FAQ About God, the Bible, and Other Spiritual Stuff

Part 10: What will Heaven be like?


Is it really worthwhile to think much about the topic of Heaven?

“Surely it is not wrong for us to think and talk about Heaven. I like to find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity. If I were going to travel to any place in this world, if I were going to make it my home, I would inquire about its climate, about the neighbors I would have — about everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it. If soon you were going to emigrate, that is the way you would feel. Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while.”   –Dwight L. Moody

“Heaven should affect our activities and ambitions, our recreation and friendships, and the way we spend our money and time. If I believe I’ll spend eternity in a world of unending beauty and adventure, will I be content to spend all my evenings staring at game shows, sitcoms, and ball games?
-Randy Alcorn

“I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and help others do the same.”
–C.S. Lewis

How the Bible uses the term Heaven…

  • The sky and/or the universe containing the stars and all other ‘heavenly bodies’ (Gen. 1:1; Matt 24:29,35; Luke 4:25)
  • A synonym for God (Luke 15:18,21; Matt. 21:25)
  • The Abode of God and His people (Matt 6:9; John 3:13; Matt 18:10)

Heaven is a Real Home Prepared for Us

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:1-2

No Death, Sadness, Crying or Pain

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create…the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Isaiah 65:17-18

No Sin, Evil or Danger

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27

In Heaven We Will Have Eternal Bodies

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body…As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:35-49

“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Luke 24:37-39

Will We Experience Learning & Growth?

One the one hand…”For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

But on the other…”You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Parable of the Talents Matthew 25:14

Will We Experience Similar Relationships?

When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Mark 12:24

Will We Eat & Drink?

While they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Luke 24:40-43 (see also John 21)

Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.
Parable of the Great Banquet – Luke 14:1-24, (Rev 19:9)

Will There Be Animals?

The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox…they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.
Isaiah 65:25

“There is no strong reason to say these expressions are merely symbolic, without any literal reference. Are symbolic banquets and symbolic wine and symbolic rivers and trees somehow superior to real banquets and real wine and real rivers and trees in God’s eternal plan? These things are just some of the excellent features of the perfection and final goodness of the physical creation that God has made.”
-Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

Our Hope for Heaven directly impacts Our Here and Now

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.” Colossians 1:3-5

“If my wedding date is on the calendar, and I’m thinking of the person I’m going to marry, I shouldn’t be an easy target for seduction. Likewise, when I’ve meditated on Heaven, sin is terribly unappealing. It’s when my mind drifts from Heaven that sin seems attractive. Thinking of heaven leads inevitably to pursuing holiness.”
–Randy Alcorn, Heaven

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

“This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity




Part 9: What does the Bible actually say about Hell?

Sunday August 23, 2015

What are your preconceived notions about Hell?

(see every Far Side cartoon about Hell)

Getting Serious with C.S.

There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If the happiness of a creature lies in self surrender, no one can make that surrender but himself (though many can help him to make it) and he may refuse. I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully “All will be saved”. But my reason retorts, “Without their will, or with it?” If I say “Without their will” I at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self surrender be involuntary? If I say “With their will”, my reason replies “How if they will not give in?”

This doctrine is one of the chief grounds on which Christianity is attacked as barbarous, and the goodness of God impugned. We are told that it is a detestable doctrine – and indeed, I too detest it from the bottom of my heart – and are reminded of the tragedies in human life which have come from believing it. Of the
other tragedies which come from not believing it we are told less. For these reasons, and these alone, it becomes necessary to discuss the matter.”

The problem is not simply that of a God who consigns some of His creatures to final ruin…Christianity, true, as always, to the complexity of the real, presents us with something knottier and more ambiguous – a God so full of mercy that He becomes man and dies by torture to avert that final ruin from His creatures, and who yet, where that heroic remedy fails, seems unwilling, or even unable, to arrest the ruin by an act of mere power. I said glibly a moment ago that I would pay “any price” to remove this doctrine. I lied. I could not pay one-thousandth part of the price that God has already paid to remove the fact. And here is the real problem: so much mercy, yet still there is Hell.
-C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

History of Hell


Meaning “unseen.” In the Old Testament, the abode of all the dead containing both the righteous and the wicked without regard to their goodness or badness, their happiness or misery. Also simply describes death and the grave.

“Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave (sheol).” Genesis 37:34-35


In Greek mythology, the underworld containing the souls of the dead. Similar in meaning to the Hebrew idea of Sheol where all the living eventually end up after death.

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Matthew 16:18


In Greek mythology, the region of Hades specifically where the wicked are punished.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell (tartarus) putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment…” 2 Peter 2:4


Literally, the Valley of Hinnom, an actual place outside Jerusalem with a sordid history. In ancient times it was a site of child sacrifice to pagan gods and was cursed. In NT times it was used to dump refuse and executed criminals, continually ablaze with fire to and filled with maggots consuming the debris. (Today, it’s actually a beautiful park and tourist attraction.)

And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell (gehenna), where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Mark 9:47-48

Various Views of Hell

  • Literal
  • Metaphorical
  • Annihilist
  • Remedial


And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. Matthew 18:9

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:11-12

  • A Physical Place of Fiery Torment
  • Total Darkness
  • Filled with the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth
  • Causing both physical & emotional Pain


  • How do Fire & Darkness co-exist?
  • Will there be physical bodies with teeth?
  • Regardless, the graphic images suggest a place of pain, isolation, and despair.
  • The reality may be even worse than the metaphor!


Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.
Philippians 3:18-20

  • The soul is not necessarily eternal and can be destroyed by God.
  • Those who reject God will not experience an eternity of suffering in hell, but will instead be extinguished at some point after death.
  • Separation from God results in non-existence.


Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits…”
1 Peter 3:18-19

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. 1 Peter 4:6

  • God’s grace extends into the afterlife.
  • Those who have rejected God in earthly life may still choose to surrender themselves to God.
  • The isolation and pain of regret suffered are intended to move rebellious souls to repentance.

Some Final Thoughts from Clive Staples…

Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question:
“What are you asking God to do?” To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But
He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

Now That We’re All Thoroughly Depressed…Any Good News?


You have nothing to fear.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:16-18

God has a way to protect you forever from any evil whatsoever.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Revelation 21:4-5


Part 8: Which One Is True: Predestination or Free Will?

Sunday August 16, 2015


“I believe that nothing happens apart from divine determination and decree. We shall never be able to escape from the doctrine of divine predestination – the doctrine that God has foreordained certain people unto eternal life.” -Charles Spurgeon.

“Free will, though it makes evil possible, also makes possible any love or joy or goodness worth having.”       -C.S. Lewis

“God does not roll dice.” -Albert Einstein

“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, still look before they cross the road.” Stephen Hawking

What does the Bible say about predestination?

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Matthew 25:34

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
John 15:16

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
Romans 8:28-30,33

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,
Thessalonians 1:4

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:4-5

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10

[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. 2 Timothy 1:9

To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. 1 Peter 1:1,2

Both Calvinists & Arminians agree that people are predestined by God. The disagreement has to do with how they are predestined.

Tip-Toe Through TULIP

Total Depravation – Unconditional Election – Limited Atonement – Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints

“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is fore-ordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”  – John Calvin

“How is it more for the glory of God to save man irresistibly, than to save him as a free agent, by such grace as he may either concur or resist?”
– John Wesley

Free Agency vs. Free Will

Free Agency
The ability to choose and act without compulsion and in accordance with one’s own desires and inclinations.

Free Will
The ability to accept the gift of saving grace of God through the Gospel of Jesus.

God by His sovereign pleasure chooses some people based purely on His will without any regard to His foreknowledge of their actions.


Predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge of a person’s response to His calling on their life.

A Response Is Still Necessary

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10

Only the elect, or chosen, receive the grace that allows them the free will to choose God. Those not elect lack the ability to respond positively to the Gospel.*  (*note: temporal grace)

All people, though fallen and sinful, equally possess the ability to respond to God’s gift of grace through the Gospel.

“Before you were born or had done anything good or bad God decided whether to save you or not.”
-John Piper

“We cannot answer back to God or question his justice. He has done what he has done according to his sovereign will for his own glory. He is Creator; we are the creatures, and we ultimately have no basis from which to accuse him of unfairness or injustice.”
-Wayne Grudem

“If God is love (1 John 4:7) but intended Christ’s atoning death to be the propitiation for only certain people so only they have any chance of being saved, then ‘love’ has no intelligible meaning when referring to God.
-Roger E. Olson

Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.”
– A.W. Tozer

So does God really love everybody?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
John 12:32

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:4

For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men,
especially of believers.
1 Timothy 4:10


For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.
Titus 2:11

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:18

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:2

2 Truths to Live By

God has chosen you.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,
and I will raise them up at the last day.
John 6:44

Your choices matter.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13-14

“Remove grace, and you have nothing whereby to be saved. Remove free will and you have nothing that could be saved.”
-St. Anselm of Canterbury





Part 7: Why do churches have different beliefs about Communion?

