Posted in Pro-Life

Kyle Rittenhouse: Provocateur or Defender?

The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to humanity. If you show yourself lacking courage on the day of distress, your strength is meager. Rescue those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to the slaughter, oh hold them back!” (Prov 24.9-11; NASB).1
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked” (Psa 82.3-4).
Because I saved the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper…I broke the jaws of the wicked and rescued the prey from his teeth” (Job 29.12, 17).

INTRODUCTION:

Last Friday (11/19/2021) a verdict was reached in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. The eighteen year old had five felony charges2 against him for his deadly use of force during one of last years spree of Black Lives Matter—Antifa riots in Kenosha, WI. On the night of August 25, 2020 Rittenhouse fatally shot two men (Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber), and seriously injured another man (Gaige Grosskreutz), in what he claimed was self-defense. The jury found the defendant Rittenhouse “Not-Guilty” on all five charges. He was acquitted of all wrong doing.

It didn’t take long for the narratives to start flying in two distinct directions:

  • Progressives argue that “self-defense” was not the issue, rather it was a hateful, mean-spirited young man who got away with murder. Racial injustice won again. Whiteness was triumphant.
  • Conservatives on the other hand have claimed that this case is an exemplary model of the 2nd Amendment. They tout Rittenhouse as a hero. A “poster-boy” for self-defense.3

Originally, I had written an entirely different piece that I had wanted to post last Saturday morning (11/20/2020). Like many intentions, however, that one fell through. And so, I have sought to narrow down my original thoughts to get at some of the underlying assumptions surrounding this case.

Contextual considerations first…

If we are going to analyze a situation, along with the questions that arise from it, the first thing that we ought to do is consider the background material that surrounds it. That’s the responsible thing to do. Brashness may make headlines. It may bring you notoriety. But, rushing in to assess a situation before all the information is carefully weighed…in the end just highlights foolishness.

The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18.17).

Much better is the individual who seeks knowledge through discernment (Prov 18.15) than the person who is quick to state their own opinion, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to all others (Prov 18.2).

What was happening during the summer of 2020? Besides all the COVID hoopla. Race riots. Or, so-called race riots. What various progressive news organizations called “mostly peaceful protests.” As this picture from CNN illustrates:4

The protests that were occurring in Kenosha, WI before the Rittenhouse incident were in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a young black man on August 23, 2020. Blake was shot by police officer Rusten Sheskey in the back four times leaving him paralyzed. This was in response to a call about an individual attempting to steal a car. Blake, who is seen moments earlier resisting arrest, hurriedly walks around the vehicle armed with a knife, which he claims he was attempting to put in the car.5

Everything over the past year and a half has said to be in relation to racism. After the death of George Floyd many cities witnessed violent rioting, theft, malicious attacks on citizens and officers alike, with the burning of personal property. This is the contextual background for that fatal night of August 25, 2020 when Rittenhouse, along with others of the same mindset, sought to protect their community from the criminal activities raining down on Kenosha.

I’ve heard the arguments offered. I’ve listened to the voices of those that say, “He shouldn’t have been there;” “He shouldn’t have had a gun;” “He should have let the authorities handle it.” On the surface such claims sound intelligent. Why carry a gun in public? Why head to an area where you know trouble is likely to happen; likely to suck you in? Why do something that will, by all intents and purposes, make you seem like a vigilante?

Problematic narrative…

Herein lies the problem with the current narrative surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. Both groups are arguing against a behavior that has been put on display in the civil sphere. The progressives are arguing for justice, for fairness, for the propagation of what is right over and against what is wrong. They see little problem with the demonstrations that we have on record in various cities and towns where truly peaceful protests have been forgotten. The right of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States affords all parties infringed upon to assemble and to address their grievances to the powers that be. Those elected officials have been granted ruling authority, by the people, to do what is right, what is honorable, what is good, while at the same time bearing the sword of vengeance against those who refuse to abide by those things.

In a similar vein, the same argument could be laid at the feet of those whose profession is conservatism. Armed vigilante justice is not justice, but a taking of the law into one’s own hands. A pretense being perpetrated that individual perception, individual authority, individual might and power rule the day. This too is wrong on its face.

The problem with the riots is that politicians do little but talk to their base about the rightness or wrongness of them. They do not actually involve themselves in the “thick and thin” of the matter, so to speak. They give talking points when it benefits their bottom line, but offer little substantive aid to those being wronged.

This was also the problem facing Kenosha, WI on the night that Kyle Rittenhouse was present, the night when his life was threatened and two men’s lives were taken in the wake, with a third being severely injured. Rittenhouse and others acted as militia in order to protect the lives/property of those in Kenosha that they knew. This wouldn’t have been necessary if the police had been willing to do their job, if the local officials would have had their backs, and if state and federal officials had been more than mere parrots repeating platitudes to their constituents.

But, they failed. They allowed one group to exercise a form of vigilante justice (as they perceived it) against what those they assumed were guilty—I’m speaking of the Black Lives Matter/Antifa movement. Feeling slighted. Convinced that they are defending those who have been treated unfairly, they demonstrated on the streets. What started out as “mostly peaceful” during the day, had by night time, become anything but.

Comparing to educate…

Why did it get this way? There were (are) several factors, but one glaring reason was due to cowardice.6 The cowardice on the part of those who were in positions of leadership, those who are called to serve their communities, led to Rittenhouse and his group trying to fill in the gap against the one’s attacking the quote-on-quote “system.”

Passages like Ecclesiastes 8:11 warns of the outcome. At least in terms of criminal activity. (Now if I have to convince you that robbery, arson, and assault are in fact crimes, then I am afraid that there is little we shall agree upon).

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of mankind among them are fully given to do evil.”

Some may want to disagree, but I find it interesting that when we take a compare and contrast approach there is a markedly different atmosphere, discernibly so, between what took place last year during the summer of BLM and the winter of January 6 in Washington, D.C.

Two representative perspectives…

The progressives represented by BLM and a contingent of people who felt disturbed with what they had been witnessing (Jacob Blake in Kenosha, but George Floyd as the catalyst) sought to demonstrate their position, to make their grievances known, in the community in which they lived. Even if it may be established that initially these assemblies were peaceful, things radically changed by nights end. A pattern which continued for days.

The conservatives7 represented by Rittenhouse and his band of merry individuals also felt disturbed with what they had been witnessing in Kenosha (after Blake) and no doubt in other parts of the country (after Floyd). And so, they sought to demonstrate their position, to make their grievances known, in the community in which they lived.

Like minded individuals like Rittenhouse did not attack individuals of another color, they did not attack police officers, and they showed respect for their neighbors property/livelihood by standing as a bastion of protection. There is a marked difference in approaches between the two groups, if you are willing to see it. One movement was characterized by aggression, the other took a more defensive posture. Like it or not one group was a provocateur the other was not.

Like it or not, this was what the jury in the Rittenhouse case discerned as well. The evidence in the case, when interpreted correctly, showed that the young man carried himself commendably when the situation called for it. He did not go to Kenosha on the night of August 25, 2020 to incite violence, but to offer protection to those in need if violence came knocking.

Closing Remarks…

As a father with sons about Kyle Rittenhouse’s age this case hit too close to home. In a perfect world fathers would not send their sons out to such battles. I cannot say that if my son were in that same situation I would not have tried to temper him from going where harm was present. It is a sad state of affairs when children are braver than the men who are called to lead. Had the cops and those over them been more concerned about loving their neighbors, by protecting them from harm, instead of being perceived as racists that night in Kenosha, young men like Kyle would not have felt the need to stand in the gap.

That night was NOT about race. I know that’s not what politicians want you to think. I know that’s not what the media wants you to think. And, I know that it’s not what groups like BLM/Antifa want you to think. But the facts are the facts. Kyle did not go to Kenosha armed with a gun and a medic pack to harm blacks. He went there to protect people and businesses (that have nothing to do with injustices committed in our legal system) from harm. He acted the part of the defender when others would not. Period.

