Posted in clarity, humble, perspicuity, scripture, The Hermeneutics of Humility

What good is unknowable truth? Be certain!

By Elizabeth Prata

Some sayings sound legitimate on their surface. They sound pious. They sound biblical. Like this one: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Only problem is, that one isn’t in the Bible. At all.

Yesterday I wrote about the verse in Colossians 2:18,

Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your prize by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

I’d noted that the false professors, i.e. false believers were standing on three things that were designed to draw people away from the faith, or at least dilute their effectiveness for a while: delighting in humility, worshiping angels, and visions/experiences.

The humility part sounds good, doesn’t it? But if you really think about the phrasing here, ‘delighting in humility,’ you begin to realize that delighting in your own humility is not humble at all! In fact, that s pride not humility, and we know what God says about the proud. They fall.

Part of humility is claiming to be uncertain. In other words, they said then and are still saying today that if you’re certain about an interpretation, or certain that Jesus is coming back, or certain about anything, you’re not humble. This is called the Hermeneutic of Humility. It was a problem then, as seen in Colossians 2:18, and it’s a problem today. Just think of all the people who say we need to approach the Bible with ‘nuance’ and ‘we can’t be sure’. (“I’m too humble to claim anything for certain!” they claim)

Mike Ratliffe said, “Hermeneutic of Humility” is a way of looking at our faith and interpreting the very Word of God through a filter that sees certainty as a product of pride and uncertainty as a virtue. … These people contend that to be certain divides people while uncertainty creates an environment of unity.

However the mantra that doctrine divides is a misconception. True doctrine does divide, and that is a good thing, because that is what it is supposed to do. But first let’s define hermeneutics.

CARM defines Hermeneutics as “The science of interpretation. Theologically, and biblically, speaking it is the means by which a person examines the Bible to determine what it means.”

The hermeneutics of humility says that anyone saying for sure what the Bible means is being proud and displaying arrogance. Ultimately, it is a subtle denial of the truth.

There’s a new hermeneutics, a new science of interpretation called the Hermeneutics of Humility, and this is serious to the people who espoused this and their Hermeneutics of Humility say, “I’m too humble to think that I could ever know what the Bible really means and so I can only offer my opinion and I certainly can’t say that this is in fact the truth.” (source)

Now, while it is good to be humble (that’s why this saying is a subtle trick), let’s look at the difference between personal humility and interpretive humility. In personal humility, Romans 12:3 says,

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

In other words do not exalt yourself, but think soberly and judge rightly.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Do we suppose that sober judgment and rightly handling the truth means that we can never know what it means? As Paul would say, “What a ghastly thought!” Denying that the Bible can be clear is denying the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes it clear. (John 14:25-26).

Yet the issue is a delicate one. Professor of religion and philosophy Winfried Corduan said, [link is to a .pdf]

…the Bible is the inspired Word of God. And Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth (John 14:26; 16:13). The Christian interpreter ought never to proceed without relying in both mind and spirit on God’s gracious gift of illumination. Nonetheless, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (undeniable though it is) does not provide a short cut through the hermeneutical process. The obvious counter-example to any such presumption is found in the fact that Christians who are equally committed to the discovery of truth disagree with each other. But the Holy Spirit does not teach different truths to such believers. Apparently it is possible to (at least claim to) rely on the Holy Spirit alone and not arrive at truth. Consequently it is best to say something along the line that the Holy Spirit’s work of disclosure is not entirely divorced from the human task of interpretation.”

It is why we strike a balance between personal humility and interpretive humility in the learning process, and boldness and confidence in proclaiming what we have learned.

If you think about it, if you’re too humble to say anything about the Bible’s contents for certain, then, what is there to proclaim? Proclaiming biblical truths would be seen as prideful, so we must remain silent…and therefore never tell anyone the Good News? Would such a conversation go like this: ‘Um, I think I have the answer to the problem you are having, it may be sin, but maybe not, and repenting of sin is the solution, but I can’t say for sure that repentance actually is, it might be a work, which would be bad but it might not be a work, but I can’t say for sure if repentance is required,…” and so on?
The doctrine of the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture (that the central message of the Bible is clear and understandable, and that the Bible itself can be properly interpreted in a normal, literal sense) has been a cornerstone of evangelical belief ever since the Reformation. ~John MacArthur
The reason why these sayings resonate is because they sound almost right. There is a grain of truth to the fact that we need to demonstrate humility when we approach the scriptures. It is an interpretive humility we need to possess. But once we come to a settled conviction, then, we’re sure that we know, because the Spirit will confirm in to our soul and our mind will be transformed. How is the Spirit supposed to transform the mind if the mind never settles on anything for sure.

It sounds exhausting.

