Daniel's thoughts

Hebrews 6:19. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

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Location: La Junta, CO, United States

I am originally from Western Nebraska. My beautiful wife’s name is Shelley. We have two kids. Our daughter’s name is Mae. Our son is Noah. I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton Grad School. I blog on Biblical theology and exegesis. I’m a youth pastor in Eastern Colorado.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Are you sure that you want to say it like that?

Charles Simeon, a 18th century Calvinist preacher, made this astounding statement.
Of this he [speaking of himself in the third person] is sure, that there is not a decided Calvinist or Arminian in the world who equally approves of the whole of Scripture . . . who, if he had been in the company of St. Paul whilst he was writing his Epistles, would not have recommended him to alter one or other of his expressions.

But the author would not wish one of them altered; he finds as much satisfaction in one class of passages as another; and employs the one, he believes, as freely as the other. Where the inspired Writers speak in unqualified terms, he thinks himself at liberty to do the same; judging that they needed no instruction from him how to propagate the truth. He is content to sit as a learner at the feet of the holy Apostles and has no ambition to teach them how they ought to have spoken.

Romans 9: Background

Over the last few months, I've been posting on Romans 9. You can check out what I've posted thus far here and here and here.

Before I go any further in this series, I want to stop and evaluate a key concept in Paul's writings that plays into the subject at hand: the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. In my opinion, most of the teaching on this subject within the last 100 years has seriously abused the text. Most modern teachers believe in Romans and Galatians Paul describes the struggle that a Christian faces between two different metaphysical natures that are within the believer. The flesh is viewed as the old sinful nature (see the NIV). And the Spirit becomes a part of the new nature within the believer.

Growing up in a traditional Baptist church, I always had accepted this view. It wasn't until I took a class on Romans at Frontier that I began to see problems with this view. Something just didn't add up right. As I started to ask questions about the text, the teacher became frustrated with me and said that this is just the way it is. "That's what all the godly people I know believe." Since then, I have found that several great scholars have also questioned the two-nature scheme that is so popular today. I would recommend these books to those interested in the subject.

Gordon Fee has written an excellent book called Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. There's a couple of chapters on this subject.

Doug Moo's NICNT commentary on Romans is a powerhouse volume. He nails Romans 7. It's wonderful.

Walt Russell has written a great article on the subject that can be found in Christian Perspectives on Being Human edited by J.P. Moreland.

As I read Romans 7-8 and Galatians, I slowly began to realize that the two-nature scheme didn't cut it. As Walt Russell writes, "We have read Paul's descriptions of human behavior metaphysically, rather than historically. We have taken his ethical statements primarily as abstract anthropological descriptions of 'parts' of the Christian; rather than as historical descriptions of the whole identity of persons." In other words, Paul is not discussing to two different natures, but rather two different ways of living life. This is most obvious in Romans 8:5-11.

5For 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. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (ESV).
Start with v. 9. This is pretty clear. The person who is in the flesh cannot be a saved person. According to the text, this individual does not have the Spirit of God. This person does not belong to Christ. Then, look at v. 8. This person cannot please God. His mind is set on death and hostile to God and cannot submit to His laws. Those in the flesh must be unsaved people. On the other hand, the person, who is in the Spirit, belongs to Christ. His mind is set on life and peace and the things of the Spirit.

So as I read the text, this conclusion becomes obvious to me. You are either in the flesh or in the Spirit, but you can't be both. Gordon Fee writes, "The strong contrasts in Romans 8:5-8...do not deal with internal conflict. Paul is again describing the two kinds of existence, and indicating their utter incompatibility. Those who walk according to the flesh--and it is clear in context that this does not mean believers, but those still outside Christ--'have their minds set on what the flesh desires' (v. 5)....That simply does not describe Christian life, not in Paul and not anywhere else."

Friday, January 27, 2006


When I heard this quote, I stopped dead in its tracks. My friends, listen to the wisdom of Ravi Zacharias.