There are many layers to this onion that need unraveling, but this should suffice for now.

ENDNOTES:

**Image provided by MSNBC with the caption “If Kyle Rittenhouse was Muslim.” https://media-cldnry.s-nbcnews.com/image/upload/t_fit-760w,f_auto,q_auto:best/newscms/2020_48/3430453/201123-ms-kyle-rittenhouse-main-2×1-an.jpg.

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).

2CNN, “These are the 5 charges the jury in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial considered,” November 19, 2021, 7 Boston News, https://whdh.com/news/these-are-the-5-charges-the-jury-in-kyle-rittenhouses-trial-considered/.

3Charles Creitz, “Trump praises Rittenhouse acquittal, calls the case ‘Prosecutorial Misconduct,’” The Ingraham Angle—Fox News, November 20, 2021, accessed 11/20/2021, https://www.foxnews.com/media/trump-rittenhouse-acquittal-prosecutorial-misconduct.

4Paul Joseph Watson, “CNN Describes ‘Mostly Peaceful’ Riots as Kenosha Burns,” InfoWars, August 27, 2020, Published by Auto on 28 August 2020, https://unshackledminds.com/cnn-describes-mostly-peaceful-riots-as-kenosha-burns/.

5Brittany De Lea, “Jacob Blake admits he had a knife when he was shot by police,” Fox News, January 14, 2021, https://www.foxnews.com/us/jacob-blake-knife-shot-police.

6There are other reasons driving the current “chaos” in our society. Civil unrest benefits those who want to tear our society apart, to rip it from the last remnants of its former foundation (the Christian faith) and rebuild from the ashes and dust that remain into a perceived utopia that is Marxism of which a large number of secular humanists enjoy.

7I use the term “conservative” rather loosely here. To be honest I do not know what Rittenhouse’s political affiliations are, if any. Before this year (2021) he wasn’t even old enough to vote. The picture of him carrying a gun squashes the notion that he isn’t a representative of the conservative position for others. Personally, I prefer to use a different designation for the “conservative movement” does not accurately represent my Christian values on all points. Though in normal conversation I would admit to being conservative in light of the Christian character of our original institutions in this nation.

Posted in Biblical Questions

On Biblical Concepts and Terms: Part 2, Death is Described as…

So…have you thought about it? Did you come up with an answer? No, no, no…I’m not trying to trick you. This isn’t a trap.

You have no idea what I’m talking about? So…you’ve never ran into a person that persistently attempts to make a point that they believe is valid, airtight and cannot be refuted, but when you ask a probing question…something that attempts to get to the heart of the issue…silence ensues? They refuse to answer. Now their reasons are their own, true as that may be, but there is something very telling at that moment. Telling about the individual and the position that they fervently hold.

The question that I am referring to was presented at the end of my last post (here, if you haven’t read it). I’ll state it again for clarity: What is the relationship between God and Man? What was their status in the beginning? With what we are told in the first two chapters of Genesis what is the relational status between God and Man?

Why this Question is So Important

There is a tacit denial by some who profess belief in the Christian faith that “spiritual death” is really taught in the Bible. For such individuals when the Bible says “death” they tend to take it in what we might label a naturalistic sense; a cessation of life. When you die your body decays and returns to the earth from which it came.

Certainly, this is one way in which the Bible defines death. To deny that this is the case would be silly. There is ample evidence in the biblical record that proves this point. However, to then say that this is the only way that the Bible defines death is to argue the case too strongly. Why? Because, the Word of God offers alternative definitions for the meaning of death in various places.[1]

In fact, a better overarching definition of death that encompasses all that Scripture teaches on the subject would be to label it “separation.” The defense of which would be easy enough, if that were my desire today. Instead, my goal is to show how we can see this sense of the term death, as separation, in just the next couple chapters of Genesis.

A Quick Review of Gen 2:15-17

What I would like to do in this section is provide two alternative English translations of this key passage. Consider the implications based off what is revealed here and what we know about man’s status before (cf. Gen 1.26-28). As well as identify the promise as conditionally presented by the Creator to His creature.

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 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 of it you will surely die’” (NASB (this version throughout); emphasis added).

“The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. Then the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surly die’” (NET; emphasis added).

Implication #1—

  • The man was God’s creature to do as God willed. Based of what we had revealed to us in Gen 1:26-28 about mankind, we know that the human status and function[2] is to bear the image of God—i.e., to reflect, shadow, mirror the Creator. So, God placed man in the garden to do His will, to follow His Word, to live for Him.

Implication #2—

  • The command in vv. 16-17 emphasizes what has been revealed prior (v. 15 and Gen 1.26-28). Both a positive and negative aspect are present in the Lord’s edict. In the command God presents His image bearing creature with a promise of Life or Death. Obedience, which is the appropriate reflection of God’s will, offers life. Disobedience, which is an inappropriate distortion of God’s will (i.e., rebellion), brings death.

Implication #3—

  • The reward and/or consequence of the decision on man’s part to obey or disobey God’s Law is immediate. I emphasized the two different ways that the English language attempts to capture the biblical Hebrew found in Gen 2:17. The NASB translates the Hebrew “for in the day that you eat of it…;” whereas, the NET offers the Hebrew with the following rendition “for when you eat from it….” I have heard the argument presented against immediate death on the day of rebellion as we see in Gen 3 because “when” does not necessarily carry the same force as “in that day.” It is argued Adam and Eve didn’t die on (in) that day, they were merely denied access to the Tree of Life, so “when” conveys the idea better in terms of physical death not spiritual death, since it was years later that they returned to the dust from whence they came. Whether “when” or “in that day” is used, the implication remains the same. On the day that Adam chose to eat from that which he was explicitly forbidden, death would be the consequence.[3] A legal termination of the relationship would incur…but I get ahead of myself.

Moving on to Genesis 3

Though we are not given the exact day it seems safe to assume that it was not long after this command that the man would put the Lord his God to the test. It would be the serpent, a beast of the field and not a creepy crawly that would present to the woman made from the man’s side the possibility of an alternative understanding of reality (Gen 3.1). After drawing her attention to one of the two trees placed in the middle of the garden, he directly opposed what God had revealed.

“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!” (Gen 3.4).

God emphasized that the penalty for disobedience would be death, but the serpent just as strongly emphasized an alternative…death would not happen. Death would not be the result. In fact, the opposite of death would occur…for a better life would ensue as a result of eating of this fruit because then they’d be like God. (Implication: God wouldn’t be necessary).

Listen carefully to the argument the serpent presents and weigh it against what God said to the man in Gen 2:16-17:

“For God knows that in the day [when] you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3.5; emphasis added).

Claims Compared…

  • God says “in that day [when] you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen 2.17)
  • The serpent says “that in the day [when] you eat from it your eyes will be [surely?] opened, and you will [surely?] be like God…” (Gen 3.5).

Who’s Telling the Truth here?

At first glance, it appears that the serpent is right and God is wrong. For when the woman (Eve) and then the man (Adam) ate from the fruit of the forbidden tree the following occurred:

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen 3.7).

Did they die when they ate the fruit as God said they would? Or, were their eyes opened to an alternative reality as the serpent said they would? Well, the text says that their eyes were opened not that they died. So, it appears (at first glance) that the serpent was right and God was wrong. Therefore, those who deny a spiritual death in the garden are right after all?

I’m not saying that those who hold to only a cessationist view of death, have purposely placed themselves in line with the serpent in the garden, but their view is exactly what the serpent said. He denied that eating the fruit would bring death that day (when they ate) contrary to the clear statement given by the Lord God to the man. He said their eyes would be opened, and they were. “Can dead people open their eyes? I think not!” comes the ready retort of those that deny death took place in the garden.

What Sense Should be Taken?

If we take death in only one sense, then it appears that the serpent was right and God was wrong. However, there are various senses that the word death may be taken. God emphasized to the man (Adam) that death would be the result of his disobedience. As I said earlier this was a legal determination on God’s part as the Law-Giver.

