A Look at End Times, AKA: "An Overview of Eschatology"

A part of the ministry of SaltyBeliever.com is a podcast called Salty Believer Unscripted.  You can find our podcasts on our Resources Page or subscribe to it on iTunes.  (A selection of them are also available at EntrustedWithTheGospel.com.)

If you've never listened to "Salty Believer Unscripted," it's basically an unscripted, unedited 20 to 30 minute conversation between pastors that's recorded so you can join in.  We typically select a series topic (but not always) and chat over coffee.  We just finished a series called "An Overview of Eschatology" which takes a look at what the Bible has to say about the end times.  (At the time of this post, we're recording a series of podcast with other church planters and pastors, getting a feel for what's happening in the ministry of church planting across the country.)

Eschatology is kind of a funny thing. Either people are excessively into it and it dictates how they think about everything or they really don't have an opinion or thought about it at all.  This, I think, is primarily because people are so influenced by how they've seen others behave rather than what the Bible says.  So Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Pierce, Brett Ricely, and I set out to introduce and discuss some of the ideas contained in the study of Eschatology.  And in case you're wondering, we start with "What does Eschatology mean?"

Through this discussion, we cover topics like how we should interpret prophecy, where to find end times stuff in the Bible, why is studying eschatology important, the millenium, the tribulation, and the state of both heaven and hell.  Hopefully this will help you on your journey to better understand eschatology.  Are you a premillennialist, amillennialist, or postmillennialist?  How do you understand books like Revelation, Matthew, Daniel, and Isaiah; and what are they saying about the end?  What's your view on the tribulation and rapture?  Are you a litterlisist, historicists, or something else?  What is the New Heavens and New Earth like?  What's going to happen to this earth?  Why should we care?  We hope to help you answer these and many other questions.  However, we only offer a brief overview.  We don't get too bogged down.

Whether you have an interest in the end times or if you've never thought about it, I hope you'll consider checking out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."

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Or listen here:

An Overview of Eschatology
-- An Intro of the Terms audio
-- Prophecy: A Difficult Task audio
-- The Near-Far Views of Prophecy audio
-- Scripture, Not Man's Ideas audio
-- Definitions: How We See Prophecy audio
-- Understanding the Millennium audio
-- Why We Should Study for Ourselves audio
-- The Tribulation and Rapture audio
-- The The Glory and Wonder of Heaven audio
-- Hell is for Real audio

*Artwork by flickr.com user, "Rich" is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission. 

Overview of Eschatology

Salt Believer Unscripted has embarked into the future, that is, we've started a series that looks at eschatology.  This is not to say that we're going to start wearing sandwich boards that read, "The end is near."  We're not going to scream through a bullhorn.  And we don't need to identify The Anti-Christ because the Apostle John already has (in 1 John 2:22 he says he's anybody who denies the Father and the Son).  No, we're simply walking through an overview of eschatology.

If we're not going to get over-excited about end times symbolism and preach every sermon about our view of the end, why are we doing it?  Well, because we want to do our best to understand Scripture.  Avoiding specific Scriptural teaching just because people get crazy about it and it's kind of strange is not a sound practice for a student of the Bible.  Also, because Revelation 1:3 says, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."  If people are blessed to read the book of Revelation, that is stands to reason that we probably ought to study it.  I suspect the same is true of Isaiah, Matthew, Daniel, the letters of the Paul, and all the other books of the Canon.  And finally, because a listener asked after seeing a trailer for a Hollywood's attempt to explain it.

If you'd like to join us for this series, subscribe to our podcast or find the series on the resource page of Saltybeliever.com.

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*Artwork by Phillip Medhurst is registered under a Creative Commons Licence. 

Playing the Bride

Many little girls fantasize about their future wedding day.  They dream of an amazing dress, flowers, a big beautiful cake, and dancing.  In their aspirations all eyes are on the bride.  Everybody is saying, "isn't she beautiful!"

Many little girls strive to achieve this fantasy as they grow into women.  They design their big day around the plan they've been brewing for a lifetime. It's a lot of work with little chance of living up to the expectation.  But something serious is missing--the groom.

How easy is it find a bride-to-be tasting cake, picking flowers, and planning the ceremony with the groom-to-be simply in tow?  How often do we hear, "this is the bride's day?"  I've been know to say those very words to stressed out grooms.  It seems exhausting on the bride and taxing on the groom.

As I've been 'playing at church,' or rather, working to build a core team to start another Christian congregation in the Salt Lake valley, I've felt as though our little baby church plant is like the little girl dreaming of her wedding day.  Our team is 'trying it on' with ambition and aspiration, but often what we're looking to is the trappings of the local church, not the Groom who calls the Church his bride.

It's so easy to be busy.  It's easy to chase after the 'stuff' of the local church.  Growing leaders desire to have people fellowshipping in their homes with little understanding the fellowship the Bible actually calls for.  We want to build systems that get people connected to our congregation but we don't fully grasp the necessary connection to God's Kingdom.  We want to be heard as wise but are unsure about our willingness to truly get into the messiness of real lives.  We (certainly myself included) get excited about graphics and colors and chair arrangements and sound systems and forget that none of these things have eternal significance.  Potential preachers want to stand in the pulpit and preach a good sermon with little thought of the shepherding and care that the pulpit demands.  All of this is because we hold to a worldly view of the marriage we have with Jesus.  At times we're putting the dream before the reality; we're assembling a wedding day without the Groom.

The Bible provides us with a picture of a bride and a groom.  We are the bride and Jesus is the Groom.

Ephesians 5:25-27 charges the husband to love his wife, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of Christ's love for his bride.  It reads, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (ESV).

Jesus makes his bride beautiful!

How much more joy might the Bride of Christ have if we would get our priorities right?  How much more beautiful would the local church be if Christ were truly our passion and the 'stuff' came second or third or somewhere else down the line?  The stuff is so tempting because we often want all eyes on us as we desire the community around us to look at our local congregations and say, "isn't it beautiful" or "isn't this church cool."  Too often church leaders and preachers (myself included) want people to say, "Wow, great sermon" or "yes, I really like the _________ here" (fill in the blank with your favorite 'stuff').

While it is so easy to say and so hard to do, I believe it's critical that we dump our dreams and fantasies of what the local church should be and look to Jesus because he is not only the groom, he is the Head of the Church.  Jesus is our senior pastor.  And the Senior Pastor cares little for the 'stuff' and much for you and me, his bride.

(If you'd like to see more about what God's Word says about Christ and the Bride, here are some chapters to get you started: Psalm 45; Isaiah 62; Matthew 25; Mark 2; Revelation 19, 21, and 22.) 

*Photo by Amy Ann Brockmeyer is used with permission. 

Lessons from Church History

In the forward to 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Holman Reference), J.I. Packer says, Both the processes and characters of history have a vast amount to teach us; studying them matures our judgment and frees us from blind submission to present-day prejudices" (XI, 2000).  In short, history is important.  Christian history then, is even more important considering the depth, weight, and magnitude of the our relationship with God through the ages. 

The Bible is a written history, either of the individual's words or a narrative, or both.  Even the book of Revelation which is often thought only to be a book about the things to come is history.  Revelation 1:1-2 provides an introduction that something suggests something happened and John wrote it down.  Like the history of book of Revelation, Christian history (with includes John and his books) holds lessons and instruction for the present and future as well as a look into the past. This is precisely the point of Hebrews 11 and the fantastic picture and instruction provided in Hebrews 12. 

Truly believing that we can learn much and be greatly encouraged by the history of Jesus' Church, Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Pierce, and I recorded a series of podcasts about lessons we can learn from Church history.   In each podcast, we briefly examine a person or event from history and then discuss lessons or encouragements we've learned.   Our heroes of Church history come from the patristic age all the way forward to the mid-1900s and include both men and women.  We selected apologists, scholars, pastors, preachers, missionaries, martyrs, politicians, pioneers, and front runners in social justice. 

If you're interested, you can subscribe to "Salty Believer Unscripted" on iTunes or listen here:

Lessons from Church History
-- Athanasius and Lady Jane Gray (Part 1) audio 
-- Patrick and the Puritans (Part 2) audio
-- Jan Hus and Charles Spurgeon (Part 3) audio
-- Conrad Grabel, George Blourock, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Part 4) audio
-- Polycarp and John Chrysostom (Part 5) audio

*Photo of Natural History Museum of London, England was taken by Geof Wilson and is registered under a creative commons license.


Angels are a source of great fascination.  Speculation, personal desire, and artists' renderings seem to dictate most of what society thinks about angelic beings.  The Bible offers us some insight, but not much.  Many ask why the Bible doesn't give us a better idea on the topic of angels; however, it's important to see that the Bible is the story of God's redemptive history of fallen man.  The Bible is the revelation of God and shows his desire to be in relationship with us.  In this story, angels are just the extras, the bit parts. They play a supporting role in God's plan and what we need to learn from the Bible is not necessarily everything about angels, but as much as we can about the God who loves us and sent is only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die so all who believe in him will have life rather than death.

That being said, Angels are in the Bible and there is an entire field of biblical study on the topic of angels called angelology.  (Much of angelology is spent knocking down misconceptions held by society.)  While most of what the Bible says about angels could be handled in a single post, this post will only deal with a couple questions.

What, or who are angels?

