Monthly Archives: October 2018

How Shall We Read 1 Timothy 2:8-15? (2)

It’s common to hear that people think highly of Jesus but they have little love for “the Church” or for “organized religion,” as it’s so often called. In some ways that’s hardly surprising since sincere believers don’t think JESUS ever hurt them. Even non-believers know the difference between Jesus and His worshipers—like the famous agnostic John Stuart Mill who heaped high praise on the Lord Jesus. Robert Ingersoll, the flamboyant atheist made it clear to everyone that while he criticized God and many of His servants he never ever criticized Jesus. We’ve heard plenty about “hypocrites” in the Church and haven’t I hurt plenty of people down the years and wondered about myself as one of those who earned the title?

I don’t find it hard to understand the criticism leveled against us Church People. We know of or hear of horror stories where leaders in their arrogance mistreat the very people who came to them for shepherding. Read some history and see how “the Church” (headed up by its leaders) in its ignorance promoted injustice or in its heartlessness stood by and watched it when it could have done something about it. Poor souls badly mistreated in a congregation will often enough feel they want nothing to do with any congregation and with only a little help from teachers whose views, like old-time photo negatives are under-developed and over-exposed, they’ll join the number of the Church’s opponents. Many truly hurt people know, if they’re gently pressed, that not everyone in that assembly or the other assemblies is cruel and unjust and unlike the Lord Jesus; but still, they’ve been badly hurt and that needs to be taken into account.
But there are those (are there not?) who enjoy being on the outside where sneering and jeering is easier (that way you can’t be called “hypocrites” don’t you see). They see the obvious flaws in the Church but rather than throw their lot in with the strugglers against Sin inside to enrich and make better they watch and curl their lips.
There’s nothing like Paul in them; nothing in them like the Paul who wrote 1Timothy 2:8-15; nothing like the Paul who is forced by a childish and at times cruel Corinthian congregation to speak well about himself in God’s service and add this to the list of his pains (2 Corinthians 11:28-29, NJB): “And besides all the external things, there is, day in day out, the pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. If anyone weakens, I am weakened as well; and when anyone is made to fall, I burn in agony myself.” There’s no love for the Church in the people I’m speaking of—there’s nothing in them like the Paul who wrote 1Timothy 2 or 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 and then 4-16!
There’s an individualism in humans that is God-given and we’re to rejoice in it but like any good gift from God it can be, has been and is being corrupted and our debt to one another is pushed far into the background. Our need of one another is only thought of when we need unity to gain what we as individuals want. (What I’m saying here needs balanced. I’m aware of that; help me please by balancing it without denying the truth of it that you know is true.) Humans are forced at times to settle for less than they want and in their millions they learn to live happily with that and (God bless them) if their deprivation is very severe they gut it out and make the best of it when they realize their protests will make no difference. And astonishingly, a host of them live gallantly and learn to be content. (God sees and takes note of this! There‘s a judgment coming that will be in Christ’s hands and all wrongs will be righted—Acts 17:31.) In the meantime, in a Fallen humanity where the “haves” insist on even more and the “have nots” insist on being given everything that everyone else has—that is “absolute equality.” But in the pursuit of “all my rights” the thing destroyed and left in scattered ruins is community without which there can be no equality or peace or just contentment.
For those in severe and obvious deprivation we can at least understand anger and protest and resentment. At those who have good reason to be content but want more and more “rights” in a world where millions can barely breathe, at them we can only look and wonder. And especially if they are followers of the Lord Jesus of whom Paul wrote saying He emptied Himself (Philippians 2:6-8). There’s something almost obscene in people with enough to be comfortable and enjoying a million freedoms engaging in the Lord’s Supper and praising God while they demand more and more and more “rights.” And to get them, they’ll happily demote and dismiss Paul who brought salvation in Jesus Christ to their world.
So what has this to do with how we are to read 1 Timothy 2:8-15?  It has a lot to do with it!
The Church may not mean much to us but it means a LOT to God, to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit!

The Church is “the church of God” (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5; 3:15)

The Church is the Body of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18; 18:17, 18; Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, and see Romans 16:16 for a plural)

The Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit and through Him the Father and the Son dwell in the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; Ephesians 2:12, 18 & 19-22).

It is the Church, peculiarly, that with its Gospel Story that is the place where God’s righteousness/faithfulness is exhibited (2 Corinthians 5:21b, and the entire context).

