‘plenary.’ The word plenary may simply be defined as ‘all’ or ‘complete.’ What is meant by this is the whole or entirety down to the very parts. ‘All’ here refers to both the whole and every part down to the smallest unit.

Similarly, what is meant by ‘Verbal’ is the content of the Scriptures in their original manuscripts. While it is understood firstly that Plenary refers to the capacity of inspiration, verbal describes what the object of inspiration is: the original manuscripts of the biblical canon. Precisely what part of the Scriptures is in view? All of the “verbal relationships” contained within the original manuscripts ranging from the whole of the book down to the letter is meant. In other words, every word contained within the Bible is inspired.

Given an understanding of what is meant by the Plenary Verbal position, a careful examination of the Scriptures will reveal that this position is attested to and justified. While I will not attempt an exhaustive list of all the proofs which may be presented, I will examine the strongest which will be sufficient to justify the claim.

First, the Apostle Paul attests to a Plenary Verbal position. In his second letter to Timothy, he writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The word γραφὴ is here used as a technical term for the Scriptures. Warfield notes that it is used by Philo and Josephus and other first century writers to refer to the Hebrew canon. Further, the New Testament writers themselves use the word some 50 times, either in the plural or the singular, in reference to Old Testament. All (πᾶσα) of the Old Testament writings are θεόπνευστος, or breathed out by God, says Paul. The Scriptures, with the Old Testament in mind here, are described as being fully inspired without exception. Everything that is therefore called γραφὴ is θεόπνευστος, or has its origin from God. Noting our definitions above, this is in accordance with the Plenary Verbal position because every part of the writings of the Old Testament are considered to be from God. But given that the position posits that the biblical canon is inspired, further examination must be made to see whether or not inspiration extends to the biblical canon.

Paul in his letters to Timothy does not limit his scope of Scripture to the Old Testament, however, but also quotes another part of the biblical canon, namely the book of Luke: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Tim. 5:18). The first quotation is from the book of Deuteronomy, a book which is from the Old Testament. Paul calls this quotation Scripture in accordance with the doctrine he set forth in his second letter to Timothy. However, right next to the quotation from Deuteronomy is a quotation from Luke 10:7. This, too, Paul calls Scripture. By way of reason, it is understood from our definition of Scripture that Paul is explicitly calling a New Testament book inspired. He quotes the New Testament as part of the technical category of the God-breathed Scripture. On what basis is Paul’s claim valid? It is valid based upon his own writings being inspired.

Beyond the Old Testament and the book of Luke, Paul’s own writings are described as being inspired. The Apostle Peter writes explicitly, “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16). Notice that Peter attributes the technical term γραφὰς (here used in its plural form) to refer to Paul’s writings. Reasoning from the definition of Scripture from 2 Tim. 3:16, Paul’s writings must be inspired as well. However, we must be careful to say only his original manuscripts are inspired. The reason for this is Peter’s statement that the letters from Paul’s letters alone (that is to say not any erroneous copies of his letters) are Scripture. The originals are what are inspired. This fact may be deduced from an understanding of the extent of inspiration which will be further discussed. Nevertheless, it is clear from Peter’s testimony that Paul’s original writings are considered inspired.

Peter’s own writings may be considered inspired on the basis of John 14:26 wherein the Apostles (of which Peter was the chief) are promised the teaching of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’s death. Peter’s inspired teachings found their way into the book of Mark which accounts for the inspired nature of that book. The writings of John, being also an Apostle and recipient of the promise of John 14:26, must also be considered inspired. The book of Acts, being the second part of Luke which we have already proven to be inspired, must also be inspired. And so on the argument goes (which space does not permit us to venture into) until the biblical canon is proven to be inspired. In other words, the self-attestation of Scripture is proof of its own inspiration. But what of the extent of inspiration? How do we know that inspiration occurs down to the very verbal relationships? This we will turn our attention to next.

Inspiration, as noted in our definition in the Plenary Verbal sense, occurs down to the verbal relationships. This may be proved from several examples. First, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, his argument from Scripture is based upon a certain form of a word: “He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:16). Paul, quoting from the Old Testament, explains that the usage of the singular seed (σπέρματί) is evidence of there being one seed in mind, namely Christ. Paul, the very man who explained that all of Scripture is breathed out by God, quotes from Scripture in such a way that reveals its inspired authority residing in the words themselves. If this were not true, then Paul would not have made the argument based on the plural form of a word. The same kind of argument is used by Jesus in Matthew 22:43 wherein the tense of the word κυρίῳ is evidence of the Christ’s lordship over David. Further, Revelation 22:19 proclaims a warning for anyone who adds or takes away a word from the book. Clearly, the extent of inspiration is down to the very words and verbal relationships, precisely in accordance with the Plenary Verbal position.

