Theologically Driven


Theologically Driven

Theologically Driven features insight on Scripture, the church, and contemporary culture from faculty and staff at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. DBTS has faithfully prepared men for gospel ministry since its founding in 1976. As a ministry of the Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, it provides graduate level training with a balance between strong academics and a heart for local church ministry.

Contributors to the blog include:

John Aloisi, Assistant Professor of Church History

Bill Combs, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament

Bruce Compton, Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition

Jared Compton, Assistant Professor of New Testament

Sam Dawson, Professor of Systematic Theology

Dave Doran, President and Professor of Pastoral Theology

Pearson Johnson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology

Bob McCabe, Professor of Old Testament

Mark Snoeberger, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

To find out more, visit Theologically Driven.

3 Important Reasons Why the Lottery is a Bad Bet

by John Aloisi

I heard it on the radio again the other day—a slick sounding ad depicting happy sounding people talking about how much fun it is to win “the big one.” It was an ad for the Michigan Lottery, and it left one with the impression that most people who play the lottery actually win. When such ads come on, I typically turn the radio off. But from time to time I listen out of morbid curiosity not unlike that which causes people to watch crash videos on YouTube. Advertising executives are nothing if not brazen about taking something that is foolish and making it sound like great fun.

There are many reasons why people should not play the lottery and several more why it should be viewed as poor public policy. Here are three reasons why Christians should not spend their money on the lottery:

1. The lottery promotes greed while simultaneously discouraging a good work ethic.

If the ads are any indication, people play the lottery in hopes of winning large sums of money. Most of us have a tendency to want more things or to want nicer things than we currently own. The lottery suggests that one can easily get such things, not by working hard, but by buying little paper tickets which, truth be told, generally have the inherent value of confetti. The book of Proverbs suggests a better method: “whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Prov 13:11b).

I’ve heard people say something like, “I only play the lottery because it supports public education, and that’s a good cause.” If someone is really interested in supporting public education, I suspect there are more effective ways to do so. And say such a person were to beat the odds and actually win a lottery drawing, would that person then be taking money away from public education? Win or lose, the “helping fund a good cause” argument doesn’t make much sense. Which leads me to a second reason why playing the lottery is a bad idea.

2. The lottery promotes poor stewardship of personal finances.

Statistically, playing the lottery doesn’t make good financial sense. The lottery is designed to be a money-making tool for government coffers. In fact, state governments make quite a bit of money via various state and regional lotteries, and all of that money ultimately comes from people who had hoped to defy the laws of mathematics. The lottery can rightly be viewed as a tax on people who are bad at math. And unfortunately, oftentimes those who spend the most money on the lottery are those who can least afford to spend money on non-essentials. Which leads me to a final reason why the lottery is an all-around bad idea.

3. The lottery promotes a predatory relationship between the state and its citizens.

Lotteries are a means for state governments to trick citizens into giving them money in exchange for nothing by preying on human greed. It is a way for states to raise revenues without the unpopular process of raising tax rates. But if playing the lottery is poor stewardship of one’s resources, then government promotion of the lottery is de facto promotion of poor financial stewardship among its citizens. It is bad enough that governments typically provide large-scale examples of poor stewardship, but encouraging individual citizens to squander their resources seems to put government in the position of seeking the ill-being of those whom it should serve and protect. Christians should have no part in encouraging the government in such an endeavor.

Perhaps you’ve read this far in the post and are now thinking, “I’ve never considered buying a lottery ticket, so this really isn’t very relevant to me.” Let me challenge you with two additional thoughts. First, unfortunately people in your community and quite possibly your church have been harmed by the lottery. Granted, they have been willingly harmed, but that doesn’t lessen the impact. People with limited resources have been lured into wasting some of those resources on a government shell game. Just because the lotteries have been with us for decades doesn’t mean we should begin to view them as harmless. Second, the underlying reason why lotteries exist and are very profitable is lodged within all of our hearts to some degree or another. Innate selfishness causes us to want what we have not earned, and it causes us to want more than God has given us through the ordinary means of hard work and careful stewardship. Writing to believers, Paul warned about such an outlook when he wrote,

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tim 6:9–10).


6 Major Problems with Today’s “Tolerance”

by Ben Edwards

There have been two subtle but significant developments in our society in recent years in our response to people and ideas. The first is a growing inability to distinguish between ideas and the people who espouse them. Rather, debates about the merits of a particular position in public discussion quickly move to discussions of the persons who espouse those positions. One potential reason is the growing confusion, aided by public education, about objective facts. If there are no objective truths, then ideas are not truly distinct from persons but are instead vitally connected to the person or community that holds to a position—that is what subjective truths are.

The second development concerns how we react to ideas/persons. Some ideas/persons are viewed as valuable and praiseworthy. We want to celebrate these ideas/persons, setting them forth as models for others to embrace. Other ideas/persons are recognized as being different from a position we might hold but are still seen as good positions. We may not celebrate or promote them, but we can certainly affirm the person/idea. It’s not for you, but it’s still good. But what if we encounter a bad idea/person? Our response in these situations is to reject them. We point out that there is no place in a modern society—in this day and age—for people/ideas like that. We shake our heads in disdain. “How could someone still think that?” “Shocked that this could still happen today.” We don’t want to allow these wrong ideas/people in society. This new development means that if you hold a position deemed wrong by society, people now work to exclude you from society.

Perhaps you might notice that a reaction that has historically marked Western society is missing from the previous paragraph: tolerance. People still talk about tolerance, but their understanding of tolerance is indistinguishable from the response of affirmation mentioned earlier. Today, tolerance means to accept or approve different opinions.

Historically, though, tolerance included disapproving something. In fact, the very term implied that something was disagreeable or abhorrent. (E.g., if I invited you to an opera and you replied “I guess I could tolerate it,” I wouldn’t conclude that you would enjoy it.) If you didn’t think an idea was wrong you couldn’t tolerate it. Tolerance meant you disagreed—even strongly—with something, but you would not use coercion to suppress the idea or the person who held the idea. Though you may find the idea completely foolish, you think a healthy society must not stamp out all ideas you believe to be wrong. As the saying often (improperly) attributed to Voltaire goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But today we no longer seem to have the option to agree to disagree—we either have to agree or reject. People can’t be wrong, unless they are so wrong they must be rejected. What are some of the negative consequences of this approach?