The NT is clear about this, God came in Jesus of Nazareth who is now the glorified and exalted Lord of All not only to save people from their sins but to create a People, a covenanted Nation that is the expression of His glorious intention. And by its very existence it is a visible witness to that divine purpose in operation (1 Peter 2:9-10 and entire chapter).
That created People, that covenanted Nation is one Body, one Church, one Temple of people from the two classes in the world (Jews & non-Jews—mutual haters, one of another). They proclaim in their unity (despite the difficulties involved) God’s hunger to reconcile the world to Himself and in Him to one another. (Ephesians 2:1-22, written by Paul to the Church to which he wrote 1 Timothy 2:8-15.)

God meant there to be a visible Church! It was no ad hoc creation God came up with when He “failed” to set Jesus on the throne! Ephesians 1:3-22 teaches us that the Church was in the eternal purpose of God! (The word itself—singular & plural—occurs 114 times in the New Testament (twice in reference to the OT church). The Church was meant to be!
And it was meant to be made visible in congregations!
Christ Himself by His Spirit makes Himself present in the world in congregational form (Romans 16:16).

And congregations need to have leaders in various places of service! The question isn’t “will we have leaders?” We will have them! The question is “Who will we have to lead us as congregations?”
When we read Paul’s letter to Timothy we’re listening to an apostle of the exalted Lord Jesus who empowered Paul by His Holy Spirit to establish congregational manifestations of the living Lord Jesus. Paul is a profound lover of the Church and makes that abundantly clear in his living and in his speaking (Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:10; 2 Corinthians 7:4-12). And it is congregational business he is dealing with in 1 Timothy 2 (see 1:3 and 3:5, 16).
I purpose to look at the 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 and 4-16 sections soon. The truth is there’s nothing difficult about the Timothy section that’s why it makes many angry. They know exactly what he’s saying and don’t like it. Other than “But, she shall be saved in childbearing…” there’s not a lot to debate about. And even that isn’t particularly difficult if we don’t insist that Paul was an insensitive clod who thought women should stick to being baby-factories. He was not an insensitive clod and he didn’t believe women were supposed to be “baby-factories.”

But it’s now increasingly clear (the word getting around via college professors and church-teachers) that “Paul is wrong—wrong!” then the thing to do is just dismiss him if he says something that doesn’t suit our social mood. But when you do it with a text like 1 Timothy 2:8-15 it’s easier to do it with 1 Timothy 1:9-11, with 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-28 and others like them and that’s what’s happening. (Understand, I’m not quarreling with strugglers against what they know is wrong–if we can be forgiven they certainly can. My quarrel is with those teachers and leaders who would encourage the strugglers to believe that their sin is their right! and there’s nothing sinful about it no matter what Paul or Moses or Jesus says.)
But the same Paul, speaking of the Church of God warned that there would be leaders/teachers/scholars who would draw away people after them (Acts 20:28-32). There’s that awful passage: Luke 12:13-21

(To be continued, God enabling)


How Shall We Read 1 Timothy 2:8-15 (1)

1. If we say (and a few scholars do say) Paul didn’t write 1Timothy it lessens its value as a document for Evangelical believers. Evangelicals believe that Paul was a specially chosen and commissioned witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and they hold that he had foundational authority from God to speak/teach in His name (compare Ephesians 2:20-22). 1Timothy as not written by such a one then it does not have that voice of “authority” embedded in it even if we recognize it as a witness to teaching that was current in apostolic days. We should reject the non-Pauline authorship and believe Paul wrote it and that it carries his apostolic voice through Timothy to the congregation at Ephesus (see 1Timothy 3:15).

Paul Contradicting Himself?

2. If we hold that Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ wrote 1Timothy, Galatians & 1 Corinthians we should avoid isolating the teaching of one from the other two and much less should be use one text to contradict another. We’ll impress no one if we say Paul was correct in this verse but wrong in that one. If we do that it becomes clear who the “authority” figure is. (See how some do that with Romans 1:18-32. Paul is correct when against idolatry (1:18-23) but wrong when against homosexuality in it various forms (1:24-28) and then right in 1:29-31). He’s right in Galatians 5:18 but wrong in 5:19; he’s correct in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 but he is wrong in 6:9 and on it goes. These people forget that if you attack Paul you attack Moses, prophets, Peter, John and finally the Lord Jesus.

