I believe in Original Sin…


I believe in original sin–through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. We are all born infected with this virus–think of a computer virus. It doesn’t make everything your computer does mess up, but if it’s in there, it’s infected. But I do not believe this means we are born sinners OR sinning–rather, with an inclination to sin. Without God we will sin.
Then it comes down to how you define sin–whether it’s a violation of a “known” law, or any deviation from the perfect will of God. But either way–it doesn’t require punishment. See, if you believe that it’s a violation of a known law of God then very young children, based simply on mental and cognitive development, can’t be guilty of sin. This is actually what I believe. But if you believe it’s any deviation from the perfect will of God then you believe that everyone sins all the time throughout their lives, so what makes sin from young children different or worthy of some extra punishment? Because Scripture is very clear that Jesus took all of our punishments on the Cross and we cannot think that we must add something more for our children–this idea actually makes it so that children’s sins become MORE than adults and that is not even rational. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to atone for your sins, but not for your children’s–that takes something extra.

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Moving into talking about willful disobedience—I simply do not find this to be a legitimate argument when it comes to young children. If you study the development of the mind at all you know that children don’t develop logic until ten (pre-logic begins at age eight) and reason doesn’t even come until fourteen, so the idea that a toddler or very young child is willfully disobeying doesn’t fit–they lack the mental capacity to do that. It’s also important to note that in both Greek and Hebrew the concept of “obey” is based on the assumption that the one being obeyed has earned the trust of the one obeying–it’s a voluntary variation of normal response. In other words, disobedience is the normal human response when there is no trust. When there is trust, relationship, and discipleship– then there is obedience. You can demand compliance, but not obedience. Obedience must be earned. When a parent is demanding obedience from a young child and considering any lack of obedience to be willful they simply lack understanding of how God made children.

I do understand how frustrating it can be to have a toddler do something you’ve told them not to do. But this is the age for earning trust–for making your words have meaning. You can’t just tell them to do something and expect unquestioning compliance—this is the time to make it happen. Pick them up and move them; redirect; etc. Discipline
cannot take place outside of relationship and adversarial approaches DETACH. This is why spanking “the right way” is always followed by a ritual for reattachment. But that detachment is counter productive.

Teaching done within relationship, that doesn’t ever detach, is discipleship.

Disciples imitate the master, the master doesn’t demand imitation. You cannot demand respect; you command it by being worthy of respect.

This is why I talk about discipline requiring that we, the parents, change–that we be the people we want our children to become. They will imitate us–at least until they reach a stage where they decide whether that is a wise road to continue down. Teen rebellion usually comes from (among other things and combined with other things) seeing hypocrisy from parents–inconsistency between what they say and who they really are. There is a need to individuate (separate into their own person) but this doesn’t have to be the painful, challenging thing it has become in our culture.

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What actually happened at the Fall…


What actually happened at the Fall?

Studying Echad has caused a very large paradigm shift in my understanding of sin and our relationship with God that is foundational and explains so much of what the Lord has led me to in my other studies. I’ve preached on the Fall and the loss of Echad as a consequence, but I’m coming to see it as even more than this. As I study Genesis in the Ancient Word Pictures it becomes clear to me that there was a three dimensional picture presented to us in Scripture of what occurred with Adam and Eve and God that has been missed by modern translations into the English and I’m hesitant to share this while I’m still pondering the implications but I want to get the idea out there and then will be moving into even more researched study on this.

The language of Genesis when it comes to the creation of Adam is very rich with wedding imagery from the Ancient Hebrew Wedding. God “took” Adam, the way a bridegroom takes a bride, and put him in the Garden as a place prepared for him (as for a bride) where his needs were all provided for, where he was comfortable within the boundaries of the Garden. He had nothing withheld from him except eating from one tree. At this point it may be necessary to get rid of gender ideas that will be a hang up for understanding what I’m expressing, because I am not using the word “he” to represent the masculine or male. Rather, in the traditional use of the word that encompasses “people”. This is appropriate in two ways. First, God is neither male nor female and both male and female were created in the image of God. God is spirit and is without sexual orientation or anatomy. There is plenty of imagery of God in Scripture that speaks to the feminine as well as the masculine and that Jesus came in the form of a human male does not mean that God eternal is a man. Second, at the point that Adam was put into the Garden he was still Adam “mankind” and not yet Adam, male. The feminine had not yet been taken out of his side and created into a woman—bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. When Eve was removed from Adam there was male and female. Prior to this separation there was Adam—mankind. This means that God put Adam into the Garden the way a bridegroom takes a bride and moves her to a place he has prepared for her.