No Basis for Evaluating Ideas. Even under the historic understanding of tolerance, there were limitations to what might be tolerated. Some ideas should be rejected, or at least never promoted or acted upon (e.g., genocide). But how do we decide which ideas should be rejected? Since our society largely rejects objective truth, what is the standard for determining whether an idea is acceptable or not? Currently, it seems that popular opinion has become the standard. Once an idea is no longer held by the majority, it should no longer be allowed in society (and woe to those who do not change their stance quickly enough!).

Another potential candidate for evaluation seems to be people’s feelings. Positions are considered wrong if they offend someone. It doesn’t matter whether or not something is true (because how could anything be true), it only matters whether or not it bothers someone (except, of course, WASPs. Since they already enjoy the privilege of a favored status it is no problem to offend them).

Condemns People Rather than Ideas. When we are able to distinguish ideas from people, we can reject ideas without rejecting the person. For example, two people might disagree about whether or not the minimum wage should be raised without claiming the other either hates the poor or wants to promote sloth. But today disagreements quickly move from evaluation of ideas to labels of the opponent. People who disagree on an issue are now labeled as bigots, intolerant, narrow-minded, judgmental, etc. Now the merits of particular positions can be conveniently ignored, since the person who espouses the view is seen as unloving.

Trivializes Everything. This new approach trivializes issues in one of two ways. We could add a fourth category to the responses of celebration, affirmation, and rejection—indifference. It’s ok to be wrong on a position that doesn’t matter. So, while you might think that cats are better than dogs, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t care that you are wrong, since it’s not an important issue. Thus, in order for differing opinions to be allowed in this society, the opinion must be about insignificant matters.

But if there is no objective truth, does anything really matter? That’s why I can affirm your position if it is different from mine. I don’t have to see it as wrong because nothing is wrong. Which means nothing is right. Which means nothing should really matter. (As a side note, perhaps one of the reasons people are so virulent in their rejection of “wrong” ideas/people is they are trying to convince themselves that something matters, even though their worldview does not allow anything to matter).

Harms Every Position. Because contrary opinions are so quickly stamped out in our society, people are dissuaded from offering an idea or an opinion that might not fit with the current status quo. In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill points to a significant benefit of tolerance (and conversely, the significant danger of suppressing contrary opinions).

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion, is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

It Promotes Intolerance. Since we have lost the ability to believe people should be allowed to be wrong, we no longer have a real category for tolerance. That means that those who are wrong are threats to society and should be punished. Unfortunately, we don’t need government to enact that punishment. We now have social media mobs that can destroy people who transgress the court of popular opinion. We have become skilled at stamping out diverse opinions in the name of diversity.

Leads to Totalitarianism. Since there is no objective standard to evaluate things, those with power are able to set the standards. The position with the most backing gets to stomp out the other positions. Unfortunately, that rarely stops with the positions with which you currently disagree. As George Orwell said in his proposed preface to Animal Farm: “If you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. Make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won’t stop at Fascists.” Or make a habit of destroying those who are “wrong,” and perhaps the process won’t stop with those who are currently considered “wrong.”

 


Did Paul Write Hebrews?

by Jared Compton

If you think Paul wrote Hebrews, you’re in good company (see, e.g., here). One problem with this conclusion, however, is that what Paul says in Gal 1:11–12 seems to contradict what Paul says in Heb 2:3, presuming Paul wrote Heb 2:3. That is, in Gal 1:11–12 Paul emphatically states that he received his gospel directly from Jesus, whereas Heb 2:3 seems to imply that its author could not say the same thing. “This salvation [i.e., gospel]... was first announced by the Lord [and] was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”

It’s possible that the two texts are compatible, of course, since Heb 2:3 doesn’t clearly deny that its author received his gospel—“this salvation”—from Jesus himself. Perhaps it only suggests that an initial reception was later confirmed by eyewitness testimony (“those who heard [Jesus]”).

This sort of reading, however, is unlikely. The author talks about the gospel being “confirmed” in Heb 2:3 not to distinguish between its initial reception and its later apostolic confirmation. Rather, the author talks about the gospel being “confirmed” because he wants his doubting audience to know that God has really spoken a new word, a “great salvation”—a word that is even more “binding” than his previous word given through angels (Heb 2:2; i.e., the Law). After all this new word was spoken “by the Lord,” which is to say, by the one now seated at God’s right hand (see 1:5–14; see, similarly, Phil 2:9–11). Surely he is trustworthy! (Otherwise, he’d never have been given such honor.) And, moreover, the reality of this new word had been confirmed throughout the Roman empire, including among the author’s audience (“to us”), by those who’d seen and heard the now-exalted Lord. The author is certain his audience will remember all this, especially since the evangelists’ message had been accompanied—and further confirmed—by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb 2:4). Surely they’d not forgotten such a memorable event (see, similarly, Gal 3:2, 5)!

In short, Heb 2:3 talks about the author and his audience’s initial evangelization. Their community was a result of the apostolic mission. And, as such, Heb 2:3 contradicts what Paul says in Gal 1:11–12 and, thus, suggests that Paul did not write Hebrews.


3 Differences Between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism

by John Aloisi

In the West, most Protestants are at least somewhat familiar with Roman Catholicism. Many of us have Roman Catholic friends, neighbors, and even family members. And many believers have been saved out of Roman Catholicism. Much less familiar to most westerners is the other main branch of non-Protestant Christianity—Eastern Orthodoxy.

Many differences exist between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Some of these are more significant than others, and many of these ostensible differences belie an underlying similarity between the two church traditions. I’d like to briefly discuss three areas in which Eastern Orthodoxy differs somewhat from Roman Catholicism while reflecting a common disagreement with evangelical Protestantism. These areas have to do with the Lord’s Supper, the use of images or icons, and religious authority.