Paul a Man Without a Heart?

3. If we read carefully Paul’s writing and read what others wrote and thought about him (Luke, for example in Acts and the Thessalonians & Philippians in those letters)—if we do that and find him to be a man of great sensitivity and depth of warm feeling as well as inflexible in gospel matters then we won’t read what he wrote in some places as if he were hard or uncaring. It’s true we can’t read Galatians without knowing he was fierce when it came to heresy that threatened the gospel of Jesus Christ but then we can’t read about Christ cleansing the temple in John 2 or speaking Matthew 23 without realizing that He too was fierce under the right circumstances. But read with care 1Thessalonians 2:7-8, 17-20 and 3:1-8. Hear Paul saying to the Thessalonians who had stolen his heart (2:8), “We live, if you stand fast in the Lord.” And then there’s Romans 9:1-3. Allow him to be what the record shows him to be, a strong, courageous and self-denying person who would gently shake off loving hands that tried to keep him from harm (Acts 20:36-38; 21:10-14). “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart,” he said. “I am ready…to die at Jerusalem.” But as the record also shows he was one who could be afraid and yet get on with his mission and one who could feel loneliness and rejection and sore need of friendship and comfort (2 Timothy 1:15-18; 4:9-11 and Acts 18:9; 28:15). We should read 1Timothy 2:8-15 in light of that. When he is forced to defend himself in order to defend the truth of the gospel of God he mentions his kindness, his sorrow, his being dishonored, his poverty, his wide-open heart, the humiliations, the beatings, the cold, the shipwrecks and the clinging to debris through the night in the sea and his anguished worry about the little congregations he has established (2 Corinthians 6:4-11; 11:22-33). Allow him to be a Christian with such sensitivity and remember who it is that we’re reading when we read 1Timothy 2:8-15.

Paul a Rabbinic Type?

4. Bearing in mind that Paul’s most virulent opponents were Rabbinic types and remembering that his Master’s chief enemies were like that also and bearing in mind that Paul confronted the Jerusalem leaders that made circumcision essential to salvation in Christ and that he denounced Peter for hypocrisy in returning to Jewish isolationist policy—bearing all that in mind we should be slow in thinking that Paul was still of a rabbinic mind-set. We should pay special note to 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 that shows his rabbinic days (but not his Old Testament days) were over.

Paul An Enslaver of Women?

5. Bear in mind that Paul was death on enslaving believers and that His Master in whose image Paul lived was his model for that. Remember too that Paul writes as if it was a battle cry, “Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free! Stand then as free people and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.” Galatians 5:1, TEV. So when Paul writes 1Timothy 2:8-15 we’re not to call it enslavement or humiliation or robbery. This child of God, this apostle of Jesus Christ, shed his blood that the truth of God and the glory of the People God calls to His side might remain with us. The man who wrote 1Timothy 2:8-15 enslaves no woman nor does he demean her by characterizing her as “a baby factory.” Trust God’s word that comes through him as indeed the word of God and not the word of man (1 Thessalonians 2:13 & 4:1-8). It liberates His People and does it so that His people might speak His truth to liberate the world!

Paul’s Reason for Leaving Timothy in Ephesus

6. We should read 1 Timothy 2:8-15 in light of the commission Paul gives to Timothy about Church Government with talk about deacons and elders and the registering of needy people: There is talk about the structure of congregational teachers also. The entire epistle is about “Church Order” and God’s word about His congregations and how they should present themselves before the world as congregational manifestations of the living Lord Jesus (see Romans 16:16 & 1Timothy 3:15).

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine…This charge I commit to you, son Timothy.” 1Timothy 1:3

Note the similar charge to Titus “To Titus, a true son in our common faith…For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you…” Titus 1:5

We should allow 1 Timothy 2:8-15 to be a part of the teaching that focuses on the congregational structures that are needed and in Ephesus and Crete needed to be set in order rather than see it as “enslaving women.”

1 Timothy 2:8-15               PAUL DOWN ON WOMEN     CHURCH ORDER

What Jesus & Paul Knew Was In Genesis

Paul knew he was sending his readers to Genesis 1–3 & 5:1-2 when he wrote
1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11. Some of the “wise” and many of his critics insist that he cared little for women and robbed them with his rabbinic teaching. But it wasn’t rabbinic teaching he offered when he sent the members of the congregation he founded on the Lord Jesus (Acts 19) to Genesis. He did what Jesus Himself did in
Matthew 19.  And look what Jesus and Paul knew was there!