In Kevin J. Vanhoozen’s book,”Is there a meaning in this text?” he writes,

God is a speaking God. The Father is the one who, in the words of the creeds, est locutus per prophetas. [spoken through the prophets]. Most of what God does, creating, commanding, warning, communicating, promising, forgiving, informing, comforting, etc., is accomplished by speech acts. Moreover, God’s speech agency is the epitome of clarity and efficacy.”

Pride rears its head in people exhibiting a lack of interpretive humility when we believe we have got the meaning right before we have made the appropriate effort to recover it, as Vanhoozen explains. In other words rightly divide and make a sober judgment and with the aid of the Holy Spirit we will know what God is saying to us as far as our assigned faith will take it. Clearly and definitively. Because what good is unknowable truth?

Ultimately as Vanhoozen says, “Humility must be balanced by conviction. The uncommitted interpretation is not worth hearing.

What a person adhering to a hermeneutic of humility is really saying is that:

–I am too lazy to put in the effort to really understand God’s written word,
–If we can’t know for sure what the Bible means, then I don’t have to follow its commands,
–Look at me, I’m so humble I won’t even try to figure out what God is saying,
–God spoke but not clearly enough to understand it. [He is a God of confusion].

Ask the Spirit to aid you in remaining personally humble, and seek His aid in being interpretively humble. Then, when the Spirit illuminates a truth to you, proclaim it boldly and certainly! The Bible never says that bold faith is arrogance. Peter and Paul were definitely certain of what they taught!

–In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. (Ephesians 3:12)

–Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:31)

Scripture itself at tests its own perspicuity, but not to the point that it can not be misunderstood or is in every point equally simple and clear. The doctrine does not rule out the need for interpretation, explanation, and exposition of the Bible by qualified leaders. The doctrine does mean that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means… Professor Larry Pettigrew, The Master’s Seminary

Put on your armor and wield some truth!

Sir Gawaine the Son of Lot, King of Orkney,
by Howard Pyle (1903)


Further reading

Definition: The Clarity of Scripture

Ordinary Essay: The Clarity of Scripture

Seminary level paper: The Perspicuity Of Scripture (.pdf)

Posted in bible, encouragement, scripture

Some encouragement: The Long and Winding Road ends at Jesus’ feet

By Elizabeth Prata

I really enjoy photography, looking at photos and taking them. I have many photos that I enjoy digging out and looking at and playing with as digital software technologies continue to be made available.

As I look at them, more often than not, a Bible verse comes to mind. like the Penobscot Bay schooner I’d snapped it was while passing by the schooner we were on, the ‘do not drift away’ verse from Hebrews. It’s here.

I’ll be doing this more often. A short burst of encouragement from a verse, with photo. Here is today’s-

Friends, the road is long and we cannot see around the curve. However we know the end of the story. It ends in glory. Keep walking in Jesus’ name, rejoicing as you go.

New song by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell at the Getty’s site, “Almost Home”. Every day that passes is one day closer to seeing Jesus, our eternal Rest, and reunion with loved ones. Hang in there, walk joyfully toward the Great Light!

Posted in bible, bunch of everlastings, encouragement, frank boreham, living, scripture

The text that enlivened Luther, and you should know of the man who wrote about it, Frank W. Boreham

A remarkable book called A bunch of everlasting; or, Texts that Made History was written by
by Frank Boreham, who lived from 1871-1959. He published this remarkable book in 1920. The reason it is called ‘texts that made history’ is because Boreham is exploring the scripture that the recipient identifies as the one that broke through his dead soul to revive it to regeneracy. Conversion stories are always wonderful to read, and his book is full of them.  He delves into how the verse woke up a dead heart and it’s a joy to read over and over how sometimes just a snippet of God’s word regenerated a soul.

In Martin Luther’s case, the Light dawned with the sudden understanding of the just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17,Galatians 3:11,Hebrews 10:38)

Before we get to the everlasting text, here is about the author of the book, a short bio from the Frank Boreham Tribute site, regarding this Christian Preacher and prolific writer you should know. He died on May 18, 1959, in Melbourne, Australia.


Dr. Frank William Boreham (FWB) was born March 3rd 1871 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Although being raised in a Christian home, it wasn’t until he left home to take up employment in London that he shortly afterward became a Christian. His conversion was so dramatic that he quickly sensed a call to be a preacher. But he realised that his ability to preach would be greatly enhanced by improving his ability to write. He also reckoned that a preacher’s reach could be dramatically improved by writing. This resulted in him being published at quite a young age and gaining a profile that many preachers with much more experience had not yet attained. He was given a scholarship by the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon to Pastors College where his four year program was cut short when the College asked him to go to New Zealand and join the growing band of Baptist pioneers in a small town outside of Dunedin called Mosgiel. This town was largely the making of F.W. Boreham. It became the backdrop to many of his 55 best selling books that would go on to attain sales and re-sales of what is estimated conservatively to be around 20 million copies. Toward the end of his life, FWB was honoured by Queen Elizabeth with an OBE for Services to Preaching and Literature. He is regarded by Banner of Truth Trust as one of the 20 greatest preachers of all time.