The Lord’s Supper

1. When one walks into an Eastern Orthodox church, one of the first things a non-Orthodox person will notice is a large screen or iconostasis at the front of the nave or auditorium. This often beautiful structure is not merely decorative. It serves an important purpose within the Orthodox system by marking off the boundary between the common area and the sanctuary. Whereas the Roman Catholic mass is usually celebrated in full view of the congregants, Orthodox priests pray over the elements on the altar which is located in the sanctuary behind the iconostasis and therefore set apart from the congregants. The sanctuary is sometimes compared to the “Holy of Holies” in the Jewish Temple. Another difference between the Roman Catholic practice and that of the Orthodox has to do with the reception of the elements themselves. Whereas Roman Catholic laity may only partake of the bread, in the Orthodox service congregants partake of both elements (wine and bread).

On the other hand, both Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches view the Lord’s Supper as a Eucharist, a sacrament, and a sacrifice. In general, the Orthodox are less interested in precise theological theories, and so they do not usually use the term transubstantiation. However, for all intents and purposes the Orthodox Church holds to a form of transubstantiation. They see the elements of the Eucharist as becoming the real body and blood of Christ, and they see it as having sacramental value in the sense of providing reconciliation or healing (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, new ed., 283–85; John McGuckin, The Orthodox Church, 291). In both church traditions, the Eucharist is not simply a memorial or even an ordinance involving the spiritual presence of Christ. It is a means by which one enters into the sacrifice of Christ in some (rather mysterious) way.

Icons

2. Another thing one is quickly struck with when walking into an Orthodox church is the pervasive presence and use of icons. In some cases, the beauty of such icons is awe-inspiring, and in fact, that seems to be the point.

However, the icons in an Orthodox church are usually quite different from those found in Roman Catholic churches. Whereas Catholic churches often include statues and carved or otherwise 3-dimensionally shaped crucifixes, within the Orthodox tradition religious imagery is carefully controlled and for the most part is produced on a flat surface using paint or something similar.

As in Roman Catholicism, within Orthodoxy icons are viewed as means that can assist people in their worship. Both traditions make use of images or icons as aids to worship. And so, churchgoers in both traditions often venerate and pray to images of Jesus as well the apostles and other saints. Both church traditions also make use of relics for similar purposes.

As a side note, with just a little background outsiders can learn to distinguish between a Roman Catholic church and an Orthodox church based on the appearance of the interior of the building by looking for an iconostasis and/or altar and by noting the kind of artwork or icons used in worship. One can also frequently distinguish between the two based on what is heard. In Orthodox churches singing (or chanting) usually takes the place of organ or other instrumental music.

Religious Authority

3. Less obvious perhaps to the casual observer is another difference between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy centering around the question of religious authority. Within the Roman Catholic Church, Scripture and tradition are held up as twin sources of revelation or authority (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation 9–10). While certainly recognizing the authority of tradition, the Orthodox Church views the relationship between Scripture and tradition somewhat differently. Consider, for example, the following explanation of religious authority in Orthodoxy:

The fundamental bulwarks of the Orthodox faith are: the lives of the Spirit-filled elect, the Holy Scriptures, the ancient traditions manifested in the sacred liturgy and the church’s ritual practices, the creeds and professions (ektheseis) of the ecumenical councils, the great patristic writings defending the faith against heretical positions, the church’s ever-deepening collection of prayers that have had universal adoption and enduring spiritual efficacy and, by extension, the wider body of the spiritual and ascetical writings of the saints of times past and present, the important writings of hierarchs at various critical moments in the more recent past which have identified the correct response that ought to be undertaken against new conditions and movements prevailing after the patristic period (McGuckin, The Orthodox Church, 100).

In the midst of that one, rather long sentence the reader could easily miss the fact that the Orthodox Church looks to the Scriptures for religious authority. However, within Orthodoxy Scripture is just one of many religious authorities. Or perhaps it would be better to say that tradition is the real source of religious authority within Orthodoxy, and Scripture is viewed as one part of that tradition. McGuckin further explains the relationship between Scripture and tradition this way: “The Scriptures stand as far greater in moment, and richness, than any writing of the saints. But there is not a profound difference in order, and not a dissonance of quality, for it is the same Spirit who inspires his saints in each generation, and inspires in them the same mind of the self-same Lord…. Scripture, for the Orthodox, is one of the purest manifestations of tradition. It is constitutively within sacred tradition, not apart from it” (McGuckin, The Orthodox Church, 101). So, within Orthodoxy, Scripture is inspired, but it is inspired in the same sense that the writings of many saints are inspired. Like Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy rejects the full sufficiency of Scripture and necessarily reduces the actual authority of Scripture by making it one of several sources of religious truth. And like Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy regards the Church as the authoritative interpreter of Scripture (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation 2.10; Ware, The Orthodox Church, 199–200).

Although Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are different in a number of ways—some superficial and some substantial, they both set up human priests (and saints) as intermediaries between God and humans. They both encourage the use of images as aids to worship and prayer. And both see their respective Churches as fulfilling the role of authoritative interpreter of Scripture. More anecdotally, they both seem to encourage a great deal of religious ritualism and activity but very little actual study of the Bible.


Who Is the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament?

by Bob McCabe

As one reads the Old Testament, he will undoubtedly notice the mysterious references to the angel of the LORD. Is this an angel like Michael who was sent out by the LORD? Or is this some kind of manifestation of deity? Who is the angel of the LORD?

Let’s initially examine the term angel (in Hebrew, mal’ak). This word can also be rendered as “messenger.” Mal’ak generally indicates one who is sent, a messenger or a representative. It can refer to human messengers sent by human officials (Gen 32:3) or by God (Isa 42:19) as well as to supernatural messengers sent by God. In reference to this latter group, it may refer to a created order of supernatural beings, angels (Gen 19:1, 15). The issue for us concerns whether this term can refer to the infinite supernatural Being, God. In order to prove that this term can refer to God, we will need to examine when it is used in connection with the phrase “of the LORD.” While this expression is used thirty-nine times in the Old Testament, we will examine two of these.

