2018 Summer Academic Series: The Importance of the Old Testament


Dr. Bennett:   Well, good evening to everyone. How is everybody? Good, good, good. That’s good to hear. Also, welcome to all those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. As many of you all are aware — and we’re still having people come in, so I’ll maybe just wait just a second so that everybody can get seated. I don’t want anybody to miss what’s going on. As many of you all are aware, the academic series here at Grace has been hugely successful over the summers that we’ve done this. It’s really hard to fail when you do these type of events when you have people in like Dr. Warren Gage.

I want to take just a minute here and tell you a little bit about Warren. Many of you all know Warren, but many of you do not. Warren is one of our board members here at the church, but I want to brag on Warren a little bit. Warren is an Old Testament scholar. There is absolutely no question about that. He is a Hebrew scholar. He has a juris doctorate, which means he’s an attorney. He’s got that degree from SMU. He has a PhD in literature and philosophy. I don’t know, in being honest with you, that I’ve met anybody at this particular point in my life in the academic world that has the scope of education and the diversity of education that Warren has.

Not only is Warren very brilliant, Warren was my advisor for my doctorate at Knox Theological Seminary. He not only is a mentor, probably the most brilliant person I’ve ever met. Please don’t tell him I said that. But he’s brilliant. He’s been a father-like figure in many ways. I probably learned more from him than anybody else that I’ve ever had the pleasure of studying under, and I’ve had a lot of great, great professors in my lifetime. And so, I just want to say we’re very, very, very — it’s a gift and it’s an honor to have Warren here with us this weekend. So, can we give it up for Warren being here and taking up his time to —

So, I want to thank everybody, once again, for being here and supporting education in the local church. This is the second of the three evenings that we will do this summer. The original vision behind this academic series was to bring academic scholarship to the local church. If you’ve been in church and you’ve also experienced higher education, a lot of times those two things don’t meet. I wanted to make sure that not only here at Grace did we get really good biblical teaching and preaching, but I wanted to make sure that we also interacted in many ways in the academic world.

So, that was the whole idea behind this thing, and we’re doing it. We will continue to do these evenings. They’re informative evenings. I want to make sure that everybody understands that. We are not up here to indoctrinate anybody. We’re not up here to tell everybody you have to believe the way that we do. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to do these types of evenings as a pastor is I want Christians to learn how to think through issues and not be so nasty to each other. What I call a “charitable theology.” Can we all at least agree that would be great for the church to do? Right? Amen? Good. Good. Okay. That’s awesome.

So, all that being said, we hope that you’re going to wrestle with the subject matter presented this evening. And we want people of faith, people in the community, we want non-believers to interact with these academic issues. And I really do hope that you’ll continue to come out and support these evenings. So, we’ll get to learning. But before we do, I do want you to do one thing if you would. Would you please look at this handout that you have on your chair? Please take this with you and look at this in your free time.

This is a brief explanation of the Alexandrian Forum. Warren is the president and he is the originator, the starter of this forum. I want to introduce you to it. The mission is to provide biblical teaching that emphasizes seeing Christ in all of Scripture. The reason Warren wants to do that is because there’s a problem. And you may not know this, but 64% of all regular churchgoers admit that they read their Bible rarely or never. That’s shocking. I don’t know that that’s true here at Grace. If it is, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. No. I’m just kidding. But I would say that that’s just — there’s a real biblical illiteracy in the church today, and the Alexandrian Forum exists to get people excited about those things.

So, it gives you a little bit of history about what they’re doing, and it also tells you what they’re doing and what their ministry needs are. You can see here who the board is. I mean, fantastic people. One of the things that we’re going to be doing is Warren and I both will be recording a large portion of the curriculum that will be distributed to churches and other places and online over the next several years. So, I am a part of this. I don’t benefit from it financially, but I am a part of it in the fact that I am working with Warren on these things. And I just would like to ask you, because we do, at the end of the evening, take up an offering. I would just like for you to consider not only giving tonight more than tipping, but I’d like for you to consider helping Warren on a regular basis at the Alexandrian Forum. This is a great place to give, and people are always looking for good places to give.

So, would you at least consider that? We’ll take up an offering at the end. But please consider this and take this with you and look over this. If you have any questions, you can get online and go to the Alexandrian Forum and type them up an email and ask the question. So, that being said, let’s get to work. Right before we do, I would like to just stop for a moment and I’d like to have a word of prayer. Then we’ll get into the main portion of the evening tonight. Let’s pray.

Dear Lord, I come to You this evening asking that You would bless our time together. As we do our best to present Your people Your truth, I pray that You would be with all of us here this evening. I pray that we would be intellectually challenged, spiritually engaged, but, most importantly, that we would leave here with a greater appreciation for You. Jesus, we love You, we lift You up. This is Your church and we are Your people. We’ve gathered not only to be taught from the Word of God, but to receive Your Word.

I pray that You would be especially with Dr. Gage this evening as He is Your chosen instrument for this particular evening to help us understand a very difficult and tough issue in the church. Give him Your words and Your Spirit to help us navigate through some of these challenging waters. Give us, Lord, ears to hear. Lord, I pray that, as always in these evenings, we would lay down our agendas and our opinions and just listen, Lord, with open hearts to the things that are said tonight. And I pray that, ultimately, everything that we do here will not only lift up, but ultimately lead us to our Lord and Savior Jesus. It’s in His name that we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Well, let’s get to work here. It doesn’t take long, if you’ll agree with me, to be in church for any period of time to be confronted with what we call the “Old Testament.” It usually starts out, for most of us, when we decide at the beginning of the year to do that Bible reading plan. Genesis is going pretty good. A little difficult at times. There are some things in there that seem a little crazy. We get to Exodus and we all remember Charlton Heston and we’re sort of going along. And then we start getting into these books like Leviticus, and we move to Matthew.

Pretty much. So, that is one complication. The other complications are when people start asking, “Don’t you think the God of the Old Testament is a little different than the God of the New Testament? Can we honestly read both of them together? What in the world is the Old Testament?”

You know? And I think those are questions that get asked regularly, and I think that they need to be answered in a competent manner. So, tonight, we’re going to sort of do some Q & A. I’m going to let Warren do a lot of the answering. I’ll chime in when I feel appropriate. But I’ve got some questions that I’m going to ask Warren that I feel are important, and questions that you may want to hear answered. Let’s see if we can, together, leave here with a better appreciation for the Old Testament. I think that we will.

So, here’s the first question. When I went to college — and I remember going to college like it was yesterday — I remember all I wanted to do, when I went to college, I wanted to be a New Testament scholar. That was like of all the things in the world that I could be was a New Testament scholar, and if I could somehow, one day teach systematic theology, it would have been like the greatest thing in the world. And if I could somehow master the Pauline literature, I would have arrived. I mean, that was like — and as I met and talked with other students, it was all about learning the New Testament and everything else. There was nobody — like, nobody — that was like, “Hey, I want to go learn the Old Testament.”

You know? Nobody. And so, what got you interested in the Old Testament? Because you’ve been doing this forever. Can you walk us through the process of why you chose the Old Testament?

Dr. Gage:       I was very similar to Chip when I first went to seminary. I wanted to know the New Testament. It speaks so clearly about Christ. I wanted to know Paul, who’s kind of the — he certainly is the supreme theologian of the Bible, and certainly in the New Testament. But I intuited, really, that I could not understand Paul unless I understood the Old Testament. Paul’s whole background was the Hebrew Bible. When Christ comes to him on the Damascus road, it all comes together for him. But he knew the Hebrew Bible.

I just reasoned that if I’m going to understand Paul, if I’m going to understand the Scripture at all, I need to know the book that was Jesus’ Bible, which is the Old Testament. And then God, I think, reinforced that, in grace, to me because He gave me professors who had a special gift and love of the Old Testament. The way that was expressed, it wasn’t so much their scholarship or their interest in the — although it was massive, their understanding of the Bible. It was their love of Jesus.

The Old Testament faculty that I was introduced to, particular Bruce Waltke, his love of Jesus, the tenderness with which he spoke of Him, and his appreciation from the Old Testament, which speaks all about Jesus. Jesus Himself says that. And so, I realized that three quarters of the Bible is Old Testament, isn’t it? Approximately. It is all the Word of God, but it all speaks about Him. So, I wanted to know about Jesus. I guess, counterintuitively, I wanted to understand the Old Testament so then I could understand the New Testament far better.

I think that’s really true. My study has validated that. I think yours has, too. You understand. If you focus on the New Testament, you miss a lot of the background and richness that helps you to understand Jesus and who He is.

Dr. Bennett:   Okay. This next question is going to be loaded. We may have to go back to it a couple of times. Okay? It’s quite massive. One of the earliest heresies in the early church was the renunciation of the Old Testament by Marcion. I’m not quite sure that many Christians know who Marcion was, but Marcion was a person who felt primarily that the Old Testament God was nothing like the New Testament Jesus. Do you think, in the church, because we have really done a massive separation between the Old Testament and the New Testament, are we seeing a resurgence of Marcionism in today’s church?

Is it possible that we’re susceptible to this idea of the Old Testament sort of being lesser or not as important? Maybe even unknowingly because we’ve sort of bought into this idea that the Old Testament is just sort of back there and what really matters is the New Testament. And following up with that, since we know that the Roman Empire was largely won to Christ through the preaching of Jesus which came from the Old Testament, why do we, in the church, have a tendency to separate the Old Testament and the New Testament? Why can’t we find Christ in the Old Testament? Can you give us some examples of where we can find Christ in the Old Testament? And we even have scholarship today. I mean, one of the great scholars — and you know I like him. He’s been massively important in my Christian understanding. N.T. Wright.

N.T. Wright wrote that if Christ is in the Old Testament, He’s deeply asleep. I mean, this is a very, very learned, scholarly man. Why, in the church, do we have such a tendency to separate these two things? Because you, obviously, do not, in any way, shape or form. Can you speak into that and how the church might be allowing Marcionism back into the church? Why can’t we find Christ in the Old Testament? Just feel free to share your heart on that.

Dr. Gage:       Sure. I think we’re not really so much in danger of Marcion’s approach to the Old Testament. His grounds — he’s about 150-200 A.D. He was very anti-Semitic. He hated the Jews. So, for that reason, he wanted to do away with the Old Testament and focus on Jesus. How he thought that fed his anti-Semitism, I have no understanding. Jesus was certainly a Jew, and all of the apostles were Jews. But anyway, I don’t think that that, particularly that aspect of it, is what endangers us. But the effect of Marcion in terms of diminishing the Old Testament, I think that really is with us too, and that’s real.

I think it’s interesting to keep this in mind. Why are our Bibles divided into Old Testament and New Testament? Have you ever thought about that? Is there some bright line between the Old and the New? Where did that come from? It may surprise you to hear that the Bibles were not divided. Nobody even thought about old covenant and new covenant language that comes from Jeremiah 31. Nobody thought about dividing the Bible like that until about the middle of the second century. That comes with origin of Alexandria. The early church regarded the Bible as one book. The Hebrew Bible, of course, was pretty well settled by the first century.

But Peter, as early as Peter, he’s talking about the writings of Paul and he calls them Scripture. So, the Church, gradually, was adding to the corpus of the Old Testament. They saw it as one Word of God Himself, and they had equal dignity when the Gospels began to circulate in the 60s. The first century, the 60s. They circulated in small circles originally, and then wider and wider. By the 90s, all of the New Testament is pretty well composed and has some circulation. But the Church recognized that these were the words of God just as much as the Old Testament. But it was one book. You could appeal to Matthew as well as you could appeal to Jeremiah or Isaiah. There wasn’t this bright line division. That comes in the second century.

And it was not regarded as marking a continental divide. It was all understood that the same theology is in both testaments, it’s the Word of God. It’s the same in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. It’s all inspired of God. And so, that’s how it was conceived and that’s how it was considered. I think that what’s happened today is that the Old Testament is being relegated for a number of reasons that are unfortunate. I think partly it’s because the Old Testament is a challenging book. And that’s one reason that it’s disregarded. I think there are some theological issues that we have that are not exactly Marcionic, but they have the same affect in terms of diminishing the Old Testament. We think, “If I want to know about Jesus, I can know about the New Testament.”

We have what we call “red letter” versions of the New Testament. Does everybody know what that is? Have you ever seen them? I don’t have a problem with that so long as we understand that the red letters are not more inspired than the black letters. Do you understand? It’s all the Word of God, so it is all inerrant, inspired and infallible. But the red letters, the words of Christ Himself, I think, to any Christian, those have a special kind of a meaning. They speak to our heart, perhaps in a little bit of a different way, because they come from the Savior Himself. But that doesn’t mean that we look at them any differently, and I think that the New Testament is much like that.

But we will see that there are red letter words of Christ even in the Old Testament. Words that Jesus says Himself that you hear in the Old Testament that you don’t hear in the New Testament will be in the New Testament at all. We’ll look at that a little bit later on.

Dr. Bennett:   Why can’t we find Christ in the Old Testament? I mean, if I were to — I mean, you know I teach. So, when I teach my homiletics class, one of the question that I ask is I take them to Luke 24 and I make the statement that in Luke 24 we have a passage where Jesus is walking with these disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which is probably two-, two and a half-, maybe a three-hour walk depending upon the pace of the walk. And we’re told by Luke that for that two- to three-hour period, Jesus takes the Old Testament — Moses, the Law, Psalms — and teaches them of Himself. If you were to take most Christians in America, if you were to take most pastors in America, most scholars in America — not trying to be snarky by any stretch of the imagination here, but if you were to ask them, “Can you give us two and a half hours of Jesus out of the Old Testament?” you wouldn’t get that.

Why is that the case? Why is it so difficult for us to find Christ in the Old Testament?

Dr. Gage:       Well, I think that’s really true. I think that’s a problem with, particularly, American scholarship. It’s certainly not true of the fathers of the Church; the men that wrote and were taught by the apostles. They found Christ all over the Old Testament. I think it’s a modern phenomenon and I think it’s because we don’t have the expectation that we can find Him there. I think that if you don’t look for something, you’re not going to find it. Right? And I think that when Christ Himself says, in John 5:39, you search the Scriptures, and that’s true in doing so, but, “They all speak about me,” I don’t think we necessarily take that seriously sometimes.

All the Scripture speaks about Jesus. What I found in my study is when I read the Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, oftentimes I can’t see any connection to Jesus at all. But that’s my problem. What the Lord said still stands. So, I found if I come to a door and I’m knocking on it but I can’t find Jesus, if I keep knocking on it, eventually the Holy Spirit opens it up and you can see how this relates to Him. That’s been the story of my life. I’ve seen by believing, actually, that what Jesus says is right, and knocking on that door, you find Christ in ways that you, perhaps, didn’t know were there.

But there are plenty of resources, there are different ways, different scholars that are writing now that are looking more to this particular kind of an approach to the Old Testament that’s more Christ-centered. And it’s incredibly rich, I think, what the future holds in terms of studying the Old Testament and particularly looking for Christ.

Dr. Bennett:   Could you give just some examples for everybody here of maybe a story that they know or maybe something that they’ve read or a familiar Old Testament motif that you could go, “Here’s a great example of where Jesus is front and center,” that would be easily missed by maybe a regular study of the Bible? Is there anything that you can think of?

Dr. Gage:    There are so many, Chip. Let me take one that I think everybody would know, but perhaps haven’t thought about it particularly in that context. Let’s go to the sin of Israel in making the golden calf. Remember? Everybody knows that story. At Sinai, Israel sinned greatly and Aaron made, for the people, a golden calf, and said to the people, “This is Yahweh. This is the Lord who brought you out of Egypt.” And they offer sacrifice and appoint a sacred day and all of that. It’s terrible.

Anyway, when Moses comes down from the mountain, he comes with the Word of God. The first Scripture that’s written, by the way, is not Genesis 1. It’s the Ten Commandments. It’s the first time the Word of God is written down, and it’s written with the finger of God. He writes the Ten Commandments on the two tablets. That’s before Moses writes the five books that took place in the wilderness. So, here is the Word of God. The Word of God is eternal. It represents Christ Himself. We know that because John took the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word of God, written on tablets of stone.

Now, when the Word of God, which is eternal, is written on matter, on material form, when it’s written on stone, we know that matter can be composed and decomposed. So, what happens is Moses brings these precious tablets down from the mountain to give to the people, but then the people are in sin. They’re worshiping this golden calf. Moses, in his fury, in his anger at the disobedience of the people, takes the two tablets and smashes them. Do you remember that? And it shatters them.

Now, all of that teaches us something. What does that teach? Why did Moses do that? That wouldn’t be the first thing that I would think about if I’d received the law from God. I wouldn’t think about doing that. But God ordained all of this. You see, what happens is because of the sin of the people, the Word of God in physical form is broken. Think about that. The Word of God, after being given physical form, is shattered, is broken. But God will not allow that to continue because His Word cannot be broken — the Word itself. Do you follow me?

So, God commands Moses to make two new tablets, to bring them up to Sinai and God writes them again with His own finger. So, why did God ordain that particular pattern? The Word of God can be broken because of the sin of the people, but it cannot remain broken. It will be republished anew. That’s the whole history of Christ, if you think about it, isn’t it? The Word of God became flesh, was given physical form, and because of the sin of the people, what happens? Jesus says, “This is my body which is broken for you.” Right?

And why was it broken? Because of our sin. But can He remain broken? No. Because the Word is eternal. So, God then resurrects Him. Do you see the logic of that? It’s something — it’s a story everybody knows, but perhaps you haven’t thought about it in precisely those terms. But you see illustrations of that all through the Old Testament. We’ve talked a good bit about this. But I think that’s a familiar story that, perhaps, you hadn’t thought about. But it shows you Christ.

There are so many like that story. You remember after the Red Sea, after the people — Paul says they’re baptized into Moses in the cloud. Well, there again, that’s talking about what we were earlier. How can I understand what Paul means? Israel was baptized at the Red Sea? I have to understand the Old Testament to understand what that means. So, Israel is baptized, he says, at the Red Sea. They go down into the sea which, for Paul, represents death, burial and resurrection. That’s what our baptism represents. It’s a picture of the Christian life and experience.

And then they’re in the wilderness. They sing the song — Exodus 15. The song of Moses. They’re praising God. They believe in God. Their faith is celebrated. God immediately puts them in a wilderness for three days where there is no water. Think of that. So, the people, their flesh — had their spirit been willing, their flesh was certainly weak, and they’re crying out and they’re bitter. They’re angry. So, after three days, they’re desperately looking for water. They come to some water. You would think it’d be like seeing a mirage, but this is water. They come to actual water. There’s a problem with the water, though. It’s filled with mineral salts. You can’t drink it.

So, in their desperation, in their anger, they cry out to Moses. They’re angry. Moses then cries out to God. They say, “Why did You bring us into this wilderness?” They’re thinking, “To kill us?” It’s three days after they were baptized, which represented death. Three days later, they come to some water. The waters are bitter, so they call them “marah,” which is Hebrew for “bitter.” And God then, when Moses cries out to God, God shows him a tree. Now, it’s interesting. It says, “God pointed out a tree.”

What does that mean? “Raah” is the Hebrew word. He pointed it out. That word “to point out” is the verbal form that becomes the noun for “torah.” The Torah. The five Books of Moses. The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah in Israel. It shows you the way to life is the idea. It points out the way to life. The way that God requires.

So, God points out a tree. Now, think of this for a minute. Moses takes that tree, throws it into the waters, and the waters are made sweet. The bitterness becomes sweetness and the people then drink the water and they’re delivered from death. See? What is that story telling you? Three days after they’re baptized, they’re delivered from death. On the third day, they’re delivered from death by means of a tree that is able to take that which is bitter and make it sweet; that which gives only death to that which gives life.

And that’s how you read the Old Testament. One story after the other, all of the Old Testament is speaking about Jesus just like I said. The whole Torah of Moses, I think, is pointing out that tree. What is that tree? The tree is the Tree of Life, isn’t it? And the Tree of Life will become the cross of the Savior. That’s the Tree of Life that we lost in Eden, but we find it again and it gives us life. It’s beautiful the way that works.

Dr. Bennett:   Don’t you just want to sit all night and hear these stories? Aren’t they just fantastic? They’re great. Thank you. That’s good stuff. I’d take up an offering right now. It’s just — this is so enriching. You know, Warren’s done studies on the third day. How many references did you find? Was there —

Dr. Gage:       There are about 40 clear ones and about 60 that are implied.

Dr. Bennett:   So, you know, like Jesus says on the third day, if you go through the Old Testament and actually look at third day narratives, you will see this pattern. Jesus really is in the Old Testament.

This is going to be fun. They’re going to be blessed here. You’ve spent a lifetime — and when I say a lifetime, I mean from a young age — in the Old Testament. What is one of the most amazing things about the Old Testament to you?

Dr. Gage:       I talked earlier about red letter Bibles. Does everybody know what that is? Raise your hand if you know what a red letter — everybody knows what that is. There are — those are the words of Christ.

Dr. Bennett:   I told them if you asked any questions to raise their hands to make it look like they’re getting pastored right.

Dr. Gage:       Oh, okay. I see. Okay. Alright. Well —

Dr. Bennett:   They told them on the way in. They said, “Raise your hand. Anything Warren asks.”

Dr. Gage:       Well, okay. That was a good response then.

Dr. Bennett:   I’m just playing.

Dr. Gage:       I guess that works out. It may surprise you to know that Jesus, who speaks in the New Testament, also speaks in the Old Testament. Did you know that? There are words of Jesus that you hear in the Old Testament that you never hear in the New Testament. I want to share some of those with you. The first time I found out about this, it just blew my mind. It would be like what if you heard that they uncovered a scroll in the ancient east somehow and there’s no question about its authenticity and it actually had the words of Jesus on it? Would you be curious what those were?

Well, the Old Testament has the words of Jesus, Christ Himself, who speaks in His own voice, that you have in the Old Testament many times that you never hear in the New Testament. I want to share a couple of them with you. Isaiah 49. The Servant of the Lord is speaking. This is Christ who is identified as the Servant of the Lord in the New Testament. What He’s going to tell you is how He was educated. You remember we don’t know anything about Jesus from the nativity stories until He is presented for public ministry when He’s baptized by John. Except one incident. Remember when he was 12 years old in the temple? But the rest of that time we don’t know anything about. Would you like to know something about that?

Jesus will tell you. He tells you how He was deuces. He will tell you who He is. We’ll see that when we get to Isaiah 50. But, Isaiah 49, as we will see, the Servant of the Lord is speaking. Jesus is the Servant of the Lord. So, Jesus says this. This is red letter Old Testament.

“Listen to me, O islands, and pay attention, peoples from afar.”

Dr. Bennett:   What verse?

Dr. Gage:       Isaiah 49:1.

Dr. Bennett:   Okay.

Dr. Gage:       When he says, “Listen to me, O islands, and pay attention, peoples from afar,” in Israel, when they looked out to the Mediterranean, everything looked to be like islands. You had Cypress, you had Creed, you had all of the Greek islands, Sicily, Sardinia and coastlands. And that’s all they knew. So, Jesus is speaking to the whole Mediterranean world. The remote world.

He says, to the gentiles, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named me.”

Remember Mary is told, “You shall call His name Jesus?”

“He has made my mouth like a sharp sword;”

That’s how John describes Him in Revelation 1.

“In the shadow of his hand he has concealed me;”

Jesus is telling here how He was kept, as it were, under wraps. People didn’t know who He was. He was raised in Nazareth. Well, who’s ever heard of Nazareth? That’s not where you expect the Messiah to come from.

“He has also made me a select arrow; he has hidden me in his quiver.”

During all those years, God was working with Him privately, teaching Him and tutoring Him.

“He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will show my glory.’”

If you want to understand Jesus, you have to understand that He is Himself through Israel. The other Israel is just an image of Him. He is Israel. Now, God is saying, “You are Israel, in whom I will show my glory.”

“But I [Jesus] said, ‘I have toiled in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;”

What does that tell you? It tells you that Jesus Himself had days of discouragement when He was actually despairing. Isn’t that interesting? Anyone out there ever have a time or a season in life when you felt like it was all in vain? Jesus knew that. There’s a reason He knew that.

He said, “‘I have toiled in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and for vanity; yet surely the justice due me is with the Lord, and my reward is with my God.’”

So, He encourages His heart to believe that God will accomplish through Him what He was calling Him to do.

“And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring back Jacob to him; and that Israel might be gathered to I’m — for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God is my strength.”

He says, “But the Lord told me, the Lord called me to be the one to reconcile Jacob to God.

“He says: ‘It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved one of Israel;’ He said: ‘I will also make you a light of the nations,’” — this is His calling. He’s going to bring the Gospel to us, to the whole world, not just to Israel — “so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’”

That was God’s calling on the life of Jesus, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. That’s exactly what He calls us to do, isn’t it? Go make disciples of all the nations.

“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to the despised one, to the one abhorred by the nations, to the servant and rulers: ‘Kings will see and arise; princes will also bow down; because the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, has chosen you.’”

Now, in Isaiah 50, the Servant speaks again. That begins in Isaiah 50:4. This, again, is a word of our Lord. He’s going to tell us what was in His mind when He was being tormented by the Romans, and tortured, remember, before He suffered, before He was crucified. How did He sustain Himself? This will tell you what He was thinking when He was silent and suffering.

Jesus said, “‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of a disciple,’” — He calls us to be disciples because He Himself knew what it was to be a disciple. God made Him a disciple. Why?

“That I might know how to sustain the weary one with a word.”

God taught Jesus, made Him a disciple. What? In order to teach Him, through His suffering, how He could encourage you. Isn’t that amazing? That’s why Jesus suffered. He learned obedience through the things He suffered, we’re told. He suffered all of His life. Why? The Lord God ordained that so that He might know how to sustain the weary one with a word. Anyone out there weary? I’ve known seasons of weariness. Jesus went through that too.

He said, “He awakens me morning by morning; he awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.”

Every morning, God awakened Jesus to His calling and He was teaching Him every day during those 30 years of silence.

“The Lord God has opened my ear,” — that is He spoke to His Son, He told Him what His Son was to accomplish, and how He was to go about to do it. And when He heard that word, it was a frightening word. He must suffer death and burial. He must suffer taking the consequences of sin upon Himself, of being our sacrifice. And so, He responds to that.

“The Lord opened my ear, and I was not disobedient; nor did I turn back.”

That implies that He very well might have done that when He heard what it would take to redeem the world. But He didn’t. He was obedient. The Father was telling Him what His role was to be the world redeemer, and He did not shy back.

He said, “I gave my back to those who strike me, and my cheeks to those who pluck out the beard.”

You see, the Father was showing Jesus all that He would go through, including the scourging. I mean, He said, “I gave my back to those who strike me, and my cheeks to those who pluck out the beard.” By the way, this is the only reference in all the Bible that says something specific about what the Lord looked like. Isn’t that interesting, that He had a beard? But in the context, they would be spitting upon Him and plucking out the beard.

He said, “I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting.”

He had a very clear understanding of all He was going to go through in order to redeem you and me. It was not a pretty picture.

And He says, “The Lord God helps me; therefore I am not disgraced.”

Even though He was being treated with such contempt and disregard, He said, “The Lord God helps me.”

“Therefore I have set my face like a flint,” — Luke picks up on that, how He faced His death — “and I know that I will not be ashamed. He who vindicates me is near.”

So, He trusted that God would bring justice when great injustice was being done to Him. He’s teaching us how to face injustice, too, by the way, I think, in all of that.

“Who will contend with me? Let us stand up to each other. Who has a case against me? Let him draw near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who is he who will condemn me. Behold, they will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them.”

He knows that, ultimately, He will press on to victory. That’s beautiful to me. It takes you into the mind of the Savior when He’s going through those 30 years when the Lord is instructing Him about His task and what that involved. And it is even telling you what He was thinking when He was suffering for you. That’s beautiful, I think, that He shares that. That’s in the Old Testament. Words of Jesus that you never hear in the new.

Dr. Bennett:   I even think of like Psalm 22 that he quotes.

Dr. Gage:       Absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Bennett:   Do you want to riff on that a minute?

Dr. Gage:       Well, Psalm 22 talks about — it begins with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which is attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. But that incorporates, by specific reference, the rest of the Psalm. It’s called a word of dereliction, which is a word of abandonment, but if you read the Psalm, and all of the Psalm is in view, all of that, Jesus is speaking. When he cites that one verse, he’s including the entire Psalm. It goes on to speak of His confidence in resurrection.

Isn’t that wonderful? He suffered knowing that God would vindicate Him. I think that’s — even in that place where He seems most abandoned. You know, His first word on the cross is, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” And then, at the end, He says, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” But in the middle, the fourth word of the cross, He doesn’t call God His Father. It’s, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”

There’s that word of abandonment. He begins with Father. He ends with Father. But, in the middle, when He’s making a full atonement for us, it’s like that relationship is broken. The Father, as it were, hides His face. He knows that full price that He paid for us of the wrath of God. But even in that darkest moment of those six hours on the cross, when the sun itself refuses to shine, by citing Psalm 22, Jesus is saying He trusts in the Lord. That’s beautiful. What a testimony that Jesus, our Savior, could go through all of that never doubting God would vindicate justice.

Dr. Bennett:   And when you read, He says, “I am scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him [...].’ Yet you are the one who took me from the womb.”

He goes on to say, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up, my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me [...]; they have pierced my hands and my feet.”

Who else could this be talking about? You know? It’s like, “Where’s Jesus in the Old Testament?” He’s all over it. I mean, it does require, though, a diligence of actually believing that these are not just two separate entities that one is like —

Dr. Gage:       One book.

Dr. Bennett:   The best way to explain it, I think of like the rocket ships that go up. You know? They have those tubes that break off and then the other one keeps going. It’s like the Old Testament was that gas thing that just sort of falls away, and then the New Testament just sort of keeps going. And it seems like a lot of people think that way. But, I mean, this is beautiful stuff. Let me ask you another question here.

Dr. Gage:       Let me add something to that if I can.

Dr. Bennett:   Sure.

Dr. Gage:       When we talked about the words of Jesus on the cross, one of the last words is actually when He says, “Tetelestai.” That’s the Greek rendering of it. It means “finished.” Probably what He said was “kelal,” which would be the Aramaic. But, anyway, the Greek word is “tetelestai.” It means “it is finished.” Right there, you can’t understand what He means by that unless you know the Hebrew Bible. What does it mean, “It is finished?” What’s finished? What does that imply? Every type of Jesus in the Old Testament was fulfilled. Think about that. There are thousands of types. Remember? The Gospel writers will say, “He did all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written,” saying everything that had been prophesied about Him had to be fulfilled. That’s one thing.

The other thing is every law that God gave, every law, had to be perfectly fulfilled. And no deviance to the left hand or to the right hand. Everything perfectly checked off before He could say that word “tetelestai.” Every prophecy, every law had to be obeyed. Every Scripture had to be perfectly fulfilled. And every sacrifice on behalf of the people, on behalf of us — every sacrifice had to be perfectly, perfectly satisfied for every sin of all of the people of God from the very beginning to the end. A full atonement for all of our sin, all of that, had to be accomplished. And then He can say, “It is finished.”

What a word of triumph, the word of the Savior. “It is done.” Only God could satisfy that. If you understand what the Old Testament is requiring, you can see you can’t understand Jesus as a human alone. He goes beyond that. What manner of man is this that the wind and the seas obey Him? He breaks through just His humanity, which is perfect, but He is also divinity. And once you understand that, what the Old Testament is requiring, then you can appreciate the Savior, I think, in so much of a deeper sense; to see what He is and who He is and all that He’s done for us. It’s really wonderful just to see the love of Jesus for His Father, for the people of God and for us. And you see that by looking at the Bible as one book, not two.

Dr. Bennett:   Y’all can see why I enjoyed, so much, learning from Warren. Right? Remember those times we would sit at Olive Garden next to Knox?

Dr. Gage:       Yeah. I remember all of those. Yeah.

Dr. Bennett:   And eat Alfredo and talk about Scripture. That was good, wasn’t it?

Dr. Gage:       Those were good times.

Dr. Bennett:   We need to do that again. I’m getting hungry. Anyways, this is a good one. I think this is one that will resonate with everyone. I think ears are going to perk up here too. Paul mentions, in Romans 6:14, that we are not under the law, but under grace. This has almost become a slogan in the church. You hear people go, “I’m not under the law. I’m under grace.” What are your thoughts about that very common statement? “I’m not under law. I’m under grace.” Can you expound on that a little bit?

Dr. Gage:       Well, I think that that illustrates, really, something we started with a little earlier this evening, and that was how do you understand Paul, who says that, without understanding the Old Testament? I think — what does Paul mean by that? In the context, what Paul is saying is we’re not under the law with respect to justification. That is how are we made right with God? It is not by the law. How are we made right with God? It’s by God’s grace and His favor. But what has happened is, in some Christian circles, that has taken to mean we’re not under the law, so the Old Testament, which is the law that was understood to be the law, is dismissed somehow. And that cannot be.

Because, you see, even in the Old Testament, they were not justified by the law either, were they? No one is ever justified by the works of the law. Where always, from Adam, Abel, Enoch and all the way through, the only justification that we can have is by the grace of God. And the law is to show you that we need the grace of God. So, I think that that’s a real misunderstanding when we say that so cavalierly. Now, I understood it that way when I was in seminary.

Dr. Bennett:   Sure.

Dr. Gage:       And that was dismissive of the Old Testament. One of the things that happens is people think the Old Testament is so severe and they create these two. You’ve got God as wrathful in the Old Testament and gentle and loving in Christ in the New Testament. That’s totally to misunderstand the Old Testament.

Dr. Bennett:   It’s like it’s from Rambo to Care Bear.

Dr. Gage:       Yeah. It’s something like that, which makes the New Testament cast in a better light, but really casts the Old Testament in a false light, I think,

Dr. Bennett:   Sure.

Dr. Gage:       So, first of all, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment, the discussion, of course, is of the Hebrew Bible. Now, what is the summary that Jesus endorses? The Old Testament is teaching that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart. Right? And to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the theme of the Old Testament. Maybe it’s misunderstood, but that’s really what we’re talking about. And Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. God doesn’t change, does He? So, you find the gentleness, the love, the mercy of God in the Old Testament in a beautiful way just like you find it in the New Testament. You’ve got the holiness of God, you’ve got the wrath of God in the Old Testament, but you have that in the New Testament too. We are dealing with one God. He justifies us not by law, but by His mercy and grace. That was true in the Old Testament and it’s true in the New Testament.

Dr. Bennett:   Yeah. I think that there’s maybe a misunderstanding because in Genesis 15:6 — and that’s early on. I mean, you’re just 15 chapters in. In Genesis 15:6, it says that Abraham believed God and God considered him righteous. I mean, that is the prototypical way in which we come to God. I mean, hundreds of years before the law was ever given, Abraham was justified.

Dr. Gage:       Exactly.

Dr. Bennett:   We’re even told in the book of Hebrews that those early forefathers were justified. They were all looking for a heavenly city, which is like a novel thing that the Old Testament patriarchs knew more about heaven and had more of a view of the heavenly city than, sometimes, we do.

Dr. Gage:       Exactly.

Dr. Bennett:   It just feels, when somebody says, “Don’t put me under that stuff there,” first of all, that’s a misnomer because nobody was ever under it. The only way that we could come to God was through faith, and that’s consistent all the way through the Bible. My personal opinion — and you have to walk on eggshells here on these things because people can get real upset. I think that because we’ve separated these two texts so much and we’ve said one’s for Israel and one’s for the Church, not realizing that that’s not even a biblical endorsement at all. We’ve created a real mess with trying to figure out the Old Testament.

If we could understand that God’s salvific plan was, from the beginning, that we would be justified by faith, it takes some of the sting out of that stuff and it allows us to see the law for what the law was: That we are unable to be justified by the things that we do. We have to have someone accomplish those things for us. Do you agree with that?

Dr. Gage:       Absolutely. You know, the Lord is pleased to accept our faith. By that faith, He justifies us, but not by our obedience to the law. We cannot be saved. The law shows us. It sets such a standard of obedience and perfection that no man could attain it except for one, and He was the divine man. Christ, by His obedience, which He gives to us, He has earned our salvation for us, which we could never do in and of ourselves. But God is pleased in His mercy to save us by faith. That’s true in the Old Testament; it’s true in the New.

Dr. Bennett:   And don’t you think seeing the Bible as not about Israel and the Church, and then you have to sort of almost have two ways of salvation and all of this? The Scriptures are about Jesus. And it’s those that are in Christ that are saved. And those that are in Christ are the true Israel.

Dr. Gage:       Well, that’s what I read in Isaiah 49. God says to Jesus, “You are Israel.” He is Israel. If those who were sons of Abraham, who were in Chris by faith, they are Israel. Those who were sons of Abraham without faith and are not in Christ are cut off. Paul calls them “natural branches.” He says, “Not all Israel is Israel.” So, there are no promises just because you’re physically descended from Abraham. Paul reasons that through in Romans 9. The only benefit that comes to the Jew or the Gentile is by faith being grafted into Christ. If you’re grafted into Christ, you are true Israel. That’s Paul. Paul says that very clearly. Galatians 3 and 4. Anyone in Christ is an heir of Abraham’s faith and, therefore, a joint heir of Abraham and his promises.

If you were in Christ, you are part of Israel. If you are not in Christ, even though you’re descended from Abraham, you are not justified. Not saved.

Dr. Bennett:   But even Abraham was from the Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham would’ve been a gentile.

Dr. Gage:       He was a gentile, yeah.

Dr. Bennett:   Yeah. So, I mean, the beauty here is that the plan of God is not bifurcated. I think that does damage to the text because then you get some of the crazy stuff like, “Well, the Sermon on the Mount is not even for people. It’s for this.” It’s like all of a sudden the Bible becomes like a Frankenstein. “Well, this is only here. This goes here. That only goes here. That goes here.”

I mean, I know for me I can speak to that. You can, too, because we both came out of that hermeneutic. I mean, I grew up in that. So, I’m not trying to be negative. I’m just saying I do think, though, that understanding the plan of God is not where God keeps going, “Oh, well, let’s try this. Oh, let’s do this. Nope. Let’s do this. Oh, okay.”

I mean, He’s not up there like this cosmic Laurel and Hardy Show trying to figure out how to make it work because it’s not working. I think that it’s a seamless deal. It can be read seamlessly. If we were to go pick 66 books off of a library shelf, any 66 books off any library shelf, we would be really challenged to find thematic unity through those 66 books.

Dr. Gage:       Exactly.

Dr. Bennett:   Would you agree?

Dr. Gage:       Absolutely.

Dr. Bennett:   Okay. But yet, there is absolute thematic unity through the 66 books that we have written by over probably 40 people over thousands of years. That means that Scripture is really not 66 books. It’s one book in sixty-six different ways, but it’s all saying the same thing about who God is and who Jesus is. Agree or disagree?

Dr. Gage:    I think that’s exactly right. I’ve used the illustration that it would be like — the Bible is written over a period of, we believe, about 1,500 years. Think about that. To be perfectly unified, all of its symbols and types fitting together beautifully? Not contradiction, no error? And it would be like recording an instrumentalist in one century, and maybe one or two in another century, and three or four maybe, one or two in another century for 1,500 years, and then putting it all together and it harmonizes as an orchestral symphony. That’s what the Bible is. Well, that means the Bible wasn’t written by man. It was formally written by man, but it had to be inspired from another world in order to harmonize like that. Does that make sense?

It comes from another world. This book comes from another world. Christ Himself came from another world. And that’s the — it really speaks of the love of God for us, so carefully to lay this out, and so beautifully to magnify Christ in who He is.

Dr. Bennett:   Don’t you want to go home and read Scripture now? See? This is good stuff, right? Okay. So, let’s take the “it is finished” thing. One of the things I learned in studying with you, because not only did I do Bible and biblical and hermeneutical things, but we also read the great books together. We read all the great classics. One of the things that I got from all of that was the power of story. In fact, to be honest with you, if you could go back and watch, we have catalogued probably six years at least, seven years, maybe, of preaching. We have the preaching from the old church. You will see a marked difference in the way that I’ve presented things after we started working together because I realized the power of story.

And so, my preaching, when I even go through a text or I go through a book, I do my best to put that together in a story form so it’s interesting and you want to be a part of what’s going on because stories are just powerful. I mean, they take us to another — anybody ever been in a book and it’s like you don’t even know where the hour went? You’re just like, “What happened?” You know? Sometimes you’re even in the book. It’s like you just entered into it because they’re powerful.

Can you take a little bit of time and tell us how the Old Testament completes the story of the — or how the Old Testament leads towards and, without the Old Testament, we wouldn’t understand the New Testament? But how all of that flows together to complete what we would call the story of the Bible; the overarching story? Can you just speak to that for a little bit? Give us the story to the best of your ability.

Dr. Gage:       Sure. Let me summarize it, and then let me — well, let me illustrate it. I think that might be best.

Dr. Bennett:   Okay. Great.

Dr. Gage:       I brought some slides along that might help us. The first one: Everyone recognizes this picture, I think, right? You’ve probably seen it many times. It’s da Vinci’s —

Dr. Bennett:   It’s the one where Jesus said, “Hey, everybody. Get on one side of the table because we’re going to have a picture.” Right?

Dr. Gage:       Hardly. I don’t know what to do with that exactly.

Dr. Bennett:   That’s funny. Come on. That’s funny.

Dr. Gage:       Well, nobody is saying, “Cheese,” that’s for sure.

Dr. Bennett:   Yeah. They’re laughing, though.

Dr. Gage:       Yeah. In fact, very obviously, they’re not smiling because da Vinci did this painting at the very moment — he’s trying to capture the moment when Jesus says, “One of you will betray me,” at the last supper. That’s the dramatic moment that the artist has tried to capture. And you can see by that how they’re taken back by that. “What does He mean one of us will betray Him? What does that mean?” They’re all standing back. One of them is pointing. “Is it I?” You can see that. Several of them are gesturing. “What could He possibly mean?”

But I love this picture because, to me, it illustrates how we should read the Bible. There’s one artist who composes, so he’s thought it through very carefully, da Vinci has, The Last Supper. And if you notice, every line, wherever your eye lands on this painting, it will direct you to the Savior. He’s put Jesus in the very middle with a light and window background, crowned it with a kind of molding over the window. And Jesus is in red and blue, which contrasts. Your eye is drawn to the red, wherever it lands on a painting like this. And then the disciples are looking at Him for the most part. “What does He mean?” You know? They’re pointing at Him. That will draw your mind, your eye, to the Savior as well.

If you look at the tapestries on the wall and you trace out the trajectory of the line — I’ve put it here so you can kind of see how that goes. That takes you to the Savior. The beams in the ceiling. See that? And, actually, the tiles in the floor. That’s less evident because they cut a doorway through this picture some centuries ago. But, anyway, wherever your eye lands, it goes to the Savior. And I think this illustrates the way that we should read this book, especially the Old Testament. Wherever you open up the page, it’s pointing you to Jesus. So, that’s the way I want to read it. And if you read it with that expectation and that hope and that prayer, asking the Spirit to show you the Savior wherever you are, especially in the Old Testament, He will answer that. I’m confident He will.

Jesus said it all speaks about Him. So, that’s the illustration. He is the center, He is the hero of the story. He’s the only hero. We don’t have any heroes anymore. But He is our hero. Everything is about Him. So, we’ll see how that works and how the Old Testament points to that.

Let’s look at the next one. I love this because this — there’s something about when you read the last supper, and all of us know how important that is. The Lord memorializes it and has us come and, as often as we do it, we partake of the bread and the wine. Don’t we? That’s a very sacred moment to the Christian. It’s something we do consistently that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus. Well, the way Jesus does that, it’s just incredible. Once again, if you’re reading it through the window of the Old Testament, it goes back to the fall of man. You remember in Genesis 3 when Moses describes how we fell into sin, and Eve, when she saw the fruit, it was good for food, a delight to the eye and desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate and gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

So, that’s the beginning of sin. Everything that comes in life that’s hurtful, all of the suffering of humanity, the tears, the blood, all of the sicknesses and illnesses, the cruelty, everything that comes had that simple beginning. She took and she ate and she gave. Three verbs that describe the beginning of sin and the fall of man. And so, that’s what happens with the first Adam. We all fall into sin and the consequence is devastating throughout the Old Testament. When we come to the New Testament, at the last supper, Jesus initiates the new covenant. He’s the new Adam, Paul calls Him. And how does He do it? He takes the bread, blesses it, and he breaks it. He says, “This is my body, broken for you. Take. Eat.” And He gives it to them. Do you see what He’s doing? The echo in that is just profound. Take, eat and give. We fell into sin by eating, and He restores us by the same verbs by which we fell.

The way we fell into sin is the way He restores us. So, in Adam all day, in Christ, what does Paul say? All are made alive. See? I mean, there are echoes that really highlight the beauty of our faith. The Christian faith is beautiful. What Christ is doing is beautiful. He’s correcting everything that happened that was hurtful in Adam. He’s beginning to set it right. And that’s true with all of the Old Testament. He came to raise up the fallen tabernacle of David. He’s going to correct all of our sin and set an entirely different dynamic into play. So, that’s just one illustration of it.

Dr. Bennett:   Do you want to just make a mention? I think that it’s awesome. At the Emmaus supper, where He also serves communion, if you remember in the Old Testament, Eve took, she gave and they ate. It says, “Their eyes were opened and they realized that they had sinned.” With the Emmaus disciples, when Jesus takes, gives, it says, “Their eyes were opened.” So, it’s even another restoration of what’s going on. It’s beautiful.

Dr. Gage:       And they knew Him who takes away our shame and guilt.

Dr. Bennett:   They knew Him. That’s exactly right.

Dr. Gage:       So, the whole redemption of Christ is framed between two suppers. That’s beautiful.

Dr. Bennett:   It is.

Dr. Gage:       The way it works. I think this is very helpful, too, to people. Every wounding of Jesus is to remind you of Adam. Why is that important? When Adam sins, God curses the ground. He does not curse Adam and Eve. He’s already blessed them. He can’t curse them. But He judges the earth for Adam’s sins, so the earth — remember? By the sweat of his brow, Adam would earn his bread. And, also, the earth would bring forth thorns and thistles. Those were the two judgments that God put upon the earth because of Adam’s disobedience.

Well, the suffering of Jesus begins in the Garden of Gethsemane. You’re supposed to understand what’s going on here. Here was a new Adam in a garden. His suffering begins in Gethsemane and his brow begins to sweat with sweat like — it’s not blood. It’s like drops of blood. But Luke makes that comment. Why is he saying that? What is he sweating for? You see, by that sweat, He is earning, for us, the bread of life. That’s what is implied. And then, the other curse, the earth would resist man’s work, and so it would bring sweat to his brow, but the earth would also bring forth thorns and thistles. So, the Romans weave a crown of thorns, don’t they? They press it down upon that same brow. The brow of Jesus is being identified with the judgments upon the earth. He is taking upon Himself the consequences of Adam’s sin. Does that make sense? He’s very personally taking the consequences of that upon Himself.

Then He’s taken to the cross which, in the New Testament, is called a tree. The wood. The tree. “Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree.” Paul will cite that verse. So, the cross is looked at as a tree. He’s taken to that tree and He’s stripped naked to His shame. He’s taking the nakedness of Adam, the shameful nakedness, upon Himself. And then He’s nailed to that tree and His — we now know the way they crucified, the legs were wrapped around. It’s like a telephone pole. His feet were not on a plinth with one nail or two nails, but actually wrapped around like a telephone pole. And they drove the nails through the heel.

That, too, was mentioned in Genesis 3:15. The serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. And so, that wounding has to do with Adam. And then, finally, you may recall that the pierced side — the spear that came, that the Roman thrust into His side after He had died, and the water and the blood came forth, that spoke of Adam, too, who was wounded when God intended to provide a bride for Adam. He wounded His side. Even though Adam was innocent at that point, but his side was opened and God took the substance out of the side by which He created the bride to give to Adam after He healed him of his wounding.

Well, the same thing happens to Jesus. It’s very tender. When Jesus is on the cross and is at the place of death, He bows His head and commits His spirit. Every type, I said, had been fulfilled. Right? Except for one. One thing has not been done. And do you know what that is? He knew it was going to be done, but it did not happen in His lifetime. It happened after He was sleeping the sleep of death like Adam slept the sleep of death. That is His side would be wounded. That was thrust in to prove that He was actually dead, and the blood and the water came forth.