Legally…

The eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree was the “cause”[4] of the man and woman’s death in the garden. The eating of the fruit stripped the man and woman of their rights to life[5] under God. The eating of their fruit brought about the death of their relationship with God immediately. How so?

What Resulted from the Act?

Notice the reaction of the couple upon having their eyes opened. What were they opened to? What was the result of their defiant act?

First…

“Nakedness, of course” comes the apt reply. Okay, but what changed? They’d been naked before and they both knew it and according to Gen 2:24 they were “unashamed.”[6] However, now the opposite appears to be the case and they are trying to cover it.

Second…

And when “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3.8; italics added). Prior to their eating of the forbidden fruit they seemingly enjoyed the presence of God. God spoke to Adam and told him his responsibilities (vv. 15-17), He delighted in Adam’s intellect and leadership. Demonstrated first by bringing to the man various animals to him (Gen 2.18). Secondly, in preparing and giving to him a helpmate (Gen 2.19-24).

Important Observations: Two things might be said of this. God brought the man animals to that he might exercise dominion by observing their qualities/characteristics and then naming them. Second, this was to teach that man that he was unique and alone in comparison with the rest of created things. To which God gifted the man (and the woman) with marital union, the promise of future blessing in the form of offspring, and a cherished relationship to enjoy. In these things, God gave the man opportunity to exercise godly dominion; a sign of favored relationship between God and Man, man and his wife, and man and those others that dwelt upon the earth.

Shame and Fear Drove them… (Gen 3.10)

In this scenario (Gen 1-2) the man and the woman did not run from the sound of their Creator, their Lord and God, but had a loving relationship they enjoyed. However, after eating the fruit something drastically changed. Shame and fear drove their hearts. Their hiding from God reveals a separated aspect to the former relationship they once shared.

Hostility Against the Maker Identified… (Gen 3.12)

This is further highlighted by the antagonism that the man showed his Creator when he was ordered to given an account (i.e., bear responsibility) for what had transpired. When answering for his sin, the man blamed God who gave him the woman for his own transgression. In this, the woman was also blamed.

Closing Question…

Just like before, I’ll ask the same question: What is the relationship between God and Man now? Post-fall what does the relationship between God and Man look like?  Is it alive and well or is it dead?

Perhaps you don’t like the way I asked that last question. I smuggled in “death” there as if we can talk about relationships as living or dead things. We can’t? We don’t? Have you never heard the phrase “He/she is dead to me?” What does this idiom convey but the death, the termination or the separation of people in terms of relationship? Is this type of language permissible in our human vernacular, but not so when discussing our relationship with God Post-fall? Hmmm…interesting…

More to come…


ENDNOTES:

[1] These will be entertained and explained in a future post.

[2] It is often argued against Calvinistic thought that we believe the image of God was destroyed in the Fall. This is inaccurate. Either done maliciously or in ignorance. What Calvinists/Reformed Theology argues is that the image of God was marred, distorted, or tarnished by the fall, not eradicated. The image bearing status (state of being) of mankind has not been removed via the Fall. However, the functionality of bearing God’s image has been grossly distorted. There are moments when a person shadows communicable attributes of God (goodness, love, kindness, etc.), but these are inconsistently applied internally. As a result, an evil parent will give good gifts to their children (Luke 11.13), but when it comes to their Maker they are hostile to God as over them (Rom 8.7-8).

[3] Later we shall return to the oppositions argument and see why it is a poor argument not only linguistically, but also theologically. This will be presented when we begin to look at Genesis 3.

[4] Def. 2a,b, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (   ), 319, “death,” s.v.

[5] Ibid., 226, “civil death,” s.v.

[6] The very fact that Gen 2:24 explains the purpose of the response towards nakedness before the fall—i.e., unashamed—ought to clue the reader that after disobeying the result will be “shame.” This is what shame brings into the equation. Something foreign that maligns what God had called “very good.”

Posted in Biblical Questions

On Biblical Concepts and Terms: Opening Act-Part 1, Death is…

From the earliest pages of Scripture, we are given some basic, fundamental truths that outline necessary aspects of the believer’s faith. The first verse of the Bible gives unequivocal evidence in the sense of an axiomatic truth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1.1).[1] God is the ontological beginning of all things. This includes not only seen things, but unseen; for who sees all that is in the earth or in the heavens? Then we have a grouping of verses found speaking about the sixth day of creation that mankind was specially created to image God, to bear His likeness on the earth. This truth was then expected to be brought to bear in the governance (dominion) over the earth and all that which is contained therein (Gen 1.26-28). The third thing we are taught in Scripture is that all of creation was “very good” (Gen 1.31).

God and Man…

So, in the beginning of the Bible we are given what God did in the beginning, and we begin to catch a glimpse of who He is.[2] He is the Creator that makes good things. We see that out of all the things created (those mentioned in the six days of creation, and those not mentioned—i.e., angelic host) Mankind (defined as male and female) is given the highest position over all created things upon the earth. God honored man. God provided all of His needs. God gave mankind dominion and made him/her a steward of this very good creation.

Based on such teaching, the Psalmist as he spoke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit claimed with wonder,

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (Psa 8.4-6; 144.3; Heb 2.6).

However, as later biblical truth reveals we find that mankind will not only have a position over this created earth, but will sit in judgment even over angels (cf. 1Cor 6.3). A sampling of which is seen during Jesus’ ministry when he sends out the 72[3] disciples to preach the good-news of the kingdom. Upon returning, the disciples rejoiced that “…even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10.17; cf. Matt 28.18).

That being said, there is something that Jesus claims is of greater importance than the special privilege given to them as His creatures; it is the relationship that they share with their Maker:

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 18b-20).

A teaching moment…

A couple of years back I gave a test to my adult Bible study class. The test took several words and/or concepts discussed in Scripture and then gave the students three choices that they were to label them by. The options were “good,” “evil,” or “both.” What the students didn’t know was that every term chosen (25 in all) ought to have been answered with “both.”

The exercise was given to demonstrate that words or biblical concepts will change meaning depending on the way they are used in a given context. The Bible uses the same words in different senses and from different points of view, and it is our job as students of Scripture to ascertain their intended meaning. Here are a few examples, “wolf,” “serpent,” “yeast,” “Day of the Lord,” and “death.”[4]

As we began to discuss the results in the class, one older lady was adamant that I was wrong on a few word choices. One of which will be the discussion for proceeding posts. The term she argued over was “death.”

She said that death was a good thing since Christ died on our behalf. I attempted to explain to her that she was right (Rom 5.6, 8; Col 3.3-4), but there was another sense in which death is called an enemy (1Cor 15.26; cf. Gen 2.17), and so it is evil. In fact, the death of Christ came as a result of the death that Adam ushered into creation (Rom 5.12, 17).  Rather than conceding my point and changing her answer to “both” she stuck to her guns and continued to argue. Eventually, I politely told her she was wrong, recommended that she read further, and suggested that we agree to disagree.

What the Bible says about…

The Bible has a lot to say about death, and it does not always talk about death in the same way. Sometimes death is viewed as a good thing (Christ dying for us, we in turn dying for Him via bearing our cross daily), but at others times it is viewed as a bad thing (corruption, wages of sin). The Bible also speaks of death in differing senses. Sometimes death is spoke of as punishment, other times separations, and other times still cessation of life.

A couple of posts back (read here) I shared the different ways in which we used the word “day” in English. The Hebrew word yom has similar senses. Sometimes it means an age (period of time; e.g., generation), sometimes it means daylight hours (daytime vs. nighttime), and other times it means a regular approx., 24-hour period of time. How one discerns what way the word is used will always be derived from the context.

But what of words that are not found in the biblical text? There are concepts that are taught in the Bible, but the term associated with them are not found there. For instance, the hypostatic union which speaks of Christ’s human and divine nature joined through the process of incarnation (i.e., “the Word became flesh,” [John 1.14]).  Theonomy means God’s Law, but the term itself is not found there. Trinity would be another example, where the divine persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit are revealed as united in one Being—God. To each of these we might point to various texts that provide a cogent argument for their status as biblical ideas and key theological concepts. Which brings me to another important one “spiritual death.”