“Is it possible that somewhere in the deepest recesses of the human heart, we are really not battling intellectual ideas as much we fighting for the right for our own sexual proclivities and our passionate indulgences?”

Thursday, January 26, 2006


As I read Scripture, I often find a lot of tension between different texts. When I was younger, tension made me uncomfortable. Even today, sometimes tension makes me uneasy. However, I want to do justice to the Biblical authors. I want to understand their writings in a manner that they would approve of. The more that I try to do this, the more that I realize that often I try to oversimplify certain issues in the Bible. Let me give you an issue that stretches me. I don't know completely what I think about this issue, but I think that it is more difficult than I often thought it was.

I grew in a church that firmly taught eternal security. I love this doctrine. I memorized all of the prooftexts for eternal security in Sunday School. This doctrine still rings true to me. I work at a church where this doctrine is treasured. On the other hand, I know that there are passages in Scripture that provide a serious challenge to this view. Once I could spout out all the easy answers to refute the loss of salvation folk, but the more that I understand hermeneutics the more I'm worried that these answers might be too easy.

One major problem that I have noticed is that in Scripture the prooftexts used by the ES folks are often written side-by-side to the prooftexts used by the no-ES folks. For instance, John 10:25-30 provides us with a great assurance of salvation, but several chapters later John 15 gives us a severe warning of the consequences for apostasy. Romans 5:1-11 and Romans 8 are great passages for the ES folk. Romans 11:17-21 and Romans 14:15 provide the counterpoint. These verses are in the same letter. This troubles me. I don't get it. I used to just write the no-ES verses off with easy answers. "Those folks weren't really saved." "The consequences are just a loss of reward." I'm not sure that I buy that. Hebrews 7:25 and Hebrews 13:5 are great verses for the ES folk. Hebrews 6 and 10 aren't so hot.

In other words, there are great promises that assure us of final salvation in Scripture. I'm not so sure that we can write those off either, but the warnings are there. And we need to do something about them. I'm tired of easy answers. I'm learning to be happy with the tension.

Oh, No!

I must have started something. Check it out. Mike is giving his response to my uncompleted series on Romans 9. I need more energy! Must finish series. I must have ADHD or something. I'll write some more on Romans 9 eventually. (Silent groans from the Calvinist audience).


"The philosophical case against theism is rather easily dealt with. There is no philosophical case against theism." G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Genesis Poll

So over the last few months, I've been teaching through Genesis for our Sr. High Bible Study. The stories in Genesis are some of my favorites. So I thought that I would take poll on the stories in Genesis. Here's the question: "What is your favorite story in the book of Genesis? Why?"

My answer has to be the Joseph story. That's hands-down for me. It's a living breathing theodicy. Romans 8:28 in narrative. I love it. It has brought me a lot of comfort in tough times. So how about you?

The House

Over the last couple of the weeks I've been working on a catchy way to communicate my philosophy of ministry to folks in our ministry and in the church. Most of the time I'm not good at coming up with this sort of thing. My pride often gets in the way. I tend to think that I'm intellectually superior to those types of things. Catchy stuff is often trite and I think that it's silly to think that you can reduce the Christian life down to a slogan or motto. But as I work with my pastor, Dan Williams, I'm starting to see why this sort of thing is needed. Here's our work so far.

Here's our purpose statement.
CBC youth ministry seeks to enjoy God in the building and expanding of His family of Christ-followers.

We've tagged our group with the name Renovation. So we've using the illustration of a house.

Every house needs a foundation. The foundation is the very beginning of every building project. The same thing is true with the church. And there's only one foundation to the church and that's Jesus. As Paul writes in 1 Cor 3:10-11, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." Thus, the foundation of our youth ministry needs to teaching students to follow Jesus Christ. This process is often called discipleship.

Every house needs a roof. The roof is built out of trusts that tie everything in the house together. The roof also points upward. And that's why we are using the roof of the house to illustrate worship. John Piper puts it so well, "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him." That's what the church is all about.