The first passage is found in Exodus 3:1–14. While tending the flock of his father-in-law at Horeb, Moses saw that a burning bush was not being consumed by the fire. As he approached the bush, v. 2 clearly states that the angel of the LORD appeared to him in the flames of the bush. It is stated in v. 4 that the LORD spoke to him from within the bush. In v. 6 the Being in the bush further identifies that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As the conversation continues between these two, the Being in the bush announces His name, “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). Thus, this passage indicates that the angel of the LORD mentioned in v. 2 is clearly identified by Himself and accepted by Moses as the infinite God.

Zechariah 3:1–10 is our second passage. The content of Zechariah’s fourth vision focuses on Israel’s future cleansing from sin and reinstatement as a priestly nation. Verse 1 introduces the participants: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him” (NIV 2011). More specifically, these participants are Joshua the high priest, the antecedent of “he” is the interpreting angel (he is referred to in 1:9, 14, 19; 2:3; 4:1, 3, 5; etc.; in light of 1:9 the interpreting angel was apparently present to explain some of the details of these visions to Zechariah), the antecedent of “me” is Zechariah, the angel of the LORD, and Satan. In this verse Joshua is described as standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan is pictured as standing at the right hand of the angel of the LORD to resist him. With this introduction to the vision we should note that the angel of the LORD is the focal point around which the following context revolves.

The first half of v. 2 reads like this: “The LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan!’” In light of the participants mentioned in v. 1, we could read this verse in this fashion: “And the LORD, that is the angel of the LORD, said unto Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan.’” Therefore, v. 2 identifies the angel of the LORD as the LORD and indicates that there is a distinction between the angel of the LORD and the LORD. This identification is further substantiated in v. 4. If we follow the context of vv. 2–4 carefully, we should notice that it is the angel of the LORD who forgives sin in v. 4. Since God is the only one who forgives sin, it is readily apparent that the angel of the LORD is God. Consequently, this passage provides solid support for both the deity of the angel of the LORD and his distinctiveness from the LORD.

Who is both deity and yet a distinct person from the LORD? Since no one has ever seen God the Father (John 1:18; 1 Tim 6:16) and since the Holy Spirit never takes on bodily form, this suggests that the supernatural Being to which this expression refers is the second member of the Trinity (also compare Exod 3:14 with John 8:58). Therefore, the angel of the LORD was a temporary manifestation of the LORD Jesus Christ in a preincarnate form. It is important to make a distinction between Christ’s preincarnation and incarnation. His incarnation is a permanent union where God the Son took on full humanity becoming the God-man. His incarnation began with His miraculous conception and will continue throughout eternity. Christ’s preincarnate form was a transitory visible manifestation of God the Son. After His incarnation, Christ never appears again as the angel of the LORD. As we view the angel of the LORD, we can see how God through progressive revelation provided data in the Old Testament for the doctrine of the Trinity that is more completely elaborated upon in the New Testament.


When the Law of Moses Calls for Death

by Mark Snoeberger

A while back Bob Jones University made the news by apologizing for statements made a generation ago suggesting that homosexuals should be subjected, like they were during the Mosaic economy, to capital punishment. This mea culpa was a welcome one insofar as the offending statement was insensitive, vindictive, even hateful. But among the tweets and chatter that ensued, it was surprising to see how many bloggers (critics and defenders of BJU alike) made no apparent differentiation between the words spoken in 1980 and the words written in the 15th century BC. Moses is apparently guilty of hate speech, too!

This is a troubling sentiment, I think, and one that seriously erodes Old Testament credibility and authority. Surely as inerrantists we must conclude that Moses was right to write what he did! It is in view of this fact that I ask today, What should we do with Moses and his copious assignment of capital punishment for seemingly trivial crimes (or in some cases, perhaps, for no crime at all)? Shall we defend him? Blush for him? Distance ourselves from him by denouncing the Law as inherently evil and, too our great relief, dead and gone?

It is true that the Mosaic Law has been set aside, and its temporal sanctions suspended in Christ. And with the dissolution of the Jewish kingdom, there is no longer a theocratic representative living on earth with the authority to enforce God’s expectations in the civil sphere. Still, we must surely also say, “The Law was holy, and its commandment holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12ff). Further, we must affirm that the God who established that Law is immutably pure in his ethic. So how should we deal today with actions that Moses regarded as capital offenses?

As I see it, there are four categories of capital offense detailed in the Law of Moses, and each requires its own nuanced response. Note the following:

  • Offenses violating the sanctity of human life. Moses requires that “first-degree” murder be punished by the forfeiture of life (Exod 21:12, 14; also Lev 24:17, 21), with special emphasis on those who sacrificed their children to the gods (Lev 20:1–5). Negligence resulting in death could also be a capital crime (Exod 21:28–29), especially in the case of unborn children (Exod 21:22–25), though this was not true in every case (Exod 21:13). Perjury in capital cases was also a capital offense (Deut 19:16–19), ostensibly because it might result in the unjust loss of life. The fact that God persistently commands human governments to guard human life with capital force, not only in the Mosaic economy but beyond (Gen 9:6), seems to leave no room for debate—God expects collective mankind, being ever in his image, to exercise due process and execute murderers.

In modern society some oppose capital punishment uniformly, even in the case of murder, but this is not a universal sentiment. Indeed, of all the categories of capital punishment found in the Mosaic Law, this category receives the smallest amount of cultural resistance.

  • Offenses savaging the humanity, purity, and dignity of “innocents.” Included in this category are offenses such as unequivocal, non-consenting, sexual assault (Deut 22:25–27) and kidnaping for the purpose of human trafficking (Exod 21:16). Since the command to execute criminals of this type is restricted to the Mosaic economy, I do not find capital punishment a mandate in the modern era; still, the fact that God found such crimes ethically worthy of death in one era seems to suggest that modern governments that conclude similarly are well within their rights to do so.

