Author Archives: Jim McGuiggan

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.


For my purpose I’m making use of the second stanza of G.K. Chesterton’s poem THE CONVERT. Chesterton had in mind his conversion from atheism to faith in God.

To my mind the poem creates the picture of a man who is enjoying a pleasant evening walk and comes across a group of wise men, experienced in life and serious in their conversation. They’re discussing the possibility not only of life after death but the possibility of resurrection from death to renewed life. The walker stops and listens intently to the various arguments made by these wise men. By and by they reach a consensus: there is no life after death and there is no possibility of resurrection from the dead. Their arguments prove it with mathematical certainty. The walker smiles, thanks the sages for allowing him to listen in and moves on saying to himself:

 The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

And that of course leads me to imagine a group of Sadducees proving to one another with mathematical precision and logic that there is no life after death and certainly no resurrection much less resurrection to immortality. And wouldn’t you know who (incognito) is out for a pleasant evening walk and walks off smiling.

Be ready always with an ‘Answer’ 1 Peter 1:3-5; 3:15
“There’s nothing more stubborn than a fact.”

jim mcguiggan


A critic of Jesus Christ, the Man in and through and as God has revealed Himself to humankind says to Jennifer, a Christian woman who is wrestling with a fierce cancer, “So what’s your explanation of this; How do you explain this cancer experience if God loves you?”
“I don’t explain it,” she said with a steady gaze at her well-educated critic, “I don’t feel the need to ‘explain’ it so I don’t attempt it. In any case people like you are never satisfied with an explanation. Next there’s your: ‘But what about ..’ “You ask an endless string of questions. There’s no end.”

“So you don’t have an answer for this awful pain you and countless others endure?”

“You don’t listen well, do you,” Jennifer a Christian woman said. “I didn’t say I didn’t have an answer. I have an answer. I didn’t even say I have no ‘explanation’. I said I didn’t feel the need to ‘explain’ so I don’t waste my time ‘explaining,’ to an uncaring enemy who would have no time for an ‘explanation’ even if I offered one.”

“I’m not your enemy and I do care for you.” the well-educated man began to say before she interrupted him. “Of course you are my enemy! I have more respect for Hitchens who insisted he was an enemy of believers in Jesus Christ. You can’t take my life from me but you would take from me what gives my living meaning and inner assurance and peace. You would do it to me and countless others; to the young and old, the living and the dying, the bereaved and those who have just begun to build a life of love together in marriage that will produce much-loved children. You  deny justice to multiplied millions in generations gone who died in misery beyond belief at the hands of depraved and heartless tryrants.” You say there’s no justice for them.

“I’m not your enemy and I do care. I’m just offering you truth.”

And why would I believe you? Why would I believe you are a lover of truth? What if I believe you adore yourself as a bold thinker who while you might use ‘logic’ well at times your aim is to gain a name for yourself? I might believe it isn’t truth you love but what ‘truth’ (knowledge) might gain for you—a reputation and praise. Why would I think you are a lover of truth when you openly make yourself an enemy of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who was and is the embodiment of Truth?”

“Well, so you don’t have an answer for why God allows you to suffer this way if he loves you.”

She had some difficulty breathing but no difficulty believing in God and so she said, “Listen to yourself; you ‘truly’ care for me but when you’re in the right company you sneer and jeer at what I have believed and lived by all my life; you sneer and jeer at what has given me strength and peace through many difficult times and losses and you gloat at how you can ask questions that silence Christians or at least make them fumble for adequate responses to your brilliant logic. You do all this and more to me and a numberless host but you ‘truly care’ for me.”
The enemy said, “But surely it’s better to accept truth than nonsense or at least ‘unprovable’ stories and dogmas.”

“You mean it’s better to accept your ‘truth’ though it ends with: ‘All is pointless. Humans exist as a result of chance and they must accept the ‘truth’ that humankind will perish as pointlessly as they appeared. They are each a bag of reacting bio-chemicals whose ‘highest thoughts are nothing but chemical reactions’ (Weinberg, Wolf Singer, pathetic Sam Harris and co.). That’s the ‘truth’ you say humankind would be better with?”

The enemy sighed and rose to end the meeting, “I’ve been totally insensitive; I’ve taken advantage of you in your illness, expecting you to be able to give me an answer under the circumstances and off the cuff. I need to go, I have a lecture to deliver at an acclaimed academic gathering.”