That substance is the substance with which God creates the bride. We are that bride. We are washed in His blood, we’re redeemed and then we’re purified in the water. So, Christ was laid in the ground, the womb of Adam, and God healed Him of His wounding and then awakened Him on resurrection morning. The first thing that happens when Jesus is awakened in the tomb — do you know what that is? He notices the scar in His side, which He had no memory of in His humanity before His death. But that scar that was now healed was the pledge of God that He had fulfilled that last type. And Jesus knows, when He walks out of that grave, the Father has prepared a bride for Him, just like He had for Adam.

The tenderness with which the Scripture is written together to encourager us is just beautiful. It’s lovely how all this works. But all of the wounds have to do with Adam. Why is that important? Don’t you see? If the wounds of Jesus on the cross speak of Adam, if He’s taking Adam’s sin upon Himself, does that not then mean that perhaps He could also take my sin upon Himself? And yours, all of you who have appealed to Him for mercy. It’s an illustration. He’s saving Adam, but, so much more than that, He is saving us from all of our sin, too. He’s taking all of that upon Himself. It’s beautiful the way that works.

Christ is the new Adam, but He’s the new Warren, the new Chip. He’s making all of us new. If any man is in Christ, what does Paul say? Come back to Paul.

Dr. Bennett:   New creation.

Dr. Gage:       You’re a new creation. How did God create the world? Think about that. The very beginning of the Old Testament, God makes the world and it’s dead. Darkness. You can’t have life with darkness. And deep, a briny sea, a salty sea over all the earth? You can’t have life in that. And so, what does God do? He made a dead world. Why? So He can show us what He can do with that which is dead. The Spirit moves upon the surface of the waters, the Word is spoken, God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. That’s a pattern of creation, but that’s also the pattern of redemption. Isn’t it?

All of us, Paul tells us, were dead in trespasses and sins. Isn’t that right? We were dead. And what happened? The Spirit moved upon our hearts, the Word of the Gospel was spoken, and light shined into darkness. See? The pattern of creation is anticipating the pattern of redemption. Paul says that in 2 Corinthians 4.

“God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, has shone into our hearts to show us the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

That’s who we are. All of the Scripture is showing you the richness of your faith, Christian. It’s showing you all that God has done. Everything God has done. It’s like these love letters from another world. He’s coming. He’s assuring you of how much He loves you. And you know how much He loves you because of what? He so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son that we might have a Savior. It’s beautiful.

The Old Testament. Let me summarize quickly for you — we’ve got a few minutes left. How does the Old Testament show us the splendor of Christ? Well, think with me for just a couple of things here. What is the effect of sin? God makes Adam out of the dust of the ground, right? And He makes him a man and He gives him dominion over all things. But what happens? Adam sins. And so, what must happen? He goes back to the dust again. Dust you are, and to dust you shall return. Right? See that?

Adam is made out of dust, given dominion over all things, sins, and then returns back to dust. The same thing is true. Let’s keep that up there, if we might, for a minute. That same slide. That last one. The same thing that’s true of Adam is true of Adam’s world. God begins by creating the world out of water. It’s covered with the deep, right? And He makes it beautiful. He makes an Eden; a paradise for man. But the world is filled with sin and violence. And so, what happens? God then brings the flood of Noah. So, the world has been returned to briny sea, chaos. Do you see that pattern? Do you see how that works? God brings something out of death and gives it life, and then it sins and it falls back into its original state.

That’s a pattern with God. That’s what sin — sin is like matter and anti-matter. God creates the blessing, and then the cursing, the judgment, brings it back to its original elements. That’s true of the large story of the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at David, then. This is the history of Israel. If you notice, it begins where God calls Abraham out of the east. Do you remember? Out of Ur of the Chaldees. That’s in 2000 B.C., roughly. And then Moses leads Israel out of bondage in Egypt. That’s roughly 1500 B.C. Then Joshua conquers the land of Canaan, and it becomes Israel. David takes Jerusalem and fortifies the city. And Solomon, then — and he assembles the materials for the temple that Solomon will build. So, that’s the history of redemption of 1,000 years on the left-hand side of that column here.

A thousand years from Abraham to David. A thousand years. Then David sins. Remember? With Bathsheba against the house of Uriah. That sin destroys the kingdom. It begins the fall. And so, what happens is when we come to 586 B.C., we’re down at the bottom end of the second column, what happens? The Babylonians take Jerusalem. The first thing they do is they destroy the temple so the work of Solomon is undone. They pierce the walls of Jerusalem so the work of David is undone. The uncircumcised, the Babylonians, run over the whole land. So, what are they doing? They’re conquering the land so the work of Joshua is undone. And they put Israel in bondage, which means the work of Moses is undone. And they carry Israel into captivity in the east where they began. Which means what? The whole Old Testament — this is Matthew’s genealogy. Fourteen generations from Abraham to David. Fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian captivity.

Matthew is setting it up that way for you to understand that God took 1,500 years of redemptive history and, because Israel sinned, He wiped them out. We would never think of doing that, would we? We would think we’ve got to preserve. We’ve got to keep the thing going. God will not use an unclean instrument. He takes it all down, starts over. He can do that. It speaks to the holiness of God, but it also shows you that the Old Testament, really, there are no heroes. They’re all sinners, just like us.

So, what happens? They wait for a redeemer. And that comes. See here? Fourteen generations from Abraham to David. Fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian captivity. And then fourteen generations from the Babylonian captivity to Christ. And then what happens? We have our true hero, and His kingdom, because He does not sin, goes on forever. See how that summarizes the whole Old Testament, I think, in a very good way? But that’s showing you, when you read the Old Testament, you’re reading about the failure of different men and women. But that failure highlights how beautiful Christ is, how perfect He is. The brilliance of Christ.

If you ever go to a jeweler if you’re trying to buy a diamond — a loose diamond, perhaps — they’ll bring out a piece of black velvet. Have you ever seen that? And then they’ll put the diamond so you can see its brilliance. It’s faceted. You can see it better on that black background. And I think that the Old Testament, in many ways, is like that black background. It’s waiting for the diamond, for Christ, the true hero. And when you read about Christ through that background, you see we really do have a hero, and He’s wonderful. You see the richness of the Savior in a way that you might not be otherwise able to see it, except against that background. Then He becomes so much more precious to you.

The whole world, we’ve lost our heroes. I think this phenomenon of Marvel, these new movies that are coming out, they’re all looking for the hero. And there is no hero. Where are our heroes today? We don’t have them. Part of life is learning that there are no heroes out there and there’s no hero in here. But there is a hero. That’s the wonderful thing. That’s Christ. He’s holy, harmless, undefiled. What man can accuse Him of sin? He is perfect. He accomplishes everything that God intended for Him to do, and everything God intended for Him to do was to redeem us and to lift up our fallen tabernacles, to take all of our failures and turn them into glory, to work all things together for our glory and our redemption. That’s who He is. That’s the preciousness of Jesus. I think we can see that so much more beautifully against the Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Bennett:   Was that great? We’re going to take up an offering. So, if you would — again, I can’t tell you what to do or not to do, but if you would consider — when we take up the offering, all of these offerings go to bringing people up, helping people out, paying for what we do. Warren, obviously, is easier to get here than a lot of other people. But I want to bless Warren. I just would ask for you to prayerfully consider giving, and to also take the forum home and look at that. I also want to say — and I think it’s nice of him — we have stacks of paper in the back. This is the story of the Bible. Warren allowed us to copy this and give this. You can take this with you. If you do not get one, you can email the church — Grace@GraceSarasota.com — and we will send you an email copy of it in PDF form.

But this goes through a lot of stuff here that you could read that I think would enhance your understanding of the things that are going on in Scripture. So, as we’re giving, and just continue to do that, I want to say a prayer for the offering.

Dear Heavenly Father, I believe with all of my heart that You have uniquely gifted Warren with an incredible education, an incredible mind and incredible eyes in the Spirit to see you in the Old Testament. I pray that as we take up this offering, I pray that it would be a blessing not only to him, but also to the Alexandrian Forum, that You would continue to bless the work that he is doing. Lord, I believe with all of my heart — and I say this publicly, but I say it for real. I believe this is a message the Church is in desperate need of hearing. And I pray, God, that You would help Warren to continue to share this and to help us understand how to read the Scriptures better for Your glory and for Your honor. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Well, the offering will just continue to go. I want to say a couple of real quick things. We will be having another one of these next month. We’ll get that information to you as a church. Warren and I have committed, just because we knew we wanted to get the information out — we’re not going to keep everybody in a long Q & A thing. What we want you to know is that we will stay here as long as anybody needs. If you have questions, just come on up. Get in line. We’ll stay here. We’ll answer questions. We’re here to be servants. We know some people need to get home. So, we’re trying to balance information with Q & A. I think the information tonight was vitally important, more than Q & A. Would you agree? I mean, this is great, great information.

I also want to say that Warren and I will be doing another one of our Israel tours in February of 2020. We are planning, though we’re in the preliminary stages of that. So, if you did not get to go on the last Israel trip — who in here went on the last Israel trip? Would you put your hands up? Okay. So, you see the hands up. Just go ask them if they would tell you to go. If you went to Israel, would you tell everybody to go again? I think you would benefit greatly from seeing how all this works together. Warren and I lead that tour. So, if you’re interested, maybe you can send an email in to Grace@GraceSarasota.com and just say, “Hey, I’m a hand-raiser. I would like information as that comes out.” We’ll start getting you that information.

But I’d like to close tonight in a word of prayer. I’d like to pray for Warren. At the very least, I hope that you’ll come up and love on Warren and tell him you appreciate him. Again, I don’t really know of a better man than Warren Gage. We sit at Chili’s and he tears up talking about Jesus. It makes me go back home and go, “God, am I really even a Christian? Please help me. Help me, Lord.” You know? The tenderness, the heart, the compassion. He listens to every one of my messages and tells me what he thinks. Just very involved. We’re blessed to have, as one of our board members, Warren Gage. We are so blessed to have him here. So, let’s close tonight and we’ll get out of here.

Dear Heavenly Father, I just thank You so much that we get to do this. I think back when I was 18 years old and in college I would’ve never thought in a million years that I’d be doing, tonight, what we’re doing. Especially the subject matter and the way it’s happening. It’s just a testament to Your faithfulness over the many, many years of my life and Warren’s life and the lives of everyone here. I just pray tonight, God, that You would help us all to grow in that appreciation that, as Paul told Timothy, the Scriptures are sufficient enough for him to lead him to salvation. And those Scriptures were the Old Testament.

I just pray that we would have an appreciation for this book, that we wouldn’t look down upon it, that we wouldn’t sort of push it away, that we wouldn’t get scared of it. This is a book that testifies about You. I pray that tonight, even though we all are on a journey, and everybody’s at a different places, I just pray that You would really encourage our church to even be more forward in our study of Scripture and learning the majesty of who You are and what You’ve done in our life.

Lord, I thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus. I thank You that He died on a cross and rose again on the third day, and one day is going to return. I thank You that that’s true. Lord, we confess that as Your children. We believe that. But, Lord, we believe that You’re real. We do believe one day You’re going to come back. And, Lord, what a day that’s going to be. And, Lord, as we leave, we also pray for Warren. I pray for his health. I pray for his family. I pray for his travel back to South Florida. And I just pray, God, that You would continue to richly bless him in all the ministry endeavors that he does. We just love You, we thank You and we praise You, Lord. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

God bless everybody. I’d like to just ask one last question before we leave. Are you in for another one next month? Right? Okay. Good. Good. Okay. Have a great night. Travel safe. We’re going to stay up here as long as you need us to. We’ll answer any question that you’ve got. God bless everybody. We’ll see you.

2018 Summer Academic Series: Skeptics Night


Dr. Bennett:    Good to see everybody. Good. Alright. I’m Chip. I am the pastor of the church. We’re excited to have another academic series starting for this summer. This will be videoed. It will be, eventually, put on the web. It will eventually go onto the mobile app as well. So, it should be a great night. Let me give a couple of background things before we get started, and then we’re going to get into it because I don’t want to waste too much time here with preliminary things. A couple of real quick things that would be important for everybody. We are asking you to write your questions on 3x5 cards for a couple of reasons. One, because we’re recording this, we want to make sure that the questions get adequately conveyed to those who would watch via the mobile app or the internet. We also know that if you can write your question without having a microphone in your mouth, you might be more inclined to ask a real, personal question that might feel a little foreign if you were the one that had to ask it in public. So, we want to make sure that we honor all of that by the way we’re doing it.

So, please, please, please get your questions ready. We will collect them. We’re going to do everything that we can to answer all the questions, but please understand we only have five hours. Right? No, sorry. We have two hours. And we’re going to try to maximize that to the best of our ability. Once again, I want to communicate this to everybody. This is the third year that we’ve done our academic series. These evenings are educational in nature. They’re not doctrinal. We’re not trying to convince you to some position. We’re really here to do this as an educational forum. So, everything that’s said up on the state tonight doesn’t always necessarily reflect what Grace Community Church believes or anything like that, and everybody up on stage is going to probably have some differing opinions on stuff. I’ve not filtered them. I’ve not told them, “You’ve got to answer it this way.” I’ve said, “You answer it however you want to answer it and we’ll deal with it because we don’t want to bridle anybody.” This is what we’re doing here. The biggest reason I do these academic series’ is because I want Christians to realize that we can have disagreement on certain issues and we can still be people that love Jesus. And that’s really important to understand.

So, that being said, we’re going to get kicked off. If you have your questions, you can go ahead and start passing them down. We’ll have some ushers come and get them. And then, if you could, if possible, if you have in your row some room that you could scoot down — and I know that nobody likes to do that. We like to have our own space and you don’t like to get close, probably, to the person next to you. I understand. Hopefully they showered today. Anyway, please, please, please make sure that you can scoot down so we can get as many people in here, because it seems like more people are still coming in and we want to do our best to make this as comfortable as we can.

So, that being said, questions, if you want to start getting them, we’ve got buckets coming around. We’re going to do this. I want to bring to the stage the three professors that we’ve got here for this evening. Come on up, guys, and I’ll introduce you. Come on. Give these guys a big hand. Alright. We’ve got there guys here. We’ve got Dr. Braxton Hunter. Braxton is a pretty talented and well-known apologist. He’s shared the stage with William Lane Craig to Mike Licona to all those guys. A really talented individual. Johnathan Pritchett, Dr. Pritchett is here. He is a New Testament guy, all around apologist and does a lot of stuff. A lot of podcasts, a lot of debates and so on and so forth. And then we have Dr. Leighton Flowers here as well. His area of expertise is soteriology.

So, everybody here sort of does their defense of things in a different way. It’s like doctors. You know? You’ve got specializations. So, in apologetics, which is a defense of our faith — a lot of people think that apologetics is like we’re apologizing for the Bible or we’re apologizing for Jesus. It’s a word that means to give a defense. So, basically, what we’re going to do is do our best to do that. And I do want to say, once again, there are no questions that we don’t want you to ask. One of the things that I’ve tried my best to do as the pastor of Grace Community Church — because I realize this is the case — is many people don’t go to church because they say that they won’t allow you to ask the real tough questions. That’s what we’re doing here tonight. Ask away. We’ve got a great panel, some smart people, and they’re going to be able to do their best to answer the questions. And we’ll try to get through as many as we can.

So, that being said, do we have some questions that can start coming up at least here, and then what I’m going to do is start off real quickly with a word of prayer. Hopefully those questions are on the way up while I pray. Let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for Your goodness and Your mercy. We thank You for the fact that You have sent Your Son, Jesus, so that we could be forgiven and that we could have eternal life. Lord, I pray tonight that, as I know there’s probably people in the room that don’t have any Christian affiliation at all, there might be people in the room that would consider themselves spiritual, but not necessarily Christian. There’s people in the room that would consider themselves a Christian, but maybe they’re thinking about not being a Christian. There’s people in here that are Christians that are looking for answers so that they can continue to be Christians. There’s just a lot of diversity in the room. So, Lord, what I pray tonight is that all of us that are up here on this panel would be sensitive to all of that. And I pray, Lord, that the questions that are really burning, and questions that need to be answered, I pray that You would give us the grace, and the panel the grace to answer the questions in a way that is beneficial to those who are asking.

So, we thank You for all of this. We thank You for the ability to gather and do what we do here. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.” So, here’s the bucket. Oh, man. We’re going to be here forever. Alright. Here we go. B-32.

Alright. First question. Go for it, guys. Here we go. Are you ready? Where do dinosaurs fit within the Bible? Y’all — I ain’t answering.

Dr. Hunter:      Are you serious? Well, this is actually a great question that has some underpinning theological issues that relate to textual issues that really have to do with the age of the earth and things like that. So, the best way I think to answer this is to say that within Christianity, within orthodox Christianity, that we would say, “Okay. He’s still my brother if he holds this position or that position.” There are various views related to the first chapter, the first few chapters of the book of Genesis. Particularly Genesis 1. People that take what is known as a “young earth” perspective that believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, those would kind of be the people that might be more inclined to take a position that dinosaurs and men were living together contemporaneously. Other believers hold to an “old earth” perspective, that the earth is much older than that. Whatever science says. Four billion years old, and the universe itself thirteen to twenty billion years old. And we don’t think — I’ll speak for myself. I don’t think that based on which position you take there it means that you’re not a Christian or I have to break fellowship with you. Even people who hold a position such as theistic evolution, which I don’t hold, where a person believes that God used evolution and that that somehow fits. I wouldn’t say that they’re not my brother.

For some people, though, that hold those positions — the young earth position — and think that dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with man, they would say — some of them would say, not all of them, that if you don’t take a very literal, historical view of Genesis 1, and really Genesis 1-11, then you are undermining major doctrines in the Bible. And so, for that reason, we shouldn’t consider you to be a brother or sister in Christ. I just think that that’s silly. If I talk to 10 people within my own church about the end of the Bible, Revelation, I get 12 different answers about what it means. And yet, if someone has a difference of opinion about something in Genesis 1, we want to divide fellowship over it. I just think that’s silly, but that’s what’s going on there with the placement of dinosaurs. As for myself, what’s the correct answer? This is a great way to start of a Q&A: I don’t know.

Dr. Bennett:    Alright. A real heavy one here right now. Who’s going to win tonight? Golden State or Cleveland? Let’s answer this together as a church. Who thinks that Cleveland’s going to win tonight? Okay. That would be the Golden State is probably going to win. There you go. There’s your answer. Okay.

Irreducible complexity. A Christian chemist I spoke to said irreducible complexity is no longer a strong argument because some proteins have been found to self-order. Comments?

Dr. Pritchett:    So, there was a guy named Michael Behe who came up with this idea of irreducible complexity. He said, “Well, you can have evolution. But, at some point, you need room for the work of God and design to do it.” And then other people came up with some counter theories and counter evidence to say, “No. We’ve discovered that proteins can self-interlock and break down and form new things.” To me, here’s the thing about all these scientific questions. When apologists talk about science and they’re not scientists, they don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t know what I’m talking about when I’m talking about science. But here’s what I do know: If somebody comes along and says, “Because evolution is true, therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead,” that’s a non sequitur. One has nothing to do with the other. I’m not convinced of evolution, but if I became convinced of evolution, I might rethink how I interpret Genesis. I won’t rethink whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. There’s a huge chasm between the two. I know Christians that work in our seminary who do affirm evolution and they still affirm Jesus rose from the dead. Because, no matter what process God used, He’s still the creator. So, I don’t think much about those kind of issues. I understand how people are curious. We live in a science-enamored culture. We look to science to answer more questions that scientists should be allowed to answer because it’s way outside of their field.

I think science is outside of my field, so I don’t try to answer. I’ve read some of the stuff about irreducible complexity. It’s just not something I focus on. Evolution will not be a barrier for me to — well, now Jesus didn’t rise from the dead because we evolved from some primordial soup. Well, that’s God’s prerogative. I don’t know for sure. I don’t personally think so. But, to me, it really doesn’t matter if this argument about irreducible complexity gets debunked. The track record of science ever figuring a lot of things out is actually kind of bad, and they always change their mind every so often since they started doing science. And I expect that to go on. But the arguments for where I start with is the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, while scientists want to hash that out, I’m going to defend the faith, not arguments for or against evolution.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay.

Male:               Let’s argue about the suit we’re in, you know? Let’s really talk about what’s inside of it. More than just the vessel — you know, we’re talking about biology. That’s just the vessel. That’s just a reflection of the Spirit that created it.

Dr. Pritchett:   I made a C in biology, by the way.

Dr. Bennett:    I’m trying to group this —

Male:               I can say how it relates because it relates by the main atoms in your body are nitrogen, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen’s going to relate to water, oxygen’s going to relate to air, fire is going to relate to nitrogen and earth’s going to relate to carbon. And that’s the cross right there. God’s on the cross. Jesus is on the cross. That body’s on the cross. That’s what that body’s made of. That’s what your atomic structure is made of.

Dr. Bennett:    Alright. There’s a couple of questions, and I’m trying to group because some of this is in a group. There’s the questions of how do you explain there really is a hell or a heaven? How does hell relate to a good God? So, there’s some questions about hell. Does the idea of hell take away from the goodness of God? Does it take away from — so, those are some general questions that have been asked. You guys can fire away at that.

Dr. Hunter:      Okay. There are two questions I hear there. One is, “Is there any good evidence or reason to believe in an afterlife; heaven or hell?” And the other question is, “How does that make sense? How does hell make sense of a just and all-loving God?” I think that those were the two questions that were posed there. Now, in terms of the first of those two questions, is there any good evidence of heaven or hell, I would say two things. First of all, heaven and hell are somewhat system-dependent beliefs. By that, I mean if Christianity is true — and there’s good reason to believe that Christianity is true and you can trust the Bible — well, then I think there’s good reason to believe that heaven and hell are real because I think we’ve shown that the Bible can be trusted. Beyond that, and this is where you might get out your tinfoil hats and think that I’ve really gone crazy here tonight, but I actually think that there is some — now, I don’t want to go wholesale with this, but I actually think there is some good evidence that comes to us from these near-death experiences that we hear so much about so often about today. I actually have a book called “Death is a Doorway” in which I spend two chapters talking about this. And at Liberty University, Gary Habermas is an expert on this within Christianity today. There are so many people now who have had so many similar experiences in this realm that I think it counts as evidence.

Now, what I don’t personally get into is, “Well, what about what they experienced when they’re in the afterlife?” That’s irrelevant. That’s not as relevant to me as can we demonstrate, with good evidence, that they were aware of things they shouldn’t have been able to be aware of when they had no heart rate and no brain wave activity? And these are written up in medical journals by medical professionals who are oftentimes atheists or irreligious. And so, I think there is some good evidence, actually, that comes from those. You’ve got to be careful in which ones you look at, and I give a way of doing that in my book. But as far as the justice of God, Christian philosophers and thinkers have given various answers to this. But if we take the traditional view of hell that it is an everlasting state of separation from God, I admit that that is something that should give most Christians pause. I mean, if you think that you can just brush that off, I don’t think you’re taking it seriously enough. I think that question should be taken seriously. But I think our own innate sense of justice leads us to the conclusion that there is some sense in it, even if it’ll never be emotionally satisfying. I think it can be intellectually satisfying. And I’ll just say this quickly and then I’ll conclude on that. But if I were in my house and my neighbor had a cat and the cat was whining at the window every night — now, how many of you are cat people? Raise your hands. Okay. God will forgive. How many of you are dog people? Dog people? Oh, blessings on you. May your children rise up and call you blessed. We have a dog named Indiana. We named the dog Indiana.

So, if my neighbor has a cat that’s whining at my window every night and it drives me crazy to the point that one night, in a fit of rage, I strangle the cat to death — which I would never do, cat people. But if I did that, there’s a penalty for that. We realize that there should be some justice brought. I don’t know what it should be. Maybe I spend the night in jail. Maybe I pay a fine. Maybe it’s different state by state. I don’t know. But there’s a penalty — and there should be — for, let’s say, sinning against the cat. Right? Not very big. I don’t know what the penalty is because I don’t usually strangle — I don’t ever strangle cats. Okay. But, on the other hand, if I strangled my neighbor, now the penalty is equal to my own life. Right? I might go to prison for the rest of my life. I might receive capital punishment. Who know? Because my life is equal to his in value because we’re both human beings made in the image of God. So, if there’s a penalty for sinning against a cat, not very big by comparisons — sorry, cat people — and if there’s a penalty for sinning against a man, equal to my own life, what would the penalty then be for sinning against an everlasting God? I think your own sense of justice that you could walk through those leads you to the conclusion that it’s an everlasting penalty. And so, even if we can’t emotionally satisfy, I think intellectually we can. And I think it makes great sense of the cross because the everlasting person, the Lord Jesus Christ, paid the everlasting penalty on our behalf so that we would not have to pay the everlasting penalty if we would put our trust in Him and repent of our sins. So, I think that’s intellectually satisfying. Emotionally? Probably not. But intellectually.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. This is sort of going back to the first one, but there’s a lot of these questions. How do you answer skeptics of Christianity who challenge the validity of the Bible based on the Genesis origin story in light of current science? Age of the earth, Darwin, etcetera? Somebody fire away at that one.

Dr. Pritchett:    Okay. In Genesis, you have the most debated — not just with non-believers, but among believers. More debated than Revelation, even. And more contentions. But you do have a lot of options. Again, I don’t know anything about science, but when I went to Evansville, Indiana to take this new job, close by was this thing called the Creation Museum. I went and you see the dinosaurs and the people, like in the Flintstones, walking together. And you’re like, “Okay. There’s that.” And they talk a lot about science stuff at the Creation Museum. And then I went down the road to the caverns. The direct opposite of that — Ken Ham, creation answers in Genesis, young earth, seven little days, six thousand years. I go in and I find this cavern where they have books by this man named Hugh Ross who’s a physicist who believes that the cosmos is 14 billion years old. They start talking about how these caverns — it was operated by Christians, and they talk about how these caverns had developed over millions and millions of years. It was very interesting and beautiful. And, because I’m not a scientist, unlike — sometimes scientists get a little snobby and they’re like, “Well, this science over here at the Creation Museum, that’s fake science. But the Hugh Ross is real science.”

And then the atheist scientists will say, “We’re real science and both of them are fake science.” I don’t know. I’m not a scientist guy. But it could be this. It could be Hugh Ross is right and God developed the cosmos over 13, 14 billion years and you can square that with Genesis. He thinks he can square his view with Genesis. The way I understand Genesis is it has nothing to do with science. It’s establishing that God had created and ordered the cosmos from chaos to demonstrate His power and sovereignty over it and to tell the Hebrew people that God is God and all of the little false gods all around Canaan and Babylon and everything else, those gods don’t exist. God put the sun and the moon in the sky. Do you know what that means? They’re decorations for Yahweh’s people to track the festivals. That’s what it says. What that means is there’s not a god powering that sun and there’s not a god powering that moon. I think that’s what is going on in that text. And then there’s ways to interpret Genesis like I do that has nothing to do with questions about science because Moses was not interested in modern scientific questions. He was writing to his ancient audience, not for our contemporary audience. But we can still derive what Moses is trying to communicate in those texts. Yahweh is the sovereign creator who brought order to chaos for His good pleasure.

Dr. Bennett:    I think the most important thing with Genesis — and I’ll just jump in here because this is a contentious issue. There are Christians that view Genesis differently. They just simply do. The question is is when we read Scripture, what literature are we reading? Because, you know, obviously when David says, “God covers me with His wings,” we don’t think that God’s a bird. Does anybody think God’s a bird? No. So, we understand that there’s language being employed in Scripture that could be taken in a different way. The question is what is going on in Genesis 1? And I think the most important thing to realize is that what the Bible is definitely telling us is that the world did not happen just by happenstance. God is the creator of the world that we live in. And that is something I think all Christians can agree on. Whether the days are literal 24-hour periods, the Hebrew word is “yom,” that’s a debatable issue. The way it’s written is debatable. But I think the most important thing when people say, “Can we square Christianity with some of the things that science says?” my response would be that Scripture probably isn’t addressing the questions you and I are asking in 2018. It’s addressing questions that were going on in the ancient Near East many, many, many thousands of years ago. And they saw the world differently. We see a blue sky world, a blue world where the globe is there. We see, from satellites, pictures. They thought the world was held up by foundations. They thought there was a firmament above because when it rained they saw the blue sky. So, they figured it was water up there.

Those are some of the things that you’re being told in Genesis. And so, to try to mine that for current science probably is a little bit of a reach biblically, but I think the important thing is that we understand and we affirm that this world did not happen just by happenstance. There was a good that created it, and that’s what Genesis is telling us. It just supposes God created.

Dr. Flowers:    And I would add to that what you mentioned earlier, Dr. Pritchett, with regard to the crucifixion and the resurrection. When people bring these questions with regard to Genesis or with regard to the age of the earth, oftentimes when you’re directing them, instead of getting caught up in the debate over all of these secondary matters, if you go back to the resurrection and you can establish the resurrection, then it’s easier to say, “Okay. If Jesus is who He says He was, and He was raised from the dead, then can you trust that He created the earth in the way He created the earth? Can you trust that this took place? Can you trust that the flood took place?” In other words, if you can establish that Jesus is who He says He is — that He’s either a liar, lunatic or Lord, as C.S. Lewis is known to make that argument. He is who He says He is. He either is a really, really good liar, He was either a lunatic that’s just crazy, or He really is the Son of God, who He says He was. And He really did raise from the dead because He said He rose from the dead. So, if He really did raise from the dead, then all of these other things are secondary to that. And I think when you bring people back to the resurrection, you bring people back to the crucifixion, it’s not necessarily saying we’re not going to address those questions. That’s why we have things like this. There are volumes written on the Genesis and how that plays out. But in the normal, day to day conversations that many of you would be having with friends or skeptics, when they begin to ask those questions, instead of feeling like you have to have a doctorate degree in science or become a biologist in order to answer those questions, you don’t. You can point people back to the crucifixion and point people back to Christ.

Dr. Pritchett:    Yeah. What’s interesting about all of those questions is as much as you think Christians and non-Christians debate Genesis and science, Christians and Christians actually debate this a lot more among each other than they do with lost people. I would love it for more Christians to go talk to atheist scientists than we’re doing now. Go have those conversations because right now we seem to be in a holding pattern where the Church wants to argue about how we interpret this passage or that passage. And we forget that there’s actually other people that we could go talk to. And when they want to talk to us about what they want to talk about, we listen. And then we say, “I may not know the answers to those questions, but I know an answer to the question of your heart problem.” And then you take them back to the Gospel. And so, I would be happy to see more of us talk to scientists who don’t believe and not even talk to them about science. Let them say what they want to about science, and then we get to the Gospel.

Dr. Bennett:    Good deal. Isn’t it arrogant of you to claim the only correct religion is the one that is Jesus-centric or the Christian religion? That attitude says that Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, etcetera are all wrong.

Dr. Hunter:      I’ll take that one if it’s okay. First of all, it’s not arrogant to express what you think is true about the nature of reality. We don’t think that religion is subjective in the sense that, “Well, this is my favorite thing, just like my favorite football team, and you’ve got your favorite football team.” We can argue about who’s the best football team. It’s not like that. Those are both football teams. We’re saying that there is —

Dr. Flowers:    Unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys fan.

Dr. Hunter:      Yes. Well, I don’t watch sports ball, so there you go. But we believe that Christianity actually represents the truth about the nature of reality. And, frankly, I’ve always been a little bit confused by the claim. I understand the sentiment that’s there, and I want to be sympathetic to that. I really do. But I’ve always been a little bit confused about the claim that Christians must be arrogant — now, there are arrogant Christians, but that we must be arrogant because our position is what we call the exclusivity of Christianity; that Jesus is the only way. Because what every Christian should be saying is not, “I’ve got the corner on the truth. Look how impressive I am that I have the corner on truth.” No. We’re actually saying, “We are people who are broken. We are people who make horrible mistakes. We are people that don’t have much figured out. But He knows the way. Jesus knows the way. Jesus is the way.” And so, it’s not me. It’s not that I have the corner on the truth. None of us see it as clearly, but He can actually get us there. He’s the way. He’s the one who has the answers. So, flatly, I’ve never really understood why it should be the case that Christianity claiming the exclusivity of Jesus means that we’re arrogant because we hold that to be true. But as far as other religions, I’ll tell you what. I think that there are true things found within other religions. And so, I don’t think — is Islam false? My answer would be for the most part. They do affirm that there is a god. Now, I don’t agree with how Muslims describe god. But do you understand what I mean? Like, I think there are truths within other religions, but if you want the truth, the way, the life, that’s found in the Lord Jesus Christ, I would say.

Now, if the question is really that individual Christians are arrogant sometimes with respect to other people, now that is a problem and we should be very respectful and loving of other people as we present that truth with them.

Dr. Flowers:    One of the greatest illustrations I’ve heard about that was if you were caught in a fire and a fireman busted in and said, “Don’t go that way, don’t go that way, they’re already closed off. You’ve got to go this way. This is the only exit.” No one would call that fireman arrogant or bigoted or any of those other names. You would call him a hero because he’s telling you what he believes is the truth. This is the only exit for your safety. And so, for Christians, if we truly believe that Jesus is who He says He was, the Son of the Living God, the only way, then it’s not arrogant of us to tell people that’s the only way. It’s loving and gracious for us to do so, but that’s why the Bible also says to speak truth in love, not with arrogance, not with pride, not looking down upon them like you have something figured out that they just don’t have figured out. But, like Dr. Hunter was saying, we don’t have all the answers. We’re weak and frail. We know the one who does and point them back to Christ.

Dr. Pritchett:    Right. And I want to add — is anyone here familiar with Penn and Teller, this atheist comedy magician duo? Well, Penn Jillette makes the case — he’s a hardened atheist, but even he recognizes that if any one of you in this room believes that Christianity is true, and if any one of you believes that if I don’t believe that I’m going to spend all eternity in hell or I’m going to be annihilated in hell or something and you don’t tell me, you’ve got a problem. That’s sadistic if you don’t tell me about that Jesus. Now, he doesn’t believe in Jesus, but even an atheist like Penn Jillette recognizes that if you believe that and you don’t tell anyone about it, that’s arrogant.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. And I would even go on to add that as Christians, we’re not the ones that are telling you that Jesus is the only way. We’re simply recording what Jesus said to us. He said, “I am the way,” in John 14:6. You’re welcome to look it up. “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” That is a claim He made, not that I made. And if I’m a follower of Jesus, I have to go with that statement. And so, we can all have the choice. We can go, “He was wrong,” and that’s a choice that we can make, or we can go, “He was right.” And if He is, and we’ve decided to follow Him, we don’t have any other choice as Christians but to say, “Hey, we don’t believe that the other ways are the ways to get you to the Father. We believe that Jesus is the only way.” That is not an arrogant proposition. That is just us simply sharing with you what we truly believe. And so, do Christians do it arrogantly? Yes. Have I done it arrogantly? I’m sure I have. So, we apologize for that, and if we come across that way at times, or snarky, that’s on us. We apologize. But, we do believe, fundamentally, that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven because that’s what He said, not what I’m saying.

Let’s continue on here. People say there is no more speaking in tongues today. Why? Who’s answering that one?

Dr. Hunter:      Not me.


Dr. Pritchett:    Well, I’ll go first and then I’ll let Leighton talk about it.

Dr. Bennett:    Go ahead. Get you some tongues.

Dr. Pritchett:   Okay. People say that and people are wrong. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that it says people will stop speaking in tongues until Jesus returns. That’s what I see about all the — the Holy Spirit doesn’t go out of business and get stingy with the gifts just because it’s 2,000 years later. That’s what I believe.

Dr. Bennett:    That was funny.

Dr. Pritchett:    Now, I say that and guess what? I don’t have the gift of healing. I don’t have the gift of tongues. I don’t have the gift of prophecy, and my track record is horrible. You’ll know that. I mean, I don’t make prophecies because they would have to kill me because that’s what you do to false prophets. At least in the Old Testament, right? So, I don’t have any of those more charismatic gifts. But the reason why I still believe it — and I don’t believe that every time someone is on television saying if you touch the screen you’ll be healed or get a million bucks. I don’t believe all that either. But I am cautiously aware that just because I don’t have that kind of experience with the Holy Spirit, I have different kinds of experiences with the Holy Spirit. I can’t believe that the Holy Spirit has given me a gift to teach people and that somebody was dumb enough to hire me to do it. So, that’s a blessing. And I don’t believe that the gifts of hospitality, the gifts of faith, the gifts of teaching — those are no less miraculous gifts of the spirit than being able to speak in tongues, being able to heal, being able to be used by God to prophesy. And I believe that God is sovereign enough that He gives the gifts as He sees fit, as it says — the Holy Spirit sees fit — and that those gifts can be manifested through His gifted believers as God chooses for them to. Not at our own beckon call that we demand the Holy Spirit let us speak in tongues whenever we feel like it. That’s my view of it. Other people have different views.

Dr. Hunter:      Really?

Dr. Pritchett:    Yeah.

Dr. Hunter:      Okay.

Dr. Pritchett:    I’ve just never — I used to believe that all those gifts ceased until I looked at the Bible and couldn’t make it work for me.

Dr. Hunter:      Yeah. If we’re going to be educational about it, we could say that there are two views on this. One is called — at least. One is called cessationism; that these gifts ended with the Apostles. The other is continuationism. I was probably raised as a cessationist. We probably all three were. I just see absolutely no biblical data to demonstrate that position. Now, I could be wrong. And, if I’m wrong, I’m happy to be shown I’m wrong. It doesn’t cost me that much to be wrong on this issue. But I would agree with Dr. Pritchett on this point. Now, the question of what exactly the gift of tongues is is a whole separate issue, and I’m hoping you don’t have a notecard on that.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. These are in the same vein, and so I’m going to ask them. And I realize there’s a couple of different questions here, but it’s in the same vein, and it has to do with gays and lesbians. The question: Are gays and lesbians going to hell? And Christians who are gay and lesbian who are trying to follow Christ are growing in numbers. So, over the next three to five years, how will the acceptance of these folks be in the Church? That’s a legitimate question.

Dr. Flowers:    Yeah. And that is very difficult to address simply because of the environment we’re in today with so many people lumping in certain lifestyles or choices with other issues that are taking place within the Church. And including whether it’s race issues or power struggles and those kinds of things, and that makes it even more complicated and more politically difficult to handle. But we, as Christians, when we look at this, if we’re not addressing this issue with the kind of anger and angst that sometimes comes with it because of the way it’s being addressed within the political atmosphere, then we need to come with it like we would come at it with any other sin. In other words, all of us are fallen short of God’s glory. All of us miss the mark. That’s what sin is. Missing the mark. Right? And so, God created us in a certain way that if we are doing and living as He created us, then we’re hitting the mark. We’re doing it right. And that means we’re living in accordance with the way He created for us to be. And none of us are hitting that mark. Some people are missing that mark with regard to their sexuality. That may not be your sin, but it may be somebody else’s sin and it as just as sinful as your sin. Does that make sense? In other words, when you become overly judgmental about the other person’s missing of the mark and you paint that as a worse missing of the mark than your missing of the mark, then it’s really hard to be gracious and loving towards that individual. And when you recognize, instead, “I’ve fallen and I’ve messed up in my own life, and I will never hit the mark.”

Only Christ has done that, and that’s why we all need His forgiveness and His grace. Does that mean you can’t have a stance on what you believe marriage is, for example, and how marriage has been defined by the Scriptures and throughout human history as between one man and one woman? No. But you can do that lovingly. You can say, “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman in love,” while still being gracious towards somebody who disagrees with you about that. And you can also demonstrate that I am not perfect and I don’t have everything perfect either, but I do believe that a God created for a man and a woman to be together in order to procreate, and that seems to be also demonstrated by nature itself as even the animal kingdom, in order to multiply, in order to survive, even if you’re a Darwinist evolutionist, you have to believe that even that worldview would say this is what’s natural, this is what’s demonstrate-ably good and right.

Dr. Pritchett:    Demonstrably.

Dr. Flowers:    Demonstrably. That’s right. We were joking with each other about that. But this is one of those issues I think that we have to approach as Christians with an extra measure of grace because the world, many times, isn’t showing that kind of grace to those who are struggling in this issue. And for those who are in the Christian world — and I think in this Church. If you’re here and that’s something that you’ve had issues with — same-sex attraction — this church, I know by getting to know your pastor, welcomes you here. In other words, if you’re struggling with same-sex attraction, he’s not necessarily saying, “Hey, that’s not sin,” or, “That’s not a problem.” What I think this church, as well as the church I go to, would say, “You’re welcome to attend this church.” I love the statement you said in the car the other day that you can belong even before you believe.

Dr. Bennett:    Yes.

Dr. Flowers:    That’s such a gracious attitude of a church. I love — I want to be at a church like that. I want to be at a church that says you can belong here even before you — you don’t even have to believe in our Jesus, but you belong here.

Dr. Bennett:    You can move and come here.

Dr. Flowers:    I would love to. I love it. But that’s an attitude of grace. And I think that those in the homosexual world who are living with that and have been shown a lot of hatred in their life, I think if they see the Church that is willing to have them belong even though they may not believe the way you do, they’re going to be attracted like moth to a flame. They’re going to be attracted to that because they’re going to see that this is a place that loves them even though they don’t necessarily agree with everything that they believe. And that’s, I think, a mark of grace.

Dr. Bennett:    And I just want to say something because they’re professors. I’m the one pastor on stage. I mean, I am a professor too, but I’m a pastor. If you’re here tonight and you struggle with same-sex marriage and you struggle — or with same-sex attraction, whether it be gay, lesbian or whatever it may be. Let me just say on behalf of people that do what I do — let me apologize that the Church has not always been as welcoming and loving and as gracious to you as we probably should have been in many ways. And some of it’s because it’s difficult, at times — I mean, I’m a heterosexual guy. I’m married. I have six kids. There’s some things I understand, there’s some things I don’t understand. So, please give me some grace too as we work through things, but we still, as Christians, we still believe that Scripture is inspired. And so, we go to Scripture and when we look at Scripture, we see that it appears to be clear in Scripture that God’s intention for sexuality was between a man and a woman, and that’s the way God intended it, that the marriage bed would not be undefiled. That does not mean you don’t have attraction. It does not mean that you don’t have struggle. It does not mean that we need to take you in a back room and put some oil on your head and all of a sudden you come out differently. I understand that. But, just like me, I have issues in my life that are still not fully developed. I do not always walk like Jesus. I do not always do the things that I’m doing. I am a work in progress. And what we want to do here at Grace is we want to be a church that’s not a courtroom. We want to be a church that’s a hospital. We want to help everybody who’s broken, which is everybody in this room, try to figure out where they’re at with Jesus and help them walk after Jesus and help them make that move towards Jesus. That’s why you can belong here before you believe because we believe that when everybody gets attracted to Jesus and gets into a relationship with Jesus, we believe He will work with you the way He needs to work with you in whatever way that is. And we want to create an atmosphere for that.

And I think if more churches in America took that position, I think it would be healthier. So, if you’re struggling with that stuff, you know you’re welcome here. But please do understand that we’re also trying to be fair to Scripture. And I hope that you would respect that from us that we’re not trying to be nasty. We’re really just trying to be fair to Scripture. Do y’all have anything else you want to say?

Dr. Pritchett:    Well, I was just going to add that nobody goes to hell because of their sexual orientation. You go to hell or heaven, in my view, based on where you stand with Jesus. That’s first and foremost.

Dr. Bennett:    That’s right. That’s right.

Dr. Pritchett:    And I think that was one of the questions. It was part of the question, so I just wanted to address that. Where you stand with Jesus is what determines those things, not your sexual orientation.

Dr. Hunter:      And, also, I would say to that that it’s been made clear by the pastor now, and both of my partners here on stage, that we do think that the Bible indicates a certain design for sexuality. And because of that, my closest friend from high school left the faith, however you want to explain that doctrinally. He claimed to be a Christian. He was preaching the Gospel. He was trying to see people saved. And ultimately, when he began to experience same-sex attraction, at first, he made an attempt to square it with Scripture, as many people do, but ultimately, he, in his case, he felt like he was being dishonest with himself. The Bible did seem to have a certain design for sexuality. And, as a result, it led to a degradation in his faith to where he know, “I can either choose the Bible, or I can choose this lifestyle,” and he chose the lifestyle. And, today, he’s an atheist. Now, what I think we should do, I really think we should do — I’m not a pastor, but I have been a pastor. And I think that when someone comes to the point where whether or not God supernaturally delivers them from sexual desire, when a person comes into the Church and says, “I’m going to live according to the biblical design as it’s laid out in Scripture,” they’re giving up something. And I think we should really celebrate people like that who submit to what Scripture teaches on this when it is really difficult for them to do that. I think we ought to celebrate and champion those people in the Church.

Dr. Pritchett:    That’s right. We live in a sex-crazed culture. And, for some reason in the Church, this issue about same-sex attraction keeps coming up again. When we talk about celebrating people who want to affirm God’s design for men and women, that’s in marriage. And there’s a lot more heterosexuals in the Church that are not being chaste than there are homosexuals in the Church not being chaste. So, that’s like the least popular thing anyone could ever say: Stop having sex unless you’re married. But guess what? Stop having sex unless you’re married.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. So, that segues in. What does the Bible say about premarital sex and living together out of wedlock?

Dr. Pritchett:    I just answered that question.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. There you go.

Dr. Pritchett:    No. I’m serious. I believe that the Bible has a prescription for that, and I believe that we need to — not even virginity, but the virtue of chastity. Virginity is a binary state. You’re either a virgin or you’re no longer a virgin. And some people, because maybe they weren’t a virgin by the time they became a Christian, all they hear is Christians talking about, “Stay a virgin until you’re married. Stay a virgin.” Virginity is not the virtue as much as chastity is, because chastity — if you’re not married, you could either be chaste or not chaste, and God wants you to be chaste until you’re married. And so, I think that Christians — heterosexual or homosexual — if you’re not married to someone of the opposite sex, don’t have sex. I think that’s the biblical prescription.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. And I would say that it’s interesting in 1 Corinthians 6:18, one of the few places that you’re actually told to flee a particular sin is sexuality. Flee it. That’s what it says. You know? So, I mean, it’s obviously a struggle in many ways, and it’s not just a heterosexual or a gay or a lesbian issue. It really comes down to what’s appropriate for sexuality and where is the place? And the answer from everybody here would be that we think the Scriptures —

Dr. Flowers:    Well, I would just point out for those that see that as — again, it’s almost like the fireman analogy from earlier.

Dr. Bennett:    That’s right.

Dr. Flowers:    That that’s bigoted or that’s narrow minded or that’s arrogance or those kinds of things. A lot of the times they’ll see Christians saying these kinds of things and think the same thing. And the way I would explain it to my four kids is I’d point to the fireplace. We usually sit in the living room. I point to the fireplace. There’s a great place for a fire in this house, and it’s right there. If the fire is taken out of there, then it becomes a danger for us all. And the same is true when it comes to sexual activity. Sexual activity in the right place, it provides warmth. It’s good. It’s right. It’s a good thing. It’s a God thing. It’s not something we should be shameful about. It’s something we should celebrate. You should talk to your kids about sexuality and all the things that God’s created sex for. It’s a great, wonderful, wonderful thing — in the right place. If it’s taken out of its right place, it becomes something that can damage you, it can destroy the home. And when somebody understands that, then is that narrow minded to say you should keep the fire in the fire place? No. It’s reasonable. It makes sense. The same is true when it comes to that. If you just help people to see that, you’re not trying to be unreasonable, you’re not trying to be narrow minded. You’re trying to actually set up boundaries that are going to protect them. And some people see that, especially teenagers — and I’ve worked with teenagers most of my life. A lot of teenagers say, “You’re trying to take away my freedom.” No, son. I’m trying to give you freedom. It’s when you follow His precepts, when you follow His guidance, that’s when you find freedom. It’s when you take it out of His precepts, that’s when you become addicted. That’s when you get in bondage. And it’s only when you follow His design that you truly find true freedom.

Dr. Bennett:    And that goes back to He is our Lord and Savior, which means we follow Him, we don’t try to get Him to do what we want Him to do. What’s God’s view on divorce?