One of the 20 greatest preachers of all time? Why didn’t I know this sooner! As Warren Wiersbe said, “I trust that a generation ignorant of Frank W. Boreham has not arisen.” I will do my best to commend to you this writer, preacher, and Christian of excellent quality so as the Body, or even one of us, might become edified.

Now here is the excerpt from Boreham’s book, A Bunch of Everlasting and the text that awoke Martin Luther-

It was the unveiling of the Face of God! Until this great transforming text flashed its light into the soul of Luther, his thought of God was a pagan thought. And the pagan thought is an unjust thought, an unworthy thought, a cruel thought.

Look at this Indian devotee! From head to foot he bears the marks of the torture that he has inflicted upon his body in his frantic efforts to give pleasure to his god. His back is a tangle of scars. The flesh has been lacerated by the pitiless hooks Martin Luther’s by which he has swung himself on the terrible churuka. Iron spears have been repeatedly run through his tongue. His ears are torn to ribbons. What does it mean? It can only mean that he worships a fiend! His god loves to see him in anguish! His cries of pain are music in the ears of the deity whom he adores! This ceaseless orgy of torture is his futile endeavour to satisfy the idol’s lust for blood.

Luther made precisely the same mistake. To his sensitive mind, every thought of God was a thing of terror. ‘When I was young,’ he tells us, it happened that at Eisleben, on Corpus Christi day, I was walking with the procession, when, suddenly, the sight of the Holy Sacrament which was carried by Doctor Staupitz, so terrified me that a cold sweat covered my body and I believed myself dying of terror.’ All through his convent days he proceeds upon the assumption that God gloats over his misery. His life is a long drawn out agony. He creeps like a shadow along the galleries of the cloister, the walls echoing with his dismal moanings. His body wastes to a skeleton; his strength ebbs away : on more than one occasion his brother monks find him prostrate on the convent floor and pick him up for dead. And all the time he thinks of God as One who can find delight in these continuous torments! The just shall live, he says to himself, by penance and by pain. The just shall live by fasting: the just shall live by fear.

‘The just shall live by fear!’ Luther mutters to himself every day of his life.
‘The just shall live by faith!’ says the text that breaks upon him like a light from heaven.

‘By fear! By fear!’
‘By faith! By faith!’

With the coming of the text, Luther passes from the realm of fear into the realm of faith. It is like passing from the rigours of an arctic night into the sunshine of a summer day; it is like passing from a crowded city slum into the fields where the daffodils dance and the linnets sing; it is like passing into a new world; it is like entering Paradise!


Further Reading–

You can read the Boreham book either online or download it here

It is available at Amazon here

Documentary video on Frank Boreham, Navigating Strange Seas part 1 of 4, here

7-part essay series on FW Boreham here

Warren Wiersbe on Boreham, here

Posted in bible, scripture, word

Favorite scriptures

I’m home with a high fever today and all that comes with it. I think it’s time to post something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Scripture, just scripture. What are some of your favorites? Here are a few of mine, and why.

These verses from the opening of John’s Gospel move me every time I read them. I don’t know why. They just do.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,a and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5).

Beginnings and endings, Genesis and Revelation, my two favorite books. How can one not love the majestic sweep of the opening lines of all of human history?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)

This verse is devastating to me. So much wasted flesh, so many to mourn. Such a holy God to worship. It’s a crushing yet wondrous verse that to me, dramatically shows the ease with which God moves within His plan to bring all enemies under His submission. For all the thousands of years of struggle, in but one moment, the angel finishes it with four devastating words; the earth was reaped.

So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. (Revelation 14:16)

And I’ll finish with something a bit more upbeat. I love this from Revelation because it is Jesus-centered.

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:2-5)

How about you? Post your favorite verses here. Let’s bask in the word and praise and worship the Spirit who inspired them, the God-Man who conquered and saves, and the God who is eternally holy.

Posted in aimee byrd, church, Michelle Lesley, scripture, women's ministry

Is your Women’s Ministry at church fully integrated, or is it still a kids’ table?

Ladies, be aware of when the church diminishes your value to Christ by scheduling fun activities-lite for you instead of Bible studies with meat. At a certain point, kids graduate from the Thanksgiving kids’ table to the adult table. You should, too.

Source Bon Appetit

Not that scheduling a ladies night around a fun activity isn’t worthwhile. Sometimes it’s relaxing to get together at a home or in the Fellowship Hall with other like-minded friends and just hang out. It’s even more fun to hang out by doing something or creating something than just to sit around and chat. But if your church believes exclusively that these kinds of Ladies Ministry outings and events are a substitute for learning theology, then gently but insistently remind them that your value in Christ is not about decorating cookies and scrapbooking, it is growing in grace in likeness of Christ and knowledge of Him. The only way to do that is by the Word as the Spirit applies it- as you learn it.