Jennifer, a Christian woman, managed something of a chuckle and said, “You really are ignorant aren’t you despite your education! You think you have taken me unprepared for people like you? People like you have been jeering and sneering at us for two thousand years and one of our brothers, Peter, speaking by the Spirit of Christ, said, “Always be ready to give an answer to those that ask you a reason for the hope that is in you in Jesus Christ…”
People like me have been ready to deal with enemies like you from the beginning. Everything you people say ends up wrecked on the Rock that we know to be Jesus of Nazareth, the now resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Big-hitters’ like you asked Peter questions about the truth (Acts 4:1-13) and while a once-crippled ‘Bo Jangles’ danced in the temple, they gave an answer that was: “the risen Jesus Christ.”
Often we waste our time trying to show you that your ‘truths’ are shallow as well as illogical and self-contradictory. But in our wisest and happiest moments, together we reflect on Him and hope in Him. Our answer, in the end, can be summarized with Paul’s, “Now is Jesus Christ Risen!” or with Peter’s’, “You slew Jesus but God raised Him from the dead…because it  was not possible for Death to hold Him.”
And to his fellow-believers he said: “You have been born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, to an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled and unfading, reserved in  heaven for you…”

I don’t know why we spend time speaking one to another about all this. Your ‘truth’ is: we are just two bags of bio-chemicals. So, off you go now and parrot words you learned from those before you who parroted words they heard from those before them who  parroted words…….sigh.

We credit you as more than you call yourselves but at best you’re an ‘amateur’ as the firm believer GB Caird remarked. Everyone is an amateur.

But you! Your faith is that you are a bag of mindless reacting and chemicals yet you strut as if you weren’t. You’re not a ‘thinker’—your faith is, “I am a bag of reacting chemicals.” ‘Thought’ is nothing but a chemical reaction. There is no “I” that thinks—there is only a chemical reaction that reacting chemicals call “thinking”. So go to your acclaimed Academic meeting and ‘react’ there the chemical reaction that other chemical reactions trigger in you.

Our answer to you when we have the good sense and time to talk to you is one name: JESUS OF NAZARETH! ‘Explain or react that truth truthfully to yourself.”

JimMcGuiggan Jennifer the Apologist


A woman is not a man’s idea! A woman is not a woman’s idea! A woman is God’s idea! Unless a man agrees with God about a woman, he is wrong about a woman! Unless a woman agrees with God about a woman she is wrong about a woman. Unless society agrees with God about a woman it is wrong about a woman. Unless the CHURCH agrees with God about a woman it is wrong about a woman.

God created out of love (Psalm 136) and though the first phase of His creative work was material (universe) and mortal (humankind) that was only the first phase of His completed purpose. “Before time began,” that is, before God created time as part of the material universe he purposed ‘eternal life’—immortal and incorruptible humans (Titus 1:2) . 
God created all things in, by and unto (for) Jesus Christ. (Col. 1:15). Humans as mortals were not His ‘end game.’ Glorified, immortal and incorruptible humans reigning over a glorified creation as God’s companions was the purpose of The Living God in whom alone is  immortality (1 Tim. 6::13-16). In and as the mortal, resurrected and glorified Jesus of Nazareth God revealed Himself and His creation purpose for the ‘new creation humans. Jesus modeled it all.

The first mortal pair, male AND female, the parents of mortal humankind were created male & female to be the image of God and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1) but stupidly and sinfully we grasped to be God or His rival and created a cosmic wreck (Genesis 3).
Jesus of Nazareth, the man God is being was (and is) the true image of God. God created Him from a woman and not a man and a woman—just a woman (Luke 1:26-35; Gal. 4:4; “made” of a woman” rather than “born” of a woman.”) This is precisely in contrast with Gen. 2 where the woman was made from the man so that the two were one flesh (Matt. 19:4). In the man Jesus who is now the glorified Lord of all we have a new creation, a new image of God and in Him in a day of God’s appointing, dominion will come to all humankind embraced in God’s redeeming work. The dominion that humankind rejected by spurning GOD and welcoming evil into human experience and did not gain and still don’t have (Heb. 2:5-8) is to be regained in Jesus Christ who for a while was made lower than angels (that is, a mortal human—see Psalm 8:5) so He could to die with and from and for humanity. We see HIM (Heb. 2:9). He who in Himself represents the embodiment of glorified male and female!

Those believers who insist that women are degraded if they aren’t permitted to exercise some places of ‘authority’ (a now despised word) in Christian general assemblies) have folded under the pressure of a truly strident feminism and robbing themselves of the true glory of womankind that the Creator and Redeemer has given them in the Lord Jesus, even now.
“I will be truly honored and acknowledged as glorious if I am permitted to speak at a general assembly now and then and seen as a man’s equal in every way by being allowed to do all that a male can do.” Sigh. Schussler Fiorenza doesn’t want ‘permission’ or ‘agreement’—she wants a woman’s ‘world’ and a woman’s ‘Church.’ She says so!