Historically, this position can be supported and verified by the church, although for the sake of brevity I will not be able to list all of the primary sources. Warfield ventures to say, “The earliest writers know no other doctrine.” He goes on in the same chapter to consider Polycarp, Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the Puritans and many of the Reformed confessions of faith, arguing that Plenary Verbal inspiration was the de facto position of the church. Indeed, when one examines the writings of the early church, one finds that the Scriptures undeniably held supreme authority as the inspired word of God. We shall look to some examples.

First, note the wording of the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God. The Westminster Confession sees inspiration occurring down to the very words of the original texts of Hebrew and Greek, i.e. verbal inspiration. Furthermore, in the same chapter, the confession holds that the biblical canon in its entirety is inspired, i.e. plenary inspiration. This is one significant confession which the church has produced which clearly adopts the Plenary Verbal.

Going even further, Norman Geisler, in an article about inspiration and inerrancy, is confident enough to state that, “The divinely authoritative basis for the teaching of the Christian church is evident both implicitly and explicitly in the earliest general creeds of the church.” In other words, plenary verbal inspiration, the necessary grounds for the authority of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Christian church, is assumed throughout much of church history.

Objections to Verbal Plenary?

There are two important objections made against the Plenary Verbal inspiration position which need to be addressed.

The first objection is that the Bible contains errors and therefore cannot be divinely inspired. Indeed, we can agree that the mark of divinity is errorless perfection. This is perhaps the most common objection raised against the position. In response to this, I would give two points. The first is that, in accordance with its definition, Plenary Verbal inspiration extends only to the original autographs. To cite well-known errors in the copies of the autographs, therefore, is a red herring. The erroneous copies are irrelevant insofar as they do not represent the original autographs. Second, the assertion that the original autographs contain errors is an extremely difficult case to make. Critical scholarship has been attempting to do this for the past few centuries, but among scholars there has been no consensus reached. In fact, it is just as well argued that the original autographs as we can represent them contain no errors. This is well-attested to by many evangelical scholars. As such, this objection is inconclusive at best and requires a much more lengthy discussion.

The second objection is in regards to Scripture’s self-attestation to its inspiration. Scripture, it is objected, does not claim itself to be wholly inspired down to the very words. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 and Peter in 1 Peter 1:21 do not explicitly say that God’s influence extends down into the very words. However, this is easily refuted. As noted in our earlier section, arguments in the letters of Paul and the sayings of Jesus are rooted in the finest details in Scripture down to the letter. They assume the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture. This is the meaning of πᾶσα γραφὴ. It cannot be refuted, based on evidence given above with particular attention given to Scripture’s own use of Scripture, that the Scripture attests itself to be plenary verbally inspired.

10 Tips for Married Couples on Avoiding Quarrels

After three years of ministry, I have found that there are few areas of life that cause more hurt than marriage. Couples are wrongly divorcing left and right, and many today are struggling to find joy or peace with their spouse. It breaks my heart to hear children tell me about the fighting that goes on between their parents. I desperately desire that we recover the principles of biblical marriage, marriage the way God intended it to be.

I was reading a nice little book written by one of my professors, Robert Plummer & Matt Haste, entitled Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past. I was particularly impressed by the entry from the Puritan, Richard Baxter. It’s a refreshing list of practical tips for a husband and wife to get along well and, above that, to prosper in their marriage.

My hope is that this practical list elucidates and expands on what the Bible means when it says that husbands must love their wives and wives must respect their husbands. A prosperous and enjoyable and honorable marriage is not just a heavenly ideal. It is a reality that can be put into practice today.

While such lists are helpful, only a living and active relationship with God can solve deep-seated problems. He has given us the church and pastors for these kinds of issues, so if you are experiencing such turbulence in your marriage, seek out the church first, and let such advice as this be mere supplement.

1. Keep alive your love for one another. Love your spouse dearly and fervently. Love will suppress wrath; you cannot be bitter over little things with someone you dearly love; much less will you descend to harsh words, aloofness, or any form abuse.