The Shema in Deuteronomy tells us that God is One—the plural One that expresses God existing in relationship. At creation we find that God deems it “not good” for man to be alone and creates woman so that man and woman can become echad/one and share the same relationship that God experiences. The word “ezer”, often translated “helpmeet” and used of Eve in her relation to Adam, is used in Scripture of God and does not denote any hierarchy. Rather, the nature of Adam and Eve’s relationship is expressed through the use of Echad—they were in plural unity. The deepening of understanding of how they were in relation to God came in learning that the word translated “work”, and referring to the work that Adam was put in the Garden to do, refers to the work done by priests serving in the Temple. God, who exists in plural unity, created a new being and invited him into relationship with himself, and created an earthly ezer to exist in plural unity of relationship with him as well—both expressing the eternal nature of God when they are in echad and being in echad with God as well to expand the character of his love into the physical world he had created.

God walked with Adam and Eve, talked with Adam and Eve, shared with Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve knew God intimately. Then Eve was tricked by the serpent. This is, however, an area where much tends to get murky theologically depending on who is teaching about it. Often what is presented is that the sin of disobedience destroyed what God had given to man and they had to be punished for disobeying. Yet this is not what is presented in the Biblical account or expressed in later references to this story. To present the Fall in such terms has led to a great deal of confusion about the nature and character of God as well as the relationship we have with Him both before and after salvation.

First, if disobedience were what caused the Fall then it would have been Eve who was accountable for the Fall. This is not the case. Adam is the one held accountable for the Fall. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men . . .” Romans 5:12. Adam is held accountable for the Fall, not Eve. This means that the Fall has to do with what Adam did, not what Eve did. Yes, Eve was tricked and did not do as they had been told, but this was not the moment of the Fall. This passage in Romans also reveals that the committing of sin did not cause the Fall. Rather, through the Fall sin entered the world. So disobedience is not the issue to discuss when it comes to studying the Fall. Rather, I believe the answer lies in what the consequence of the Fall is revealed by God to be.

Genesis3, starting in verse 14, we read:
So the Lord God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

God is informing the serpent that Messiah will come and undo what was done. The serpent is cursed because of his actions.

16 To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

This is where going to the original Hebrew becomes very important. For one thing, the “pain” for childbirth is actually the same “labor” that Adam has to do in the fields to get food. It speaks to hard work, the painful toil of laboring in our flesh. But my main area of concern here is the relationship between the man and the woman and what we are being told is a consequence of the Fall. If we accept the premise I’m putting forth about the relationship prior to the Fall being Echad, since that is what we’re told is the purpose of why a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, then after the Fall this very different picture we are seeing is the consequence of sin in the world. The relationship between God and man has changed. The relationship between man and woman has changed as well. The woman who was created to be an ezer, whose purpose towards her husband was to serve along side him and be a co-laborer of his burdens, is now in a hierarchical relationship where she desires that echad but he rules over her.

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

And it is through Adam’s action that allowed sin to enter the world; it is through Adam’s choice that the ground is cursed and death is imminent. What was his choice, though? It was much more than eating the fruit. He “heeded the voice of his wife” rather than the voice of God. He followed his wife into the path away from God. He chose echad with his wife over echad with God, not realizing that without God there is no echad.

This is a very rich picture that warrants much more attention than it has been given. Prior to the Fall we have man and woman, in the Garden echad with God and with one another. After the Fall we have man and woman cast out of the Garden and the loss of echad—between man and God and between man and woman. That is, until Messiah was to come.

All too often the choice God made to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden is viewed as punishment. In fact, it is presented as punishment for their disobedience of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But God himself presents a very different reason for why he did what he did. In verse 22 of Genesis 3 God decides, “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.” “Lest he put out his hand and take also from the tree of life” is God’s reason for removing them from the Garden—the only place where the tree of life grew. If they were to eat of the tree of life while in a state of broken echad with God and one another and under the consequences of sin in the world (the wage of which is death) they would have lived eternally separated from God. But God had a different plan—God planned Messiah. Romans 5:17, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)”

The opportunity to be in right relationship with God is what we are given because of the cross. And when we are in right relationship with God we have the opportunity to be in right relationship with one another. The restoration of echad is what is being discussed in Ephesians 5—from our relationship with God, to our relationship to the Body, to one another, to specifically husband and wife because this is the relationship that God intended from Creation to express to the world who God is and how he desires to relate to us. Not in a hierarchy, but in echad. Plural unity is a very different relationship than one where someone is in control. Unified is the desire of God’s heart; unified is at the heart of relationship.