On Spiritual Death…

Does the Bible teach spiritual death? Some say no. They offer that the only type of death taught in Scripture is cessation of life (i.e., physical death) carried out through either natural means (age, disease) or punishment/retribution. Ironically, they point to the very same passage that those who hold to the concept of spiritual death as biblical and true do as proof positive that spiritual death is an alien topic imported into Holy Scripture.

Are the cessation’s, right? Have those that maintain spiritual death overstepped in order to hold to a treasured theological system? Or is it possible that a naturalistic tradition has been smuggled in by those that oppose the concept of spiritual death due to the theological questions it raises about the condition of mankind in general?

In order to begin this subject, I want to look at three key verses in the 2nd chapter of Genesis. I have no intention in laying out my total argument here, but merely plan on starting the discussion by leaving some cud for the reader to chew upon.

We already know that God created all things, and as a consequent all things were “very good” before Him. Nothing He made was evil (i.e., bad). In particular, this was true of mankind, the Lord God’s chief creation. Specifically, we find the intrinsic value of mankind in that he/she alone was made to bear the image of God, to be His representative and steward. For reasons known only to God, mankind was given special status that not even angels are privy to (cf. Heb 2.16).

So, at this point I pose the following question: What is the relationship between God and Man in the beginning?

Genesis 2 offers a Close-Up View of Day Six

Having formed the man from the dust and breathing into him the breath of life (Gen 2.7),

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and to keep it” (Gen 2.15).

With all the implications that this verse entails in light of further biblical revelation the only thing I would like to stress at this point is that God created man for His purpose and not for man’s. What was told to us in Gen 1:26-28 is being reinforced here with God’s activity in this verse. God determines what the man shall do and what he shall not. God decides what is right behavior (thoughts/actions) versus what is wrong. If this is not yet apparent to the reader the next set of verses certainly draws this truth out.

“The Lord commanded the man, saying ‘From any tree in the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen 2.16-17; NASB).

There are three integral parts to the content of these verses:

  1. What you can do as MY creature—God gives freedom/liberty of action
  2. What you cannot do as MY creature—God limits the freedom/liberty of action (i.e., provides a necessary parameter).
  3. The consequence for not obeying—God presents two alternatives for the action taken.

Again, without going any further into the biblical narrative or drawing from the wellspring of further revelation we still need to answer this question: What is the relationship between God and Man? Right here, right now…what is their relational status? Until you are able to identify that, you are not ready to progress any further.


ENDNOTES:

[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] I would argue that the entire emphasis of Scripture is primarily upon God and secondarily about man. Even when mankind is spoken of it is always in relation to God.

[3] Some manuscripts have 70 as the total number. But due to traditional biases that may have led to the acceptance of this number by scribes, the number 72 which is found in other mss is the more difficult to reckon being manipulated and so is chosen by a number of translators as probably closer to the original. Such textual variants though do nothing to hinder the actual teaching of the text, but show how human error in copying handwritten works.

[4] Wolf or wolves in the Bible are depicted in two ways the good of God’s creation that will one day be redeemed, and the bad/evil false prophets, teachers, etc., which attack the the sheep of God: Isaiah 11.6; 65.25; Jeremiah 5.6; John 10.12; Matthew 7.15; Acts 20.29. The Serpent is a symbol of both the good and the evil. The serpent in the garden deceived the woman and she ate what was forbidden, the power behind him was Satan; and yet, Jesus tells his disciples that we are to be wise like serpents: Genesis 3.1-6; 2 Corinthians 11.3; Revelation 12.9; Matthew 10.16. Leaven (also known as yeast) was used in Scripture to symbolize what was both good and bad. Leaven was a symbol of sin, and yet leaven was a sign of the Kingdom of Christ, and the goodness of God’s creation used in the form of a sacrifice: Exodus 12.15, 19; 13.7; Leviticus 2.11; Mark 8.15; 1Corinthians 5.6-8; Matthew 13.33; Luke 13.21; Leviticus 23.17.  Day of the Lord is seen as both a bad day and a good day depending on what side of God’s judgment you are on: Acts 2.20; 1Thessalonians 5.2, 4.; Isa 13.6, 9; 28.5.

<a href="http://Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay“>Image by Gerd Altmann

Posted in John 6

The Meaning Christ gives John 6:37: Counterargument to Haden Clark, Part I

The most important part of biblical study is “observing the text.” Once that has been done you are able (capable) of rightly “interpreting the text.” Fail at the beginning and you will misstep throughout.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a public setting where an individual asked me the following question, “Isn’t reading the Bible just a matter of interpretation? Some people just interpret things, differently right?” In my response I explained to the individual and his wife who was sitting with him that you may draw several “applications from the text,” but there is really only one correct interpretation. I said,

“Suppose you wrote your wife a letter. When you wrote the letter, you had a specific point in mind (maybe several), but the point is that you are expecting your wife to understand your intent. She may take what you have written and be able to apply it to a variety of circumstances, but a correct interpretation is found in discerning what you had written to her. It wouldn’t be possible for others to read it and say “this is what it means to me” when you meant what you said to her.”

I’m sure that my response was not as polished as I just gave it to you now, but the intent was the same. Both husband and wife said that the explanation given made a lot of sense.

One of the amazing things about Scripture is that there is only one interpretation that can be correctly drawn from it. Sometimes the reasons we have varying interpretations is because people don’t do the necessary labor to draw from the text what is written. Our ignorance of language and events in time can also hinder us. However, there are other times when the correct interpretation will be rejected. The person’s biases prevent them from adopting the viewpoint that God is giving in His Word.

INTRODUCING THE SUBJECT MATTER

In what follows I shall provide a counterargument to an article written by Haden Clark at Help Me Believe, and his understanding of John 6:37. Clark believes that the ability to come to Christ is afforded to all people. Therefore, he sees the “drawing” of God discussed in John 6 as something God is already doing for the entire human race. What he tacitly denies is the concept in Reformed Theology (ironically drawn from passages like John 6) defined as Unconditional Election. Clark rejects the idea that the “drawing” of the Father to the Son is an act of divine election where the Father gives to the Son a particular people that He has chosen to put His love on (into) throughout human history; for all eternity.

In this post I will provide a point-by-point statement and response format for the reader.[i] It is recommended that you read Clark’s post (Read here) before you read my own in order to properly weigh between the two conclusions drawn. I would also recommend (obviously it is not mandatory) that you read through John 6 on your own. At the end of the main section, I will provide the reader with a quick review of the context of John 6 in order to see the flow-of-thought of the gospel writer, and to provide a basis for the conclusions I draw from the text.

“Everyone whom the Father gives” John 6:37

Clark writes,

“I love passages of Scriptures that interpret themselves. Sometimes we will read something ‘difficult,’ or hard to understand, but the Bible itself will provide us with the correct interpretation.” (line 1).

My Response:

It is true that there are some difficult passages in Scripture. They boggle the mind, so to speak, at first glance. But it is also true that if we do a little “leg work” the Bible itself helps us come to the correct interpretation. Often times this is accomplished by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Taking the clearer statements of God to give understanding to the more difficult ones.

However, it is erroneous to assume that the “Bible interprets itself.” The Scriptures are written revelation. They don’t do anything. They are words on a page. The interpretative process is done by people. We interpret. We draw conclusions. And so, while I appreciate the sentiment “Let the Bible speak,” it doesn’t actually speak. God expects His people to draw from the text His intended meaning as we move to correctly interpret it.

Clark writes,

“I cannot tell you how many times I have heard John 6:37 ripped out of context and given a Calvinistic interpretation, while completely ignoring the fact that Jesus himself interprets this verse just a few verses later” (line 3). He then quips, “I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Jesus’ word for it” (line 4).