Dr. Flowers:    He hates it. He hates divorce. But it’s not the unpardonable sin. This drives me up the wall when I have seen how Christians treat people who’ve gone through divorce. It’s absolutely amazing to me that some Christians — and I’ll just apologize for Christians in general who have treated divorce as if it makes somebody untouchable, makes somebody unable to be used in ministry or in reaching people or in helping others. I just don’t find that in Scripture. I see in Scripture that God is a redeemer of broken hearts and relationships. He’s the one who restores the broken. He’s not one who casts them aside because they’ve been broken. So, it’s not the unforgivable sin. It’s not something that God can’t heal. He absolutely can. But God hates divorce. He doesn’t want the divorce to take place. He doesn’t want divorce to happen. But, again, the New Testament does allow for certain reasons for divorce. Obviously, physical abuse and those kinds of things, I think, would be a just reason for separation, and looking for a counsel and getting out of that situation as soon as possible. You don’t need to stay in an abusive home that you’re being, especially, physically hurt or abused, and looking for help when you need it. But, at the same time, what I would just say with regard to your own marriage, it shouldn’t be a safety hatch either, and if you’re struggling and if you’re hurting in your own marriage in the sense that you’re just having relationship issues, fight for your marriage. Churches like this, that’s why they’re here. They’re here to help you to find counsel, to find people who can walk with you through the struggles you have in marriage. And guess what? Every one of us have been married. I’ve been married for almost 21 years now. We all have struggles. I’ve been to a marriage counselor, and I’m not afraid to tell people that because by me, as a minister and a pastor saying I’ve had marriage struggles and I’ve had to be to a counselor, it gives the people that I’m ministering to permission to say, “Yeah, we’re having marriage struggles too, and we need to go see a counselor.”

There’s nothing that’s shameful about seeing somebody to help you in relationship struggles. I actually worry more about people who have never seen anybody with regard to how to get counseling. You should have somebody in your life that’s counseling you. Whether it’s a pastor, whether it’s an older couple or an older friend, or a professional counselor. You should have somebody helping walk through those things with you because marriage is hard and you have to fight for it and you have to work for it.

Dr. Bennett:    That’s right. I agree. If accepting Jesus is the only way to salvation, everlasting life, what would you say about people who are never exposed to the Gospel? For example, third-world countries.

Dr. Hunter:      This, even though Dr. Flowers just finished his statement, this is one his favorite things to discuss. It really is. So, Leighton, take it away.

Dr. Flowers:    Yeah. This is the question about the fate of the unevangelized. What about those who never hear the Gospel? It seems as if — it seems unfair, you might think, that someone has to believe in Jesus in order to go to heaven. And if they never hear about Jesus, are they going to spend eternity in hell, separated from God, if they’ve never even heard who Jesus was? And I think the Bible does give us some clarity on this. It’s not explicit, but I think that we can see some principles through Scripture to help us understand the answer to this question. In Romans 1, for example, Paul explains in his understanding of Gentiles. But, back in those days, a lot people hadn’t heard about God, and about Jesus in specific. The way that Paul referred to those people were they were Gentiles. You’ve got the Jewish people. They know the Law. The know the Torah. They know about God. They know about the coming Messiah. But then there’s those Gentile folks out there who don’t know anything. And so, what Paul is explaining in Romans 1 and 2 is that everyone has revelation. Everybody has the conscience built within them to know the difference between right and wrong. And what I believe — there’s some debate on this even among Christians, but what I personally believe is that God will hold each person accountable for the level of revelation that they’ve been given. In other words, God is going to bring enough light and enough revelation for you to believe in that amount of light and that amount of revelation. And if you accept and you believe the revelation He’s brought, the Scripture seems to indicate in other passages that if you’re faithful with a little, He will entrust you with more. And so, what I happen to believe is that those who trust in the light and the revelation they’ve been given, that God is faithful to bring them more light. And I’ve seen this happen. Many of you probably can give testimony to people having dreams about Jesus in far off lands.

My brother was a missionary over in Turkey. He would come across Muslims who had had dreams about Jesus and it would open up a door for him to be able to tell that person about Jesus. And they were open to the Gospel already because they’d had that dream. In other words, God has at His fingertips His ability to get more specific news to people, even in far off lands. And I believe God’s a just God. I believe He’s good and we can trust Him. And, therefore, when it comes to issues like this, I believe that whatever decision we come to, we can always conclude God’s good. He’s going to do the right thing and He’s going to do the just thing. And I believe, based upon many passage of Scripture, the just thing is that God will judge people not upon things that they’re ignorant of and that they’ve never heard of, but He will judge based upon the light and the revelation they do have, and those who are faithful with the little amount of light that they have been given, God will grant them more light. He will bring them more revelation because He’s a good God and He desires the salvation of all people. And I think He’ll bring enough revelation for all people to be able to respond and to know Him.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. How do we deal with what can appear to be a lack of condemnation for what we modernly believe to be ungodly behavior in the Old Testament? Example, biblical instructions on how you’re allowed to beat your wife. Going along with that, why is the God of the Old Testament different than the God of the New Testament? Somebody jump on that bull and ride it.

Dr. Hunter:      Well, it’s a good question. We talked a little bit about this last night with the young adults. I think it’s a good question. You know, you have to take some of these things individually. Individual texts. Give me a text and we’ll deal with that text. Let’s begin with this: If you pick up a good book that I would recommend to each of you like “Is God a Moral Monster” by Paul Copan — that would be a good book on this issue, also on issues relating to war in the Old Testament and slavery. These are all things that are called — within the field, they’re called the “atrocities” of the Old Testament. That book is, I think, a good primer on this. What Paul Copan argues — and many Christian thinkers have argued this for a long time — is if you compare the Old Testament Law to something like the Code of Hammurabi, you would see a drastic difference between the two. You would see such an improvement over the other laws of other pagan people groups compared to God’s people and God’s Law. And God meets people where they are. He meets people where they’re at at that particular time. And to try and change everything all at once would maybe have not been manageable, but it begins a trajectory that we see playing out further in the New Testament, and I think right on up to today, where there is a trajectory toward the ideal which, of course, is no beatings and nothing like that. As for the biggest thing, I think, that often comes up, which is the slaughter of the Canaanites, where God instructs His people, Moses and Joshua, to carry the people forward into Canaan and to wage war and take the land that God has given. I think what happens a lot of times is people miss the fact that the Bible tells us about these people that were living there that for over 400 years God had been waiting for a time to bring judgment. If we believe that justice is a good thing — I think everyone in here would agree that we kind of know justice is a good thing. If we found someone who was engaging in genocide in some other country today, for example, if someone was doing something horrendous, there was a holocaust going on or something like that, and we were to capture that person, regardless of your political opinions, we would all probably agree that some sort of justice, some sort of judgment needs to be brought on this particular person, this dictator or whoever did this. Right? And we would think that if we didn’t do that then it wouldn’t be good. There would be something less than just that had been accomplished here.

If God tells us through Scripture, through Moses in Genesis and then on throughout the Torah and then on into the story of Joshua, that these people, for over 400 years, had been violent, murderous, incestuous people who worshiped a false god and caused their children to pass through the fires — which means engaging in child sacrifice — and He had waited for 400 years, giving them every opportunity to repent, and yet these people hadn’t? It was high time that some justice had been done. Some judgment needed to take place. And if it didn’t, then God wouldn’t be a God of justice, really. And so, when He sends these people in here to do this, the question that arises is, “Okay, that makes sense of these pagan idolaters, but what about the children and people like that?” And the answer there would be you’ve got to — if you’re going to analyze the biblical perspective on this, you can’t merely take on part of the worldview and say, “Well, okay. God told the Israelites to go in there and kill a bunch of people.” Death to the world seems like the end. Death seems like the worst imaginable thing. But if Christianity is true, then death is not the end. And though these children in these countries that Joshua was to go in and to wage war — if these children were to live, the would’ve lived and grown up to become pagan idolaters as well, in most cases, more than likely. But, instead, when the war is waged and the judgment takes place, they wake up in the arms of a loving Savior. And so, as awful as it is — and, again, I got the question on hell, I get the question on this. I get all the great questions. But is that emotionally satisfying? Probably not completely, but I do think that it’s intellectually satisfying.

Dr. Pritchett and I have a podcast all the time, so if you like what you’re hearing from him, you can get more of it. But I’ll tell you something: We believe that if you plug in justice — the justice of God, that justice must be done — and you plug in the love of God, that He is a merciful God and loves people and all that, you get, I think, an answer that makes sense of things like this.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. Is Allah the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? And is the Christian God the same god in which the Muslim faith calls Allah?

Dr. Pritchett:    No.

Male:               [Inaudible]

Dr. Pritchett:    Well, when you say do we worship the same god, Muslims don’t believe that we worship the same god. And because Jews even reject the New Testament revelation, they don’t believe we worship the same god either. So, me just saying “no,” I’m agreeing with most Jews and probably all Muslims. Because we believe about God that God is one being and three in person. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Now, there was a time where if you were in a Muslim country and you believed that, they would kill you for it. That’s not the same god. And for us to say it sounds good for us to say that is actually disrespectful to Islam because they don’t believe that. And it’s, for me, telling a falsehood if we said yes because if you believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one being, you don’t believe it either. And so, it’s okay to be honest and say, “Yes, we have differences. We don’t believe in the same god.” We believe that the New Testament reveals God as triune, as a God who, from all eternity, had been in community within Himself. They don’t believe that. So, I want to be respectful to Muslims and say no.

Dr. Hunter:      The reason that people often say that these three religions worship the same —

Male:               [Inaudible 01:00:46] Jesus is prophet and Jews don’t believe Jesus is a prophet.

Dr. Hunter:      I’m sorry?

Male:               Does Islam believe that Jesus was a prophet?

Dr. Hunter:      Muslims believe that Jesus was a great prophet, but not the incarnate Son of God.

Dr. Pritchett:    Okay. But, before we continue, I just want to say that everyone else had to write down their questions. So, to be respectful to everyone else who had to write down their questions, it would be helpful if you would just write down your questions and take them to the front like everyone else had to do in this room. Thank you.

Male:               Yes sir. Thank you.

Dr. Hunter:      But the reason that people say that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same god is because we are the Abrahamic religions. You often have heard, probably, that phrase. Abrahamic religions. It’s because Christians and Jews and Muslims all point to the God of Abraham as the one true God. The difference is, as Dr. Pritchett has clearly articulated for us, that Jews and Christians describe that god differently because Jews don’t affirm the Trinity, like Dr. Pritchett said. But Muslims and Christians don’t affirm that same god either because Muslims don’t affirm the Trinity. But, on top of that, they describe god very differently. It’s a very extreme form of determinism that Muslims believe in, and I don’t really have a lot of time to explain that, but it’s just that everyone kind of is doing what god determined in a very extreme way that they do. Furthermore, voluntarism is a belief that is there among Muslims, which means that it’s not that god does what is good and goodness flows from his nature. It’s that whatever god does, even if it was different than what he did before, now becomes good. And that is not what orthodox Christians have always affirmed. We affirm that goodness flows from God’s nature. He doesn’t decide arbitrarily on what is good, nor does He appeal to some standard outside of Himself. It flows from His good nature. So, while all three religions may point to the God of Abraham as the one true God, they describe god differently enough that in no real, meaningful sense can we say they all believe in the same god.

Dr. Flowers:    What I would just point out in the field of evangelism and reaching those in the Muslim faith, for example, that — my brother, again, working that field, one of the things that I’ve learned visiting him and talking with him is that many Muslims, just like you have with Catholics or Christians, you have a very nominal kind of Muslim, meaning they don’t really practice the faith. They just call themselves Muslim because they live there and there’s a lot of people in the Church that are the same way. Or, here in the United States, it’s the same way with Christianity. They’re more nominal. And so, they don’t even know as much as Dr. Hunter does about Islam. In other words, they haven’t studied these things. They don’t know these things. And so, what oftentimes can be done if you’re evangelizing or you’re talking to a nominal Muslim, is you can actually use and talk about what they have learned about their version of god to redirect them to say, “Here’s the one true God,” almost like what we see Paul do in Acts when he says, “Hey, you see your statue to the unknown god? Let me tell you about that unknown god.”

And so, I think that there’s ways in which we can bridge gaps in our evangelism and talking to someone without offending the Muslim by trying to necessarily down play their heritage or anything like that. But, instead, direct them to, “Hey, did you know that the Quran actually talks about Jesus? The Quran actually says some good things about Jesus. Let me tell you about what I’ve learned about Jesus.” And you can redirect maybe the nominal, the surface level things that they know about their faith to the true faith of Christianity.

Dr. Bennett:    What would be the unpardonable sin? How would I know if I committed the unpardonable sin? And, if you were walking and you were saved, how would you know that you did the unpardonable sin? So, can you talk about the unpardonable sin?

Dr. Flowers:    I think there’s some dispute on this among theologians as well, but my personal belief is that the unpardonable sin is the sin of continual rejection of the call of the Spirit to repent and believe in Him. In other words, if you continually reject the call of the Spirit, you resist Him, then that is the one thing that’s unpardonable. If you continue to resist the Holy Spirit, continue to resist His call upon your life and you perish or you die in that state of unbelief, that is the unpardonable sin. If you’re worried that you accidentally committed the unpardonable sin in some past in your life, then you don’t need to — you didn’t. Okay? The fact that you’re —

Dr. Bennett:    Get out of jail free card, baby! Right there. You came here tonight and you got it. There you go. I love it.

Dr. Flowers:    So, as long as — in other words, if you want to believe and you want to be saved, you can. There’s nothing hindering you from repentance and faith. God wants you to be saved.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. These go together. What are your thoughts on prosperity theology and how can Christians reconcile TV pastors asking for a 54 million dollar jet because God told him that’s what he needs to preach the Gospel? Does this type of stuff help or hurt you in your job? It definitely doesn’t help us as pastors, but I’ll let you guys answer.

Dr. Hunter:      You know, I’ve found something. There are good — there are honest and dishonest lawyers. There are honest and dishonest police officers. There are honest and dishonest mechanics. But I don’t necessarily question the trustworthiness of every car mechanic because I’ve had a car mechanic do me wrong in the past. And so, are there preachers that preach things that I think are damaging to the Christian faith? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that you have reason to question a particular pastor in your area. You should find out what he believes. Now, on the question of the prosperity Gospel, some of the godliest people that I know are sick and poor, where some within the prosperity Gospel would say that you would be wealthy and healthy if you’re serving the Lord. Often, those people wear glasses, and I don’t understand exactly what’s going on with that. But, no. Honestly, I would say that yes, it hurts Christianity and the message of the Gospel going out, and that saddens me. But there are honest and dishonest, and right and not right — correct and incorrect — positions and people serving in every capacity in life, and it’s no different when it comes to television preachers. I’ll never be a television evangelist. I don’t have the hair for it.

Dr. Bennett:    I just would — what I would say is this: I think that the best way to answer it is this: Paul says in Philippians 4 that he’s had plenty and he’s had nothing. I think that Christianity can run the whole gamut. I just would say this: I think that a Christian can have things, but I think it’s a problem when things have the Christian. So, I don’t think that we should shun somebody because Paul says, in 1 Timothy 6, “Charge those that are rich in this world to be this way.” So, there are going to be some Christians that do have tremendous wealth. There’s also going to be Christians that are poor. The problem with the prosperity Gospel is that it would teach that everybody should be wealthy or everybody should be healthy, and that’s just common sense that that’s not the case.

Dr. Pritchett:    But I think that we as believers have a calling to rebuke it because it is a justice issue because the health and wealth prosperity preachers prey upon the poorest in the communities. So, because of that, and because what they do is so sickening and devastating to people’s lives, taking what little scraps of money that they can scrap together to get by and take it and go live in enormous, ridiculous-sized mansions and have the audacity to ask for 54 million dollar airplanes — I mean, we flew coach. It was fine. They could fly coach too. But it sickens me to see them prey upon them. So, it is our job to rebuke them loudly and stand up for the poor and defenseless and see that they are not oppressed by people claiming to be Christians. I’ll just leave it at that.

Dr. Bennett:    Alright. There you go. We’re going to work with Dr. Pritchett and get him comfortable with telling you what he really believes. He’s struggling, but he’s going to get there. Okay. If a person remarries after divorce, is it adultery? And, specifically, when no adultery was involved in the marriage but there still was a divorce. So, is that adultery?

Dr. Pritchett:    I don’t understand this issue because there’s a passage where Jesus talks about this. And there’s this phrase: “And marries another.” But I think that there’s a lot of confusion there because Jesus and Paul — and Paul goes out of his way to say, “You didn’t hear this from Jesus, but I’m telling you now.” Jesus gives the exception clause of adultery. Paul then goes a little bit further than that and says, “Well, I say this, not the Lord, that if the unbelieving spouse wishes to leave, they’re free to go.” Okay? So then, people will say, “Well, okay. Then there’s two exceptions, not one.” But then, why did Paul feel like after — he talks about Jesus and then he talks about himself in his context. He felt the liberty, pastorally, to create a new exception that didn’t originate with Jesus. And he went out of his way to say, “This tradition is not a Jesus tradition.” Why did he do that? I think it’s because both of those things, what they have in common, is they undermine the shalom. They undermine the peace that God intends for believers, and that’s exactly where Paul goes to when he wants to justify. You are called to a life of peace, so let the unbeliever leave.

So, what’s going on with both of those things? What do those exceptions have in common? Does that mean that those are the only ones, or are there not more? Well, I think that there are more because I would include what he mentioned earlier with physical abuse and serious physical abuse because that, too — you’re called to a life of peace. And if your spouse is beating the snot out of you, that’s not peace. Because what all of those things have in common is it undoes that peace, it undoes — the man leaving his family and cleaving to his wife, that becomes impossible in certain situations and certain contexts. So, in Paul’s context that came out as if the unbelieving spouse wishes to go — if they wish to stay, then maybe they’ll be saved through you. In our context, we know that there is spousal abuse going on. And I would say, as a pastor, that Paul saw this undoing of the Genesis ideal, and we see that in these abusive relationships. It undoes that. But God has called you to peace. So, if the only way to get yourself safe is a divorce, I think it’s permissible and I don’t think Paul would object and I don’t think Jesus would object either. And so, I don’t think that if you then go on and remarry that you’re living in sin. But, even if you are, Jesus still dealt with that sin, too, at the cross.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. You guys would know this because you’re Baptists. I have no idea what this question refers to at all, so you guys can jump on this one. Pastor Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas — dude, your place, man. Dallas. Get you some of this. Here we go. It says he wrote a book called “A Place Called Heaven.” Can you give comments on that?

Dr. Flowers:    I am not familiar with that book, so I cannot. I’m sorry.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. I don’t know it either. Does anybody know it?

Dr. Hunter:      I don’t know that book.

Dr. Flowers:    I prefer Braxton’s book, Heaven is a —

Dr. Hunter:      Death is a Doorway.

Dr. Flowers:    Death is a Doorway. Yes. It’s a good book.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. Let’s continue. I would like to know your thoughts —

Dr. Hunter:      Amazon. $15.99.

Dr. Bennett:    Do you want to do podcast and YouTube channel too?

Dr. Hunter:      Proceeds go to feed starving children. Mine.

Dr. Flowers:    And it’s not for a jet.

Dr. Hunter:      Yeah. You’d all be best — since you opened it up, you’d all be my best friends if you subscribed to our YouTube channel —

Dr. Pritchett:    It’s named after him.

Dr. Hunter:      YouTube.com/BraxtonHunter.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay.

Dr. Hunter:      I’m serious.

Dr. Bennett:    I would like to know your thoughts on mediums. Do people have the ability to communicate with loved ones who have passed?

Dr. Hunter:      Okay. Here’s my answer to that. I don’t know, but I’ll say this: We have, on our podcast — I really am not pushing my podcast. This is just what we do. But, on our podcast, we take different world views and we talk about those world views and what a Christian response to those would be. So, we talk about Islam, we talk about Wiccan, we talk about atheism, we have even talked about issues with Christianity. And what we repeatedly find — don’t we, Dr. Pritchett? — is that in situations like, say, Mormonism where Joseph Smith claims that he had a supernatural experience, and his followers claim that they have a burning in their bosom — that’s how they phrase it. A burning in the bosom that demonstrates that it’s true and testifies to them that they’re true. Pritchett wants to give them a new medication called “Bosom Buddies” that they can take when that comes up. But, no. Honestly, though, seriously, we want to be respectful, but when Muhammad claimed that he had an experienced with the angel Gabriel, when mediums have things like that, we don’t — I think some of those things are not really real. Okay? But Christianity actually can account for people having supernatural experiences that are real but are not of God. And that is because it is also — just I said heaven and hell are system-dependent beliefs. If you believe Christianity is true, then, along with that, if you believe in the authority of the Bible, then you get heaven and hell and things like that, guess what else you get? You get the demonic. And so, what I would say to a Mormon person or to a particular medium or someone visiting a medium is that I’m not going to tell you — because often they’ll say, “Who are you to judge my experience?” I’m not. I don’t doubt that you had a real experience. Maybe you didn’t, but I don’t doubt that you may have. The question is what was the content of that experience? And it may not have been of God. And I would say, in those cases, it’s not of God.

Dr. Pritchett:    It’s never of God.

Dr. Bennett:    Wow. Okay. Pritchett, tell us what you think. Let’s see here. Hypostatic union. All my life, I’ve been interested in one of the important relationships, which is sometimes overlooked and not mentioned much with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and have studied and researched the connection with human earthliness and divine trinity. Many times during researching different articles, I stumble across the hypostatic union, which I understand and believe in Jesus to be two natures; human, divine, God, man. But I need some guidance on one particular issue. During the walk that Jesus was on in the New Testament, it said that Jesus talks with God the Father, and many times was also witnessed by the disciples and John the Baptist. Please explain so we can understand more clearly how this communication took place, a voice from human earthliness being in the divine and whether, in the case of Jesus’ baptism, it was the Holy Spirit, also God, as one of the Trinity, or since His hypostatic union was a miracle from God also had the capability of communicating between the two.

Dr. Hunter:      I could — are you guys having trouble? I can answer.

Dr. Pritchett:    I want him to talk about it.

Dr. Hunter:      I don’t know. I mean, look, folks —

Dr. Flowers:    Well, I could’ve said that.

Dr. Hunter:      I mean, honestly. First of all, let me tell you something that I said last night. For those of you that are fascinated by answer giving or defending the Christian faith, this is kind of something I say at conferences a lot, and I teach it to our students at Trinity. I believe that everyone in this room, even if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Christian apologetics, Christian defense, you can go out of this room tonight and be a Christian apologist. Now, it may not be that you’re able to give the answers like we are on other questions besides this one, but you may not be able to be an answer giver tonight, but did you know you can be, immediately when we’re done here tonight, an answer finder for people? And, oftentimes, that’s to essentially say, “I don’t know, but I’ll go find that for you.” And, you know, “I don’t know,” — I love “I don’t know.” “I don’t know” is one of the greatest innovations of Christianity. Being willing to say it to people. Because, when I was a pastor — and this is not true of your pastor. But, when I was a pastor, I wasn’t as spiritual as he is, and I felt that I had to be able to thump the pulpit and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” even if I didn’t know what the Lord thus saith about a particular thing. But when I found a freedom — and, really, some of you might be thinking, “Well, they stand up on a stage and answer questions. That’s really tough, man. Isn’t that nerve wracking?”

It used to be. But when I discovered “I don’t know,” it became a bulletproof vest for me. Say, “I don’t know.” Because if you say something and you don’t know but you say something anyway, that is how cults form. I just want you to know. But, no. It is a good question. To get to the question, it is a good question. In particular cases where we don’t have, necessarily, the whole story about how a particular thing — the Bible is not there, necessarily, to answer all of our interests. There are things we’d like to know. I’d like to know more about angels, frankly. The Bible doesn’t ever set out to tell me about angels. I learned the information I have about angels indirectly when angels are involved in a story or something, most of the time. So, it doesn’t answer all of the things we’d like to know. How did God communicate specifically to particular humans? And it’s not just Jesus that this happens with. How did God communicate in those cases? Did the necessarily hear a voice? Was it an inner voice? Was it an inner voice that they heard but knew was real? I don’t know. But He did. That’s the answer I would give.

Dr. Bennett:    Anybody want to take on the hypostatic union? The question I think, really, was how could Jesus be God and still be talking to God if He —

Dr. Hunter:      Oh, yeah. Let me go ahead and finish that one. Yeah. So, I talked about this last night. Some people have the question, “Is Jesus talking to Himself in cases like that because He is God?” Right? But, remember, let’s go back to what we talked about earlier that separates us from both Judaism and Islam in this respect. We believe that God exists as one being, the Trinity. One being, God, but three persons. Now, often, Muslim apologists — like there’s a well-known Muslim apologist named Shabir Ally. Oftentimes, they will point to us and they will say, “That is contradictory to say that you have three, but one.” And I will say, for most of my Christian walk, I probably believed in a contradiction because I didn’t know how to describe it. If you said, “Three Gods, but one God,” that’s a contradiction and it’s impossible. If you said, “Three persons who exist as one person,” that’s a contradiction and that’s impossible. But if you say, “One God who exists as three distinct persons, but they’re a part of one Godhead,” that may be mysterious, but it’s not a contradiction. Now, if you’d like a good image that the historic Christian faith has used for this, it would be that of a triangle. A triangle is one triangle, but it has three distinct points. Each of those points is distinct. It’s not the same as the other points, but it is a part of one essence; triangle. Right? And so, in that way, I think it handles it. Jesus is not talking to Himself when He’s talking to the Father, but He’s still God. Right? So, I hope that helps.

Dr. Pritchett:    Fully God and fully man. So, He’s not 50% man and 50% God. Not even 100% man and 100% God. He’s fully man in the hypostatic union and fully God. And, like I said last night, some things about the Bible are weird, and some of them are mysterious. We should embrace that. It’s kind of cool. You know? Let it be weird. Let it be mysterious and dig it.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. I would just say that if you, anybody in here, feels like that you have a complete understanding of God and you have Him figured out, you have an idol. You do not have the Living God. Because the Living God is far above anything that we could ever even begin to understand. We only have what He’s revealed to you and me because the secret things belong to Him. And that is a passage. Deuteronomy 29:29. So, here we go. The last chapter of Mark contains three endings. My wife was quoting the scorpions and drinking poison this morning. Man, we probably need to — we could have a counseling session on that one. Alright. Since it’s a late addition, like the woman caught in adultery — which would be John 7:52 through John 8:11 — how do we see the Scriptures as inspired and inerrant?

Dr. Flowers:    Well, the reason whenever you open your particular text it’ll have in the footnotes that this didn’t exist in the earliest translations or in the earliest manuscripts is for you to know that there may be some question as to its validity. It’s not to try to make you doubt the rest of the Scriptures or to undermine the purpose of what the Scriptures are there for. It’s there to be honest with you. And that’s one of the things I appreciate about Christianity is it doesn’t try to hide that there are uncertainties, just like it doesn’t hide the mistakes of Paul or the mistakes of Peter or the mistakes of David. We just come right out and say, “Yeah. Here are some things that we’ve dealt with.” And so, within our text, we don’t try to hide that these passages are uncertain. We just put them in there for you to be aware that they’re there, but they didn’t exist in the earliest manuscripts, so there are some questions to their validity. And so, those kinds of things, to me, don’t make me doubt the authenticity of the Scriptures. They actually make me go, “Oh. These guys are being honest enough to let me know what we know about the manuscripts,” and we’ve got thousands upon thousands of different manuscripts that we have pulled from to pull together a very reliable source, much more reliable than any other ancient text that we have at our disposal.

And that should actually give us, I think, some more comfort in knowing that people are being forthright with us with regard to some of the questions in the translations of the manuscripts and the carrying of the manuscripts. We don’t have the autographs, meaning the original manuscripts. So, a lot of the debate that takes place over quote, unquote, “inerrancy,” and all those kinds of things, it’s all based upon manuscripts we don’t have. What I like to point people to is what the Scriptures say about themselves. What do they say? They’re profitable for rebuke and correcting and training in righteousness. They’re good for what they were created to do. Is everything that we have always perfect? I don’t think it is. But I don’t think Peter was perfect either, and he was trusted to carry the message. I don’t think Paul was perfect, but he was entrusted to carry the message. That’s what’s so great about God. He chooses imperfect vessels to carry a perfect message. And He does it perfectly, and He does it sufficiently. And so, it’s just like if we were — if people ran inside and said, “We just saw a car accident,” and you’ve got four different accounts of the car accident outside. You might conclude, “Well, there must not have been a car accident because there was four different accounts.” Or would you think, “Hey, maybe they had four different angels of that accident out there? Maybe there’s different ways they viewed it.”

In other words, I think the discrepancies actually make it seem more real to me. What would make me doubt whether it really happened is if they all came in and recited the exact same phrase to me. Then I would go, “Okay. There’s collusion there. Somebody’s messing something up here. Somebody has made up something and given everybody a script to memorize. This is not real.” The fact that we have divergence and differences in the testimonies of Scripture, I think, shows to me that it’s even more reliable and more real and does exactly what it’s intended to do.

Dr. Bennett:    Did Jesus have the ability to sin, being fully God and fully human? Posse non peccare, non posse peccare.

Dr. Hunter:      Do you want me to take that?

Dr. Pritchett:    Okay. Well, we might have differences of opinion up here. Does anyone understand what it means to say, “It’s logically possible that something’s true?” That doesn’t mean it’s actually true, it just means that there’s no contradiction in it. It’s logically possible. It’s logically possible that invisible unicorns are having a rave party on the rings of Saturn, but I don’t think there is one. But there’s nothing contradictory about it. It could be the case, right? So, the way I like to say this is if Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin, and if He was fully human, exactly as we are — or will be fully human again. I don’t think that we’re fully human right now until we become like Jesus in the resurrection. I could say, yeah, in His humanity, is it logically possible? Yeah. I can go with that. It’s logically possible. Do I think it could’ve ever happened? No. And did it ever happen? No way.

Dr. Hunter:      Well, I could live with that. I think that — first of all, I’m open to changing my opinion, and we talk about this once a month at least. I think that God’s nature is good. God has a good nature and I don’t think that God acts contrary to His nature. Goodness is a part of His nature. I don’t think that He acts contrary to His nature. And so, I don’t think, because what we are saying — let me just break this down and get a little bit complicated, alright? When he said, “Logically possible,” the way that philosophers talk about logical possibility is they say there are possible worlds — now, these are not worlds that actually exist. Possible worlds and impossible worlds. Just a thought experiment. An impossible world would be a world that has married bachelors in it. Okay? That world is not possible, and do you know why? Because married bachelors are not possible because, by virtue of being married, they’re not bachelors. And, by virtue of being bachelors, they’re not married. Do you understand what I’m saying? So, if you say, “There’s a world with married bachelors in it,” no. That world does not exist. But a logically possible world is a world where there’s nothing but bunnies running around. Right? I mean, maybe that’s impossible, but, you know, that’s fine. If I were to say that it’s even logically possible that Jesus would’ve sinned, then I would be saying that there is some possible world in which we can imagine Jesus sinning. And I do not believe such a world exists. Now, that’s my view. That’s the view of a lot of Christian scholars, but I’m open to the possibility that Dr. Pritchett’s view is correct. And, after we’re done tonight, you can rest assured that in the hotel room he’ll give me all the reasons why his view, and all his views, are correct.

Dr. Bennett:    That is true. Yeah. That’s not even a possible world. That’s reality.

Dr. Pritchett:    Scholars disagree, but this is not an angels dancing on the — how many angels dancing on the head of a pin. This is actually kind of important, but it’s important for two reasons. You want to affirm that God cannot sin in any possible way and that Jesus is God, so Jesus should not be able to sin in any possible way. But, at the same time, other scholars like me want to say yeah, but we’ve got to take that fully man seriously. We’ve got to take that he was tempted seriously, not just — it can’t just be like me going to tempt a tank with a rock and say, “I’m going to beat you,” and then just nothing happens. That’s not — to me, I don’t know if that’s temptation in the same way that I’m tempted where there is that potential for danger.

Dr. Bennett:    F.F. Bruce in his commentary to the Hebrews — a great New Testament scholar — makes an interesting point. He says that Jesus being tempted as we are, yet without sin, that Jesus actually experienced a temptation that none of us can because He took it all the way to the end and didn’t give in where we always give in. So, His temptation was dramatically even — so, whether posse non peccare — theologians have been arguing this stuff — posse non peccare is possible not to sin, or non posse peccare, not possible to sin. The point is that Bruce makes the point that Jesus because He never gave in, He experienced a temptation that none of us could ever experience.

Dr. Hunter:      Amen. Yeah.

Dr. Bennett:    I think that’s a really cool point. So, in today’s culture of the catch-and-release dating scene — I’m definitely getting older because I don’t even know what that means. Wow. In today’s culture of the catch-and-release dating scene, and bombardment of sexual temptation in social media and elsewhere, what are we missing as a Church? Why are we so often failing to be different from the world? How do we best create and sustain godly, biblical dating and marriage relationships?

Dr. Hunter:      Leighton, why don’t you answer that?

Dr. Flowers:    How does a young man keep his way pure? By living according to God’s Word. It goes along with the answer that we already talked about with the fireplace; that God has created us and designed us for sexual activity in marriage. So, I’ll refer back to that answer. I think that that really sums up that God’s not trying to take away your freedoms by giving us guidelines. He’s actually helping us to remain free and to grow in our relationships. So, I think that’s probably sufficient.

Dr. Pritchett:    Well, one of the things that we need to, as a Church in this kind of sex-crazed culture that we mentioned earlier, one thing we need to get ahold of and proclaim is guess what? God’s smarter than everyone in this room. Shocker, right? He’s actually smarter than us. And we should trust that when He gives us these kinds of commands, that we can go to a world that has — what was it called? Catch-and-release? That’s like fishing — this catch-and-release dating culture and say, “Look, how’s that working for you?” Well, interestingly, I read something on social media — which is probably the last place you should read things. But I read something on social media where this lady was writing about 20 years after Sex and the City premiered. Twenty years ago. Yes, that’s how old you are.

Dr. Hunter:      It’s more than that, isn’t it?

Dr. Pritchett:    Well, it premiered 20 years ago. Well, okay. I saw the article today. It was talking about 20 years ago Sex and the City came on television and the women who bought into that lifestyle of just, okay, consequence-less sex. And they’ve discovered, guess what? There was no such thing. And these women were talking about how unhappy they were embracing that lifestyle. And oh, by the way, in the show, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, and all the other characters, ended up settling down, but these women have found out that they were unable to. Now, men, it’s a little bit different. Men in this catch-and-release, men have always been predators. You know? Chasing women. But, look —

Dr. Hunter:      I like the disclaimer that you gave before this night began about not all the views necessarily — I just want to re-emphasize this.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. We put Pritchett in the middle because we knew we might have to hold him back.

Dr. Pritchett:    But look, we need to stand up and tell me, and more and more women these days that are buying into this sex-crazed culture, it’s like, look, God is smarter than you. There are consequence for all of these actions. So, why don’t you stop for a moment and think you don’t know what’s best for you compared to what God knows is best for you. And we can sell that. If it comes down to the Church giving a vision of lifelong faithful marriages, which we don’t always do good at, but if we can sell that vision of romance versus cheap sex, we’ll win that fight in the culture every time.

Dr. Bennett:    The bottom line is, guys, if we’re Christians, we’re supposed to love our wife like Christ loved the Church. And women are supposed to love their husbands. If we both do what the Bible says that we’re supposed to do, we’re going to have healthy marriages. If we don’t do that, if we’re just trying to get what we want at the exclusion of someone else, we’re going to have bad marriages. If you’re dating somebody, realize that if you don’t marry them, they’re going to be somebody else’s husband or wife. So, don’t fool with them because it’s somebody else’s. It’s common sense.

Dr. Hunter:      And you wrapped that up in a really nice bow, so I don’t want to ruin that beautiful, dainty mop, but let me say this. Let me add to it if it’s okay, Pastor. I think I was raised — I’m an imperfect man, but I was raised really well. My parents did a great job. I want to say that my parents raised me that the only good reason to date or to seek romance is to find a wife. That is the only good reason was to find a wife. And so, I plan on raising my kids that way. You do not just date just for recreation. You don’t date for just — there is a purpose and a meaning for this romance, and that, to me, seems like a logical conclusion on the basis of what you just said, which is that’s somebody else’s wife if you don’t plan to marry here.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. Okay. Let’s see here. Whenever tragedy occurs, we often hear “thoughts and prayers,” but oftentimes it feels like prayer’s not enough. Are we praying wrong? What’s the purpose of prayer? Y’all don’t even pray, so how are you going to answer that?

Dr. Hunter:      I was still thinking about what I just said and not sure I heard the question.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah, it’s okay.

Dr. Flowers:    I would say that prayer sometimes is helping us to realign ourselves with the thoughts of God and to — it’s almost like taking that deep breath to say, “Okay, God. Help me to see Your redemption in this pain. Help me to see what You can bring, even from this hurt. Help me to live well even in the midst of this struggle. Help me to remain faithful even what I don’t see the end here. I don’t see where this is going that could possibly be good, but I’m trusting in You. Though I can’t trace Your hand, I trust Your heart.” Those kinds of things within prayer sometimes balance us and help carry us through those most difficult times of life. And you can’t whitewash that. Obviously, those of you in this room who have experienced an immense amount of pain can speak to this and the importance of prayer, meditation, being still and knowing that He is God. Not just about bowing your head and closing your eyes and saying wrote words, but just being with Him, hearing His still small voice, being quiet, stopping the noise. Sabbath, which is rest. It’s not just about a day you’re not supposed to go mow the lawn, or a day you’re not supposed to go to Chick-fil-a. Okay? It’s about really resting. It’s about being with Him, and that is so important, that peace, the shalom he was talking about. That comes with Sabbath. That comes with prayer. That comes with rest. That comes with being still. And that carries — at least for me in my own life. That carries me through not only just suffering and trials, but just through life in general, just through the busy, hectic lives with cellphones and work. And, as I say that, my phone is buzzing in my pocket right now. You have to learn to be able to put everything aside and stop. And that’s what prayer is. Prayer is stopping and resting in Him.

Dr. Pritchett:    Yeah. I agree 100%. I just want to add: Read the Psalms. Read the Psalms. Read the Psalms. If you read the Psalms, you will find every possible expression of human emotion from frustration and anger to peace, joy and happiness all directed to Yahweh. He’s a big enough God to handle your gripes, your complains, your anger — even towards Him. And we would do well to not think that we’re being to impious that if we are honest with God because He knows anyway. So, in tragedy, it is okay to express those things to God and He’s still going to love you no matter what you say to Him. I mean, David was challenging God: “Wake up, O sleeper. Where are you?” You know? And it’s okay. And I do want to say the last part of that question was, “Are thoughts and prayers enough?” No. Because James 2 talks about this. If you just give somebody well wishes and then you’re on your way, does that faith save? No. A saving faith is a faith that works through love. So, if you are distant from somebody and it’s on social media, and all you have to offer is thoughts and prayers, fine. But if you can do more to those who are experiencing suffering and you can do more for them, then thoughts and prayers and action is what is required of us as Christians.

Dr. Bennett:    Alright. That’s good. Okay. This is a theological trick bag, so just get ready. Once again, the views expressed up here might not necessarily be the views of Grace Community Church or Chip Bennett or Tom Jones, but this is going to be interesting. So, once you are saved, are you always saved? And, understanding that we are saved by grace, what role does sanctification play in being saved if you’re once saved, always saved? Two different questions, but the same —

Dr. Pritchett:    Yes. There’s differences of opinions on this stage, actually, so —

Dr. Hunter:      Let me answer it from this perspective first, because I think this encompasses all of our views here. Often, there’s a view that’s called either “perseverance of the saints” or a nuanced view, that we don’t think is exactly the same thing, called “eternal security.” Denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention would hold to eternal security. Some Presbyterian churches would hold to perseverance of the saints. The idea that you can’t lose your salvation. Now, often what is mischaracterized about those who do not hold that view is that they always think that you can sin enough that you lose your salvation. And that is not necessarily the case. Oftentimes, what the view is of people who do not hold to a view of eternal security or perseverance of the saints is that Jesus died for your sins and you don’t sin enough to lose your salvation. Jesus paid for your sins. But, if you apostatize, if you defect, if you walk away from Jesus, it’s in Him that the everlasting life is. So, if you walk away from Him, you’ve walked away from the everlasting life. Now, with those two views, which are both represented on this stage right now, let me say this for sobriety, and then they, my compatriots, can answer: I think that how those two groups would describe a situation is like this. Say a person becomes a Christian, they’re living for the Lord, it seems, they’re reaching other people for Christ, they’re doing amazing things in the Church and then, someday, they become an atheist and aren’t serving God at all. The people that believe you can apostatize in the sense that I just described, or walk away or whatever, are going to say, “He was saved, and now he’s not saved. We need to reach him so that he is saved.”

The people that would hold a view of eternal security might say, “He never really was saved. They went out from us because they weren’t of us. If they were of us, they wouldn’t have gone out from us. But now, we need to reach him so that he is saved.” So, both groups would describe what has happened a little differently, but both groups would agree we need to reach that person for the Lord Jesus Christ. So, I want to lower the stakes a little bit even though there are differences on this stage as far as that goes. Now, if someone believes that you can sin enough to lose your salvation, then I think we have questions about what did Jesus really do on the cross.

Dr. Pritchett:    Yeah. I want to say nobody on this stage actually believes you can lose your salvation. Okay? Salvation isn’t lost. Salvation is in Christ. Salvation is of the Lord. Okay? People can be lost. Right? People can walk away from Jesus. It can’t be snatched from His hand, but people do walk away and we witness that. Some people — like I said, the Bible uses a lot of language for this. “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Never knew you. Others, you know, they went out from us to show that they never were of us. But the Bible also says that those who don’t abide are cut off and tossed in the fire. It says that people shipwreck a faith. Do they have faith? How can you shipwreck a faith you never had? Right? So, some people have talked about that. It talks about falling away. Right? Being cut off. All of this language. And yeah, some of that language is really, really scary, which is why we have questions like this because, you know what? Those things are in there to scare the people who are wavering in their faith. But if you’re worried about losing your salvation, it’s like worrying about committing the unpardonable sin. You’re probably not going to. And guess what? Going through periods of doubt does not mean that you have lost your salvation or you’re out of Christ because you doubt. In fact, I’ve had periods of doubt in my life. Periods of doubt in my life, where do I go for certainty? It’s not apologetics books. I go to the God that I’m doubting, which means I’m doing okay.

Dr. Flowers:    I think the easiest way to put this is I believe in the eternal security of the believing one. In other words, if you’re not putting your trust in Him, then you don’t need to feel secure. The reason I say that is because I don’t want to give somebody a false hope of their salvation if they’re not trusting in Him. Your hope is in Him. Your trust is in Him. So, if you’re not trusting in Him, I want you to be concerned about that. I want you to come talk to your pastor. I want you to talk to a loved one. I want you to talk to somebody. So, if you’re not trusting in Christ, if you’re not putting your hope in Him, then you need — that should be a huge red flag going off in you. I need to examine the faith, as Paul said. Examine your faith to see if you’re in Him. In other words, trust in Him. And so, what I don’t like from — and I’ll talk about my Southern Baptist upbringing — is this get out of hell free card kind of mentality of saying, “Hey, you walked an aisle when you were seven years old. You prayed this magic prayer. You got dunked in water. Voila. Alakazam. No matter what you do for the rest of your life now, you’re going to go to heaven. So, you can go walk away from God, blaspheme God, do whatever. Hey, you’ve got the get out of hell free card because you did the Baptist thing.”

That is dangerous. That is just plain dangerous, and most people who are objecting against the once saved, always saved position, or the eternal security position, they’re objecting against that form of it. That kind of thing that says, “Well, because you walked an aisle, you said this prayer, you got dunked in water, now you don’t have to think about your salvation.” That’s almost like saying, “Hey, did you get married? Do you have a marriage license? Did you walk up the aisle? Oh, you haven’t spent any time with your spouse since then? You haven’t been with her? You haven’t raised kids with her? And you’re trying to convince me you’re married?” Still, just because you had an experience of walking an aisle with her years and years ago, nobody would do that in any other relationship. And so, I don’t think that we, as a Church, should propagate this idea that because you had some kind of religious experience or you walked an aisle and you said a prayer, that now, hey, that person doesn’t need to think about their security or their relationship with God. I would say just the opposite is true. You should have every reason to listen to those warning texts and take them very, very seriously because He’s trying to warn you about the condition of your soul, and you should listen to the Scriptures.

Dr. Bennett:    Yeah. Well, the warnings are in Scripture. I think what all of us up here can agree on — because we all have some different takes on that whole deal — is that none of us up here believe that any church or any Christian should live in eternal insecurity. And that’s the important thing is that you shouldn’t be — I mean, I grew up — I did. I grew up in a tradition where I was saved on Sunday and, by Sunday night, I was lost until Wednesday. And then, on Wednesday night, I got back to church and I got saved again. But by about Thursday morning, I was out again. And then, by Sunday morning, I was in again. And then, by Sunday night, I was out again. And so, that’s called eternal insecurity. And I don’t think anybody needs to live in that. I mean, if you love God and you’re trying to follow God, I don’t think you need to worry about where you’re at. And I think that’s the question. I think what we all would say we really have an issue against is that Jesus didn’t call us to make a decision. Jesus called us to a relationship.

Dr. Pritchett:    John 15 is the declaration of dependence for all of us who trust in Christ. Abide in Him and you’ll be fine.

Dr. Bennett:    With all the multitude of translations, each translation potentially changing words, phrases, etcetera, how can we be sure that the message we read today is the true, original message? I’m going to jump on this. I think that — just being honest here — yes, there are many translations. But a translation doesn’t mean that you’ve got something wrong. “Como se llama” in Spanish, most people would say that’s, “What’s your name?” Okay? Literally, it’s, “What do you call yourself?” So, if I’m going to translate “como se llama,” am I wrong if I say, “What do you call yourself,” or if I say, “What’s your name?” I’m not wrong. It’s the same thing. It’s just a different way of phrasing it. Most of the things that we have in Scripture are just rephrasings of things, and people act like that somehow takes away from the intent of Scripture. When you’re translating from one language to another, you’re going to get a little bit of variance. There’s nothing, if you’re reading any of the Bibles that we have — you can read the NIV, the ESV, the NASB. Any of those Bibles that you read, they’re 99% of every single thing you’re reading is just exactly about the same thing in all the other translations. And I think we hear the people that are not Christians attack some of these things and erode our faith. I don’t think there’s any reason in the world to think that we don’t have an accurate translation of what Scripture says when we have more documents for the New Testament — nobody — I mean, I teach Plato’s Republic. Nobody questions whether Plato’s Republic is right and I think there’s two or three manuscripts for it. There’s 5,700 manuscripts for the New Testament. Somebody who doesn’t think that we have an accurate reading of Scripture is not being fair to the facts.

Dr. Hunter:      I’d say, first of all, stay away from the New World Translation. That is the Jehovah’s Witness translation of the Bible. It is not a reliable translation. But I agree with everything that your pastor, Dr. Bennett, just said. You know, we talk about — you’ll hear people like Bart Ehrman talk about all the thousands of differences between the manuscripts that we have, and there are so many differences in the manuscripts that we don’t even know how many differences there are.

Dr. Bennett:    Can I jump in real quick? If you have a question, on our website — since you’re promoting yourself. On our Grace website, and on our mobile app, we have Sam Lamerson who came in and did an academic series a year or so ago on textual variance with Bart Ehrman and how we can trust that. Mike Licona came in at another time, who’s a great apologist, and answered some other questions. So, if you have more in-depth stuff that you want to look at, you can go onto the mobile app or the website at Grace Community Church and look at academic series and look those things up and spend another two hours on those particular things. But, go ahead and fire away.

Dr. Hunter:      But you’ll hear them talk about and try to impress you with all the thousands of differences among the manuscripts that we have, but what they don’t necessarily always tell you — some of them do — is that some of those differences are one manuscript says, “Jesus Christ,” the other one says, “Jesus.” The other one says, “The Lord Jesus.” It didn’t change really anything with the meaning, and those differences don’t affect — the differences that we have do not affect major doctrine. Now, whenever we have different manuscript traditions, like the one that the King James Bible and the New King James are based on, and we have translations based on older manuscripts like we do with some of the newer translations, but they’re still all, like Pastor Chip just said, they’re all still giving you the same message. It might be interesting to know that there are translations, like the New American Standard, that are more literal translations trying to give you more of a word-by-word as best they can. And then there are, on the other side of the spectrum, like The Message, which is more of a paraphrase than a translation. And then, smack in the middle, you have stuff like the New International Version that is a translation that occasionally paraphrases things that wouldn’t make any sense to you because it’s a Hebrew idiom that you wouldn’t understand because we don’t use it anymore.

But these are trustworthy. You know? So, they’re giving you the same message, and the message is what matters. And I don’t think that these kinds of translations that you’re going to find at your Christian bookstore, for the most part, are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Dr. Bennett:    It’s 8:53 and we’ll try to answer a few more questions, but I do want to say that bringing people in and doing something like this does incur expenses. And we want to take up an offering. And so, you don’t have to give, and we’re not buying a 54 million dollar jet. We’re flying people in coach and everything. So, we will take up an offering. We’re just going to pass the buckets. We’re not going to stop and any of that stuff. I want to continue to do questions, but we will do that. If you’d like to give and you’d like to support more nights like tonight so we can do these things, it’d be nice if you would give. If you don’t give, that’s fine. We’re still going to do these events. But it does help offset the costs if that’s the case.