As with the previous category, many non-Christians are of a similar mind in this matter (after all, it was not Christians that made Taken a blockbuster movie).

  • Offenses of a religious nature. As a theocratic state, there was no separation of church/state, God/Caesar, or saeculum/sacrum in the Mosaic economy. As a result, the selfsame Israelite system prosecuted both civil and religious This is why, during this window of history, God required capital punishment for the crimes of sorcery (Exod 22:18; Lev 20:27; Deut 13:5), blasphemy (Lev 24:14, 16, 23), false prophecy (Deut 18:20), and egregious Sabbath violations (Exod 31:14; 35:2).

I have already tipped my hand in revealing that I believe this category of capital punishment to be restricted to the unique circumstances of the Jewish theocracy. By contrast, NT revelation sharply distinguishes the jurisdiction of church and state: the state has no jurisdiction in the church and as such should not prosecute religious crimes; and the church, while free to exclude someone from its membership, has no power to take away his life. And to the degree that religious organizations (Christian, Muslim, or otherwise) transgress (or have transgressed) this distinction, I believe they are wrong.

  • Offenses against divinely instituted civil institutions. These offenses represent the most broadly disputed category of capital crimes in the OT, and have three distinct sub-categories: (a) crimes against divinely prescribed authority within the institution of the family (Exod 21:15, 17; Lev 20:9), (b) persistent refusal to submit to divinely instituted civil authorities in otherwise non-capital crimes (Deut 17:12), and (c) a range of offenses against the divine institution of marriage, including adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22), bestiality (Exod 22:19; Lev 20:15­–16), homosexuality (Lev 20:13), special instances of fornication (Deut 22:23–24), special instances of incest (Lev 20:11–21), special instances of prostitution (Lev 21:9), and lying about one’s virginity (Deut 22:13–21).

It is these “crimes” that earn the greatest attention among Bible-haters. None of these offenses seem capitally egregious, it is argued, and many of them offend no one at all—they’re mutually consensual! How can these be capital crimes? The answer is simple: Our Creator God found these activities to be of such an egregious nature as to threaten the viability of his creative design for humanity. And as is his prerogative, he assigned them capital import. And since he is the Creator and we are creatures, we really have no recourse but to acknowledge his right to do so.

Now, I would hasten to add that the capital response to such activities was apparently not immediate in every case. Mercy was often granted (see Lev 18:29 within its context), with capital force apparently reserved for repeated offenses coupled with recalcitrance or violence. Further, as was the case with the offenses in category 2 (above), the mandate to punish such activities capitally ceases after the Mosaic economy. Still, it seems hazardous to say that what God declared to be capitally odious and deleterious to the human race in 1400 BC must now be regarded as ethically benign, much less respectable.

There is no doubt that the Mosaic Law offers challenges to the contemporary church that are exceedingly complex, and the above should not be regarded as the final word on the topic. However, whatever answers emerge to the tensions at hand, we surely cannot give in to the contemporary opinion that Moses (and by extension, Yahweh) was once a moral monster perpetrating a primitive and reckless law code from which our enlightened modern society has escaped. Perhaps its is fair to say (using contemporary legal language) that Christ has ushered in an age in which “mandatory minimum sentencing” has been withdrawn with respect to many of these offenses perpetrated against God. However, since God is absolutely immutable in his ethical character, moral culpability for sins against God and his created order has by no means relaxed with the coming of Christ.


Can a Person Be “Overly Righteous”?

by Bob McCabe

Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:16)

Can “be not overly righteous” really be saying what it seems to be saying? Does God actually want us to tone down our righteousness? In order to correctly determine the meaning of this clause, it must first be placed in its immediate context. The context of v. 16 is found in the paragraph of Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, which reads:

(15) In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. (16) Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy [better translated as “astonish”] yourself? (17) Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? (18) It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

There are a number of different interpretations of the expression “be not overly righteous” in v. 16. We will examine three of these. The first interpretation can be called the golden mean view. When v. 16 is taken in connection with the command to avoid being excessively wicked in v. 17 (“be not overly wicked”), a number of commentators have concluded that this is a call to moderation, a golden mean between virtue and vice. As such, the author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, is encouraging his audience to avoid living an excessively righteous or sinful life. The problem with this understanding is that it misses the point of the argument in the immediate context. It should be noted in v. 15 that Solomon had difficulty in understanding how God works out divine retribution. Solomon had seen a righteous man die while living a righteous life and an ungodly man live a long and prosperous life. This was an apparent inconsistency to what an Israelite living under the Mosaic Covenant expected. The advice to live a life of moderation does not fit the discussion of v. 15, nor any other portion of the Bible.

A second interpretation is the self-righteous interpretation. Some commentators understand the term righteous as a reference to self-righteousness. Therefore, when the writer says “be not overly righteous,” he means “don’t be self-righteous.” A problem for this view is found when we compare the Hebrew adjective saddiq, translated as “righteous” in v. 16 with its use in v. 15, also translated as “righteous,” as well as its corresponding noun seder, translated as “righteousness.” Let’s translate v. 15 with the idea of self-righteousness in it. “In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a self-righteous man who perishes in his self-righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.” The problem is that whatever righteousness is, it is the antithesis of wickedness. Therefore, the only type of righteousness that v. 15 can be referring to is a genuine righteousness. The self-righteous view does not fit the context.