That leaves us with the walls. In our illustration, the walls represent building and expanding God's family. The walls of a house are made up of individual 2- by-4's. Of course, those individual boards don't mean anything until they are tied in the foundation and the roof of house. That's true with us as well. So as a youth group, we want to be about building each other up through fellowship. That's what it means to be God's family. We also want to reach out to others through evangelism. Since Jesus is the most glorious, joy-giving person in the universe, we want to share Him with others. That's what the Great Commission is all about.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matt. 28:16-20.
This leads us to a couple of questions.

1. What is God's responsibility when it comes to the church?
  • The Father is the Designer of the house (Architect).
  • The Son is the Provider for the house (the Lumberyard).
  • The Holy Spirit is the Owner of the house (He lives there).
2. What is our responsibility when it comes to the church?

  • To follow the design of the Father.
  • To use the provision from the Son.
  • To submit to the intentions of the Owner.
Well, that's what I've done so far. Yeah, it's kinda trite, but I hope that it helps parents and kids understand why we do youth group in the way that we do.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Paul's use of καλέω

Check this out. Mike Garner has an interesting post on Romans 8:28-30. Here's a prior post of mine on the word "καλέω " in Paul's writings. Tell me what you think.

Where's Waldo?

Here's an interesting article that I found on Chris Tomlin's website. It's often difficult in ministry to bring balance between the need for relevancy and the need for Biblical truth. We often swing from one extreme to the other. Just check out this to see one extreme.

Monday, January 23, 2006

John Donne

The other day I ran across this poem. It's beautiful and moving, but at the same time kind of disturbing.

The Holy Sonnet 14
Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

I think that it's stuff like this that makes so many Arminians think that Calvinism teaches that God forces Himself upon the unbeliever. If I understand that last part correctly, then Donne compares the convert to a rape victim. Not a pretty picture. I realize that most Calvinists would be shocked at this and horrified by that comparison as well. But this is why Arminians often see Calvinism as teaching that God saves people against their will.

Five Years

This coming February will mark my fifth year as a youth pastor. Two years of that was spent as a part-time youth pastor and three years in full-time youth ministry. Last night I spent some time reflecting on the last five years. Those years were filled with ups-and-downs. When I think about those first couple years, I can't help but think that I had no business doing what I was doing. At 21, I was way too young for that kind of responsibility. I wasn't ready for that sort of pressure. I cringe when I remember some of the lessons that I first prepared. I can't believe that I taught some of those things. God, please forgive me.

The last three years have been better and I feel like I'm actually somewhat qualified for the position, but still everyday can be tough. Kids and parents can wear you out. The #1 reason that folks drop out of youth ministry is burn-out and there have been times that I've been awfully close. However, I still enjoy being around students. I enjoy seeing God change lives. It often happens in a different way than I expected, but it happens. I love to see students understand God's love for them and to hunger for knowing God. It's exciting to see where some of those students are now.

I remember talking to Mike Clement, the pastor of the church that I grew up in, not that long ago. He told me, "There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity, except for maybe suffering." I thought to myself, "Some shortcut." That statement continues to ring true in my life. Suffering draws my heart to Christ. It makes me long to know Him. The pressure that I've faced in youth ministry has done exactly this.

I hope that I've learned something in the last five years. I know that I have a long way to go and that I still don't know everything. (Wow! My parents would be shocked by that last statement.) Of course, God gives more grace. Father, please make me into the man that you want me to be.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Just One More Observation

I was looking at the passage in question one more time this morning when something hit me. (Maybe this has already been said, but I'm kind of dull at times.) Look at the question of the grumbling Jews in v. 41-42.

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"

Jesus asserts that he is bread from heaven. To the Jews this amounts to a claim to be God. They clearly understand the implication of His comment. So they respond by questioning his origin. "Isn't this Mary and Joseph's boy? We know His parents. How can He claim to be from heaven? How can He claim that God is His Father?"