Angels are beings created by God.  Often they are unseen, but when seen they look like lightning or fire, or they seem to have the ability to look like humans (2 Kings 6:15-17, Genesis 18:2-19:22; John 20:10; and Acts 12:7-10 for example).   Hebrews 13:2 even suggests that they can blend in and be completely mistaken for humans.  In these cases, it seems that angels don't have wings; however, we must also remember verses like Isaiah 6:2 where an angelic being called a seraphim is said to have six wings.  In other accounts we see an angelic being called a cherubim.  This is the being that's waiving a flaming sword back and forth to prohibit man's reentry to the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).  The cherubim is also the same creature God commanded the Hebrews to sculpt on top of the Ark of the Covenant. These cherubim had wings that touched each other (Exodus 25:17-22).   Demons are fallen angels, cast out of heaven and waiting for the final judgment and not granted forgiveness or salvation through repentance (see 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).

There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that angels were ever human.  We do not become angels when we die and our deceased loved ones are not angels looking over us.  In addition, angels do not become humans; they are not our future family members in some kind of preexistence waiting for a body on earth.  The Bible does not speak of angels or humans in this way and there's nothing suggesting that humans were in a preexistence with God.  These ideas are simply creations of human thinking.  The Bible teaches that humans are the pinnacle of God's creation, not angels (to see this, start reading in Genesis 1 and stop after Revelation 22).

What do angels do; this is, what is their purpose?

Just as is the purpose of man, angels were created to glorify God.  We often see angels worshiping God (Psalm 103:20-21, Psalm 148:2, and Isaiah 6:1-7 for example).  Sometimes they act as God's messengers such as in Daniel 8-9 and Luke 1. They protect God's people (Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11,  and Acts 12 for example).  Matthew 18:10 seems to suggest that children have an angel watching over them and Luke 16:22 might suggest that angels have a responsibility at the time of a believer's death.  And most importantly, angels usher in and proclaim Christ at his birth, resurrection, and return.  Angels don't die and they they do not marry (Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:35-36).

Too often, people get hung up on the work of angels.  In doing so, they completely miss the bigger work of God as he is redeeming his creation.  Looking to angels, they do not look upon Christ.  In order to see angels rightly, it is best to first see Christ for who he is.  (If you have questions, I am happy to answer them and chat more about this with you.  You may contact me here.)   

* Photo of mourning angel at the churchyard of San Miniato al Monte (Firenze) in Firenze, Italy was taken by Mark Voorendt, April 2001 and is registered under a creative commons license.

How Does the Kingdom Grow?

Books on missions and evangelism could fill libraries and bookstores, pastor's shelves and recycle bins.  Many of these books are very good, but I've found most the ones that I've read are more focused on a new plan.  Do we need a new plan?  These books talk a lot about Kingdom growth, but how does God's Kingdom grow?  The Jesus often discussed Kingdom growth and used illustration like light, seeds, and yeast.  He seemed to teach that the Kingdom grows one person at a time as God's people bring the light into dark places.

The above example is how the Kingdom could grow in Salt Lake City, Utah, but the idea applies everywhere in the world.  We are called to be light in dark places.  Our relationship with Christ should be spilling over everywhere we go.  Be filled with Christ and let your relationship with him overflow into all the places you go and wherever you find yourself.

Interconnectedness of the Bible: 1 Chronicles 28:9

"It's clear that the Bible is too superintended to be a random collection of books," a pastor friend once said to me.  I agree.  Like watching a good flick, reading the Bible a few times opens up a fascinating realm of things missed on a first or second pass.  This exploration can continue for a life time if you just keep reading the Bible.  It's a supernatural interconnected single story, woven together through the merciful revelation of God to his creation over the course of about 2,000 years through forty or so human authors.  (More technically, the Bible is God's divinely authored revelation of himself to his people, written through his people.  It's a complex dual authorship!)  And it is the Holy Spirit who illuminates new things as you read, learn, and grow; therefore,  as you keep reading you grow more and more convinced of the truth of God's Word, the Bible.

Evidence of the Bible's interconnectedness abounds.  I've not done a formal study or count, but I'd venture a guess that there are thousands of passages that point to other passages in one way or another and they all point toward Christ.  We'll use 1 Chronicles 28:9 as an example.

Chapter 28 of 1 Chronicles opens with David, the king of Israel, giving a speech to the officials assembled in Jerusalem.  He tells them that he had a heart to build a temple for God but God had not allowed him to do so.  He also expressed that Solomon, his son, was chosen by God to be his successor and it will be Solomon who will build the temple.  At verse 9 David shifts his speech directory toward Solomon.  He gives him a charge and some instruction.  "And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever" (ESV).

I found well over 100 cross references for the various aspects of this passage, but for the sake of this post, I'll only deal with a couple parts of this very loaded verse, and even in that, I'll only provide a small sample of interconnected verses. 

First, much of the Old Testament talks about God in terms of the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, or in other terms--the God of our fathers.  Many times the God of one's father becomes one's own God, as if there's a transition from one to another or a personal acceptance or relationship as the son grows and begins to know the God of his father for himself.  God is no longer the God of someone else, but personal.  This talk of the God of our fathers as well as the transition can be seen in verses like Genesis 28:13, Exodus 3:16, and Exodus 15:2.  In 2 Kings 21:22 Amon walks away from the God of his fathers, whereas Josiah does walk in the way of the God of David, that is, the God of his fathers (1 Kings 22:2). This language is found over and over again until Christ walks among his people and actually calls God his Father! No longer is the worship and service to the God of our fathers, but the Heavenly Father himself. Then, because of Jesus, we too are able to call God our Father because we are adopted into his family (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5).  

Next, as early as Genesis 6:5, the Bible indicates that God knows the thoughts and intentions of man.  1 Samuel 16:7, at the time when they boy David was being identified as Israel's king, it is said that God does not look at the outward appearance, but at man's heart.  Psalm 7:9 identifies God as one who tests minds and hearts. Psalm 139:2 says that God can even discern these thoughts from a distance.  The idea of testing thoughts and intentions is present again in Jeremiah 11:20 and again in Jeremiah 17:10.  So it should help us see that Jesus is God when he has this very ability.  In John 1:47 Jesus looks into the deep of Nathanael. Repeatidly, Jesus knew what the Pharases were thinking as well as his disciples (see: Matthew 9:4; Matthew 12:25; Luke 1:51; Luke 5:22; Luke 6:8; and Luke 11:17).  And the disciples new and believed that God searches the heart as is evident in Acts 1:24.  Paul also writes about it in Romans 8:27.

Jeremiah 29:13 says that seekers of God find him.  Jesus, as the Messiah and God, repeats the same seek and you will find  theme in Matthew 7:7-8, and in Revelation 3:20 he extends an invitation for a relationship.  Throughout both the Old and New Testaments there are repeated invitations to enter into a relationship with God, no longer serving the God of our fathers but the Heavenly Father himself.

It is because of the interconnectedness that we use the Bible to interpret the Bible.  The more plain passages help us understand the more complex ones.  The connections between the books, the players, and various smaller stories help us understand the larger story of God's redemption.  It's all interconnected.  It's one story woven together like a beautiful basket.

*Photo of weaved basket by Damian Gadal is registered under a creative commons license and is used with permission.

The Letter to Thyatira

I once again had the opportunity to preach at CrossPoint Church in Salt Lake. They are a church plant in the valley that has been going for five years. Their pastor was in a series on the seven letters to the seven churches found in the Book of Revelation. I preached on the letter to Thyatira found in Revelation (Revelation 2:18-29).

Listen to the audio here.

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* While there may be some overlap, the content of the Video and Audio Podcasts are not the same. 

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 3)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Rob Bell explores his thoughts about hell in the third chapter of his book, Love Wins.  With a part of this chapter he challenges the traditional Christian view of a place of punishment, sorrow, and anguish, and it also seems that he is laying the ground work for a future argument about the everlasting aspects of the biblical hell.  But Bell also uses this chapter to present an idea of hell on earth, maybe something like his ideas of heaven on earth. However, this twisted idea of hell that Bell shares speaks against the Gospel of Christ and against the biblical idea of hell; it is a heretical argument and a tragic concept with the potential for epic devastation, a message which no Christian preacher should ever suggest, preach, or teach.

Bell argues that hell on earth is for victims. 

How can this be good news?

(At this point, I realize that readers who love and support Bell and his book will be tempted to stop reading this review, and that's okay.  But it is my hope that those readers remember arguments that they themselves might have made.  "Don't pass judgment," they might have argued, "and don't form an opinion until you've read the book."  Some also argued that I would have to get to the end of the book to see the entire picture.  So if this is you, I hope you continue reading this review.  I hope you are willing to see it through to the end. I invite comments and questions via e-mail or in person.  Please feel free to contact me. And I realize I have just leveled some serious claims about Bell's ideas; so Mr. Bell, I invite you to contact me to discuss your ideas so I can better understand. Come out to Salt Lake so we can discuss this over a cup of coffee.)

In this chapter, Bell shares some of his observations and experiences he has had as a pastor--a trip to Rwanda, a time sitting with a rape victim, a question from a boy about his father who had just committed suicide, the look of a cocaine addict, the ripples of a marital affair, and a cruel dead man.

When Bell was in Rwanda, he witnessed many teenagers missing hands and legs.  They were victims of brutal treatment, forced upon them by no fault of their own. Bell says this was a tactic of a person's enemy.  Cutting off your enemy's hand or leg leaves a brutal reminder of what you did to him.  He is reminded of you every time he looks at his child.  To this, Bells says, "Do I believe in a literal hell?  Of course. Those aren't metaphorical missing arms and legs" (71).