Here is Michelle Lesley having stated it so well. This is a re-blog of an excellent piece she wrote, titled,

Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry
By Michelle Lesley

You remember the story. Jesus comes to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha’s Pinteresting up the place while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him teach. Martha gripes to Jesus that Mary should help her and Jesus says no because it’s better for her to listen to Him than fold napkins into the shape of swans or whatever. Moral of the story- Martha needs to relax and not let other things distract her from Jesus.

That’s a good, true, and important takeaway from this passage, and one that we would all do well to heed. 

But did you ever stop to think that Mary and Martha aren’t the main characters in this story? Jesus is. Jesus is the main character in every Bible story, so our primary focus should always be on Him: what He said and did and was like. 

What was Jesus teaching that day at Mary and Martha’s house? The passage doesn’t tell us the topic He was speaking about, but we are privy to a very important lesson He imparted through the scenario with Mary and Martha. A lesson about the way God loves and values women.

Remember how women were generally regarded at that time? They didn’t have much more value than livestock, furniture, or a man’s other possessions. They were considered intellectually inferior, they weren’t formally educated, and their legal and social standing were often tenuous at best. They could not go beyond the Court of the Women at the temple for worship. There was even a traditional prayer Jewish men recited in which they thanked God for not making them a woman, a Gentile, or a slave. Women were low man on the totem pole, so to speak.

And that’s where we find Martha. She wasn’t doing anything wrong that day. In fact, in her culture, she was doing everything right. If anything, Mary would have been the one viewed as being in the wrong because the teaching was for the men, and it was the women’s job to bustle around taking care of all the hospitality duties. Martha knew this. Mary knew this. Jesus knew this. Everyone else present knew this. Martha must have wondered why someone hadn’t yet shooed Mary out of the living room and into the kitchen. So her statement to Jesus in verse 40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me,” was probably not just, “I need another pair of hands,” but also a bit of, “Mary is forgetting her place. This isn’t what proper women do.”

Oh yes it is.

Whatever else He might have been lecturing about that day, that was one of the lessons Jesus taught Mary, Martha, the rest of their guests, and Christendom at large.

Women aren’t second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. We are precious and valuable to Him. He has important, worthwhile work for us to do – His way – in the body of Christ. And He wants us trained in His word in order to carry out that work.
How did Jesus teach that lesson?

First, He allowed Mary to stay and receive His teaching (39). (We see this echoed in God’s instruction to the church in 1 Timothy 2:11: “LET a woman learn…”) It hadn’t slipped Jesus’ mind that she was sitting there. He could have told her to leave, but He had no intention of doing so. Jesus wanted Mary there. He wanted to teach her and to have her learn God’s word from Him.

Next, when someone tried to take Mary away from hearing and being trained in God’s word, Jesus – God Himself – answered with a resounding NO. This “will not be taken away from her,” Jesus said. Mary, and Martha too (41), could arrange centerpieces or turn a cookie into a work of art any time or never. But this, the teaching of God’s word, was urgent. Vital. Jesus didn’t want either of them to miss it by focusing on the trivial things they thought they should be pursuing. 

And He doesn’t want us to miss it either, ladies.

Jesus pulled women out of the craft room and into the study. Is the women’s ministry at your church trying to pull them back? 

Is the women’s events page on your church’s web site filled exclusively with painting parties, fashion shows, ladies’ teas, and scrapbook sessions?

Does your women’s ministry do canned “Bible” studies authored by women who offer nothing but personal stories, experiences, and false doctrine? 

Are the Marys in your church who want to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His word rightly handled and taught being scolded by the Marthas for not staying in their place and embracing the banality the women’s ministry is doling out? 

Is this it? Is this all women are good for in the church- fluff and false doctrine?

Jesus didn’t think so.

Let’s have our women’s ministries train women in the full scope of biblical womanhood. Let’s be serious students of God’s word by picking it up and studying it like mature women. Let’s get equipped to teach and disciple other women who are babes in Christ. Let’s share the gospel with the lost. Let’s learn how to train our own children in the Scriptures and be the ones to raise the bar for what the kids at our church are being taught. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty ministering to those who are ill, in prison, lonely, poor, elderly, considering abortion, experiencing crisis; who have wayward children, problems in their marriages, a parent with Alzheimer’s, or have lost a loved one.

Women are worth more and capable of more than the bill of goods they’re being sold by “Christian” retailers suggests. More than cutesy crafts and fairytales masquerading as biblical teaching. Let’s put the “ministry” – ministry of the Word and ministry to others – back in “women’s ministry.”

Keep this good definition of Women’s Ministry in mind, it’s from Grace Community Church

Women’s Ministries at Grace Church exists to encourage women to worship our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ through the study and application of Scripture and the deepening of relationships with other women for fellowship and accountability.

