Discussion with Gino Geraci about the Perspicuity of Scripture

Last week I had the honor of being a guest on Gino Geraci’s radio show: Crosswalk with Gino Geraci, on 94.7 FM KRKS which airs in the Denver metro area and online.

We discussed the topic of the “perspicuity” or “clarity” of Scripture, which was the subject of my MA dissertation.

The discussion certainly wasn’t exhaustive, and there is more I would like to share about meaning and implications of the perspicuity of Scripture via this blog and my podcast – such as the difference between the external and internal aspects of perspicuity, but this was a great introduction to the topic.

Gino is well-read and understands the subject well, and it was fun to talk with someone who enjoys discussing these things and helping other people understand them.

What is perhaps most interesting about our discussion is that we spent time talking about how the perspicuity of Scripture speaks to the current trend of postmodern thinking and epistemology, in which even many professing Christians are taking up views which are contrary to the clear reading of Scripture because of pressure from the culture.

You can listen to the two hours we spent discussing this topic on the radio here:

Crosswalk w Gino Geraci 6.3.21 Hr 1 Crosswalk Podcast

Gino is joined by Nick Cady from White Fields Community Church for a great conversation about The Bible, Christianity, and understanding The Gospel See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Crosswalk w Gino Geraci 6.3.21 Hr 2 Crosswalk Podcast

Gino continues his conversation with Nick Cady from White Fields Community Church along with listener calls See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas

In Part 2 of this two-part series, Mike and I discuss the process through which the New Testament was recognized as Holy Scripture.

At what point were the books of the New Testament recognized as Scripture? Who was involved in that process, or who made that determination? What about the disputed books, and why was the Gospel of Thomas kept out of the Bible?

We answer these questions and more in this episode. (Click here to listen to Part 1.)

Click this link to listen this week’s episode, or listen in the embedded player below: The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas

The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas Theology for the People

In Part 2 of this two-part series, Nick and Mike discuss the process through which the New Testament was recognized as Holy Scripture. At what point were the books of the New Testament recognized as Scripture? Who was involved in that process, or who made that determination? What about the disputed books, and why was the Gospel of Thomas kept out of the Bible? We answer these questions and more in this episode. Make sure to check out the Theology for the People blog as well. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 1 – Nicaea, Constantine, & Conspiracy Theories

Last week Mike and I sat down to discuss some common misnomers and conspiracy theories regarding the formation of the New Testament canon.

What actually happened in Nicaea? Did Constantine play a role in the formation of the New Testament canon? Who was King James?

Did anything happen that should cause us concern that the Bible we have is not trustworthy, or has been tampered with?

We answer those questions in Part 1 of our 2-part episode on the formation of the New Testament canon. Click here to listen, or listen in the embedded player below: The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 1 – Nicaea, Constantine, & Conspiracy Theories

The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 1 – Nicaea, Constantine, & Conspiracy Theories Theology for the People

In Part 1 of this two-part episode, Nick and Mike discuss some common misnomers and conspiracy theories regarding the formation of the New Testament canon. What happened in Nicaea? Did Constantine play a role in the formation of the New Testament canon? If so, is there anything we should be concerned about? Check out the Theology for the People blog as well.  — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

What Does It Mean to be “Born Again”?

Recently someone reached out asking for a simple explanation of what it means to be “born again.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3 ESV

The idea of being “born again” is something that the Bible speaks about using a variety of terms, such as: Receiving a new heart, becoming a new creation, being made alive in Christ.

The exact phrase, “born again” is something which Jesus used when speaking to a man named Nicodemus: a moral, religious man who was well-respected in his community. Nicodemus came to Jesus asking for the essence of Jesus’ teaching, and Jesus told him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

What this means is that although we are born physically alive, every person’s default condition is that they are spiritually dead and disconnected from God.

God loves us, and yet: we are sinners, both by nature and by choice, and as a result there is a separation between us and God, and our default condition is that we are spiritually dead rather than alive.