A third and preferred interpretation is the genuine righteousness view. This view understands the term righteousness to be a genuine righteousness, as this Hebrew term is always used in the Old Testament. The righteousness described in this verse is the same kind of righteousness as found in v. 15. The righteousness in v. 16 is excessive (“overly righteous”) only in the sense that an Old Testament believer might simplistically expect God to honor his righteousness with immediate blessing. In v. 15 Solomon describes a situation where a genuinely righteous person receives what the wicked should get, and the wicked person receives what the righteous person should get. The point of v. 16 could be interpreted like this: “Do not be simplistically righteous with the expectation of immediate reward, neither be naively wise, why cause yourself to be astonished that God did not honor your righteous living with immediate blessing?” How does this fit in with vv. 17–18? When one sees the wicked prospering, he may lose heart and turn to an excessively sinful lifestyle. This should not be followed because God may immediately judge this sinner (v. 17). According to v. 18 the believer should avoid both extremes. In light of other portions of this book (Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 8:12-13; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:14), Solomon would argue that we should live righteously because God will bring every deed into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14); this is when the Lord will certainly reward His people.

For more detail info, see Wayne A. Brindle, “Righteousness and Wickedness in Ecclesiastes 7:15–18,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 23 (Autumn 1985): 243–57.


The Fight over the Date of Easter

by John Aloisi

Throughout church history professing believers have argued amongst themselves about all kinds of things. In retrospect, some of these debates have been key steps in hammering out the details of important theological issues. Other debates have been less than edifying. Many of the disagreements related to the date of Easter have fallen into this latter category.

People are often surprised when they discover that a series of significant and sometimes very bitter controversies have taken place over how to calculate the date of Easter. And as of [yet], the disagreement is still not fully resolved.

The controversy about when to celebrate Easter is usually described as taking place in four distinct phases. Space does not permit a discussion of each of these, but here’s a glimpse of the earliest phase. Writing in the fourth century, Eusebius described the first stage of this controversy when he wrote,

At that time [the late second century], no small controversy erupted because all of the Asian dioceses thought that the Savior’s paschal festival should be observed, according to ancient tradition, on the fourteenth day of the moon, on which the Jews had been commanded to sacrifice the lamb. On that day it was necessary to finish the fast, no matter what day of the week it might be. In churches throughout the rest of the world, however, it was not customary to celebrate in this way, since, according to apostolic tradition, they maintained the view that still prevails: the fast ends only on the day of our Savior’s resurrection [Sunday]. Synods and conferences of bishops were held on this issue… (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.23).

Eusebius also went on to tell of how Victor (bishop of Rome in the late second cent.) tried to excommunicate a large number of eastern churches for their practice of celebrating Christ’s resurrection on the 14th of Nisan. Needless to say, these were not some of the church’s brightest days.

Much more encouraging is the advice found in another early text. The Apostolic Constitutions is a document that was probably compiled in the late fourth century. Regardless of its exact origin, this document provides insight into how some early Christians celebrated the resurrection of Christ:

Break your fast when it is daybreak of the first day of the week, which is the Lord’s day. From the evening until the cock-crows, keep awake; assemble together in the church; watch and pray; entreat God. When you sit up all night, read the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—until cock-crowing. Baptize your catechumens and read the Gospel with fear and trembling. And speak to the people such things as will assist their salvation…. And from that point on, leave off your fasting and rejoice! Keep a festival, for Jesus Christ, the pledge of our resurrection, is risen from the dead! (Apostolic Constitutions 5.19).

Regardless of how one calculates the date of Easter, this last statement expresses the heart of why Christians have celebrated Easter for many centuries—Jesus Christ, the pledge of our resurrection, is risen from the dead! In celebrating Easter we celebrate the fact that Christ has conquered death and that just as God raised Christ from the dead, he will someday raise Christ’s followers as well (1 Corinthians 6:14).


“I Don’t Put God in a Box Like That.” Really?

by Ben Edwards

A common tactic used in discussions about God and His actions is to claim that the other person is limiting God. It comes up in questions about creation (“I don’t limit God to just six days for creation like you do. I think He could use evolutionary processes and take billions of years”), about the sufficiency of Scripture (“I don’t limit God to speaking in the Bible like you do. I think He still speaks to people today”), and about the way of salvation (“I don’t limit God to saving people through faith in Jesus Christ like you do. I think He can save people who never hear about Jesus.”) This tactic may intimidate a person. After all, who wants to limit God, or “put Him in a box”? We would never want to impose our restrictions on God. Surely a more open-minded and broad approach to these issues gives more honor to God and His ability, right?

There are at least two problems with the accusation that the person who holds these beliefs is limiting God. The first problem is that the person claiming not to limit God is in actuality limiting Him. Let me illustrate with the issue of the ways of salvation. In theory, there are two options in this scenario: (A) God will save only one way, e.g., those who come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ or (B) God will save through multiple ways. Someone who holds position B is accusing someone who holds position A of limiting God, but person B is also limiting God. If someone says that God saves people through multiple ways, they have eliminated option A, the option of only saving people through Jesus Christ. They have limited God to choosing option B. They have effectively said that God cannot choose one way of saving people—He must choose multiple ways. In other words, someone who says that God saves in multiple ways has “limited God” to saving in multiple ways, while someone who says that God only saves in one way has “limited God” to saving in one way.

The same is true for the other scenarios. So, if both people could be accused of “limiting” God, how can we determine which “limitation” gives more honor to God and His ability? That leads to the second problem. The position that will bring the most honor to God is the position that He claims for Himself. If we argue against what He has said, then we really dishonor Him.

Suppose my wife and I come to visit you and notice a picture on your wall that we like. We ask where it came from, and you say, “I bought it recently.” My wife believes you and says you have good taste, but I say “I don’t want to limit you to only buying this picture. I think you actually took that picture and made the frame yourself because you are a talented person.” Who is actually honoring you? I may seem to be honoring you because I’m arguing that you did something more impressive (at least to me), but my wife is actually honoring you more because she believes what you said. I’m actually dishonoring you by failing to believe what you said.

God has spoken to us through the Bible, and He has told us how He does certain things. For example, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If I say, “Jesus, I think you actually save people in many different ways because you are a loving and gracious person,” I may appear to be honoring Him. But in reality, I dishonor Him because I fail to believe what He says.
In essence, it’s not a matter of whether or not I “limit” God, but whether or not He has “limited” Himself and revealed that in His Word, the Bible. And if I really want to honor Him and His ability, then I need to study what He has said in the Bible and believe it (even if it doesn’t match up with what I think.)