These are the grumblings that Jesus responds to in v. 43-51.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The John 6 debate

Wow! I sense that this is getting kind of heated. Let's take a deep breath. We could be creating more heat than light. Do we need a group hug? However, I know some of you aren't satisfied. So if you're still in the mood for interacting on John 6, check out Nathan's well thought-out interpretation.

And here's Philo and Magnum's fine piece on John 6. I just found today that they aren't the same person. They are just friends.

Oh, yeah, here's my meager take on John 6.

Funny Stuff

Check this out. A little theological humor. It's irresistible.


The French mathematician Blaise Pascal may have been one of Christianity's most brilliant apologists. Unfortunately, Pascal's life was cut short by cancer at the age of 39. He was in the process of writing one of the best defenses of Christianity since the Reformation. Although Pascal wasn't able to finish his masterpiece, God has graced us with his notes. Listen to this.

What is nature in animals we call wretchedness in man, thus recognizing that, if his nature is today like that of the animals, he must have fallen from some better state which was once his own. Who indeed would think himself unhappy not to be king except one who had been dispossessed?...Who would think himself unhappy if he had only one mouth, and who would not if he had only one eye? It has probably never occurred to anyone to be distressed at not having three eyes, but those who have none are inconsolable.

If man had never been corrupted, he would, in his innocence, confidently enjoy both truth and felicity, and, if man had never been anything but corrupt, he would have no idea either of truth or bliss. But unhappy as we are, we have an idea of happiness but we cannot attain it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


During my junior year of college, something happened to me that has radically changed my life. While attending Frontier School of Bible in LaGrange, Wyoming, I met Rich Peterson, a pastor from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Instantly I loved Rich. He was bold, outspoken, and passionate about God's Word. So when Rich asked me if I wanted to meet him weekly to learn about hermeneutics, I quickly responded yes. I had never heard anyone teach the Bible with such clarity and passion. I enjoyed his challenge to read and study the Bible. As I met with Rich over the next two years, I realized that a careful study of the Bible requires a lot of work and effort. This requires a lot of reading. In preparation for our meetings, I would have to read and read and read a text over and over again. Rich introduced me to several very helpful books that I strongly recommend anyone interested in the subject of hermeneutics. If you want to teach the Bible, these are must reads.

How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. This was my favorite. If you read just one of these books, read this one.

Living by the Book
by Howard Hendricks. My father-in-law had Dr. Hendricks as a prof as Dallas. A couple years ago I met him at a Moody's Pastor's Conference. It was awesome.

The Modern Preacher and Ancient Text
by Sidney Greidanus. This book is excellent, but it's definitely not for the beginner.

He Gave Us Stories by Richard Pratt. Here's a great study on OT narratives.

Exegetical Fallacies
by D.A. Carson. Carson makes some excellent observations on the study of hermeneutics.

While hermeneutics is an important study for any believer, it is especially crucial for those who desire to teach the body of Christ. As James says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (3:1). This verse should make us tremble in fear every time that we pick up the Bible. This is God's Word. I will have to answer to Him for how I handle it. I wil have to give an account. Let us pursue the truth with diligence. To God be the glory.


Peter Kreeft writes, "Fatalism affirms God's power at the expense of God's goodness."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Eisegesis Alert!

Check out this post. Oh, what tulip-colored glasses can do! I'm astounded! (In all fairness, most Calvinists don't twist the text this bad.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Perseverance of the Saints

Andrew recently has started blogging on perseverance of the saints. Check his posts out. I've enjoyed hearing his thoughts. Here are some great resources on the warnings in Hebrews that you might want to compare.

William Lane Craig has a great philosophical essay on the subject. It comes from a Molinist perspective.

Scot McKnight, an Anabaptist, has done a great study on the warnings in Hebrews. It's one of the best Arminian works on the subject.

Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday, the author of a couple great blogs, answer in this book from a Calvinist perspective.

Why Philosophy?

Socrates once said, "Philosophy is a rehearsal for dying."

Total Depravity?

Calvinists today are often shocked when they find out that the Arminians actually believe in total depravity. Jacob Arminius never taught that the will is morally free. Check this out.