My Response:

I agree that we should not read our biases into the biblical text. Regardless how strongly one holds to Calvinism (i.e., Reformed Theology), Arminianism (i.e, Remonstrant Theology), or even the strains that bleed off from these two major theological branches. (Just as a side note, Evangelical Christians are either monergistic or synergistic in their theology. Either they believe that Salvation is a sole work of God, or a corporative effort by God and man). Based off of my observations I would say that Clark is a synergist, and in fact leans strongly beyond a semi-pelagian understanding.  That being said on his initial point, we agree, making the text say what your theology does is wrongheaded in the worst possible way. Why? Because it misrepresents God’s intention and maligns His Word.

There is also agreement with his seemingly sarcastic quip, we should take Jesus at His Word. He is God, the Living Word made flesh (John 1.1-3, 14). Jesus is the correct interpreter of Scripture; we should listen to Him. Not just on those “red letter” portions of our Bible’s (if you have that sort of edition lying around), but all of it. This also means that if we are correctly understanding Jesus, we should never see Him teaching something that is contrary with the rest of Scripture. Any apparent contradictions are a product of our misunderstanding, not His.

Ironically, though Clark does not spend much time “drawing out” what John 6 actually says. He, like Leighton Flowers, leaps around from this passage to that. He points to John 12; 13; 17 before he returns to John 6. That is to say, he seeks to build his case outside of John 6 in order to tell us what John 6 says. Now, I don’t want to appear snarky but if you are going to claim that it is wrong to ignore the context, “to rip” a teaching from where it is given to mean something that aligns with your theology, then you might want to sit in the passage, work through the passage, before jumping to other passages in order to form John 6 after your own thinking.

Clark cites John 6:37-38, 44:

  • “Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never throw out, because I have come down from heaven not that I should do my will, but the will of the one who sent me…No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” (LEB).

Clark then writes,

“These verses are often interpreted to mean that God infallibly calls some people, as opposed to others, to come to Jesus, and they will be saved. In other words, it is impossible to come to Jesus, that is believe in Jesus (John 6:35), unless you are first infallibly called by God” (line 5).

My response:

I would think, using some basic grammar rules we should be able to see—even in English—the sense of Jesus’ statement here in vv. 37-38, 44? Let’s try it.

In verse 37 we find that Jesus puts emphasis on the Father’s action in history: “Everyone…the Father gives,” Jesus says, “…will come to me.” He does not say “everyone…will come to me;” rather, “everyone whom the Father gives will come to me….” The Father is the subject that is committing an action of giving to the Son. The Son is the direct object, for He receives the action of the Father. The stress of verse 37 is on the Father who gives and the Son who receives.

Then in the second half of verse 37 (i.e., 37b), we see the emphasis being placed on the person who is being given. Jesus says of those the Father gives, “…whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Obviously, if we are sticking with the context of v. 37, we see that only those that the Father gives come to Jesus, and when they come (whoever they might be) Jesus promises to never cast them out (i.e., to do away with them). Why? Because they have become the property of the Son.

“According to whose will?” you ask. Jesus answers that in verse 38. Let’s have a quick look.

Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” This is a purpose statement or a mission statement, if you will. What is it? To do the “will of him who sent me.” Well, what is the will of Him who sent the Son from heaven? The answer is actually in verses 39-40, but Clark leaves them out. (We will discuss them later).

Perhaps, he didn’t feel it was necessary? Or maybe he thought it would take too much time. I’m not sure what Clark’s reasoning is, but let’s move on to verse 44.

Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

First notice that this is a universal/categorical statement (meaning without exception): “No one…” speaks of all people. Second notice that this is telling you what they CANNOT do. “No one can come to me…”  it is impossible for a person (past, present or future) to come to Christ. Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it. Third notice that Jesus adds a condition, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” The only way a person can come to Jesus is if the person in question is “drawn” by the Father. This is a necessary condition that has to be met prior to the person coming to Christ Jesus.

What is interesting is that Jesus ties this to the manner in which He came into the world. How did he get here? The Father sent Him; it was an act of God, a movement of His will (a phrase used about 15 times in John’s gospel).[ii]

Clark writes:

“Usually, there is a strong emphasis on the word “draws” which can be interpreted as ‘drags’. Nobody comes willingly, they must be dragged, effectually called; in other words, caused” (line 6).

My Response:

Why do we nasty Calvinists put emphasis on the word “draw?” Hmmm…probably because that is what is being emphasized in the text. This is an example of grammatical stress since the term helkuo (draw) is the action of the subject.

Clark argues against defining “draw” as “drag,” because of “the obvious and horrible consequences of such a theology” (line 7a). Okay, but is it a theological construct to define a word according to its usage? He also says,

“The text is king. Whatever God’s word says, we shall stick with it, even if we don’t like it” (line 7b).

My Response:

I wonder if Clark feels that way about six-day creation, the Flood of Noah’s day, or any other “difficult” passage that we might entertain? I suppose that would have to be a subject for another day.

Brief Word Study…

How do we know what “draw” (helkuo) means? The way we define a word is based upon the words usage contextually speaking, and word studies are performed by looking at how the same word is used throughout the Bible. Any given word can have varying senses in which it might be used. Context helps in knowing the sense of the term. And the more a word is used in Scripture the better understanding lexicographers (those who write/compile Hebrew/Greek dictionaries) have defining it.

The reason “drag” is seen as the meaning of draw (helkuo) is because that is how the biblical writers (in particular John) use the term (cf. John 18.10; 21.6, 11; Acts 16.19; 21.30; Jam 2.6). Since we are in John’s gospel let’s look at how he uses this action verb, I will leave it to you to read the other ones mentioned above.

Here are the ways that the gospel of John uses the action verb:

  • “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew [helkuo] it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus)” (John 18.10; ESV).
  • “He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish].’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul [helkuo] it in, because of the quantity of fish” (John 20.6; ESV).
  • “So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled [helkuo] the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn” (John 21.11; ESV).

By looking at these three instances of “draw” used in John’s gospel we find that the meaning is to “drag” or to “pull” or to “haul,” and so depending upon your English translation you will find various synonyms used to describe this act of force being put on an object whether it be a sword or a net or yes, even a person. Outside of John’s gospel the verb is used in a similar manner.

Two other occurrences occur in John’s gospel (6:44 and 12:32). Clark refers to the latter one a little later in his post. I will work through John 12:32 in a future post, but for now a few preliminary things need to be addressed. For Clark denies that the normative use of draw (helkuo) in Scripture is the meaning here in John 6.

Clark writes,

“There is one major problem with this interpretation: it completely ignores Jesus’ interpretation…Jesus himself explains what he meant by these words. We don’t need anyone to tell us, we can just read Jesus’ words” (line 8, 9).

My Response:

Two disagreements emerge here. First, the claim (implied) that Calvinists ignore Jesus interpretation is false. Reformed Christians are trying to understand Jesus’ point as much as the non-Reformed. Second, Clark obviously believes that someone needs to tell others what Jesus meant or why write the post? Singing to the choir? If we didn’t need teachers, then why does Christ appoint them? While I think I get the gist of Clark’s point (i.e., its obvious what Jesus is saying, “just look at his words”), the notion is misguided.

Studying Scripture is work, and as much as people might like the phrase “let the Bible speak,” part of the necessary labor in biblical study is finding out just what in the world Holy Writ is actually saying. Granted there are some things stated very clearly, but I’ve seen people screw them up as well.

Momentary Pause for Explanation

At this point Clark moves to John 6:64-65. He has already shown distaste for the idea (even the possibility) that God would draw some, but not others. In order to eliminate this conclusion, he attempts to argue that Jesus’ words were really just about his disciples, not the crowd that day.

  • “But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘Because of this I said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by the Father’” (John 6.64-65; LEB).

Clark writes,

“The important thing to notice here is that when Jesus says he knows that some of ‘you’ do not believe, he is referring to his disciples. Jesus made the original statement in verse 37 in front of a larger crowd, however, he only gave the explanation to his disciples. This is something Jesus commonly does in John’s Gospel” (line 12).