Bell also asks if his readers have ever sat with a woman as she described what it was like when she was raped.  In another question he asks, "How does a person describe what it's like to hear a five-year-old boy whose father has just committed suicide ask, 'When is daddy coming home?'" (71).   

But here's the problem with these examples.  In the common vernacular, one might suggest that a hot stone massage is "heavenly" or maybe it's a piece of chocolate cake the warrants such a high description.  I even remember once buying a honey-baked ham from a company called Heavenly Ham, but I really don't think I bought a ham from heaven, not even heaven on earth.  This is metaphorical hyperbole.  Heaven is the greatest thing one can think of so we use it to describe great things, as if to say there is nothing better.  But in reality, the biblical heaven is not a hot stone massage or a piece of cake or a ham or even the commercial building where I bought the ham.  That's not what these kinds of statements are attempting to say.  We use the word and idea of hell in much the same way.  Hell is the worst thing we can think of so we make statements like, "War is hell."  We want to dramatically declare that it just doesn't get any worse than this.  So in that usage, armless, legless boys and rape victims and mothers who hear very difficult questions could easily say, "This is hell;" but that would not be the hell described in the bible.

What these horrific examples demonstrate is sin, or rather, the effects of sin.  See, the teens in Rwanda and the raped woman are the victims of sinful acts thrust upon them.  These are examples of sin in motion, the sin of humans; it's sin in the fallen world in which we live.  However, in the model Bell gives us, Abel would have been in hell during the few moments while Cain was murdering him (Genesis 4).  Stephen would have been in hell as he was being stoned to death, despite that the Bible says that he saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man was standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7).  In this model, it seems that the early Saints were passing into a hell on earth while Saul was ravishing the Church (Acts 8).

And let us take a look at a parable Jesus shared about a rich man who died and was in Hades. (Bell also examines this parable, but for a much different reason.)  Luke 16:19-31 tells us a parable of this unnamed rich man and a poor begger named Lazarus.  Lazarus sat out side the rich man's gates starving.  Dogs licked Lazurus' sores, while the rich man did nothing for him.  In the parable, Lazarus ends up in heaven while the rich man ends up in hell.  There is a chasm between the two that does not allow anyone to pass from one place to the other (Luke 16:26).  But looking through the paradigm Rob Bell is giving us, it seems that before the two died, Lazarus was in hell, not the rich man.

In this parable, the dead rich man calls out to Abraham (who is with Lazarus) for mercy, but Abraham reminds the suffering man, "Child, remember that you in your lifetime received the good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Luke 16:25, ESV).  And even later, the rich man begs that his brothers be warned so that they may repent (Luke 16:30) and avoid this . . . this what?  The rich man says "agony." Agony for what?  Could it be punishment?  But punishment for what?  His sin.  Maybe for neglecting the poor; maybe neglecting Jesus as Jesus discussed in Matthew 25 (another passage Bell examines for entirely different purposes in the previous chapter about heaven).  Doesn't this make sense in light of Romans 6:23 which states that the wages of sin is death?  Doesn't this make the gospel, that is, that Christ created a bridge across this chasm, seem like amazing news!  The painting that was so frightful to Bell is the bridge, and the reason it is a cross is because that is how Jesus made the bridge.

As I thought about those Rwandan teens, I couldn't help but think about the people inflicting "hell" upon these children.  They may have actually lived rather well, like the rich man.  And what about the rapist? And what about the religious people who stoned Stephen to death?  What about Saul?  It doesn't seem that there was a punishment or agonizing hell on earth for them.  Bell's hell on earth seems only to be agony and suffering for the victims.  Does the Bible really teach that the victims suffer hell on earth, a biblical hell, for the sins committed against them?  Or as with the rich man, does it seem that this judgment and punishment comes in the afterlife?

And what about the feelings and experiences of a cocaine addict or how the suffering a man might feel after he has sinned by having a marital affair?  Has God cast any of these living people in to hell, or at least a hell on earth? (And again, we can't say Mahatma Gandhi is in hell but it's okay to declare that these living people could be in hell?)  The answer is no, God has not cast these living people into hell on earth.  For the victims, we might think of this suffering in light of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 and Romans 8:28.  These victims are not cast away from God.  And for the perpetrators who are suffering as a result of their own sin, we might call this conviction in some cases, or it may be that the law is acting like a schoolmaster (Galatians 3), all for the benefit of their salvation.  God may feel distant to them, but only because they have pushed him away, done as an act of their own self punishment.  But God has not cast them to the burning trash heap of hell, not yet anyway.  God is not neglecting them; he loves them and desires good things for them.

It may seem that the Bible only talks of hell as a garbage dump as Bell tries to present it.  (He says that the only mention of hell is the Greek word gehenna. But even staying on the surface of semantics, this argument neglects 2 Peter 2:4's use of the word tartaroō.)  And of course it would seem that there are very little mentions of hell or any kind of punishment if we only look for the word gehenna.  And if we neglect Jesus' parables and much of the symbolic hints of punishment and reward, and even much of the direct statements about a punishment for sin after death, we might think that hell is not that big of a deal.  We could falsely draw the conclusion that Jesus wasn't that concerned about hell.  But that would be a mistake.  Before you incorrectly draw that conclusion, read some passages in the Bible again, without anybody's commentary.  Here are just a few examples; there are many more: Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Numbers 16:30, 33; Deuteronomy 32:22; 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Samuel 22:6; 1 Kings 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Psalms 6:5; 9:17; Matthew 3:12; 5:22, 29–30; 7:23; 10:28; 11:23; 13:24-30, 42-43, 47-50; 16:18; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 25:32-33; Mark 9:43–47; Luke 3:17; 10:15; 12:5; 16:23; John 15:6; Acts 2:27, 31; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 9:2; 14:9-11; 18:8; 19:20; and 20:13–15

And I propose that if we are to look for any example of hell on earth we must look to the specific moment while Christ was on the cross as a propitiation for our sins; that is, taking on the sins of the world which were laid upon him (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).  In that moment, when it appeared that Jesus was isolated from the Father, he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).  In that moment, Jesus was making a way for us.  And if anything were going to make an argument for hell on earth, it must be this moment.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 4)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.
** Photo of "The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door" by James Joseph Jacques Tissot is used with permission from the Brooklyn Museum.

What is the Kingdom of God?

I once taught a class where the kingdom of God was of chief interest.  For the sake of time, we didn't read all of the Scriptures listed below, but I did print this material as a handout to the class and I felt it would be worth posting here.  The question at hand is, what is the Bible referring to when it mentions the kingdom of God? 

A Systematic View

The kingdom of God (nearly interchangeable with kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, kingdom of our Lord, and sometimes just the kingdom) is discussed often throughout the Bible. It can seem complex, because it is inside creation, outside creation, and above creation. Like the Trinity of God, there is no earthy analogy to adequately describe it. Presently, we only see it in bits and pieces but our understanding of it comes through faith.

“[The kingdom of God] is simply the reign of God in human hearts wherever obedience to God is found.”1

The Kingdom of God is not the Church. “The Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and, derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In the biblical idiom, the Kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. Jesus’ disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of men.”2

The kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) is not strictly speaking of the afterlife or future place or future existence. It has an “already/not yet” aspect about it present in many of the discussions about it throughout the Bible.

The kingdom of God should not be mistaken with the sovereignty or rule of God. God is sovereign over all of creation. However, presently, one can be inside or outside of the kingdom of God. And we do not truly, positively experience it until we are within the kingdom of God.

There are 66 uses of “kingdom of God” in the New Testament. There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “kingdom of God.” (Matt 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43; Mark 1:15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14–15, 23–25; 12:34; 14:25; 15:43; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:1, 10; 9:2, 11, 27, 60, 62; 10:9, 11; 11:20; 13:18, 20, 28–29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20–21; 18:16–17, 24–25, 29; 19:11; 21:31; 22:16, 18; 23:51; John 3:3, 5; Acts 1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23, 31; Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 4:20; 6:9–10; 15:50; Gal 5:21; Col 4:11; 2 Th 1:5.)

There are 32 uses of “kingdom of heaven” in the New Testament. There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19–20; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 11:11–12; 13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44–45, 47, 52; 16:19; 18:1, 3–4, 23; 19:12, 14, 23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; 25:1.)

There are 2 uses of “kingdom of our Lord” in the New Testament. (2 Pet 1:11; Rev 11:15.) There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “kingdom of our Lord.”

There are 3 uses of “gospel of the kingdom” in the New Testament, and all of which are found in Matthew. (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew also uses the “word of the kingdom” in Matt 13:19.

There is 1 use of “The kingdom of Christ and God” and it’s found in Eph 5:5.

Not every use for kingdom without the various above qualifiers in the New Testament is referring to the kingdom of God, but many do. (There are 55 uses of kingdom not followed by either "of God" or "of heaven.") Significant examples include Matt 4:23; 6:10; 8:12; 9:35; 13:19, 38, 41, 43; 16:28; 20:21; 24:14; 25:34; 26:29; Mark 11:10; Luke 1:33; 11:2; 12:31–32; 22:29–30; 23:42; John 18:36; Acts 20:25; 1 Cor 15:24; Col 1:13; 2 Tim 4:18; Heb 1:8; 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Pet 1:11; Rev 1:6; 5:10; and 12:10.