2. Both husband and wife must mortify their pride and strong self­-centered feelings. These are the feelings which cause intolerance and insensitivity. You must pray and labour for a humble, meek, and quiet spirit. A proud heart is troubled and provoked by every word that seems to assault your self­-esteem.

3. Do not forget that you are both diseased persons, full of infirmities; and therefore expect the fruit of those infirmities in each other; and do not act surprised about it, as if you had never known of it before. Decide to be patient with one another; remembering that you took one another as sinful, frail, imperfect persons, and not as angels, or as blameless and perfect.

4. Remember still that your are one flesh; and therefore be no more offended with the words or failings of each other, than you would be if they were your own. Be angry with your wife for her faults no more than you are angry with yourself for your own. Have such an anger and displeasure against a fault, as will work to heal it; but not such as will cause festering and aggravation of the diseased part. This will turn anger into compassion, and will cause you to administer care for the cure.

5. Agree together beforehand, that when one of you is sinfully angry and upset the other shall silently and gently bear it until you have come to your sanity.

6. Have an eye to the future and remember that you must live together until death, and must be the companions of each other’s lives, and the comforts of each other’s lives, and then you will see how absurd it is for you to disagree and upset each other.

7. As far as you are able, avoid all occasions of wrath and quarreling, about the matters of your families.

8. If you are so angry that you cannot calm yourself at least control your tongue and do not speak hurtful and taunting words, talking it out hotly fans the fire, and increases the flame; (Do not ventilate your anger as you only feed your fleshly vengeance) Be silent, and you will much sooner return to your serenity and peace.

9. Let the calm and rational spouse speak carefully and compellingly reason with the other (unless it be with a person so insolent as will make things worse). Usually a few sober, grave admonitions, will prove as water to the boiling pot. Say to your angry wife or husband, “You know this should not be between us; love must put it to rest, and it must be repented of. God does not approve of it, and we shall not approve of it when this heat is over. This frame of mind is contrary to a praying frame, and this language contrary to a praying language; we must pray together; let us do nothing contrary to prayer now: sweet water and bitter come not from one spring”, etc. Some calm and condescending words of reason, may stop the torrent, and revive the reason which passion had overcome.

10. When you have sinfully acted towards your spouse confess to one another; and ask for forgiveness of each other, and join in prayer to God for pardon; and this will act as a preventative in you the next time: you will surely be ashamed to do that which you have confessed and asked forgiveness for of God and man.

Growing Lazy: An Incomplete Thought on Strictness and Asceticism

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25)


What Paul says here is thematic for the issue I am wrestling through. Reading through some of the early Church Fathers has prompted me to reexamine the laxity of my lifestyle.

For quite a long time I have wrestled with the tension of liberality vs. strictness. I began my Christian walk by reading through various Puritan and Protestant writers, and I was deeply impacted by these men of almost superhuman discipline. Men like Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and even Isaac Newton left craters in my mind as I read about how strictly they maintained their diet (almost to the point of continual fasting), their sleep (Owen was noted in his years at Oxford to have kept himself to four hours a night), and their work habits (Edwards famously but only supposedly studied for 13 hours a day).

There was almost a degree of asceticism. The amount of discipline and control they had over their life made a deep impression upon me as a younger man. It drove me to be more ascetic and disciplined in my own life, because I knew I had a propensity for laziness.

This kind of asceticism is demonstrated in early Church Fathers like Anthony of the Desert, who wrote in On the Character of Men that the intelligent man “disciplines his soul.” For his own life, that discipline looked like selling all his possessions and going into the desert to practice a solitary monastic lifestyle. For men like Augustine of Hippo, that discipline looked like giving up the woman he loved and confining himself to singleness and monasticism.

If indeed Christians are to be a separate people, these men certainly went extreme in making themselves separate. It reminds us of John the Baptist, who himself seemed to live an almost ascetic lifestyle. His clothes were “made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey” (Mat. 3:4), a clear reference to John’s similarity to Elijah. Asceticism is not an early church invention, but something rooted in the prophets of God.


On other hand, there is a sense in which we are people of abundance and liberality. Jesus himself was a man who dined often with sinners to the point that he was mistaken for a drunkard (Mt.  11:19).

This is my natural affinity. I would argue also that this is the affinity of every single human being. To be strict and ascetic is quite unnatural. We are built for rest, for enjoyment, for ease.