  1. The image of God is male and female (Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2) and not male or female. Without both in relation as creatures created by God there is no “image of God” in the Genesis narrative.
  2. As the Holy Scriptures tells us, the male was first made. Whether we judge that as significant or not, it’s what the Holy Scripture tells us.
  3. As the Holy Scripture tells it, God chose to make the female out of the male. Whether we judge that significant or not, it’s what the Holy Scriptures tell us.
  4. The Holy Scriptures tell us that when the male existed alone that God’s view of that was, “It is not good!” (That is to be construed to mean something like “it doesn’t suit” God’s purpose rather than, something like, “It is morally wrong.” We construe it that way because the male’s existence and his being alone if God’s creative work and that cannot be morally evil.) In any case, during the time the male exists alone he is not the image of God for the image of God is male and female.
  5. The female is then created and the male sees his own self in her existence. The female’s entrance brings about the “image of God” which could not be until there was both male & female.
  6. The female not only makes it possible for there to be “the image of God” she enables the male to become (with her) the image of God. The female is at the same time the glory of the male from whom God made her and the glorifier of the male who without her was neither complete or the image of God. She is “made for the male” and she is the “maker” of the male in that he could not be who and what he was meant to be without her.
  7. The female is called: “The mother of all the living!We do understand that she can’t be the mother of all the living without the male. Nevertheless the Holy Scriptures make a point of telling us a female is the “mother” (let all that that means settle in our thoughts). Think also that a female was the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate God and hear Paul’s word that He was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).
  8. As the Holy Scriptures record it it is the female who engaged in the “first strike” that became humanity’s alienation from God. It is not only that a female sinned it was that that female sinned and her act as the “mother of all the living” had historic ramifications.
  9. But as the Holy Scriptures go on to say it was that woman—the “mother of all the living” whose descendant(s) God would set against the seed of Satan. We recognize that it could not be her descendants without being the man’s descendants but the Holy Spirit’s narrative makes the point that it was the woman’s child(ren) that would go against the satanic seed. And that it was GOD who commissioned or enabled or set the woman & the woman’s offspring against the satanic figure. We must not slip on by this element in the record. It is the section that Paul takes us to and we’re to pay attention to all of it and it says marvelous things about women!
  10. The Word of God, tell us in this section that “the seed of the woman” would trample the serpent’s head and receive the serpent’s “bite”. And it is Paul who alone, Paul the maligned one that takes that text about the woman’s fierce opposition to the Serpent and her children “crushing” Satan in a remarkable defeat. See Romans 16:20! 
  11. Let the “wise” critics develop these truths and tell them of the glory of womanhood as Paul knew it and embraced it and sent us to read about it. Tell them that instead and maybe they won’t think as little of Paul as the preaching and professorial critics. Maybe they won’t believe they are enslaved and robbed; maybe they’ll look at one another and be glad they’re GOD’s women. More to come, God enabling.

Should We Worship Paul Or Scorn Or Denounce Him?

This is a piece, a little piece, of a booklet I purpose to put in print. I’ve jumped into the midst of it. This isn’t the opening. The narrative I mention is Genesis 1–3 about which I have things to say before I get to what follows here.

God bless us all with what each of us needs most.

Bearing in mind that this is the narrative of God’s word that Paul sends us to in 1 Timothy2:7-15 and 1 Corinthians 11:2-3, 8-12 perhaps we need to stop this talk about Paul being a misogynist (a woman-hater) or that at least he demeans women. This Genesis narrative to which he sends us is filled with rich truths about the glory and power and position of women in the eyes of God and His servant Paul.

Paul doesn’t patronize women by telling them how sweet they are. See Philippians 4:2 and his blunt remarks in 1 Timothy 5:11-15 about younger women, capable, but who would wish to be enrolled as widows to receive church sustenance. He knows some of them and how injurious they had been and can be to assemblies. It’s easy enough to read a text like 1 Timothy 5:11-15 and call it harsh. I do see that but when we are forced to deal with actual cases in difficult circumstances even gentle people have finally to speak plainly and put an end to behavior that undermines a truly good ministry to the needy. Think of situations when individuals, local help organizations and local government has had to call a halt to irresponsible “benevolence”?