There are a lot of people in the world who are like Nicodemus: moral and “good” people. And yet, Jesus told this moral man that he needed to be born again. And this is the message of Jesus to all of us as well: “YOU need to be born again!” Not just everyone else; not just the drunks and the immoral people, but YOU too!

YOU need to be born again by coming into a relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ: faith in the fact that he died in your place to reconcile you to God by imputing his righteousness to you, and imputing your sins to him; faith that he rose from the dead to give you the hope and promise of eternal life!

When you are born again you receive:

  1. a NEW HEART: The very essence of who you are changes! You receive a new heart, with new desires.
  2. a NEW IDENTITY: You change from being an enemy of God to being a child of God.
  3. a NEW MIND: You begin to think differently.
  4. NEW EMOTIONS: You feel differently; God pours out his love, joy, and peace into your heart.
  5. A NEW COMMUNITY: You become part of the people of God, those who are being saved.
  6. A NEW POWER: Power over sin; we are no longer slaves to our flesh, but we gain the power to be free when we are born again by putting our faith in Jesus and God places his Spirit inside of you to strengthen you in your weakness.

Here is an audio version of this, a clip from a sermon titled: The Power and Purpose of the Resurrection (click here for entire sermon):

Zombies in the Bible? Why Did the Dead Come Out of their Graves and Walk Around When Jesus Died?

In Matthew 27:52-53 it says that when Jesus died, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

Why did this happen? And what happened to these “walking dead”: did they ascend into Heaven with Jesus, or did they die again at a later date? What was the meaning and significance of this?

I address this question in the latest episode of the Theology for the People Podcast – in which I tell a story of regret from my honeymoon and explain why this event can only be understood in light of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine.

Click here to listen, or listen in the embedded player below: Zombies in the Bible? Why Did the Dead Come Out of Their Graves and Walk Around When Jesus Died?

Zombies in the Bible? Why Did the Dead Come Out of Their Graves and Walk Around When Jesus Died? Theology for the People

In Matthew 27:52-53 it says that when Jesus died, "The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Why did this happen? And what happened to these "walking dead": did they ascend into Heaven with Jesus, or did they die again at a later date? What was the meaning and significance of this? You can find more articles and content, as well as a place to submit questions or suggest topics at the Theology for the People blog site. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

The Heavenly Audience: What Changed in Heaven When Jesus Died and Resurrected?

Recently this question was submitted via the page on this site where you can Ask a Question or Suggest a Topic:

Based on your knowledge of activity in Heaven what was going on in Heaven prior to the crucifixion and how did it change, if at all after Jesus resurrection? For example, was there joy in the presence of angels over sinners repenting before Jesus died and rose??

Interesting question! Here are my thoughts:

The Sons of God Shouted for Joy

In the Book of Job, when God speaks, God challenges Job by saying this:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Job 38:4-7

The “sons of God” mentioned here is a reference to the angels. What this is telling us is that at the creation, the angels were “the audience” who watched and cheered as God created the universe.

The Heavenly Audience

This theme of the angels being an audience, watching the things which happen on Earth, is carried through the Bible.

At the beginning of the Book of Job, we read about Satan asking for permission from God to afflict someone. The picture we get from that scene is that those in Heaven are aware and attentive to the happenings of people on Earth.

Not only are those in Heaven aware and attentive to what is happening on Earth, they seem to be emotionally invested in what is happening on Earth. For example, in Revelation 5, we read that when no one was found who could open the seal, there was weeping in Heaven until it was revealed that the Lamb was worthy to do so.

The whole picture of Revelation is that John the Apostle gets a preview of Heaven. Starting in chapter 4, John is caught up to Heaven, and what he describes is how, from that vantage point, he joins the angels in watching the happenings down below on Earth. The picture, therefore, is of Heaven being aware of and attentive to, as well as emotionally invested in, the happenings here on Earth.