When a woman does not accept her already existing glory as woman it’s only because she has been conned as was Eve. “You are being robbed of glory. If you only knew more you’d go for more and more.” The great news about Eve was, with just a few words with God she immediately turned on the Satan and denounced him for the liar that he was and is (John 8:44).

To be continued, d.v.

Jim mcguiggan


All around us women are marrying women, men are marrying men and for social reasons both are swapping genders and blind senseless (and some of them heartless) parents are doing it to children. By and by a citizen in a democracy will be given the ‘legal’ right to marry their son or daughter or father or mother or sister or brother (the ancients did it).

Ben Guertzel, (a leading light in strong A1 and the robotics business) said that before long we will have to allow humans the legal right to become machines if they choose to. I don’t doubt that before long someone will sue for the legal right to marry his/her pet. What’s to stop them?

All that and Paul takes half a chapter in 1 Cor. 11 to talk about men’s hair length and women’s head coverings?

You think that’s what he was talking about?

Some nuance that and tell us he is teaching women to wear a covering and men to shorten their hair to keep from offending the social habits of Corinth.

The social habits of CORINTH? Of Sin City where gods and goddesses (Aphrodite & Isis ++) were celebrated in stage- plays and worshiped up on the ROCK? And children in school were taught history via mythological stories about Tantalus and Sisyphus?

 CORINTH? where Church members were lying with temple prostitutes and sniggering at open and crass immorality by their members (1 Cor. 5 & 6 & 10)? All that and Paul is saying women should wear a head covering when leading in prayer or prophesying, and men should shorten their hair to keep from socially offending?

That’s his point and that’s why he argues from Genesis about the way God created humankind and what that means?

That’s why he opens the entire section with 11:1-2?

(To be continued, D.V.



I’m not trying to impress non-believers. Nor am I interested in criticizing non-believers. I mean to speak to believers who take the Holy Bible to be truth about God that comes to an unending climax in the ‘Word of God’—Jesus of Nazareth, the now glorified Lord of all who currently chooses to rule in the midst of His enemies until the Day He rights all wrongs when He judges the world in righteousness. I’m as sure about that as I am that GOD raised Him from the dead to immortality and has appointed Him to be Judge of all (Acts 17:31.

In regard to human capacity for and the practice of heartless vicious cruelty and injustice no book is more realistic than the Holy Bible. When it speaks of that it speaks of it as SIN. (Note what sly David thought about his adultery, his murder of Uriah and all the troops under him and his heartless response when he was told the job was done (2 Sam. 11:25) . Later, convicted by a truth-teller his ungodly behavior haunted him and in prayer to God he said, “Against you and you only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight,” (Psalm 51:4).

Understandably, sensitive non-believers may well think  that is a profound insult to Uriah, one of David’s acclaimed and loyal military leaders (2 Sam. 23:8, 39). Some believers feel the same way. The entire Psalm needs to be read to sense David’s change of attitude. Understand! David was no, Joseph or Jeremiah and he was certainly no Jesus Christ!

But He wasn’t insulting Uriah when he said what he said in 51:4. He could find no other fitting description of his abominable evil than to make it a personal sin against GOD alone. “I must have been born evil and destined to behave like that,” he said (51:5). Nothing less than that could explain it—all other excuses—they couldn’t come near. How deep can we humans sink? How deep did we sink when we screamed, “Crucify him!”?

Christians in their right minds don’t make less of Dachau, the Gulag, the rape of Nanking when they speak of the horror of the legal murder of Jesus Christ. They’re making more of those hellholes and satanic behavior that every nation justifies. It isn’t the amount or nature of physical suffering that we handed out at Golgotha to the young prophet. He never claimed it was nor did any of His witnesses or divinely appointed teachers. It was WHO we did it to. We laid hands on God and broke His heart, made Him sob and made Him bleed (Acts 20:28; Luke 19:41-44). Christians call their evil  behavior SIN because anything less than bringing GOD into the picture is  too little. They don’t deny what Auschwitz was; they say it is more! Worse! They say it was worlds in Collision and it is satanic and demonic—it is gods against GOD and His created children (John 3:16-17). It is what ‘blind’ Nietzsche saw in his more lucid moments—we unloosed our earth from the ‘Sun’ and we just continue to spin deeper and deeper into ‘night,’ a darkness we can’t fathom and a freezing cold there is no deliverance from.