Necessary but Temporary

Why then are we urged to compete strictly in our Christian walk as a Roman or Greek athlete would compete for first place in the games? I think the answer lies in the doctrine of the sabbath. Pressing deeper, it actually goes all th way back to the first page of the Bible.

When God first rested, he established a paradise, a quality of existence in which all things were very good. The Fall brought with it the separation of mankind from this rest of God. He says in Psalm 95 that the stubborn Israelites of the wilderness wandering generation were to “never enter My rest.” This separation is what caused man to have to sweat to earn his bread. This separation, I think, is at the heart of the need for an ascetic disposition.

Staring into the future eschatological paradise of rest, the author of Hebrews instructs us to “make every effort to enter that rest” (Heb. 4). This is the answer to the dilemma.

This sojourn that we endure here in this age is a temporary state which demands for rigorous and perhaps even ascetic effort to prepare for and establish in the present the future rest of God. Our present state in a fallen world calls us to strictness, but only temporarily as a means to an end. The goal then is the restoration of liberality and ease in the rest of God as we partake of him and bask under his sunshine as the rulers of the created order.

A lazy or overindulging Christian, therefore, suffers from an over realized eschatology. Indeed, God would have us to rest, but not yet. The dawn has begun to crack, and the true light is already shining, but it has not arrived in full day as of yet. The call of the Christian is still to rigorous and strict training in preparation for and as a means to that final rest.

Real Food and Real Drink: Heavenly Shadows

Over the past month, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the tremendous gravity of what Jesus said in John 6:55.

For my flesh is real (ἀληθής) food and my blood is real drink.

His flesh is true, real food. But real in contrast to what? Jesus is speaking in reference to the physical bread that came down to feed the Israelites in the wilderness (v. 49). The Israelites ate this food and died, he says. He is not bringing this kind of food again. He is bringing what he calls real food and drink.

It’s this idea of real food over and against normal food that staggers me. It seems to suggest that normal food is a shadow. It’s this idea of shadow vs. reality that I want to call attention to.

In some sense, according to Jesus, normal food is not real food. The manna which came from heaven went into the bellies of the Israelites and went out in order to give them some semblance of life. It went into their digestive system, was processed and broken down, and then its nutrients distributed throughout their bodies so that they could continue to live.

Normal food works just like the manna. A steak is a cow killed on our behalf so that we can take its nutrients. A carrot is a vegetable plucked from the ground so that we can absorb its calories.  Jesus’ statement extends beyond manna and unveils a fundamental truth about the way the universe works. I will try to illustrate briefly, then, that food is a shadow of a divine reality.

Consider a steak. It is a cow that is slaughtered, cooked, and presented to be eaten and absorbed. When we eat a steak, we are absorbing its energy. The same might be said of an apple. The apple is plucked from the life-giving source, the tree, and its life absorbed into our own. This principle of life for life is the fundamental idea behind food. That is why we cannot survive upon non-life such as dirt as our food.

Is it a mere coincidence that food works this way? Is it a mere coincidence that life being sacrificed to give life is the essence of what food is?

Jesus is saying that normal food is a mere shadow. It is a type (I use that word loosely). It gives life to some degree, but it cannot do so fully. Why? It is because it is not real food!

The real food is actually the source of life itself. The very fountain of life is God. As Paul explained on the Areopagus, we have our being in God. God is the fountainhead of being, life, and existence. From him and to him and through him are all things.

Jesus explains: I am the real food. His flesh, which he was to “give to the world” (6:51), was his bodily sacrifice on the cross, the sacrifice that gives us access to God and allows us to become one with his life-giving essence. It is his flesh and his blood that grants us access to drink from the fountain of life.

In a representative way, his flesh and blood are the real food and drink, because it was his flesh that was sacrificed and his blood that was given on our behalf in order that we might become one with God by that sacrifice and thereby feed upon the substance of God given to us by his Spirit.

To really eat, then, is to have faith in Christ (6:35), because it is by faith that we are able to partake of the source of life Himself. When we eat this real food, we do not just receive life for our bodies. We receive life in its fullness. Our souls are lifted up on wings like eagles, our minds are renewed, and the sting of death is lost on our bodies by the power of the resurrection.

Those who rely upon ordinary, earthly food will die and waste away in both body and soul. But the one who feasts upon the substance of God in Christ Jesus are renewed day by day inwardly, and the waters of life will fill that person until the day when, like a great dam, God lifts us up to his glory in resurrection and allows the fullness of life to flood the entire creation and restore paradise.