The Hebrew word for kingdom is used though the Old Testament mostly for earthly kingdoms but there are references to the Kingdom of God. Examples include: Ex 19:6 (Kingdom of Priests), 2 Sam 7:10–16 & 1 Chr 17:9–14 (near/far picture of Kingdom), Psa 45:6; 103:19; 145:11–13 (Blurred lines between Sovereign rule and the Kingdom of God), Dan 4:3 (everlasting Kingdom), and Dan 7:18, 22 (future view of the Kingdom).

1 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 1998), 1163.
2 George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament; quoted by Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 863.

* Photo by Niall McAuley is registered under a creative commons license.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Preface)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."]

I remember a time in my own life when I was younger and trying to understand my critique of what I thought Christians were compared to what I thought they should be.  I would often see something I didn't care for within the social aspects of the American Christian church and then suggest that what I saw as not biblical or was somehow not at all in-line with what Jesus might have taught.  I say "might" because honestly, I wasn't reading God's Word much and I certainly wasn't submitting my life to its authority.  Instead, I was trying to make Christianity what I wanted it to be so I could call myself a Christian.  Looking back, it's clear to me now that I wanted to stand in God's place, and I believed that the people I was critiquing, the Church--the very Bride of Christ (John 3:29, Ephesians 5:23, Revelation 21:2, 9)--had "hijacked" real Christianity.  They had mutated the real story of the Bible, or so I thought when I looked in from where I was at that point in my life.  So you can imagine what ran through my mind when on the very first page of the preface I read that Jesus' story has been "hijacked" (vi).

Following the claim that there has been a hijacking, Bell seems to suggest that the traditionally taught idea that, "a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better," is misguided and toxic to Jesus' message of love, peace, and forgiveness (vii).  If I could send this book back through history to the me I just described above, that Bryan would hit these very first pages and instantly fall in love with the book.  Being in such agreement, the Bryan of the past would then likely find himself continually nodding with every paragraph, eating up every word.

What's strange however, is that there is no suggestion, no hint (at least in the prologue) as to when or why this serious hijacking happened.  But there is no reason to think this particular response to the alleged hijacking is new.  Instead, Bell implies that this teaching has always been around as part of the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  It's an "ancient, ongoing discussion surrounding the resurrected Jesus" (x-xi).  It's a "deep, wide, and diverse" conversation according to Bell (x-xi). It is my hope that subsequent chapters will address this hijacking because this is a serious claim to place upon people that are part of Jesus' Church.  Or I guess it could be directed at those Bell believes do not stand with Jesus; it's tough to tell because this hijacking was just sort of slipped in without much explanation. 

At this point, Bell seems to suggest that the idea that only a few will enter heaven is deplorable (viii).  This is not to say that Bell will hold this position throughout the remainder of his book, but that's the impression I'm left with at this point.  This statement however, leaves me very curious about how Bell will approach this idea in light of Luke 13:23-24, where someone asks of Jesus if only a few will be saved.  Jesus replies, "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24, ESV).  It could be that the issue Rob is having is not the idea of only a few entering heaven, but maybe something else.  I suppose I'll find out as I move further into the book. 

But Bell does make some good points in his preface.  He is quick to point out that some communities do not allow for healthy discussion of tough questions.  In this, he is right.  He goes on to say, "There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous.  [...] Jesus frees us to call things what they are" (x).  Again, Bell is right.  Therefore, I feel that Bell is giving me permission to examine what follows in this book by the same standard. And I also agree with Bell in that it will be thrilling if this book brings people into open discussion about this important topic, no matter how vibrant, diverse, or messy (xi).

It should also be noted that this discussion of the preface looks to be almost as long, if not longer than the preface itself.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 1)."

*I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book. 

The Bible: Chapters and Verses

I always find it humorous when someone comes out with a new fancy Bible "code" that's based on chapter and verse notation.  If you're one of those people who get excited about these goofy things, please let me explain.

The Bible in its original form had no chapter or verse notations.  In fact, it wasn't even collected into a single binding like we have today.  Originally, each book or epistle was composed and copied on its own individual scroll (or in some cases, like Psalms, more than one scroll).  Sometimes they would even run out of room and have to write on the back (maybe the case for the scroll mentioned in Revelation 5:1).  Eventually, collections of books were assembled into a type of binding called a codex (the precursor of the book).  Based on what we know from archeological findings, it is highly unlikely that the original books had the same paragraph structure or punctuation we see today.  Actually, they didn't have any punctuation at all.  And even among the canon, there is no requirement that the books be collected in the same order as we see in the typical printed Bible of our day.  

In Jesus' day, the Scriptures were divided into the Law and the Prophets.  Of course after the canonization of New Testament, we could delineate between the Old and New Testaments.  And with the Old Testament, the common divisions are the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), History (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings, 1st & 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ester), Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon), and the Prophets--broke up by major and minor books by length (majors are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentation, Ezekiel, and Daniel; minors are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).  For Protestants, this is where the Old Testament ends, with 39 books.  For Catholics, the Deutero-Canonical books also known as the Apocrypha, are another category found in with the binding of their Bibles.

The New Testament is also broke up by common divisions.  These are the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), History (Acts), Epistles (Romans, 1st & 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st & 2nd Thessalonians, 1st & 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Peter, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd John, and Jude), and Apocalyptic (Revelation).  These are the 27 books of the New Testament.  Together with the Old Testament, 66 books make up the canonized Christian Bible. 

However, even with these divisions, it's very difficult to find a single passage of Scripture.  For example, the ESV translation of the Bible contains 757,575 words--it's a big book.  The Jews did have some kind of breakdown by verse to make synagogue reading a bit easier, but the chapter breakdown didn't come until the 13th century.  Some credit Hugo de St Caro with the addition of chapters to the Bible, but others say it was Stephen Langton.  Either way, it is clear that chapters were not a part of the original books and they are not a part of the Word of God.  The verse identification within the chapters was soon to follow.  But even with the addition of chapter and verse notation, reading older commentaries from guys like Luther and Calvin, it is clear that there was not a consistency among the notations.  That too came later.

So when the next book, article, or blog post published about a newly discovered Bible code, remember what parts of the Bible are the Word of God and what parts are not.  It might also be helpful to remember, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV).

For those who are interested, here are some statics about the Bible (but don't bother trying to find secret codes in these numbers because that's just a silly waste of time):

Number of Chapters in the Bible: 1,189.
Number of Chapters in the Old Testament: 929.
Number of Chapters in the New Testament: 260.

Number of verses in the entire Bible: 31,218.
Number of verses in the Old Testament: 23,261.
Number of verses in the New Testament: 7,957.

Number of words in the King James Version (KJV): 790,676.
Number of words in the English Standard Version (ESV): 757,575.
Number of words in the New International Version (NIV): 726,109.
Number of words in the New Living Translation (NLT): 747,974.

Self-Help Marriage Books

I just read and evaluated a book on marriage for a class.  With all due respect to those who have tried, a book on making a marriage successful is usually a gross over simplification, and often constructed on a sandy foundation. At best, it builds on no foundation; at worst, it elevates a successful marriage into a position above God. The reason has everything to do with the focus. Too often, the mindset is that two people, through self-regulated behavior, can build and maintain a positive relationship with one another. While it is true that relationship management is the reason for many successful marriages, it is not how God teaches on marriage.

Dr. John Gottman has contributed to the body of nearly secular self-help marriage books. His book, Why Marriages Succeed and or Fail is informative and helpful but still misses God’s primary starting point of all successful marriages. It doesn't build upon a solid foundation.

Here's what often goes overlooked, even by many Christian authors and publishers: Genesis outlines God’s creation of the covenant relationship between a man and a woman--marriage. He created it, and therefore he alone gets to define it. In making man and woman in the image of the triune God, men and women are created to be in interpersonal relationship with God, but also with one another. Genesis 2:24 reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh,” showing the parting of one relationship in order to enter into a physically and spiritually profound marital union. Jesus builds upon our understanding of this union saying, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6, ESV). Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is a sin for a man and woman to become “one flesh” out side of marriage, demonstrating that there is more than the mere physical in the act of sexual relations. And Romans 6:2 indicates that the marriage covenant is a life-long covenant.

But much of the New Testament biblical teaching on marriage is actually used as symbolism to either show Christ’s Kingly reign, a proper relationship between Christ and man, or the relationship between Christ and the Church. This symbolism often uses the marriage ceremony or wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14, Matthew 25:7-12, Luke 22:27-30, John, 2:1-12, John 2:28-29, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:23-32, and Revelation 19:7-9). One might ask how the symbolism of the wedding and Christ relates to the marriage between a man and a woman today, and the answer is found in understanding the relationships. The Bible clearly demonstrates Christ’s love for the Church, even that he died for her. And man is called to love his bride that much, that is, as much as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:23-33). In addition, Paul says that a man should also love his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:28-30). With that said, it is clear that the Bible holds marriage in a high position, not to be taken lightly. (It is also clear that the marriage or the family unit should not be worshiped as an idol as some do, but this is a discussion for another time.)

As God calls men and women to himself and sanctifies them in preparation of the glory of Kingdom living, we find a need for grace, care, and love in our relationships, especially our marital relationship. Very few of the issues that the marriage self-help books deal with will still be issues after a married couple submits their lives and relationship to God’s grace, care, and love. Often, when the Holy Spirit is working in a marriage and the couple is in submission to God’s will, Gottman’s style of simple self assessment testing and marriage tactics seems silly. In Christ, the married couple comes to understand the difficulty of marriage and the amazing power of God in the marriage covenant. An through this understanding, they can have a beautiful, loving marriage that teaches them more about the nature and character of God.  This is not to say that a couple will never need counseling or help in the marriage, but that they should always keep God's rightful position over their marriage, rather than incorrectly putting the newest trend of self-help in God’s seat.