For all their realism the Holy Scriptures have no despondent tone. In Romans 8 the creation groans waiting for its deliverance from its inability to be what God made it for. It will not be jettisoned but glorified, made more wondrous than it was before. Those in the Lord Jesus Christ groan as they wait for their full redemption from mortality to glory and immortality and the Spirit of God assures them that in their groans for a better, lovelier, purer mode of being He approves of that longing for it is indeed His work within them that leads them to groan and long rather than to be content with less than the  glory, adventure, mystery, joy and unending LIFE as God’s companions. (Titus 1:2)

The creation, groans;
the People of God of all the ages groan:
The Spirit of God— all groan
All like a woman in great pain, ready to give birth to new life!
AND LOOK!  Look how Paul ends chapter 8!  31-39

Holy Father help us your People to bear in mind a wise and challenging observation that “The Church can repent but it must not whimper.” In the Lord and Savior’s name we pray,

Jim mcguiggan


A mouse showed up in my basement. I chased it but…

I got some traps, set them down. No luck. I was moving stuff out from under the sink and found a trap I didn’t know was there. It was set by a vermin man many months earlier. It was one of those black sticky ones. And there lay the poor wee thing, dead on it; a slow traumatic death. Maybe they can’t reason but they can suffer and I attribute to the little creature the panic I judge it must have felt and it’ll be a while before I can like what I see in the mirror.

I don’t live where such creatures are a threat to me and I have no criticism for those who must deal with them as disease carriers. It’s the world we live in and we must deal with threats of this kind for many good reasons. Finish this off for me so I can move on without further discussion of it.

The sight of the mouse with its limbs outstretched to the limits, striving for freedom, and now the memory of it, still troubles me. If you were to write and criticize me for having the trap I won’t complain. Currently I feel I deserve all the criticism I’d get. Later I’m sure I’ll calm down and reason my way to my “freedom” but I’ll have to say it hasn’t arrived yet.
But the incident has led me to think about the doctrine of everlasting, conscious and ceaseless torment inflicted by God on unrepentant sinners (a doctrine I cannot and therefore do not hold).

There are kind, generous and deeply religious people who fervently believe that God is going to everlastingly and ceaselessly torture human beings. These are not insensitive people; they hurt, and weep over people in far-off lands who go on hurting day after day without hope of change. They sometimes sob over people that live much nearer; people born in stinking tenement buildings, vermin infested, oppressed, unemployed and often unemployable. Many of these sincere believers are kind even to their enemies and they do them good. And yet they believe that God will everlastingly and ceaselessly torture humans and they believe it because preachers and writers teach them that this is what God has said He will do; the God and Father of Jesus Christ is the kind of God that would do such a thing? And Jesus is such a Person as would approve of His beloved Father doing it and doing it in Jesus’ presence; this endless torment will go on in Jesus’ presence? (Revelation 14:10-11 is used to prove the doctrine). Sigh.

These sensitive and kind people see the brutal and unrepentant torturers of fellow-humans and are horrified and then believe that God will keep humans alive forever so He can ceaselessly do to them what vicious and heartless troops in war did to their enemies; the kind of thing that horrifies us even to watch in a documentary. Jesus approved of that by His Holy Father? Jesus, the One who said, “When you see Me you see Him”? Jesus, the Man in whom God was revealing Himself approves of that?—what does this say about that Jesus? Jesus, the One who died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2)?

This the teachers say He will do even to multiplied millions who’ve never heard and will never hear anything about God and His glorious Son, Jesus Christ. They will only come to know this loving Father and His loving Son on that day when He consigns and subjects them to endless and unceasing conscious torment because they sinned? Sigh. Don’t be afraid to doubt such teaching!

All who knowingly and unrepentantly choose Death in knowingly rejecting the Savior who says, “I am…LIFE “ they get what they insist on having: They die never to live again  and so they miss the LIFE that they could have.

I’ve been reminded more than once “but they won’t know it, they won’t suffer missing it if they are forever dead.” That’s true; but it is still true that they miss the glory, the joy, the adventure, the mystery, the fellowship in a ‘new world’ with the experience of everlasting peace and love of righteousness in a new mode of being in which humans can be God’s companions forever. “I won’t miss any of it,” is already ‘death’ and love of profound darkness and that qualifies us for unending loss. God’s inexpressible gift is there to be missed. Godless and ungodly wretches who feed on the lives of others, who despise life, they earn Death. All who unrepentantly reject God and His offer of life experience everlasting destruction (compare 2 Thess. 1:8-9) in that day when God judges the world in fairness (righteousness) through Jesus Christ, the Man God raised from the dead): Acts 17:31.

I wonder if it is significant that I (we) can feel pity for a little mouse’s passing anguish but can live easily with the doctrine of ceaseless and everlasting torture of sinful humans who were once born innocent babies. But more pointedly: Can we really believe and love and commit to a Jesus who adores and serves a God who will forever and ceaselessly torture humans? Better by far to love and commit to the Jesus who says, “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” And this, while He is dying for them.