"That man does not possess saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is necessary that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, and will, and all his faculties, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, 'Without me you can do nothing.'"

Pretty good definition of total depravity, right? It's the 3rd Article of the Remonstrants.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Youth Report

Every year in January I have to make a year-in-review youth report for the annual business meeting. This year I decided that I would post it on the blog so that I could get your thoughts before I have to give to our church body next week. Here it is. Any ideas?

Chadron Berean Youth Ministry in 2005

Over the last semester, I have embarked on a challenging new adventure. Last August I read a short little book on the benefits of memorizing Scripture. And so I decided to start memorizing the book of Ephesians. Little did I know how this would impact my understanding of God and His church! In this amazing letter, the Apostle Paul writes to Gentile believers about God’s intention to build a community of diverse people that desire to bring glory to Jesus Christ. Just listen to this astounding statement in Ephesians 2:19-22.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (NIV).

In the past, the Gentiles, for the most part, had been separated from the community of God’s people. They were isolated from the promises that God had made to Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people. And yet now because of Jesus Christ, things had radically changed. His blood had brought them, who had once been far away, near to the very throne of God. Gentiles could now take full advantage of God’s covenant promises.

Seeing Paul’s passion for this diverse community of believers has been a great challenge for me. Shouldn’t this be our desire for the youth ministry at CBC? Here are some of the things that we have learned to value in our youth ministry this last year.

Relationship-Driven Ministry

I can’t emphasized enough how important relationships are to teenagers. This is why I’ve spent so much time actually hanging out with students. Going to lunch, attending sporting events, jamming out, playing video games. Only as we build relationships with students will they realize that they can trust us with their real life issues. No relationship, no ministry. While I try to spend time with each student in our ministry, I realize that I can’t possibly relate to every student. That’s why I’m so grateful for the help of several different leaders over the course of the year. A big thanks goes out to Tyler and Tabatha Murphy, Kevin Neth, Brian Shafer, Zac Metz, Jenna Halouska, Dave Voltmer, Robert Hickey, John Schmidt, and Paula Peterson. These brave individuals have been a great help!

A Passion to Worship

Of course, in the long run, relationships have no value if they don’t bring honor to God. If, when all is said and done, students only have a relationship with me or with other youth leader, then we’ve tragically failed. Instead, we want to see students build a relationship with Jesus. Our desire is to give students a passion for God’s glory. This is the theological center for each Bible lesson, song, and activity that we plan. This last year it was a privilege to watch different students grow in their faith as we opened up God’s Word together. It is my firm conviction that since “faith comes by hearing of the Word of God,” students will only get to know God more intimately as the Bible is taught systematically. For middle school, this year we studied topics such as “Why Jesus?”, “Proverbs,” and “The Life of Elijah.” On Wednesday nights this semester, we went through the gospel of John, and now we’ve moved on to the book of Genesis. We even had the privilege of hearing Lianne Hespe share with us about intelligent design. In Sr. High Sunday School, last spring we looked at Hebrews, and this fall we’ve been working our way through Ephesians.

Community of Christ-followers

The more I learn about the book of Ephesians, the more I’m thoroughly impressed that this is what God wants for us as the youth ministry of CBC. We need to be a community of diverse people who desire to know God. I want students to know that, as we gather together, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God actually inhabits us! This should thrill our hearts and motivate us to action. It’s exciting to watch this community of young believers grow. Most of these students have no former church background. And yet God is doing amazing things in their lives. God-willing, we will build on that in the next year. Pray that we would submit to God as He continues to build His church out of all different sorts of people.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Romans 9: Part Five

Alright. Here we go again. Just by way of review, in Romans 9, Paul faces an objection to his gospel--the unbelief of the Jews. In the Old Testament, God had given the Jews several promises of blessing that seemed to guarantee their salvation. And yet, if Paul's gospel was true, then the majority of the Jews were accursed, separated from Christ. So Paul must answer the question of whether God's word (that is His verbally expressed intention to bless Israel) had failed? Paul adamantly denies this possibility.