*Photo by Keith Park, registered under a Creative Commons license. 

Jesus in Public Prayer

Introduction. Occasionally pastors are asked to offer a prayer—usually an invocation or benediction—in a public, secular environment. This is especially true in government settings and a typical duty of a military chaplain. This raises some questions for the Christian minister. Does the Christian minister have the right to pray a specifically “Christian” prayer in these settings? Can a Christian pray without closing the prayer in Jesus’ name? And finally, is there any reason a Christian minister or chaplain should agree to publicly praying in an ecumenical environment where the mention of Jesus is frowned upon or prohibited? These are good questions for the American pastor or chaplain serving in the environment of recent court decisions, the Establishment Clause, the high wall of separation between church and state, and the courts of pubic appeal.

The Minister’s Right. In light of Supreme Court cases like ENGLE v. VITELE, the Christian minister should not assume the right to pray however he wishes when invited to pray in a secular government setting. If the minister is unwilling to remain ecumenical (if requested or expected to do so), he should decline the invitation to pray. The military requires a chaplain to agree to these terms before accepting a commission. Despite how the minister may feel about this, he must remember the words of Jesus, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20, ESV). The minister should be thankful that he is invited to pray in a secular, government environment at all; but he should also pray that one day all will pray in Jesus’ name. The minister’s focus should be on prayer, teaching, evangelism, and service, leaving the distractions of these societal difficulties to the lawyers and politicians (unless of course it comes up for a vote). However, if the minister is invited to pray, he should always feel that he has the right to clarification; and a minister should never be required to pray in this fashion if he is uncomfortable doing so. The military chaplain however, should be prepared to face persecution if he chooses to take this stand.

In Jesus’ Name. Many times throughout the Bible, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray in his name (John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23, Ephesians 5:20). But as Grudem says, this instruction “does not simply mean adding the phrase ‘in Jesus’ name’ after every prayer” (Grudem 1994, 379). He continues by arguing that it is not a magic formula for our prayers (Ibid, 379). Instead, praying in Jesus’ name is praying in and with Jesus’ authority. While it is wise to verbally declare that a prayer is said in the authority of Jesus, it is not a Biblical requirement. In fact, of the prayers recorded in the Bible (Matthew 6:9-13, Acts 1:24-25, 4:24-30, 7:59, 9:13-14, 10:14, Revelations 6:10, 22:20), none of them end “in Jesus’ name” (Ibid, 379). In light of these biblical prayers, it seems that an occasional prayer (in a non-Christian government setting) that ends with a simple “Amen” is acceptable.

Why Would a Minister Agree? While ministers and chaplains should hope and pray for a day when everybody makes specifically Christian prayers, reality says this is not the case today. The advantages of accepting an invitation to pray in a non-Christian environment are proximity and presence. Ministers do not often have the access they might have by accepting the invitation to pray. Later, someone the Holy Spirit is convicting may approach the minister for help. And by praying, a reminder is posted that there is indeed a higher power whom which we make supplication. Given title or introduction, people will likely know that the minister is Christian. Chaplains are granted an all-important proximity to soldiers, but only because they are willing to occasionally restrict their language choices in order to pray in the public non-Christian setting. The same is expected of non-Christian chaplains. If Christians refused to pray in this manner, they would be barred access to soldiers, the more significant ministry for the chaplain. The weakness however, is that many will hear this prayer and not understand the importance or necessity of Jesus. This work will likely take more than this single occasion. And a threat comes in the form of compliancy. As the Christian minister makes one concession, there could be expectations that others will be made too. The Christians of the first century went to their deaths for the name of Jesus and actually became a greater witness than if they were to make concessions for access. This should be weighted when making the decision to pray or not, when contemplating the acceptance of a chaplaincy or not.

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester,
England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

* This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.  
** Photo of  Stained Glass by Toby Hudson and is registered under a Creative Commons License. 

Still to Reach the World?

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a new interest to push into foreign, mostly unknown cultures in order to spread the gospel message.  This resulted in all kinds of missionary movements, some of which have even become denominations.

But in recent years, there seems to be a draw back inward, into the church.  Fantastic Sunday services are, at times, the focus.  Communities of like-minded people who, for the most part, are already believers are cropping up everywhere.  Some of these efforts are driven by the realization that even in the US, Canada, and England, there are large numbers of people that are not believers.  Countries that have traditionally sent missionaries and church planters are now in need of them at home.  But as the pendulum swings back, it's important that American Christians do not lose the mindset of a gospel message to the whole world.   

Why?  Why shouldn't we just focus on our local communities and let the locals in those other areas deal with their local communities?  Because the Bible dictates that the gospel is for the whole world and the disciples are to go to the whole world. There's a large list of passages, but for this blog, I'll stick to a short selection. 

To exclude Matthew 28:19-20 from the top of the list of passages on world evangelism would be a travesty. The passage, often called 'The Great Commission' reads,
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (ESV, emphasis added). 
All though the translation of the Greek word ethnos could suggest foreigners in the land rather than other geographical areas (especially considering the Peter's vision to take the gospel to the gentiles had yet to happen), there is strong reason this command to "go" and "make disciples" is in reference to the whole world both ethnically and geographically. However, to be sure there is no doubt, Acts 1:8 records Jesus' detailed instructions, stating,
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (ESV, emphasis added). 
The very construction of this instruction from Christ suggests that the disciples will be witnesses in a geographic area, not just to various ethnic people that happen to be in Jerusalem like the event recorded in Acts 2.  Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, and then the Greek word heos, that is "as far as" the end of the earth.   Clearly the expectation is to evangelize the world.

To be sure this is correct, we can look to Revelation 5:9-10 where John hears in a vision four creatures and 24 elders singing that Jesus, "ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (ESV). And in Revelation 7:9, John sees a "great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" worshiping God (ESV). And if we turn back to Matthew 24:14, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the end of the last days. Here he says that before the end, "the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (ESV). There is little doubt, even looking at only the passages presented here, that Christians are fully expected to take the gospel message to the ends of the earth.  It would seem from reading our Bible, that we can't just stick to our comfortable communities, we must support missions and church planting throughout the whole world.

*Photo is registered under a Creative Commons License: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbcworldservice/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay

 Critical Book Review
Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay, with Linda Evans Shepherd

Bibliographical Entry
Fay, William, and Linda E. Shepherd. Share Jesus Without Fear. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Author Information
            Author of a series of products related to Share Jesus Without Fear, William (Bill) Fay is a graduate of Denver Seminary and talk show host of “Let’s Go,” an internationally syndicated radio program.  Prior to accepting Christ in to his life, Fay's father was a vice president with General Foods, successfully introducing a product of frozen foods called Birds Eye.  Fay was raised on a silver spoon.  Eventually, he had ties to the mafia and ran Fantasy Island, one of the largest houses of ill repute in the United States.  At sixteen, he fathered a child.  Fay admits he cheated his way through college and as a professional gambler he also cheated at cards. He is presently on his fourth marriage, three of which were before his confession of faith.  After accepting Jesus, his life was flipped for God’s Kingdom.  Today, he travels around the world, teaching and equipping Christians to be successful evangelists.  Share Jesus Without Fear has been translated into Spanish and Fay has created a selection of booklets, journals, workbooks, and CDs to accompany the book.  His website boasts that over five million copies of his booklet “How to Share Your Faith Without an Argument” are in print.  William Fay lives with his wife, Peggy, in Ft. Myers, Florida.

             Linda Evans Shepherd has authored over twenty books, mostly targeted at female audiences including The Potluck Club series.  She too travels around the nation publicly speaking in an effort to teach and encourage her audiences.  She is a frequent guest on both radio and television talk shows and she co-founded Jubilant Press.  Longmount, Colorado is the home of Shepherd and her family.

Content Summary
            Share Jesus Without Fear is Fay’s systematic method to more effective evangelism.  With scripture and his personal experience, Fay[1] encourages his readers to shed preconceived ideas of evangelism and utilize his method of sharing Jesus with those around them, loved ones and strangers alike. 
           Fay opens his work with an encouragement to his readers.  Success in evangelism, he argues, comes simply from sharing one’s faith, not, as most think, from seeing a person come to Christ (p. 2-3).  Then he shares his vision, specifically that saved people will return to the community of the unsaved to lead others to salvation rather than only finding comfort in their new community of believers.  In his vision he uses an analogy of people drowning in the ocean and those saved on an island.  Fay presents his concept of the “Sin of Silence” (p. 6-7), followed by statistics and information about how most come to salvation.  Because only ten to fifteen percentage of people come to Christ through an “event,” and only five percent of Christians share their faith with others, Fay argues that this “Sin of Silence” is a major problem.  After making his case for a need of all believers to also enjoy and active lifestyle of evangelism, Fay moves to addressing the root of most objections to sharing Jesus—fear.

            Once his foundation is in place, Fay begins outlining his “sharing” system starting with some probing questions designed to feel out what the Spirit is doing in the subject person.  The questions are,
1. Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs? 2. To you, who is Jesus Christ? 3. Do you believe in heaven or hell? 4. If you died, where would you go? And, 5. If what you are believing is not true, would you want to know?
As instructed, when the witness gets a yes to question number five, Fay says it is time to get to the scriptures. Here, he argues that the scriptures do the convincing and the Spirit is working on the person.  It is not the work of the witness; the witness is merely in the business of turning pages (p. 45).  He also gives the reader some responses to work with objections to the Bible.