Sunday August 9, 2015

Feast On This

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:26-28

Tough Words to Swallow

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” John 6:53-55

What’s in a Name?

Holy Communion – The Lord’s Supper – The Eucharist – The Sacred Host – The Sacrament

Common Questions…

Why Do We Share Communion? – Who Should Take It? – Who Should Serve It?

How Should It Be Served? – How Often Should We Share It?

First, some big words to learn…

Sacrament vs. Ordinance

Sacrament: a spiritual rite that is regarded as an outward and visible means of conveying a divine grace.

Ordinance: a symbolic practice that outwardly demonstrates one’s faith but does not represent a means of grace.

And now for some really big words…


The belief that the elements of bread and wine metaphysically change into the actual body and blood of Christ, although the elements appear as bread and wine. This view is held by the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church.


The understanding that the elements of bread and wine remain the same in part while the physical presence of Christ is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. This view is held by the Lutheran church.

Spiritual Presence

The view held by Reformed churches (e.g. Presbyterian) that acknowledges that while the bread and wine are symbolic of Christ’s body and blood and, therefore, do not physically change, the act is more than a mere memorial of Christ’s work. Jesus is spiritually present in the elements through the discerning faith of a believer who is strengthened and nourished in spirit by partaking in the sacrament.


The view of Communion which is not sacramental but what is called memorial or commemorative. Churches with this view consider the practice to be purely an act of remembering the work of Christ on the cross with the same spiritual presence or intensity as any other form of worship (prayer, praise, Bible study, etc.). This view is commonly held by most Baptist, Pentecostal, and nondenominational churches

Form Without Substance

The understanding that the physical elements of bread and juice are not necessary in order to celebrate Christ’s sacrificial work. Communion is enacted as a purely spiritual form without the need for the physical substance. Held by the Society of Friends Church (Quakers).

Neighborhood Church…

When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you.
When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”
-Mother Teresa



Part 6: Why do some people baptize babies and others dedicate them?

Sunday August 2, 2015

Famous Last Words

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20


(Greek) baptízō: to dip under, submerge, or wash.

a) To outwardly express your inward faith
b) To proclaim your spiritual identity and join with those who belong to the same faith.

Infant Baptism
The practice of baptizing infant children of believing, Christian parents. In the Roman Catholic Church infant baptism washes away original sin and is regenerative. In Reformed circles, infant baptism is not regenerative but covenantal and reflects the commitment of the parents to raise the child in the faith. Confirmation classes are always offered for the child around the age s of 12-14 to confirm on their own the faith make on their behalf by the parents.

Infant Dedication
A blessing ceremony in which parents bring their child before the congregation to commit themselves to raising their child in accordance with God’s will. At the same time, it affords the congregation the opportunity to under-gird the new parents with prayer and Biblical support in the ensuing years with the hope the child will someday make their own profession of faith.

Those who baptize babies…
Roman Catholic

Those who don’t…
Assemblies of God
Church of Christ
Most Non-Denominational Churches

In Favor…

“Baptism has replaced circumcision as the covenant sign and the distinction between male and female has ceased to be relevant to the possession and sealing of covenant status, the command therefore to the Christian church now reads: ‘Every infant among you shall be baptized.’ Infant baptism is thus the will of God. It is not merely legitimate; it is obligatory.   – J.I. Packer, Reformed Theologian


“If I thought it wrong to be a Baptist, I should give it up, and become what I believed to be right… If we could find infant baptism in the word of God, we should adopt it. But we have looked well through the Bible, and cannot find it, and do not believe that it is there; nor do we believe that others can find infant baptism in the Scriptures, unless they themselves first put it there.”
– Charles Spurgeon, Baptist Theologian

The Case for Infant Baptism: Paedobaptism

Whole Households Were Baptized

  • The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. Acts 16:14-15
  • At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. Acts 16:33
  • Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. Acts 18:8

NT Continuation of OT Covenant (Covenant Theology)

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.   Colossians 2:11-12

Practice in the Early Church

“According to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants”
-Origen, AD 244.