So, here’s what we’re going to do right now while those buckets will eventually be — were we not ready for an offering? Sorry if I just dropped it on you.

Female:            Just a second.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. And so, I’m going to do a rapid fire. So, you guys, if you can stay within 30 seconds, just a quick answer. Yes?

Female:            We also have child care until 9:00.

Dr. Bennett:    Yes. So, yeah. We’ll get you out by 9:00. That’s why I’m saying we’re rapid fire. Okay. Here we go. Real quickly. In the Old Testament, more than once, sea monsters are referred to. Is that exactly what it means? Sea monsters or large fish?

Dr. Flowers:    I think it could be large fish.

Dr. Bennett:    Large fish. Okay.

Dr. Flowers:    I don’t think — you watch some of the Discovery Channels, they look like monsters, some of the things you see down there.

Dr. Bennett:    I’ve never caught one at sea. I’m not a fisherman. So, let’s see here. We know we came from Adam and Eve, but where did the wives come from? After God flooded the earth, we know that there was Noah and his wife, but who else was there to help repopulate?

Dr. Hunter:      I think this may sound bothersome to you, but I think that, in a literal reading of that story, then what we had is brothers marrying sisters. And we had couples after Noah, that you don’t have a problem there.

Dr. Bennett:    Why are some elected to be saved and some never come to the Lord?

Dr. Hunter:      You want us to answer that in 30 seconds?

Dr. Flowers:    I will refer you to Soteriology101.com, that’s my podcast, and I actually talk about election, predestination and the fact that, in my view, I used to be one who believe that God elects certain people for salvation and not others. I actually now hold to the view that God provides salvation for every man, woman, boy and girl and that anyone may be saved. And if you want more information on that, that’s what I wrote my dissertation on and that’s what the podcast is about. Soteriology 101.

Dr. Bennett:    One of the seven statements Jesus makes from the cross is paraphrased, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Since Jesus, on that day, was not in paradise because He died and He was in a tomb, where did the criminal go?

Dr. Pritchett:    Greek has no punctuation, so it depends on where you want to put that comma. I tell you today, you will be with in paradise. I tell you today you will be with me in paradise. I think that we can over analyze phrases to where we can get ourselves into puzzles that we shouldn’t be. The point is the thief on the cross was going to heaven to be with Jesus.

Dr. Bennett:    Is there any truth to being slain in the Spirit? Can I answer that? Let me answer this. In John, we have a passage where Jesus, the soldiers are coming and Jesus says to them, “I am,” and they all fell back and went down. Okay? So, if that is slain in the Spirit, we have a biblical reference of people falling backwards because Jesus said something. So, there’s at least a biblical reference for something. I don’t know that every time somebody hits somebody on the head on TV or it happens in a church, I don’t think anybody could guarantee that any of that is always true, but I think we ought to be careful in saying what God can and can’t do because He is God.

Briefly explain carbon dating and why they are now saying they have issues with this method of proof. Bless you.

Dr. Pritchett:    I’m not a scientist.

Dr. Hunter:      I don’t know. I love I don’t know. Well, I mean, it’s going to have an impact on the age of the earth question again, right? And we’ve already said that we believe that there are people that are faithful believers on both sides of that question. Even if you think that evolution is beyond the pale, it’s still that young earth and old earth Christians still argue about these things. My understanding is that there are problems with certain types of dating. But, again, I’m not a scientist, so I don’t have an opinion beyond that. But it has to do with the age of the earth.

Dr. Flowers:    If only scientists would say the same thing when they’re asked theological questions, we’d be in a lot better place.

Dr. Hunter:      Amen.

Dr. Bennett:    Why and how were the books that aren’t part of the Old Testament and New Testament not included?

Dr. Pritchett:    There was not a consensus in the early Church of the use of the books that were left out. Now, during — people don’t know this, but the Apocrypha wasn’t technically canonized into the Catholic Bible until the reformation. So, the reason why we have the books that we have is because they were either written by an eye witness or an apostle and they brought along the Old Testament canon that Jesus affirmed that probably, because of the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Bible that the New Testament authors used, we take all of that because the earliest Church can attest for using the 66 books you have in your Bible. Other letters were disputed but had around 325 or [inaudible] and we pretty much had the canon. Now, that said, I think people like Dr. Bennett and I, we don’t have a problem with people reading the book of Enoch, for example. Or you read — it’s actually mentioned in Jude, in 1 Peter. Referenced. If you want to read the wisdom of Solomon, or Tobit is one of my favorite stories from the Apocrypha. It’s a great story. I don’t think — you shouldn’t be scared of it. Just recognize that it’s not inspired Scripture. But it does help us as New Testament scholars to get into what were the Apostles reading for the New Testament, and it’s pretty clear that they share some ideas with that, with those documents, and they have differences with those documents. And it’s really interesting to see both the similarities and the differences.

Dr. Bennett:    Okay. Well, it’s 8:59 and as Nanette, our children’s director, let me know that we do have childcare till 9:00. So, we’re going to call this night. Let me ask you a question. Has everybody enjoyed tonight? Has this been good? Okay. Good. And can we give these guys a hand for being here? Part of my deal as the pastor, I want to also provide an opportunity for people to have an education, because I’m also a professor and I think these are great venues. We’ll continue to do this throughout the summer. We’ll be bringing in some other people and I hope you can join us when they come. We’ll have a quick word of prayer dismissal. We will stay up here. There are some questions that were not answered. I’m sorry. We actually answered this many, so we did pretty good. If you have some questions, you can stay later and ask us up here. We’ll stay. But, let’s close in prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray right now that You would give us all traveling mercies as we leave. Most importantly, right as we leave here, Lord, I do pray that if there is anybody here this evening by chance just happens to be here that is not a Christian, Lord, maybe they’re at a place where they may feel like they’ve been trying to do life on their own, and maybe it’s not working. Maybe tonight they felt like maybe they didn’t stumble in here just by accident. Maybe they were here because it wasn’t by accident. And they’re sort of feeling anything or thinking something about Christianity. Lord, I pray that they would know that they can come talk to any of us or anybody with a Grace name badge on. We will be happy to talk to them about that with no judgment and just total love. Lord, I pray that if somebody’s feeling that, that they would come forth and make that decision here as we dismiss. So, Lord, send everybody out of here. I pray that we’ve been encouraged in our faith. I pray, Lord, that we see that the local Church can actually talk about things that are difficult, that we can disagree as Christians and we can still be Christians on things because we believe that Jesus rose from the dead and He’s going to return someday.

So, we thank You for everything. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.” And, last word, if you go to Grace Community Church because you came out on a Wednesday night does not give you a free get out of jail card for Saturday or Sunday services. I’m just kidding. God bless everybody. Have a great night.

Summer Academic Series: The Law & Grace Debate


[Chip Bennett]: I want to welcome everybody, once again, to another Academic Series. As most of you all probably know, but if you’re a guest here, my name is Chip Bennett and I am the pastor here at Grace Community Church and the church that is hosting this event this evening. I’m also an adjunct professor at Southeastern University and an adjunct professor at Knox Theological Seminary. My areas of expertise are systematic theology, hermeneutics, homiletics and the classics of the Western literary canon. We’re going to be joined on stage, shortly here, by Dr. Dale Coulter.

Dale is an associate professor of historical theology as Regent University School of Divinity. He received his undergraduate degree at Lee College, which is now Lee University. My alma mater as well. We were both in college at the same time, and we knew each other. He did his master’s work at Reformed Theological Seminary, and his doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, where he focused on the Middle Ages and the 12th Century in particular. So, he is a patristics scholar and an Oxford graduate, so you can sort of tell the level of education that he’s had.

So, on behalf of both of us and Grace Community Church, we welcome everybody and we’d like to get started with a word of prayer. So, would you bow your heads with me and let’s start with prayer?

Dear Lord, I come to You this evening asking that You would bless our time together as we do our best to present Your people Your truth. I pray that You would be with all of us here this evening so that we can be intellectually challenged, spiritually engaged, but, most importantly, that we would leave here with a greater appreciation for You. Jesus, we love You. We lift You up. This is Your church, and we’re Your people. We’ve gathered not only to be taught from the Word of God, but to receive Your Word. I pray that You would especially be with Dr. Coulter, as he is Your chosen instrument this evening to help us understand a very tough issue in the church. Give him Your words and Your Spirit to help us navigate through some challenging waters.

Give us, Lord, ears to hear. Lord, let us lay down our agendas and our opinions, and let us bow and revere Your Word, which will ultimately lead us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus, and it’s in His name that we pray, and everybody said, “amen.”

As many of you all are aware here, the Academic Series has become hugely successful over the summers here at Grace. It’s sort of hard to not have great attendance and great evenings when you have people of the caliber of Dale. So, thanks everybody for being here and for supporting education in the local church. This is the third of our three evenings that we’re going to do this summer, and I think each one has been great and I think tonight will be great as well.

The original vision behind this Academic Series was to bring academic scholarship at the highest level to the local church, and we’ve been doing that and we continue to plan to do so. These are informative evenings, so they’re educational in nature. We want people of faith, people in the community, and even non-believers to be able to interact with the real academic issues and we hope that you will continue to support these evenings by your attendance.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to learning. The two things that we want to accomplish tonight is, one, we want to have a genuine academic learning experience in the local church. And, two, we want you to be able to wrestle with one of the perennial issues in the church, which is the law and grace debate.

The law and grace debate surfaced, for my personally, in the 1990’s. I was an associate pastor in Miramar, Florida working on a master’s degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. They had an extension site at the Miami Christian College. One of my professors was Doug Moo. And he was working, while he was teaching me New Testament Theology and Criticism, on an essay that he had been asked to contribute to a forthcoming book on the place of the law in the Christian life. It was called “Five Views of the Law.”

As he talked about that in class, it led me to consider the law and its place in the life of the Christian in ways I had really never considered. I really only knew one usage of the law, and wasn’t aware of the historicity of the church in this particular issue. As I was working through these issues, I was confronted with works from James Dunn, Heike Reisnan, Frank Tillman and others. So, there was a whole new world that opened up for me as I studied this subject. It wasn’t as easy as I had previously believed.

Make a note somewhere in your notes tonight. Put it in your Bible. This is a truism I promise you you’ll want to take home with you. I promise you.

Theological issues that are easy haven’t been properly worked through. Write that down. I promise you. Take it home. At some point, you’ll go, “He’s right.”

So, as I started working through that and I was reading the books and doing the things that I was doing for the class, in the local church that I was pastoring in, a wave of Christians needing to keep the Old Testament law came into the church that I was at. So, I had sort of two things coinciding at ones, and it really made me reflect upon these two areas of law and grace. So, as I reflected upon that, I was trying to figure out how they work together, what they do or don’t work together at all. Eventually, that controversy died down and I moved on to other things theologically.

But, it wasn’t until the last few years that the struggle reared again. This time, it wasn’t keeping the Old Testament law that was in play, but it was a new movement. This movement seemed to be fed up with the legalism in the church and performance oriented religion, and it had basically cast off almost every restraint in the name of grace. Basically, to summarize it: Law is bad; grace is good. And that might be a tad of an oversimplification, but it does pretty well explain a lot of the positions of this new movement. Teachers such as Joseph Prince, Steve McVey, Andrew Farley, Paul Ellis and others have been somewhat successful at birthing a movement within the pews of many churches.

It comes under the names of “The Grace Movement,” “The Exchanged Life Teaching,” or, those who look at it more critically would call it “Hyper Grace.” So, some of the questions that we need to deal with tonight is does the Grace Movement, or the Hyper Grace Movement, stand up to any type of critical scholarship? Do they possibly focus on one area of the law to the detriment of the others? Maybe they’re not even aware that there are other elements of the law. Another question that needs to be addressed is what is expected of a Christian? Is there anything to sanctification at all? Has the historical church been wrong for 2,000 years about the disciplines of the faith?

Are you and I dead and only Christ lives in us? So, only when we’re moved on to do something do we do it? That would probably sound a little bit like a Christian Weekend at Bernie’s experience. So, what does it mean for Christ to be in us? What do the ethical admonitions of the Epistles mean? Do they have any meaning at all? Are we called to holiness? Is there any truth to the rejection of the legalism in performance-based Christianity that we see in these new movements? These, and others like that, are real questions, and they deserve real answers. So, hopefully, before you leave tonight, you’ll be given some answers to these types of questions.

On your seats, you have a 3x5 card, I hope, or you were given one on the way in. If you weren’t given one, let’s make sure you do get one. Did everybody get one on the way in? Good. On that 3x5 card, as the evening is going on, please feel free to write down any questions that you may have, and we’ll collect them a little later this evening. We’re going to do our best to get to every single one of them during our Q&A session. So, we want you to ask questions. Part of the reason we do this is not just to lecture, but to do Q&A.

So, with no further delay at all, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Dale Coulter. Could you all give him a warm hand as he comes up this evening? It’s so great to have you, man.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: I appreciate it.

[Chip Bennett]: Teach us, man. Teach us.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: It’s great to be back in Florida. I grew up in Florida on the other side of the state; on the Space Coast, in Brevard Count in a little town called Palm Bay. I actually was just over there with my family on a vacation for about a week on that beach. So, it’s kind of the first time in my life that within a three-week period I was from the east coast to the west coast. I went from the brown beaches to the white sands over here. I went over to the beach today. I walked on the beach and thought, “I can’t go to Florida and not walk on the beach. It’s just what you do.

It’s great to be here with you. It’s great to be here with Pastor Chip and reconnect with him. He’s right. We both graduated from Lee University together in 1992, and really have gone our separate ways and only recently have reconnected. So, it’s just great to kind of get caught up with what God’s been doing in his life here at Grace Community and this church and hearing so many wonderful things about this church. It kind of makes me want to move. I always want to move back to Florida anyway. It kind of makes me want to move here and start attending the church.

So, I’m really excited to be here. I want to talk to you about law and grace and kind of move through this topic. Pastor Chip is right. It’s a perennial topic. It’s been around for a while. It goes all the way back to the reformation, in fact. They were debating this in the 1500’s, if you can believe it. And we continue to debate this and how we think about the relationship between the two and how we might understand them. So, what I want to do is sort of start off by looking at the challenge.

Let’s see if that gets that right. Keep clicking. Keep clicking. I’m going through Grace Community Church ads here. Just a few commercial advertisements before we begin. There we go. Now we’re on it. Okay.

Alright. So, let’s talk about some challenges real quick to kind of get things out on the table just so that we’re all on the same page. And then I’ll talk a little bit about the law and how we can understand it. Then I’ll talk about grace and how we understand that. And I’ll kind of bring it all to a conclusion. So, that’s kind of what we’re going to do. Challenge. Law. Grace. Wrapping it all up together. And then we’ll open it up for Q&A at the end. Simple enough.

So, too much law. One challenge. That’s one side of the equation. And you have to think about law and grace as two sides and there’s a pendulum. In history, the pendulum swings; sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other. It usually depends on the cultural issues and the cultural challenges of the day as to where the pendulum is swinging right now. Sometimes, it’s not just broadly like in the United States. Sometimes the pendulum is far to the grace side in one sector, like maybe in Florida. And sometimes it’s far to the law side in another sector, like maybe in Kansas or something like that. So, a lot of times it even depends on where you live as to where the pendulum is.

So, let’s just think about it. If the pendulum is swinging to the law – too much law – what does that look like? Well, the first thing is it’s combining a strict code of holy living or doctrinal conformity with an emphasis on divine judgment. It’s very important that you think about both of those together. Strict code. And it’s not just about holy living, how we should live, but also doctrinal conformity and what we should believe. A strict code on that. That’s usually reinforced by appeals to divine judgment. If you don’t do this, judgment will happen. Right? Judgment is just around the corner.

So, it’s a way of kind of keeping everybody in line. Of course, judgment reinforces some concerns and some anxieties. Sometimes that anxiety can spill over into fear. So, here’s what I mean when I say, “Strict code of holy living.” There’s this word that I want to introduce you to tonight. Some of you may have already heard of it. Some of you might not have. It’s called “adiaphora.” Has anyone heard of this term “adiaphora?” Some of you have. Most of you have not. Okay. It ultimately comes from Greek philosophy, and it just simply is referring to things of indifference. That’s what it means. Things of indifference. Matters of indifference.

New Testament scholars have suggested that when Paul is dealing with certain parts of the law, he’s talking about matters of indifference. For example, if you look in the book of Galatians in his letter, twice in that he says, “Circumcision and uncircumcision count for nothing,” and then at the end he wraps it up by punching it home, saying, “What counts is a new creation.”

He says the same thing in 1 Corinthians. That’s because the issue is circumcision in relationship to being part of the people of God. Did you need to be circumcised to be part of the people of God, especially since Christ has now come? And Paul’s answer to that is no way. But, what he does is he consigns circumcision to a matter of adiaphora. That is to say it’s something of indifference. What that means is it’s sort of morally neutral. It doesn’t really matter. You can do it. And he actually has his ministry companion, Timothy, this younger son in the faith, circumcised. Not because Paul thinks at that moment that Timothy has to be circumcised in order to come to Christ. He thinks, “Oh, it’s a culturally expedient thing to do. You’re going to minister to Jewish people and circumcision is very important? You ought to be circumcised. You don’t have to, but it’s a matter that you should engage in.”

So, matters of indifference are these things that are somewhat morally neutral, and they could be points of strong debate. Circumcision was a point of strong debate. But, for Paul, you could do it, you don’t have to. So, when I talk about a strict code of holy living or doctrinal conformity, here’s what I’m talking about: When you think about something that’s a matter of indifference, you’re talking about something that’s on the periphery of the faith. A doctrinal commitment that might be on the periphery, or a moral commitment that might be on the periphery.

Circumcision, for Paul, was on the periphery. But, the folks who showed up in the house churches in Galatia took it from the periphery and moved it to the center. So, when you talk about a strict holy code, you’re talking about someone who takes something that’s on the periphery and moves it to the center and says, “This is what it means to be a Christian. You’ve got to do this.”

I’ll give you some examples here. I grew up in a very strict holiness environment. In fact, Pastor Chip and I grew up in the same strict holiness environment. My mother, it was even stricter for her. Only dresses. When she went to PE, one of her challenges growing up was she was not allowed to wear pants as a woman. She could only wear long dresses, and she would tell me about her struggles as a teenager trying to do PE exercises in dresses. But, that’s what it meant to be holy. Right? She couldn’t even read comic strips.

To this day, she loves comics, but she has this tinge of a sort of guilt hovering in the background that maybe she’s doing something she shouldn’t be doing. It’s one of these guilty pleasures for her. You think, “Comic strips? Guilty pleasure? Wow.”

But, it’s because she was raised and these kind of entertainment issues were not on the periphery. They were in the center and they had to do with debates over what should Christians do about entertainment. Now, you can think about those debates as really relating to a matter of indifference. You can go or you can’t go. It’s up to you. It depends on your own conscience. But, for my mother, the way she was raised in holiness circles, man, these things were right at the center. So, for her, it was just if you did it, you were guilty, and that was reinforced by appeals to divine judgment. Right?

“Without holiness, no one will see God. If you’re not living holy – and we define holiness in very strict ways – then you’re not doing what God wants you to do.”

That’s an over-emphasis. What’s at the root of that is this confusion, I think, of social mores with biblical morals. A confusion of mores with morals. Here’s what I mean: My wife and I really like Downton Abbey. I don’t know if there are any Downton Abbey fans in here. It’s a PBS series. Okay. I’ve got some Downton Abbey fans. Great. We’re going back through the whole series this summer, because it’s free on Amazon. So, every night she comes in and we just pull up, have dinner and watch some Downton.

If you look at that series, one of the themes that’s traced through the whole series is this shift from the age of Queen Victoria and King Edward – the Edwardian age, which is 1900-1910 – to this new world that emerges after World War I going into World War II. This new world in which the British Aristocracy are just sort of fading away and the world that they came from, where you dressed a certain way for dinner and you dressed a certain way during the day and it was all about the way you dressed and dress codes were really critical – I mean, there were a lot of social mores about dress codes, and if you didn’t dress properly, you were told about it. Even those who were sort of common had to dress in particular ways. Right?

All of those dress codes, right, which now, today, those things are out the window. Especially in Florida. I mean, I don’t know if you, growing up in Florida. For me, going to church, hey, Florida is Florida. It’s a beach community. We just kind of hang out and dress casual and it’s what we do. I mean, that’s just the way it was for me on the other side of the state. I don’t know that if you grew up in Florida on this side of the state that that’s the way it was. But, we have come well beyond those. But, some Christian groups coming out of that period of time thought dress was connected to holiness. Modesty ought to be manifested in the kinds of clothes that you wear. So, you ought to dress in particular ways to reflect a holy God.

So, they were confusing social mores about how you dress with biblical morals, even though dressing is a matter of adiaphora. It’s a matter of indifference. So, in that respect, there’s too much law going on in the middle of all of that.

Now, let’s shift to the other side. Too much grace. This is if the pendulum swings back in the other direction. I would say combining an anemic view of holy living with an emphasis on diving acceptance. The opposite of judgment. Divine acceptance. God accepts you as you are. It doesn’t matter what you do. That sort of thing. And an anemic view of holy living, what I mean by that is it’s sort of similar. It’s allowing social mores to define and shape biblical morals, but in a slightly different way than in the former way. It’s where, for example, I’ll give you this example: I had a family friend who, one time, went to her mother and said she wanted to live with another guy.

She said, “Look, times are changing, mom. People aren’t doing what – your standards are not my standards. I’m growing up in a new era and we don’t have to do what you do anymore. That’s just the way it is, mom.”

The whole point that she was making are these social mores are just the way it is, and I read the Bible different because these social mores are now acceptable, this is acceptable behavior. I know it wasn’t in your day, but it is today. That’s the way it goes. So, there’s a sense in which there’s a swing to allow whatever the emerging set of social mores might be to define biblical values.

Now, when I say an anemic view of holy living with an emphasis on divine acceptance, here’s what I mean, and this sort of relates to a person that Pastor Chip mentioned a few moments ago. A guy named Joseph Prince, who’s written a number of books on this. I don’t know if you’ve read any of his books. He’s a pastor. He’s written a lot of books. If you read some of his books about law and grace, he has a pretty truncated view of the law. The law, for him, only has a negative function in the Christian life. What I mean by that is he says, “The purpose of the law is to convict us of sin. That’s it. That’s what its purpose is, to tell you that you’re a sinner.”

So, the law presents a standard before you that sort of is held up like a mirror to your soul. You look at the standard and, on the basis, you recognize that you don’t measure up to the standard, and the effect of that ought to be convicting you in some way. That’s all the law does. It’s purely negative. So, the law, in a sense, if you sort of tease out that view, is related to a list of do’s and don’ts. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.

If you take that kind of view and sort of thread it all out, you can see how that kind of way of thinking about the law sort of makes you think that the only purpose of the law is really to tell you how far short you’ve fallen. It’s to tell you what you’re not doing right. It’s to sort of bring judgment down upon you. It’s just a negative view. I think it’s out of sort of truncated views of the law like that that you get to positions in culture like, “I don’t want to be a Christian.”


“Because Christians don’t have any fun.”

“Why don’t they have any fun?”

“Because they don’t get to do anything, because there are all these rules and regulations that they have to follow. If I really want to do something – I want to have fun with life. The Christians are boring.”

That sort of thing. The idea behind it is that the law is just there to restrict my freedom. That’s the idea behind that sort of common criticism of Christianity. And there’s an assumption of what freedom actually is there. The assumption is freedom is maximizing my choices. The more choices I have, the more free I am. Whereas, the law simply minimizes. It’s telling me what I can’t do. Don’t do this, don’t do that. That sort of thing.

There’s a real issue here as to whether freedom really means maximizing our choices. That is to say, the more choices you have, the more free you actually are. If you’ve run a business – and I assume some of you have, and I know Pastor Chip has – you know that what you really are trying to do is to restrict the choices of your employees that are underneath you. You’re trying to regulate their freedom. What you mean by regulate is we live in light of these particular governing principles which govern our business. Within these principles, then, if you conform your activity to these principles, this is how this business is going to grow. We have certain goals. You need to conform what you do to goals, and that’s how you achieve them. If you are just doing whatever you want to do, we’re not going anywhere and we’re not achieving anything. We’re just all going a number of directions.

In other words, one of the goals I would say if you’re a boss is to restrict. But, you recognize that in regulating the freedom of the employee, you’re directing it. Toward what? Toward the good of the business. I do that all the time with my kids. Right? I regulate their freedom. My kids – I’ve said this to them so many times now that they can repeat it back to me.

“I know, dad. If I don’t discipline myself, you’re going to discipline me.”

You’re right. I tell them, “What’s it mean to be an adult? An adult is supposed to discipline himself or herself. An adult has to regulate his or her behavior. Right now, you’re a kid. I know that you really don’t regulate your behavior. So, I’ll regulate it for you if I have to. But, my hope is that one day you will self-regulate so that I don’t have to.”

In other words, regulated freedom is conforming our freedom to the truth. When we conform our freedom to the truth about who we are, the truth about the world that we’re living in, then we can achieve the goals that we want to achieve. Let me just give you something to think about. We say that God is the most free being in all of the universe. There’s no being like God. God is more free than anyone else. And yet, God, there are choices that are open to you that are actually not open to God.

God cannot, by definition, sin. It would be a contradiction in the very nature of God to sin. Yet, God is more free than you are. And you can. It’s a possibility that you have. And that doesn’t mean just one sinful action. Think about all the think about all the hosts of sinful actions that are out there. God cannot, by definition, do that, because it would contradict His very nature.

So, God’s freedom – we might say that God’s less free than we are if that were our definition of freedom, if freedom was just defined exclusively in terms of the maximization of choice. But, if we say that real freedom is regulate freedom, freedom in conformity to goodness, to what is genuinely good, freedom in conformity to what is genuinely true, now we can see that God is actually the most free, because there is never a time when God’s freedom is not acted in concert with goodness and truth. God always acts in concert with goodness. God always acts for His own good and for your good and my good. He does this by nature.

We are working toward a place where, one day, we will be like the saints in heaven. We say that we will be absolutely free. And, in that moment, we will not be capable of sinning. That tells us that freedom has to be different than the maximization of choices. I am most free when every choice I make maximizes my good. And I may only have a handful of choices, but if all of those choices lead to my flourishing as a human being and maximize who I am, then that is all I need. Right? That is all I need.

So, too much grace really has this anemic view of holy living where it sort of defines the law in a wholly negative way. And I’ve tried to sort of draw out from that, as you see, when you define the law in a wholly negative way, it’s a list of don’t do this and don’t do that, then you can get to this ultimate point that Christians don’t have any fun because it’s all about restricting your freedom. What I’ve tried to do is a little bit challenge that notion of restricting your freedom.

Actually, God doesn’t want to restrict your freedom. God wants you to use your freedom in a way that actually is for your good and for the good of others, not in ways that are self-destructive. God doesn’t want to keep you from using creation. He doesn’t want to keep you from enjoying life. He wants to keep you from using it in destructive ways; ways that destroy you and destroy those that are around you. That’s the whole premise behind the idea of enslaved to sin. We don’t use creation in the way God intended it. So, it becomes a destructive force in us and in others.

Alright? Drugs, which are a product of our environment by some sort of chemical analysis where we discover how to manipulate all of these natural goods, these plants and all of that, and bring them into a way that can cure the body? That’s a wonderful thing. Drugs used in the right way are used in a wonderful way. But, we can use that same aspect of creation in a self-destructive fashion, and it can become a self-destructive mechanism for us and for others. The problem is not in the drugs themselves. The problem is how we relate to them and how we use them and how we employ them. Right? That’s the issue that’s going on there.

Okay. So, we’ve got these two pendulums. Too much grace. There’s this divine acceptance of all kinds of behavior. Freedom means maximization of choice and all that sort of thing. Too much law. There’s this emphasis on judgment. I’m all the time feeling like either I’m holier than everybody else because I’m living a lifestyle that nobody else does – I’m dressing more conservatively than everybody else – or I’m living with this cycle of doubt and despair where I think I’ll never measure up enough. I can never quite get it right and I’m in a performance oriented form of Christianity where, if I’m not reading my Bible 30 minutes a day, if I’m not praying so much time every bit... you know, you can really define what it means to be a holy Christian in very specific ways. And, if you’re not careful, you can paint yourself into a corner and then you start feeling guilty about it.

In the same way that if you’ve ever gone on a diet – I have, many times. You can see that it doesn’t always work for me. And you start feeling guilty because you are not – you know, you start off gung-ho, restricting yourself. You think, “This is working.” Sometimes you want to go even further and restrict yourself, and then you start feeling guilty for the little nibbles and the little pleasures of ice cream and the little things that you start doing to sort of reward yourself. Before you know it, you’ve just kind of giving up the ghost.

I mean, if you’re in too much legalism sometimes, or too much law, you can get so frustrated that you just say, “I’m going to give it up. It’s not worth it.”

So, let’s talk about how to understand the law in relationship to grace. Go down this road a little bit. Let me talk about creation for just a few moments, and then I’m going to jump in and talk about the law as it unfolds. So, a couple of points about creation. One: The image of God points toward design and purpose. The whole idea behind the Bible saying that humans are created in the image is to say that humans are endowed with a God-given purpose. They both mirror or reflect who God is. That’s design. Who we are reflects who God is. And that design holds within it purpose. So, God has designed us as moral beings.

Therefore, morality is a reflection of who God is. There’s a kind of what you could call, for Catholics, natural law. C.S. Lewis in the Abolition of Man talks about natural law, if you’ve read that book. He calls it “the Tao.” All he’s doing is borrowing a Chinese term which means “the Way.” He means that if you look at various cultures, what you can discover is there are common sets of moral principles. Those common sets of moral principles, humans have discovered on their own. Why have they discovered them on their own? Because, God has designed humans to reflect Him. There’s a moral center to human existence. We can discover that moral center if we pay attention to who we are.

We can discover, for example, that knowledge is good to be pursued. We should pursue knowledge, learning and what we are doing right now as a good. Why? Because, you have something in you called curiosity. Now, we can debate all night – and I’m sure we would debate all night – about what kind of knowledge ought to be pursued. My son wants to be an engineer, but he doesn’t want to do math. And I tell him, “Son, you can’t get to the latter without the former.”

He’s curious about engineering. His curiosity is piqued about that. But, not math. Right? So, we can debate the kinds of knowledge and point the fact that God has built it into the fabric of human nature that we are curious animals, and learning is generated from that. So, you know you don’t need a Bible to tell you that knowledge is good to be pursued. You don’t even need a Bible to tell you that you shouldn’t murder someone else. You know, you have an instinct, a fight or flight instinct, to preserve your own existence. I put you in a room, I threaten your life, and that will manifest itself automatically. It will come from who you are as a human being. That ought to tell you that life is a good to be pursued. You will instinctively preserve your own existence.

Every day you live out of that, because you take care to eat, you take care to clothe yourself, you make sure that you have a place to sleep at night and you do all those sorts of things to take care of who you are. You look on other human beings who don’t engage in those activities as either something is wrong with them or there are sets of circumstances that are preventing them from taking care of themselves, and you sometimes try to help them. Why? Because, you’re living out of your own instinct to preserve your life, and you’re just applying it some more. That’s conscience. That’s the natural law.

So, there’s a law of God, Paul says in Romans, written on the heart. It says, “The Gentiles who do not have Torah [the law] do by nature what the law requires, for they have a law written on their heart.”

What is he talking about? The natural law. The law written on your heart. The law that comes from your own desires to preserve your life, curiosity, and those sorts of things. The image of God, then, points toward design and purpose. It tells you what’s good. It gives you a moral center, in a sense. So, there’s a moral law within that reflects God’s design for the universe.

Now, let’s go forward for just a second. However, while there is a moral law within, there’s sin. Let’s think about that for just a few minutes here. I want to talk about sin in two ways. The first way is sin is a transgression of the law of God. Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Or forgive us our “debts.” It depends on how you want to translate that passage.

Paul will differentiate between sin and trespasses, or transgressions. He will talk about those differences. When we think of trespasses or transgressions, we’re thinking about sinful actions or sinful intentions. Think about it this way: Temptation really is when you are attracted to something. Something that if you were to engage in, a form of behavior that if you were engaged in would be a contradiction to God’s law. Right? You want to kill somebody. Maybe you want to kill somebody because you’re driving down the road and that person cut you off. Right? And road rage, suddenly, from out of nowhere. An impulse called anger emerges in your being and begins to take over, and suddenly thoughts begin to emerge in your mind of what you will do to this person should you track him or her down who has dared to cut you off.

I’ve been there. Now, the question becomes, what do you do with this? Right? At that point, it’s an emotion connected to a series of thoughts. That brings you into the possibility of making a decision. Do you consent to this? Some people do. And what do they do? They step on the gas.

“I’m going after this person.”

Right? Road rage incident. If you consent, go over, take that person, harm that person or, God forbid, take that person’s life, yeah, you’ve sinned. You’ve contradicted the law of God. But, you don’t have to consent. Now, the point for me is sin, as a transgression, comes in the moment of consent. Temptation is not sin. Temptation is when the experience comes upon you, of attraction, to do a set of possibilities. The question is what will you do when the set of possibilities emerge? If you consent to that – and you don’t even have to commit the action to consent, right? Think about what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.

“To the one who lusts in his own mind after another woman, he has committed adultery in his heart whether he does the deed or not.”

In other words, if you are attracted, you consent to the attraction, you play the image in your mind, you work it out, you live in the fantasy in your mind – if you’re consenting to that over and over, at that point you have entered into a mental adultery; an adulterous affair whether you go through the action or not. That’s what Jesus is trying to say. But, the key is consent. It’s always consent. We’re attracted to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. It doesn’t mean it’s sin to do that. Right? Sin is always in consent.

So, that’s the first thing. Second: Sin is a condition that enslaves. That’s the trickier thing. Right? When scripture says, in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” it means that we’re all born in some condition. We can call it a disease if we want to. Now, how does the Bible describe this disease, as it were? I say it’s a disease because it’s not natural to us. It may be common, but it’s not natural. When I say it’s common, I mean everybody in the human race has this disease. But, it’s not natural. We shouldn’t have it. It’s not the way things ought to be. Right?

And, I don’t know if you can read all these, but if you look at some of these Scriptures I’ve given you, I want to point out something: What’s common to all of them is the language of desire or passion. Right? So, Romans 6:12: “Do not let sin reign that you should obey it in its desires.”

Sometimes it gets translated “lusts.” But, all “lust” means in that context is not sexual lust, but a strong desire for. Right? Well, in the flesh, the sinful passions were at work, Paul says in Romans 7. Or, in Ephesians 2:3, “We all once lived in the lusts of the flesh.”

“Each one is tempted when drawn away by his own desires,” James says in James 1:14. Or, in 1 John, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.”

When you look at the way Scripture describes sin as a condition, it’s always centered on desire and emotion. Sin is the desiring disease. It’s a problem of our desires not being properly ordered. Our desires are directing us in the wrong ways and connecting us.

How can you be enslaved to an Audi? After all, it’s an inanimate object. It doesn’t really beacon your name, does it? Or does it? Some people say, “That car’s calling my name.”

How can a car call your name when it can’t speak? Because, you have a desire for the car. Right? The problem is not the car. Drive an Audi if you want. I don’t care. The problem is not the car. The problem is your relationship to the car. So, the car can actually enslave you because of your desire. If you think the car adds value to your life, if you think the car makes you somebody, if you think the car makes you the kind of person that you want to really be, a person of stature, honor, influence and those sorts of things – if that car, should it be taken away from you, makes you something less than what you are, at that point that car has become an enslaving mechanism for you. It has nothing to do with the car. It has to do with your relationship. You’ve overvalued it.

But, remember: You don’t value anything you don’t desire. Value is connected to desire. You value something the more you desire it. Sin is when our desires are messed up and we don’t have our values right. That’s why Scripture says, “Love God first. Number one value. Love your neighbor. That would include yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself. So, you have to include yourself in your neighbor. And then love creation.”

That’s the order. There’s a hierarchy there. There’s an importance there. If you will order your life that way, if you will arrange your desires – love for God first, love for neighbor second, love for creation third – then you can do everything you want with creation, because you’re loving it in the right way. It ceases to be an enslaving mechanism. But, the problem of sin as a disease is that that hierarchy is all messed up. We will love our self over God. When we love our self over God, that’s selfishness. That’s how it manifests. It’s a desire for myself over or against God.

We can love a part of creation and privilege that part of creation over God. We can love this drink, this food, this whatever. This house, this car. You name it. Remember: Scripture doesn’t say money is the root of all evil. It says the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s all about the relationship we have to money; not money. The problem is not money. The problem is the way you relate to money. You can have all the money in the world if you are rightly related to it. That’s one of the reasons why Scripture admonishes us to give away things. Because, when you give away money, it’s a direct assault on your desire for money. I don’t need it. I’m giving it. I’m giving it. I don’t need it. I’m saying, “You are my source, God. You are my source. So, I’m going to give this. You are my source. I don’t want to become enslaved to this, so I’m giving this away because I don’t want it to dominate my life.”

So, there’s a sense in which God has to do two things. He has to deal with sin in both of these ways, okay? Both the transgressions – but the transgressions are a manifestation of a deeper condition, and that deeper condition is that our desires and emotions are messed up.

Now, let’s, in light of that, talk about the law, and then we’re going to go to grace. So, I’ve said the Old Testament law in threes. I’m going to talk about two threes. Two three-fold ways of talking about the law. First is three dimensions. When we think about the law in the Old Testament, we can divide it up into three areas that it covers. Three areas. Ceremonial, feasts and festivals, practices like circumcision. All of those things that govern Jewish existence. Yom Kippur. Feast of Tabernacles. You name it.

We could talk about civil. There are criminal laws that govern the life of the nation of Israel. You stone a person if they’re caught in this particular kind of sin. That’s a civil law. It’s a crime against the state, and the state exacts punishment and the punishment is the death penalty. You’ll read some laws in Leviticus and others that are like that. Sabbatical years. Every seven years, you give back certain things. That’s a law that governs the life of the nation. So, it’s a civil law that they ought to have cities of refugee. Because, what happens if you accidentally kill somebody and then their family wants to take revenge on you? You run to the city of refuge in the nation of Israel. That’s a civil law that sort of governs their existence.

Then there’s the moral law. The moral law would be laws like the Ten Commandments, which would be the center of the moral law. You think about the way the Ten Commandments are structured. They are structured along two lines. The first four tell you how to love God. You know, the two greatest commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. So, the first four tell you how to love God. They give you specific ways of loving God.

“You shall have no other God’s before me. Don’t make any idols. Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vein. Remember the sabbath and keep it holy. If you really love me, respect my name. If you really love me, put me first. If you really love me, don’t value something to the point that it takes my place. If you really love me, set a day aside to honor me.”

That’s the specific way about how you think about loving God. The last six are love for neighbor. Start off with honor your father and your mother, do not steal, do not bear false witness against your neighbor, do not commit adultery and those sorts of things. Do not covet.

All of those are ways in which you treat your neighbor. You want to know how you treat your neighbor? Respect their property. Don’t steal it. Alright? Don’t covet it either. Respect your parents. Those sorts of things. Respect the truth. Don’t bear false witness. Respect the truth with respect to your neighbor. Don’t do those sorts of things.

So, the law, the moral law, is about that. It’s separate. So, when we think about the law, we have to think about these three dimensions. Because, when we talk about Christ coming to fulfill the law, we ask, “What does He fulfill? What still remains? What do we not have to worry about and what do we still have to worry about?”

Now, let’s talk about three uses in relationship to that. This comes from the reformation. Three ways in which the Old Testament law is used. Martin Luther talked about the first two. His colleague, Philip Melanchthon, talked about the third. There’s the theological use, which is what Joseph Prince loves. The whole purpose of the law is to convict us of sin, Luther says. And he gets that from Paul, where Paul says, “I would not know what wrong was if it weren’t for the law. The law is holy and right, but it tells me what’s wrong.”

The second thing is very closely related. There’s the civil use. The law helps us to understand how we should live in society. So, the law can become a basis for the laws that we make in the land, like the laws of Congress. They can be grounded, and there are people in this country that want to. I mean, the most famous one is the Alabama judge, right, who got the Ten Commandments up there. He wants to say that the moral law of God is a basis for all the laws that govern our land. So, there’s this civil use.

Then there’s the moral use, and this is the real debate here. Does the law still instruct us in how we should live? Is there still a moral center that we ought to pay attention to? And in that way, it’s positive. These two are really negative. The law just convicts us. And, this one, the law holds back sin. It keeps society from becoming as bad as it could. Right? So, these two are negative. This is the positive, and there are Protestants who come along and say, “Yeah. The law is absolutely necessary to govern our lives if we understand it correctly.”

So, what does Jesus come to do? He comes to fulfill the law. But, what does He fulfill? Paul says, “We don’t have circumcision.”

Well, we know that circumcision now is not about the moral law. It’s about ceremonial law. We don’t have that. We don’t have sabbaths or new moon festivals or those sorts of things. In other words, we don’t have to engage in any Jewish festivals, Paul says in the book of Colossians. So, that part of the law no longer applies. It’s clear that Christ fulfills all the ceremonial requirements. We’re not sacrificing bulls, goats and lambs or anything like that. We’re not engaged in grain offerings. We’re not doing anything like that. Why? Because, Jesus has fulfilled those sorts of things. But, the question remains about the moral law.

To understand that, we’ll go to our last section here. Grace. I’ve got to wrap up pretty quickly, I know. I’m running close.

So, let’s talk about grace for a few moments. Let me give you a broad definition of grace. It just means gift. Simple. Straightforward. Behind the gift is the favor of God, who gives freely. It does not require you to do anything, because a gift is something that is given without expectation if it’s a genuine gift. If there’s strings attached, it’s really not a gift. Right? A gift, if it’s genuinely a gift, is given without strings attached. So, grace is gift. It always points to gifts.

At the center of this is the triune God. God gives the gift of God. God the Father gives the gift of His Son, who becomes flesh. He dwells among us, lives, dies and is resurrected for our sins. And God the Father gives the gift of God the Spirit, who is the love of God, according to Paul in Romans 5, poured out into our hearts, who gives us power and strength. So, God gives God. Behind all of the gifts of God are the Son and the Spirit.

I like this metaphor. It’s from a theologian in the 2nd Century whose name is Irenaeus of Lyon. Irenaeus says this, and he gets this, I think, from Paul in Ephesians where Paul says, “We are God’s workmanship.”

That idea of workmanship is a potter who’s shaping. We are the ones who are formed by the hands of the potter. Of course, that’s ultimately from Jeremiah, where God says, in Jeremiah, “I am the potter and you are the clay.”

So, what forms us? Irenaeus says, “The Word or the Son and the Spirit are the two hands of the Father by which the Father reaches out into the world and begins to shape us. He conforms us to His Son in the power of the Spirit.”

And so, He begins to mold us. And, in doing so, He restores the image of God within us. He restores order to the disordered desires and emotions that are within us. Now, let’s talk about how that works. So, two ways, then, to understand the gift. If we think about the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father, there two ways of understanding this gift.

Through the Son, we can think about grace as mercy and acceptance. Have you heard this before? I heard this when I was in seminary. Grace means, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” That’s the acronym, right? God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. The idea behind that is that grace is really mercy. All the transgressions that we have committed, all the sins and sinful actions, God forgives for the sake of Christ. We are accepted because of Christ. Christ stands before God and we are clothed or wrapped in the righteousness of Christ. And, therefore, we are adopted into the family of God, declared to be sons and daughters of God, given a new inheritance, given a new name. I’m adopted. I don’t even know where my birth parents are because I just never have bothered. Although, the older I get the more I think I need to bother. Because, you know, health issues are tied to biology. Anyway, that’s another matter. You don’t have to worry about it.

When I was adopted, I was given a name. I was given an inheritance that I did not earn. I was brought into a family and raised. That’s what God does in Christ. He brings us into a family and gives us a name. A new name. That’s why we can use language of family for one another. That’s where the term “godparents” come from. Right? In the Middle Ages, godparents were parents in God. They were not blood relatives. They’re fellow Christians. So, what’s the relationship? It has nothing to do with biology. It has everything to do with Christ. These people can be parents in God. Because, though Christ, we are members of the same family.

So, from the Middle Ages, the whole purpose of a godparent is to help raise the child. That’s the reason behind it. Now, we might still have godparents. You might still have godparents for your children or you might have godparents for yourself. The godparents may not function that way, but that’s the intention behind it with that language. It’s to give rise to that we are part of the family and we are brought in. So, there’s mercy and acceptance.

Another way of describing this would be to say this: There is no place so deep that He’s not deeper. There is no sinful action that will take you so far away that God will not find you. Why? Because, His mercy is always there. And this mercy and acceptance is grounded in God’s covenant faithfulness. One of the most vivid images of this is when God tells the prophet Hosea, “Go out and marry a harlot. No matter how many times she messes up and goes back into it, you keep going after her. Why? Because, I am the husband of Israel. No matter how far Israel goes, I will pursue her always because of my covenant faithfulness. I’ll keep my covenant even when she doesn’t keep her covenant.”

That idea is manifested in the Son. Christ says, “I will go to the cross. I’ll keep my covenant with creation.”

At this point, it’s not just covenant with Israel. It’s God’s covenant with creation.

“I’m not going to let you go down. I will keep it.”

So, the Son keeps it. Therefore, we receive mercy and acceptance on that basis. So, if you think about grace in that way, that’s where all the language comes about “I’m accepted.”

I’m always accepted in Christ. Christ always stands in my place. Alongside of that, though, there’s another way of thinking about grace. Grace not simply is favor, unmerited favor, acceptance, mercy, but presence and power. So, alongside this notion of grace as favor and acceptance, Paul says the Spirit has been poured out into our hearts. So, at the beginning of Romans, he says, “The Gospel is the power of God at work.”

Grace is the power. Grace is not just God’s acceptance of you for the sake of Christ. Grace is God’s presence in you through the Holy Spirit. Grace is both. Because, God’s not just bringing you into His family. God wants to change you and heal you and elevate you.

And that’s the next thing I want us to see here. Three ways in which grade works in our lives. Grace cleanses us. So, whenever you commit a sinful action or a transgression, there’s guilt. But, through Christ, forgiveness is always extended and the guilt can be removed. The problem, however – the underlying problem – remains. Remember this: You can kneel down, say a prayer and say, “God, forgive me of my sins,” and at that moment, Christ will forgive you. The Father will forgive you for the sake of Christ.

What remains? The underlying issue. What’s the underlying issue? Whatever disordered desire gave rise to the sinful action to begin with. Right? I’ll give you an example: A friend of mine was very promiscuous through high school, but got radically saved at the end. At 18. God called him. He went to school and wanted to go into the ministry. He started to like this girl, but he said, “I couldn’t really see myself with her.”


“Because, I had trained my mind to think about women solely in terms of their physical appearance.”

Now, how did he train his mind to think about women that way? Because, all of the promiscuity that he had gone through in high school was still with him. How? It was with him in the form of mental habits and ways of thinking about women, ways of just thinking of them totally in terms of their physical appearance. So, there was a point at which there was the woman that he really liked and he said, “Well, I can’t really like you because you’re not physically the way I imagine my wife should be.”

He ended up marrying that woman. The only way he could marry her, though, was to deal with the underlying issues: The habits of mind and the desires underlying those, and the character that those habits and desires had created through years of promiscuity in high school. Had God forgiven him of the guilt? Sure. What was left? Habits that he still had to deal with. What was left? Disordered desires. Ways of thinking about women that objectified them. Those sorts of things.

So, while on the one hand, justification says, “I forgive you. I extend the righteousness of Christ to you,” on that basis, heaven is yours. On the other hand, sanctification says, “But, I want to do so much more than that. Salvation is not fire insurance. This is not just about getting into heaven. Salvation is ultimately about making you into the kind of person that you really want to be and that I want you to be. Salvation is about healing you of the disordered desires that are within you. Salvation is about helping you to flourish as a human being. Salvation is about helping you come into healthy relationships. Salvation is about making you whole once again, and I can only do that if I deal with these underlying issues.”

“What are they?”

“All the disordered desires. I have to cut off the slavery to whatever part of creation you’re enslaved to.”