The Stadium and Those in the Stands

In Hebrews 12:1 we read:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The picture the writer is painting here is that of a stadium, and Greco-Roman competitions, such as the Olympics. He describes life as being a race, a theme which Paul also discusses, using similar language drawing from Greco-Roman athletic competitions.

But here the writer highlights a particularly interesting aspect of those competitions: as we run this race, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. The “witnesses” are those who were mentioned in the previous chapter, Hebrews 11, where we are told about those who preceded us in the faith – the “Old Testament saints,” as they have been called.

The image the writer is invoking is that of a stadium, in which the stands all around us are full of those who have preceded us in the faith, and who are now “cheering us on” as we run the race that is set before us.

The Angels and the Saints

What we are left with, therefore, are two groups: the angels and the saints. Both groups are apparently aware and attentive to what is happening on Earth, and are rooting for us and eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises.

What Changed in Heaven When Jesus Died and Resurrected?

The word angel literally means “messenger” in Greek, and this aligns with what the Bible tells us about angels; that they are “ministering spirits.” It would seem that the angels have been and still are aware, attentive to, and emotionally engaged in what is happening on Earth.

Thus, to answer your question, I do think there was joy in the presence of the angels over sinners repenting – prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The one thing which changed when Jesus died and resurrected, is that those who were kept in Abraham’s Bosom awaiting the redemption of their souls were released from Sheol and taken to be in God’s presence.

I have written a detailed explanation of this here: Did People Go to Heaven Before Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

So, what changed is that from that point, not only the angels, but those who had died in faith were brought into Heaven.

Thanks for the great question, and God bless you!

Why Does God Judge Some People More Harshly Than Others?

My desk in my office at church

Why is it that in the Bible, sometimes God punishes certain people severely for their sins, but other people receive no punishment for similar actions?

This question was submitted via this form: Ask a Question or Suggest a Topic:

Why does God bring judgment upon some sinful people, yet others who do much worse things remain healthy, prosperous, and well? In some cases they even seem to be getting God’s approval or at least not His punishment for the same sins as those who receive judgment. Examples of this would be Michal (David’s wife) and Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6, and the story of the two prophets in 1 Kings 13.

This is a good question, and is related to a question that David asked in the Psalms about why God allows wicked people to prosper and righteous people to suffer. This question, from David, was not an abstract query, but one that was deeply person to his lived experience.

We can see this dynamic at work in the world today as well, where some people do evil things and seem to suffer no consequences, and in some cases succeed as a result, whereas many who endeavor to lead a godly life don’t succeed or even suffer.

I responded to this question with a podcast episode which is embedded and linked below. In this episode, I give three important considerations which help us to understand this dynamic.

Podcast Episode: Why Does God Judge Some People More Harshly Than Others?

Reader Questions: Paul and the “Super Apostles”

I recently received this question:

Loved your teaching about 2 Corinthians 12 and the context why Paul wrote this. Can you direct me to the verses that show the criticism he took for always having trouble and not having visions so he was not spiritual enough so Paul writes chapter 12. Thanks

The Teaching

The teaching you’re referring to is from a series we did at White Fields called “I Could Never Believe in a God Who _______”, in which we addressed many of the common hurdles people face in believing in and following Jesus. That message was: “I Could Never Believe in a God Who Does Not Answer My Prayers”

The Radio Show Podcast

I’m guessing you probably heard this message on our radio program: Be Set Free. We recently started podcasting the radio program, which means that you can subscribe to the podcast and never miss a broadcast; each day’s message will be delivered directly to your phone. And as of just recently, that podcast is available on Apple Podcasts as well – check it out here: Be Set Free Radio on Apple Podcasts

The Answer

Here is a good summary of the issue with links to many of the relevant verses:

In addition to calling into question Paul’s motives in organizing a collection for believers in Judea (8:20–21; cf. 2:17; 12:14–18) and questioning his personal courage (10:10–11; 11:21), Paul’s opponents had argued that Paul suffered too much to be a Spirit-filled apostle of the risen Christ. Paul argues that his weakness as an apostle is the very means by which believers are comforted (1:3–11) and God in Christ is made known in the world (2:14–17; 4:7–12; 6:3–10; 11:23b–33). Paul’s sufferings embody the cross of Christ, while his endurance amid adversity, with thanksgiving and contentment, manifests the resurrection power of the Spirit (12:7–10). Paul’s suffering as an apostle is thus the very means God uses to reveal his glory (1:3–4, 11, 20; 4:15; 9:11–15; 10:17–18).

ESV Study Bible, Introduction to 2 Corinthians

What this summary doesn’t give is the verses which talk about the criticisms Paul was receiving. Those criticisms are addressed in 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12, in which Paul defends his ministry.

In these chapters it is very clear that Paul feels uncomfortable defending himself, but he does so because he feels that it is necessary to counter the narrative being spread by the “super apostles”: a term Paul uses sarcastically to describe certain people who had come around or rose up within the Corinthian church and were promoting themselves as spiritual authorities, which included trying to tear down Paul as an authority figure in the minds of the Corinthian Christians. This is particularly sad in light of the fact that Paul was the one who founded the church in Corinth.

Based on the ways in which Paul defends himself and his ministry, we become aware of what their criticisms must have been. It becomes clear that they taught some form of the “prosperity gospel” which states that the proof of spiritual maturity is triumphalism: i.e. that a person will not suffer physical, psychological, or financial difficulties. If someone does suffer such difficulties, it is assumed that there must be something wrong with them. This is the same accusation that was leveled against Job in the Book of Job.

Apparently the “super apostles”, whom Paul identifies as false apostles in Chapter 11, accused Paul of being weak, and said that his sufferings were proof that he was not as spiritual or did not have the authority or blessing of God upon his ministry, like they did. Paul instead chooses to boast in his weaknesses, because through them God receives glory through his life, rather than him. The triumphalist “super apostles” – in other words, sought to bring glory and attention to themselves rather than to God.

In chapter 12, Paul reluctantly shares about a vision he had of Heaven. The reason Paul shares this vision, which until now he had kept to himself, was to prove to the Corinthians that he did have spiritual visions and experiences. The only impetus for this must have been that the “super apostles” claimed that Paul didn’t have supernatural visions, which they apparently claimed was proof of their superior spirituality. Paul responds by saying, “No, what they’re saying about me is not true, and here’s an example – but I don’t go around boasting about these things, rather the only thing I want to boast in is Christ; I want to bring attention and glory to Him rather than to myself.”

Thanks for the question! 2 Corinthians is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and I look forward to teaching through it at some point in the future at White Fields.

Ask a Question or Suggest a Topic

If you have a question or would like to suggest a topic for me to address here on the blog, click here: Ask a Question or Suggest a Topic

If Jesus Came to Save Sinners, Why Didn’t He Come Before the Flood?

Recently a reader of this site reached out asking for my thoughts about this question:

If Jesus came to save sinners, then why didn’t he come before the flood in the time of Noah?

It’s an interesting question. If God so loved the world that he sent Jesus to save sinners, then why did he wait so long? Could more people have been saved if God had sent Jesus sooner – and if so, then why did He wait as along as He did to send Jesus?

The Nature of Justice and Mercy

First of all, it is important to remember the nature of justice and mercy. Justice means giving someone exactly what they deserve: no more, no less. Mercy, on the other hand, means not giving someone the judgment they deserve for the wrong things they’ve done.

In his book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott explains that God not only must do justice because He is God and is obligated to do justice, but that God desires to do justice because it brings Him satisfaction to act justly, and that acting justly is part of His glory, goodness, and righteousness.

However, God also desires to show mercy. The difference between justice and mercy, however, is that mercy is not owed to anyone.

