Five Evangelical Myths or Half Truths

It can happen even in careful systematic theology. How much more so in popular parlance? We take what the Bible actually teaches, rephrase it so we can understand it, and end up believing our own phrasing, rather than the actual biblical truth. It’s not malicious, but it is dangerous. What follows are five common thoughts, common expressions, within the evangelical church that just aren’t so.

1. “All sins are equal in the sight of God.”

Well, no. It is true enough that every sin is worthy of God’s eternal wrath. It is true enough that if we have broken part of the law we have broken the law (James actually says this.) It is true enough that unjust anger is a violation of the commandment against murder (Jesus actually says this.) None of this, however, means all sins are equal in the sight of God. To say that because all sins deserve eternal wrath means they are all equal is like saying that all numbers over 100 are equal. The truth is that Jesus said of the Pharisees that while they rightly tithed their mint and their cumin, they neglected the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). No sin is weightless, but some weigh more than others.

2. “Hell is the absence of God.”

Well, no. If God is omnipresent, and He is, is there anywhere He can not be? David understood this, and thus affirmed, “If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there” (Psalm 139:8). Hell isn’t the absence of God, but the presence of His wrath. God is there, but His grace, His kindness, His peace are not. God is the great horror of hell.

3. “Jesus saves us from our sins.”

Well, no. It is absolutely true that Jesus saves us. When we face trouble, He is the one we should be crying out to for deliverance. But the great problem with our sins isn’t our sins, but the wrath of God. The trouble I need to be delivered from is the wrath of God. Hell is not my sins, but the wrath of God. We don’t need to be saved from our sins. We need to be saved from the wrath due for our sins.

4. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Well, not if your name is Esau. Okay, there certainly is a kind of universal love that God has for all mankind. And certainly all those who repent and believe will be blessed. And certainly God calls all men everywhere to repent. But it is also true that God has prepared vessels for destruction (Romans 9:22). Being prepared for destruction likely wouldn’t be considered “wonderful” by anyone. We don’t know God’s hidden plans, and thus should preach the gospel to all the world. But we shouldn’t, in so preaching, promise what He hasn’t promised.

5. “Money is the root of all evil.”

Well, no. Actually this one is wrong on two counts. First, the text (I Timothy 6:10) tells us that it is the love of money, not money, and that it is all sorts of evil, not all evil. If money were the root of all evil, all we would need to do to bring paradise on earth would be to have no more money. If money were the root of all evil, the problem would be out there, rather than in our hearts. Sin is not an it problem, but an us problem.

The devil isn’t lazy. He will take the breaks we give him. Myths and half-truths are perfect opportunities for us to miss who we are, who God is, and how He reconciles His own to Himself. Perhaps were we more faithful to His Word, we might just be more faithful.

(From Ligonier Ministries)

Posse Peccare

The best theologians, past and present, have been divided on the question of whether Jesus could have sinned. I believe that since Jesus was fully human, it was possible for him to sin. Obviously, the divine nature cannot sin. But if Christ’s divine nature prevented him from sinning, in what sense did he obey the law of God as the second Adam? At his birth, Jesus’ human nature was exactly the same as Adam’s before the fall, with respect to his moral capabilities. Jesus had what Augustine called the posse peccare and the posse non peccare, that is, the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. Adam sinned; Jesus did not. Satan did everything in his power to corrupt Jesus and tempt him to sin. That would have been an exercise in futility had he been trying to tempt a divine person to sin. Satan was not trying to get God to sin. He was trying to get the human nature of Christ to sin, so that he would not be qualified to be the Savior.

At the same time, Christ was uniquely sanctified and ministered to by the Holy Spirit. In order to sin, a person must have a desire for sin. But Jesus’ human nature throughout his life was marked by a zeal for righteousness. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34), he said. As long as Jesus had no desire to sin, he would not sin. I may be wrong, but I think it is wrong to believe that Christ’s divine nature made it impossible for his human nature to sin. If that were the case, the temptation, the tests, and his assuming of the responsibility of the first Adam would have all been charades. This position protects the integrity of the authenticity of the human nature because it was the human nature that carried out the mission of the second Adam on our behalf. It was the human nature uniquely anointed beyond measure by the Holy Spirit.

(Excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith (Volume 1) via Ligonier Blog)

I think it is wrong to believe that Christ’s divine nature made it impossible for his human nature to sin. —R.C. Sproul

So what? Does this even matter? Yes, it matters a lot and I agree with RC here. Jesus didn’t beam in to the earth. He didn’t suddenly appear in the clouds. He wasn’t sheltered in a temple from the time of his appearing. Jesus was born of a woman. He had parents who changed his diapers and nursed him and told him that the fire would burn him if he touched it. He ate, slept, stubbed his toe and got splinters. Jesus was a human being. Fully human. 100% human without sin. He was born and he died just like we are born and we die. But unlike us, Jesus was the eternally existing Son of God. In Colossians Paul tells us that he is the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God.

It seems to me that Jesus’ human nature, being truly human, could be tempted to sin. Yet, since he lacked inherited guilt, he remained free to chose not to sin. Since his human and divine natures are perfectly united in him, his divine nature would have constrained his humanity to not sin in this way: Jesus’ human nature would be doing what humanity should do; depend upon God for strength in the face of temptation. Could he have sinned? Not if he was doing what a perfect human would do by trusting in God. Was he truly tempted to sin? Yes, his human nature, being what it is was was weak in relation to temptation but was strong in the power of the Lord.

This stuff matters because Jesus is a sympathetic God and savior. He isn’t aloof from our struggles and difficulties.

Palin Revere

Palin should have been humble and admitted she got the story wrong. She could have spun it to say that she got the spirit of the thing right. She could have done a lot of things. But persisting in a flashing-neon error as she’s done is prideful, and that kind of pigheadedness is very unattractive in someone vying for public office. Sarah’s sin was in her lack of humility.

But then there’s us, we who revel in the cheap shot and the takedown. People make mistakes. People say cockamamie things. But high-vaulting and jumping down their throats is rarely called for. Still, we’ve cultivated a whole media culture of such acrobatics. That is also prideful and unattractive.

Joel Miller, actual author of a book about Revere’s life.

(Source: nationalreview.com)

Now the law came in to increase the trespass… - Romans 5:20

Now the law came in to increase the trespass… - Romans 5:20

"Solzhenitsyn rightly said that the line between good and evil runs through every human heart. When you put on the breastplate of righteousness, one of the first things you learn is that there is a treacherous sneak inside the breastplate."
Doug Wilson

(Source: dougwils.com)

By a strange coincidence (ha) Bill Mounce has a post on James 1 today that relates to this text. It was very a very helpful insight to me.

By a strange coincidence (ha) Bill Mounce has a post on James 1 today that relates to this text. It was very a very helpful insight to me.