“According to circumstance and disposition and even age of the individual person, it may be better to delay Baptism; and especially so in the case of little children…”Let them come, then, while they grow up, while they learn, while they are taught to whom to come; let them become Christians when they will have been able to know Christ! -Tertullian, AD 250

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned . .nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic.” -St. Augustine A.D. 408

The Case for Believer’s Baptism: Credobaptism

The Importance of Professing Faith

  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16
  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Acts 2:38
  • But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 8:12
  • Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. Acts 18:8

The Absence of Explicit Biblical instruction

“Of the 100 or so times the terms baptism, baptize, baptized, etc. are used in the New Testament, there is never one time that infants or young children are specifically mentioned as being baptized…While circumcision was required for infant boys in the Old Testament (Genesis 17:12), there is no similar requirement for the baptism of infants in the New Testament.”

Infant Mortality & Catholic Doctrine


“As baptism began to take on a salvific quality, combined with the high rate of infant mortality, the rite came to include infants. Since baptism was believed to save, it was logical to baptize infants to ensure their salvation during the years prior to being able to exercise personal faith.” -Larry R. Oats, The Water that Divides

Okay, so show me in the Bible where it says to dedicate babies?

  • “For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. “So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD ” And he worshiped the LORD there. 1 Samuel 1:27-28
  • “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16

Neighborhood Church: the best of both worlds…

“One way forward could be for paedobaptists and advocates for believer’s baptism both to come to a common admission that baptism is not a major doctrine of the faith, and that they are willing to live with each other’s views on this matter and not allow differences over baptism to be a cause for division within the body of Christ. Specifically, this would mean allowing both views of baptism to be taught and practiced in denominations on both sides of the question.”
-Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology



Part 4: Should the Bible always be taken literally?

Sunday July 19, 2015


The methodology of interpreting literary texts.

Hermes, messenger of the gods (Greek mythology)

Questions of Context

  • What is the literary genre of the book?
  • What style of language is being used by the speaker?
  • What is the historical/cultural setting?

Literary Genres

  • History           Acts
  • Law
  • Wisdom
  • Poetry
  • Prophecy
  • Biography
  • Epistle
  • Apocalytpic    Revelation

Excerpt from Acts 16…

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God.

“Apocalyptic literature is written in symbolism, poetry, and imageries, all woven as a tapestry to describe future events but with a twist, using language with symbols that are cataclysmic, words that are exaggerated, and metaphors that may be lost on a 21st century person.”

Excerpt from Revelation 17…

“Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls… The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the great
the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth…
“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.”

Style of Language

“Christ had even a literary style of his own; the diction used by Christ is quite curiously gigantesque – it is full of camels leaping through needles and mountains hurled into the sea”.
-G.K. Chesterton

Rabbinic Hyperbole
The use of attention grabbing exaggeration or embellishment in order to teach or reinforce a concept.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” Mark 8:43-47

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
Matthew 21:21

Historical/Cultural Setting

When reading scripture, one should also be aware of the intended audience. Cultural norms, symbolism and the audience’s familiarity with contemporary traditions and terms may all contribute to the way in which scripture has been written and understood.

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those
who are harsh. 1 Peter 2:18

For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 1 Corinthians 11:6

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Genesis 2:1-2

Divine Accommodation

A principle of Biblical interpretation that God has accommodated various truths about himself and the world in such a way that they can be comprehended by the human mind. The Bible is to be interpreted in view of the fact that it is an accommodation of Divine truths to human minds: God the infinite communicating with man the finite.

The Bible was created throughout specific times in history so that man could understand it. The truths of God made contact with the human mind at a common point, the Bible, to make God and His divine work knowable.  We must be careful, then, not to push accommodating language about God and His nature to literal extremes.  -Theopedia

From BioLogos.org

“In recent decades, evangelical Biblical scholars have reconsidered non-literal interpretations of Genesis. The Accommodation view of St. Augustine and John Calvin is supported by recent discoveries about ancient cultures. Literature from these cultures shows interesting parallels and differences with Genesis accounts. The differences are striking, such as stories where creation is a battle among many gods rather than the acts of one sovereign Creator. The similarities, however, show how God accommodated his message so that the Israelites could understand it. For example, the Egyptians and Babylonians thought the sky was a solid dome. This solid dome appears in Genesis 1 as the firmament created on day 2. God did not try to correct the “science” of the Israelites by explaining that the sky was a gaseous atmosphere. Instead, God accommodated his message to their cultural context. Many evangelical Biblical scholars have concluded that Genesis is not meant to teach scientific information.”