A lust for power. A lust for fame. You can think of all kinds of ways in which desire manifests itself. We see it all the time, right? The way in which we are shaped by images that are around us. To be certain kinds of people because marketers want you to buy their products by convincing you that you need to be the kind of person that they are presenting you to be. Right? And your desires, then, get shaped in that way.

So, grace is not just simply favor to cleanse of guilt, it’s power to heal. And lastly, it elevates us. It gives us a life that we would never have. For me, salvation could never be anything other than grace, because, no matter how hard I work, I cannot give myself immortality and I cannot make myself incorruptible. So, Paul says, in the resurrection, “Christ is the first fruits of what’s going to happen to the rest of us.”

And what’s going to happen to the rest of us? This mortality will put on immortality. This corruptibility will put on incorruptibility. Now, that tells you something about salvation. That tells you that salvation cannot be simply fire insurance. That tells you that the tree of life in the garden, which appears again at the end of Revelation, is really part of the plan of God. God wants to give you everlasting life. And that’s not just duration of time. That is a particular kind of existence. An existence where you are free from corruption. Corruption of the body so that you no longer age, and corruption of the soul so that you no longer perform destructive acts. You no longer get mad. You no longer have to stare in the mirror and wonder, “Who was that person who just did that action? I don’t even recognize myself.”

You know, when you come down from whatever it is you were doing? You know? You screen your brains out? I’ve been there. And then you realize, “What am I doing? I’ve got to get control of myself again. Anger has taken over and I’ve said some things that I need to apologize for.”

So, glorification is the elevation. Salvation is this whole package. So, let’s bring it together and wrap it up and then take some questions. How does grace work? Through the Son. God accepts us. We receive the perfect obedience of Christ and forgiveness. Now, what does that do for us? That gives you a sure foundation. The whole point of justification is to remind you that every day you have a secure foundation upon which to stand.

Growing up on the Space Coast, I watched I don’t know how many rockets blast off from Kennedy Space Center. I was in high school when the challenger blew up. I saw it in the air. We were all outside and we saw it. It was unbelievable. A rocket has to have a sure foundation. It’s got to have a launching pad. If it’s going to make it where it needs to go, that launching pad has to be sure. What’s your launching pad? It’s the Son. It’s His work on the cross. You come back to that time and time again, no matter how many times you mess up. When you do that, that gives you the security you need to pursue the difficult parts.

What are the difficult parts? Cultivating the character of Christ. So, here’s where we bring it together. The moral law can tell you what to do or what not to do. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. What Paul thinks you need is the character of Christ, and when the character of Christ is in you, you will do, by nature, what the law requires because you will have the character. When you do by nature what the law requires, you don’t even need the law at that point. Why? Because, you’ve internalized it.

That’s what Jesus’ teaching is all about. If you look at the Beatitudes, those are all about states of mind. Blessed are the meek. He’s not giving you a list of regulations. He’s giving you a mental state or an attitude. Develop and cultivate meekness. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Cultivate humility in your life. And He’s attaching the language of blessedness to it because He’s trying to say, “If you want to flourish as a human being, this is what you will cultivate in your life.”

And you can cultivate this through the power and presence of the Spirit, “Because I have put my Spirit in you.”

So, you know what? Even if you’re studying your Bible 10 minutes, 5 minutes or whatever, you know that the whole purpose of it is to cultivate Christ in you. When you guys go out and do on Main Street what Pastor Chip was telling me you do every year, you’re not just doing that for everybody else. You’re doing that for you. Why? Because, you need to cultivate the character of Christ. I know when I go serve the poor, I’m not just doing it to help the poor person. I can’t become Christ without doing that. All of these characteristics are developed in community. You can’t become humble without engaging in acts of humility, and that requires another human being.

I thought I had patience, and then I had kids and I recognized that there’s a whole new depth to patience that I had yet to fully cultivate in my life. So, there I am. I want to be Christ in the face of this kid who just will not stop asking me the same question for the last 24 hours.

“Dad, when am I going to watch this movie?”

“You know what? Just shut up. Okay. I shouldn’t have said shut up. Be quiet. Okay? Just be quiet for a while.”

You need other people to cultivate these characteristics. The Spirit helps you to cultivate them. When you do, you’ve internalized the moral law. Until you do, the moral law can guide you. Think about it this way: Those last six commands of the Ten Commandments – honor your father and your mother and that sort of thing – tell you how to love your neighbor. And then Jesus’ own teachings tell you how to love your neighbor. Want to know how to love your neighbor? Your neighbor is that Samaritan. That’s who your neighbor is.

So, between the two, you’ve got what your neighbor is. Now, you work in the Spirit to internalize that love so that you come to naturally begin to do things for your neighbor because you have cultivated habits. Remember this: Desires, when turned into choices that you consent to, cultivate habits. And habits create a character, and the character shapes a destiny.

C.S. Lewis says this: “We are right now becoming either the most beautiful beings that if we were to see the saints in heaven who have already become what we’re on the journey to become right now, they would look like angels and we would be strongly tempted to worship them, or we’re becoming so deformed in our characters that we’re becoming like this hideous, ugly demon that we wouldn’t even want to see in our nightmare.”

His point is that none of us are ordinary. God has destined us. We’re on a trajectory. If you cooperate with the Holy Spirit and you cultivate holy habits, God is actually making you a beautiful soul, where your own life reflects the internal harmony of His life. Your desires are no longer competing with one another. They’re now working together.

So, grace means that God always acts first by bestowing His gifts upon us. Even faith is a gift. Faith is a gift the Spirit brings, and faith, itself, units us to Christ through our trust. Grace means that we’re grounded in God’s acceptance for the sake of Christ. So, we have confidence about who we are. We’re members of the family, and that’s secure. And grace means that we are grounded in God’s power and presence. So, we can struggle to internalize the moral law. The whole point of the moral law is to give you guidance to follow the Spirit in cultivating holy habits. The more you become like Christ, the more you are united to Him and the more you fulfill the destiny that God has for you.

I’ll stop. 8:11. I’ve gone long. Sorry, Chip.

[Chip Bennett]: I want to make sure that we have proper time for Q&A. So, the ushers are going to come really quick. It is an expense to bring all these people down and do the things that we do. So, I am going to ask, really quickly, for the ushers to pass the offering bucket. But, if you have questions, please make sure that you hold those 3x5 cards up. There will be people coming to get them as well, and we’ll do a Q&A very quickly. Let’s just ask the Lord to bless the offering.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to give. Lord, I pray that You’d bless this offering for Dale, his wife, Esther, and their family. Lord, I pray that You would help us, Lord, to send them on their way, Lord, in a positive way. And help us to raise, Lord, some funds to pay for bringing Dale down.

Lord, we just thank You for tonight. I pray, Lord, that the Q&A session would be fantastic. Lord, we look forward to answering those questions. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”

We’re going to take up an offering. We’ll get some chairs up here. If you have questions, go ahead and put your hand up and we’ll go ahead and start picking them up as well. Just put your hand up with a card if you’ve got questions.

If you do have questions, hold the questions up real high. Down here in the front. Here’s some too. Here you go. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Anybody else? Anybody else?

Alright. Let’s do this here.

“You say to your children, ‘Discipline yourself or I will discipline you.’ Do you think God disciplines us when we do not discipline ourselves? If so, how?”

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: That’s a great question. I mean, Hebrews says quiet clearly that God disciplines us and that it’s a manifestation of His love for us. Here’s the way I think judgment works. I go with my interpretation of what Paul says in Romans 1 where Paul says that God has turned them over to themselves. So, I think that sometimes God’s discipline just allows us to live with what we have created.

So, here’s what I mean by that. I mean God will forgive you of your sins if you’ve committed adultery, for example. But, that doesn’t mean that the lives that you have destroyed in that act are somehow not destroyed by that action. Right? The mess still has to be cleaned up. You still have to ask for forgiveness. You still have to extend forgiveness. You still have children that could be. There are all those sorts of issues, right? So, does God clean all of that up? No. We have to cooperate with God to sort of work through that.

So, I think the way I see judgment manifesting itself in our lives is God turning us over sometimes to our own devices. It’s the parent saying to the child, “You want this so bad? You’re not going to listen to me? Okay. I don’t want it for you. I wouldn’t make this choice. But, I’m going to let you have it. I know what it’s going to do to you. But, if you want to live with it, I’m going to let you live with it.”

I think that’s the way in which judgment manifests itself. And then, of course, that doesn’t mean that God leave us. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t there to help us pick up the pieces. But, there are times where God lets us live with the consequences of our actions. That’s the manifestation, in my mind, of divine judgment in our lives. So, it’s not God taking a whip and just beating the mess out of anybody.

[Chip Bennett]: I think I would also say that judgment, in the biblical, usually has a remedial nature to it. God doesn’t judge just to judge. He judges in hopes that we will understand and change. So, when you see judgment in Scripture, you’ll see it a lot with the prophets where they’ll say, “God’s going to come in and clean house and do all that stuff, but He’s going to do it with an aim towards you all coming back to Him in repentance.”

So, judgment usually has some sort of remedial hope or some sort of repentant hope. It’s not just God getting you to get you. It’s that when judgment happens, there is a hope that there will be a turning of the ways with that. Just like, you know, if you were to get on your children. Does anybody ever get on their children and just go, “You know what I want to do? I just want to just give my kid a hard time tonight for no reason?”

Nobody does that, right? If we discipline or we send them to their room or we do whatever that we do – somebody was talking about a magic spoon recently. Anybody ever heard about the magic spoon? I guess that’s what they got whacked with or whatever. Magic spoon. I don’t know. Somebody was talking about it. But, the point is that even the magic spoon would, hopefully, lead towards a change in behavior. You know? Sometimes the quickest way to a child’s head is through the seat of understanding.

But, I think that when we look at discipline, God’s discipline in our lives is always to move us toward the image of His Son, and it’s always with a hope of getting us to where we need to be. It’s never God just getting you to get you. You know?

“If people have been Christians for decades, yet they still habitually lie or act selfishly, what’s the breakdown? Did they really get saved? Did they miss the Holy Spirit?”

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Oh, gee.

[Chip Bennett]: That’s for you, man. It says, “Would Dale please answer that?”

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Right. So, maybe I should start by defining some parameters here.

[Chip Bennett]: Please do.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: You’re the pastor, so I can walk away from this after I say my thing. You’ve got to pick up the pieces.

[Chip Bennett]: If you don’t discipline yourself, I will. I’m just kidding.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: I would say, certainly, we can all struggle and we all do struggle. We could struggle with habits that sometimes last a while. I don’t understand the mystery of sinfulness sometimes. I don’t understand why some people can come down to an alter or can pray a prayer and God can heal them of an addiction and they can get up and walk away from it. I’ve seen it happen. I don’t doubt that it can happen. Because, in the same way that I know that science can construct a pill to help us get off nicotine – if science can do that, why can’t God remove that chemical addiction? Of course. That seems to me that God can do that.

Sometimes God chooses to allow people to struggle for a while, I think, like Pastor Chip said, with the end of character formation within you. So, if that’s a framework and I’m coming at this person who’s been struggling for a long time, I want to know, “Are you in it?”

That’s my first question. Are you in this? Are you in the struggle? Where are you? Have you given up? If you’ve given up, why have you given up? I want to talk to that person and see where he or she is coming from and what’s going on. And then, this is the whole reason why we have a family. I want that person to come into the family. So, if the person is willing, I want to bring that person into an accountability structure. Not because I want to discipline the person in some negative way, but because I want to help the person. Accountability, sometimes, is just me helping you fulfill what you want to do and helping you keep your promises. That’s what accountability can be. If you say, “I want to be a better person,” to me, and I say, “Okay, how are we going to do this,” and we set forth a plan and we both agree to the plan, then my job is to keep you accountable to what you agreed to and to help you get there.

So, I guess that would be the framework out of which I would address that person. If the person is just playing the game, okay? If I’ve counseled and I think that the person is just playing the game, then I’m going to tell the person, “You’re just playing this game and you’d better be careful. Because, God may give you what you want at the end of the day. If you really don’t want God and you want something else, God may turn you over to that. You really don’t want that. Now, God’s not going to leave you, but it means that your life may get into a whole lot of mess that you got yourself into and God just decided He’s going to let you get into that mess. You don’t want that. Come on.”

So, I would question and try to figure out where that person is. To me, if your heads in the game, if you’re in the struggle and the intention is there, that’s what I’m looking for more so than what state or where are you on this journey. Some people are farther along. They’ve developed more of the character of Christ. Some people are back here. Some people were here and then life threw a thunderbolt at them and some tragedy hit them, they lost a loved one or something else and they have gone into the tank, man. Where are you? I know. I had a brother who committed suicide. I understand what that’s like, man. When life throws something at you that you have not planned and you didn’t know what happened, you go into the tank. I understand that.

If that’s it, let’s help and let’s wrestle through that. But, in the midst of that, I want to know are you in the game? So, that would be the way in which I would approach that kind of issue, with a pastoral sensitivity, without coming at them and just sort of assuming things about them.

[Chip Bennett]: I would concur. I would also add a little bit. I think one of the things that we don’t do very well, as Christians, is we don’t give people space. You know? What I mean by that is if somebody comes in here – and we’ll use this thing here – and they’re a habitual liar, but they also have a broken relationship with their dad, they also have a drug addiction, and they also have a pornography addiction, I can’t play Holy Spirit as the pastor of this church and try to figure out which thing they need to be dealing with, because one of those things might be the most important link in all of the habitual problems that they have, and God’s got to deal with a certain aspect of their life before some of those other things can get right.

What we tend to do is we tend to have the sins that we all like the most. You know? The ones that we go, “That’s the sin.” And we want to deal with that one, not realizing that, man, there’s a lot of broken issues in all of us to some degree. So, I think that, for me as a pastor, I want to create a community here where, yeah, if this person’s just habitually lying and doing the selfish thing and acting like they’re a Christian or whatever, that’s a whole other issue. But, for someone who’s struggling and trying to be the things that God wants them to be, and yet there’s broken areas in their lives, I think that we need to love them, give them accountability and we need to walk with them. But, what we don’t need to do is do what I consider the Christian thing.

Somebody comes down and says, “I’m a Christian.” If they don’t clean up in a week or two or maybe a month, then we’re going, “They’re not really a Christian.”

That’s ridiculous, because none of us have cleaned up perfectly in our lives in this world. So, I would say we need to become a little bit more gracious in allowing space in people’s lives, loving them, praying for them, accepting them, and not being a church that’s looking to manage sin.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Let me add something.

[Chip Bennett]: I don’t want to manage your sin. I can’t even manage mine.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: I’m with you on that. I don’t like the phrase “total depravity.” I mean, not that I’m against the idea that’s behind the phrase, but I don’t like how the phrase has come to be used. It has taken on this whole life of its own to say that the whole intention is to say that sin infects every part of who we are. That’s fine. I’m with you. But, it has come to be employed as a way of saying that you’re a heinous, no-good, nothing. It’s reinforced by worm theology. A worm. God’s going to step on you. All of that sort of thing.

So, I don’t like the phrase. I tend not to use it for that reason, because I think that sin, if we think about it as a disease, manifests itself in our lives differently in accordance with our unique personality and our own psychological dispositions and all of those sorts of things. So, while we’re all infected, the way it manifests is different in each one of us. And I think, as a pastor, I’d want to give space, I’d want to recognize that. What you struggle with, I don’t struggle, but somebody else struggles with. Different struggles. Recognize those different struggles and then let’s all kind of come together and help each other get through them. Alright. I’ll stop.

[Chip Barnett]: I just think that a church that can help all of us together work through our brokenness is also a church that people who are out there in world are going to want to become a part of. Does that make sense? You know? Because, we’re broken too. The difference is that we’ve been saved, and the righteousness of God has been given to you and me. That doesn’t mean we always look like it, right? So, I think that all of these things, the struggle here really goes down to the idea of law and grace. It goes down to, “Does God just love me no matter what I do or does God have some expectations in the way that I live?”

The problem is that we never can go, “Okay, well how can I hold both of those in some sort of level where they work?”

We tend to go to only one or the other. We go, “We’re going to manage everybody’s sin, because everybody’s got to be holy and everybody’s got to do this. Here’s the checklist thing.”

Anybody who’s ever tried to live the checklist thing realizes that it’s really difficult to live the checklist thing. Have you ever noticed that? If you decide, “These are the nine things that I need to do,” all nine of them you usually break by nine o’clock in the morning. Anybody ever figure that one out? Okay? Well, then the other side is you go, “Okay, well then God just loves me. God loves me.”

Whatever. I think that what you’ve seen tonight with what Dale has presented is what I realized. I had grown up in a church where the only thing I ever heard was the theological use of the law. “Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Law, law, law. Bad, bad, bad.”

But, there’s a lot of different usages of the law in the Old Testament, and I think that the moral fabric of the law is what God does want for you and me. He wants you and me to live lives that are changed, that have ethics to them and morals to them. Otherwise, why would Jesus say, in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine.”

Why? Not so God can see it, but so that others can see what God has done in you and that they would then glorify your Father, which is in heaven. A changed life is what most of the New Testament is talking about. Paul goes, “They saw that you turned from idols to serve the living God. They saw a change in you and they said, ‘What is that?’”

Okay. When we take away the change in Christianity, we’ve lost one side of grace. When we make the change the only thing that matters, then we’ve lost the other side of grace that says, “God loves you and me and salvation has appeared to all men.”

That’s the one side of grace. The other side is teaching us to renounce ungodliness and to live holy and righteous lives in this present world. There’s those two sides. And I think that a healthy understanding of law and grace will keep you from running to one side or the other. You can’t work your way into heaven. Nobody’s saying that. You’re not saying that.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Not at all.

[Chip Bennett]: I mean, you can’t do that. It’s a gift. You can’t then work your way into God’s more favor now that you are a Christian. But, to act like grace doesn’t have the power and the transformational aspect in our lives to continue to move us towards Christ I think is a disingenuous move historically in the church. And I think one of the things that we don’t do very well – my thought, and you would know more about the patristic side of this. I think one of the things we’ve lacked, especially in the American church today, is disciplines. We don’t believe that spending time in prayer really matters. We don’t believe that spending time in the Word of God really matters.

Because, if God just loves me an accepts me, then why would I have to do that? Isn’t that a work? Isn’t that fulfilling the law by me having to do the things? I think that those disciplines do help us live a holy life.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Yeah. I mean, there’s an ancient term called “asceticism.” It comes from a Greek term, “askesis,” which really comes from an athletic context. It refers to exercises. So, the monks developed these spiritual exercises. That’s what translates into the spiritual disciplines. But, the whole idea behind it, the analogy, is you’ve got to work out. If you want to be healthy spiritually, you’ve got to be like the person that goes into the gym. You’ve got to spend your time in the gym. What’s the gym? God’s Word. Prayer. You’ve got to get into the gym and do it.

Now, of course, there are some people who live in the gym for five or six hours a day. They’re the people that are the holier people. You know? They’re on you. They’re the workout partners who are like, “Why aren’t you sweating enough for Jesus? Why aren’t you doing it? Come on, man! You’ve got to pump more. Get down there. You’re not buff enough!”

You know? Okay. They’re a little legalistic on all of that. But, the point behind the whole thing is if you want to get healthy spiritually, just like if you want to get healthy physically, you do the exercises. The exercises are reading your Bible, praying, fasting in some way. The whole point of fasting is to counter gluttony. It’s one of the spiritual exercises. It’s to help you realize that you don’t need certain kinds of food to survive. It’s to help you overcome the way food can become a weapon. Right?

Sometimes we eat ice cream because we just are depressed and we need a little emotional kick. So, we need that ice cream in front of that movie so we can kind of veg out a little bit, because it’s been a rough day. Fasting helps us to overcome those sorts of things. Right? So, the whole point is exercises. That’s the analogy. That’s what you’re doing. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t go into the gym every day. But, if you never go, you know there’s an issue. Right? That’s the other side of that.

[Chip Bennett]: Yeah. You can make these things a work, and we would shun that. We’re not trying to get you to pray or read your Scripture so that you can work your way so that God will love you more. What we’re saying is that Jesus Himself took time away to pray. Jesus Himself knew Scripture. He read it. Okay? He didn’t do that so God could love Him more. He was God. Okay? But, He’s modeling for you and me. He’s showing you and me the way to live.

I don’t read my Scripture – and I have before. I’ve read my Scripture because I felt like it was a duty that I had to do. You don’t have to do it as a duty. But, as a discipline it’s different. Because, now what I’m doing is I’m saying, “I’m reading this because I want to interact and know my Lord better. I want Him to live more in me. I want to hide His Word in my heart so that I will remember those things that I’m supposed to remember when the enemy comes calling and all of those things. That’s a discipline. That’s not a duty, and there’s a difference.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: And it’s making you like Christ, at the end of the day. I mean, okay. This will date me. But, Michael Jordan, when he got out on the court, the fruit of all of that work paid off. He entered into a kind of performance where it was almost like he was at rest in the middle of working. He found his place of peace at the peak of performance. Like a hummingbird, stillness and motion at the same time. Right? It’s like a great dancer. It’s like a great musician if you’ve ever watched someone. All of that work brings and creates a character. When you see that character in action, you marvel at it. God wants you to become that character where the righteousness is flowing through you through the habits that you have constructed, and you are functioning at peak performance. And you do, by nature, the things that are required for you.

Just like the pianist does by nature what is required of her. Her hands move around the keys. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her anymore what the right motions are. She’s trained herself, and she has entered into a state of excellence. The term “virtue” in its ancient sense just simply means excellence. It’s bringing your life into a condition of excellence. That’s what God wants for you. That’s the whole point behind it. It has nothing to do with performing in a way to make yourself acceptable to God. You’ve already been made that in Christ. It has to do with healing you, bringing you into a place of excellence, making you into the kind of person that, at the end of the day, we really all want to be anyway. We all want to be that healthy person, you know? We don’t always want to work for it, but we at least want to be it. That’s the idea behind this.

[Chip Bennett]: “Is baptism a ceremonial law or is it a requirement for salvation.”

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Gosh. Right. Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It depends on who you’re talking to, really, I would say. Is it a requirement for salvation? No, I would say. I’ll just be straight up and tell you what I think. Now, of course, a Catholic is going to disagree with me. A Lutheran is going to disagree with me. An Anglican is going to disagree with me. There are other’s that are going to disagree with me. Okay? And you need to know, I’ll just throw it out there, I don’t hold to infant baptism.

So, part of it is where you stand on infant baptism vis–a-vis this whole thing. I’m a “believer’s baptism” kind of guy. I’ll just throw that out there for you. So, what does that mean? Does that mean, then, that baptism is a requirement for entrance into heaven? No. I don’t think so. Acceptance of Christ by faith. Faith alone. That’s a reformation idea. Does that mean you shouldn’t get baptized? No way. You should. Why? Because, baptism is the public testimony of the inward work of the Holy Spirit in your life, and it is the way you come into the community of faith. It’s the way you say, “I’m on the team. I’m a member of the team.”

And it’s an expression of God’s covenant commitment to you and your covenant commitment to God. So, in the same way that in the book of Revelation, the devil has his mark, 666, the mark of the beast or whatever, God has His mark. That’s baptism.

I tell my kids all the time, they’ve all been baptized, “You have been marked with Christ. The seal of Him is upon your life. You can leave Him, but the seal will never leave you.”

That is baptism. So, is it important? You bet. Is it absolutely necessary in terms of salvation? I don’t think so.

[Chip Bennett]: Good. Alright. You went long, so it’s killing my Q&A time. Let’s see here.

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: I know it. Mea culpa.

[Chip Bennett]: Let’s see here.

“What if I feel I cleanse my sin and then recommit the sin after? Do I really have grace in my heart?”

See, this just goes back to the struggle of understanding something. Grace in your heart is not earned. You don’t just have to keep repenting to get God. God loves you. He’s given you the unmerited favor. But, what you’re struggling with is not grace. You’re struggling with personal sanctification. You’re struggling with, “How do I live this thing out, because I’m trying to live right and I’m asking God to forgive me. But then, I’m not doing anything.”

The question comes down to – and nobody wants to hear this, because everybody wants to hear the easy way. Okay? Are you involved in a community? Are you involved with people in your life that keep you accountable? Are you spending some time in the Word daily? Are you praying? I guarantee you someone who spends time in the Word daily, someone who spends some time in prayer, someone who puts themselves in an accountability group who has really got a heart that’s Godward is going to find themselves walking things out better than the person who just, every once in a while, when they decide to do something wrong, says, “God, forgive me.”

[Dr. Dale Coulter]: Yeah. I would agree with that. I mean, again, it goes back to what I said earlier. If you are struggling against this – to stick with the disease analogy, there are some cancers that are more aggressive than others. Right? And if this is an aggressive form in your life and this has really taken control of you, but you are struggling against it, then that, to me, is what I want to see.

Of course, the forgiveness of Christ is always there. It is there to remind you that you are in the struggle. It is there to remind you that this is not going to define you. It is there to remind you that you are a child of the King, and that whatever this is that has you, it will not determine your destiny. So, you can fight it, you can get beyond it, you can work against it, because it is not you at the end of the day. And that’s what you have to get beyond first. You have to stop thinking of yourself in terms of the habit.

This is not you. Right?

[Chip Bennett]: Yeah. And the reality is simply this: The fact that you’re struggling means that you’re in. You weren’t struggling before you were in. It wasn’t even a thought. It’s like, “I’ll go do whatever I want to do. I don’t care.”

I mean, a struggling Christian – although that’s not where we want to get you as the apex of your life – shows God is active in your life and grace is active in your life. And that’s okay. So, we’re going to wrap up. It’s 8:37. I don’t want to hold you all too much later. We will stay after. Any questions you have, we’re going to stay after and we’ll talk. We’ll do all the things that you would like. We’re going to be here.

Dale, thanks man. Did y’all enjoy Dale? Right? Good guy. Dale is still a Church of God ordained pastor. You know, we’ve both had good reformed roots, but I think I’ve done a little bit more on the reformed side. But, he’s Wesleyan a lot. It’s great. I think one of the things you’re seeing here is that we have a lot of diversity that I try to bring in with professors, because I want you all to see that there can be things we disagree on, but it’s okay.

Like, I’m sure Dale – I mean, Dale and I were talking about the dating of the Gospels right before we came out here. Just because I’m right and he’s wrong didn’t change anything about the way... no. I’m just joking. I was probably wrong and he’s right. But, the point is that I really want this church to see that we can have some healthy, Christian discussion about things and we don’t have to get all bent out of shape, because it’s about Jesus and it’s not about the boxes. Right? Amen?

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I just thank You for the opportunity to be able to do these evenings. They’re fantastic. Lord, I pray that even though we probably didn’t answer every single question and we didn’t answer every little thing that everybody would have, Lord, I pray that at least some food for thought was given tonight and maybe some different categories were offered up to think through.

Lord, I pray that You would be with every single person as they leave. Get them home safely. Lord, I pray that You would kindly remind them, without any guilt, that just because they’ve got their church on on Wednesday night doesn’t mean they can’t get their church on also on Saturday or Sunday this weekend.

So, we love You and thank You and praise You for everything that You’re doing. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

We’re going to stay after if you’d like to talk. So, God bless everybody. Have a great night.

Summer Academic Series: Defending the Accuracy of the Gospels

Sermon Transcript

[Chip Bennett]: Good evening to everybody. How are you? Are you excited to be here? So am I. Well, I want to welcome everybody to another academic series. My name is Dr. Chip Bennett and I am the pastor of Grace Community Church, the church that is hosting this event. I’m also a professor at Southeastern University and I also teach for Knox Theological Seminary. I am joined tonight by Dr. Michael Licona. If we could give him a big hand.

Mike is one of the foremost scholars on apologetics, specifically in regards to the resurrection and the accuracy of the Gospels. He’s a frequent speaker at multiple events and conferences and he’s a noted debater on all things apologetics. And he’s a professor at Houston Baptist University. So, on behalf of both of us and Grace Community Church, we welcome everybody and we’re glad that you have joined us. So, if we could, why don’t we start with a word of prayer. If you would, would you bow with me and we’ll start with a word of prayer?

Dear Lord, I come to You this evening asking that You would bless our time together. I’m sure that tonight, Lord, we have a huge cross section of people in attendance. Some are here to simply learn. Some are here probably hoping that questions might be answered to help their struggling faith. Some may be here with no faith at all and are searching. Some may be here just wanting to quickly get to the Q&A so that they can ask questions that maybe they feel there are no answers to at all.

And Lord, whatever reason that we’ve come here tonight, whatever brings us here this evening, I pray that You would come and be a part of this evening with us. Help us, Lord, to see and experience You this evening in a real and tangible way. With all of this in mind, my prayer is that tonight would be fun, that all here would realize that there really is no other agenda than trying to show that our faith is a reasonable faith. I ultimately pray that everyone here would feel and experience Your love. We give this evening to You for Your glory. In Christ’s name we pray, and everyone said, “amen.”

The Academic Series here at Grace has been successful over the last few summers. It’s hard to fail when you get guys to come and speak with the talent and expertise of Michael Licona. Right? But, thank you for being here and supporting education in the local church. This is the second of three evenings that we will be doing this summer, and I promise you that the next one will be worth coming out for as well.

The original vision behind the Academic Series was to bring academic scholarship at the highest level to the local church. And we’re doing this and we plan to continue to do this. These are informative evenings and, therefore, educational in nature. We want people of faith, we want people in the community and even non-believers to be able to interact with real academic issues and we hope that you will continue to come and support these evenings by your attendance.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to learning. At the outset, the goal of this evening is two-fold. One, we want to make sure that you have a genuine learning experience. Secondly, we want everybody to be able to wrestle with one of the perennial issues in scholarship, which is: What do we do with the Gospels? Why do they seem to contradict at places? What type of literature are they? Do they really record any actual history? Aren’t they just really an embellishment of a much later Jesus that the Church created?

Questions like these are good questions and I hope that these types of questions and more will somewhat be confronted tonight and given real answers. We’ve entitled tonight’s lecture “The Accuracy of the Gospels,” and that’s what we want to discuss. I think tonight we’re going to learn a lot about the Gospels themselves. We may find that rather than being some strange genre, some amalgamation between fiction and faith, that they really do have a lot of truth to tell.

It’s easier to see this when some other literary parallels and antiquities are looked at in comparison with the Gospels. Sometimes having a different set of lenses or a different set of glasses helps us to read a little bit more clearly. It’s in finding that lens, so to speak, that we start to clearly see what we’re reading. And doing that may answer some of the questions that we ask. We may find that some of the questions that we bring a priori to the text before we even read it might not even be the questions anyone was asking in antiquity at all, nor did it even matter to them.

So, there may be a good way this evening – hopefully we can go back and get some first century lenses and reclaim some of the contemporaneous literature that gives us a new lens to answer some old questions. In fact, I think tonight we’ll realize that there is some literature that we can read that will shine some light upon this subject. And to educate us on this, I brought in someone far more competent than myself to instruct us. Dr. Michael Licona, as I mentioned before, is a renowned scholar on all of these issues. He has written voluminous literature on this subject and led the academic world in discussing these issues. He is funny, he’s witty and he knows karate. So, watch out.

What I’m really saying is this: He’s not only educated, but he’s competent to discuss the accuracy of the Gospels with us. On your seat, on the way in, or you can get one if you don’t have on, you have a 3x5 card. On that 3x5 card, you can write down questions that you may have during the evening. We will collect them a little later and we will do a Q&A at the end of this session. So, with no further delay, I want to turn everything over to Dr. Mike Licona. Mike, thank you for being here and we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

[Michael Licona]: Thanks, brother. Well, thanks. Thanks. I appreciate. Thanks. I appreciate that. It’s wonderful to be here in Sarasota. This is my first time and this is just an absolutely – as you know, and nobody needs to tell you – beautiful city. This is just great. I’m in Atlanta and it’s a fun place to live. It’s a good place to live. But, we don’t have anything like you guys do here with the beach. It’s just wonderful.

Anyways, let’s just jump in. Let’s see, the pastor introduced me. So, what got me interested in this topic is I had spent years investigating the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I’d been a Christian since age 10, but, by my nature, I’m just a second guesser. I second guess everything. Listen, my wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year. I have to admit – I mean, I married a great, great woman. But, for decades I doubted whether I married the right woman. And it wasn’t anything – she knows this. You know? It wasn’t anything about her. You know? It’s not you; it’s me. It was just that I just second guess everything. I mean, I could buy a watch and it’s like, “I should’ve gotten the other one.”

You know? How many of you are that way? So, anyway, if I’m going to question those kinds of things, then of course when it comes to something like my worldview that can involve eternity, I’m going to second guess. The way for me is kind of like this: If someone put a six-foot plank on the stage and said, “Walk across this, but don’t walk outside of that plank,” I mean, I could do it easily. I could probably do it with my eyes closed. I could do it backward. I could run backward. No problem. But, take that six-foot plank and stretch it across two skyscrapers and say, “Walk across it,” and now I’m going to be worried. It’s going to worry me. Right?

You say, “Well, but you know you can do it.”

Yeah. But, what if? It’s like, alright, I look at all the evidence for Christianity and I think there’s some really good evidence for God’s existence and for the resurrection of Jesus, but what haunts me sometimes is what if I’m wrong? I’ve looked at evidence for Islam. I’ve looked at it for these other religions; for atheism. I’m convinced that Christianity is true based on the evidence. But, what if? That’s an emotional kind of doubt. It’s not based on any lack of evidence. But, that’s just a personality thing.

So, anyway, that led me into apologetics, because I wanted to know if Christianity was true. And then, even after being in apologetics for a while, it’s like I would just study this to confirm what I already believed. Well, no wonder I believed it. That’s what I wanted to believe. But, if this is really eternity, then I really need to give this a serious look. So, I did something I never thought I would do. I got involved in a PhD program. You have to understand – you know, when I was a student, I was a gifted student. When they gave me a C, it was a gift. My dad told me I have an average IQ. I’d share the number with you, but I forgot it. Later on, I learned I have a learning disability, ADD, which means Attention Deficit Squirrel!

And I really do. All of that stuff’s true. So, it was really hard for me to concentrate. And then, in my 40’s, I realized there’s medication for this stuff. You know? And it’s like, cool.

Anyway, I ended up not only doing doctoral research on the resurrection, but in grad school doing a 20-page, double-spaced paper with a few footnotes was a nightmare for me. My doctoral dissertation ended up being over 500 pages single-spaced with more than 2,000 footnotes. And then my supervisor had to say, “Mike, it’s time to start wrapping this up,” because it was already over 3 times the size of an average dissertation.

During that time, I was engaged in debates with some of the leading non-believers in the world. You know? I couldn’t even spell MIT when I got accepted into college. And here I was. I was debating people who were teaching at Ivy League schools – and winning. And it wasn’t because I’m brilliant. It’s because the evidence for the resurrection is that good. And if you don’t believe me, you can go on, type in my name, “Mike Licona,” in the search engine or go to YouTube and type in my name and “debates” and you can watch most of my debates and you can decide for yourself who you thought won. Okay? But, I think the evidence, the more I’ve defeated on the resurrection of Jesus, the more convinced I become of it because they don’t have anything in terms of arguments against it.

Well, at one of those debates against Bart Ehrman, he came against the Gospels. That led me into, “Look, if the resurrection is true, if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true. Period.”

So, when you bring up these things, “Well, how do we know who wrote the Gospels? The Gospels have all these contradictions in them.”

Look: If the resurrection occurred, Christianity is true even if it were to be the case that some things in the Bible aren’t. Let me repeat that, because I think it’s really important. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and the authority and the divine inspiration of the Bible. However, if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true if the Bible is not inerrant. And that’s something we need to remember and not get off on these rabbit trails and our faith get shaken for every alleged contradiction or error in the Bible. If Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true. Period.

But, nevertheless, I still wanted to study the stuff on the Gospels. So, I got into an eight-year study I did on why there are differences in the Gospels and just came out with a book in December on it. I think I’ve got 17 copies. So, there’s not enough for all of you. It’ll be on sale. And you the knowledge and I need the money. Okay? So, 17 of you need to buy it.

So, I’m on this thing and I ended up debating Bart Ehrman in a written debate last year on the historical reliability of the Gospels. And I thought it just went really well. That’s coming out in a book later this year. But, then I started really putting some things together. My next full-length book is going to be on this topic. So, I have this lecture I’ve started to do – and you’re getting an abbreviated version of it tonight – on “Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?”

So, here we go. And there is no sound. There you go.

Are the Gospels historically reliable? Let’s talk about this. Now, as we get into this, the first order of business is we have to define what is it exactly we mean by the term “historically reliable?”

Does it mean inspired? Infallible? Inerrant? Authoritative? Nope. It doesn’t mean that. Take the Psalms for example. Let me ask you a question: How many of you think the Psalms are historically reliable? It’s not a trick question. Some of you are kind of like this, right? How can the Psalms be historically reliable? They’re not historical documents. Are the parables of Jesus historically reliable? No. They’re not meant to record history. They’re parables. Right?

Proverbs. Are they historically reliable? No. It’s not historical literature. It’s not an appropriate question to ask are the Proverbs or are the Psalms historically reliable. Divinely inspired? Yes. Authoritative? Yes. Historically reliable? N/A. It’s not applicable. It’s like asking “what’s the square root of chicken?” You can’t answer “are the Psalms historically reliable.” It doesn’t make sense.

Now, what about when we come to Tacitus’ Annals of Rome? Tacitus is regarded as one of the finest Roman historians. One of the most accurate and finest Roman historians. His Annals of Rome. Are they historically reliable? Yes. Are they inerrant? No. Are they divinely inspired? No. So, you can have something that is historically reliable, but not inspired. You can have something like the Psalms that are inspired, but not historically reliable. And then you can have something which, at least in principle, like the Gospels, can be both divinely inspired and historically reliable.

But, what I want to say to you tonight is we’re not asking “are the Gospels divinely inspired.” We’re not asking if they’re inerrant. We’re not asking if they’re authoritative. We’re asking, “Are they historically reliable?”

Are you with me? Okay. So, let’s define what we mean by “historically reliable.” In order to get at that definition, however we define “historically reliable,” it has to apply to all ancient literature that’s written of a historical genre. Okay? In other words, we can’t just say, “Let’s look at the Gospels and see what they are and let’s just say they’re historically reliable and make up a definition that will at least fit the Gospels and then we’ll apply it to all other ancient literature.”

That wouldn’t be fair. Right? We’ve got to look and say, “Alright. Well, let’s see why you would regard Tacitus’ Annals of Rome to be historically reliable, or Sallust’s War with Catiline. Some of these others, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars, and let’s see why would we regard these as historically reliable and apply this to the Gospels and ask the question, “Do they meet this criteria?”

Then we have to take into consideration the matter of genre or literary type. Okay? Now, ancient history writing differed, somewhat, from its modern counterpoint. We have different rules and literary conventions for writing history and biography today than they had in antiquity, and we want to make sure we’re judging them according to their rules and not ours. Because, otherwise, you could have maybe the practice of history 1,000 years from now and historians will have different rules than we have today and they’ll say that we’re not writing in a historically reliable manner. And that wouldn’t be fair. You’ve got to judge us according to the literary conventions of our day, right?

So, we have to find out what those conventions are. And when they did the ancient history writing, there was a little more elasticity or flexibility in the way you could report things. The way I like to talk about it is there’s the guy version of a story and there’s the girl version of the story. How many of you are married and you know what I’m talking about? You know, girls – now, of course I’m generalizing. But, the girl version of the story, they like details. Lots of details. They want to know what happened, when it happened, why it happened, how it happened, who was there, what they were wearing, what they were thinking, how they were feeling. And then they want to know how you feel about it now that you know the story. Right?

One time, my son Zach come home and he talked about something that happened at work. I mean, he just had a really bad day. And my wife said to him, “Well, how does that make you feel?”

And he just looked at her like she was an alien.

“Feel? Feel? Men don’t feel. We don’t care about feelings.”

Now, guys? We don’t care about all of these details. We want bullet points. Just get to the bottom line. The game’s coming on in five minutes. Right? We don’t care about all of these details. So, there’s the guy version of the story. It’s not bad. It’s just a different way of telling the story. Generally speaking, when we read the Gospels, Mark gives us a girl version of the story. He gives us lots of details. Matthew, he cuts to the chase, he abbreviates things, and I can see Mark saying to him, “Now, Matty. You know it didn’t happen that way.”

And Matthew says, “Back off, Mark. You remind me of my wife.”

You know? So, I mean, it’s just a different way of telling the story. And because Matthew abbreviates things and gives us the guy version, he’s able to tell more stories. Because Mark got bogged down on all these girly details, he could tell a limited number of stories and Matthew tells more stories because he’s just getting in.

Anyway, both are valid ways of telling history. I’m glad Matthew told us the guy story. Because, if he didn’t, then there’d be some stories about Jesus we didn’t know or we’d never heard about.

Alright. So, we have to look at genre. Now, how does this change things when we look at history? How many of you saw the move “Apollo 13?” I’m going to be 56 next week and I remember when it really happened. It was April of 1970 I believe it was. I was really into NASA and going to the Moon and all of this. I remember my mom saying, “Mike, we’ve got to pray for those astronauts. They’re in trouble.”

Most people didn’t know. I mean, they only were given a 10% chance of returning. They weren’t telling the public that, but a 10% chance they thought they’d get them back. Well, they made the movie out of it. Ron Howard was praised for the accuracy of the movie. If you remember, Ed Harris played the flight director and he had that famous line in the move: “Failure is not an option.”

Do you remember that? Well, what most people don’t know is that Gene Kranz never uttered that statement. Now, don’t let that ruin the movie for you, because here’s what happened: Remember, they’re taking a story that happened over a nine-month period and they’re condensing it down to about two hours. So, sometimes you take an artistic license not to change the truth, but you may play with the details a little bit in order to express the truth or get the point across clearly. It’s true, but not necessarily in a precise sense.

So, what they did was they interviewed Kranz, they interviewed the flight control team who worked on solving the problem, and in order to express or epitomize the attitude and approach that they had, they came up with that statement and they put it on Gene Kranz’s lips. Failure is not an option. In order to show the kind of attitude that they had because they only had a limited amount of time they could do it.

So, is it true? Yes. But, not in a precise sense. It is true enough. And that’s the kind of stuff ancient historians and biographers would do. So, it’s like don’t get hung up on all these details. They’re trying to express truth, but not necessarily in a precise sense. In some ways, you could say they’re telling the guy version of the story. They’re willing to play with the details a little.

Alright. So, we’re going to define “historically reliable” in this way: Something is historically reliable when, at minimum, it communicates an accurate gist of what occurred. It gives us a true representation of what occurred even if not in every detail. It is essentially true. It is true enough.

And I like the true enough term. That comes from Christopher Pelling. He retired from Oxford two years ago. The leading Plutarch scholar in the world. He says, “Plutarch is true enough.”

That’s at minimum. That’s not saying the Gospels are at that minimum if we decide they’re historically reliable. That’s the minimum we’re talking. Okay? Now, let’s move on from there.

What we’re going to do – well, I have this lengthy lecture called “The Three C’s of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels,” and we’re only going to be able to look at one part of one of those C’s tonight. So, we’re looking at five criteria. The second C is criteria. Let’s look at the five. I’m going to name the five criteria.

First: Are there good reasons to believe that the author intended to write accurate history? Are there good reasons to believe the author intended to write accurate history? Second: Are there good reasons to think he author used good judgment in their choice and use of sources? Are there good reasons to think that the author used good judgment in their choice and use of sources? Third: Do we have reasons to believe that the author was capable of reporting accurate history? Do we have reasons to believe that the author was capable of reporting accurate history? Fourth: Can we verify numerous reports in this literature written as being true? Fifth: We want it so that no more than just a very small percentage of what’s being reported is false.

You’re bound to find some errors in Tacitus’ Annals of Rome or Josephus’ Jewish War. Okay? You’re going to find some errors here and there. But, we want to make sure that the errors are in the peripheral – the small, minor details – and there’s not many errors like that in order to say something is historically reliable.

Alright. Now, I don’t have time to go through all five of those, so we’re going to just focus on the third one. Was the author or their sources capable of recalling the stories accurately. Now, in looking at this I want to talk about conjecturing. Now, Plutarch – I’m not talking about the guy in Hunger Games. There was a guy named Plutarch who was born around the year 40 and he died just after the year 120. And a lot of what we know about the ancient world comes from Plutarch. He was a great writer, too. When he’s writing about people, the biographies of Julius Caesar, Cicero, Brutus, Antony, Crassus, Sertorius, Lucullus, Cato the Younger and people like that. He’s writing about 140 years or more after these people lived.

So, he’s got documents written by eye witnesses. We’re only a few generations removed from these events, so there’s oral tradition that has come down. People know the stories. Just like we know the stories today of the Civil War, right? The American Civil War. These things have been passed down. So, it was within a relatively brief period of time. There’s still a lot of documents and reports around. So, Plutarch has really good sources at his hands. But, when he goes on to write about the Theseus, the legendary founder of Athens, and Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, he’s writing about 800-1000 years after these people allegedly existed.

So, Plutarch says, “There’s large scale conjecture here.”

Let me give you his own words:

“Now that I’ve traversed those periods of time...” – he’s talking about Caesar and Cicero; written within 140 years – “...which are accessible to probable reasoning and which afford basis for a history dealing with facts, I might well say, of the earlier periods of which I’m about to write, what lies beyond is full of marvels and unreality; a land of poets and fabulists, of doubt and obscurity. May I, therefore, succeed in purifying fable, making her submit to reason and take on the semblance of history?”

What Plutarch is saying is, “Look, I’m dealing with people and events who lived relatively recently. We’ve got plenty of great sources and information at our fingertips that we can use. But, now that I’m going to go back to Romulus and Theseus, 800-100 years ago, I don’t have much. History wasn’t written back then in a good way. All I have are what was written about them by poets and what’s in legend and myths. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to take these and I’m going to craft them in such a way where it’s going to read like history. It’s going to read like things really happened. But, don’t be under any delusion that this is historically reliable.”

Are you following me? So, he had to be involved in large scale conjecture when it went back that far. The Gospel authors didn’t have to go back that far. They’re writing within 35-65 years of the events of Jesus. Large scale conjecturing was not necessary. So, when we ask, “Were they capable of reporting accurate history?”

That would be one thing to say yes. But, we can go further than that. Memory. Now, there have been studies recently that have called the accuracy of memory into question. One thing they bring up about the Challenger disaster. Remember when that happened back in, what was it, 1986 I think it was? I remember when that happened because I was still interested in space. I remember where I was at when they were playing replays of it and I learned that happened.

Well, they asked a bunch of students right after it happened to recall where they were and what they saw and they wrote this down. Then, six months later they came back to the same people and they said, “What do you remember about the Challenger disaster?”

“Oh, well this happened. Blah, blah, blah.”

They said, “Do you know that you contradicted what you said here?”

“Oh, well I must’ve been wrong then. I’m right now.”

So, they’d say memory gets corrupted. So, they said, “Look: Even eyewitness testimony, we can’t trust it because we can’t remember things.”

Now, I agree that sometimes our memories, they’re not perfect for sure. But, I really think that’s a lousy way of showing that memory is not trustworthy. Maybe those students don’t remember where they were at because, I mean, come on. The space shuttle back then, unless you were into that stuff, it wasn’t of much interest. We weren’t going to the Moon. They were having these space shuttles going up all the time. It’s like, “Well, what are they doing? Who cares. A few space walks.”

Nobody was really interested in it. But, I can guarantee you that the spouses of those seven astronauts who died remember exactly where they were. Alright? Take for example – my wife and I, we love everything World War II. And I remember being in a doctor’s office a few years ago and I saw the doctor and I came out and I’m walking through the waiting room and there are all these patients. And there was this one guy, old guy. Probably in his late 80’s. He was wearing a blue baseball cap with a B29 Super Fortress embroidered on it. And I thought, “Man, he must’ve flown one of those.”

And I smiled when I walked out of the office. And then my curiosity got to me and I had to go back in. I walked up and I said, “Sir, did you, by any chance, fly on a B29 in World War II?”

He said, “I sure did, son.”

I said, “Man, you must have some fascinating stories.”

He said, “Yeah. I was in the Pacific Theater.”

I mean, they were men back then. You know?

“I was in the Pacific Theater and I’ll never forget. We were on this island and the native women had a horrible odor to them.”

And here he was remembering this like 65-70 years later, what these women on the island smelled like. You know? It was amazing. How many of you were old enough to remember 9/11? A lot of you wouldn’t be now, you know? How many of you remember where you were and what you were doing exactly? Of course. How many of you remember what the weather was like?