Write me if you wish:   email:


We need no lectures proving the anguish of multiplied millions who have lived in each generation and do now live on the planet.  

Still, we’ve seen and heard and experienced more than anguish. We’ve seen two strangers meet and after a while become lovers and live for one another and who would die for one another in a heartbeat if that was ever needed. In the meantime they do live for one another until it’s time for one of them to lay down his or her tired body. The earth has witnessed that also, millions of times in every generation. It has seen parents with children, friends with friends experiencing such joy in one another’s presence that, for many people heaven doesn’t seem so heavenly if it means such a radical separation that’s underscored by old graveyards where the dead have lain for hundreds of years and the names on the stones of so many, moss-covered and worn away; no longer readable. Who now knows or cares?

That’s the ‘promise’ of ‘Life in the flesh.’ The cemeteries whisper, “This is how it all ends. This is as good as it gets.”

We will certainly die IN the flesh but the Lord Jesus wants us to die TO it. To cling to, to kill for and to work to hold on to life in the flesh that dismisses God is to insist on corruption and the graveyard; it’s to insist on perishing forever and missing LIFE, glorious beyond our imagining. 

To die to the flesh is to die to a mortal mode of living!

Jesus offers to undo the curse we brought on ourselves when God said, “eat and you’ll die!”

Once we rejected His expressed will the food He provided (Gen 2:16-17) to sustain us (including the Tree of Life) no longer sustained our mortal life and Death came our way.

2 Cor 4 & 5; 10:3……and Death rejecting what God offers to me, to you, to us and to our beloved ones He alone has everlastingly triumphed over all the above. Tombs, mausoleums, centuries-old and desolate graveyards, end of loving relationships, noble dreams and selfless heroism.

We still hear teaching and preaching about heaven that turns it into an everlasting and non-stop prayer meeting, hymn-singing or harp-playing. The intention is to honor God of course but it isn’t the ‘heaven’ people can be thrilled about and it’s questionable that it honors God if it gives the impression that He is something like a vain man or woman who created us so He would have a human race to ceaselessly and everlastingly tell Him how wonderful He is. That description of ‘heaven’ makes it seems to be a very poor substitute for a life of love and adventure here. No wonder we have an abundance of poems with this 1913 message in song: The Sunshine of Your Smile; it illustrates the point well.

Dear face that holds so sweet a smile for me
Were you not mine, how dark this world would be
I know no light above that could replace
Love’s radiant sunshine in your lovely face.

Give me a smile, the love-light in your eyes
Life could not hold a fairer paradise
Give me the right to love you all the while
My world forever, the sunshine of your smile.

Shadows may fall across the land and sea
Sunshine from all the world may hidden be
But I shall see no clouds across the sun
Your smile shall light my life till life is done.

Give me a smile, the love-light in your eyes
Life could not hold a fairerer paradise
Give me the right to love you all the while
My world forever, the sunshine of your smile
My world forever, the sunshine of your smile

            Leonard Cooke lyrics: music by Lilian Ray

But a day is coming when God comes, sits down beside you and you know it’s Him and He says, “I have a gift I want to give you.” LIFE. A life of love, mystery, adventure and glory; life permanently free of disease, injustice, tyranny and Sin; life wonderful beyond what you can imagine (Eph.3:18-20), How does that sound to you?”

You say to Him, “If that’s what you think of it how could I not want it? Yes, I’d love it!”  

God says, “You make Me very happy. You will have to come with me so you will need to say goodbye to this world and everyone in it for a while.”

And you say, “Oh, but I would have to leave (and you list all the people closer to you than your own heart)……… I don’t want to do that. I want to keep the life I now have. I would be losing……”

And God says, “Oh no! You wouldn’t be losing anyone who wants to enjoy that LIFE along with you. They would come too; maybe a day later or a decade later but they’d meet you where I’m taking you. Later I’d be talking to them the way I’m talking to you now. And if you were listening and watching me talking to them you’d feel like shouting, ‘Don’t worry about anything. You’ll love it here!’”

You say, “Yes but it it would break their heart if I left them.”

And then God says, “That’s true but that’s the price people pay for the privilege of loving someone and being loved by someone so deeply. Heartbreak like that is no little thing but it’s a beautiful thing too and I see it countless times but I never get tired of seeing it. The good news is the heartache doesn’t last forever especially when those that weep know they’re going to see you soon”

Then you turn to your beloved ones and say, “You’ll come won’t you?” And they say, “With you there we wouldn’t miss it for anything and since we’re all going to be there together with the Savior—how could we not follow you?”

Then you say to God, “I don’t suppose I can go without leaving this body behind, is that right?”