How seriously do you take the Bible?

“I take the Bible too seriously to read it literally.” -Karl Barth

Summer Reading Challenge:
1 Gospel
1 Epistle



Part 3: Can you explain the Trinity and why it’s important?

Sunday July 12, 2015

“Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you…They all say `the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion’. I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means ‘the science of God,’ and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available.”   -C.S. Lewis

Why is the Trinity Important?

  • The Bible talks quite a bit about it.
  • God in 3 persons has a lot to offer each of us.

1054 AD – The Great Schism
The Western Church & Eastern Church Divide Over Issues about the Trinity
Catholic in the West (Rome)  and Orthodox in the East (Constantinople)

Where exactly does the Holy Spirit come from?

  • But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
  • “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. John 15:26

“We do not hold the doctrine of the Trinity because it is self-evident or logically cogent. We hold it because God has revealed that this is what he is like.”   -Millard Erickson, Christian Theology

The Divinity of Jesus

  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-2
  • “…Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” Philippians 2:5-6
  • “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

Trinity in the New Testament

  • “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
  • “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14
  • “To those who are elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”                  1 Peter 1:1-2

Trinity in the Old Testament

  • Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
  • “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deuteronomy 6:4
  • Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֔ים): God, or The Lord, but in plural form.

Cartoons Always Make Things Easier

Modalism states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son; and after Jesus’ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, this view states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time–only one after another.

Arianism (circa 250– 336) originating with the Alexandrian priest Arius, maintained that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by—and is therefore distinct from—God the Father. Arius believed the Son of God to be created by the Father and was therefore neither coeternal with the Father, nor of the same substance.

Partialism teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each “parts”, or components, of God. Instead of saying that God is One, it teaches that God is three, which in turn, form one, making God the sum of the parts. According to the partialist, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are parts of the being who is God; whereas the Biblical view is that Jesus is fully God and the Holy Spirit is fully God.

Biblical View of the Trinity:
“And the catholic faith is this:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.” -Athanasian Creed

Help from our friend, Clive Staples…

A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways – in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.

Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a rather simple and relatively empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings – just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine.

In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube.

But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something super-personal – something more than a person. It is something we could never have guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already.

You may ask, ‘if we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?’ Well, there isn’t any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time – tonight, if you like.

What I mean is this. An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God – that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on – the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“I didn’t need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.”
― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith



Part 2: How did all the Christian denominations come to be and what do they mean?

Sunday July 5, 2015

The First 1000 Years of the Church:
We’re all Catholic!

1054 AD – The Great Schism
The Western Church & Eastern Church Divide
Catholic in the West (Rome)
Orthodox in the East (Constantinople)

2 Basic Reasons for Schism

  • Problems in the Pentarchy
  • That funky Filioque Clause

Pentarchy: the universal rule over all of Christendom by Patriarchs of the five major episcopal sees of the Roman Empire: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy among the five sister patriachates and we recognize her right to the most honorable seat at the Ecumenical Council. But she has separated herself from us by her own deeds when through pride she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office… How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without our knowledge? — Archbishop Nicetas of Nicomedia

The Filioque Clause
A Latin phrase meaning “and the Son” included in some later forms of the Nicene Creed but not others (and not appearing in the original version) stating that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

1517 AD, Germany- The Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther and the 95 Theses

“Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Previously in Germany (1440 AD)
The Gutenberg Printing Press

  • Books of bestselling authors like Luther were sold by the hundreds of thousands in their lifetime.
  • On September 30, 1452, Johann Guttenberg’s Bible was published becoming the first book to be published in volume.

“With its emphasis on individual interpretation of scripture and a measure of religious freedom, the Reformation marked not only a break between Protestantism and Catholicism, but the beginning of denominationalism as we know it today. This historical perspective is perhaps the best way to make sense of the initially astounding variety of Christian denominations.”