The Main Reason I Reject the Authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church

The reason is that the Roman Catholic Church skews the gospel.

I will compare official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church with the teaching of the Apostle Paul in the Bible.

1) First, the teaching of the Roman Church:

“If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Sixth Session)

Notice that works are said to be the cause of increase of justification, our right standing before God.

2) Second, compare with the teaching of the Apostle Paul:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Paul explains that our right standing before God is only by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast. Works do not cause salvation. They follow, or are the fruit of salvation (see the following verse, v. 10).

3) The discrepancy is obvious. The Council of Trent specifically says that anyone seeing works as not the cause of justification is anathema, or cursed. This is in direct contrast to the original teaching of the Apostle, who elsewhere says the reverse (cf. Galatians 1:9).

4) This is why I do not accept the authority of the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church. They have drifted from the teaching of the Apostles in regard to salvation by grace through faith, a core tenant of the gospel. This changes the message of Jesus Christ. It undermines the grace of God. It is altogether a different gospel (cf. Galatians 1:6-7), one that has no authority and one that must be rejected.

Story is Time and Space

Story Found in the Fabric of the Universe

The longer I meditate on the history of the world, the more I see time and space as the unfolding of God’s cosmic novel.

From the beginning, there were laws which governed how everything would operate. There were the laws of physics which were set to govern the material world. There were the laws of morality which were set to govern the interactions of creation. There were the laws of logic which were set to govern how the moral and material order were to operate. There were the laws of metaphysics which govern the unknown world behind what we can sense.

All of these laws are emanations from God, proceeding from his very own being, reflecting the essence of who he is. These laws existed before creation because they are extensions of God. They were the wind behind the wave of the universe. They are the foundation underneath the stage, which is ultimately the world itself, which moves progressively forward from its inception to its redemption.

These laws demonstrate that there is an order to the world. Within this order there would unfold a story. It is the story of time and space, the history of the world spanning from Genesis 1:1 to the present time. This is God’s format of communication.

This format goes far beyond what text is capable of communicating. Consider the difference of writing about consummating a marriage and the experience of doing so. While both formats are capable of transmitting the same proposition, one form is clearly superior in communicating it.

Thus, I find myself challenged by the notion that truth is not merely propositional. Truth is not merely 1+1=2. That is one way of using symbols borrowed from the Arabic numbering system to communicate the idea, but it is not the truth itself. Truth rather exists ontologically within God’s own being. It finds objective existence in God’s own nature.

Truth, then, is most fully expressed in time and space. Time and space provide a format for the communication, or the unfolding, of these truths bound up in God. In this format, truth is experiential. It is participational. We are able to grasp God’s being in the deepest possible way by being in his story. And therefore we see that time and space is the story of God himself, and our participation in life is simply our reception of his nature. Day to day indeed pours forth speech.

In sum, the universe in all its complexities is one big novel written by God to display himself. It is one big play structured to reveal his own character. It is one big orchestral piece set to display the composition of his own being.

Story Applied to Communication

The Bible, then, reads like the synopsis on the back page. It is not the story in and of itself, but rather the summary. It is not the play, but rather the playwright’s notes. It is not the music, but rather the sheet notations. It presents the metanarrative of what God is writing, acting, and playing. It does so in a rich, complex way through poetry, through personal diary entries, through history, through proverb, through letter, through visions, and so on. But all of these things work together as parts to the whole story, the grand metanarrative of the world.

The longer I think on this, the more I see the need to communicate in ways more expressive than propositional, expositional sermons. Thinking through the way God communicates through time and space is helping me to see the rich and complex ways God communicates himself and how we as his image bearers may also communicate.

What I am finding in my desire to communicate these truths is that there is welling up inside of me a story. I am finding a story beginning to boil and foment into fiction.

I do not believe that Jesus told stories simply to veil truth. I think he was doing something very normative of God. He was revealing truth in progressive storyline, a superior form of communication that finds its foundation in the nature of the world itself.

In that vein, my thoughts are beginning to condense into what I think will be my magnus opus. Fictional pieces like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia stand as towering blueprints of what I want to produce. More than that, I am finding that the model of expositional preaching I use must be modified to go beyond mere information transfer. I want my listeners to be able to be sucked up into the story of redemption and transformed by the experience of knowing the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Again, this is where the need for a fully comprehensive biblical theology is necessary.