If such a text were all Paul ever said about women we might have reason to wonder about him but he was not at all slow in praising women. See Romans 16 with its Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Junia (rather than Junias), Phoebe, Julia, Tryphena and Tryphosa (likely sisters), and Nereus’ sister, and Rufus’ mother. And in 2 Timothy 1:5 there’s Lois & Eunice. And remember, in 1 Timothy 2 & 1 Corinthians 11 Paul sends his readers/listeners to a Genesis section that glorifies women and in Romans 16:20 he addresses one of Christ’s congregations in terms borrowed from what Genesis 1, 2 and 3 says about womankind.

He urges Titus to encourage women, older women, to teach (Titus 2:1-5)! He knows women have power and influence in the Christian congregations so he takes an entire chapter to tell the Ephesian church (1 Timothy 5) to see they are respected, provided for and given the opportunity to serve the God they have given their lives to.
I wouldn’t at all class Paul as a “romantic” (in the usual use of that word) but if you consider his life and his speech about God, His purpose and the People He gathers around Him for an assault against evil powers, we can with ease view Paul as a “knight of God”. That’s “romance” on the broader stage.

He rides into towns and situations like a Don Quixote, armed with no weapons but a glorious gospel, willing to shed his own blood on just about every street they beat him in. He didn’t think he was wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the invisible realms (Ephesians 6). He speaks of his weapons not being weapons of the world (lies, slander, secret agendas or brutality and cruelty). He speaks of Christians as those who tear down forts of folly and all manner of evil imaginations with the intention of bringing them captive before the feet of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:1-5)

He is able to speak to congregations he founded and worked with at his own expense (tent-making) and speak of how gentle he was with them as he spoke the truth and how he came to love them (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 3:1, 5 illustrates). They would have known it was lies if it was, but because he and they knew it was true he poured out his heart.
This is the man for whom multiplied millions down the centuries thanked God, even when they were living truly troubled lives. It’s fair to guess that this is the man who has had more profound influence for good on the world than any other teacher and who wrote letters that have shaped entire countries as well as inspiring individuals in millions to Christ-like self-giving and what he gets from fierce critics in this day is nothing but scorn and derision.
This is the man that preachers and professors used to eagerly listen to and long to understand and teach. This is the man who professors and teachers not long ago made and (even now continue to make) a living by expounding on his teaching. Paul—the man unceasingly used by God until he was worn out and gladly ready to lay his exhausted body down (do see, please, Corinthians 6:4-10 & 11:1-11). Paul, the man who was used by God to found universities with the name “Christian” attached is now by many of those professors dismissed with a shrug. “He’s like the rest of us,” one man said, “he said things you believe and others you don’t.”

Dear God, hasn’t something sinister crawled into our social fabric & current interests and now it even parades itself as biblical scholarship and feeds itself on the failing faith of the young and inexperienced and thrives in the dark as its power grows. And it grows to the point where a flamboyant professor of a Christian University that Paul helped to build, fervently announces to young and old at another Christian University Paul helped to build: “Paul was wrong! He was wrong!” before understandingly giving liberty to the young and inexperienced with, “And you might think he was wrong about women and sexual orientation.”

We don’t worship Paul but we certainly do worship the Lord Jesus who personally chose Paul to be His faithful witness and teacher and trusted him with the truth to do that. And if Jesus is Lord—and He is—He sees and hears all. We’re sure of this so we don’t have to be overanxious. Paul, the maligned, offers this assuring word: “The foundation of God stands, having this seal: ’The Lord knows those who are His.”
(2 Timothy 2:19)

I Won’t! Because I Can’t Believe It!

When Jesus says the OT is all about Him He doesn’t have in mind a verse here and a verse there, a prediction here or an event there. He sees the entire corpus (Moses, the Psalms and Prophets–Luke 24:25-27, 44-49) as a single narrative with Himself as the unending climax BUT with Himself as one human of faith along with all humans and particularly with humans of faith & of faith in God.

We can see the way He and Paul and others will quote from the Psalms and apply the experience of the psalmist to Himself. “They hated me without a cause.”   “My familiar friend betrayed me.” “The reproach of them that reproached You fell on Me.” And note Hebrews 11:24-26 that makes Moses’ suffering “the reproach of Christ.” Jesus saw Himself as one with the entire nation of Israel and refuses to distance Himself from His sinful family so we find Him being baptized along with them, By this He confesses He is part of a family that has sinned against God.