What was it? Sunny. Yep. That was almost 16 years ago, right? And you remember what the weather was like. You remember what you were doing in the morning right before noon on that day. Let me ask you a question: What was the weather like on September 11th last year? You don’t remember it. Isn’t that interesting? You remember the weather almost 16 years ago, but not less than a year ago. It’s because something big happened that day and it burned it into your memory. Right? Because, this was personal. This was something that had an impact on you. And those things tend to leave those kind of memories.

Like I remember my first kiss. It was awesome. It was awesome. I was in 10th grade. I remember where I was, who it was. I remember that kiss. Just the other day, Sunday, was July 9th. And I remember 46 years ago, July 9th, 1971, I attended my first Major League Baseball game. My grandfather took me. I lived in Baltimore. It was the Orioles against the Cleveland Indians. We won 4-1. Jim Palmer was pitching for us. Mark Belanger, our short stop, caught the last pop fly to win the game. There’s was one home run hit by the Indians. That’s the only score. My grandfather and I sat up in the mezzanine on the first base side and I remember saying to him, “Pop pop? See that guy in the French blue shirt over there sitting right next to the Orioles dugout on the third base side?”


“Can we sit there next time?”

It was great. Why do I remember that? Because, it was really meaningful to me. You know? We can remember those kinds of things. Now, how many of you remember the movie “We Were Soldiers” with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliot? A true story about Lt. General Hal Moore who just died a few months ago. This was about four days in the Drang River Valley in Vietnam. It was the very first major engagement of American forces with the North Vietnamese Army. Four days of harrowing stuff that was going. We were greatly outnumbered.

We ended up winning that battle and we lost, I think, 251 American soldiers and then another 245, I believe it was, were injured. I mean, it was just – if you saw the movie “We Were Soldiers,” it was really amazing. A lot of stuff happened. Well, in that movie there was a guy named Joe Galloway. Well, that was the real guy. I forgot who played his part. But, he was the combat reporter. It was he and Hal Moore, the Lt. General, who actually got together and they wrote the book. I think it was called “Once We Were Soldiers” or something like that. That was before the movie and the background for the movie.

Well, about two years ago, my wife and I saw Vietnam in HD. In the very first episode, they interviewed Joe Galloway – the real one – and there were times where he just got emotional remembering decades before. Well, there is one part. It was a one-minute segment I want you to see, because it’s pretty neat where he’s talking about the war. Here it is.


I left that [garbled] battlefield knowing that young Americans had laid down their lives so that I might live. They had sacrificed themselves for me and their buddies. What I was learning was that there’s some events that are so overwhelming that you can’t simply be a witness. You can’t be above it. You can’t be neutral. You can’t be untouched by it. It’s as simple as that. You see it, you live it, you experience it and it will be with you all of your days.

[End Video]

Let me ask you. Let’s just say that you had traveled with Jesus and you were one of His disciples and you saw Him give sight to the blind, you saw Him heal the lame, the deaf, you saw Him walk on water, you saw Him raise the dead, you saw Him confront the Jewish leaders and be involved in these amazing dialogues, you saw Him brutally scourged and crucified before your eyes. And then, three days later, the very worst thing turns into the best thing. You see Jesus. He’s alive and He shows Himself to you in perfect health; risen from the dead.

Now, if you had actually seen those things – let’s say those things had actually happened and you actually saw that – do you think that they would leave an impression on you as deep and lasting as those four days of battle left on Joe Galloway? You bet. And you know what? It’s not only the deeds of Jesus that would have been memorable, but also His teachings. I don’t suspect that Jesus had a new sermon for every town and village He entered. I’ll bet you He had somewhere between 12-20 lectures as an itinerant speaker. He could preach the same thing from one town to the next, right?

So, the disciples going around with Him and traveling from one and a half to three years. They would have heard Him teach the same messages over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over – and over and over and over and over – and over and over and over. And then, you’ve heard it, if you want to learn something and master it, you’ve got to teach it. So, they’ve heard Jesus and they’ve probably taken some notes. They go out by twos so they can correct each other. And they teach the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

And then they come back and they debrief and Jesus says, “Hey, great job,” and they ask Him some questions and He clarifies some things.

Like, “Hey, Jesus. We went in this one town. Can we adapt this parable that you taught in a little bit of a way to make it more appropriate?”

“Yeah. Yeah. You can do that. Good thinking about that.”

And they’d discuss it. And then they hear Jesus and they watch Him teaching the same things again over and over and over and over and over. And then He’s dead and then He rises from the dead. He commissions them to go preach the Gospel and to make disciples of all people. And now, for the next three decades and longer, thousands of times they preach those same things over and over – and you get the idea, right?

And, on top of that, Jesus taught in such a way where you have these literary devices to help you remember. We were talking about chiasms. So, Chip can tell you a lot about those. And then there are kreya, these pithy sayings. Jesus has some of those things.

“Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.”

Things like that.

Or, “If your eye makes you sin, rip it out and throw it from you.”

You know?

 “Unless you hate your father and mother, you can’t be my disciple.”

All of these kinds of things. Pithy sayings that people remember. They’re meant to have shock value. They’re meant to encapsulate certain things in these pithy sayings. And then you’ve got parallelism and you’ve got parables. All of these things are very easy for memorization, because it was pretty much an illiterate culture. So, they had to come up with these kind of devices that would make it easy to remember.

So, a lot of teachings of Jesus are like this. They’re designed in such a way to help you facilitate in remembering these. So, the thing I’m pointing out here is all these things that we’re talking about all facilitate, of course. The authors of the Gospels were in a fantastic situation where they could have accurate recall of the things that Jesus had said and did.

So, pretty profound stuff. Our five criteria. Let me wrap this thing up now. We could go on for a long time. Our five criteria: Do we have reasons to believe that the authors intended to write good, accurate history? Do we have reasons to believe they used good judgment in their use and choice of sources? Were they capable of reporting accurate history? Yes. Does that mean they reported accurate history? No. It does not mean that they did. There are other things that we can look at for that. But, we can certainly see that they were capable of reporting accurate history. They were in a position and everything would’ve worked their way. If these things actually happened and Jesus actually taught these things, they were certainly capable of reporting accurate history.

Fourth. We haven’t discussed this. But, we can verify numerous reports in the Gospels as being true. Finally, no more than a very small percentage of things are suspect of being false. And there is a handful of things in the Gospels that scholars cite to say, “Well, maybe these things are false. Maybe these are errors.”

They can’t prove that they’re errors. Some of the things we can’t prove that they’re not errors. Okay? So, there are a handful of candidates that are possible errors. Like, I’ll just give you one. In Mark 2, Jesus is talking about when Abiathar was the high priest David and his men went in and ate bread from the tabernacle, which is not usually lawful to eat.

Well, if you go to the Old Testament, it wasn’t Abiathar, it was Ahimelech. So, is that a mistake that Mark made? Is it a mistake Jesus made? Is this a possible mistake? It’s a possible mistake. Can it be explained? Some people try to explain it. It’s possible. That’s all we can say.

Another one is in Luke’s Gospel, and it talks about when Jesus was born there was a census. Caesar Augustus had a census taken throughout the land when Quirinius was the governor of Syria or the proconsul of Syria. Scholars say, “Well, that could be an error.”

It doesn’t mean that it is, but there’s a handful of things like that. They’re very, very minor. I asked a few scholars. I said, “Tell me. What do you think, in all of your readings, what do you think are possible errors in the Gospels?”

Again, there’s only like half of a dozen of these things. And they’re all minor, just like that. Wait, we’re talking about four full biographies of Jesus and that’s all you can come up with? Small, minor things like that that are possibly errors? Even if we grant that they were all errors, the Gospels still could be historically reliable. That doesn’t discredit it. We can easily find that many things in Tacitus and Suetonius and the rest of them. So, I mean, that’s no big deal – for historical reliability, that is. And that’s what we’re asking here. Are the Gospels historically reliable?

So, those are the five things.

Just to finish up here. So, if you want more information that’s my website. You can go there. You can watch a number of the debates in which I’ve been engaged. We have a number of lectures that I’ve done that you can view there. Let’s see. Lectures, debates, some articles and things like that. So, you can get more information at our website. I’m also on Facebook and I’m on Twitter. I have two Facebook pages, okay? I don’t know why I did that. This thing. But, it’s Michael.R.Licona. I’ve got two Facebook pages. One’s a personal and the other is public figure.

Look, I only accept people for the personal one that I know. Okay? And I don’t know you guys. So, go to my public figure page and like it and you can follow me. Okay? If I don’t know you, I don’t accept your friend request on Facebook. But, if you go to the public figure page, almost everything I put on the personal one I put on the public figure. And I put stuff on the public figure that I don’t put on the personal. The kind of stuff that you guys want, you’ll want to go to the public figure page. Alright?

Alright. Well, that’s what I have and I would love to entertain your questions and have a discussion period. This will be fun.

[Chip Bennett]: Very good. Well I hope your appetites got whetted a little bit here. When we talk about something being historically reliable, I think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what that means in the literary world and the world of literature. When you take those basic structures and you look at them compared to the Gospels, there’s no reason to believe that the Gospels aren’t historically reliable. I also want to make sure – and I remember doing this at Easter. One of the things I think it’s important for all of us to remember – and I think Mike did a great job of reminding us of that – is Christianity didn’t happen because, like most figures, when they die, the people get together and they go, “Hey, let’s put together some stuff to remember these people.”

That’s just sort of what they do. Well, when Jesus died, everything died with Him. All of their hopes were in Him being the one that would restore the Kingdom of Israel. They had a messianic understanding of Jesus and that He was going to overthrow Rome and do all of these great things. When He died, they didn’t get together and go, “Let’s relive the dream.”

They went and hid because they thought that they were going to die having been followers of Jesus. The only reason the Gospels even exist to begin with is because something happened so dramatic to these people that they wanted to figure out how to write about it. They would’ve never thought to relive the dream when Jesus died, because it wouldn’t have been something worth reliving. They would’ve started looking for someone else. So, when we talk about the Gospels and we interact with them, I think it’s important for us to understand that when we bring these categories to them, oftentimes the categories that we bring are sort of artificial. Because, really, everything – no pun intended – rises and falls on the resurrection. Everything. Everything we believe is that if Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, then it’s game over, period, end of story. Jesus is who He was.

So, when we go to the Gospels and skeptics or other people will go, “Hey, there’s a contradiction. Were there angels or men or whatever else?”

The reality is I think we have to start asking the question “are we bringing some ideas to these texts that nobody in the ancient world would’ve brought to these texts?” Are we being unrealistic? Because, if I were to ask you all to recount tonight and we took each of you to a room, the stories that you tell might not sound anything like the story that’s going on in another room. And would that make that inaccurate?

So, think about that when we’re talking about these things. I hope that you’ll get some questions together. We really want to engage those things. So, if you have some questions, some concerns or whatever, please start writing those down, because that’s important. But, can we give Dr. Licona a big hand for what he’s done?

And we’re not done. We’re not done for the evening. We also have Dr. Braxton Hunter with us. He’s another great apologist and we’re going to bring him up here on stage in just a minute. We’re going to move the tables out and we’re going to do a great Q&A. But, before that what I’d like to do is ask the ushers to come. I’d like to take up an offering for Mike and his ministry. Give liberally, especially if you’re a believer. Mike really makes a difference in the Christian community and the world for what he does. And we need 17 people to give far more than 35 dollars for books on the way out as well.

But, that being said, as the ushers come they’re just going to collect an offering. Go ahead and pass it and do that. Then, if you would, if you have some questions, this would be a good time. Go ahead, ushers. You can start passing everything. Good.

If you would, if you’ve got some questions that you’ve written out, just put your hands in the air and some of the guys will come by and pick them up and we’ll get them up here. And then if I could get a few guys to get us a few chairs and my chair, that would be awesome. We’ll get to doing a Q&A here right away. Sound fair? Good.

Alright. Here we go. Here’s a question:

“How do you respond to the one who asks about the historical reliability of the longer ending of Mark 9-20 and what do you do with the historical reliability of John 7:53-8:11.”

[Michael Licona]: That’s a good question. Gotcha. Let’s do Mark first. If you look in your Bibles, Mark 16, after verse 8 where Jesus is risen and the women go to the tomb and see an angel and he says, “He’s not here. He’s risen, as He said. Now, go. Tell the disciples and Peter that He’s gone ahead of them into Galilee. They are to go there and they will see Him just as He said.” And there he’s referring back to Mark 14:28 where Jesus says it.

It says, “The women fled and, out of fear and trembling, said nothing to no one.”

Now, that’s how Mark 16:8 ends. And then in your New Testament you’ll see there are brackets around Mark 16:9-20 and a little footnote that says “these verses are not found in our best and oldest manuscripts.” And that’s the one where it talks about picking up snakes and drinking poison. You know, pastors in the hills of West Virginia, they go by those verses.

[Chip Bennett]: Thanks for not using Kentucky.

[Michael Licona]: But, most scholars look at that – almost all scholars look at that and say, “That’s not part of the originals. It doesn’t really fit. There’s a different kind of vocabulary and grammatical structure that is used throughout those verses. It ends up repeating certain things.”

So, the majority of scholars – the overwhelming majority of scholars; 99% – would say that those verses were not part of the original Mark. So, where does that leave us? Why does it stop there that Jesus has been raised from the dead, the women run and say nothing to no one and it ends there? Well, there are a couple of options. Either, number one, our original ending has been lost – it was there, but it’s been lost – or Mark did not intend to end it there, but he got sick or he died and he was unable to complete the Gospel. So, in other words, verse 8 would not have been the intended ending. It was either lost or Mark was unable to complete it.

The other option is Mark did intend to complete it there. But, why would he complete it where they’re running away and saying nothing to no one? It’s like, well, how do we know about it if they said nothing to no one? Right? How do we know about it and why would they do that? Why would you end it like that? That’s really weird? And there’s a number of – this is one of those things that, you know, where you have three scholars in the room you have five opinions. There’s no agreement. Nobody agrees on why it would’ve ended. Some say, “Well, it’s in vogue now to say that Mark was constructed as an oral performance. And, in that case, the one who would be given the performance would memorize the Gospel of Mark and then would put his or her ending there about their encounter with the risen Jesus.”

That’s a possibility. Another thing you could point out is that in Mark 1:44, Jesus heals, I think it was, a leper. And He says, “Go back and show yourself. Say nothing to no one and show to the priests what the Lord has done for you.”

So, what did it mean? Why go and say nothing to no one? What it really meant – same grammatical structure there – is like, “Don’t stop along the way and talk to anyone. Go directly.”

So, that’s probably what it means. Not that you don’t tell anyone. Anyway, there’s a number of different reasons that scholars give. I tend to think that either the ending was lost or Mark was unable to complete it. But, anyway, I would say that it ends at verse 8 and that verses 9-20 are spurious. They weren’t in the originals.

In terms of John 7:53-8:11, most scholars today think that that was not part of the original. But, a lot of them do think that it’s an authentic story of Jesus. You remember at the end of the Gospel of John it says, “Many other things Jesus said and did that aren’t reported here.”

It could be – look, I’ll tell you one thing I’m open to is there was a second addition to the Gospel of John. It could easily happen. You know? He could’ve given out the Gospel of John and, all of a sudden, “You know what? There’s this story and I’d like to include it in there,” and it got included later on at a later time.”

Or maybe one of John’s disciples later on put it in there. He knew it was an authentic story that had been communicated, but he put it in there. He said, “Well, wait. How does that work in with divine inspiration if we don’t know who the author is?”

Well, you know about a third of the Psalms we don’t know who the author is? What about in the Pentateuch when it talks about Moses’ death and he was buried? Well, who wrote the Pentateuch? They say Moses did, right? The first five books of the Bible. Well, how could Moses be writing about his death and burial? We don’t know who the author was, but that doesn’t mean divine inspiration. Who wrote the book of Hebrews? Well, origin said only God knows who wrote the book of Hebrews. You know? In the early third century they said that. So, we don’t need to necessarily know who the author was for these things.

But, anyway, these are tough passages. I have a friend who did his doctoral dissertation on that text in John. He wanted to prove that it was authentic and he ended up saying, “I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.”

So, those are tough ones. There are not too many of those in the Gospels.

[Chip Bennett]:  You know, I think – have you got something you want to say?

[Braxton Hunter]: Yeah. I was just going to say I can’t add anything to what Dr. Licona just said except to say that when I first became aware of these kind of things, it’s shocking at first, I think, to a lot of Christians who’ve grown up in church and have such a high view of Scripture. And we ought to have a high view of Scripture. It’s kind of a knee jerk reaction when we hear things like that and we learn about passages that conservative evangelical scholars would say what Mike has just said. But, here’s the thing about it: When we talk to skeptics – and there may be some skeptics here tonight. For me, I think one of the great things that we use apologetics for is to express the faith in a way that it answers and helps to people get over those intellectual roadblocks so that they can come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What people like Dr. Licona are doing – and other scholars who help us understand these things – is to gently help us to become aware of things that, yeah, they may cause a little bit of a knee jerk reaction, but your skeptical friend, coworker or loved one may well be aware that a lot of conservative scholars are willing to grant this. And they may have educated themselves on these things. So, I think it’s good for church folks to be aware. And this is why I think it’s so great that Dr. Bennett would put something like this on. We need to be okay understanding this and hearing these things and being ready to respond when skeptics bring these up.

You know? We can say, “Well, yeah. That’s something that scholars are aware of and we have scholarly notations in most of our Bibles for these things.”

So, I think it’s helpful in terms of our evangelism because, honestly, that and building up the faith of those who are already saved and struggle with second guessing, like Mike had talked about, on occasion, that’s where the heart issues come in that I think sometimes things might seem cold, clinical and academic to us, but these things have real world applications for our evangelism and for reaching people with the message of the Gospel.

[Chip Bennett]: I’d like to interject something here from just a pastoral perspective. One of the things that we do in the church – and I think this is a great moment for all of us here to understand this – is your Christianity does not rise and fall on how you view the Scripture. It rises and falls on whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. And this is a big, big, big issue. Because, we put more faith in the book sometimes than the one that the book talks about. And this is so huge for us to get as Christians, especially here at Grace. Because, you know how I am as a pastor. I mean, I absolutely, 100% believe that the Scripture is God-breathed. That’s what Paul says to Timothy. He uses a compound word; “theopneustos.”

I believe that with all of my heart. But, don’t confuse that with what makes you a Christian. The early Christians, for hundreds of years, would’ve never even in a million years argued about the categories we argue about. There was no such thing as John Calvin when Peter was talking on Acts 2. Jacobus Arminius didn’t exist. Nobody argued about that. You know? They didn’t have these categories of, “Well, was John 7:53-8:11 around?” because they didn’t have John.

So, what made them a Christian? What made them have an experience in their life? Was it because they read a book and they argued about the book and they fought for the book? No. What made them a Christian was they believed that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, and they put their faith in that. So, don’t let when somebody comes along and goes, “Well, John 7:53-8:11,” I personally am more inclined to – these guys would probably tell you that it’s not. I’m more inclined to think that it might actually be part of John, because I do a lot of Chiastic work and I think it needs to be there and I’m hoping, one day, that the scholars find the ancient Gospel of John and it’s in there and everybody goes, “Oops.”

But, that being said, that doesn’t make me right and them wrong or them right and me wrong. It doesn’t mean any of that. It just means that we’re trying to give you the honest answers because, as Christians, we don’t have anything to fear. If the truth is the truth, we don’t have anything to fear at all. So, don’t fear these problem texts like Acts 8:37 or 1 John 5:7. Does it say there’s three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? That’s not found in some of the manuscripts. Don’t get bogged down on that.

The reality is Jesus tells us in John 5 what it’s all about. He says, “You guys are searching the Scriptures, for you think that in them you have life.”

There’s so many Christians that believe their life is found in the book. Jesus says, “The book testifies about me, but you won’t come to me to have life.”

Life is found in Jesus. And when we get that right, some of the other things fall away. Right?

[Michael Licona]: Let me throw one other thing in here, too. For several centuries, the Christians debated over which books and letters to include in the New Testament, right?

[Chip Bennett]: That’s exactly right. Absolutely. Yep.

[Michael Licona]: So, isn’t it cool that we can’t even talk about this and say, “Hey, we can debate over whether these texts belonged in the original,” and it’s like, “Alright, well we’re open to that.”

“Alright. Let’s include the Gospel of John. Let’s not include the Gospel of Peter.”

So, today we can say, “Hey, let’s include the Gospel of Mark. But, you know what? It’s probably true that Mark 16:9-20 weren’t in the original,” and we keep that in mind. It’s like, “Hey, I’m fine with that.”

Let’s be honest about it. Let’s debate. We don’t lose anything. I mean, we’ve got the resurrection narratives in the other three Gospels and we’ve got Paul before any of the Gospels were written who talks about the resurrection. You know, the woman caught in adultery, even if that were not authentic, you still have Jesus forgiving sinners. The thief on the cross. So, we don’t lose anything with these if they were not authentic.

[Chip Bennett]: That’s right. I agree. Next question is, “Why does it go from no facial hair to a little bit and then to a lot?”

No, I’m just kidding. It doesn’t say that. Nobody asked that. I’m just kidding. It’s just a joke. Calm down.

[Braxton Hunter]: I guess that one was for me.

[Chip Bennett]: No, no. I do want to say that some of you all have written in tongues, and I don’t have the gift to read it.

“Would you please briefly discuss...” – this is all you here, man – “Dr. Ehrman’s contention that the Gospels contain thousands of contradictions and discrepancies based on textual evidence?”

[Michael Licona]: Oh. So, well, that’s talking about variances in the manuscripts. And we do. There’s probably half of a million differences in the manuscripts. But, Dan Wallace, who is an expert on this, talks about are they viable differences and are they meaningful differences. So, viable would mean you look and you say, “Alright. We’ve got so many manuscripts. We’ve got an embarrassing richness of manuscripts.”

I mean, I’m studying stuff right now. When you take all the Ancient Latin literature, like Cicero’s Letters and Tacitus’ Annals of Rome and all these things, and you put them together, you’ve got right at about 1,700 manuscripts, total, for all of them. Whereas these guys are writing in first century BC– first century and second century. Those 1,700 manuscript are generally from the ninth through the sixteenth centuries.

With the New Testament, we have 5,843 Greek manuscripts, not including all the other ancient translations of it, not including the early church fathers who quote them on over a million occasions. Forget all that stuff and we still have 5,843. And we have somewhere between 9-15 of them that are dated within 150 years of the autographs. Within the first 1,000 years, we’ve got about 600 manuscripts. I mean, it’s just unbelievable what we have compared to this other stuff.

But, with all of these manuscripts comes variants. So, a lot of those are down to paraphrasing – the early church fathers paraphrasing or a slip of memory. Things like that. Sometimes the scribes made really egregious errors, ridiculous errors. Sometimes they would try to correct another’s grammar or maybe they thought Mark was wrong in his grammar and they had a copy of it so they tried to correct it or smooth it out and things like this. Sometimes they make spelling mistakes. In Ancient Greek, there were no spaces between words. There were no punctuation marks. It was just all run-on. I don’t know how they read that way.

But, you could see how that could be misinterpreted. Or maybe they just spelt something different or maybe someone was reading it and it’s like – I remember when I first came down to Georgia, I was talking to a secretary where I worked and she said “own,” but it was “on.” On.

I said, “Well, how do you say “o-w-n?”


You know? So, you probably had some things like this in Ancient Greek. I mean, there were diphthongs like an “ei” and an “ai.” They were pronounced the same way. So, you could have all kinds of mistakes like this.

Anyway, viable would mean the manuscript evidence, the pedigree of those manuscripts is very good. And then meaningful means does it change the meaning of it. So, for example, 1 John 1:4.

“We are writing these things in order that our joy may be full.”

In other manuscripts which are equally as good, it says, “I’m writing these things so that your joy may be full.” 

Well, which one is it? There’s only one different in the Greek letter. Well, the pedigree of the manuscripts, we don’t really know which one was the original. Our or your? So, it is a viable difference and it’s meaningful because it changes the meaning, although it doesn’t change any doctrine. I mean, it doesn’t change anything, really, in terms of practical application. But, it does change the meaning.

So, when we’re talking about something like, there’s no Gospel essential that’s compromised at all. Ehrman himself acknowledges that. No major doctrine compromised by a variation.

Anyway, Dan Wallace, one of the leading textual critics in the world, says when you’re looking at things that are viable and meaningful, not just a word order or spelling, but viable and meaningful, only one tenth of one percent of all the differences are viable and meaningful, and none of them change any essential doctrine of the Christian faith. So, no big deal.

[Chip Bennett]: Everybody knows Howard Stern. I mean, he’s like a shock jock. You know? So, when you say there’s all these variables, it sounds great when you’re on a college campus and people aren’t aware of what’s going on. But, when you have the knowledge of what’s going on – I mean, probably a good half of those deals is because Greek is a morphological language. It’s not linear like English where you go “the ball hit the boy.”

You can move all kinds of things around in Greek and it’s the same thing. And a lot of those variants are just moving things around. And he’s not going to just come out and tell you. When he says, “Hey, there’s all these errors,” he’s not going to also go, “Oh, but about half of them though are just this.”

He’s not there to do that. He’s there to create the shock. What it does is when you’re uninformed, the shock is big to Christians. You don’t need to be shocked. There’s nothing to be shocked about.

Let’s continue on here. Let’s see here.

[Michael Licona]: And Ehrman himself – Again I want to say that Ehrman himself acknowledges. I mean, he talks about all of these things about copies of copies. And if he really believes that, he’s got to throw out all of ancient literature, because he even acknowledges the New Testament is the best attested literature in antiquity in terms of the manuscript evidence. He even says in his books that scholars today are convinced that we have, essentially, what the authors wrote, although possibly not 100%. That’s what he says. That’s almost a direct quote.

So, he says these other things because it sells.

[Chip Bennett]: And if you’re watching, Bart, we love you.

[Michael Licona]: We do. I love you, man!

[Chip Bennett]: Yeah. That’s right. My suspicious is Bart had something happen in his life that really hurt him with his relationship with God. Oftentimes we get sort of frustrated. Didn’t he go through a divorce or something? There was something. He was a conservative evangelical. I’ve done that. I got mad at God and quit for a while. I know none of you all have ever done that, because you all are saints. But, as a pastor, I just share the way it is. I’ve had plenty of those doubts with God.

What happens is when you do that you start going down some dark roads. You even start, after your 30th anniversary, wondering if it’s the right woman. You know? Things like that.

[Braxton Hunter]: Hey, can I say something about this? I know you want to stay on a time crunch here. But, Mike, you know his story better than me. So, correct me – really, correct me if I say anything that’s not right here. But, this kind of ties in really well with what we’re discussing, because my understanding is that originally what had happened with Bart Ehrman is that he found what he thought was a contradiction in Scripture, right? And for him, that led to a house of cards falling down. So, he doubted all of Christianity because he found what he thought to be a contradiction in Scripture. Is that right?

[Michael Licona]: That began that question.

[Braxton Hunter]: Yeah. That began a chain reaction and all of that. But, you know, I affirm inerrancy. For sure, I affirm inerrancy. I mean, really, I’m a loud mouth, leather lung, red-faced Southern preacher. So, I affirm inerrancy and I love to get up and preach hard. “Thus saith the Lord” and all of that. But, here’s the thing: When you go about it that way, when you have that view that if one thing in the Bible were to be contradictory – and I don’t believe there are any contradictions in the Bible. But, if you have that view and then you find what appears to be that way, and that is closer to the center of, let’s say, your web of beliefs than the resurrection, then when it goes, the resurrection goes and perhaps a lot of other things go.

I think he’s agnostic, maybe. Maybe God goes. But, if on the other hand you say, “Well, no. I affirm inerrancy and I don’t think there are any contradictions in Scripture, but that is further out, so to speak, in my web of beliefs than my belief in God and the resurrection of Jesus and a lot of other things that are taught by Jesus,” well then, if you ever were to think you found a contradiction in Scripture, the whole thing wouldn’t come crumbling down and you would have more time, maybe, to confidently study this out. I’m sure Bart Ehrman did study this. I’m confident. I know he did. But, you would be able to search those things out with confidence.

And I hear preachers say this a lot. They’ll say things like, “If one thing in the Bible is false, then all of it’s false,” or, “If one thing in the Bible is not true, then none of it’s true.”

Well, that doesn’t even follow logically, does it? If you found out that one thing in the Bible was not true, it would not mean that everything else in the Bible is false. That just doesn’t work logically. So, while we affirm inerrancy, we need to make sure that we understand, as your pastor said so eloquently just a while ago, that the resurrection is the centerpiece, historically, of the Christian faith. Now, thank God I think there’s good reasons to believe that He gave us the Word of God as inerrant. But, I just think it’s important to keep these things all in mind, not only because, like I said before, our skeptical friends are going to challenge us with this, but also because I think that what I know of Bart Ehrman’s testimony testifies to this fact.

[Chip Bennett]: I guess this is what I would say: As Christians, let’s make sure that we do a better job of framing the question. Is this an interpretive issue? Is this a hermeneutical issue? Like, do you read Genesis 1 as a 24-hour, 7-day period or do you read it that it might be a little poetic or whatever? Those are hermeneutical issues. Those are not “Scripture isn’t the Bible” issues at all. They’re not even close to that. But, that’s what happens.

We do the, “Do you take the Bible literally?” What that really means is “do you read it the way I do?” That’s what we’re really asking. You know? And if you don’t believe the Bible’s got a literal 24-hour, 7-days, then everything else falls. There’s people that write books that say that. That’s ridiculous. That’s crazy talk. Let’s make sure that we don’t miss frame the issue. There are interpretive differences in the way we read Scripture, and scholars will interpret different passages differently. That is not an inerrancy issue. That is an interpretive issue.

And we hold onto those things because, man, it’s like white-knuckle. We want to believe. The question is did He get up from the grave? If He did, that means this world’s not all that there is. That means that He rose from the grave, which means sins can be forgiven. That’s the issue that we need to go die on a hill for, not for whether or not John 7:53-8:11 is in Scripture or if in Genesis 6 the Sons of God are the righteous line of Seth or if they’re some angels or whatever else. We need to stop all that crazy stuff and arguing about that and get down to the essential thing that Jesus Christ came and rose from the dead and He can change your life.

Instead of trying to make everybody believe in the Scripture, you know?

Alright. I’m going to answer this one for you, because I think this is sort of loaded. Well, I do. It’s an unfair thing. I’m going to go out – I don’t usually put my foot down on something, but I am going to put my foot down on something. A Christian person attacked Mike on some things and just couldn’t be more wrong and it’s aggravating to have to field these questions. I don’t think this question here is necessarily loaded, but it does come with some baggage, unfortunately.

The story of the graves opening after the crucifixion. The prophet’s walking around the city. Is that a small or large historical issue? Mike took a little bit of flack because he interpreted it differently than someone else and then someone said, “You don’t believe the Bible.”

The reality is I don’t think that there’s any historical issue with that particular thing. I think it’s just the way we read it in what we see. Do you have anything you want to add to that?

[Michael Licona]: Yeah. So, briefly, you have Matthew, Mark and Luke reporting a number of phenomena that happened at Jesus’ death. The temple veil splitting and that there was darkness that occurred. But, Matthew adds that there was an earthquake, the rocks split, the tombs were opened, many of the dead saints were raised and, after Jesus’ resurrection, they came out and walked into the holy city and were seen by many.

So, when I was doing my doctoral research, there were some skeptics who were saying, “This is the clearest example of myth making in the New Testament. It’s just myth. Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection is just more of the same.”

Well, I’d been reading through the Greco-Roman literature and the Jewish literature and I started to notice some things. There seemed to be some linguistic idioms. Kind of like we might say today, “9/11 involved earthshaking events.”

Well, a thousand years from now, what if a historian said, “Wow. They said 9/11 had some earthshaking events. Let’s check their seismic graphs here to see if there were any major earthquakes that were going around the world. No? Well, I guess 9/11 never happened.”

You know? It’s like, “No, no, no. That’s a linguistic idiom or a figure of speech that they were using. So, I started to see some things like when great kings died or when Julius Caesar was assassinated, there were things like eclipses of the Sun, comets, pale phantoms were seen walking around at sunset. That’s kind of interesting, huh? Streams stopped flowing. Black intestines were seen outside of animals. The temple doors – no, that’s another one. Just before the temple was destroyed, Josephus says that fighting was seen in the heavens, just like they said when Caesar died. Fighting was seen in the heavens. The doors for the temple in Jerusalem, which took more than 20 men to open, opened by themselves. A cow gave birth to a lamb. All kinds of things like that.

When Caesar went into Egypt, Cassius Dio reports that voices were heard and ghosts were seen, that a woman, whose head was filled with snakes, went around the city and terrified people. An eclipse of the Sun. There was a comet. The doors to the temple of Jupiter, which took many men to open, opened by themselves. Do you start to see some things here? Some common things? And you say, “Wow. Maybe they’re talking in phenomenological language like we would say 9/11 was an earthshaking event.”

And they’re saying this because, wow, you’re talking about not the death of Julius Caesar, but you’re talking about the death of the Son of God. So, they have this phenomenological language that’s going on here. If that is what’s happening here, then it would be false to say this is myth making. You’re missing the linguistic idioms here. So, that’s what I propose I thought was probably happening. We see Peter doing it on the Pentecost when he says, “Hey, you think we’re drunk with new wine? No way. This is too early in the morning.”

He actually says this. Like, “Hey, wait. Three o’clock and happy hour is coming. Check us out then. But, no. He says, “It’s too early in the morning.”

What you’re seeing is the fulfillment of what Joel the Prophet said, that young men will have visions, old men will have dreams. You go back to Joel 2 and it says, “Young men will have visions. Old men will have dreams. The Sun will go dark. The stars will fall in the sky. The moon will turn into blood. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Well, then he finishes his sermon and says, “Call on the name of the Lord and be saved.”

So, Peter thinks that Joel 2 has been fulfilled in their presence, yet the Sun didn’t go dark, the moon didn’t turn to blood. You know what I’m saying here? And then I looked in the ancient literature and I found there are places where we can confirm that in the Ancient Greco-Roman literature and Jewish literature where it mentions a comet, we can confirm that the comet was actually there. Hale-Bopp Comet. Haley’s Comet. Something like that. Or it’s multiply attested in the Chinese literature, which they would’ve had no contact with the Romans or the Greeks.

NASA has a website where you can go and enter a year and click on a geographic region and it will tell you if there was an eclipse of the Sun visible within the region that year. And there are some cases where we can confirm that there was a comet visible, but there was no visible eclipse of the Sun, which means that they could commingle historical details like that and they’d add some for dramatic impact. So, you wonder, “Is this what Matthew was doing?”

So, some were saying, “You’re denying inerrancy! You’re denying the Bible! You’re saying it’s wrong!”

No. I’m saying that it could be that your interpretation is wrong.

Summer Academic Series - The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts

Sermon Transcript

[Chip Bennett]: Well, good evening everybody. How are you? Good to see everybody. I want to welcome everyone this evening to another one of our academic series'. My name is Chip Bennett and I am the pastor of Grace Community Church; the church that is hosting this event. I'm also a professor at Southeastern University, an adjunct professor for Knox Theological Seminary, and I'm joined on stage tonight by Dr. Sam Lamerson, the president of Knox Theological Seminary, a New Testament scholar, a Greek scholar, he just came back from Athens where he worked with original New Testament manuscripts himself, he's a successful author and a respect professor. So, could we give him a big hand?

Now, on behalf of both of us and Grace Community Church, to those who watch via online and the internet, we are so glad that you all came out to join us tonight and I think we should start with a word of prayer. So, would you bow with me and let's pray?
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity tonight to look at a very real issue; an issue that is becoming more and more prominent and pervasive in the world today, and it's whether or not we can really trust the manuscript tradition that our Scriptures that we read are based on. Lord, I pray tonight that You would help illuminate all of our ears and hearts. I pray, Lord, that You'd bless this evening. Lord, I pray that You would be with Dr. Lamerson as he shares a lot of his wisdom and insight to us. And I pray, Lord, that You would really just lead, guide and direct this evening tonight as we try to wed the academy with the local church for Your glory. Thank You for everything in advance. In Christ's name, and everybody said, "amen."
The academic series here at Grace has become a hugely successful deal that we've done over the summers here for many of you all that are a part of Grace. And I just want to thank every one of you all for being here supporting education in the local church. This is the first of three evenings that we're going to do this summer, and I promise you that each one of these will be worth coming out for. The original vision behind the academic series was to bring academic scholarship of the highest level to the local church. So, we're doing that and we plan to continue to do this.
So, these evenings are informative and they're educational in nature. We want people of faith and we also want people in the community to be able to interact with real academic issues, and we do hope that you will all continue to support these evenings by your attendance. So, with that in mind, let's get to learning.
At the outset, the goal of tonight is sort of twofold if I break it down to two things. One: I want everybody to be able to have a great, genuine learning experience. At the same time, I want us to be able to wrestle with one of the perennial issues in scholarships, and that is can we trust the Bible? Can we trust Scripture?
The Bible, as you may or may not know, is translated largely from Hebrew and Greek texts in the Old Testament and Greek text in the New Testament. The text that Scriptures are translated from are called manuscripts. The Greek text that we use for the New Testament number about 5,800. The manuscripts vary in their material. Some are small fragments and others contain large portions of the entire New Testament. So, the question that gets asked in the academic world is this: Weren't there all kinds of errors over the years as these manuscripts were copied? Since the Bible translations we have are based on manuscripts that were copied over hundreds and hundreds of years, aren't there a lot of errors in that tradition?
That's a good question. It's one that we hope to answer this evening. That's why we've entitled tonight "The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts." Most people who consider Christianity at some point have to wrestle with this question. What do we do with the Bible? Many have concluded that it's a book, like another other book, written by people. Therefore, it's just full of errors, cultural and religious ideas from a day gone by, and a book just like any other book that you might find on a shelf.
Some conclude that it was an amalgamation of selected pieces of manuscripts by political leaders to try and control the masses. Some conclude that it has great teachings, but it's by no means inspired. Some conclude that the Church and its powerful elite chose certain books over others to include in the Bible. So, there's books out there that should be in the Bible that are not in the Bible.
So, those who question the manuscript tradition usually are trying to point out at some level that our Bible is not a reliable witness. In other words, what you have and what I have is not a completely accurate manuscript. There are errors in it. They would say that there's too many manuscripts that were copied at many times and many places that compromised the authenticity of what we have now. And by that, what they mean to say is that the Scriptures that we have are sort of a ragtag gathering of translated manuscripts that have so many errors that no real thinking person would accept them as near accurate.
So, the question: In over 2,000 years, has the New Testament manuscript tradition been compromised? Does what we have in our Bibles accurately convey what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, Corinth or Rome? What about what Luke wrote in his Gospel? Is it accurate? Does it convey what really happened? What about Matthew? What about Mark? Does the New Testament manuscript evidence lead itself to rationally concluding that the Bible is chock-full of errors, especially in the transmission over the years, or does it not? Or is it possible to truly have a rational belief that what we have is a tremendously well-preserved manuscript tradition and what we read in our Scriptures are, in fact, very reliable?
Although this may not be at the forefront of your Christian experience in life, this is a real issue in the academic world. And it's starting to bleed into the forefront of Christianity. It's becoming a big deal. The view that we have no reason to believe we have a well-preserved manuscript tradition is well-written about at this point. The books are legion. But, it has reached almost to the popular level these days to a guy named Bart Ehrman. Bart is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a very popular voice against traditional Christianity. In fact, he used to be an evangelical Christian and he no longer is.
These are just a few quotes from Bart Ehrman regarding this particular issue. This is what he says:
"We simply create a little fiction in our minds that we're reading the actual words of Mark, Paul, 1 Peter, and then we just get on with the business of interpretation."
"Our first reasonably complete copies of the New Testament do not appear until two or three centuries after the books were first put in circulation."
That's two or three hundred years of scribes copying and re copying and making mistakes and multiplying mistakes, changing the text in ways big and small before we have these complete copies that now we translate Scriptures from. Is this correct? I think tonight that what we're going to find out is that the New Testament manuscript tradition is incredibly robust. The earliest manuscripts we have compared with the later ones shows a stability in the tradition and that we have every reason to believe that what we have as the manuscript basis for our Bible today is reliable.
To educate us on this, I have brought in someone far more competent than myself to instruct us. Dr. Sam Lamerson, as I mentioned before, is a New Testament scholar, a Greek scholar, and he just came back from Athens working with original manuscripts himself. In fact, that was just in the last week or so that he got back. He's not only educated, but he's competent to discuss this with us. I knew of Sam before I ever met him because he has a very popular book that you may be familiar with if you've ever studied New Testament Greek. It's called "English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek." This book is very popular at the collegiate and seminary levels and it's a really well done book to help us understand Greek.
After meeting Sam and getting to know his level of scholarship and how adept he is at the New Testament, I felt it would be good for us to listen to what he has to say about the reliability of the New Testament manuscript tradition. So, I'm going to turn it over to Sam and he's going to give us a presentation and I would just ask everybody to lend your ears and get ready to learn. I can promise you this will be at least college level and you will walk out of here with a great amount of information. So, Sam, we're just so happy to have you here. We're turning it over to you and we just can't wait to learn.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Thanks so much. Thank you. I speak a fair amount and at a variety of places, and never have I been treated better than by Chip and the church. I thank you so much for the wonderful way that you have treated my wife and I.
[Chip Bennett]: Thirty-fifth wedding anniversary for Cindy and Sam. How about that, huh?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: She mainly deserves the applause. I can tell you that. One other thing that I can mention to you is that we have, in the hub, a list where you can put your name, mail and email address if you want to know about Knox Seminary. If you don't want to come to Knox Seminary, that's okay. You might want to know what's going on. One of the things that we do every couple of months is have something called "Lunch and Learn."
At the next Lunch and Learn, I'll be speaking about the Bible and the paranormal. What does the Bible say about ghosts and alien abductions? So, if you want to know about that -- who doesn't? -- just sign up and I'll make sure that you get an MP3 of that. So, I'd love to have you drive over there, but it's a long way just to find out about aliens.
[Chip Bennett]: You might get abducted along the way.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Yeah. That's right. And we don't want that to happen. So, I'll be glad to send that out to you and be glad to let you know about what's going on at Knox. It's just a wonderful privilege for me to be here and to speak to you. You might find that I get really excited about ancient manuscripts, so just buckle your seatbelt because this is really incredible. Ancient manuscripts. What could be more exciting than that?
You might not realize it, but the books that we have and the way that we look at books didn't always exist. I mean, somebody had to think of a way to put a book together because, before there were books, there scrolls. And if you wanted to find a place in the scroll, you had to unroll the scroll and roll it up. And finally, one day, someone – whoever it was, we don’t know – thought, “How about if we sew all the pages together on one side and then you can look through it more easily?”
That was called the codex. Somebody said, “That’s a great idea,” and it was as gigantic a change as the internet is for us. It made a huge change, because now you could look for particular passages in a book and it wasn’t rolling and unrolling a scroll. You could carry around all the four gospels with you and it wasn’t that big of a deal. So, shortly after the New Testament was all written – probably in about 100-125 – the codex became very, very popular and sort of began to take over the world. So, what I want us to do tonight is to answer a very simple question, and that is: Is what we have now in the New Testament what they wrote then in the New Testament? 
I’m not going to go into the details of whether or not it’s true. Dr. Mike Licona – a great scholar – will do that the next time. But today, I want us to walk out of here knowing for sure that the evidence is overwhelming that what we have now is what was written by Matthew, Mark or Luke. So, as we look through this, I want to give a special thanks to this organization: CSNTM. If you’d like to see actual pictures of New Testament manuscripts, you can go to this organization – CSNTM – and you can look at thousands of pictures.
CSNTM’s desire is to take as many pictures of New Testament manuscripts in high-definition as possible. Because, we realized that these manuscripts won’t last forever. Muslims want to destroy them. Fire destroys them bugs destroy them. Radical Muslims, I should say, want to destroy them. So, as a result, taking high-definition photographs and having those photographs in a variety of places is just not good.
[Chip Bennett]: Check. One. Two. I won’t accost you anymore with your mic pack.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Check. Check. Okay. Yeah. I’m a professional.
[Chip Bennett]: Don’t try this at home.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: So, today, we’re going to think about does the fact that we have a New Testament today that’s translated from Koine Greek, which is a different Greek than the Greek that they speak in Greece today. It was the common Greek of the New Testament. What we want to think is is the translation that we have really the same one?
CSNTM is headed up by a good, dear friend of mine, Dan Wallace. He’s a wonderful guy. I would encourage you to check out CSNTM.org. Not now, but at some point. If you have trouble remembering it, just remember this: C-S. You can think about C.S. Lewis. And N-T-M you can think about Auntie M from The Wizard of Oz and you’ve got it. So, CSNTM. If at any point somebody asks you, “Where can I find Greek manuscripts on the web?” you’ve got that.
So, let’s look at a couple of things here. First, this is from The Da Vinci Code:
“The Bible has evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”
This is made up out of whole cloth. It is absolutely just not true. Now, I know that Dan Brown is a novelist, but many people take these kinds of things and they think, “Well, that must be true. It’s written down, after all. If it wasn’t true, he probably wouldn’t have taken the time to write it down.”
But, it’s not true and it’s the sort of thing that really, really bothers Christianity. There are others. Atheists are joining the chorus. Here’s from a book called “Jesus lied:”
“We do not have any of the original manuscripts of the Bible. The originals are lost. Of course they are. We don’t know when and we don’t know by whom. What we have are copies of copies. In some instances, these copies we have are the 20th generation copies.”
And you see, it’s a false argument. Simply because we don’t have the exact manuscript that was written by the Apostle Paul doesn’t mean that we don’t have what he actually wrote.
Next: “Some Muslims are joining this chorus. The Orthodox Church, being the sect which eventually established supremacy over all the others, stood in fervent opposition to various ideas...” – also known as heresies – “...which were in circulation. These included Adoptionism, Docetism, God and Separatism.”
All of these kinds of things that did indeed exist and the Church stood against. But, the stood against it because the New Testament stood against it.
“In each case, this sect, the one that would rise to become the Orthodox Church, deliberately corrupted the Scriptures.”
Now, that’s significant. What he’s saying is that the scribes deliberately corrupted the Scriptures. And that, my brothers and sisters, is simply not true. They didn’t do that. Bart Ehrman – you’ve heard of Bart Ehrman. Dr. Chip has just mentioned Bart Ehrman misquoting Jesus. This is an amazing book. The reason that it’s an amazing book is it’s a book about textual criticism that was on the New York Time’s Best Seller’s list. Amazing. Who would’ve thought a book about textual criticism would be on the New York Time’s Best Seller’s list? And it stayed there for quite a while.
This is what Ehrman says. Now, just so you can get a sense of who Ehrman is, Ehrman graduated from Moody Bible Institute. He graduated from Wheaton and studied textual criticism under sort of the dean of evangelical textual critics, and then sort of gave his Christianity all up. And this is what he says:
“Not only do we not have the originals, but we don’t have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have the copies of the copies of the originals or the copies of the copies of the copies of the originals.”
As if to say that simply because we don’t have the original copies that we simply can’t trust. So, the simplest argument that’s being put forth here is that the New Testament has been corrupted. And that’s the question. Has the New Testament text been corrupted?
Now, I want to tell you there have been changes – inadvertent changes. But, the real question that we want to ask is how badly have these changes effected the text and has it really, really been corrupted or are these changes such that we can get back to the original text. Now, there are two things that you want to avoid here. One is the radical skepticism of Bart Ehrman. Bart Ehrman says, “Well, there have been changes and therefore we can’t trust anything. Let’s throw the New Testament out.”
Ehrman used to call himself a happy agnostic. He’s now moved to an atheist. He doesn’t put happy in front of it, so I don’t know if he’s sad. But, he’s an atheist now. And I pray for Dr. Ehrman. He’s a good, friendly guy. But, he’s just, for whatever reason, something in the church has hurt him and it manifested itself in this way. So, you don’t want to be a radical skeptic. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to have absolute certainty. You cannot say that we know every single letter that exists in the Greek New Testament. That’s the kind of argument that is made by people who are, for example, King James only advocates. They will say that the only thing you can trust is the King James Bible and if the Greek differs from the King James, then you need to change the Greek.
That’s the kind of argument that you get. And you laugh, but I’m not really kidding about that. So, we want to avoid both of those ends of the spectrum because we want to deal fairly with evidence. One of the things that I always tell my students is that Christianity should never, ever, ever be afraid of the truth. We are a historically based religion. We are a historically based group of people. If God is the God of truth, then we – all of us, every single one of us – needs to realize that we should not ever fear the truth. And that’s critically important.
So, there are four questions that we want to answer. These are the four questions that I hope to answer in the next few minutes together.
First: How many textual variants are there? Second: What kind of textual variations are there? Thirdly: What theological beliefs depend upon textual suspect passages. Lastly: Is what we have now what they wrote then?
That’s the critical question that we’re trying to get at. Can we really trust that the English translation that we have is translated from a Greek text that is really what they said? So, preliminarily, let’s just grant the fact that we don’t have the original New Testament. Nobody today has the letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Nobody today has the original Gospel of Matthew. Nobody has that. Probably it’s a good thing because it would be venerated.
I was at a monastery – The Monastery of the Great Cave – about a week and a half ago. What happens is you go to the monastery, you put some coins in and you light a candle. Then you look at the icons. Then you sit down for a while – 45 minutes or so – and then they bring you out a treat. Part of it was liquor of some sort. I didn’t really care for that. It was like these cookies that were pre-World War I or something. Then you eat that stuff and you sit there for a while. Then they say, “What manuscript do you want to see?”