As he progresses through his program, Fay provides specific scriptures, questions, and things to mark a sharing Bible that help lead a person to Christ.  The suggested scriptures are Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:3, John 14:6, Romans 10:9-11, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Revelations 3:20, although Fay suggest to use others if the participant has other preferred verses.  Trust in the power of the Scriptures is vital according to Fay, and generally, any scriptures will have convicting power if the Holy Spirit is working in the person's life.  
            After working through his evangelical system, Fay shares what do to in the event that his method is successful and the subject person is ready to make a decision for Christ.  A basic explanation of the Sinner’s Prayer is outlined along with some confessional questions for the subject person.  After sharing a couple personal stories about people coming to Christ, Fay offers a number of reactions to potential objections.  In addition to this chapter, an appendix is provided on the same objections, and nearly a third of the book consists of this chapter and appendix covering the same topic.  To conclude his work, Fay shares how to make and keep friends with non-believers, how to pray for those believers, and a challenge to his reader to put the contents of Sharing Jesus Without Fear to practice.  Fay dedicated many pages of appendixes—most of which are review and boiled down instructions—and his testimony. 

            William Fay set out to help readers shed the fear they carry when it comes to sharing their faith.  From the very first pages, he succeeded in this endeavor.  By first defining what evangelism successes and failures are, followed by some statistics designed to drive home his point through a little guilt, he is able to successfully convince his reader that the need is huge and there is little reason to be fearful to share Jesus.  However, if the reader has any doubts, Fay takes one more opportunity to address them by following up with a chapter set on overcoming the assumed objections of the reader.  This first section of his book is the strongest and most convincing portion of his work.  If all he set out to accomplish was to motivate his reader to action by eliminating fear, he has succeeded.  However, this is only one third of the book.

            The next portion of the book is on the sharing system itself.  Had Fay published his work twenty years ago, his suggested five probing questions might have been the best questions to ask in order to determine if a person was ripe for hearing the gospel; but as the world shifts into postmodernism, only the first question seems to address the non-believer today.  With some rewording, the second question might be more effective.  Question three and four come across like something said of a traveling salesperson, and question five could use some updating.  The concept behind the questions, that is to determine someone’s ripeness, is a sound and timeless concept, so the wording of these questions does not adversely affect Fay’s premise. 

            Keeping a special sharing Bible and writing specific notes is a valuable teaching to the evangelist that doesn’t have an arsenal of memorized verses at his or her disposal.  Fay’s idea has simplified the sharing process, and in turn, reduced fear even more.  However, he only offers two responses for objections to the authority of the Bible.  He assumes that the non-believer will accept the authority of the Scriptures once the issues of multiple translations and error are overcome.  Here again, the postmodern non-believer often is looking for more, be it background, feeling, or something else.  Fay does little to address the potential issues here.

            What follows the demonstration of the sharing program is to be expected.  Sections on what do to when a person objects and what do to when a person accepts.  An author writing on evangelism could hardly expect to be taken seriously if he or she neglected a “what now” section.  Fay’s book is no different.  There is little if anything outside of what would be found in any other book on this topic.
            While Fay’s definition of success is valuable and much needed in a time when most Christians are debilitated by it, he tends to oversimplify evangelism.  He is correct in saying God does the work and we are just page turners, but his system does not encourage the evangelist to continually prepare him or herself through study of the Bible, study of the people groups of the community, and prayer.  Nor does he encourage authenticity in his pre-programmed system.  This might be, in part, Fay’s effort to reduce fear but it potentially comes at a cost.  Should the reader fearlessly engage in a bold but unauthentic evangelistic effort that does not look like the picture Fay painted, he or she may be more discouraged than before.  On the other hand, there is a reasonable chance that the activity will look exactly like Fay’s understanding of evangelism and the reader will be even more encouraged.  Either way, the reader has engaged in Fay’s primary purpose of evangelism even if he or she is ineffective.  According to Fay, rightly, he or she has been successful in obeying God’s call to evangelism. 

            Christians who are inexperienced in evangelism techniques should read this book and use it to build a foundation of experience upon, modifying as they go.             

By this book on Amazon.com by clicking here.

[1] While Share Jesus Without Fear is authored by both William Fay and Linda Evans Shepherd, it is clear that this method and idea predominantly belongs to Fay. For this reason, authorship of the ideas will be attributed only to Fay.

*This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.  Any purchases through this website help support the ministry of Saltybeliever.com 

Reading Through the Bible in a Year

Many free plans are available that help people read through the Bible in a set given period of time.  Some Bibles offer suggested reading plans in an appendix.  Most of these plans will take a reader through the entire Bible in a year.  A year is a nice duration because it works out to about 3 to 5 chapters per reading, or about 20 minutes a day.

There are a number of different ways to go through the Bible.  It could be that your program starts on the first page of Genesis and ends on the last page of Revelation (the first and last books of the Bible).  There are some that will read something from the New Testament and something from the Old.  Or it could be more detailed, maybe something from the books of history, something from the wisdom books, a bit from the books of the prophets, then the gospels, epistles, and so-on.  Or it could be like the one I'm working on this year that's chronological by event (but you could even do one that's chronological by when the book was authored).

There are many programs available on-line.  Bibleyear.com will allows you do develop your own 1-year program, taking into consideration translation and the type of read through you'd like to do.  It also has start dates on the 1st and 15th of every month, unlike some that start only on January 1st or go by day number (which gets confusing by day 11).     

There was a time when I couldn't stand the "programs" designed to help people read through the Bible in a year. My incorrect thoughts--which didn't work well in practice--went something like this:
  • Why would I want to restrict my reading to a ridged plan?  What if one day I wanted to read more than the program suggests, or less if I am short on time?
  • Doesn't a Bible read-through plan force a person to move forward even if they should stop and marinate on a single scripture for a while? 
  • Could it be okay to skim through some of the dry readings and work in more depth in the deeply engaging stuff? 
In reality, if we don't have a plan, and even some accountability, we tend to put off the reading until a year has passed and we realized we need to get back into the Word.  Or, in my case more recently, I can work on a single passage for a week.  I'll look at it in the Greek and read commentaries on it.  I'll contrast it against other scriptures and I'll pray about it.  While this can be great for study, it really doesn't allow me to hear the flow and beauty of God's word.  It also means I stay in one book of the Bible for a long, long time.  If this is you, that's great--keep doing this, but add a 1-year Bible reading plan.

The other problem I sometimes have (which isn't a bad thing) is I'll read large sections of Scripture. Sometimes 2 or 3 books in a night.  I ended up reading through the entire Old Testament twice in one semester and then I did the same for the new Testament the next semester.  If this is you, great, keep it up. However, add a 1-year read through too and commit to that each morning while you're having your Frosted Flakes and coffee.

While I don't generally suggest it for study, it might be a good idea to use dynamic translation, which tends to be a smoother reading translation.  I'm finding that the New Living Translation (NLT) is an easy read for my daily morning readings.  But this is just me; read what you're most comfortable with.  The important thing is that your reading.  If you've never read through the entire Bible, why not?

*Photo is registered under a Creative Commons License: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29968788@N00/ / CC BY 2.0

Scripture: Divine and Human?

When one examines the authorship of the Bible, two possibilities naturally surface.  The first is that the Bible is a collection of books authored by men, not unlike any other written work.  The second option is that God himself authored the Bible.  To the first option, that of human authorship only, Roger Olson asks, “ . . . if God is not in some special and even supernatural way the ultimate author of Scripture, why believe it is unique or even special?”[1]  To the second option, a divine authorship only, Ronald Mayers expresses that those that hold to this view of the Bible “forget that it did come via man in history and did not fall from heaven en bloc.”[2]  The idea that the answer can be only one or the other, according to Olsen, “is a false one that has led to unnecessary and unfortunate polarities of belief about Scripture.”[3]  Mayers, rightly states that, “Scripture is at one and the same time both the Word of God and the word of man.”[4]  Therefore, accepting that Scripture is both divine and human in its authorship, one might ask how to draw correct meaning from a text that is derived from both the Perfect Creator and the imperfect creation.  Through an examination of the various ideas of inspiration and an evaluation of a the common methods of interpretation, this study will attempt, at a minimum, to bring more clarity to a difficult and hazy paradox, if not to identify the more appropriate approach to dealing with the authorship of the Bible.  

            Among the Christian community, the belief of dual authorship is not only commonly accepted, it serves as one of the many guardrails of orthodoxy.[5]  Olson reminds his readers that, “Scripture was not dropped out of heaven as depicted on the cover of one book about the Bible that calls it That Manuscripts from Heaven.  Humans played a role in writing Scripture, selecting and closing the canon, and interpreting the Bible.”[6]  But to the role and ability of the human contribution, John Calvin says, “Let those dogs deny that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, or, if not, let them refuse credit to the history, still the very circumstances proclaim that the Holy Spirit must have been the teacher of those who, formerly contemptible among the people, all of a sudden began to discourse so magnificently of heavenly mysteries.”[7]  However, while there is great agreement of the dual authorship of the Bible, there is disagreement regarding the nature of this dual authorship.  Questions about the specificity of inspiration are reflected in the various approaches to understanding the text.  What does inspired mean?  To answer this question, that is, to get at the important aspects of the dual authorship, one must survey the more common approaches to the inspiration of the Bible.  And what exactly in the Bible is inspired?  If this question is suggesting that some parts of the biblical text are solely God’s and other parts are solely man’s, than there is no dual nature, but rather portions of text by one author and portions by another.  Saying there could be parts completely free of man’s involvement is again introducing an idea of a text—written only by God—that fell from heaven.  However, could it be possible for some parts of the Bible to be inspired, being dual authored, while other parts and merely the work of man?  Let us begin to examine these questions by looking at five views of inspiration.