The fellowship has the express purpose of application of scripture and accountability under it. Note that in order to do that, first comes worshiping Jesus through study.


Further Reading

Aimee Byrd, series:

The Danger in Women’s Ministries
Why We Are So Insulted
How the Church Ministers to Every Member

Posted in discernment, scripture, spiritual armor, spiritual warfare

Have you laid down your sword of the Spirit?

Jesus promised us trials in this world, but He followed that promise with a reminder, He has overcome the world. (John 16:32-33). There are many reasons we undergo trials. Sometimes it’s to count it all joy that we are participating in the trials Jesus underwent. Sometimes it’s because the testing we receive through a trial helps us discern the will of God. (Romans 12:2). Trials produce endurance (James 1:2-4). Testing and trials prove our faith. (1 Peter 1:6-7).

We live on a battlefield, and it isn’t even our home turf we are fighting for. Our home is in heaven, we are strangers and aliens here. Satan wants to subdue us, break us, entice us into a snare and immobilize us. We are warned to remain vigilant (1 Peter 5:8, Matthew 26:41). So we fight, relentlessly, constantly.

1 Corinthians 16:13 says, Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

The Lord didn’t leave us defenseless. He gave us armor. We are outfitted from head to toe, and we hold a mighty sword.

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:18)

The sword is specifically the word of God. It is the only offensive weapon in the Christian’s armor. The helmet, breastplate, shield, belt, and shoes are defensive.

The sword mentioned in the verse is not a broadsword. It is a sharp dagger, which all soldiers had at hand.

Sword: CC0 Public Domain Free use No
attribution required. Grass, EPrata photo

What happens though is that a Christian may be vigilant for a while, and then he lays down his sword (which is the scripture). He is sitting at the campfire, mending his shoes or polishing his breastplate. The vigilant soldier keeps the sword handy for taking up when the battle heats up again. But some lay it down in the grass, and wander a bit away, looking for daisies to pick, or to follow a butterfly. They wander farther and farther, and then suddenly the battle heats up and they are caught without their only offensive weapon! They go back to try and find it but weeds have sprung up and hidden the sword.

Matthew Henry says,

Those who would prove themselves to have true grace, must aim at all grace; and put on the whole armour of God, which he prepares and bestows. The Christian armour is made to be worn; and there is no putting off our armour till we have done our warfare, and finished our course. (Matthew Henry)

Don’t let too many days go by without reading the Word. When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, He countered with the word. And the fact that the Ephesians verse distinguishes between the two types of swords, the broadsword v. the dagger and specifically used the word for dagger in this case, means that the the Christian is to wield it with precision. Jesus knew exactly which scriptures to use in reply to the devil. A Christian who knows some scripture but not many isn’t going to be an effective soldier nor a good witness.

There is no armor specified for the back, but only for the front of the body; implying that we must never turn our back to the foe (Lu 9:62); our only safety is in resisting ceaselessly (Mt 4:11; Jas 4:7). Jamieson Fausset Brown)

Is your Bible in the weeds, metaphorically? Or is it by your side, in your heart, on your mind? Be a good soldier, and have your offensive weapon ready when trials come. They will come. Jesus promised it. And He always keeps His promises.

Posted in prophecy, resurrection, scripture

He will not let His Holy One see corruption!

Vyrso Verse of the Day

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption
(Acts 2:27, Psalm 16:10)

He describes his resurrection: God loosed the pains of death, because it was impossible that he should be holden of it; ōdinas—the sorrows of death; the word is used for travailing pains, and some think it signifies the trouble and agony of his soul, in which it was exceedingly sorrowful, even to the death; from these pains and sorrows of soul, this travail of soul, the Father loosed him when at his death he said, It is finished. Thus Dr. Godwin understands it: “Those terrors which made Heman’s soul lie like the slain (Ps. 88:5, 15) had hold of Christ; but he was too strong for them, and broke through them; this was the resurrection of his soul (and it is a great thing to bring a soul out of the depths of spiritual agonies);

this was not leaving his soul in hell; as that which follows, that he should not see corruption, speaks of the resurrection of his body; and both together make up the great resurrection.” Dr. Lightfoot gives another sense of this: “Having dissolved the pains of death, in reference to all that believe in him, God raised up Christ, and by his resurrection broke all the power of death, and destroyed its pangs upon his own people. He has abolished death, has altered the property of it, and, because it was not possible that he should be long holden of it, it is not possible that they should be for ever holden.”

Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2069). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Posted in gentle speech, jesus, proper speech, scripture

Editorial: Be vigilant about your comment section

Either through AOL chat, online newspapers, bulletin boards, blogs, Facebook, or Twitter I’ve been running online comment sections since 1999. I’ve had a lot of experience seeing how people choose to say things either openly or anonymously. I’ve also seen a steep decline in the quality of online (and real life) discourse.