My Response:

I agree that two different audiences are in mind in v.37-38, 44 and that of vv.64-65. How do we know this? By paying attention to the flow-of-thought in the narrative. The transition occurs in John 6:59-60, where it is written: “Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples, when they heard these things, said, ‘This is a difficult saying! Who can understand it? (LEB).

Notice that the crowds are not eliminated from the discussion in the sense that they have disappeared. Rather, the focus has now shifted on those who ought to know (and believe in) Jesus; his disciples. The point of John 6:64-65 is that they don’t, and the reason they don’t is because of what Jesus said earlier in his message in Capernaum, and then repeats to them: “No one can unless it has been granted to him by the Father” (emphasis added). To turn around and say that Jesus’ words in John 6:44 don’t really apply to the crowds in general, but the disciples in particular (i.e. “Judas is specifically in mind” line 29) is a peculiar leap in logic. How Clark seeks to justify it is even more bizarre.

Momentary Pause for Explanation

We are now about to leave John 6 in order to explain the meaning of John 6? If it sounds a bit confusing, I will admit that I was confused at first as well. Clark is trying to decipher why Jesus would tell the crowds what he did in John 6:44, and why he said what he did to his disciples in John 6:65. He thinks he has found his answer in the repeated statement “…[his] hour had not yet come” (2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 8:20)”  (line 15). Clark cites John 12:23, 13:31, and 17:1-5 as his grounds of justification.

Let it be sufficed to say that Jesus did come for a specific purpose into this world to tabernacle amongst us (John 1.14). He came to “save His people from their sins” (Matt 1.21), by laying “down his life for the sheep” (John 10.11). The question Clark is seeking to answer is “who?” I know he is looking for the “why?” by appealing to these other texts, but Jesus in John 6 is talking about the “who” and He says the “why?” is determined by His Father in heaven, not man on this earth.

If that is confusing, let me be a bit clearer. John 6 by itself is easily enough understood if you take the time observing the text. The difficulty comes to submitting to the conclusion it offers. Jesus is clear that it is impossible for anyone to come to Him unless the Father who gives, is drawing the one(s) given to the Son.

Clark assuming the opposite writes,

“For a temporary period of time, people were prevented from ‘coming to Jesus’ so as to fulfill the purpose of Jesus coming into the world: Jesus getting to the cross and dying for the world’s sins” (line 28; also see 34).

My response:

Where in the text of John 6, or the rest of John’s gospel, are we specifically told that this prevention of coming (being drawn) to Christ is “for a temporary period of time?” If the biblical text does not say it, then on what grounds can the claim be made? Wouldn’t this be an example of reading into the text what one desires it to say? Furthermore, how would people coming to Jesus in belief during his ministry hinder him from fulfilling his purpose upon the cross? Again, where in the Bible may we turn to find this teaching?

Clark’s conclusion:

“There is no indication from the text [John 6] that Jesus is teaching unconditional election, or effectual calling” (line 30). Claiming that “…there is a better option. One that is derived from the text itself and not a predetermined soteriological system…[Namely,] God is not drawing a select few to himself. He is drawing the whole world. He is drawing the whole world. He desires all to be saved, and we can take the Gospel around the world, to every individual, knowing that every individual is being drawn to the Son…or granted permission, to come to Him” (lines 33, 35).

My Response:

I disagree. Jesus has said to the effect that it is impossible for a person to come to Him unless the Father draws them. This is evidence of them having been gifts from God the Father given to God the Son. In both John 6:44 and 6:65 we have clear statements of the reason why people are drawn to the Son, by the agency and power of the Father giving them to the Son. From a Trinitarian understanding we must not downplay the Holy Spirit’s role in this, but Jesus has already informed us in his teaching to Nicodemus. For every true believer is “born-from-above,” and this an act of the Spirit’s effectual power (cf. John 3.3-8; also 6.63).

Moreover, Jesus does not say that the Father “draws” the whole world to Him in John 6. Nor does it state His desire to save “all” people. Nor does the term “draw” ever mean “granted permission” as if mankind as a sinner wants to come to Christ, but can’t do so until God “lets them.” Which seems to be the way that Clark is implying. Again, the text does not say that.

Finally, I would add that Clark’s assumption that the Calvinist is alone in being driven by theological biases is not accurate. For so is Mr. Clark. And this is true of all who read Scripture. D. A. Carson offers some sound advice on this point that we would all do well in abiding by,

“But if we sometimes read our own theology into the text, the solution is not to retreat to an attempted neutrality, to try to make one’s mind a tabula rasa so we may listen to the text without bias. It cannot be done, and it is a fallacy to think it can be. We must rather discern what our prejudices are and make allowances for them….”[iii] (Italics added).

Closing Remarks:

The fact is that Clark’s governing assumptions regarding “freewill,” and the “good-naturedness” of mankind leads him to conclude that if God does not draw all equally, then He is somehow defunct in regards to love or kindness or goodness. And yes, I will grant that my overarching assumption is quite the opposite. I believe that man has a form of free-agency, but due to a corrupt nature pursues that which is not in accordance with God’s Holy standards. Therefore, it is necessary for God to “draw” a person, lest the person be left in his/her rebellion against their Maker. Refusing and not capable of doing the good that God requires; which includes trusting in the work of Christ while confessing one’s sinful, broken estate.

John 6, despite Clark’s claim, offers wonderful proof of the saving activity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father has chosen to call a certain people to be given to His beloved Son as an eternal possession (John 6.37-38). He effectually draws them to Christ (John 6.44), and by the power of the Spirit grants them life (John 6.63). They are those who hear the word of God and listen (obey) His voice, demonstrated in their undying faith in the Son. Salvation is about the Glory of God, and not the glory of man. We share in this glory through adoption, but it is not our right unless it has been granted from above.


Appendix

John 6 in Context[iv]

What we see in John 6 is two high points in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. The first high point is the extent of his popularity as exhibited in the beginning of the chapter. The second (you might prefer to call it a low point) is the great number of those who followed Christ ceasing from doing so.

John 6:1-15

This historical episode gives us the glimpse of the greatness of the Son of God. Multitudes were drawn to Him and pursued Him at great distance. Using the opportunity to point the people to the truth of who He is, Jesus took a small boys lunch made up of two barley loaves and three small fish and fed 5,000 men (possibly over 10,000 if we include women and children). Having blessed what God had provided, he broke it and fed all who were hungry. When the meal was finished, twelve large baskets were filled to the top. The people in their excitement sought to make Him king—if by force—but Jesus, knowing men’s hearts withdrew to pray.

John 6:16-21

Having sent the disciples away earlier in the day, after finishing His prayer the Lord made His way to His disciples. They had got in a boat heading towards Capernaum. Jesus walks across the water, tells his disciples “It is I. Do not be afraid” (John 6.20; NET). And “immediately the boat came to the land where they had been heading” (John 6.21). This particular evidence was given to His disciples.

John 6:22-52

The next day the people they had left behind realized that the Lord was gone (John 6.22). “And seeing boats from Tiberias…they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus” (John 6.22b-23). One might say that they were being “drawn” to the Lord. They desired to see Him, and did not hesitate to make the journey to Him. However, when they find Jesus, he says to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate all the loaves of bread you wanted” (John 6.26). In other words, their reason for following Him was not in faith but looking for earthly blessing. Thus, Jesus’ response: “Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life—the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him” (John 6.27).

(Side Note: The similarities between this episode and the one in John 4 with Jesus and the Samaritan woman are very interesting. There he offered her water to drink. Here, Jesus offers the crowds food from heaven. Both were promises of eternal life to the believer.)

The crowd asked how they might receive this blessing (John 6.28), but when Jesus told them “This is the deed God requires—to believe in the one whom he sent” (John 6.29), they balked. They demanded a sign to prove that Jesus was who He said He was (John 6.30). They offered a justification from their history—Moses and the manna (John 6.31). Which is interesting because familiarity with that period shows that many of those people were stiff-necked and did not believe (have faith in) the Lord God.