And God says, “This has been a good body for life here but the one you’ll be getting by and by will take your breath away. What you now wear can’t inherit what you’re going to be getting. There’s too much LIFE and adventure coming your way and this mortal model of yours couldn’t hold it.”

And you say, “What’s it going to look and feel like?”

And God says, “That’s a surprise. All you need to know is that the one I’m going to give you will be one like the one My Son has and He loves it (Philippians 3:21;
1 John 3:2). Trust me, you’ll be mesmerized and then happier, more alive than you ever have been or could be. So, you ready to go?”

And you take His hand and leaving this “life in the flesh” behind you go to meet the Lord Jesus (Philippians 1:21-24, see also 2 Corinthians 4:8—5:8) and wait happily for the Grand Reunion (1Thessalonians 4:13-18).


Jesus took Himself very seriously. You know that. Make your own list of the things He said about Himself. I wish here to focus on His claim that the entire OT was really about Him (John 5:39-40, 46). In Luke 24:25-27, 44-49 He said it was all about Him, about His suffering and the glory that would follow. In the Luke 24:25 He rebukes His distressed followers for not taking into account all that the prophets foretold. (We need to take 24:44 into account when reading that rebuke.)

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 makes the point that Jesus died and rose in keeping with the Scriptures. He does the same thing in Romans 1:1-4 and in Acts 26:22-23. Peter does the same thing in 1 Peter 1:10-11, 20. You’ll remember how Jesus trenchantly rebuked Peter in Matthew 16:21-24 when the disciple took issue with Christ’s talk of suffering and death. Peter thought it strange talk for a Messiah but he later learned better and told God’s new chosen People, “Think it not strange that you undergo great suffering—it isn’t strange; you are sharing Christ’s sufferings.” 1 Peter 4:12-14.

Two things (among others) are clear. First, the sufferings and death of Christ were a total surprise even to (perhaps especially to) His followers and Jesus understood that suffering & death were part of what He was appointed to. None of it surprised Him. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27, speaking of His suffering and death and more than that. Another conversation for another time, God enabling.

Secondly, that the apostolic gospel included the truth that His suffering and death were no chance events—they were foreknown and took place in accordance with God’s redemptive purpose. Peter to the crowd about Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection in Acts 2:23-47, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you…crucified and put to death; whom God raised up…” The entire section needs to be read, including 2:38 where baptism is the Spirit-appointed way of acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus via the God-appointed suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that brought and brings forgiveness to sinners.

The apostolic gospel stressed Jesus’ death and resurrection as the fulfillment of  not just a verse or two here and there in the OT, but the entire drift of it. If Israel had known who they were and what their place in the desperately sinful and ignorant world was they would have expected to experience suffering and rejection—it came with the “job”. They were assigned to be the “covenant” and light-bringer to the world via their faithfulness (Isaiah 49) and they via their unfaithfulness became part of the problem and went after other gods. Yet there were those in the nation who remained faithful to God and were called to bring Israel back to God and so bless the world (again, Isaiah 49). Jesus (who is God being a man—David’s son according to the flesh, Romans 1:1-4) was and is the embodiment of all that Israel was to be, Abraham’s child (Galatians 3:16), was to bear rejection, suffering and death that was the fruit of the Sin of the world.

In His suffering and death He was exposing the evil world for what it was (John 12:31). Apart from God and His gracious work in human life there is only lies and deception, loss of honor and life, abuse and alienation from one another, cruelty and corruption. That is the “world” of which Satan is the prince and it ends with nothing but Death. The Godhead purposed that as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son, for humanity’s sake would share their agony and in that way expose such a world, experience its inevitable end (death) and then rise as its conqueror, as the Lord of a new creation that will be consummated at His return though such glory is currently hidden. (None of this has anything to do with God punishing Jesus.)

[To be continued, God enabling.]


There are those who dismiss the very concept of punishment as barbaric and should be outlawed. Perhaps they are right but it isn’t a topic I’m interested in at this moment.
I’d like also, for now, to bracket out discussion about “who has the right?” to punish. The question merits sustained discussion, of course, but it would take us to places beyond where I wish to go at present.
I wish to reflect a little on punishment. The subject soon goes beyond my competence but I wish to express what seems straightforward to most of us who have given the matter some thought. The reader will soon know when the debate should begin. I’ll start this little piece by saying some of the things we should mean when we use the word “punishment” and then make some comments on the points listed.

1) Punishment is something meant to hurt or generate some sense of loss. It can’t be meant to be reward.

2) Punishment is something purposed. It can’t be an accident.

3) It is inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It cannot be inflicted on someone known to be innocent.

4) It is carried out in response to wrong actually done. It cannot be a deterrent meant to keep an innocent someone from doing something wrong in the future.