Instead, Paul's answer to this question is to redefine how we understand Israel.

"For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel" (9:6 ESV).

In this radical redefinition, Paul narrows Israel to include only the children of the promise as opposed to the children of the flesh. Using Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau as types, he then demonstrates his case. God considers only the children of the promise to be recipients of His blessings. Thus, the children of flesh were excluded from the get-go. (If you're curious about how I understand these terms, check out my previous posts on the subject.)

The Justice of God
Thus, a new objection emerges. Is God unjust for acting in this way? Paul writes,

"What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!" (9:14 ESV).

It's important for us to examine just why the question of God's justice comes up. In the previous section, Paul has argued that only the children of promise have been named as God's children, and that the children of the flesh are not entitled to the covenant blessings that are mentioned in v. 4-5. The Jewish objector could then possibly question God's tactics here. Is God being unfair for choosing to give the blessings only to the children of promise? Is such an action unrighteous? Is God acting in a manner unfaithful to His covenant promises? Again Paul fiercely denies such a possibility.

God's Mercy
Paul then goes on to give two illustrations that demonstrate God's justice in His actions toward Israel. Each of these illustrations is introduced with the word "for." This indicates that they are opposite sides to the same coin. For right now, we're only going to look at the first side of the coin. Check out v. 15-16.

"For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (ESV).

Paul's answer to this question is to demonstrate that this radical redefinition is completely consistent with God's actions in the past. In fact, God told Moses that He is the One who gets to decide where His mercy goes. As the giver of mercy, God decides who receives mercy and who doesn't. And since God is the very source of compassion and mercy, it is not unfair for Him to decide that only the children of promise are entitled to His blessings. We don't get to make that decision. He does.

Now how does this section apply to us? Well, it's pretty popular today to think that God is obligated to be merciful to anyone who is a good person. Some people insists that Jesus isn't the only way to heaven and that good Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists are also entitled to God's mercy and covenantal blessings. However, this is not the Christian message. It's God who gets to decide who receives His mercy and who doesn't. Man does not get to decide. This is how I understand the phrase in v. 16, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." In other words, it's God's prerogative to decide who receives His mercy, and not ours. And God has decided that mercy is centered in Jesus Christ. This is because God has called the children of the promise His children as opposed to the children of the flesh.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tom Wright?

Right now I'm reading Tom Wright's What Saint Paul Really Said. Wright is one of the foremost proponents of what's called "the New Perspective on Paul." So far I have mixed feelings about the book. Much of what he writes is surely correct. In all likelihood, Judaism has been misunderstood by Protestants. However, part of his thesis on Paul doesn't ring entirely true with me. I personally think that Doug Moo answers a lot of Wright's objections. If you could only buy one commentary on Romans, buy Moo's! It's that good. However, back to Wright. Maybe later I'll post some more on Wright's book. This quote from Wright at the end of the book just jumped out at me. Check it out.

He writes, "Deism, historically, produces atheism; first you make God a landlord, then he becomes an absentee landlord, then he becomes simply an absentee."

Do I Believe in Free Will?

The term "free will" is a very commonly used and abused phrase in theological and philosophical circles. Different theologians have defined the term in radically different ways. For instance, one prominent Reformer once wrote a book called The Bondage of the Will. On the other hand, another famous Calvinist wrote a book called The Freedom of the Will. In these books, they both argued for pretty much the same things. In my opinion, by now this oft-abused term has lost its value and should be discarded in search for a term that provides more clarity to the issue. The term that I have chosen to use for this concept is "moral responsibility." I think that it's a better term because it avoids some of the problems that are associated with free will.

Let me explain. Do I believe that the will is free morally? No! Definitely not! I would definitely affirm that the will is enslaved to sin, corrupted by deceitful desires. This concept is pretty clear in Scripture. Look at Genesis 8:21 for example.

"The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: 'Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood'" (NIV).