When He becomes incarnate, lives and is counted by His contemporaries as a sinner and dies sharing what they all experienced He was teaching them and us all manner of things. But He didn’t HAVE TO DO any of that. He didn’t HAVE TO teach us, suffer WITH us and FROM us and FOR us. He did it simply and solely because He WANTED to.

What brought Him to Incarnation, earthly life and ministry, saving death (and resurrection & glory) was no LAW by which God was bound; it was no internal conflict in the Godself between love and “punitive or retributive justice” which left Him helpless to freely, graciously simply forgive Sin. He came in and as the human called Jesus, the fellow-human of a race that chose and chooses ALIENATION—He came to offer restored life and friendship. His coming in pure free and sovereign grace to “plead” with the beloved rebel, the human family to be friends with Him again ( see 2 Corinthians 5:20 and context). I know it’s astonishing but He did it!
In choosing ALIENATION from God we chose the consequences which include inner self-ruin, pain and loss and anguish and temptation; and we choose all that for those around us! God in coming IN and AS the human, Jesus of Nazareth, was choosing the pain and loss and anguish and death that comes with humanity’s alienation.

Like innocent little babies (with profound differences, of course!) the sinless and holy Jesus in an alienated world freely embraced all that comes with being a human in such a world. It was unadulterated and limitless love of the human family, that God expressed in His coming personally to show it and tell it.
He wasn’t expressing any sick notion that He cannot FORGIVE sin unless He punishes it to the nth degree. And that He must punish the Innocent One,  While we continue in this world, the innocent and/or righteous will suffer along with the impenitent guilty. God does not punish the innocent! Sinners do that! Penal substitution is meant to glorify God but it distorts and cheapens Him. Punishment is NOT the same as suffering!
God joined us here. He joined us here to make it clear that our Sin and sins didn’t destroy His love and longing for us and life with us. That sustained act in Jesus of Nazareth is the fountain of all Christian response and it is still going on in the life of those who have been drawn into union and participation with the life and purpose of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus.
The meaning of the life, death of our Lord & Savior who would not distance Himself from His human family and so shared our suffering is being rehearsed and made visible in His body, the Church. He’s till suffering for the world. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” His body in which by His Holy Spirit He now dwells and makes Himself present in the world, is by its very existence bearing witness to all He meant to be and do in His earth-bound presence here and He does it until He returns to completely fulfill God’s eternal purpose.


Disagree with me or balance my statements if you feel you must; I’d not be unhappy with that. I don’t pretend to have my views worked out to a final decimal point or anything that approaches such a mindset but I’m a bit weary of christianly “vagueness” in profoundly important areas where at least some degree of clarity is clearly possible.

God bless you and me as we reflect on the suffering of our human family. 