By 2004 online newspapers and blogs became ubiquitous. That year was dubbed Year of the Blog. Anonymous commenting flourished. Prior to this, the only public discourse available was tightly controlled. Letters to the Editor had to be signed with your real name, and include a telephone number so the editor could call to verify. Journals and other publications demanded the same. The internet either wasn’t invented or it was so new, not everyone was online. Books went through an even tighter process, if you could even reach the front door of a publishing house. Handing out personal leaflets or pamphlets was looked upon with suspicion, especially if someone was handing them out while standing on a street corner. To use a microphone at a public meeting you had to sign your name and be called to the podium. If your discourse was too inflammatory, your mic would be shut off. If someone wanted to say something publicly either in oral or written form, it was very hard, and there was no such thing as anonymous commenting. (Benjamin Franklin’s penchant for pseudonymous commenting notwithstanding).

It’s amazing to me that it’s been 11 years since the Year of the Blog and 16 years since the internet with its comment forums, bulletin boards and comment sections has become part of normal daily life. That short history lesson was needed, because 16 years is a long time and many of the younger brethren don’t know what it was like before we could easily and anonymously say anything, anytime, anywhere.

I’ve enjoyed the loosening of the forums available to the public in order to employ free speech and I am a great advocate of the internet as a freely available place to exchange ideas. However with great freedom comes great responsibility, Eleanor Roosevelt said. Many people fail to take their responsibility for measured speech responsibly, and the devil is having his heyday.

Just as we thrill to the idea that we can support international ministries like Grace to You which reaches a huge audience, and just as we can responsibly use social media and the Internet to get the message of Jesus across to a wider audience ourselves, so satan uses social media too. He captured Hollywood and then the networks and then cable. Now online Christian newspapers, blogs, forums and the like are bastions of false doctrine, angry rhetoric, and tarnished witness.

The bible has a lot to say about how a Christian should speak, and also what to do when speaking to and dealing with non-believers. Over 70 times in the bible we read proverbs, commands, and advice for proper speech.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss online Christian speech and to bring us back to the biblical standards for how to react to hateful speech, scornful speech, sarcastic speech, and mocking speech. The bible says a lot about how WE are supposed to conduct ourselves in discourse, but today I’d like to comment on how to proceed when faced with less than desirable comments online, AKA, moderating.

What do you do when faced with someone’s sarcastic, mocking comment, or seems to want only to argue?

The short answer is: delete them without a second thought. If necessary, block them. More on why in a moment.

Here is the lesson. I’ve noticed a marked upswing in scornful and hateful comments. In some examples it’s obvious that they should be deleted. The other night I received a comment responding to an essay that simply said, in all caps, “I HOPE YOU ALL DIE.” I actually laughed at that one, because we all do die. The sad or happy part is what comes after for each of us.

But satan is a subtle creature and he instills a sly menace in some comments, comments that on the surface seem like they should be engaged with but are only there to cause a hindrance to pursuit of God’s glory. Another commenter said the other night,

It consistently amazes me how you pick and choose bible verses that are applicable to your argument, yet call out “false prophets” for doing the exact same thing.

The clues in this comment are the word ‘consistently’ (he keeps reading this blog enough to think I do something consistently which in his opinion is stupid. My question is, why keep reading?), the scare quotes around the phrase “false prophet” (Scare quotes are often used to express skepticism, disapproval, or derision, says the journalism dictionary, and writers are advised to use them sparingly) and the ad hominem charge with no supporting data. An ad hominem attack is simply an attack on the writer’s character. Lacking data, reason, or logic, they usually just fall back to “you’re a big huge poopyhead.” They rarely if ever use a name.

I responded like this:

Can you show me an example of which verse I’ve used incorrectly, and show me how the verse should be understood? Anonymous, you have scare quotes around the phrase “false prophets”. Does this mean you believe there aren’t any? Or, do you believe the ones I’ve called out are not actually false? Please use scripture to help us understand your meaning.

I’m serious here. The Internet is a cold screen, and facial expressions and tone won’t come through. Maybe I misunderstood the person, and I’d like to give the person a chance to respond with scripture and facts in order to understand their intent and position.

Sometimes they respond positively, and we can go on in unity under the love of Christ, gaining a better understanding. However in this particular example, when I asked Anonymous to provide bible verses he said, “That’s a nice little trick there.” Then he simply made more ad hominem charges. I deleted the comment. Why?

1. If they are a non-believer, why allow them to co-opt the discussion and insert false doctrine or destroy the tone? Also, you can’t disciple a goat into a sheep.
2. If they are a believer, why allow them a forum to further dig themselves into a sin-hole?

Discernment lesson: Don’t let trolls online or people in real life sway you from a focus on Jesus with the bible as the basis. Scripture is the only truth, and the only means when discussing Him to arrive at a reasonable conclusion. (Isaiah 1:18, 2 Timothy 3:16). If they refuse, you know they aren’t genuinely striving to glorify Jesus or trying to help you (or me). In these cases, sadly, the bible says plenty about conversations like the one Anonymous wanted to have.