5) The one who punishes must not only purpose to inflict some form of hurt or loss he/she must mean it to be punishment or it isn’t punishment. This is a point distinct from point 2 above.

Further comment:

Supposing a child knowingly does something wrong and the parents see fit to punish him; it cannot be something that rewards him for his wrongdoing. That is, the parents must not intend the boy to understand it as reward. The boy might not experience it as loss, he might even be happy he has been sent to his room but he mustn’t think that’s what the parents had in mind. However the boy in fact experiences it, the parents must mean it to be an expression of their opposition to the deed. Parental intent is central here.

We hear complaints all the time about how punishment is carried out in the judicial system. The protesters think that those who are imprisoned are being rewarded rather than punished. This makes the point that punishment is supposed to generate some form of loss. Whether prisoners in fact experience incarceration as “a hurt” inflicted that is what it is supposed to be.
Punishment cannot be an accident. A man steals a car, while driving off with it he hits an ice patch, goes off the road, wrecks the car and suffers a leg fracture and a dislocated shoulder. The police arrest him, he finally goes to court and his lawyer claims he has already been punished in that he was physically hurt.

Some people believe he was punished (say, by God) but that won’t do for our situation; it isn’t known that God punished him and it isn’t known that God punished him for that crime. Society can only function on this basis: the man committed the crime and society must deal with him and “dealing” with him will have to take some penal form. Punishment is not the same as suffering!!!!!
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It may be the case that the one punished is in fact innocent but he is not thought to be innocent otherwise punishment isn’t punishment, it is some form of injustice. Punishment can only be carried out on the guilty if the word is to retain its rightful meaning.
We do not punish a paramedic for inflicting pain and suffering on the victim of an accident. The victim will no doubt scream when the medic carries out some extreme life-saving act but we don’t think of him as doing wrong when it’s clear he does what he does to save their life. It’s true there may be occasions when the medic is thought to have done wrong but putting the best face on the analogy we know that there’s a difference between inflicting pain for a good cause and doing wrong.
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone guilty of an actual wrong. Punishment is only just in the presence of actual guilt therefore it cannot be used as a deterrent. It may be used to deter the wrongdoer from further wrongdoing but he must have already committed a wrong for which he is being  punished. We may wish his punishment to act as a deterrent on others but punishment can only be justly inflicted for a crime actually committed. If we decide to subject someone to suffering that he might not do something wrong at a future date whatever else we are doing we cannot call it punishment. Trainee soldiers may be put through severe trials of numerous kinds to toughen them but where that is the case punishment is not what is happening.
We must not lay hold of a law-abiding citizen walking down the street and put him in jail or levy a fine as punishment to keep him from doing something wrong sometime in the future. We can’t deprive a young girl of her freedom by confining her to the house for a week (grounding) if she has done nothing to warrant such confinement. “What have I done?” she asks. The parents say, “You’ve done nothing wrong. We’re punishing you to keep you from doing wrong in the future.” Call the confinement what we will but if we call it punishment we are speaking in ignorance.
The one inflicting punishment must intend it to be punishment. This is not the same point as point 2. The above can hardly be controversial but I suppose this claim warrants more prolonged reflection and debate.
Suppose a young man who is mentally ill takes to hitting people with whatever comes to hand. He has already quite seriously injured some of his friends. Those who work in this area will confer on the matter and let us imagine that they finally think it necessary to isolate the young man—at least to place him in care where he will not be a threat to other innocents.
Suppose further than this young man is anguished by his loss of freedom and doesn’t understand why he is so deprived. He thinks he is being treated unjustly, he’s being punished; he may not have the capacity to use the words or understand the concepts but he has the capacity to suffer and his experience of suffering has been laid on him by the authorities.
Those who put him in this place of confinement and special care know that punishment is not the appropriate word. But more than that, they feel no desire to punish—not only do they reject the word, in this case they reject the concept. They feel only sadness for the young man and a commitment to those he has hurt and could hurt and if possible they hope to help “cure” the offender.
Though the young man experiences inflicted pain and loss it isn’t placed on him as punishment; there is no sense that he deserves it. I wish to make the point that to punish someone must in some sense be carried out with the intention to punish and because the one punished knowingly did the wrong.
It’s clear that one can punish another without vindictiveness or in a vengeful spirit but there’s more than that to be said. The word punish will always have its place in human society where there are standards and where those standards are knowingly broken and where for the protection of others the wrongdoer must be punished.

Nevertheless, it’s common knowledge that we forgive and forgive and forgive wrongs without punishing them, without feeling the need to punish or without wishing to punish. On these occasions we wish the wrong hadn’t been committed, we don’t approve of it but we don’t think in terms of punishing the transgressor. People in their millions practice this daily. They forgive.