Do I Answer a Fool? Or Do I Not?

by Bob McCabe

In Proverbs 26:4 we are commanded not to answer a fool, but in the very next verse we’re commanded to answer a fool. On the surface I am in a quagmire since both commands seem to be in conflict with each other. So do I or do I not answer a fool? This raises a larger issue about how to apply the various sayings found in the book of Proverbs.

One of two broad categories of proverbs is known as prescriptive proverbs (the other is descriptive). A prescriptive proverb does more than simply tell about the way life is. It seeks to characterize an attitude or an action in order to influence behavior (Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 313–14). The focus of this post is to describe three types of prescriptive proverbs that will assist in applying them.

1. A prescriptive proverb that allows for exceptions is a generalization. At the minimum, there are two categories of generalizations. First, some proverbs allow for limitations in various circumstances. The example we initially saw in Proverbs 26:4-5 is certainly an example of this. There are contexts when we should avoid answering a fool lest we look like the fool; however, there are other settings when we should answer the fool so that he does not look wise in his own eyes. We must use godly discernment in determining which proverb to follow. In addition, wise planning with proper advice is praised in Proverbs 15:22. However, this is balanced by Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Parsons, “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Proverbs,” BSac 150 [1993], 160). The foolishness “bound in the heart of a child” in Proverbs 22:15 may provide a hindrance to the proverb in Proverbs 22:6 (Zuck, “A Theology of the Wisdom Books and the Song of Songs, in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, 234). Second, other proverbs are generalizations because they are bound to the dispensation of law. For example, Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.” The blessings of wealth were promised to obedient Israelites in Deuteronomy 28:8-14. This type of promise has temporal limits since it is not made to believers in the New Testament. At times, a generalization may even be limited in the dispensation of law. An example of this is Proverbs 10:30, “The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land.” When this text says the righteous will not “be uprooted,” the sage is referring to righteous Israelites not being uprooted from the land of Israel. However, there were exceptions to this, viz., Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. While we recognize this type of exception, my point is that the “land” emphasis in this proverb reflects that its was written under the dispensation of law and its direct application pertains to those living under the law, though its application allowed for exceptions.

2. A prescriptive proverb that has no exceptions is a moral absolute. This will often be true in proverbs dealing with an action or characteristic of God. Proverbs 11:1 says, “The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” Another example is Proverbs 14:31, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” The instructional material in Proverbs 5against adultery by maintaining a proper marital relationship is a moral absolute. It upholds the moral absolute, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

3. A prescriptive proverb may contain both a moral absolute and a generalization. Proverbs 3:1-2 is an exhortation to honor one’s father with a promise of long life and peace. The command to honor one’s parents is a moral absolute; however, the promise about long life is only a generalization, for Jesus Christ was the embodiment of honor to His earthly parents, yet He was crucified in His early thirties. “God in His sovereignty may make an exception as in the case of Jesus” (Parsons, 161, n. 72).

May God grant us discernment as we apply the wisdom of Proverbs.


How to Approach Evangelizing at Work

by Mark Snoeberger

In our last post we appealed to John 17 to show that a properly ordered witness for Christ must avoid the two poles of (1) being both in the world and of the world, hoping the gospel will advance wordlessly through personal intimacy alone (Christ of culture) and (2) being neither in the world nor of the world, hoping the gospel will advance through remote belligerence alone (Christ against culture).

If the reader is familiar with H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, he will recognize two of Niebuhr’s five approaches, adapted here for my purposes. Niebuhr actually proposes three intermediate approaches, but I will select just one for further consideration: Christ and culture in paradox. (Note: I am using these categories somewhat differently than Niebuhr does, but I think they are helpful enough to be repurposed.)

In the paradox model, the Christian lives in two realms—as a citizen of the present, earthly/civic realm, and as a prospective citizen of heaven. In both these realms, Christ rules the believer’s activities, but in very different ways. In the earthly/civic realm, Christ rules indirectly through the dominion mandate by which everyman may, by submitting to God’s sovereign lordship over Creation, effectively rule over all that God has made as his vice-regents on earth. We do so by cultivating common/moral virtue, the sciences (Gen 1:28–31), and civic structures (Gen 9:6); by stewarding divinely granted “property” (whether material/physical, intellectual/ideological, ethical, etc.); and by obeying the second great commandment of loving neighbor as self (Matt 22:39). Specifically, this takes the form of being the very best possible citizens, workers, spouses, parents, students, and neighbors in the natural realm and under divinely imposed natural law. This is the duty of every person, and we should encourage/expect every person around us (regenerate and unregenerate alike), being fellow-image-bearers, to aspire to these selfsame goals. This is the duty of all image-bearers.

The believer’s goal in living this way is not only or even primarily to woo people into the second or heavenly/ecclesiastical realm (where Christ rules through shepherds in covenanted communities bound by the regulating principles of a comprehensive and inspired canon). Both Paul and Peter, however, suggest that by living in this way, even “without words,” we will routinely encounter opportunities for the Gospel (Titus 2:1–10; 1 Pet 3:1; etc.)—and we should be ever looking for these. By setting Christ apart as Lord we will invariably stimulate people to ask us the reason for the hope that lies within (1 Pet 3:15). And the Christian Gospel is our answer, delivered from the standpoint of a clear conscience and in a context of mutual respect earned by “good behavior” (v. 16).

So if a believer should find himself working, say, in a public school setting, the approach would not be unregulated Gospel declaration (which will get one fired) or withdrawal to engage in remote denunciations of that “wicked and irremediable public school system” (the Christ against culture approach). Nor should the believer simply seek to “blend in” with the sterile, non-theistic worldview that usually prevails in this setting—and, frankly, in almost every civic setting (the Christ of culture approach). Instead, the believer should view himself as an agent of common grace, moral virtue, and neighborliness, humbly and proactively being the best citizen, steward, worker, and ethical mentor that he possibly can be with God as his witness. The believer need not continually announce his faith, but neither will he be able to conceal it; indeed, in very short order, he will be asked to offer a reason for why he is the way that he is. And the Gospel will have its day.