Since their conversation doesn’t emanate from above, but from within, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Prov 18:2). This goes both ways, for the commenter, but also for the Moderator. Once we stray from scripture, everything else is our own opinion and I would quickly become foolish too. That’s why I’m vigilant, I don’t want to provide a forum for a fool to increase his sin nor to provide a pit for me to fall into. I”m a sinner too.

In these cases when the person persists in their opinion and becomes more heated, we shake the dust off and leave them be. (Mark 6:11). “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; ” (2 Timothy 2:23)


Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4)

I say all this to let you know that if you run a blog, forum, or comment stream, like on Facebook, to not be hesitant to delete, refuse to engage, or leave people like this alone. In cases like these I delete and don’t think twice. No regrets. Sometimes I think we are so full of love and care for everyone to come to Christ we engage in conversations that are better left alone, which only end up damaging our own character as we sin by falling into sarcasm, anger, or “foolish controversies.” If you run an online forum or facilitate a real life group, don’t damage your own witness by over-extending into the fool’s sphere. To keep a clear head, it’s simple- always stay with scripture as the basis for any conversation. It is scripture that convinces, convicts, and saves. Not my opinion- or theirs.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

The other important reason to be strict about not letting the conversation stray too far off scripture and off the point is that we don’t want to be a place where doctrinal confusion reigns. I refuse to allow this blog or any other forum I moderate to become a hindrance to the growth of a weaker brother or sister. I do not want to confuse anybody! Questions are fine, discussion is fine, but allowing people with an agenda to promote their false doctrines won’t happen here.

I can’t tell you how many people comment about the ‘fact’ that Darby invented the rapture, or how John MacArthur is a false teacher, or how Beth Moore must be a good teacher because she “helped” someone feel better about themselves. And don’t even get me started on how many people write to me with their dream or vision. Those comments will never see the light of day. Not. Gonna. Happen. I am responsible to Jesus for everything I say and everything I do. I won’t be part of helping to send a sister off in a wrong direction under the false notion of “fairness” or “love” to a person who may have mal-intent or is just plain wrong. I truly love my brethren too much for that.

So do not let anyone guilt you into publishing their comment, or worse, their essay as a guest writer, just because they have a misunderstanding of what censorship and free speech is. Not publishing a comment isn’t destroying their free speech. It’s called moderating. Free speech means any person can go start their own blog and they can comment all day and all night if they want, and here in America for the time being, people can still do that.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.. (Proverbs 21:23)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Posted in encouragement, philosophy, scripture

God’s breath

At bible study the following verse was mentioned:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

The teacher asked what we thought about that. I got to thinking about the God-breathed part.

God-breathed…God-breathed. My mind went to Genesis 1, “Breath of life.”

And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:30)

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died (Genesis 7:22)

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. (Revelation 11:11)

EPrata photo

I got to thinking. No man dies. All men live forever either in hell or in heaven. Therefore the breath (spirit) of life that God gave them never expires completely.

The scripture is God-breathed. Jesus said His words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35, Psalm 119:89)

The animals that have the breath of life did not pass away, God preserved them in the ark and from them we have all other animals.

My musings left me with two questions.

WHerever God chooses to place His breath, does it ever really expire?

Do angels have the breath of life in them?

The mysteries of God are a joy to ponder.

Posted in discernment, madison county, misuse, red raiders, scripture, separation of church and state

The Madison County Red Raiders Monument and scripture misuse

Last Friday, an issue blew up in our county. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association separately lodged letters ordering the Superintendent and School Board to remove or modify a spots statue containing two scriptures. That is a lot of firepower for a tiny rural county in the foothills of the mountains in north Georgia. It was privately donated to the District and it was installed in front of the field house. The two scriptures on the statue, which also contains a ‘sword in the stone’ atop the 2-ton granite structure, are:

–Romans 8:31,“If God be with us, who can be against us?”
–Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” which had been shortened on the monument to read “I can do all things”, and, “strengthen me”

I’d written about the statue issue and the resulting outcry – from both sides – here:

The scripture laden Madison County Red Raiders Monument and the Humanist Association who wants it gone

In that essay, I had not discussed the legalities of the statue’s installation on public school because I’m not versed on those things. I did take issue with the statue, having come to believe it should be removed. Not because it violates the Constitutional Establishment clause, I don’t know if it does or doesn’t, but because it is an idol.

One thing I’d taken issue with is the pagan portion of the statue. The sword in the stone is from a pagan myth of King Arthur with a few Christian-y elements woven in. The other things I’d taken issue with is the stumbling block put in front of the young football players. They have incorporated it into a superstitious tradition, touching it for luck. In the essay I’d explained superstition, and how God hates to be manipulated.