George MacDonald’s character, Curdie, came to the king’s house because the princess had told him to report to her there. At the door he met the officious housekeeper (who seemed to swell and fill the door) who rebuked him for his comings and goings and the fact that he (as she saw it) made a mess of things while he was there. “Don’t you know this is my house?” she barked. Curdie politely replied that he didn’t know that because he thought it was the king’s house. She responded, he responded, she called him insolent and oozing pride & she asked the poor ignoramus, “Don’t you see by my dress that I am in the king’s service?” Curdie, a young mine worker, wanted to know, “And am I not one of his miners?”

“Ah, that goes for nothing,” she snapped. “I am one of his household. You are an out-of-doors laborer. You are a nobody. You carry a pickaxe. I carry the keys at my waist. See!”
But Curdie checkmated her with, “But you must not call one ‘a nobody’ to whom the king has spoken.”
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. You understand that it isn’t that we’re all to function in the same place of authority with the same responsibilities. There are those that have been given authority over us and though often we don’t like that, there’s no community living without accepting the truth of it. Still, it’s a hard lesson to learn because we tend to be prideful (do we not?) and if we’ve haven’t been given the most sought after job, the one that attracts the attention and gets the big money, we’re inclined to whimper (and other things) a lot. Well, why not? We should be treated with respect and when we are stuck in a lower level position our “personhood” is scorned and many of us won’t stand for that, will we.  (Is that not true—or am I mistaken?)
The sad thing is that some of us get the place we think we deserve and it doesn’t make us better. Like the officious housekeeper we balloon up and fill the doorways of life and are only content when we think we’ve surpassed the other “peasants” way below us. In that spirit it doesn’t matter to us, for example, that others would be better as rich people than we would be if we were made rich. It only matters that we are or get to be wealthy or prominent or acclaimed.
Apparently Curdie had no trouble with any of that. He had a pure heart and was perfectly content to be the king’s miner. He didn’t need to have the keys to buildings hanging at his belt, didn’t need to minister to vast congregations, nor did he need to drive a big fancy car or be the belle of anyone’s ball. He was more than at peace within himself. He rejoiced in the dignity of being one that the king had spoken to and needed nothing more.
(Sigh. What a lovely way that is. It makes me want to be a better man and while I can’t confess that I’m troubled much with jealousy, perhaps there’s more of it in me than I occasionally think there is. Of course I’m well aware that I’m greatly troubled with other things.)
You see the confrontation between Curdie and the housekeeper illustrated in reverse in Number 16 where the rebels weren’t as wise or as pure in heart as Curdie.

Korah, Dathan and Abiram attacked Moses and Aaron because those two exercised authority over the assembly at large and restricted the priesthood to Aaron’s family. The rebels said that these two took too much on themselves because all the people of God are holy and they wanted to exercise the priesthood (16:1-4, 10). Moses reminded them that this was God’s restriction but he goes on to remind these Levites that God had spoken to them and given them their own ministry (16:10). And that was where the problem was rooted. The leading rebels didn’t think their ministry was glorious enough—they wanted more. They thought they were being cheated, you see. They thought that having the priesthood keys at their belt would give them the dignity and recognition they deserved. Had they believed what Curdie knew, that no one to whom the King has spoken is “a nobody;” they would not have despised the privileged place God had already given to them. Though Curdie was a miner with a pickaxe in his hand he knew full well and with joyful contentment that he was one of the king’s servants and in this knowledge he glorified his ministry.

You understand it wasn’t simply that Korah and company were despising their position, they were exalting themselves (compare Romans 12:3-8) and thought they were being robbed. And they weren’t opposing Moses alone; they were opposing God (Numbers 16:11)!
It wasn’t a question about what God wanted. It was all about what these Levites wanted! It wasn’t an information problem; it was a heart problem. “I deserve and want more!”
Poor souls. They talked as though they were suffering like the colonies in their most awful moments suffered when France and Spain and Portugal and Britain were at their plundering worst. They talked as though they were African-Americans that were humiliated and robbed all those years under the worst face of White dominance in the USA or they were Irish during the centuries when England plundered and bullied them. Doesn’t it make you want to throw up sometimes when people (ourselves included?) blessed to the skies whine on and on about wanting more? Those, like Korah, Dathan and Abiram who take the lead in furthering a heart problem among the people of God have something to answer for as the entire Numbers 16 chapter shows.
I can easily imagine someone saying: “It occurs to me that this is a great chapter to use to defend the status quo. It’s a good chapter to use to keep people ‘in their place’.” Hmmm. That’d be another heart problem, wouldn’t it?].