Showing mercy to those to whom He chooses to show mercy is God’s prerogative (Romans 9:15, Exodus 33:19). He is not obligated to give it to anyone. If God were to give us what we deserve, the result would be judgment.

God Did Not Leave Himself Without Witness

In the time of Noah, though many people perished in the flood, it is important to remember that those people had a chance to repent and be saved from the flood.

2 Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and 1 Peter 3 tells us that Jesus preached through Noah to those who were disobedient in his time. As Noah built the ark, which took a very long time, he was apparently preaching a message of righteousness and repentance. However, it would seem that no one heeded his warning.

In other words, the people who died in the time of Noah did not perish for lack of opportunity to be saved from the flood, but because they were in knowing rebellion against God, and they refused to accept the offer of salvation which was extended to them via repentance and heeding the warnings of Noah.

Biblical Anthropology

It is helpful to be reminded of a biblical view of anthropology here: contrary to the modern assumption that people began as animists (worshipers of nature), who over time then began worshiping a pantheon of abstract deities, and eventually “evolved” into monotheism – the biblical view of anthropology is different. According to the Bible, people didn’t discover God, rather: from the beginning people knew God and walked with God, until they knowingly turned away from God.

The Bible begins with a description of the first humans as monotheists, who knew God. Polytheism and animism then came about as a result of the devolution of sin. As Paul explains in his letter to the Romans:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:21-23

Here’s what’s really interesting: Genesis 5 tells us that there were people alive at the time of Noah who had lived at the same time as Adam! Namely: Jared and Methuselah, if you run the numbers, were alive when Adam was still alive. Because of the length of the lives of early people, the people at the time of Noah’s flood were either contemporaries of Adam, or were only removed from him by one or two generations. This means that they could have heard first-hand accounts from him.

Could People Go to Heaven Prior to Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

I have answered this question in more detail in this post: Did People Go to Heaven Before Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

Simply put, prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, those who died in faith went to a place called Abraham’s bosom: a place of comfort for those who died in faith while they awaited the fulfillment of their redemption by the Messiah. The way to receive this salvation and redemption was to humble oneself before God, cast yourself on His mercy, and put your faith in His promise to bring salvation through the promised Savior (as opposed to saving yourself by your good works).

Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son.” That phrase “in the fullness of time” implies that it happened “at just the right time.”

Conclusion

Those who lived in the time of Noah did not perish for lack of information, nor for lack of opportunity, but because they “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness,” “loved darkness more than light,” and rejected God’s calls to them (through Noah) to repent and be saved. Perhaps it is for this very reason that the people in the time of Noah are mentioned several times in the New Testament, so that modern people would be warned not to follow in their footsteps.

If you would like to ask a question or submit a topic, you can do so here: Ask a Question or Submit a Topic

Is Church an (un)Necessary Evil?

A few days ago I received this comment on one of my posts called The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance:

Laura says:

What is the benefit of attending church? A person is demanded to surrender personal faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Jesus Christ to become a Borg in a socialist swamp. It’s great for becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized.

But its pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally.

Don’t go. Jesus isn’t welcome there. Conformity is King. Not Jesus.

I was tempted to ignore the comment, but I think this view of church is actually pretty widespread, even amongst professing Christians, that it warranted a response. And since I’ve recently started the Theology for the People Podcast, I figured this would be a good topic to discuss in more detail there.

You can check out the episode here: Podcast Exclusive – Church: a Necessary Evil?, or by listening in the embedded player below.

Podcast Exclusive – Church: An (un)Necessary Evil? Theology for the People

In this episode Nick and Mike discuss a comment that came in to the Theology for the People blog claiming that church is only good for "becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized," and is "pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally." This comment represents a not-uncommon attitude to "organized religion" in general and church in particular. This episode includes discussions about the Bible, Jesus, American history, and Henry David Thoreau. The book recommended in this episode is The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History  — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app