However, do I believe that the will is free metaphysically? Yes! Definitely. We are not just robots determined by natural causes. My choices are not simply the result of certain chemicals in my head colliding randomly without purpose or reason. We are morally responsible beings created in the image of God. But I can't stop here, I must add to this. I also believe that, metaphysically speaking, the will is free in a libertarian sense (LFW) as opposed to a compatiblist sense.

In order for individuals to be held morally responsible for their actions, they must have the ability to refrain from their actions. This just seems like intuition for me. That's why we punish people for their actions. They shouldn't have acted in that way. They had it within their power not to act that way. If I murder someone, I should be punished, because I had it within my power not to murder that individual and yet I willed to do so. Thus, I'm responsible for that action.

But there's another reason that I believe in LFW. In order for God to be truly sovereign, He must have LFW. If God's decisions aren't free in a libertarian sense, then He is not really a sovereign being. If His actions are determined and necessitated in such a way that He must do A and cannot help but do A, then He is no longer a free being. Doesn't this do severe damage to a doctrine like grace, which must be given freely? God doesn't have to do anything! He can do anything that He wants to do. Everything He does is as a result of His own free will.

Thus, being in the image of God, we have also been given a metaphysically free will. And one day, the redeemed will also have a morally free will. Of course, in this brief post, I've only scratched the surface of this difficult subject.

If you're interested, here's another post that I've written on free will.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Wow! I can't believe I'm hearing this.

Check out Derek Webb's new album Mockingbird. You can listen to it here. The lyrics of these new tunes might push him away from the views of the majority of his audience. Good stuff. Controversial stuff.

All Israel?

Here's a difficult subject for you guys. In Romans 11, Paul writes,

"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
'The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.'"

So who does "all Israel" refer to? There's basically three common answers.

1. "All Israel" refers to all of the elect Israelites in any age.

2. "All Israel" refers to majority of the Israelites during the endtime generation. This is the most common dispensational interpretation.

3. "All Israel" refers to all of God's people--Jew and Gentile alike. This is the interpretation that Calvin popularized.

Personally, I don't really know anyone who holds the 1st option. It's never been too popular. Since I'm from a dispensational background (Moody) and my church is dispensational, I tend to lean toward the second option. Although Tom Wright has some pretty good arguments for the 3rd option, that have made me reexamine the strength of the 2nd position. Let's find out who's actually a Calvinist in this area. Any thoughts?

Friday, January 06, 2006


The more that I study the Bible, the more that I realize that it's a difficult book to understand. Everyone of us is full of prejudices and preconceived ideas that influence our ability to interpret the Bible. Our world is in many ways so much different than the world of the Biblical authors. I live in a different culture and on a different continent than these men. And I also have 2,000 years of history to wrestle with when I approach the text.

However, unlike some skeptical postmoderns of late, I'm confident that we can understand Scripture although it may be difficult. That's why it's important for us to dialogue with others that hold different opinions. Since Bible school, my own understanding of theology has faced several different modifications. I thank God for the different teachers in my life. One of my mentors, Rich Peterson, has encouraged me to study hermeuntics and draw my theology from that study. That has been challenging. Some of my studies has pointed me in different directions than my Baptist tradition. There's a lot of subjects that I'm not super sure what I think, but I'm confident that the answer is in Scripture.

The more that I study, the more I realize the importance of interpreting Scripture in the context of a community. The church is the temple of God's Spirit, and so it's crucial that I rely on other believers for help in understanding Scripture. Some of my own biases are often eroded away as my ideas are tested by the community that Christ calls His church. Thanks, guys!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

John 6:44

Just some observations.

Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up the last day" (6:44)

The context: Jesus feeding the five thousand.
The speaker: Jesus
The audience: "The Jews." They had just been miraculously feed by Christ and now they were asking for a sign.

Check out the next verse when Jesus says, "It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me" (6:45).