  1. God doesn’t micromanage human life. In making humans humans He knowingly and freely, with fatherly sovereignty, created all that goes with being a human as a human. Humans become hungry and thirsty because God chose to make them humans. He asked no one’s opinion about what to create or how they would best be created. But He doesn’t micromanage their choices on what to eat, how much or how often or at what times. He created them with the capacity and (within limits) to make decisions about countless things that not only affect the chooser but also affect those who do not make those specific choices.
  2. In creating God created the means and methods of human procreation. This He did in the initial moment of bringing humans into existence and He sustains those means and methods as His will and way to continue to bring humans into being. But with the Fall, with (as the Holy Scriptures teach us) humanity’s chosen alienation from God the procreation process developed weaknesses and deformations and genetic and other faults so that humans suffered and now suffer from abnormalities that are passed through the processes which God set in motion and continues to keep in motion. That which was good (that is, suited His overarching purpose) became the very means of passing on disability, abnormality and all the painful, heartbreaking  consequences experienced by humans.
  3.  God is the Creator and sustainer of the biological/physiological “laws” that make such agony-generating occurrences possible. The same “laws” that govern the production of “normal” and healthy humans govern the conception and birth and condition of the hurt and “abnormal” babies. That is, if a “seriously bad gene” is there it will result in a seriously hurt human. Say it better than I’m saying it, say it more carefully than I’m saying it and with more knowledge and understanding than I have but in the end the same physical/biological “laws” govern biological development. “Bad genes” (or whatever) produce hurt humans and “good genes” (or whatever I should be saying) produce healthy humans.
  4. Let me repeat that God is the creator & sustainer of the “laws” and conditions of human procreation. There would be no two-headed little babies or little girls who are “normal and healthy from the waist up but look like an octopus from the waist down due to the development in the womb of more than one human. (Forgive me please if my speech here is too crass. Her condition is too distressing to make less of it.)
  5. We know this and God’s critics hold Him responsible for the results in a world like this. Even His friends in their heartbreak will cry out like Job. And many of God’s other friends shush the protests and work to show that God is not responsible for the result. They don’t want Him to get “bad press,” don’t you see! But God won’t have it! He, Himself, claims ultimate responsibility. Christians who take the Holy Scriptures seriously will allow God to say what He says rather than what they wish He had said.
  6. I understand the dilemma. They believe for many good reasons, that God loves the entire human family with a love that knows no limit in a God like Jesus Christ. Since that’s true they don’t want to believe anything that casts Him in a cruel light! So everything is laid at the door of human sin and corrupted free-will and in this way God is exonerated.
  7. Well not everything! The Devil is the main culprit and is granted miraculous power that beggars description and he is made to appear almost equal with God in power and wisdom. And so once again, God is not responsible for the disease, death, cruel and brutal abuse that exists in the world–it all the Devil’s fault!
  8. And who is the Devil who does all these unspeakable things? Where did he come from? God created him? God keeps him alive and operational? God gives him life and power to do what his inexpressibly evil heart does to a human family that God so loves that He gave His Son to save them? God gives life and power to that one and that is how we plead God’s “innocence”?
  9. In various ways we say, “God has nothing to do with these hurts and losses that humans experience—He is not responsible!” Why is it then that He says He is responsible?

                                            10. God says I am responsible!

  1. In Exodus 4 we have Moses trying to squirm out of the job God is calling him to; but God isn’t having it. Moses says he is not a good speaker so God is calling on the wrong person. God brushes the excuse aside by telling Moses that He knows all about such disabilities (real or pretended). God says it this way in 4:11: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (ESV)
  2. Some years ago I asked an Old Testament scholar about the text. He said it meant that God “allowed” them to be mute, deaf and blind. I remarked that it would have been nice if that is what God had said instead of what he actually said. “Allowed” is a good word and in some texts it works well but God knows how to say “allowed” when that’s what He means to say (Acts 14:16).
  3. Then there’s this text in Amos 3:1-8, particularly 3:6. The prophet Amos has traveled north to bring a warning from God to a spectacularly wicked kingdom, Israel, who was God’s chosen nation to teach and bless the world by honoring God and who instead degraded Him before them. For this God would come in chastisement that would finally result in 722/721 with the dismantling of the kingdom and exile. They would see signs of that chastisement but would offer various explanations for this or that national setback. Any explanation but God’s work would do but God won’t have it. In light of their evil and in light of this warning He says (3:6), “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it?” (ESV)
    14. Finally for now there is Deuteronomy 32:23-30, with the entire chapter. It is a scathing denunciation of Israel’s treasonous, traitorous, persistent rejection of the God who took them for His own. He was faithful to His promises, He delivered them from Egyptian slavery, saved hem in battle, endured their lack of trust and brought them to a home of their own. And so He rages in His anger because they dishonor Him and hinder His purpose to bless all the nations through them. To underscore the depth of their apostasy He says this (32:23-30), “I will heap disasters upon them…they shall be wasted with hunger and devoured by plague…outdoors the sword shall bereave and indoor terrors for the young man and woman alike…” (then note this particularly)…”I would have said, ‘I will cut them to pieces; I will wipe them from human memory,’ had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should misunderstand, lest they should say, ‘Our hand is triumphant, it was not the Lord who did all this.’ (then He goes on to say of the enemy nation)…For they are a nation void of counsel and there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would understand this…How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand in flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up?”

***Here is an interesting thing! Many lovers of God are afraid of God’s enemies thinking God did these things and He is afraid that they will think He didn’t do them. ***

(To be continued, God enabling.)





It’s humans God created. It’s humans God communicated and continues to communicate with. It’s via humans that the Spirit of God has given us the Holy Scriptures and not by Dictaphones. I’m content to believe with Jesus Christ and His commissioned witnesses that it is GOD who speaks to us in the Scriptures whose origin and canonization were superintended by His Spirit.