As circumstances allow, this approach can also countenance a more assertive face—after all, if unbelievers can ask believers reasons for the hope that lies within, the believer can freely inquire about the reasons for the unbeliever’s hopelessness, too! And by doing this, we can gently push open doors to the hopeful introduction of the Christian Gospel.

In either case, though, a paradox/antithesis will emerge. It must emerge. Believers and unbelievers all live in the very same world, but they have radically different worldviews that cannot long remain a secret. And it is the Christian’s role to deliberately enter this common world determined not to “become like the fool” (Prov 26:4), but instead to invite and answer the fool’s inquiries (Prov 26:5) with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15) so as to introduce them to God.


2 Extremes to Avoid for Evangelizing at Work

by Mark Snoeberger

I work in an almost exclusively Christian environment. With the exception of a few brief encounters with folks delivering packages, reading the gas meter, and such, my whole workday is spent with believers. I’m not the best person, I admit, to speak of sharing Christ in the workplace. Recent changes in my family’s situations, however, have left me thinking very hard about the topic, and I feel enormous pressure to offer them timely advice before their fresh opportunities deteriorate (as they so often do) into situations where opportunities for the Gospel have been effectively crushed.

In my experience, there are two major poles to avoid when answering this question. The first I’ll call the Christian Conquest approach. In this approach everyone around me is the enemy of Christ, and my sole purpose is do battle with them until they submit to Christ. To this end, I wear my Christianity on my sleeve: I post Bible verses all over my cubicle wall, hand out tracts liberally, tell everyone around me and especially under me that they must be born again, and start evangelistic conversations in any place and at any time. If a friendly group of co-workers asks me to come to the office party and share a few beers, I say, “No way! I don’t drink, and unless I absolutely have to, I avoid anybody who drinks because I’m a CHRISTIAN! Don’t ask me to hang out with you until you repent and join me at church.”

There’s a tiny part of me that admires a person like this, because he is willing to endure ridicule and social ostracism in order to make Christ known. And at the end of the day, so long as the Gospel is proclaimed, God sometimes uses this approach to save people. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best approach. Here’s why:

  • It’s unethical. If you’re being paid to make widgets and you decide to stop making widgets in order to share the gospel on company time, you are stealing from your employer, and that’s wrong. Just because the success of the Gospel is the Church’s highest mission does not mean that evangelism automatically trumps all of the believer’s other responsibilities (Titus 2:9).
  • It’s ineffective. Of course, just because something is ineffective does not make it wrong, but some things are ineffective because they are demonstrably wrong. And being a bad worker, and obnoxious person, or a hater crushes legitimate opportunities for the gospel (see, e.g., Matt 5:16; Titus 2:1–10; 1 Pet 3:1, 13–17). If your whole office regards you as snobbish and obnoxious, you are not being a good witness, no matter how many Bible verses are pasted on your wall (electronic wall or cubicle wall, it makes no difference).
  • It’s contrary to the essence of the Gospel. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God,” of course (1 John 2:15–17), and this must be remembered, but somehow that truth must be harmonized with the requirement to be the “friend of sinners” and even to “eat with them” (Matt 9:10ff; 11:19; etc.). Whatever our relationship to unbelievers is to be, it most emphatically is not hostility! We hate their corrupt garb, yes, but all the while we must show mercy (Jude 23).
  • It’s sometimes even illegal. If you are being paid to do civic services or provide civic instruction in the civic arena, and you decide to offer religious services/instruction instead, you just might be fired. And if you do, it won’t be because you’re suffering for Jesus; it will be because you didn’t do your job. More on this in my next post.
  • This goes to a deeper philosophical issue: this approach doesn’t have a good handle on what it means to live in God’s two “kingdoms.” Some things we do in life as members of human society, as image-bearers living out the dominion mandate; other things we do as members of local Christian societies, as ambassadors living out the Great Commission. And while these spheres don’t conflict, neither can we conflate them.

The second pole I’ll call the Christian Synthesis approach. Everyone around me is a victim of sin, and my goal is to relate with them until I start to rub off on them. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to share Christ, but that’s pretty awkward and off-putting, so I’ll be slow and subtle about it—so slow and so subtle that somehow it never happens. If a friendly group of co-workers asks me to come to the office party and share a few beers, I’ll go, but avoid getting tipsy by using some sort of lame medical excuse (or maybe I’ll blame the overbearing wife—that will get a good laugh and make me look relevant). If the topic of religion happens to come up, I’ll take them to an event at a relational, relevant church and hope the preacher gives a friendly, low-key Gospel message so I don’t have to do it. Realistically, though, it’s quite possible that religion will never come up in conversation—I might age out without anybody even knowing that I’m a Christian. Oh well, I tried.

The strength of this approach is that it takes seriously the expectations that Christians be the “friend of sinners” and even to “eat with them.” But there’s no antithesis—nothing at all that “sets Christ apart as Lord” or compels unbelievers to “ask the reason for the hope that I have” (1 Pet 3:15). It exemplifies Carson’s complaint that “to the degree that... Christianity has assimilated itself to the dominant ethos, reasons for anyone joining it are harder to come by” (Christ & Culture Revisited, 118) and suggests to thoughtful minds that there is no difference at all between unbelievers and believers save that believers are sinners saved by grace—an oft-repeated but savage lie. Instead it is a kind of “relational evangelism” that has never progresses past the “relationship.” And without a propositional Gospel, no matter how relational, it isn’t evangelism.

It seems to me that all believers are drawn to one of these two poles, and while my descriptions may be extreme, we all trend one way or the other. Some of us see the Christian’s role as standing against world. Some of us see the Christian’s role as being a part of the world. The truth is somewhere in between: Christ wants us—in fact he prays for us—to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15–16), a very delicate balance that can sometimes prove elusive. We’ll look at what this might look like in part 2 of this post.