This is how I understand the passage. Jesus tells the Jews that they have rejected Him because they were not drawn to Him by the Father. Although the Jewish people were very proud of their supposed relationship with the Father, the truth was that they never had a relationship with the Father to begin with. This is what Jesus indicates with his statement in v. 44. If the Jewish people had listened to the Father and had learned from Him, they would have come to Jesus. They would have accepted Him. Thus, their rejection of Christ was an indication of a prior rejection of the Father.

Now back to v. 35.

"35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe."

Jesus tells the Jews that He offers eternal nourishment. Those who come to Him will be satisfied for eternality. However, in spite of this wonderful offer, the Jews continue to reject Him. They have seen Jesus and yet still they don't believe.

That is why Jesus makes this statement in v. 37.

"37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Obviously the Father had not given these individuals, who had reject Him, to Jesus. Since they had rejected the Father (v. 45), the Father had denied them the priviledge of coming to Jesus for eternal nourishment. However, this was not the case with everyone (v. 38-40). Jesus had come to this earth for a purpose--to do His Father's will. The Father had given some individuals to Jesus to save. These individuals were responsive to the Father's teaching (v. 45). And in light of this, they would come to Jesus for eternal satisfication.

I hope this will help. I know that it won't satisfy everybody.

Monday, January 02, 2006

NT Wright

This lecture by Tom is pretty helpful in understanding Romans 9-11. I'm not sure that I completely agree with Wright on everything. However, there's good stuff in it. This is just a link to his audio page. Check out the sermon entitled "'All Israel' and the Church's Task."

Oh, dear! Not Arminius

Here's what the "archheretic" wrote about Romans 9. It's actually pretty good stuff. Too bad he died before they killed him. Just kidding.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Romans 9: Part Four

Happy New Year! It's been interesting to watch the conversation in the comment box. So here's where I'm at so far.

Romans 9:1-5 brings up a problem. The majority of Israel was opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, they stood accursed, facing God's eternal condemnation (v. 1-3). However, they were also recipients of great promises from God (v. 4-5). These promises of blessing seemed to guarantee Israel's salvation.

So, here was the common Jewish objection to Paul's message. If God's promises guarantee Israel's salvation, and the majority of Jews is not saved, then Paul's gospel is not accurate. In other words, has God's Word (His promised blessings for Israel) failed? (v. 6) No, it's hasn't. In fact, God's intention to bless Israel (His purpose in election) stands. It has not failed.

How's that? Well, not all Israel is Israel. God never intended to bless every physical descendant of Abraham. Instead, Paul asserts that He has named only certain individuals as the recipients of His promises. Then, he gives two illustrations of this. Isaac and Ishmael and then Jacob and Esau. Although Ishmael and Esau were physical descendants of Abraham, they were not named by God as heirs of the promises. On the other hand, Isaac and Jacob were (6-13).

By Him Who Calls
The key to this passage is verse 8. This verse shows who God considers to be recipients of His promises. Paul writes, "This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring" (ESV). In this verse, Paul uses two common terms that appear elsewhere in His writings--the children of the flesh and the children of the promise. These two types of people stand in direct contrast in Paul's thoughts.

Check out Galatians 4:28-31. "Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? 'Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.' Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman" (NIV).

Throughout Galatians, Paul compares two types of people, those who trust in themselves for salvation and those who trust in Jesus for salvation. The first group Paul allegorically represents with Ishmael and the second group Paul associates with Isaac. (Now it must be clear. As the interpreter, I don't have the right to allegorize the text. However, it is different if Paul, as the author, allegorizes the text). This is exactly what Paul does. He uses Ishmael as a type representing the children of the flesh, those who rely on their works in order to please God. And he uses Isaac as a type to represent the children of the promise, those who rely on faith in Christ to please God.

The similarities are clear. Paul uses the same language and the same individuals as types (only this time he adds Jacob and Esau as another illustration). Here's why God has not broken His Word with Israel. He only considers the children of the promise, represented by Isaac and Jacob, to be recipients of His blessings. The children of flesh, those Jews who are relying on their ethnic heritage or works, are not included. God has kept His promises. Paul's gospel is thus true.