Don’t Buy The Lie

What we think about God does in fact matter. It is what ultimately matters.

It may not feel like that for good stretches of a month, or a year, or 10 years, but make not mistake about it, what we think about God ultimately shapes how we react to God and how we follow God. It shapes our marriages, shapes our parenting, shapes our friendships, our work ethic, our view of self, our dreams and passions and deep soul desires. Nothing in life is left untouched and unshaped by our view of God.

I’m reminded of that as I read these two accounts. Both are from theology professors, both therefore teach the word of God, and both are from fathers that lost their daughters.

Those that have read my blog posts here know that I have followed RC Sproul Jr and his ongoing season of grief over the death of his wife and daughter. These are not about him. These are other men, like many men out there, that have found their life hit a season they hoped would never come.

You may wonder what my fascination with stories like these are, to which I would say: I’m both a father and a teacher of the word. One carries potentially the greatest pain in life (the lost of a child) and the other the greatest answer in life (the truth about God). Therefore, I read with great desire these stories of men whose fatherhood crashes against their pastoralship. I want to know – “How does their theological reflections on God shape their strength in life’s disasters.”

Enough said. I invite you to read two men’s testimony who are going through the same situation but hold vastly different theology:

What Good Grief Looks Like When A Daughter Dies” – By Ben Witherington (an Arminian pastor)

Reflections on the Loss of Our Daughter – By Fred Zaspel (a Reformed pastor)

NOTE: I have no desire here to convince you to understand God through an Arminian or Calvinist hermenuetic. I simply want to encourage you to believe that thinking, studying, and deeply reflecting on who God is within the revelation of scripture (i.e. theology) is the greatest endeavor you can do to shape your heart and life.

A Simple Answer (Too Simple)

“The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

This is part of my study for tomorrow and as I hit this verse, one question comes to mind. Why in the midst of Paradise does God plant such a disastrous tree? Why create this? Why put this there in the first place. Clearly over and over this creation is “good”, “good”, 5 times over “good” and then even “very good”. So why put this tree in the garden that was no good?

In researching the answer, the response below by a pastor represents the most common response:

Why did God created a devil if He knew all the evil Satan would do. A corresponding question is why did God create the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? After all, if God hadn’t created the tree, then Adam and Eve couldn’t have sinned! This article attempts to give a logical and rational explanation to these questions. 

The answer to these questions is, I believe, found in the purpose for God creating Adam and Eve in the first place. What is the purpose of human creation? Quite simply, it is to choose to love God. If there is one thing an all mighty, all knowing, all present God would want, it would be someone choosing Him freely. To that end, mankind was given free will. 

But having free will and not having the option to use it is not free will. Imagine me asking you, “Okay, you have a choice. What do you want? A can of Pepsi or a can of Pepsi? Go on, pick, it’s your choice!” Is that really a choice? Having only one choice is not a choice. How can we exercise the most important and unique aspect to the human nature–free will–if there is no choice to make?

So the answer cascades like this: God wants our love, our love is only real if it is of free will, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil provides the opportunity for free will to be expressed.

The implication then is that: if there is no tree of the knowledge of good and evil, free will could not be truly expressed, and if free will is not truly expressed then how can love be truly love?

Makes sense right? I have heard this explanation a thousand times and shared it at least hundreds of times. But here’s my question:

Is there not love, true intense God-glorifying love in heaven? Won’t our love in heaven find it’s highest apex of reality? And yet where is the temptation that is exists in heaven in order to make love of “free will”?

Nowhere in scripture do I find of any hint that sin will be possible. All that causes sin will be dealt with: our nature is born again, our flesh will be transformed, Satan will be casted away, the world will be made new, death will be dead.

If then in heaven there is not the struggle of the “free will” to choose to love God or hate God, then do we say that love in heaven is not of “free will” and hence not truly love? To say that would be to say that life now on earth brings more glory, more worship, more adoration, more love to God than in heaven. That can’t be.

So the explanation that “free-will” and “choose” was needed in order that God can be truly loved feels incomplete, man-focused, and self-protecting to the interest and worth of my own love. Most of all, the explanation does not seem to fit the eternity that awaits God’s people.

So what’s the answer?

Theology Matters – Part 1


Noun:  The study of the nature of God

Of the many things that can define the DNA of a church (from community to missional to programs), what beats in my heart the more I study the word of God and the more I preach the word of God is God-centered theology. That by the way, is a bit redundant to say, “God-centered theology”, because theology is by definition “God-centered”. And yet, I find it’s easy to make the bible and Christianity and the cross and the Jesus who rules over all that to be subservient to me, hence making my theology “me-centered”.

So what do I think about “theology” and it’s importance in a church?

Short Video

Let me start off by saying what I want to write about the importance of theology is summed up it this excellent short video.

Thinking About Finney

Lately I have been hearing the word “revival” a lot, and inevitably tied to that is the name Charles Finney. I’ve never studied Finney, I’ve only heard tidbits hear and there. In fact, just the a few months ago, I ended up using Finney in talking about the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  For that, I have some regrets.