I think I do understand that such a common view generates many questions but I’m not particularly interested (especially at this moment) in theories of inspiration, canonicity debates or current literary/hermeneutical questions. I’m happy to let the scholars or those who think they are scholars or the would-be scholars—I’m happy to let those continue to debate each other about the nature of the Holy Bible.

In the end we’re all going to have to call things as we see them. I’m not dismissive of scholars! It’s probable that no day goes by that I don’t thank God for men and women who have spent years becoming specialists in some area of truth that affects the masses of us. Though I don’t live in the same world as Alasdair MacIntyre I can still sympathize with his low view of philosophical work that doesn’t stay in touch with the actual living of life. The same is true of Clifford Geertz, the cultural anthropologist, who confesses to be weary with those in his own discipline who prove the obvious one more time and then publish their findings.

I think I do recognize the need for fresh thought and critical study and I confess I don’t know what (consistent) balance is or whether it can ever be gained when it comes to determining “how much” and what is “critical study”. How much do we need to know? How much do we need to “know for sure”? “How do we know what we know?” Epistemological certainty is a never ending quest with philosophical types. Where does it stop? And in the end, who knows a lot?

That remarkable man George Bradford Caird (a teacher who had a profound influence of N.T. Wright) wrote a book called The Language & Imagery of the Bible. He begins the book with this statement, “This is a book by an amateur, written for amateurs. Only an amateur could undertake to write on such a subject, since one life-time is too short for anyone to become an expert on more than one of the qualifying disciplines. For language is not the concern of the linguist alone, but of the literary critic, the psychologist, the anthropologist, the lawyer, the philosopher and the theologian as well. A prudent expert cultivates his own garden, not wasting time in looking over the fence at what his neighbors are doing. The amateur accepts cuttings from everyone, hoping that they will take in his own soil. I am content to…”

What is true of linguistics is true of everything else. Everything is linked to something else and the truth about anything is astonishing if someone teaches us to ask the right questions; not only astonishing, but in the end and in its entirety it’s “ungettable”.

So what we all do is this: we fence off a tiny plot of ground and work in that. That makes sense and as Caird says, we take cuttings from others to make our little garden grow with some semblance of order and maybe beauty. But we’re not to nod approvingly at Caird’s point and then ignore it—it’s not ignorable! Everyone is an amateur!

And then, of course, there are “gardeners” and gardeners. Some work at it, gratefully borrowing cuttings from here and there; content to settle for what does well and find pleasure and beauty in it. And there are those who are easily carried away with the latest fashions and die in pursuit of them.

Finally there is this that I can never quite be content: how much do I need to know? And if there is a lot that needs to be known am I the one that needs to know it? And the people I sometimes get the privilege to teach, what is it they need to hear from me?

Reuben Shapcott, a long-time friend of “Mark Rutherford” (a troubled soul of many years ago) thought Rutherford’s central problem was that he got in over his head with issues too great for him. I’m not sure what to make of Shapcott’s advice. See what you make of it.

“There is one observation which I may perhaps be permitted to make on re-reading after some years this autobiography. Rutherford, at any rate in his earlier life, was an example of the danger and the folly of cultivating thoughts and reading books to which he was not equal, and which tend to make a man lonely.

It is all very well that remarkable per sons should occupy themselves with exalted subjects, which are out of the ordinary road which ordinary humanity treads but we who are not remarkable make a very great mistake if we have anything to do with them. If we wish to be happy, and have to live with average men an d women, as most of us have to live, we must learn to take an interest in the topics which concern average men and women. We think too much of ourselves. We ought not to sacrifice a single moment’s pleasure in our attempt to do something which is too big for us, and as a rule, men and women are always attempting what

is too big for them. (To the bulk of us) the wholesome healthy doctrine is, “Don’t bother yourselves with what is beyond you try to lead a sweet, clean, wholesome life, keep yourselves in health above everything, stick to your work, and when your day is done amuse and refresh yourselves. It is not only a duty to ourselves, but it is a duty to others to take this course. Great

men do the world much good, but not without some harm, and we have no business to be troubling ourselves with their dreams if we have duties which lie nearer home amongst persons to whom these dreams are incomprehensible . Many a man goes into his study, shuts himself up with his poetry or his psychology, comes out, half understanding what he has read, is miserable because he cannot find anybody with whom he can talk about it, and misses altogether the far more genuine joy which he could have obtained from a game with his children, or listening to what his wife had to tell him about her neighbors.”