Intuition Theory
           In following Millard Erickson’s categorization[8], this study will begin with the liberal Theory of Intuition.  Erickson states that the Intuition Theory views divine inspiration as “ . . . the functioning of a high gift, perhaps almost like an artistic ability but nonetheless a natural endowment, a permanent possession.”[9]  Here, there is essentially no difference between the writers of Scripture and other religious thinkers and philosophers such as Plato and Buddha.[10]  The Hebrew culture could be said to have a “gift for the religious” just as some cultures are gifted in mathematics or the sciences.[11]  This view gives little if any credit to the divine, other than for the natural endowment of religious genius.  “The Bible then,” as Erickson explains, “is great religious literature reflecting the Hebrew people’s spiritual experiences.”[12]

Illumination Theory.
            The Illumination Theory maintains that the Holy Spirit was influencing the authors of Scripture in that they were gifted with a “heightening of their normal powers.”[13]  In combining this theory with the Intuition Theory however, Olson contends that, “the biblical writers were religious geniuses who cooperated with the divine Spirit (or self-expressive activity of God) so completely that their writings achieve an inspiring quality and effect seldom if ever noticed elsewhere.”[14]  Olson’s explanation suggests that the divine exists in the cooperation; whereas, Erickson says, “The Spirit’s effect is to heighten or elevate the author’s consciousness.  It is not unlike the effect of stimulants students sometimes take to heighten their awareness or amplify the mental process.”[15]  However, Olson’s approach agrees with Erickson’s final assessment that, “The result of this type of inspiration is increased ability to discover truth,”[16] whether the illumination is through corporation, stimulation, or both.

Dynamic Theory.
            The Dynamic Theory argues that God gave the writers of Scripture the ideas and then they selected the best words to describe them.  Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave explain that “ . . . God gave the thoughts to the men chosen, and left them to record these thoughts in their own ‘dynamic inspiration.’”[17]  Duffield and Van Cleave call this theory the ‘Inspired Concept Theory,’ which may serve to better explain it.  Concepts then, are inspired while the word choices are not.  John Calvin seems to have held to this view.[18]  This process is the combination of both the divine and the human in a way that differs from the Intuition and Illumination Theories in that God is divinely authoring the text in at least some capacity.  For this reason, the Dynamic Theory is generally categorized as a conservative view.[19]

Verbal Theory.
            Also known as the ‘Plenary Inspiration Theory,’ this view holds that even the words are inspired by God, pointing to 2 Timothy 3:16.[20]  God, in effect, directed the writer to each word of the text.[21]  Potentially the most popular view among Evangelicals, Erickson explains that, “ . . . God being omniscient, it is not gratuitous to assume that his thoughts are precise, more so than ours.  Consequently, within the vocabulary of the writer, one word will most aptly communicate the thought God is conveying (although that word in itself may be inadequate).  By creating the thought and stimulating the understanding of the Scripture writer, the Spirit will lead him in effect to use one particular word rather than any other.”[22]  While this may look like dictation, I. S. Rennie argues that, “Dictation is not involved; there is no violation of the personality of the writer.  God had sovereignty and conclusively been preparing the writers for the instrumental task so that they willingly and naturally recorded God’s revelation in the way he required."[23]

Dictation Theory.
            Few hold to the conservative view of Dictation Theory, also know as ‘mechanical inspiration’ or ‘verbal dictation.’[24]  In fact, Olson suggests that this view is “unorthodox” and relegates the role of human authors to merely that of “secretaries of the Holy Spirit.”[25]  Explaining Dictation Theory, Duffield and Van Cleave write, “This theory states that every word, even the punctuation, is dictated by God, much as a business executive would dictate a letter to his secretary.”[26]  Erickson expands on this explanation further stating that proponents believe “Different authors did not write in distinctive styles.”[27]  However, Wayne Grudem points out that, “A few scattered instances of dictation are explicitly mentioned in Scripture.”[28]  Jesus instructs John to write to the various churches in Revelation[29] (2:1, 2:8, and 2:12, for example).  Grudem also suggests Isaiah 38:4-6 as another example.  Moses’ dictation of the Ten Commandments could potentially serve as a third example.

            Looking at the various ideas of inspiration, one can see that a text with atleast some nature of divine and human dual authorship is different than that of other philosophical writing.  This type of writing, as Steven Smith articulates, is generally referred to as ‘Scripture.’[30]  Second Timothy 3:16a reads, “All Scripture is breathed out by God . . .” (ESV).  While this passage is specifically referring to the Old Testament, it sheds light on the inspiration of Scripture.  “The impression here” writes Erickson, “is that they are divinely produced, just as God breathed the breath of life into the human (Gen. 2:7).”[31]  The Greek word that the ESV translates to “breathed out by God” is theopneustos, which James Strong defines as, “God-breathed, inspired by God, referring to a communication from deity: given by inspiration of God.”[32]  Additionally, this is the only occurrence of theopneustos in the New Testament.  James D. G. Dunn suggests that the use of this word clearly indicates the writer’s understanding of the process of inspiration.[33]  “To be noted” writes Dunn, “is the fact that it is the scripture that is ‘God-breathed,’ and not merely the prophet who is ‘inspired,’ unless by that is meant inspired to speak particular words (cf. 2 Pet 1:20).”[34]  Where Dunn fails to go with his commentary, Calvin boldly marches, writing, “This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestions, that that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare.”[35]  Later in the same discourse, Calvin declares, “This is the first clause, that we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.”[36] 

         If one can accept what Scripture authenticates about itself, than the next part of this question is to identify which portions of the canonized Bible are Scripture, or words written with and by a dual nature, and which parts are only man.  (Understandably, accepting Scripture in this manner may be a challenge for the non-believer if Gottfried Wachler is correct, saying, “Nor will an unbeliever be moved to acknowledge Scripture’s divine authority on the basis of what Scripture says of itself, that is, by means of a doctrine of its inspiration and divine character.  He will not accept statements from Scripture as proof, since he first wants proof that Scripture is the truth.”[37])  While space does not permit an explanation of why the books of the biblical canon are considered Scripture, Grudem[38] provides a succinct summary of the canonization of both the Old and New Testaments and D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo[39] offer a detailed explanation of the New Testament canonization.  Both are worth investigation.  Assuming that every book in the Bible is Scripture and therefore both God and man’s words, all one can do is attempt to separate the words of man from those of God within each individual book; however, Wachler argues that, “There is an indissoluble interweaving of both.  It is impossible to sort out man’s words and God’s words or to label Scripture as being man’s word that may not and then become God’s word.”[40]  To the idea that only some parts of the Bible are dual authored, Duffield and Van Cleave warn, “The dangerous part of this view is that it places into the hands of finite, feeble, and fallible man the power to determine what and where God is speaking.  Thus, man is given power over infinite truth rather than taking a place under it.”[41]

            After a review of various views on inspiration, and assuming that all of the Bible is inspired in at least some way, an evaluation of that inspiration is needed.  This evaluation would be simple if the Bible were clear on the nature of inspiration but Walcher reminds his readers that, “Nowhere in Scripture is there a description of the ‘how’ of the process of inspiration.”[42]  However, certain biblical passages lend greater support to some views over others depending on the context.  Examples include the introduction of Luke[43], the personal and human qualities of the confession of Psalm 51, the previously mentioned verses instructing John to “write” in Revelation, Paul’s opinion alluded to in 1 Corinthians 7:12ff, Peter’s understanding of prophecy[44], Jesus authoritative use of “It is written . . . ,” and the many Old Testament uses of “Thus says the Lord . . . .”
            The liberal views of inspiration—intuition and illumination—present a challenge for the believer because although there is no indication of the ‘how,’ unlike the other three views that attempt to rest on Scriptural clues, the liberal views seem void of any scriptural support.  “The liberal approach in Scripture,” writes Olson, “is heretical because it ultimately denies or completely undermines Scripture’s unique authority.  The problem is not that liberal thinkers wish to do justice to the human quality of Scripture but that their model of Scripture’s inspiration cannot do justice to the Bible’s divine quality.  In their hands the Bible becomes a historical novel or a powerful work of fiction that shapes manners and morals by creating a world to inhabit.”[45]  Both of the liberal views present a problem for D. Edmond Hiebert if inspiration is something of a natural ability or “stimulant” of the Holy Spirit.  In reference to 2 Peter 1:19-21, Hiebert writes, “ . . . no prophecy arose out of the prophet’s own solution to the scenes he confronted or his own interpretations of the visions presented in his mind.”[46]  Heibert would then also take issue with the dynamic view.