Then you tell them and they finally bring it out. It’s all part of sort of letting the monastery get to know you and get to know that you’re going to treat the manuscripts well. So, this monk brings out some manuscripts for us. He sits the manuscripts down on the table so that we can look at them. Then he reaches into the pocket of his robe and takes out a fidget spinner, amazingly enough. It was like a culture clash. A monk at a monastery that’s been continuously inhabited for the last 1,500 years, but he has a fidget spinner. But, the point that I wanted to tell you is that they brought out this one manuscript which hasn’t been catalogued. So, it’s sort of a new discovery. It was torn off – I’ll show you a picture of it later on in the slideshow.
The corners were torn off of it. He said, “Yeah. The legend is that this manuscript was actually written by Luke.”
Well, it was written in the 10th century, so highly unlikely that it was written by Luke. But, the people believed that, so they would tear off corners to sort of get a blessing for themselves in the Orthodox Church. They’re highly into that. So, the truth of the matter is it wasn’t written by Luke. We don’t have any of the manuscripts that were written by Luke, Mark or Matthew. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t get back to the original. That’s what’s significant.
So, first of all, let’s think quickly about the number of variants that exist. This is what we mean – and let me preface this by making sure that you’re with me. Think about the fact that before the printing press, if you wanted a book, you had to pay a person to hand copy it for you. There weren’t any Barnes and Nobles. You went to a guy who was a scribe and you paid him a certain amount of money and he would then make the surface to write on. Usually it was like parchment. Parchment is made out of animal skins and they scrape the skin very, very thin and then they cut it into the right place and they write it with handmade ink.
So, it was a laborious process. So to get, for example, a copy of the Gospel of Matthew would take a long time. A professional scribe wrote very, very carefully. I’ll show you one in a few minutes that’s written and you’ll get a sense of what’s going on. As a result of the fact that these things were being hand-copied by scribes, unfortunately errors creep in. So, here’s a textual variant. Any place among the manuscripts in which there’s a variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, or even spelling differences. Those are textual variants. That’s what we mean when we talk about textual variants.
So, there’s no doubt that in the over 5,800 – climbing in on 5,900 – handwritten Greek manuscripts that we have today, there are variations between them because of the fact that they’re handwritten. If I were to write something on a piece of paper and then pass it to someone and have them copy it and they passed it to someone and then had another person copy it, you can imagine there would be some errors that would creep in. And if I impressed on you how significant and important it was, there would be fewer errors because you would take your time. And if I got professional copiers to do it, there would be even fewer errors. But, nonetheless, errors would creep in.
So, let me show you an example. In the Greek New Testament, there are about 140,000 words. And I don’t mean to come off like I’m some kind of great Greek scholar here. I’m really not. I’m just redneck, born in South Florida, still shopping at Wal-Mart. So, you know, I feel like I’ve come up a little because my family shopped at K-Mart. So now, you know, I’m up to Wal-Mart. I’m not Target, you know? I’m not old money. I’m still there.
But, there are really about 138,000 words and so we say 140,000. The variants you see are far more than the words of the New Testament. So that if all you saw was this graph, you would think to yourself, “Well, there’s many more variants than there are words. As a result of that, I don’t know if I can trust anything. This is the place where most of the skeptics stop. And now it’s updated. There are more than 400,000 variants. But, this is the place where they stop. So, this is the place where Bart Ehrman would say to us, “Look. You’ve got 140,000 words in the New Testament. You’ve got 450,000 variants. You tell me. Do the math.”
The problem is that they take us here and they drop us off without explaining exactly what those variants are. So, there are some important things that we have to sort of deal with in terms of those variants and in terms of whether or not they really make any difference; in terms of whether they are really a significant part of the New Testament or not. So, what we’ll do is understand that the reason that we have a lot of variants is because we have a lot of manuscripts. If there weren’t a lot of manuscripts, then there wouldn’t be a lot of variants. If all we had were seven manuscripts of the New Testament, there would be many, many fewer variants. But, we would have a much less secure text.
If you’re familiar with Islam, you will know that they don’t have textual variants – they say. And the reason is that if you copy the Quran incorrectly, you get killed. So, they destroy the Quran if there’s any change whatsoever. So, they don’t have this long history of textual variants like that. I won’t go into it, but there are a lot of issues that come along with it. So, it’s important for us to think about the fact that we have more variants in the New Testament than we do for any other ancient book. And the reason for that is that we have more copies of the New Testament than we do for any other ancient book.
So, this is what Richard Bentley said in 1733, long before the thousands of manuscripts that we have now were discovered. He said, “If there had been but one manuscript of the Greek New Testament at the restoration of learning about two centuries ago, then we would’ve had no variations at all and with the text being in better condition than now that we have 30,000.”
Of course, this was back in the 1700s. He said, “It’s good, therefore, to have more anchors than one and another manuscript to join the first would give more authority as well as more security.”
So, there are people who spend their lives looking at Ancient Greek manuscripts, carefully comparing them and deciding what the variants are and whether or not they really make any difference. Because, essentially what we have, really, is an embarrassment of riches. We have Greek manuscripts. 5,824. It’s more up to like 5,863 or around there at this point. We have Latin manuscripts. Over 10,000. When we say “manuscripts,” we mean handwritten. We have other ancient versions like Coptic and Bohairic. 5,000 to 10,000. We have quotations from the New Testament by church fathers. Over 1,000,000. We also have lectionaries. Lectionary, of course, was a book of Bible readings for each day of the week. So, the text in the New Testament was taken out and placed into it.
One day you would read from this text, the next day you would read from another text. All of those are very, very significant and very important. And what I want to do to sort of help you and put your mind at ease is to compare the New Testament to other Ancient Greek works. The average Classical Greek writer has less than 20 copies of his work still in existence. So, think about that. We have nearly 6,000 and we have the average Classical Greek work at about 20 copies. So, if we stack them up, they’re about that high. And that’s about how high the New Testament would be.
Well, it’d be a little higher than that. It’d be a little higher than that, maybe. A little, tiny bit higher than that. And you can see from that that there’s so many other New Testament copies than there are virtually any other book. The Greco-Roman authors, whom we all trust and whom we believe we have what they actually wrote – Pliny the Elder, we don’t have anything from the time he wrote until 700 years later. That’s the nearest we get to what he wrote. Plutarch: We have 800 years. Josephus: We have 800 years.
So, think about the fact that if you’re going to say that you can’t trust the New Testament because we don’t have the exact copy that was written, you become, then, almost a historical agnostic. You can’t trust any historical document, because the New Testament is by far the largest, without question. There are more copies of the New Testament and there are earlier copies of the New Testament then there are in virtually any other – not virtually, but any other document in the world.

So, we come to realize that all of those people who want to quote from Plato but say that we can’t trust the New Testament, it’s a case of special pleading. Because, even though we have some copies of Plato, we don’t have them anywhere near as close as we have them to the New Testament. And we don’t have anywhere near as many as we do in the New Testament. And you can see here that we have Herodotus is 1,500 years. And yet, if you went to a class in Greek history, Herodotus would be a textbook that you would absolutely need to read. And your professor would say to you, “This is critical and we have to understand what Herodotus has to say.”
Well, if you can trust Herodotus 1,500 years later, then certainly you ought to be able to trust the New Testament 50 years or 100 years later. That’s what’s critically important. Now, for a while there was this argument put forward by a scholar named Bower. Bower argued that the Gospel of John couldn’t have been written before 200 A.D. His argument was that clearly the Gospel of John lies about having known Jesus. It was written about 200 A.D. if not later. And, as a result of that, we can’t really trust it.
This is the older piece of manuscript that we have of the New Testament. It dates to 150 A.D. if not earlier and it’s a part of the Gospel of John. So, all of a sudden, all that work that bower did arguing that John was from 200 A.D. or later is put to rest by a credit card sized piece of papyri. Now, I’ll tell you quickly. Papyri are the earliest manuscripts, but they also don’t last as long. The parchment that I told you about is made out of animal skins. So, when you hold that, you can turn the pages and there’s no sense of tearing a page or anything like that. One of the pages was torn in one of the manuscripts I saw a couple weeks ago. And of course they didn’t have scotch tape, so they had this really thin thread that they sewed the tear in the manuscript back together. And that held it for a long time because this is, essentially, a very thin piece of letter.
Papyri, on the other hand, is made out of a papyrus plant and it’s sort of smashed down all the water out of it and it can be written on. One side is written on more easily than the other. But, because of the fact that it’s sort of like paper, it doesn’t last as long. So, when we find a piece of papyrus manuscript, it’s really, really significant and incredibly important. And that’s one of the earliest ones. That’s from about 150, if not earlier. There’s another piece of papyri. This is P52 from the John Ryland’s Library, as if you care. And then there’s another one called P46 that is the earliest manuscript that we have of the Apostle Paul, and it’s from about 200 A.D.
So, you realize that while we have 1,500 years between Herodotus and the earliest copy, we have maybe 100 years. For John, maybe even 60 years between the time it is written and the time that we have a piece of that manuscript. So, it’s very significantly important and it’s very important that we realize that these manuscripts exist. You can go and see them. You can go and see this John Ryland’s papyri. You can go and see the Sinaiticus, which is the whole New Testament put together at the museum in London. If you were ever in London and you say to them, “I want to see the Sinaiticus,” which came from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, you will find it in the room with another really important artifact. It’s The Beatles’ White Album. Both of those are in the same room. Because, you know, you kind of need security for both of them.
But, that just gives you an example. When people say, “Well, listen. The earliest piece of manuscript that we have from the New Testament is thousands of years later,” that’s just not true. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. An ounce of evidence is worth a pound of prevention. Looking carefully at these manuscripts and the realization that we do have these manuscripts and that we can compare the later manuscripts to the earlier manuscripts is critically, critically important.
One of the questions that’s often asked is, “Has the Bible been translated and retranslated so many times that we don’t know what it originally said?”
If you have Atheistic friends, someone has probably said that to you. Here’s the truth: The King James Version is translated in 1611, not too long after the printing press was invented. I gave a talk a few weeks ago about the reformation and how there were two critical things that helped the reformation. One of them was the printing press and the other was the Black Plague. I brought my plague doctor doll and showed it to them all.
In 1611, the King James Version is printed on the printing press. They had, at that time, Erasmus, who was in charge of putting the manuscripts together and putting the Greek New Testament together. They had about seven manuscripts. He just didn’t have that many manuscripts. He had maybe seven. Maybe eight. And they were all ninth century or later. They were not real early. Today – and this is in 2013, so the numbers have changed slightly. But, today, we have 5,800+ manuscripts and the earliest manuscripts that we have go back to the second century. So, you see that’s what’s happening is as time goes on, we’re getting closer and closer and closer to the original text. We’re getting closer and closer to knowing for certain exactly what was being said there.
So, what I want to do very quickly, because I don’t want to bore you any more than I already am, is I want us to think about what the significant questions are. So, within 125 years of the completion of the New Testament, over 43% of all verses are found in the papyri. That’s incredibly significant that we have nearly half of the New Testament already in our possession within 125 years of its writing. That is just incredibly, incredibly significant for us to think about. Within 125 years of the completion of almost all classical manuscripts or literature, 0% of the document is found in any manuscripts.
So, what that gets us to is the fact that we all – if you’re not going to trust the New Testament, then to be consistent you should give up every other ancient document that you trust. You can’t trust Plato. You can’t trust Aristotle. You can’t trust Herodotus. You can’t trust any of that because of that fact that if you’re going to be consistent, the New Testament is far, far, far more complete and early than any of those manuscripts.
Here’s the Greek New Testament through about 900. I meant to change that. I picked this up and it should say “A.D.” I don’t like “C.E.” “C.E.” is sort of a scholar’s way of saying, “I don’t want to mention Jesus so I’ll just put C.E.”
But, they still date history from His life, so I don’t know that it matters. But, here’s the number of manuscripts. You can see that as time goes on the manuscripts get bigger and bigger and bigger. We get more and more and more numbers of manuscripts. The realization is that today we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the manuscripts. Now, getting to the variants, I think that we ought to ask the question, “What kind of variants are there?”
It’s important to realize that even though we have those, remember I showed you the number of words and the number of variants and it looked like there were a lot of variants? 95-98% make virtually no difference at all. For example, there are differences in spelling. You remember in Mark when the demons get cast out, the demonic man comes from “Gaderene,” right? If you look at that in the Greek New Testament with a critical apparatus, you will find about nine different ways of spelling “Gaderene.” Those are nine different variants, and yet they don’t make a nickel’s worth of difference. It’s just the fact that they didn’t have a dictionary or a map to look that up on. So, they spelled it as best as they could.
There are differences in spelling and there are also differences in the use of the article. So, Greek is different in a variety of ways than English. Obviously. It’s a different language. And one of the things that they use – we have that saying in English, right? “It’s Greek to me.”
In Athens, I said, “Have you heard that saying, ‘It’s Greek to me?’” And they said, “No. We say, ‘It’s Chinese to me.’”
So, we all have, I guess, our own languages that are difficult. But, Greek uses the article often in front of names. So, you will see sometimes Mary and sometimes it will say “the Mary.” Or “Jesus” and sometimes it’ll say “the Jesus.” Obviously that does not make any difference at all in terms of the translation. It’s just that we don’t use that kind of article in front of a name, right? Maybe “the john,” but other than that we don’t say those kind of things.
So, we come to realize that the vast, vast majority of these manuscripts just really don’t make any difference at all. The smallest group of variants are meaningful and viable. And what I mean is this: A variation must be both. There are lots of variations that are not meaningful. That is, it’s clear that the scribe was at the end of the day and he just wasn’t careful in copying things. So, he writes something crazy down. So, that variant wouldn’t be meaningful. And a variant must be viable. That is that it occurs in a variety of manuscripts so that we can see that in the church tradition, this variant had some kind of support. It’s very, very rare. Less than 1% of all the variants fit into this group.
And I’ll give you a couple of examples of how this works. So, here are four kinds of variants. There are variants that are viable. That is, they show up in a variety of manuscripts, but they’re not meaningful. So, it just doesn’t make any difference. There are variants that are meaningful, but they’re not viable. That is, they do change the meaning of the text, but we have no reason to believe because there’s no manuscript evidence that that was really the reading. Then we have manuscripts that are neither meaningful or viable. These are manuscript errors that just seem to show up out of nowhere for one scribe who seemed to be having a bad day at the time. But, down here, meaningful and viable. Those are the most critical kinds of errors and those are the ones that we want to think about. Those are the ones that make a real difference.
So, let’s look at a couple of them. I’m going to just run through these really quickly so that you can see what I’m doing here. But, Greek is a highly inflected language. I tell my students that Yoda speaks English as if English is Greek. That is to Yoda, the word order means nothing. He just says, “Good are you today, yes? Okay.”
And it takes you a minute to try to figure it out. However, in a highly inflected language like Greek, the word order doesn’t make any difference? So, here are some examples of a potential variant of how many ways you can say “John loves Mary” in Greek.
There’s seven. There’s seven more. These are all “John loves Mary.” Here’s seven more “John loves Mary.” Here’s seven more “John loves Mary.”
All these are different and all of these are ways to say the exact same thing, that John loves Mary. And the truth of the matter is that there’s really no difference in the way that you would translate them, but they’re just different ways of saying the same thing. So, they would all be considered variants, but – and then here’s conjunctions that are often not translated. Men or day. There’s just all different ways that we can say “John loves Mary.” We would translate it in English “John loves Mary,” but they would all be counted as a variant. That shows you that many of these variants just really don’t make a nickel’s worth of difference. They just don’t matter whatsoever. They’re just different ways of saying the exact same thing.
So, when someone tells you, “Look at all the different variants that exist in the New Testament,” you can say, “Yeah. Of course there are variants that exist in the New Testament, but the vast, vast, vast majority of them make no difference whatsoever in terms of the translation.”
We’re still going on with John loves Mary. And, finally, I just get tired of it. But, there are other ways that you could say, “John loves Mary.” It seems like that can’t be possible, but it’s because Greek is such a highly inflected language that you can say these things in so many different ways and not have a nickel’s worth of difference between them. So, the word order in Greek doesn’t mean nearly what it does in English. And the particles explode the numbers of the way you can say “John loves Mary” to over 500 different ways.
500 different ways to say “John loves Mary,” and yet there’s not any difference in them whatsoever. Bart Ehrman says this: “We could go on nearly forever talking about specific places in which the text of the New Testament came to be changed, either accidentally or intentionally. The examples are not just in the hundreds, but in the thousands.”
Well, sure they are. But, they just don’t make any difference. The vast majority of them don’t make any difference whatsoever. And Ehrman knows this. If we can say “John loves Mary” over 1,000 times in Greek without substantially changing the meaning, then the number of textual variants of the New Testament is meaningless. What really counts, the real question that we want to get to here, is the nature of those variants. That is, do the variants really make a big difference? And here are some examples. Here are some examples of some real variants. But still, they make no difference in the meaning.
Here’s one: Mark 9:29. What you’ll see in the brackets are the variants.
“This kind of demon...” – because the demon is mentioned earlier on in the text – “...cannot be cast out except by prayer and fasting.”
You lose nothing by allowing the demon to either be there or not be there, because the demon has already been mentioned. And you lose very little by “cast out except by prayer and fasting.” Those are, by far, the kind of transcriptional difficulties that we’re dealing with.
Here’s another one. Revelation 13:18: “Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it’s the number of a man, and his number is 666.”
But, some manuscripts say his number is “616.” Oh my goodness. Seven tons of Christian literature up in flames over a textual variant. Little did they know that 666 was down the street from the beast and it was actually 616. But, you see, the truth of the matter is that these, they really just don’t make any real difference. The question that we want to ask is what theological beliefs depend upon suspect passages. That is, if we took away all the textual variants in all the passages that are suspect, what would happen? What theological differences would change?
And I’m going to give you now a list of all the theology that would change if we took out every suspect passage. And then I’ll give it to you a second time. And that’s it. Nothing. Absolutely nothing is going to change. An ounce of evidence is worth a pound of prevention. It’s just not going to change. So, the smallest group of variants that are meaningful and viable simply don’t change any theological variant.
One of the interesting things – and you can see here – is this, viable and meaningful. This little, tiny red dot there. Those are the variants that both change meaning and have a chance of being correct. None of them – absolutely none of them – make any change in the doctrines of Christianity. This is from Dan Brown:
“‘My dear,’ Teabing declared, ‘until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet; a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.’”
When he says “until that moment in history,” what he’s talking about is essentially saying that the deity of Christ was invented by Constantine. And that until Constantine, nobody considers Jesus deity. What we find, however, and this is from P66. I mentioned this to you earlier, as I’m sure you remember. P66, interestingly what you’ll find is that this is a piece of parchment and there aren’t space between words. They did that to save paper because paper cost a lot of money. So, they would not put spaces between the words and you have to figure out where the spaces go. And there are very few places where that makes a little bit of difference. But, not many. 
But, what we have here – and you can see it – is the Euaggelion Cata-Ionian. This is the Gospel of John. What the Gospel of John says was “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
175 A.D. Long before Constantine had even thought of. It puts the lie to those kind of things that people invent trying to deny that the New Testament actually tells us that Jesus is God. Is what we have now what they wrote then? Sure. We may have some small variations where we don’t know exactly what was written. But, in all the essentials of Christian doctrine, absolutely. The New Testament that we have today is exactly what was written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or any others of them. It’s important for us to be able to say that and to be able to say, “Look. You can go onto the internet and you can look at these Greek manuscripts yourself. They’re not hidden away somewhere. You can look at them. You can go and you can learn to read the Greek text and translate it yourself. This is not some secret that’s gone away.”
Anyone can test this for themselves. No essential doctrine of the Christian faith is jeopardized by any Bible variant. None. So, it’s important for all of us to come to realize that this idea that we have about the New Testament being sort of changed along the way is just not true.
I just wanted to show you. This is a document of the New Testament. You can see here these are the writings. A very beautiful script. Up until the tenth century, the words would hang from the line; one of the ways to tell the date. At the tenth century, they begin to sit on the line. So, you can tell them there. There are some spaces here, so it makes it a little easier. Sometimes you will find notes in the side by the scribe. It’s a beautiful piece of manuscript. And this scribe did that so that he and others could have a copy of the Word of God. This is the cover of the book that the monks had made to make sure that it was protected. They care about the Word of God. These scribes cared about the Word of God. They wanted people to be able to have the Word of God. That’s the reason that they did this kind of thing.
Here’s another manuscript. This is the one where the corners had been torn off, you can see there, by those who thought that it was actually written by Luke. But, again, you can see the text there and you can see how clearly it’s written. You can see, also, some corrections that have been made. Sometimes scribes would come along and make corrections for them.
I want to make now, to end, an unnatural segue. A polar bear attacks a man in Canada and bystanders do nothing, and the media did not even report this event. That seems shocking to us – until you see the polar bear. You see, the polar bear is Bart Ehrman. He’s saying to us, “It’s not true. It’s not true. You can’t trust it. You can’t trust it. You can’t trust it.”
He doesn’t know what he’s saying. The truth of the matter is that you can trust it. The truth of the matter is that the New Testament is God’s Word from the time that it was written until today, and every one of us who sits here can be absolutely certain in our faith that we are trusting the truth of God’s Word.
Here’s a poem – and I know it’s cliché to end with a poem, but it’s a marvelous poem. I’m sure you’ve heard it before.
“Last eve I passed before a blacksmith’s door and heard the anvil ring the vesper chime; When looking in, I saw upon the floor, old hammers worn with beating years of time.
“‘How many anvils have you had,’ said I, ‘To wear and batter all these hammers so?’
“‘Just one,’ said he; then with a twinkling eye, ‘The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.’
“And so, I thought, the anvil of God’s Word, for ages, skeptic blows have beat upon; Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard, the anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.”
For the last 2,000 years, people have beat upon the New Testament, saying, “It’s not true. You can’t trust it. It’s not true. You can’t trust it.”
And yet, just like that little, tiny polar bear, God’s people, God’s Church and God’s Word moves on. And you all can go out of here and say, “I know that I can trust the New Testament, not because I have to depend upon an expect, but because I can go and look at pictures of those manuscripts myself.”
And that is an amazing thing. Again, thanks to CSNTM. You can go there. You can look at their manuscripts. If you would like to know more about them, please get on their mailing list. They’re a great, great organization and I think you will be greatly blessed by them. Dan Wallace is a wonderful man who’s handled more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other person alive and who will say to you the same thing that I’m saying to you tonight, and that is that you can trust your New Testament.
With that, I’m going to thank you for listening to me and I hope that it has been some value to you.
[Chip Bennett]: I wrote down here, when Sam was talking – I wanted to make sure that I boiled it down – when you learn about New Testament manuscripts, you need a World War I cookie, some liquor and a fidget spinner. And, beware of polar bears. So, there you go.
No, I’m jokingly completely. What a great – I think that you’ve received some incredible information tonight. And I guess, you know, with what Dr. Lamerson was saying to you and what I would say to you as the pastor here at the church, the amount of variants that are in what we call our “critical apparatus,” although there are many of them, I think you’re seeing that you can spin that information differently depending upon what your bias is when you’re looking at that. I think that’s huge. You know? We always joke about, you know, you can make stats say anything depending upon what you want them to say.
So, I think that you’ve seen here that belief in the New Testament and the reliability of the manuscript tradition is incredibly reliable and incredibly solid. I want to end this part of the evening with a quote from Craig Evans. A good scholar. A great, New Testament guy. And he’s a scholar in the manuscript tradition as well. This is his quote:
“The Bible manuscripts are early, they are numerous, and they’re not available just in Greek (the original language), but in several languages. The manuscripts are accurate. They reflect the work of competent scribes who collected and compared. When we look at these manuscripts and compare them to other, non-Christian manuscripts and traditions – well, maybe I should say there is no comparison. Of 20,000 lines of the Greek New Testament, according to Professor Bruce Metzger, a long time respected textual critic at Princeton Theological Seminary, of the 20,000 lines that make of the Greek New Testament, only 40 lines are in doubt. And not one of those lines contains anything that relates to important New Testament or Christian teaching. The New Testament is well-preserved; the text is stable. The text of the New Testament reflects the original text and, therefore, when we read it and study it, we should have great confidence. This is, indeed, what Jesus originally taught and what His disciples originally wrote.”
And I think you can leave here confident in that. You may, over the years, because this is becoming a real issue – not just in the academic world because it’s been there for years. But, it’s becoming a popular issue because you’re starting to see things like The Da Vinci Code. But, especially with Bart Ehrman and stuff that he’s writing, it’s starting to get into the popular level where people are starting to question things. I want you to know that we’re not up here trying to hoodwink anybody or trying to distort anything. The truth is the truth. There’s just not any reason to doubt the reliability of the New Testament documents, and I hope that you can leave here with that understanding. So, if you get attacked by somebody or someone says something of that nature, you won’t feel like somehow you’ve missed out or you weren’t informed.
That being said, is Jennifer still here? Or Tom or Dan? We didn’t put 3x5 cards out on the chairs, did we? Okay. Do we have 3x5 cards? Okay. If we could pass them out as quickly as possible, what I want to do is if you have any questions – you know what, it’ll take to long to get all those. We’ll just fire it up. If you have questions concerning the New Testament manuscripts – I mean, obviously, if you want to talk about something else, that’s really not what we’re talking about tonight. And I understand sometimes people have questions.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Ask Chip later. If you have any other questions, ask Chip later.
[Chip Bennett]: Yeah. That’s right. Except for UFOs and abduction.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: I’ve got that covered.
[Chip Bennett]: But, if you have New Testament reliability issues or manuscript issues, we would like for you to be able to ask those questions. And, if you would, I think we’re going to get a microphone here. John, do we have one that we can use? Okay. Here’s one that can be used. Here’s one. Dan, can I give you this here? If you have a question, Dan, Barry, Tom or somebody will come and give you a microphone. Please don’t ask the question until you have the microphone so that everybody can hear the question.
Do you have any questions at all? Yes. Over here. We record these and it’s unfair for those that are listening to not be able to hear the question.
[Question]: I was hoping you could explain what a “highly inflective language” is.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: A highly inflected language – essentially, in English, our language is not highly inflected. That is, the subject comes before the verb and the direct object comes after. So, if we say, “John hit the ball,” we know that John is the subject and he hit the ball. If we say, “The ball hit John,” we know that the ball is the subject and it hit John.
In Greek, we can tell what’s the subject and what’s the direct object and all other things in the sentence by the spelling. The subject is spelled a little differently than the word would be if it were a direct object. As a result of that, word order doesn’t make nearly as much difference. You can always tell what the subject is just by the ending on the word rather than by its place in the sentence. So, that’s why you find Yoda speaking as if word order doesn’t matter. So, he’s speaking a non-inflected language as if it’s highly inflected. So, I hope that helps.
[Chip Bennett]: Well, word order, in Greek, is not as important as it is in English. We read a linear thing in English and we read it this way. In Greek, things can be placed in different parts of the sentence. It’s a morphological language. The function is not linear. It’s depending upon the words themselves to tell you what the object and subject are and things of that nature. So, when we you saw those ways John can love Mary, it’s because the words can be moved around and transposed where, in English, it’s just very linear. Does that make sense? I hope so.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Thanks. Yes, sir?
[Question]: I’d like to know who made the determination of what manuscripts to leave out of the New Testament and what to include in the New Testament?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Yeah. When you say manuscripts, you mean, I think, what books to keep in the New Testament and what books to leave out. Yeah. It’s a question of canonicity, which is different from textual criticism. But, quickly, the truth of the matter is the Church made the decision. No one person made the decision. No council made the decision. The churches accepted some manuscripts, some books, as being from God and the churches didn’t accept some others. So, there are, for example, books that we know were written at least fairly closely to the time of the New Testament, like the Didache. The Didache is “the Teaching.” It was written around the same time. It has a lot of really good things to say. But, the Church never accepted it as the New Testament. So, to think that someone got together and said, “We like these books and, therefore, we’re going to keep them in the New Testament. We don’t like these books.”
That’s not what happened. It was God’s people who came together. And one of the things that I think is a very strong thing to realize is that churches all over the world accept the same 66 books. All over the world. Now, some churches might add some. But, all over the world, whether you’re Greek, Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, whatever, they all believe that these 66 books are God’s Word. And there is very little that you could say that about the Church all over the world. But, that’s one thing and I think it points to the fact that God superintended the collecting of His material and His work.
[Chip Bennett]: I’d like to submit, too, because this will help you out a little bit. The vast majority of the books that are not included in the New Testament that we have extant, if you read them, you can pretty much go, “That just doesn’t sound right.”
I mean, some of them are just crazy. So, you know, a good portion of them you read and you go, “That’s ridiculous.”
The early Church had what we call a criteria for canonicity. It had to be written by an apostle or someone that was close to an apostle. It also had to have an effect on the body. In other words, in the sense that the Church did go, “These are the books that we’re including,” if those books were already informing the Church in a spiritual way, in a way that everybody was sort of reacting to these Scriptures, that they’re just different. So, you know, there was a church part to that. But, I think it’s important to realize that when people come along and say there’s all these books that are not included in the Bible, if you could go read some of the Gnostic Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas and things like that, you would realize that, man, these are crazy stuff. It doesn’t really fit what you would see as the Scriptures.
So, I think that helps too. It wasn’t just thrown together.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Just as an example, the last verse of the Gospel of Thomas says, “All the women who go to heaven will become men.”
So, I’m not all that into that. So, you know, there’s a gospel called the “Gospel of Peter.” In it, there’s this big, giant cross and the cross has a mouth and it speaks to people. They’re just not even on the same level with the New Testament documents.
[Chip Bennett]: And you see that like in the Old Testament where we have what’s called the “Pseudepigrapha” or the “false writings.” When you read some of them, they sort of, at times, read something like the Old Testament, but then they get whacky and you’ve got to move to Colorado and smoke something out there to understand them. You know?
Yes? Down here, Dan.
[Question]: So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the 40 variances that the professor found out of the 20,000 didn’t really effect the New Testament, I think, from what I understand. What exactly were those 40 variances?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: In the New Testament, there are two basic kinds of New Testament. There’s the United Bible Society that has a New Testament with a textual apparatus at the bottom, and there’s the Nestle Aland that has a textual apparatus at the bottom. In the United Bible Society, there are about 1,500 variants. Most of the variants will have something to do – like, for example, there’s a place in Romans where the question has to do with whether the verb is indicative or subjunctive, and they sound almost the same. So, the text would say either “we have this” or “let us have this.”
So, those are the kind of variants that you will see. Without going into the two most famous variants, which I’m afraid might take us way off. The two most famous variants, I’m sure you all know them. So, I won’t. You can, if you want.
[Chip Bennett]: John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20. Those are ones that are bracketed in your text and those are ones that people question. That would be off the subject for tonight. The main thing is that the variants that we have would be like if you saw “hat” in English or you saw “hit” in English. Those would be significant. Okay? But, if it was “she” or “he” and they forgot the “s,” those would be significant. What we’re saying is that the significant amount of variants that we have are very, very few. They don’t really change anything at all that we would understand with out Christianity. And the very few lines that do don’t really do that much question at all because there’s other substantial texts that address it.
The point being that when they say there’s 400,000 variants, when you don’t understand what a variant is, that seems like there is a huge issue with our Scripture. When you understand that with variants there could be 500 different ways to say “John loves Mary,” that would be a variant because it would be changing the way the text reads. But, it doesn’t change the meaning of the text. So, that’s the important thing to get out of here. Next?
[Question]: Hi. Let’s say, for example, I’m not going to go learn Greek and look at these manuscripts. So, I’m going to give you a chance to pretty much offend everybody here by asking, in today’s current translation in Bible reading – everybody has probably one of their favorites – which do you think really best translates from those manuscripts into what would be today’s way of reading the Bible?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: I think you ought to learn Greek. You know, that’s because I teach Greek and we kind of need people. But, people ask me that and it’s like, if I were to read English for my own devotion, I really like the NET Bible, which you can get for free off the net, which is why it’s called the NET Bible. But, I wouldn’t read that out loud because it’s sort of a clunky translation. And the New American Standard can, at times, be a little bit clunky to read out loud.
So, again, it just depends. There’s no one translation that gets everything right. I tell my students that all translation is treason. That is, it’s impossible to translate something without subtly changing. That’s just the way it is. That’s why all of you should learn Greek. Every one of you. No. I certainly don’t want you to go out of here thinking that I’ve got to learn Greek and if I don’t...
No. There are many good English translations today. You know, one of the things that may help you is to go to the beginning of the Bible and read the translator’s preface in which they lay out what their presuppositions are about what kinds of presuppositions they had when they were translating. That will be helpful to you. I like the NET Bible to study from. Other than that, some of you may have heard of Dr. D. James Kennedy. I was in his church for years and worked for him. He always preached from the King James. The problem is – King James is a fine translation, but if you’re 20 years old trying to read the King James, it’s placing an unnecessary blockade in front of somebody trying to read the Scripture. And, in that case, I think reading the NIV or any of those. Today’s English Version can be a good one.
[Chip Bennett]: This is the way I try to explain it: There’s literal, literal, literal translations that try to get – in other words, if there’s four Greek words, they try to get four English words even though that can be a little tough. Then there’s more of what we call a “dynamic equivalence” where it tries to make it seem like you’re understanding it today. And then there’s what we would consider to be paraphrases and things of that nature.
In Spanish, when you say “como se llama,” literally, if you translate that, it’s “what do you call yourself.” Okay. Would you want to read a Bible that says, “What do you call yourself?” Because, you might go, “Okay, that would be more like the NASB, because the NASB tries to do some of those things.”
If you say, “Well, no. I would like to hear, “What is your name?” Because, that makes sense to me. It doesn’t change – “what do you call yourself” or “what is your name” – the meaning. It’s just how you read it. Or, you might read The Message and it’d be like, “What’s your name, homie?”
You know? So, you’ve got those different types of things. But, they’re all saying very similar things. And I think some translations, Sam and I might have a more particular bent towards just for maybe translation reasons or maybe for just looking at Greek words or whatever or maybe disagreeing with the way somebody translated a word or whatever. But, I don’t think that you can go wrong with any of the English translations that are out there. They’re not terrible. All of them are pretty good. Find one that you can read and understand and I would always say to have another translation that you read sometimes along with it. And I think you’ll probably get the majority of things.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Yeah. Unless you want to read the New World Translation, which is Jehovah’s Witness. I wouldn’t recommend that. But, you know. They all are very, very valuable. We have an embarrassment of translations in the United States.
[Question]: Yeah. It seems, in the circles that I’ve run in – dealing with translation and things like this. But, going back to criticisms, it seems that there is more criticism towards, say, manuscripts dealing with New Testament Greek rather than Hebrew manuscripts. Can you speak to that and why that might be?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: Well, we have many more manuscripts. So, for example, up until the discovery of the Qumran materials, which is the Dead Sea Scrolls, we did not have a pre-B.C. copy of Isaiah. So, because we have far fewer manuscripts in the Hebrew Bible, there are far fewer textual variants. But, I mean there are textual variants. But, part of the reason that the New Testament comes under such attack is because it’s the story of Christ and His resurrection. And the evil one wants to make sure that people don’t believe in that. So, I think there’s a spiritual reason as well.
[Chip Bennett]: It’s awesome, though, when they found the Isaiah scroll in Qumran, the fact that there were just no differences, really, between it and the ones that were later. It was a real hit to the people who are into textually criticizing things. It was like, “Wow. Here’s one that’s ancient and it’s reading the same way as the ones that we’ve got.”
Which, again, shows the stability of the text. We see that in the New Testament though.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: It’s significant that you realize – sometimes you’ll hear critics criticize the scribes, but these were guys who spent their lives copying the Scripture so that we could have it. They have these things called colophons there at the end of the text. They write something down. One of them said, “I have heard something about a desk and I hope some day to get one.”
So, this guy copied all the four Gospels on his lap while he was writing that down. Another famous one that occurs in a lot of Greek manuscripts says, in English, something like, “When this hand lies moldering in the grave, this Word will still go on with all of its power.”
They realize that they were doing God’s work. It’s important that we thank them for that. They did a lot of really important things.
[Question]: Where in Athens did you go to study these and are these Catholic monks, Tibetan monks?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: No, they would be Greek Orthodox. But, in Athens, I didn’t go to the monasteries. In Athens, I went to parliament. Then there’s a town called Kalavryta. Kalavryta is a small town in which, during World War II, the Nazis gathered up all the men over 12 years old and said to them, “We want to take you out to this hill. Nothing will happen. Don’t worry.”
They took them all out to the hill and they shot them all. So, it’s a town that is fraught with that kind of history. But, also, right around Kalavryta, there were three different monasteries that we were able to visit.
[Chip Bennett]: We have time for one more question. Anybody else got one? No? Nobody? Go ahead, Chris.
[Question]: So, I know that these really don’t effect the Gospel, but I know there’s some passages and in Scripture it tells us that in earlier manuscripts, they weren’t found, I think. If I’m not mistaken, a woman caught in adultery is one, maybe at the end of Mark 16:9-20. And I know that, yeah, the woman caught in adultery is the typical passage used in teaching about forgiveness. How should we approach stuff like that and what would be your take on it?
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: The woman taken in adultery is my favorite passage that’s not in the Bible. The reason I think that it’s important that we understand that is that when your children or grandchildren go off to school, some professor’s going to stand up and say, “Did you know that the woman taken in adultery is not even really in the Gospel of John?”
We don’t want to shock them. We want them to be able to say, “Yeah, I knew that. So what? That doesn’t mean anything.”
The evidence is pretty much overwhelming that that was not in the original Gospel of John. I do think that its a real, historical incident about Jesus. I just don’t think that it’s a part of the Gospel of John. I know that people love that story and it troubles them when we say it’s not in the Gospel of John. And I’m sorry. You’ll have to talk to John about that. But, we have an obligation to deal in truth. And the truth is that almost certainly that passage is not there. But, it doesn’t change our doctrine of forgiveness at all. There are plenty of other places were Jesus forgives people for sins that they’ve committed, and that’s the wonderful news of the Gospel.
[Chip Bennett]: My suggestion, from a pastoral side, would be this: Whereas we may be able, from a textual tradition, to say that John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20 may not be found in the earliest manuscripts, the fact, though, that they have been included in church history for the many, many, many years that they have, a lot of people have preached off of those passages and people have been ministered to off of those passages. So, whereas we might be able to say that John didn’t include that particular passage, the fact that it is in Scripture and in our Bibles in the way that it’s been sort of handed down, I do think that there’s something about the tradition that we see in the church. I wouldn’t be going and basing doctrinal issues off of Mark 16:9-20.
[Dr. Sam Lamerson]: You don’t snake handle, I guess? Snake handling is what I liken the Mark 16 passage. That’s what I want to do.
[Chip Bennett]: Alright. Well, I hope everybody has enjoyed this evening. We are going to, at this time – and I hope that all of you all will think about doing this. We are going to take up an offering. What I’m going to do with the offering is I’m going to take the entire offering and we’re going to give it, as a church, to Knox Theological Seminary as a gift to them. So, if you believe in higher education – I mean, I have a doctorate from Knox. You all have met Warren, Jim Belcher’s been here in our church. Jim used to teach at Knox. Sam’s now here. Sam’s the President of Knox. He’s also a professor there. It’s a great institution and I want to bless them as a church.
So, we’re going to take up an offering. I’d like to say a prayer. We’ll take up the offering and then everybody is free to go. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for tonight. Thank You for the opportunity to do what we do and to have a church that not only preaches and teaches from the Word of God, but also is able to do these academic type of evenings that I believe are informative and educational for everyone. Lord, my prayer is that as Sam goes on his way, that You would bless his coming and going as the president of Knox, Lord, as he’s training young men and women to go into the world and preach the Gospel and to do it effectively with the skills and the education that they need to persuasively show Jesus in all of Scripture.
Lord, I pray for Knox, that You would bless that school, that You would continue to increase enrollment, that You would bring even more people there so that more people could be trained to go out and do the right things. Lord, and I just pray, God, that You would bless this offering for Your glory. I pray that You would multiply it and increase it so that Knox can continue to do what they do, which is to train people with the Gospel to go into the world and make a difference. In Christ’s name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Hermeneutics - Do We Read The Bible Wrong?

Sermon Transcript

Dr. Chip Bennett:

         Before we get started, why don’t we have a word of prayer, and then we’ll get started. 

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to gather here as Your people, to study Your Word, to learn more about You and to hopefully grow in our relationship with You. Lord, as I always pray, especially when we’re looking at academic type of situations, I pray that this would not be just some intellectual exercise, but that this would also be an exercise where we learn to grow in our relationship with You, and learn to appreciate our relationship more with You. 

So Lord, I pray tonight, that as we try to look at reading the Bible, Lord, that’s a daunting task in an hour and fifteen or so minutes. But Lord, I pray that You would lead guide and direct both Warren and I to say the things that are encouraging to Your people. And I pray, God, that everybody would leave here with at least something they can take with them in their reading and study of the Bible itself. So Lord, we give you tonight. We ask, Lord, ultimately that you would be our teacher, and we thank You for it in Jesus’ name. And everybody said, Amen. 

Well, good evening to everyone. You’ve come to the first of three academic series’ that we’re going to hold here at Grace Community Church. And these academic series’ that we’re going to do, we’re going to talk about hermeneutics tonight, and we’re going to talk about philosophy next month. And the following month we’re going to talk about apologetics. The aim of these academic series’ here is to inform you. It is not to indoctrinate you. These are educational in nature. They’re not polemical. They’re not intended to create any type of discord, but we’re doing this to create discussion. 

Each lecture, and there will be three different ones that join me for these three different series, are my friends. And some of them are really close friends, like Dr. Gage. We do have areas of disagreement, you know, amongst us. But what unites us is the common concern for the subject matter that we’re doing and to educate the church. I personally myself both teach systematic theology and hermeneutics. And I never ever as a teacher try to teach my students in a way to believe the way I believe, or to read the bible the way I read. I want them to be educated well enough so that they can work out their own theology, and their own relationship with God well. 

My name is Chip Bennett and I am the pastor of Grace Community Church. I am a professor at Knox Theological Seminary, and I’m also a professor at Southeastern University. And I’m joined tonight by a close personal friend, and a distinguished man himself, Dr. Warren Gage. Warren has a Theological Masters in Hebrew. He is a Hebrew scholar. He has a Juris Doctorate from South Methodist University. So, he is a lawyer. And he also has a PhD in Philosophy and Literature from the University of Dallas. And he’s also your humble servant. 

Between the both of us, there’s quite a bit of education scholarship in real world practicality. And while we don’t agree on every theological point, and quite honestly I wouldn’t want any of my friends to agree with me on everything, Warren and I are incredibly close friends. Warren was actually my doctoral advisor for my Doctorate of Ministry. But, we agree massively that there is a better way to read the Bible. 

Now, I’m keenly aware that when I make a statement like that that there is a strong possibility to be misunderstood. Am I somehow implying that we’re right, and everyone else is wrong. Am I saying that we’ve cornered the lot on biblical interpretation. Am I saying something that I just now revealed some inner pride and arrogance. I think those would fair questions to ask if you were thinking them. So, I want to do my best to answer them. 

Neither Warren or myself are under some delusion that we are some sort of bastions of God’s truth. Neither Warren or I will speak tonight from a prideful or arrogant stance. We truly believe there are great Godly men and women that see things differently than us, and we respect that. What we want to do tonight is offer you a particular vantage point on reading your Bible, and we feel it should garner at least some serious consideration from you. And if you don’t agree when you leave that’s fine with us. The spirit nature of Grace Community Church is that we lift up Jesus. We don’t lift up doctrine, but these academic forums by nature are not here for indoctrinations. They’re really intended to bring academic research to the local church so that we can be thoughtful and we can be people who think through the issues. 

So, all of that being said, let me get down to some fundamentals of what we’re going to do tonight, and what our agenda is. And the reason I say that is because unfortunately whether you’re aware of this or not, and many of you will be aware of this, the Bible is a very polarized book in today’s society. There are those that hunker down and would consider themselves to be very, by nature, literalist who hold to interpretations that Warren and I both would say might do some damage to some of the biblical texts themselves. Because it’s obvious that not everything in the Bible is taken literally. When David says about God that He covers him with His wings, obviously all of us know that God is not a cosmic chicken. I think all of us know that. 

On the flip side is that there are critics who tear the Bible apart. They will do anything they can to get away from what they consider to be this literal camp that they feel has so many issues that plague is. Sad to say, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of wiggle room between the two camps. 

So, you find yourself either hunkered down and defending things, or you find yourself in a group of people that are sort of tearing things apart through textual criticism and things of that nature. 

So, how do we read the Bible then? What do we do in today’s world? Do we hide at every attempt at scholarship to show inconsistencies within the text, do we give heed to the critics and just let them tear away, or is there maybe a better approach? Is there something, maybe, that we’re missing? 

The reality is this: The vast majority of people, vast majority of you, are probably not going to go to college or get a seminary degree in any type of biblical studies. Most people are not going to study original languages. And most people are not going to spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars buying the latest commentaries. 

So, what can we do as people who teach, professors, what can we do to help you? The real question is this: What can we do in an hour and a half that will help you read and study the Bible better, because that’s tough. I think all of us would say and agree, there’s no way in the world that in an hour, hour and fifteen minutes, hour and a half, that we can cover everything that you need to give you the tools that you need for your hermeneutical tool box. And when I use the term hermeneutics or hermeneutical, it's simply the study of biblical interpretation. 

So, let me lay out a couple of things that we intend to do this evening, and we’re only going to try to do two major things. There’s a temptation to want to do a bunch of stuff when you have a class like this, but we really want to give you something that you can walk out of here and read your Bible better. And I think you came here tonight because you want to read your Bible better. We want to give you those tools. 

So, there’s a couple of positive commitments. If you’re a note taker or you like to write things down, these would be things you might want to write down, because these are our positive commitments that we’re going to try to explain this evening. 

The first one is this: we feel that there is a divine thread that is revealed in certain themes throughout Scripture that bespeak of more than human authorship. We believe that the Bible, as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, is theopneustos. That’s a compound word in the Greek: God-breathed. We believe that there is truly a divine thread in the Bible, and if we could find that thread and those themes as we read through the Bible we might be able to connect certain things. We believe that that is there in the Bible. We plan on discussing some of those things with you tonight. 

Secondly, we believe that there is a tremendous need when we are reading the bible for what we would call genre calibration. Now, whereas when you’re reading the Bible and in the particular books you may be looking at how they unfold in a literary way, or in the type of literature that you’re reading, we think that there is an overarching genre of Scripture. That when you’re reading Scripture there is an overarching theme, and overarching genre that goes throughout the entire book. So, let me try to unpack a little bit of these commitments. 

The first one’s really big to Warren and I both. We believe that the Bible is not just a book, or a group of books. There’s a strong tendency in the professional world of scholarship today to tear the Bible apart. To reduce each book to a standalone effort by a human author. There are many books right now that you can go by and get and read and many of you may have looked at them that subtly create doubt in Christians about the veracity of Scripture. 

Many of you may have read some of those books. You might be here tonight because you question some things about Scripture. And I believe that in questioning everything about Scripture, I wonder if the questions we’re asking are even questions that apply to the Bible in the first place. And although I would readily concede as a scholarship that some of these books do raise legitimate issues and point out some needed material that needs to be responded to, they offer at times some cogent points. They’re just, in my opinion, approaching things wrong. The Bible is not a Frankenstein. The empirical rationalism of the day has made us approach the Bible in ways that it was never intended to be approached. 