What I believe about women preachers…


Can Women Be Pastors?

When I was younger we attended a church where I was taught that women were not allowed by God to be pastors. Then we moved to a church that taught us that women could be pastors, just not senior pastors. When I was at seminary I really dug into the passages and ideas that are used to support this teaching and I don’t believe they are *from* the Bible but, rather, were brought to the Bible and used to understand it. There’s a very intense and detailed book about it called “Good News For Women” and a much easier read called “What Paul Really Said About Women” if you want to learn more, but I’m going to sum up what I believe. And, yes, I am a pastor. The Church of the Nazarene is actually the first church in America to ordain women and we are conservative and take our Bible very seriously.

First of all, I believe that the letters Paul wrote were in response to specific situations that were posed to him from different people or churches or groups and his purpose in writing them was to teach the new believers how to apply Scriptures (Torah and Prophets which is what was studied in the Synagogues at that time and in the early church) to their new situations and challenges. Never before had men studied with women, nor Jew with Gentile, and there were conflicts as well as false teachers running around. Paul had to deal with the Judaizers who believed that you still had to convert to Judaism before you could be saved and with pagan converts who wanted to still be worshiping like they were in the pagan temples. Essentially, in the early church, there were four primary groups of people coming together to worship: Jewish men who had spent their entire lives studying Torah; Jewish women who lived Torah but had never studied it; pagan men who knew nothing about Scripture; and pagan women who knew nothing about Scripture and were sometimes coming from being temple prostitutes or goddess worship that had very different ideas. How to integrate these people into one community of unity was a challenge that Paul addressed with wisdom and grace. He was able to be all things to all people to win them over to the Gospel. This is what understanding the culture is about. It’s not about deciding what to throw out because I throw out nothing from Scripture! It’s about understanding *why* he was writing, *how* he was writing and *whom* he was writing to. We need to understand his words in the context of the actual letter he wrote and not our modern day cultural perspective when we read the words in English. Yes! God can speak to us today and to our circumstances, but when it comes to studying we can’t assume that *today* and with no study we can read in a translation and understand it all.

Second, many people today do not understand the influence of Hellenism on the Church Fathers. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD the Jewish people became highly persecuted by the government and in response the Church began demanding that they abandon everything Jewish-looking, all Tradition, in order to be part of the Church. This kept persecution away from the Church but it also served to destroy the Hebraic reading of the Scripture written by Jewish men with a Hebraic mind. As more Gentiles became Christians that meant more previously pagan believers who brought their Hellenist minds and culture to their understanding of Scripture. Augustine, one of the foremost Church Fathers, was a Neo-Socratic and used the Socratic method to debate Scripture and win many to the Lord. This is great! Except Socratic ideas got in there and many of them are actually quite unbiblical, but have shaped churches understanding of the verses he explained. While women were not included in the study of Scripture in Judaism, they were the heart of the home (and the heart was believed to rule the body, not the head). They structured the home and life so that all of the feasts and festivals were observed properly, so that Shabbat was honored, so that the children’s early instruction was sound and so that their husband would have as much time as possible to study Torah! The “Excellent Wife” is doing everything *so that* her husband can be at the Synagogue and at the City Gates (where he is praising her) all the time! It is still this way in devoutly Orthodox circles. Women were valued and honored, just not included in the study of Scripture. Socrates, on the other hand, took Plato’s (his mentor) idea of Forms. Plato taught that in the eternal there is a perfect Form of everything found on Earth and everything here is an imperfect replica of the perfect Form. Socrates took this idea and taught that there is a Form of human and man is an imperfect replica, but woman is an even more imperfect replica and therefore she is of lower value than man. This is why Greek “love” is believed to only be true when between two men and women are for the purpose of procreation–preferably of male sons. This is where today’s patriarchal ideas come from. Augustine taught that even if you found a group of priests to lay hands on a woman and ordain her the ordination would leak out of her because she is an imperfect vessel. If you study his personal life you find that he had real issues with women. He carried on a long term affair with a woman and basically was a misogynist (woman-hater). But it is *his* teachings that have most shaped the teachings of Paul’s for the church today.

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