Mixing pagan myths and Christianity, and engaging in superstitions, are serious to God. They are bad. Another issue I’d taken with the statue is the fact that the scriptures themselves have been ripped from their context and reduced in power to a motto in order to help kids win a game. This, also, is serious.

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:17

Four days after the issue blew up in the print news and broadcast tv, an opinion letter to the editor of the local daily newspaper was published.

The Madison County High School Monument is Constitutional, by David Larkins

It is well-written by a local resident who also has a son on the football team in question. It addresses the Constitutional issue very thoroughly. In the letter making his case that the statue’s location is constitutional, the author also mentions the following:

The monument was paid for with a private donation, and it has no religious purpose. Its intent is to inspire the football team to play hard, and do their best, as they engage their opponent on the football field. The inscriptions on the monument are appropriate for that purpose, regardless of the original source of those inscriptions.

I am sure that Mr Larkins is a kind and good father and a proud resident of the County. He is obviously well-spoken. The opinion piece was well done. Which is what gives me the confidence to write this next part. A letter like that has a lot of thought that goes into it. It is edited, and thought over and it’s edited again. But it confirms exactly what I’ve been saying about using such scriptures in the sports arena, an arena that is all too often an idol-arena.

–“no religious purpose“? Yet the bible tells us that all scriptures have a purpose. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16

–he write that the inscriptions however, do have a secular purpose, which is to ‘inspire players’ to play a game well and win. Is this how we ‘use’ the word of God? Our sovereign and holy God?

–“The inscriptions on the monument are appropriate for that purpose, regardless of the original source of those inscriptions.

What he just said is, disregard Jesus. The scriptures are useful, and the source doesn’t matter. Dismissing the source of the scriptures, using verses for a secular purpose and a favorable outcome, and unhitching them from their context, is blasphemous. It is not to be done. The source always matters!

This use of scriptures is no different than how false teachers use scriptures to twist them for their own gain.

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4

It is no different than when a faith healer uses the word to get money from followers.

It is no different than when false teacher uses the word to promote personal prosperity or financial success.

It is no different than when any false teacher uses the scriptures to obtain a secular personal outcome (fame, book sales, accolades…)

When we see a Benny Hinn saying things like, “If you will come back and make that pledge, God will heal your heart tonight,” or, “God will begin to prosper you, for money always follows righteousness,” we tut-tut and say, ‘How dare Benny Hinn use the scriptures for such a craven purpose!’

Or when we see Joyce Meyer say things like “The Bible says right here John 10:34 . . . ‘and Jesus answered is it not written in your law I say we are gods.’ So men are called God’s by the law…”  we understand that she ripped the verse out of context in order to preach her unbiblical and heretical ‘little gods’ doctrine. When a heretic like Meyer uses verses we understand by the Spirit that most times, she is preaching out of context in order to promote a false teaching.

So why, when we see a scripture on a stone monument and it is stated to the public that it is not for religious purposes but there simply to promote good gamesmanship, do we NOT say it also is heretical, and unbiblical and a blot against God?

There’s misquoting God’s word, and there’s misUSING God’s word. Ben Irwin wrote about the most misused scriptures, that

Christians read (and quote) Scripture in tiny, artificial fragments all the time. And by doing so, do we alter the meaning without even realizing it.

Bill Hitchcock said in this piece, Philippians 4:13: Misused, Misapplied, and Misinterpreted,

It is important to note that a big problem often occurs when people pluck out a single verse from the Bible. The context and meaning of one or two sentences disjointed from its message can alter tremendously. Sometimes you have to read entire chapter(s) or more to get the meaning of one sentence. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” It has become the battle cry of self willed. Here’s where the hiccup begins; “I”. The first and biggest problem that occurs is when folks make this passage about themselves. I want to do something that I have determined I want to do. And I am going to employ the power of Christ to accomplish My goal. Anything that is focused on self is worldly and is a sin.

And again, from The Cripplegate, Nathan Busenitz in his piece I Can Do All Things,

They have turned it into a slogan of personal empowerment—a declaration of self-achievement, ambition, and accomplishment. For many, this verse has been trivialized into some sort of motivating motto for material prosperity, career advancement, or athletic success. But in reality it is nothing of the sort.

They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1:11

Using scripture for personal advantage, in this case, to win a game, should never be done. Just as we should not rip verses from context to twist and use to gain money, or to gain healing, or to gain fame, or to gain notoriety, or to gain false converts, we should be equally aghast when it is used for sports in a terrible trivialization that we have unfortunately become used to and have accepted.

Jesus is the Word. He was with God from the beginning. He bled and died and rose again,  triumphing over death to reign in patience from heaven until the moment when the Father will tell His Son to get His bride. Scripture should reveal who He is, why He did this for us, and train us in righteousness. His word contains the glories of heaven, the revelation of the Father, the power of the Spirit, the record of creation, the promises of a holy future.

Why reduce it to a sports slogan? Why?