We’ve taken scientific inquiry and we’ve placed it above Scriptural authority. Reason has pushed aside revelation. The need to defend against the culture of the day has not led the church to a renaissance of the primacy of Scripture, but we’ve tended to want to pull Scripture down to our level. The mind of man may desperately want to understand control, but God cannot be tamed by us mere mortals. 

So, I would like to submit to you that if we do not have revelation from God in the Scriptures, if they’re just 66 human books, if they’re just well written stories or admonitions to local churches, then the church really has no claim to authority and everything that we preach is ultimately in vein. 

So, whereas I don’t put my head in the sand and sort of hide from some of the stiff opposition that’s there, to some of the things and, you know, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the God-breathed nature of Scripture, I don’t believe that I have to take the position of trying to rationalize and reason my way to making Scripture fit my world, or fit the culture that we live in. 

So, rather than dissecting the whole, maybe there really is divine authorship to this book. The Bible says that about itself. Historical Christianity has testified to that. And I would ask you, what if there were threads, what if there were themes that ran throughout the entire 66 books of the Bible? What if over 1,500 years, over 40-some odd different writers that lived in different places and times, somehow tracked on some of the same threads and themes? 

I think that speaks, we think that speaks, of a greater voice. And so, what we would like to do here first is try to discuss some of these themes that you will find as you read through your Bible that will help you understand what you’re reading as you go through. And for that, I’m going to turn it over to Doctor Gage to let him teach us a little bit here about some of the threads and themes that are found in Scripture. Warren take it away. 

Dr. Warren Gage: 

         Well thank you, Chip, and let me say it’s wonderful to be back with you and see the amazing growth. The way the sanctuary is being pushed back to accommodate new guests, and the way it’s all been designed and reworked. It’s just wonderful. And I realized, I listen to all the sermons here so I feel a part of this community, and I realize the growth is not just physical. It’s spiritual, too. 

One of the things I take delight in with regard to your pastor, when I think of Chip I’m reminded of what Paul encourages Timothy in one of the epistles. He tells Timothy make sure that your progress is known to all, that everyone can see that you’re making progress. I take that to be both spiritual and personal. And, Chip, I think that’s evident. I think your people see you growing in grace. We are to grow. We’re in a community of faith. We grow in our love and understanding of the Lord and of His Word. Because I don’t make it here every Sunday, because I come every month, or several months, I can see, I can quantify that growth. And it’s a marvel and a wonderful thing to see. So, I hope you’re encouraged with that good word. 

And I love your commitment to Scripture, too. And what Chip is saying, basically, if I could summarize it, is nobody sat down and wrote the Bible like Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Nobody sat down and composed the Bible. Even the most liberal of critics would have to acknowledge that it was written over many centuries by different authors. And the fact that it comes together as one work, and can be actually interpreted as though there was one organizing mind with themes that run right from beginning to end, as we’ll talk about with symbols, there is a consistency to it that would never happen in the natural world. 

If we took over a same number of centuries, for example, if we took medical works from Galen in the second and third century up to the present day, look at how medicine has developed. You couldn’t put a library or books together like the Bible and make any sense out of it. It’s just, that would be impossible. I think we’d all understand that. 

If we went to the library and pulled down 66 books just randomly off the shelf, there wouldn’t be any coherence. We wouldn’t even think to read the Bible looking for that coherence that when we come to Holy Scripture, actually, we can see. And I want to show you that tonight. I want to show you the large scope of Scripture. What is the story all about? And I want to be very specific with some of the symbols, and show you how that works. 

I think that tonight could be really quite exciting for you. It’s very evident that the Bible has human authors, but the Holy Spirit, we believe, was superintending the writing of all of these 66 books that we call our Bible. And He was inspiring human authors who were fallible, but in such a way to keep all error out. It is infallible. It is inerrant. I personally believe it is fully inspired of God, who cannot lie. So, it must be a perfect book, as we will see. 

And I think that the way we’re going to approach it will show you that this is not a human book. Perhaps the greatest argument for inspiration, apart from the personal understanding that a Christian has about how this book transforms us and renews our mind and regenerates us and leads us from darkness to light and gives us a hope, apart from all of that the scripture does, there is a story going from beginning to end. 

Now, let me talk for just a brief minute about what we would expect if the Bible has one author. And I’m not looking at the human level right now. I’m looking at the divine, the evidence of the divine author that I can explore it like I would a book that had a single author. 

If you approach any piece of mimetic art, any kind of literature, poetry, a play, a novel, anything that is written, it has to have, I mean Aristotle was the first one to articulate this principle, it will have a beginning, middle, and an end. Any story will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You will have ideas that are introduced in the beginning, and, if it’s a good book, all of the ideas, the drama, the tension that’s introduced at the very beginning of the book will be resolved by the time you get to the end. Does that make sense? 

All of the themes will be tied up so that it is a complete work. And generally, the story will have a beginning and a middle and an ending. A Shakespeare tragedy, for example, is always five acts, and the first act introduces the tension. The last act is the resolution. The third act is always the great crisis. You follow? There is a battle, and something happens in that battle in the middle. And so, I want to look at the Bible. I want to identify it. The beginning and ending is easy, but I want to identify what the middle battle is all about. And then tie all of that together as a story so you’ll see how it coheres. 

So, the first thing I want to do is I want to look at the very beginning of the Bible. Now, I’m not going to be expositing individual texts, because we’re looking at the whole thing tonight and I think most of the time I’m going to spend is going to be in familiar passages to you. The first three chapters of Genesis and the last three chapters of Revelation. The beginning and the ending of the Bible. And when we look at the beginning and the ending of the Bible we find some similarities. 

The Bible begins with a wedding in a garden paradise, and it ends with a wedding in a garden paradise. Isn’t that true? And there are four things that we find in common that introduce the themes that are developed and resolved. 

The first is, both of them, there’s a garden paradise. There is a bridal couple. Of course, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. There’s the serpent story in both of them, and there’s the tree of life. Now, if we look more carefully we can see that what is said about these four elements is not the same. For example, in the first, in Eden, we have a couple, we have a garden paradise. When we come to the end of Revelation there is the River of Life, the Tree of Life and all of that that reminds us of Eden, but we have there a city. A garden city. That’s different. 

Remember in Eden, Adam names Eve the mother of all living, because all of us, wherever we are in time and space in this world, descend from Adam and Eve. Isn’t that right? So, potentially she’s the mother of all living, but when we come to the end of Revelation, that potentiality has become actuality and we see all of the Godly from all the ages in a garden city. So, that’s different. And the differences are important, too, along with the similarities. 

In the first garden, in Eden, we have a bridal couple. We have Adam and his bride, Eve. But in the last paradise, at the end of the Bible, that couple, we still have a bridal couple, but not it’s identified to us as Christ, who is the bridegroom, and the church, the community of faith. That is the bride. It’s the same in a sense of having a bride and a bridegroom, but it is different in that we are not looking at Adam and Eve anymore. Now we are looking at Jesus and the church. 

We have a serpent story in the first garden. The serpent introduces sin and death into the story, and you all understand how he does that. By deceiving the women, and then by Adam ratifying that wicked choice of Eve. And so, all of human tragedy and the suffering and everything that we know that is evil in the world that unleashes a dynamic that is deadly and destructive. Sin and death are its consequences. 

When we come to the last garden, however, the serpent has been cast out. The serpent has been defeated which is John’s way of telling us that there is nothing to disturb the everlasting happiness of the new bridegroom, Christ, and His bride. See, we’re seeing similarities, but we’re seeing differences. 

The Tree of Life. The gift of immortality. There’s a Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, but, because of our sin, we are forbidden of partaking the Tree of Life. Isn’t that right? So, the garden says we can’t have the Tree of Life. And we are exiled from the garden from the Eastern Gate, and cherubim angels are put there with fiery swords to bar our entry, lest we partake of the Tree of Life in the state of sin and death. God exiles us from the garden. 

And so, right there, that’s anticipating. The story of redemption is how do we get back in to the garden? Can we get back in to the garden, because the goal from the very beginning of the Bible in chapter three is how do we partake of Tree of Life? That’s the tension. If we partake of the Tree of Life, then all things have been made right. 

So, the Tree of Life is forbidden to us in the Garden of Eden, but when we come to the last garden it’s said very specifically, twice in Revelation, Jesus says, “to him who overcomes, I will (what?) give to eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden.” So, when we come to the end of the book we see that, once again, we have entrance and access to the Tree of Life. It’s the promise of everlasting life which is the Gospel itself. We’re not perishing anymore. Rather, we who believe now have everlasting life. 

Now, if I compare the beginning and the ending, these two bookends of Scripture, you can see that they’re similar ideas, but all the ideas have been rounded out and completed when I come to the end. The whole tale has been told. There is large development. How is it that we now have a city when we only had a garden at the beginning? How is that we have Christ and the church? Where did that come from? A new Adam. Jesus is called a new Adam. So, how did Jesus take the place of Adam, and what does that teach us? And then the serpent, how did the serpent come to be defeated when he seems to be so triumphant in the first garden and the Tree of Life? How is it that we gained access once again to the Tree of Life? Weren’t those angels set there to prevent our taking of the Tree? 

So, the differences, the story of the Bible is how do we get from this garden, with these images and this state, to the last garden. There is a large amount of Scripture, obviously, between the first three chapters and the last three chapters. Do you follow that? You see the logic of it? 

So, we’ve identified the beginning and the ending. That’s the largest frame of Scripture, and that is raising certain questions that we should have in mind. When you approach any work of literature you would expect to see that kind of a story development. The beginning and the ending are very critical, and when you get to the end everything is worked out. But there is a crisis in the middle, too. We need to identify what is that crisis. 

So, we want to know where is the middle of the Bible? What constitutes the middle? Where’s that change of direction? We saw that the dynamic coming out of Eden was pretty tragic. Where is that reversed? 

Now, when we are in the garden story, I want you to listen with me to the story. I want to retell it. It should be familiar, I think, to most of you. Most of us will know, even if we’ve only be of faith a short while we know Genesis one to three. And there’s some remarkable things that indicate the large theme of Scripture that we’re given from the very beginning. God makes man, He says, in His own image. An image of God He made them. And how did He make them? Male and female. It takes both male and female to adequately reflect the image of God. So, He makes the male and the female, the sexual terms, that become, of course, Adam and Eve. 

Now, what is it that we learn about that? What you want to notice anytime you read something is that when something happens that’s unexpected and something happens right away that very unexpected, and that is that with all the animals God makes the male with his female. He just brings them up out of the ground, we’re told. All the animals. The male and his companion. And God the blesses the animals and says what? Be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth. And we can understand the logic of that, because we understand that the animals are sexual beings. So, here is the animal with his mate, and we understand now how God can work out that process. But God doesn’t do that with man. In fact, God makes Adam alone, and we’re wondering, that’s unusual. Why would God do that? Why would you have the male and not have a female? What is the purpose and the logic of that? God’s going to command Adam be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, but it’s very obvious from the very beginning that man can’t accomplish what God has commanded. 

And so, you read through the Genesis narrative of creation, you’ve all read it. You know it says, “God spoke and it was good. God said something else and it was good.” Ten times God speaks and it’s good and then at the end it’s very good. All of the creation is made and it’s perfect, but one thing is not good. And that is, it is not good for the man to be alone. 

Now, it’s not like God is just figuring that out, okay? There is a logic that’s prompting to think about it. This is a significant clue to the theme of the whole Bible. God makes Adam alone. In fact, when he says that it’s like Moses is pointing this out. This is the only defect. When this defect is cured, the creation will be perfect and very good. So, God says, “It’s not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And, I mean, it’s a magnificent verse, but after that verse you would expect to read what? About the creation of the women. Isn’t that right? That’s what you would expect to read, but you don’t. 

And again, that arrests our attention. The text is drawing our attention to that. Why does God not make the women at that point? He says, “I’m going to make a women suitable for him, a bride suitable for him.” But he doesn’t do that. Instead He brings the animals to Adam. He brings them to Adam for Adam to name, and Adam names all of the animals. And I think that’s a taxonomic classification, frankly. I think that he’s looking at a very fine distinction. He’s learning about his God in doing that. 

Go to the zoo. Look at the magnificent imagination of God who created all of these creatures. And so, Adam is given the joy of naming them all, but God brings them, just like He does to Noah later, He brings them in their pairs. The male and the female. The male and the female. And in doing that, Adam is learning what? That he is male and he has no companion. And so it’s very evident that God is teaching the man that he needs the woman. And Adam is learning of his loneliness. He’s learning of his incapacity to accomplish what God has designed him to do. To be fruitful and multiply. He can’t do it. And when God has created that heart in this bridegroom, that’s when He makes the women. Only when he prepares the heart of the man. 

So, the Bible, right from the beginning, is teaching us, is instructing us what God will supply what needs we have. We become aware of them. God is a good God. He gives that which He’s created the desire in us for. 

Now, listen to how God does that, because again this surprises you. You would think, having read this account, that we know that Adam was made of what? He was made of the dust of the ground. The clay of the earth. Isn’t that right? God fashioned his physical body out of the dust of the ground. So, you would expect that God would simply take some more of the dust of the ground, the clay of the earth, to make the woman. But He doesn’t. And there again that’s to attract our attention. Something significant is happening here. This is how God creates the bride. 

Listen to me for a minute. Here is Adam in the full perfection of his manhood, in the full, capacious mind that he has, unclouded by sin. He’s filled with the vitality of life, and God brings upon Him a deep sleep, very unusual words, a sleep like a coma. So, this Adam, who is so full of life, is laid out on the ground in front of us. He looks like a dead man, and we’re startled by that. Imagine the scene. That will help you interpreting the Bible. Imagine that you’re the angels looking down at this scene and you think, “What is God doing? This one who is so filled with life now looks like he’s a corpse.” 

Then, God does something even more startling. He pierces the side. He creates a deep and a bloody wound. What is He doing? Destroying this perfect creature that He’s made. What has Adam does to deserve this? Adam is innocent. And yet even in his innocence he’s being wounded, deeply wounded, and God takes out of the side of the man that substance with which you will create the bride. Then, God heals Adam of his wounding, and awakens him in a garden and this is God’s heart. Father God, His delight is to bring together the bride and the groom. 

From the very beginning we see that. He is the Father of the groom, and He is the Father of the bride. He brings them together. That’s the joy of Father God. And Adam sees the wife, recognizes that she’s the one who makes him able to accomplish what God has commanded. “Be fruitful and multiply. Have dominion over the beasts.” She’s the one that will enable him to do that, and the first time he speaks is in poetry. It’s in song. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. 

They’re in perfect harmony. They’re in a garden. It’s glorious. That’s the way that we learn, from the very beginning, that the love that Father God desires between the husband and the wife can only come from a very deep and profound wounding. 

Now, what is that story telling us? Think about that. An innocent man, in all of his perfection, in the sleep of death, the side opened in a wounding, the wife for the bride extracted from the side, the side heals, and awakened in the garden to see his bride. Don’t you see that that story in Genesis 2 anticipates another story. It’s like the angels can see this happening, this is the pattern that God desires for this love story, but what happens He’s looking to His Son, who is destined to become a man. “Son, it’s not good for Adam to be alone. Son, it’s not good for you to rule alone. I will make a bride suitable for you.” 

And how will He do that? John is the one that tells you. Doesn’t he? Christ comes as a new Adam. He’s perfect, full of life, but God brings upon Him, upon the cross, the sleep of death. And He knows when He bows His head in death, and gives His spirit up to the Father, He knows that His side too will be opened by a spear, and out will come the water and the blood. The blood for the bride’s purchase. The water for her purification. And He will be laid into the womb of Adam, the earth, and then Father God will heal His wounding and awaken Him in a garden. And he will bring to Him one who will represent the bride. 

She’s not the Bride. She represents the bride. It’s Mary Magdalene. And Resurrection Morning here is the one chosen to represent the Bride. And He calls her woman. And He says, “Why are you weeping?” Here is God wiping away the tears. There is no reason for tears. He’s restored the garden. She mistakenly thinks He’s the gardener. 

Well, the reality is He is the gardener. He’s returned the garden to us. He’s given us the promise of intimacy with the Father. All of that. That is gesturing toward the middle battle. So, now we can identify where is the middle battle. 

Now, what are the sides of that battle? And how is that set up? The battle is anticipated for us after the Fall, when God speaks to serpent and announces the Gospel. It’s Genesis 3:15. It’s when God says to the serpent, “You will have the seed, and the woman will have the seed. And the destiny of this conflict of redemption that’s going to go all the way through the Bible is the enmity that God will put between these two seed. The result of that will be a battle where the serpent will sting the heal, but that heal will crush the head of the serpent. 

That prophesy is what drives the whole of the Old Testament, and into the New Testament. That drives the story. That quarrel between the two seed. So, when we come to the time of Jesus, which we’ve already identified, the religious leaders will go out to John the Baptist, and John the Baptist will see them coming. And in the spirit of prophesy what does he say? “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Remember that? That’s not just some kind of oriental insult. In the spirit of prophesy what is he saying? “You are the seed of the serpent.” And they are the ones who will what? Attack the seed of the woman. The virgin-born Christ. That’s where the battle takes place. 

Now, how is it that the Gospel writers describe that battle? I need you to follow with me in this, because the way that they battle in the middle is the cross work of Jesus, but also the open tomb. You’ve got to have both. You’ve got to have both of them in order to have your Gospel. You’ve got to have the cross of Jesus, but you’ve also got to have the resurrection message the open tomb. 

So, what the Gospel writers are doing is showing us how Jesus reverses the fall. He undoes all of the fall between the cross and the open tomb. Now, how does He do that? Well, think with me for a minute, we’re back in Genesis 3, we’ve been cast out of the garden, we’re in the Eastern Gate, we’re cast out to the east. The cherubim angels are there to bar our way – right? – back to the Tree of Life. We have to make it back to the Tree of Life. We have the hope that God will send the seed of the woman who will somehow make it possible for us to go through those angels who bar our way. Somehow they must be passed.  

Then, we must come to the Tree of Knowledge that we have partaken of, both from Adam and Eve, and in our own sin as we’ve ratified their wicked choice. We owe a debt at the Tree of Knowledge, and that debt is our death. And then, we want to partake of the Tree of Life. So, how is all of that going to happen? And the Gospel writers so characterize this battle that we can see how that is exactly what Christ is doing. Christ is the hero of the Scriptures. 

So, how does that take place? Well, the way that Matthew portrays this, I’m going to begin with Matthew. Matthew, understanding, of course, that the body of Jesus is a temple, John teaches us that. He spoke of, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He spoke of the temple of His body. There are two temples in Jerusalem at this battle. There is the temple of Christ’s body that is being crucified on the cross, but there is also the temple of Herod. 

Now, tabernacle and temple is a large set of images that go right through the Scriptures. The essence of that is that the Holy of Holies, and the tabernacle, and the temple. The Holy of Holies represents Eden. It represents the Garden of Eden. It’s cuboidal. It’s squared to the four points of the compass like Eden. That’s where God dwells. And there is a veil. The only opening is through the east. And there is a veil that guards that Holy of Holies. Do you understand? You can’t go back there. You will die. Only the high priest once a year under special circumstances can dare to go behind that veil. Because on that veil Moses commanded that the images of the cherubim angels be woven onto that veil. You see, they represent what? That we are outside of the garden. Don’t they? The images of the cherubim, the angels that bar our way are woven onto that veil. 

When Christ’s body is torn in his crucifixion, the author of Hebrews says that His flesh was the veil. When His flesh is torn, God takes that veil in the temple and does what? Remember? He tears it in two from top to bottom. What is He doing? He is dismissing those angels, emblematically, that had barred our way back into the pleasant garden. He’s dismissing those angels from their duty. He is inviting us to come, like the author of Hebrews says, “When the veil of His flesh, Jesus, was torn, He opened up a new and living way for us.” That is, we can now go into the garden. We can approach the Tree of Life. That’s our goal. We want to approach the Tree of Life. 

So, that first impediment, Matthew tells us, when that veil is torn the angels are dismissed. That goes all the way back to the very end of Genesis 3. That first impediment is taken away by the sacrifice of Jesus. 

Now, the second thing, this is what Mark and Luke together do, is how Jesus reverses the work of Satan. They frame the cross and the open tomb between two suppers. There is the Last Supper, before Jesus suffers, and there is the Emmaus Supper. Remember? The road to Emmaus on the day of resurrection? Jesus goes to that supper with His disciples. So, Mark and Luke are putting the redemptive work of Jesus, the battle between two suppers. 

Now, why suppers? Well, how did we fall? How is it that we fell? It was by eating. Isn’t that right? We partook of the Tree of Knowledge, which was elicit. And then, we were forbidden from eating the Tree of Life. And then, we were excluded. Everything has to do with eating. Eating the wrong tree and then not being permitted to eat the Tree of Eternal Life. 

So, the two evangelists, Mark and Luke, have two suppers, and in order to understand what they’re doing by portraying those suppers, you have to recall how we fell. Eve, when she saw that the fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes, desirable to make one wise, what does Moses tell you? She took of its fruit. She ate, and she gave to her husband with her and he ate. It seems so simple. Doesn’t it? But that is the great place of decision. That is disobedience against the good and omnipotent God. 

She took of its fruit and ate and gave to her husband with her. And just those three verbs, all of the human sorrow and tragedy that comes is introduced with just these three little words. She took, and ate, and gave. 

Now, what is the significance of that? Well, then we’re told, when Adam partakes of it as well, what? Their eyes are opened and they know their nakedness. They had been naked, but without shame. Now, they are aware of their nakedness shamefully. Distance comes. All the relationships are destroyed between God, between the man and the wife. Everything happens there. But that’s the way we fell. She took of its fruit and ate, and gave to her husband with her, and their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked. 

Mark tells us about the Last Supper. The memorial supper before He suffers. Jesus, anticipating His death, says what? This is my body, which is broken for you. Listen to me. Take and eat. And He gives it to them. You see what He’s doing? Take. Eat. And give. He takes the verbs of our Fall, and makes them the verbs of our restoration. 

He is undoing the work of the enemy. He is setting loose a counter dynamic of redemption to what Eve sets loose when she disobeys. By His obedient death He is enabling us to be restored. That’s before He suffers. The battle takes place. After the battle is done and He is resurrected He meets His Emmaus Disciples. He expounds the Old Testament to them. They don’t know. Their eyes are hindered. They don’t know who He is. They invite Him into supper. He goes into the supper and He blesses the bread. And when He breaks the bread they recognize Him. Do you follow me? Luke says, then their eyes were opened and they knew Him. See the difference? 

Paul says that Jesus is the covering of our shame. So, the whole Fall has been undone in the way that that has been presented, the way that Mark and Luke present it. 

Dr. Chip Bennett: 

Can I jump in for just a second here? 

Dr. Warren Gage: 


Dr. Chip Bennett: 


         I hope that you all are seeing that there’s some connectedness here to the stories. What we’re trying to do here is to help you see that what starts off in the beginning is also finished in the end, and in the middle there’s all kinds of stuff going on. So, when you’re reading your Bible, you know, and you see the stories of David and Goliath, and you see that Goliath come out in scale armor, those words should mean something. You know what have scales. Serpents have scales. 

And how does David kill Goliath? With a stone to his head. He crushes the head. As you’re reading the Bible you’re going to see these certain things go through, and they sort of pan all the way. So, you’re asking, “How do we read our Bible?” Understanding these themes are absolutely important to understanding the whole trajectory of Scripture. 

Which leads to our second point which we want to talk about which is genre calibration. One of the most tried and true hermeneutical positions is that we need to understand the literature of Scripture that we are reading. You can’t read a narrative like you would poetry. You don’t read a Dr. Seuss like you read a science textbook, correct? Whereas, I would say that understanding the literary nature of Scripture needs to take place from book to book, there is also an overarching genre of Scripture. 

So, we’ve laid out. You see these weddings. You see the end of the weddings. You see the eyes open. You see eyes open. All of this stuff is moving all throughout the Bible. These are the threads and themes, but there is a genre that any book you read in the Bible, the Bible has. I don’t know if you know what a skeleton key is. It sort of opens up stuff. It unlocks things for you and me. It tells you what to look for, this genre calibration. You start to go, “You know what, I know where this is going, because I know what I’m reading.” And so, understanding the themes and threads and the genre of Scripture is what will help us when we read our Bible. 

Now, I would call the majority of Scripture, when we look at this from a genre standpoint, I would call it Gospel. The problem is that you and I, when we think of Gospel, unfortunately what we think of is an alter call. We think of somebody’s preached the Gospel. Somebody’s having an alter call. Somebody’s coming to accept Jesus. That’s what we think of when we think of Gospel. The term itself means “good news.” So, I would like for you to think of the Bible, the overarching genre, whatever you’re book you’re reading, is you’re reading something that is telling you good news. It may not look like good news right now, but it’s telling you about good news. 

God is reconciling the world to Himself. He is restoring that which has been broken and damaged. He’s taking the wounded and He is healing them. Listen to some of the metaphors that are used in the Bible. Even if you’ve read it just a little bit you’ll know this is in there. Darkness will be followed by light. The barren will be made fruitful. The captives will be set free. Wrath will be propitiated by mercy. The curse will be changed into blessing. Infirmities will be made whole. Poverty will be turned into riches. The downcast will be what? Raised up. Judgement will yield to comfort. The exile will be returned. Bitter will be made sweet. Death will yield to life. 

This whole genre runs throughout the entire Bible, and I think everyone of us gets this. We see it. We know it’s there, but since the term gospel has so many different nuances, I would like to suggest for a moment, bear with me, that we look at the Bible through a different lens of genre. And that genre, we’re going to call comedy. 

And the reason I say that is because if you understand classical comedy you will understand what the writers of the Bible are doing. We unfortunately think of comedy as sitcoms. Something I laugh at. Ha ha. McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre. But classical comedy was one of the two most fundamental genres of stories. They encapsulate the whole human condition. We know this idea of gospel genre calibration when we see these masks. They encapsulate the whole of humanity. The sadness and the laughing. The hurt and the lifting up. 

So let’s look at this for a little bit here, contrasting, sort of, how Adam and Christ are through this genre. In comedy, there is a trajectory to go from low to high, but in tragedy you go from high to low. So, let’s look at this, classical tragedy begins high and ends low. Its trajectory is what we call gravity. Gravitas. Adam begins high. He’s created in the image of God. But what does he do? He falls. It’s sudden and complete. He returns to the dust from which he came. Comedy on the other hand, though it begins low and ends high, and it ends with a happily ever after. It ends with levity. Levitas. 

So, let’s look at Christ. He’s the last Adam. How’s He born? High of low? He’s born lowly, okay? He’s placed in a grave. Dead. But He’s raised from the grave, and He ascends into heaven. And when He’s seated on the throne He’s given dominion over all things, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:21-28. If you look at classical comedy in the middle of a comic narrative, guess what? There is a battle, and the battle is always won. In tragedy, the battle’s lost. Take Adam again. Adam’s battle was lost. The serpent deceives Eve. She partakes the fruit. Adam follows her in to sin. God intended for man to have dominion over the beasts, but instead the beast has dominion over the man. But in comedy the battle’s won. 

So, let’s look at Jesus here as contrast. He defeats the serpent. He brings and end to sin and death. He raises from the grave, and then Paul taunts the serpent by saying, “O Death, where is your sting?” Where is your sting? Comedy ends, as a general rule, in a wedding supper. So, tragedy ends with social disintegration in the community in death of the protagonist. Adam.  

Adam’s fall ends in a broken relationship with his wife and God. His story ultimately ends with his death and the death of all of his descendants. Because of Adam, death comes to all. But in contrast, Jesus, His resurrection brings in the community of God and man. His story ends with a wedding supper where sinners and outcasts are restored to the community. He ushers in the restoration of all things. He brings life to all. 

And Jesus summarizes this in his walk to Emmaus that Warren was talking about in Luke 24:26. He summarizes it, moving from suffering to glory. Jesus claims, when He’s talking with these disciples in Luke 24, that He shows them out of Moses, the Law, the Prophets, Psalms, all of those books, He says everything from suffering to glory. And that is the trajectory of classical comedy. It’s the trajectory of Gospel. 

So, listen to this. Just listen to this as we work through some of the books of the Bible. In Genesis we’re taught that Adam and Eve, having fallen under the judgement of death, will nevertheless become parents of all the living, and they’re given the promise that life will ultimately overcome death itself. 

Exodus teaches us that we are brought from slavery to liberty. Leviticus teaches that the wrath of God will be propitiated by mercy. Numbers teaches us through the Balaam story that God will turn a curse into a blessing. Deuteronomy assures us that even though we may go into the wilderness, we will be brought out to a land flowing with milk and honey. 

See, are you’re reading these books there is an overall genre. There’s the threads and themes that there’s a genre. Let’s look at the Prophets. The Prophets always talk about God’s judgement, but they don’t stop there. When they get done with God’s judgement, they offer comfort and hope. Isaiah says it this way. He says, “‘Comfort my people’, says your God. ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned.’” Isaiah 40:1-2. 

They offer reassurance to people going through trials. Jeremiah says, in Jeremiah 29:11, To those who are captive in Babylon he says, “I know the purposes I have for you. They’re plans for wholeness. They’re not plans for evil. To give a future and a hope.” 

Isaiah tells us that the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the mute will sing for joy. And the lame will not only walk, but they leap for joy. He says the wilderness and the desert will be glad. The dry ground will blossom like the rose. Sorrow and sighing will flee away. Pilgrims from all of the Earth will come to Zion. 

Ezekiel tells us that the scorched land will become pools of water. Dried bones will take on flesh, and be animated once again with spirit. 

Jeremiah says that God will turn His peoples mourning into joy. The scattered will be gathered again to be restored to God with shouts of joy. 

Hosea tells us that the torn will be healed and broken, and will be bound up. 

Joel tells us that the judgement of God will pass. The hills will drip with sweet wine, and mountains will flow with milk. 

Amos says a day is coming when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream. 

Micah says that swords will be hammered into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation. Neither will they learn war anymore. 

Zephaniah tells us that God will sing over His people as He restores their joy. 

So, when you’re reading the Bible, when you’re looking at these books, when you’re seeing what you’re reading, you now have a great genre or filter to read. And I would call it ultimately Gospel, but seeing through the lens of comedy will help you to understand. So, when you’re reading the Bible and you’re bogged down in some of the stuff, when you’re trying to understand what’s going on in the Old Testament, if you will continue to read you will see these patterns that move through all of Scripture. God is taking you and me from suffering to glory. And as you see that overall genre, and you tie that in to these threads and themes as you start reading the Bible, it starts to make a little bit more sense. 

Do you have anything you want to add on the comedic life, or living a life of comedy? 

Dr. Warren Gage: 


         Paul says that there are three pure virtues: faith, hope, and love. We talk a lot, in Protestantism particularly, about faith. We’re justified by faith alone. Is that right? So, we focus on faith and the content of our faith, and all that. It’s given a lot of attention. We talk about love. Don’t we? I mean, love is the essence of the nature of God. It’s the example of Christ. God is love. We give due attention to love. But often what’s left out, I think, is hope. And understanding the trajectory of the Bible, the way the Bible is put together, I think that’s the message of great hope. 

God has ordained that this life will have suffering, but He says, “After suffering will come glory.” And that glory that’s set before us enables us to persevere through the trials of this life. The Psalmist gives us the promise. He says, “Sorrow will come and will lodge for an evening, but joy comes in the morning.” Never does that happen more than on the morning of resurrection. Isn’t that right? From the very beginning we’re told that there’s darkness and then comes the light. We are given a hope of what God intends to do with us. The whole theme of this is that God is espousing us to Christ, our Bridegroom. The Lord Jesus has a bridegroom love for you. You’re the one that He dreamed of when He hung His head in death. 

The author of Hebrews says, “For the joy that was set before Him.” He focused on the hope that was set before Him. He despised the shame of the cross. He was able to endure the cross because of hope. You’ve got to have hope to persevere through the sorrows and the trials of this life. Recognizing that God is good and He has ordained our suffering in order to draw our heart to Christ, our bridegroom, and to have us focused on it. Just like He prepared the heart of Adam for his bride, so He is preparing the hearts of the Bride for the Groom. I think that’s the way that God seems to have ordained all things, and suffering is a great part of the story. But we’re being given the tools to learn how to live with the expectancy of hope. 

This message, the whole Bible, is like that. I tried to summarize it the best I can. I think the summary of this whole story of the Bible is something like this: The story of the Bible begins with the Fall in Eden, but ends in the Wedding of Christ and the Church. This cosmic struggle of the seed of the woman against the serpent on the cross is the turning point in the middle of the story. All of redemptive history, which began in the Garden of Eden, is resolved in the events that occur between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden of the tomb.

There’s two gardens, and all of our redemption is worked out between those two gardens with the tree in midst. That’s the tree of the Cross. It’s the tree of death where Christ knows the penalty of sin. But that tree bears fruit and that is the blood and the bread. That is the fruit of that tree, and the Cross, you see, for Jesus it’s the tree of knowledge where He knows the weight of our sin. But for us, that tree becomes the Tree of Life. And if anyone in faith partakes in sincerity in this fruit of that tree, that is the blood and the body of our precious Lord who was the sacrifice for us. If anyone in faith partakes of that, you have partaken, already, of the Tree of Life. And that dynamic principle is already at work in you. 

The Bridegroom, God, has heroically overcome sin and death by crushing the serpent. And He ensures that one day He will receive His Bride in the garden city of the New Jerusalem. Where He will give Her the fruit of the Tree of Life. 

The message of the Bible is there for one of hope and victory. That’s the Gospel. It’s hope and victory. The story of the Bible gives the assurance that the serpent will be defeated, and God’s purposes established so that Christ can be united with His Bride. 

So, this is not just simply understanding how we approach the Bible in terms of literature, it’s giving us a philosophy of understanding how to live. And how to live in hope of all that God has given to us. And our Gospel of the love of the Bridegroom for you. That’s the story of the Bible. 

Dr. Chip Bennett: 


         And that explains when you’re reading in the Bible and you see some of the things where they talk about suffering, they talk about going through stuff, you can understand why these writers, in the middle of prison, in the middle of being beaten and bloodied, at midnight can start singing. Because they understand what they have. 

Paul says in Romans 15:4, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.”

I mean, I want you to think about that for a second. Everything that was written before, Paul tells the church at Rome that is was written for their instruction. Just focus on that for a minute. Everything that has happen happened so that you could be instructed. Those are incredible words that Paul has penned. “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction. So that by steadfastness and by encouragement by the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

 When you’re reading the Bible, you should constantly be reading the Bible and seeing the hope that these stories are talking about. One of the problems we have when we read our Bible, if we’re going to be honest, is we read it devotionally. And I don’t want to say that you can’t do that, but I want to say that when you’re reading the Bible devotionally, you’re not getting the full tilt of, maybe, a story. And when you don’t get the full tilt of the story, you’re likely to misinterpret the story. 

If you don’t see, from the very beginning, that Luke Skywalker comes from Tatooine and ends up eventually overthrowing all of the powers of evil. If you only caught the middle of the story where he falls down after Vader has taken off his arm, and that’s all you saw, you would interpret that story differently. 

Without understanding these themes and these threads, and understanding the nature of Scripture, we’re likely to misinterpret it, and we’re likely to bog down in minutia that we don’t need to bog down. The Christian Church is known for something. Listen to me, this is really important. We’re known for something. We’re known for being a fearful lot. We’re known for people that are fearful. We post is on our Facebook all the time. What’s going on in the world? How come things are so bad? I can’t believe that’s going on. Whatever. We should be the people of hope. We’re not to be the people of fear. And yet, in our reading of Scripture, we bog down in the negative parts without completing the story to the positive parts. 

You read Joseph getting to sold to slavery and you miss out on the fact that he is raised to the right hand of Pharaoh. You’ve missed the story. If you only see Jesus getting beaten, but you don’t see the resurrection, you’ve missed the story. If you don’t see Jonah but in the whale, if you don’t see him getting spit out, you’ve missed the story. There’s so many things that you miss along the way if you don’t see the story. 

And that’s why we feel in giving you two particular things tonight: Understanding the themes and the threads. There’s wedding. There’s heroes. There’s serpents. There’s all of these things that go through. But then there’s an overarching genre that says, “Hey, even though it may look bad, it’s going to be okay. Even though it may be tears at night, it’s going to be joy in the morning.” If you and I truly read the Bible for the way the Bible was written, we would be people of great hope, because we would know how the story ends. 

We know that God never ever ever allows His people to finish off in suffering. Even the Book of Revelation teaches us that even though people who are dying at that time, physically, are whisked into the heavenlies, and are reigning with God. Suffering always gives way to glory. 

Now, I’d like to leave you a couple of more tools, and if you are taking notes these are some things that will help you practically in your reading of the Bible. If you take notes, please write these down. 

People speak and write in the conventions of their time. 

This is a really important understanding here. When people wrote Scripture, they wrote in the time that they wrote. And this is important here. If a passage means something to you that is could not have meant to the original audience, you probably have a bad interpretation. I.E. If you’re finding apache helicopters in the Book of Revelation, you probably are wrong. They would not have understood at that time. So, don’t somehow think that you have corner lot knowledge on something. It could not have meant that to them. There’s no way that it could mean that. And here’s the deal, and this is tough for us because we struggle with this, the Bible was not written to you and me. It was written for you and me, not to you and me. 

So, we have to understand that there were conventions, there were statements, there were idioms, there were things that when we read the Bible we’re going to have to spend some time understanding. The Bible also, and this is the second point that I would make, it employs high communication. This is important for us to understand. It was written to specific people at specific times that understood the terms. We sometimes don’t.

I’ve said this before in this church and I’ll say it again. If I were to say, “Hey, the Cowboys are headed north to play on the frozen tundra against the Cheeseheads,” many of you all would go, “I understand that.” Some of you would go, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” But if I said, “Hey, I’m talking about the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Football league going up to Green Bay to play the Green Bay Packers, who are called the Cheeseheads,” now all of a sudden you go, “I get it.” 

The Bible doesn’t go into explaining that detail. It is written to people at a time in high communication, and for us to truly get it, some of these things that we’re reading, we’re going to have to spend some time understanding what’s being said. We sort of recoil at that because we just want to open up the Bible and have it speak to us, and unfortunately we may be reading it wrong and out of context, and out of historical settings just because we’re treating it like a magic book. 

Thirdly, the Bible has, in my opinion, some very self-directed interpretive clues on how to read it. The Bible says certain things to you and me that tell us how to read it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “I delivered to you as of first importance…” – when I hear first importance, I go, “That’s importance. First importance.” That sounds like that’s pretty important, right? So, I’m delivering to you as of first importance. Not third. Not eighth. First Importance. Get this. Focus in. Pay attention. The way I would say it is Paul is saying, “Lean in.” Okay? – “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” That means the Bible, because he’s talking about the Old Testament here in 1 Corinthians 15. He’s telling you that the Old Testament tells you that Christ is going to die for your sins. 

When you read the Old Testament do you find Christ dying for your sins? If you don’t, you might not be employing a good biblical hermeneutic. I fight all the time with some of my other professor friends who have a historical, grammatical hermeneutic. There’s nothing wrong with that. I appreciate that. But the Bible has some interpretive clues. Paul says, “First importance. Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” In other words, “Something in the Scriptures said He was going to die for our sins.” 

He also says that He was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. That’s incredible. “Third day” stuff in Scripture. And it’s interesting, if you go back into the concordance and look up “third day” you’ll find there’s a lot of “third day” references in the Old Testament. And when you start reading those “third day” references in the Old Testament, you’ll find God does crazy things on the third day. Like, He starts delivering people and doing stuff, and you start going, “Whoa, there might be a pattern here. There might be something going on.” Third day of creation. What happens? Life happens for the first time. 

So, is that just coincidence? Is it coincidence that when Abraham takes his son up on the mountain that’s going eventually be where the temple’s at. Is it just happenstance that it says that on the third day Abraham took his one and only son? It’s what it says. Did that just happen? Third day. One and only son. What’s he say then? It says he laid the wood on him as he carried the wood up the hill. Anybody else carry wood up a hill for you and me? He says, “Daddy, where’s the lamb?” He says, “Don’t worry. God will provide it.” And as his son is bound, and as he gets ready to take his sons life, his one and only son, all of a sudden in a thicket bush, you’d be expecting if you’re reading the story right, there should be a lamb. But there’s not. There’s a ram. 

Is it telling us that there’s a lamb yet to come? Is it bespeaking of something more?  Paul says, “First importance.” The Bible says Jesus is going to die for your sins and is going to raise on the third day, and that’s in the Old Testament. When Paul went into the synagogues what did he preach to them? He preached Jesus to them. If you can’t find Jesus in the Old Testament, your hermeneutics wrong. 

And you go, “Well He’s in Isaiah 53. I know He’s there. That’s where He’s at.” He’s all through the passages. I mean, Warren gave you a great example of the puncturing of Adam and the taking out of Adam’s side. All of these things form stuff in the Bible that really teach us. Daniel, when he’s lowered in to the lion’s den, there is a rock that is put over the tomb, and the king seals it with his sign. Anybody else go into a tomb, and have a rock rolled over, and sealing on the rock? You know when Daniel was lifted up, right? On the third day. Wow. Come on, man. Rock’s rolled away. Third day. That’s crazy stuff, right? Maybe it’s not crazy stuff. Maybe there’s a lot of stuff going on. 

Jonathan tells David on third day, “I’m going to shoot arrows, and if I shoot the far or shoot them short you’ll know the cue. On the third day you’ll be delivered.” On the third they find the waters of Marah, and God turns it into sweet waters. On the third day. And how does He do it? With a tree. Any other tree turn your waters that were bitter into sweet? Maybe there’s more going on here. Maybe we need to spend time looking at this. 

Jesus Himself says in John 5:39, “You searched the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. And it is they that bear witness of me.”

 The Pharisees are reading the Old Testament and Jesus says, “What you’re reading there speaks of me.” If we’re not reading the Bible understanding that the Bible has themes and threads that run through. If we’re not reading the Bible understanding the overall genre of what Scripture is. If we’re not understanding that the Bible employs certain ways of communication to people at a specific time. If we’re not understanding some of the interpretive clues that the Bible is giving us about what the Bible is really about. 

A lot of people us the Bible to beat people over the head with doctrine. You ever met some of those people? The Bible’s not for that. The Bible is to show us about someone who came to redeem you and me, and to forgive us of our sins, and to bring us in to be His Church, and to be His Bride. And I would submit that we might be reading the Bible wrong, not because we’re bad people or because we’re trying to read it wrong, but we might just not be reading it right. And I hope that, as we’ve talked about here, you can see that. 

Warren wants to close out with something here. It’s a picture of the Last Supper, and I love when Warren talks about this. I think this’ll minister to your heart. Pay attention here to the screen and let Warren talk about this a little bit. 

Dr. Warren Gage:   

         What we’re trying to say is that there’s a focus. Jesus gives us the focus. He says it all speaks about Him. Isn’t that right? That was John 5:39. He says Moses and all the prophets, later the Psalms, they’re all speaking about Him. The suffering and glory of Christ. So, there’s a central focus. 

This is a very famous picture, I’m sure all of you have seen it many times, by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s the way he imagined the Last Supper. I was staring at this many many years ago, looking at this picture, and noticed something about it. And that is, if you look at the line from the tapestries they describe a trajectory. Do you see how that works? The line goes to Jesus. Do you see the beams in the ceiling? You see how they all trace to a center. The floor, the way that this is all set up, all the lines in this picture focus on the center. That’s Jesus. 

It’s just beautiful. It’s his way of saying. Even the posture of the disciples. The dramatic moment here da Vinci is capturing is when Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.” They’re all shocked, and they’re falling back, and they’re startled. “Is it me, Lord.” You can see, who is He talking about? “Is it me, Lord?” They’re all startled at that announcement, but every eye, even, is looking to the center. So, it’s the artist’s way of bringing everything. It’s a composition. There is one organizing mind, that’s da Vinci, that conceived of this scene and what it would have looked like. And he has so composed it that everything brings your eye to the very center, which is Jesus. 

And I think that that’s the largest argument, I think, we can make for inspiration. The Bible is just like that. Every piece of it, every story, is telling you the Gospel. Everything, you see Christ, His fingerprints all over. Not just the Bible, you see it all over creation once you understand how the Bible interprets creation. So, it all comes together in Him. And that’s your joy. He is your eternal companion. He is your eternal bridegroom. It’s His love that saved us. His love created us and His love saved us. We’re doubly bound to Him. And that’s the joy that’s set before you. That gives you hope in your own time of suffering. 

Dr. Chip Bennett: 

         So, hopefully, you know, this evening, and I want to, before we close us here, say a couple of things. Warren has been working on a story of the Bible, and honestly, if we were being candidly honest, we’ve probably gave you about two pages out of a 90-page work that’s ongoing. If there would be some interest in a Saturday session, we’d be willing to do that. We would need to take more time. I hope you can understand in an hour and fifteen minutes, and hour and a half, it is just very very difficult to be able.

For us to start trying to pull passages out and run through passages with you would be tough. I mean, a hermeneutics class usually goes at a minimum of eight weeks and there’s at least five to six hours of lecture each week that goes along with that. So, it’s a lot more in depth. If you have some interest in that we would like to know. And you can let us know that at the end here, because we’re going to hang out for a while. 

But I hope that you walk out of here going, “You know what? I can open up my Bible and, even if I’m struggling through some of it I can start to see some themes and some threads that I’ll find if I just keep reading. I’ll also be able to look at each book and realize that if I’m reading that seems negative at that particular moment, it’s probably going to give way to something positive, because that’s the way that God works. And I would instruct you, as you read your Bible, to adopt that lifestyle in your life. 

What a testimony we would have if we lived a life of the Gospel. If people would see in you and me a major difference in our lives, in the way we lived, the way we acted, the way we talked about other people, and all of those good things. And what I want to do here is I want to just read you something that Peter wrote to his church in closing. 

He says, “Put in your hearts. Well, do not fear what they fear. Do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. And always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” 

He says people are going to be fearing things, and you should not be fearing the same things they’re fearing. And when they see you and they see the hope that’s in you, you need to be able to explain to them why you have the hope that you have. And if there’s anything we can learn from reading the Bible is that at the end of the book, no matter how bad it was, at the end of the book God’s people win. And no matter all of the stuff in between here. And no matter all of the stuff that may be difficult to understand. there’s still plenty of stuff I don’t understand at all when I read the Scriptures. I mean, I read the book of Ezekiel and I have no idea what’s going on. I just want to stand on my head. I have no idea sometimes 

So, embracing that is okay. It’s not who knows everything so perfectly. It’s understanding the trajectory. So, I hope that we said something. I know that was our prayer, that we would say something that would benefit you tonight as you pursue your reading of the Bible. Warren and I are going to stay after. We will answer any questions that you may have at all. We’re going to stay up here as long as you want. So, please feel free to come up. We’ll talk to you. We’ll be as personal as we need to be with you. 

And then the last thing I’d like to do is, very quickly, if tonight meant anything at all, if you got anything out of this, please understand, we’re going to take up an offering. And the way the offering is going to work is, what we take up we’re going to give to Warren for coming up from Fort Lauderdale to bless him. To bless his ministry. If you enjoy Warren and you want to bless him, you can go to the Alexandrian forum online. You could give to that group.

Warren is doing a lot of great things in Fort Lauderdale and other places, teaching this stuff. And I think it’s a worthy cause, because I know Warren’s heart and I know who he is. He’s a very very good man. So, if you’ve enjoyed tonight, this is not going to Grace Community Church. This is going to Warren. We will give the offering to Warren. If you would give to that I would really appreciate it, because we want him to be blessed for coming up. 

And then, as soon as we take up the offering, if the ushers want to go ahead and start. You can pass it now. I will say a prayer over it. We will dismiss everybody. You’re welcome to take off at that point, and then we’re going to stay up here and we’ll field as many questions as you possibly want. Just come us. Talk to us, and we’ll stay here at least until nine o’clock or something. I don’t know. I’ll stay later. Warren may need to get home. 

So, let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that You’d take this offering and bless it, Lord, and increase it. Multiply it. Lord, I pray that as we take of this offering and give it to Warren and his ministry, I just play that he will be so richly blessed. Lord, he’s a good man. He loves You with all of his heart. It’s so evident that he appreciates your word. And I just pray, God, that as a church we could bless him as he goes back to Fort Lauderdale. Lord, I pray that as we also leave here tonight that You would take everybody safely. And I pray that You’d bring us all back. If we go to Grace for church services this weekend, if we go to other churches, God, I pray that You would bless them as well. God, bless all the churches in this area. Lord, we love You and thank You for it in Jesus name, and everybody said, “Amen.”