            Despite Heibert’s concerns, Paul’s statements that believers have been “taught by the Holy Spirit”[47] and have “the mind of Christ”[48] seem to support the Dynamic Theory of inspiration.  And given that Paul does not say, “Thus says the Lord,” there is reason to think he was inspired by something other than a dictation or plenary verbal inspiration.[49]  It was not that Paul’s message was not divine argues Vern Sheridan Poythress, but “Rather, it is (largely) because he has so thoroughly absorbed the message into his own person.”[50]  Polythress argues that in the New Testament at least, the fact that Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit means we are not dealing with “bare” human nature.[51]  “We are already dealing with the divine, namely the Holy Spirit,” writes Polythress.[52]  But even in Paul’s writing, a biblical clue is present that suggests something other than dynamic inspiration.  In 1 Corinthians 7:10, Paul clearly says that something he is saying is from the Lord and not himself and then in verse 12 he argues something that is “I, not the Lord” (ESV).  In this case, it would seem that being “so thoroughly absorbed in the message” is not exactly what was going on here, at least with this part of the message.

In an attempt to understand the dynamic nature of inspiration, H. H. Rowely, who leans substantially toward the human authorship of Scripture writes,
If light falls on the eye though colored glass, it is modified by the medium through which it passes. None of the light comes from the glass itself. It comes from the source beyond the glass; yet it is all modified by the glass. So revelation that comes through the human personality is modified, and sometimes marred, by the medium through which it comes—colored by the false ideas and presuppositions of him through whom it is given. Yet all the revelation is from God. It therefore follows that not every inspired writers is on the same level, and our concern must be to know what God was saying through him to his contemporaries and to us.[53]
Rowely further argues, “We but dishonor God when we hold him responsible for every statement in the Bible.”[54]  At stake through this line of thinking is the divine authority of Scripture as well is its infallibility.  In an effort to avoid this potential slippery slope, many Evangelicals have turned to the Verbal or Plenary Theory.  But this theory is certainly not free of problems.  Olson states that theologians that subscribe to the Dynamic Theory “simply cannot see how plenary verbal inspiration differs from dictation.”[55]  To combat this thinking, Erickson stresses that proponents of the plenary view must take great care to avoid slipping into a dictation model and often have to structure their articulation in the form of a defense.[56]  This is seen in A. N. S. Lane’s attack on the Dynamic Theory and support of the plenary view.  Lane writes, “It must not be supposed that God merely put ideas into the minds of the biblical authors and then left them to put them into words as best they could.  But claiming that words themselves are inspired it is not implied that human writers are not also their authors.”[57]  Olson also argues that, “The dynamic model has the advantage of accounting for the very different styles of the authors as well as for the many idioms, cultural forms and trivial asides one finds in Scripture.  It is difficult to see how plenary verbal inspiration accounts for Paul’s poor grammar, including unfinished sentences!”[58]

            Why would those subscribing to the plenary verbal inspiration view diligently try to avoid being accused holding a strict diction view?  Duffield and Van Cleave suggest it is because of its great weakness, that is, “that it eliminates any possibility of a personal style in the writings of the divinely chosen author—a phenomenon which is clearly observable.”[59]  Dictation seems to remove the humanity from the Scriptures.  Duffield and Van Cleave further write, “Fundamentalists are often accused of subscribing to this method of inspiration, but only a small percentage of them actually do.”[60]  But what about passages in Scripture that seem to suggest dictation, such as in Revelation or Isaiah?  To this question, Erickson says, “This is particularly true in prophetic writing and apocalyptic material, but the process described above was not the usual and normative pattern, nor is prophetic and apocalyptic material more inspired than the rest of the Bible.”[61]

            In light of the various approaches to inspiration, one might be tempted to ask which approach best explains inspiration required for the dual authorship of Scripture.  Certainly, the Christian can easily rule out the two liberal views: intuition and illumination.  But given the strengths, weakness, and biblical clues that both support and reject the dynamic, verbal, and dictation ideas of inspiration, how is one to settle on any single approach?  The answer is that they should not.  Inspiration it would seem, is something of a combination of all three views.  This is not to say however, that the Bible is not inspired; quite the opposite is true.  Nor is it to say that one passage is more inspired than any other when the idea of “God-breathed” does not clearly identify the ‘how’ and no passages in the text lead to that conclusion.

Although Olson implies that the writers of Scripture should be seen merely as secretaries of the Holy Spirit,[62] the role of a secretary is an appropriate way to view a proper approach to biblical inspiration.  In explaining the plenary view, Erickson offers an example a personal secretary he employed for many years.  Although Erickson is speaking specifically to the plenary view, his example works well in explaining my multifaceted idea of inspiration.  When the secretary first started, Erickson dictated letters to her.  As she began to better understand Erickson’s mind, he could tell her the “general tenor” of his thinking and she could draft an appropriate letter.  “By the end of the third year,” writes Erickson, “I could have simply handed her a letter I had received and told her to reply, since we had discussed so many issues connected with the church that she actually knew my thinking on most of them.”[63]  Is it unreasonable to think that if Erickson needed to write a letter on a completely unfamiliar matter, he could still return to dictation, even with the secretary of three or more years?  Or maybe he could tell her the basic ideas of the letter?  All three of these methods use a secretary to transmit the message of the executive, and they clearly parallel the three conservative views of Scriptural inspiration and dual authorship.  This multiple method approach is how biblical inspiration should be viewed.  At times, inspiration is dynamic, other times it follows the verbal plenary approach, and on occasion, it is dictated; but no matter the method, it is all inspired.

The dual authorship of the Bible is a complex matter.  In order to develop a solid understanding, one must examine ideas of inspiration, authority, infallibility, the canonization of Bible, and the Scripture itself.  As this is a topic with a long history in the community of the Church, a review of the many theologians’ work on this subject will also prove beneficial.  In this limited space and scope, an examination has been offered, but it is certainly not exhaustive.  It is this author’s hope that the reader will conduct further research on this matter.            

Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries, vol. 21.  Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2009.
Calvin, John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.
Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005.
Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los Angles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008. 
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001. 
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1998. 
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994.
Hiebert, D. Edmond. “The Prophetic Foundation for the Christian Life: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:19-21,” Bibliotheca Sarca 141, number 562 (1984): 158-168.
Lane, A. N. S. “B.B. Warfield and the Humanity of Scripture.” Vox Evangelica 16 (1968): 77-94.
Mayers, Ronald B. “Both/and: the uncomfortable apologetic.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23, number 3 (September 1980): 231-241.
Olson, Roger E. The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Poythress, Vern Sheridan. “Divine Meaning of Scripture.” Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986): 241-279.
Rowley, Harold Henry. “Authority and Scripture I.” Christian Century 78, number 9 (March 1, 1961): 263-265.
Smith, Stephen G. “What is Scripture? Pursuing Smith’s Question.” Anglican Theological Review, volume 90, issue 4 (2008): 753-775.
Strong, James, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson. The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001.
The New Interpreter's Bible, v.11. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 2000.
Wachler, Gottfried.  “The Authority of Holy Scripture.” Concordia Journal no. 5 (1984): 171-180.

     [1] Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 97.
     [2] Ronald B. Mayers, “Both/and: the uncomfortable apologetic,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23 no 3 (September 1980), 232.
     [3] Olsen, 90.
     [4] Mayers, 232.
     [5] Olson, 99.
     [6] Ibid., 90.
     [7] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 41-42.
     [8] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1998), 231-233.
     [9] Ibid., 231. 
     [10] Ibid., 232.
     [11] Ibid., 231-232.
     [12] Ibid., 232.
     [13] Ibid.
     [14] Olson, 96.
     [15] Erickson, 232.
     [16] Ibid.
     [17] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008), 25.
     [18] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 26-29.
     [19] Duffiled, 25.
     [20] Ibid.
     [21] Ibid.
     [22] Erickson, 240.
      [23] Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001), 1242.
     [24] Duffield, 25.
     [25] Olson, 98.
     [26] Duffield, 25.
     [27] Erickson, 232.
     [28] Wayne A. Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids,
     Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), 80.
     [29] See Rev. 2:1, 2:8, and 2:12, for examples.
     [30] Stephen G. Smith, “What is Scripture? Pursuing Smith’s Question,” Anglican Theological Review vol. 90, issue 4 (2008), 753-775.
     [31] Erickson, 227.
     [32] James Strong, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson, The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), 1615.
     [33] The New Interpreter's Bible, v.11 (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 2000), 851.
      [34] Ibid.
        [35] John Calvin. Calvin's Commentaries, vol. 21.  Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2009), 248-249.
     [36] Ibid.
       [37] Gottfried Wachler, “The Authority of Holy Scripture” Concordia Journal no. 5 (1984), 171.
     [38] Grudem, 54-69.
     [39] D.A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 726-742.
     [40] Wachler, 178.
     [41] Duffield, 23-24.
     [42] Ibid.
     [43] Luke 1:1-4.
     [44] 2 Pet. 1:16-21.
     [45] Olson, 96. 
     [46] D. Edmond Hiebert, “The Prophetic Foundation for the Christian Life: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:19-21,” Bibliotheca Sarca 141, no 562 (1984), 165.
     [47] 1 Cor. 2:13.
     [48] 1 Cor. 2:16.
     [49] Vern Sheridan Poythress, “Divine Meaning of Scripture,” Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986), 252.
     [50] Ibid.
     [51] Ibid.
     [52] Ibid.
     [53] Harold Henry Rowley, “Authority and Scripture I,” Christian Century 78, no 9 (March 1, 1961), 263.
     [54] Ibid.
     [55] Olson, 104.
     [56]Erickson, 232.
     [57] A. N. S. Lane, “B.B. Warfield and the Humanity of Scripture,” Vox Evangelica 16 (1968), 80. 
     [58] Olson, 104.
     [59] Duffield, 25.
     [60] Ibid.
     [61] Erickson, 244.
     [62] Olson, 98.
     [63] Erickson, 243. 

*This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.