1530 AD – Switzerland
John Calvin
Presbyter – Greek: Elder…Presbyterian: Elder Governed

“If Luther sounded the trumpet for reform, Calvin orchestrated the score by which the Reformation became a part of Western civilization.”
-Mark A. Noll, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

Mid 1500’s, Europe
(originally Anabaptists)

The name Anabaptist, meaning “one who baptizes again”, was given them by their persecutors in reference to the practice of re-baptizing converts who already had been baptized as infants. Anabaptists required that baptismal candidates be able to make their own confessions of faith and so rejected baptism of infants.
-Online Etymological Dictionary

1534 AD, England
Church of England or Anglican Church
(Called the Episcopal Church in America)
Henry VIII

When Henry VIII wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII, considering that the earlier marriage had been entered under a papal dispensation and how Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, might react to such a move, refused the annulment. Eventually, Henry, although theologically opposed to Protestantism, took the position of Supreme Head of the Church of England to ensure the annulment.

Mid 1700’s, England
John & Charles Wesley

Methodism is characterized by its emphasis on helping the poor and the average person, its very systematic approach to building the person, and the “church” and its missionary spirit.
Most Methodists teach that Christ died for all of humanity, not just for a limited group, and thus everyone is entitled to God’s grace and protection. In theology, this view is known as Arminianism.

Denominations as Rooms in God’s Great House
“But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in…When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

You Need to Be Where You Can Be the Most Real With God
“Sir,” the [Samaritan] woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:19-24


Part 1: How did we get all the books of the Bible?

Sunday June 28, 2015

Overview of the Bible

The Bible is made up of two primary parts,
the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament was written between 1400 BC and 400 BC. It was written by many different authors, primarily in Hebrew. In approximately 100 BC it was translated in Greek, the most common language of the Roman Empire. It is a collection of 39 books.

The New Testament was written between 40 and 100AD. It, also, was written by several different authors and was written in Greek. It is a collection of 27 books, most of them letters to churches or individuals.

How the Biblical Collection Developed

• The early church inherited a body of authoritative literature known as the Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament).

• All the documents which make up the New Testament were probably written before the end of the first century (between AD 50 and 100).

• Paul’s letters are the earliest recorded writings and became part of a 13-letter collection by the beginning of the third century (early 200’s).

• The Four Gospels came into written form later in the 1st century from oral tradition and were included as a fourfold collection by the end of the second century (by AD 200).

• The other NT writings known as ‘catholic letters’ (meaning universal) – because they were not addressed to any one particular church but to the church at large – initially circulated independently but were brought together under this title by the fourth century (early 300’s).

• The copying, circulation, collection and use of these books during the first four centuries show that nearly all of them had universal appeal and authority for the church before the final canonical list was made in AD 397.

What About Those Church Councils?

Because of the very grassroots dynamic of the nature of the early church, there were no councils that could influence or regulate all what the churches read, taught and used for several centuries. It was finally, after Rome became Christianized through Emperor Constantine in the early 300’s that church leaders could be assembled to make some sort of official pronouncement on which books were deemed to be ‘canonical.’

Scrolls format to Codex: early version of books.

Because all of these writings were considered holy, they were very carefully and accurately preserved. The chapter headings and verse numbers were added much later to make it possible to refer more easily to specific passages.

Criteria for including a writing in the final canon of Scripture:

canon: a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged; a collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine.

  • Apostolic Witness…the most important factor was whether or not a document was a trustworthy witness to the apostolic faith (meaning the teaching of Jesus that was learned by the apostles and their contemporaries and then communicated to others both orally and in written form).
  • Eye-Witness Authorship…writings that were either authored by an original apostle or someone very closely associated with an apostle (i.e. Mark assisted Peter, Luke assisted Paul; James and Jude were brothers of Jesus).
  • Usage in the Church…the books that were eventually regarded as “canon” are the ones that enjoyed a special status of being used both frequently and universally by the church.

What’s the deal with the Apocrypha?

Apocypha: writings or statements of dubious authenticity.

OT: 7 More Books included in the Roman Catholic Bible
Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach),
I and II Maccabees, and additions to Daniel and Esther.

NT: Many books that did not meet the criteria described

What Mattered To People

“Believers accepted certain Christian writings as authoritative for their faith because they transcended the immediate or particular situation for which they were written. Those that possessed only a temporary importance
were not given canonical status.”
– Arthur Patzia, The Making of the New Testament

“When at last a church council – The Synod of Hippo in AD 393 – listed the 27 books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity.”
– F.F. Bruce

2 Basic Reasons We Call This Collection Inspired

For the word of God is living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16