Not much has changed, since when Jesus tells them “the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6.33, 35). But these people who had followed after Him did not believe as proved by these damning words, “But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe” (John 6.36).

That is to say, they saw the signs that Jesus had done in their presence, they heard the gospel come from His lips, but seeing the truth with their eyes, and hearing the truth with their ears, they still failed to believe. And this is where Jesus says the very things that explain that reality of unbelief amongst the people that Mr. Clark has spent his time trying to deny and to get others to do the same thing.

“…you have seen me and still do not believe. Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. Now this is the will of the one who sent me—that I should not lose one person of everyone he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day” (John 6.37-39; italics added).

**To the Observant Reader, please note the following.  

Earlier I mentioned that Clark left off verse 39 from his explanation, but adding it along with what follows helps the reader better understand the intent of the gospel.

Jesus not only says that whoever the Father gives will come to me, but that such a person He will never send away, because He was sent to do the Father’s will. Which is what exactly? First to never send away the one the Father gives to the Son (v. 37). Second, to not lose one single person the Father has given him, but to raise each and every one up on the last day (v.39). Third, it “is the will of my Father—for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6.40; italics added). Meaning every single person that the Father draws to the Son will be granted eternal life, for they will believe in Him.

**Not only are those whom the Father given sent to the Son, but they are kept by the Son and raised up on the last day; everyone receiving eternal life with Him.

But…

Many of these people did not believe in Jesus before He said this (John 6.36), and they most certainly did not believe in Him afterwards. Even though they followed him across the Sea of Galilee. For when they heard Jesus’ truthful testimony, they “…began complaining about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they reasoned amongst themselves, “Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph, who father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” (John 6.41-42).

Jesus tells them to stop complaining about him (John 6.43), and then He tells them the reason they do not believe: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.44: NET). He then adds that “Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me” (John 6.45). But who hears and learns from God? Again, looking back to what has come before we are able to discern that it is limited to the ones that the Father draws, giving to the Son. Only that type of individual “believes [having] eternal life” (John 6.47).

But the Jews to whom Jesus spoke did not hear or listen to God, they did not believe in the one sent from the Father, and this is proved by their failure to comprehend His message as they argued amongst themselves against Him (John 6.52).

John 6:53-71

After his lengthy teaching on His flesh being bread and His blood being wine, which is just a metaphoric way of saying that in Him is that which is necessary to receive and sustain life eternally, we find that it was not just the crowds that complained against Him, refusing to believe, but many of His own disciples.

Those who had followed Christ for some time joined in with the other grumblers and complainers. Saying, “This is a difficult saying! Who can understand it?” (John 6.60). Some assume that the difficulty lies in the metaphor, and this is certainly part of it. But the heart of the matter is much deeper. I would imagine it is more akin to John the Baptist’s warning during his ministry: “…Don’t begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones!’” (Luke 3.8). In other words, what saved them was nothing but God alone, “…not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man…” (John 1.13).

Jesus says to them, “Does this cause you to be offended? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6.61b-64a; italics added).

Notice that Jesus is not merely speaking about Judas Iscariot here, although in just a few verses He does call him a devil (John 6.70). Interestingly enough what caused the disciples unbelief is the same thing that caused many in the crowd at Capernaum not to believe: “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come” (John 6.65). The phrase “Because of this…” can also be translated as “This is why…” (ESV; HCSB); or, “Therefore said I unto you…” (KJV); or, “For this reason…” (NASB). Therefore, according to Jesus the reason they do not believe—either the crowd or his disciples—is because the Father had not drawn them, and this was evidenced by their inability to accept the Lord’s teaching. And this further proof that they were not included in the number that “heard” or “learned” from the Father (John 6.45). For if they were, they of the Father, then they would believe in the Son (cf. John 6.57).

But when “…[Jesus’ disciples] quit following him and did not accompany him any longer” (John 6.66), they proved the point He had been making all along. Which started at the beginning of his teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum (John 6.25-52).

Again, if we take John 6:37-38, 44 in context we find that Jesus does in fact teach an effectual calling by God the Father in giving to the Son those Christ is intended to raise up on the last day. To get the correct interpretation outside of John 6 like Clark attempts is unnecessary. Moreover, when we look at the John 12:32-33 and 17:1-5 in their context there is nothing in them that subverts this meaning. Instead the opposite happens. These passages in fact complement the understanding given above.

In future posts, I will take the time to work through them. Until then may the peace of Christ be upon you, and if you do not know it…may you come to know it.


ENDNOTES:

[i] I have chosen to indicate where in Clark’s writing I am citing with the phrase “line ‘x’” throughout this post. Since, English grammar normally requires a paragraph to be 3-4 sentences and Clark often finishes a thought in only two, I thought it more appropriate to label each segmented thought this way. Hopefully this aids the reader in identifying where Mr. Clark is being quoted from. I have kept the Scripture texts he cited with the “line” mentioned. So, for example “line 4” would include his citations of John 6:37-38, 44.

[ii] See: John 5.23, 36; 6.44, 57; 8.16, 18, 26, 42; 10.36, 12.49; 14.24; 17.21; 17.25; 20.21. The Father sending the Son is an act of giving on the Father’s behalf (cf. John 3.16).

[iii] D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 129. It should be noted that Carson does warn the biblical student from “…reading one’s personal theology into the text” (128). His point is being aware of them so that we can step back from the text during our learning process and ask key question of our view: Is my teaching on this area wrong, do I then need to be corrected? Am I being hindered from accepting what the text says because of personal bias, refusing to submit to what is written, and therefore need to be rebuked on this or that point? Ignoring our presuppositions is not fruitful, but being aware of them and then weighing them in the light of Scripture is necessary and good.

[iv] All Scripture in this section is of the New English Translation (NET), unless otherwise noted.

Image by <a href=”http://Image by Josep Monter Martinez from Pixabay“>Josep Monter Martinez

Posted in Ministry

O. I. A. and Saturation: A Talk in Regards to my Philosophy of Ministry

O.I.A. and Saturation

As you grow up you learn things. Some lessons are harder than others. Some enable you to look back and say, “I should have done it this way.” As I said in my last post (Read Here), I have noticed a disturbing trend within Christian circles where sincere devotion in Bible study amounts to personal conjecture. What I feel the text means, has authority over what the text actually says. What you may feel the text means to you is irrelevant unless of course you mean, “After I saw what God meant here, I realize that this is what He is saying to me.” From what I have witnessed that is not the typical sense of the statements in bold above.

Normally, you would take the two methods I am about to present and do them in a different order than how I learned to use them. In other words, O. I. A. should come before Saturation. Both are specific methods for studying the Bible to be of the most benefit to the student. When I started pastoring though I first encountered Saturation Bible Study before O. I. A.

Saturation Bible Study…

When you dip a squeezed sponge in water and then release it under water, what happens? The sponge soaks up the water and reaches saturation point (unlike the picture above). Which means what? That when you pull the sponge above the surface of the water it is heavier than it went in because it is loaded with liquid. Immediately, the water begins to pour out.

To saturate yourself in the Word of God, then is to submit to it, draw it in, and the end result is you are heavy and dripping from it. Such an abstract statement of fact might not mean much to you at this moment, so please permit me to give you an illustration that you will recognize and then in turn see the tie in with what I just said a moment ago.

Illustrative Aid…

Have you ever met a sports nut? No, they don’t grow on trees, but they are fruit off of sports proverbial branch. A person who loves sports (whether it be football, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.) is one whose only subject matter seems to be the sport that they are nutty over.

In my younger days, you could have called me an NFL nut. I was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and for a time I followed them religiously. I knew all about their players, all about their stats, all about their franchise. Every week I watched ESPN for any little nugget I could get about them. I would watch NFL Matchup on Sunday mornings, and when they were playing, I was watching. Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, Monday night, if they were on, I was in front of the tube (no, not YouTube it didn’t exist then or if it did, I was not aware of it—give me a break I’m 40). Pittsburgh Steelers is what I studied, what I yearned for, what I spoke about; it poured out of me like a soaked sponge.

Over the years God changed my heart, and removed that idol from me. I’m not saying loving sports is idolatry, it can be, it was for me, but that doesn’t mean everybody who watches their favorite team is guilty of that sin. Evidently, it was for me because I no longer have a yearning desire to watch or follow them or any other football team for that matter. In short, I know longer saturate my life in that scene and so I am a bit of a bore to some of my friends who still love and follow football, NFL or otherwise.

While the illustration here is about sports, any subject will suffice. In any conversation, given enough time, it won’t be long  before the person who is speaking will reveal what it is they are saturating their lives in (work, celebrities, movies, games, animals, etc.).

What it’s all about…

Saturation Bible study is all about taking a portion of Scripture and digging deep into it and soaking it up. It might be one verse, a section of verses, an entire chapter, a section of an entire book or the book itself (this includes epistles, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.). The point of Saturation Bible study is not reading the entire Bible but focusing on smaller portions of it for an extended period of time. You dwell on what is written. You act like a cow and chew the cud, so to speak. The point is that through careful observation of the text you put your effort on letting that passage sit and sink in your heart and mind. All the while prayerfully seeking the Lord.

The end result is a deeper appreciation of what has been written. The goal is not quantity of study, but quality of study. What you are pursing is being so inundated with the Word of God that it pours from your life. There is nothing wrong with devotionals, and I am not against reading through the Bible in a year or less, but the goal is to be a turtle rather than a hare in studying God’s Word. His Word is the devotional, and He is the focus to years end.

This does not mean, however, when you focus on one passage—let’s say John 6—that you do not reference what is being spoken of their in other passages. Interpreting Scripture with Scripture is the only way to be safeguard against reading too much of your own thoughts into a passage. It doesn’t prevent it, but it does help. So, using John 6 as an illustration, you may saturate in the first part of the passage (vv. 1-15) for a week or two (maybe a month or longer, I don’t know I’m not you). Well as you are saturating in that passage you will notice that a great crowd is following Jesus, and so you may look back through the rest of John’s gospel for reasons why. You may pick up on the Passover (v.4) or the statement found in verse 14 about “…the Prophet who is come into the world” and look who into the meaning of that from the Old Testament? Which may cause you to wonder why the feeding of the hungry prompted this (v.10-12)? Why they wanted to crown him as king (v.15)? Or the meaning of the twelve baskets filled to the top with left overs from a kids packed lunch (v. 13).

The point is you take your time with this passage before you move on. You come to know it personally, and are able to recall the details of it without much effort. It just pours out of you. That’s Saturation Bible study.

Perhaps you are wondering, “What in the world is O. I. A?” O. I. A. stands for Observe, Interpret and then Apply. Many errors could be avoided in learning from Scripture if people did not rush to Interpretation and Application. However, as I noted above Christians who have not been sufficiently taught tend to read the text before them and then immediately draw their own private conclusions about what is being said. This is also the reason I came to realize that teaching Saturation Bible study after learning O. I. A. would be more beneficial to Christ’s church.

O. I. A. is really just the classic historical-grammatical hermeneutic method of exegesis. Exegesis means to “flesh out” what is in the text. Whereas, hermeneutics focus on the question: “What does this mean?”

The first key step in studying your Bible is O—observing

You need to take time in the observation stage of studying Scripture, before you attempt to move on to the “I.” Observation is taking time with the text in an effort to identify the flow-of-thought (i.e., context) of the author as he presents his message to his audience. This would also include some minor background work prior to reading the passage. Many study Bibles today offer a brief examination of the context (historically, culturally), the author, his audience and key themes, some even dealing with difficult theological/textual issues which greatly aids the serious biblical student.

As you observe the text you also notice key words, repeated phrases, key concepts (like “Son of David”), and identify allusions or direct citations of other portions of Scripture (i.e., prophetic passages and such). The whole time you are thinking about and writing down questions of what you’ve read: Who, what, when, where, why, how?

Again, think of turtle versus the hare approach to reading your Bible. While, you want to finish the race you started you take only one day at a time, leaving tomorrow with its own worries.

The second step in studying your Bible is I—interpreting

Once you’ve taken the time to observe the text, you are ready to begin interpreting the passage before you. In this step you begin researching the things you identified earlier in the observation stage. Your goal is to begin answering questions that were raised (which you hopefully jotted down) as you went through the text. Defining key words, concepts, themes and any theological/textual issues that may have sprung up. The first step is using Scripture to interpret Scripture. While the Bible was written by human writers, it is the Holy Spirit’s document not man’s (cf. 2Pet 1.19-21; 2Tim 3.16-17). Look and see what God has said on specific issues before jumping to conclusions. If you find apparent contradictions, weigh them with what else was said on the subject. Use clearer passages to aid in interpreting harder passages.

Another key point that needs to be made is with the use of grammar. Different genres, different emphasis being given, gives different meanings. A given term may have a variety of ways it can be used depending upon the context. Thus, context is key. The less a word is used in Scripture, the harder it can be to define it. For example, the Hebrew word translated for “gopher wood” in the building of Noah’s ark is a bit perplexing to some since we are not sure what type of tree is being referenced.

This raises another important step in the interpretative process in light of secondary tools (e.g., commentaries, dictionary’s, original language dictionaries, lexicons, etc.), these can be helpful to the student of Scripture but they are not Scripture. They are therefore secondary for a reason. We want to turn to them after we have been doing the hard work first. I cannot express how frustrating it is to see people look at the notes in their study Bible’s before they have given time for Scripture to soak in by sitting in an observing the text.

We all have blind spots in our field of vision and this includes even godly individuals who have written books. Yes, they provide wonderful tools at our disposal. Yes, they might be right on 80% of what they’ve written, but don’t take their word of granted. If the Holy Spirit thought that the Bereans were more noble than others because they weighed the words of an apostle with Scripture (Acts 17.11), then we better make sure we do the same. God’s word is the foundation, it is the standard by which all other things are measured. We are to test all things first, before we call them good or right (1Thess 5.21).

The final step in studying the Bible is A—apply

We apply what we have learned, but if we have not truly learned the truth, we dare not apply it; therefore, this has to be our last step. I won’t wag my tongue very long here. If you want justification for this step, I merely turn you to 2Tim 3:16-17 where we learn that God’s Word—the very breath of His mouth as it is uttered, written down for us in the pages of our Bible’s—is useful, profitable and of exceedingly great benefit to the humble believer. Having taken the time to flesh out what was written (observation), in order to determine what was/is meant (interpretation) we now seek to apply it to our lives in one or more of the following ways: teaching—being taught the way we should go, reproof—being challenged for the way we were going, correction—having our hearts and minds conformed to God’s way of thinking, training—being shown the proper steps to take to live a righteous life (good in God’s sight).

Closing thoughts…

If you’ve read my stuff for any amount of time you may have noticed that some of these things I have said here, I’ve said before. To that I say, “we learn through repetition.” My children did not learn to tie their shoes on their first attempt, and we as people need to be constantly be reminded of what is necessary and good to get the most benefit out of our time with God’s Word.

I’m still learning, and hopefully so are some of you…


NOTE TO READER: I apologize if you received an email of this post with the title reading “O. I. P….” rather than starting with “O. I. A.” This was a blunder on my part. I realized it this morning before it posted, but did not get to it in time to correct it in the title and throughout the post. There is a similar abbreviated form that I use having borrowed it from Jason Lisle’s work “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” where he uses “A. I. P.” to refer to Assumption, Inconsistency, and Pre-Conditions of Intelligibility. Having written something recently somewhere else I had got in the habit of typing that. And so, from habit I finished the last letter with “P” rather than “A.” Again, I apologize for the confusion. Thanks for reading,

Kris

Image by Jose Miguel Guardeño